• 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

  • 05Apr

    Wildfire has a gluten free dinner scheduled for Wednesday April 13th. You can view the menu for the event here. Gluten free dishes will be paired with Omission Pale Ale and Lager, Bard’s Gold, and Angry Orchard “Crisp Apple” img_20160403_133556827_hdrHard Cider. With the gluten free dinner quickly approaching, I decided to take a gluten free diner (let’s call her “GFJ”) to Wildfire to try their gluten free brunch. GFJ is very into the GF food and product scene.

    We ordered the gluten free Banana Chocolate Pancakes, Chicken Moreno with Artichokes, a Bard’s Gold (gluten free beer), and a side of green beans. We were served gluten free bread. GFJ said that the pancakes, chicken, and bread all “passed the test.” She would have liked to try more than one gluten free beer (but the two Omissions from the upcoming dinner weren’t available to us). It is nice that I – someone who doesn’t require a special diet – could eat gluten free and not miss the gluten. It’s a shame we aren’t available for the gluten free dinner, because Wildfire knows how to handle gluten free dishes.

    -JAY

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

  • 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

  • 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

     

  • 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.

    -JPM

    Wildfire on Urbanspoon

  • 27Feb

     

     

    Gluten-free people are often deprived. While our non-gluten-free dinner companions can splurge on any delectable sugary treat on the menu, we are often left to look on in envy. But there are finally a good number of local restaurants who are catching on and spoiling the gluten-free population as well.

    I compiled a list below of my favorite finds in the area. I chose to highlight items based on their creativity and only listed them if they are staples on a restaurant’s menu. There are a few restaurants like Willow in Arlington or Wildfire in McLean that offer special seasonal gluten-free desserts. I purposefully did not include those on the list because they are not always offered. However, I strongly suggest you check them out when you can, because they are definitely worth it!

    1. Trummer’s on Main (Popcorn Ice Cream)- This is the most tasty and unique dessert I’ve found! The combo of sweet and salty is masterful and tantalizes the taste-buds. Not to mention the fun of the innovative presentation on the plate. This dessert makes the restaurant worth checking out on its own.
    2. The Great American Restaurants (Chocolate Waffle)- This treat is available at any of the Great American Restaurant locations. Its chocolatey goodness is delicious and I appreciate the original take on a flour-less chocolate dessert. Instead of the usual cake, it’s an actual waffle with molten chocolate inside! It creates a great combo of gooey chocolate and vanilla ice cream with every bite.
    3. Matchbox (Cherry Pistachio Cheesecake)- This sweet dessert is a refreshing change for the gluten-free diner. It packs a punch of flavors into its rich, creamy goodness. The cheesecake itself is mouthwatering and the pistachio and cherries complement it perfectly for a satisfying crunch.
    4. Rustico (Heart of Darkness)- Although this dessert is in essence a flour-less chocolate cake, it is different because it has layers! The cake is encased in a shell which is a thick cold layer of ganache like chocolate on the outside. Upon breaking it open, you have a layer of whipped chocolate mousse followed by the dense flour-less chocolate cake on the inside. They serve it with scoops of sherbert on the side. Delish!
    5. Wildfire (Chocolate Chip Cookies)- Sometimes simplicity really is the best. There is nothing over the top or fancy about these cookies, but that’s what makes them so perfect. For starters, they are the gooey, melt in your mouth kind of chocolate chip cookies, which I always prefer over the crisp ones. And they have perfected the blend of flavors so you would never be able to tell the cookies were gluten-free. I had to compete with my non-gluten free friends to keep them for myself!

    I hope you enjoy checking out these great treats for yourself. Happy eating everyone!

    -JPM

    Trummer's on Main on Urbanspoon

    Matchbox on Urbanspoon

    Rustico on Urbanspoon

    Wildfire on Urbanspoon

    Coastal Flats on Urbanspoon

     

  • 07Oct

    On September 30, 2014 I had the pleasure of attending A Taste of Lettuce DC, a spectacular four course dinner featuring the different flavors of Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants, Wildfire, Joe’s, Big Bowl, Mon Ami and Community Canteen. The event was held at Wildfire, Tysons Galleria and included cocktail and wine pairings. The Executive Chefs from each restaurant provided a few words about their dishes, and I have paraphrased their comments in the descriptions below. It was a fantastic evening filled with delicious food and drinks. I will definitely be coming back to all of the Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants for more, and will be sure to attend other tasting menus with pairings. The Lettuce Entertain You Restaurants hold special events monthly.

    Hors d’oeuvres by Mon Ami Gabi:

    Chicken Liver Crostini with red wine mustard. This dish featured a crispy toast round with zingy mustard, creamy and light-as-air chicken liver, and was topped with a sliver of cornichon. The flavors were balanced well: a sour, salty, and slight sweetness from the chicken liver, and a slight warming spice from the mustard. The texture was very pleasant as the cornichon and crostini provided crunch while the chicken liver was soft in texture. The chicken liver and country pate Crostini are signature dishes of rustic French cooking, which is the essence of the cooking at Mon Ami Gabi.

    Country Pate Crostini with grain mustard. This was very similar to the chicken liver crostini, in flavor, texture and appearance. The biggest difference was the pate was a little denser than the chicken liver, but was still very light.

    Salmon Tartare on Gaufrette Chips. I really enjoyed the simplicity and playfulness of this dish. It was composed of raw chopped high quality and high fat content salmon atop a plain potato chip. The salmon had a wonderful soft buttery quality and this worked so well with the crunch and salt from the chip. I will have to take a visit to Mon Ami Gabi to eat more of this.

    Mini Mushroom Quiche Tartlets. The tartlets were soft and fluffy. They were well balanced and did not have a strong mushroom flavor.

    Wine pairing:

    Ruffino Prosecco DOC: A sparkling dry white wine with delicate bubbles, soft notes of apple, pear, and citrus, with a fruity and floral bouquet. I found this to be a delightful pairing.

    Second Course by Big Bowl:

    Thai Crab & Corn Soup. This dish featured sweet lump crabmeat, local corn, coconut milk and Thai Chili. It was moderate in spice, complementing the sweetness from the corn and crabmeat and the richness of the coconut milk. A beautiful kefir lime flavor and aroma permeated the dish, adding a little sour flavor to make the dish sing. I was pleased when I saw some kernels of corn still together, letting me know that whole ears of corn were utilized for the dish. The chef informed us that the chicken stock that is the base for the soup is homemade. I was not at all surprised that this was the case because it was clear from the soups wonderful flavors that no shortcuts were taken. Now that fall is upon us, I’m looking forward to heading to Big Bowl on a crisp day to warm up with this soup and to try others.

    Cocktail Paring:

    Limoncello Tini: This drink was sweet and sour, featuring Limoncello flavor. The acidity of the drink was nice, but the sweetness was just a little overpowering paired with the soup. I would have personally preferred this drink on its own or with dessert. Read the rest of this entry »

  • 14Jul

     

    Wildfire hosted another gluten-free four course dinner and wine pairing recently at their restaurant in Tyson’s Corner. As usual their superb skills in preparing gluten-free meals provided an evening in dining decadence that cannot be compared. An interesting twist to this particular evening was that for the first time, the menu was so enticing it even brought in non-gluten-free diners to participate. I was fortunate enough to be seated next to one of these non-gluten sufferers, who enjoyed the meal so much he swore he’d be back next time!

    I also have to agree that this was one of my favorite Wildfire events. From the beginning appetizers of spinach ricotta bites and olive bruschetta, I was hooked. The first course of herb crusted salmon was so fresh and prepared so perfectly, it literally melted in my mouth. The other culinary highlight of the evening was the white chocolate banana s’mores bar. Made with coconut, cinnamon and marshmallow, it was such a unique and tasty blend of flavors, I only wished there was more after finishing.

    Overall, the food portion of the evening can only be described as absolute perfection. Being pregnant at the moment though, I unfortunately have less to say on the wine pairing portion. However, I brought my sister along with me for the fun and she was more than happy to act as my wine taste tester. She declared them all to be great choices, but her favorite stand out of the night was the Lock and Key Meritage ’11. She described it as a full-bodied red that had a rich blend of flavors. I took a sip or two myself from her glass and I have to agree I also found it to be delicious. I will definitely be getting a bottle myself to enjoy for post-pregnancy time.

    The entertainment portion of the evening was also enjoyable. Editor-in-chief from Delight magazine, Vanessa Weisbrod and her husband, Eric, spoke about the challenges of living with a non-gluten-free spouse. They provided humorous anecdotes from their dating days as well as informative tips about their day to day navigation through the compromises of living with someone who has a gluten allergy. I found myself chuckling at times while listening to their stories, because I could relate to some of their issues from living with my own non-gluten-free spouse. My husband and I always joke that his favorite thing about me ever going out of town without him, is that he gets to gorge out on gluten. I return home to find empty pizza and breadstick boxes every time. After listening to Eric and Vanessa though, I know we’re not alone. Apparently, it’s normal to stare longingly at the bread basket while my husband partakes and my husband is not alone in groaning to coming home to a meal made with whatever gluten-free substitute I’ve used that day. These are the sacrifices/compromises we all make for coexisting in peace and luckily with the advancements the gluten-free product providers have made in recent years, it’s not even as difficult for us all to be satisfied as it once was. Overall, the topic was well chosen and I do think enjoyed by all who attended that evening.

    All I can say is my sister and I returned home that evening with full stomachs feeling satisfied. And I know, I for one, am counting down until Wildfire hosts their next gluten-free event.

    -JPM (Joyana)

    Wildfire - Tysons Galleria on Urbanspoon

  • 22Jul

    There are some people that are instantly likable. John Shields, author of Chesapeake Bay Cooking, host of the PBS series Coastal Cooking, and owner of Gertrude’s in the Baltimore Museum of Art is one of those people. (Unless you are a crustacean, in which case you need to run for your life.) Not only is John personable, but he also has a passion for – and possibly an addiction to – this region’s native cuisine. I was a little cautious about speaking with him about Baltimore seafood restaurants because as a restaurateur he might see such establishments as competition. But, John loves Chesapeake Bay cooking and has no problem discussing his favorite (and sometimes hidden) gems.

    John was the special guest at Wildfire’s annual Chesapeake crab dinner. I was happy to be present and follow along (crab in hand) while he taught us how to break the spice-covered crustacean down step-by-step. John informed us that due to some early season chilly weather, the current crop of crabs contain crustaceans that are a bit smaller and more expensive than usual; he speculated that this will change by early fall. John even visited our table later on to give DCFüd’s videographer (Cy, a Virginian with childhood memories of the river) a one-on-one lesson in how to break down blue crabs like someone who picks jumbo lump for a living.

    Wildfire’s Executive Chef, Eddie Ishaq, did a wonderful job showcasing crab in a variety of uses. The blue crabs were well spiced. The pan seared halibut with garlic spinach and sauce supreme was delicious. The ribeye medallion and crab cake were very well executed; that was the best piece of steak I’ve had lately and everyone agreed that the restaurant did an amazing job n the crab cake. That particular surf and turf masterpiece is on the menu at the Chicago Wildfire restaurants but there are normally only enough of that particular cut of steak for Windy City Diners, so Eddie had to order the meat three months in advance for this particular dinner when John (who often dines at the Chicago Wildfire restaurants) asked about the dish. We (Cy, myself, and the people seated at our table) would have preferred a wine or beer pairing over the dinner’s cocktail pairing.

    Below is our Youtube video: How to Pick Chesapeake Blue Crab with John Shields:

    Based on how wonderful the food was at this dinner, I definitely recommend trying Wildfire’s dinner events, such as the Chimay Brewery dinner on August 9th ($60 per person plus tax and gratuity). The courses will be:

    • Risotto Frito, paired with the Chimay Red Cap
    • Mussels Meuniere, paired with the Chimay Triple
    • Braised Sausage & Cabbage, paired with the Chimay Blue Cap
    • Pot de Creme (dark chocolate custard with whipped creme), paired with the Chimay Blue Cap

    -JAY

    Wildfire - Tysons Galleria on Urbanspoon

  • 21Jan

    Last weekend, we had brunch at Wildfire in Tysons Galleria. Wildire is a large steakhouse, and it does a good amount of business during its brunch service. Wildfire often has themed dinners, one of which was covered previously on DCFüd. But, back to brunch:

    We ordered the Classic French Toast and Lemon Ricotta Pancakes from the regular brunch menu, and because the frittata cannot be made without mushrooms (I’m allergic), we ordered the Scrambled Eggs & Bacon from the kid’s menu. We substituted cheddar cheese for American cheese in the scrambled eggs. The ricotta cheese adds a nice texture to the lemon pancakes. All of the dishes were rich and flavorful (full of dairy, which is good), as was the cornbread they served at the start of the meal. I could have just eated a few peieces of their cornbread for a meal (its so good!) but we were there for brunch! I also had a cup of tea: Mighty Leaf Earl Grey.

    The service was excellent (and attentive). although a bit slow, but it was a busy time of the week in a large restaurant. This meal definitely was a nice experience.

    -JAY

    Wildfire - Tysons Galleria on Urbanspoon

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