Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #23, Foie Gras

Photo courtesy of
‘Seared duck foie gras’
courtesy of ‘yosoynuts’

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

Since the launch of this feature back in 2008, there have been a few items on the list that we knew could be controversial – horse, for example, is one of the more obvious ones (and I plan to write about it soon). Foie gras is another, falling in and out of favor depending on whether taste trumps compassion. Some seasons it seems like every restaurant in the city is serving it, others not so much. What’s the deal?

Foie gras is the liver of a duck or goose that has been fattened, either force-fed through a traditional French method known as “gavage” or naturally overfed in say, the American method known as “double bacon cheeseburger with fries.” Kidding. It’s an ancient practice going back to the Egyptians and is protected under French law as part of their cultural heritage. The U.S. is actually the something like the fourth-largest producer of foie gras in the world. Basically the fattening process is exploiting a physiological capacity of migratory birds to store large amounts of food in their expansive throats, to sustain them over long journeys. The birds are fed larger and larger amounts of food until their livers are roughly ten times their ordinary size. With gavage, in the last phase they are force-fed through a pneumatic pump.

Grossed out yet? Morally appalled? If you are, you should read about abattoirs and where burgers come from as well. Personally, I’m with Bourdain. There are humane ways for us to get our guilty pleasures.

The reason so many people are willing to overlook the process is the result, one of the most luxuriant tastes on earth. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #39, Gumbo

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘jeffreyw’

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

Let’s see, everyone’s a bit chilly and in need of some rib-sticking stew to belly up before digging yourself out of all this snow, and hey didn’t someone tell me a certain football team from New Orleans won some big deal game last night? So yes, I think it’s time for some gumbo!

Gumbo’s one of those culinary dishes that gives literal meaning to the phrase “America’s melting pot.” A wide variety of influences – Cajun, Creole, Indian, African, French – all come together in a substantial and delicious stew. There are as many different versions of gumbo as there are cooks; even the name’s origins are varied. Is “gumbo” from the Angolan word for okra, or the Choctaw word for sassafras? Should the predominant color be red or green?

There are a few key ingredients that everyone seems to agree have to be present – beyond that, it’s a dish you can have fun experimenting with! And if you aren’t culinarily inclined, there are several restaurants in DC that you can snuggle up in with a pot of gumbo and pretend you’re in New Orleans… so let’s dive in. Continue reading

The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #49, Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut

Photo courtesy of
‘Waterfall of Sugar’
courtesy of ‘Kevin H.’

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

“Hot. Now.”

Once upon a time in my crazy clubkid life there would come a point in the night when the urge for a Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut would become incredibly intense. Friends would pack into cars and caravan down Route 1 to the old production plant in Alexandria with its eccentric diner storefront and sketchy late night patrons. Our eyes would light up like five-year-olds as the blazing neon sign came into view, confirming our desires – yes indeed, there would be hot glazed doughnuts fresh off the “ramp of love.”

Nowadays you can get Krispy Kremes almost everywhere, even overseas, but back when I came to DC from Connecticut the only doughnuts I was familiar with were Dunkin’s cake varieties. So my first bite of this yeast-raised doughnut coated in cracking sugar was nothing short of a sweetness revelation. And I’m not even much for sweets – BUT! A box of warm doughnuts in my lap on a late summer’s night, the delicate outer crunch of sugar followed by the soft dough inside… just heavenly (wow, was that a bit of drool hitting my keyboard?).
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Food and Drink, The DC 100, We Love Food

DC Omnivore 100: #11, Calamari

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr

"Squid" by ajagendorf25, on Flickr (a shot from the DC Fish Market)

This week, our continuing quest to try all 100 foods a DC Omnivore must experience checks out calamari. 

Whenever I see fresh calamari, the first thing that comes to mind is Admiral Ackbar slurping, “your taste buds can’t repel flavor of this magnitude!”

Ok, maybe not. But this versatile cephalopod is truly a wonder of the sea.

There are a myriad ways to prepare squid – fried, grilled, stuffed, with the tentacles or not (no tentacles? wimp!). Squid ink makes a glorious rich pasta and salty sauce that can stain your tongue black as night. Raw squid as sushi can be disconcerting or refreshing, depending on your palate. My personal preference is sauteed or grilled. Perfectly prepared squid should not be overly chewy – it should have an initial ever-so-slight firmness that dissolves into a fresh from the sea taste. 

When I was a poor little match girl just out of drama school, I discovered I could get squid quite cheap and saute up a batch for both me and my cat (wow. that is a depressing memory!). But now if I cook calamari, it’s for a luxurious seafood pasta with squid, shrimp, and scallops. 

After the break, a more appetizing picture, and tips for rustling up calamari at home and eating out…
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