Wanna Help DC Get a Roving Bacon Truck? Kickstart This...

As much as we talk about bacon on DC blogs, Twitter and Facebook accounts (looking at you Jeff Donald and Bourbon Steak), it's pretty amazing that we don't have a bacon related food cart hitting the streets yet. DCist tipped us off that that may be rectified soon. PORC (Purveyors of Rolling Cuisine... get it...) is trying to raise $30,000 to start this business on Kickstarter.

I can't decide if I should have thought of the idea of a roving street truck serving bacon... or tried to use Kickstarter to get around the issue of funding. I love how it allows potential customers to almost buy shares in the business. Consider this:
  • For $25 contribution, you earn two complimentary meals.
  • For a $50 contribution, you get a limited edition PORC t-shirt, two complimentary meals and your choice of the tote bag or the water bottle.
  • For $100 contribution, you get a week's worth of meals (as in 7), the t- shirt, tote bag and the water bottle.
  • For a $250 contribution, you get one ticket to PORC's Whole Hog BBQ Party. Think tasty BBQ pigs, top-notch beer and good times. PLUS everything in the $100 pledge
  • And for a $3,500 contribution, you get FREE FOOD FOR AN ENTIRE YEAR (1 entree, side, drink and dessert per day). Skip the line and claim your prize every day. Hell, you do this and we'll name a dish after you. PLUS the tote bag, water bottle, t-shirt and 2 tickets to the Whole Hog BBQ Party.
If you could start a business using crowdsourced money, what would you do? And why haven't you started yet?

LINK: Help kick start PORC


Things Floridians Do: Cook Stuff in Their Car On Hot Days... For Fun.

Am I the only one that did this as a science experiment in elementary school? C'mon Floridians... be honest... you've done it.

Vid by TBO.com

What have you cooked in the car on a scalding hot day? I made hot dogs on the black dashboard of my parents old car.


Where to Eat When It's 100 Degrees?

Let's get serious. No one wants to cook when it's 100 degrees out, like it was this weekend in DC. Heck, I didn't even make it to the farmers market and that's like 50 feet from my front door.

So, what *did* I enjoy and why?

Peach Blueberry Shake from Silver Diner

  • it had chunks of fresh, local blueberries and peaches embedded in a thick yogurt shake;
  • it came with a straw so thick that I could suck said chunks of fresh fruit out; and
  • I didn't even have to get out of my car to pick it up, pay for it & devour it. (Silver Diner, in addition to using fresh, local ingredients whenever possible, also has curbside pick up! Win.)
[NOTE: Word on the Twitter Street via @Pete_Eats is that they had these at the Mount Pleasant Market also - try em out!]

Watermelon, Feta & Black Olive Salad (on the seasonal menu) from Zaytinya
  • This is the meal I wanted to make for myself, but was too lazy to go get the ingredients for;
  • As a result, I spent a bit more money but got to meet Sebastian the bartender, hang out with my friend Caroline and drink a pitcher of Pom Fili. (More on that after the jump!)
  • Try this one at home. All you do is toss the ingredients together with whatever greens are fresh - Zaytinya used watercress today - and crack a little salt & pepper over the top!

Click "Read More" for the Pom Fili scoop!


Have You Met LiLu? With Your Help, She Could Be MTV's 1st Ever Twitter Jockey!

The DC Twitterverse is an increasingly small world.  It turns out, people who make me laugh my ass off on Twitter also make me laugh my ass off in real life. And one of our own, @LivItLuvIt (or LiLu if you fancy yourself part of her fan posse) is in the running to be MTV's first ever Twitter Jockey!  Get to know her and how you can help in this exclusive (ha!) Florida Girl in DC interview...  of course, I start off with food...

@FloridaGirlinDC (FGDC): Who's your source for where to eat?

@LivItLuvIt (LiLu): Definitely bloggers. They’re always honest, though I do take it with a grain of salt, because after a decade in the restaurant industry myself, I’m all too aware how people remember the bad and forget the good. AND how one bad experience can sour someone on a place, when really it was just a waiter having a bad day- I have to hear a few bad reviews from different sources before I’ll truly write a place off. And even then, I’ll probably want to try it for myself first. Restaurant masochism at its finest.

FGDC: What's your favorite place to eat in DC when someone else is paying?

LiLu: Hmmm. First someone else needs to pay so I can answer this properly! But I have had exceptional experiences at both the District Chophouse and Central. I’ve also been to Cashion’s [Eat Place] quite a few times for drinks and appetizers at the bar, but I’d love to give their sit down menu a try, if the small plates are indicative of the entire menu.

FGDC: What food or ingredient makes you dry heave on sight?

LiLu: Sauerkraut. I can’t even SMELL it. It’s the only thing I truly could never stomach under any circumstances. *shudders*

FGDC: I'm a slacker when it comes to local music... so, as MTV's first Twitter jockey... what's your favorite band or artist in the DC area and link us a clip of the song that will make us love them?

LiLu: My favorite band in DC, and the one I pimped out for MTV TJ Challenge 3: Break a Local Band, is Redline Addiction. They’re super versatile, right now they’re working on an acoustic record (their second full-length album). You can check out my personal favorite song of theirs, Everybody Knowsright here, and all of their music on their Facebook page. I went to hear them record in the studio last week and interviewed them if you want to get to know the guys personally (hint: you do). You can check that out here.

More after the jump...

Fresh! Local! Fried! Soft Shell Crabs in the Outer Banks

Why is it when it comes to open flames, cooking becomes the territory of the men folk? Maybe it's because the don't mind sweating as much... or that fire is just, well, fun to play with (don't tell the kids).... but this time around, I was determined to stick around and learn the tricks of the fish fry trade.

Kevin had culled the seafood markets of Corolla, NC for local catches and we had a menagerie of shrimp, tilefish, rockfish and soft shell crabs to batter and fry up for dinner. Every chef's got his method, and here's Kevin's demonstrated on the soft shell crabs...

Directions (L to R)
1. Find a seafood market or vendor with fresh, local soft shell crabs and ask them to clean the soft shell crabs for you.
2. Heat peanut oil in large fryer to 325-350 degrees - use a thermometer to confirm when it's ready.
3. Dredge crab through bowl containing flour, salt, pepper and Old Bay seasoning.
4. Dredge crab through bowl containing egg and milk.
5. Dredge crab through bowl containing House Autry medium hot seasoning.
6. BTW, this is Kevin's secret ingredient... he swears by House Autry.
7. Set aside on tray for frying..
8. Lower crabs into the oil (use a basket rather than dropping them in - avoids splatter burns). Cook in oil until they float to the top and begin to turn golden brown.
9. Set aside to cool. And eat!!

Next time, I have to hang up my girl card, get my hands dusty and get my fry on. This time around, I was happy to take pics and work on the perfect beverage pairing... (after the jump)


Easy Summer Spring Rolls

Ok, this wins for best leftovers in the category of presentation. But let me back up. The drive from DC to the Outer Banks should take four and a half, maybe five hours. It took me eight. Accident blocked the Monitor Merrimack Tunnel down in Newport News and voila... a few more hours.  This put me in the beach house driveway just in time for dinner.

I got lucky. Debbie's one heck of a cook and I could barely focus on the beautiful view because it smelled like PF Changs in the house. She made Asian Chicken & Shrimp Lettuce Wraps for NINE of us. And it was amazing. There was a little bit of the Asian Chicken Salad filling leftover and let me tell you what she did for lunch the next day... went out and bought rice wrappers! These things looking like sheets of plastic, but when soaked in water (see demo below), they become pliable and perfect for spring rolls.

Pile your filling in the middle...
And fold it up, almost like you would a burrito. Unlike a tortilla, the rice paper adheres to itself and seals all of the yummy goodness into a cute little package.
They were so cool and refreshing after a hot morning on the beach... I just had to share! Now, back to the sun, sand and waves.

Rice paper demo after the jump....


Guacamole with Cilantro & Shrimp

Courtney has just served up some perfect post beach guacamole incorporating some of the shrimp from last night's dinner... Inspired! 


How to Make Something Out of Nothing

Heading to the beach in the morning & on a budget... potential ingredients: leftover naan, tomatoes on their last legs, peppers starting to shrivel, a fresh summer squash and various teaspoons of goat, Parmesan and asiago cheeses. (All leftovers from other meals of the week.)

Solution: douse the naan with olive olive oil and cracked pepper on both sides. Toss into frying pan. Dice tomatoes, julienne peppers and (woot- first use of new mandolin!) thinly slice squash. Top with variety of cheeses, sea salt and any herbs. Cook at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Let cool, slice and serve!


Farmers Market Challenge: Chef Dan Edition! PART TWO

For a farmers market junkie like me, just GOING to Dupont Circle Farmers Market with one of the best chefs in Washington, DC would have been enough.  But Chef Dan Giusti of 1789 Restaurant piled us all back in his Jeep, loaded down with ingredients and we headed off to the kitchen.

If you read the previous post you know we picked up chickens, kale, plums, tomatoes, basil, summer savory, carrots and onions. Here's what we did with them:
Jeffrey slicing and dicing the 1789 pancetta. This will end up seasoning the chicken and vegetables.
Ashlee peeling the adorable market carrots!
Me. Yes, at this point, I had just washed them, but I also quartered them. (Photo by Alicia Griffin)
Chef Dan tied trussed the chicken, topped with the summer savory, added the potatoes and copius amounts of olive oil... and into the oven at 350 degrees.
After about 20 minutes we added the carrots and the onions and put the chicken back in the oven to finish cooking.

In the end, we had perfect roasted chicken (and even though I still don't love chicken, I'm becoming pretty good at making it!).
My favorite was the potatoes, onions and carrots - they were caramelized and crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. I'd make roasted chicken just to get these vegetables out of it!
Here was my full plate: Roasted Chicken & Vegetables, Fresh 1789 Bread, Kale (ZOMG! I never knew it could be so delicious), and Tomato Salad.

So, are you guys tired of me posting about this cooking class or... do you want me to share how we made the kale? Give you a tour of the 1789 walk in cooler? Post my pics of the plum & basil inspired dessert? Tell you how much fun it was just talking food smack and drinking wine with the guys from 1789 + old & new Twitter pals?

Disclosure: This class experience was complimentary. I won it by following @1789ChefDan on Twitter and being one of the first to tweet him back when he offered the class. Follow him and stay tuned to the latest 1789 experiences including their monthly cooking classes.


Farmers Market Challenge: Chef Dan Edition! PART ONE

It's an entirely different experience to hit a farmers market with a serious chef. This morning, a crew of us joined Chef Dan Giusti of 1789 Restaurant for a cooking class based on seasonal, local ingredients found at DC's Dupont Circle Farmers Market.

Five students piled into the Chef's Jeep and we were off. The plan was to hunt down rabbit at EcoFriendly Foods and then see what we could find. As market regulars know, you gotta get there early if you want what you want. By the time we arrived about 10am, they were all out of rabbit so we shifted to a roasted chicken for our main dish plan. (I was excited as the Chef had previously told me that when he cooks at home, he usually roasts a chicken.)
Chef Dan Giusti at EcoFriendly Foods
Next up, we hit the fruit stand for plums as Chef had a vision for a simple summer fruit syrup infused with basil over vanilla ice cream. We met up with Mark Toigo of Toigo Orchards who talked to us about which plums would be best for our plans. Since we were pairing with a sweet ice cream, we went for more tart plums that would balance well.
Left: Mark Toigo, Right: Chef Dan Giusti
At Next Step Produce (Chef's "go to" for veggies at the Dupont Market), we picked up potatoes, gorgeous little onions and basil.
We jumped to the next stall for these adorable (dare I say "baby") carrots...
...then a sack of blue kale and summer savory (which I had never cooked with - HELLO new farmers market challenge!!)...
Farmers Market Challenge: Summer Savory
...then back to Toigo for a flat of tomatoes. (We had been on the hunt for watermelon, but Sunnyside Farms had sold out.)
Chef bought a round of drinks for the class.  Wanna see what was the cocktail of choice? It's after the jump along with the details on how you can have the same experience...


Hey Cupcake, It's *ANOTHER* DC Reality Show!

Unlike that OTHER reality show coming up about DC women, DC Cupcakes promises to be good, clean fun showcasing cute, fashionable, fun businesswomen.  It premieres one week from today on Friday July 16th at 10pm ET on TLC and stars sisters Sophie LaMontagne and Katherine Kallinis of Georgetown Cupcake.

While the debate on who makes the best cupcake in DC rages on (Bake ShopBuzz, Curbside, Hello, Baked & Wired), there's no doubt (can you believe that line is STILL wrapped around the corner? Even after the expansion?) Georgetown Cupcake has won the hearts of many District residents. Now that it's turning reality show, will it become lousy with tourists and have an even longer line? Probably, but I'm still proud of them!

Get your sneak peek here:

You can follow Georgetown Cupcake on Twitter where they reveal a free cupcake flavor each day for the first 100 customers that ask for it!


Google Meets Chef Andres. I Die.

I'm a DC nerd of the highest order. The first thing I do in the morning, while still in bed usually, is read POLITICO's Playbook and Morning Tech emails. This morning I squealed when I read that Chef Jose Andres of Think Food Group was joining Vint Cerf (the "father of the Internet") for a talk at Google's DC headquarters.

Here's the scoop from the invite:

"Liquid nitrogen. Deconstruction. Physics. Three terms not typically associated with cooking. Unless, of course, you’re talking about Chef José Andrés, of Jaleo, Oyamel, Zaytinya, Café Atlantico and Minibar fame. On Wednesday, July 14th, Google’s Chief Internet Evangelist Vint Cerf and Chef Andrés will ask you to re-imagine innovation and how it can transform the way we eat."

Get details and RSVP here or submit questions ahead of time here.


Front Row to Fireworks Finale: July 4 at Cantina Marina

Last night reminded me why I love living in Washington, DC. I met up with Blair and a few friends at Cantina Marina - a riverside bar and restaurant in Southwest DC that makes me feel like I'm back in Florida.  Sitting in the sun, we had margaritas, cold Miller Lights - in Nats bottles - and mini corn dogs. Nary a local ingredient, yet, perfect for the moment.
As the sun set, we could see the Washington Monument pop against the colors of the sky and we knew we were in for the perfect view of the always amazing fireworks show over the National Mall.
Pictures and video don't do it justice, but here's a quick video I shot of the finale so that you can get a sense of being there.


Happy Independence Day!

I'm gearing up for fireworks by doing laundry (yawn) and snacking... I've decided that my snack of red and orange peppers with a black olive hummus and crumbled goat cheese look kind of like a firework blast:
What are you snacking on today? Did you incorporate any fresh, locally sourced ingredients into your traditional July 4th menu?


Scenes from the Farmers Market: July 3, 2010

Quick Arlington Farmers Market run because I'm pool bound on this Independence Day weekend. Lots of great fruits, veggies and plants in. Organic local roma tomatoes, corn, eggplant, cucumbers, summer squash, and even a few cherries. Here were a couple hot items that stood out to me:

Squash Blossoms, Cherry Tomatoes & Tomatillos
More after the jump....


Local Farm Spotlight: New Orleans' Hollygrove Farms & Market

It's fun when work meets up with the things you're passionate about. This week, James "JB" Brown is heading to New Orleans to cover the Essence Music Festival for AARP.  Along the way, he's stopping to meet with folks who are making a difference.  I loved this video of his visit to Hollygrove Farm & Market - a neighborhood farm that is working to get fresh, local food to residents; promote sustainable agriculture and help seniors.  Check it out and let me know what you think.

Is there a farm or farmers market near you that you love?  Tell us about it in the comments.

To stay up to date on Hollygrove Farms, "like" them on Facebook.  To find a farm or farmers market near you, visit the USDA Farmers Market search or LocalHarvest.org.

[Disclosure: I work for AARP. Follow my work on Twitter @AARP or like us on Facebook.]


The Ethics of Food Blogging

This post has been on my mind for a while. I started blogging for fun - as a way to release my inner monologue. Apparently, what's on my mind a lot is food. And people started reading... and following... and wanting to know about my latest learning to cook adventure and where I'd recommend they go for an important meal.

Once the PR people pick up that people are reading your blog, you start getting invited to media tastings and events. You get access or taste things in advance of the public for free. (I should know, I *am* a PR gal.)

What I didn't anticipate was that I felt a little weird about going to these events and then blogging about them to you.  Would the fact that they are free influence me?  Research says that even if I think it doesn't, it does. But I've been holding back interesting stories, creative menu concepts and fun experiences simply because it wasn't something I paid for on my own.  But, I'm not made of money so I'd hate to limit what we share to my meager trying-to-buy-a-condo budget.

Even before blogging, I still got some gratis love. What if I just know the bartender? Or I chat up the manager and they send over a free dessert? They don't know I blog... they're just being nice... or trying to pick me up...

So, after a hot discussion in my Twitter community yesterday, here's where I stand...

I will start blogging about whatever I like, but I will disclose to you when I got it for free or if it's an experience you can't access on your own.  I'd like to find a subtle way of doing it, like an icon next to freebies or something... if you have ideas, please let me know in the comments.

If it bothers you that I got it for free (and disclosed), let me know in the comments or tweet me. I'm happy to rethink it if you don't like it.

Either way, I vow to tell you what I loved and steer you away from what I don't.  After all, honesty is the best policy. (Although, now you're gonna have to hear about all of my favorite bartenders in town, because, blog or not, I love me a gratis refill at the bar...)