• 30Mar

    Product Reviews:

    I used the new spice rub from Dizzy Pig, Bayou-ish, on various baked chicken dishes. This great tasting rub is designed for searing and blackening, but can also be used for baking or stir frying.

    I purchased two of Farmstead Ferments’ sauerkrauts from Relay Foods: the Apple Kraut (made with red cabbage) and the Classic Kraut. The producer is based in Charlottesville, VA, and creates raw, naturally-fermented foods and beverages made by hand in small batches. She uses “eco-locally grown” fruits and vegetables. You don’s want to kill the probiotics, so don’t cook the kraut. I use the krauts on good whole wheat Portuguese rolls with turkey sausages and mustard, but use a sweeter mustard (such as honey Dijon) with the (extremely strongly flavored) red kraut for the contrast in flavors. You can use this code (JXDVAG) to get $30 off of $50 on your first Relay Foods grocery pickup (they have pickup spots throughout the area) or delivery.

    I tried two of Saffron Road‘s simmer sauces: the Korean Stir Fry, and the Harissa. I used both of the sauces (separately) in chicken and vegetable dishes. Both sauces are tasty, and included combinations of flavors I didn’t expect (both include pear juice as an ingredient). I have a couple of other simmer sauces to try out, so I’ll report back on them later.

    I sampled a number of NAR Gourmet Turkish products. They products I tied are all are kosher (pareve), but only some are organic.

    NAR’s Organic Cumin and Organic Chili Pepper (flakes) are both good quality products; I used them together in a variety of dishes including home fries, and green beans. The Organic Chili Pepper arrived in a small glass bottle with a cork stopper, so, when I opened it, I half expected a genie to materialize. The Red Wine Vinegar and Early Harvest cold pressed Extra Virgin Olive Oil are both good quality products, and what I expected; I used them on several delicious salads.

    NAR’s pressed Pistachio Oil is a new product for me, which is why I ordered it. It also took me a while to think of how I wanted to try it out. I considered making something with filo dough, or maybe a pasta salad, but did not have appropriate ingredients.  This morning, I combined the oil with butter and used it  to pan fry French toast with spectacular results. (We are talking spectacularly good, not spectacularly bad.) This is a great product.

    The last two NAR products that I tried were the Traditional Lemon Peel Jam and Traditional Mandarin Marmalade. They may both be traditional in Turkey, but I’m unsure that either one translates well to the US market.

    This particular “marmalade” isn’t what we (in the US) know as a marmalade (a jelly with some suspended slivers of rind), but a product that seems to be blended. As such, all you taste (besides a little sugar) is rind, and this is an overly bitter combination with an odd texture; I did not enjoy this product. My recommendation here is that NAR emulates how marmalades are made in the US (or even the UK, which is big on marmelades), in  order to produce a product appropriate to the market they are targeting.

    The Traditional Lemon Peel Jam is actually closer to a preserve than a jam, but I would describe it as candied lemon peel in syrup. The lemon peel is rolled up into little wheels, and aren’t really that enjoyable to chew on because of how big/thick the pieces are. Do I see possible uses for this product? Yes, if renamed something like “candied lemon peel in syrup,” I can see people using the candied lemon rinds and syrup in cooking, baking, and creation of  cocktails. You would chop the peels up to cook or bake with them.  I am sure they is a way to slice the peels up to use them to garnish a cocktail, and the syrup could definitely be used in cocktails.


  • 23Apr

    I recently attended Shecky’s Night Out in DC, despite the “No Boys Allowed” rule. I was hoping to see Rachel DeAlto speak (since I’ve written with her for another publication and have never actually met her), but unfortunately, Shecky’s rescheduled and Rachel had an obligation to speak in New Jersey that evening. Shecky’s had various vendors including fashion, bath products, and cosmetics, but also Merlot’s Masterpiece (painting/wine events) and Chouquette. Why am I mentioning Shecky’s night out? I’ll tell you why. I got to try Chouquette‘s chocolates, and they were definitely among the best things I’ve eaten lately.

    I would like to insert a little feedback for Shecky’s. You probably want food at the event, even if it is a vendor (and you make money off it), since shopping and diet cocktails seem to make make girls hungry–I saw some of them tearing into the Orville Redenbacher Brown Sugar Cinnamon Pop Crunch samples that were part of the event’s gift bag like they needed the calories and sugar to keep their shopping pace up.

    Other great things we have eaten lately:

    My new favorite healthy snacks are Saffron Road‘s Bombay Spice Crunchy Chick Peas. I like the Felafel flavor as well (but would like it more if it had a bit less flavoring), and have yet to open the wasabi-flavored bag. I will say that the zippers do not work well because the spices get into them during manufacturing.

    Frontera’s New Mexico Taco Skillet sauce is a quick way to make tasty tacos. We used ground turkey, avocado, lettuce, and tomato in our tacos. The Texas version is good too, but I prefer the New Mexico.

    The spicy wings at Rice & Noodles in Franconia are excellent and are part of a 2 courses for $10 or $11 special from Sunday through Wednesday. The wings take20 minutes, so make sure they know to bring the food out as it is ready or that one dish will slow you down. I have really liked most of the dishes I’ve had at R&N, but there has been an occasional clunker R&N delivers within 3 miles.

    April’s DC Food Blogger Happy Hour was hosted by Daphne of Go Gastronomy at the downtown location of ChixDC. I was surprised at how good the food was at ChixDC, including the Caribbean wings special. (The next DCFBHH is hosted by me on May 1st at Ambar.)

    Last night, I tried Daikaya‘s (Shoyu) Ramen for the first time, and was very impressed. The nitamago (marinated soft-boiled egg) is delicious. The pork dumplings are good as well. The downstairs space s a ramen house, while the upstairs space is a restaurant with a nice long bar and beautiful decor.

    Daikaya‘s printed menus (both at the upstairs and downstairs restaurants) are designed in such a way that they are hard to navigate, and are a bit frustrating; you have to flip back and forth a lot to follow the menus. It was nice that they sat me right at the middle of the bar because I got to see and take pictures of the ramen as it was plated. Once the upstairs restaurant launches a happy hour menu, I’ll probably check it out.


    Daikaya on Urbanspoon

    Rice & Noodles Thai Gourmet on Urbanspoon

    Chix on Urbanspoon

  • 18May

    Zengo’s current Test Kitchen” is  Hanoi-Havana (Vietnamese/Cuban fusion), and you HAVE to try the Cangrejo Enchilado (soft shell crab lettuce wraps) and the Lemongrass-Lychee Mojito! Seriously! The crab appetizer was so good that Eugene of DC Life Magazine, who does not like soft shell crab, actually enjoyed it. The Boba Cafecito (a cocktail with dark rum, iced Cuban Coffee, Thai Chili, coconut milk, and coffee pearls) was good as well.

    Moorenko‘s Milk Chocolate Gelato has great texture and flavor.

    Talenti‘s double Dark Chocolate gelato is very chocolaty with delicious little bits of chocolate.

    Ciao Bella‘s Lemon Zest Sorbet and Lime Graham gelato  are both good but I prefer the Lime Graham gelato (which also comes in sandwich form). Ciao Bella is a finalist for a Sofi Award at the Fancy Food Show for the Grapefruit Campari (which I have not tried).

    Tate’s Bakeshop in Long Island is also a finalist for a Sofi Award for their chocolate chip cookies. The cookies are delicious, buttery, and very crunchy. I actually like to let them soften for a day or two.

    I had a great breakfast at Art & Soul with Art Smith and Mary Beth Albright, where I met Allison Adato, the author of Smart Chef’s Stay Slim. It is a great book and Art wrote the foreword. Yes, I ate lemon pancakes and house-cured bacon, but I also tried Art’s healthy quinoa granola.

    I had some great food and wine at Market Tavern, so I am sorry to hear that they closed their doors a couple of evenings ago. I even hosted a large happy hour there recently.

    I’ve nearly used an entire bottle of Suriny rice bran oil. It works well at high temperatures and has been responsible for some great veggie stir-fries.

    We got to try a variety of Norwegian brewery Nøgne ø’s beers at the Norwegian Embassy, and while they were all good, the (chocolaty) porter blew us away, especially paired with berry panna cota. If you find their porter for sale in DC or Arlington, let me know. I hear that Wine Specialist may carry it. The embassy’s Chef Sandre Bruvik Ellingstad created some truly amazing dishes–this was some of the best food I’ve had anywhere recently.

    DuckTrap River of Maine makes some truly great smoked salmon (and other fish). Look for it in Whole Foods, although WF doens’t carry the pastrami spiced lox, and Giant only carried that one variety.

    Mighty Leaf makes some of my favorite teabags. I’m a fan of their organic Green Hojicha (which tastes like toasted rice), Organic Spring Jasmine, and Orange Dulce (a black), and less a fan of the Green Tropic (although it smells amazing). I understand the “magic of the tea pouch” but it would be great if  (1) the tea didn’t run down the string to the table, (2) I didn’t find tea lives and pieces of cotton or string floating in my tea, (3) They weren’t $9 for a box of 15 or so, and (4) if people didn’t keep telling me the string looks like a certain feminine product.

    Big Buns is a great burger joint in Ballston. I like their beef burgers, and even their sweet potato fries are good, and they have a soda bar (to make flavored sodas). The vegetarians can get a mushroom burger (I can’t vouch for it).

    Saffron Road‘s Lasagna is a great (vegetarian) product and is available in the freezer case at Whole Foods Market. They have recently come out with simmer sauces but I’ve yet to try them.

    I’m addicted to Popchips, especially the BBQ and Salt and Pepper varieties. Please don’t tell anyone. 4Bitten Media put a bag of the cheddar flavored variety in my gift bag at their awesome launch party a couple of days ago at Masa 14, but I haven’t tried it yet.

    Keep an eye out for Kababji Grill‘s food truck. I attended the truck’s launch last night, and got to sample the food, which was good. I especially enjoyed the baba ganouj, kibbe, and friend phyllo cigars (stuffed with cheese).





  • 11Dec
    • Carla Hall.

      Jer’s Squares.  We got to meet Jerry Swain and hear him speak about his candy and company at the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show.  We tried 4 varieties of the squares (bite-size chocolate peanut butter products), including the Original, Cara Mella, Pretzo Chang-o, and Toffee Break. All were excellent and addictive, especially the Original.

    • Carla Hall’s Cookies & Granola. Carla has an amazing personalty (very fun and friendly and inviting). Her granola contains a variety or nuts (including pumpkin seeds) and dried fruit and is very very good–we killed two packages of it pretty quickly. She makes little tiny cookies in both sweet and savory varieties. I was especially partial to the savory Goat Cheese and Dried Cranberry and sweet (gluten free) Hawaiian Wedding (coconut, lime, powdered sugar) varieties. Whole Foods carries 5 of the 10 varieties of cookies.
    • Moorenko’s Icecream. Of the 8 varieties we’ve tried, our favorites are the Prune Armenac, Chocolate Malted, Fresh Ginger, Honey Lavender, and Vanilla. I am not a fan of the Pistachio White Chocolate (I don’t like white chocolate), Grapefruit Campari Sorbet (it was too bitter), and Orange Cream Ice (it was a texture thing but I don’t think she got it wrong). Whole Foods and many other markets carry these ice creams.
    • Lucy’s gluten free (and vegan) cookies. We tried the sugar cookies and the cinnamon thins at the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show (Bloom was handing them out so must carry them), and both varieties are very tasty; They would be good for regular cookies, but for a gluten free product, they are great (crunchy and delicious).
    •  Saffron Road has some good gluten free chicken nugget products in Wholefoods freezer case. While we prefer the Tandoori Nuggets to the (battered) chicken bites, both are good (and gluten free). We’ve talked about their other products here.
    • Viva La Papa Peruvian potato chips are available at the Fairway Market in Manhattan, but are not yet in stores in DC. We tried 3 varieties, Anticucho BBQ, Mixed Chillies/Lime, and Sal De Maras (sea salt), and the one we preferred was the chilli/lime variety, which tastes more like what we expect BBQ chips to taste like than the Anticucho BBQ.

    Some of these products were from the Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show. It was a great show where we also got to see Guy Fieri, Mary Beth Albright (we’ve met her previously and love her), and Paula Deen present.



  • 24Aug

    I’m still working through a pile of samples from the Fancy Food Show. Here are some more standout products from the show:

    Last week I grilled Karoun Dairies‘ Yanni Grilling Cheese and Jalapeno Grilling Cheese. The plain variety was great in sandwiches with homemade (from a garden) pesto on grilled ciabatta rolls. The jalapeno variety was delicious and eaten straight (after being grilled) and were made with an excellent blend of jalapeno and spices.

    Saffron Road makes frozen ethnic (mainly Indian, Thai, and Moroccan) entrees, which are carried in this area by Whole Foods. We tried 4 varieties: Lamb Vindaloo, Lamb Saag, Lemongrass Basil Chicken, and Chicken Tikka Masala. I passed on the Chicken Pad Thai, and don’t remember seeing the Lamb Koftis or Moroccan Lamb Stew at Whole Foods (Arlington). Whole Foods had one of Saffron Roads’ chicken nugget products (I think it was the Chicken Bites) but not the Tandoori Seasoned Chicken Nuggets, so I passed on the nuggets as well.

    So, how were the frozen dinners? They all have tasty sauces and quality ingredients. They are a little small for me, which made me wish that they included a compartment with an added vegetable or even a dessert. Also, their listed spiciness level is inconsistent (across products) and therefore not very accurate. Plus, if you follow the microwave directions, results are inconstant across entrees, even with the same microwave. Some entrees will get severely overcooked if you follow their directions, and we had a problem with one entree (Chicken Tikka Masala) with the meat cooked much faster than the rice. I still recommend Saffron Road’s products, but you should watch them like a hawk when they are being microwaved.

    My favorite of the products was the Lamb Saag, which had more of a substantial sauce (because of the spinach). My second favorite was the Lamb Vindaloo. The Lemon Grass Basil Chicken was probably my least favorite but it still had interesting green peppers (which seemed to have some vinegar in them). Texturally, the lamb did seem to respond a bit better to being microwaved.  I will definitely purchase the Lamb Saag (and probably the Lamb Vindaloo) again.  I may even try the other entrees and nuggets

    I took this at pic the Fancy Food Show.

    I met the Cake Mix Doctor (Anne Byrn) at the show, and then found her Deep Dark Chocolate Cake Mix at Ross in Seven Corners for $3, so I picked one up. “S” made it today (and used store bought chocolate frosting) and it turned out well although a little dense. We used regular sour cream, but might use light sour cream next time. “S” said that she would “…make this to bring to a party instead of buying a pre-made cake.” Anne has good recipes on the website to “doctor” cakes.

    Milton’s Craft Bakers‘ makes multi-grain crackers.  I got my hands on three varieties: Original Multi-Grain, Everything Multi-Grain, and Roasted Garlic & Herb.  Our favorite of the three varieties was the Garlic & Herb, with the Everything coming in second, although they were all tasty.  They did a great job with the flavor combinations on the Garlic & Herb and Everything varieties, with the former containing rosemary (extract), garlic powder, dehydrated garlic, and parsley flakes, and the latter containing rosemary (extract), caraway seeds, poppy seeds, dehydrated onions, sesame seeds and onion and garlic powders.  While they are delicious, it would be nice if the crackers were larger so that they would work better as a cheese delivery method. I’ve seen the Original variety being sold at Costco three boxes at a time; Milton’s says that Safeway and Harris Teeter carry most varieties.  They use recycled board & ecofriendly inks in the packaging for the crackers.

    I actually felt bad for the other participants at a Blush N Brush class when they ate boring look crackers as we munched on Milton’s. No, that doesn’t mean we shared. 🙂

    I also sampled Rigoni’s  Fiordifrutta organic fruit spreads and Nocciolata (organic hazelnut/chocolate spread).  There are some great Fiordifrutta flavors (I tried strawberry, fig, and grapefruit); I’ve been buying their products for years.  The nocciolata is a new product to me, and is delicious.  If you like Nutella and want a great tasting organic alternative, try this product.  It was great on toasted (good quality) wheat bread.

    For those of you who want your chocolate and booze in one shot, try Tortuga‘s Chocolate Rum Turtles With Sea Salt.  It is a product from Barbados, and the flavor combination of chocolate, rum, and pecans is layered and delicious.  I also have one of their rum cake samples on hand. Mmmmmm, rum.


    Disclaimer:  I know something to this effect is stated in our “About” section, but (as sometimes happens), we received freebies.  That said,  our words are our own.



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