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Everything posted by Cucina

  1. I'm looking for *good* online sources for fresh/frozen family sized entrees that can be delivered anywhere in the country overnight. My cousin is recuperating from chemotherapy and just doesn't have the energy to cook for her family of 4. Local friends have been very supportive and generous in making casseroles and such, but you can only eat so many chicken and rice casseroles - especially if you typically eat a higher level of cuisine - before you lose your appetite completely. I am particularly interested in finding a place that will ship enchiladas - Neiman Marcus is now using a different source than they used to and frankly, Chef Dean Fearing's enchiladas just aren't very good. I can't remember the name of their previous source. Also, any good sources for other regional cuisines? Louisiana cajun, etc? One of the problems I'm having is a lot of the websites I find have portions for 1-2. Family sized portions would be better. thx.
  2. Is it just me, or is the Whole Foods on P Street losing its mojo? I live around the block, work from home, and am in there at least once a day if not more. Here, are the most recently noted offenses: 1. RATS - yes rats! I walked in yesterday to grab breakfast. In the vestibule area where they keep the shopping carts as I approached the automatic door, a large urban bunny scurried from behind the basil plants on the right, diving over to hide behind the big display of corn on sale on the left....needless to say, I did not buy the corn, wondering if that had anything to do with the fact it was on sale. 2. GLOW-IN-THE-DARK GRITS AT THE BREAKFAST BAR - A couple of months ago, they started adding what I suppose is cheese to the grits in the breakfast bar - variety however is unknown. It imparts no cheese taste - in fact, it makes it taste starchy - and is a neon orange color other that is decidedly not cheddar. (Not to mention that it's usually too soupy). 3. NO ICE IN THE FISH DEPARTMENT - WF has stopped presenting its fish on ice and instead it just lies on stainless steel trays. Maybe its psychological but I don't think it looks as fresh and it seems to dry out the cuts. 4. QUESTIONABLE SOURCE FOR FRESH CRAB MEAT - (not to mention the aforementioned offense of not keeping it packed on ice). I bought a $35 tub of jumbo lump the other day and while it looked like blue crab, it did not taste like blue crab and had terrible texture and flavor. 5. ROTTEN OKRA - I tried to point this out to one of the produce stockers a while back who then tried to explain to me that this was just the way this particular variety looked. I asked to speak to the produce manager and explained to him (as only a southerner could) that no variety of okra I've ever seen is limp and turning black. It got better for a while, but we're back to the rotten variety. 6. ESCALATION OF PRECUT FRUIT PRICES - I used to buy a small container of cut up fruit in the morning for breakfast back when it cost about $1.50 less. But the prices kept going up. So I compared the cost of the smallest container of cantelope to the price of an actual cantelope and they were almost exactly the same. Takes 5 minutes or less to cut up my own cantelope which is what I now do and it lasts the whole week.... 7. UNIMAGINATIVE PREPARED FOODS - i've lived in this neighborhood for 5+ years and it's still the same old same old. I can't eat any of it anymore. It all looks the same and none of it's particularly unique or good - especially when compared with Balducci's or Dean and Deluca. 8. THE HOT FOOD BAR MIGHT AS WELL BE A PIG SLOP - It looks disgusting - the entrees and vegetables also don't compliment each other most of the time. And if you get desperate and decide to try it anyway, it's bland and the fish or chicken or whatever is being served is always dry. 9. IZAKAYA IS UNIMPRESSIVE - Was Tom Sietsema on drugs when he did his recent review??? This is the new sushi/teriyaki bar. Once you get past the decor which is interesting, and the white jacketed cooks, it's all down hill. the sushi isn't any better than what they sell freshly made in the case in the actual store, the chicken teriyaki doesn't come with rice unless you pay extra and it's kind of sweet tasting, they don't cut up the vegetables into bit sized chunks and so you're stuck trying to shove an entire broccoli floret in your mouth, and the tempura batter and oversized pieces are just plain disappointing. Add to that it's all served on plastic whether you eat there or not and you're better off going elsewhere. Thank's for reading the long rant. If you have anything to add, please do. I don't mind paying a premium for premium quality and convenience but with the quality going down hill and the lines as long as they are, I've about reached the point of a permanent boycott.
  3. Whole foods - bought a cheese with truffles in it....I love fresh truffles, but this was so pungent it tasted like poo. And it's the taste that keeps on giving...virtually nothing can cleanse your palette of the flavor...ugh....
  4. Help! I hauled back a flat of gorgeous ripe tomatoes from a farmer's market in Georgia all the way to D.C. They are those big beautiful ones that one slice covers an entire sandwich. Plus, they only cost $1/pound so how could I not?! Alas, my eyes are bigger than my stomach...there's only so many tomato sandwiches and salads a gal can eat, I've given away some to the neighbors but I'm still staring at a shelf full of tomatoes in the fridge. Any ideas for what to do with them and how to properly put them up? i.e. - I'm not going to learn how to can them but if you have ideas for making a sauce or something that could be stored in a ziplock freezer bag - or anything else for that matter, much appreciated.
  5. Okay - I'm having lunch today in another Italian restaurant and hear that Galileo is closing for renovations as of September 2nd (does this mean Sept 2 is the last day or is that the day it no longer operates????) and that Chef Roberto Donna is moving over to Crystal City until sometime in 2007?????!!!!! From google searches and looks at other foodie websites, it appears to be true. But this is what I want to know: I bought a gift certificate for my parents to dine at the Laboratorio complete with wine tasting and tip. What happens if they haven't used it by then?????
  6. Lone Star - Ossabaw Island Hogs ARE feral hogs. See Ossabaw Island Foundation website I am not a scientist and cannot say with any certainty whether or not they truly qualify as a heritage breed or unique species although they are classified as such by many organizations and are raised at places like Mount Vernon, Claude Moore Colonial Farm and by private breeders, etc. I say this because Georgia DNR maintains that they are not a unique species while some scientific research points in a different direction. And Georgia DNR has been very reluctant (at least 10 years ago) to continue research in this area because of the implications it would create on managing the species on Ossabaw Island. The hogs are very destructive to the ecosystem, and likely the island would be better off without them although I doubt they will be exterminated completely because of the popularity of the fall hunts sponsored by DNR. Whether they should drop the quarantine question and allow breeders to take them off the island is another question. I've had Ossabaw pork many a time - the real thing too - on the island - not farm raised - although typically still corn fed for this purpose even though originally wild. It's absolutely delicious, but I'm not prepared to say it's superior to other pork (domestic or wild) because in my experience, it depends not only on what the hog was fed but more importantly, the expertise of the cook. I am somewhat amused (and at the same time enthused) to see that Ossabaw pork is becoming somewhat of a delicacy in higher end restaurants in NYC and elsewhere, but I would be more interested in seeing some sort of blind cooking/taste test contest put on where top chefs made the same dish with it and something else to determine if it really has better qualities. To my knowledge, nothing lilke this has been done. Also, as a point of reference, having looked at many of the places that carry the "ossabaw" heritage breed via google, something you might want to note. A true Ossabaw pig is black like a wild hog and has a straight tail with a lot of hair on the end. Many of the ones I see pictured look like mixed breeds. While I've seen a few like that on the island - there was a time when domestics and wilds were both present and intermixed - the true ossabaw hog is all black with a straight hairy tail. Hope this helps.
  7. I highly recommend 82 Queen (http://www.82queen.com/) - I had the she crab soup (mine is better but theirs is good) and grilled grouper served over cream grits and thought I died and went to heaven it was all so good. I do NOT recommend the Charleston Grill other than maybe for drinks and appetizers in the bar area and only because they have a great jazz trio.(http://www.charlestonplace.com/web/ocha/ocha_c6b1_introduction.jsp). While the service is good, and they have a respectable wine list, the food was overpriced and overcooked - a big disappointment.
  8. Lan4Dawg - If you or anyone else knows how I can finagle a couple of game tickets at an affordable price, I'll contribute to your tailgate feast. I'm actually going to be staying on St. Simons then.
  9. The name of the market is "City Market" - it sells seafood at wholesale prices to the public....i.e. $6.99 for a pound of large shrimp. On Mondays they get fresh crab claw meat in and sometimes they have white or lump but not as often. They have a so so selection of fish. Best market for fresh fish that I know of is on St. Simons at the GISCO.
  10. Euwwww. Euwwww, euwwww, euwwww!!!! My local starbucks has been offering these sandwiches for many months, and I don't care what you tell me but anyone claiming that a reheated egg is tasty is nuts - no matter what's drizzled on top. At least egg mcmuffins are fresh. I haven't tried a scrambled star and I will never be able to bring myself to that - reminds me of those egg and sausage biscuits that came out of vending machines in college 20 years ago. May look better - may have better branding behind it - may be fancier - but who wants reheated eggs? Euwww.... euwwwww.....euwwwww!!!! Please pause while I go gag on this thought. Next subject please!!!!!
  11. Well, I ate very well when I was in Italy but I have not eaten my way through Italy yet (although it's on the "to do" list!) so I am a far FAR far cry from being an expert on regional cooking. In fact, put me in the novice category. But I am somewhat of a marketing expert (although not for restaurants) and there is a practical reason why it might be rare to find restaurants that are absolutely purist when it comes to regional cuisine (with the exceptions being a) popular regions like Tuscany where Americans travel frequently and the food is more familiar to the palate than perhaps other areas or, b) areas of the country that have a large enough immigrant/expat population with the means to support that level of specialization). The practical reason is very simple: customers - many of whom will lack the sophisticated or dicerning palate of the more well traveled/well fed but none the less, have an appreciation for well prepared food. (that would be me and probably the majority of any restaurant's patrons) And you gotta have customers - preferably the repeat kind to stay in business. I think to really understand what a chef is trying to do with his or her restaurant, you have to have a conversation about it. I've had many such conversations with Luigi. He hails from the Basilicata region and so you will find southern Italian dishes at Al Tiramisu as well as dishes very specific to Basilicata. But I think he would cringe at the idea of being labeled for one thing. His primary interest is well prepared, authentic Italian cuisine prepared traditionally, so the menu/specials also reflect northern Italian specialties as well. (For example, if he tried to take the smoked tuscan cheese with grilled vegetables off the menu, there would be a customer revolt). So...(my long winded reply winding up!)...depending on what you're interested in from a regional perspective, whether it's authentic or inventive or a little of both, my thinking is that there are many factors beyond a chef's origins that influence their menu as well as whether or not it's any good. And if you can put together a large enough party (probably in the 8-10 range but perhaps less depending on the restaurant), many chefs would develop a special tasting menu to your party's preferences that would give you a better idea of who truly has a mastery on the regions or dishes that interest you.
  12. Mayhaw Man - I had never heard of a Hubig pie until you mentioned them in the thread I started on Southern Staples You Can't Live Without. Thursday's Washington Post has an article about their struggle to reopen but reopen they have! How might I acquire one of these pies????
  13. I think the best and most authentic Italian cuisine in D.C. is Al Tiramisu. You could say I'm biased, because I did some consulting work for Luigi about a year ago, but that was only after having become a regular at his restaurant since 2003. I had the good fortune to take two wonderful trips to Italy in 2003, and by the time fall came around, I was having post partem food cravings in the extreme. In particular, I was craving White Truffles with risotto. I decided to go to Al Tiramisu because I had been there before with a date (bad date, threw him away after that) but remembered the food to be superb. It also has a small, intimate bar at the front of the restaurant where you can eat alone and not feel weird about doing so in the least. The risotto with white truffles that I had at Al Tiramisu was in my mind, an exact replica of the same dish I had in Rome at Ristorante Girarrosto Fiorentino. I have been a regular ever since. I've eaten just about everything on and off the menu at least once and have never been disappointed. The quality is consistent. What I also like about Al Tiramisu is that Luigi and his staff treat you beautifully and you always feel very at home. If you come regularly, they remember you by name and they really do become your friends. If you're having a craving and it's not on the menu, Luigi will make something special for you. It just doesn't get much better than that. Having said that, I decided this fall in the interests of fairness that I needed to broaden my horizons and see how other places around town stacked up. I decided to try Tosca first since everyone was raving about it at egullet a few years back. They did not have white truffles the first time I was there, but the chef managed to make as respectable linguine dish as you can with the canned variety and I can't say I had a complaint. When I returned a week later when they promised to have them in, I was disappointed. They were not too generous with the truffles and they were not particularly aromatic - although they did shave them in front of me and the linguine had too much butter in it where it left a pool at the bottom and just made the whole thing too heavy. They do however, have a good theater menu and the restaurant is very smartly decorated. I have also tried Gallileo a couple of times at the bar - once a truffled risotto and the other time a truffled linguine. They were both superb, and they were generous with the truffles and the quality was good although they do not shave them in front of you. They are just very neatly arranged on top which seems odd to me. A date also recently took me to the Laboratorio (my dating prospects are improving!) and it definitely lives up to its reputation. On the whole, the tasting menu was wonderful and unique and the wine parings well done. The duck liver was one of the best most delicate and flavorful things I've ever tasted. The white truffle ice cream on the other hand, is to be avoided at all costs. We were seated towards the far end of the Laboratorio so it was not as easy to watch Chef Roberto cook, but that was fine with me because it was more intimate and romantic. The staff was attentive without being overly so. But we never got to meet the Chef although I suppose we could have introduced ourselves. I also recently tried Bocaccio in Baltimore. The food is exceptional and also a good value. I had a porcini risotto followed by a veal chop that practically took up my entire plate. Both were exceptional. The staff is also very attentive and well informed making good suggestions not only on the food but on the wine. The portion sizes are very generous - it would be entirely possible to share and walk away full. The chef came out at the end of the meal and introduced himself. There is something about this type of personalization that just makes the evening. I've also eaten at Landini's in Alexandria a couple of times recently. I favor their pastas and meat dishes over their seafood dishes, but the food has been consistently good and the staff is exceptionally friendly and helpful. Next on the list will be I Ricci and then possibly Maestro. I have never been to Maestro and haven't been to I Ricci in several years. I also plan to attend a couple of the cooking classes at Casa Italiana. At $50/per person for food and wine, they are the best deal in town and they have a wonderful line up of chefs participating over the next few months. As for cooking myself, Santa brought me the Silver Spoon for Chistmas and I'll be taking it for a test drive on Tuesday. I'll try to participate in the year of Italian cooking at egullet too. Thank you Pontormo for starting this thread and for pointing out the other. If anyone has any interest in joining me as I eat my way through D.C./VA/MD's Italian restaurants, perhaps we could organize a group with regular outings.
  14. Why doesn't she call the concierge at the Mariott? They should know better than about anyone. But she's right to get a reservation now. If Elizabeth's is open - hands down first choice. Elizabeth and her husband Michael have a wonderful place with exceptional food. I don't know that you'll see lots of children there, but I can't imagine getting anything other than a warm welcome.
  15. Hmmm....well I saw mayhaw man's post on another thread from about a week ago that indicated Progress Grocery was back in business and just placed an order for muffalettas to arrive on Friday. Yum! Yup - very expensive at $66 for 2 but I'm not getting to New Orleans any time soon and that's a lot cheaper than a plane ticket. I ordered them overnight delivery versus 2 day ground - not knowing how they pack the things, not sure I want a two day old sandwich. As soon as someone has info on how to place orders with Central, please post. I'll try theirs out too. I have some friends and relatives I send food stuffs to every holiday - usually ordering stuff from Williams Sonoma, Dean & Deluca or Neiman Marcus (aka Needless markups). I thought this year I would try to find foodstuffs that could help support Louisiana or Mississippi businesses instead. Mayhaw Man, if you have the energy to do it, it would be great to start a thread with links to or phone numbers for Louisiana and Mississippi businesses that will ship their foodstuffs.
  16. If anyone knows how to brown in a non stick pan, by all means, let me know. I got one for Christmas a few years ago, tried it once and have never pulled it out since.
  17. Cucina


    Well my favorite road kill deer story of all time dates back to the Carter administration. Zbigniew Brzezinski was National Security Advisor, his wife was an accomplished hostess and a school bus happened to hit a deer on Georgetown Pike near their home on the very same day she was having a dinner party with cabinet level guests. One thing lead to another, and the main course served that night was venison and according to reports, everyone raved about how wonderful it was...until someone asked about her source!
  18. Cucina

    Turkey Brining

    I have never brined a turkey before and before wasting it on a whole big bird, I'm experimenting on a chicken tonight. I am assuming that brine is not supposed to have some heavenly smell because mine smells pretty nasty if I do say so myself. It's mainly water with some (but not much) apple cider, salt of course, no sugar (I'm making gravy and all of the things I've read advise against sugar if you're making gravy), a couple of bay leaves, some thyme, half an onion and a celery stalk. It's cooling down now - not cool enough to put the chicken in - may have to cook tomorrow. Will this work? Any other suggestions on additions?
  19. please tell me they don't actually LOOK like miniature hamburger buns or rolls - just maybe shaped like them? when I'm in a hurry and can't make homemade, I confess that I roll out pilsbury in a can and then cut miniature biscuits from it - a far cry from homemade, but not bad in a pinch. (I might get booted off of egullet for this kind of confession). If theirs are an upgrade on this, and I don't have to do the cooking or ham stuffing, that would be a huge help.
  20. LOL! I love that description. I can picture them and almost taste them now!
  21. I like this topic and absolutely agree with handmc. I do not eat or cook with very many things that come out of a can and had never really given much thought to the types of things I donated to food banks until I became a regular contributor by virtue of having to keep a stock of provisions on hand. You may recall that DC residents got a warning a few years back to keep 3-5 days worth of provisions in the event of a bioterrorism event where you couldn't evacuate right away. My father, who consults in the area, insisted that I take this warning seriously and for the sake of not worrying my dad, I do. The challenge was to come up with a selection of things that I could stand to eat straight out of the can in the event there was no electricity and you couldn't use "heat in a can" because you needed to conserve the air in your house or the gas grill because you couldn't go outside. I also wanted to be healthy and have a good variety of things suitable for breakfast, lunch and dinner. I am also a southerner and extremely partial to and choosy about my vegetables. After checking out the canned food selections at whole foods, giant foods and safeway, I was totally uninspired. And then I went to Harris Teaters and it changed my opinion about the quality of canned food entirely. They carry a brand called "Margaret Holmes" that ranges from southern staples like squash and onions to tomatoes, okra and corn. A brand called "Bush's Best" makes yummy field peas with snaps and then "Luck's" has crowder peas seasoned with fatback. "Mitchell's" also has "fancy whole kernel shoe peg white sweet corn." Harris Teater's also has canned fruits to die for but I don't remember the brand because I eat them all. I don't particularly care for canned meat or fish, but I also buy canned salmon and chicken of the sea, and things like velveeta, peanut butter, crackers, nuts, powdered milk, cereal, cranberry juice cocktail, apple juice, canned artichokes, potato chips, etc. The Starbuck's around the corner from my house has a canned food drive for a local food bank every year so I haul all of this over there along with things in my pantry I havent used like dried pasta, rice, campbell's soup, etc. and then go back to Harris Teater's and restock. I have made a point of trying everything I buy (learning the hard way what was truly not edible including an unknown brand with a mouthwatering picture of beef and vegetable stew that surely tasted like dog food.) So, the point is, put yourself in the recipient's shoes and think about what it would take to make three meals a day that are relatively tasty and healthy using non perishable goods. If you live in an area of the country that is a potential terrorist target or if you live in an area prone to natural disasters, you need to have provisions on hand anyway and you need to rotate them out well before they expire so making giving to the foodbank part of your routine works well.
  22. Busboy - did you happen to try (or has anyone else) their miniature pre-made bite sized ham biscuits and if so, are they good enough (taste and looks wise) to pass off like you made them yourself? I've seen these and contemplated the idea of ordering for a party just to save time if they are on a par with my own, but haven't tried it yet.
  23. I wouldn't go there. One of my grandmother's christmas cookie recipes calls for 1/2 cup butter and 1/2 cup crisco. I was at my mother's for Christmas last year and she asked me to make up a batch - she was out of crisco and said, "just use butter, it'll work." Well, it didn't - the recipie has no eggs in it and that may have been a factor, but those poor cookies just drooled all over the place, didn't taste the same and looked absolutely pathetic.
  24. Okay - this probably doesn't count as true "potluck" but more like unsolicited holiday potluck - you know - those well meaning neighbors and sometimes friends who drop off "homemade" christmas cookies - or even sometimes halloween or turkey shaped cookies in gawd awful plastic festive shaped trays covered with colored saran wrap. 9 out of 10 times, these cookies look and taste suspiciously like the ones in the pilsbury ready-made sugar cookie commercials where that dough boy is going on and giggling about how he just loves christmas cookies. The "best" ones are decorated with those metallic edible bb's that are about as tasty and likely to chip your tooth as the real thing. I know it's the thought that counts, but what are these people thinking???
  25. I think you should submit that verbatim to the NY Times and see if they would publish it. A well told story!!!
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