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These two restaurants have almost nothing in common. My wife and I were recently on a brief eight and a half day odyssey to Hong Kong and back and she has the post-vacation blues of the Hong Kong-fare cuisine type in a bad way. So....we're considering dinner out this weekend. After skimming the available slots in various online ressies, and knowing our tastes, and knowing how terribly she is crazing upper middle to upper end Chinese cuisine, we've made ressies at The Source. But the other compelling place that we also love is Casa Luca. Completely different planes of existence I know. Part of the draw of *just dining out* is that it is one of the things we both regularly and completely crave is alone time where we just focus on each other and not all of the rest that makes up your life. FRanted, we just got back from vacation, but it is a rude reality to come back and have to work immediately and this is a step to easing that transition. So....go for more of the similar in the form of The Source or go instead for something else we love in the form of Casa Luca. Thoughts?
It's almost Thanksgiving. Xmas is approaching. Time for a fun post about something simple, delicious and increasingly available. I've noticed recently a "new" baked delight popping up in more than a few local outlets. Called "Zeppole" or "Zeppoli" in Italy depending on whether northern or southern versions, the much-loved Italian donut deserves a bit of spotlight here on DR.com. I've had them recently at Palena Coffee Shop (where, despite the Italian/Meditrerranean emphasis of the menu, they label them "donut holes," I guess to be more "coffee shop" like). And, this week they were one of two dessert options at pricey Del Campo. I saw them at one other place recently but can't recall where. I know that Casa Luca also sells them but I haven't tried those yet. Zeppole are basically what we Americans know as "munchkins" or "donut holes" but as, with so many things that have been "imported," what Dunkin Donuts did to the zeppole surely must be seen as criminal. Real zeppole are light, small, slightly crispy and may be filled with all manner of ingredients, ranging from ricotta to fruit and sweets, depending on the region of Italy and the occasion. Personally, my favorite zeppole are simple, without any filling, and served with excellent coffee. I've had them in Italy, where they often come in paper cones and are sold on the street during festivals and other times. They're also a popular gift. Locally, I'm not sure if my recent spottings are indicative of a ful-blown trend focused on the specialized donut but thought it might be fun to start a topic since, well, when made well, they are good and less overwhelming than full-sized donuts, cro-nuts (egads!), beignets or what have you. But, let's get down to business. First, there's a real history to Zeppole and they have the obligatory Wiki page. The Festival of St Joseph (March 19th), celebrated nationwide in Italy, and Feast of Saint Gennaro (Sept 19) are focal points for zeppole, where they are sold, given and consumed as a central part of the celebrations. There's even a more-or-less-agreed-upon founder: Giada has a recipe and, though she is a beautiful mega-star whose culinary chops are often questioned, the woman does know a bit about Italian cooking, right? Surprisingly, there may be a Big Market Opportunity ("BMO") for a well-researched book, simply titled "Zeppole!" The exclamation mark on that would be key along with the right photo (which can be conveniently chosen from the two I've attached below). Go ahead, type the word into Amazon's search window and you'll see. Nothing. Just a bunch of big Italian or baking themed cookbooks with zeppoles tragically relegated to page 242 with nary a word beyond a recipe. Surely the history and cultural aspects of the small Italian donut could support its own tome. An author would just need to do the requisite primary research traveling from Sicily and Sardinia to northern Italy, preferably in summer and with real focus on Naples and Rome, to do the right kinds of interviews and taste testing. If such a would-be author reads this and wants an assistant, please PM me. Zeppole seem like a very fun and easily made component for end-of-year holiday parties and dinners. And, because they are supposed to be fried in olive oil, they're surely even healthier than Big Donuts (capitalized like Big Oil for effect). Personally, I really like zeppole and it never occurred to me as a child that the "munchkins" on offer at northeast Dunkin' Donuts had any distant relation to something that was, well, really good and almost magical when in the right cultural context rather than scooped up twelve for two bucks along the Mass Pike. Though like many I'm growing a bit tired of the various incessant hot and quick-buck food trends (cupcakes being just the best example), I'd welcome a first Zeppole shop in greater DC if they were made true to the original recipe and paired with a high-quality coffee roaster. Then again, this was pithily attempted in New York's East Village and that didnt go well. Guess it really is all about location. 14UP anyone? So, in closing, go sample some good Zeppole. Bake Zeppole! Give Zeppole! And a very Happy Thanksgiving to all.