Po’ Boy? No Mo’ Boy…

There’s nothing quite like discovering one of your favorite places to eat has shut their doors. I mean, we’ve probably all experienced arriving on a day that they happen to be closed for a holiday or simply as part of their normal schedule–that we failed to check, but closed? Forever? Forevah-evah? While not the worst thing to happen in the world, it can certainly throw you for a loop.

DC New Orleans Po Boy Shop (Closed) For me, that moment happened yesterday at DC’s New Orleans Po Boy Shop whose doors have apparently been closed since December. It was not a favorite place for me because of the food–which was excellent, or the location–which was close but not super close, and certainly not for the hours since they weren’t open on weekends. It was mostly a comfortable place that I would visit every time I had blood drawn for lab work related to my cancer.

Those were always “off” days for me, because I’m a very early riser and rarely ever get caught up in the hustle and bustle of DC commuting, especially above ground. While I could put in a few hours at home, LabCorp generally didn’t open until 8 and I often didn’t book an appointment until 8:30 or 9. So I’d be on packed bus, headed downtown, out of my element. Then I’d sign in and sit in a near-silent waiting room, sometimes there might be TV on, but very rarely did anyone speak to each other. Your name gets called, you take a seat, they take your blood, and that’s that. Though I was slightly amused at yesterday’s appointment because you rarely hear the sentence, “My name is Destiny and I’ll be your phlebotomist today.” But now, even though it weighs on my mind, I’m more or less a pro at it. In those early days, however…

Every single one of my visits to get blood drawn has been followed by a short walk up the street to the Po Boy Shop for breakfast. Usually an Andouille, Egg & Cheese Po Boy, and that andouille sausage was spicy! I joked that it was cauterizing my needle entry point. The owner was always friendly, and–unfortunately–the place was usually empty. But we’d talk about the best place to buy Asian food, old houses in the DC area, and most importantly why he wasn’t open on weekends: because his wife insisted that he also have a life.

The beignets, made from a Café du Monde mix, were perfect. And I realize that it’s supposed to be easy to make, but hard to get good beignets, but these really were perfect. I have tried the beignets at nearly any DC restaurant that offers them and have always been disappointed, with the sole exception of Bardia’s New Orleans Cafe which I rarely attend because it’s often crowded and a very tight space.

I fully cop to not going there often because I don’t work or live nearby, and my appointments at LabCorp–thankfully–get farther and farther apart. But I will miss sitting inside with a strong cup of coffee or sitting out in the sun with the wind blowing the powdered sugar from the beignets all over my clothes… and for just a little while, forgetting my troubles. Sometimes, a place can be your favorite for nothing more than the experiences you’ve had there. At the New Orleans Po Boy Shop, mine were carefree and I’ll really miss that place.

Kitchen Casino logo

I Miss Cooking Shows…

I don’t like reality shows. I really don’t like competition reality shows. I really really don’t like cooking-/food-based competition reality shows.

I realize that the three above statements cancel out a lot of television for me, but I still have hope from time to time. Honest, I do. The reason I peek an eye in on the cooking reality shows because I want shows to get back to not only teaching people how to cook, but also encouraging a love of food. Reality shows, for the most part–it seems, are not that interested in anything but drama. Still, I give things a chance.

Kitchen Casino article from April 7, 2104 Express On the way into work last Monday, the local free paper had an article about “Kitchen Casino”, a gambling-themed cooking competition… yeah, no. Not only is the prize just $30,000–for the final champion, weekly contestants aren’t guaranteed that–but here are two items from the host’s Q&A that really turned me off:

What do cooking and gambling have in common?

They’re like America’s two loves! Americans love to gamble, and they love to eat. On the show, that translates into rounds like a kind of roulette, where chefs might not wind up finishing the dish they start out making.

Do cooking competition shows create better chefs?

I think they do, because the pressure is on. Chefs have like 30 or 40 minutes to create a dish. It teaches them to think on their feet and quickly produce things.

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Roasted Chicken Wings

Roasted Chicken Wings

I’m not sure when I came around on wings. When I was a kid, they were sold as “Drumettes” and my mom might make them if we were camping or at a group picnic, but in general I always thought they were too much work, too little food. And when I’d have them in later years, they were drowned in a sauce that made them soggy and a total mess to eat. Frankly, if it hadn’t been for Pan-Asian take out places that straight up fried the wings with no sauce, I might have given up on them forever.

Roasted Chicken Wings

Unfortunately… the wings were fried. It became a great comfort food for me… and my belly… and my waistline. So I tried doing them myself at home, baking them didn’t have the mojo at all, smoking them was hit or miss and roasting them was good, but the main method I followed–Alton Brown’s–was a little more tedious than I liked. It still became a go-to recipe, however, until a little more browsing around online resulted in my new method.

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Mango Mimosa? No way.

False promises and simple cocktails…

I’m fortunate enough to have one telework day during the week and have generally been taking advantage of the opportunity to go out for an early breakfast. As there’s an IHOP right across the way from me, it’s a good bed for someplace open super-early in the morning. So I’d just sat down, ordered some coffee and noticed this on my table…

IHOP - Squeeze more joy into your day.

“Squeeze more joy” into my day, IHOP? Really? When you offer me something called a “mimosa” that is nothing of the kind? (And I suppose the word ‘squeeze’ is meant to make us think the juice is fresh-squeezed, but I’ll let someone else charge that windmill.) There is no joy in a cocktail ordered without alcohol.

Yes, non-alcoholic cocktails–it hurts to even utter the phrase–do exist, often called “kiddie cocktails” which I think shows an extreme lack of responsibility and taste. I mean, who would give a kid a cocktail in the first place? Or even anything resembling one? We don’t want children emulating behavior like smoking, but we’ll mix up a Shirley Temple or a Roy Rogers and serve it to them without thinking twice.

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Call a phone a phone, not a cocktail…

Happily pulling this month’s Saveur magazine out of my mailbox, I noticed this Verizon iPhone 5c ad on the back and frankly, it’s time to stop this trend:

[Verizon iPhone 5c ad]

If it isn’t a cocktail, don’t name it after a cocktail. This goes for iPhone 5c with cases, nail polish colors–well all colors, really–, scented candles… all of it. Just stop.

The #inebriati are watching you and we do not approve.

Food in the Garden

Food in the Garden at American History

The Smithsonian National Museum of American History is hosting a series of evening events this summer called “Food in the Garden”

Food in the Garden Join us this summer for tastes, tours, and talks outside in the new Victory Garden on the east side of the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History! The Museum’s American Food History Project and Smithsonian Gardens are bringing together local growers, practitioners, educators, and researchers to explore and experience where our food comes from and how we grow it. Enjoy evenings of locally produced food, drinks, and dynamic conversation in a relaxed garden atmosphere on Thursday evenings starting on July 18 and ending on Julia Child’s 101st birthday, August 15.

  • July 18, 2013, Heirlooms: Old, New, Local, Global
  • July 25, 2013, Foraging: Finding Food at Your Feet
  • August 1, 2013, Grow Now: Local Growers Spill the Beans
  • August 8, 2013, Pay Dirt
  • August 15, 2013, Celebrate Julia Child’s 101st Birthday!

Tickets are $20 each or $80 for the series, and each ticket includes two cocktails featuring Green Hat Gin and WildCraft Soda, with food from local farms.

Living in the city, I don’t do much gardening beyond the odd herb planting here and there, but this sounds like a fascinating series for anyone who’s a fan of locally grown produce and the farm-to-table movement.


Fifty Shades of Chicken

I already feel sadistically naughty enough when I subject a chicken to drowning (brining), bondage (trussing) and an oven (…an oven) to get a lovely roasted bird but this trailer for the book Fifty Shades of Chicken: A Parody in a Cookbook takes it well beyond my imagination to a whole new level!

From now on, I shall always hear Patrick Stewart in my head when preparing a roast chicken.

I don’t normally buy parody or themed books, but this might be perfect to have on the coffee table or prominently displayed on the cookbook shelf.

DC: Beat the Heat with a Free Frozen Treat!

There are two things I know people in DC love doing, one is griping about the heat and the other is getting free stuff. So how about a great way to combine both of those into one activity!

This week in DC, the Climate Reality Project is partnering with Pleasant Pops to provide a little relief from the heat by offering free frozen treats to help raise awareness about climate change.

The Pleasant Pops trucks will be touring the city at the locations listed below. To receive a free frozen treat, Washingtonians can show us their tweet or Facebook post using the hashtag #ImTooHot telling us how the extreme weather has been impacting their daily lives.

We will also have on-ground spokespeople available at both the truck and the site of a free-standing #ImTooHot interactive mural and the below listed locations.

Fans of ER will be happy to know that celebrity and committed social activist Gloria Reuben will be joining the truck on Thursday and Friday. Follow the Climate Reality Project and keep up with the conversation on twitter.

It’ll be just like running after the ice cream truck back in the day, except now the truck comes to you and you can pay with a tweet. Enjoy and keep cool!

Fat, Flavor and Cheese

A quote from this articlepointed out by Ellie Krieger on twitter–on American cheese producers and the struggle to slim down their offerings really resonated with me. Most of the article is fairly scientific about cheese production and what the reduction in fats and sodium will do, but anyone who’s tried to eat or cook with reduced-fat or fat-free cheese will probably agree with this sentiment…

I usually try to avoid recipes that call for reduced-fat cheese unless it’s for sprinkling, like over chili. We’re still concerned about our fat/calorie intake, but some sacrifices simply aren’t worth it.

Jacques Pépin: How to Mark a Grilled Steak

One of the many things that apartment-dwelling cooks have to live with is that we often can’t grill whenever we’d like. Some of us may have access to communal grills–as I currently do now. However, ours isn’t always well-maintained so that when I am in the mood to grill, I have to factor in additional time to make sure the grill is as clean as I want before getting started. Or I’m sharing space with someone else and our food is crowding up the grates jockeying for space. Thankfully the trusty grill pan satisfies nearly all needs. There won’t be flames licking at the surface of the food, but it’s a good compromise for achieving the look and cooking method… and you get to do it in air-conditioned comfort!

About the only thing I keep having trouble with is getting that nice cross-hatch grill mark pattern on the food. For some reason, I never turn at quite the right angle, or flip in the right direction and often just settle for the single diagonal stripe approach rather than mess up the look. Sure, the food still tastes great, but sometimes you do want to show off just a little. And last weekend while catching an episode of Essential Pépin devoted to beef, Jacques briefly went through the steps of getting the perfect pattern… in a grill pan!

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