• 29Jul

    Let’s rewind ten or fifteen years ago to my Quest for the perfect brie.  The Quest wasn’t for a blog article; it was because I loved food.  I purchased various brands from Costco, Trader Joes, and Whole Foods until I found the most delicious cheese on earth: a double-creme brie called Fromager d’Affinois. I’ve been gushing about it to my friends ever since.

    Rays of sunshine stream through the clouds

    The heavens agree: Saint Angel brie is a good choice

    So when dcfud asked me to review cheeses from Fromagerie Guilloteau, the family owned business that makes my all-time favorite cheese, you can imagine how much I bounced off the walls with excitement.  They let me try two different cheeses for free, and I loved their triple-creme brie so much that I couldn’t resist buying some for my parents when I visited them that weekend.  On my way back from Whole Foods—cheese in hand—I kept giggling because never before had the heavens parted as if to say, “excellent choice, Mark.” When I stopped at a red light, I had to capture the moment.  My parents loved it.

    Here’s the story behind this review.  On my way to work, I stopped at Murray’s in Grand Central Station in New York City.  As a purveyor of fine cheeses I thought they’d have a better selection than Whole Foods, who I already knew carried Fromager d’Affinois.  Luck was not with me that day, because d’Affinois was all Murray’s had.  Given my adoration for that cheese, I couldn’t just review it myself and toss journalistic integrity to the wind.  “But wait a second,” I thought.  “I have coworkers.”  Problem solved.

    A pound of double-creme brie

    A pound of double-creme brie

    Welcome to my office, toasted crackers and a pound of double-creme brie.  Don’t mind the lustful gazes from my colleagues.

     

     

     

    Later, as the brie was being demolished, here’s what everyone had to say:

    “I am not a brie expert, but I find it delicious”

    “It’s a good one. Not too strong. Not harsh. I like the crust actually.”

    “Very creamy. You can tell the difference between cheap brie and good brie. You can tell it’s not a cheap one. After a second helping I would say it’s not just creamy, it’s buttery.”  (she informed me that if she came back for thirds, I was to send her away)

    “Yeah, it’s double creme. A little nutty.”

    The guy with the most sophisticated palate—a Frenchman, as it happens—had the most critical feedback: “It’s good.  It’s definitely not a triple creme brie, but it’s good.”

    Not a triple-creme?  What is this heresy about my favorite cheese sullying my virgin ears!  This was the smoothest, sweetest, creamiest brie I’d ever had, and he dared scorn it as “just a double creme?”  The rind (white crust) on many bries is bitter or too strongly flavored.  Not Fromager d’Affinois.  It has a delicate flavor that will hook any cheese lover.  And it was being challenged.

    I did the only thing I could do.  After work, I went to Whole Foods and found Saint Angel, a triple-creme brie from Fromagerie Guilloteau.  Could I really tell the difference?  Is a triple-creme that much better?

    An hour later, I found myself in a molten puddle of cheesy ecstasy.  I’m dairy intolerant, but I ate it anyway.  It was worth it.

    Triple creme brie Saint Angel

    Stock photo (and it’s gorgeous) of the triple creme brie Saint Angel

    From the first nibble, I couldn’t believe how silky and smooth Saint Angel is.  The mouth-feel was so good that I ate it plain.  This cheese is so decadently buttery that I wish I’d known about it as a kid.  Back then, I used to saturate my corn on the cob with fresh slabs of salted butter.  Broccoli got the same treatment because butter is delicious.  Saint Angel would have been a perfect addition.  A purist would kill me for saying this, but it’d be good with spicy chicken wings, too.  Dear purists: marry this brie to your favorite French baguette.  You’ll love it too.

    Where does this leave us?  It leaves me with a new favorite brie and several variations of Fromager d’Affinois to tease me:

    • Garlic and mixed herbs
    • Truffle (I’m told this is especially good)
    • Pepper
    • Florette (made from 100% goat’s milk)
    • Brebicet (made from 100% sheep’s milk)
    • Campagnier (rind tinted with annatto and promises of subtle fruity flavors)
    • Bleu (or Saint Géric, which is the triple-creme version of this bleu cheese)

    What about you?  Care to join me? :)

    –Mark Feghali (MFF)

  • 28Jul

    InnTheMix

    I was invited to review the Residence Inn Arlington’s Social Hour (#InntheMix). Residence Inns across the United States has started hosting free Social Hours for their guests. Their research showed that guests needed more activities at the hotel. The Social Hours will be offered three nights per week at Residence Inn’s nearly 700 locations; these evening gatherings encourage guests to interact and connect with the destination. Themed nights include:

    • It’s On (Mondays) – Meet other guests for some “must-see TV” or hang by the fire pit with a variety of light-fare appetizers.
    • Off the Grill (Tuesdays) – Join in for conversation and great eats, hot off the grill.
    • Food Truck (Alternating Wednesdays) – Get to know the local area’s most popular food trucks.
    • Local Flavors (Alternating Wednesdays) – Sample specialties from famous local hot spots.
    • Just Desserts (Alternating Wednesdays) – Reward yourself with something sweet and savory.
    • Out & About (Anytime) – Stop by the front desk to get the lowdown on the best local spots and what’s abuzz in town.

    A hotel guest can follow along on Residence Inn’s Facebook, Twitter and Instagram platforms and raise a glass to a new way to “mix” work and play.  Residence Inn is rolling out their social hour to help their extended stay guest enjoy a hotel amenity besides the gym and pool.  This amenity just involves food and alcohol.

    Astro Donuts' Chicken Sandwich!

    Astro Donuts’ Chicken Sandwich!

    Upon entering, the guests were asked to download Blippar, which is a new application (that can be downloaded from the App Store for Iphone and Android); guests are then able to “Play Live Trivia” either alone or against your friends.  The application also suggests beer and food pairings.  As an example, for tonight’s selection of chicken pot pie from Dangerously Delicious Pies, the application suggested that I drink a Flat Tire; the beer’s floral notes match well with the hearty pie.

    Residence Inn by Marriott put out a meat and cheese platter that was well prepared and decadent and was served with Brandon Byrd “sodahop style rootbeer floats.”

    Astro Donuts!

    Astro Donuts!

    Outside on the patio, three food vendors were featured:  “Astro Donuts” who has a food truck, IPhone app, and even online ordering.  The featured sandwich was the fried chicken sandwich with tomato and lettuce on a bun which was heaven.   The sandwich melted in your mouth along with a good beer.

    The assembly line method truly does work in your high in demand.  They definitely had the longest line.

     

    Dangerously Delicious Pies DC

    The offerings from “Dangerously Delicious Pies DC” were either side savory of chicken pot pie, steak and mushroom with gruyere, and ratatouille along with sweet with rhubarb, and apple.  My favorite was chicken pot pit however the steak was really good and all the sweet pies were missing was ice cream which I snagged some from the Brandon the Sodahop inside.  (Shh! My little secret.)  One of the guest commented on that fact that even cold the crème Brule was the best donut bite she has had in awhile.  And she travels a lot.

    Sweet LobbyLastly,  “Sweet Lobby” was featured rounding out the dessert theme with macarons!  They were small cakes with creamy insides,  sort of like a elevated adult Oreos! (HAHA)

    The music was acoustic and provided by an violinist who played all contemporary hits that were easily to identify and provided for a young, hip, musical taste with elegant feel for those who attend.   The attendees were a mix of hotel guests including families (most children posted up in the AstroTurf lounge area and really enjoyed the sweets) and the other hotel guests who were visiting on business.  People just mill about the outside patio and inside the lounge bar area when the weather is too hot.

    Miss FaithHowever,  my favorite part was  (Drum roll, please):

    Miss Faith made gooey s’mores with marshmallows over steno along with chocolate and graham crackers.  This interactive part of the experience was for kids and adults alike.

    As the night was winding down, our wonderful host, Noah invited a lucky young star to come join him and announcing some prizes.  The top leader board trivia master, Meredith won a $100 dollar gift card along with Gold Key Members of Marriott won some goodies bags.

    The pictures were provided by Crystal Foley and Residence Inn By Marriott (with Permission to use).

    -CLF (Crystal)

  • 14Jul

    Last week was a good week for DCFüd. I attended media events for Blackwall Hitch on the Old Town Waterfront and Alex Garcia‘s AG Kitchen in Silver Spring, both of which are fun, hip, casual, and great additions to the area. It was great meeting Chefs Michael Wagner and Alex Garcia. I also finally sampled Ice Cream Jubilee‘s frozen treats.

    -JAY

    Click to add a blog post for AG Kitchen on Zomato

    Click to add a blog post for Blackwall Hitch on Zomato

  • 13Jul

    Beucherts-saloon-fb-large (2)

    Join us and your host, Eugene of DC Life Magazine, for a patio happy hour at Beuchert’s Saloon near Eastern Market Metro!

    RSVP here.

    -JAY

  • 02Jul

    Images from last night’s DC Food Blogger Happy Hour at Noelia:

    Last week, we kicked off “The Week in DCFüd.

    Tracy's Cheesecakes: Oreo, Lime, Lemon

    Tracy’s Cheesecakes: Oreo, Lime, Lemon

    Well, this was a good week as well. We tried a few more of Tracy’s Cheesecakes, attended Wildfire’s Lagunitas dinner, hosted a happy hour at Noelia, and sampled a few brews directly from the wonderful & local brewery, Atlas Brew Works (thanks to their awesome beer rep., Chris).

    The Atlas beers Cy (who wrote the below beer notes) and I sampled included:

    The 1500 (South Cap Lager, brewed exclusively for Nats Park and definitely a great beer for a hot day at the ballpark):
    Light lager
    Nice bready smell and flavor
    Hops malt balance
    Slight sour overtones

    Home Rule (Pale Lager):
    Surprisingly malty
    Sour notes
    Would pair well with food

    NSFW (Imperial/Double Bock IPA):
    Molasses
    Coffee
    Dark unsweetened chocolate
    Dried plums

    Pumpernickel Stout (Cy’s favorite of the four):
    Very sweet
    Rye/Pumpernickel

    For those of you looking for a 4th of July event to attend (and who want to meet Chris):

    “Celebrate Independence Day on the roof deck at 1905! We’ll have the grill going and special $5 offerings of select Atlas Brew Works beers available throughout the afternoon & evening. A $20 cover gets you 3 tickets to use on any combination of food or beer upstairs, including local sausages, pulled pork or portabello sandwiches, green bean salad with smoked almonds & arugula, wild-grain hoppin’ john, corn & tomato salad with feta & oregano, Sherry-bliss potato salad, or smoked broccoli with cheddar & pimentos. Tickets are available at the door only. The dining room will also be open that night with the regular menu starting at 5:30pm.”

    Update 7/5/15: Below is a half smoke platter (and at Atlas beer) from the 4th of July rooftop even at 1905.

    -JAY

    Half Smoke Platter

    Click to add a blog post for Noelia Restaurant on Zomato

    Click to add a blog post for 1905 on Zomato

  • 30Jun

    He’d also appreciate it if you’d bring back the McMLT…

    It was nearly 11 PM last night when I officially became a rebel. I did what others in America are no longer doing as much as they used to – I ate at McDonald’s.

    After a fairly-exhausting 13 hour day at work, I found myself in Tyson’s Corner looking for a bite to eat. It’s clearly late, I hadn’t eaten lunch, and the grumbles in my stomach would have made my hour-long drive back home intolerable. I looked at the Faustian bargain placed before me, and chose the Golden Arches over a slightly-lower BMI.

    Apparently, that makes me quite the rapscallion, as McDonald’s sales have taken a decided turn for the worse here in the United States. Domestic sales dropped 2.2% in May. It fell by 4% back in February. They’re closing more stores than they’re opening. This winter didn’t just suck for Boston, apparently.

    Please do not get me wrong – McDonald’s is hardly delicious, nutritious food, and goodness knows you can get better burgers nearly anywhere. However, it will always have a place in my heart (and several arteries, much to my cardiologist’s dismay) as my first teenage job where I was treated reasonably like an adult, where my managers treated me decently and with a professional respect. While in high school in the late 1980s, I worked at the McDonald’s in Edgewater, Maryland – sometimes after school, but usually on weekends and on summer vacation mornings. I quickly became the biscuit maker since I could get up at the back-crack of dawn, enjoyed baking, and could stand in front of hot ovens all day and not complain. This is back when McDonald’s actually made the biscuits with real buttermilk, in the stores. They weren’t pre-packaged and shipped from some remote warehouse – a real live person made them in-house. Our biscuit ovens were next to the flat-top where we made the Hot Cakes – from a mix, granted – but they were at least cooked on site, not simply shipped and reheated.

    What’s more, I worked at the “good” McDonald’s, and not that “bad” McDonald’s on West Street in Annapolis. Remember when there were “good” McDonald’s and “bad” McDonald’s? Many customers genuinely believed that some McDonald’s were better than others, and they weren’t wrong! Ours was clean, safe, well-managed, efficient drive-through, with solid maintenance and properly stored materials. That West Street location, though – it was a little dirtier. A slower drive through. Maybe not as well-managed. Definitely a staff that cared less.

    The good Mickey D’s used the proper amount of burger seasoning, not too much salt on the fries, accommodated special requests, followed the suggested hold times on such things like the McNuggets and made sure fresh biscuit sandwiches were available during breakfast. The bad McDonald’s would let food sit in the warming trays and staging area for hours at a time. They’d simply wipe the onions and pickles off a bun rather than spending the two minutes to make a fresh burger with a clean bun. Those bad McDonald’s wouldn’t use the seasoning for the Quarter Pounders while they sizzled away on the cooking platens. God forbid you ask for fries without salt!

    That is not what McDonald’s stands for nowadays. Right now, you can go into any McDonald’s in any state and get a meal that tastes almost exactly like one in another state, which is their worldwide goal. However, instead of bringing up the “bad” MickeyD’s, they simply baselined the good ones down. In their never-ending quest to keep profits up and costs down, they eliminated tons of the in-store prep and cooking variables. The company has automated so much of the cooking process, they’ve taken out much of the human element of cooking.

    And I think that’s where their salvation lies – bringing back a more personal experience, and less of a food-factory.

    Here’s a few things I’d do, if I had the ear of relatively-new CEO Steve Easterbrook:

    1) Add more Mexican/Central American items – in most cities, McDonald’s hires folks from southern countries with varying degrees of English-speaking ability. Which, coming from a white guy, sounds like it could be a criticism, but it’s not where I’m going with this. Instead, I say “let them cook a few things they know how to make from their home countries.” McDonald’s can still offer burgers and fries and shakes and such, but a proper taco or a plantain wouldn’t hurt. Maybe some yucca fries? A McDonald’s cook could throw down a flour tortilla, chop up a McChicken filet, add some lettuce, shredded cheese and some salsa – all easy-to-acquire ingredients, many already in the restaurants – and making a McTostada or McQuesadilla or some such name.

    It also doesn’t hurt that the fastest-growing population segment in the US are Spanish-speaking, and offering them more foods that are somewhat akin to their homelands may not be the worst thing. No wonder sales are down in McDonald’s domestically- they’re not making things that are familiar with new residents of the US.

    2) Steamed burgers suck. Unless you’re talking about a Juicy Lucy, that is. Bring back the flat-tops or even go with a grill. Burger King’s fake flame-grilled taste is lousy, but it does give more flavor than McDonald’s bland-burger. Keeping those patties in the steamed heating trays is a sure-fire way to kill any flavor other than “meh.”

    Read the rest of this entry »

  • 29Jun

    Wildfire in Tysons Galleria hosted a beer dinner featuring Lagunitas Brewing Company Thursday evening. I didn’t have a single criticism of the food and beer, and they were paired well. People were buzzing about the dessert course form the second they sat down and read the menu. And, yes, the Double Chocolate Bacon Stout Beer Float and “The Censored Rich Copper Ale” were wonderful together.

    Tommy Hunter of Lagunitas Brewing Co. walked us through the beer pairings and answered the questions that diners had about the brews. At one point, someone at our table asked a question and Tommy seemed to run away, but really he was running to get a chair to bring to our table to chat with us. I recently told a Rep for another beer company that I attended a Lagunitas dinner and he said “Oh, you must have met Tommy Hunter. He’s a great guy!”He used to work for … .”

    You definitely want to keep an eye out for Wildfire’s themed dinners. Last year we covered Wildfire’s Crab & Cocktails Dinner (hosted by local restauranteur, cookbook author, and TV host, John Shields). This year’s crab dinner with John Shields will be July 29, with the pairings being Charlottesville’s Three Notch’d Brewing Company‘s brews instead of cocktails. And, rumor has it that John’s cookbook, Coastal Cooking, is being released shortly. Hmm, I wonder if he’d sign my copy of his other book, Chesapeake Bay Cooking.

    -JAY

    Click to add a blog post for Wildfire on Zomato

     

  • 29Jun

    July 2015 DCFBHH NoeliaReminder: DC Food Blogger Happy Hour is this Wednesday! I’m the host for this one.

    SDM reviewed Noelia here.

    -JAY

     

  • 28Jun
    This image is courtesy of The Native Society.

    This image is courtesy of The Native Society.

    The Native Society just published an in-depth article about Wildman Steve Brill. I know the author and expert forager from many years ago, when I lived in Queens, NY. He does foraging tours of parks, showing people which plants are edible. I asked him if he even does this in DC and his response was:

    “I was invited there to DC 2011 by a locavore group; it was the first time I’d been there since a graduated from GWU 40 years earlier. In honor of this, officials told me to never so much as set foot in Rock Creek Park, but we did a tour covering edible street weeds, which everyone loved. If you know of any organizations that can cover expenses from NY and a fee, and can find a location where we won’t be harassed, I’d be happy to return.” Rumor has it that he was threatened with a vacation to a very well-known prison outside of U.S borders if he returned to that park.

    There are parks and trails all over this area; maybe someone has a connection in local government (possibly in a nearby county) who could set this up. “Cy” says because of the “conservative culture” (governmental) of this area, it won’t happen, but I’ll post it anyway. Prove Cy wrong.

    -JAY

  • 27Jun

    Being a junkie for greens runs in my family, and my mother’s new garden plot has been churning out prodigious quantities this year – lacinato kale and rainbow chard, particularly. However, one thing that she does that drives me bonkers is that she trims and only eats the leafy bits – she wastes those lovely crunchy stems (ditto with beets, radishes and carrots – she never uses the greens)!! I’ve taken tons home from family dinners to use myself. I usually crisp-fry them or just add to other greens I’m making, but recently stumbled across this fantastic idea over on the Food52 blog – chard stem hummusHelping my mom cook the other night I couldn’t help but secretly smile as I berated her for again ‘wasting’ the lovely chard stems and beet greens (we made a raw chard salad with fresh lemon and crispy onions, roasted beets, and prosciutto-wrapped halibut). I was taking all those lovelies home, and I had plans for them.

    Being me, of course, I couldn’t possibly follow the recipe exactly. I used:20150627_122124

    • 100 grams chopped chard stems
    • 100 grams chopped beet stems
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) tahini
    • 2oz (1/4 cup) olive oil
    • 2 tbs. fresh lime juice
    • 4 cloves garlic

    First, I washed and chopped the stems, and threw them in a pot of about 4 cups boiling water, to which I also added a tablespoon of salt and half cup vinegar (doing this adds a bit of flavor and improves the texture of the greens for blending). While boiling, I smashed and peeled the garlic, and measured everything else into my blender. After 15 minutes, my stems were soft, and I strained them into the blender, adding about a tablespoon of the liquid to pull in more flavor. I blended it until not-exactly-smooth to yield the comedically pink condiment you see at right.

    How’s it taste, you ask? It’s good. Really good.  Can-I-fit-my-whole-head-in-the-blender-to-lick-it-clean? good. And that’s just the ‘base’ version – I’ve played with is a bit, adding sumac, cayenne, cumin, and in one attempt flax seeds, all of which can dramatically change the flavor to fit whatever dish you’re pairing with the hummus.

    Enjoy!

    – MAW

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