• 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


    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.




    Roasted Potatoes


    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.


    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!


  • 17May

    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.


  • 16May

    Wonderful food industry people who create extremely tasty products:



  • 15May


    Dessert For Two, a cookbook by Christina Lane, is such a wonderful and charming creation. This book is perfect for anyone who has a sweet tooth or loves someone who has a sweet tooth. The recipes in this book are mouthwatering cookies, puddings, miniature pies, tarts, cakes, popscicles, snacks and candies. The photography in the book is stunning and the writing has a great conversational feel. The recipes are deliciously evil but through Lane’s hard work of scaling down recipes, the risk of “accidentally” eating a dozen cookies disappears. As someone who struggles with poor willpower around sugar, I appreciate this. I also appreciate that Lane makes suggestions about bakeware (like getting adorable six inch pie tins and miniature loaf pans), but has alternative solutions if you find yourself living with a small kitchen that lacks miniature bakeware. I love the idea (as pictured on the cover of the book) of baking a miniature pie using a mason jar band as a pie tin.

    I tested three recipes. The first was a biscuit bread pudding with whiskey sauce. My husband is a bread pudding freak and he said that it was the best that he’s ever had. I’m not as passionate about bread pudding as he is, but this is the recipe that turned me into a bread pudding person. It is very easy to make  and you can use day old biscuits, which you can either make yourself or buy pre-made. I used refrigerated biscuit dough and made biscuits from that and it turned out beautifully.  It is sweet and rich and the recipe really makes enough for three generous servings. It is a gooey, sweet and decadent dish. Because it does not have eggs, the sauce is clear and is easier and faster to make than a creme anglaise.

    I also made the Pumpkin cupcakes with bourbon buttercream frosting. I got six cupcakes out of the batter and frosting rather than the four listed in the book. The cake itself is really good, and is moist with an interesting blend of spices. It is subtly sweet and spicy; I’d totally eat the cupcakes un-iced as a muffin. The buttercream frosting is very sweet, but it balances very well with the cake. These cupcakes were so delicious.

    Last but not least, I made the Salted Butterscotch Pudding Pops. I made them with Nielsen-Massey vanilla extract, which is my new favorite baking product.  This recipe makes amazing pudding that you can then turn into popsicles, or just eat as pudding. The recipe made enough for over four popsicles, and I had a mold for four popsicles, so I ate the extra pudding while it was still warm (it was really good). The popsicles were also quite tasty. My husband gave his seal of approval on the pops as well. This recipe is quick and easy, and makes a great summer treat.

    -JHC (Jennifer)

  • 23Apr

    Gluten-free baking in past years can be compared to trying to mix highly combustible materials. It has required such an accomplished hand utilizing a precise mix of ingredients to achieve an edible, tasty result. It therefore has been viewed as a completely intimidating task that many would rather steer clear from. However, with new products coming on the market each day, gluten-free baking might finally be more approachable for the amateur.

    I recently attended a gluten-free baking class hosted by Delight editor Vanessa Maltin Weisbrod. This particular event was sponsored by the Children’s National Hospital to raise awareness for their Celiac Disease Program and was kindly hosted at Wildfire Restaurant in Tyson’s. As usual, the food was fantastic and was accompanied with a surplus of great information. I would definitely consider the night a huge success.

    I have to say there is no one who is better informed about gluten-free cooking, baking or products than Vanessa. My head was spinning by the end of the evening, but I left feeling like I could conquer the world in my kitchen going forward. She provided us with slide after slide explaining the components of gluten-free flour blends and why certain flours are better for different kinds of baking rather than others. She also gave us tips on different substitute fats you could use to add moisture to your baked goods. My main takeaway is it is crucial to educate yourself about your ingredients and their consistencies and what other alterations you might need to make to a recipe to compensate.

    For instance, I learned that coconut flour is a great flour to use for baked goods, but you may need to use less sugar and add additional liquid for best results. I also learned the benefits of sorghum flour and how it has a smoother texture perfect for use while making pancakes and flatbreads as well as baked goods with a more bread-like consistency.

    Tapioca flour is apparently great as an additive for binding in gluten-free baking and works well to create crisp crusts and as a thickener for sauces. It has a sweet and starchy taste and is best combined with other flours like quinoa and brown rice flour. You should again use less sugar to compensate for the sweetness already present in the tapioca flour.

    As for the all-purpose baking flours on the market, I learned that is really crucial to read the listing of flours included. For instance, some blends are higher in starchy flours like brown rice and tapioca. Others are a blend of high proteins like millet, chickpea and amaranth. You need to be mindful of these blends when you purchase because they will have an effect on the baked good you are creating. The best blends should have a decent balance of both the higher starch and high protein flours to keep your baked good moist. You also want to make sure it has either guar or xanthan gum included as a binder.

    Overall, knowledge really is power. Gluten-free baking can be fun and rewarding once you become more comfortable. Instead of an intimidating challenge, I’ll now view it as an experiment to learn. For further information about the class I attended or future opportunities to attend yourself, feel free to contact me at Joyana [-at-] glutenfreenova [-dot-] com.


    Wildfire on Urbanspoon

  • 23Mar

    Norwegian Ambassador’s Executive Chef, Mr. Sindre Risvoll!

    We were in attendance at a recent Norwegian seafood reception at the temporary residence of the Norwegian Ambassador. The event was created in cooperation with the Norwegian Seafood Council. In attendance were members of the Norwegian seafood industry and their clients (including a Fairfax based Asian supermarket with a great seafood department). (Asia is a huge market for Norwegian seafood.)

    The reception featured phenomenally fresh and delicious Norwegian seafood in Asian preparations. It even was talking to a fisherman whose boat probably caught the mackerel I was eating at the time.

    We were happy to finally try Nøgne ø‘s Sake, since we tried their wonderful beers at a previous Norwegian event a few years ago.


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View my food journey on Zomato!