• 16Dec

    What’s better than local BBQ joints coming together for a BBQ Bash to compete for bragging rights? Having it held at Metro Cooking D.C. alongside a flock of restaurants, breweries, wineries, cheese shops, juice shops, and other establishments within the food and restaurant industry for guests to sip and sample. Also, having celebrity chefs speak and perform demos is a plus too.

    The 2017 BBQ Bash winners are:

    Best BBQ Sauce/Rub: Jadean’s Smokin Six-O

    Best Ribs: Myron Mixon’s Pitmaster BBQ

    Best Beef Brisket: Hill Country Barbecue Market

    Best BBQ Pork: White Swan BBQ & Fried Chicken

    Best BBQ Chicken: BBQ Bush Smokehouse

    And *drumroll* … Overall BBQ Bash Champion is Lefty’s Barbecue!

    Aside from BBQ, there was a variety of other participants at Metro Cooking D.C. Being a juice lover, I was drawn to a new locally organic and cold-pressed juice company called Jinsei. They offer both cold-pressed and tonic beverages and recently opened a juice bar on the upper level of Tysons Corner Center in McLean, VA. My favorite is the Detox Tonic, consisting of organic kale, spirulina, coconut nectar, cayenne pepper, alkaline water, lemon, and lime. All ingredients are slam packed with health benefits, which sounded like an excellent idea at the time (I bought a bottle and thoroughly enjoyed it) in order to detox after sampling heap amounts of briskets, hot sauces, and pork ribs (not that I’m complaining).

    John J. Bowman, a local single barrel straight bourbon whiskey, proudly holds the title of 2017 World’s Best Bourbon awarded by the World Drinks Awards. How would I describe it? Simply smooth with a slight sweet finish. I highly recommend it to anyone who appreciates bourbon. Plus, we gotta support our local businesses!

    Last but not least, celebrity chef Jacob Ponder presented a ‘Taste Talk’ segment and answered various questions from the audience ranging from topics such as locally sourced fish to cooking temperatures. Guy Fieri was also in the house but unfortunately, I was unable to take a proper picture due to the crowd. I’m excited to see which celebrity chefs will be in next year’s lineup for Metro Cooking D.C.!

    Until next time everyone. Cheers!


  • 06Aug

    Chicken Thighs with Just Spices’ Blend, Chicken Seasoning

    Just Spices launched 12 new spice blends in the U.S. market on June 22. This follows the German brand’s initial launch into the States late last year. We sampled three of their spice blends:

    Hash Brown Seasoning: This was our favorite of the three products. We tried it on French fries and sliced oven-baked potatoes and sweet potatoes. Next time, we will try it on actual hash browns or latkes. The blend includes sea salt, salt, fenugreek seeds, paprika, garlic, cilantro, natural smoke flavor, nutmeg, turmeric, cumin, fennel seeds, black pepper, cloves, and chilli. It is odd though that they use both sea salt and salt in two of these three products, where sea salt alone would do.

    Chicken Seasoning: This blend worked well on skin-on baked chicken and includes sea salt, salt, natural smoke flavor, brown cane sugar, tomato, paprika, garlic, chilli, rosemary, thyme, sage, coriander, turmeric, fenugreek seeds, cumin, fennel seeds, and black pepper.

    Flavors of India Seasoning. This salt-free blend includes fenugreek seeds, ginger, paprika, onion, cilantro, cardamom, and turmeric. It did not seem as well balanced as the other other two seasonings, and in the DC market (or NYC) we have an immense number of Indian spice mixes, products, and restaurants with which to compare this product’s flavors. Odd that they didn’t include coriander in the mix. Maybe the spice blend reflects what Indian food tastes like in Germany?.

    We recommend trying the Hash Brown Seasoning, and Chicken Seasoning  if you run across them in the states.

    Other products in this line include: Tofu Seasoning, Berry Yogurt Seasoning, Blossom Mix, Clean Eating Allrounder, Herbs de Provence, Pasta Alfredo Seasoning, Ranch Dressing, Sweet Love, and Vegetable Seasoning.




  • 11Jun

    Savor at the National Building Museum is a great showcase for high quality craft beers, with this year (the tenth annual) not being an exception. This year’s beer list included some exceptional choices and pairings. Virginia’s Hardywood Park Craft Brewery and Colorado’s New Belgium Brewing Company created this year’s collaborative beer, Savor X, a parting gift for attendees. Red Apron‘s charcuterie, Choptank‘s oysters, and Wisconsin cheese were hits!

    This is a show DC craft beer lovers (including myself) look forward to every year, so keep an eye out for Savor 2018! Maybe they’ll bring salons (classes) back next year?


  • 16Nov

    District Fishwife, located in Union Market against the right wall, has a special secret.  The Shrimp Bahn Mi sandwich!

    District Fishwife introduced the Shrimp Bahn Mi sandwich re-imagined. District Fishwife’s original Shrimp Po’Boy – which is known in New Orleans as fried shrimp balls on a bun with a slaw – recently received a Vietnamese splash (fried shrimp balls on a bun with Vietnamese accompaniment). This sandwich’s relaunch has justifiably increased its popularity.

    When the creative chef team behind the sandwiches went back to the drawing board, the Shrimp Banh Mi was designed.  The sandwich comes with your choice of curly fries or apple slaw.  Nolan, one of the managers, was gracious enough to answer my questions in regards to where the fish originates.  Most of the fish come from Florida and the East Coast during the cold months, ensuring freshness, since the time from water to plate is shortened.  The fish is full of Omega-3 fatty acids which good for a growing body.

    The sandwich was good, but with 4 little shrimp balls, this sandwich is more like a good snack than a meal.  That works just fine if you are walking around Union Market perusing food stalls and planning dinner.  But, the addition of 2 more shrimp balls might make the sandwich fuller and seem more like a meal.  Overall, I like the Vietnamese influence in this sandwich.

    Happy Eating,

    -CLF (Crystal)


  • 06Oct

    We recently reviewed a local business that cooks healthy meals and delivers them to homes in the DC area, Strong Fit meals. We ordered 5 more meals (pictured above), and were impressed with the consistency and quality of the entrees. Yeah, we missed the Chicken Fajitas and Chicken Satays from the last round, but the new meals were tasty (and healthy) as well.

    Strong Fit Meals did a good job at grilling many of the components (some proteins and some vegetables), and used some tasty herbs, spices, and sauces as well. We ordered four entrees from the clean menu (which changes weekly) and one (Ground Turkey) from the lean menu (which stays the same). The Teriyaki Chicken and the Ground Turkey were our favorite dishes this time around. The steak was a little tough but the chimichurri sauce made up for it. It would have been nice if the buckwheat noodles were not chopped up, but they were a tasty gluten-free option.

    It was nice that this week’s meals were not (low-fat) cheese heavy like some of the dishes we previously sampled. The cheese wasn’t bad, but I didn’t feel it was necessary.


  • 27May

    Last week we attended a SOFAR (Sounds From A Room) concert in a Parks Department building in Columbia Heights. SOFAR has shows in various cities around the world (it started in London). You don’t know the changing venues or bands beforehand. People sit on the floor or in chairs and enjoy the beer they brought to the show. Mostly, there was a lot of DC’s own DC Brau at the show, but I did see some Sam Adams and Corona. And, one of the bands (Cautious Clay) was even “experimental” music.


    KetchungEditor’s Note:

    I keep meaning to mention a local spicy ketchup that I recently tried out called Ketchung. It is a good thick and spicy ketchup.



  • 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.


  • 12Mar

    My $20 off of $60 code is https://www.relayfoods.com/friend/9WZ8KG.

    I’ve been getting a lot of groceries lately from Relay Foods lately, so here are some of my current top picks from their lineup:

    Nature’s Bakery Fig Bars are whole wheat versions of Fig Newtons are come in various flavors. I like the fact that they are whole wheat and in packages of two cookies for a healthy snack on the go. My favorites flavors are the blueberry, raspberry, original, and peach/apricot. I’m not a fan of the strawberry.

    Ninth Street (out of NC) makes Chocolate Babka. I’d prefer it doesn’t come frozen (because I have to defrost it to slice and toast it), but it is a good product. Keep in mind that it ca be difficult to slice, isn’t overly sweet, and should be toasted.

    Pretzilla Soft Pretzel Sausage Buns & Soft Pretzel Hamburger Buns. They arrive frozen. The hamburger buns they are already sliced but the sausage rolls are not.

    Hex’s Sea Kraut and Farmstead Ferments’ Classic Kraut are both good and local. Farmhouse Culture’s Organic Jalapeno Kraut is my favorite of the three, and is organic, but not local. (The other two are not organic.) Hex is a regular at the Silver Spring Farmer’s Market (and even sells kombucha there).

    I’m always a fan of Hudson Henry’s granola, which comes in three flavors (Pecan, Cashew, or Walnut) and is local. People go crazy for this product. This is my favorite granola right now!

    Asmar’s Baba Ganouj (out of Alexandria, VA) is a good product as well. It’s he best Baba I’ve found outside Middle Eastern Restaurants, although the texture is a little different.

    Escazu and Salazon are good options for local chocolate. The Escazu Dark Chocoloate Pumpkin Seeds & Guajillo, and the the Salazon Dark Chocolate Sea Salt and  Dark Chocolate Sea Salt Caramel are my favorites of these products.

    Eden Brown Mustard with Apple Cider Vinegar is stone ground, organic, and a great product.


  • 28Dec

    DC’s long anticipated wait for Harper Macaw‘s chocolate factory is over since it officially opened its doors on December 12th. Harper Macaw is DC’s first chocolate factory that sources their cocoa beans from the Brazilian Amazon and Atlantic rainforest. The line to enter the chocolate factory was out the door as people stood in line to get a taste of Harper Macaw’s hot chocolate or mint hot chocolate. Immediately upon entering, the smell of chocolate was in the air, with a vast variety of chocolate bars on display; chocolate cookies, pies and other desserts were being served. When the crowd of people were done sampling chocolate, tours were given.   During the tour, there were not any Oompa Loompas or Willy Wonka in sight. Instead, there was a sophisticated array of machinery such as a “conche” that ages the chocolate and a “five roller refinery” used in a European style of chocolate processing that crushes chocolate particles to 20 microns. At the end of the tour, Sarah Hartman (owner of Harper Macaw) threw a tasting party highlighting their chocolate variety and the event provided an informational session on how to properly eat and enjoy your chocolate. Harper Macaw currently has four chocolate bars available with 52, 67, 74, and 77 percent chocolate bars. Two of the bars are single source being either from the Brazilian Amazon or Atlantic rainforest. The other two bars are a unique blend of the two cocoa beans that produce a very deep sophisticated dark chocolate flavor. Sarah mentioned that key notes to taste in her chocolate bars were the “Fruity jamminess and wine in our 67% Dark Blend Bar, raisins in our 77% Amazon Rainforest Bar, toffee, butterscotch and spice notes in our 74% Atlantic Forest Bar, and raspberries, malt and almonds in our 52% Milk Bar.”

    With everyone enjoying the vast amount of chocolate surrounding them, Sarah Hartman was more than happy to chat with DCFüd about what it takes to be a chocolate artisan.

    What inspired you to start your own chocolate factory?

    I’ve had a lifelong love affair with chocolate. While attending boarding school in Switzerland, I fell deeply in love with chocolate, craftsmanship, and the history behind chocolate. Later on, my mother in law gave me a Scharffenberger recipe book – and the chapter that intrigued me the most was the one which talked about the chocolate making process and the power that cacao agriculture has to promote agroforestry. I shared this interest with a good friend, and she encouraged me to go for a one week intensive course on chocolate – after which, there was no going back. It was a matter of months before I knew I wanted to start my own business, but I knew I needed more experience and knowledge.  So I started learning everything I could about it from various courses all over the world, and later gaining invaluable experience at Valrhona and Dandelion chocolate.

    What is your ideal chocolate for texture? What about for flavor?

    My ideal chocolate texture is a chocolate that is smooth, refined, emulsified, and velvety – it unravels itself on your palate as it melts. I absolutely love that chocolate is a food that melts in your mouth – it is one of a kind. I don’t like grittiness nor sandiness in my chocolate, but I fully understand why some people may be attracted to this type of texture.

    My favorite flavor profile in chocolate is hands down fruity – I love chocolates crafted with Madagascar, Peruvian or Venezuelan beans.

    The artisan chocolate market in the US seems to be growing. We see more and more brands offering single-origin, high-cacao content chocolate. How do you see the Brazilian market changing?  How do you see your chocolate being different?

    Harper Macaw is the only US craft chocolate maker that sources cocoa beans from Brazil. We hope to enlighten fellow chocolate lovers about the unique flavor, texture, and aroma that Brazilian beans impart on our chocolate and inspire other craft chocolate makers to explore new sources. Our chocolate is different not only because of our unique source of beans, but because of our state of the art chocolate making process. We are one of the few chocolate ventures that use a 5 roll refiner. This ensures that our chocolate has the best texture and smoothest mouth feel.

    What are some new flavors that we may expect in the future? 

    We are working on several new sources for our cocoa beans that will imbue new and exciting flavors to our products. We are currently researching projects in Indonesia and Congo for our next origin bars. We have chosen these specific locations as they are countries which also suffer from large deforestation issues and we want to replicate our conservation model at other origins as well.

    How would you describe the flavors that someone eating your chocolate may expect?

    Each bar is unique and flavors and perceptions are all in the “mouth” of the beholder.  Our flavors are anything but expected.

    -EWL (Eric)

  • 30Nov

    Cheftify provides an experience combines the experience of a seasonal gourmet meal, professional chef demonstration, and cooking class all in the comfort of your own kitchen.

    Chef Thomas Rider arrived promptly to JAY’s front door at 6:45pm.  Dressed in his white chef’s coat and armed with two Le Cordon Bleu bags of cooking equipment, his knife set, and organic ingredients,  Chef Thomas left no doubt that he was prepared to create a fine dining experience for us.  I was a little concerned that it would feel awkward to have a stranger cook for us in the apartment, but Thomas and his friendly manner immediately put those concerns to rest.

    Thomas asked us about food allergies and restrictions.  He explained that Cheftify sources ingredients from Whole Foods in DC and that while he did not select the ingredients personally, he was ready to adapt to food restrictions.

    We had previously selected a 3 course dinner option from the fourteen listed on the Cheftify website, so had some idea of what we were getting.  However, because the website did not describe the salad and left the dessert as a surprise, we watched Thomas unpack the groceries with interest.  I was delighted when we learned the “green salad” first course turned out to be a winter kale salad with radishes tossed in a fresh pomegranate and lime vinaigrette.

    As Thomas expertly sliced vegetables, we peppered him with questions about his background.  (From where did he acquire those knife skills?)  Thomas has been cooking his whole life and enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, NY when he was just 16 years old.  While he enjoyed drawing inspiration for his cooking from the Hudson Valley, he completed his education at Le Cordon Bleu in Miami.  After a short stint cooking at a luxury hotel in the British Virgin Islands, Thomas returned to his native Montgomery County and has since been dedicated to providing diners with experiences that are both outstanding and personal at the same time.

    The entree was Canadian mussels with coconut and red curry broth. I would not normally cook mussels at home, but Thomas explained how to clean and prepare mussels for steaming. Thomas helped us select a beer to pair with the meal.

    DSCN0822JAY had a bake at home baguette on hand to accompany the tasty mussels.  The broth is often the best part of eating mussels and we needed something to sop up that tasty sweet and spicy broth!  Thomas transformed our baguette into a crusty pan seared crostini in a hot skillet with Tunisian olive oil, salt, and pepper.  This was definitely a tip I would duplicate in future meals.

    When we selected our meal, Cheftify listed the dessert as a surprise.  Our dessert was a white chocolate and raspberry gelato with fresh black raspberries.  Cheftify has since updated their website to prompt diners to choose one of 3 desserts, including strawberry shortcake, s’mores, and mixed berries with fresh cream.  I have not tried any of those desserts, but Cheftify uses organic fruit from Whole Foods so the shortcake and mixed berry options are likely winners.  Choose s’mores for nostalgia sake or if you would like a demonstration to make a childhood treat at home.

    The meal was delicious and the Cheftify experience that evening was enjoyable in of itself.  However, what Cheftify provides that may distinguish its services from either another personal chef service or a meal at a restaurant is that Chef Thomas gave practical instructions that could help elevate future meals at home.  I will shy away from cooking mussels no longer.  Fresh pomegranate vinaigrette will be on the menu and yes, I will be using a skillet to make crostini from a baguette.  *Although Thomas came with his own cooking equipment this time, Cheftify suggests diners set out their own cooking equipment.  We could have recreated some aspects of the meal using equipment JAY already had at home.  Now if I only had Chef Thomas’ knife skills.

    Other thoughts and tips:
    Good choice for people who have their alcohol.  The cost of beverage mark ups in restaurants can add up.  Also, with a personal chef working away in the kitchen, your time can be freed up to show off your wine cellar or cocktail mixing skills.

    -CAF (Cindy)

    Editor’s Notes (by JAY):

    1. The teaching aspect may not be part of their normal program. I asked in the “Notes” section of the order for the Chef to teach us the dish (something that my contact JP said was possible).
    2. In the “Notes” section, I listed CAF’s allergies, which include chocolate.
    3. At the time that I placed my order (just a few days ago), actually selecting your dessert was not possible, although it is now. So, the dessert was a “mystery dessert,” and I had already listed chocolate as an allergy. The dessert wound up being White Chocolate Gelato, so the inclusion of a chocolate dessert was an error on Cheftify’s part. I’m sure they will be more careful with allergies in the future.
    4. A Cheftify press release I received today stated that you now get a choice of salad.
    5. We really enjoyed speaking with Chef Thomas and watching him cook. He even let CAF use the digital SLR camera he happened to have in his car (CAF’s camera’s memory card malfunctioned), so if the pictures look better than the ones I take, blame the two of them and the better camera.
    6. The Bake at Home Organic French Baguette (by Essential Baking Co.) I ordered from Relay Foods. The baguette is on sale this week at Relay Foods and there is a coupon/ad for $20 off of $60 on your first order below.
    7. * He did use my pots, pans, utensils, but brought salt, pepper, Tunisian olive oil, plates for the main course, and his own knives.

    Disclosure: From time to time, we are given free items, meals, or entry to events. Also, I do have a relationship with Relay Foods.

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