Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #65, Durian

Durian by Perantau Sepi Lodge

It’s time for another edition of the DC Omnivore 100, where we explore the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives.

I am guessing that probably 95% of you have never tried durian. Widely known as the king of fruits, this rare delicacy originated in Malaysia and is grown in many varieties in Southeast Asia. The real king of the king of fruits, however, is the montong variety, which is grown in Thailand and whose name is Thai for “golden pillow” –  a wonderful description for how the flesh of the fruit looks.

If you have not tasted durian, you owe it to yourself to try it, at least once. Forget the Omni 100 list and what other people say about necessary life experiences. It’s all poppycock when held for inspection next to the durian.

To be honest about it, not many Americans love the fruit but on the other hand, I am rather certain nobody feels midway about it. The relationship is a dramatic one of love or hate. I fall into the love category. My lovely wife, on the other hand, falls on the opposite side of the fence. This is where marital harmony pumps its lovely little handcart to hell.
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The DC 100

Omnivore 100: #59 Poutine

Photo courtesy of
courtesy of ‘sashafatcat’

I can’t tell you just how excited I was when I volunteered to write this week’s Omnivore: 100 feature and stumbled across the traditional French-Canadian dish, Poutine, as an option. As a native of Canada, I’ve been missing poutine ever since I moved to this great land and I wish Americans didn’t find the concept of fries covered in cheese and gravy so revolting. For 12 years, I’ve been talking up the glorious amalgamation of fat, grease, and sodium that is a plate of poutine to friends who can muster no other response than snide remarks like “sounds like poontang.” I swear to God that sometimes I feel like I’m living the life of a South Park character (I’m not the only person who’s made this observation, and you can probably guess which one I’d be…cough, Cartman, cough)

So let me impart some Canadian wisdom (Liam, isn’t that an oxymoron? Har har, very funny…) upon you all about one of the greatest dishes ever. Yes. I said it. It’s one of the greatest dishes ever. There is NOTHING like sitting down to a plate of fries covered in gravy and cheese curd (especially after a night of boozin’ on Montreal’s Rue Ste. Catherine – MTL’s equivalent to 18th St. in Adams Morgan). Yes, it probably takes a few days off your life, but c’mon, by the time it actually hits you, your meals will all consist of apple sauce anyway. Continue reading

The DC 100, The Features

DC Omni 100: #96 Bagel & Lox

Photo courtesy of
‘Lox and schmear’
courtesy of ‘WordRidden’

It’s time for another edition of the DC Omnivore 100, where we explore the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives…

I hail from the Upper Westside of New York City, and when it comes to “Jew-food” (bagels, lox, matzo balls, blintzes, etc.) we Upper Westsiders know our stuff.   My apartment was at the epicenter of all good things bagel related (Zabar’s, H&H Bagels, Murray’s Sturgeon Shop, Barney Greengrass, etc.) and growing up, bagels and lox (aka: smoked salmon) were a special occasion fare for Sunday brunch, and leftovers usually lasted well into the week. Glorious!

The key to perfecting this dish is your ingredients.  The bagels must be fresh, with a crispy baked crust and a chewy boiled inside. In DC Brooklyn Bagel Bakery in Arlington offers the best bagels, in all the traditional flavors, that I’ve found to date with Bethesda Bagels coming in second.  Please don’t buy any non-traditional bagel flavors; chocolate chip, honey wheat, and tomato-basil are bagel sins, if you ask me, and will distort the utter simplicity of this dish.  Stick with plain and poppy/sesame seed.

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Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #92, Soft Shell Crab

Soft Shell Crab, Al Crostino

"Soft Shell Crab, Al Crostino" by Jenn Larsen, on Flickr

It’s time for another edition of the DC Omnivore 100, where we explore the top one hundred foods every good omnivore should try at least once in their lives…

“Blue Crab Molting Season.” Could there be a sweeter phrase to the foodie ears of our region? Really, it’s one of the best parts of living near the Chesapeake Bay. And for those of us who can’t be bothered with the hacking and slashing to get to the meat out of the crab while in its hard shell, it’s especially sweet.

It seems every restaurant currently has a soft shell crab special on the menu, and that’s no coincedence. From roughly May through June, our local blue crabs are casting aside their old shells, like giggling girls getting beach-ready. It takes about four days for their new shells to harden, so before they become bitter and jaded (ok, I know I’m milking a bad metaphor, I just can’t resist, it’s like a disease) snap them up.

A perfect soft shell crab dish has that signature play with texture – the crisp shell giving way to succulent crabmeat with a little burst of the sea. But I know this particular texture is not initially to everyone’s liking. My gateway dish was soft shell crab roll, often called “Spider” roll. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #22 Fresh Berries

Photo courtesy of
‘Pick ripe berries’
courtesy of ‘afagen’

Berry season. This is the time of year that puts the Omnomnom in Omnomnomivore. Er. Omnivore. Not lolcat. Check.

This is a heavenly couple weeks when strawberries are in season, blueberries are coming into season and blackberries and raspberries aren’t far off. The strawberries at the area farmers’ markets are about the size of a child’s fist, and sweet as laughter. You can just eat them whole, you can make jam, you can make strawberry shortcake, you can soak them in rum and lather them up with Gran Marnier whipped cream, or dip them in balsamic vinegar or dark chocolate or even just a little bit of peanut butter.

There’s really nothing you can’t do with fresh berries. And we’re lucky enough to get them for these next few weeks. So, head to the market and get a pint, a quart, or even a whole flat’s worth of summer’s tasty, tasty bounty. Soak them in red wine and serve sangria. Eat them with fresh whipped cream. Make a pie. Make muffins. But they never, ever, ever get this good at any other time. The rest of the year, they have to come from South America, or California, or anywhere where they have to grow them extra hardy, and extra bland. Or, best of all, ice cream. Click through for my favorite ice cream recipe.

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Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #55 Big Mac

Photo courtesy of
‘Big Mac and fries for lunch’ courtesy of ‘slworking2’

Frankly, I’m surprised it took us this long to gobble this entry right up on the Omnivore’s list.

Ok, I’ll admit it right off – I love comfort food. I don’t like the massive amount of exercise I need to conduct to burn off one of these babies (540 kcals in the burger alone), but sometimes? Totally worth it.

With me having extra time at home lately, I decided recently I needed some alone time with one of my favorite lunchtime pleasures. Don’t dis me – it’s not as expensive as a Ray’s Hell Burger and more convenient for me than a Five Guys. It’s a childhood thing, I think.

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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

Entertainment, Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC 100: #14 Aloo Gobi

Photo courtesy of
‘aloo gobi (cauliflower and potato)’
courtesy of ‘Geoff604’

The other weekend, my boyfriend and I found ourselves eating Indian food, a cuisine neither of us had tasted in a while.  Needless to say, the meal was a HUGE success leaving both of us craving for more. To satisfy our hunger I ventured into kitchen to try my cooking skills within the Indian cuisine realm and tackle DC 100 list item Aloo Gobi.

First and foremost was finding a cookbook to guide me in this foreign and often times complicated and time-consuming cuisine. Film actress Madhur Jaffrey has authored numerous cookbooks focusing on Indian food, great buys if you’re interested in exploring the cuisine, so at my uncle’s recommendation I turned to the book Madhur Jaffrey Indian Cookery for her recipes and guidance. Continue reading

Adventures, Food and Drink, Fun & Games, Night Life, The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #78 Snails

Photo courtesy of
‘Brasserie Beck’
courtesy of ‘webjedi’
Originally, this Omnivore update was for another topic, which was “Beer above 8%” (and will show up soon), but after taking a look at the menu at Brasserie Beck, the Belgian-styled gastropub downtown, I figured I’d better shift focus.

So you ask, “snails?”, what is the most joked about cuisine when you’re trying to gross-out friends doing as a willing entry here rather than on a dare. I have to honestly admit, if it weren’t for my wife, there would be a lot of things, cuisine-wise, I’d never have tried, and snails (not to be confused with their brethren, “escargot”) would not have been the highest on my list. But, figuring this is a top notch establishment, and an unlimited supply of good beer to wash everything down, I said “what the heck!”. For goodness sake, the meal and establishment share most of name (Gastropod vs. Gastropub).

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The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #3, Huevos Rancheros

Huevos Rancheros

Moving right along in the Omnivore 100, I was delighted for any excuse to make Huevos Rancheros. Huevos Rancheros combines two of my great comfort food loves: Breakfast food and food accompanied by tortillas and salsa. Can there be anything better than a dish that consists of breakfast food on tortillas with salsa? No, of course not.

Traditionally, it’s corn tortillas and tomato-chili sauce, though to get hung up on what’s “traditional” versus what’s “Americanized” seems to me to miss the point. You don’t make huevos rancheros when you’re feeling snobby about food. You make huevos rancheros when you don’t want to spend a lot of time on dinner, you want something a little more interesting than fried eggs and toast, and you had tacos for dinner recently. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #48, Eel

Unagi Sushi (Eel) by Madman the Mighty (Creative Commons)

Have you ever been given someone something to eat, and been told “no, try it first, and then we will tell you what it is?”  Then you are a very brave soul, especially if you were in college.   I hope you survived the episode.

I’m guilty of this trick, especially when introducing my friends and co-workers to Sushi.  Eel, especially freshwater Eel (or Unagi) is one of my favorite pieces of sushi.  It has a much higher fat content than most fish, but it’s smooth flavor and texture make it a staple of most sushi trays and a lot of the better sushi rolls.

Unlike most sushi, Unagi (fresh water eel, the most common) is never served raw.  That’s not because it would kill you or anything – the sushi afficinados reserve blowfish for that – but because you would absolutely hate it.  Unagi has a fat layer in it that smells awful, and doesn’t taste all that great.  Continue reading

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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Food and Drink, The DC 100, The Features

DC Omnivore 100: #83 Pocky

Pocky Flavors

Pocky Flavors by Pocky-Love-Club

Growing up my best friend Kano was half Japanese, and one of the best parts of going over to her house besides playing NES, eating homemade sushi and getting to watch rated R movies, was an endless supply of Pocky.  After dinner her mom would hand us our own personal box and we’d go off and watch “The Crying Game” or “Blue Steel”.  Really appropriate for 10 year olds.  I think I was scarred for life.  Moving on. 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

Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #34 Sauerkraut

Photo courtesy of bucklava
Swine in Swine, courtesy of bucklava

Our continuing coverage of the 100 foods a DC omnivore must try looks at sauerkraut.

My love affair with sauerkraut probably dates back to the decade I lived in Chicago. Heaping piles of this wonderfully shredded cabbage onto my foot-long hot dogs was a guilty pleasure of my high school and college years – much to the detriment of my friends’ noses, I’m sure.

Funny thing is, at the time I always thought kraut was just a condiment. Yes, yes, sheltered food upbringing here. I could bore you with stories of the oft-boring foods I devoured growing up, but I’m sure you don’t really care.

So when I moved to Pittsburgh and got married, I truly found out the wonders of this simple sour-tasting cabbage.

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Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC Omni 100: S’mores (#61) and PB&J (#13)

Smore by flickr user Colin Purrington (creative commons)

Smore by flickr user Colin Purrington (creative commons)

Welcome to yet another review of the 100 foods an omnivore in DC should partake of. Read the full list.

Today, class, we will discuss s’mores and  peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. I choose to discuss them together because both are delicious, ooey-gooey, comfort foods of our childhood. Both are sweet and gushey. Both are sandwiches. Most importantly, both make (most) everyone in America go… “Yummmmm”.

First we’ll ponder the s’more, number 61 on the list. The smore, a simple sandwich created by smooshing a block of chocolate (typically the Hershey’s milk chocolate bars you can break off into squares) with a toasted marshmellow (to your personal degree of satisfaction, ranging from very rare to cajun-style blackened) between two graham crackers. So basic, yet so satisfying.

My personal s’more is exactly like the one pictured above. I aim for a golden-brown cracked marshmellow with white fluff oozing out the sides, smothering the chocolate, and making it melt. Layered between two halves of a graham cracker, it drips down my face while I eat it. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100, We Love Food

DC Omnivore 100: #28, Oysters

Oysters at Clyde's

Enjoying a dozen oysters at Clyde's

In our ongoing quest to conquer the Omnivore 100 list, we come to #28, Oysters. It’s hardly a chore for me to kick back several dozen oysters. My love affair with the bivalves began as a child watching my grandfather stir up some homemade oyster stew, mesmerized by the delicate edges curling up in the cream. At some point as a teenager I dared my first raw bar, and the salty brine was instantly addicting. I’ve never strayed, even after a disastrous food poisoning incident in New Orleans (on my birthday, no less). No, there really is nothing like the luscious oyster, and we’re lucky in DC to have plenty of places to enjoy them.

They say eating an oyster is like kissing the sea, or a mermaid. I don’t know about that, but I do know that slurping back a mineraly oyster freshly shucked off the shell is one of those things that divides people – either you can’t stand the thought or the taste of them raw, or you love them passionately. While perfectly fried oysters battered in cornmeal certainly ranks high on my list, it’s the ritual of the dozen (or three!) that I really enjoy. So here are my top DC raw bar experiences…

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Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC Omni 100: #95 Mole Poblano

pollo al mole poblano from oyamel

Welcome to yet another review of the 100 foods an omnivore in DC should partake of. Read the full list.

Oh #95, mole poblano, how I love you. Let me count the ways.

1. you are made of chocolate!
2. you are served with mexican food! (and boy do I love mexican food!)
3. you are savory and delicious!
4. you are to be served on top of some of my favorite foods, like enchiladas, fries and chicken!

Mole Poblano is a mexican sauce made of chocolate, typically served on chicken, enchiladas, and other various mexican delicacies. Mole itself is typically a sauce (or the root of other dips, etc, ie: guacaMOLE), but mole poblano is special. Mole poblano is made with CHOCOLATE. According to wikipedia (where else would I turn for this sort of information, really?) Mole Poblano is named after the city of Puebla, Mexico. The sauce is usually made with chocolate, nuts, different types of chilies, and with all my research it seems that you can basically throw in everything but the kitchen sink. Then you boil it. Apparently, for hours, sometimes for days. It takes a lot of love to make something this delicious.

I love Mole Poblano so much that I went to two places to try it, you know, in the name of complete research.

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Food and Drink, Penn Quarter, The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #67: Beignets, period

Photo courtesy of micky mb
Cafe au lait and a beignet, please
courtesy of micky mb

Item 67 on the Omnivore 100 list is “Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake,” but I have to say – this is one place where I take issue with the list. I grew up in Miami and had family in New Orleans, so I’ve bought many a pack of churros while stopped at a streetlight on Calle Ocho and eaten my fair share of beignets at Cafe DuMonde. Calling elephant ears and funnel cake the same thing is one matter, equating them with beignets and churros simply because they’re variations on fried pastry is just…. wrong.

I leave you to your own devices to find an elephant ear; the circus comes through town on a regular basis and you have a decent chance at any street fair of finding a booth selling the drizzled fried dough. Churros we might re-address later – feel free to share any local location you think is worth out looking into.

For a beignet, however, my devotion to you, constant reader, is such that I compared two locations where you can try one of the few Louisiana exports to surpass zydeco. Continue reading

Food and Drink, The DC 100

DC Omnivore 100: #77, Hostess Fruit Pies

Fruit Pies

Welcome to yet another review of the 100 foods an omnivore in DC should partake of. Read the full list.

Hostess fruit pies? Now, Hostess cupcakes, yes. Twinkies, certainly. But fruit pies, you say? I’d never heard of such a thing. Of course, this is not surprising, because I grew up in a household full of whole grains, fresh fruits, low-fat, and no sugar. I ate cheerios and grape nuts while the rest of you folks chowed down on coco puffs and fruit loops. In fact, my first birthday cake was not a cake at all, it was a rice cake with peanut butter, no lie. (My parents had cake, traitors.) (Hi, Mom and Dad!) So when I looked at the Omnivores 100 list, made my picks and saw Hostess Fruit Pies, I thought, “well, there’s a way to make up for lost time.”
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