Category Archives: Misc.

D.C. Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show

(Photos from DC Metro Cooking Website)

Attention all my fellow Washingtonians and out-of-town friends that will be in the DC metro area the weekend of November 13-14, the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show will be taking place at the DC Convention Center for its fifth year.  This year’s show will feature some of DC’s top chefs as well as renowned Food Network stars Bobby Flay, Paula Deen, and Rachel Ray.  There will be numerous cooking demonstrations, an exhibit hall with over 300 exhibitors offering product samples as well as sales, a tasting pavilion with beer, wine, and spirits, and even the Just for Kids cooking area.  There will also be several special events taking place throughout the weekend including Chef Carla Hall, former Bravo TV Top Chef Contestant, hosting a food and wine pairing with the Wine Coach® Laurie Forster, Cocktails with Todd Thrasher, and Savvy Holiday Entertaining with Tara Wilson.

The list of the DC area chefs presenting culinary demonstrations includes:

  • Chef Victor Albisu, BLT Steak
  • Chef Cathal Armstrong & Todd Thrasher, Restaurant Eve, Eammon’s, The Majestic
  • Chef Arthur Cavaliere, Central Michel Richard
  • Chef Scott Drewno, The Source by Wolfgang Puck
  • Chef Todd Gray, Equinox
  • Chef Carla Hall, Alchemy Caterers & Top Chef Season 5 Contestant
  • Chef Mike Isabella, Graffiato & Top Chef Season 6 Contestant
  • Chef Ramon Martinez, Jaleo
  • Chef Clayton Miller & Pastry Chef Chris Ford, Trummer’s On Main
  • Chef Patrice Olivon, L’Academie de Cuisine
  • Pastry Chef Travis Olson, 1789 Restaurant
  • Chef Paul Stearman, Marcel’s
  • Chef Nicholas Stefanelli, Bibiana

 Events will take place all weekend between the following hours:

Saturday, November 13: 10 am – 7 pm & Sunday, November 14: 10 am – 5 pm

 Purchase your tickets today at http://www.metrocooking.com.

General admission, $20 advance; $25 on-site; Children 4-12, $10 advance, $13 on-site; Children 4 and under free

You can also purchase tickets via telephone at 1-888-695-0888; or for information call 703-321-4890.

 The Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show isn’t only held in DC — they’ve held shows in Atlanta and West Palm Beach too!  Check out their website to see future locations that they will be coming to: http://www.metrocooking.com.

 Have you ever been to a Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show?  What was your favorite part of the show?  I’m definitely looking forward to sampling some wonderful foods and beverages.  But I also have to say I’m very excited at the possibility of seeing Chef Bobby Flay in action!

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Finger Lakes Wine Country

Budget Travel recently voted the Finger Lakes Wine Country “the most beautiful wine region in the world.”  I might be extremely biased, but I do believe that the Finger Lakes region is unlike any other wine region in the world.  Not only is this region idyllic and home to almost 80 wineries, it also produces some of the best wines, especially Rieslings, in the world.

This past weekend, my family and I went to Seneca Lake to stop by a few of our favorite wineries (Fox Run, Anthony Road & Glenora).  Most of the Finger Lakes wineries produce exceptional and often times, award-winning wines.  Wine tastings are also extremely reasonable; for $1 or $2 (depending on the winery), you can taste anywhere from 5-6 wines.  Sometimes the wines are already chosen for you to taste and other times you can choose which ones you’d like to try.  What’s great about this is that if you are partial to dry reds, you can taste all dry reds if you’d like.  I personally like to try all of them; sometimes I like a nice dry red and other times I like a sweet port.  The Finger Lakes also produces some very good fruit wines; my favorites are Raspberry Rose and Blueberry Breeze from Glenora.  There are also some very unique grape varieties that are used in Finger Lakes’ wines:

Baco Noir – a French-American hybrid that is used to make fruity, red wines

Cayuga – a French-American hybrid that was “bred by Cornell University to be perfectly suited to the growing season of the Finger Lakes.” Glenora winery was the first commercial winery to release a varietal Cayuga white back in 1977.

Niagara – an American cross that is used for off-dry and dessert wines

Vignoles – a French-American hybrid that is typically used for dry, white wines

Have you ever visited the Finger Lakes wine region before?  If so, what are your favorite wineries and/or wines?

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Filed under Food For Thought, Misc.

Restaurant Review: Trummer’s on Main


It’s been a while since I’ve written a restaurant review, but Trummer’s on Main in Clifton, VA definitely deserves a special post. It was Restaurant Week here in the DC-Metro Area, and this time, my husband and I decided to go with Food and Wine’s pick for Top New Chef of 2010: Trummer’s on Main. Trummer’s on Main is located in Clifton, VA which is located right outside the Beltway, but boasts none of the noise, congestion, or traffic that the DC-Metro area does. It’s beautiful, rural setting is idyllic. Driving down a windy road with large houses on each side, you come to a clearing where there are just fields as far as your eyes can see. It reminded me of being home in Central NY. Clifton is a small, antiquated town; it was actually the first town in VA to have electricity. There’s even an old Texaco sign that is a remnant of the gas station that used to be located there, but is now home to a quaint coffee shop.

The restaurant sits on the side of the road, right near the railroad tracks, in a white house that has a porch on both levels. When you enter the restaurant, you’re immediately greeted by a huge, stone bar. Since Trummer’s is known for their unique cocktails, we decided to have a seat at the bar before dinner. I had a peach granita with Maker’s Mark bourbon. My husband had something similar to a rootbeer float except with Kettle One vodka and peanut foam. It took the bartender at least 10 minutes to create these drinks, but I’m not complaining; it was like watching an artist at work. I never knew there could be so many steps involved in making a single drink. The drinks were exceptional. The bourbon was not too overpowering, but there was enough there to give me that warm feeling in the back of my throat. My husband’s drink was bliss; it tasted exactly like a rootbeer float except with vodka (definitely dangerous!).

The upstairs dining room was beautifully decorated—elegant, but simple and intimate. Our table was a solid oak table with no table cloth, but a simple placemat and small vase of fresh flowers. It was the perfect table setting that blended well with the surrounding landscape. Our first course was a goat cheese agnolotti with pickled rhubarb, black pepper shortbread, and fried capers. Agnolotti are crescent-shaped stuffed pasta, similar to ravioli. The creaminess of the goat cheese as well as the saltiness of the capers was remarkable. The black pepper shortbread gave an extra crunchiness and texture while the rhubarb gave an added tartness to offset the richness of the goat cheese.

Our main course was a 12-hour, oven roasted and honey glazed pork shoulder with pineapple confit, bay leaf crumble, and sweet potato. The pork shoulder was extremely tender and juicy, and the pineapple and sweet potato were the perfect accompaniments. The bay leaf crumble added color to the plate as well as fresh flavor and texture. The dessert course was a berry and brown sugar crumble with vanilla and raspberry sherbet. I love dessert and baking, so I’m probably a bit more harsh on judging desserts; when I heard “crumble,” I instantly thought of an apple crisp-type dessert with warm fruit topped with brown sugar and oats. Instead, the berry part of the dessert was the raspberry sherbet and inside was the vanilla sherbet topped with the brown sugar crumble. It was not warm, and there was no real fruit. The flavors were all there, but I would’ve loved some fresh fruit topped with the crumble and sherbet.

Overall, Trummer’s on Main was an exceptional meal. The staff was extremely professional and friendly, while the food was fresh and exquisite—they constantly change their menu too. I would definitely recommend this restaurant to all my fellow Washingtonians and to anyone visiting the area.

I’ve been asked what my favorite restaurant is before, but it’s just too hard to answer this question—I have numerous restaurants inside and outside of DC and the US that are my favorites. I just can’t pick one. Sometimes, restaurants are so varying and unique that it’s hard to compare them against each other especially since each chef has his or her own style that makes their restaurant what it is.

Do you have an all-time favorite restaurant or are you like me and just can’t pick one?

PS. I never take pictures of the food at a restaurant I want to write a review on because the whole point of food writing is to be able to describe the meal in extreme detail using key words that invoke the 5 senses (6 including umami)!

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Homemade Zesty Salsa

My apologies for being MIA this past week. My family and I went to the Outer Banks, NC for a vacation. We spent a lot of time soaking in the sun at the beach and eating fresh seafood. It was a wonderful, and much needed, break away from reality. Before we left for the OBX, my parents drove down to VA and stayed with us for a night to break up their trip. We then all headed out the next day for NC.

As you may recall, I had purchased 30 pounds of tomatoes from my farmer’s market. Before I left, I wanted to use up the rest of my tomatoes, so my mom helped me can some salsa. This salsa is easy, but so tasty and has a nice little kick from the jalapenos as well – perfect for chips, grilled chicken, fish, pork, etc… Can’t believe the summer is almost over… hope everyone is enjoying it!

My canner

Ingredients:

  • 15 cups chopped tomatoes
  • 5 cups diced white onion
  • 6 jalapenos seeded and diced
  • 4 garlic cloves minced
  • 1/4 c cilantro minced
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 3 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar

Directions:

  1. Combine all ingredients in a large stock pot and bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 10 minutes.
  2. Ladle hot salsa into 4 quart-sized mason jars that have been sterilized. Leave 1/4 inch headspace.
  3. Process 15 minutes in a boiling-water canner.
  4. Allow jars to cool.  Once cool, press down on lid to ensure properly sealed.
  5. Store in a cool place.

Yields: 4 Quarts

Here are some pics from my vacation!

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Homemade “Sun-dried” Tomatoes

My mother-in-Lawlor gave me the wonderful idea of “sun-drying” part of my 30 lb. patch of tomatoes in the oven.  I cut up my tomatoes and placed them on an ungreased baking sheet.  I put my oven on the lowest heat possible, which was 170 degrees, and I left the tomatoes in there for about 7.5 hours.  You’ll see the tomatoes start to shrivel up and resemble those expensive, sun-dried tomatoes that you can purchase in the grocery store.  After finishing baking them, I placed them in a quart-sized mason jars along with 4 cloves of garlic and about 1/2 cup of extra virgin olive oil.  The garlic and olive oil will give the tomatoes an added boost of flavor as well as keep them moist.

There’s endless possibilities of what you can use your sun-dried tomatoes for.  My husband was kind enough to bake us a pizza (homemade dough) with mozzarella, sun-dried tomatoes, and basil for dinner last night since I was not feeling well.  It came out beautifully and the sun-dried tomatoes gave the pizza an added boost of flavor as well as texture.  This is so easy… definitely try this out if you have an excess of tomatoes that you need to use up!

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Filed under Baked Goods, Misc., Side Dishes

Canning Tomatoes

This past weekend I went to my local farmer’s market.  On my way out, I saw a vendor that was selling some really nice looking Juliet tomatoes (Juliet tomatoes look like grape tomatoes except they are bigger).  I was going to buy one quart for $3, but the farmer asked me if I’d liked to can some of these tomatoes.  He explained that he has an exorbitant amount of these Juliet tomatoes, and he can’t sell them fast enough, so he’d sell me 30 pounds for $15.  What???  That’s 50 cents per pound….yes, I’ll take them!

I decided I would can most of my tomatoes whole  and add some rosemary, basil, or oregano for flavor.  This way, I’d be able to use the whole tomatoes to make sauce, to dice, to crush, etc… It took me 6 hours to can about 3/4 of my 30 pounds.  Much of that time was spent waiting for the water to boil and for the cans to process in their hot-water bath.  I used a hot-water bath since I do not own a pressure canner.  Tomatoes are low acidity, so you have to add a little lemon juice in order to preserve them safely.  Even though I only used 3/4 of my tomatoes, I was still able to get 8 quart-sized jars and 2 pint-sized jars.  This was a tedious process, but well worth it; I’ll have tomatoes for ages or at least for several months.  My mom’s best friend buys pumpkins a day or two after Halloween for very cheap and then cans the pumpkin to use for baking breads, cookies, pies, etc… So if you’re looking to can, check out your local farmer’s market and talk with the vendors.  Ask them if they are going to have a surplus of something and how you can help take it off their hands!

Water-Bath Canning Directions:

  1. Sterilize the mason jars and lids in boiling water for 10 minutes.
  2. Once jars are sterilized, place 2 tbsp of lemon juice to the bottom of each quart-sized jar and 1 tbsp for pint-sized jars.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large stock pot, place as many tomatoes as the pot will hold and cover with water. Bring the water to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Drain the tomatoes and rinse with cold water.
  5. When tomatoes are cooled enough to handle, peel off the skins.
  6. Meanwhile, boil some fresh water in a tea kettle.
  7. Place tomatoes in the jars along with fresh herbs like oregano, basil, rosemary, garlic cloves, etc…
  8. Once the water in the kettle has boiled, fill the jars with boiling water leaving 2 inches of space at the top of the jars.
  9. Remove any air bubbles by taking a nonmetallic utensil and firmly pressing the food.
  10. Using a clean dish towel, wipe the rims of the jars to allow lids to seal.
  11. Apply the lids and screw rings tightly.
  12. Repeat this process until all the tomatoes have been used.
  13. Fill the canner with water halfway and heat the water on high.  Place the jars in the rack and lower into the hot water.  Make sure there is at least 2 inches of water above the lids of the jars.  If not, add more hot water.
  14. Bring the water to a full boil, cover, and cook jars for 45 minutes.
  15. After 45 minutes, turn the heat off and allow to cool before lifting the jars out.
  16. Lift jars out and allow to cool for at least 12 hours.
  17. Once jars have cooled, check the seal of the lid by pressing your thumb into the center.  It should not pop or give at all.  If it does, place jar in refrigerator and use within a few days.

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Blueberry & Coconut Smoothie


I always crave something sweet after dinner. Having fresh blueberries on hand as well as some coconut, I decided to make a refreshing and healthy smoothie. I used flax seeds to give myself a little fiber boost as well as a bit of crunchiness. The coconut added a bit of sweetness and texture too. Serve this chilled or over ice – an easy and healthy after-dinner dessert!

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 1 1/4 cup skim milk
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp flax seeds (optional)
  • 2 tbsp shredded coconut
  • fresh mint to garnish

Directions:

  1. Blend all ingredients together until smooth and serve over ice
  2. Garnish with fresh mint

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Homemade Vanilla Extract

Back in March of this year, I decided to make my own vanilla extract.  I love to bake and this is one of those staple ingredients that you always need when baking.  Pure vanilla extract is not cheap either, so I decided to make some of my own.  I let mine sit for 4 months because the longer the vanilla sits, the stronger the extract becomes.  Also, the quality of the vodka determines the quality of the extract.  While you don’t have to use anything expensive and extravagant like Grey Goose, you don’t want to use anything cheap either.  Something in the middle is suitable for making your own extract; I used Smirnoff and was very happy with the taste of my extract.  This made 1 cup of extract which is equivalent to 48 teaspoons – roughly enough to last me 6 months if I average 2 teaspoons per week.  Enjoy!

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 2 large-sized vanilla beans or 3 medium-sized ones
  • 1 mason jar

Directions:

  1. Sterilize the mason jar with boiling water and allow to dry
  2. Slice the vanilla beans lengthwise and place in jar
  3. Cover the beans with the vodka
  4. Seal the mason jar and shake a few times
  5. Store the jar in a cool cabinet
  6. Shake the jar 1-2 times per week to release the seeds of the vanilla beans
  7. Store for at least 2 months or longer
  8. At the end of the storage period, strain the vanilla extract through cheesecloth or a strainer and store in a tight jar

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WV Panhandle Farm Tour

Green is the color of tranquility and relaxation. For me, I honestly think this is true. Standing in the middle of a lush, green field invokes feelings of relaxation and dissipates thoughts of work or the stresses of traffic that are all too common when living in a metropolitan area. After going on a Slow Foods organized farm tour in the West Virginia panhandle this past weekend, it’s not hard to see why many farmers love their work, love the land they’re working on, and love the environment they’re surrounded by.

My friend Laura and I participated in a Slow Foods DC organized farm tour. We went to four different farms in WV and learned anything and everything from small-scale farming in your backyard to hundreds-of-acres-been-in-your-family-for-generations farming. What all 4 farms had in common was that they were farmed by people who absolutely loved and appreciated their land. Most people can’t say that the weather, not their work performance, often determines whether they’ll get a bonus that year. Most people don’t have to worry about a late-season frost or a dry summer without rain. Most people worry about getting caught in a downpour while walking to work or leaving their house not appropriately dressed for the ailments. For farmers, they constantly worry about something they have no control over, but luckily, many farmers know how to abate any unexpected weather predicaments that might occur.

For example, one farmer told us that WV had received a frost in May that caught them by surprise. They were able to turn the sprinklers on the crops after the frost and salvage most of their crops before they were destroyed. And it’s not just Mother Nature that farmers have to contend with, they also have to deal with bureaucracy and all that she imposes and/or restricts. While I know very little about farming, compared to many of the people we talked to this weekend, what I do know is that farming is an extremely arduous profession. But like one of the farmers said, it is truly rewarding – a far cry from what many of us say at the end of our workday.

Standing outside on this one particular farm, I looked around in every possible direction and let out a sigh of utter relief: there wasn’t a highway, a shopping plaza or a Walmart in sight.  It was green and it was pure beauty; totally cut off from the hub-bub and stress of city life, it was perfect.

Is it just me or does anyone else feel the same way when they see and/or visit the green, rural countryside?

Please remember to support your local farmers! Check out Local Harvest for a list of farmers markets in your area.


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Strawberry Picking

This past weekend my sister and I traveled home to visit our parents and celebrate my mom’s birthday.  The beginning of June not only marks my mother’s birthday, but also the beginning of strawberry season in Central NY. 

We decided to go strawberry picking at a nearby farm.  For $2 a quart, you can pick your own juicy, ripe strawberries.  We picked 8 quarts; some will be eaten right away while the others will be frozen for later use.  The strawberries were red, juicy, and perfectly tart.  Stay tuned for several strawberry recipes and remember to support your local farmers!

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Filed under Desserts, Misc.