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Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen

Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen

What goes on behind the kitchen doors at Recette?

Tucked in the West Village in Manhattan, on the corner of Greenwich Avenue and 12th Street, Recette serves a blend of new American and French cuisine. They offer diners a choice of three different tasting menus, in addition to an à la carte menu. Chef Jesse Schenker works with the freshest seasonal ingredients in his sophisticated yet approachable dishes. Don’t miss the bone marrow toast.

We stopped by Recette’s kitchen on a Tuesday at 6:47 p.m. It was before the dinner rush, so only one couple sat in the dining room. The kitchen was quiet. Some dishes were being prepped, and some text messages were being sent. The kitchen speakers were playing Ludacris’ "What’s Your Fantasy" as the chefs discussed the latest episode of Breaking Bad. Every once in a while, the dining couple would order some food, and give the chefs something to do.

The kitchen at Recette is about the size of an average New York City apartment — that is to say, really small. With such little space, chef Schenker works day to day with his ingredients. There’s not much room for storage, so every ingredient in every dish on the menu, from the wild arugula salad to the veal chop, is fresh.


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The Artist Critics Love to Hate

Posted: Wed, 02 Jun 2021 04:00:00 -0000

LeRoy Neiman was a colorful man, both figuratively and literally. His handlebar mustache, long cigar, and sketchpad were fixtures at the sidelines of American pop culture: from boxing matches to jazz clubs and political conventions. His paintings, sketches, and prints papered the second half of the 20th century, highlighting American icons in his colorful expressionist style. He was rich, famous, and adored by many Americans… but not the art critics.

BONUS: Confronting the Past

Posted: Wed, 26 May 2021 04:00:00 -0000

One hundred years ago this week, from May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob targeted and destroyed nearly 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it nearly a century later. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it.

At least 1,256 homes, along with churches, schools, businesses and even a hospital were deliberately burned or destroyed. Recently found documents are helping historians and researchers better understand the events that took place. And lots of this work is happening by staff at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In fact, part of the Power of Place exhibition at the museum is dedicated to the events of the massacre.

Best of the Rest III

Posted: Wed, 19 May 2021 04:00:00 -0000

Groucho and Freddy. Oryx and ostriches. Cats and dinosaurs. These things go together like… well, they really don’t go together at all. These are fun-sized stories in one goodie bag of an episode. It’s Sidedoor’s third “Best of the Rest!”

On The Money

Posted: Wed, 05 May 2021 04:00:00 -0000

We carry portraits around all the time: pocket-sized history lessons in the form of dollars and cents. The recent decision to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill has us thinking about who’s on our money, and how they got there. This episode of the “Portraits” podcast, from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, takes a whirlwind tour of money of yore, featuring everything from piles of bunnies to George Washington’s nipples. This episode will have you taking a closer look at the portraits you might be sitting on right now.

BONUS: The 1957 Pandemic That Wasn&rsquot

Posted: Wed, 28 Apr 2021 04:00:00 -0000

In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine virtuosity helped turn the tide in the war against infectious diseases.

We’ve updated this episode with a bonus interview to reflect on what we’ve learned from our current pandemic. If you want to learn more, please see vaccinesandus.org.

Holding out for a Herring

Posted: Wed, 21 Apr 2021 04:00:00 -0000

Henrietta the river herring is not a particularly glamorous fish. But she’s got grit. Every summer, she swims out to the Atlantic ocean, and every spring, she makes the 500 mile journey back to Maryland’s Patapsco River, where she was born—a habitat that’s been only partially accessible to herring like her for more than a century. But this year will be different. Join the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s herring tagging team as they study what happens to herring like Henrietta when someone gives a dam.

Hot Bird Summer

Posted: Wed, 07 Apr 2021 04:00:00 -0000

Every spring, for as long as records have been kept, a crowd of hundreds of black crowned night herons descend on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, mating, eating and generally causing a ruckus. Many of the keepers at the zoo enjoy them, but they can be a tough bird to love.

Every fall, peace is restored when the herons decamp and fly off to… where? For more than a century, nobody knew. Until now.

America's Unknown Celebrity Chef

Posted: Wed, 24 Mar 2021 04:00:00 -0000

When Lena Richard cooked her first chicken on television, she beat Julia Child to the screen by over a decade. At a time when most African American women cooks worked behind swinging kitchen doors, Richard claimed her place as a culinary authority, broadcasting in the living rooms of New Orleans’s elite white families. She was an entrepreneur, educator, author, and an icon—and her legacy lives on in her recipes.

A Very Cold Case

Posted: Wed, 10 Mar 2021 05:00:00 -0000

American newspaper publisher and all-around eccentric, Charles Francis Hall, was an unlikely candidate to become an Arctic explorer. Nevertheless, he made three trips to the frozen north, until he died there under suspicious circumstances. Sharpen your powers of deduction and join us on Sidedoor for an epic frozen whodunit, featuring shipwreck, romance, and a social media darling with a dark secret.

Life is Hard, Let's Meditate!

Posted: Wed, 24 Feb 2021 05:00:00 -0000

As Americans approach a full year of pandemic life, there’s an overwhelming sense of anticipation: when can we get vaccinated? What will life look like in six months? When will life return to normal? Maybe because looking outward feels so daunting, a lot of people are looking inward, through mindfulness and meditation. In this episode of Sidedoor, we learn about mindfulness and meditation through the lens of religion – a Buddhist priest shares the story of her religious journey and we hear about the secular spirituality that young Americans are increasingly following away from religion.

Reservation Math: Navigating Love in Native America

Posted: Wed, 10 Feb 2021 05:00:00 -0000

If you’ve heard the phrase, “full blooded,” you’re already familiar with the concept of blood quantum. But Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States whose identity is defined by it. Through the photography of Tailyr Irvine, displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, we take a look at the colonial origin story of blood quantum: where it came from, why it endures, and how it continues to impact the most personal decisions many Native Americans make about love and family today.

Tailyr Irvine’s Reservation Mathematics: Navigating Love in Native America exhibition link: https://americanindian.si.edu/developingstories/irvine.html

Sing a Song of Protest

Posted: Wed, 27 Jan 2021 05:00:00 -0000

As an up-and-coming young blues singer in the 1950s, Barbara Dane faced a choice: fame and fortune, or her principles. She left the mainstream music industry and became a revolutionary music producer – literally. Spurred by Fidel Castro’s international gathering of protest singers, Dane created a record label that published the sounds of social change around the world, and inspired generations of protest music to come.

How Wonder Woman Got Her Groove Back

Posted: Wed, 13 Jan 2021 05:00:00 -0000

Wonder Woman is the best known female superhero of all time, but she’s been through a lot. The brainchild of a psychologist, Wonder Woman hit the comic pages in the 1940s as an antidote to the “bloodcurdling masculinity” of male superheroes. But by the early ‘70s, Wonder Woman was having a midlife crisis. She’d given up her bullet-blocking bracelets and lasso of truth…and opened a clothing boutique. It took a feminist magazine cover to make-over Wonder Woman from comic book character to the icon she remains today.

Edison&rsquos Demon Dolls

Posted: Wed, 16 Dec 2020 05:00:00 -0000

In 1890, Americans were delighted when they heard the news that Thomas Edison was using his phonograph technology to give voice to porcelain dolls. But their delight turned to horror when they got their hands on his dolls. In this episode of Sidedoor, we’ll hear a short story that imagines what happens when two little girls receive one of Edison’s talking dolls as a holiday gift, as well as meet one of these dolls with an expert from the National Museum of American history.

To see one of these dolls, check it out on our website.

Bonus Episode: Tempest in a Teacup

Posted: Wed, 02 Dec 2020 05:00:00 -0000

This week, we have an episode from the NHPR podcast “Outside/In” about passenger pigeons. The passenger pigeon is one of the world’s most symbolic extinction stories. It’s a cautionary tale of how in just a few short generations, one of the wonders of the world could be completely eradicated. But when that narrative was questioned in a popular book, 1491 by Charles Mann, what does the response tell us about the conservation movement as a whole?

Bonus Episode: That Time the FBI Called

Posted: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 05:00:09 -0000

This week, we’re sharing an episode of ‘Detours,’ a new podcast from our friends at GBH and PRX. The podcast shares surprising stories that unfold behind the scenes at the PBS classic TV show “Antiques Roadshow.” In this episode: a rare daguerreotype, Edgar Alan Poe, and…the FBI.

You can find ‘Detours’ wherever you listen to podcasts.

The Gorilla Epidemic

Posted: Wed, 14 Oct 2020 04:00:00 -0000

When a highly-contagious mystery illness spread through the world’s mountain gorilla population, biologists feared the entire species could be lost. Gorillas don’t wear masks or social distance, so there wasn’t much time for the scientists to identify the illness and find a cure for humanity’s hirsute cousins. What they found in 1988 reminds us in 2020 that humans and wildlife share more than a planet: we share disease.

Dress Coded

Posted: Wed, 30 Sep 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Dress codes have been around a long time—from the old days of long skirts and bloomers to today’s regulation-length shorts. But while the specifics of what girls can wear to school have changed, the purpose of the codes has not.

Appalachia Goes Beijing

Posted: Wed, 16 Sep 2020 04:00:00 -0000

When Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei first jammed together, “it was magic.” Fei was shocked to meet an American banjo player so curious about China’s culture and Abigail Washburn met a classically trained composer whose talents on the guzheng, a 2500 year old 21-string Chinese harp, perfectly complimented her banjo pickin’. Today, they collaborate to make a new brand of folk music: one that combines the tones of Appalachia with the melodies of China.

The People's Insect

Posted: Wed, 02 Sep 2020 04:00:00 -0000

To look at them, you might think, “Monarch butterflies aren’t going anywhere fast.” But each year, these beauties complete one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom, soaring more than a mile high to gather on a few mountaintops in Mexico they’ve never seen before, yet somehow they all know where to find. We unlock the secret lives of monarchs, and learn how to support them on their journey.

Bonus Ep: Cult of True Womanhood

Posted: Wed, 26 Aug 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Bonus Episode | This week, we wanted to share “And Nothing Less,” the new short series from our colleagues at the National Park Service and PRX. It gives a much-needed closer look at the twisty history of the 19th Amendment - and its lesser-known heroes. It’s hosted by two fabulous women: Rosario Dawson and Retta. We’ll play the first episode right here, and you can find the rest of the series by searching (enunciate) “And Nothing Less” wherever you get your podcasts!

The Riverkeeper

Posted: Wed, 19 Aug 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Fred Tutman is the voice of the river. Specifically, Maryland’s Patuxent River. As the Riverkeeper, his job is to protect and preserve all 110 miles of that waterway – a role that takes him both to the courtroom and to the riverbank. But Fred is also the only African American Riverkeeper in the United States, a fact he sees as an indicator of an environmental movement that is incomplete. And it’s the planet that will pay the price.

Votes for Hawaiians

Posted: Wed, 05 Aug 2020 04:00:00 -0000

100 years ago this month, the 19th Amendment was ratified into the American Constitution. It’s widely remembered as the moment American women gained the right to vote, but history tells a more complex story. For millions of Indigenous Americans living in far-flung territories, the 19th Amendment afforded some rights – but fell well short of what was promised. So this time: how women’s suffrage came to Hawaiʻi – and what was taken from Hawaiians to get there.

Apollo 12's Really Close Call

Posted: Wed, 22 Jul 2020 04:00:00 -0000

On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.

Take Who Out to the Ball Game?

Posted: Wed, 08 Jul 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Baseball fan or not, you know this song…or at least, you think you do. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is one of the top three most recognizable songs in the country, next to the “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday.” But long-forgotten lyrics reveal a feminist message buried amid the peanuts and cracker jack.

Shredding Skateboarding&rsquos Glass Ceiling

Posted: Wed, 24 Jun 2020 04:00:00 -0000

When Mimi Knoop entered her first skateboarding competition at 24 years old, she never anticipated leaving her mark on the sport forever. But in the early 2000s, she formed an alliance with pioneering skateboarder Cara-Beth Burnside to make a simple request: that the X Games – and the rest of the skateboarding industry – treat female skateboarders the same way they treat their male peers.

America&rsquos Unknown Celebrity Chef

Posted: Wed, 10 Jun 2020 04:00:00 -0000

When Lena Richard cooked her first chicken on television, she beat Julia Child to the screen by over a decade. At a time when most African American women cooks worked behind swinging kitchen doors, Richard claimed her place as a culinary authority, broadcasting in the living rooms of New Orleans’s elite white families. She was an entrepreneur, educator, author, and an icon – and her legacy lives on in her recipes. Today: her improbable rise to prominence, and her famous gumbo.

Young Harriet

Posted: Wed, 27 May 2020 04:00:00 -0000

In 2017, a photograph of Harriet Tubman surfaced that had been lost to history for more than a century. In a feature of the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraits podcast, we hear the story behind this picture, and how its discovery changes the way we see Tubman – not just an icon of freedom and human dignity, but a courageous young woman.

The People's Insect

Posted: Wed, 13 May 2020 04:00:00 -0000

To look at them, you might think, “Monarch butterflies aren’t going anywhere fast.” But each year, these beauties complete one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom, soaring more than a mile high to gather on a few mountaintops in Mexico they’ve never seen before, yet somehow they all know where to find. We unlock the secrets lives of monarchs, and learn how to support them on their journey.

Best of the Rest II

Posted: Wed, 29 Apr 2020 04:00:00 -0000

A perplexing tattoo. Ancient erotica. Killer bees on the loose. This episode is full of short stories we’ve been eager to tell, but couldn’t… until now. It’s Sidedoor’s second-ever “Best of the Rest!”

Learn more about the Freer & Sackler’s collection of shunga, the National Museum of American
History’s Great Historic Clock of America on si.edu.

Birds, Birds, Birds!

Posted: Wed, 15 Apr 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Three billion birds have gone missing since 1970. And conservation biologist Pete Marra considers it his life’s work to make sure more don’t slip away without a fight. In this episode, we go bird-spotting with Pete, and learn what each of us can do to bring birds back.

The Milkmaid Spy

Posted: Wed, 01 Apr 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Virginia Hall dreamed of being America’s first female ambassador. Instead, she became a spy. Joining the ranks of the U.S.’s first civilian spy network, she operated alone in occupied France, where she built French Resistance networks, delivered critical intelligence, and sold cheese to the enemy. All on one leg.

The Last Man To Know It All

Posted: Wed, 18 Mar 2020 04:00:00 -0000

Alexander von Humboldt might not be a name you know, but you can bet you know his ideas. Back when the United States were a wee collection of colonies huddled on the eastern seaboard, colonists found the wilderness surrounding them *scary. *It took a zealous Prussian explorer with a thing for barometers to show the colonists what they couldn’t see: a global ecosystem, and their own place in nature. In this episode, we learn how Humboldt - through science and art - inspired a key part of America’s national identity.

Outer Space & Underwear

Posted: Wed, 04 Mar 2020 05:00:00 -0000

In the Venn diagram of life, it’s hard to imagine what spacecraft and women’s underwear might have in common. And that’s probably what NASA engineers thought back in 1962 when they asked a handful of companies to design a spacesuit that would keep a man alive and mobile on the moon. Nobody counted on the International Latex Corporation, whose commercial brand, Playtex, was known for its bras and girdles. But lingerie, and the expert seamstresses who sewed it, played a critical role in those first well-supported steps on the moon.

We're Back!

Posted: Wed, 26 Feb 2020 05:00:04 -0000

Get ready for season five! Our new season begins on Wednesday, March 4th. Journey with Lizzie through our many side doors for a behind-the scenes view of the Smithsonian.

Cars, Stars, and Rock 'n' Roll

Posted: Wed, 22 Jan 2020 07:00:00 -0000

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III is no administrative assistant. He’s the head of the largest museum, education, and research complex in the world. He’s also the first historian to lead the Smithsonian. In our season finale, we talk with Secretary Bunch about two stories of people overcoming tremendous obstacles to make a change and explore what the past can teach us about today…and tomorrow.

Ponzi's Scheme

Posted: Wed, 08 Jan 2020 05:00:00 -0000

Nearly 100 years ago, Charles Ponzi stumbled across a loophole in the international postal system and turned it into one of the most infamous scams of all time. This time on Sidedoor, we follow Ponzi from his early days until his epic downfall, and hear from a postal investigator trained to catch swindlers like Ponzi who continue to use the U.S. mail for nefarious purposes.

The Worst Video Game Ever?

Posted: Wed, 25 Dec 2019 05:00:00 -0000

Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s. This time on Sidedoor, we tell the story of just what went SO wrong with E.T. Episode originally aired June 26, 2019.

Finding Cleopatra

Posted: Wed, 11 Dec 2019 05:00:00 -0000

Edmonia Lewis was the first American woman of color to achieve international fame as a sculptor. Her 3,000-pound masterwork, “The Death of Cleopatra,” commemorated another powerful woman who broke with convention… and then the sculpture disappeared. On this episode of Sidedoor, we find them both.

Adam Rippon's Olympic Mesh-capades

Posted: Wed, 27 Nov 2019 05:00:00 -0000

When professional athletes face the end of their career, many look ahead with uncertainty and wonder:
“What’s next?” But when Adam Rippon stood on the Olympic podium in 2018, making history as the first openly gay American to medal at the winter Olympics, he was sure about his next steps. Rippon was a darling of the American Olympic media, entering all of his interviews ready with a joke and a willingness to
speak candidly about his personal journey. In this episode, Rippon brings that same attitude to Sidedoor, talking about his Olympic costume, fame, and the male private part that we didn’t realize was private.

Apollo 12's Really Close Call

Posted: Wed, 13 Nov 2019 05:00:00 -0000

On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.

Dynamite!

Posted: Wed, 30 Oct 2019 04:01:00 -0000

In its heyday, dynamite was a transformative tool it could blast rock quarries, excavate tunnels, and demolish buildings with power and reliability never before seen. But it also proved to be useful in some surprising ways. In this special episode of Sidedoor, we team up with the history podcast Backstory
to explore two less-typical applications of the explosive: the artistic blasting at Mount Rushmore, and how anarchists used dynamite to advance their political agenda in 1886.

This Episode Smells

Posted: Wed, 16 Oct 2019 04:01:02 -0000

Smell connects us to memories of the people and the places of our lives. But what if it could connect us to a past we’ve never experienced? That's the goal for one team of artists and scientists who used DNA to try to revive the scent of a flower extinct for more than a century.

The Dinosaur War

Posted: Wed, 02 Oct 2019 04:01:55 -0000

Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges. Episode originally aired June 12, 2019.

The Woman in the Frame

Posted: Wed, 18 Sep 2019 04:01:49 -0000

Did you know that Martha Washington was essential to America’s Revolutionary War effort? Or that Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights? According to journalist, writer, and commentator Cokie Roberts, many of America's First Ladies were dynamic, politically engaged trailblazers who are often overlooked. We sit down with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery director, Kim Sajet, to talk about a recent episode of the museum’s new podcast, Portraits. In it, she and Cokie discuss four First Ladies who are remembered for their influence on American history.

Note: As many of you have probably heard, Cokie Roberts passed away in the days since we originally recorded this episode. Our heart goes out to all of Cokie’s family, friends, and people like us who have enjoyed her work for decades.


Rabbit in blue

Kyria (Mrs.) Karpouzi was the sister of my boss, the owner of the the travel agency behind Syntagma Square where I worked as a tour guide for American tour groups. They introduced me to her because she wanted her children to learn English. So twice a week for two hours I went to the Karpouzi family home to teach English to Maria who was four years old, and her brother Pavlos, who was eight. Pavlos was an eager, if inept, pupil while his sister cried non-stop during the entire hour-long lesson.

As I was leaving her home, after yet another fraught lesson with her children, Kyria Karpouzi called to me from the kitchen. She informed me that there was an important Greek national holiday coming up. Her brother-in-law who raised rabbits on his farm had given her two rabbits for the festivities. Would I like some rabbit to take home?

It was 1972, and not only had I never cooked a rabbit, much less eaten one, I hadn’t ever even seen a dead skinned rabbit before. But not wanting to seem ungrateful, or worse, ignorant about the gourmet delights of rabbit, and having no idea what was in store, I said okay, trying to look nonchalant to the kind and gracious Kyria Karpouzi.

Eyebrows raised questioningly and pointing with her knife at the rabbit lying on the table, she asked me “What half of the rabbit do you want–the top half? Or the bottom half?” I was trying my best to not show my shock at the bluntness of the question, and somewhat speechless, I just shrugged. She took my blasé attitude to mean that I was politely letting her decide. Then happily exclaiming, “How about the top half then! The brains are a delicacy!” In one swift thwack, she brought the knife down across the rabbit’s belly and wrapped it in newspaper for me to take home.

Clutching my newspaper-wrapped parcel under my arm, I grasped the strap as I stood all the way home on the crowded, smelly bus during one of the many daily rush hours that the Athenians endured dozens of times in a normal work week. But, as the national holiday was approaching, it was even more crowded than usual. I persevered.

After what seemed like hours, I reached my apartment, up four flights of stairs. My roommate Pat greeted me at the door. “What’s that?” she asked, pointing to the lump of newspaper I carried. Without answering her, I went directly to the kitchen and lay it on the counter next to the sink. She followed me into the kitchen and curiously stood beside me while I slowly peeled the damp sheets of newspaper one by one from the mysterious mound.

The last piece of darkened newspaper unveiled the pink carcass. There lay the rabbit with its ears and eyes intact but the body lopped off at the midriff. We stared at the corpse for a few brief moments. I was contemplating my next move. Pat gasped and ran from the room.

As she ran by me, I had a flash that would make dealing with the skinless little creature a little less creepy. Or so I thought. I went into the bedroom and rummaged through my stocking and scarf drawers and found what I had been looking for: round sunglasses with orange and purple frames with blue lenses. A perfect choice to disguise, if not myself, then possibly the carcass lying in wait.

Going back into the kitchen, I reached under the sink to grab yellow elbow-length rubber kitchen-cleaning gloves. I pulled on the gloves and then set the glasses on my nose. I was now colorfully ready to prepare this creature–or half creature–for the pot. The blue tint of the glasses seemed to dye the rabbit’s skin, which had been pink, to a blue-purplish cast. The eyes stared back at me–their original milkiness now a deep blue, their accusatory glare boring into me.

Gulping and trying to keep from gagging, I grabbed the blue rabbit with my yellow-gloved hands and placed it in a tall pot with various ingredients–a recipe that the good Kyria had provided me, which included various vegetables and herbs, plus a healthy dose of vinegar. It was supposed to simmer in the pot on top of the stove for a few hours. Whenever I lifted the lid to check on it, the steam would mysteriously swirl and clear revealing eyes staring straight up at me, their surprised expression sending a little shiver down my spine each time.

Later that same evening, Pat’s boyfriend, Stavros, a clean-cut guy studying medicine, came over, sat at the kitchen table and with much gusto ate the rabbit, brains and all, while Pat and I hovered nearby. Later we went out for pizza.


Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen - Recipes

In the film adaptation of the novel, “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” by Roald Dahl, actor Gene Wilder opens the door for a group of lucky odds and ends to explore a land of endless, edible gems. And as the children and parents alike scatter amongst the sugar and spice, Willie Wonka Wilder vibrates the room with a tune entitled, “Pure Imagination.” There on the premises of everyone’s food fantasy, Wonka declares there is no life to compare to, well, “true imagination.”

Washingtonians, I’d like you to take a moment and imagine your ideal Sunday brunch. Could it be a well-made Bloody Mary or possibly a refined and delicate Benedict? Ah, I see you now as you giggle and chew on what you thought you knew was your favorite spot on Sunday. Indeed, D.C., what if I told you about a new brunch on the scene that will blow every brunch you’ve ever brunched away to sea? And I promise it’s not only in your imagination.

Seasons Restaurant, located in the underbelly of the Four Seasons Georgetown, has been known for years as the power breakfast hot spot for D.C.’s political VIPs. Yet after a recent $1-million-dollar face-lift from the scalpels of design hotshot Michael Dalton of Strategic Hotels, Seasons has become so much more than a place to eavesdrop on Tuesday mornings. Using the base of what we already knew as top-notch service and dining, Seasons steps further up as Washington’s best Sunday brunch. Truth be told, executive chef Douglas Anderson, and his talented sous chef Jeffrey Hillman went to the extreme to make sure no diner leaves unsatisfied (or underweight, for that matter).

At Seasons, they love to switch it up. One thing you can be sure of is their changing and always inventive “action stations.” On my recent trip to Seasons, I was entertained by the Peruvian-style ceviche bar where scallops, shrimp and red snapper were diced and drowned on the spot in a citrusy zing and hand-made for each patron. To accompany my ceviche, I visited the endlessly replenished seafood bar stacked mountainously high with Blue Point oysters, crab claws and jumbo shrimp. Furthermore, I didn’t miss the selection of prepared seafood bites, including the house-cured selection of smoked salmon. One of my favorites is the seared ahi tuna over a perfectly compressed mango salsa. In seafood alone I ate well beyond my golden ticket price of $80, thus making Seasons’ brunch also an excellent value.

So, is it the best brunch in Washington? For those who enjoy a fixed-price buffet with excellent service, quality products and lots of it, the answer is yes. With the continuous pours of Franco Nuschese’s sparkling Falanghina Il Sogno and an opulent selection of Bloody Marys, brunch has never felt more luxurious in the District. Though chef Anderson will not deny any customer a choice from his daily breakfast menu, I recommend the $80 all-you-can-drink mimosas, coffee and brunch buffet option. And you get what you pay for. The perimeter of the restaurant is lined with countless options for your brunching. Yet, if you do decide to order from the chef’s menu or you choose to visit Seasons on another occasion for breakfast, I do recommend both the inventive corned beef hash croquet with bosomy, bouncing poached eggs or the Boursin and crab egg white omelet.

Yet for Sunday’s brunch, I recommend eating a large meal Saturday night in preparation for indulging in a three-to four-hour feast, starting at 10:30 a.m. and ending at 2:30 p.m. Go early, and eat leisurely. Reservations are highly recommended. Besides the seafood options, expect to see spreads of all sorts: charcuterie and cheeses, eight salad selections, the finest of pastries, an omelet bar, six selections of sides ranging from grilled asparagus to cipollini and crispy pancetta, crab cakes and short ribs and a bagel selection. Just to shout out a few.

Still, what floored me (literally) was the feast of desserts hidden in a separate room and catering to the young at heart. Executive pastry chef Charles Froke took it home with the most imaginative bite-size creations that will have you licking the wallpaper in a tizzy. Definitely snag a taste of the decadent but surprisingly elegant Snickers in a cup and use a spoon to crack open one of those mini crème brulees. The only thing missing was a chocolate waterfall. [gallery ids="100774,100775,100776,100777,100778,100779" nav="thumbs"]

On the Rogue with Chef RJ Cooper III

Ariell Kirylo • May 3, 2012

Jack Kerouac once wrote, “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved.” Yet, what Jack failed to scribble onto his snarky scroll of self-searching was “mad to cook” and this, my dear friends, is the best kind of mad there is. Partaking on his own self-fulfilling journey is Chef RJ Cooper III with his new restaurant, Rogue 24. Folded within the narrow streets of Blagden Alley lies a unique kitchen where all angst of culinary dissatisfaction in our nation’s capital comes to die. The kitchen at Rogue 24 is not hidden behind swinging doors, nor is it your typical “open kitchen” you may think you’ve seen. RJ Cooper’s stage is smack in the middle of the dining room and filled with eager minions ready to show Chef how brilliant they actually are. In turn, this makes an evening at Rogue 24 as close to perfect as Cooper’s team of “gastr-overachievers” can possibly make it. During dinner, and surely encouraged by increasing sips of paired alcoholic splendor, it is hard not to become enamored by a man exposed and unafraid to perform on command. It is his taste, his vision and the dripping fruit of his own culinary past — your role as the diner is simply to meditate, appreciate and associate each bite with the nostalgic smells and flavors of your past.

The concept of eating “nostalgically” is like going to an art gallery – you interpret what is before you as per your own life experiences. Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cooked dish or one you tasted whilst travelling through Europe, both of Cooper’s tasting menus will at some point wisk your tongue down memory lane. Somewhere in the midst of courses one through 24, you will indeed recognize a smell or a flavor from one day when and “oohs and ahhs” of wistfulness will escape you between bites. You will so very delicately discover at Rogue 24, that eating is no longer the act of fork to mouth, but more purposefully — fork to soul. Bearing all this in mind, I approached every dish that evening with contempt, as I fought to unlock the nostalgic crux of each swollen balsamic fish egg. And by the end of 24 plates and a myriad of generous wine pours and cocktails, I felt just as any soul-drifter would: content, haggard, and yes, very drunk. In the dimly lit dining room where mid-century meets industrial design and foam tastes like cucumber, I could not help but think back to the characters of Kerouac’s American classic, “On the Road,” whose dreams of freedom from conformity sent them haywire through landscapes, relationships and ultimately self-actualization. As Dean and Sal attempt to escape the monotony of everyday life, I , too, find myself beaten and unsatisfied with an endless continuum of lackluster ambiance and predictable meals. The restlessness becomes too much to bear, and my credit card and I drive up and away into the sunset. Though Route 66 has become just another interstate highway on an even phonier map than before, Chef RJ Cooper III decided to stick it to everyone and turn dinner into a journey. I arrived to the restaurant right before the first reservation, accidently interrupting the family-style staff dinner in the salon. Without hesitation or annoyance, the chef sat me down next to him and continued his democratic address of necessary business that evening.

Seated among the young cast of 30 odd employees, the atmosphere felt more like a gathering of actors before curtain call than a throng of cooks, hosts and waiters. It was quite evident that for those present, it was not just another day at work. For the folks of Rogue 24 dinnertime is show time and, with every designer plate served since July 27, just another opportunity to improve and perfect their trade. After a huddle and break, the staff scattered back to Kitchen Island and furiously continued prepping for the evening’s performance.

Left in the salon with a glass of rosé bubbly, I prepared to partake on my own journey — 24 mini extravaganzas with eight pairings that would, according to Harold our noble host, indubitably amaze and surprise. While I have dined at restaurants with similar haute cuisine progressions, it is always exciting to uncover the mysteries of each chef’s own life pit-stops weaved throughout the layers of crème fraiche and rooibos gel. And as the curtains separating the salon from the dining room began to flutter with movement of cooks in the kitchen, my dinner guest and I were asked to follow Harold into the dining room. From the start of “The Journey” on, we were delicately placed in RJ Cooper’s passenger seat as he veered effortlessly between roles of top chef, host and waiter, all while blessing each plate before sending it off to a table. Without further ado, and to continue my thesis supporting the connection between Kerouac’s novel and the experience of Rogue 24, I present to you with the utmost exclusivity, the better and more innovative dishes of the evening. In addition, and as any English major/food enthusiast would, I have separated the selected plates into themes associated with “On the Road.” Therefore each theme is representative of the memories I personally shared upon tasting each dish as well as my personal critiques. Enjoy and Bon Voyage!

“T includes 24 courses $175/with pairings $120/without. (Note: Dishes come out at a quick pace. No time for breaks. You are in a two-hour tunnel of endless sensations and spirits.)

While I recommend saving your pennies for just another week to experience “The Journey,” you may also choose the lighter fare of “The Progression,” which includes 16 courses $145/with pairings: $100/without.

Fowl Play: To explain this dish in a clear nutshell, it is a maple wood campfire captured in a cup. Make sure to lift off the top of this jarred jewel slowly as the trapped “smoke” escapes quickly. The smell of summer camp triggers the liberating memory of out-running the fat kid in Capture the Flag and you are free, free, free. Honestly, I never loved camping, but this thoughtful dish makes the outdoors taste good. Within this jar you will find crispy duck jerky, a partridge egg yolk cooked gooey, some “hay” (fried corn silks) and an edible flower. It is to be eaten in one smoky, sticky spoonful.

Not Your Cheese Course: The interpretation of this Babybel cheese reminded me of the old days when I snuck these rubies from the refrigerator to secretly consume in my room. Oh, the joy of unwrapping their waxy shell! (Naturally, the mystery of the disappearing cheese was later uncovered by my stepmother due to the mound of red waxy balls piling in my sock drawer.) Yet this bundle of headcheese is not meant to be unwrapped. Folded within its edible exterior is braised pork churned and dipped into a paprika gelatin-like substance made from seaweed. It is served slated with pickled mustard seed, mustard green, violet mustard grape musk and complimented with pretzel paper.

Shrimp and Grits: With ringing freedom bells from Vidalia and freedom from the o’ so common comforting bed of grits with sleeping crustaceans, Cooper presents his unadulterated version of a Southern classic. If you do not know what to expect, listen carefully to your server for this dish. The grit covered corn milk lava ball represents the traditional goop, and the shrimp is reinvented in chorizo form. You need not a spoon but only a couple bites to consume this relic of Cooper’s past.

Foie gras: Sunday morning breakfast goes nuovelle cuisine? I thought this dish to be the most unusual pairing of flavors and temperatures, but also one of the most inventive. What you see is a hearty bowl of nitrogen frozen foie gras shaved like icy cornflakes and layered above lavender merengue and rooibos gel. Though I felt the presentation of this dish, including the oversized spoon, was muddled and just plain confusing, the rich and buttery foie gras literally melts in your mouth and is nicely complimented by the texture and sweetness of the merengue. With the appropriate spoon and served in a dish where the ingredients can be better observed, I would say this one is definitely a keeper.

Lamb Neck: Cooper has perfected the relationship of sweet and savory in this Eastern-inspired dish. The lamb is braised for 24 hours then portioned to sit upon Tzatziki — add blot of black garlic, splotch of eggplant puree, and a sweet smear of lemon meringue puree. Not to dismiss the candied sesame seeds and greasy onion chip, but the caramelized lemon and eggplant sang brilliantly in tune. A dip in the tangy garlic whistling from the Tzatziki brings it all together in one tongue-tingling sensation.
Visions of America

Virginia Corn or “Cornucopia”: What’s more American than corn? Though I did not really understand this dish other than it being reminiscent of my grandfather’s vitamin-filled oatmeal, I did however find it mockingly appealing. As you can see there is corn espuma on top of a corn chip powder with a baby heirloom corn, brown butter emulsion, freeze-dried corn, popcorn with escrolet pepper, a pickled mushroom and a sprinkle of black salt. It is almost like Cooper wanted to take what the rest of the world mocks us for and turn it into a gourmet slap in the face. Ironically enough, I found the mushroom to be the tastiest part of the dish. A celebration of a country or a F-you to the haters? There could be a political message here.

Tennessee: Not just your classic combo of chocolate and vanilla, this dessert will make your cookie crumble. Adorably plated on a mound of “soil” (ground homemade oreo), this dirty dish is composed of chocolate cremeux (similar to a pudding), olive Sinclair chocolate from Nashville, and hatted with maple wood gelato delicately shaped into a quenelle (three-sided football shape/dumpling). The earthiness of the maple wood and the texture of the oreo soil initially gave the impression of noshing a spoonful of forest floor. Yet, as the gelato melts in your mouth and dampens the cookie crumbles, the flavors marry perfectly. You begin to wonder where you can buy this dessert by the pint.

Toigo’s Peach Inspiration: Another Southern-inspired dish gone mental was the all-American peaches n’ cream. The summer’s juiciest peaches from Toigo Orchards in Pennsylvania were sliced and soaked in bourbon syrup and potted with sweet tea gelée and vanilla. While the overall flavor of this dessert was rousing, I felt the presentation made it look like a stringy, vomity soup. As much as the 10-year-old in me jumped for joy at the sound of marshmallow noodles, I am not convinced they did the texture of this dish any favors. Instead of slimy marshmallow bucatini, maybe Cooper should shoot for fire crispy gnocchetti next time? Also, I feel a burnt flavor and a crispiness to the noodles could really tie the dish together as well as help with the texture setback. Note: The chosen pairing of a Val-Dieu, a rich Belgian beer, is a must for this dish.

Sea Floor: Pretty to look at, pretty annoying to eat. Cooper makes you work for this one and if you do not like the taste of the ocean floor, this may not be your favorite course. I, on the other hand, could not wait to try my luck at catching the sea booger with my giant tweezers. Step aside fork! Sea Floor is made up of a Catalina Island sea urchin, pickled seaweed and sea-air foam. Due to the depth of the bowl, the aromas are caught and held within. Go ahead, stick your face in the bowl. It is like taking a whiff of sea air. Note: Neither the bowl nor the utensil are intended for the diner’s comfort. In fact, some dishes at Rogue 24, such as Sea Floor, are the antithesis of comfortable eating. Struggling to clasp the oozing sea urchin with foot-long tweezers, can only be comparable to watching a toddler play Operation. Thankfully, the only thing missing from this dish was that fastidious buzzer.

Hog Jowl: To the tune of the Newman’s “dance of the plastic bag,” I took a bite of what would end up being one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Who knew the complexity onion ice cream could bring to a pain perdu? Served on a small square sand dollar was caramelized onion ice cream topped with a bit of smoky jowl (pig cheek) and escorted by a fatty corn puff stuck to the plate with caramel. This dish was memorable for the play with salty and sweet as well as temperature. Upon digging in, our waiter made sure to tell us to “enjowl.” So, there was cheese with this dish.

Garden Soda: If this bottle contained a message, it would be “Ariell, this drink was made for thee.” I am a sucker for cutesy presentation, and this savory soda of vegetable consommé with summer squash and garden flowers was a sparkling, sugary, splendor. The slight saltiness of the veggie stock made me and addict for small sips and the fragrance escaping the bottle as you brought it to your lips was of sweet smelling of cucumbers. I had to have two.

An evening at Rogue 24 is not only about trying your hand at tricky utensils and your tongue at new tastes and temperature marriages, it is also about sips of cocktails and wine between bites and laughs. It is a place to witness those dedicated to culinary creativity put before you food designed with passion and intensity. [gallery ids="100312,108007,108002,107997,107992,108016,107987,108020,107982,108024,108028,108012" nav="thumbs"]

Cooking & Fooking: Advice for those Who Indulge in Food and Love

Ariell Kirylo •

I’ve been on two dates with a super smart and good-looking man. Both times we went out for dinner, and both times he has dropped me off at home without even a kiss. We talk almost every day, and we just get on so well. I know he’s into me. So, I invited him over for dinner next week just to make sure that this time I get him upstairs. I figure we can cook together?

Now, I’m freaking out because I cannot decide what to make. I want it to be something we can make together, and I want the whole experience to be sexy so that he has no excuse but to end the night with a kiss or hopefully more.

Truthfully yours,
Wine Always Helps
Female, 28
Columbia Heights, D.C.

First of all, I would like to preface this response by saying: Don’t give up. Men with personalities like the one you described sometimes need more coddling. On occasion, these are the ones actually worth the extra care-giving. Inviting him for a home cooked meal is exactly the right thing to do. Brava.

Cooking together can be one of the sexiest experiences between new lovers, and I highly recommend it. Besides, he’ll get to see you in an apron and it will remind him of his mother, or the mother he always wanted. Whether they like to admit it or not, men always want their mommies. Even the gay ones.

In the beginning of a new relationship, it is always best to partake on mini-adventures together in order to build up a lasting rapport. Sitting at a restaurant or in a dark movie theater is for wimps. If you really like this guy, then it is time to show him how fun you can be, how comfortable you are with yourself and how well you can feed him — if you know what I mean (wink, wink.)

When he arrives at your place, you’ll want to have the main dish ready to go and focus on assembling a nice appetizer plate together. Most importantly, you want to get started right away. Have some lively music playing in the background, offer him some wine or beer, hand him an apron and immediately put him to work. Believe me, he’ll appreciate it, and it’ll certainly lighten up the atmosphere of initial awkwardness. Besides, men need jobs. Period.

The meal: An Italian Antipasto and Spaghetti Puttanesca.

Why? The salty meat and cheese of the antipasto will facilitate more drinking. In the first hour or so, this is necessary in order to soften the mood and relax you both. Yet, most importantly, the Puttanesca sauce is filled with aphrodisiacs such as capers, hot peppers, garlic and anchovies (don’t worry: they completely melt within the sauce and the fishy flavor is lost.) Also, do not be scared of getting sauce everywhere or not being able to eat spaghetti properly. This time, and this time only, let it splatter! Not the time to be shy.

Hopefully, with the vino and pasta sauce stimulants, the Puttanesca will earn its name and by the end the night the spaghetti will be on the floor and you on the table. Yes!

You: Prepare the sauce for the Puttanesca before he arrives and leave it covered on the stove. The best part about serving a tomato-based sauce is that you can have it ready when your guest arrives and then simply boil the pasta when you are both ready to eat.

You and him: Plate the ingredients for a simple, but always impressive antipasto dish. Give him a cutting board and ask him to arrange a variety of cured meats and cheeses upon it and slice up some bread. I recommend you purchase a thinly sliced San Daniele prosciutto and some duck salami. You can find both of these items at Cork Market on 14th Street in the District, but Whole Foods, TJ’s or Wegmans will also have a great selection of meats. As far as cheese goes, I like cubed Parmigiano Reggiano. If it’s too dense and stinky for your taste, try an Italian Fontina or a Mozzarella di Bufala. For an extra kick, add some grapes, figs or pitted olives in a bowl. Arrange nicely, please.

If he doesn’t kiss you after this whole production, then he’s either gay, insane or he’s just not that into you. Either way, preparing a meal like this is just practice for the future meals you’ll prepare for your future lovers.

Here is my favorite recipe for Spaghetti Puttanesca:

Ingredients
8 anchovy filets (canned)
1-2 cloves of garlic (if you both eat it, it doesn’t matter)
1 tbsp of capers, chopped (soak for 10 min in water before chopping)
5 tbsp of Extra Virgin OO
2 small handfuls of diced black or Kalamata olives
2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes, cubed and remove seeds
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 crumbled dried red chilies (or 3 or 4)
1 box of dried spaghetti
1 handful of salt to season boiling water for pasta

Directions
1. Heat oil on low-med in a large frying pan and throw in the garlic, red chilies and anchovies. (Anchovies will quickly melt away.)
2. Add capers and olives to heated mixture and lightly let simmer for 2 min on low-med heat.
3. Add cubed tomatoes to pan, stir and leave for 10-15 min, tossing occasionally.
4. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
5. Boil an abundant amount of water for pasta and add a small handful of salt. (Tip: Always better to salt pasta water than add salt directly to sauce.)
6. Cook spaghetti al dente. Drain.
7. Throw spaghetti into heated and fiery saucepan and toss. (Not sauce to pasta, but pasta to sauce. Capisce?)
8. Serve.

Note: Parmigiano does not belong sprinkled upon this particular dish. So, have some respect for the flavors you so lovingly cooked, and leave it off.

To submit your Cooking&Fooking question go to www.thebarenakedcritic.com

Education & Degustation at Westend Bistro D.C.

Ariell Kirylo •

Chef de Cuisine Joe Palma of Westend Bistro believes in degustation served with education. In the coming months and on select evenings, fishermen will flood the dining room of Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro to explain exactly how that fish (yes, that fish) got to the plate. For the price of $85 per person, Chef Palma serves up four courses with wine pairings for a true ocean-to-table experience.

The Fisherman’s Dinner Series consists of three separate sit-down events hosted at Westend Bistro, part of the Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. During dinner, fisherman from the Chesapeake and New England regions will discuss the sustainability and quality of their catch directly with the diner. After each lively five-minute presentation, Chef Joe Palma will whip up a dish created purposefully to highlight why Westend Bistro purchases their seafood from these fishing companies. Expect an evening of fresh fish, perfectly paired wines and animated discussion with fisherman, distributors and, of course, Chef Joe Palma.

The first ocean-to-table dinner will be held at Westend Bistro on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., and will feature the following menu and fishing crew:

Rappahannock River Oysters of Tappahannock, Va.
RrOysters.com

These guys are true oyster folk who supply a variety of flavored oysters and promote aquaculture sustainability with their own nonprofit partnered with the Oyster Recovery Project.

Chef dishes it: Clam Escabeche with pickled onion, Jalapeno piperade sauce and fried capers. Bathed in a tangy yet not overpowering sauce, the sweet and buttery oysters are highlighted by the thinly sliced and stark jalapeno and onion.

Congressional Seafood Company of Jessup, Md.
CongressionalSeafood.com

This local company sells a myriad of products to fine dining establishments and gourmet markets in the Washington/Baltimore area. As the tub of sweet and succulent Maryland lump crab meat was passed around the table to taste, it was clear these distributors take their job very seriously.

Chef dishes it: Chesapeake Crab Chowder made with jumbo lump crab, warm Yukon Gold potatoes and lemon aioli. Poured over a portion of sweet crab and tiny cubed potatoes was a creamy and soul-warming broth made from a crab boil with a lemony finish.

Four Seasons Guide Service of Solomans Island, Md.
FourSeasonsGuideService.com
Whether it is commercial fishing or a guided fishing tour, Captain “Walleye” Pete is your man. Before chowdown, Chef Palma showed us the striped bass this ex-Air Force fishing expert brought in fresh that day.

Chef dishes it: Walleye Pete’s Striped Bass with sautéed dandelion greens, truffled polenta cake and a red wine bernaise. This hearty dish presented a complex of flavors playing off the sweet fluffiness of the fish and bitterness of the greens. The polenta cake is light, creamy and meant to be doused in the red wine sauce.

Sweet Potato Pie with a crisp pecan crust, fried sweet potato chips with lime and a lemon fig emulsion. This happy ending was a marriage of fall flavors brought together by a sugared and spiced Prosecco.

Note: The menus will change with the fisherman for each separate event. [gallery ids="100340,108672" nav="thumbs"]

Cooking & Fooking with The Bare Naked Critic

Ariell Kirylo •

I am smitten with this little honey from a work project we recently completed together. She’s classy, sparkling with personality and her style is always impressive. Plus, I think she is throwing me the eye. I want to take her for a “Thank You” dinner, but am struggling with an appropriate place. Where can I take her that says “I think you’re hot and I want to see you more often” but also keeps it simple and seemingly professional?

-Male, 30-something, Southeast D.C.

Oh yes, the ol’ game of cat and mouse. Luckily, you’ve reached out to an expert Cat. Meow. Without a doubt, a date like this needs to be planned to the tee. Most men would jump into it without considering how very delicate these situations can be and how easily the sexual energy can be squashed with the wrong move. In order to score a future, less professional date, the whole evening must be set up for success.

These situations can be tricky, especially in Washington D.C. Let’s be honest, in our city, there are no secrets and everyone knows someone you know. That being said, it’s important to keep your intentions discrete. Yet you must do so without losing focus on your goal. No matter how well or terrible your time together goes that evening, you must plan to slip away at a decent, “professional,” hour. You tell her you have work to prepare for an early morning start the next day. It will get you out of there before the cocktails really settle in and it will, of course, leave her tingling in anticipation for your next step.

Assuming this little honey accepts your invitation, I have the perfect restaurant in mind and a few pieces of advice that will calm any insecurity you might have about the evening. The first one is, get rid of your insecurities! Showing any sign of weakness or doubt in the first few intimate encounters is a huge error. Women, however educated, are emotional beings and want to know that their man is centered, mature and secure. For us, it’s the most important thing. After a cute butt.

Meeting for dinner on a weekend is too date-like. Instead meet on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, to keep to it professional, make reservations at a reasonable hour, say 7 or 8 p.m.? Make sure she knows in advance to provide her own transportation. There will be no pick-ups or drop-offs. If she wants to meet beforehand or invites you over afterwards, remember to tell her you have obligations before and after dinner, even though it may not be the truth.

In choosing a location, you want an ambiance that encourages relaxation, promotes talking and feels sexy. If you are struggling to hear each other or forced to converse in a whisper, your evening might be ruined. Also, do not venture too far off the beaten path. You want her to feel comfortable in a central and well-known location as she will be arriving and leaving alone.

I think the perfect D.C. restaurant for this occasion is Zentan at Donovan House in Thomas Circle. A down-the-middle pan-Asian spot with a stylish flair is exactly what you need for this type of occasion. Plus, because it is a hotel restaurant, there is the silent suggestiveness behind your choice. Sure, it’s a subtle statement, but a statement nonetheless. Also, there is something erotic about Asian cuisine. Maybe it is those little iconic boxes (though you won’t find these at Zentan,) the chopsticks or the fact that it’s a common go-to grease feast after hours of bedroom playtime. Let these elements be your more forward statements, and keep your words focused on getting to know more about those little eccentricities that intrigued you about her in the first place.

I’ve been to Zentan a number of times and the clientele is always a consistent mix of business professionals, power couples, tourists and the occasional D.C. hipster looking for some sushi and a well-made cocktail. The décor is just the right amount of trendy and is compensated with a variety of seating options, electric candle-light and drapery. Call ahead to reserve a spot in the back room where you and your date can have a little more privacy. You two will fit in just perfectly.

Once you sit down, don’t be over-eager to order. You want her to feel relaxed and not rushed. Because you two have worked together, the pace of your conversations must change. Now it’s all about charisma and soothing words to get her guard down. Order a nice bowl of heaping edamame ($7) with your cocktails and casually peruse the menu between conversation breaks. If you are in the mood for sake, ask the wait staff for a chilled recommendation or opt for the mid-grade Moon on the Water, Junmai Ginjo ($28) and savor the flavors of lime, melon, fennel and white pepper.
The idea is to finish your first drink before the meal arrives so you can order your second one to enjoy with dinner. Oh, and on this date, there is no third drink. This is not the time to get sloppy.

If your date has never been to Zentan, you should be prepared to make some recommendations. Not everyone eats sushi and sashimi, so make sure some of your suggestions include fish and noodle dishes. If she does eat sushi and sashimi she’ll know more or less what she likes and won’t need your input. Ordering from a menu on the first few dates can be a very telling experience for some people. It can be a chance to prove how knowledgeable they are on that particular cuisine or an opportunity to demonstrate they know what they want and how they want it.

Here are some of my favorite dishes at Zentan (not including sushi):

• Salt and Pepper Calamari $11: A tasty fry of your favorite appetizer with a citrus smoked chili mayo for dipping.
• Chickpea Onion Tempura $9: A surprisingly tasty appetizer comprised of ginger, mango chutney and minted yogurt.
• Singapore Slaw $16: Nineteen ingredients dressed and mixed at the table including jicama, taro root, carrots, hazelnuts, and pickled onion in a plum dressing.
• Cantonese Marinated Skirt Steak $26: A great steak with melted shallot brown butter, chili ponzu and crunchy hazelnuts.
• Carmelized Black Cod $26: Probably my favorite dish at Zentan served with Cantonese preserved vegetables and painted with miso mustard.

Zentan at Donovan House, 1155 14th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20005, 202-379-4366, ZentanRestaurant.com

There are Heroes Amongst Us: Occupy D.C. Eats

Ariell Kirylo •

Having witnessed the Occupy D.C. movement only on television or the occasional downtown drive-by spy, I felt it necessary to visit the steadfast soldiers of the 99% in order to ask them a very important question: What are you eating?

The beauty of being a food writer visiting the active volcano of political statements currently erupting at McPherson Square was that my presence remained neutral. I was Switzerland and was not there to indulge in dogmatic banter or critique the functioning of their operation or lack thereof I was there to uncover what it was these people, camped out in the dead of noon and night, were noshing for nutrients.

The members of Occupy D.C. are of all shapes, sizes, colors, ages and financial statuses. Arriving around lunchtime, I walked amongst them searching for a place to call kitchen. My first encounters were a homeless man asking for a hug (which I quickly side-stepped,) a group of young Occupy drifters swigging vodka-lemonade and an older woman, self-named, Mother Jones asking for help to unload food from her car. This was my cue.

I followed Mother Jones and another group of volunteers to a white beat-up Subaru station wagon filled to the brim with containers of fresh fruit, cookies and other goods labeled mostly 7-Eleven and Trader Joes. “Where did you get this from?” I asked. “Where do you think I got them from?” Replied Jones: “People!”

Mother Jones lives in Glen Echo and is one of a handful of “runners,” who are hooked up to a network and called upon to transport donations made from various sources. It appears many local people and businesses prefer to remain anonymous in their donations. This made it difficult to pull specific names out of Mother Jones for this story. For her, it was irrelevant who donated. For her, it only meant fulfilling a desire to be participant in movement she believes in. Later that day, I saw her standing proudly aside one of the founding members of Occupy McPherson who was loudly rattling off missions for that afternoon to dwellers, visitors and mostly anyone who was listening.

While unloading Mother Jones’s car, I met Ralph Dantley, an articulate middle-aged man who was simultaneously unloading his own beat-up Subaru station wagon parked next to us. Dantley is the President of Good Success Servant Services, a small nonprofit organization operating in D.C., I assume, only thanks to the good will and hard work of its very president. Dantley has also offered himself as donation runner for Occupy and was, in that moment, unpacking a large amount of doughnuts from who knows where, and bags of chips that had “fallen off the Utz truck.” He led me to a nearby tent to unload the donation boxes.

The donated food was placed upon a table situated outside of a large blue and well constructed tent near the corner of 15th and K. Surrounding the tent was a mausoleum of half-clean, half-dirty pots, a collection of wires ducked taped together — the skeleton of what appeared to be the previous kitchen structure — and a makeshift stove onto which a large pot of water was boiling for dishwashing. As witnessed at any workplace, within minutes the food Mother Jones and Dantley had delivered was readily torn through by the surrounding crowd.

I spoke with a smiling young man, 25, from Silver Spring, who had snatched up some of Mother Jones’s packaged cantaloupe from 7-Eleven. He told me he had the money to purchase a sandwich from the Pot Belly across the street, yet preferred to stick it out with the group he marches and sleeps through the night with. Though he said if things did get desperate enough, he would slip away and use his debit card.

Catching my attention, Dantely asked if I wanted to meet the “hero” in the kitchen. Clearly, this is what I came for. Unlike the chaotic front yard of the blue kitchen tent, the inside surpassed all expectations. The shelves were stocked carefully with loads of canned and dry products like rice and pasta and even taco shells. There were organized plastic containers of onions and potatoes lining the walls, a table positioned up front and cutting boards for prepping. Amazed at the neatness of the space and, quite frankly, humbled at the thought of my own disorganized kitchen, I spun around to meet Vasant Khalsa, the hero.

How on earth? I asked. How did you? Who helped you? Where did you come from? The questions were stuttering from my mouth. Not at all flattered by the attention, yet unconsciously charming, Vasant, 29, recounted his three-minute story. He came to D.C. from Oakland, originally for the Martin Luther King ceremony and surrounding events in October. While checking out the Occupy movement for the first time in person, he noticed a desperate need for leadership in the kitchen department. McPherson Square needed someone to spearhead the building of a proper and hygienic tent to store and organize edible donations and cook “hot” meals. Not only was Vasant up to the task but what he has been able to accomplish with what he was given is remarkable. Dantley confirmed that within one night, Vasant had rebuilt the kitchen tent, found shelving and single-handily arranged everything into what it looks like today.

Learning to cook simply from being “on his own at home,” Vasant was prepared to whip up a lamb stew that evening for his fellow Occupiers. He spoke to us without hesitation of his self-assigned kitchen duties but was occasionally interrupted by people asking for his help with this or that. I stepped aside, while he poured hot water into plastic containers outside the tent for dishwashing. When I returned to the tent only minutes later, Vasant’s laptop had been stolen. He sat on his prepping table slumped over in disappointment while Dantley comforted him, “You didn’t deserve that, son.”

Having yet to pose for a picture displaying his hard work and dedicated community effort, Vasant was reluctant to smile for the camera and I was reluctant to force him. “Someone will return it,” I said. “You should wreak havoc until they do.” “What for?” he replied. “It won’t matter anyway. It’s just what happens the second I turn my back.” Shortly after and within the safety of his orderly kitchen, he sat emotionless on his prepping table facing the opening flap. We snapped the shot needed for this article, shook his hand and uneasily reassured him good would eventually return.

What I learned that day in McPherson Square was more than what I set out for. Amongst the bedlam of tents, improvised solar panels and rivers of people passing through with signs of discontent, there exists the voices of those individuals who have dedicated their days to make this movement possible. The District has extended Occupy’s lease at McPherson until February 2012. As the bitter cold approaches, my thoughts will be with Mother Jones, President Dantely and Vasant. And just maybe, besides another round of Lamb Stew, the universe might bring Vasant an opportunity to exist sufficiently in the world of the 99% or at the very minimum, bring back his laptop. [gallery ids="100402,113230,113217,113223" nav="thumbs"]

Franco Nuschese and Cafe Milano: A Singular Philosophy

Ariell Kirylo •

Franco Nuschese, 50, custom suit, designer glasses, warm smile. He sits at his desk in his office above Cafe Milano in Georgetown reviewing finances and chatting with his publicist, Jan. He is calm, approachable and chooses tea instead of coffee. It is a serene morning for Nuschese—a time with no fires to put out, a moment of contemplation, a chance to speak openly about his life’s accomplishments and epiphanies.

Cafe Milano, a longtime Washington D.C. landmark known for its Italian hospitality and discretion, still maintains the same air of exclusivity since its opening on Nov. 3, 1992.

Nuschese has devoted the last 19 years to curating a trustworthy team dedicated to upholding the restaurant’s unique fine dining identity in combination with its reputation for celebrity accommodation. A conversation with Nuschese quickly unveils that Cafe Milano is a direct reflection of the man himself — his charm, his welcoming personality and his incredible ability to put people at ease.

But with the recent passing of his father, Giuseppe, and longtime mentor Terry Lanni, Nuschese now approaches a new phase in life: one that involves facing forward without the guidance of those lost. For him, riding on the coattails of the past is not an option. Nuschese speaks enthusiastically of expansion in association with his current company, The Georgetown Entertainment Group, as well as his recent passion in the production and distribution of Italian wine. It is clear he envisions the future with the same child-like energy as the day Cafe Milano opened its doors to the movers and shakers of Washington.

The Georgetowner sat down with Nuschese on a calm winter morning to hear the story of his restaurant, his thoughts on community giving, his opinions on Italian politics and what it takes to create a successful, timeless restaurant.

With Washington’s ever-changing culinary world more active than ever before, Nuschese shared his philosophy on success and discussed how he managed to create an epicurean empire still reigning amid the hills of Georgetown.

The Georgetowner: Through all these years, what has been your secret to maintaining such a high-profile clientele at Cafe Milano?

Franco Nuschese: Mine are a very demanding type of clientele. At all costs, it is my responsibility to ensure they leave happy. Period. My experience of working in Las Vegas, and under those principles, has helped me understand this. I aim to please and, of course, I brought to Washington a familiar idea: “Whatever happens in Vegas …” You know the rest.

GT: Cafe Milano has a flawless reputation, and has survived on top through numerous presidential administrations and Washington’s continually expanding culinary scene. You created a timeless restaurant. How were you able to do that?

FN: It’s simple, believe it or not. You have to give to the people what they want. It’s all about consistency. It is one of the biggest challenges to a restaurant. It’s great to open your doors as a new restaurant owner and feed off the excitement and positive energy of that time, but really it is getting to know your clientele personally. You exist for them. Through promotions and special invitations, it’s easy to get them in once, but the hardest part is to get them to come back on their own.

GT: What must you do in order to get the people to come back?

FN: Consistency. As a restaurant owner, you must spend time up front in designing the right staff to help you with this. In a changing city like Washington, it is about creating that stability. Your staff must be as dedicated as you are to the concept.

GT: Once you are confident with your staff, what else is crucial to giving the people what they want?

FN: A restaurant must have a great vibe. It is my responsibility to foster that atmosphere. People need to feel the vibe bounce from their skin when they walk in. It’s in the simple things: the light in the candles, the bar, the music, the food. The clientele may not be able to put their finger on what it is, but you know because you created it. People come to a restaurant because they want to see and they want to be seen, all the while wanting the privacy they deserve.

When you open a restaurant — or any business for that matter — it is like you are opening your home. You are, in a way, selling yourself. These are your guests, and you have to be a host. You have to make them feel like they’re at home. It is under your roof that your guest wants to bring their best friends, their girlfriends, their colleagues or whatever. In order to be successful, your business needs to be versatile in this way.”

GT: Tell us about opening night at CafeMilano.

FN: (Smiling.) It was a very cold night in November in ‘92. I’ll tell you, it was great. The bar was packed. I must say, in a very humble way of course, I immediately knew what was going to happen.

GT: So, you felt immediately that Cafe Milano would be a success?

FN: I knew it was going to be alright because it is very easy for me to absorb the energy of the people. This is a very important tool for a business owner. One must humble themselves and really value their client and get to the core of their likes and dislikes. That night I saw lobbyists and politicians really enjoying themselves. These people work all day in very conservative and calculated atmospheres. That night, I saw them relax in the atmosphere I created for them. At the time, we only had 52 seats and I knew immediately we would need to expand.

GT: You appeared on the Italian reality show, “Dreaming of Italy,” designed to highlight Italian-Americans who found success in the U.S. So…do you dream of Italy?

FN: I can tell you one thing. I might live in the U.S., but I live like an Italian. From the minute I wake up to the minute I go to sleep.

GT: What does that mean, to wake up in the morning as an Italian in Washington?

FN: I wake up, I have a decaf espresso, I read the Italian paper and watch the Italian news. I also live my life like there’s no tomorrow. As one should.

GT: What are your thoughts on the current state of Italian politics?

FN: I think [former Italian Prime Minister] Silvio Berlusconi was extremely good for Italy. He has been around for 60 years. But, like everything else, times have changed. We cannot afford to do the same things we used to. He has been a great leader and a great entrepreneur, but we needed to turn the page. When it comes to politics and the media, it’s a totally different world now. Facebook and Twitter have changed everything. You cannot get away with anything anymore. Anything you say, anytime, anywhere within seconds becomes public.

GT: So, what will happen to Italy now?

FN: All I know is that if Italy fails, the U.S. fails. There has never been more attention on Italy than there is today. The economy is too big and produces too much. Someone will step in.

GT: You were born in Minori, a tiny town on the Amalfi Coast in Italy. You’ve worked in London and Las Vegas. But you built your empire here in the District. Why Washington?

FN: Well, it’s the center of the universe. Think world politics, business, everything is going through here. And besides, geographically you are close to everything: New York City, Europe, even the Bahamas!

GT: In the past decade, you have received numerous awards for your community partnerships here in Washington. How do you define the importance of community in your business?

FN: I come from a small city where most people do not have the luxury of entrepreneurship. But one thing I did learn, is when you make money you must invest it back into the community. It’s an amazing feeling to be able to do that. A luxury even.

GT: When you look back upon your personal achievements, how do you feel?

FN: (Laughing) Actually, I’m having more fun now than 30 years ago. As an entrepreneur, I was always anxious with the pressure of creating and protecting my business. People will tell you that nothing lasts forever. I never stopped to worry about it, though. Now I don’t even feel like I’m 50. I’m still having such a great time.
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Chef Scott Drewno is The Source

Ariell Kirylo • December 8, 2011

Chef Scott Drewno is the man behind Wolfgang Puck’s The Source, adjacent to the Newseum in Penn Quarter. On the surface, Drewno is the epitome of the all-American man: 6 feet 5 inches, handsome, happily married to his high school sweetheart, lover of Diet Coke and, I can only assume, baseball. What isn’t captured by the bare naked eye? Drewno has seriously stepped it up as a fierce D.C. contender in modern Chinese cooking.

Reentering Western society from his Vol. II trip to China, Drewno brings with him a wonton of ideas in the form of duck, pig, dumplings and noodles. Taking restaurant recommendations before his trip from local Chinese phenoms such as Ming of Ming’s in Chinatown and friends like Chef Lee Heftner, Drewno went to China with a list of 80 restaurants to hit up.

With a new bag of Asian tricks, the wok has been fired and The Source is now hotter than ever. There were a few dishes I was itching to try and share with our readers. Here’s what I found sizzling:

Duck Bao Buns folded with lacquered duckling, hoisin sauce and cucumber. A sweet, doughy bite with a cool crunch makes these heavenly buns one of my favorite small plates on the menu. While visiting Beijing, Peking Duck was a topic of study for Drewno. Post research, he feels he has evolved this ancient Chinese dining experience into something more contemporary and easy to eat.

Crispy Suckling Pig is served as a small plate accompanied by a sweet bean paste and black plum puree. This signature dish is the product of a three-day process of deconstruction and reconstruction of a whole pig. After slow roasting, the meat is removed from the bone and the skin is made crispy separately. It’s Drewno’s secret to succulence. Once put back together and plated, this dish sends diners into squealing delight. After sampling suckling pig at a banquet meal in Shanghai, Drewno boasts with confidence that his pig is just perfect. I certainly agree.

Sheng Jian Bao is a new edition to the menu and a result of an intimate cooking lesson with a 64-year-old expert in Shanghai. Drewno watched over her shoulder as she carefully taught him to pleat each dumpling with precision. Ask for these pork filled treasures in the lounge and you be the judge. I vote some of the best dumplings in D.C.

Chili dan dan noodles are smothered in sweet, slow-roasted pork and flipped together with chili oil. Inspired by his visit to a hot-pot restaurant in the Xi’an region, Drewno is proud to present this spicy addition. The noodles provide the texture needed to offset the tenderness of the pork. Chopsticks down: you will finish the whole bowl.

Deals and Steals at The Source

While the dining room menu may throw the bill in the region of pricey, it is not necessary to break the bank at The Source. Small plates in the lounge, Happy Hour and Saturday Dim Sum Brunch are all open avenues to get your fork in some of the best Chinese food in the District.

The deal: The Source offers a “food centric” Happy Hour catering to a sexy and diverse clientele. On weekdays from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m., I watched the lounge fill up with a collection of young professionals, food loving fools and museum goers. Amidst soft lighting, small-plates, intriguing seasonal cocktails plus a selection of 28 wines by the glass, The Source is a great place to chill-out after work or meet up with a friend. Plenty of suits and skirts make this Happy Hour a secret single spying spot.

The steal: Your choice of three plates for $20 (can also be ordered individually à la carte.)


Wait! Don't toss that out!

Monday's corn kernels, a slightly bruised apple, the last drop of rum. Though most home cooks might send these "expendables" on a quick trip down the disposal, the true culinary artist sees deli-cacies and heeds The Voice:

"OK, so you overdid it with the apple buying. The corn's perfectly good. And what--you're going to serve a nearly empty bottle of rum to guests? Use your imagination! How about some relish for the grilled chicken . "

That's exactly how bruised apple relish came into the world: tossing together negligible quantities of corn and rum with one past-peak apple (bruises excised), finely chopped fresh red peppers, red onion, cilantro, a tad of ginger and basic vinaigrette. The rescue was gourmet, the recipe divine.

Or let's say, for example, the fresh raspberries are sagging a bit. What do you do if there are no ready substitutions? Improvise, of course. A gourmet recovery not only rescues the raspberries, it also stimulates a cook's creativity. Think about a trifle in a glass bowl, with its alternate layers of ice cream or custard with raspberries pulsed in the food processor for a few seconds with a bit of sugar. What about using those packages of tired strawberries and wrinkly blueberries in the fruit drawer? Mash the strawberries with sugar to create the third layer, the blueberries and sugar for the fifth, and so on.

Perpetually on-the-go and price club-crazy, home cooks often have to face perfectly good food that isn't perfect. We play Russian roulette with heat, moisture, oxygen and light, microorgan-isms, enzyme activity, chemical reactions within the food itself--not to mention inept baggers.

There's nothing new about salvaging good but tired food. Ask any chef. "Use it or lose it" has a long-standing tradition in restaurant kitchens. The trend to eat only the freshest of everything is the stuff of celebrity dining, not reality. Behind swinging doors, restaurants are, in the words of The Chopping Block cooking school chef-instructor and owner Shelley Young, "still utilizing the whole cow."

Examples: Fresh vegetable trimmings, still rich in flavor and nutrients citrus zest used for garnishes or flavorings citrus peels for "candying."

Christopher Koetke, dean of the School of Culinary Arts at Kendall College: "Peel at least one-eighth inch of fiber off broccoli stems with a paring knife, and inside is a very tender vegetable. We tell students to dice it and stir-fry it with ginger, garlic and a little sesame oil."

Young: "Whenever we have fennel greens around, we like to use them to infuse flavor under a chicken or fish cooking on the grill. Or sometimes we tear up beet greens and cook them in vegetable soup."

Examples: Produce that's overripe, bruised and/or dehydrated bread products that are dried out or on their way to stale.

Young: "Pears are a very fragile fruit, but they sweeten as they ripen. If I'm making a tomato sauce in the dead of winter, the tomatoes tend to be not very sweet. An overripe diced or pureed pear adds a beautiful, natural sweetness to the sauce."

On bread, Koetke added: "French toast is better with stale bread because it absorbs more of the custard mix of dairy and egg. And what is French onion soup, but a creative way of using stale bread? Or take migas from Portugal. That's pork, marinated in red peppers, sauteed with a little bacon, garlic, stale bread and hot water, and beaten as it heats up. The dish is remarkably good."

Examples: Leftovers, such as last night's halibut or half of a roasted chicken.

Bruce Sherman, executive chef, North Pond: "You can blend flaked [once-cooked] halibut with a variety of sauteed aromatic vegetables like onions, carrots, celery and herbs to make a variation on crab cakes. Bind it with bread crumbs from dry French bread and add a beaten egg. Scoop it into a mold, press it in with the back of a spatula and ease it into a buttered skillet. It fries crispy gold."

Examples: Preserved food items that have been opened and have approaching shelf-life deadlines--such as six martini olives or half a jar of sun-dried tomatoes.

Will Eudy, executive divisional chef, Shaw's Crab House: "Add chopped olives to any tomato sauce along with julienned sun-dried tomatoes, spices and overripe skinned tomatoes and you've got an arrabbiata sauce. Or pulse a few odd capers through a food processor, add a little mayonnaise, garlic, fresh tarragon and parsley and you've got caper aioli."

Examples: Delicacies damaged and/or aesthetically challenged from wear and tear. Cases in point: a manhandled bag of pricey sweet-potato chips, crushed pretzels or wheat crackers.

John Chiakulas, corporate executive chef, Lettuce Entertain You: "As a crust for fish, mix crushed potato chips with a small amount of bread crumbs. Season fish, then dip into an egg wash [eggs mixed with some water], and finally into your potato-chip mixture. Saute in light oil until golden turn over and finish in a warm oven [375 to 400 degrees]."

Examples: Odd-sized amounts of food that don't add up to a full serving size, such as last night's leftover asparagus or half a cup of chopped onions.

Matt Castro, sous chef at mk restaurant: "Make perfect little mini-quiches with chopped-up bits of sauteed onions and cooked asparagus. Take ready-made mini-tart shells and fill them with the vegetables and custard--basically 4 egg yolks and a pint of cream beaten together with salt and pepper. In about 10 minutes in a 350-degree oven, they're done."

The best part in all this isn't even the myriad recipes that you will create from perfectly good food. It's the fact that these extras and tidbits are never out of season.

Could we "go European" and start buying fresh foods on a daily basis? We could--and probably won't. But we can get better at gauging the window of opportunity: that is, how much life foodstuffs have left in them before they lose precious nutritional value, coloring, flavor and texture. It takes practice. But once you start playing with expendable foods, the rewards are tangible.

Some may laugh at your noble work, but it all boils down to respect. Making optimal use of the food in your kitchen offers a respectful nod to Mother Nature, the bottom line and what Shelley Young calls "the nourishment of the world."

Nancy Gershman and Marlene Samuels write about their cooking philosophy at expendableedibles.com.

- Do not forget health and safety. Always follow the motto: "When in doubt, throw it out."

- Never shop deliberately for expendables. Always start with fresh ingredients--but remember that when foods lose their beauty-pageant looks there may still be plenty of culinary spunk left. There are tried-and-true exceptions, of course, such as the bushels of farmers- market tomatoes that don't look great but will make a wonderful stockpot of sauce.

- Borrow from other cultures for inspiration and some exotic fusion in flavor and texture.

- Use expendable edibles to add oomph to dishes, making them sweeter, thicker, spicier, tarter, crunchier, moister.

- Morph foods from one texture into another by pureeing, slicing or freezing. (The perfect example: fruit sorbet.)

- Before your next vacation, cook up everything left in the fridge, then freeze your creations. It beats throwing out perfectly good food while giving you something to come home to.

Avocado vichyssoise with herbs

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Make this soup, adapted from Nancy Gershman and Marlene Samuels, a day ahead of serving. It's a great way to use too-soft avocados and potatoes that may have a sprout or two.

3 tablespoons salted butter

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 each, finely chopped: leek, small onion

4 medium past-peak potatoes, cooked, peeled, chopped

4 cans (14 1/ 2 ounces each) chicken broth

2 large past-peak avocados

1/4 cup sour cream, optional

1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro, chives or dill

1. Melt butter in a heavy saucepan over medium heat add garlic, leek and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 10 minutes. Stir in potatoes, broth and wine. Heat to a boil over medium-high heat cook 2 minutes. Stir reduce heat to low. Cook 15 minutes.

2. Halve avocados remove pits. Spoon pulp out of shells stir pulp into soup. Cook 15 minutes. Stir in the half-and-half, salt and pepper to taste cook 15 minutes. Set aside to cool, about 10 minutes.

3. Puree soup in batches in a food processor. Transfer to a storage container refrigerate at least 8 hours. (To serve more quickly, transfer to a serving bowl let soup come to room temperature. Chill in freezer 1/2 hour.) Pour into bowls garnish with sour cream and cilantro, if desired.

Nutrition information per serving:

509 calories, 51% of calories from fat, 30 g fat, 11 g saturated fat, 34 mg cholesterol, 49 g carbohydrates, 15 g protein, 1,694 mg sodium, 9 g fiber

Florida sunshine sugar cookies

Preparation time: 25 minutes

Cooking time: 8 minutes per batch

These fragrant cookies, adapted from a recipe by Nancy Gershman and Marlene Samuels, use orange zest and peel that might otherwise go to waste.

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) unsalted butter

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla or orange extract

2 teaspoons baking powder

Candied orange peel, see recipe, or colored sugar crystals, coconut flakes or chopped almonds

1. Heat oven to 375 degrees. Combine butter and sugar in mixing bowl beat with a mixer on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in eggs, vanilla and zest.

2. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl. Add to batter in small batches, beating just until mixed. Divide dough in half place each half on a sheet of wax paper. Roll into two separate packets twist ends to seal. Refrigerate at least 2 hours.

3. Set aside chilled dough at room temperature at least 10 minutes to soften. Roll out dough on a lightly floured board to 1/2-inch thick. Cut into shapes with a lightly floured cookie cutter transfer cookies to a greased cookie sheet. Decorate with orange peel, coconut or almonds if desired, pressing down lightly. Bake until lightly browned, about 8 minutes. Cool on wire rack store in an airtight container.

Nutrition information per serving:

68 calories, 41% of calories from fat, 3 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 16 mg cholesterol, 9 g carbohydrates, 1 g protein, 48 mg sodium, 0.2 g fiber

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Here's a great way to use the peel of oranges that may be on the soft side. It's inspired by a recipe from HGTV's "Smart Solutions."

1. Cut orange peels into thin strips with scissors transfer to medium bowl. Cover with cold water soak until pieces begin to curl, about 1/2 hour. Drain set aside.

2. Heat the sugar and water to a boil in a medium sauce-pan over medium-high heat. Reduce heat to low cook, stirring, until sugar dissolves, about 3 minutes. Reduce heat to low add orange peels. Cook until translucent, about 50 minutes.

3. Remove peels with a slotted spoon transfer to a wire rack or wax paper to cool and dry, about 8 hours. Store up to 48 hours in an airtight container.

Nutrition information per tablespoon:

27 calories, 0% of calories from fat, 0 g fat, 0 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 7 g carbohydrates, 0 g protein, 0 mg sodium, 0.3 g fiber

Chicken confetti burgers with potatoes and red pepper sauce

Preparation time: 45 minutes

A recipe from Bruce Sherman of North Pond takes all those beautiful roasted veggies and chicken from last night's grilling and turns them into a new main event.

1/2 grilled or roasted chicken, skinned, bones removed

2 cups cubed cooked potatoes

1 clove roasted garlic, see note

1 tablespoon whole-grain mustard

1/2 cup roasted/grilled vegetables, such as a mixture of bell peppers, chilies or red onions, cut in 1 4-inch dice

1/4 cup chopped fresh herbs, such as parsley, basil or chives

2 tablespoons each: peanut oil, chilled butter

1 bottled roasted red pepper, drained

1/4 cup chicken broth or water

1 tablespoon each: balsamic vinegar, chilled butter

1. Heat oven to 325 degrees. Cube half of the chicken set aside. Puree remaining chicken, 1/2 cup of the cooked potatoes, garlic, mustard, 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste in a food processor. Transfer to a mixing bowl.

2. Mix in the cubed chicken, diced vegetables and 2 table-spoons of the herbs. Form mixture into 4 patties, about 3/4-inch thick. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in an ovenproof skillet over medium-high heat cook patties until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to oven. Bake until crisp and heated through, about 7 minutes.

3. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon of the oil in a heavy skillet over medium-high heat. Add remaining potatoes cook, without stirring, until crusty, about 2-3 minutes. Turn potatoes cook until browned, 2 minutes. Add remaining 1/2 teaspoon of the salt and pepper to taste. Stir in the butter, lemon juice and remaining 2 tablespoons of the herbs.

4. For the sauce, combine the roasted pepper, chicken broth, balsamic vinegar, butter, salt and pepper to taste in a food processor puree. Place the warm patties on top of roasted potatoes drizzle with red pepper sauce.

Note: To roast garlic, heat oven to 375 degrees. Place head of garlic on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil rub with 11/2 tablespoons of olive oil. Wrap in foil roast until tender, about 50-60 minutes.

Nutrition information per serving:

368 calories, 47% of calories from fat, 19 g fat, 7 g saturated fat, 100 mg cholesterol, 21 g carbohydrates, 27 g protein, 889 mg sodium, 2 g fiber

Potato chip-crusted whitefish

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 6 minutes per batch

Crushed potato chips blended with Japanese panko bread crumbs make a wonderfully light but salty-tasting breading for whitefish or salmon. Adapted from John Chiakulus, corporate executive chef, Lettuce Entertain You.

1 1/2 cups potato chips, crushed to 1 4 cup chips

1/4 cup each: flour, panko or regular bread crumbs, see note

1 tablespoon Creole or Cajun seasoning

1 egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water

4 boneless whitefish or salmon fillets

1. Combine crushed chips and bread crumbs in a resealable plastic bag press out air. Roll a rolling pin over bag to blend chips with bread crumbs transfer to a plate. Stir flour and Creole seasoning together on a plate. Put egg wash in a shallow bowl.

2. Season fillets with salt and pepper to taste. Dip fish fillets into flour shake to remove excess flour. Dip fish into egg wash, then roll into crushed-chip mixture, pressing fish gently to coat fillets evenly with crumbs.

3. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat cook fish, turning once, until golden, about 3 minutes per side. (To finish thicker fillets, place in a 300-degree oven and check after 5 minutes for desired doneness.) Drain fish on paper towels.

Note: Panko crumbs are available in most Asian markets unlike typical bread crumbs, they are light and flaky.

Nutrition information per serving:

421 calories, 57% of calories from fat, 26 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 140 mg cholesterol, 13 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 881 mg sodium, 1 g fiber


Tuesday, October 7

6.5 Ways To Find Time To Cook

It may feel free and spontaneous to come home and let the cupboard speak to you, but most of the time, it's got nothing much to say. Then what happens? It's the takeout menu, the chinese food delivery, or a quick run to the store for prepared food.

Quality cooking time can feel like a luxury you can't afford, but if you make a plan weighing the costs against the benefit of free time to cook, there's a way to make it work. Fair warning, this plan is basically not really a plan as much as lifestyle adjustments around food. you could use the time you save to do almost anything.

1. Buy Lunch
It may be counter intuitive on a blog dedicated to quality eats, but seriously, do you have time to make lunch every day? I don't. Sock away the time you save for making relaxing meal at the end of the day. And there are mor benefits: buying lunch gives you an excuse to walk, the chance for variety, and makes cooking for fun at home feel much less like work. If you're budget conscious, follow number 5 and plan in a couple of lunches a week.

2. Learn to Love the Cardio Machine Everyone Else Hates
You work out to be able to eat what you want, right? Maybe that's not a totally healthy attitude toward fitness, but am I far wrong? You'd be amazed how much time you save by loving that sad machine nobody else wants. Think of it as cuts and do your workout already. You'll never have to wait, and trust me, your heart rate will go just as high.

3. Shop Like a Librarian
I know you're not a list person, but just add a little discipline to your process and make one for shopping. You'd be amazed how much time you can save by eliminating just one trip to the store every week. By the time you're done getting there, buying, paying, getting home and unpacking it's at least an hour. So keep a pad of paper and one of those half-pencils in the kitchen, and make a list as you go.

4. Get a CSA Box
First, a CSA is Community Supported Agriculture box of produce delivered once a week to a neighborhood spot near you. You'll not only feel good about the organic, lovingly raised produce you're eating, it's delivered! So you want to save time on shopping and figuring out what to eat? Let the box be your guide. And let the spoiling, overabundant produce be the necessity that spawns inventive, just in time cookery. Every meal's a nail biter.

5. Be Open to Leftovers. In fact, Plan Them
There's no shame in eating day old food. Go ahead and make extra pasta, dose the spare noodles with olive oil and refrigerate. On day 2, repurpose with feta, black olives, chopped organic CSA tomatoes (or whatever you've got that you can quickly blanch and chop) and fresh ground pepper. Ya, it's pasta salad, but it's quick, delicious, and it's ok to slide the scale toward efficiency once in a while.

6. Don't Skimp on Prepared Food
You may think prepared food is for sissies, but when used judiciously, it can pump up a meal from flat to phat in next to no time. Buy a few grilled prawns, your baby greens mix will love you fot it. If you're not into paying your hard earned cash for a grilled chicken breast, be your own prepared food provider by following number 5 and making extra to fuel the next couple of meals.

6.5 Buy Wine by the Case
If you find a wine you like with what you're likely to eat on a week by week basis, buy a case and stop wringing your hands over how many other wines are out there. It may feel painful to drop a hundred and something at the wine shop, but if you add up the cost of sourcing and choosing individual bottles, it's a lot. For your weeknight ham sandwich wine, you're better off finding a reliable go-to. If you don't drink wine, rejoice, you've already saved yourself hours and hours.


Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen - Recipes

As the tail end of summer approaches, it’s time to enjoy the remaining fruits and produce of the season. While many will preserve these garden delicacies for future cooking projects, The Museum of the American Cocktail recently hosted a seminar entitled “Fruits of the Harvest” which focused on how to save the fresh flavors of summer and incorporate them into your cocktail recipes all year long.The event, led by Chef Geoff’s Elli Benchimol and PS7’s Gina Chersevani, provided detailed instructions on creating tinctures from fresh herbs, peppers and blossoms, and pickling and canning techniques for fruits and veggies. And, of course, the demonstrations included sampling some magnificent cocktails.
The creative concoctions included Elli’s Salsa Verde, a tequila-based cocktail forged with cilantro and a habanero tincture and Chersevani’s gin martini variation topped with a pickled grape and seasoned with her pickling liquid.
The drink that piqued my interest the most was Chersevani’s raspberry shrub punch. This multi-layered cocktail incorporated a plethora of fresh herbs and combined them with rye whiskey, sparkling wine and a zesty homemade raspberry shrub.
A shrub is vinegar and fruit based drink that dates back to American colonial days. It was an easy way for farmers to preserve end-of–season fruit. According to Chersevani, shrubs were a popular refresher at that time, often enjoyed by field workers who spent their days toiling in the sun. The acidity in the drink would make the laborers feel less thirsty.
While the fruit and vinegar combination may sound strange, imagine the way that an acidic squeeze of fresh lemon juice can highlight the flavor of fresh berries.
Chersevani describes the shrub as one of the easiest preservation techniques to master. In addition to berries, she suggests experimenting with apricots, peaches, plums and pears.
Her shrub recipe implements a simple 1:1:1:1 ratio. The process starts by combining one pint of fresh fruit, in this case raspberries, and one cup of red wine vinegar. The two are combined and placed on a shelf for ten days to meld. The only action required is a simple agitation of the jar once a day. “Do not shake it,” Chersevani warned,” Just give a quick swirl-around.”
After the allotted time, the fruit and vinegar combo is poured into a saucepan and mixed with one pint of sugar and water. The blend is boiled until its volume is halved. The shrub is strained, cooled and stored in jars.
On its own, Chersevani’s shrub had a strong and pungent flavor. But when mixed in her punch, it provided a jovial tart and toothsome smack that tasted like a brisk walk through a ripe orchard.
While the punch had a pleasant sweetness, no additional sugar, other than what was used in making the shrub, was used. Instead of being cloyingly sweet, the acidity of the shrub popped the bright taste of the rye whiskey and highlighted the complex flavor of the herbs.
While this punch takes several stages to put together, its unique sunny essence will impress your guests at your next get-together.

Farm Stand Shrub Punch
16 oz. raspberry shrub
32 oz .Wild Turkey Rye
16 oz. lemon juice
32 oz. sparkling wine
20 sage leaves
10 basil leaves
10 sprigs of thyme
10 dashes lemon bitters

In a punch bowl combine rye, shrub, lemon juice and herbs. Gina suggests dry muddling the herbs and placing them in an empty tea bag. Let mixture stand for at least one hour. Before serving, add ice, bitters and sparkling wine. Serve in punch glasses with a lemon slice.
Ingredients to make this punch may be purchased at Dixie liquor located at 3429 M St. in Georgetown. For more information about upcoming Museum of the American Cocktail seminars go to MuseumOftheAmericanCocktail.org.

Window Into Wine: The Grapes of Autumn

Caroline Jackson •

Fall has arrived, and for American and European wineries, that means harvest time! Across the northern hemisphere, many wine regions are just wrapping up their harvest season while others are gearing up to start. This process can last anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, depending on the size of production and how uniformly the grapes ripen. In the weeks leading up to pickintg, workers in the vineyards are dropping clusters for flavor concentration, pruning back overgrown canopies, and measuring sugar and acid levels in the berries to predict the nature of the vintage. Cellar hands are meticulously sanitizing tanks, pumps, bins and presses to give the fruit the best chance to make superior wine. During this time, the anticipation slowly builds and winemakers pray for the rain, birds, and pests to hold off until the time has come to pick the grapes.
The unusual weather has made 2011 a chaotic year for viticulture across the board. Record high temperatures in Bordeaux led to one of the earliest harvests in the region’s history. California and Oregon are behind due to uncommonly cool summer months. And just imagine what Hurricane Irene has done to the East Coast wine regions.
But regardless of when the picking begins, harvest is always the toughest but most exciting and rewarding time of year in wine country. Most wineries welcome interns, often from all over the globe, and the whole team works long hours to get all the fruit in at its peak ripeness. Harvest always involves a lot of sweat and stress, but it also comes with an overabundance of fantastic meals, valuable friendships, and hard-earned pride in the vintage’s product.
The approach of fall weather finds any wine enthusiast excited about the varietals ideal for the season. While the heat of summer warrants bright steel-fermented whites and a D.C. winter seems to call for bigger, jammier reds and creamy Chardonnays, fall is the perfect time of year to choose wines that may not be as well-known, but that evoke the diversity of color, flavor, and complexity found in the foods and landscapes of the season.
The clearest parallel in a wine may be found in a classic Gewürztraminer from the appellation of Alsace, France. While Alsace is known for its crisp dry Riesling and full-bodied Pinot Gris that also pair well with autumn-inspired meals, the distinctive character of the Gewürztraminer grape fully embodies the spirit of fall. It has a color range from deep golden to almost coppery orange, and it’s one of the most aromatic varietals, showcasing a spectrum of flavors from spiced apple and pear to honeysuckle to lychee and nuts. Similar to Riesling, Gewürztraminer can be either sweet or dry, depending on the style of production. But all versions pair excellently with baked ham, roasted poultry, and meatier fish—think Thanksgiving!
One highly underrated and often misunderstood wine that finds an ideal stage this time of year is wine from Gamay (or Gamay Noir), the primary red grape found in the Beaujolais region of France. Gamay is usually a lighter-bodied wine in texture, but can be very full in flavor. A good Beaujolais from one of a handful of Crus-designated producers will display deep red fruit flavors, good acid structure, and layers of pepper and spice. Unfortunately many people only know the name Beaujolais for the marketing phenomenon of Beaujolais nouveau, a festival held in France in November celebrating the very first releases of the vintage. These are very light, fruity, and one-dimensional wines fun for the occasion but far from a high-end bottling. For a more refined and complex Gamay that pairs well with smoky meats and stews, look for the Crus domains such as Morgon or Côte du Brouilly, or you can also find comparable Gamays from a few Oregon producers such as Willakenzie Estate and Chehalem.
If you are looking for a red wine with more tannin structure and bigger fruit than a Gamay might offer, fall is the perfect time to start breaking out the Zinfandels. Mostly grown in a few California counties such as Sonoma and Amador, Zins are ripe-fruited full-bodied wines that can display rich earthy and savory flavors layered with blackberry, cocoa, cedar, and pepper, ideal to warm a chilly fall evening. A well-balanced Zinfandel will pair beautifully with heavier autumn dishes such as leg of lamb or traditional Italian lasagna.
Harvest time is always a time of celebration, whether it’s in the vineyard or in your own backyard garden. As the leaves take on their most vibrant and dynamic colors, use this opportunity to evolve your palate by exploring wines you’ve never tried. And as we say at the winery: wine is far better with fine food and good friends.
Caroline Jackson works for Chehalem Winery in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, with a background in East Coast wine sales and winemaking. Visit her blog, Sips and Sounds, which pairs daily music selections with a wine or craft beer.

Across the Cutting Board with Ris: Come Rain, Come mushrooms

Ari Post •

A rainy September can be bad news for the late summer harvest. With the cooler temperature and reduced sunlight, late summer favorites like cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes, melons and squash are quick to be damaged and waterlogged by abundant rainfall such that Hurricane Irene brought us. “But it didn’t just rain this month,” says farmer Mark Toigo. “It got biblical.”

Toigo is owner of Toigo Orchards, a local family farm in Shippensburg, Pa., and loyal supplier to chef and restaurateur Ris Lacoste. You can find Toigo Orchards’ produce at almost every major farmer’s market in the Washington area, and their selection is still among the best available despite the tough season. “It’s been a traumatic environmental cycle this year,” says Toigo. “The spring started off so wet, the soil so soggy, that we had late plantings. We had hale in late May. And July was a scorcher—over 90 degrees every day. We lost 10 percent of new tree plantings because we weren’t able to get enough water to the young roots.”

And after the heat, of course, came the rain.

“We easily lost $40,000 because of Irene,” says Jaci Arnold, of Richfield Farm in Manchester, Md. “We had significant crop loss and went out of service for a week. You can’t exactly go veggie picking in a hurricane.”

Plant cells expand and burst with excess water, Arnold explains, causing the vegetables to grow beyond their natural size, splitting, cracking and exploding. Consumers will feel the effects of this watery overkill into October, as the past month of rain drastically damaged this season’s pumpkin supply. Without proper drainage, even hearty, fully formed root vegetables will rot in a matter of days. Surviving vegetables spoil much faster they often can’t even make it to the produce stands and tend to have a very limited shelf life.

However, nature always has a certain way of balancing itself out. With the excess rain, a few seasonal treats are thriving. “Brussel sprouts seem to be doing great,” says Arnold. “This rain came at a good time of their growth. And beet growth has also been accelerated. They can handle the water.”

And one bulbous little fungus is soaking up this wet September happier than the rest. Mushrooms are sprouting in beds across forest floors up and down the East Coast.

They’re hard to miss these days, squatting under trees, against shrubs and among the grass, their caps tilted pensively toward the cloudy skies. But this newspaper does not condone the picking and eating of wild mushrooms unless you are a fungal expert. So I, for one, adhere to Thoreau’s assessment of these exotic sprouts: “The value … is not in the mere possession or eating of them, but in the sight and enjoyment of them.”

“The mushrooms loved Irene,” says Ray Lasala, president of the Mycological Assocation of Washington. “Mushrooms are 90 percent water, and they appear a few days after the rain. They’re like compressed little sponges that develop in the ground and tree logs and pop when they’re hit with enough moisture.”

Lasala says that the best time of year for local fall mushrooms is between Labor Day and Columbus Day, when the moisture levels and temperature are right. Keep an eye out at the markets over the next few weeks for honey mushrooms, chicken of the woods and puffballs. Ris certainly will.

“Mushrooms are on the horizon,” she says, “along with pears, apples and winter squash. It’s a funny thing — I don’t want to give up summer, the peaches, tomatoes and corn. But fall is upon us, and a chef’s job is to always look ahead for what’s to come.”

Ris tips for cooking with mushrooms:
Make sure they are clean.
Make sure they are thoroughly dried.
Do not rinse mushrooms with gills, just dust them thoroughly with a towel or mushroom brush. The gills will absorb the water and dilute the mushroom.
Trim woody stems.
When cooking, start with a hot pan and a little bit of oil to seize moisture and caramelize.
Do not crowd the pan, only a single layer of mushrooms at a time. Overcrowding results in poached mushrooms, not seared.
Roasting is a great alternative to stir-frying. Toss with olive oil salt and pepper. Add shallots or herbs if you want.
Cook different types of mushrooms separately, as they each have different textures and require different cooking times. Mix after cooking.
Sherry and Madeira are two of my favorite wines for mushroom cooking.

Jed’s Marinated Mushrooms
by Sous Chef Jed Fox

3 oz. canola oil
1 lb. cleaned and trimmed mushrooms,
any variety
6 Tbs. chopped garlic
6 Tbs. chopped shallots
2 sprigs thyme
1 fresh bay leaf
Salt and white pepper
2 oz. dry white wine
Good olive oil

Bring the canola oil to smoking hot in a large, heavy based saucepan. Add mushrooms in a single layer, covering the bottom of the pan. Stir once and allow to sear for 3 – 4 minutes, until golden brown. Stir again and allow to brown 4 – 5 minutes longer. Add garlic, shallots, herbs, salt and pepper to taste. Cook until shallots are soft and aromatics are released. Deglaze with the white wine. Reduce the wine to almost dry, then add olive oil just to cover. Bring the olive oil to a light simmer and remove pan from heat. Allow to rest for 15 minutes, until cool enough to handle. Pour into a storage container and keep covered in the refrigerator for up to ten days. Allow mushrooms to return to room temperature before serving. NOTE: The mushroom oil can also be used as a lovely finishing oil for pastas and salads.

Warm, Hearty and Healthy: a Fall recipe for you and yours

Samantha Hungerford •

The first signs of fall are blustering in to the District—the sudden temperature drop, overcast skies, the cold nights, the smell of rain hanging in the air. You spend the workday fantasizing about putting your robe and slippers back on, throwing a log on the fire and curling up for a cozy evening with whomever you hold dear.
It’s no secret that the colder months reawaken the lovebug in us all. Movie marathons and window gazing with your inamorato just don’t do the trick in the summertime. But when the leaves turn to golden brown and the cold wind starts stirring, it’s all you can do to say goodbye.
One ritual near guaranteed to bring couples closer together is cooking a meal together, and fall is full of seasonal recipes that will keep you warm and happy.
But, just like trying to agree on a movie, striking the right epicurean balance can be tricky. Men often tend toward heavier, more savory dishes, while women frequently enjoy eat lighter meals. But with the right ingredients and spices, it’s possible to cook up some fall favorites that will satisfy that craving for hearty dishes and won’t put you in a food coma until next spring.
Chili is a warm, filling autumn staple perfect for those chilly nights ahead. However, with its abundance of red meat and salt, traditional chili recipes are not so perfect for the waistline. This recipe substitutes ground beef for ground turkey, and offers a range of spices in place of an overabundance of salt, so that even though the calories are cut, the flavor is not.
Whether shared with your partner by the fire or served on game day with chips and cornbread, this recipe is the perfect meal for a fall evening at home.
Hint: Experiment with spices! Make this recipe your own. Add less or more of any of these spices or try adding a few extra favorites for a personalized recipe.
Optional: Make your own chili powder. Plump chipotles and any other dried chilies of your liking in a dry skillet then grind into a fine powder in a coffee grinder. This adds a wonderful depth of rich flavor quickly.

1 lb. lean ground turkey
1 small can tomato purée
1 large can diced tomatoes
2 cans kidney beans
2 cans black beans
1 medium can corn
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 Serrano chilies
1 tbsp. olive oil
2 tsp. seasoned salt
2 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tbsp. cumin
1 tbsp. oregano
1 tsp. paprika
Your favorite hot sauce

In a large pan, sauté the onion, garlic, pepper and chilies in olive oil on medium-high heat until the onions are clear, 3 – 5 minutes. Mix in ground turkey and let fry until the meat is cooked through to the center, about 5 minutes. Add tomato purée, diced tomatoes, kidney and black beans and corn. Mix together, then add the spices and stir. Bring to a simmer, turn to low heat and cover. Cook until corn, peppers and beans are tender and all flavors have melded together, stirring occasionally, at least 30 minutes. Season to taste with salt, pepper and hot sauce and serve.

Cocktail of the Week: Up in Smoke

Miss Dixie •

What do you get when you cross one of Washington’s most innovative and crafty bar chefs with a New Zealand spirit that prides itself with being offbeat and irreverent? The answer is Gina Chersavani’s Up in Smoke, an award-winning cocktail forged from vodka and marigold topped off with an alluring poof of smoked sugar cotton candy. This whimsical tipple captures all the fun of an autumn carnival and combines it with sophisticated ambiance of an outdoor performance of Shakespeare in the park.
Chersavani, a self-proclaimed “mixtress” is well known for the fanciful cocktails at PS-7, where she presides. The Up in Smoke adds another creative choice to the already-eclectic menu.

This fun concoction was designed for the World Cocktail Cup sponsored by 42 below Vodka. According to Chersavani, the idea of the contest was to be as daring as you want to be. “The rule rules were, ‘there are no rules’,” she explained.

Her idea of cotton candy cocktail certainly fit the bill. ”It wasn’t so much as using cotton candy, but more of the idea of using it as a vessel,” Chersavani explained. “It was a way of putting the sugar into a cocktail in a different form.”

After winning the Washington, D.C., round of the competition, Chersavani had to tote her cotton candy-making machine to New York for the U.S. finals. She rode with the contraption on the train and schlepped it around Manhattan on a dolly. While she didn’t advance to the next round of the competition in New Zealand, luckily for Washingtonians, she brought her cocktail back to D.C. where it earned a spot on PS-7’s fall cocktail menu.

While most folks do not have a cotton candy machine lurking in their kitchens, replicating Chersavani’s cocktail is easily achievable task for home bartenders. The drink is enjoyable with or without its fluffy topper.

The base (minus the cotton candy) of the Up In Smoke is a mixture of vodka lemon, honey, bitters and marigold seed. While the latter ingredient may sound exotic, Chersavani says that it’s more common than you think. It can be purchased at Teaism, Whole Foods and health food store. She steeps the marigold as though she were making a pot of herbal tea to create a base liquid. The marigold gives this potable a bright and sunny fresh flavor.

Even though she likes to utilize out of the ordinary ingredients, Chersavani prefers to keep the components in her cocktails accessible. She doesn’t like recipes where the ingredients are too difficult or rare to find. “That’s not going to work for most people,” she says.

So, if you are seeking fall festival-style sweet and don’t feel like heading to the suburbs, swing by PS-7 for a decidedly adult twist on one of your childhood treats. Or, if you feel like relaxing at home, you can whip up this cocktail on your own and add a pinch or two of smoked sugar to suit your taste.

1.5 oz 42 Below Vodka
1 oz lemon juice
2 oz Marigold Tea or a Teazan of fruit would
be a good substitute
2 or 3 dashes Angostura bitters
2 or 3 dashes Gary Reagan bitters

In a shaker 3/4 filled with ice, combine all ingredients, shake until frothy, strain into a small wine glass. Then, top with smoked cotton candy.

Readers may sample the “Up In Smoke” at PS-7 located at 777 I Street NW. [gallery ids="100311,107977" nav="thumbs"]

On the Rogue with Chef RJ Cooper III

Ariell Kirylo •

Jack Kerouac once wrote, “the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved.” Yet, what Jack failed to scribble onto his snarky scroll of self-searching was “mad to cook” and this, my dear friends, is the best kind of mad there is. Partaking on his own self-fulfilling journey is Chef RJ Cooper III with his new restaurant, Rogue 24. Folded within the narrow streets of Blagden Alley lies a unique kitchen where all angst of culinary dissatisfaction in our nation’s capital comes to die. The kitchen at Rogue 24 is not hidden behind swinging doors, nor is it your typical “open kitchen” you may think you’ve seen. RJ Cooper’s stage is smack in the middle of the dining room and filled with eager minions ready to show Chef how brilliant they actually are. In turn, this makes an evening at Rogue 24 as close to perfect as Cooper’s team of “gastr-overachievers” can possibly make it. During dinner, and surely encouraged by increasing sips of paired alcoholic splendor, it is hard not to become enamored by a man exposed and unafraid to perform on command. It is his taste, his vision and the dripping fruit of his own culinary past — your role as the diner is simply to meditate, appreciate and associate each bite with the nostalgic smells and flavors of your past.

The concept of eating “nostalgically” is like going to an art gallery – you interpret what is before you as per your own life experiences. Whether it’s your grandmother’s best cooked dish or one you tasted whilst travelling through Europe, both of Cooper’s tasting menus will at some point wisk your tongue down memory lane. Somewhere in the midst of courses one through 24, you will indeed recognize a smell or a flavor from one day when and “oohs and ahhs” of wistfulness will escape you between bites. You will so very delicately discover at Rogue 24, that eating is no longer the act of fork to mouth, but more purposefully — fork to soul. Bearing all this in mind, I approached every dish that evening with contempt, as I fought to unlock the nostalgic crux of each swollen balsamic fish egg. And by the end of 24 plates and a myriad of generous wine pours and cocktails, I felt just as any soul-drifter would: content, haggard, and yes, very drunk. In the dimly lit dining room where mid-century meets industrial design and foam tastes like cucumber, I could not help but think back to the characters of Kerouac’s American classic, “On the Road,” whose dreams of freedom from conformity sent them haywire through landscapes, relationships and ultimately self-actualization. As Dean and Sal attempt to escape the monotony of everyday life, I , too, find myself beaten and unsatisfied with an endless continuum of lackluster ambiance and predictable meals. The restlessness becomes too much to bear, and my credit card and I drive up and away into the sunset. Though Route 66 has become just another interstate highway on an even phonier map than before, Chef RJ Cooper III decided to stick it to everyone and turn dinner into a journey. I arrived to the restaurant right before the first reservation, accidently interrupting the family-style staff dinner in the salon. Without hesitation or annoyance, the chef sat me down next to him and continued his democratic address of necessary business that evening.

Seated among the young cast of 30 odd employees, the atmosphere felt more like a gathering of actors before curtain call than a throng of cooks, hosts and waiters. It was quite evident that for those present, it was not just another day at work. For the folks of Rogue 24 dinnertime is show time and, with every designer plate served since July 27, just another opportunity to improve and perfect their trade. After a huddle and break, the staff scattered back to Kitchen Island and furiously continued prepping for the evening’s performance.

Left in the salon with a glass of rosé bubbly, I prepared to partake on my own journey — 24 mini extravaganzas with eight pairings that would, according to Harold our noble host, indubitably amaze and surprise. While I have dined at restaurants with similar haute cuisine progressions, it is always exciting to uncover the mysteries of each chef’s own life pit-stops weaved throughout the layers of crème fraiche and rooibos gel. And as the curtains separating the salon from the dining room began to flutter with movement of cooks in the kitchen, my dinner guest and I were asked to follow Harold into the dining room. From the start of “The Journey” on, we were delicately placed in RJ Cooper’s passenger seat as he veered effortlessly between roles of top chef, host and waiter, all while blessing each plate before sending it off to a table. Without further ado, and to continue my thesis supporting the connection between Kerouac’s novel and the experience of Rogue 24, I present to you with the utmost exclusivity, the better and more innovative dishes of the evening. In addition, and as any English major/food enthusiast would, I have separated the selected plates into themes associated with “On the Road.” Therefore each theme is representative of the memories I personally shared upon tasting each dish as well as my personal critiques. Enjoy and Bon Voyage!

“T includes 24 courses $175/with pairings $120/without. (Note: Dishes come out at a quick pace. No time for breaks. You are in a two-hour tunnel of endless sensations and spirits.)

While I recommend saving your pennies for just another week to experience “The Journey,” you may also choose the lighter fare of “The Progression,” which includes 16 courses $145/with pairings: $100/without.

Fowl Play: To explain this dish in a clear nutshell, it is a maple wood campfire captured in a cup. Make sure to lift off the top of this jarred jewel slowly as the trapped “smoke” escapes quickly. The smell of summer camp triggers the liberating memory of out-running the fat kid in Capture the Flag and you are free, free, free. Honestly, I never loved camping, but this thoughtful dish makes the outdoors taste good. Within this jar you will find crispy duck jerky, a partridge egg yolk cooked gooey, some “hay” (fried corn silks) and an edible flower. It is to be eaten in one smoky, sticky spoonful.

Not Your Cheese Course: The interpretation of this Babybel cheese reminded me of the old days when I snuck these rubies from the refrigerator to secretly consume in my room. Oh, the joy of unwrapping their waxy shell! (Naturally, the mystery of the disappearing cheese was later uncovered by my stepmother due to the mound of red waxy balls piling in my sock drawer.) Yet this bundle of headcheese is not meant to be unwrapped. Folded within its edible exterior is braised pork churned and dipped into a paprika gelatin-like substance made from seaweed. It is served slated with pickled mustard seed, mustard green, violet mustard grape musk and complimented with pretzel paper.

Shrimp and Grits: With ringing freedom bells from Vidalia and freedom from the o’ so common comforting bed of grits with sleeping crustaceans, Cooper presents his unadulterated version of a Southern classic. If you do not know what to expect, listen carefully to your server for this dish. The grit covered corn milk lava ball represents the traditional goop, and the shrimp is reinvented in chorizo form. You need not a spoon but only a couple bites to consume this relic of Cooper’s past.

Foie gras: Sunday morning breakfast goes nuovelle cuisine? I thought this dish to be the most unusual pairing of flavors and temperatures, but also one of the most inventive. What you see is a hearty bowl of nitrogen frozen foie gras shaved like icy cornflakes and layered above lavender merengue and rooibos gel. Though I felt the presentation of this dish, including the oversized spoon, was muddled and just plain confusing, the rich and buttery foie gras literally melts in your mouth and is nicely complimented by the texture and sweetness of the merengue. With the appropriate spoon and served in a dish where the ingredients can be better observed, I would say this one is definitely a keeper.

Lamb Neck: Cooper has perfected the relationship of sweet and savory in this Eastern-inspired dish. The lamb is braised for 24 hours then portioned to sit upon Tzatziki — add blot of black garlic, splotch of eggplant puree, and a sweet smear of lemon meringue puree. Not to dismiss the candied sesame seeds and greasy onion chip, but the caramelized lemon and eggplant sang brilliantly in tune. A dip in the tangy garlic whistling from the Tzatziki brings it all together in one tongue-tingling sensation.
Visions of America

Virginia Corn or “Cornucopia”: What’s more American than corn? Though I did not really understand this dish other than it being reminiscent of my grandfather’s vitamin-filled oatmeal, I did however find it mockingly appealing. As you can see there is corn espuma on top of a corn chip powder with a baby heirloom corn, brown butter emulsion, freeze-dried corn, popcorn with escrolet pepper, a pickled mushroom and a sprinkle of black salt. It is almost like Cooper wanted to take what the rest of the world mocks us for and turn it into a gourmet slap in the face. Ironically enough, I found the mushroom to be the tastiest part of the dish. A celebration of a country or a F-you to the haters? There could be a political message here.

Tennessee: Not just your classic combo of chocolate and vanilla, this dessert will make your cookie crumble. Adorably plated on a mound of “soil” (ground homemade oreo), this dirty dish is composed of chocolate cremeux (similar to a pudding), olive Sinclair chocolate from Nashville, and hatted with maple wood gelato delicately shaped into a quenelle (three-sided football shape/dumpling). The earthiness of the maple wood and the texture of the oreo soil initially gave the impression of noshing a spoonful of forest floor. Yet, as the gelato melts in your mouth and dampens the cookie crumbles, the flavors marry perfectly. You begin to wonder where you can buy this dessert by the pint.

Toigo’s Peach Inspiration: Another Southern-inspired dish gone mental was the all-American peaches n’ cream. The summer’s juiciest peaches from Toigo Orchards in Pennsylvania were sliced and soaked in bourbon syrup and potted with sweet tea gelée and vanilla. While the overall flavor of this dessert was rousing, I felt the presentation made it look like a stringy, vomity soup. As much as the 10-year-old in me jumped for joy at the sound of marshmallow noodles, I am not convinced they did the texture of this dish any favors. Instead of slimy marshmallow bucatini, maybe Cooper should shoot for fire crispy gnocchetti next time? Also, I feel a burnt flavor and a crispiness to the noodles could really tie the dish together as well as help with the texture setback. Note: The chosen pairing of a Val-Dieu, a rich Belgian beer, is a must for this dish.

Sea Floor: Pretty to look at, pretty annoying to eat. Cooper makes you work for this one and if you do not like the taste of the ocean floor, this may not be your favorite course. I, on the other hand, could not wait to try my luck at catching the sea booger with my giant tweezers. Step aside fork! Sea Floor is made up of a Catalina Island sea urchin, pickled seaweed and sea-air foam. Due to the depth of the bowl, the aromas are caught and held within. Go ahead, stick your face in the bowl. It is like taking a whiff of sea air. Note: Neither the bowl nor the utensil are intended for the diner’s comfort. In fact, some dishes at Rogue 24, such as Sea Floor, are the antithesis of comfortable eating. Struggling to clasp the oozing sea urchin with foot-long tweezers, can only be comparable to watching a toddler play Operation. Thankfully, the only thing missing from this dish was that fastidious buzzer.

Hog Jowl: To the tune of the Newman’s “dance of the plastic bag,” I took a bite of what would end up being one of my favorite dishes of the evening. Who knew the complexity onion ice cream could bring to a pain perdu? Served on a small square sand dollar was caramelized onion ice cream topped with a bit of smoky jowl (pig cheek) and escorted by a fatty corn puff stuck to the plate with caramel. This dish was memorable for the play with salty and sweet as well as temperature. Upon digging in, our waiter made sure to tell us to “enjowl.” So, there was cheese with this dish.

Garden Soda: If this bottle contained a message, it would be “Ariell, this drink was made for thee.” I am a sucker for cutesy presentation, and this savory soda of vegetable consommé with summer squash and garden flowers was a sparkling, sugary, splendor. The slight saltiness of the veggie stock made me and addict for small sips and the fragrance escaping the bottle as you brought it to your lips was of sweet smelling of cucumbers. I had to have two.

An evening at Rogue 24 is not only about trying your hand at tricky utensils and your tongue at new tastes and temperature marriages, it is also about sips of cocktails and wine between bites and laughs. It is a place to witness those dedicated to culinary creativity put before you food designed with passion and intensity. [gallery ids="100312,108007,108002,107997,107992,108016,107987,108020,107982,108024,108028,108012" nav="thumbs"]

Pumpkins of Great Potential

Georgetowner •

“Mother nature is an artist herself, with a palette of colors that create the seasons,” says Chef Ris Lacoste. “She gives us the green vegetables of spring—asparagus, peas and spinach. Then summer brings the fiery reds and yellows of tomatoes, corn and peppers. And then those reds and yellows mellow into the sweet golden orange of fall. You just know the bright orange pumpkins are out there in the patch, waiting to be picked.”

Gastronomically speaking, pumpkins are the oft forgotten stepchildren tof the winter squash family. Butternut, acorn, hubbard and spaghetti squash frequent the markets and tables of seasonal eaters everywhere. But pumpkins are almost exclusively found at roadside pumpkin stands promoting Halloween, and their culinary potential is rarely tapped to its fullest extent. “We don’t eat the Jack-O-Lantern,” says Ris.

As it were, Halloween carving pumpkins, the most commonly grown and distributed variety of all winter squash, are not very good or flavorful, and that may be some of the reason why pumpkins have fallen off the epicurean radar. But anything you do with squash, says Ris, you can call pumpkin. “Talking pumpkin is talking winter squash, and vice versa,” she says. “There are many varieties of pumpkins and winter squash with subtle differences in flavor and texture. And finding your favorites is half the fun.”

Ris’ favorite pumpkin is the Rouge Vif d’Etampes, a beautiful French heirloom variety. Its color is a deep red-orange, with fat, pronounced ribs and a flat shape like a tire on its side. It bears a striking resemblance to the pumpkin that Cinderella’s fairy godmother turned into a horse-drawn carriage to get to the Prince’s ball. They are also quite delicious.

There are hundreds of species of pumpkins out there, so it’s important to know what to look for. Surprisingly, some of the best eating varieties are those tiny ornamental pumpkins sitting in the wicker basket in your living room. Though big, deep-ribbed field pumpkins are great for carving, their tough skins are hard to peel and their flesh is stringy and bland.

For cooking and baking, it’s better to go with smaller varieties with sweet, deep orange flesh and smooth texture. Baby Pam, Small Sugar Pumpkins, and New England Pie Pumpkins are good examples of round, small to medium size pie pumpkins. Most of these varieties have a bright orange skin and thick, straight stems. There are also more unusual varieties, such as the grayish-blue Jarradale pumpkin or the long, smooth crook-necked pumpkin.

“When discovering these different pumpkins or winter squash,” says Ris, “take note of their different densities, textures and flavors and see how different varieties work for different types of recipes.”
For example, a denser texture of pumpkin will work better for ravioli. “You don’t want moisture in ravioli,” says Ris. “The filling should be as dry as possible so as not to dampen the dough.”
Perhaps the biggest misfortune of the fate of the pumpkin is that it is so narrowly relegated to the job of pie filler. This is not to say that pumpkin pie is not entirely perfect—it is, Ris assures—but pumpkins have so much more potential. They make great breads and cakes, stews and chilis, waffles and pancakes, ravioli, gratins, and even pudding.

From firewood and chimney smoke, to crisp air and mulled cider, pumpkin invokes these autumnal aromas, no matter how you cook it. Pumpkins are generally sweet and savory, says Ris, allowing them to mix well with a dynamic range of combinations, like maple syrup and orange juice, or Parmesan cheese and sage. They take well to grilling, roasting, baking and frying. And they are exceptional in soups.

Pumpkin soup has innumerable international variations, from Chinese pumpkin soup with water chestnuts and shrimp, to Australian pumpkin soup with lemon, to Haitian pumpkin soup with beef, rice and nutmeg. Many of the North American Island and Central American countries use pumpkin in soups to unique and surprising results. Pumpkin pops up frequently in Mexican soups and stews, often topped with roasted pumpkin seeds, or “pepitas.”

To showcase the broad versatility of this favorite fall treat, Ris will be offering pumpkin soup and pumpkin ice-cream in her Foggy Bottom restaurant. “Its hot and cold, a starter and a dessert, sweet versus savory. You can do so much with pumpkins, and I thought this was a fun way to bookend it.”
The restaurant will also be featuring maple-walnut, apple spice and cranberry ice-creams, along with a variety of seasonally inspired soups. “It’s my ‘Soups and Scoops’ special,” she says with delight. “I really wanted bring together the tapestry of the fall harvest in a unique way. We don’t often think about it, but the reason we use these traditional, seasonal ingredients together is because they grow together. These flavors all play in the same seasonal sandbox, and it’s so much fun to shuffle around their responsibilities.”

Enjoy these pumpkin soup and ice-cream recipes on your own, or stop by RIS to give them a whirl.

RIS Pumpkin Ice-Cream
By Pastry Chef Chris Kujala

2 cups heavy cream
2 cups half and half
1 cup egg yolks
4 oz. sugar
4 oz. dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground clove
1/4 tsp ground allspice
1/4 tsp salt
2 cup pumpkin puree

Put the cream, half and half, white sugar and all the spices in a medium sauce pot. Place over medium heat. Bring just to a boil—not a rolling boil. Remove from heat. In a large bowl whisk together the egg yolks, dark brown sugar and salt. Whisk about a minute to dissolve the sugar. Slowly whisk in the hot cream mixture to the yolk mixture. Whisk in the pumpkin puree. Strain with a fine mesh strainer. Chill over ice bath. Freeze in an ice-cream maker. Note: spices can and should be adjusted to taste.

RIS Pumpkin Patch Soup
By Sous Chef Jed Fox

1/2 stick of butter
1 cup diced white onion
1 cup peeled, cored, diced sweet apple
1 cup peeled, diced carrot
1 cup peeled, diced and roasted sweet potato
3 cups peeled, seeded, diced and roasted pumpkin
Dark rum
6 cups chicken or vegetable stock
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 cup pure maple syrup
Salt and cayenne pepper to taste

In a large saucepot over medium-high heat, melt the butter. Add the onion, apple and carrot, and cook until the onion is caramelized, about ten minutes. Stir in the roasted sweet potato and pumpkin and deglaze with a healthy splash of rum. Let cook another five minutes, then add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer until all of the vegetables are cooked through and tender, ten to fifteen minutes. Puree vegetables in a blender or food processor. Add cream, maple syrup, salt and cayenne pepper to taste. Just before serving, return to the pot and bring to a simmer. If soup is too thick, adjust with warm water, taste again for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
[gallery ids="100338,108657" nav="thumbs"]

Cooking & Fooking: Advice for those Who Indulge in Food and Love

Ariell Kirylo •

I’ve been on two dates with a super smart and good-looking man. Both times we went out for dinner, and both times he has dropped me off at home without even a kiss. We talk almost every day, and we just get on so well. I know he’s into me. So, I invited him over for dinner next week just to make sure that this time I get him upstairs. I figure we can cook together?

Now, I’m freaking out because I cannot decide what to make. I want it to be something we can make together, and I want the whole experience to be sexy so that he has no excuse but to end the night with a kiss or hopefully more.

Truthfully yours,
Wine Always Helps
Female, 28
Columbia Heights, D.C.

First of all, I would like to preface this response by saying: Don’t give up. Men with personalities like the one you described sometimes need more coddling. On occasion, these are the ones actually worth the extra care-giving. Inviting him for a home cooked meal is exactly the right thing to do. Brava.

Cooking together can be one of the sexiest experiences between new lovers, and I highly recommend it. Besides, he’ll get to see you in an apron and it will remind him of his mother, or the mother he always wanted. Whether they like to admit it or not, men always want their mommies. Even the gay ones.

In the beginning of a new relationship, it is always best to partake on mini-adventures together in order to build up a lasting rapport. Sitting at a restaurant or in a dark movie theater is for wimps. If you really like this guy, then it is time to show him how fun you can be, how comfortable you are with yourself and how well you can feed him — if you know what I mean (wink, wink.)

When he arrives at your place, you’ll want to have the main dish ready to go and focus on assembling a nice appetizer plate together. Most importantly, you want to get started right away. Have some lively music playing in the background, offer him some wine or beer, hand him an apron and immediately put him to work. Believe me, he’ll appreciate it, and it’ll certainly lighten up the atmosphere of initial awkwardness. Besides, men need jobs. Period.

The meal: An Italian Antipasto and Spaghetti Puttanesca.

Why? The salty meat and cheese of the antipasto will facilitate more drinking. In the first hour or so, this is necessary in order to soften the mood and relax you both. Yet, most importantly, the Puttanesca sauce is filled with aphrodisiacs such as capers, hot peppers, garlic and anchovies (don’t worry: they completely melt within the sauce and the fishy flavor is lost.) Also, do not be scared of getting sauce everywhere or not being able to eat spaghetti properly. This time, and this time only, let it splatter! Not the time to be shy.

Hopefully, with the vino and pasta sauce stimulants, the Puttanesca will earn its name and by the end the night the spaghetti will be on the floor and you on the table. Yes!

You: Prepare the sauce for the Puttanesca before he arrives and leave it covered on the stove. The best part about serving a tomato-based sauce is that you can have it ready when your guest arrives and then simply boil the pasta when you are both ready to eat.

You and him: Plate the ingredients for a simple, but always impressive antipasto dish. Give him a cutting board and ask him to arrange a variety of cured meats and cheeses upon it and slice up some bread. I recommend you purchase a thinly sliced San Daniele prosciutto and some duck salami. You can find both of these items at Cork Market on 14th Street in the District, but Whole Foods, TJ’s or Wegmans will also have a great selection of meats. As far as cheese goes, I like cubed Parmigiano Reggiano. If it’s too dense and stinky for your taste, try an Italian Fontina or a Mozzarella di Bufala. For an extra kick, add some grapes, figs or pitted olives in a bowl. Arrange nicely, please.

If he doesn’t kiss you after this whole production, then he’s either gay, insane or he’s just not that into you. Either way, preparing a meal like this is just practice for the future meals you’ll prepare for your future lovers.

Here is my favorite recipe for Spaghetti Puttanesca:

Ingredients
8 anchovy filets (canned)
1-2 cloves of garlic (if you both eat it, it doesn’t matter)
1 tbsp of capers, chopped (soak for 10 min in water before chopping)
5 tbsp of Extra Virgin OO
2 small handfuls of diced black or Kalamata olives
2 cans of whole peeled tomatoes, cubed and remove seeds
1 handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
2 crumbled dried red chilies (or 3 or 4)
1 box of dried spaghetti
1 handful of salt to season boiling water for pasta

Directions
1. Heat oil on low-med in a large frying pan and throw in the garlic, red chilies and anchovies. (Anchovies will quickly melt away.)
2. Add capers and olives to heated mixture and lightly let simmer for 2 min on low-med heat.
3. Add cubed tomatoes to pan, stir and leave for 10-15 min, tossing occasionally.
4. Remove from heat and stir in parsley.
5. Boil an abundant amount of water for pasta and add a small handful of salt. (Tip: Always better to salt pasta water than add salt directly to sauce.)
6. Cook spaghetti al dente. Drain.
7. Throw spaghetti into heated and fiery saucepan and toss. (Not sauce to pasta, but pasta to sauce. Capisce?)
8. Serve.

Note: Parmigiano does not belong sprinkled upon this particular dish. So, have some respect for the flavors you so lovingly cooked, and leave it off.

To submit your Cooking&Fooking question go to www.thebarenakedcritic.com

Education & Degustation at Westend Bistro D.C.

Ariell Kirylo •

Chef de Cuisine Joe Palma of Westend Bistro believes in degustation served with education. In the coming months and on select evenings, fishermen will flood the dining room of Eric Ripert’s Westend Bistro to explain exactly how that fish (yes, that fish) got to the plate. For the price of $85 per person, Chef Palma serves up four courses with wine pairings for a true ocean-to-table experience.

The Fisherman’s Dinner Series consists of three separate sit-down events hosted at Westend Bistro, part of the Ritz Carlton in Washington D.C. During dinner, fisherman from the Chesapeake and New England regions will discuss the sustainability and quality of their catch directly with the diner. After each lively five-minute presentation, Chef Joe Palma will whip up a dish created purposefully to highlight why Westend Bistro purchases their seafood from these fishing companies. Expect an evening of fresh fish, perfectly paired wines and animated discussion with fisherman, distributors and, of course, Chef Joe Palma.

The first ocean-to-table dinner will be held at Westend Bistro on Wednesday, Nov. 16, 7 p.m., and will feature the following menu and fishing crew:

Rappahannock River Oysters of Tappahannock, Va.
RrOysters.com

These guys are true oyster folk who supply a variety of flavored oysters and promote aquaculture sustainability with their own nonprofit partnered with the Oyster Recovery Project.

Chef dishes it: Clam Escabeche with pickled onion, Jalapeno piperade sauce and fried capers. Bathed in a tangy yet not overpowering sauce, the sweet and buttery oysters are highlighted by the thinly sliced and stark jalapeno and onion.

Congressional Seafood Company of Jessup, Md.
CongressionalSeafood.com

This local company sells a myriad of products to fine dining establishments and gourmet markets in the Washington/Baltimore area. As the tub of sweet and succulent Maryland lump crab meat was passed around the table to taste, it was clear these distributors take their job very seriously.

Chef dishes it: Chesapeake Crab Chowder made with jumbo lump crab, warm Yukon Gold potatoes and lemon aioli. Poured over a portion of sweet crab and tiny cubed potatoes was a creamy and soul-warming broth made from a crab boil with a lemony finish.

Four Seasons Guide Service of Solomans Island, Md.
FourSeasonsGuideService.com
Whether it is commercial fishing or a guided fishing tour, Captain “Walleye” Pete is your man. Before chowdown, Chef Palma showed us the striped bass this ex-Air Force fishing expert brought in fresh that day.

Chef dishes it: Walleye Pete’s Striped Bass with sautéed dandelion greens, truffled polenta cake and a red wine bernaise. This hearty dish presented a complex of flavors playing off the sweet fluffiness of the fish and bitterness of the greens. The polenta cake is light, creamy and meant to be doused in the red wine sauce.

Sweet Potato Pie with a crisp pecan crust, fried sweet potato chips with lime and a lemon fig emulsion. This happy ending was a marriage of fall flavors brought together by a sugared and spiced Prosecco.

Note: The menus will change with the fisherman for each separate event. [gallery ids="100340,108672" nav="thumbs"]

Cooking & Fooking with The Bare Naked Critic

Ariell Kirylo •

I am smitten with this little honey from a work project we recently completed together. She’s classy, sparkling with personality and her style is always impressive. Plus, I think she is throwing me the eye. I want to take her for a “Thank You” dinner, but am struggling with an appropriate place. Where can I take her that says “I think you’re hot and I want to see you more often” but also keeps it simple and seemingly professional?

-Male, 30-something, Southeast D.C.

Oh yes, the ol’ game of cat and mouse. Luckily, you’ve reached out to an expert Cat. Meow. Without a doubt, a date like this needs to be planned to the tee. Most men would jump into it without considering how very delicate these situations can be and how easily the sexual energy can be squashed with the wrong move. In order to score a future, less professional date, the whole evening must be set up for success.

These situations can be tricky, especially in Washington D.C. Let’s be honest, in our city, there are no secrets and everyone knows someone you know. That being said, it’s important to keep your intentions discrete. Yet you must do so without losing focus on your goal. No matter how well or terrible your time together goes that evening, you must plan to slip away at a decent, “professional,” hour. You tell her you have work to prepare for an early morning start the next day. It will get you out of there before the cocktails really settle in and it will, of course, leave her tingling in anticipation for your next step.

Assuming this little honey accepts your invitation, I have the perfect restaurant in mind and a few pieces of advice that will calm any insecurity you might have about the evening. The first one is, get rid of your insecurities! Showing any sign of weakness or doubt in the first few intimate encounters is a huge error. Women, however educated, are emotional beings and want to know that their man is centered, mature and secure. For us, it’s the most important thing. After a cute butt.

Meeting for dinner on a weekend is too date-like. Instead meet on a Tuesday or Wednesday. Also, to keep to it professional, make reservations at a reasonable hour, say 7 or 8 p.m.? Make sure she knows in advance to provide her own transportation. There will be no pick-ups or drop-offs. If she wants to meet beforehand or invites you over afterwards, remember to tell her you have obligations before and after dinner, even though it may not be the truth.

In choosing a location, you want an ambiance that encourages relaxation, promotes talking and feels sexy. If you are struggling to hear each other or forced to converse in a whisper, your evening might be ruined. Also, do not venture too far off the beaten path. You want her to feel comfortable in a central and well-known location as she will be arriving and leaving alone.

I think the perfect D.C. restaurant for this occasion is Zentan at Donovan House in Thomas Circle. A down-the-middle pan-Asian spot with a stylish flair is exactly what you need for this type of occasion. Plus, because it is a hotel restaurant, there is the silent suggestiveness behind your choice. Sure, it’s a subtle statement, but a statement nonetheless. Also, there is something erotic about Asian cuisine. Maybe it is those little iconic boxes (though you won’t find these at Zentan,) the chopsticks or the fact that it’s a common go-to grease feast after hours of bedroom playtime. Let these elements be your more forward statements, and keep your words focused on getting to know more about those little eccentricities that intrigued you about her in the first place.

I’ve been to Zentan a number of times and the clientele is always a consistent mix of business professionals, power couples, tourists and the occasional D.C. hipster looking for some sushi and a well-made cocktail. The décor is just the right amount of trendy and is compensated with a variety of seating options, electric candle-light and drapery. Call ahead to reserve a spot in the back room where you and your date can have a little more privacy. You two will fit in just perfectly.

Once you sit down, don’t be over-eager to order. You want her to feel relaxed and not rushed. Because you two have worked together, the pace of your conversations must change. Now it’s all about charisma and soothing words to get her guard down. Order a nice bowl of heaping edamame ($7) with your cocktails and casually peruse the menu between conversation breaks. If you are in the mood for sake, ask the wait staff for a chilled recommendation or opt for the mid-grade Moon on the Water, Junmai Ginjo ($28) and savor the flavors of lime, melon, fennel and white pepper.
The idea is to finish your first drink before the meal arrives so you can order your second one to enjoy with dinner. Oh, and on this date, there is no third drink. This is not the time to get sloppy.

If your date has never been to Zentan, you should be prepared to make some recommendations. Not everyone eats sushi and sashimi, so make sure some of your suggestions include fish and noodle dishes. If she does eat sushi and sashimi she’ll know more or less what she likes and won’t need your input. Ordering from a menu on the first few dates can be a very telling experience for some people. It can be a chance to prove how knowledgeable they are on that particular cuisine or an opportunity to demonstrate they know what they want and how they want it.

Here are some of my favorite dishes at Zentan (not including sushi):

• Salt and Pepper Calamari $11: A tasty fry of your favorite appetizer with a citrus smoked chili mayo for dipping.
• Chickpea Onion Tempura $9: A surprisingly tasty appetizer comprised of ginger, mango chutney and minted yogurt.
• Singapore Slaw $16: Nineteen ingredients dressed and mixed at the table including jicama, taro root, carrots, hazelnuts, and pickled onion in a plum dressing.
• Cantonese Marinated Skirt Steak $26: A great steak with melted shallot brown butter, chili ponzu and crunchy hazelnuts.
• Carmelized Black Cod $26: Probably my favorite dish at Zentan served with Cantonese preserved vegetables and painted with miso mustard.


Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen - Recipes

The real reasons French women don't get fat, Part Deux

Fred's mind goes blank in Anthropologie

I always go into a trance in Anthropologie. What I really want to do is try on the cute shoes I've seen on the website, and that falls under the jurisdiction of the Department of Life Is Too Short, so I wind up looking for cute bras. Had one with little bats and spiders on it that scared the dickens out of grabby boys back in the day. From time to time while looking at frou-frou that looks itchy but otherwise interesting, I wonder where I could have left it. I think I remember what might have happened to the one with the multicolor butterflies, but that's not going on the Internet. Can you even buy a bra in Anthro once you've left puberty behind? The website is ambiguous on this point. The bras themselves look ambiguous.

Lazy day, lazy night

Lunch at Barney's - not really a review, just thought I'd mention it

I love that the restaurant on the top floor of Barney's is called Fred's! They can almost always find a table for you, are gender-blind in seating (fill in snarky comment of your choice if you must, but I'm tired of meeting friends and being seated behind swinging doors or next to service stations), and the menu has something for everyone. Dining and drinking/non-drinking preferences are accommodated. Kind of like the staff cafeteria at the UN, only you don't have to carry trays and your fellow diners are better dressed and waaay better accessorized.

For the100th Anniversary of the Triangle Factory Fire..

Is there a film critic in the house?

Rethinking the personal shopper issue

Restaurant review: La Petite Maison herein, memories of Allegretti

M. Allegretti kept a quiet little restaurant on Eighth Avenue where he cooked honest Provençal dishes served by a welcoming staff, who poured nice wines without too much discussion. We liked it because even though the food was very good, you could always get a table. We should have known.

Romper report - oh, no, not again

The real reasons French women don't get fat


@GRAMMAR HULK - more than just a crush.

New JCrew catalog: winners, losers, and HULLOOO Earthlings from the Copywriter from Space

Big Minus - 38912 - Merino Ranger Romper. The name says it all. waist, tight cuffs at thighs, pockets. Dragonfly blue (formerly known as bright navy) or vintage fatigue (formerly known as last spring's catalogs). Where have I seen this before? Oh, yes, but for the colors and the thigh cuffs, isn't this like long woolen underwear? Just what you want for spring.

Full moon, empty shopping bag, full grocery bag

the view of the full moon over our portion of Long Island was supposed to be 14% larger than the view we normally get, and I decided to avoid the risk of irrational (lunatic) behavior, especially shopping, by avoiding stores and shopping sites. Here is how I did.

Gotta check this out


Standing in line to check out, things are moving slowly, and I have picked up a magazine from the closest rack. The suede dress above is $149 and is to be found at H&M. At that price I'll forgive a few random seams. Definitely worth a look. Guess where I'll be restoring my soul Monday after the dentist. But I didn't wait till Tuesday to share it because I am a Kind Person.

And the cutting-edge zine where the shot appeared? This April's Family Circle. Page 80.

Lives I haven't led, crafts I haven't tried

I was once accosted by a street hustler who insisted she'd known me in a past life. Every once in a while, I not only think of the right response but at the right time, and I told her she had obviously mistaken me for my evil twin, who had been a wife of Anubis. This name came to me because it had been the name of a file clerk at a former workplace, and it stuck in my mind as an unusual cognomen for our times. I don't know if the mythological Anubis ever took wives, but I and my imaginary twin certainly turned off the street person. So I added "turning off street hustlers" to my short list of practical skills. The other is "can get cabs." And another sometime skill is "finding nice presents."

Update - white leather dress, comparison shopping

Dinner at Fishtail, David Burke, proprietor

David Burke's enterprises are proliferating faster than offshore garment factories. Not that that's a bad thing. Necessarily. We've had several lunches at this one, have been to others over the years, and by and large concluded that he runs a professional operation. So today I was mixing dough for the gfs at 6:45 this morning (cue tiny violins), just didn't feel like making anything for dinner. Not even reservations. Coats on, walked over, bar booths at Fishtail. True to the "I'm not really dieting, I'm just avoiding excess" mantra, I did not allow myself their Dark and Stormy (classic: Pusser's Dark Rum, ginger beer, fresh lime, all very cold in tall glass, over ice Burke's: all of the foregoing plus a little cane syrup). Now there's a treat.

A seasonal recipe in honor of St.Pat.


Cupcake Ingredients:
1 cup Guiness
1 stick, plus 1 tbs unsalted butter
3/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
2 cups dark brown sugar
3/4 cup sour cream
2 eggs
1 tbs vanilla extract
2 cups flour
2 1/2 tsp baking soda

Cupcake Preparation:
1. Preheat the oven to 350 line a muffin tin with cupcake liners.
2. Combine the Guiness and the butter, chopped into 1-inch chunks, in a large sauce pan, and heat to melt the butter.
3. Remove from heat, and whisk in the cocoa and sugar.
4. In a bowl, whisk the sour cream and the eggs and vanilla, then add to the beer mixture.
5. Sift together the flour and baking soda, and fold in the batter.
6. Pour into muffin molds and bake or 25 minutes, or until inserted cake tester comes out clean. Let stand 10 minutes, remove from muffin tin, and cool completely on a rack.

Frosting Ingredients:
1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature
3 cups confectioners' sugar
Bailey's Irish Cream AND
Jameson Irish Whiskey

Frosting Preparation:
1. Put the stick of room-temperature butter in a large mixing bowl and beat at medium-to-high speed for a few minutes.
2. Add a few short glugs of Bailey's and a dash of Jameson , and mix at low speed.
3. Gradually spoon confectioners' sugar into the bowl, mixing on low speed.
4. Pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

But not this lace dress and here's why

unmemorable business lunch on west side, stopped at Time Warner Center on the way back thinking dinner might include something nice

from Bouchon Bakery. Lines were too long. Oh, well. Stepped into JCrew. Lace tank dress. Looks like a macramé project run amok.
Even on hangers many of the loopy things were drooping or coming loose. The circle part of the lace is about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. The hem of one displayed on a mannequin came down to where her cheeks would have ended had she been a Real Girl. Didn't have measuring tape in bag, approximated with sheet of 8 1/2 x 11 paper. Seam from underarm to hem, size 4, approximately 17 inches.

And speaking of thread count.

A romp through the j.crew collection store (reviews included)

Impressions: gray is still with us for spring and summer or whenever you go to the beach in your part of the world. Tees, gray very long tees, gray knit dress, gray (more on this later) sweatshirt, gray, long-sleeved sweatshirt, gray, short-sleeved (reminiscent of early DK) sweatshirt, gray, with sparkly things. I know with a certainty beyond faith that if I were to show up in a gray sweatshirt and spangly mini anywhere where there were people, those I have met previously would be shocked that I was dressed as the homeless lady of Madison Avenue (non-PC) and those I have not would wonder who had invited the out-of-shape gym teacher who does not own a 3-way mirror. OK, that's not my look. Even with a paper straw fedora.

Lovely thick-ish cotton paisley pencil skirt. Lovely.


Gray cashmere knit dress, v. smooth, not furry, apparently from one of the more expensive neighborhoods of Italy. About $800, no picture. Actually kinda short for a dress?

Thomas Mason checked (gingham)shirt. I was underwhelmed. The JC tailoring was ok, but after all the hype, was disappointed to find that the fabric had no body. The photo stylist must have dipped the one in the catalog in decoupage medium. I'm sure it has a v. respectable thread count, but only because the threads were spun by spiders. Making a fuss about this issue because if I spend money on a tailored shirt I want it to look good all day and I want to be able to take my jacket/blazer off and put it back on without worrying.

The pic doesn't quite show what I wanted but the shirt is floppy. Having the collar, neckband and plackets hold a press is key to how becoming a shirt is. And the stitching here is such that there'll always be crumples. No matter how fresh and dewy your face is, you should think twice before surrounding it with crumples.

The orange-y red shorts with poufy pleaty things over the hips -- um, I think they may be reusing part of the pattern of the Rideau coat. Curtains on this one! Unless it's on promo when my friend the Perennially Underemployed Poetess gets another gig as a minstrel. Wouldn't this look great with striped tights, booties and a lute?


That's a close-up of the white perforated leather dress. Outside smooth, interior kind of suede-y. Attention to detail: questionable.


The seams are not perfect and I don't think these problems can be fixed.

I thought I had enough stripes, but this made me think again. It manages to combine all the design features of the past year beautifully. Hoodie, decorative zippers, stripes, kangaroo pocket. And the fabric is a delight - heavy cotton knit. Someone please tell me it's a top, not a dress!

I also loved the madras patchwork schoolboy jacket, the vineyard pencil skirt, and all of the lace pieces. Oh, and the Prince of Wales schoolboy is back. Limited edition my aunt. C'mon promos!

The bag I've dreamed about


Haven't been able to get near stores, living on takeout, crazed with paperwork, wanted to share this:
  • good size for a tote
  • sturdy, lined, useful interior pocket
  • design is on all 4 sides and bottom!
  • design appears to be laminated on fabric, not inkstamped
  • 3 colors, red, blue, caramel
  • almost forgot: the price is right! $35. Yes. Thirty-five. Dollars. American.

Manque d'audace



Quiet day, gray weather, trying to avoid stores, and finally at night we ran to the Roundabout Theatre's production of The Importance of Being Ernest, with Brian Bedford as Lady Bracknell. This is how you can tell that a production is truly exquisitely

done: you know the play by heart and you still laugh. Amazing that they could still make it seem new, but they did. And Brian Bedford was wonderful, played the part seriously, with voice and intonations like a baritone Julia Child. We left smiling.

Two seats from me sat (sprawled), all in black except for the heavy (and real, depressing how easily one can tell) gold jewelry, DVF herself. Alive, in person, blonder than ever. Well, the play had 3 acts, thus 2 intermissions, and during neither could I find the nerve to say “J'adore votre oeuvre.” Not even, in the words of that wonderful commercial, “J”admire votre baignoire.” But oh, I do, I do.

International relations on the cashmere front and fred discovers a new craft

There's always a little down-time on weekends, and I tend to fill it with working very hard at being lazy. This doesn't always happen, but I try. Yesterday, while Himself was fretting over which of 1548 channels to bless with his eyeballs, I noticed that my sweater was pilling. Mmm, quelle surprise. But then I noticed that there seems to be a relationship - tenuous, perhaps, but there - between the cashmere sweater and the trusty de-piller. Does the State Department know about this? Is cashmere fuzz going to be our next secret weapon in the quest for world peace? Can sweaters bring about a peaceful and symbiotic relationship?

/>cashmere fuzz. You will no doubt be as pleased as I was to learn that furry cashmere drippings can be recycled into charmingly demented little knick-knacks which you can inflict on those to whom you must bring house gifts. The craft is called "needle felting," and to do it you repeatedly jab a specially made needle into a handful of special wool until you have a tight blob which you then poke and press with your fingers until it assumes a recognizable shape (other than blob).

Saturday night at The Palm, East Hampton

My parents took turns picking restaurants, and my dad's standby was a steakhouse. Old-fashioned steakhouses are hard to find these days I love Peter Luger's steaks, hate having to get a guy to call the reservation (believe it!) Of

the others, my next favorite is The Palm. But without cigar smoke… without Pop… WTH, Pop would be the first to agree, a good steak's a good steak! And The Palm has had a branch (a frond?) in East Hampton for a long time. The front-of-house crew rotates from resort town to resort town with the seasons, housing provided. No reservations for groups of less than 6. Trust me, you don't want to sit next to a group of 6 or larger here. We came with friends one night a few years back and there was a well-known actress with entourage of 5 guys. We of course pretended to be too cool to notice. Until they had a contest to see who could flip the most butterpats to the ceiling and have them stick. I hope the bald guy onto whose skull a soft butterpat fell was her agent. Well, that was a cultural highlight to remember. The Palm is located in a charming old inn. No idea what the rooms are like, we've always been able to drive or be driven home. and happily found some old jewelry I'd forgotten about, which was very glad to get an outing. Picture of newly liberated necklace and bracelet right. Otherwise, jeans and shirt. This is not necessarily the way a decluttering effort should end, but I'm ok with it.

No thanks

The tank that tanked


the cashmere tank has popped up on the JCrew sale site again, and since I've had it home and returned it in several sizes and at several prices, I thought I'd review it. Oops, maybe I just did. Let me add that I like the concept of something soft and lightweight to put under a velvet jacket or over a long skirt of a winter evening, and I have been hanging on to two from RL for years, one in deepest gray and the other in deepest wine. Great for overheated restaurants, where you want a little glam at table in overheated room, but don't know where or how the evening might end.

National Grammar Day

OINK OINK OINK - dinner at Maialino

The reservation before this had to be canceled two out of four were ill. Since we had to follow the "procedure" to book here, we're only getting around to pigging out on pork tonight. With a nod to user reviews of electronics, shoes and clothing, I note that the booking procedure is nowhere near as aggravating and pointless as Babbo's. And, alerted by kind friends, we've pre-ordered the roast suckling pig. Anyway, we're in, we're on!

Weds. nite.
First, we'd suspected some kind of run-around, having been offered choice of 6:30 or 9 p.m seatings. Au contraire, we were pleased to note that the place was packed at 6:30,with hungry and happy-looking people who'd obviously come to eat and drink. And everything we passed as we headed for a table looked beyond appetizing. Onward: first courses. I had ambrosial buffalo mozzarella and prosciutto, not an original choice, but plates of it being delivered to others looked sooo appealing. Best.mozzarella.ever. Better than burrata, to my surprise and delight. Others had a special of lamb sweetbreads (animelle alla romana), crisply sauteed slices, perfectly cooked.

This was accompanied by lovely roast potatoes and jus on the platter, and a special contorno, dandelion leaves with tomato, anchovy, whatever.

What to look at when you feel bad 'cause someone's told you to get a life

Surrounded by assassins!


Give me Liberty or give me - um, leather?

Liberty print perfect shirts, several prints. Liberty has several grades of fabric and these feel like Liberty's lovely Tana Lawn, which would explain why the shirts are so expensive. I will definitely grab me one or more of these - on a promo that I will learn about from JCA )

O ther Liberty accessories. In principle I'm glad to see these back. Liberty's Ground Floor used to be coming down with this stuff, souvenirs of a visit to Liberty that people wouldn't let them stop selling. It's not a trip to London unless you buy something in a little floral print whilst gawping at the wonderful paneling. And I am glad that JC doesn't (yet) offer Liberty print needle cases, even though Liberty does. Good call, JC. How about some Liberty magic wallets?. Hm, not sure I'd pay list for the shoes. Already have wedge oxfords in a pink mini-floral print that I picked up from UO last spring and they're still hanging on. Might treat them to pink or lime shoelaces. Check out Liberty of London's own offerings at www.liberty.co.uk/fcp/categorylist/dept/gifts_liberty-print?resetFilters=true

What else -- the new blue colors in the cashmeres were delicious! The minis were minis ('nuff said), and there were lots of flats with really cute decorative accents at the toe, which inspired a search for "shoe clips" on Etsy. The idea of the shoe clip is that if you have, say, plain black suede sling-backs, you wear them to work with your black jacket and skirt work clothes, and just before you leave, />change your work blouse for a satin tank and you add fooffy shoe clips to the toes of your shoes. A friend used to keep a quick-change box with this equipment in her file drawer, that's how I remembered about shoe clips.

Studded sweater is back, and as some knowledgeable JCAs have pointed out, the knit is lovely and the studs are lightweight and sewn on so they don't scratch. I wish I didn't have so many striped things and I promised Himself no more mustard-color clothes. I'd love to see this knit in a bunch of other inspirations, though, so loved it but left it.

Bathing suits. Always a very personal decision, we don't discuss deeply disturbing experiences like war, home fires, job loss and experiences trying on bathing suits in front of children. The large flower print is lovely, not quite as entrancing in the swimsuit jersey as it is in the silk scarf. In fact, maybe it's not quite the same print? Oh, and they got the paisley right! You go, J.Crew.

Finally, The Jean Shop Western Shirt, 44211, was in the Collection Store in a few sizes. It was sold out online for quite a while, then popped back in X S. I tried it on instore. It's VERY heavy - in weight, not warmth. The website description says it will stretch out to fit over the years. Not sure what this means if you want to wear it sooner. Moreover, I don't think this means it will get

longer, at sleeves or at hem, where I think it's skimpy, although I could see a really petite girl who is used to weight-lifting looking great in this. If you wear this and carry the Exhibitor Tote, you could save a bundle on gym fees.


Thursday, August 6, 2009

Hyper Vine Longing for Sunshine: Ray Knutsen, Vermont Winemaker Part 1

We spent the afternoon with Ray Knutsen at his vineyard and winery in Benson, Vermont. He is enthusiasm on steroids--the epitome of the garage wine mechanic. Able to leap large ideas in a single bound, he planted his first vines in the mid-seventies, going through the maelstrom of trying to bring vinifera to Vermont only to emerge years later as a sort of Guru of hybrid varietals. Based on his extensive research, trial and error, and uncompromising honesty about what can really work on a cold hilltop in Vermont instead of the Elysium slopes of the Côtes d’Or in France.

Ourselves being Vermonters for 30 plus years (don’t say that to a local) our first question was what we thought the obvious one: “How much cold can these guys handle?”

Answer: 󈬘 below.” Ray nosedives his hand and then levels off. ”No vines like a major change from say 20 degrees to 30 below, but these Minnesota hybrids do fine here.”

But it’s not the bigger deal here in Vermont this year. What is, is rot, WEATHER, rain, mold, mildew, numerous fungi. The University of Minnesota being the vanguard of hybridizing vinifera so places like there and here can grow grapes and make wine. We suspect they are working on fungi after Ray animates the plucking of weaker strains from the test beds.

Free association now from Ray, a vortex of information on lessons learned in Minnesota, the dizzying number of vines tested each year, their process of elimination, the how’s and why’s of The University of Minnesota’s snail pace when it comes to releasing new hybrid grapes. I mean we are mortal, so if you want to get a leg up and move forward in the Vermont wine world you may have to live to be 200!

We try some Le Crescent out of one of the stainless tanks, reminiscent of Riesling, but a bit edgier, with less of the petroleum nose we’re used to in some European Rieslings. Clean, tight, a food wine as they say. Then we spit and miraculously the three of us all begin to crow about chewable, flabby, cream-soda-like, monster, American Chardonnays with alcohol levels that could kill off a sumo wrester after two sips. And they are not all cheap wines!


Behind the Swinging Doors: A Look Inside Recette’s Kitchen - Recipes

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Steve
Sep 3, 2020
Seems like every episode is becoming social justice propaganda lately. Used to be one of my favorites.

carlie madden
Jun 2, 2020
love this podcast its amazing. I implore you to do an entire season based on the African American museum

Adam
Nov 24, 2018

Description

More than 154 million treasures fill the Smithsonian’s vaults. But where the public’s view ends, Sidedoor begins. With the help of biologists, artists, historians, archaeologists, zookeepers and astrophysicists, host Lizzie Peabody sneaks listeners through the Smithsonian’s side door, telling stories that can’t be heard anywhere else. Check out si.edu/sidedoor and follow @SidedoorPod for more info.

LeRoy Neiman was a colorful man, both figuratively and literally. His handlebar mustache, long cigar, and sketchpad were fixtures at the sidelines of American pop culture: from boxing matches to jazz clubs and political conventions. His paintings, sketches, and prints papered the second half of the 20th century, highlighting American icons in his colorful expressionist style. He was rich, famous, and adored by many Americans… but not the art critics.

One hundred years ago this week, from May 31 and June 1, 1921, a mob targeted and destroyed nearly 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it nearly a century later. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it.

At least 1,256 homes, along with churches, schools, businesses and even a hospital were deliberately burned or destroyed. Recently found documents are helping historians and researchers better understand the events that took place. And lots of this work is happening by staff at the National Museum of African American History and Culture. In fact, part of the Power of Place exhibition at the museum is dedicated to the events of the massacre.

Groucho and Freddy. Oryx and ostriches. Cats and dinosaurs. These things go together like… well, they really don’t go together at all. These are fun-sized stories in one goodie bag of an episode. It’s Sidedoor’s third “Best of the Rest!”

We carry portraits around all the time: pocket-sized history lessons in the form of dollars and cents. The recent decision to put Harriet Tubman on the $20 bill has us thinking about who’s on our money, and how they got there. This episode of the “Portraits” podcast, from the Smithsonian’s National Portrait Gallery, takes a whirlwind tour of money of yore, featuring everything from piles of bunnies to George Washington’s nipples. This episode will have you taking a closer look at the portraits you might be sitting on right now.

In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine virtuosity helped turn the tide in the war against infectious diseases.

We’ve updated this episode with a bonus interview to reflect on what we’ve learned from our current pandemic. If you want to learn more, please see vaccinesandus.org.

Henrietta the river herring is not a particularly glamorous fish. But she’s got grit. Every summer, she swims out to the Atlantic ocean, and every spring, she makes the 500 mile journey back to Maryland’s Patapsco River, where she was born—a habitat that’s been only partially accessible to herring like her for more than a century. But this year will be different. Join the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center’s herring tagging team as they study what happens to herring like Henrietta when someone gives a dam.

Every spring, for as long as records have been kept, a crowd of hundreds of black crowned night herons descend on the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, mating, eating and generally causing a ruckus. Many of the keepers at the zoo enjoy them, but they can be a tough bird to love.

Every fall, peace is restored when the herons decamp and fly off to… where? For more than a century, nobody knew. Until now.

When Lena Richard cooked her first chicken on television, she beat Julia Child to the screen by over a decade. At a time when most African American women cooks worked behind swinging kitchen doors, Richard claimed her place as a culinary authority, broadcasting in the living rooms of New Orleans’s elite white families. She was an entrepreneur, educator, author, and an icon—and her legacy lives on in her recipes.

American newspaper publisher and all-around eccentric, Charles Francis Hall, was an unlikely candidate to become an Arctic explorer. Nevertheless, he made three trips to the frozen north, until he died there under suspicious circumstances. Sharpen your powers of deduction and join us on Sidedoor for an epic frozen whodunit, featuring shipwreck, romance, and a social media darling with a dark secret.

As Americans approach a full year of pandemic life, there’s an overwhelming sense of anticipation: when can we get vaccinated? What will life look like in six months? When will life return to normal? Maybe because looking outward feels so daunting, a lot of people are looking inward, through mindfulness and meditation. In this episode of Sidedoor, we learn about mindfulness and meditation through the lens of religion – a Buddhist priest shares the story of her religious journey and we hear about the secular spirituality that young Americans are increasingly following away from religion.

If you’ve heard the phrase, “full blooded,” you’re already familiar with the concept of blood quantum. But Native Americans are the only peoples in the United States whose identity is defined by it. Through the photography of Tailyr Irvine, displayed at the National Museum of the American Indian, we take a look at the colonial origin story of blood quantum: where it came from, why it endures, and how it continues to impact the most personal decisions many Native Americans make about love and family today.

Tailyr Irvine’s Reservation Mathematics: Navigating Love in Native America exhibition link: https://americanindian.si.edu/developingstories/irvine.html

As an up-and-coming young blues singer in the 1950s, Barbara Dane faced a choice: fame and fortune, or her principles. She left the mainstream music industry and became a revolutionary music producer – literally. Spurred by Fidel Castro’s international gathering of protest singers, Dane created a record label that published the sounds of social change around the world, and inspired generations of protest music to come.

Wonder Woman is the best known female superhero of all time, but she’s been through a lot. The brainchild of a psychologist, Wonder Woman hit the comic pages in the 1940s as an antidote to the “bloodcurdling masculinity” of male superheroes. But by the early ‘70s, Wonder Woman was having a midlife crisis. She’d given up her bullet-blocking bracelets and lasso of truth…and opened a clothing boutique. It took a feminist magazine cover to make-over Wonder Woman from comic book character to the icon she remains today.

In 1890, Americans were delighted when they heard the news that Thomas Edison was using his phonograph technology to give voice to porcelain dolls. But their delight turned to horror when they got their hands on his dolls. In this episode of Sidedoor, we’ll hear a short story that imagines what happens when two little girls receive one of Edison’s talking dolls as a holiday gift, as well as meet one of these dolls with an expert from the National Museum of American history.

To see one of these dolls, check it out on our website.

This week, we have an episode from the NHPR podcast “Outside/In” about passenger pigeons. The passenger pigeon is one of the world’s most symbolic extinction stories. It’s a cautionary tale of how in just a few short generations, one of the wonders of the world could be completely eradicated. But when that narrative was questioned in a popular book, 1491 by Charles Mann, what does the response tell us about the conservation movement as a whole?

This week, we’re sharing an episode of ‘Detours,’ a new podcast from our friends at GBH and PRX. The podcast shares surprising stories that unfold behind the scenes at the PBS classic TV show “Antiques Roadshow.” In this episode: a rare daguerreotype, Edgar Alan Poe, and…the FBI.

You can find ‘Detours’ wherever you listen to podcasts.

When a highly-contagious mystery illness spread through the world’s mountain gorilla population, biologists feared the entire species could be lost. Gorillas don’t wear masks or social distance, so there wasn’t much time for the scientists to identify the illness and find a cure for humanity’s hirsute cousins. What they found in 1988 reminds us in 2020 that humans and wildlife share more than a planet: we share disease.

Dress codes have been around a long time—from the old days of long skirts and bloomers to today’s regulation-length shorts. But while the specifics of what girls can wear to school have changed, the purpose of the codes has not.

When Abigail Washburn and Wu Fei first jammed together, “it was magic.” Fei was shocked to meet an American banjo player so curious about China’s culture and Abigail Washburn met a classically trained composer whose talents on the guzheng, a 2500 year old 21-string Chinese harp, perfectly complimented her banjo pickin’. Today, they collaborate to make a new brand of folk music: one that combines the tones of Appalachia with the melodies of China.

To look at them, you might think, “Monarch butterflies aren’t going anywhere fast.” But each year, these beauties complete one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom, soaring more than a mile high to gather on a few mountaintops in Mexico they’ve never seen before, yet somehow they all know where to find. We unlock the secret lives of monarchs, and learn how to support them on their journey.

Bonus Episode | This week, we wanted to share “And Nothing Less,” the new short series from our colleagues at the National Park Service and PRX. It gives a much-needed closer look at the twisty history of the 19th Amendment - and its lesser-known heroes. It’s hosted by two fabulous women: Rosario Dawson and Retta. We’ll play the first episode right here, and you can find the rest of the series by searching (enunciate) “And Nothing Less” wherever you get your podcasts!

Fred Tutman is the voice of the river. Specifically, Maryland’s Patuxent River. As the Riverkeeper, his job is to protect and preserve all 110 miles of that waterway – a role that takes him both to the courtroom and to the riverbank. But Fred is also the only African American Riverkeeper in the United States, a fact he sees as an indicator of an environmental movement that is incomplete. And it’s the planet that will pay the price.

100 years ago this month, the 19th Amendment was ratified into the American Constitution. It’s widely remembered as the moment American women gained the right to vote, but history tells a more complex story. For millions of Indigenous Americans living in far-flung territories, the 19th Amendment afforded some rights – but fell well short of what was promised. So this time: how women’s suffrage came to Hawaiʻi – and what was taken from Hawaiians to get there.

On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.

Baseball fan or not, you know this song…or at least, you think you do. “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” is one of the top three most recognizable songs in the country, next to the “The Star Spangled Banner” and “Happy Birthday.” But long-forgotten lyrics reveal a feminist message buried amid the peanuts and cracker jack.

When Mimi Knoop entered her first skateboarding competition at 24 years old, she never anticipated leaving her mark on the sport forever. But in the early 2000s, she formed an alliance with pioneering skateboarder Cara-Beth Burnside to make a simple request: that the X Games – and the rest of the skateboarding industry – treat female skateboarders the same way they treat their male peers.

When Lena Richard cooked her first chicken on television, she beat Julia Child to the screen by over a decade. At a time when most African American women cooks worked behind swinging kitchen doors, Richard claimed her place as a culinary authority, broadcasting in the living rooms of New Orleans’s elite white families. She was an entrepreneur, educator, author, and an icon – and her legacy lives on in her recipes. Today: her improbable rise to prominence, and her famous gumbo.

In 2017, a photograph of Harriet Tubman surfaced that had been lost to history for more than a century. In a feature of the National Portrait Gallery’s Portraits podcast, we hear the story behind this picture, and how its discovery changes the way we see Tubman – not just an icon of freedom and human dignity, but a courageous young woman.

To look at them, you might think, “Monarch butterflies aren’t going anywhere fast.” But each year, these beauties complete one of the most remarkable migrations in the animal kingdom, soaring more than a mile high to gather on a few mountaintops in Mexico they’ve never seen before, yet somehow they all know where to find. We unlock the secrets lives of monarchs, and learn how to support them on their journey.

A perplexing tattoo. Ancient erotica. Killer bees on the loose. This episode is full of short stories we’ve been eager to tell, but couldn’t… until now. It’s Sidedoor’s second-ever “Best of the Rest!”

Learn more about the Freer & Sackler’s collection of shunga, the National Museum of American
History’s Great Historic Clock of America on si.edu.

Three billion birds have gone missing since 1970. And conservation biologist Pete Marra considers it his life’s work to make sure more don’t slip away without a fight. In this episode, we go bird-spotting with Pete, and learn what each of us can do to bring birds back.

Virginia Hall dreamed of being America’s first female ambassador. Instead, she became a spy. Joining the ranks of the U.S.’s first civilian spy network, she operated alone in occupied France, where she built French Resistance networks, delivered critical intelligence, and sold cheese to the enemy. All on one leg.

Alexander von Humboldt might not be a name you know, but you can bet you know his ideas. Back when the United States were a wee collection of colonies huddled on the eastern seaboard, colonists found the wilderness surrounding them *scary. *It took a zealous Prussian explorer with a thing for barometers to show the colonists what they couldn’t see: a global ecosystem, and their own place in nature. In this episode, we learn how Humboldt - through science and art - inspired a key part of America’s national identity.

In the Venn diagram of life, it’s hard to imagine what spacecraft and women’s underwear might have in common. And that’s probably what NASA engineers thought back in 1962 when they asked a handful of companies to design a spacesuit that would keep a man alive and mobile on the moon. Nobody counted on the International Latex Corporation, whose commercial brand, Playtex, was known for its bras and girdles. But lingerie, and the expert seamstresses who sewed it, played a critical role in those first well-supported steps on the moon.

Get ready for season five! Our new season begins on Wednesday, March 4th. Journey with Lizzie through our many side doors for a behind-the scenes view of the Smithsonian.

Smithsonian Secretary Lonnie G. Bunch III is no administrative assistant. He’s the head of the largest museum, education, and research complex in the world. He’s also the first historian to lead the Smithsonian. In our season finale, we talk with Secretary Bunch about two stories of people overcoming tremendous obstacles to make a change and explore what the past can teach us about today…and tomorrow.

Nearly 100 years ago, Charles Ponzi stumbled across a loophole in the international postal system and turned it into one of the most infamous scams of all time. This time on Sidedoor, we follow Ponzi from his early days until his epic downfall, and hear from a postal investigator trained to catch swindlers like Ponzi who continue to use the U.S. mail for nefarious purposes.

Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s. This time on Sidedoor, we tell the story of just what went SO wrong with E.T. Episode originally aired June 26, 2019.

Edmonia Lewis was the first American woman of color to achieve international fame as a sculptor. Her 3,000-pound masterwork, “The Death of Cleopatra,” commemorated another powerful woman who broke with convention… and then the sculpture disappeared. On this episode of Sidedoor, we find them both.

When professional athletes face the end of their career, many look ahead with uncertainty and wonder:
“What’s next?” But when Adam Rippon stood on the Olympic podium in 2018, making history as the first openly gay American to medal at the winter Olympics, he was sure about his next steps. Rippon was a darling of the American Olympic media, entering all of his interviews ready with a joke and a willingness to
speak candidly about his personal journey. In this episode, Rippon brings that same attitude to Sidedoor, talking about his Olympic costume, fame, and the male private part that we didn’t realize was private.

On November 14, 1969, just four months after Apollo 11’s “giant leap for mankind,” the Apollo 12 Saturn V rocket took off for the moon. Seconds later, a burst of static plunged the three-man crew into complete darkness while speeding toward space in a nearly dead spacecraft. For the 50th anniversary, we tell the often-overlooked story of Apollo 12, one full of danger, discovery, and the power of friendship.

In its heyday, dynamite was a transformative tool it could blast rock quarries, excavate tunnels, and demolish buildings with power and reliability never before seen. But it also proved to be useful in some surprising ways. In this special episode of Sidedoor, we team up with the history podcast Backstory
to explore two less-typical applications of the explosive: the artistic blasting at Mount Rushmore, and how anarchists used dynamite to advance their political agenda in 1886.

Smell connects us to memories of the people and the places of our lives. But what if it could connect us to a past we’ve never experienced? That's the goal for one team of artists and scientists who used DNA to try to revive the scent of a flower extinct for more than a century.

Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges. Episode originally aired June 12, 2019.

Did you know that Martha Washington was essential to America’s Revolutionary War effort? Or that Eleanor Roosevelt was the driving force behind the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights? According to journalist, writer, and commentator Cokie Roberts, many of America's First Ladies were dynamic, politically engaged trailblazers who are often overlooked. We sit down with the Smithsonian's National Portrait Gallery director, Kim Sajet, to talk about a recent episode of the museum’s new podcast, Portraits. In it, she and Cokie discuss four First Ladies who are remembered for their influence on American history.

Note: As many of you have probably heard, Cokie Roberts passed away in the days since we originally recorded this episode. Our heart goes out to all of Cokie’s family, friends, and people like us who have enjoyed her work for decades.

Portraits of First Ladies featured in the episode:

Sidedoor hits the road, sneaking behind the scenes for the ultimate Smithsonian field trip we never took as kids. Lizzie and producer Justin O'Neill journey by bike, train, and even horse (okay, plastic horse) in a romp from museum to museum, encountering a hungry predator, a group of Broadway monsters, the last work of an iconic painter, and lots more. Join us!

David Levinthal is a New York-based artist whose photography depicts “the America that never was but always will be.” He uses toys to recreate iconic moments in American history and pop culture, encouraging his audience to question America’s collective memory. Sidedoor visits Levinthal in his studio, and an exhibition of his work at the Smithsonian American Art Museum titled “American Myth & Memory: David Levinthal Photographs” to explore the distinction between fact and fable.

Click here to see the images we discuss in the episode.

You probably know orchids as the big, colorful flowers found in grocery stores and given as housewarming gifts. But those tropical beauties represent only a fraction of the estimated 25,000 orchid species worldwide. While their showy relatives fly off the shelves, North America’s more understated native orchids are disappearing in the wild. Scientists at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center are working to protect these orchids and their habitats, but first they need to solve a surprisingly difficult problem: how to grow one.

Regie Cabico has been called the "Lady Gaga of Spoken Word poetry"—he's outspoken, provocative and iconoclastic. The son of Filipino immigrants living in rural Maryland, Regie says he’ll never be “entirely American or entirely Filipino,” and on stage he uses his poetry to explore identity, social issues, and (of course) love. Regie joins Sidedoor *in studio* for an exclusive live performance, and even offers some poetic cooking tips from the annals of American history.

When NASA’s Apollo 11 mission sent the first astronauts to the moon 50 years ago, there were many things we didn’t know. Like whether the moon’s surface would turn out to be a field of quicksand, if space germs would infect the astronauts, or what exactly the moon was made of. To commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Apollo 11 moon landing, we join forces with the National Air and Space Museum’s podcast, AirSpace, to explore the mysteries of lunar science: what we didn't know then, and what we still don't know today.

Listen to AirSpace, stories that defy gravity: airandspace.si.edu/learn/airspace-podcast

Deep within the National Museum of American History’s vaults is a battered Atari case containing what’s known as “the worst video game of all time.” The game is E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, and it was so bad that not even the might of Steven Spielberg could save it. It was so loathsome that all remaining copies were buried deep in the desert. And it was so horrible that it’s blamed for the collapse of the American home video game industry in the early 1980s. This time on Sidedoor, we tell the story of just what went SO wrong with E.T.

Behind the fossilized teeth, bones, and claws displayed in the National Museum of Natural History’s new Fossil Hall is the story of two men and a nasty feud. During the paleontology boom of the late 1800s, scientists O.C. Marsh and Edward Cope went from good friends who named species after each other, to the bitterest of enemies who eventually ruined each other's lives and careers. Come for the dinos, stay for the grudges.

With our fourth season’s launch quickly approaching, take a moment to meet the new voice of Sidedoor!

Season Four of the Smithsonian's Sidedoor podcast launches on June 12, 2019. Subscribe now!

Close your eyes and think of Hawaii. That sound you undoubtedly hear? Well, that’s the ocean. But that other sound floating on the breeze—that’s the steel guitar, an indigenous Hawaiian invention that has influenced country, blues, and rock music since the turn of the 20th century. This time on Sidedoor, we follow a familiar sound with an unexpected origin and learn how the steel guitar helped Hawaiians preserve their culture and change American popular music.

Glittering treasures, gleaming coins, and eye-catching jewelry…gold can be all of these things, but in some parts of the world it's also an enduring link to the past. Gus Casely-Hayford, director of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African Art, takes us on a journey through West Africa to learn how gold was the foundation for massive empires—and his own family—and how it continues shining brightly in West African culture today.

We all know Abraham Lincoln, right? Well, we know one side of him—the grave-faced leader of a troubled country—but behind the face on the penny lies an unlikely jokester. This week, Sidedoor reveals the rascally side of our 16th president, and does it with a brand-new sound.

In 1960, investigators found dark bits of feather stuck inside a crashed airplane's engines. They needed someone to figure out what bird they belonged to—and how that bird took down a 110,000-pound plane. Enter Roxie Laybourne, a Smithsonian bird expert who not only answered that question, but also invented the science of using feathers to solve bird-related mysteries. This time on Sidedoor, we revisit some of Roxie's greatest cases and learn how she and her team helped keep the friendly skies friendly for both birds and people.

Gladys Bentley loved women, wore men's clothing, and sang bawdy songs that would make sailors blush. and did it openly in the 1920s and 1930s. This was long before the gay rights or the civil rights movements, yet Bentley became a darling of the Harlem Renaissance alongside icons like Langston Hughes and Josephine Baker. While her provocative performances kept her from becoming as well-known as her peers, they are exactly why she is being rediscovered—and admired—today. In celebration of Women's History Month, we follow the life of a trailblazer who was unapologetically herself at a time when she would’ve been acutely aware of the risks.

In the mid-1990s, investigators identified a mysterious and seemingly unstoppable killer. Its name? Chytrid. Its prey? Frogs. Since then, the disease has ravaged frog populations worldwide, and despite decades of research there’s still no cure. So, like modern-day Noahs, a group of Smithsonian researchers have resorted to a time-honored plan: building an ark…for amphibians. This time on Sidedoor, we travel to the Panamanian jungle to see how it's helping some endangered frogs avoid extinction.

In the 1970s and ’80s, Cheech Marin was famous for being half of the stoner comedy duo "Cheech and Chong." Today, he’s a passionate advocate for Chicano art and is raising awareness around a uniquely Mexican American aesthetic: rasquachismo. In this episode of Sidedoor, Cheech Marin is our guide to the wildly creative and ingenious world of rasquachismo—the Chicano art of working with what you've got.

Happy New Year! We’re busy working on a new batch of Sidedoor episodes and while you wait, we wanted to re-share a story we like from the fall, just in case you missed it the first time around. From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in movies like Free Willy, whales have long captured the human imagination. And it makes sense—they're among the largest and most intelligent creatures to ever live on our planet. This time on Sidedoor, we’ll explore our surprising relationship with whales through the lens of one species: the gray whale. Once aggressively hunted and thought to be nearly extinct, they've rebounded to become one of the North Pacific’s most abundant whale species. So, what changed?

You know Amelia Earhart, but did you know she was just one of a daring group of women aviators who defied both expectations and gravity in the 1920s? They called themselves the Ninety-Nines, and they’re still flying today as an organization dedicated to the advancement of women pilots. This time on Sidedoor, we time-travel to the Roaring ‘20s to experience America's first official all-female air race, and then meet a modern-day Ninety-Nine who is ensuring that the legacy of Earhart and her fellow pilots continues to thrive.

Meet Eadweard Muybridge, a pioneering and eccentric photographer from the 1800s whose work changed how people understood movement, and paved the way for the invention of motion pictures. But this inventor, artist, and showman also made a name for himself for something much less savory: murder. This time on Sidedoor, come for the ingenuity and stay for the scandal as we find out how a near-death experience, a handsome horse, and a rumored $25,000 bet helped Eadweard Muybridge change the course of photographic history.

Artist Frank Holliday's social circle in the 1980s was a who's who of New York City cool: Andy Warhol, Cyndi Lauper, RuPaul, Keith Haring, and even Madonna. But Frank's odyssey through the art world also placed him at the center of an epidemic that would shake the entire country. In honor of World AIDS Day, Sidedoor takes a look at America's early HIV/AIDS Crisis through the eyes of an artist whose life and work were changed by it forever.

This episode features recordings from the "Visual Arts and the AIDS Epidemic" Oral History Project produced by the Smithsonian’s Archives of American Art.

In 1621, a group of Pilgrims and Native Americans came together for a meal that many Americans call "The First Thanksgiving." But get this—it wasn't the first, and the meal itself wasn't so special either. The event was actually all but forgotten for hundreds of years…until it was dusted off to bolster the significance of a national holiday. This time on Sidedoor, we talk to Paul Chaat Smith, a curator at the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, to explore how much of what you think you know about Native Americans may be more fiction than fact.

Inside the Smithsonian’s National Museum of Natural history is the skeleton of Grover Krantz—an accomplished anthropologist, tenured professor…and diehard Bigfoot believer? As the first serious scientist to study the legendary creature, Krantz risked his career and reputation on a subject that many consider a joke. And while the museum remembers him as a man who loved science so much that he donated his body to it, another community remembers Krantz as a pioneer in the study of Sasquatch.

What if you found out that your grandmother’s house was going on display at a museum? The. Whole. House. That’s what happened to the Meggett sisters, who grew up visiting, eating, and playing at their grandma’s tiny cabin in South Carolina, unaware that it was originally built to house enslaved people. This time on Sidedoor, we explore the house's unique journey from slave cabin to family home to its latest incarnation as a centerpiece at the National Museum of African American History and Culture.

From 6,000-year-old cave paintings to silver screen stars in movies like Free Willy, whales have long captured the human imagination. And it makes sense—they're among the largest and most intelligent creatures to ever live on our planet. This time on Sidedoor, we’ll explore our surprising relationship with whales through the lens of one species: the gray whale. Once aggressively hunted and thought to be nearly extinct, they've rebounded to become one of the North Pacific’s most abundant whale species. So, what changed?

Our dear host Tony Cohn is leaving *Sidedoor *to travel the world, so we want to take a minute to introduce you to the new voice of the show, Haleema Shah.

In Washington, D.C., the neighborhood of Anacostia was once dismissed as the wrong side of the river. Now, it is turning into a housing hotspot as the city sees an influx of newer, wealthier residents. It’s called gentrification, and the process has become a flashpoint from Houston to Harlem and beyond. We’ll explore this longtime fight for housing through an innovative community museum that empowers local residents—kids and adults—to tell the stories of these changing neighborhoods.

The world’s deadliest animal isn’t the tiger, the snake, or even the alligator—it’s the mosquito. These tiny insects spread diseases that kill over 700,000 people each year. But what can we do to stop them? In search of solutions, host Tony Cohn travels around Panama with some well-equipped Smithsonian experts on the trail of this bloodthirsty, buzzing beast.

It begins a bit like a *Scooby Doo *episode: archaeologists digging at a place called “Witch Hill” discover mysterious human remains in an ancient trash heap. Who was this person? How’d they get there? Astonishingly, it would take 40 years to find out, and the story is way more surprising — and groundbreaking — than anyone could’ve ever imagined. So, grab your Scooby Snacks and join Sidedoor as we journey to the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute in Panama to see these unusual bones firsthand and meet the “meddling kids” trying to solve a mystery 700 years in the making.

The Hope Diamond is one of the most iconic items in the Smithsonian's collections, but this glittering gem is rumored to have a dark side. French monarchs, an heiress, and at least one unlucky postman have met misfortune after possessing it—though does that really constitute a curse? This time on Sidedoor, we track the lore of this notorious gem through the centuries, from southern India, through the French Revolution, and across the Atlantic Ocean to its current home at the National Museum of Natural History, to find out for ourselves.

Tony sneaks away from the mosquitoes and frogs of Panama to make a special announcement: Sidedoor
season three launches on Wednesday, August 8! Get ready for even more amazing
stories from every corner of the Smithsonian. Pro tip: subscribe today to receive new episodes before anyone
else, including our upcoming season premiere, "The Curse of the Hope Diamond."

How much do you know about the history of American home brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you'll meet the Smithsonian's first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country's complex—and often surprising—relationship with beer. You'll also meet a new wave of brewers who are working to craft some flavorful history of their own. (Originally broadcast date: July 4th, 2017)

Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of long-lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc: these 6,000-year-old wine remnants are evidence of the world's oldest winery. In this episode we ask, what can this ancient winery tell us about the earliest days of civilization, and could a thirst for wine be the reason why some ancient humans left behind their nomadic ways and settled down? (Original broadcast date: March 2018)

Big Bird in space. Saving a multi-million-dollar painting. Smokey the *real* Bear. These are some of the stories we've been itching toshare, but didn’t have room for… until now. To close out Season 2, we’re serving up a few of our favorite Smithsonian “shorties,”plus we’ll check in with our most talked about characters from this past year. We’ll be back forSeason 3in August 2018!

Extinct species don’t usually get a do-over…but don’t tell that to the scimitar-horned oryx. Erased from the wild for three decades, these desert antelope are back in the Central African country of Chad with a thriving herd of over a hundred individuals. But how did this happen? We visit the Smithsonian's National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute and a remote animal reserve in the United Arab Emirates to reveal the twists and turns of this amazing comeback story.

Talking animals? A bag of fire ants? Secret dancing superpowers? In this episode, Robert Lewis, an acclaimed Cherokee storyteller, spins stories about a legendary troublemaker: Jistu the Rabbit. Along the way, we visit the Smithsonian's National Museum of the American Indian, exploring the power stories hold to keep people connected to their culture across time and geographic distance. Experience the transformative power of
a good tale.

The day that Amy Sherald heard that she had been chosen to paint the official portrait of First Lady Michelle Obama, she called her mom to tell her the news, and then she told her dog. But soon after, the nerves set in. How was she going to create a portrait of one of the most iconic women in the world? In this episode of Sidedoor, we journey to Amy's studio to hear exactly how she captured the spirit of Michelle Obama in paint on canvas, and what she thinks of the reactions to her work.

Over the past few weeks, we’ve been hard at work on a batch of stories you’re going to love. So this week, we're sharing one of our favorite eps from the fall. Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery chose to put them on display.

Chris Crowe, an animal keeper for the Smithsonian, has an unlikely bond with Walnut, a female white-naped crane. Despite their obvious differences, she chose him as her mate. For Crowe, their relationship has high stakes: it impacts the future of an entire species. Venture with Sidedoor to the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute to meet this unconventional couple, and find out how their connection could be key to white-naped crane survival.

Sidedoor host Tony Cohn gets the opportunity of a lifetime: fly to Armenia and crawl into a deep, dark cave in search of lost wine. But we’re not talking just any ol’ cabernet or sauvignon blanc, these 6000-year-old remains are evidence of the world's oldest winery. In this episode, we ask: What can this ancient winery tell us about the earliest days of civilization, and could a thirst for wine be the reason why some ancient humans decided to settle down and stop being nomadic?

In the 1800s, the American diet was mostly made up of meats, potatoes, cheese, and perhaps the occasional green bean. Fruits and other veggies? Not so much. But that all changed thanks to a group of 19th century food spies – globe-trotting scientists and explorers who sought exotic crops to enhance America’s diet and help grow the economy. A pioneer among them was David Fairchild, who nabbed avocados from Chile, kale from Croatia, mangoes from India, and much more. In this episode, we learn about Fairchild's remarkable adventures and take a surprise trip to the Smithsonian archives to uncover a rare piece of food spy history.

In 1918, a flu pandemic killed more than 50 million people worldwide. Forty years later, it nearly happened again. This week on Sidedoor, we go back to a time when the viruses were winning, and we remember one man, Dr. Maurice Hilleman, whose vaccine virtuosity helped turn the tide in the war against infectious diseases.

Special thanks to our sponsor, Empty Frames. Search and subscribe to Empty Frames today on Apple Podcasts or your favorite listening destination.

Today, the US population is about 1% Muslim, but in the late 1700s that number was likely closer to 5%. Who were these early Muslim-Americans, where did they go, and why didn’t we all learn about them in school? In this episode, we search for American history's missing Muslims, and explore their experience though the words of Omar ibn Said, an enslaved Muslim man in North Carolina whose one-of-a-kind autobiography still resonates today.

Join Sidedoor in welcoming AirSpace, a new gravity-defying podcast from the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Hosts Emily Martin and Matt Schindell join Tony to share a few upcoming stories, including what’s on the menu in space, how Earth’s oceans teach us about exploring the cosmos, and what it takes to be an astronaut. We’ll also give you a peek into AirSpace’s maiden voyage, where the team looks at what happens when a bunch of scientists attempt to live like Martians. If you’ve ever thought changing time zones was hard, try living on “Mars Time.”

A special thank you to our sponsor, Hanover Press.

While we’re hard at work on some exciting new things, we wanted to start the new year off with one of our favorites from 2017: If These Bones Could Talk. Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 years later, in 2001, that two Smithsonian forensic scientists cracked the case.

120 years ago, Owney was a global celebrity. He was also a dog. And no, he didn’t juggle plates or dance on two legs, Owney was famous for simply riding trains with the US mail. So, climb aboard the Sidedoor Express and join us as we revisit different chapters of Owney’s story – his rise to fame, his disastrous fall, and his remarkable return to the spotlight at the Smithsonian’s National Postal Museum. It’ll be a doggone good time.

Even if you’ve never heard his name, you’ve probably heard his sound. J Dilla was a prolific hip-hop artist who collaborated with many hip-hop greats – from Questlove to Erykah Badu to Eminem. In this episode, we’re telling the story of J Dilla’s life and legacy through those that knew him best – his mother (aka Ma Dukes), James Poyser, and Frank Nitt – and some surprising objects on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture.

Does your ham sandwich have something to say? Quite possibly. Food can be a powerful storytelling tool. Many chefs, like authors, carefully craft meals or menus to transform a dining experience into a cultural, historical, or educational adventure. This week on Sidedoor, chef Jerome Grant from the Smithsonian's National Museum of African American History and Culture, and Maricel Presilla, who was the first female Latin American guest chef at the White House, discuss the story-rich menus that put them in the spotlight. Recorded live at the National Museum of American History’s Food History Weekend.

A hippo, an orangutan, and a scientist walk into a milk bar. or so our story goes. In January 2017, a baby hippo was born at the Cincinnati Zoo six weeks premature and some 30 pounds underweight. Her name was Fiona, and getting her to put on pounds was a life or death matter. Unfortunately, nursing wasn't an option and the only hippo formula recipe on file was old and out of date. To devise a new one, team Fiona turned to the scientists at the world's largest exotic milk repository at the Smithsonian's National Zoo. But could they do it in time…and would Fiona drink it?

Heiress, divorcée … mother of forensic science? Frances Glessner Lee was not your average 19th century woman. Using the skills that high-society ladies were expected to have -- like sewing, crafting, and knitting -- Frances revolutionized the male-dominated world of crime scene investigation. Her most celebrated contribution: 19 intricate dioramas depicting violent murder scenes. In this episode of Sidedoor, we'll explore Frances's morbid obsession, and discover why the Smithsonian's Renwick Gallery has chosen to put them on display.

In 1921, a riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows exactly how many people died, no one was ever convicted, and no one really talked about it until nearly a century later. In this episode, Sidedoor explores the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it. Episode originally released Nov. 9, 2016.

Haunted by her not-so-nice grandmother, a young woman finds herself turning into a ghost. Writer Anelise Chen reads her essay “Who Haunts,” and discusses the ways in which our families shape our personal and cultural identities, for better or worse. Chen was recently featured at the Smithsonian's first-ever Asian American Literature Festival in Washington, D.C. Original score by Nico Porcaro.

In the late 1800s, Paul Cinquevalli was one of the most famous and thrilling entertainers in the world. Tales of his juggling and balancing exploits spanned continents. But by the mid 20th century, his name was all but forgotten. In this episode, Sidedoor explores Cinquevalli’s epic rise and fall, and brings you inside the Smithsonian Folklife Festival’s circus tents for a one-of-a-kind Cinquevalli-inspired juggling revival.

An artist steps in front of a camera and drops a priceless 2000-year-old vase onto the floor, smashing it into a million pieces. This is Ai Weiwei, and the resulting photographs are one of his most well-known works of art. Many were inspired others were enraged. And around the world it got people talking. In this episode, we explore Ai Weiwei’s controversial career, and how he uses art to rally against political and social injustice.

Catty gossip that led to a presidential scandal, the earliest mavericks of American cinema, and the risque Roman origins of a favorite Disney character. This week, we bring you tales of small things that snowballed and had outsized impacts on history, art and culture. Presented live at the 2017 NYC Podfest.

In the early 1980s, a scientist invented a machine that could naturally filter out pollution from rivers, lakes, and other bodies of water. So, why isn't it everywhere today? In this episode, we explore the secret behind this powerful green technology (spoiler alert: it's algae!) and track its journey from a coral reef in the Caribbean to the basement of the National Museum of Natural History in Washington, D.C., and finally a port in Baltimore, where it is now being used to clean up one of the region's most polluted waterways.

In this episode, we look at artists whose work has helped reveal the human side of war. You’ll hear about a famous artist who got his start sketching Civil War soldiers and landscapes, and how he was never the same again. Also featured are two contemporary artists: a painter whose work depicts war's psychological impact on his best friend, and a female combat photographer who repeatedly risked her own life to document her fellow soldiers’ experiences on the battlefield.

In this mini-episode, Sidedoor host Tony Cohn interviews Sam Kass, former Obama White House chef and one of the people responsible for the first beer ever known to be brewed at the White House.

How much do you know about the history of American home-brewing? In this episode of Sidedoor you'll meet the Smithsonian's first brewing historian, Theresa McCulla, and learn about the role of women, enslaved people, and immigrants in the country's complex — and often surprising — relationship with beer. You'll also meet a new wave of brewers who are working to craft some flavorful history of their own.

Explorer, scholar and 19th Century Smithsonian darling Robert Kennicott seemed destined to lead a full and adventurous life. Then, at the age of 30, on an expedition to Russian Alaska in 1866, Kennicott was mysteriously discovered dead by a riverside. Rumors of all colors circulated about the cause of his death, although, it wasn’t until 135 years later, in 2001, that two Smithsonian forensic scientists cracked the case.

Sidedoor is back-- tell a friend! New season begins on Wednesday, June 21st.

Tony shares a special thanks and an exciting update for our upcoming season. Share your thoughts by emailing [email protected] or leave a message at 202-633-4120.

Transforming things we take for granted: An astronomer who has turned the night sky into a symphony an architecture firm that has radically rethought police stations and an audiophile who built a successful record company on underappreciated sounds.

Identity in a complex world: A look at the many roles each person plays in daily life a group of lesbian feminists create an entirely new culture, religion and society in the 1970s and Iraqi archaeologists work to preserve their cultural heritage after years of war.

Bending the rules: People sending their children through the U.S. Postal Service a Sikh man in the early 1900s tries to use the Supreme Court's racist rulings to his benefit and the little-known story behind the iconic folk song "Rock Island Line."

Squabbles big and small: A dining room turns two besties into lifelong enemies a researcher embraces the panda craze and why some dinosaur skulls were built to take a beating.

A quick update from Tony about the show.

Tales of deception and trickery: A sneaky orchid seeks sexually frustrated pollinator a battle fought by decoys and a gender-bending zombie invasion of the Chesapeake Bay.

A 1921 riot destroyed almost 40 blocks of a wealthy black neighborhood in North Tulsa, Oklahoma. No one knows how many people died, no one was ever convicted and no one really talked about it until a decade ago. This is the story of the Tulsa Race Massacre and why it's important that you know it.

The payoff is all in the delivery: Sending mail via cruise missile preparing a strong-willed orangutan for primate parenthood and failing to land a joke from the "gag file" of Phyllis Diller.

Technology's grip on us: The 4-1-1 on what's behind your selfie an artist's computer simulation shows humans aren't as unique as we think and how the invention of standardized time made America tick.

Sidedoor, a new podcast from the Smithsonian, is launching October 26th, 2016. Start subscribing now on iTunes!