The Blogger Beat: Counter Intelligence

This week, we get some insider intel on the Washington dining scene.

By: Emily Leaman

When Melissa McCart lived in New York, she was a freelance writer who focused on the arts. She moved to Washington to teach high-school English but wanted to keep her writing skills sharp. “I missed New York restaurants and was convinced DC had many of a similar caliber,” she says. “I learned the restaurant landscape and started a blog.”

McCart’s blog, Counter Intelligence, is ground zero for news on the local and national dining scenes. She posts interviews with chefs, information about food-related events, her favorite food-and-wine pairings, and, every Wednesday, roundups of the best food articles from magazines and newspapers. On top of her blog, McCart regularly freelances. Her work has appeared in the Washington Post, the LA Times, and The Washingtonian.

We caught up with this dining maven to find out the best food-and-wine pairing she’s tried in Washington, her favorite cocktail, and the craziest thing she’s ever done in the name of reporting. Read on for her answers.

Five words to describe Washington’s food scene:
“Dynamic, familial—as in, chefs and bartenders are a tight-knit group—innovative, crowd-pleasing, and growing. That said, I really, really crave little holes-in-the-wall with tons of character. But I guess they don’t really pay the bills.”
 
Best place to get foodie news:
“Metrocurean, Don Rockwell, the Washington Post’s food section.”
 
Top three articles you’ve read in food publications:
“Hmm, tough one. I loved the article on jerk chicken in the New York Times: ‘For Jamaicans, It’s About Jerk.’  I love the way Julia Moskin starts the piece: ‘On most summer Sundays, Brooklyn is burning.’ Then there’s Francis Lam’s ‘Getting to Know Him.’ It’s a really compelling piece on his return to Hong Kong, where his grandfather lives, and the role of nostalgia and food memory. He has a terrific voice. I also liked his ‘An American Minute, Ben’s Chili Bowl Edition.’ It’s a portrait of the place on Election Day. I love it. I wish someone local wrote that piece about our place. I’m also a big fan of anything by Matt and Ted Lee and Gourmet’s John T. Edge. I love their storytelling.”

Food writer you most admire:
“Francis Lam of Gourmet.”
 
Number of freelance articles you’ve written:
“I wrote for Washington Post Express for a couple years, so I have no idea—150?”
 
Craziest thing you’ve ever done in the name of reporting:
“It’s not crazy, but making sausage is definitely kind of gross.”
 
Favorite thing you’ve eaten this week:
“Patrick Deiss’s rosemary-and-olive bread at 2941. And anything shellfish—oysters at Hank’s, scallops or littlenecks at BlackSalt. I can’t get enough of them.”
 
Best wine-and-food pairing you’ve ever tried:
“Asparagus soup with Valdelainos Rueda Verdejo. It’s not fancy, but I loved it when Ramon Narvaez paired them at Adour.”
 
Favorite local mixologist and cocktail:
“I don’t know that I have a favorite mixologist. I’ve been partial to the ladies these days because I like their new group, Ladies United for the Preservation of Endangered Cocktails. I also don’t think they get enough press. Drink-wise, I love Tom Brown’s rum punch at Cork, though for me anything with star anise and baking spices is a winner.”
 
Favorite place to sip wine:
“Cork or Proof.”
 
Favorite meal to cook at home:
“There are so many, but probably pizza.”
 
Favorite cookbook:
“These days it’s Suzanne Goin’s Sunday Suppers at Lucques.”
 
Five ingredients you’re looking forward to for summer:
“Soft-shell crab, sugar-snap peas, tomatoes, corn, and figs.”
 
Best new restaurant:
“Gillian Clark’s General Store. I like Inox and Brabo’s front room, too. But I really like Gillian’s menu and the quirkiness of the place.”
 
Best classic dish:
“Fried chicken.”
 
Food fad you could do without:
“Cupcakes. Please make them go away.”
 
Best local food blog besides your own:
Metrocurean. She’s engaging, down to earth, fun to hang out with, and on top of food news and trends. I can’t say enough good things about her.”

Next week, we head north on Georgia Avenue to explore Silver Spring, Singular’s stomping grounds. We ask the author, Karl, to name his favorite bar and restaurant, the most bizzare crime he’s ever heard of, and his neighborhood’s biggest architectural eyesore. Stay tuned for the interview!

Earlier:
My Notting Hill
District, Schmistrict
All Blogger Beat interviews

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