Where can you get a three-star experience at one-star prices? Which hot new restaurant merits the scorching hype? The answer to all these questions and more can be found Tuesdays at 11 AM on Kliman Online.
From scoping out scruffy holes in the wall to weighing the merits of four-star wanna-bes, from scouring the 'burbs and exurbs to hitting the city's streets, Todd Kliman covers a lot of territory.
Winner of a James Beard Foundation Award in 2005 for the country's best newspaper column about food, Kliman is food and wine editor and restaurant critic for The Washingtonian. His writing has appeared in The New Yorker, Harper's, The Oxford American, Lucky Peach, The Daily Beast and Men's Health, among others, and he has been selected four times for inclusion in the Best Food Writing anthologies. He was a finalist for the MFK Fisher Distinguished Writing Award, and recently took home first-place honors for feature writing from the Association of Food Journalists.
Kliman is the author of The Wild Vine, a literary exploration of two entwined mysteries: an obscure grape that rose to prominence, only to disappear, and its present-day evangelist, a foul-mouthed transgendered multi-millionaire vintner on an obsessive quest to restore the legend of an antebellum southern doctor.
Todd previously taught writing and literature at American University and Howard University. At Howard, he was also the editorial advisor to The Illtop Journal, Chris Rock's humor magazine modeled after the Harvard Lampoon.
Can't wait a week to talk to Todd? Follow him on Twitter for dining reports, tips, and breaking news from the culinary world. Or write to him: firstname.lastname@example.org
W H E R E I ' M E A T I N G N O W . . .
Shoo-fly Diner, Baltimore
The high-falutin diner is not an easy idea to pull off. The tendency among pedigreed chefs is to fancify, to nudge the diner to go against its humble nature -- witness the curried frogs legs with watermelon radishes that turned up on the menu one night at Family Meal in Frederick last year, or the starchy service and air of restraint that make a meal at The Majestic feel more formal than fun. This one -- from Spike Gjerde and Amy Gjerde, who also own and operate Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact -- gets it right. Not a little money was spent on restoring the one-time shoe store, but sitting in the comfy dining room or at the downstairs lunch counter you are not made to stand in awe of what money can buy, casting your eye over the detail work as if it were a Renaissance fresco. You're invited to settle in. A recent review in the Baltimore Sun criticized the menu, which doubles as a placemat, for not making sense. I find it to be a charming homage to the soda fountains and diners of old, and a friend and I enjoyed poring over its details (and game-planning our final courses among a slew of options) in the time between placing my order and diving into dinner. The night I was in, the lone dish with fine-dining pretensions was the chicken and dumplings, but I appreciated how grounded it was for something so refined; I could also appreciate its pricetag ($13 for a good-sized bowl; and among the 10 dishes we ordered this night, it was the most expensive). Its best feature was its broth, which showed the sort of deep, foundational work that Spike Gjerde insists upon. A slight saltiness was evident by the end, when it had cooled, but it was not hard to miss how good the stock is; a single spoonful, and I was thinking of bones slow-roasting in the oven before being dropped in a stockpot. The burger is not obviously special -- nothing extra in the patty, and no unexpected embellishments. What makes it good is that the meat is rich without being fatty, and that the kitchen has found a way to reprise the smell and taste of the old-time flat-top burgers with their distinctive outer crust. The egg salad sandwich, on the other hand, is obviously special -- the creation, unmistakably, of someone who adores egg salad sandwiches. This one's served open-faced on a long, thick slice of bread; picture a French bread pizza. The star ingredient is not over mayo-ed, nor presented too finely or too coarsely, and is topped with some of the lightest homemade potato chips I've ever eaten, along with a scattering of shaved radishes and microgreens. The bread is worthy of top billing. It's homemade, as are all the baked goods at Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact. In fact, from the jelly for the excellent biscuit to the soft-serve ice cream (which comes in two varieties at the moment, cream and cafe au lait), everything you eat here is made from scratch. Gjerde also only serves meat that his staff has butchered, and is fanatical in procuring a local source for his products (an Asian-style noodle salad on the menu at Artifact featured Maryland peanuts). As at Woodberry, almost as much thought has gone into the drinks as the eats. There's a neat twist on a black Russian, which is served in a cup and saucer and goes down like a boozed-up espresso. The soft-serve is repurposed for a homemade milk shake featuring an oatmeal stout that went down far too fast for something so subtle and complex. A slushie made with 101-proof bourbon and fresh pear cider went down even faster. My complains this night were few -- quibbles more than criticisms. Creamed collards is a great idea, but they clotted after a few minutes at the table, and the dish only really came into focus with a few splashes of chef Gjerde's fish pepper sauce, which sits out on the table the way a bottle of Heinz does at a conventional diner. I would have liked more crispiness from the otherwise tasty Buffalo oysters (a twist on Buffalo wings). Most restaurants that serve pies, serve them too cold; the chocolate chiffon, here, is better than most in that regard -- it had only a chill -- but it would have been a lot better at room temperature. And the crust was too hard to penetrate with a fork. I cannot quibble, however, with its silken interior, which showcases one of the best versions of dark chocolate mousse I have eaten anywhere, pie or no. The perfect ending, this night, was the Tollhouse cookie, which came to the table still warm, as if snatched from the cookie sheet the moment it was done. A cold glass of milk alongside it would have been nice. But I'm not complaining.
The new king of Koreatown. This is the best Korean barbecue out there right now, served up by a slew of young, t-shirted staffers in a rollicking, industrial setting. Go for the marinated pork ribs.
Bangkok Golden, Falls Church
I was tempted to say this a while back, but didn't. I will now, after a recent knockout visit: I'd rather go here, for the Lao menu, than Little Serow. The range of tastes is vast, and every plate is alive with flavor -- bright and pungent and smoky and funky. Not to mention crunch and heat. Not to mention a shorter wait and a lighter bill (my recent meal of four dishes and a beer, pre-tax: $43).
Rose's Luxury, DC
I love the crackle in the room when you walk in. I'm not talking about mere noise; lots of restaurants have noise. I'm not even talking about buzz, that sense that a new place is hot. This one has an energy that is unmistakable, a sense that you have entered a kind of rare and cherished zone where the enthusiasm of the kitchen and the staff is returned in kind by the diners, who all seem to walk out the door with smiles on their faces. It's not hard to understand why. Rose's Luxury has an old-school vibe, and a sort of making-it-up-as-we-go-along feel, from the homey, unassuming way the menu bids you to settle in and order to the dinner party-run-amok vibe to the yahrzeit-look-alike votives to the beer glasses that are sawed-off wine bottles. The chef, Aaron Silverman, logged stints in such high-profile kitchens as Momofuku in New York and Husk and McCrady's in Charleston, and you don't have to look hard to see elements of each of these places in the room and on the plate. Like his mentors David Chang and Sean Brock, he aims to bring off a marriage of extreme playfulness and extreme precision. The bulk of the menu consists of a dozen small plates in which Silverman sets out to cross the wires, compositionally speaking, and see what happens. A pate is a braiding of French, Italian (garlic bread are the toasts), Vietnamese (the rich, crushed-peanut topped spread brims with star anise), and I want to say Jewish (the brine for the jalapenos, onions and cukes that add crunch and tang tastes deli to me). It's seamlessly done, and highly addictive. He crosses high and low in a soup that tastes at once like liquefied popcorn and a delicate lobster veloute (the sweetness calls out for some sort of counterbalancing ingredient, or more lobster). It's not all derring-do. His gnocchi are more properly a kind of ravioli, stuffed with fennel and mint, sauced with not-too-much butter and topped with a generous scattering of crunchy toasted breadcrumbs. You'd be hard put to find five better pasta dishes in town right now. The final course is a page not out of Momofuku or Husk or McCrady's, but out of Komi -- share plates for two. In one, you lay luscious slices of perfectly smoked brisket on griddled Texas toast, add on tangy strands of pickled cabbage and smear the whole thing with a fluffy horseradish cream. The other is built around a beautifully brined pork chop -- sweet and aromatic and rich as the best pork can be -- with potlikker beans and a textbook red-eye gravy. The final act needs re-staging. The lack of a pastry chef doesn't help, nor does the tendency to over-think and over-embellish. Quenelles of chocolate cream sprinkled with dried rose petals and intended for spreading on slices of charred bread feels twee, not interesting, and hardly satisfies. More of the sink-in simplicity of the share courses would go a long way. Still, this is one of the most exciting debuts of the year. I'd even go so far as to say it's one of the most exciting debuts of the past three years.
Khan Kabob, Chantilly
The best karahi I've had in ages, maybe ever, is a version here made with lamb brains. The brains, for the leery, resemble tiny curds, and the sauce of garlic, ginger, cilantro, tomato and chilis is so concentrated, and so smoky, that even after you've had your fill it's difficult to stop dipping your torn naan into the hammered metal vessel. Tariq Khan, the owner, was for many years part of the Ravi Kabob empire; he's created a worthy rival.
Yia Yia's Kitchen, Beltsville
If you want to see what a gyro can be, order the pork. It's sliced from a conical spit, and the meat is so dark you'd think it was charred. That's the effect of slow cooking, of melting fat, herbs and spices coming together to form a kind of bark. The meat is luscious, like that of a great spare rib, and you can pick up notes of fresh oregano and cinnamon. It's enfolded by a thick, griddled pita, into which the cooks stuff fistfuls of hot fries, along with tzaziki, chopped onions and tomato. The rest of the menu is rewarding, too -- pork chops with long-cooked green beans, onions and tomatoes; a good pastitsio; and a strapping mound of lamb bolognese.
First, thanks for your weekly chats - love the down to earth vibe and has-yet-to-let-me-down recommendations.
Second, have to agree with the buzz about Rose's Luxury! I've been more times than I (or my wallet) care to admit but I have to say the standout for me -besides the lychee salad - is the staff.
Truly caring, attentive without being intrusive, and knowledgable. The front desk in particular has always been friendly and helpful and keeps you up to date with how long the wait is. One young lady who has worked every night I've been in (possibly a manager?) always has a smile on her face, helps clear the tables, remembers guests' birthdays and anniversaries, deals with the slightly grumpy guests who hate the long wait times patiently, and once even gave me her umbrella when there was a sudden deluge! Now, that's service!!
Thirdly, could I have your thoughts on what you would pick between Doi Moi and Eat the Rich for a casual night out?
I haven’t been to Eat the Rich yet, but have been a number of times to Doi Moi.
I’m still looking for more depth from many of the dishes, but there are a lot of things I’d go back for — the crab fried rice is excellent, the head-on prawns, the curry noodle soup. And the heat is there — many dishes are blisteringly (and authentically) hot.
As for Rose’s — I agree with you. It’s a very special vibe there, and a staff that reminds me — in its eagerness and energy and enthusiasm — of a young Komi.
Finally, thank you so much for your comments about the chat — I appreciate it, especially your remark about it being down-to-earth. So much food talk, and food writing, seems meant to exclude, to separate those with taste (or palates, or knowledge) from those without, to create us’es and them’s. I want inclusiveness, not exclusiveness. That’s part of why you see the sorts of places you do up top. And part of why I pick the questions I do. And I hope, as you suggest, that that leads to people who are not in the food world and are not even self-described foodies to come on and participate.
A colleague is retiring in early January and I would like to gift her with some local food products.
I'm not sure if she likes seafood, so probably nothing crabby. I was thinking along the lines of Virginia peanuts and an affordable bottle of wine.
Do you and/or the readers have suggestions for me?
It’s a good idea you’ve got.
I’d call or go on to the webpage of the Hubbard Peanut Co. — Hubs peanuts. Terrific. Very distinctive.
And as for the wine, I’m not sure what constitutes “affordable” in your mind — most people I know don’t want to spend more than $15, $20 a bottle. I’d look for Barboursville Vineyards’ Viognier. Or Chrysalis Vineyards’ Albariño. Both are white wines. If you are willing to spend more for a red, I’d look for Michael Shaps’ Cabernet Franc (it’s around $30), or Chrysalis Vineyards’ Norton (it’s around $25).
By the way, don’t know if all of you saw it — Dana Milbank and the Post magazine did a big feature on Virginia wine last week. No mention of Norton. Not one. Pretty incredible. And not one mention, either, of Jenni McCloud and Chrysalis. Also pretty incredible.
Don’t want to forget … Since we talked so much in the weeks leading up to Thanksgiving, I just wanted to say thank you to the chatter who talked about spatchcocking the turkey. I did, and it was fantastic. Never going to do it any other way again. Bird cooked up in about 90 minutes, and was, as a good friend of mine likes to say, dee-lish. Moist white meat, moist dark meat, great skin.
I swabbed the whole thing before roasting with bacon butter — block of Kerry Gold, half package of bacon, fresh tarragon, cracked black pepper, drizzle of pure maple syrup, all whipped up in the processor.
Some of that bacon butter also went into my cornbread stuffing, which also included andouille sausage and toasted pecans.
I made haricots verts (skinny young green beans, if we want to truly be down to earth, here) in the style of a Caesar salad, with a real Caesar dressing and a generous shave of fresh parmesan.
One sister-in-law (not the one I mentioned last week!) made her sweet potato sundae thingy (sweet potatoes, bourbon, raisins, topped with toasted marshmallows).
My mom baked a seeded challah in the shape of a star of David (our nod to Thanksgivvukah) — it came out wonderfully — and did rolls. She also made a very good cranberry relish.
Dessert was a pumpkin pie from my sister-in-law who did the sweet potatoes and my wife’s brown butter pear tart.
To wash it down: a Clean Slate Riesling and a bottle of RdV’s Rendezvous, a gorgeous red blend from Virginia.
And I did make the rum drink I had solicited ideas for. I played around, and came up with something very smooth and very balanced. The key ingredient: coconut water. With two kinds of bitters, one a blood orange bitters.
Tell me how everything went down for all of you, please …
Have you ever asked a server for a recommendation on the menu and had them point you towards one of the lower-priced dishes?
It seems I can almost always predict what their answer will be in advance. Is this how they're trained? Is it because the token vegetarian dish or chicken dish just isn't very good?
Do you have the same experience?
My experience is to ask what’s fabulous — what on the menu should not be missed — and get: Well, such-and-such is very popular.
Popular? Who cares what’s popular? Miley Cyrus is popular. Richard Patterson is popular. Steven Spielberg is popular. I don’t care about popular. I care about good. What’s good? Direct me to what’s good.
The reason this happens is because the staff doesn’t know the dishes — not because they are slackers, or because they’re bad at their job. This is the fault of management. Management has not given them the tools to succeed on the floor.
I also hate when I ask how a dish is, meaning how does it taste, and I get a very thorough description of how the various components are prepared and then put together. That’s fine; that’s good information to have — if the question is how is it put together. But if the question is how is it, then the diner wants to know whether it’s a standout.
My favorite servers, generally speaking, are the ones who understand that their job is to function as a translator, a go-between. I have had servers who, when I place an order, shake me off like a pitcher rejecting a catcher’s signal — I love that. I also love servers who say, very unequivocally: This one. This is the dish to get. Fantastic.
I'm going to Richmond on Wednesday to be sworn in as a bar-passed lawyer!
Any suggestions for a quick lunch before heading to the convention center?
It’s a shame that it’s lunchtime, because many of the places I’d love to send you aren’t open then.
But you’re not out of luck.
Garnett’s Cafe is a fun retro luncheonette with good sandwiches, like the Louisville Hot Brown, homemade cakes and a surprisingly good (if necessarily small) wine list.
Edo’s Squid has fantastic red-sauce Italian. Make sure to get the oyster stew.
Millie’s Diner has, in addition to a wonderful and amazingly well-stocked jukebox, some good, simple, nicely refined dishes.
Rappahannock is good for oysters and good beers.
I’ll be interested in hearing where you ended up. Come back on and drop us a note.
Hi there. I was wondering if you could talk a little bit about boxed wines being served as the table wine at restaurants.
A friend and I were trading crappy wine stories (i.e. places that served absolute swill), and we started talking about Hill Country BBQ. My friend says he caught a peek of them serving Black Box wine as their table wine, and I was completely shocked.
At $7 a glass, it means that their markup (by my math) is over 800%! 800%??!! Is this normal in DC?? It seems like highway robbery.
If you want examples of highway robbery at restaurants, I’ve got loads more for you.
I’m not sure this qualifies as an outrage. We’re talking, after all, about a barbecue place.
No sommelier, no special stemware, and, really, how many people are going to be drinking a glass of wine instead of a beer?
I have lived in this region almost 50 years and PG was common shorthand, as was Monkey County- and less so MoCo. And while we are speaking of nicknames, this DMV stuff is very recent. It always makes me think of the department of motor vehicles!
(Whether Democrat, Independent or Republican, us long time residents still consider it National Airport. Hey it took us a long time to get past Friendship and call it BWI!)
Hope you had a great Turkey Day!
I’m going to beat this horse one more time …
Yes, PG was, and is, common shorthand — among people who don’t live in Prince George’s. There, the initials are regarded by many, particularly longtime residents, as a slight.
I understand that. Is it a trivial matter when set alongside other, weightier, more troubling things in our local culture? Sure. But that doesn’t mean it doesn’t matter.
I’m of the mind that, just as you let the members of a group define themselves, you let the residents of a county define themselves. If they like something, that’s what you call them. If they don’t, you don’t.
Prince George’s. Done.
As for “Monkey County,” that phrase doesn’t appear in news stories in the Post or on air on the TV stations or in any other publications. It’s vernacular, and, in my experience, often used ironically.
Re: National Airport. Yes, long-timers continue to call it that. But the airlines call it Reagan National. As do most of the cabbies.
Switching gears slightly … one of the things I find interesting about the emergence of certain neighborhoods in DC — and even the widespread use of “the District” among new and new-ish arrivals as a kind of flashcard of certification — is that people who lived in these neighborhoods many years ago didn’t, generally, refer to them by their names. They didn’t say: I’m from Bloomingdale. They’d give their cross streets: I’m from Rhode Island and 1st.
If I'm looking for hints on what to order, I like to pick a couple of dishes that I'm interested in and then asking the server which one they prefer. Can't remember the last time that method let me down.
For the new attorney, another fun lunch option in Richmond would be Comfort. My husband and I shared a lovely meal there on our last weekend visit to the city. The name describes the cuisine.
Finally, Todd, I'm curious if you have any thoughts on what lead to such incredibly divergent views of Shoo Fly between you and Tom Sietsema?
It's not like I'm leaning toward believing one of you over the other; I'm just curious about what leads to such a thing.
You’re not leaning toward believing me over Tom? : )
I think one possibility is that Shoo-fly has made some changes since it opened, and I arrived to take a look at a time when those changes had been in effect for a little bit.
I also only went the once, as my look-see makes clear. This isn’t a magazine piece; it’s not meant to cast the final judgment. It’s where it is now, in my estimation.
I admit to being leery going in; I don’t think that most high-end diners, as I said, are that satisfying. It’s a hard thing to pull off. A good bit of what I like about Shoo-fly has nothing to do with the food. It’s the old slide that’s been preserved. It’s the charm and the detail of the placemat menu. It’s the kindness of the servers, the lack of attitude and hardness. It’s the other diners, the mix of ages, the mix of backgrounds, but also the absence of preening in the room, of see-and-be-seen-ing. It’s the space, which, as I noted, obviously cost a lot, but doesn’t make you aware of that fact with every step you take through the restaurant, every detail.
And I did like much of what I had to eat, very little of which, as a friend of mine has pointed out, is what Tom had to eat in his visits.
To me, it’s a gestalt place, a place that is not to be understood by going down a checklist and ticking off boxes — good dish, bad dish. To subject a restaurant like this to the minute scrutiny of individual parts is potentially to miss it. Or at least to miss part of it.
As for Comfort in Richmond — I’ve been a few times and like, but don’t love. I’d go to Edo’s and Garnett’s Cafe before I’d go to Comfort for lunch.
Finally, yes, asking a server to choose between two options is a good strategy. I still would rather have a server with opinions.
You didn't mention how the pickled vegetables were!
Thanks for the nearly-spit-coffee-on-my-screen laugh.
To answer your question: virtually untouched. Even by the bringer, who, predictably, loaded up on the pates and cheeses.
I am slowly waking up from my Thanksgiving slumber. Hope you enjoyed your celebration/feast.
I have been to Doi Moi and have been on the fence. I like the space (clean, white, bright), which is different than all the brick interiors that have been opening up of late.
Additionally, I applaud the DM team for serving pretty darn hot (spice-wise) dishes - none of this dumbing down or numbing down for our palates.
However, I have truly been disappointed by the lack of depth and complexity to the dishes. These dishes get their interesting kick solely from the heat kick. I was so excited for Doi Moi to open because I was really hoping that they would understand the complex layers and flavors in SouthEast Asian cooking. I find the flavors to be lacking (other than heat) and missing the gloriously interesting harmony of SE Asian cooking.
I don’t really disagree with you. Thank you for your remarks about the cooking, which put more flesh on my earlier comment about a lack of depth.
Many of the dishes seem designed to do one thing, or two things. Very few go beyond one or two.
The most rewarding dishes, like the crab fried rice, are very simple. I’m not looking for a lot of depth and complexity in a dish like that. I want to taste the crab, and I want that crab to be delicate and sweet, and this crab is. And the rice is excellent, not oily in the least, with grains that adhere to one another without clumping.
The curry noodle soup is a dish that has depth and complexity and not just heat. It’s terrific. I’d love to see some more like it on the menu.
Final thing: I’d like to say that I’m impressed that the kitchen takes the time to grind its own chilis — you can see the handiwork in a number of the dishes. It’s hard, time-consuming work, but it gives these dishes a real punch.
What you and I are both looking for is more nuance to go with the punch.
Best places to eat Eden Center/Annandale Hi Todd! I have been tasked to pet sit my parent's (who live in McLean) dog over Christmas week. I am an adventurous eater who enjoys all kinds of Asian cuisines, so I want to take advantage of a week in the suburbs, alone, with a car. Where should I hit up? I am a fan of Pho 75 by Graham Road, and I have been to Rice Paper as well. Thanks, love the chats!
You must’ve missed our defacto Ethnic Eats issue, which included a guide to the Eden Center.
And a map — product of eight (delicious) visits over several weeks.
I like Banh Cuon Saigon for the titular dish. Huong Viet is fantastic for a big, multi-course meal or just a couple of dishes. Hai Duong is great for banh xeo, shaky beef and bun bo Hue. Nhu Lan has very good banh mi. Nha Trang does a terrific roasted quail with oranges. Thann Son Tofu has excellent fried tofu. BamBu is the place to go for Vietnamese coffee and shaved ice desserts.
My girlfriends and I are taking a trip to New Orleans to celebrate our friend's 40th birthday.
We are leaving the spouses and children behind and hope to eat some great food that doesn't require a kids' menu. Can you recommend some restaurants for a group of 10 for a nice birthday dinner?
The birthday girl loves fresh ingredients and clean straightforward taste (she doesn't like everything drenched in butter or cream). One in our group is also a vegetarian. Also any casual lunch/brunch options are welcome too.
Thanks in advance!
I like Donald Link’s two places, Cochon and Herbsaint. The former more than the latter. (Technically, there are three Link restaurants; Cochon Butcher, for sandwiches, is the other.)
Domenica, in the Roosevelt Hotel, is terrific if you like soulful but refined Italian.
I love Upperline for being such a quirky and distinctive spot, in addition to putting out good, classic New Orleans cooking. Brigtsen’s is another good taste of old New Orleans.
Sylvain, in the French Quarter, is too loud, but I like the cooking — which, unusual for New Orleans, has very little Creole or Cajun identity.
Hope that helps. Have a great time eating and drinking, and let me know how things turned out …
How do you rate Thai Square in the local Thai restaurant scene?
We went for the first time a couple weeks ago and had a good experience. The papaya salad had good punch, the crispy squid had a nice lacquered crust, the panang curry sauce had a more complex depth of flavor then you usually find, and the pork noodle soup was pleasantly nuanced and perfect on a bone-chilling evening.
I used to rate it very highly.
At one time, I think it was putting out some of the best Thai cooking in the area.
It slipped, and for a few years there it was just pretty good, no different from a lot of other places.
Sounds as though it may have improved. I’ll have to take a look for myself. It’s been a while.
Thanks for the field report …
Do you think it would be appropriate to bring a toddler here during non-prime time hours?
I don’t think they have high-chairs or boosters, which means they don’t want to be thought of as that kind of a place. But that doesn’t mean they would turn you away if you show up and are fine without a high-chair or booster.
I think the fact that you’re considering going at non-peak hours is commendable. If you go at 5:30, you’d likely be gone by 7, just in time to avoid the sneers of the childless diners whose meals you would ruin. ; )
Hi Todd, news reports are breaking that Judy Rodgers proprietor of San Francisco's Zuni Cafe has passed away.
I’m sorry to hear this …
Many say that Rodger’s roast chicken is THE roast chicken, and changed forever the way they see chicken.
From the former Washingtonian who was on the fence a few weeks ago about cooking for a group of in-laws who haven’t bothered to reciprocate.
This year, Thanksgiving was to be held in two cabins in the Alabama mountains. Almost comically, on Wednesday the mother-in-law requested that we forego the cabins and that I and the family double our driving time, go through Atlanta, and cook dinner at her house. My wife was nearly beside herself.
So Wednesday dinner at the cabin for mother and father in-law entailed pan roasted duck breasts, mushroom and cherry sauce, white beans sautéed with garlic and smoked paprika, steamed green beans, Uncle Ben’s (because it works with the duck and sauce), and a Crozes Hermitage. Apps consisted of prepared paté, cornichons, cheeses, toast points, crackers, and hummus accompanied by Manhattans, Old-Fashioneds, and Chardonnay.
Thursday’s menu for a larger crowd took a slight Italian turn with cornbread and sausage stuffing moistened with Marsala, roasted Brussels sprouts with pancetta, and roasted carrots also with a touch of Marsala. The turkey itself was straightforward with a sage and thyme rub, as were the mashed potatoes and home-made stock for the mushroom gravy. To drink: a Vietti Barbera d-Asti and a Valpolicella. The meal was preceded by a different paté, a good parmesan-reggiano, crudité, and fried oysters topped with a dollop of blue cheese and hot wing sauce (per one daughter’s love of certain oysters in the Big Easy), also with the aforementioned cocktails and a decent Prosecco. My wife contributed four pies, two gluten free, and I made fresh whipped cream (per the other daughter’s request).
The carcass became a turkey and wild and white rice soup on Friday and Saturday for lunch.
Saturday, I also served dinner, centered on pork ribs braised in apple cider and onions finished on the grill with a dusting of brown sugar, but with an “onion compote,” leftover potatoes, stuffing, and odds and ends.
So, was it worth the effort of trucking foodstuffs, roasting pans, cookware, even extra silver, a table, chairs, cloths, some stemware, and lots of booze hours away? It was a good thing Auburn defeated Alabama and I’m not even that big a fan.
Man oh man oh man oh man …
But did you ever eat well! Your Wednesday was better, I imagine, than most people’s Thursdays. Your menus sound fantastic.
Thanks for writing in with an update for us …
Gotta run, everyone. Thank you for everything today — field reports, news reports, T-day updates, ruminations, questions, comments, food musings … all of it.
Be well, eat well, and let’s do it next Tuesday at 11 …
[*missing you, TEK … *]