Friday, August 31, 2007

Who knew ginger was so easy to grow

A month or so ago, I bought a big hunk of ginger root at the Bestway and, per instructions found online somewhere, buried it in a pot of loose soil.

Weeks later, it's got gorgeous healthy green shoots that smell of, guess what? Ginger! when you rub their leaves. No flowers as of yet, though I hear the common store-bought ginger often produces (relatively) un-showy yellow flowers.

This thing was much easier to grow, by far, than my tomatoes or basil. I've resolved to make a second attempt at an indoor herb garden this winter; I think the basil was just a little too sun-baked.

Now I just have to figure out how to use it. Not that I don't know how to cook with ginger, but rather, I'm just not sure whether to harvest the whole root and dry it, or break off bits as I need them, etc.

Thursday, August 30, 2007

Annie's Grill in Fredericksburg

I'm back in school, which means that posts are going to get few and farther between, but I did want to put in a plug for Annie's Grill in Fredericksburg, VA, where we ate last weekend with M's parents.

It's on Princess Anne Street, a couple streets up the hill off the main drag (unfortunately I do not have the street address). If you go there, order the honey-dipped fried chicken. It cost a little over $6 for half a chicken, two sides and bread. For sides, there's homemade mashed potatoes, mac and cheese, batter-fried okra, stewed kale, beans, pickled beets, and probably a few that I'm missing.

The chicken was much better than we were expecting: tender insides and shatteringly crispy skin. Our server (who was also half the fun of this place, he was very entertaining) admitted a little sheepishly that they got the chicken pre-frozen, which made me wonder if the freezing might contribute to the frying.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Labels aren't everything

A New York Times article on 'cage-free eggs' that my good friend tipped me off to; she grew up on a farm and her mom still raises chickens and sheep back in Minnesota.

Again, a reminder that if you really want to go sustainable/ethical, it's best to not only check the label but know the source. And that's where local is better, for some things at least.

For me, free-range eggs are much better just from a taste standpoint. And obviously ethically they are better as well. It just might not be possible for large producers to supply truly free-range chickens -- because for one thing, that would require more land for them to range on. Multiple, small producers that supply local consumers with truly free-range eggs might be the most sustainable option.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

On Saturday I bought approximately 8 pounds of heirloom tomatoes at the Mount Pleasant farmer's market for $12. This amounted to 17 tomatoes!

Hooray for tomatoes and their myriad uses! Here's what they've gone into so far:
~sliced and eaten with Gouda cheese and bread
~mixed with diced cucumbers for a quick salad
~salsa fresca
~enchilada sauce!

That last entry was for a dish that we based on one from Diana Kennedy's Tortilla Book. Made them last night and served with black beans (made in the crockpot from dried beans) on the side. I'd been craving enchiladas since my Friday late night 'snack' at Haydee's. We basically filled corn tortillas with a mixture of sauteed grated zucchini, roasted, diced peppers (sweet and poblano) and mozzerella cheese, and topped them with the aforementioned enchilada sauce, made from tomatoes, garlic, white onion and chipotle chiles in adobo. The sauce was so sweet from the tomatoes, it didn't need any added sugar! We weren't entirely satisfied with the recipe (needs a little tweaking), so I'm not going to post it in its entirety, but I did make a double batch of the enchilada sauce and froze half of it for later when the bounty of tomatoes is no more.

Farmer's market record for this week:
17 tomatoes
5 summer squash of several varieties
3 cucumbers (my mistake; they proved to be old and tough. They looked nice enough!)
2 more young cucumbers from a different vendor
dozen eggs
1 bunch leeks
2 sweet red peppers (so good!)
3 gorgeous poblano chiles
6 peaches from Reid's orchard
1 package (about a pound) ground buffalo from Cibolla farms
1 package (about a pound) ground pork from Cibolla farms
garlic, two varieties: German white and Kazakhstan

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


So I think like any other goal I've pursued, whether it's meditation or less negativity, the process benefits by having clear guidelines. I'm posting them here as encouragement for myself more than anything else.

-olive oil, rice, dried beans, spices, citrus fruits (for now), rice stick and other Asian staples, alcohol (wine and beer)
-Eating in restaurants when we travel (I also want to support local businesses even if not everything they serve on the menu is "local" in a simplistic food miles sense)

Try for:
-Only buying produce from the farmer's market until it closes (with rare exceptions)
-Only eating meat that was grass-fed and sustainably raised
-Doing some canning this fall

Personal goals:
-Make own cheese, yoghurt, and bread (and try to source local milk and flour)
-Grow herbs indoors in the winter
-Grow as many veg as possible in the summer
-Subscribe to a CSA (if I find that it works out financially for us)

Absolutely not:
bananas, factory-farmed meat

Work in Progress...

Tuesday, August 7, 2007


How can I even think about cooking when the heat index is supposed to hit 106 this afternoon???

Monday, August 6, 2007

Another take on food miles

This commentary on the New York Times: Food that Travels Well
sheds more light on the complexity of the food miles issue. The question is, where do you draw the line? When does it become obsession/elitism? As eating locally becomes more and more publicized I could see this becoming similar to the organic movement, where most people will label check, toss the item in the cart and call it good. I'm pretty sure that as I explore this (relatively) new way of thinking about what I'm eating, that I will change my opinion numerous times along the way. Meantime, it's kind of fun to have guidelines to eat by (that don't involve counting calories or carbs; this feels more like a treasure hunt, a delicious challenge!). Instead of bok choy from California, we ate red kale from Maryland tonight. And it actually tasted pretty good with soy sauce (although I'm not sure if M agreed...)

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A declaration

Well, it's obviously going to affect much of what I've been posting of late, but I've decided to take the Eating Local challenge for September (through the Locavores site, Details pending...

Saturday, August 4, 2007

Vietnamese Market!

M found a Vietnamese market in our neighborhood! (well, roughly, it's on Park just west of 14th street NW, wedged between a more pedestrian, for this neighborhood, Latino market and hair salon) You have no idea how wonderful this is for us recently transplanted from Seattle (and Uwajimaya), who for the past year have had to make pilgrimages to the suburban Northern VA H-Mart for our Asian staple needs. Now we need only walk a few blocks to load up on our rice, nam bla/ngoc mam (fish sauce), rice stick, Thai chiles, fried garlic, etc. And they have frozen lemongrass! I'm looking forward to trying some of that, along with the ubiquitous meatballs ('luk chin' in Thai) in our noodle bowls this winter. And maybe some of the Pho seasoning that they sell; the one time I tried to make Pho from scratch at home it was somewhat of a disaster.

After our perusal of the market, we went and sat in the park across from the tennis courts on 16th street (across from the Mount Pleasant library), eating our snacks (Some kind of steamed coconut milk cake thingy with shrimp and some other mochi-like steamed rice cakes with dried shrimp and scallions)and drinking tamarind drink and sweetened chrysanthemum tea while we watched the kids biking around and playing. Having little snacks like this in public parks reminds me of the times I used to spend with my dad after he'd picked me up from gymnastics, and we'd go to his friend's Thai/Vietnamese market, pick up some Banh Mi or rice rolls, and eat them in the Stewartville lakeside park.

There's a Vietnamese restaurant a couple doors down from this place that advertises Pho and Banh Mi, but when we went there to see about getting a snack, the sight of gamblers clustered around a table in the front scared us off (they didn't exactly look like they were serving food, although there was a woman at a table by the window eating).

Now, I'm off to make some summer rolls!

Friday, August 3, 2007

Chili dogs at Wonderland

Just when I thought that the weather was settling down into tolerable balminess, it has ballooned into sweltering heat again. So it was in this heat that we trudged to the Wonderland last night, settled in and ordered a couple of cool beers (a hefeweizen and a Newcastle brown ale respectively) and one chili footlong apiece. We've been there several times before, to have a few drinks, dance and on a couple occasions see the Balkanics play, but this was the first time that we'd ordered food.

During happy hour (6-8 pm), footlong chili dogs are $3 (!) and it's $2 off of tap beers. And these are decent beers too, like the aforementioned Newcastle, Sierra Nevada Pale Ale, and Lagunitas.

Even though the hot dog itself was nothing special (but decent enough and truly a footlong), the chili was very tasty (a little smoky like Ben's) and the buns were sturdy and *toasted*, always a plus. Definitely worth $3 (that is, if greasy hot dogs don't make you uncomfortable in this heat).

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Allman's barbecue

Just returned from our extended weekend in the Outer Banks, North Carolina, at the invitation of some friends of ours. Prior to leaving, I had hopefully written here that I planned to return and write about our roadfood finds. Unfortunately, it appeared that while Avon, NC and surrounding towns were filled with restaurants bearing clever names like "Dirty Dick's" (slogan: "I got my crabs at Dirty Dick's!") and "The Froggy Dog," none were recommended by our hosts as sources for good eating. The beach was great, and we prepared some excellent food in the beach house kitchen, just no restaurant eating.

As it turns out, the only place we ended up going to en route (both ways) was Allman's barbecue in Fredericksburg, VA. This marked the second time that we had been to Allman's. On the way down to Fredericksburg we had been racking our brains trying to remember the name of the BBQ place in Fredericksburg that we had patronized back in February (at one point understandably guessing Attman's, which is the name of the Jewish deli that we had a late lunch at while celebrating our anniversary in Baltimore last month) and were finally saved by a stray paper stuffed under the seat that I had scribbled on after our memorable meal.This time we went to their drive-through on Highway 3, as opposed to the restaurant on Jeff Davis Highway (aka Highway 1).

Here at the drive-through unfortunately, you could not order their tasty fries, so we ordered three barbecue pork sandwiches (you can have them either "minced" or "sliced") -- M and I got ours topped with coleslaw, and our friend Mike got one plain. We also ordered sides of baked beans, and unsweetened (once again, for pre-sweetened tea I guess you have to go to the sit-down restaurant!) iced tea. Each sandwich came in its own bag with two containers of barbecue sauce each and three sugar packets for the tea. The grand total came out to be just over $20. Barbecue is the thing to get here; they also serve malts which we recall (the chocolate version at least) as being fairly mediocre (a little too icy) from last time.

We ate this spread in the hot car in the parking lot, savoring the beans even as their temperature matched that of the surrounding air. Their beans have a rich molasses flavor --yum. The meat I found to be a little dry (drier than last time) but the vinegary sauce saved it.

Currently Allman's doesn't seem to have a website up, but you can read about the place here


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