Saturday, January 25, 2014

Slow Food Stories

Butter makes everything better, including strategy.  Spending the weekend in the Queen City to meet with fellow Slow Food colleagues in the southern region. Spent a fascinating morning hearing "Ark of Taste" stories from luminary David Shields, acclaimed pommologist Lee Calhoun, and the heir to the famous Bradford Watermelon, Nat Bradford.  Shields spun tales of  benne seeds and the palmetto asparagus, black birch syrup ( who he is working with RVA chef Travis Milton to acquire),and Hayman sweet potatoes.  How can we as an organization empower communities to save heirloom varietals that are disappearing ? Some varietals go away because tastes change, others because of Big Ag.   Heard stories of farmers with 100 varieties of collard greens, and veggies like the "Tanya", the bulb of the elephant ear, and arrowroot, a starchy root that has fallen out of favor.

What memories do you have of foods that no longer are part of our food culture ?

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Why do we fear freedom of choice?

Brian and Kim Criley atended a  public hearing this week at the Subcommittee for Agriculture of the Virginia House of Delegates.  The movement for food freedom lost a battle yesterday in a classic example of regular people versus lobbyists.   Read their take on the day's events.

Saturday, January 11, 2014


Every once in a while a word keeps popping up that strikes my fancy- and today's word is "nixtamalize." 

After eating at Danny Bowien's  new Mission Cantina on the Lower East Side last month, I was talking to the chefs about some of their processes and they talked about  how they "nixtamalize" their Anson Mills corn in-house to make their tortillas. It got me thinking.  There's a good article in the New York Times  about the importance of corn to the Mexican culture and it speaks a bit to the process. 

In a nutshell, the word  typically refers to a process for the preparation of corn where the grain is soaked and cooked in a solution ( often limewater) and  then hulled. The corn undergoes a chemical transformation, making it easier to cook with, better tasting, and more nutritious. It amazes me to think that the process was developed over 3000 years ago in a simpler time.  Some things don't change.

Friday, January 03, 2014

My Top Tastes of 2013

Hawksworth, Vancouver

Hands down, my favorite meal of the year- great fresh fish, interesting combinations with a heavy Asian influence.

·       Hamachi sashimi with passion fruit, jalapeno, coconut, lemongrass ice cream, sea asparagus, radish,
puffed rice and white soy  

  Salmon belly nori with 3 dipping sauces- carrot chili, beet ginger, orange ginger
Burnt caramel glazed pork belly with green papaya, grapefruit, crispy shallots, and mint.
 KFC  - Korean fried cauliflower with sesame and cilantro

Ava Genes, Portland

A boisterous Roman inspired menu using locally sourced ingredients- arancini stuffed with local cheese; melt in your mouth short ribs with apples, horseradish and a hairbender coffee rub from Stumptown. The “Giardini” vegetables were my favorite, including Brussels sprouts with farro, pumpkin seeds, and anchovy.

Bon Appetit was impressed as well… “i used to judge a chef by the way he or she roasted a chicken. but now that farm-to-table is the standard, it's more about what they can do with a carrot. at the trattoria-inspired ava gene's, the second restaurant from stumptown coffee roasters founder and budding restaurateur duane sorenson, green-thumb cuisine becomes masterful.”

Babbo, New York

Batali’s flagship is a solid as ever- hadn’t been in ten year but it surely held up….
·         Pig Foot “Milanese” with Rice Beans and Arugula
·         Beef Cheek Ravioli with Crushed Squab Liver and Black Truffles

Mission Cantina, New York
Danny Bowien, of Mission Chinese fame, recently opened Mission Cantina on the Lower East Side, and delivers an interesting interpretation of Mexican food. With house-made  Oaxacan cheese, and nixtamalized Anson Mills corn for the house tortillas, these guys are serious. Taco fillings the night I dined there included skate wing tempura with cucumber, avocado and cabbage, crispy fried tripe and mussel escabeche,  beef tongue with charred onions, tomato pickles, and peanuts.  Chicken wings are slathered with mole spices, sesame, and chili vinegar, and the oaxacan cheese us served with marinated rapini.

Local favorites included Heritage, Rappahannock and Merroir, Dutch and Co (whose perfect egg may be my favorite dish of the year), Pasture, Belmont Food Shop,  BlackSheep, and Charlottesville’s Whiskey Jar who hosted a Southern Foodways Alliance dinner last summer that hit every mark.

Other notable restaurants included:

Pok Pok, Portland; Proper Pie, Richmond; Secco, Richmond; Pine State Biscuits, Portland; Meat & Bread, Vancouver, Eataly, NY; Joe’s Shanghai, NY; Peter Chang, Richmond; Screendoor, Portland;  Morimoto Sushi, Boca Raton

Oysters at Rappahannock

Home of Soup Dumplings

Morimoto in Boca Raton

White Gazpacho- my favorite at Broad Appetit

Magpie's Rhubarb Cake with Chevre ice cream and mint gazpacho

Whiskey Jar's Moonshine Punch

Whiskey Jar's Trout and BBQ chicken

Traditional Arab Meal 

Pine State Biscuits

Voodoo Donuts

Screendoor's Chicken and waffles

Meat & Bread, Vancouver

Hawksworth, Salmon Belly

Hawksworth's Hamachi

Hawksworth Pork Belly

Chef Hawksworth

Heritage's Pork Belly

Babbo's traditional Alto Adige chestnut dessert

Mission Cantina

Tacos at Mission Cantina