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Robin Shuster

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Posts posted by Robin Shuster

  1. Too me this is the most painful time of the year...you pull yourself out of bed early one Sunday and you're greeted by the brightest shades of green you've seen for six months and Spring Is Here! and then you get up the next week to see what's new and they've got....greens.  And the week after.  And the week after as we wait for the strawberries and the cherries and the peas and the peaches.  April is the cruelest month because it's such a tease. I don't care about lilacs breeding out of the dead land, I need fresh favas from Heinz. 

    Some take comfort in the ramps at the Dupont Market...and last week there were wild morels, expensive and short-lived but hand-gathered in West By God Virginia, by genuine Mountaineers, another peasant food turned pricey by urban demand (don't get me started on the ramps).

    But it's finally May and this week, at least, my local opens up, the Mt. Pleasant market -- not as extensive as Dupont but enough to get us through Saturday night.  Rumors are that the first strawberries have been spotted at other markets, and Reid Orchards is sure to have the first cherries of the season, whenever they arrive.  And my buddy Brian at Truck Patch still deals some of the best pork in town.  Looks like Spring is finally here to stay.

    14& U reopened yesterday May 10th at 9 am with your buddy Truck Patch's superb pork. We had plump, sweet strawberries, purple and green asparagus, lots of salad and cooking greens: romaine, mesclun, mixed lettuces, arugula, spinach, Mizuna, chard, collards, turnips, three kinds of kale, spring onions, green garlic, walnuts to grind with that green garlic for pesto, mint and other herbs, apples, cider, canned peaches and for the gardeners: tomato, vegetable, herb and flower starts. Except for Truck Patch and Breadline, none of the other producers duplicate Mount Pleasant -- and none overlap with Dupont. So, Charles, a good reason to visit BOTH Mount Pleasant and U Street on a Saturday morning to plan your Sat night dinners.

  2. I have been twice for lunch in the last three weeks. The lardon frisee salad is the best I have ever had, here or in France. I liked the mussel chowder a lot. A friend raved to us about the burger It was good, but there are lots of good burgers in DC. A few months ago I loved the faux gras.

    I went back to Central today hoping to have my socks knocked off and -- as much as I like the place -- the socks are still on. Had a tasty cold ratatouille and my friend devoured her lamb shank with polenta, but the pied de couchon was unfortunate.  The shreds of pig trotter themselves were more stringy than unctuous, and the pasta square in which they were rolled -- which made the thing look disconcertingly like something from the hot dog grill at a 7-11  -- was just kind of there, in a starch sort of way. Sorbets were wonderful and the kit-kat bar remains winner.

    I think the restaurant is great, but maybe I should get my glasses changed because I'm just not seeing the #10 in the city ranking by Washingtonian Magazine or the Post's 3 stars.

  3. Thanks, Charles, for your kind words NanBon is the baker of the Sweet Potato Pie and the Buttermilk tart. Michael and Chrissy are the Blueberry Hill Farmers you spoke with and both producers will be at Bloomingdale on Sunday for the Final and Pre Thanksgiving Market of 2007.

    The pies are from OLD family recipes. The buttermilk is real buttermilk not the cultured stuff.


    One damn good reason to head down to the Bloomindale market for a what is certainly the finest sweet potato pie I've ever eaten. I am confident in asserting this, because it's the only sweet potato pie I've ever eaten -- I never much liked that type of tuber. But this was excellent stuff, even according to people with a history good southern eating. My wife was even more blown away by the buttermilk tart. I don't don't even know what a buttermilk tart is, because she wouldn't share. All I know is that she moans whenever I bring it up and gives me the old "why did you mention that -- now I'm hungry" line. I can't remember the name of the baker, but she's right there on the end of the line, facing Big Bear (not a bad reason to hit 1st Street, either).

    If you're inspired by the idea of sweet potato pie and maybe the new Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings CD to get all soulfull for dinner, another new addition -- with the easy-to-remember name of Blueberry Hill Farms -- sells a thrilling selection of greens, and the gent behind table can speak literately and passionately about kale.

  4. Highlights of this weekend's 14& U and Bloomingdale Farmers Market October 6 and 7th

    Both markets:

    VERY tiny Okra at Truck Patch and Kuhn. I sauteed them in onions and tomatoes last week. So tender that they did not need to have their stems trimmed at all.

    Breadline ciabatta, focaccia as well as their muffins, scones, cookies, baguettes, ficelles and breads

    14& U: Saturday 9-1 at 14th and U Streets

    Young Leeks, PUrple top turnips with young greens, Mountain View's peppers (Attila is from a Hungarian family and his peppers are superb. I am very partial to their tomatoes as well.

    Bloomingdale Farmers Market Sunday October 7th 10-2 First and R Streets NW

    We have a new baker, Nanbon, who specializes in bread pudding and sweet potato pies. The bread pudding is Aisha's GREAT GRand mother's recipe and the Sweet Potato Pie is Aisha's Great Aunt's. The bread pudding is wonderful -- very light and custardy, almost like a souffle. I have not yet tasted the Sweet Potato Pie.

    We will also have New Asbury Farm Lamb from Loudon County. Meadow raised and very very tender and flavorful.

    Plus Breadline baguettes, ficelle, focaccia, ciabatta, muffins, scones, cookies.

    Lots of Reid's antique and modern apples.

  5. This week at the Farmers' Markets:

    My big news this week is that Breadline Bread comes to the Bloomingdale Farmers' Market.

    Starting Sunday August 5th, Breadline will be the baker at the Bloomingdale Farmers market. The market is on First and R Streets NW right next to the Big Bear Cafe (EXCELLENT espresso, Beans ground for each cup just like in Italy!) 10-2.

    And continuing from last week: Sunnyside will have their amazing bargain sale of both heirloom and Early Girl Tomatoes. Their mix and match basket of heirlooms ( Pile 'em as high as you can) i sonly 12 bucks, about a dollar a pound. The 30 pound case of Early Girls is only 18 dollars.

    I have been making Gazpacho three times a week, canning and roasting.

    The tomatoes are SO sweet this year from the drought( which is destroying the corn) you remember, oh, yes, tomatoes ARE fruits... wow.

    Joan and Bill Baker will have their fabulous lamb this week -- they were NOT there last week, sorry.


    Lots of peaches (including doughnut peaches,, nectarines, blackberries, early eating apples.

    Truck Patch will be there with good pork and heirloom tomatoes as well as his greens and cantaloupes.

  6. This weekend at Mount Pleasant, 14& U on Saturday and Bloomingdale on Sunday we will have

    LOTS of tomatoes. Make Gazpacho.

    Reid will have 30 different varieties of Heirlooms at MtP and Bloomingdale

    Truck Patch (all 3 markets ) will have many kinds of heirlooms. He prunes them like a winemaker prunes his vines. I was talking to him about it today. He prunes off all the stalks and leaves from the bottom 18 inches of each plant both for air flow ( prevent mildew and disease) and because he believes that this increases the flow of the nutrients to the fruit rather than the lower stalks and leaves.

    Mountain View at 14 & U has at least 25 varieties -- and interesting peppers because ATilla's parents are Hungarian. I picked up agood pale yellow Hungarian pepper last week.

    Tree and Leaf adores their Rose heirlooms. Also try their Rose, Cherokee Purples, Striped Purple, Moskovitch ((a good early heirloom Siberian tomato), Green Zebras.

    Sunnyside (alll 3 markets) is offering an amazing deal on tomatoes: mix and match basket of 8 pounds of heirlooms for 12 dollars; and for those who really want to can or make your own Bloody Mary Mix, a 30 pound case of non -heirlooms for 18 dollars.

    Robert "the Potato Man" Audia will be at MtP with his unusual newly dug spuds.

    Quaker Valley has Blair Yellow freestone, their personal favorite peach and Israeli melon (green flesh, perfumed and very sweet yellow watermelons.

    Reid has Saturn/donut/flat/bagel peaches. I have been feasting on them all week.

    So, lots of peaches, lots of nectarines, good blackberries, raspberries.

    At least 12 varieties of summer squash -- look especially at Mountain View, Tree and Leaf, Truck Patch. cucumbers, Truck Patch's radishes, arugula, chard, braising greens

    Torpedo onions -- cylindrical, reddish purple. Use like shallots. I can't cook without them any more.

    Okra at Mountain View--it will go early

    Eggplant starting.

    Corn at Quaker Valley is small kernelled but sweet tasting.

    Kuhn has 4 different early eating apples at 14 & U.

    Lamb: I have to rave about the lamb from Bill and Joan Baker who come to Bloomingdale every other week because they are a small producer. They will be here this Sunday at Bloomingdale from 10-2pm. Young mild but very flavorful lamb. I ate their rib chops last night -- blew me away.


  7. Busboy asked me to tell you about new things at my markets.

    Squash blossoms at Mt Pleasant, 14 & U on Saturday, Bloomiingdale on Sunday at First and R NW Sunnyside and Truck Patch will both have lots of squash blossoms. I like them fried by themselves, stuffed with mozzarella and anchovie and fried and stuffied with rice and chard and baked and then served with a tomato coulis.

    Mountain View at 14 & U will have Moskovich Siberian Tomatoes, Stupice, Early Cascade, Sungold Cherry tomatoes, Early Girl for the early risers plus an interesting collection of summer squash including the Nicoise favorite: Trompette shaped like a serpent and the best squash for sauteeing because it concentrates its flavor rather than turn watery. I always use them for frittatas or omelets. They will also Princess La Ratte Fingerling Potatoes for steaming, boiling and potato salads. Everyone I know in Provence scours the markets for them and the firstokra.

    Tree and Leaf will have Purple torpedo Onions which are called Simiane Onions in Provence and used just like shallots. Again, a personal favorite. Fingerling potatoes and newly dug red ones here 14 & U and Mount Pleasant.

    Sunnyside will have organic pristine apples -- tart and crispy-- at all three markets

    Kuhn will have Transparent apples for sauce -- Amish favorite -- at 14 & U

    Tart Pie cherries at Reid at 14 & U and Bloomingdale, Quaker Valley at Mount Pleasant and 14 & U.

    English peas continue at Reid and purple, green and wax beans at Mount Pleasant and Bloomingdale.

    Jade beans at TRuck Patch at all three markets.

    LOTS of raspberries.


  8. Busboy,

    A little background to the new markets. I run the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market and I have just opened two new markets: 14&U and Bloomingdale Farmers' Markets and I welcome all my eGullet friends to visit my new markets. Mount Pleasant is five years old now and I hope that these new markets will last for years as well! Working on the webpage but there is a slashpage up for 14 & U. Back in the day I was the marketing director of cookbooks for Time Life Books (whole story there about how my father subscribed to Foods of the Worlds when I was 12 years old and I wanted to work for Time-Life because I loved that series so much -- and so I did!), but farmers markets are and have always been a passion. I live at U Street and have for 20 years which is why I started that market and I am very enthusiastic about the Bloomingdale area.

    One correction. The brand-new Bloomingdale Market is at First and R Streets NW right next to the brand new Big Bear Cafe.

    Sundays 10-2

    Joan and Bill will be at market every other week with their local lamb because they are a small producer and Bloomingdale is their only market Truck Patch is, indeed, starting on June 25th with their greens, salads, veggies and wonderful pastured pork. There will be a good funk-jazz band playing during the market as there was last week. And Big Bear has excellent coffee. We do indeed have Reid, Sunnyside Organics, Truck Patch, Dragonfly, New Asbury Farms. Bread and cheese to come. Working on the website.

    The 14 & U Farmers' Market is at the NW corner of 14th and U Streets NW, on the sidewalk Plaza outside the Reeves Center.

    Saturdays 10-2

    It started 3 weeks ago. Producers include: Kuhn Orchards from Cashtown, PA who is new to the DC markets, Mountain View Farms, a biodynamic veggie farm also new to the DC markets -- like a baby Tree and Leaf!, Faucher Meadow, a fabulous flower and raspberry grower, new to the DC markets plus some more familiar faces: Smith Meadow for pastured meat and Nancy's pasta made with their own grass range eggs, Quaker VAlley Orchard, SunnySide Organics, Truck Patch and Tree and Leaf -- and Breadline breads. www.14andUfarmersmarket.com

    If anyone wants to be on the weekly market email for Mount Pleasant, 14 & U or Bloomingdale, please send me an email.

    And yes, we will be expanding the number and kinds of producers at ALL THREE Markets.


    But, big news of the week is surely the opening of a new market on one of those corners where the only marketing going on a few years ago was 40s and illicit substances. The Bloomingdale Market, at 1st and Q Street NW is fairly small -- 6 or 8 stands, but seem to have most of the basics covered, with Reid Orchards, Truck Patch (absent yesterday for Father's Day) Sunnyside and a couple of other familiar faces. It is, however, as far I know, the local site to get lamb fro the New Asbury Farm. I picked up a couple shanks and hope to test them out with white beans or maybe cous-cous in the near future. I think later this summer I'm going to get my Greek on, though, and try to do a whole lamb on a rotisserie.

    Cherries galore, although sour cherries were in short supply, and we turned out the first clafouti of the year which, along with some homemade cinnamon ice cream was the hit of the barbecue we attended.

    It's finally starting to be worth getting up in the morning to hit the markets again.

  9. Tree and Leaf farms is becoming a huge, multinational agribusiness or something  :wink: and has swallowed Wheatland Farms whole, under the guise of working Wheatland's fields and holding down Wheatland's coveted space in the Dupont Circle market while the senior Plancks (farmer's market pioneers and parents of Nina Planck, who starts up farmers markets the way most of us buy shoes) build "a hamlet of seven houses to preserve the family farm" and possibly retire to.

    This is alarming news in I have been dragging an oft-tired and occasionally hungover body out of bed at ungodly hours summer Saturdays since 1999 to be first in line for Wheatland's astounding tomatoes -- the best in the market by far -- and I am terrified that anything about them might change.  Wheatland also employed an endless supply of stunningly cute hippie chicks and dudes, apparently all English Majors at small private colleges, to sell their wares, and they will be missed, as well.

    On the other hand, Tree and Leaf seems to carry a very similar karma and are my favorite for everything but tomatoes, so there is a not insignificant chance that it will all work out in the end.  My fingers are crossed and congrats are due to Georgia and Zach and majordomo (or fixture, at any rate) Katherine for what I am sure will be a successful expansion. 

    Anybody know if they've taken over Wheatland's Arlington spot, as well?

    You basically have the story right. Chip and Susan are on sabbatical this year to build the hamlet of 7 houses on 2 acres of their 100 acre farm. This will allow them to put the rest of the farm into agricultural conservation and stay a family farm(s) forever.

    As part of this, they have been searching for interesting ways to allow more young farmers to be involved at Wheatland. Tree and Leaf have expanded their ops so that they now have fields at Wheatland and at their Waterford site. They are now called Tree and Leaf at Wheatland.

    Susan Planck (and sometimes ChiP) runs Arlington so you will still be able to get Planck tomatoes there! That is the only market that the Plancks themselves are doing this year. We hope that they will do a few more next year, but no one knows yet.

    Ali runs Takoma Park, FAlls Church and Penn Quarter.

    Georgia and Zach of Tree and Leaf are now Tree and Leaf at Wheatland. They are at Mount Pleasant, 14 & U and Dupont.

    And just for fun, let me mention a new farm at 14 & U: Mountain View. Shawna and Attila are excellent young farmers who have just moved back from the San Juan Islands off of Seattle. Biodynamic planting principles, no pesticides, excellent varieties. I hope you will all check them out.


  10. I have made the recipe for the first time today. 20 hour initial rise at exactly 70 degrees. ( 468 grams of unbleached AP flour including 3 heaping tbsp of a locally milled whole wheat per RLB's suggestion, 1.5 cups water, 1.5 tsp sea salt, 1/4 tsp rapid rise yeast). Second rise was 2.5 hours in a thin cotton kitchen cloth "floured" with oat bran on a pizza peel (which made sliding the dough into the pot very easy..)

    Oven heated to 500 but lowered to 450 after insertion. 35 year old Le Creuset round casserole. 30 minutes with lid on, removed from pot and additional 15 minutes baking on oven rack. Removed at 208 degrees

    Oven spring was good but it may have overproofed. Waited two hours to cut in half. Good crust but crumb's taste was a bit insipid. A little too moist. Perhaps it needed more time or a temp of 475 after preheating.

    I had no problem with the cloth. It was not gummy or gooky. The oat bran worked very well.

  11. Anyone interested in Saturn peaches? Reid has them at the Mount Pleasant Farmers' market on Saturday, 9-1, Mount Pleasant Street between Lamont and Park

    And here is what Russ Parson said in the LA Times:

    "Saturn peaches: Whether you call them Saturn, Donut, bagel, saucer or peento, demand for these flat peaches is going over the moon. A rarity not so long ago (only about 50 tons were sold in 1996), sales more than doubled between 2000 and 2005 to a whopping 4,000 tons. Why? Partly because they look so cute, of course. Beyond that, they are very sweet, nearly candy-like with low acidity and white melting flesh. Saturn peaches are descended from an old Chinese variety called peento or pan-tao (it translates rather prosaically as "flat peach")"

  12. I think I mentioned elsewhere that I spoke to a farmer down at Eastern Market (here in D.C.) who had just started traveling to here from his farm in Maryland.  He charges a lot more than he does in Baltimore where the Cost of Living is lower and shoppers expect their grocery bills to correspond.  Business was good enough for him to keep returning.

    Hah! We are being gouged! Next World Cup, Toigo's buying the beers, and not me.

    Bavila -- I don't hunt for organics, just what looks good, and I know that many of the farms at the markets I go to are not organic, so that may not be the root (ha ha) cause. I'd love to see the numbers on a local farm-to-market vs. the Agribusiness-to-Safeway ends of the business.

    Back in the good old days, Giant used to brag about its local produce. That was before they were bought by an international conglomerate, though.

    The key to buying at the farmers' market is to buy what is in the height of season, At Mt Pleasant, Reid has been selling quarts of berries/cherries for 3 quarts for 10 dollars. Wheatland sells their superb summer squash for MUCH less if you buy several pounds than just one pound. I buy what is in glut. Meat is not the price you see at Costco, but it is pastured meat that you don't have to worry about it and I just buy and eat smaller quantities. The eggs are wonderful and at 3.50 a dozen, that's a cheap meal. At Dupont I love Keswick's yougurt. Yes, it is more expensive than commercial yogurt, but it is so much richer in flavor. A quart lasts me a week and when I served some to an Indian friend, he said: oh, it is just like my Mother's! But I do check the stands for price and quality. There are differences.

  13. I just learned that Quaker Valley at the Mount PLeasant Farmers Market on Saturday 9-1 will have Amish TRANSPARENT apples. I was intrigued and Fredi Schulteis, the owner, told me that they are the favorite Amish apple for making Applesauce because they make a very clear sauce. Early, tart cooking apples.

    She planted a late crop of Chandler strawberries which are coming in smaller but sweeter, fyi, for those who missed the strawberry season.

    Kathy Audia will have gooseberries for all of us who love the sound of gooseberry fool.

  14. Truck Patch Farms at the Mt. Pleasant Market continues to turn out the most astoundingly delicious strawberries on earth -- people pop one in their mouth and do a kind of double-take thing, and then begin babbling accolades. I am a serial sampler and am convinced that no other vendor in DC has berries this good.

    Big news of the week, though, was the appearance of cherries, slightly sour Raniers, in Mt. Pleasant (can't remember the name of the farm), which we turned into an inauthentic clafouti; and the annual Dupont Circle in-migration of Heinz's fabulous favas, which are perhaps destined to be married gnocci's, cream and some smokey bacon.

    At Mt. Pleasant this past weekend....Quaker Valley is the farm with the cheries, Charles. Reid had marvelous sugar snap peas this week filled with tiny peas.

  15. Has anyone ever seen borage for sale in this area?

    I'm interested in the fully grown plant vs. the seeds, though I am starting to wonder how long the waiting list is for a spot in the community garden.

    Try DeBaggio Herbs in Chantilly. Their catalog lists Borage as being available for 2006. The website seems to be under construction but you can still download the current catalog.



    Try Reid's Orchard and Tree and Leaf Saturday at the Mount Pleasant Farmers' Market. Mt Pleasant Street between 17th and Lamont, 9-1. I think I have seen Borage plants at one of their stands.

  16. Ever tried Wild Black Locust Flowers?

    I thought you would like to know what's new and interesting at the market this week.

    Edible Wild Black Locust Flowers for salads. (Zach said it is a bit like pea blossoms.) Italian Forono cylindrical beets, , Mokum Carrots, Pink Beauty and Easter Egg radishes, leeks, arugula- and- cress mix at Tree and Leaf, the first Honeyoe Strawberries at Reid, very thick cut pork chops for grilling at Cibola, Herbal teas, organic doggy biscuits and homemade raspberry syrup from Audia (pretend you are in Italy and add it to sparkling water --instant Italian soda. Or use it to glaze a grilled salmon.

    plus Breadline breads and breakfast pastries, Fredi's fruit pies, Wheatland's spinach, etc....

    Saturday May 13th


    Lamont Park

    Mount Pleasant Street at 17th and Lamont

  17. The Mount Pleasant Farmers Market reopens tomorrow Saturday May 6th at 9 am. Lamont Park on Mount Pleasant Streets at 17th and Lamont (opposite Heller's Bakery).

    There will be asparagus and early strawberries (these will sell out fast), green garlic, beets, carrots, spinach, cooking greens, salad mixes, apples, pies, honey, apple butter, Breadline breads and new breakfast pastries, Cibola's pastured meats and eggs, popcorn, apple butter, Fredi's fruit pies, lettuce container gardens ready to cut and use, salsa gardens, container tomatoes gardens, lavender, 6 kinds of rosemary, cilantro, chervil, lovage, epazotedishes), Mexican oregano.. and lots of vegetable and flowering plants and herbs.


  18. Heinz's chard and kale are also wonderful.


    The bags of mesclun sold by Heinz Thomat of Next Step Produce reminded me how different perfectly fresh organic baby greens can be. 


    In the meantime, Heinz's mesclun was wonderful in a simply vinaigrette with snipped chives and slivers of one of the last of the Cara Cara oranges on the third shelf...another sign of the transition from one season to another as us pagans would say.

  19. I will start this off with my new favorite lunch place. Mocha Hut on U Street between 13th and 14th. It it is a hidden restaurant. I thought it was just a coffee shop for months, but it is actually a great place to have breakfast and lunch -- all day long. They make the best (crustless) quiche I have had in years (although they call it a frittata). Very creamy. Similar to what I have achieved when I have made Thomas Keller's quiche recipe in Bouchon. The beans soups have been very good. I tried waffles and skillet fried chicken for the first time there and was impressed -- very light waffles and moist fried chicken (breasts). Friends have had very good sandwiches. I have been there twice a week for lunch for a month now.

    Good jazz in the mornings and early afternoon as well...

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