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#303060 Chicken: Can a $15/Pound Chicken Really Be *That* Much Better Than The I...

Posted by Poivrot Farci on 03 January 2016 - 03:49 PM

At the end of a French holiday I scouted some Gallic birds at some French markets, seeing about a dozen breeds as well as guinea hens, ducks, turkeys, squab, geese and live quail at a market in the Southwest Bèarn region.  The quality, variety and availability are stunning and being able to buy in the marketplace whatever premium ingredients are being served at a restaurant is remarkable. While much of the posh poultry takes showcase real estate during the weeks leading up to New Year’s Eve, it is still available all year round and revered birds have not sunk to any pedestrian levels on home or restaurant menus.  They fetch high prices that are commiserate with the cost of raising them (slower and longer growth rate), more pampered slaughtering,  (elite Bresse birds being plucked by hand on account of the thin skin) and smaller production on pasture. The best of the lot are sewn up in cloth bags (au torchon) to hold an elongated shape. 


Fancy schmancy chickens aren’t going to bring world peace or resurrect Elvis, but we spend lots of money to battle the consequences of raising shitty ones (shitty water, shitty land, dead fish) and it is still the cheapest commodity animal that we have. And we each eat about 100lbs of it per year.  More than anyone else, but they are catching up down under.


Could you tell the difference between a $4 chicken, an $8/lb chicken and a $15/lb chicken?  


In it’s raw state as a whole bird, more than likely. You can kick the tires and tell from the feet if it has bumblefoot (associated with confined animals), breast blisters (Cornish cross birds have trouble lifting their bodies), leg to breast ratio which varies from breed to breed, check the teeth, see if the beak has been cut,  whether it was scalded or plucked, air-chilled, if there were too many birds in the tumbler and they broke wings or legs after they were bled, how they took the crop out, the color and size of the legs compared to the breasts, the thickness of the skin and if it was slaughtered with care. Basically you can tell if it lived a life worth living.  However, the quality of slaughtering is crucial since a creature can be impeccable the moment it leaves the farm but then gets carelessly hacked at.  I am not confident that many people, sadists or otherwise, aspire to work in slaughterhouses and it is part of the trade that demands a deft, if not unflappable hand.



Tendonitis no more, though the bird in the foreground has something ticklish on it's foot which doesn't seem normal


The less processed the better (about 70% meat yield from a whole bird); feet allow for pulling tendons from the drumsticks so they don't shrink back and gelatin for stock with the neck & back; wings, giblets and so on what with some resourcefulness and know how -plenty of which is abundant or ex-tractable on this forum, books or the intertubes.



Yellow chicken from Gâtinais (Gers, north of Paris). 3-4lb, $4.35/lb.  Marché Popincourt, Paris 11th. 


All cooked in the same manner, probably, though texture has much to do with affecting what we perceive and lump together as “taste”.  All this chicken chat ruffled by feathers and I would have been remiss if I left a France trip without tasting any.  On my last night last week I had a Poularde de Gâtinais, an old French yellow-skinned breed which, like most birds on the market, benefits from an IGP designation (Protected Geographic Indication) at La Cave de L'Insolite, which at 21€ it was the priciest of a limited post-Christmas menu, but modestly priced at the market.  I enjoyed a deboned leg that was seared only on the skin and basted with some duck fat.  It was cooked to the cusp of medium well and while one could be excused for calling the American embassy in a panic and Yelping about it, I was indifferent, because it wasn’t an industrial bird and over there the onus on food safety is not on the consumer (Frontline has a documentary about the health liabilities of factory chickens that is sure to get stuck in your craw).  It was ever so slightly crimson, the way leg meat should be, exceedingly tender but firm, savory, juicy and reminiscent of guinea hen.  They had taken out that unpleasant bit of fat in the thigh and knee cartilage thing and cooked it to order.  Cornish Cross legs in comparison are the same color as the breast and taste like bland wet packaging material. 



Blue-footed Orléanais (Loire valley).3-4lb, $20 each.  Marché d’Aligre, Paris 12th.  


Could I tell the difference?


If you know what to look and taste for, hopefully.  If it is something entirely new there might not be a benchmark to relate it to.  I’m not sure when in time chicken became neutered of all descriptors relating to breed (exceptions for eggs) or style other than the manner in was raised, by whom or how the thing got cooked.  While beef has it’s Angus, Hereford, Scottish Highland, Charolais and other pedigrees and the pigs carry fashionable names but they are more novelty than anything since most heritage breeds have died off for very practical reasons (lard breeds like Old Spot Gloucestershire have no real use in the age of refrigeration, non-stick pans and readily available cheap(er) calories).  But the hapless chicken is *just* a cheap vehicle for meat.



Chicken from Landes (Gascony, southwest France). 3-4lb, $46 each and blue-footed Bresse  Marché Popincourt, Paris 11th.  


Could the average Joe, who's never even heard of Poulet Rouge, Don Rockwell, Eric Ziebold, Chowhound or biodynamic, organic, free range, etc tell the difference?


I'm not trying to be jerky, I really don't know.  


I *think* it's been proven that there's no difference in taste between the eggs of backyard, free range chickens and an Eastern Shore, bionic but caged-for-life bird's eggs.  Does the same go for the meat?


I totally get the difference from a philosophical point of view, but I wonder if I can taste the difference. And I can see why people (normal, everyday people just struggling to get by) are perfectly happy with what they find in the supermarket vs.the home grown chicken/pork/beef etc,at 2X, 3X, 4X the price.


Depends on how much you value or pay attention to food that goes into & out your food holes.  And the consequences of eating food which extend far beyond the immediate “taste” but short of blood diamonds. Maybe in the realm of that seafood decoder ring thing with varying colors of shame based on creatures in short supply you were planning on having over for dinner and their habitat you just wrecked. Bravo.



Bresse chicken “en torchon”. (Burgundy)  $13/lb  Marché Popincourt, Paris 11th.  


Eating is more than fattening up on calories out of necessity (or boredom), sustenance and "tasting good",  Different foods have pros/cons like virtually everything purchased be they robot vacuum cleaners, cars or electronics which will be obsolete in a year. But food has more of an impact on one’s well-being and while I’ve gladly sacrificed some days for the next by not wearing a helmet the instant I step out of the house, getting starched on too much of brown liquor and the drugs, 2 of those are legitimate non-essential vices stashed in the unfinished catacombs of the food pyramid.  Chicken on the other hand serves more of a purpose for keeping your machine ticking… unlessn’ your idea of a Thelma & Louise flavored bender is fixin’ up with Josiah to get yer chin curtains greased in chicken juice and Cheetos while listening to a clandestine ham radio in the turnip cellar. 


The food dorks in R&D over at Pepsi Co’s snack lab ($38 billion in sales in 2014) have worked tirelessly to engineer items that taste Grrrrrrrreat! first and foremost and the palate might not be able to taste the additives or notice the nutritional handicaps, environmental consequences, animal welfare, human labor toll at slaughterhouses (disturbingly detailed in Fast Food Nation) and distribution/packaging resources used.  If you think of food as fuel for your body, why skimp on something that can cause costly and often painful repairs and will only set you back the cost of 2 movie tickets and popcorn.



Guinea hen from Challans (western Loire) and Bresse chicken $65 each. Marché d’Aligre.  Paris 12th. 


The overwhelming majority of the broiler chickens you find on the market place are the Cornish cross hybrid broilers.  It has been a triumph of genetics for those who like lots of white breast meat, and the scourge of poultry.  They are cheap to raise, lean and mostly white meat.  Kind of like shitty bread. The birds have been bred to grow very quickly and faster than their bodies can adapt to the weight. Almost 70% have crippling leg problems and videos used to rate gait abnormalities aren’t pleasant to watch, even if it is just a chicken They are lazy, don’t scratch or forage for bugs on pasture, suffer from internal and skeletal issues and pretty much just sit there. There is probably a proverb that correlates the physiology of consumers and such birds via consumption. 


Broiler chickens are often billed as "no added hormones", which is true, like that trendy gluten-free grapefruit juice, but growth hormones have been banned in poultry production for over 50 years now, and the slick eager beavers over in marketing just want to remind consumers of how honest the caring the factory farm is.  Those chickens are given an equally trendy “vegetarian feed”, even though chickens are most certainly omnivores and those at the bottom of the pecking order get cannibalized dead or alive. “Hormone free” labeling has been ruled as gibberish by the USDA since all living creatures and even chickens have hormones.  It’s what gets them laid.



Foie gras and capons from Gers, $72 each. Marché st. Quentin.  Paris 10th. 


Other older heirloom breeds have their merits, depending on whether they are being raised for meat or eggs, different feed conversions, ease of raising, temperature resistance, growth rate and such. Some USDA inspectors have adverse reactions to seeing birds with feathers leaving a slaughterhouse, but like closer inspection of a wine cork, the feathers also prove breed bonafides and the care taken in plucking them, so some finer producers leave conclusive feathers around the neck and tail. 



Capon from Bresse.  2015 Agricultural award winner.  Marché st. Quentin.  Paris 10th. $30/lb


I think to a lot of people, the story matters, the cost matters, the treatment of the animal matters, and it makes the food taste better and the experience more richer. And, I think that's okay, especially for those with a lot of money.  


Perhaps, but this is about an occasional chicken, not yachts, and we aren’t living in post war Stalingrad. I don’t think hobos are lining up at Kinship either. This is the 3rd wealthiest region of the richest country on the planet, by a large margin.  And somehow as a nation we spend only 6% of our annual income on food, which is less than half that of Western Europe and other contemporaries and a pittance compared to the rest of the world. And what do we have to show for it other than a population with 30% obesity, 600,000 deaths from heart disease (almost 50% in the African American community) and 10% type 2 diabetes?  Of course lifestyle affects health just as much as food, but if the food is intentionally and willfully deficient, then that is a problem that surely affects our prosperity and efficiency as a country, not to mention the other kind of heartache.



Browder’scertified organic Poulet Rouge (French heritage breed). Equally sized legs and breasts.  Mattituck, NY. $8/lb.

Top shelf quality and flavor. 125 are slaughtered a week on the farm.  Tom Colicchio is a reliable customer and neighbor.


US has managed to devalue and industrialize the majority of its top 3 meat productions.  More than 90% of pork is raised indoors, mostly on concrete and while administering growth hormones to pigs (and poultry) has been outlawed in the US for quite some time now, the questionable ractopamine is perfectly legal here, but has not been approved in the EU or China.  75% of all US beef is feedlot raised on concrete and growth hormones are legal, but reassuringly labeled as "all natural" or some other stretched out bullshit, as if CAFOs and the highly industrialized feed is natural.  Potato Baron Simplot’s Grandview feedlot in Idaho is the largest in the US with 150,000 head of cattle squeezed into 750 acres, or 200 animals per acre, each with 218 sq/ft of dirt to call home.  By law, Bresse chickens -which are much smaller than cattle- must have at least 102 sq/ft per bird.



8 Hands Farm organic Poulet Noir (black footed French Challons breed).  Cutchogue, NY. $7.50/lb.   Very large and long legs for those who want legs that go up all the way, and small breasts. Top Chef Tom buys with approval as well, and their lamb.


Virtually all meat chickens in the US are raised in confinement.  Consumer Reports found that “an analysis of fresh, whole broilers bought at stores nationwide, two-thirds harbored salmonella and/or campylobacter, the leading bacterial causes of foodborne disease. That's a modest improvement since January 2007, when we found that eight of 10 broilers harbored those pathogens”.


As for what's out there in stores and restaurants: the liberating, wholesome and groovy sounding Freebird are allegedly “guilt-free” which is terrific, and “free to wander in barns on family farms” just like one is free to roam around at a packed Skynyrd cover band show at the 9:30 club.  Tyson, Cargill, Koch Foods and Purdue are also family owned.  3lb birds cost $1.29lb wholesale.  That means that after hatching, feeding, slaughtering, processing, packaging and shipping to a wholesale purveyor, $1.29 is enough for everyone to get paid and makes a profit.  That’s cheap, and they sell to almost every Whole Foods in the Mid-Atlantic, which is a lot of birds and/or family farms.  There is no indication of what breed they raise, but they look very much like Cornish Cross. 


Senat Poultry sells Penobscott/Cobb breed birds ($1.89/lb wholesale, 3.5lb average bird) that have a better leg to meat ratio, thicker skin, darker leg meat and are Halal slaughtered which allows them to keep their necks & feet. They are "fed a strict vegetarian diet", like orphans, and are probably scolded too.


Bobo chickens are definitely Cornish Cross and at times are massive, but with the $2.29/lb pricetag you get a whole bird that has only been eviscerated, liver and gizzards included, just like batteries.  It is a wonder the birds can walk.  I tried to yank tendons from one that looked like it had clubbed feet and all the meat came out.  The birds are slaughtered Confucius style which means that are kept intact with the head & feet which requires a religious exemption for the slaughterhouse. 


The first 2 claim their growers don't use antibiotics, but when raising that many, their claim is suspect.


Much better is Ayrshire Farms (800 acres) in Upperville  has American Bronze, Dominique, Red Caps and a few other breeds which retail for $6-$8/lb for 3-4lb birds. Excellent Scottish Highland grass-fed beef as well.  Like many renaissance farmers, Sandy Lerner built a nest egg (co-counder of Cisco Systems) and raises better animals with integrity for the pleasure more than the profit, because she can


All budgets, minds and tastes should be able to enjoy chicken and I am not advocating draconian chicken mandates, but perhaps there should be more and better choices and the nutritional standards raised for the good of the flock rather than filling the pockets of fat cats who benefit from a population that has little other option to wean itself from the cheap chicken.


If Mr. Ziebold and others take pride in doing the calculus and serving what they deem to be a products that meet a tolerable balance of taste and consequences, and there is a demand for it, good for them. No one is under any obligation to split a whole roasted chicken at a finer restaurant between 2 people for a benign dinner no more than they need a Bugatti to get there, but it is nice to spoil oneself and after flying 1st class, coach might as well be a chicken barn.

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#263510 A Giant Is Falling

Posted by Bart on 24 April 2014 - 10:14 AM

I started writing this response 3 different times and then deleting it, but everytime I come back to this thread I get annoyed and start it again.  So here I go..........


Although I understand the newsworthiness of Rocks post,


I don't.


What's the point of this thread? 


Are we playing "I've got a secret"?


Is the whole point of it to be able to brag about being first to break the story once there is an actual story?


So far here's what we know (excluding the post about Palena which everyone seems to be ignoring):  "Something is about to happen somewhere around here to someplace that some of us like.  And it's probably not good news since grieving will be involved."  


I guess my issue/point/complaint is: Either tell us or don't tell us!   Don't dance around in tease-ville!!


Thank you, I feel better now.

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#291685 Administrative Announcement

Posted by DonRocks on 21 April 2015 - 11:19 AM

I apologize for the website being offline - I have some personal things going on right now, and I know that an unmoderated website will quickly spiral out of control. At some point this month and next, I'm going to have to take a few days of personal leave. Maybe instead of putting the site offline, I can make it read-only.


Unless you're working with this, day-in and day-out, you don't realize how precarious the balance is, and how much work is involved in keeping things civil and organized without appearing heavy-handed.


Please trust my decisions in terms of titling, tagging, and moving posts to other threads that are more appropriate. If anyone has a question about a post, please send me a PM and ask me; writing about it in the forums can be extremely disruptive, both to me and to the community. Almost always, if someone thinks a post was deleted, it has simply been moved to another topic - members can click on "Find Content" in their profile, and the post will be there. Please re-read the sentence in the Everyone Is Welcome Here post which begins, "You may as well begin hating me now" - I wrote that over ten years ago, and for the most part, it has remained unchanged.


I'll be happy to print out a listing of every single post I've deleted in 2015. In ten years, I haven't deleted one single post without a very good reason - the vast majority of times, it's because it's a duplicate, or because the member asked me to delete it, or because it was an off-topic one-liner that didn't make the Laugh Committee laugh; less often, it's a personal attack against someone for voicing an opinion, or a strong opinion that has already been stated several times which prevents others from making theirs; in a very, very small percentage of cases, it's because the post is nothing more than a public chastising of a moderation decision I've made - moving a post to another topic, for example. That's about it - I can scroll through the deleted posts and see if there are others, but in ten years, I've never deleted a post that shouldn't have been deleted, and I don't think I've ever had someone write me, asking me to restore something, and haven't accommodated them - I said in 2005 that this is something I take very seriously, and I mean it to this day. There aren't many things I know how to do, but moderating a community is one of them - all I ask is that I'm allowed to do my job, which is essentially to organize things, keep things civil, and then stay out of everyone's way. 


I have a lot of things going on right now, and it's impossible to run the website the way I know it needs to be run, but I'll try my best. Thank you to everyone for checking in on me; I greatly underestimated the impact of not having the website online - I guess even if I'm completely unavailable, the website must remain online.

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#230554 Growing a Pineapple - A Three Year Project Reaches Fruition

Posted by Tweaked on 04 June 2013 - 01:24 PM

Three years ago, I lopped off the top of a grocery store pineapple, trimmed off the remaining fruit and stuck the spiny top into a glass of water.  Several weeks later roots sprouted, so I planted the thing to see what would happen.  Now I am fortunate to live in a big old DC apartment building with a lovely sunroom.  We are above the tree line so even though it is Northeast facing we receive abundant sunlight.  In fact we joke that the growing climate in the sunroom is such that it is several growing zones south of DC.  We can't grow herbs to save our lives, but citrus no problem. 


The pineapple took right away.  Soon new spiny growth was shooting up.  Soon we had spines that were 3-4 feet long.  It was almost becoming a health hazard...watch out for your eyes when watering, you might get poked.


Fast forward three years to January 2013.  I was watering the pineapple plant one morning and saw the most curious thing...




Why I think we have a baby pineapple!  And the baby pineapple grew and grew...




By March we had what was looking like a real pineapple...




This past weekend it was time to harvest.






So what does an a DC apartment grown pineapple taste like?  The best damn pineapple ever.  Super fragrant, a long lush pineapple flavor that washes over your tongue.  None of that harsh acid one gets with an unripe supermarket pineapple.  I suppose like most fruits and vegetable, one that is grown on plant and harvested at full ripeness just tastes better than one that has been picked early and shipped across the country. 


So now we are starting again.  Maybe in three years we will have another pineapple to enjoy.



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#221161 Middle Eastern Food 101

Posted by Kibbee Nayee on 21 January 2013 - 08:54 PM

[My goals here are straightforward – First, I wanted to put together a primer on Middle Eastern food so that Rockwellians don’t walk into a Middle Eastern restaurant and scratch their head like I do when I walk into a Chinese or Korean or Thai or Martian restaurant.  May you all place your orders in a slightly more informed manner from this day forward.  Second, I wanted to encourage the rest of our experts to do the same in each of the cuisines they happen to be experts in, so that this site can have a respectable ethnic food guide.  Please pile on.]


The topic of Middle Eastern food is as broad as the topic of Asian food.  There are regions to be discussed, then countries within regions, and then localities within countries, all of which bring differences and nuances to the discussion.  To frame it properly, I’m going to focus on the 20 Arab countries across North Africa (the Magreb), the Levant and Mesopotamia, and the Arabian Peninsula or Gulf States.  I will also touch on but not dwell on the related cuisines of Iran and Turkey, although each has a sophistication and complexity that requires its own treatment.  In passing, I will touch on Kurdestan and Armenia, although they no longer exist as geopolitical entities.  I will generally avoid Israeli food except for Palestinian food and the food of Yemeni and Moroccan Jews who came to Israel in the past 70 years or so.  But the rest of Israeli food that was imported from Eastern Europe will not be addressed.


And up front, if you like pork you won’t be satisfied at most Middle Eastern restaurants.  Islamic Halal and Jewish Kosher laws prohibit pork.  And if you want alcohol with your meal, you can also avoid Halal restaurants like Mount of Lebanon.  However, a very good alcohol enjoyed by the Christians of the Middle East is Arak – Raki in Turkey, Ouzo in Greece.  The best Arak available to us is the Lebanese Al-Massaya, an almost artisanal version available on the Web (and in my liquor cabinet).


Next, consider the geography and history of the region.  It sits at the crossroads of Asia, Africa and Europe, and therefore has sent traders and conquering armies to all of those regions, and in return received traders and conquering armies from all of those regions.  As a result, refined cuisine like Lebanese reflects the influences of Byzantine raiders, Crusaders, Ottomans and French.  Similarly, the Turkish meat sandwich Doner is as prevalent in Germany as Bratwurst, and Couscous with a spicy sausage called Merguez was recently voted one of the most popular foods in France.


Any discussion has to begin with bread, the staple of the Middle East. The Arabs claim that they cannot taste other foods without bread and the bread types they have to choose from are numerous and varied. Arab bread comes in many textures, sizes, and shapes. Without question, the mother of all these Middle Eastern breads is pita — by far, the most popularly found in the Middle East. Called Khubz Arabee among the Arabs in that part of the world and once called flatbread or Syrian bread in the United States — until Syria became a country of dubious political behavior — it is now widely known as Pita Bread — a Greek name. Pita bread, like all types of Middle Eastern breads, is usually soft and pliable — perfect for the Arab way of eating. One of the greatest advantages of this type of bread is picking up meat, vegetables, and salads and as a scoop for sauces, dips, yogurt, and just about anything else. When the loaf is cut into two, the top and bottom of the loaf separate easily and the halves form pockets that can be filled with hot falafel, shawarma (barbecued meats), kafta (the Arab version of hamburgers), kebabs and/or salads to make delicious sandwiches.  There are other Middle Eastern breads as well – Yemeni bread, Bedouin bread (Chubab), Injera (more around the Horn of Africa) and Lavash.  The point is that you’ll have bread with every meal you order in a Middle Eastern restaurant and it will probably be fresh, warm and good.


For some regional distinction, consider that the northern African countries use Couscous, which is actually a pasta, as the most common carb.  In the Levant – Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Palestine and what would be Armenia and part of Iraq – the common carb is cracked wheat, or Bulgur.  In the Arabian peninsula and around the Gulf, rice is the carb of choice.  Of course, that rule is general and you’ll find plenty of rice dishes in the Levant and plenty of Bulgur dishes in Egypt and Tunisia.  However, the spices will be different depending on the region.


Which brings me to a dish like Mujaddarah (Arabic for “smallpox” because it looks like the effects of smallpox).  It is the rice and legume dish of the Levant, with plenty of fried onions on top.  In Syria and Lebanon, brown lentils with rice is the base of the dish.  In Jordan and Palestine, red lentils with Bulgur define the dish.  And the version you’ll find in Egypt is Koshary, the national dish.  Mujaddarah and Koshary, in all of their variations, also reveal another feature of Middle Eastern cuisine – you can eat quite well on the Vegan side of the menu.


Speaking of national dishes, they are widely varied, and often differ within localities in the same country.  My grandparents were Syrian immigrants, and my moniker reflects the national dish of Syria and Lebanon, Kibbeh.  Kibbeh Nayeh (colloquially pronounced Kibbee Nayee in northern Syria) is the raw and most delicious version, my death row meal.  Our best on-the-menu versions around the DC area are at Mount of Lebanon and Me Jana.  The best order-ahead version is available from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, although Layalina has been known to prepare a very good version as well.  [My son gave me a Christmas present of 2 lbs. of Kibbeh Nayeh from Mediterranean Gourmet Market, and it was gone in about an hour!]


Mansaf is the national dish of Jordan, made of lamb cooked in fermented and dried yogurt, served over flatbread, and topped with rice and pine nuts.  A variation is Mansaf made with fish in the southern part of Jordan around Aqaba.  The national dish of Saudi Arabia is Kabsa, which is a hodge-podge of rice, beef, chicken, vegetables, raisins and nuts – the Saudis eat more chicken per capita than just about any place in the world.  Maqluba is the national dish of Palestine, an upside down rice and eggplant casserole with lamb and lots of yogurt.  Machboos is the national dish of Kuwait, which is nicely flavored mutton, chicken, and/or fish (variations depend on whether you live near the gulf or inland towards the desert), over rice.  The Egyptian national dish is Koshary, a hearty carb-loaded dish of chick peas, lentils, rice, macaroni, tomato sauce and fried onion, followed closely by Ful Madames, which is fava beans in olive oil with parsley, garlic, onions and lemon juice.  Cairo Café in Lincolnia provides some of the better Egyptian dishes in our area.  Iraq’s national dish is Maskuf, which is an impaled trout dish.  Across northern Africa, the national dish is each country’s version of Couscous, although Tagine and Pidgeon Pastilla share the honor in Morocco.  Tagine is named for the conical clay braising pot that produces tender, juicy stews.  The Moroccan version of Coucous is “Fez style” with seven vegetables plus lamb shanks.  Tunisian Couscous is considered the best, cooked in a couscoussiere and consisting of a mound of Couscous covered in steamed onions, garlic, potatoes, tomatoes, chickpeas, chili pepper, harissa, celery, cinnamon, black peppercorn, carrots, turnips and squash, then topped with meat such as mutton or chicken. But in the areas close to the Mediterranean, bass or red snapper is used.


And if you’re thinking about having 100 Bedouins over for dinner, the Arab version of turducken is a whole camel stuffed with four lambs and 20 chickens!  I’m not making that up!


Now I’ll focus in on the Middle Eastern foods and restaurants in our area and what to order when you step into one.  The sequence generally flows from Mezze to Mains to Sweets, with detours to sandwiches and pizzas or tarts along the way.


Mezze – You can either fill your table up with an assortment of these small plates – consider them the Tapas of the Middle East – or you can order a few as appetizers before the rest of the meal.  Remember, it all starts with Pita Bread, sometimes with olive oil and za’atar as a dipping sauce.  The vegan side of the menu is an incredible combination of flavor, satisfaction and good health.  Try Tabouleh (parsley salad), Hummus (chick pea and tahini dip), Baba Ghanouj (eggplant and tahini dip), stuffed grape leaves (the vegan version has rice and pine nuts or chick peas in them, and the meat version has a nicely flavored rice and meat stuffing), Labneh (strained yogurt with olive oil and garlic), Lubieh (green beans) bil Zeit and Bamieh (okra) bil Zeit (either one, stewed in garlic and tomatoes), Ful Madames (fava beans) and Fattoush (salad served over toasted Pita Bread).  The meat dishes include some amazing flavors and textures.  Try Hummus topped with Shawarma and Pine Nuts, Soujouk (spicy sausage), Ma’anek (mild beef and lamb sausage), Kibbeh (shaped like footballs, stuffed with meat and nuts and then fried, or if you’re lucky, raw Kibbeh Nayeh), and Warak Enab (grape leaves stuffed with rice and meat). Also, most places offer combination Mezze Platters, which are usually good deals. Don’t forget accompaniments like olives and pickled turnips, which are standard. The Lebanese serve a whipped paste of garlic with dishes like Kibbeh Nayeh. These are the highlights – pay attention to any daily specials, because they are likely to be good. And at places with their own butcher connections like Mount of Lebanon, try the Lamb Brains or the Lamb Testicles.  Trust me.


Mains – Here is where the dilemma lies.  I can easily order Mezze and be satisfied at just about any Middle Eastern restaurant.  Alternatively, I can go with a sandwich or a few meat pies.  But the main courses in Middle Eastern restaurants are rib-sticking comfort food with incredible flavors.  You can start with Shish (“skewer” in Turkish) Kebab (“meat” in Turkish), flavorful grilled meats – lamb, beef, chicken, or mixed – over rice pilaf.  You can argue all day long over whose Kebabs are best between the Arabs, Turks, Persians, Afghanis and Pakistanis, but they’re all good.  Kafta is the ground meat version, formed over the skewers and grilled the same way, considered the hamburger of the Middle East.  Lamb is probably the most common meat in the Middle East, so ordering it in any of a variety of ways – Lamb Shish Kebab, Lamb Chops, Lamb Shanks (braised), Lamb Shawarma (see sandwiches, below), Lamb Ouzi (rice and lamb platter), Lamb Stew, Lamb Feteh (lamb with yogurt sauce), and on and on.  Also, the Arabs are damned good at stuffing things (“mahshi” in Arabic and “dolmas” in Turkish), so when you see stuffed grape leaves, stuffed squash or stuffed cabbage/eggplant/peppers/onions, just order it and you will also be stuffed!  Stuffed Cabbage, or Malfouf Mahshi, was my father’s favorite.  The closest I’ve found to it in this area was at Kazan, the Turkish restaurant in McLean.


Sandwiches, Pies and Pizzas – Think about it, if Pita Bread is the staple of the Middle East, and if they’ve been making it for many millennia, you would think they have developed a few tricks to turn it into a meal, right?  Shawarma is by far the most popular (“Doner” in Turkish), similar to the Greek Gyro (but with different seasonings and bread).  It’s strips of lamb, skewered with seasonings and herbs in between layers, and then placed on a skewer to rotate upright against a heat source.  The best version I ever had in my life was in East Jerusalem about 20 years ago.  And then there’s anything you can stuff into a Pita, including Soujok, Ma’anek, Kafta and Falafel.  Yes, Falafel is Arabic street food, and probably originated in Egypt.  All of these Pita sandwiches include lots of veggies and usually a tahini or yogurt sauce, and are served wrapped in foil to keep the yummy juices in.  As for Pies, meat, spinach, yogurt and cheese, mixed with spices or vegetables, are variously baked inside small open-face pastries or closed dumplings.  If you see Sambousik, it’s a fried Lebanese lamb dumpling.  The Mediterranean Gourmet Market makes the best and most varied versions, as they do Lebanese Pizza – Lahmeh B’Ajeen (baked with beef, onions, tomatoes and herbs), Manakish bel Za’atar (my favorite pizza on the planet!), Spinach Manakish, Manakish bil Jibneh (various cheeses). 


Sweets – You probably didn’t know that Syria consumes more sugar per capita then any other country.  This part of the meal starts with Turkish coffee – the Ottomans ruled the Middle East for four centuries, until World War I – and almost always includes Baklava.  In this case, the Greek version is far inferior, too heavy-laden with honey.  The Syrian and Lebanese versions are washed in a simple syrup cut with cinnamon and rose water, and it is the perfect end to the feast. Kataifi is a shredded wheat version of Baklava, and Ma’amoul is a nice shortbread and almond cookie stuffed with dates, pistachios and/or walnuts.


And now, Kibbee Nayee’s first-ever ranking of Middle Eastern restaurants in the Washington DC Metropolitan area:


  1. Mediterranean Gourmet Market in Franconia – More of a mini grocery with a few tables, but George and Lilian turn out the best Lebanese dishes in the area. This is my go-to Lebanese restaurant.
  2. Me Jana – Climbing my list because of consistent quality. The food is good, but they reach for general patronage with Calamari, Chilean Sea Bass, and Crab Cakes, but they deserve special credit for Potato Kibbeh, a Lenten version of Kibbeh.
  3. Mount of Lebanon – No alcohol, but the best Kibbee Nayee at the best price in the DC area. Whenever I’m missing, you can probably find me here.
  4. Lebanese Taverna – The original on Washington Blvd. in Arlington is still turning out quality food, but the rest of the kitchens are lagging behind.  However, I had a few good meals at the Tysons Corner location in the past year.
  5. Mediterranean Bakery in Alexandria – A nice but over-priced grocery, with the area’s best Pita breads fresh out of the oven, and the best selection of olives anywhere in the DC area.  The food that comes out of the back is good, and the Za’atar Bread is first-class.
  6. Jerusalem Restaurant in Falls Church – Frustrating service, but pretty good food with somewhat of an emphasis on Palestine.
  7. Layalina – The only place that actually advertises that it serves Syrian food, with the area’s best selection of Hummus (Hummus bil Flay-Flay is a spicy version with Aleppo peppers, and it’s really good) and some of the best lamb shanks in the area.
  8. Cairo Café in Lincolnia – One of the only places where you can get real Koshary, so it has to be on the list by default.
  9. Shamshiry – I don’t want to ignore the Iranians here.  Their food is really good, but just a little bit different than some of the Arabic dishes.
  10. Zaytinya – Lower on the list because it lacks some authenticity and throws in Greek and Turkish to make it seem like “Middle Eastern fusion” cuisine, but let’s face it, this is a good restaurant.
  11. Mama Ayesha’s – This place has its ups and downs, but it’s been around for a long time and its daily specials are damned good.
  12. Cedar Café in Burke – Serviceable neighborhood Middle Eastern lunch counter.

Consider this a once-over, to be updated as the mood or new information strikes me.  Hopefully, the members of our community who shy away from Middle Eastern food because they don't understand it will now partake with some confidence.  May you have your meal with gladness and health! (bil-hanā' wa ash-shifā') بالهناء والشفاء / بالهنا والشفا


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#291690 So Glad DR.com Is Online Again.

Posted by NolaCaine on 21 April 2015 - 12:16 PM

I almost logged onto to Chowhound but was put off by creating yet another username/password.


Thank you for all the work you do for this community.

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#287907 Cajun vs. Creole

Posted by dcandohio on 23 February 2015 - 02:20 PM

I grew up in New Orleans, spent years in baton Rouge, and consumed enough episodes of Chef Paul (Prudhomme) and Justin Wilson on PBS to have an opinion...The following borrows heavily from the intro to "Paul Prudhomme's Louisiana Kitchen," published in 1984, becuse it largely reflects what I'd always heard.

7 different flags flew over New Orleans, and each time a new nation took over, new cooks came in with their national influences. Lots of slaves or free black people did the cooking for the wealthy classes. Creole is the amalgamation of the cultures that populated New Orleans in the early days...African black people, Carribbean black people, Europeans (French, Spanish and later Germans and italians) and Native Americans, among others. African and Carribbean people brought spices, Europeans brought technique and everyone worked with local ingredients. Chicken, pork, veal, oysters, eggplant, fin fish, crabs were all available and/or raised nearby. More exotic ingredients came into the port, such as bananas and tomatoes. New Orleans is the geographical and emotional center for Creole cuisine.

Cajuns were southern French people who went to Nova Scotia in the1600's, and were driven out by the British in the 1700's. Many of them ended up in Louisiana, but rarely in New Orleans. The group that settled in what we call "Cajun Country" cooked with what they found and farmed...crayfish, chicken, pork, rice, pecans. They used the french style roux, made boudin sausages and things that had a "French" bent. They lived along the bayous West and south of New Orleans. Cities to visit for Cajun culture are Opelousas, Lafayette, Crowley, New Iberia, Thibodaux.

When I was a kid in the 60's, families who moved from these areas to New Orleans for jobs often still spoke French, but it was Cajun French. My mother's aunt and Grandma in New Orleans spoke French, but it was European French. So, just to say "French" is a source of confusion! Which French?

When you grow up with it, you absorb knowledge or beliefs about differences without explicitly thinking about it. Redfish stuffed with crabmeat? Creole. Crawfish etouffe? Cajun. Oyster stew? Creole. Jambalaya? Cajun. Of course, the cultures blended because so many cajuns came to the city for work. New Orleans is only approximately 2 hours from Lafayette, so lots of cross-pollination occurred. And as far as I know, the big man himself, Paul Prudhomme, did more than anyone else to make Cajun food sexy and popular in New Orleans and everywnere else.

Baton Rouge is (or was) sort of the bland buffer between Creole and Cajun, between the city and the bayous, between commerce and agriculture. As the capital and the home of a major university, Baton Rouge is an important city. Culinarily? Not so much...And north of Alexandria or so, up toward Shreveport, it's all very different. More like Texas (to the west ) or Mississippi (to the east).

I love it all - from boudin sausage purchased at a gas station outside of Lafayette, to oysters bienville eaten in the fanciest of French Quarter landmarks - the food in that part of the world is glorious.
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#227546 Foodshed Magazine (was Flavor Magazine), Founder, Publisher, and Editor-In-Ch...

Posted by zoramargolis on 14 April 2013 - 02:26 PM

I'm very pleased to announce that as of a few days ago, I am now Contributing Editor at Foodshed Magazine. Lots of exciting changes have happened, now that the re-boot from Flavor is complete. Foodshed is now a non-profit benefit corporation and is expanding its reach and coverage to the entire Mid-Atlantic foodshed, up through and including New York City and environs. Check out Foodshed's mission statement, and consider subscribing.


(My picture and bio aren't yet up on the site, and I haven't gotten business cards or an email account yet--it'll feel more official when I have those, but I attended my first staff meeting yesterday and I have to say that I am really looking forward to collaborating with such an energetic, erudite and talented group of people.)

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#283482 Goodbye To An Icon

Posted by RJ Cooper on 05 December 2014 - 09:18 PM

I first met Eric Ziebold years ago at the Laundry, briefly over a beer and playing pool at a near by bar after service.


I then was reintroduced to him when he moved to town. I was just hired to be the chef de cuisine at Vidalia and he was in the final process of opening CityZen.


I as a cook have great memories of us growing in the same chef generation, he quietly led us to the growth of small farmers with connection to what we were doing as cooks in a fine dining atmosphere.


Eric is not dead, nor his passion and drive for excellence, however his stage must be changed.  


Here here to a great cook now starting on a new path. My your growth be fulfilled with success.

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#266643 To Whom Are You Drinking Right Now?

Posted by dcandohio on 23 May 2014 - 03:31 PM

To my partner's father, who died peacefully but completely unexpectedly Wednesday. He was a relentless optimist who loved seafood and manning the grill and who married the girl (46 years ago) who hated the smell of fish and only let him cook it outdoors, on the grill. He was a Vietnam vet, an entreprenuer, a great handy-man, a reader of biographies. While he wasn't initially thrilled with the idea of his adored tomboy daughter officially coming out, he embraced me and always shared a private joke or snarky comment with me that he didn't share with anyone else.

After we finished with the initial funeral home visit (OMG caskets are expensive) his widow wanted us all to go out to lunch, and out of respect for her grief we accepted her choice of Red Lobster. In small town Ohio, there might not be a lot of better options but surely there must be some...I never had fish that had NO flavor. At all. It was just a warm textured wetness in my mouth. Gross. And those commercially-promoted cheddar bay biscuits were underbaked salt bombs laden with some kind of cheap fat.

After we arrived back to our place, my partner and I took a long walk and ended up at a tiny neighborhood restaurant with a lovely patio. The weather was perfect and the food was delicious and we both felt restored. The chef was running around watering various pots of herbs on the patio and stopped to chat with us. He asked about our day and we told him it had been tough, and when he heard about the death he sent a round of drinks to us. More importantly and appreciated, though, were his comments as we were leaving. He hugged my partner and said "I am honored that you chose to come to my restaurant today. I am glad that we could be a safe and comfortable place for you." Such kind words and gestures from someone we had never formally met.
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#263610 A Giant Is Falling

Posted by Antonio Burrell on 24 April 2014 - 10:23 PM

I hate to dwell on sad news, and this is really sad...so I will instead share with you all a few personal memories on Palena.


I and probably most chefs in town will probably back me up on this, have always left Palena having eaten great food but also having had something that is very rare for a chef to experience...inspiration in another. I've always had something at Palena that has made me question my own adequacy as a chef...something that always made me strive to become better at my craft...something that I knew and still know I could never do as good, not even close. Those ethereally clear consummes, that incredible, legendary, standard setting chicken...everything at times could click to create a perfect storm and those times were even more special.


I've also always loved Franks dedication to silent excellence. He always seems to have flown more under the radar than he should...he's probably the quietest James Beard award winner you'll ever meet. He's always been a chef as a monk. Quietly content in his single kitchen, striving for perfection.


I love Palena and am sorry to see it go but I AM thankful for 3 of some of my favorite memories of all time: my 32nd birthday, the day I asked my wife to marry me, and those consummes....oh those consummes.

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#232222 To Whom Are You Drinking Right Now?

Posted by Barbara on 26 June 2013 - 11:18 AM

To Texas State Senator Wendy Davis, who showed us what a filibuster should look like.

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#295498 José Andrés Caught Up in the Donald Trump Maelstrom

Posted by B.A.R. on 09 July 2015 - 08:45 AM

I have been in the hospitality industry for 20+ years and have employed 100's of immigrants, some of whome were illegal. Everyone in any business  I have ever run had to have legal documentation, but high quality fake documentation is quite easy to obtain (this is before eVerify). The few times that we had an illegal immigrant woking for us, it was generally discovered by the IRS. Every one of these individuals paid taxes, and often did for years.


I was managing a restauarnt in DC about 12 years ago. We had two brothers who were dishwashers. They showed up for their shift every day at 3:30 and worked until after midnight. This was their second job, as they also washed dishes in the mornings at a large hotel. One day, they asked me for some advice on real estate. They were thinking of buying a house together and wanted some guidance with the home buying process. We talked about assorted details and rules, when I had to ask, "Well, how much money do you have to put down?" The answer stunned me. $165,000. They had worked at least 80 hours a week for the last 4 years and saved more than half of it to buy a house. This is my experience with immigrants.


I have another employee who is a resident alien. Has been in this country for 20+ years, often working two jobs, as did her husband. She just bought her first car. She already owns a home. And has sent her children to college. A car was a luxury she and her husband went without. They walked, or road bikes, or took Public transit, wherever they needed to go. She walked to the hospital while in labor, as she still felt fine and did not want to spend money on cab or bus fare. This is what I know of immigrants.


It has been my privelege to work with many immigrants throughout the years, and the few that I discovered to be here illegally comported themselves with the same pride and work ethic as those with legal status.


If Donald Trump is looking for a government that forces drug addicts and criminals to the US mainland, he might want to investigate what happens outside of the gates of Trump National  Coco Beach in Puerto Rico.

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#263655 A Giant Is Falling

Posted by turbogrrl on 25 April 2014 - 10:26 AM

Maybe beyond speculation or naming names, the lesson here is that we need to patronize the places we care about. Enjoy them while we can.


Just like people, if you consistently tell them you care-- it doesn't mean you won't lose them suddenly at some point. Just that you'll have fewer regrets if it happens.

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#252215 A Cautionary Tale: Sabering Champagne

Posted by deangold on 05 January 2014 - 09:00 AM

The tale of Jim's bravery and derring~do brought to mind.... 


Many a year ago, I worked for a Hollywood Hotel as Food and Beverage director.  The owner of the hotel was a wine nut and we organized a Chaine des Rotisseurs dinner with the theme of large format bottles.  We had over 600 in attendance and all the wine was served from 6 liter bottles or larger.  I even managed to find a hand painted Perrier Jouet Flower Bottle in 12 liter format.  The wine was made in smaller bottles and then transferred to the large one after disgorging.  It was incredibly rare and expensive {as I recall adding it to the menu added $25 to the price per person!}  My boss and I were talking about what we could do to improve the spectacle and one of us came up with the idea of sabering the bottle and the other said "Let's get a Marine to saber the bottle for us."  


A call to Camp Pendleton revealed that they had just such a gentleman: a 21 year career Master Sergeant who would come in dress whites with all his insignias and medals, which formed an impressively large display on his impressively large chest.  He had a impressively large saber at his side in a scabbard impressively well worn from use.  He assured me he never injured anyone with the saber and he would put the cork where I wanted it.  Given the newly plastered and painted walls of the foyer where the attempted murder sabering would occur, we decided to aim the bottle to the open arch of the foyer and land the cork on the balcony of our atrium lobby. 


We paced off the required footage from the balcony edge so the cork would fall to the floor to be stopped by the half wall and not fly into the atrium below.  Two of my staff, in white tuxes with white gloves held the bottle while I was the idiot holding the neck.  Our Master Sergeant stood across from me, silent, strong, in intense concentration.  He moved his hand to the saber and whispered to me "don't move" so only I could hear it.  Why wasn’t this part of the equation revealed to me before I couldn't run screaming in fear????


The sword made a whoosh as he drew it straight from the scabbard to the neck of the bottle to fully extended like a statue, in a flash.  It was amazing. But, in the brief instant of movement, he also whispered "Fuck!"  Not what you want to hear from your surgeon in a delicate operation or from a man with a large moving sword. 


The reason for his expletive became clear as the cork and the sheared off end of the neck of the bottle flew off explosively.  Did they goose up the CO2 of the wine because of the transfer?  Or did he just deliver that much force?  Or did I move?...


He later, after we calmed our nerves appropriately, said "No, my aim was off” as he had never sobered anything larger than a 3 liter before.  It must have been moving very nearly the speed of light as we saw it in excruciating slow motion.  And we were the only two in position to really witness the flight. 


The missile cleared under the entry arch of the foyer and was clearly not going to hit gently at the base of the balcony wall.  In fact, it was still rising as it flew over the wall like a Rick Monday line shot to the cheap seats at Dodger Stadium.  I wish Vin Scully could have narrated the mighty blast. 


We turned our heads and could see into the atrium as the cork finally arced down, right in the direction of a group of harmless old ladies, sitting facing away from their impending doom, waiting to go to some Hollywood tourist trap for dinner before their evening at the Wax Museum.   One of the ladies had a halo of frizzy white hair.  Not white exactly, but blue.  I said she was old!  This was in the days before blue hair would indicate youth and not great age and bad judgment in hair care products. 


We shared the knowledge telepathically that we were about to kill her.  The cork was moving fairly fast and coming down from a great height.  The cork entered the frizz of hair.  We could see the parting of the blue sea as if Moses himself guided the path.  And then, in a second Mosaic level miracle, or was it third including his original trivial parting of the blue waters, it exited out the front, never touching the dear old thing.  Time returned to its normal speed.  Her only knowledge of the incident resulted in her brushing her hair wondering if a breeze or insect had disturbed it.    We later told the scared old lady that something fell off the ceiling of our brand spanking newly renovated hotel lobby. 


The cork hit a tile on the floor in front of her, cracking it with a loud retort.  Or it might have hit the far wall and then the floor, as there was a suspicious mark on the stucco plaster.  We never figured it out. The new floor tile, Catalina Pottery hand painted and glazed, cost $300 to replace.   As MasterCard so rightly says…. “The tile, $300, the old lady still alive, priceless!” 


{Please remember BEFORE CLICKING on this link: it is provided by me and is not only of dubious taste and little propriety, but it is, of course, NSFW} 


Or MasterCard  said something like that


The Master Sergeant turned to me when we realized that our fears had been avoided by a true hair's breath.  He said "21 years almost down the fucking drain"  I handed off the bottle to my assistant and he supervised the pouring of the champagne.  The Master Sergeant and I went to the lobby to check on the old lady, recovering from her fright at the cracking of a tile in front of her and wonderfully and blissfully ignorant of the real explanaition.  I can't honestly tell you how I did it.  


I am sure there are rules about Bourbon consumption in dress uniform while on duty, and I don't know if he was on duty or this was on his own time.  But we went to the lobby bar and hid in the storage closet behind it and both has stiff shots to calm our nerves.  I spoke to the old lady and rushed back to pour the 6 liter burgundies I had amassed.  

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#232913 The Language Rant Thread

Posted by KMango on 04 July 2013 - 06:25 PM

An Unsolicited Message to New Members, First-Time Posters, and/or Emerging Food Writers-


The "Restaurant Language Best Avoided" thread may haunt you.  This thread may shame you.  This thread may turn your face heirloom beet red.


Don’t let it.


The postings are mere observations, reflections, and commiserations from veteran posters getting our vent on.


You probably saw yourself in this thread.  I know I saw myself all over this thread.  The ego hit was, shall we say, toothsome goodness. 


Taking all these pet peeves to heart could make you a better writer.  Or it could make you never post again, paralyzed with insecurity over the possibility of making someone you’ve never met wince at a phrase they find lacking.  Especially if you already have doubts about the depth of your culinary knowledge, experience, or writing, a thread like this could shut you down. 


So Remember:  This board is about food and personal expression, sharing a common love of culinary experiences.  If your phrase is not perfect, if your worthsmithing muse is not showing up, post anyway.  Get your content out there.  It’s far more important that you keep contributing to the conversation than worry about a slight frown from some anonymous, perceived scrutinizer.


Post On.

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#228291 Honoring Luther Burrell

Posted by Antonio Burrell on 26 April 2013 - 12:09 PM

Many times we sit down and reflect on people, places or moments that have made us who we are. The substance of our beings come from these people or places, we embody their ideas, their essence permeates us in one way or another. In the best of us, we are able to see something worth knowing. We are drawn to good people because of what they encompass, we want to have that sense of calm or that unerring ability to do the right thing. In some cases, in the best cases I would say, we are drawn together by love. We spend so much time rushing from place to place, from item to item that we forget that love might be the best quality of all. To find motivation in love, to find a sense of purpose in all this darkness, to find peace is what we all search for. I always saw peace in my Grandaddy's eyes. A knowledge and a serenity gained through seeing the worst in the world and the best. 

Today I tip my hat and make a toast to my Grandfather, Luther Burrell. In all I do, may I pass on a glimpse of what I saw in you. I love you Granddaddy.

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#292674 Tom Sietsema's Online Chat

Posted by Rieux on 06 May 2015 - 10:07 AM

He just posted this, and I almost died.   :)


Hello Tom. I am a reasonably attractive female (so I am told) who dines alone in The District fairly often because of my schedule. I went to what I would consider my favorite restaurant one night last week and the food was tremendous as usual, but a new waiter just about spoiled my evening. Have you ever encountered a situation where your server was so intrusive he/she tried to be the focus of the meal instead of the food? Thankfully, his actual service was top notch, but I was constantly battered with jokes and attempts at humor. Maybe he was just trying to pick me up, but one time, after a silly play on words he even gave me a rimjob - like that would make me get the joke and laugh for once! Should the restaurant know about this kind of behavior? I am sure I will return because it's a great place, but I will definitely make sure I am not seated in "Servando's" section. Love your chats!

A: Tom Sietsema

RimSHOT, honey. When someone tells a joke and pretends to hit a drum, it's called a rimshot.

But I digress.

Did you try the old airplane trick and bury yourself in a book or on your smart phone to send a message you didn't want to interact beyond a sentence or two?

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#287912 Cajun vs. Creole

Posted by MC Horoscope on 23 February 2015 - 03:11 PM

Ok, this will ramble, but I decided just to copy and paste and expand a bit on some PMs with Don:


Background/Disclaimer: I am not a scholar on these issues, and my perspective is influenced by my experience. I am originally from the country, Vermilion parish, LA, in the Southwest part of the state. I grew up understanding myself to be a Cajun, but apparently the actual history is a bit more complicated than that. The term Cajun used to be a pejorative, a shortening of the word Acadian, and Acadia was the original French name of Nova Scotia before it became part of British Canada. But Cajuns are by no means solely the descendants of people who moved from Canada to Louisiana. It's much broader than "descendants of Acadian settlers." It's a mix, and since it was the predominant ethnic group in the area it actually assimilated other cultures into the mix, including Spanish, German, Scotch-Irish, etc. The common denominator was its own dialect of French.
The original French people who settled in present day Nova Scotia came mostly from the French regions of Poitou, but also Brittany and Normandy.
Cajuns are the people from the intermarriage between Acadian exiles and Creoles who were French speaking people already living in Louisiana because they were born in the New World. One of the meanings of the word Creole in Louisiana was a French speaking colonist born in the New World. I have ancestors that came from Nova Scotia, (Acadia,) but also ancestors who were French colonists already in Louisiana, hence Creoles, near the "German Coast" south of New Orleans (near Des Allemands and further south to Lafourche parish.) This mix of French from Canada and French from France -- people already colonizing Louisiana, soldiers abandoned in Louisiana by Napoleon, etc.) is what is most typical, even in the Southwest part of the state.  (Carl Brasseaux is one of the leading scholars researching this area, and this is his most definitive work: Acadian to Cajun: Transformation of a People, 1803-1877 (1992). He argues that Cajun is a NEW ethnic group borne of this mix.)
The word Creole has different meanings in Acadiana (a geographic region for where the Cajuns live) and New Orleans. In SW Louisiana the French speaking black people prefer to call themselves Creole instead of Cajun, and that goes for their food and musical style. Creole food, creole music. Etc. It'd be hard to find non-black French speaking people referring themselves as Creole in those SW parishes. It's different in New Orleans. Creole refers to the upper crust early French and Spanish families and their descendants, but also to black French speaking people, and today even people who lost the French language long ago.
As far as cuisine goes, most people call New Orleans cuisine Creole, and rural SW Louisiana cuisine Cajun. This changed somewhat since the 70s-80s with Paul Prudhomme's infusion of Cajun cuisine into New Orleans Creole cuisine. Brennan's and Emeril Lagasse had a large role in this mix too.
I think of more refined dishes from New Orleans being Creole, and more earthy rustic dishes being Cajun. But both Creoles and Cajuns claim gumbo, jambalaya, etouffee, sauce piquantes, and a lot of other dishes.
So you can't even say New Orleans is strictly Creole anymore. Cajun moved to the city, and Creole moved to the country! Some western towns have every bit as good a French bread and poboy as the city.
22 parishes make up Acadiana, west of New Orleans to Texas, but the word itself was made up by a popular weatherman on local TV in Lafayette in the 60s!
It's a complicated topic for sure. Social class plays into it, too. In New Orleans I guess there's your working class Creole with stuff like red beans and rice, the poboy, the muffaletta, Willie Mae's fried chicken, as opposed to more refined restaurant dishes like Oysters Rockefeller, Oysters Bienville, Trout Almandine, Bananas Foster, etc. As I said, some dishes like gumbo, jambalaya, etc. are so universal, they're claimed both in the city and the country! Wouldn't want to start a fight but I would say that boudin and crawfish are definitely from the country, therefore Cajun. 
I guess I get a lot of these ideas from a book by Marcelle Bienvenu called Stir the Pot: The HIstory of Cajun Cuisine. Bienvenu is from St. Martinsville in the Cajun region but she's been a writer in New Orleans for decades and she contributed a lot to Brennan's. 
About 11,000 Acadians were expelled in 1755. A generation lived in various colonies and France before many, maybe most, made it to Louisiana under the grace of Spain which owned Louisiana in 1785. Cajun is a shortening of the word Acadian. But the cuisine and music and lifestyle bears little resemblance to Nova Scotia or Quebec. (the languages in Louisiana and the Maritime provinces retain a lot of similarities, though!) The people who became the Cajuns really started something new. Probably drew on the Spanish for jambalaya because it's something like a paella, and probably drew on southern France for gumbo because it's something like a bouillabaise. Probably some African influence showing with the use of okra, and some Native American thrown in with the use of corn and tomatoes. I'll have to dust off my copy of Bienvenu!
So how does all this answer the question, "Where do YOU go for Cajun food?" Chère, I go in my kitchen, me!

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#285021 List of Restaurant Openings - 2015

Posted by DonRocks on 12 January 2015 - 07:56 AM

I'd like readers here to note one thing: cheezepowder has been maintaining the DC area's definitive list of openings for two solid years now while fully accrediting and linking to all publications from where she gets the information.

cheezepowder has raised the standard for reporting on area restaurant openings, and is one of the singularly great assets to the Washington, DC area dining public. I'd like to take a moment to publicly express my gratitude for a professional, classy endeavor that is unmatched by all other publications combined (be they blogs, marketers posing as blogs, or professional publications).

I have repeatedly asked cheezepowder to allow me to name her so she can step forward and take a bow, but she wishes to stay in the background, laboring for the good of others while receiving nothing in return.

Vintage :)
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