Posts Tagged ‘local’

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
703.549.5051

Countdown to Thanksgiving: Order Your Local Turkey Today!

Wednesday, November 4th, 2009

@ South Mountain Creamery

If you’re hosting Thanksgiving dinner this year, it’s time to pre-order your local turkey! If you read a lot of food magazines (or blogs) to prepare for your Thanksgiving feast, you’ve probably seen a lot of talk about brining the turkey in recent years. Soaking the bird in a saltwater is supposed to add succulence to the meat. But here’s a secret: turkeys are naturally juicy. Conventional turkeys, like conventional chickens and other animals, are raised in confined quarters where they are stuffed full of grain (often genetically-modified, aka GMO) and antibiotics to grow rapidly. Turkeys who eat a natural diet of bugs, grubs and grasses will naturally produce meat that is juicier and more flavorful. And, birds who roam in fresh air lead happier, healthier lives.

What is a Heritage turkey? Today, 99% of all turkeys raised in the U.S. are the “Broadbreasted White” variety, which have been bred specifically to produce unnaturally large breasts. The breasts are so large, in fact, that these turkeys are unable to reproduce naturally! (Source: Sustainable Table/UN Food and Agriculture Organization)

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

free-ranging @ Fields of Athenry

Sustainable turkey farmers raise various traditional species of turkeys, Heritage breeds such as Narrangassett or Bourbon Red, to protect the genetic diversity and provide tastier options for your Thanksgiving table. Heritage birds take longer to reach market size — 24 to 30 weeks compared to 18 for supermarket turkeys — which is one reason why they more expensive. (Source: Heritage Turkey Foundation) The article on Sustainable Table has a more detailed explanation of the difference between heritage, organic and sustainable birds and questions to ask your farmers.

Wondering how to find a local, organic, free-range bird for your holiday meal? Here in the DC Metro area, organic turkeys are harder to find, but several local farmers and butchers provide heritage and/or free-range turkeys. Organic birds will be the most expensive, but they are fed only organic feed, not treated with antibiotics or hormones, and required to have access to the outdoors. Ask your farmer or butcher what their free-range turkeys are fed. Organic grain feed is less important if they are truly free-range, as turkeys prefer to eat bugs and grasses anyway. Where “all-natural” is used below, it means turkeys are not treated or fed with any antibiotics, steroids or hormones.

EcoFriendly Foods (Moneta, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage and hybrid breeds, 12-20lbs.
price: n/a
order: order at Arlington Courthouse or Dupont Circle markets, $40 deposit required.

Fields of Athenry (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range, Heritage, 15-35lbs.
price: $7.25/lb.
order: download order form online and send $40 deposit; pick-up at farm only; likely to sell out early.

Let’s Meat on the Avenue (Alexandria, VA)
type: Amish-raised from Pennsylvania and Minnesota; organic from Fauquier County VA; all free-range, all-natural, fresh
price: $3.95/lb. for Amish turkeys
order: call 703-836-6328 or stop by the shop; orders will be accepted until about a week prior to Thanksgiving (or until sold out)

MOM’s Organic Market (VA and MD)
type: all-natural, free-range from Maple Lawn Farm (Fulton, MD) and Eberly’s Organic
price: $1.99/lb. Maple Lawn, $3.49/lb. Eberly Organic
order: call or visit store (locations in Alexandria, College Park, Columbia, Frederick and Rockville)

Smith Meadows Farm (Purcellville, VA)
type: all-natural, free-range turkeys, 10-12lbs. or 13-14lbs., frozen
price: $4.25/lb.
order: Place a $10 deposit at their markets, pick-up on Saturday 11/21 or Sunday 11/22 at the market where you place your order. Orders will be accepted until about mid-November. You can also call 877-955-4389 to place your order by phone.
markets: Arlington Courthouse, Del Ray, Falls Church and Chevy Chase on Saturdays; Takoma Park and Dupont Circle on Sundays

South Mountain Creamery / Hillside Farm (Thurmont, MD)
type: free-range, fresh
price: about $2.50/lb.
order: existing South Mountain delivery customers must reserve a turkey by Saturday, November 7; they will be delivered with your regular delivery the week prior to Thanksgiving.

If you don’t want to cook, The Butcher’s Block in Alexandria will have ready-to-go Thanksgiving meals available; visit the website for details.

To find a local, Heritage turkey in your area, search the listings at Local Harvest — or ask your favorite meat vendor at the farmers market!

Shared with Real Food Wednesday — visit the round-up @ Cheeseslave for more Real Food inspiration.

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
703.548.2592
www.lastrada-ontheave.com

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!)

The Copper Pot and more at the Oakton Farmers Market

Thursday, May 7th, 2009

FoodieTots @ the Farmers Market Week continues with a field trip to the Vienna/Oakton Farmers Market to sample The Copper Pot by Chef Stefano Frigerio.

copper pot food co jamIt’s opening week at the Fairfax County Farmers Markets, and perhaps the most publicized new vendor in local market history was the Copper Pot Food Company by Chef Stefano Frigerio. An Italian-born chef-turned-stay-at-home-dad, Chef Frigerio turned to home preserving to stay connected to the kitchen and the local farmers he developed relationships with during his days cooking at DC’s Maestro and Mio restaurants. We really enjoyed Chef Frigerio’s cooking at Mio, so I was eager to check out the new product line of jams, pastas and sauces. One of the nice things about markets further out in the ‘burbs is the more leisurely pace and ability to actually converse with the farmers and vendors. Chef Frigerio explained that he started making jams out of concern for his kids’ love of sweets. “I can’t feed my kids high fructose corn syrup every day,” he said, describing his son’s ability to slurp down an entire jar of jam at once (if allowed). Jam flavors include orchard fresh apple, white fig & balsamic, peach & prosecco “bellini,” and strawberry & vanilla bean. Now despite my foray into jam making last summer, I actually don’t eat a lot of it as I find so many jams are too sticky sweet for my taste. The strawberry & vanilla, in contrast, tasted just like strawberries at peak ripeness and was not at all cloying.

copper pot food co ravioli

Chef Frigerio also offers fresh, handmade pastas and tomato sauces. When asked how the reception was at his first market this weekend (14th & U in the District), he expressed surprise at how quickly he sold out of his braised rabbit ravioli – something he claimed people rarely ordered at the restaurant. I picked up some of the rabbit ravioli and a jar of the roasted shallot Barolo tomato sauce for a quick dinner. Sure, at $10 for 8 ravioli it was a little pricey, but having an Italian chef in your pantry is a nice treat for a busy weeknight! The tomato sauce was richly flavored and will definitely make a repeat appearance on our table.

Other vendors at the market included Long Meadow Ecological Farm (“no spray” asparagus, radishes, watercress and other greens from VA’s Shenandoah Valley), Kuhn Orchards (IPM fruits, rhubarb and asparagus from near Gettysburg, PA), Garner’s Produce (more VA strawberries, asparagus and plants), Lois’s Produce (Northern Neck VA, strawberries, asparagus, spring onions, flowers – and their website promises artichokes in late summer!), Cenan’s Bakery (Vienna, bread and pastries), Bees ‘n Blossoms (VA honey and soaps), Emine’s sweet and savory baklavas (also available at Old Town Alexandria), Fields of Grace farmstead cheese (and curds, from Remington, VA), and Valentine’s Country Meats with hormone-free, grass-fed/free-range Angus beef, pork, lamb, rabbit, incredible pastel eggs (pictured below), pies and sweets.

vienna oakton va famers market

As if the first rhubarb sighting of the season wasn’t exciting enough, Kuhn was giving away free sample of asparagus with every purchase. As with most Fairfax County-managed markets, local gardeners were on hand to offer free gardening advice.

This is a great market and I appreciated the detailed signage at most vendors explaining their growing practices; when markets get busy, it gets difficult to ask farmers about their methods so signage is a great way to provide more transparency for market shoppers. (Of course, you should always feel free to ask for more information!) And Fairfax County requires that all vendors be within a 125-mile radius of the county, so you can be assured that the products are truly local.

The Vienna/Oakton Farmers Market is located at the Oak Marr RECenter, 3200 Jermantown Road, and open Wednesdays from 8am-noon, May through November 18. Find Chef Frigerio and the Copper Pot Food Co. at Fairfax (Tues.), Vienna/Oakton (Weds.) and Herndon (Thurs.) markets in Virginia and Georgetown (Weds.), 14th and U (Sat.) and Bloomingdale (Sun.) markets in the District.

Peach Berry Sherbet

Monday, August 18th, 2008

I had been suffering a serious case of foodblogger envy watching others whip up homemade ice cream treats this summer, so finally broke down and bought the KitchenAid ice cream attachment. I’ve gushed before about the wonderful local ice cream/custard/gelato treats we have available, but I’ve been wanting to experiment with healthier variations. Since the toddler seems to have inherited my family’s ice cream addiction — seriously, he woke up one morning recently requesting, “i skeem? i skeem?” — I wanted to try out some low sugar options. Using the sweet, ripe fruits at market right now makes that easier as they don’t require much added sweetener. For my first attempt, I decided to try a sherbet – the full fruit flavor of gelato, but with 2% milk instead of eggs. So it’s low fat too! I used honey under the theory that it requires less to match the sweetness of regular sugar, and was pleased that this turned out pleasantly sweet even with the tart blackberries. I was worried that the berries might overpower the peach flavor, but it turned out wonderfully balanced. It’s not as creamy as ice cream, but still a luscious summer treat.

Recipe: Peach Berry Sherbet

Ingredients:

  • 1 c water
  • 1/3 c honey
  • 1 c berries (used 2/3c raspberries & 1/3 c blackberries)
  • 2.5 cups peaches
  • 1 c 2% milk

Instructions: Bring water and honey just to boil in small saucepan over high heat, stir to dissolve honey. Add berries, crushing with back of spoon and reduce to low simmer for 10 m. Remove from heat and strain through fine mesh sieve. Chill while preparing peaches.

Peel and dice peaches. Puree in food processor or blender until smooth, add milk and berry syrup and pulse until blended. Chill for at least 1 hour. Process in ice cream maker as instructed, freeze and enjoy! Makes about 1 qt., 4-6 servings.

Blend peaches, milk and berry syrup in food processor. Chill 1 hour. Freeze in ice cream maker.

Food Miles: This was 100% local! South Mountain Creamery milk 63mi., Toigo Orchards honey 114mi., Papa’s Orchard’s donut peaches 87mi., Harris Orchard’s supersweet peaches 24mi., Westmoreland Berry Farm black & raspberries 71mi. All but the milk (delivered) and Harris peaches were from Alexandria farmers markets — this recipe is being shared with the Farmers Market Report at the new “To Every Meal There is a Season”.