Thursday, July 31, 2008

Rachael Ray not content ruining people food... looks like dog food is next on the list of conquests for uber-almostchef Rachael Ray.

According to NBC, Ray is set to launch, "Nutrish", a line of pet food "based on recipes she has created for her pit bull, Isaboo."

All proceeds will go towards Ray's fund to help at-risk pets, "Rachael's Rescue", so at least that's a good thing.

Somehow I doubt she'll stop here, not until every dog and cat across America can say the word "sammy" and "yum-o".

Photo Courtesy: NBC

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

At least he doesn't look French

I usually try to keep politics off of this page, but when food is brought down to the level of petty politics, I can't help but speak up. However, speaking up was probably the last thing that Rick Davis, Senator John McCain's campaign manager should have done when he said this:

"Only a celebrity of Barack Obama's magnitude could attract 200,000 fans in Berlin who gathered for the mere opportunity to be in his presence. These are not supporters or even voters, but fans fawning over The One. Only celebrities like Barack Obama go to the gym three times a day, demand "MET-RX chocolate roasted-peanut protein bars and bottles of a hard-to-find organic brew -- Black Forest Berry Honest Tea" and worry about the price of arugula."

Okay, so forget about the first two sentences - that's a subject for another time and another blog, but let's look at that last sentence: MET-RX bars? Honest Tea? Arugula? You call that elitist? You can buy MET-RX bars at any CVS, Honest Tea at almost any grocery store, and Arugula? Well that just has a bit of a peppery taste!

Maybe Davis is right, maybe Obama is a celebrity elitist who'd rather munch on Mache than Kraft Mac & Cheese. He'd probably be best served relating more to the little guy, your average Joe-six pack, you know like John McCain. So how about it Senator Obama...are you ready to take a walk in McCain's $520 Italian loafers and see what being a real American is like?

Umm, sir...the food is already dead

Somehow it's come to this: some Atlanta restaurants are telling their customers to leave their guns at home after a new law "allows holders of concealed weapons permits to bring guns into restaurants that serve alcohol", according to the Atlanta Business Chronicle.

Obviously not being familiar with the work of Johnny Cash or the concept of simple common sense, the Georgia State Legislature's decision to allow people to carry deadly weapons into establishments where small children dwell and people generally get hammered now puts an accidental shooting into the list of bad things that can happen at say...a Ruby Tuesday's - come for sub-par food, stay because you've been shot in the head.

Luckily the restaurant community has at least one person with Oxygen properly flowing to their brain; Susie Oddo, the vice president of operations for Tappan Street Restaurant Group told the Atlanta Business Chronicle, "When you add alcohol, it's not a good mix".

There is a bright side to this law: you'll never have some snot nosed restaurant manager try to screw a customer out of having breakfast again (see clip below for reference).

Food Day: Late and uninspired edition

Happy food day folks. We're going to keep things short today, so here we go.

Oh good, another "celebrity chef" is coming to DC: According to Metrocurean it looks like DC has another uber-chef on his way to impress the small-town crowd. Michael Mina, owner of over a dozen restaurants nationwide (and one in Mexico) will be opening up a Bourbon Steak location at the Four Seasons Hotel in Georgetown. What will we have to look forward to? According to Arizona Central's review of Bourbon Steak - one of the best steaks you've ever had (but you're going to pay for it).

Lobster powered cars?: Prices of everything everywhere are going up, except for lobster, which is going down according to the Boston Globe. This is horrible news for lobstermen who are having to contend with higher costs for fuel and bait.

Oh the Irony
: LA, the birthplace of fast food, has put a one year moratorium on new fast food joints in South LA according to this Pittsburgh Post-Gazette report.

Celebrate with Cheap Cheesecake TODAY!

Talk about a sweet deal. If you're in the market for a cheap dessert tonight, make your way on over to the Cheesecake Factory (I can't believe I actually just wrote that) and claim your piece of any of their over 30 varieties of cheesecake for only $1.50.

Regardless of what you (I) might think of TCF, thirty years is remarkable for any restaurant, and people seem to like this place (like my parents, and professional athletes)

And if that's not enough for you, $.25 out of every $1.50 goes to America's Second Harvest. So there, do it for the kids.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Goodbye Bennigan's

Still saving up that money to buy yourself a Bennigan's franchise? Well it may be time to look elsewhere, because as of today, it looks like Bennigan's is a thing of the past.

According to a Chicago Tribune article, Bennigan's parent company, S & A Restaurant Corp, filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy and suddenly closed seemingly all of its corporate owned restaurants.

How sudden was this move? So sudden that they didn't even tell their employees, all of whom showed up for work to only find out that their jobs were no longer on the menu.

I haven't been to a Bennigan's since high school, and always thought the same of it as I do other casual dining restaurants - but this has to hit its (former) employees particularly hard. In a time where the economy is in the tank, I can only hope everyone hurt by this lands squarely on their feet.

Building a better burger

I'm not a believer in the concept of perfection - so Eric Ripert's quest for the "perfect burger" isn't something I take seriously. However, after reading this article, you've got to say that this master chef has the right idea on how to build a better burger.

Of course those of you who live here in the DC area don't have to go far - just to the WestEnd neighborhood to Ripert's restaurant, WestEnd Bistro (fitting, isn't it?)

Just be prepared to pay. Your basic burger will run you $16.

So, have you tried Ripert's better burger? Thoughts?

Jose Andres on the Today Show

If you're reading this in the next ten seconds, turn on The Today Show to watch Jose Andres go crazy on a watermelon.

Of course, no one will understand a word he says - but I'm sure it'll be very loud and tasty!

Monday, July 28, 2008

Weekly Website: Panache Nosh

Happy Monday everyone. Today's Weekly Website features Panache Nosh, a welcome addition to the DC food blog scene, with plenty of great reviews, beautiful pictures, and snarky comments.

As usual you can find the link to this site on my blog roll on the right side of the screen. If you have a website you'd like to see featured, just leave me a comment and I'll put it up next week.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Happy Birthday Apples!

Ok, so her birthday isn't until Sunday, but today begins the three day celebration in honor of all things Apples.

Actually, that's a little misleading - we've been celebrating her birthday for at least a week now. But hey, she deserves it.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Tallula Appoints New Executive Chef

It looks like one of Arlington's best restaurants is about to get better as Chef Andrew Markert will take over as Executive Chef of Tallula Restaurant and EatBar before the end of the month.

His most recent work has been at Alexandria's Vermilion as Chef de Cuisine under Chef Anthony Chittum, but Markert has done time at such notable locations as Dish, Notti Bianche, and Citronelle.

According to Michael Babin, President of Neighborhood Restaurant Group, which owns such distinguished restaurants as Evening Star Café, Vermilion, Rustico and Buzz, Markert will oversee "new menus in both restaurants that continue to utilize fresh, seasonal products by the end of summer."

New York Retort

Sometimes I forget that people actually read this (aside from my parents). Matt Gross, the NYT writer who I used as the basis for my NYC wrote a rather pleasant and well reasoned retort to my rant that you can read below.

My favorite part about this blog is the ability to create a dialog and to start a conversation. I just want to thank Matt for engaging me. I'm looking forward to that piece on Taipei.

Hi Anthony,

Matt Gross here. I totally get what you're saying and wanted to clarify a little:

I wouldn't say it's my New Yorkeriness that prompted me to call for kalbi hash and Momofuku in Seoul—it's my experience traveling all over Asia. Taipei, Tokyo, Singapore, Shanghai, Ho Chi Minh City—all have rich culinary heritages, but they're also reaching into other food traditions to create new dishes.

Seoul isn't quite there yet, which is strange since it considers itself such a sophisticated, modern city. Kimchi jigae is a great dish (I make it at home on a regular basis), but in the week I spent eating it there, it was served much the same way everywhere I went. For such an otherwise innovative country, this tight adherence to tradition was surprising.

Anyway, glad I provoked a reaction from you! Hope you'll keep reading my work. (Look for a similar piece on Taipei in the coming months.)


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Just Shut Up: My Case Against NYC

It all started last Sunday by the pool. It was a picture perfect day; only a handful of clouds in the sky, the pool was douchebag free and Apples and I were enjoying watching a mother teaching her child how to swim. It was paradise.

I didn't bother to bring a book with me, so I grabbed for the travel section of Apple's copy of the Sunday New York Times - her latest venture into full-blown yuppiehood. Flipping frantically for something food related, I was relieved to find Matt Gross' article, "The Weird, Wild, and Ultimately Sublime", a piece about food in Seoul, South Korea.

Sitting quietly in my chair, attempting not to disturb Apples or block any of her Sun, I sprung up in a fit of rage. Ok, so it wasn't a fit of rage, more of a bout of annoyance. But I was upset. Why? Because of this line:

Where were the kalbi hash and the kimchi huevos rancheros? (Note to David Chang: Seoul needs Momofuku.)

No! No, I shouted. That's bullshit! Apples didn't bother to react to my outburst, she's heard it before. But I went on anyway. "Who does this guy think he is?", I asked, as if someone would appear from the bottom of the pool and validate my angry question.

If anyone would have bothered to ask, I would have told them that my anger isn't directed towards one NYT writer, but towards what seems to be the prevailing attitudes of those in the New York City food community, that somehow, without them there would be no fine cuisine, hell - food itself would simply be reduced to large vats of gruel, and us rural yokels will be left asking for more.

The idea that Seoul, the capital city of a country with a rich food heritage that far predates the existence of New York City herself, "needs Momofuku", one of the top restaurants in NYC, is absurd. Seoul needs Momofuku like Paris needs Citronelle, or Dublin needs Restaurant Eve. They don't; those cities do just fine on their own.

But this statement captures a lot of what I've seen and heard from people from "the city". "Oh I miss real pizza", "Why don't you guys have Pinkberry here?", and "Man, I can't wait to head back to the city to get a cupcake at Magnolia", are all thoughts in the same vein - we have it all in New York City, and by definition, you're just playing for second place.

It's a sentiment I detest. They're statements that get my blood boiling. Yes, NYC is a great food city. The best in the world? Possibly. Though I believe Tokyo has more Michelin stars than any other city right now, America's best restaurant is located not in NYC, but in Northern California, some of the best pizza in the country is being made in Phoenix, frozen yogurt is a global trend (started in South Korea - probably by someone who said, "NYC needs this"), and even the New York Times own food critic Frank Bruni said in a recent blog post that Georgetown Cupcake's product, "beat[s] Magnolia Bakery’s by miles and miles".

I know that not all NY foodies (for a lack of a better term) feel and act this way. Perhaps I'm just not as plugged into the NYC food culture as I should be. Perhaps I have a bias against NYC because growing up, my father, who grew up in the city, wasn't shy about sharing his disdain for it, and perhaps I'm just taking one writer's comment out of context. But this is what I hear, and this is what I take away when a food writer tells a city that they "need" a NYC restaurant.

You've got a lot to offer, New York, but it's time you recognized that you aren't the whole picture. You're a piece (albeit a big one) in a much larger global culinary puzzle. My advice would be to shut up and just let your food speak - it'll do so louder and clearer than you ever will.

Thought of the Day: Cupcakes are wicked expensive

Perhaps I shouldn't have bought the solid gold cupcakes with the platinum frosting, but either way...

...cupcakes are flippin expensive.

(Thus ends the thought of the day)

First Look: Ping by Charlie Chiang

As my cab pulls into Shirlington shopping center I can't help but be impressed. Even my cab driver comments on the number of restaurants packed into these few square blocks of carefully planned community.

Ping by Charlie Chiang
sits at ground zero of this culinary maze of bakeries, ice cream shops and ethnic food outlets, on corner allowing passers by a glimpse in, or customers a view out of its big windows. The space is remarkable and well put together. Split into three sections - a bar and two distinct seating areas - Ping looks a lot bigger than it actually is, and provides plenty of room to sit back, spread out, and breathe.

Ping is the seventh location in Virginia for the Charlie Chiang family, and the tenth in the Washington D.C. area. But talking with Christiana Chiang, Charlie's wife and co-owner of the mini-empire, Ping is special.

This isn't your parent's Chinese restaurant. Hell, this isn't even your Chinese restaurant. This is Chinese food 2.0.

No more dull looking noodley mess out of a paper box. You'll find cuisine that attracts the eye first, something very important to Christiana, and then takes a hold of the rest of your senses.

The menu, which is made up of "best of" dishes from the Chiang's travels, covers a good portion of Asia - from Thailand to China to Japan - with a surprisingly impressive sushi menu complimenting the traditionally heavier Chinese dishes.

Working my way through the menu, it's easy to see Christiana's influence. Everything looks clean and vibrant, lacking the traditional heavy sauce and grease you normally get with Chinese food.

Shiny Slippery Shrimp, a dish that tastes better than it sounds has a nice crunch to it, and a solid garlic flavor. Garlic is something you'll see a lot of here, sometimes to a fault, but if you're a fan, you're in luck. Other highlights include a sashimi soup that's light and flavorful, a lamb version of "Pot au Feu" that's tender and rich, and pepper steak cubes with just the right amount of heat.

Of course there are some dishes that just don't work, mostly due to a bit too much tweaking with traditional recipes. Vegetables and rice with some sort of cheese that looked and tasted bland, and a scallop dumpling that again had some sort of cheese on top. Lesson here, avoid the stuff with cheese and stick to what the Chiangs know best - Chinese food that's better than what you're used to.

It's hard to believe that Ping won't succeed. The Chiang family knows what they're doing, and it shows here. This is a restaurant that will grow with the neighborhood around it, and its versatility - from its large bar (with four huge flat screen TVs) to its diverse menu - will cater to the business lunch rush and the family dinner crowd alike. This is an impressive cornerstone in an impressive neighborhood; a restaurant that holds up well in the long tradition of the Chiang family.

Food Day: Slow and Cold Edition

Happy Food Day folks. Trying to beat the summer heat? Want to slow down and chill out? Well have I got some stories for you...

Foodstock: It's probably one of the most controversial movements in the food world today, but the Slow Food folks are determined to stay, and during Labor Day weekend in San Francisco, they're planning a gathering that's expected to draw 50,000 people - but will it be enough to democratize this institution? This NYT article has all of the details.

We all scream: How popular are frozen treats these days? Popular enough for an article in the NYT, Philadelphia Inquirer, Detroit Free Press, and the Atlanta Journal Constitution.

All are great articles, be sure to read them all before they melt!

The Best Part of Waking Up: This isn't your father's cup of coffee. This WaPo article shows how better beans translate to a better cup of joe.

In and Eating: Pickles can do a lot of things, but according to this LA Times article, they're just plain in right now.

Go ahead, learn something: Marion Nestle, author of Food Politics, has a great chat with the San Francisco Chronicle talking about what politics.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Restaurant Week Summer 2008 List is Up!

That's right folks, here's the list, start making your plans now.

Remember, avoid places that already have pre-theatre menus that are usually cheaper than the RW menu ($20.08 for lunch and $35.08 for dinner) and focus on places you normally can't afford.

So, what restaurants are you looking forward to visiting?

Monday, July 21, 2008

Arlington to class it up with food kiosks

Earlier tonight the Arlington City Council voted to make it easier for kiosks (like the one shown below) and food carts to set up shop throughout Arlington County.

“In many towns and cities across the United States and in Europe, kiosks bring color, vibrancy, great street food and unique crafts into the urban mix,” says Chairman J. Walter Tejada, hoping to attract what Arlington sees as "an amenity for residents, pedestrians, and visitors".

I can't help but think that the Pupatella cart, an Italian food cart located in Ballston and run by a couple neighbors of mine, had a large role in getting this passed. Their success will hopefully encourage others to give it a shot.

So, I know I have at least a couple people from Arlington who read this thing; what do you hope to see open up? I'm hoping for a noodle kiosk, and maybe something that has meat on a stick.

Fake News, Real Funny

Somewhere there's a scientist at the Domino's Food Lab who just thought..."You know, hot dogs on a pizza, that's not a bad idea!"

Domino's Scientists Test Limits Of What Humans Will Eat

That man should probably lose his job.

Salmonella source turns out to be Jalapeno Peppers

According to a just released AP report, it turns out the the Salmonella outbreak that has sent over a thousand people to the hospital was caused by a bad batch of Jalapeno peppers from Mexico.

So remember folks: Tomatoes = Good, Jalapenos = BAD.

That's all (until the next Salmonella outbreak).

Weekly Website: HSUS's Factory Farming Campaign

This week's Weekly Website shows us that it's not only what you eat, it's where it came from that counts too.

The Humane Society of the United States Factory Farming Campaign is working to stamp out the horrible practices of factory farms that put profits over standards and put the safety of our food at risk.

If you have a website you'd like me to feature, leave a comment and I'll put it up next week.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Other People's Breaking News: Cupcakes to Coming to Annapolis

Fresh out of the oven from our friends at Delleicious DC, it looks like Annapolis has gone cupcake crazy with the announcement that Nostalgia Cupcakes will open around Labor Day.

Click here to read all of the details and a great interview with Nostalgia owner, Sharon White.

Cold Stone Creamery Enters the Frozen Yogurt Market

Ok, so this isn't exactly breaking news - Cold Stone actually introduced this product, called TangyBerry, in some of their stores last November, but today was the first time I noticed it in the Cold Stone location at the Ballston Mall here in Arlington, VA.

The product, which has been compared to Pinkberry, is "fat-free and contains 100 calories per 4-ounce serving."

Thursday, July 17, 2008

He's Here!

Word on the street is Anthony Bourdain is in town shooting an episode of No Reservations. He'll be here until Monday. My guess is a stop at Ben's, one at Jaleo to see his good pal Jose Andres, and probably a drinking tour of U St./Adams Morgan/Dupont Circle/H St. and everywhere else where there's a bar.

If anyone sees him and can manage to take a picture, send it to me at anthonypdeangelo-at-gmail-dot-com.

Oh, and buy him a shot of something strong.

Can I has tomatoes?

Yes, yes you can.

According to the FDA, tomatoes are not going to kill you anymore. Hot peppers might though, so...avoid those now.

Gerard Pangaud Bistro Closed

Another closing today: Gerard Pangaud Bistro near McPherson Square.

Not exactly a household name to youngsters like me, Chef Pangaud headed up a two star Michelin restaurant in Paris before he was thirty years old.

Chef Pangaud left his position at L'Academie de Cuisine back in March to come back full-time to the restaurant.

This makes two high profile restaurants that have been closed within the past few weeks in the McPherson Square area; Butterfield 9 was the other.

Photo Courtesy: Washingtonian Magazine

An Open Letter to Michel Richard

Dear Chef Richard,

As one of the most talented and well recognized chefs not only in Washington DC, but in the entire country, almost anything you put your mind and frying pan to will be a success.

Your newest restaurant in Washington DC, Central, was named the best new restaurant nationwide by the James Beard Foundation, and you're even venturing back to LA to reconquer the west coast.

You're a treasure, and this city is better for having you here.

So with that being said; for the love of God don't open a hamburger restaurant!!

Yes, the hamburger at Central is among the best in the city, and you'd probably find a way to put your tuna and/or lobster burgers on the menu, and it'd be one of the most popular restaurants in the city, but please...


Do we really need another hamburger shoved down this city's already full gullet? Probably not. I think the few hundred burger places we already have are on the case. And even though you excel at taking American cuisine and adding class to it, there has got to be something else you can do, something better you can improve upon.

How about you open up a legit gourmet deli? One that can shut every New Yorker up and make me fat and happy. Or what about an actual French bakery that will allow you to show off your first love and one of your true talents?

So please, don't do it. You don't have to, and we don't need it.

But if you decide to, I promise to be first in line to eat my weight in hamburgers.



Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Another one bites the dust

At this point I could probably start a weekly feature on this, but again, we've got another restaurant closing.

This time it's Merkado in Logan Circle. The sister restaurant to Logan Tavern will officially close on August 24th, and reopen as Commissary, "an all-purpose cafe, lounge, coffeehouse and wine bar", according to the Washington Post.

There is a silver lining on this cloud though, the restaurant will "offer customers 75 percent off the price of every bottle of wine."

Now that's a closing I can drink to!

Food Day: iFood edition

Happy Food Day folks. Here's what's going on in the world of food.

It's not just here: According to the NYT, Washington DC isn't the only city with a serious case of burger fever. Paris has it, and there's no cure.

But will it pay the bill?: The iPhone may be the best thing you've waited three hours for in a long time, but can it tell you the best place to eat? This NYT article has its doubts.

The King Returns: He collects Michelin stars like you collect...well, whatever it is you collect. Now the best chef in the country is back in LA, and the LA Times couldn't be happier.

Boston Tea Party: Sweet Tea may be a southern thing, but it's made its way to beantown according to the Boston Globe.

Foreshadowing: If you haven't heard, world-famous chef Alain Ducasse is opening up a restaurant at the St. Regis hotel here in Washington. WaPo food master Tom Sietsema ventured to the Big Apple to see what we have to look forward to.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Redwood Set to Open in Bethesda

Redwood Restaurant, the sister restaurant to Georgetown's Mendocino Grille and Capitol Hill's Sonoma, will open its doors next Monday, July 21st.

With a menu based locally and its theme inspired "by and committed to the farm-to-table movement that grew out of California and the Pacific Northwest in the 1960's", Redwood will be headed up by Executive Chef Andrew Kitko, who comes to DC from San Francisco.

Redwood will feature "seasonal, naturally-raised and often locally-sourced ingredients on a frequently-changing menu; wood-grilled and wood-oven based cooking methods will highlight the straightforward style intended to showcase the carefully selected ingredients." Not to be outdone, expect an impressive wine selection of around 125 wines, sixteen of them by the glass.

As is the style of the day, Redwood will be a "green" restaurant, with "sustainable, reclaimed materials" throughout the restaurant.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Weekly Website: Brighest Young Things

Want to read about food from someone who is way cooler than you? Well obviously that's not why you're here, but the folks at Brightest Young Things could probably scratch that itch.

Today's entry is about places where you can celebrate French Blowing Stuff Up Day.

The link will be on the right hand side from now on. Read it.

Happy Bastille Day!

Feel free to take this opportunity to free some prisoners, take an oath on a tennis court (squash or racquetball would suffice as well), set something on fire, and of course eat some cake.

But please folks, let's keep the beheadings to a minimum.

Friday, July 11, 2008

I'll take a number 5, hold the puppy

If you're heading out to Beijing next month to catch some Olympic action, you might want to bring your own dog - because puppy is off the menu at Beijing restaurants and hotels thanks to China's fear that anyone (i.e. Westerners) may look at that practice as abhorrent.

According to this Reuters report, a government directive "ordered Olympic contractor hotels not to provide any dishes made with dog meat and said any canine material used in traditional medicated diets must be clearly labeled."

I'm not quite sure what ailments require consuming some sort of dog "material", but it looks like actual medicine will have to be administered for the month of August.

No worries though for you folks who want to eat something out of the ordinary (and perhaps friendly), donkey, a popular dish in some Beijing restaurants, is still on the menu.

In honor of this decision, here are some pictures of puppies*.

*These pictures are primarily for Apples, who is a sucker for a cute puppy.

1789 Names New Pastry Chef

1789, the Georgetown institution which just last month named Daniel Giusti as new Executive Chef following the sudden departure of Nathan Beauchamp, has named a new pastry chef.

Travis Olsen, a veteran of the Clyde’s Restaurant Group and native Washingtonian will bring with him the mission of bringing "the best of traditional American desserts to 1789, incorporating the freshest seasonal fruit and the highest quality ingredients available."

Travis started baking at the age of twelve while living in England, and graduated from L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg, Maryland. He later worked under award-winning Pastry Chef David Guas at DC Coast.

I haven't been to 1789 since last September, but regardless of changes in the kitchen, the food that comes out to the tables is always solid. Best of luck to Travis.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Got some dignity to spare?

Well if you're hungry tomorrow (and looking for something to eat with your free Slurpee), stop by a Chick-fil-A.

Oh yeah, and don't forget your cow costume - because you'll need that to eat free on Cow Appreciation Day.

If you go to a Chick-fil-A tomorrow and wear a costume, or see someone with one on, take a picture and send it to me. I'll post it tomorrow.

Free Slurpees Tomorrow at 7-11!

Need a quick way to beat the heat, or maybe add a few pounds of sugar to your diet tomorrow? Well stop into your closest 7-11 to grab a free Slurpee.

According to their website customers can celebrate the chain's 81st birthday by pouring "their favorite Slurpee flavor in colorful, 7.11-ounce “Birthday” cups throughout the day, while cup supplies last."

Not up on your 7-11 history? Here's the lowdown from their website:

• Slurpee – 1967, 41 years. 7-Eleven actually began selling frozen carbonated drinks two years before coming up with the Slurpee moniker, named for the straw’s slurping sound.

• Big Bite – 1988, 20 years. Although 7-Eleven has been selling grilled hot dogs since the early 1970s, the Big Bite name was coined 20 years ago when Oscar Mayer created an exclusive spice formulation for the winning wiener.

• Big Gulp, Super Big Gulp, Double Gulp fountain drinks – 1976, 1983 and 1988; 32, 25 and 20 years, respectively. 7-Eleven was the first to introduce self-service soda fountains to Americans, which mirrored the success of its hot coffee in to-go cups.

• To-Go Coffee – 1964, 44 years. Coffee was 7-Eleven's first venture into the world of self-service beverages. It must have been a good idea. Today, most convenience retailers and quick-service restaurants offer some type of self-service beverages.

• Franchised Stores – 1964, 44 years. The same year 7-Eleven introduced hot to-go coffee on the East Coast, they looked to expand the 7-Eleven convenience chain to the West Coast with its first franchised, or owner-operated stores. California, the first state offering 7-Eleven franchises to individual entrepreneurs, today boasts more 7-Eleven stores than any other state. The company now offers franchising across the country, by making company-owned stores available to store managers, and negotiating with operators of other branded stores to bring them into the 7-Eleven retail family.

Apples Reviews: Spider Kelly's

Today is day 16 of Apples-Got-A-Raise-And-Still-Doesn't-Want-To-Work, 2008. Awesome, right? So instead of working, lets blog!

I've been tasked with writing about Spider Kelly's in Clarendon, a brand new little gastro-pub sort of affair that we wandered into on Tuesday night after my yuppified yoga class and Ant's 109,384,120 mile run. Spider Kelly's advertises itself with the slogan "come as you are," which is fortunate, given that both Ant and I were probably a touch past acceptably stinky.

Anyway, we sat outside and enjoyed good, simple food—a very flavorful chicken burger for me (served with amazing, spicy pickled veggies and a tasty honey-based sauce), a veggie pita for him, and a nice big dish of pungent, crunchy grilled coleslaw between us. The burger had a pleasant zip too it, as did the sauce, and the grilled ciabatta bun was hefty enough to support it all.

Spider Kelly's is not afraid to throw a little flavor in your face, which I appreciate. The menu covers your basic sandwiches and salads, with an emphasis on burgers and some fairly creative appetizers (lemongrass beef, for example). The beer list is good and relatively inexpensive for the Clarendon area. Given its location right off the metro and a door down from Clarendon Ballroom, and the fact that it will be open till 2:00am every night, I see this place quickly becoming the haunt of the post-college frat boy set that seems to be the main consumer group in this particular part of town.

That said, if they'll slide down the bar enough to allow me to sit and have a burger, I think we'll all get along just fine. Next time Ant and I want good drunk food after stumbling home from Adams Morgan, I think Hard Times is out and Spider Kelly's is in.

Takoma Park Passes Resolution Opposing Foie Gras

A special thanks goes out to Magda, a reader and commenter who just alerted me to this story: the Takoma Park City Council has voted in favor of a resolution "opposing the production and sale" of foie gras.

According to this article in the Examiner, "The resolution “encourages Takoma Park residents not to buy foie gras in order to avoid supporting this extreme form of animal cruelty.” But some City Council members may want to take it even further: They have asked staff to investigate whether they can legally ban the production, consumption or sale of the substance."

While an outright ban is probably unlikely, mostly due to enforcement issues, not everyone is happy about the resolution.

Carol Blymire, a Takoma Park resident, who you probably know from her wildly popular blog, French Laundry at Home, calls the resolution "embarrassing", and adds, "We have this reputation of being these crazy people in Takoma Park who spend all our time on symbolic gestures. I feel like there are stronger local legislative issues that should have gotten priority."

So, what do you think? Is this an example of a city council gone too far? Or one addressing a serious issue?

First Look: Takoma Park

If you showed a picture of Takoma Park to ten people, and asked them to identify where in the country that picture was taken, none of them would say within the Beltway.

Northampton, Massachusetts? Yes. Ptown? Yes. New Hope, PA? Yes. But right next to our buttoned up little town? Never.

Going to Takoma Park is like jumping through a wormhole and ending up in some San Francisco suburb, all while never leaving the Red Line - and frankly, after spending the afternoon here, we didn't want to cross back over to the other side.

From its lively Sunday farmers market to its lovely antique shops, there's a certain charm and sense of zen about this place.

We stopped in Mark's Kitchen, the one restaurant in the area I've heard of, for lunch, and immediately fell for it. Busy and friendly, with a waitress right out of the movies (the kind that calls you sweetie and hon, and knows everything about everyone who walks through those doors), the menu is diverse with a definate focus on Asian cuisine.

Apples and I split an order of man doo, wonderful little fried Korean dumplings with a nice hint of spice to them, and then we each got cold noodle dish - sesame noodles for me and cold soba for her.

Both of these really just hit the proverbial spot. The vegetables were fresh and had a great crunch to them, and the serving size was just perfect for lunch.

The real draw seems to be their brunch, which they serve until 1pm on weekends, but that'll be a post for another time.

After Mark's we decided to venture out for some dessert, and didn't have to venture far - just across the street. Summer Delights is a throw back. "You just went back in time forty years" says Greg Moorin, the shop's owner as we walk in. Greg is everything you'd want an ice cream shop owner to be; friendly, knowledgeable, funny, and a guy who takes his craft seriously.

Greg makes all of his own ice cream, pies, and other goodies, and his pride in his work comes through while talking to him. Scoops of this high-fat, no-excuses goodness come in a cup - not an ice cream cup, but just a regular paper cup. No frills here, if you want ice cream, you're going to get the real thing, and you'll think twice about going anywhere else after.

The vanilla is strong enough to stand out on its own, while being subtle enough to compliment other flavors, and the brown sugar cinnamin I had was probably one of, if not the best scoop of ice cream I've ever had - ranking very close to a scoop of cinnamin I had at a co-op in Vermont a year or two back.

Apples got a scoop of chocolate on a brownie, that Greg insisted he heat up. If perfection could be put on a plate and eaten with a spoon, it's probably made here.

Takoma Park is dangerous, and I want to move there and spend my days eating cold noodles for dinner, pancakes for brunch and eating ice cream in between. Even though that probably won't happen, this gem will always be right around the corner, a quick wormhole ride away.

Should I?: The Dilemma of Bad Reviews

"Be nice".

If Apples had to say two last words to me, those would be it. But sometimes it's hard, especially when you're a food snob like myself at a restaurant you know isn't worth the price of water, on an occasion (like a friend's birthday) that simply requires you to show up, eat your food, and have a good time.

But at what point does my duty as a food writer (If I may flatter myself as such) go beyond my duty to just sit there quietly and shovel shitty food in my face?

Last night for example I went to a restaurant that I won't name for a friend's birthday. I had a great time, laughed a lot, and got to spend the evening with the people I like the most. But the experience from a dining perspective was horrible. The service was slow, the menu really restrictive and uninspired, and worst of all, I couldn't find one redeeming quality about the food - the bread just didn't do it for me, my veggie pizza was more like industrial generic white cheese substance melted on matzo, and the steaks that everyone else got looked like they were straight out of the Army surplus crate from Afghanistan.

But all of that being said, I can't help but feel bad for writing that. I didn't pick the restaurant, and I don't want anyone to think that I'm looking down on anyone for choosing it, even though I know there were certainly better places in the neighborhood that would have worked better.

It's easy sometimes to blurt out restaurants run by award winning chefs that have earned the praises of a Sietsema or a Rockwell, and insist that everyone change their plans to go there; but that would be easy.

Sometimes the only way to get through the dilemma of a bad review is to do the hard thing, and just be nice.

What I'm Reading: My Husband Cooks

When I first started this blog about a year and a half ago, My Husband Cooks was my favorite food blog.

Snarky, with amazing pictures and fantastic recipes, it was a joy to read. But the "Husband" went to culinary school and they had a baby and for a while they stopped blogging - so I stopped reading.

But in the past couple months they've gotten back into the swing of things, and they're just as wonderful as ever.

They don't blog that often, but when they do it's worth reading. So check it out, the link will be on the right side of the page.

I don't think he gets it

Spike Mendelsohn and his Good Stuff Eatery have been getting a lot of press as of late from myself and almost everyone else who writes about food in this city. Yet in stark contrast to another (although actually established) chef's new burger joint, some of that press hasn't been positive.

It's not because his burgers aren't good (in full disclosure, I haven't been yet), or the service isn't friendly, it's because Spike keeps saying things in the media that piss people like me off.

Here's an example from today's Washington Post Express:

Tall and lanky, with a wiry beard and a rotating collection of pork-pies, fedoras, and panamas, Evangelos "Spike" Mendelsohn left his job and his digs for what he calls the next gastronomic frontier: "D.C. is the next big food city. It's like Vegas was a few years ago. And nobody is doing what we are yet. We're paving a way for ourselves here in D.C., but also, we're paving a new direction for the food culture here."

I don't even know where to begin with this. There's so much wrong on that quote I'm stumped. The idea that "D.C. is the next big food city" and is "like Vegas was a few years ago" is perposterous. We're not an up and coming, we're not an emerging, we are a culinary powerhouse. Just look at the Beard awards - Richard, Andres, Ziebold, Armstrong - two winners among four nominees (Ziebold for Best Chef Mid-Atlantic and Richard for Best New Restaurant Nationwide). How many winners did Las Vegas have? None, out of two nominees.

D.C. might not be New York, or Chicago, or San Francisco, but this is an area with incredible talent both home grown and brought in from around the world, and to say that "nobody is doing what we are yet" is just plain old ignorance. Tell that to Ruta, Richard, Landrum, and the other award winning, nationally recognized (from their work behind a stove, not in front of a camera) chefs who put together burgers that transcend the genre.

Spike might have a winner in Good Stuff, and honestly, I hope he does. I can't wait to stop by for a toasted marshmallow shake and a burger, but in the meantime he's got to focus on his product and his restaurant - he's not the pioneer he thinks he is, there were others before him who are, and will always be better - he needs to realize that right now he's just another guy flippin burgers, and the sooner he sees that, the sooner he'll gain complete acceptance.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Date Night: Etete and Indebleu

Dinner and a movie.

Nothing says going out on a date like those two activities. So like the 16 year old high school students we are, Apples and I ventured out this past Saturday to Etete, looking to expand our culinary horizons.

Etete is a neighborhood establishment, and a destination for young folks such as ourselves and families alike. Arriving at 7pm (with a reservation) we were seated immediately at a half table that juts out of the wall on the left side of the first floor. Seeing this as impractical, I asked the waitress to see if there was seating up stairs, which was practically empty.

After moving to friendlier confines, we ordered; sambusas - essentially the Ethiopian version of the empanada, but filled with lentils - for the first course, followed by kitfo - an Ethiopian steak tartare-ish dish - and a ton of veggie options.

The sambusas came out first. Light and flaky, the lentils inside had just the right amount of heat to them to warrant a sip of Diet Coke (a can of which costing $2 - stick to water instead). The dish could have been benefited from a serving of sour cream to cool the heat, but in all was a great way to start the meal off.

Now if you've never eaten Ethiopian before, you'll be surprised by the lack of utensils. Instead, the meal is eaten with a light, sponge-like bread that comes rolled up like hand towels at a hotel. The veggies, everything from greens to more lentils to potatoes, are also served on this bread.

The bread itself is great. Slightly tangy and very soft, it's not fantastic by itself, but with the accompanying meats and vegetables, the flavor really shines through.

The kitfo, which found its place in the center of our plater, was the star of the show. More than enough for two people (assuming you get other stuff), the meat tasted fresh and was wonderfully seasoned. While there were too many veggie options to comment on any individually, the experience as a whole was fantastic, and one that I'd do again.

The meal wasn't perfect however. Service seemed like it lagged at times (even though we were in and out in a little over an hour) and I got cranky when one of the patrons (or one of the owners, not quite sure) began harassing (though Apples would tell it otherwise) one of the families sitting next to us, but in all, Etete is worth the trip and the cost; something we'll definitely do again.

But you probably noticed something missing from that review: dessert. Opting to have dessert closer to the theater (we made the mistake of going to the one in Chinatown), we finally decided to stop in Indebleu and see if we could get a table.

Luckily, the lounge area was pretty much empty, and we were able to grab a table there and order dessert. I'd highly recommend doing this if you don't have a reservation, as you can order off of both the lounge and restaurant menu from the lounge.

The dessert menu is an impressive one, with plenty of dishes that were both ordinary and rather unorthodox. We decided on the "Spaghetti & Meat Balls", which consisted of saffron cardamom ice cream - strained through a pasta press (I don't know if that's the real name for the device, but that's what I'll call it), and with gulab jamun, which I'm assuming were the "meatballs" which were actually three pastries in honey and rose water.

What a fantastic combination of flavors. Sweet without being painfully artificially sweet, the texture of the ice cream and the "meatballs" worked well together, and resulted in one delicious dessert.

While we didn't see the actual restaurant space upstairs, we were both really impressed by the lounge space, which was open and surprisingly comfortable for being so posh.

Etete and Indebleu couldn't be further apart as far as style or cuisine, but when paired together with a Pixar film and a Saturday night, you just might have yourself one hell of a date.

Food Day: Three is the new five edition

Happy food day folks. I normally give you five stories, but because I'm pressed for time, I'll give you three. Maybe I'll give you seven next week.

Burger Bash: Washington City Paper's Tim Carman writes an article in today's WaPo that might just have all Five Guys shaking in their meat filled boots. Seriously, this article needed to be written. With the rise of the burger joint here in DC, there are a lot of little places - like the Apples and Bananas approved Big Buns - that don't get enough press or enough credit for raising the burger bar.

How long til we see this here?: The big new thing right now in NYC are dessert trucks, according to this NYT article. Like every other big NYC trend, one of these will eventually make its way down here, and have us lining up around the block. It's only a matter of time.

Crossing the Pond, one page at a time: British chefs are all the rage right now, and they're doing just as well with the pen as they are with the pan. This LA Times article shows us some of the best cookbooks from the UK.

Photo Courtesy: Washington Post

Is he judging you with those awfully cute eyes?

This past weekend Apples and I saw Wall-E, the latest offering by Pixar, the uber-studio who brought you Finding Nimo, The Incredibles, and Monsters Inc.

Now I'm not in the business of doing movie reviews, and in fact I haven't written about a movie since I wrote about another Pixar hit, Ratatouille. But if you've seen this movie, you'll know why its subject matter pertains to this blog; and if you haven't, I'll try not to completely spoil it for you.

The setting is 700+ years in the future, and mankind has been floating around space waiting for a team of robots to clean up the mess we've made on Earth. Unfortunately, only one remains operational - our hero Wall-E, and the first part of the movie follows his day-to-day operations.

Ok, so at this point the movie is completely harmless; just a cute robot doing cute robot things.

But after the introduction of another character (Eve) and a plant, we're transported to a massive space ship where the bulk of mankind resides - and I use the word bulk carefully, because everyone is fat. And I'm not talking a few pounds overweight fat, I'm talking about can't walk anymore because robots do it for us, feed us like industrial farm cattle, and shove images in front of our face so that we'd never have to turn out necks to see what's around us.

To a certain extent, there's a great irony in this message, as pointed out by the bloggers at Rethinking Youth (link from Andrew Sullivan's blog).

This film warns us of the dangers of mass consumerism, inactivity, and general gluttony, while feeding it to us at the same time - what activity in our modern lives indulges in these three sins more than movie watching? You're paying money to sit perfectly still and watch commercials for almost a half hour before the movie starts (and even when it does, product placement is so rampant these days, that you're in for another two hours of ads) while eating (fake) butter drenched popcorn and HFCS filled snacks.

As we left the theatre, I commented to Apples on how bad every overweight person in the room must have felt after watching that movie. While I'm all about the message of taking care and responsibility for yourself, and fighting against the whole mass-consumerism culture, I found the messenger to be an odd one; but I guess a message that strong and that harsh is best delivered with awfully cute eyes.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Chopsticks Cafe Now Open Downtown

Chopsticks cafe, the little sister of the Georgetown sushi eatery opened earlier this month immediately next to Java Green near the corner of 19th and L St. NW

The location, made specially for the lunch rush, features a number of hot options in addition to a decent variety of sushi.

Most dishes will run you under ten dollars, and there's ample seating both inside and out.

New Yogurt Shop Coming to Georgetown

Get used to these posts folks, because I could start a whole new blog just announcing new frozen yogurt shops.

IceBerry, a firm I know nothing about, is about to move into the old CD Warehouse location at 30th and M St. NW, right across from Citronelle.

IceBerry will be the second shop to offer frozen yogurt in the Georgetown area; Sweetgreen, which is probably best known for their salads, was the first restaurant in the area to incorporate this kind of frozen yogurt on their menu.

DC Chef on Food Network Tonight

You've probably seen this a few times now while scanning the internets, but in case you haven't, tune in to the Food Network to see DC's own Chef Teddy Folkman of Granville Moore's battle celebrichef Bobby Flay on Throwdown - tonight at 9pm.

Throwdown, the Food Network version of Punk'd, or otherwise known as, "aw screw it, let's just give Bobby Flay another show", involves Flay "surprising" someone who does something very well and challenging them to do whatever it is they do well.

Every time I've watched this show (twice) he's surprising and challenging some grandmother who has owned a gas station restaurant since the year that the Moors took Spain, and makes the best chili in the tri-state area - hence my surprise Flay challenging an actual chef from a real restaurant. Isn't that what Iron Chef is for?

Either way, Teddy evidently makes a good pot of mussels. We'll see how many different types of peppers Flay can put into his.

Oh, and not to spoil it for you, but Flay loses. He loses every episode, and walks a way a little wiser about the ways of the world. Kind of like a Food Network version of Kung Fu - but with more emulsions.