Best of Washington: The Perfect Salad

Best Tomatoes and Mozzarella

Summer bliss: salad with fresh tomatoes and mozzarella.

Washingtonian > Packages > Best of Washington

We asked chefs where they go to find the ingredients for a signature summer dish—the tomato-and-mozzarella salad.

Cathal Armstrong, chef at Restaurant Eve in Alexandria, heads to the Dupont Circle farmers market (Sundays from 9 am to 1 pm on 20th St. between Massachusetts Ave. and Q St.). His favorite vendor is Heinz Thomet, who runs Next Step Produce, an organic farm in Charles County. Thomet typically has seven or eight types of heirloom tomatoes, Armstrong says: “I’m going to look for something that’s luscious and full-bodied.”

Eric Ziebold, who creates Modern American cuisine at CityZen in DC’s Mandarin Oriental hotel, says he drops by the US Department of Agriculture market on Fridays, at Independence Avenue and 12th Street in the USDA’s parking lot. He picks up bright-orange mandarin tomatoes at $2 a pound from Penn Farm Produce grower Jim Smith. Smith sets up shop between 10 and 2 in the corner of the market farthest from 12th Street and closest to Independence Avenue.

For fresh mozzarella? Devotees of the baseball-size rounds from Leesburg-based Blue Ridge Dairy Co. include FreshFarm Markets cofounder Ann Yonkers; Renee Brooks Catacalos, publisher and editor of Edible Chesapeake; and former 1789 chef Ris Lacoste. Each cites the mozzarella’s creamy texture and delicate flavor.

Blue Ridge president Paul Stephan says his cheese gets its rich quality from Jersey-cow milk, which is naturally high in fat. Stephan also adds fresh cream.

Blue Ridge sells at most Whole Foods stores as well as farmers markets in Penn Quarter, central Arlington, Dupont Circle, and many other locations.

Carolyn Stromberg, maître de fromage at Old Hickory Steakhouse, a new restaurant at National Harbor, shops at Cheesetique (2411 Mount Vernon Ave., Alexandria; 703-706-5300) for the authentic Italian water-buffalo version of mozzarella, with a bright, tangy flavor. The store also stocks the sought-after burrata—a fresher cousin of mozzarella—imported from Corato, Italy.

To top a pizza, look for a firm, round mozzarella that’s naturally low in water content, says Melissa Ballinger, owner and chef at Mia’s Pizzas in Bethesda. She likes the one made fresh daily at the Italian grocery Vace (4705 Miller Ave., Bethesda, 301-654-6367; 3315 Connecticut Ave., NW, 202-363-1999).


This article appeared in the July, 2008 issue of The Washingtonian. 


Fresh Mozzarella Tasting 

Best of Washington: Extras at the Local Farmers Markets

Best of Washington: Readers' Choice 

More>> Best Bites Blog | Food & Dining | Restaurant Finder