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Forget Sriracha—Chile Crunch is the next every-sauce. By Anna Spiegel
Chile Crunch adds heat and texture to dishes. Photograph via Facebook.

Like most culinarily-minded people, I buy a lot of condiments. The shelves of my fridge—nicknamed the “Condiment Cooler” by friends —are packed with a global variety of mustards and hot sauces, relishes and salsas. Picking a favorite is impossible, but I’ve come closer after discovering Chile Crunch.

What gives this sauce a leg up on Sriracha is texture. Creator Susie Hojel, a Mexico City native, toasts a mixture of roasted chilies, garlic, and onion, which are packed in canola oil. Each spoonful yields a crispy mix of spices along with heat and smoke. The peppers aren't searing, which is only a negative when it comes to rationing; the last jar I brought to a barbecue was emptied in hours—light speed in condiment years—heaped on a hummus dip and potato salad, grilled steak and fish, or just swiped up with a baguette. So yes, it’s versatile.

Local retailer Ah Love Olive Oil typically carries Chile Crunch at its Union Market stall and two Virginia shops, but apparently the secret is out. A manager says the last three shipments have sold out quickly, though they plan to restock soon. In the meantime you can order jars on the company website ($9.95). Plan ahead and grab two.

Posted at 01:46 PM/ET, 08/28/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Photograph courtesy of Aris Compres.

The Pittsburgh Pirates have six. The New York Mets boast four. The Nationals have none. Shutouts? Nope. Shake Shacks? Uh-uh. The Nats are the only major-league team, as of press time, without a Dominican Republic native on the active roster.

But that doesn’t mean they don’t have need for a Dominican caterer. Thanks to the Dominican players who sweep through with visiting squads, a counter-service restaurant in Columbia Heights called Los Hermanos is one of the best-loved caterers in baseball. Los Hermanos sends food during each home stand to visiting teams at Nationals Park (as well as Baltimore’s Oriole Park).

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Posted at 12:00 PM/ET, 06/23/2015 | Permalink | Comments ()
Plus chef Dan O'Brien's truffle tagliatelle pop-up coming soon. By Anna Spiegel
Pick up delicious dried, locally made noodles. Photograph courtesy of Seasonal Pantry.

Washington has an abundance of locally made fresh pastas, but when it comes to the dried variety, I'm often left reaching for the De Cecco (which is a great brand, albeit from much farther from home). Giving the Italians a run for their money: Seasonal Pantry chef Dan O'Brien, who recently launched a small line of dried pastas fashioned in his Shaw market.

I first picked up a bag of fusilli at Glen's Garden Market, which supplies a number of O'Brien's varieties; you may find orecchiette, penne, shells, large paccheri tubes, or long strands of bucatini, also sold in the Seasonal Pantry market. The noodles have a wonderful chew when cooked right, and do what chefs call "hold al dente" well—i.e., don't turn to mush, even if they linger too long in the pot. High-quality dough means the pasta tastes like an actual ingredient in the dish, instead of an afterthought to the sauce (so yes, worth the slightly higher $8-to-$9 price).

Eventually O'Brien envisions an all-local process with grains grown and milled in the area, but even when using semolina flour the formula is as small-scale as possible. The team extrudes noodles using an Arcobaleno machine—considered by some to be the "Rolls Royce of pasta makers"—and then hangs them on racks in the shop to dry overnight after the Saturday-night supper club concludes. Pieces are then collected and packaged for sale.

Even if you're not a home cook, you can try the noodles at the just-announced "dine and dash" pop-up on Sunday, November 23, during which O'Brien will open the market from noon to 9 and serve one simple-yet-luxurious dish: tagliatelle with classic butter sauce and shaved white truffles ($35 per person, with optional wine for $5). Reservations are currently accepted for the small space, which holds a maximum of 12 diners at a time. Chances are you'll want to grab a few bags of pasta to carry home.

Posted at 01:14 PM/ET, 11/13/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
Ten of the tastiest stories we're reading this week. By Anna Spiegel, Benjamin Freed, Tanya Pai, Carol Ross Joynt
We'd rather lick our noses than eat Marmite, too. Photograph via Shutterstock.

Ever wanted to make "condom escargot cooked with butter"? Now there's a creative Japanese condom cookbook that is pretty gross promotes safe sex. [Kotaku] —Anna Spiegel

Emeril Lagasse admits he has "nowhere to go, really—other than broke." Is one of the most prominent celebrity chefs on the outs? [The Week] —AS

Stunt hamburgers are generally awful, but there's something so wonderful about watching 2 Chainz's encounter with the world's most expensive hamburger. [First We Feast] —Benjamin Freed

As we head into the cooler weather, Sam Sifton offers a lovely ode to the joys of home cooking with remembrances of the great Craig Claiborne (he calls it a “manifesto”). The message? Just cook. [New York Times—Carol Joynt

Is Rick Bayless the most interesting man in the world? Eater takes a look at the chef/actor/yogi/farmer, who can also do the splits. [Eater National] —AS

First it was babies trying lemons for the first time—now, apparently, it's tigers sampling Marmite. [BuzzFeed] —Tanya Pai

Anatomy of the legendary Momofuku pork buns, ten years later. [Eater NYC] —AS

Just in time for the High Holidays, research finds that Jewish millennials follow kosher dietary laws at double the rate of baby-boom chosen people. And now that it's so hip and trendy to not mix meat and milk, more goys than ever are following the kashrut. [The Atlantic] —BF

Portlandia stars and first-time cookbook authors Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein talk favorite Portland restaurants, eating in cars, and the "tapas ghetto." [Bon Appétit] —AS

The fastest-growing restaurant chain in the US is a "breastraunt" called, no joke, Twin Peaks. Sadly Invitation to Love is not involved. [The Braiser] —AS

Posted at 10:38 AM/ET, 09/26/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
My favorite in the area from an authentic Western Shore roadhouse. By Carol Ross Joynt
Petie Greens sells ready-to-cook crab cakes. Photographs by Carol Ross Joynt.

Bobby Crane worked in construction for almost 30 years and didn’t plan to become a restaurateur, but fans of great crabcakes should be glad he changed professions a decade ago. That’s when he became the sole owner of Petie Greens, an authentic Chesapeake Western Shore brick roadhouse that sits about 500 feet from Rockhold Creek in Deale, Maryland. In my opinion, they have the best crabcakes in the region; thick with fresh jumbo lump meat and nearly no filler, sautéed to golden perfection. According to Crane, two-time Daytona 500 winner Dale Earnhardt Jr. shares my passion—two dozen are shipped to the NASCAR star once a month. 

The original owner of the restaurant, which opened in 2003, was a man named Samuel “Petie” Petro. After Hurricane Isabel hit later that year, the Petro family closed the restaurant. “Another gentleman and myself decided to give it another try,” says Crane. His partner bailed after two weeks and it has belonged to Crane ever since. 

Naturally, I wondered whether he would reveal the secret of his delicious crabcakes, but no. The only hint: “no filler, jumbo lump, some mayo and Old Bay, and a couple of other secret ingredients,” says Crane. The story of how he chose the recipe dates back to the first days as the owner. “We got 18 of us together, family and friends, and we came here, had 20 pounds of fresh crab meat, and we just started mixing. We made crabcakes and voted on each one.” The winner is the recipe Petie Greens serves to this day.

Petie Greens in Deale, Maryland, is open every day, serving crabcakes as well as hard- and soft-shells.

The crab meat Crane uses is largely from Alabama and the Carolinas. In the winter he imports from Venezuela. “Most of our Maryland meat goes straight to New York,” he says. The steamed hard-shell crabs he serves, however, come right off the boats directly behind the restaurant. The soft-shells also come from Maryland. Overall, Crane says the local crab harvest this year has been slow due to the long, cold winter. “They are still struggling,” he says. “I wouldn’t want to be a waterman right now.”

Petie Greens is open every day of the week, with breakfast on weekends. The ambience is laid-back, the service friendly, and the cocktail generous. Because it’s Maryland, Keno and lottery tickets add to the fun. Televisions ring the room, broadcasting horse racing, car races, and other betting-man’s sports events.

If, like Earnhardt, you want crabcakes to go, Crane ships fresh ones in addition to catering and takeout. In the restaurant a dinner runs $28 for two four-ounce crabcakes and two sides—a gentler price than most you find in the city. Be sure to get the tangy slaw. 

Petie Greens. 6103 Drum Point Rd.; 410-867-6436. Open Monday through Thursday 11 to 9:30, Friday 11 to 10, Saturday 8 to 10, and Sunday 8 to 9. Crabcake dinner, $28 for two and sides; five-ounce crabcake sandwich, $14.95. 

Posted at 12:30 PM/ET, 06/27/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
El Rey dishes up a swine-tastic treat for Cinco de Mayo. By Anna Spiegel
Like some pork with your pork? El Rey’s “five-pork taco” boasts a bacon shell. Photograph by Allix Wright.

Move over, Doritos Locos: The Mexican-food masterminds at El Rey have created an even crazier combination. Behold the “five-pork taco,” a handheld treat from chef Wylie Ballinger made entirely of swine.

Woven bacon replaces the masa-based shell, which is stuffed with pork loin, shredded carnitas, and pineapple-marinated pork al pastor. The fifth element: a generous smear of pork-fat mayo.

Those hoping to try the porkful creation can stop by the U Street Mexican beer garden during its Cinco de Mayo celebration on Monday, May 5. The dish will be served for $5 alongside an appropriate abundance of margaritas. BYO heartburn remedy.

Posted at 11:42 AM/ET, 04/29/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A bar snack fit for Valentine’s Day. By Anna Spiegel
Beef-heart pastrami and smoked tongue top this decadent flatbread. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

No big plans for Valentine’s Day? Plenty of restaurants are going all-out with prix-fixe menus, including Bourbon Steak, but you can still grab a seat in the lounge for the regular bar menu during lunch and dinner. We’re often tempted by the decadent burgers, but in the spirit of the holiday, the Wagyu flammkuchen should do the trick.

The thin, Alsatian-style flatbread isn’t for the faint of heart when it comes to offal. Chef John Critchley layers crème fraîche and melted Appalachian cheese with house-made beef-heart pastrami, smoked beef tongue, and shaved Wagyu rib eye. The smoky richness of the meats and earthy cheese is perked up with lightly pickled onions, making for an addictive snack. Barkeeps Jamie McBain and Duane Sylvestre like to pair it with their Operation Neptune cocktail, a mixture of Knob Creek rye, Calvados, smoked salt, and cinnamon syrup. Prepare to eat your heart out.

Posted at 01:01 PM/ET, 02/14/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()
A McLean stalwart goes beyond the moo shu. By Anna Spiegel
Salt-and-pepper shrimp and squid are one of many “Chinese side menu” dishes. Photograph by Anna Spiegel.

My first experience with Chinese food was at House of Fortune in McLean, where I grew up. I loved it so much that my fifth birthday party was spent around one of wicker tables that still fill the dining room. My fellow kindergartners didn’t exactly appreciate the customary Chuck E. Cheese birthday pizza being replaced by platters of moo shu pork, which became my go-to order for the next decade.

The low-lit dining room looks similar to when the restaurant opened in the mid-1980s. The menu brought to most tables is familiar too, filled with Chinese-American staples such as General Tso’s chicken and my moo shu, which (blame it on nostalgia) still tastes great 24 years later.

I hadn’t been in the restaurant for years—until my mother told me about the “secret” menu. Chef Peter Chin, a longtime executive toque at Mr. K’s, designed it several years ago when he arrived from the now-closed K Street stalwart. The “Chinese side menu,” as it’s labeled at the top, was once only printed for the many native speakers that fill the eatery. Now friendly waitstaff will bring an English version for those who ask; our waitress even seemed pleasantly surprised, exclaiming, “You know good Chinese food!”

She was right about the quality, for the most part. We started with xiaolongbao, or soup dumplings, which, like, ramen enjoy a cult-like following wherever they pop up. Chin’s version arrives with a tender pork-and-chive filling swimming in broth; you can douse them in a vinegary sauce perked up with slices of fresh ginger. The menu has more adventurous dishes than elsewhere in McLean—“sweet and tangy” jellyfish, Szechuan large intestine, fish head casserole—but plenty of options exist for more timid explorers. Spicy mapo tofu won’t numb your lips like Sichuan Village’s version, but the pleasant tingle brought on by ample amounts of chili oil is a nice introduction to mala cooking. Even better is the Cantonese-style salt-and-pepper shrimp and squid, studded with roughly chopped jalapeño, chives, and garlic. Not every dish delivers a home run—a Northern Chinese-style noodle soup came up bland—but after nearly 30 years, the place seems fresher than ever.

House of Fortune. 6715 Lowell Ave., McLean; 703-821-3779.

Posted at 04:51 PM/ET, 01/30/2014 | Permalink | Comments ()