Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #98, Polenta


"Polenta" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

It’s time for another item from the DC Omnivore 100 list of the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.

There’s something so comforting about polenta. Maybe it’s the mushiness. Last night, fighting off a fever, I had an intense craving for this cornmeal goo, so I dragged myself off to the store to rustle up a plate.

Polenta is one of the staple dishes of Northern Italy, though it also can be found throughout Eastern Europe and Turkey. Honestly, there’s not much to it – boiled cornmeal using either the yellow or white varieties, fine or coarse grained. But it’s a bit labor-intensive. Like risotto, it requires constant stirring as the cornmeal grain’s starch slowly gelatinizes. But once it does – oh happy day. You get a soft, creamy mixture, and that’s before adding any other delicious ingredients like butter or cheese! It’s also extremely economical, filling peasant food that can be prepared in so many ways, from breakfast to dinner.

If you see polenta on Italian restaurant menus around DC, chances are it’ll be paired with sausage – this is a pretty traditional mix of mild and spicy. Tosca takes it to another level, matching it with sea urchin ragu and caviar (for lunch!). But polenta doesn’t have to be served straight from the pot – you can also cool it and fry it up. Fried polenta has a more complex flavor than when just boiled – the taste of corn is more pronounced. I was inspired by the grilled polenta I recently tried at Vegetate to make an attempt at this style myself. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #4, Steak Tartare

Kitfo at Dukem

If the idea of marauding hordes of Tartars riding with raw meat under their saddles to tenderize it just in time for a nice snack after some pillaging sounds appetizing to you, then you’ve probably tried steak tartare. Ok, we don’t really know if that’s the origin of the dish, but that’s the historical rumor. As most cultures have their own version, who can say for sure?

So, in our continuing quest to conquer the Omnivore 100 list, we’ll explore a couple of variations.

The usual definition of a traditional steak tartare is finely chopped or diced (not sliced) raw beef marinated in wine, and served with accompaniments like capers, onions and a raw egg on top. But this classic version has long been left behind by adventurous chefs putting their own stamp on it, so that now it’s common to see steak tartare listed on menus with the only similarity across the board being the raw beef itself. Continue reading

The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #62, Sweetbreads


Vidalia's coddled duck egg with crispy sweetbreads, by Kitchen Wench on Flickr

Vidalia's coddled duck egg with crispy sweetbreads, by Kitchen Wench on Flickr

Our continuing quest to try all 100 foods a DC Omnivore must experience checks out sweetbreads.

There are a few items on the Omnivore 100 list that will elicit a very strong reaction. Sweetbreads certainly has to be one of them. I think there’s no middle ground here, as with, say, sea urchin, you either love it or you hate it.

To the uninitiated, sweetbreads are classified as offal, and are the thymus gland of veal, beef, lamb, or pork. Most of the sweetbreads I’ve been served are veal or lamb, and indeed according to the venerable Fannie Farmer, only veal sweetbreads should rightly be considered (and in the 1918 edition, actually recommended for the “convalescent,” so as I’m sitting here wasting away from flu, a plate of sweetbreads is sounding pretty delicious…). 

It’s hard to adequately describe the taste, but I’ll give it a whirl – properly prepared, veal sweetbreads are slightly firm giving way to a creamy, almost gelatinous succulence. Velvety also comes to mind. I’ve found veal has a more delicate flavor than lamb. 

My very first experience with sweetbreads was about two years ago at PS7Continue reading