Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Sunday Gumbo Is Mighty Fine...

Sundays are good days around the Smelson household for the most part. We like to hang out, do some grocery shopping, and make something that takes a while. Or at least I like to cook something that takes a while and my family likes to eat it. This Sunday we were shopping at the new Harris Teeter on Rockville Pike, (very nice store) and I was hit by the gumbo bug.
You start out with a 1/2 stick of unsalted butter and a 1/4 cup of flour. I like to cook it in my trusty cast iron Dutch oven. Put the heat on low and stir extremely frequently. If you don't you'll burn your roux and have to start over.

Stir with one hand whilst you chop with your other...just kidding. Pay attention to one thing at a time when you're playing with knives. Anyhow, dice two large green peppers;

1/2 pound of okra, about 6 cloves of garlic, and one large onion.

After you've got the prep done for the veggies, you can start cooking the meats you're going to throw in the pot. This is a personal thing and gumbo can be made with just about any leftovers you have in the fridge, but I like to use lots of Andouille, smoked if I can get it.

Don't forget about your roux! It takes me about 45 minutes to get it to the color of peanut butter.

Once you've got that color, throw in the diced onions and garlic. Keep stirring.
How about some shrimp in there?!

Put the green peppers and okra in once the onions and garlic have browned up a bit.

This is what it should look like just before you put in the liquid. I use 3-4 cups of a good beef broth.
Once you've added the liquid, throw in a few bay leaves and a pinch or two of cayenne. If you've got it, some Prudhomme Gumbo File doesn't hurt either. The sauce will darken and thicken. It's ok to cover this and leave it on the stove on low for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

This is the finished product. Serve it over white rice with a good crusty loaf of bread an you've got a Sunday great.
Questions? Comments? Rude remarks? I'm all ears.
Until next time...keep eatin'.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Dino in Cleveland Park, and then some after-dinner libations at Redwood

It was a nice night to be out. I was out with a friend of mine from work, Matt Freeman.

We started the evening out at Dino in Clevland Park. Dean Gold, proprietor, is a consumate foodie. In a previous life he was a buyer for Whole Foods. He's passionate about his wine and his cooking.

We started off with some Risotto with white truffles. The texture was perfect, thought there was a bit more cheese in the risotto than I care for personally. The truffles were very mild for the white variety. I was disappointed that they weren't as pungent as some I've had the pleasure of trying in the past.

We got a nice bottle of something Italian (I let Dean choose for us) and followed the risotto with a half of a suckling pig, which we shared as well.

Fed and two glasses of red to the positive, we decided to stop by Redwood for dessert. It's not often that I get a chance to go out and play on the weekend, so this was a special treat.

When we arrived there was a line out the door of Dolcezza, which is next to Redwood. I'm glad to see that Rob is doing some business there.

Redwood was fairly full, and most of the outdoor seating was being used. When we first arrived there wasn't any seating available at the bar, but some folks left shortly so we bellied up.

Getting to dessert, we ordered a cheese sampler, followed by butterscotch pudding, and make-your-own s'mores. Everything was good, as usual.

Butterscotch Pudding

We had the pleasure of sitting next to the pastry chef on her night off, Kendra. She was very nice to chat with and she shared some of her dessert with us, so we had plenty.


As always, thanks for reading. Feel free to leave me a comment/question.

Friday, October 10, 2008

Get your Mise on!

I don't like to hear anyone whine about how they can't make the food they serve in restaurants. Ever. Unless you're dining at Citronelle or CityZen, it's in your power. In any event, the key is the mise.

Have everything deep-prepped so that when it comes time to dump the garlic into the pan or add the minced parley you're ready. That bucket of ice? There's 3 dozen clams chillin' under there. BTW, don't put them in the fridge. They will suffocate. Throw them in a pile over ice and give them some cracker meal to chew on. The grit will pass into the other bowl.

If you're not ready, who do you have to blame? That's right.

Look in the mirror pal. Only you.
I was going to dish about a client of mine that just opened a place in NoVa. However, I've always been tought that it's better to say nothing at all, rather than something not nice, so I'm going to remain silent.
In any event, keep cooking. Seriously. Times are tough, don't let it get you down. Eat.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Redux: Founding Farmers

Let me begin with an apology about the lack of pictures for this entry. My bad.
Now, moving on to the main course: Wow. These folks are working out some kinks at the front of the house, training a lot of new servers/managers/chefs/cooks, but let me tell you in no uncertain terms. These guys have good food.
If you check blogs past you'll see some shots I took as the place was in contstruction, so you'll have to look at those to get a feel for this.
The team behind this restaurant has previously worked with some of the highest grossing per square foot restaurants in the U.S. and they've put their knowledge to work. Jason and I shared two sandwiches, so I can only speak to what we ate, but they were great. All of the breads are made in-house, and I don't know where they got their pastrami, but the sandwich was awesome. I urge you to go with friends and try as many of the things on the menu as you can.
We sat by the kitchen doors and watched plate after plate of great looking food head to the dining room.
All I can add is: Congratulations Dan Simons, Lara Hardcastle, Ray Camillo and Mike Vucurevich. Well done.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

A Seinfeld Moment: Taste of Bethesda

Howdy all. I was able to pull a Seinfeld moment on Saturday.
Do you remember when George was able to eat a pastrami on rye, watch TV, and have sex all at the same time? Or when Kramer found that he could shower and cook at the same time? I was able to hang out with my restaurant folks, eat their food, spend time with my family, and see a car show all at the same event.
It was a good day.
If any of the event organizers are reading this, pay heed: Expand the number of streets that are closed and put more space between the food vendors. This was crowded beyond the point of comfort.

Yeah, there were a few people out on Saturday.

I'm not an expert, but I'd say this is a 1986 Buick Grand National. It was the fastest production car in the 1/4 mile available for sale in the U.S. that year.
This is a very hot rod..
Pretty ladies all in a row.

What could be wrong with 500 HP and a car that weighs less than 2,000lbs?
Aluminum bodies are pretty, but parking lot dings can be expensive!

Hope you enjoyed the pictures. If you get a chance to attend Taste of Bethesda, or put up a booth, I'd suggest doing it. Lots of people, lots of exposure if you're a restuarant owner.
Until next time....

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Jackson's Mighty Fine Food & Lucky Lounge

OK folks, welcome to the newest member of the Great American Restaurants family. It's a new sibling, but it's so much like the others it might as well be a fraternal twin.
In the world of restaurants, that's not necessarily a bad thing. That means that GAR has found a formula that works for them and they run with it. Every time. This particular unit is named for Bill Jackson, previously the corporate chef according to the Post, who passed away from ALS.

Here's what it looks like from the outside. There are two bars, one of which is open to the elements once the garage-style doors are up. There is ample seating both at the bar outside and the cocktail tables.
The place is cavernous on the inside. Plenty of waiting/drinking seats (they'll need them-we waited ten minutes for a table at 1:30pm).
Here's another view from the outside. It's remeniscent of a place in Raleigh that I used to like called the 42nd St. Oyster Bar. Note the huge parking garage on top of the restaurant. I'm sure it's meant to serve many of the surrounding businesses, but it's awfully convenient to Jackson's. There is no fee to park.

The food is better than average, though the prices are a little on the high side for what you're getting. We had the crab cake roll (good meat, but too much breading) and the lobster roll (I'm spoiled as I worked for Legal Seafoods. No one's lobster roll compares in my eyes.) Both sandwiches were served in what I can only describe as buns meant for cocktail weenies. I'm sure it's intended to be this way and is supposed to be charming and make the filling look abundant, but I like being able to pick up my roll and eat it.

Give it a shot...or any of their other restaurants for that matter. They've got the formula down.

Until next time...