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Everything posted by zoramargolis

  1. I liked *Cookwise*, but the very first time I used one of the recipes in *Bakewise* was disastrous. I made the rustic pear tart with frangipane. The recipe called for "four or five cut-up pears" without suggesting a total cup amount of fruit. Then pears were to be macerated in brown sugar for three hours in a colander. OK, I had other things to do. But then the accumulated juices were to be reduced "to a syrup" and then a slurry of 1 tablespoon of tapioca starch in 3 tablespoons of water was to be added and brought to a boil, at which time the mixture was supposed to thin out again. Then Grand Marnier added and poured over the fruit. I thought I was about to learn a new method for thickening a fruit pie, rather than either tossing the fruit with tapioca starch or cornstarch, or putting a mixture of flour and sugar onto the crust before adding the fruit. The syrup-starch mixture turned to heavy-duty glue and never thinned out again, despite coming back to a boil, and had to be discarded. Perhaps I had extra heavy-duty tapioca starch... The recipe called for a LOT of almond-hazelnut frangipane to be put in the base of the crust, and the five cut-up pears ended up being way too much filling for the suggested diameter of the rolled-out crust dough. I managed to bake it in a pie dish instead, and it tasted good. But sheesh, what a pain! After reading Lesley C's very specific criticisms and this experience, I will read the recipes much more critically before using this book again.
  2. zoramargolis

    Rendering Lard

    I usually render lard in the oven, per the recommendation of Rick Bayless. It gives the lard a roasted pork-y aroma and flavor that, although not great for sweet pastry crust, makes fabulous tamales and frijoles refritos, which is usually what I use home-rendered lard for. I cut the fat into small cubes and put into a deep roasting pan, at a low moderate temperature (275 or 300 degrees). I drain off the melting fat a couple of times, until all that's left is the, brown, crispy cracklings. Sprinkle them with a little salt and eat 'em warm. Them li'l puppies are GOOD.
  3. zoramargolis

    Dover Canyon

    I have been buying Dover Canyon Renegade Red at a shop called The Vineyard in McLean, VA. It's a delicious, rich full-bodied red at a great price point, and has become my go-to house red wine. I sincerely hope that I will continue to be able to find it there...
  4. I made an "ensalada primavera" as a first course last night for guests, with asparagus, fiddleheads, fava beans, avocado, radish and frisee and a fresh lime vinaigrette. Fiddleheads from Giant(!) favas and avos from super H, aspergrass, radishes and frisee from Sunnyside Organics at Dupont. This was followed by duck, shiitake and papaya tamales with mole verde, barbacoa de carnero en pibil (pit roasted lamb leg in adobo wrapped with avocado leaves in banana leaf), frijoles refritos, homemade tortillas, and passion fruit panna cotta and local strawbs for dessert. Que rico! I am a long-time fiddlehead fan, having gathered them-- Ostrich fern, that is-- when I lived in Vermont. I steamed them until just barely tender as I always have--boiling them for fifteen minutes would turn them into inedible mush. We used to eat them hot with Hollandaise in Vermont, but they tasted great cold, with the fresh lime vinaigrette. I always thought they reminded me of asparagus, but tasting the two side by side in the same dish really accentuated the difference in flavor. Must have been the Hollandaise...
  5. zoramargolis

    Australian Wines

    I first got turned on to Oz Shiraz about ten years ago, when I was given a bottle of Peter Lehman Barossa Shiraz. My price range is $25-and under. I've gotten a bit weary of the fruit-bomb style of Marquis Phillips and Peter Lehman, but there are a number of recent shirazes and blends that have knocked my socks off: 2003 Torbreck Woodcutter's Shiraz--lucky me, I've got a whole case of this 2002 Kangarilla Road Shiraz 2002 Two Hands Brave Faces (Shiraz-Grenache) 2002 Turkey Flat GSM All of the above wines have depth, complexity and fruit. I love 'em!
  6. zoramargolis

    Spanish Reds

    If you are talking about Spanish wines with "laugh-at-me" labels, what about Mad Dogs and Englishmen, which was going for less than $8 a bottle a few weeks ago?
  7. I went to Arrowine on Saturday, not having been for quite a while. While Tito is gone, now replaced by two women (Vickie and Katie, a former cheesemaker) who divide Tito's deli/charcuterie and cheese responsibilities, Aldo is still there. He is very knowledgeable about cheese, and even on a busy day, is ready to talk cheese and provide tastes. They have a refrigerated case with pre-wrapped cheeses for grab-and-go, but most of the cheeses are whole and cut to order. While the selection is not quite as extensive as the G'town or Arlington Whole Foods or Dean and Deluca, the cheeses are well-chosen and in very good condition. A lot of thought and care goes into all aspects of Arrowine's wine and food products, and they are local, not corporate. Support local businesses, I say.
  8. zoramargolis


    Heitz used to make Angelica, which was available for purchase only at the tasting room. A friend purchased a case--this was in the mid-1980's--and turned us on to it. It was sherry-like, quite sweet, but with layers of gorgeous intense flavors of caramel, vanilla, walnuts, orange blossom, fig and apricot. We were gifted with two bottles from the case, and we hoarded it for years, dispensing it in thimblefuls after dinner. On our next trip to the Napa Valley (I believe it was in early 1990) we stopped at the Heitz tasting room and asked if we could buy some Angelica. We were told that they no longer made it. Sad. I can still taste it in my palate-memory. A couple of Australian stickies I've had were reminiscent of it. I am thinking particularly of the Yalumba Victoria Museum and the H. L. Buller Premium Fine Muscat.
  9. Super H. ← Han An Reum and Super H are owned by the same Korean company. While I have not been to Super H, I go to Han An Reum in Merrifield when I can get over there. I like the produce section even better than the fish department. The fish department there is overwhelming in its abundance of choices, with dozens of different varieties of whole fish (which they will filet), a smaller selection of fish filets, and many types of shellfish. The prices are generally very cheap. My big concern with cheap fish is provenance-- it is quite possible to assess freshness of whole fish by appearance and smell, and at Han An Reum, some of the options appeared quite fresh, and others had obviously been hanging around for a few days. But there is no information about where and how the fish were caught (or farmed). A rational consumer these days must needs by concerned about the sustainability of fish stocks and the overfishing of many species of fish in various parts of the world, and also concerned about levels of mercury, PCB and other pollutants in fish. Not to mention pathogens in shellfish. I want to know where and how my fish was raised, caught or harvested, and have some sense of how many days out of the water it is. Fish from far away, if it hasn't been shipped frozen, can only be really fresh if it was overnight airfreighted. And then it won't be cheap. Line-caught or harpooned fish will be of better quality than gill-netted. Lots to take into consideration.
  10. I tasted the Firefly Farm goat cheeses at the Georgetown Whole Foods before Christmas, and I believe I have seen them there since. I have to admit that I was not impressed enough to buy any at the time-- a bit dry and grainy, as I recall. Too bad Heidi in Rappahannock County has stopped selling her cheese to the public, though she may still be providing it to the Inn at Little Washington. Her fresh chevres and aged tomme were truly superb.
  11. The best answer to this is--no. But I've found that when a taco/burrito is essential for life to continue, either Baja Fresh or Chipotle can work. Important: Chipotle can make an acceptable burrito, but only if you insist that they do not put any rice in it, just beans and meat. I like the carnitas best (they use Niman Ranch pork)--it is sort of stewed, not crispy, like true carnitas should be, but it has flavor. Avoid sour cream. Cheese is optional.
  12. The Maryland crabmeat is $34 at BlackSalt. It is pasteurized in a can, from last summer's harvest. I haven't tasted it, but I have been told that it is more flavorful than the fresh stuff from Alabama that we also sell.
  13. At the risk of being branded a heretic, I am a relative newbie to the mid-Atlantic region– going on nine years– I don't get all the excitement about crabcakes... It is so unusual to find crabmeat with much flavor. I've eaten and cooked a few that I thought were good, but do not inspire the passion I hear others express. Mostly, the crabcakes I've tasted have been boring and realtively tasteless. Frankly, I also think hardshell steamed crabs are a huge investment of money, time and effort for a minimal return. And the softshells I've had always seem to taste primarily of frymeal and hot oil. Most shrimp is tasteless, too... Now, if you're talking scallops or lobster (on the coast of Maine, that is) I can work up some major enthusiasm. OK, I'll duck for cover now. Hard to find tasty ducks, now that I mention it...
  14. Kermit Lynch is based in Berkeley, CA. He has a wine shop there completely devoted to the wines he imports. I visited there and found a few things that he sells only in the shop, because the production is too small for national distribution. Had the most amazing, over-the-top mourvedre that has ever graced my gullet. YUM doesn't even begin to describe it. Can I remember the name of it? Of course not...
  15. I've been a friend of Joe H's and shared meals with him at our homes and at restaurants for several years. I began working at BlackSalt in the fish market when it opened, nine weeks ago. This was the first time I ate dinner there, and I paid full price. I can't deny that my affection for my colleagues didn't color my responses...but I also know how young they all are, except Jeff Black, and how new as a team. And under those circumstances, what they pulled off was extraordinary. Joe's other blowout meals have been at places that have been in business for a long time. This place is just two months old! I know from good food, and if I hadn't genuinely thought it extraordinary, I would have said nothing.
  16. My favorite course, also, was the foie gras three ways. I just love that stuff, and having three different presentations together was heavenly. The real hallmark of the meal was flavor--different textures, colors, temperatures, too, though not out there on the edge like Minibar. Intense flavors: savory, sweet, sour, spicy and the richness of the fish and seafood (and foie gras). If I had not been in polite company, I would have licked the plates to get every last bit of flavor off them. People who prefer plain or bland preparations of fish can find BlackSalt's menu too intense. I say "Delicious!!" One of my tablemates ate his first raw oyster last night, and pronounced it "really good, not at all what I expected." I stopped eating raw shellfish a number of years ago, due to concerns about contamination. But I know how high quality the oysters are that they get at BlackSalt, and each shucked oyster is checked by one of the chefs who is food safety certified, before it is served. So I ate mine con mucho gusto. I thought the champagne vinegar mignonette added a fresh piquance to the cold, briny Puget Sound oyster. My husband said he could have eaten a dozen of those, and a full plate of the lobster ravioli in sage butter, which came much later in the meal. We didn't do the wine pairing, we brought along a 2003 Pascal Jolivet Sancerre which we shared with our tablemates, and later our 2002 Two Hands Brave Faces grenache-shiraz and their 1999 Tuscan sangiovese, all of which worked nicely. We brought two bottles, but were billed corkage for only one. What was also quite remarkable was the teamwork of the young staff, who have really just begun working together. Stephen Banker calculated that 14 courses for fifty people was 700 plates-- plated, served, washed and dried for their next use. Jeff Black usually expedites, but he was in the thick of it, working at the grill, the stove and the plating line. There were comfortable pauses between courses-- it moved right along, but did not feel either rushed or sluggish. I thought it was a brilliant meal.
  17. A remarkable thing about this meal was that by the end, I was completely sated, but not over stuffed, as I have felt after other multi-course meals. Each plate had small, but intensely flavorful elements. I do not share Steve's "I didn't like"s about the meal... for me, it was, course after course, perhaps the best meal I have ever been served in a restaurant--including Maestro, IALW and Citronelle.
  18. For an unusual tea and tea meal experience, I'd choose Ching Ching Cha over Teaism. It's on Wisconsin, next to the C&O Canal, across from the Georgetown Mall. It's peaceful and pleasant, where I've always found Teaism to be frenetic and just a small step above fast food.
  19. Bobby Kacher wines can be found in most of the quality wine shops in DC: MacArthur Beverages, Paul's, Calvert-Woodley, Magruder's, Rodman's, Circle, et al. He lives in NW DC, and everyone in the local wine and restaurant businesses know and like him. He is a friendly, energetic, outgoing, down-to-earth guy. A real mensch. Interestingly, the 2002 Andre Brunel Cotes du Rhone and Chateauneuf du Pape have been for sale at Costco in Pentagon City. I haven't seen any of his wines there before. Bobby is a very hands-on importer, spending several months in France every year, working with the winemakers he imports, selecting and helping to blend the wines. In 2002, he imported no wine from a number of the wineries he typically brings in--only a few that he felt were up to his standard of quality made it. If it has his name on it, it is at the very least drinkable. His 2003's that are on the shelves now are excellent, good values again-- check out the Mas Des Aveylans Cuvee Prestige syrah. Parker gave it 90 or 91 points, and it can be found for $11-$12. Really good juice. We are very fortunate to have Kacher and Fran Kysela both in our area, whose names on a bottle of wine are the QPR gold standard. The wine in the bottle is going to be reliably good and at a very fair price.
  20. I thought it was interesting that the article presented Joan Nathan's attendance at the dinner as if she were one of the travel and food writers who needed elucidation about DC culinary expertise. Joan Nathan has lived in NW DC for years--her son graduated from Sidwell Friends School last June.
  21. <ears perk up> good chorizo?? hand-made tortillas?? please tell me they are corn, and not flour. ← Yes, of course corn. I don't eat no stinkin' flour tortillas. Seriously, they are mostly Salvadoran style--thick. Can't be used for enchiladas--they are more like sopes. Check carefully to get ones that are made with fresh masa rather than reconstituted masa harina. Fresh is always better.
  22. Check out the Latin market on Wilson Blvd. across from Whole Foods. The meat counter has great chorizo, and the store has a broad selection of Mexican, Central American and South American products. There's a refrigerator case full of hand-made tortillas. Another source for Middle Eastern foods with a real, old-fashioned butcher shop (lamb, goat, veal, chickens) is Halalco in Falls Church, just off Lee Highway (Washington St.) near the overpass over Rt. 50. Further out Lee Highway in Falls Church is the German Gourmet for sausages, deli meats, German-style breads, Scandinavian herring, Polish preserves, German wine, good mustard, real crackling lard.
  23. If you are on a budget, I recommend that you look for American Paddlefish caviar. It is treated and cured like sturgeon roe, and while it does not have quite the snap or flavor complexity of sevruga or osetra from Iran, it can be found at about 1/4 to 1/3 the price. I bought some for New Year's Eve at Surfa's in West L.A. and made some buckwheat blini to serve it on, and my caviar jones was completely satisfied. Here in D.C., you can order it from BlackSalt Market--full disclosure: I work there. You may be able to find it in the places mentioned above, as well. Good luck!
  24. Linda Burum, a food writer at the L.A. Times, used to do a regular monthly column about ethnic markets and food resources in the greater Los Angeles area that was much more helpful than the "Fare Minded" blurbs in the Post. She went into great depth about the available products and ingredients and what they are used for--a valuable resource for education as well as for sourcing products, as well as letting the readers get to know the owners of these businesses. Eve Ziebart has done a book like this, but a newspaper column is so much more current and nmble in response to things opening, closing and changing in various ways. I also agree with Joe H, regarding more profiles of local farmers and artisanal producers. And I'd like to see the Post move beyond a focus on restaurant chefs, and profile skilled and passionate home cooks. Great cooks don't all work in restaurant kitchens! Years ago, The L.A. Times used to send a writer to spend a day with a home cook recommended to them by people who knew the cook. ("Who's the best cook you know? Send us their name.") The writer was present while the home cook prepared and served a meal and the subsequent article profiled the cook, reported on the process and provided recipes. I remember reading something like this when I first moved to D.C., about a man who gives parties and serves cajun food every weekend, in his apartment. I never read anything similar after that. This is a great way to do articles about ethnic dishes that are much more likely to be found in authentic versions in people's homes-- with the ingredients purchased at local sources available to other home cooks, rather than from restaurants' wholesale purveyors. The first person I'd like to recommend to the Wash Post to profile is Joe Heflin, who makes kick-ass risotto and bouillabaise, a bizarrely addictive garlic bread and amazing homemade ice cream for the lucky people who get invited to his house for dinner.
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