Posts Tagged ‘del ray’

Southern Comfort at Evening Star Cafe

Sunday, January 31st, 2010

We may live in (Northern) Virginia, but aside from my occasional, tongue-in-cheek “y’all,” we haven’t adopted too many Southern mannerisms. But every once in a while, you just get a craving for something artery-clogging, particularly on a cold, snowy January day. Rather than channeling Paula Deen and deep-frying something at home, we opted to head out to one of our neighborhood restaurants, Evening Star Cafe. I was eager to try their new Saturday breakfast dishes — the fried chicken and waffle, to be precise. Though I will admit it was a tough decision between that and the biscuits and gravy, something I learned to love when visiting my grandparents in Florida many years ago. (The trip that ended my vegetarian phase, coincidentally … just couldn’t resist Grandmom’s daily bacon.)

Despite its casual neighborhood restaurant vibe in the kid-filled neighborhood of Del Ray, Alexandria, Evening Star doesn’t have a kids’ menu. On past brunch/lunch visits, we’ve been offered choices like chicken tenders and pasta off the secret menu, and I’ve even seen patio patrons order hot dogs for their dogs. (It was one of the pooches’ birthday, their owner explained. I can only assume they topped off their meal with puppy pops from the Dairy Godmother.) Anyway, I was able to order a plain waffle and scrambled egg for the boy today, which worked out perfectly. The husband had the huevos rancheros, a colorful and flavorful dish, artfully arranged and kicked up with another Southern nod, Andouille sausage.

Back to my meal, I never really understood the appeal of fried chicken and waffles — chicken for breakfast? — but I have to say I get it now. A touch of sweet honey butter on succulent, savory chicken wrapped in the warm carb embrace of a waffle, it really is perfection.  When I was pregnant with the boy, I had a freak KFC craving one night. I regretted indulging the craving for days after… now that I’m pregnant again, it’s nice to have such a delightful alternative should the fried chicken craving strike again. (And to assuage any guilt over the calorie-heavy meal, Evening Star uses local and organic ingredients “whenever possible,” according to their website.)

Evening Star is open for brunch from 10am-3pm on Saturday and Sunday. The fried chicken and waffle is only available on Saturday, while Sunday has the more traditional eggs benedict, French toast, etc.
2000 Mt Vernon Avenue
Alexandria, VA 22301-1310

At Market: Simple Tomato Gazpacho

Monday, September 14th, 2009

grapes at marketAt the Alexandria Markets: We’ve returned to our Alexandria farmers markets after our recent travels, and witnessed that unequivocal sign of seasons changing from summer to fall in the peaches and tomatoes being nudged out by apples, pears, and early winter squash. Now I don’t know if there’s some sort of zucchini shortage in Northern Virginia, but we’ve received none from our CSA this year and I only spotted a few giant ones at the West End market. Has there been some sort of run on zucchini by crazed zucchini bread addicts? (By the way, if you haven’t been to West End lately, you’re missing out on some wonderful authentic Mexican tamales from Alma at Westmoreland Berry Farm.)

At any rate, we received word from our CSA that their tomatoes have begun to show signs of early blight (not the late blight you’ve heard so much about), so I set about to make sure we enjoyed the ones we got to the fullest. After our tomato jam experience (kudos to Jennifer for winning the food52 best preserves contest with her recipe!), the boy comes running to get his knife whenever he sees me dicing tomatoes. He even overcame his fear of the blender to help me make this super simple gazpacho. With all due to respect to José Andrés, who makes the best restaurant gazpacho in town, this recipe is even simpler with just six ingredients, tasting pretty much like, well, a pulverized tomato. Ironically the boy liked it even though he refuses to eat fresh tomatoes. Be sure to use good quality extra virgin olive oil — preferably from Spain, of course.

tomato gazpacho

Recipe: Simple Tomato Gazpacho (kid-friendly instructions)


  • About 2 pounds very ripe tomatoes, diced
  • 2 slices white/Italian bread, crusts removed and cubed
  • 3 cloves garlic, peeled
  • 2 tablespoons sherry or white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • generous pinch of sea salt


1. Using a kid-safe knife, assist child in cutting tomato and bread into pieces.

2. Place tomatoes, bread, garlic, vinegar, salt and 1/4 cup oil in blender. Cover and blend for 1 minute.

3. Add additional olive oil as needed, blending after each addition, to reach a smooth consistency. Chill for at least 30 minutes, then serve with an extra drizzle of oil to garnish. (Use basil oil for extra oomph.)

Bonus Foodie Tot Video! This was a totally unscripted, impromptu video shot by the husband so please disregard the messy counter and, uh, my lack of make-up. (And no, Seventh Generation did not provide compensation for the product placement, but clearly we should buy stock or something. 😉 ) Anyway, enjoy!

Foodie Tot cooks gazpacho from Colleen Levine on Vimeo.

America’s Next Farmers Market Star?

Thursday, August 6th, 2009

foodie tot at the marketThe Foodie Tot is not the only one excited about the opportunity to profess his love for the markets during National Farmers Market Week. There are not one but two separate online contests underway asking voters to chose their favorite farmers market. To me, that’s like asking a parent to name their favorite child. Sure, there are markets I adore (see: Oregon travelogues ‘08 and ‘09) that truly have it all — wide array of organic-certified products, cooking demos, kid-friendly activities, transparent management and communication — but the obligation of eating locally requires one to support the markets in your neighborhood, and there are things we love about each of them besides the simple matter of proximity and convenience. There are two farmers markets here in Alexandria that are between our house and the nearest grocery stores, so it is even harder to justify passing up the market in favor of flavorless supermarket produce. We love Bigg Riggs’ array of apples and peaches, Kuhn’s sweet berries and plums, Three Way Farm’s luscious melons, Smith Meadows’ grass-fed beef and handmade pastas, Tom’s cave-aged cheddar, Grace’s pumpkin loaf, and many more products and producers from across the region.

The Farmers Market Coalition, who notes that the number of farmers markets in the U.S. has increased by 170% in the past 10 years, recently asked “Why do you love your farmers market?” My response: “Because my son knows his cheesemaker, his apple growers, and his meat producers by name.”

I’ve written before about the many lessons kids can learn by shopping at the market, but the most important is an understanding and appreciation of where their food comes from. We certainly don’t have time to go to the farm every week, and together my son and I can’t even manage to keep an herb pot alive, so we will drag ourselves out rain or shine to support the farmers who wake up before dawn, after a hard week of manual labor, to truck their wares into town.

America's Favorite Farmers MarketsI do support any effort that makes people more aware of their neighborhood farmers markets, so go to the Care2/LocalHarvest contest (where the winning market receives $5,000) and the American Farmland Trust contest (winning markets get free No Farms No Food tote bags) to vote for your favorite markets, if you can choose just one. Of course you can share the love and vote for different markets in each, if you like. (The Care2 poll is open until Sept. 17, but the AFT contest ends at midnight this Saturday, August 8, so vote today!)

Don’t Forget! Submit a photo of your tot(s) at the market to the Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets Flickr pool during the week (August 2-9) and you’ll have a chance to win a kid-sized reusable market tote filled with foodie goodies. bigg riggs peachesFor an extra entry into the drawing, blog about your local farmers market with a link back to this post &/or retweet a link to the “Foodie Tots <3 Farmers Markets” contest. More bonus points for sharing why you love your farmers market.

P.S. Today’s market stop was the Upper King Street Market, for ground buffalo meat from Cibola (burgers coming up soon), Shlagel raspberries, Bigg Riggs peaches, Tom’s yogurt, and a muffin and fresh-squeezed orange juice (er, not exactly local) for an afternoon snack.

And it’s Real Food Wednesday, so head over to the round up at Kelly the Kitchen Kop for more real, local food ideas and inspiration.

Obama Kids in the Neighborhood

Sunday, June 21st, 2009

“Who Wore It Better?”, Dairy Godmother frozen custard edition …

(left, the boy, 10.29.07. right, Sasha Obama, 6.20.09)

Dining Out in the Neighborhood (and a review of La Strada in Del Ray)

Friday, June 5th, 2009

As we begin One Local Summer this week, it’s a good prompt to remember to eat locally when dining out as well. Family-owned, independent restaurants are struggling in this economy, and don’t have the corporate safety net that chain restaurants do. We’re lucky to live in a neighborhood with several great independent establishments that also emphasize fresh, local ingredients.

la strada del ray alexandriaWe recently celebrated a family birthday at a fairly new addition to our neighborhood, La Strada in Del Ray, Alexandria. La Strada has been open for about a year, and was top of the list of places we’ve been meaning to try. My in-laws were in town for my father-in-law’s birthday, so we thought it might be a family-friendly yet celebration-appropriate choice. It probably helped that we were dining on a slow Monday night, but the staff was warm and welcoming, even going out of their way to secure a birthday cake on extremely short notice. It is owned by a lovely family; Chef Stephen Scott has two young children and his mother graciously exchanged grandmother stories with my mother-in-law.

la strada del ray alexandriaWe had just enough room at the round corner booth, though on busy evenings I imagine the outdoor patio would be a great place to eat with kids. The boy was supplied with reading material and crayons while we waited for our orders to arrive, and the food was a great blend of fresh, seasonal ingredients incorporated in classic Italian dishes. You can check their website for daily specials featuring local produce. My father-in-law loved his light-as-air gnocchi in a hearty meat sauce; the husband and I split a family-size portion of ravioli in a morel cream sauce. It’s a little more upscale than your typical neighborhood Italian restaurant, yet the family-style servings enable you to enjoy great food without breaking the bank.  For an even better deal, visit La Strada during Del Ray’s Dining Week, which kicks off today and runs through June 14. La Strada is offering a 3-course dinner for just $29. Any restaurant that can satisfy picky New Yorkers and an active 2.5-year-old is a winner in our book. (Restaurant photo by La Strada.)

La Strada Osteria & Enoteca
1905 Mount Vernon Avenue
Del Ray (Alexandria), VA 22301

discover del ray dining week

“Discover Del Ray” Dining Week, June 5-14, features special deals at just about every restaurant in this kid-friendly neighborhood, including the deal at La Strada, 15% discount at Caboose Cafe, and free gelato at Cafe Pizzaiolo. Visit the website for full details.

(Shared with Fight Back Fridays hosted by the Food Renegade. Visit the round-up for more inspiration from fellow real food lovers!)