• 31Jul

    John Shields is author of Chesapeake Bay Cooking, host of the PBS series Coastal Cooking, and owner of Gertrude’s in Baltimore (which is soon to open a second location). John hosted a crab and beer dinner a few days ago, where he lead guests through the technique of opening their own steamed Maryland Blue Crab. Wildfire Executive Chef Moreno Espinoza designed and executed the several dishes that followed the crab picking and showcased crab in a variety of uses, each paired with a beer from Baltimore’s Union Craft Brewing.

    I was impressed with each of the courses and the beer pairings. The crab was fresh and delicious. My favorite dish of the evening was the crab tostada. This was my first time sampling Union Craft Brewing’s beer; Wildfire picked a great brewery to partner with, as usual.

    If you are interested in attending one of Wildfire’s themed dinners (such as wine, beer, scotch, martinis, etc.), check this event page. The upcoming Port City Brewing beer dinner is on August 26th and the Glenfiddich Scotch dinner is on September 16th.

    -JAY

    Wildfire Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

  • 08Jun

    Pretty Much says it all…

    IMG_0497

     

    I’ve been waiting for Lamb Jam as long as some people wait for babies, the latest generation of iPhone, Christmas or the newest season of Black Mirror. For the most part, these sorts of hyped up waits never do the trick in triggering some cathartic release of euphoria, but apparently, I’ve been doing it all wrong. Walking through the doors in the back dock of Union market, assaulted in all visceral regards by the phenomenon the American Lamb Board has been bringing to our fair district for years now, it was immediately obvious that this was the element of anticipation missing from my year. 17 Chefs, 15 winemakers, breweries, distilleries and coffee companies tossed into one room, all vying for the title of DC’s best lamb.

    IMG_0473

    Cava Meze: Lamb Shoulder Shumai, Avgolemono, and crispy lamb skin

    The onlooker is free to participate in lamb inspired activities ranging from caricatures, interactive photo booths, mingling with other lamb lovers, butchering demonstrations (complete with protein giveaways) and even a spice rub station…but of course, it’s hard to pay notice to these elements when the real attraction is being served up hot and fresh, in ample quantities, from the hands that created it. Just as Pandora Radio offers up a moiety of influences and interpretations on a central theme, Lamb jam is a creative generator best enjoyed randomly by the bystander.

    One can meander through each category in sequence: Middle East, Mediterranean, Asian and Latin America in sequence as in fact flipping through stations during the work day or randomly on shuffle. It is in fact, a full on jam session orchestrated by DC’s most creative food minds. Besides having unlimited access to every dish including full observation of assembly, endless supplies of local brews and wine, participants are free to pick the brains of the chefs and owners responsible for the plethora of ewe inspired dishes. It goes without saying that leaving Lamb Jam hungry, undernourished or under the day’s protein quota is not possible. Besides being a prime spot to meet potential suitors, partners in foodie crime or to simply engorge oneself on the world’s most trusty red meat, Lamb Jam is a brief look into the undercurrents of DC’s food scenes, showcasing favorite haunts and leading DC eaters to new venues.

    IMG_0467

    The People’s choice, Del Campos Black Birria

    Chef Dean Dupuis from Brasserie Beck won best in show and best in the Asian category with a charcoal grilled Vietnamese style lamb in grape leaves that were reminiscent of dolmah paired with garnishes of peanuts and cilantro on a bed of noodles.

    IMG_0462

    Chef Dean Dupuis from Brasserie Beck with his best of show dish

    The people voted Victor Albisu of Del Campo the victor winning peoples choice and also best in the Latin Amerian category voted on panel judges with his black lamb birria that boasted burnt Tomatillo and cuttlefish escabeche marrying the land and the sea in bright briny and rich, fatty notes.

    Keith Cabot of Evening Star Cafe won best in the Middle Eastern category with a homey lamb shoulder with a harissa glaze, sided with quinoa tabbouleh and balanced with mint and preserved lemon.

    Best In Mediterranean: The chef at Gravitas, Matt Baker, brought a braised lamb shoulder grounded with stewed white beans and warm flat bread. Keeping with the theme, it was sided with a unique tatziki spiked with feta making it stick out in the category and a herb salad so we could pretend it wasn’t all about the lamb.

    IMG_0463

    Rappahonnock’s Pazole Con Carne de Cordero y Las Almejas

    Besides the two headed lamb caricature, I walked away with, my favorite bite of the day belonged to Chef Scott Kroener of Del Frisco’s Double Eagle Steak House with grilled, middle eastern spice rubbed lamb ribs that not only fell off the bone in the most pleasing way, were subtly noted with the earthy tones I enjoy of traditional middle eastern cooking that allowed the unique taste of lamb to surface. In an event meant to edify the mighty ewe, this was the simplest and most powerful rendition. No sauces, sides or wine needed. My favorite libation came from One Eight Distillery, a Rock Creek White Whiskey … because why not drink whiskey all the time? Even when you don’t want to drink whiskey.

    Make certain to get your tickets for next years jam session and in the mean time, check out the American Lamb board on Facebook to get inspired in your kitchen. Ewe owe it to yourself. Trust me.

     

    IMG_0483

    Brasserie Beck Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

    -CER

  • 09May

    lamb-jam-logo-smDCFüd and the American Lamb Board are giving away a pair of tickets for the May 15th DC Lamb Jam! Email your first and last name to Contest (AT) dcfud (DOT) com with the subject “Lamb Jam Entry” before 5pm on Friday the 13th (which sounds ominous) for your chance to win. I will randomly select a winner sometime later that evening.

    This event features a variety of great lamb dishes, wine, and beer. I have been a judge at this event for a few years now.

    -JAY

  • 09May

    Meats Port City Beer mixed with cheese to create an American Fondue French inspired Raclette Staff preparing fondue

    One of the great staples in life is cheese; it can go from the standard party fare (think cubes of cheese on toothpicks) to the divine (think anything Italian, gooey and aged). When talking cheese, Europeans have taught us all we know; they are masters at producing all manner of dairy-based delights. On March 30th, Via Umbria played host to a most wonderful event, celebrating another wonderful Swiss dish, fondue.

    A place to enjoy all things Italy right in the middle of Georgetown, Via Umbria brought together cheese lovers to taste their way around Europe and America.  The Melt Fondue Fest was created to show off some of the best international and local cheeses in the form of fondue. Upon arrival, guests were given a passport to visit five different cheese stations.

    Curated by in-house cheese monger, Alice Phillips, the evening included a formal nod to the home of fondue, with an Alpine Fondue which contained traditional Swiss melted cheese, garlic and wine. Waving the local flag, the American Fondue stall showcased a tangy cheesy dip made with dark beer. Heading back over the pond, the French inspired Raclette came scraped over boiled potatoes. The final stall featured Wisconsin Fried cheese, which was made from fresh cheese curds that had been dipped in beer batter and then golden-fried. These cheese selections were accompanied by paired wines and beers; guests all left feeling satisfied to the hilt.

    All cheeses can be purchased in the delicatessen along with accompaniments, so you can have out your own fondue night at home.

    -EWL

  • 12Nov

    Monday evening I had the pleasure of attending Chile’s Chef Competition at the National Restaurant Association Headquarters. Chefs had fresh and beautiful Chilean ingredients to choose from for their dishes. The three salmon dishes and the mussels really made an impression on me — Chilean seafood is exquisite.

    We also got to try some great cocktails and some of Chile’s exceptional wines. I never turn down a Chilean event because I always want to sample more Chilean wines.

    I know, you are all about knowing who won. The winners were:
    Judge’s Choice
    Hank’s Oyster Bar: cocktails
    Food Del Campo: food

     

    People’s Choice
    Food: Cafe du Parc
    Cocktail: Bar Pilar

    -JAY

    Editor’s Note: You can click twice on the above images to make them larger.

  • 04Nov

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge

    Nadine Khalaf Aldridge is worth getting to know.

    She’s a bright, charming, generous foodie who plates damned sexy food.  It’s tempting to shorten this bio and let her work speak for itself, because it’s that good.   “Go forth, fellow foodies, and admire her gorgeous creations on Instagram or on Facebook, or her cookbook-worthy recipes at foodienada.com.  Peace out, we’re done here.”

    But if you enjoy her work as much as I do, you might be curious about her personality, journey, or inspirations.  I had the privilege of spending over an hour with her on the phone and came away smiling, thinking, “Gosh, I’d like to be friends with her.  It’s like we’ve always known each other.”  She’s engaging, genuine, down to earth, and fun.  When she’s not at home making culinary magic, she’s at work as a communication and marketing analyst.  Her education wasn’t in the culinary arts, though.  It was in biology and chemistry in undergrad, and then French literature for her master’s.

    I wondered how her degrees influenced her food blog.  Perhaps her writing is better because of the French lit, but I get the feeling it’s her personal qualities that have had the biggest impact.  She was born in Achrafieh, Lebanon and grew up during the civil war there.  She wanted to help by becoming a soldier or a doctor, so it’s no surprise that when we fast-forward to when she started instagraming her beautiful food and her followers asked a couple times a week, “how did you make this?!”, that underlying caring quality expressed itself again: she wanted to help, so she volunteered her recipes.

    She’s a giver.  I love givers.

    Shrimp Salad

    Shrimp Salad

    We should thank Nadine’s parents for raising this giving, wonderful daughter, but can we credit them with inspiring her to cook, too?  I think so.  When her mother was bedridden, eight-year-old Nadine would make her dad salad, potatoes, and steak in a pan.  Seeing his reactions made her want to learn how to be a good housewife/cook who could take care of her family.  She would continue to take instruction and learn from mom.

    At twelve years old, her family immigrated to Virginia, then moved to San Diego, and finally settled in the great state of Texas.  Nadine’s favorite part of the state is Dallas because it’s full of national and international transplants.  There’s enough diversity and academia there to keep it interesting.  Did her cuisine yearn to be Texan too?  After reflecting, she says no; her mom and her Lebanese upbringing were the biggest influences, along with trips to Europe and France in particular, where she refined her palate.  California’s style of cooking—using tons of fresh produce—was also crucial.

    Being a huge fan of Alton Brown and Jacques Pépin, I had to ask Nadine who her favorite celebrity chefs were.  It turns out we both love Mr. Pépin.  Also on her list are Mario Batali, Michael Symon who’s very talented, Ina Garten who never went to culinary school, and Joël Robuchon, who’s an amazing French chef.  When asked “why Joël?”, Nadine’s reply: “I would love to eat at one of his restaurants.  His mashed potato is equal parts butter and potato; you just want to swim in it!”  Her favorite kind of cooking show is one where they’re cooking something complex or difficult, not just peeling carrots.  I apologize to all the expert carrot peelers for our lack of appreciation of your skills.  There’s irony here, because—and I’m blushing/giggling/shaking-my-head as I admit this—I actually enjoy peeling carrots quickly and perfectly, with minimal waste.

    At this point, we’re beginning to understand Nadine, the person: what she values; what she likes.  What about the story behind the blog?  How did she go from posting photos on Instagram to having an elegant presentation of the underlying recipes?  At first, with around 15 followers, it wasn’t hard to share recipes.  As the number grew (today at over 2000), more people asked for them and retyping became difficult.  It was also hard to share when she’d never really measured the ingredients.  The natural next step was: be deliberate about documenting the recipe (and measuring!) and centralize the result in a blog.  But she didn’t stop there.

    foodienada_eggs

    Breakfast

    foodienada_potatoes

    Roasted Potatoes

    foodienada_tarts

    Cheese Tarts

    She did extensive research about blogs and about photography.  Hints like, “take photos in natural sunlight,” and details about blog layout and how to best convey her passion.  And that’s what it became: a passion.  In her words, “sharing something I love with someone else, whether I know them or not.”  But it’s still more than that.  Eventually, when she has hundreds of recipes, she’d like to leave it to her daughter as a keepsake.  May the d’awwing commence.  She reminded me of Randy Pausch’s Last Lecture which is similarly inspiring.

    After hearing about all this cooking and blogging, my thoughts went to the only place they could go: who eats all that gorgeous food?

    Most of the posts are made for brunches of about 10-12 people.  A small number are for occasional things like Father’s Day or her husband’s birthday and about a third are done on the weekends, when she cooks for her family and has time for the extra effort of measuring.

    She has a few go-to ingredients, starting with the simplest (yet one of the hardest to measure, because it gets added gradually): salt. She uses extra virgin olive oil for pretty much everything (even Tex-Mex!), lemon juice/zest, fresh herbs as often as possible, and organic tomato paste, which is one of the few things she’ll buy jarred.  Her absolute favorite ingredient to use on potatoes or French fries is Piment d’Espelette.  It’s like a sweet pepper, but a little spicy.  Mostly delicate.  I can’t wait to try it.

    Flank SteakOne of her favorite things to make is flank steak.  I’m drooling at her photo even though I’ve never tasted her cooking because her plating is so exceptional.  She can’t possibly cook all these amazing things for every meal though, right?  So I asked her what she cooks most often, day-to-day.  “It’s a lot more Lebanese food than anything else.  More Mediterranean.  Tabbouleh maybe 3-4 times a week, hummus a few times a week, salads for dinner, lots of stews.”  On the weekends is when she goes all out.  And this is a working mom, remember.  Respect.

    I had to put my admiration aside to ask what she’s planning for the future.  In the short term, she wants to learn more about how to make the blog look better.  She’s not ashamed of the work she’s done—she did it all herself—but, for example, she wishes she’d taken photos in better lighting.  She might want to learn more about the technical details of blogging, including HTML/CSS, how to market it, and this whole “trendy social media thing” (my words, not hers).  Longer term, she dreams of going to a farmer’s market, making something, inviting friends or strangers over for taste testing, then writing cookbooks.  Maybe full time.  Maybe sneak off to culinary school too.  How cool would that be?!  I kind of want to ask Gordon Ramsay for help.  Let’s make an episode with Nadine for one of his shows and dedicate it to plating.  Best food porn wins.

    I feel fortunate to have met Nadine.  She invited me to dine with her someday, and I look forward to that day gleefully (flank steak, I’m looking at you).  My only regret about this interview is that I didn’t ask her husband for any juicy tidbits that she “forgot” to mention.  Like maybe a secret love of eating plain mayonnaise out of the jar at 3AM while watching Married With Children reruns.  There’s still time.  I’ll call him as soon as I can.  In the meantime, I hope you enjoyed reading about Nadine as much as I enjoyed interviewing her.

    —Mark Feghali (MFF)

  • 02Aug
    John Shields & Wildfire's Chef Moreno Attack a Pile of Blue Crabs!

    John Shields & Wildfire’s Chef Moreno Attack a Pile of Blue Crabs!

    Wildfire in Tysons has pulled off another great crab dinner with Chesapeake cuisine authority, John Shields. John’s restaurant in Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Art Museum, and his PBS show is Coastal Cooking. He is even about to re-release Chesapeake Bay Cooking in October (September for advance copies). John showed us how to properly break a blue crab down.

    There was even some discussion of whether Chesapeake crabs are actually Maryland or Virginia crabs since this Washington Post article had just been published.

    Here is the 1st Course Recipe: Grilled Avocado & Bluefin Crab Salad.

    Here is the 1st Course Recipe: Grilled Avocado & Bluefin Crab Salad.

    This was my first experience drinking Three Notch’d (Charlottesville, VA) beer. We sampled their Pilsner (Of, By, For), 40 Mile IPA (which is really well balanced), Gray Ghost American Pale Ale, and award-winning Hydraulion Irish Red. The Three Notch’d brews were all excellent (and named after Charlottesville history).

    This article contains video we took of John breaking down a crab at a previous Wildfire crab (and cocktails instead of beer) dinner:

    Wildfire is quite skilled at creating and executing beer dinners in partnership with wonderful breweries. This crab dinner was excellent, but so was June’s Lagunitas dinner.

    -JAY

    Click to add a blog post for Wildfire on Zomato

  • 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)

  • 18May

    Congratulations to Dimitri Moshovitis of Cava Mezze who won 3 awards (Best in Show, People’s Choice, and Best Latin) at the DC Lamb Jam last night! His dish was a lamb shoulder half smoke with mustard tzatziki on a brioche bun. It was fun being a judge at this event!

    -JAY

  • 17May
    img_20150515_181435516_hdr

    Wonderful French Master Butcher, Marc Pauvert from Spring House Farm in Lovettsville, VA Working on a Whole Lamb!

    Last chance to buy tickets for tonight for DC’s Lamb Jam.

    -JAY

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