White House market opens today

I really don’t understand all the kerfluffle over the White House FRESHFARM Market that opens today.

Is there another one, at the same time, in Penn Quarter? Yes, and I HIGHLY doubt this one is poaching customers, especially since the two markets have the same vendors. Also, there are a ton of chefs in the Penn Quarter area that use that market, and somehow I don’t think they’ll be coming to the new market (with the same vendors) instead of the one directly outside their kitchens. This also speaks to the density of downtown. For cripes sake, I think we can support 2 markets in downtown DC.

Is Vermont Avenue a major artery? Uh, maybe, but not the part that’s going to be closed. Yes, there are always cars on it, but they are relatively scant, compared to the clusterf*ck that is 14th Street. Or 16th Street. Or K Street. See, we have plenty of clogged streets!  That part of Vermont Ave is not one of them.

I tend to universally support more farmers markets. Would it have been better to open one across the river? Probably. Does that change the fact that this is still a good thing? No.

Over at the Atlantic Food Channel, they note some concerns originally voiced in Mother Jones (emphasis mine):

Mother Jones offered more tempered enthusiasm, saying “this confirms my suspicions that President Obama is pretty damn cool”–but also offering four pieces of advice for how to make sure the market becomes “a very cool project”: give out free samples; feature hot meal options; make the produce (as) cheap (as possible); play music.

Working at the various markets, I’ve come to realize there are some vendors that set different price points based on the clientele.  I can’t blame them for this.  I think the solution lies in not making the produce as cheap as possible (if you don’t think growing food is hard work, then you don’t deserve to eat), but in making it affordable– and those are NOT the same thing.  There’s a two fold solution to this, and it’s already in place in many of the other FRESHFARM markets. 

The first part is making sure all the vendors take WIC/Senior FMNP and/or EBT.  Not allvendors at all markets take WIC and EBT, and even if they do, it’s not always in the “friendliest” manner.  I understand that there is some red tape involved, but if you’re really trying to make things affordable, isn’t it worth it?  Also, could we please try not to be rude or snide to anyone paying with WIC or EBT- that goes for vendors, shoppers, everyone.

The second part is a pilot program already in place at the H Street and Silver Spring markets (UPDATE: AND it is my understanding it’s already in place for the White House market today).  These markets got a grant (and private funds) to match any WIC/Senior FMNP coupons, effectively doubling the money.  Furthermore, these coupons can be spent on anything- eggs, honey, meat, cheese, flowers (never underestimate a well placed bunch of flowers to lift the spirits), while the FMNP programs are only for produce.


Bottom Line: More markets=more fresh, good local food.  And that’s never a bad thing.  However, until we address the root causes of why good food is so expensive (farm bill, subsidies, blah blah blah), the best way make the good stuff affordable is by working through programs like this.  And I’d like to commend FRESHFARM for their attempts.  So quit yappin’ and go buy something at your local market.  I saw pumpkins yesterday.


UPDATE #2: Forgot to mention that Capital Spice has the list of all the producers.

fear of frying

I love deep fried food.  Love it.  Love the North Carolina State Fair, where you can get deep fried oreos (and twinkies and snickers) on a stick.  Love fried chicken.  Beignets.  Pickles. Whatever.  Bring it on.

I am terrified of deep frying.

Let me explain.  When I was about 5 years old, my dad set our house on fire (I refer to it as “the straw that broke the camel’s back in my parent’s marriage”).  He was irritated that my mom didn’t have dinner waiting when we got home and slammed around the kitchen, putting oil on for french fries.  He left the oil on too long and set fire to the kitchen and almost caught the roof of the house on fire as well.   My mom got to redecorate the kitchen, as it was basically gutted, and I got a nasty case of pyrophobia, and whatever fear of deep frying is.

I’ve gotten over the fear of fire, although I wouldn’t use matches until I was about 14 or 15.  But I still don’t like to deep fry.  Even though I DESPISE kitchen uni-taskers, I’ve often contemplated a deep fryer, simply to calm my anxiety.

I took the leap today.

I happened to have a lot of leftover risotto on hand.  After scanning several recipes, I decided to make arancini, mostly because it appeared I could pan fry them (not as scary).  After looking at the sides on my trusty cast iron skillet, I decided to put on my big girl panties and (wo)man up.  But we’ll get to that.


(loosely based on both this recipe from Food Junta and this one from Wine Bar Food)

2-3 cups leftover cooked risotto, preferably room temperature

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups panko

1/2-3/4 cup flour

cheese (traditionally mozzarella, I used some Keswick Creamery whole milk ricotta I already had in the fridge)

vegetable oil

breading setup

1. Set up your dipping stations.  In three bowls  dish out the flour, then eggs (beat both in the bowl), then panko.

2.  Take a heaping table spoon of risotto, flatten it and shape into bowl.  Add cheese to the bowl, and seal risotto over into a ball shape.  (Alternatively, make a ball, poke a hole in it for the cheese, insert and cover back over.)

4. Roll in flour, then egg, then panko.

I will stop here to talk about my frying method.  Not having a dutch oven (I know, the shame!), I used a 2-quart saucepan with enough oil to come a little more than halfway up the arancini- about 2 inches. As such, I had to turn them, but it depends on the size of the arancini and whether or not you have a fear of full on deep frying.  Baby steps people.


5. Heat the veg oil in a skillet/saucepan/dutch oven.  I defer to Food Junta’s post for temperatures.  I didn’t use a thermometer, and basically played it by ear.  At any rate, once the oil is hot, place the arancini in and fry until golden brown, flipping if necessary

6. Drain on a plate with a paper towel or cooling rack and eat immediately.


I had mine with some spicy tomato sauce (took some jarred tomato sauce from Quaker Valley Orchards and boiled it down until it thickened with red pepper flakes).  They are rather rich, and the recipe above makes about a dozen apricot sized balls.  I’m going to try freezing some of the already cooked ones and see how they turn out.

Spring means it’s easier to eat local.

You know how some people sneak out of work for secret rendezvous, or to go to a basketball game?

I sneak out of my office to go to the farmers’ market.

Today was the first day of the Foggy Bottom FRESHFARM market. I went early, right around 2:30, so there were only 4 or 5 vendors, mostly regulars from the Dupont Market.

I plan on sneaking out to the Penn Quarter Market tomorrow.

Swiss Chard, one of Carolina’s favorites

Everyone’s favorite ubiquitous fruit

One of these days, I’m going to try the lasagna from Bonaparte Breads.

You can’t see it, but at the far end of this picture, there are some pumpkins and winter squash

I’ve seen tomatoes at the market almost every weekend, although usually in small quantities. Maybe a hothouse somewhere?

For those of you that aren’t aware…
The Foggy Bottom market operates from 2:30 to 7pm on Wednesday from today until November 26th. It’s located at the intersection of 24th, I, and New Hampshire, by the GW School of Public Health.

The Penn Quarter/Chinatown market operates from 3:00 to 7pm on Thursdays, from tomorrow until December 18th. It’s located on 8th Street, between D and E. Tomorrow, the chef at market is Robert Weland from Poste (5:00pm)

And, since it’s spring, the Dupont market will open an hour earlier, at 9:00am instead of 10. I’ll be there early, elbowing old women out of line for pierogies and crabcakes. The chef at market there will be Stefano Frigerio, of Mio Restaurant (11:00am.)

Calendar of events for all the FRESHFARM Markets is here.

I’m still searching for information about the farmer’s market that was at 14th and U last summer. Combined with the Friday “farmer’s market” outside of the Whole Foods on 14th and P, the aforementioned markets mean Monday and Tuesday are the only days you’d have to go without local food. That’s what Chef Geoff’s $5 burger nights are for.

happy birthday!

That is the first of the many, many, many times I will be saying that this month. Today is the 4th, and I’m already one birthday and an anniversary in, with six more birthdays to go. Whew

Yesterday was my grandfather‘s birthday. And he asked for lasagna. Apparently the last time I made it, he liked it a lot- he ate two helpings, which is pretty rare for him. Since I had to work yesterday, I enlisted some family back up for the prep. My grandmother made tomato sauce (which in my family, is a 5-hour slow cooking affair, as it should be.) My uncle brought over the tomatoes and ground beef for the sauce in the morning, and we planned on serving a bottle of wine my mother left during her extended stay with my grandparents last month.

I RAN out of my office at 5, and popped into Whole foods for some Parmigano cheese, Blue Ridge Dairy fresh mozz, Vermont smoked mozz (too much fresh mozz makes the lasagna a little too watery for my taste,) along with bread, salad supplies (I love my grandparents, but I will never understand their affinity for iceberg lettuce. Blech), and the ingredients for….RED VELVET CAKE.

Whole Foods, with its we-will-offer-the-ingredients-we-think-you-should-buy-and-not-what-you-need attitude, had neither unsweetened cocoa powder nor red food coloring. Well, they had red food coloring, but it was $5.50. Give me the crappy stuff I used to dye Easter eggs with any day. Also, there was also NO cake flour to be found. Now, I am not a baker by trade, and as such, I am LOATHE to tinker with a cake recipe. But, after calling my mom for some advice, I was satisfied that I could sub pastry flour in for the cake flour. I schlepped everything out my Zipcar and sped off down Florida Avenue, singing along to Amy Winehouse and flirting with guys in traffic.

Sorry, sidetracked…it WAS nice outside yesterday though. At any rate, I got to my grandparent’s, put the lasanga together, and tossed it in the oven while I ran back to the local store for artificial red coloring and cocoa. I pulled my creation out of the oven…
right as my uncle walked in with his very pregnant wife and little girl, carrying a cake.

That’s right. A terrible, artificially flavor enhanced cake, covered in shiny fruit (what IS tht weird glaze they use at Safeway? I could do my hair in the reflection coming off the kiwi. ANd what the hell- Kiwi is not even CLOSE to being in season!) Mind you, I had called my uncle weeks in advance to avoid just such an occasion. Not that he ever returned my call. So, being the good eldest granddaughter that I am, and not wanting to make a big fuss on my grandfather’s birthday, I silently put away my eggs and butter and cocoa and buttermilk and the like, put the STORE-BOUGHT cake out in the garage to stay cool, and began to reset the table for six.

Dinner was a hit. My little cousin described the wolf from “The Three Little Pigs” as ferocious, only with her three-year-old diction, it sounded like “bullshit,” rendering everyone at the table silent for about 5 minutes, while she repeated it over and over until my uncle’s wife realized she said “ferocious.” Okay, maybe you had to be there, but it was pretty funny.

The best part? My grandfather loves Amy Winehouse too, so we got to listen to her while having dinner. His favorite song?

“Rehab,” of course.

mmm, pierogies




I bought some pierogies at the farmer’s market last week. And I finally got around to eating them last night, while watching “Who’s that Girl?” (best 80’s/Madonna movie EVER). And I have to say, not only are they delicious, but I might have invented the best pierogi eating recipe ever.

Please hold your applause.

So, these pierogies are not like the Mrs. T’s variety. the pasta itself is much thinner, and the’re massive (slightly smaller than a clementine). The guy who sold them to me said they wouldn’t hold up well to boiling, but that I could sautée them. So, I dumped them in my trusty cast-iron skillet with some olive oil and butter.

Then I got worried. The pierogies were frozen, and it soon became obvious that I was going to burn them before the insides thawed. What to do, what to do…

(/struck by lightening) I know! Potatoes+beer+cheese= yum. I’ll dump some beer into the pan and cover it and steam the suckers.

Only the only beer I had on hand was some Kasteel Rouge, a Belgian beer with cherries. It’s delicious, don’t get me wrong, but a little on the sweet side. I figured I’d take my chances though. If nothing else, it would help steam the pierogies, taste better than water (I didn’t even have any stock in the house…I know, I’m sad), and if all else failed, I still had doughy pockets of goat cheese and garlic potato-y goodness to eat in front of my favorite 80’s movie. So in it went.

After about 15 minutes of covered bubbling, I lifted my improvised lid, and fished out the pierogies, which left me with a significant amount of warm beer with bits of cheese and browned pierogies plus the butter/olive oil from earlier. Again, I went out on a lark, and decided to scrape up all the browned bits, add some balsamic to temper the sweetness, and reduce the crap out of it and dump it on my pierogies.

Sweet mother of Elmo, was it good.

I don’t know what happened in that pan, but everything combined into this glorious gravy like substance, with just a hint of cherry. I could have ingested a gravy boat full. I could have bathed in it. If I wanted kids, I would have named one of them “AccidentalPierogiCherryGravy.”

Now, photogenic, this dish is not.

But in case you couldn’t tell, I enjoyed the HELL out of it.

this week at the market

No pictures this time kids, and thanks to some serious drama at my abode, I wasn’t able to eat a lot of the food from last weekend

Things I have left:
– 2 lamb and feta patties
– majority of the feta
– little bit of yogurt (but it lives in the fridge at work for breakfast)
– about 1/4 lb mesclun, arugula, and spinach
– sundried tomato pasta and sweet potato ravioli
– pierogies
– new potatoes

Things I picked up this weekend
– pear-blueberry tart, almond croissant, and chocolate almond croissant (for my mom and grandparents)
– carrots (for my mom’s Louisiana Stewed Chicken)
– Smith Meadows farms basil garlic fettuccine
– Smith Meadows farms herbs de Provence ravioli

I ate the ravioli yesterday afternoon with some olive oil, fresh basil, and pepper (much to my grandmother’s chagrin- she wanted to know where the sauce was)

If you’d like to see what the market looked like, Ed at the Slow Cook has a great post with pictures.

this week at the farmers’ market

So I’m trying this new thing, where I go to the farmers’ market, and only buy enough food to feed me for a week. Not enough to feed my whole house. Not enough to begin freezing and packing away. Just enough so that I can have food for the week.

This weeks’ purchases:
Blue Ridge Dairy feta, smoked mozzarella, and Greek yogurt with honey
– new potatoes

– 1 lb of spinach, arugula, and mesclun (seen piled high in crates here…mmmm)
– half a dozen homemade goat cheese pierogies
Smith Meadows Farm sweet potato ravioli and fresh sundried tomato pasta
– 3 apples from Spring Valley Farm and Orchard
– butternut/hubbard/acorn squash soup with oranges and apples
– 1 lb. Virginia Lamb patties with feta
Bonaparte Breads chocolate almond croissant (for me) and apricot tart/almond croissant (for my mom/grandmother)
– 1 bunch of collards

– no broccoli, although it looked good

Not at all bad for a mid-winter/end of winter haul. And every bit of it locally produced.

The smoked mozz went into this recipe that my mom made for dinner at my grandparents’ Sunday night. The collards were for her too, to make for my grandfather.
Monday I had brunch at Creme (waaay better than the crappy ass birthday brunch I had there. And I’ve solved my egg dilemma, but more on that later), a late afternoon snack at Oyamel, and lamb patties and salad for dinner with my roommate.
Yesterday I had leftover dinner for lunch, and Stoney’s super grilled cheese with Ace, who made fun of me for eating grilled cheese with bacon and fries with a side of mayo. He did promise to come visit me when I have my first heart attack at 25 though.
Tonight, I’m off to VT’s for some sort of crazy German-wurst-fest and a hefty dose of college basketball, which led to the following e-mail exchange:
VT: we still on for dinner tonight?
me: yes, but I should remind you that it’s a double header- Carolina-NC State at 7 and Duke-Miami at 9
VT: um, you do remember i have a 46-inch HDTV, right?

Tomorrow I have an event for Greater DC Cares (free pizza and beer provided!) Seems like I’ve bought more than enough for the week, don’t you think? Guess I’ll have to spend the weekend eating to start with a clean slate at the market Sunday morning.

In other news, gansie and I will be attending a DC food blogger potluck next month. I promise a full and immediate report.

BTW- Is it “farmer’s” or “farmers'”? I always assumed that since there are several farmers, it’s a farmers’ market. But perhaps it’s a farmer’s market in the sense that the market is for individual farmers. Am I putting too much thought into this?

UPDATE: right after I posted this, I wandered over to DC Foodies, where they’re writing about…you guessed it- Blue Ridge Dairy’s smoked mozz.

UPDATE #2: Seems the venerable New York Times has written about Blue Ridge as well. Guess that’s what I get for being behind in my newspaper-food-section reading. Thanks to Mike at DC Foodies for the tip.

In Defense of Food

Having just picked up Michael Pollan’s new book (here’s a link to the first chapter,) and read the entire thing last night, I have to say I think it’s pretty compelling stuff. You should go out and buy it IMMEDIATELY. It picks up exactly where Omnivore’s Dilemma left off- “well, now that I know far more than I ever wanted to about how my food is produced…what exactly should I be eating?”

Pollan’s answer is succinct, and provides the basis of the entire book: “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

One of the things I found especially interesting is that when asking the French when they stopped eating, the typical answer was something along the lines of “when I feel full.” The typical American answer? Some sort of visual cue. We stop eating when the package is empty, or the TV show is off, or there’s nothing left of our frozen dinner. Pollan even describes a study where bowls of soup were rigged to constantly refill from the bottom. People eating from these bowls ate something like 72% more soup.

I repeat, WE DON’T STOP EATING BECAUSE WE’RE FULL. WE STOP EATING WHEN THERE’S NOTHING LEFT. Does that strike anyone else as completely fucked up? And because it takes about 20 minutes for the brain to register feeling “full,” our habit of sucking down food as quickly as possible doesn’t help.

Pollan also goes into something he covered in the Omnivore’s Dilemma- the “pile it high and sell it cheap” philosophy of food. Just think about that for a second. I’m all about a bargain, but since when should cheapness determine what we should eat? What about taste?

Like I said, it’s pretty compelling stuff. There’s a lot to be discussed, fretted over, and (probably) ultimately ignored, but I respect Pollan for doing his best to not only open the conversation, but try and keep it going.

I also enjoy that he sings the virtues of eating sensibly- I grew up in a whole milk, butter-not-margarine, vegetables are fun, don’t-you-bring-that-frozen-dinner-crap-into-my-kitchen kind of house, much to the chagrin/amazement of my friends. Seems to be working out for me.

Here’s a round up of what they’re saying on the internets:

Digest: Pollanation Mania [Ethicurean]
Michael Pollan’s Twelve Commandments for Serious Eaters: Can You Live By Them? [Serious Eats]
Interview with Marion Nestle [Eating Liberally via Ethicurean]
Reviews from Serious Eats and Ethicurean
Daniel Engber’s take on Pollan’s “Nutrional Darwinism” [Slate]
More reviews: Slate, New York Times, Washington Post

you came in with the breeze…

I have what I like to think is the perfect Sunday routine. Provided that my hangover hasn’t rendered me completely non-functional, it goes a little something like this:

Wake up. Fiddle with fantasy football team for an hour or so. Call the Oracle with questions about said team. Call mom, aunt, grandmothers. Fiddle with fantasy team more. Get out of bed, get dressed and meander down to the Dupont market. Return in time to watch the Cowboys beat up on some unsuspecting team. Continue watching football for the rest of the day.

Pretty sweet isn’t it?

Today, I’m about to head over to MP3’s for game time. (everyone should have friends with two giant flat screens and NFL Sunday Ticket). However, I thought I’d give you a glimpse of the wares at the market this morning..

Yellow Mushrooms?!?!

I think these are called cyclamen. My mom used to buy me one every winter. I usually killed it by Christmas.

If global warming means fresh tomatoes year round, bring it on.

Heirloom apples…

And one of my favorite foods- squash!

On a side note, the morning family phone calls were interesting today. One grandmother hung up on me. The other one launched into a 20 min spiel about how maybe one day I’d find a nice young gentleman who would want to buy a house with me in the town where I’m from. Right. Also, my mother tried to take pictures with her new phone. She was VERY involved in it. She was also worried that I would see the wineglasses from the impromptu party the night before. Nevermind that the people she had over are old family friends, and called me during the general merriment. Silly Mum.