Meet a Foodie


Not that he has any clue who we are or what we look like. But whatever! Totes saw you today, Tom!

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As I mentioned in our Meat Week introduction yesterday, we’re just days away from the start of this year’s festivities.  We’ll be starting things off at Urban Bar-B-Que in their new Norbeck Road location (which is their old Urban Burger location).  And as much as we loved kicking off the first two Meat Weeks at their other Rockville spot, they’re going all out to welcome us to the new space.

For starters, they’re tempting us with food – free sides to go with our ‘cue.  As they put it, “Come for the meat, stay for the sides!”  Urban is also offering a free commemorative gift to everyone who joins us on Sunday night at 6.

And the cherry on the sundae is Happy Hour bar pricing   Oh…did we forget to mention that this Urban puts the “bar” in “barbecue?”  Add that to the extra space and their best Southern Pride smoker (brought over from the Silver Spring location), and we’ve got every indication that this will be the best kick-off event yet.

Need some more to whet your appetite?  We asked our Captain, Jenelle Dennis, and our First Mate, David Gootzit, a couple of questions about Meat Week.  These are their answers…and just to be fair, we’ve answered them as well.

1) What is it about barbecue that appeals to you most?

JD: Obviously, the taste.  There’s nothing that can match the complexity of flavors that infuse into meat after a low and slow experience in a smoky environment.

DG: Real barbecue requires a committment to craftsmanship and an
investment of time that is absent from many of modern life’s
day-to-day activities.  Throwing something on a charcoal grill and
cooking it quickly can be fun and, if done right, even tasty.
However, the amount of sweat (both literal and proverbial) that goes
into real barbecue reflects an attitude that the cook cares. It’s a beautiful thing.

MB: There’s something really impressive about the way barbecue turns some of the toughest, least desirable cuts of meat into something so tender and tasty.  There’s a lot of skill that goes into getting it just right, and the combination of smoke, spice and richness results in a flavor that you can’t get any other way.

2) As a KCBS Certified Barbecue Judge, what do you look for in GOOD barbecue?

JD: The KCBS judging standards, but with a personal twist when I’m not in a judging environment.  Taste:  Has to appeal to me personally.  I tend to prefer the sweet and tangier flavors.  Texture:  Has to come of the bone easily, but not completely fall off (for ribs),  pull apart easily (for brisket).  Nothing turns me off more than tough or dry meat.  As far as appearance, I’m pretty forgiving.  But a nice bark on a rib really turns me on.

DG: The three criteria in a KCBS-sanctioned contest are appearance, taste and tenderness.  In a restaurant, the barbecue shouldn’t be arranged in too fussy a fashion. It’s barbecue, not haute cuisine. Without the right degree of smoke, it isn’t good barbecue. You can go overboard on smoke and miss the mark, but overall there’s a window with degrees of smokiness, and anything in that window is “good.” Tenderness is tricky for many cooks. In my experience, if you find a good smoke ring, you are much more likely to find a tender piece of
barbecue.  I look for barbecue that gives a little resistance to my teeth, but even that once it yields still provides a touch of chew. To paraphrase the Supreme Court – good barbecue is like pornography – you know it when you taste it.

MB: I want my barbecue to taste like meat, first and foremost.  The smoke is important, and I definitely like a good sauce, but I want to be able to taste the pork or the brisket as soon as I bite into it.  As far as texture, I just can’t stand dried out barbecue.  I know that restaurants have to prepare their meat in advance to be able to handle crowds, but the way a place rests it ‘cue before serving can make all the difference.  I’m pretty forgiving in terms of appearance, but a nice crusty exterior always makes me smile.

3) How would you describe Meat Week to someone who has never heard of it before (and isn’t necessarily a barbecue junkie)?

JD: A gathering of energetic, friendly and hungry people with a love of BBQ or an interest in learning about BBQ.

DG: It’s a week of meat, what else do you need to know?    Seriously - I would say we’ve identified eight of the best barbecue restaurants in the DC-VA-MD metro area and all eight places are working to put their best foot forward for anyone who wants to stop by.

MB: It’s a low-key, week-long celebration of barbecue and you can attend as many or as few nights as you’d like.  I’m with Jim Shahin on the name, though.  If it were “Barbecue Week” people would know exactly what we were talking about as soon as we said it – Meat Week conjures up images of steak.

4) What’s the best barbecue you’ve ever had outside the DC area ?

JD: The best BBQ I’ve had is in competition.  I always think there are strong competitors in Pickin’ in the Panhandle and Smoketoberfest.

DG: It’s a tie between Smitty’s Market in Lockhart, Texas and Cooper’s BBQ in Lano, Texas. Both were incredible experiences and I’ll consider myself fortunate in life if I ever get to return to either.

MB: To me, the best barbecue in the country is in Kansas City.  And the best barbecue in Kansas City is at Oklahoma Joe’s (the original location, at the gas station).  Even Anthony Bourdain has acknowledged its superiority!

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With that, we wish you a happy Meat Week and we hope to see you at one or more of our celebrations.  Look for the big red-and-white banner with our new DC flag-inspired logo and the crowd of smiling faces smeared with sauce.

And when you’ve finished with Meat Week, think about participating in DC Meat Free Week.  Also in their third year (they started in direct response to our inaugural Meat Week), they’ve put together a terrific lineup of meat-free menus to enjoy all over town from Monday, February 6th through Monday, February 13th.  They’ve convinced ten of the best local food trucks to offer special deals on vegan and vegetarian menu items on Wednesday, the 8th, and they’ve even got a book signing with John Schlimm, the Tipsy Vegan, on Thursday at Meridian Pint.

Trust us – after a full week of barbecue your body will thank  you for some down time.

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Can you imagine a Super Bowl watch party that doesn’t involve massive quantities of beef, pork or chicken?  Crazy talk, I know.  But if you make it through eight days of Meat Week, you may not just imagine it…you might actively crave it.

For the third year in a row, Washington will be celebrating “the holiday that time forgot” with a tour-de-carnivore that will highlight some of the best barbecue the area has to offer.  Beginning at Urban Bar-B-Que’s newest location on Sunday night and ending at long-time favorite Rocklands the following Sunday, we’re taking it to the next level for this year’s Meat Week.  We’ve got so much new talent on the DC barbecue scene, we just had to add an eighth day (finally bringing us in line with the national organizers’ recommendation).  And with one of those shiny new logos that plays off the DC flag, you know we’re ready.

If you’ve been following along from the beginning, you know that we started DC’s Meat Week chapter after an introduction to the event by the Washington City Paper’s Tim Carman.  I’m pleased to report that our Meat Week team from last year is back together again this year, with Jenelle Dennis (aka Babeque) as our Captain and David Gootzit as First Mate.  Both are KCBS-Certified Barbecue Judges, and they’re quick to extol the virtues of crisp bark and a well-defined smoke ring in quality ‘cue.  I asked each a few key questions about Meat Week and will be posting their answers tomorrow.

As befits a celebration of the best of the area’s barbecue offerings, we’ll be returning to several of our most popular venues from last year.  In addition to the two I mentioned above, we’ll be hitting up the PORC crew for a second response-requested buffet at Wilson’s in Shaw) and Mr. P’s Ribs and Fish for another round of parking lot barbecue.

We’re also proud to finally be able to visit the guys from Pork Barrel BBQ in their own space after two consecutive Meat Weeks featuring “coming soon” sneak peeks.  They’re rolling out the red carpet, with a Meat Week sampler special and the first official taste of their new Carolina Vinegar sauce.  It’s been a long time coming, but good barbecue is all about taking the time to get it right.

The rest of our Meat Week slots this year are given over to ‘cue joints that didn’t exist when Meat Week 2011 rolled around:

Hill Country’s DC outpost has been winning rave reviews since they opened, and their all-you-can-eat Monday night special seemed like the perfect way to welcome them to the lineup.  As it turns out, this Monday Hill Country offers a chance to do some good with your meal: they’re holding a charity concert to benefit the victims of the recent Texas wildfires.  Tickets are $20 and the restaurant is also donating 20% of their food and beverage sales for the night to the relief efforts, as well.  If you’re thinking about coming out Monday night, please consider making a donation.

Smoke & Barrel knows how to draw a crowd with their combination of barbecue and beverages (most notably bourbon).  Due to their limited size – at least until expansion is complete – they’re participating in Meat Week with a reservations-required.  That’s the good news.  The bad news?  Reservations are already completely booked.  If you’re not already on board, you’ll have to check them out another night.

Finally, Memphis Barbeque in Crystal City is doing its namesake city proud, smoking everything from pork to salmon (not to mention a few sides) in a massive sit-down space on 23rd Street.  What better way to celebrate the Friday night of Meat Week?  We had the privilege of taking a First Look when they were ready to open.

The official website features the schedule, addresses and special offers that will be available each night.  While you’re on the site, take a look around at some of the photos from last year and check out the Meat Week Hype that we’ve created for this year, too.  Like that flag logo?  You’re in luck – t-shirts will be available for sale each night (just find the Captain or First Mates).

Except where noted above, all events are come-as-you-are and everyone is free to order whatever they please.

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If you haven’t finished your holiday shopping yet, you don’t need us to remind you that you’re running out of time.  Hanukkah begins at sunset next Tuesday, and Christmas Day is just a few days behind that.  Unless you’re willing to pay for express shipping, most online retailers won’t guarantee delivery in time for the holidays at this point.

Fortunately, you’ve still got plenty of time to shop if you Think Local First.  We’ll save the pitches about supporting the local economy and encouraging eclectic and diverse retail options for another time…right now, all you need to think about is the fact that you can buy your last-minute gifts right up until the Night Before Christmas if you shop in-store.

Stumped for gift ideas?  If you’re shopping for someone who loves cooking, eating or drinking in the Washington area, we’re here to help.  From now until Christmas Day we’ll be offering twelve of our favorites – some old, some new, all tasty.  We’re starting off with a delicious source for sweet treats on Barracks Row:

On the first day ’til Christmas, my true love gave to me…a Caramelized Pear and Goat Cheese macaron from the Sweet Lobby!

The siblings, originally from Trinidad, are both graduates of MIT with degrees in engineering…not your average patissier‘s background.    Winnette fell in love with macarons and French pastry while in Paris, and she has been applying her scientific training to perfecting her recipes ever since.  When the opportunity came to open their own shop on Barracks Row, these Hill-dwellers jumped at the chance.

While their technique and attention to detail are traditional, some of the flavors that the Sweet Lobby works into their macarons are anything but ordinary.  Think black sesame pumpkin, hazelnut praline salted caramel (yes, all those tastes are in one macron) and chili-spiked chocolate.  The little treats are sold individually or in stylish orange-and-cocoa boxes of 4, 16 or even 40!

Despite (or possibly because of) their delicate texture and air of refinement, it’s highly unlikely that macarons will ever supplant cupcakes as DC’s go-to sugar fix.  Thankfully, the Sweet Lobby has you covered on the cakier front, as well.  With buttercream frosting (on most) and cake that is moist and dense, they’ll go toe-to-toe with almost any DC cupcake contender.

Since opening in June, the Sweet Lobby has been establishing a reputation as a go-to source for some of the most delicious macarons this side of the Seine.  The complex little pastries, with their brittle shells and near-liquid interiors, demand a perfectionist’s touch.  Fortunately for us, the Sweet Lobby has Winnette and Timothy McIntosh.

And as if the cupcakes and the macarons weren’t enough for such a small space, the McIntosh siblings sell madeleines and shortbread in several flavors.  They’ve also created Steep, a line of custom blended loose-leaf teas.  Work with the Sweet Lobby staff and you’ll be sure to find a gift combination that works for your loved one.

The flavors of both the macarons and the cupcakes change daily, so you’ll want to check in with them via Facebook or Twitter to get the latest update. Prices are better than many competitors’, with cupcakes selling for $2.75 and macarons go for $1.75 each.

The Sweet Lobby
404 8th St., SE
Washington, DC
The Sweet Lobby on Urbanspoon

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It’s a great time for democracy, especially among Washington-area food lovers.  You can vote for your favorite Neighborhood Gathering Place, Power Spot, Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene and Your Favorite Restaurant in the Restaurant Association of Metropolitan Washington’s RAMMY awards over at the Washington City Paper from now until midnight on Wednesday, May 11th.  That last category is completely open – feel free to write in any place you like, as long as you include an address or a location.

And here at Capital Spice we’re whipping votes for another food-related contest.

Our very own Elizabeth is one of TEN NATIONWIDE FINALISTS in OpenTable’s “Mother of All Foodies” contest on Facebook.  Unbeknownst to her, I nominated her and included one of my favorite photos of Elizabeth with Baby Spice this past Halloween (Elizabeth was a diner waitress and Baby Spice was a DC half-smoke).

As with most Facebook contests, this one comes down to a straight-up popular vote.  So we’re reaching out to you, our regular readers, and asking for your help.

If you’re on Facebook, please vote for Elizabeth here.  You’ll be asked to accept the OpenTable “Mother of All Foodies” application in order to vote.  Once you’ve accepted it, you can take a look at the ten finalists and pick your favorite.  The contest runs until 8 PM tomorrow night, so please vote soon!

Sure, it’s a shameless plug for us…but wouldn’t it be nice to bring the title of “Mother of All Foodies” home to the DC area just in time for Mother’s Day?

Make your voices heard in the DC restaurant scene!  And thanks in advance for your help.

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Take a second and think about the seven people you hang out with most often.  Where did you meet them?  How long have you known them?

Chances are “work” and “school” figured prominently in your answers, especially here in Washington.  It’s hard to strike up a meaningful conversation with a random person in a bar that doesn’t start with “So, what do you do?” and end with a hookup attempt.  The guy looking over your shoulder every five seconds at that networking event doesn’t seem likely to want to grab a burger or see a Nats game next week, either.  But we all have to eat, and many of us eat out more often than we cook at home.

Enter Grubwithus.  The brainchild of two California entrepreneurs who found themselves without a social circle after moving to Chicago, Grubwithus negotiates deals with local restaurants around town for small group dinners.  Participants, or “Grubbers,” sign up through the Grubwithus website and pre-pay for their meals.  Then they show up and enjoy an evening of good food and (hopefully) good conversation with as many as seven strangers.

Think of it as blind group dating without the romantic overtones.

Grubwithus (@grubwithus) has already taken off in Chicago, San Francisco and New York, and today they announced their inaugural DC dinners.  In preparation for the launch, we sat down with Sen Sugano and Tricia Sabido for a better understanding of what Grubwithus brings to the table.

Details, including the first five DC dinners, after the jump. (more…)

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We’re not ones to repost every announcement we receive here at Capital Spice, but there are some times when the opportunity is just too good not to share.

This is one of those times.

On Thursday, May 5th, Eric Ripert will be signing copies of AVEC ERIC at Hill’s Kitchen.  The signing will take place at 6 PM, but you can bet that the line will start quite a bit earlier than that.

Here are the details as we just received them:

 

MEDIA ALERT:

Chef Eric Ripert, star of the PBS series “Avec Eric” and author of the recently-published cookbook of the same name, will sign copies of his book at Hill’s Kitchen on Thursday, May 5 at 6pm.

Venue details:
Hill’s Kitchen
713 D Street, SE
Washington, DC 20003
202-543-1997

 

We’ve been big fans of Leah Daniels and Hill’s Kitchen since it opened – even if she did beat us to the name – and we’re thrilled that they’ll be hosting Chef Ripert for this signing.

See you there!

 

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When it comes to food, Seth Cooper knows that process matters.  He embraces the “Fresh, Local, Seasonal” ethos and he even makes his own cheese.  But he found himself frustrated over and over again as he tried to bring that mentality to meat.

From 2006 to 2008, Cooper lived in England and enjoyed farmers’ markets right on his street where butchers would bring freshly dressed cuts of meat to sell.  He loved the freshness and the more assertive flavor of the grass-fed beef.  He could ask questions about the differences between breeds of cattle and even between different steaks taken from the same animal.

Upon arrival in Washington, he found a kindred spirit in Jon Wrinn.  Together, the two engineers sought to tear down all the barriers that the meat industry has built up between the farm and the fork.  They visited butcher shops and market stalls trying to find knowledgeable purveyors offering top-quality local meats, but they found that combination in short supply.  They even toyed with the idea of butchering their own animals before buying a cow and splitting it among a group of friends.  They felt so strongly about what they were doing, they traveled to Penn State’s Meat Laboratory to take classes regarding the regulations and procedures governing small-scale butchering operations.

Thankfully, they came to the conclusion that they couldn’t be the only ones who were looking for this, and so they’ve set out to make it easier for others.  Thus was born White House Meats.  Their idea: bring grass-fed, dry-aged, locally-raised beef to Washingtonians in a way that allows them to promote the cause and have some fun at the same time.  Their method: The Meat-Up.

What is a Meat-Up and how can you get the hook-up?  Find out after the jump. (more…)

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CREDIT: Steve Termine

While the blessed and food-obsessed among us are craftily plotting how to be even more selective about what we eat in 2011, nearly 17 million American children (roughly one in four) are “food insecure,” meaning they do not have access to food that meets basic nutritional needs due to their home’s financial situation.  It’s a sobering thought, especially next to our prattling on about local, organic, seasonal and blah blah blah privilegedcakes.

In response to this challenge, Sesame Workshop – the nonprofit arm behind the classic show – rolled out Food For Thought: Eating Well on a Budget. This bilingual media outreach is designed to support families with children between the Sesame Street wheelhouse ages of 2 and 8 who have limited access to nutritious and affordable food.

We had the opportunity to speak to Elmo – THE Elmo! Who only needs one name! Like Cher! Or Pele! Suck on THAT Boutros Boutros Ghali! – recently so he could share his tips on helping kids eat well and nutritiously on a budget.  Elmo is much more interesting on the phone than transcribed, so we went all 2003 on your asses and recorded the interview. Behold! Capital Spice’s first podcast-type-thing, in several shorter sections:

Elmo explains the difference between a sometimes food and an anytime food.

So what is a “Super Food,” anyway?

More of our conversation with Elmo after the jump. (more…)

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It’s getting to be that time again.  The monthly DC Food Blogger Happy Hour is set to take place next Wednesday, November 3rd.  It’s the day after the elections, so you’re going to have a reason to come out for a drink regardless of which party you support.  And we’re here to support that.

So is Northside Social.  The neighborhood coffee house / wine bar / all-around enjoyable place to hang out is this month’s location, and we’ll have the back room reserved to give us room to get the party started.  If I know this group, we’ll be spilling out into the rest of the space before too long.

Why Northside Social?  Well, it IS our November Happy Hour.  We wanted to pick a place that offered some cozy warm beverages in case next week is more seasonably cold.  But we also wanted a spot with some solid beverage options as well.  General Manager and Sommelier Alison Christ has certainly seen to that, compiling a wine list that should offer something for everyone (and some choice beers for those who just don’t like wine).

And because the holidays are rapidly approaching, we wanted to try something new and (we hope) fun for this month’s happy hour: a cookbook swap!  Have a favorite cookbook you’ve worked your way through backwards and forwards?  Got a book you’ve been meaning to cook from but you just haven’t gotten around to it?  Bring it with you to Northside Social and trade it for another.  We’ll have a table full of cookbooks for everyone to pick and choose from.  Bring one book, take another home.  Bring two, take two.  It’s a great way to refresh your cookbook collection and see what your fellow foodies have been cooking at home.

We’ll kick off at 6 PM, as usual.  Northside Social is located in Clarendon, just a short walk from the Orange Line’s Clarendon Metro stop.  Head in the opposite direction from Hard Times Cafe along Wilson Boulevard, and you’ll pass a couple of additional foodie destinations: Eventide, Spider Kelly’s and Liberty Tavern (owned by the same folks who bring us Northside Social and Lyon Hall).

If you’re planning to come by, take a second and let us know on the event page over at Facebook.  And if you still haven’t joined the group, sign up to become a member of the DC Food Bloggers Facebook group.  It’s a great way to hear about each month’s happy hour as well as other fun events that come up from time to time.

Any questions?  Drop us a comment or ask on the event page.  We can’t wait to see you there…and Baby Spice may even make an appearance to sweeten the deal.

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