Monthly Archives: September 2011

Taste tested, snail approved

Yesterday marked the first ever Slow Food DC “Snail of Approval” awards ceremony, and what a ceremony it was — an opportunity to celebrate 40 local purveyors of responsibly produced, meticulously crafted, and downright delectable food. The rain held off, luckily, and the weather was surprisingly beautiful for the event, held on the patio of Poste Moderne Brasserie, as area foodies, award recipients, and press mingled over delicious, locally-sourced, seasonal fare along with cool drinks and even cooler cinnamon and apple gelato. And of course there was the distribution of the coveted Snail of Approval stickers to award winners.

With a long weekend coming up soon, you may be on the lookout for a new restaurant to try out in the DC area. Or maybe you want to pick up some quality ingredients at the farmers’ market or a “meat up” to concoct a memorable meal yourself in coming weeks. Maybe you’re looking for a reliable place to enjoy a lovely, lingering dinner with friends for Food Day (coming up on October 24).

For a quick reference guide to those eateries and small-scale producers that have been taste tested and snail approved, check out the list of the 2011 Snail of Approval award winners.

(For those of you who missed the event, be on the lookout for next year’s 2nd annual Snail of Approval awards ceremony. Photos from this year’s event can be found here.)

KEEP IT REAL! cook something

I need to set higher goals.

In my last post I summarized my time in school food service over the last few years and ended with a goal of meeting the First Lady.

I met her this past Saturday.

Now what?

I’ll tell you what!

Home ec.

Michelle wants to bring it back. Well, kinda sorta.

As I was preparing salad greens with Mrs. Obama at DC Central Kitchen, we spoke about (among many things in the twenty minutes I had with her) the need to educate children. Children are coming to school and being raised in an era where the common utensil is a spork, where the average lunch period is 16 minutes long, and the food is much less satisfying. We need to fix that. We need to bring back the pride associating cooking with keepin it real.

We have, in many senses, lost our way in food. We have a huge grassroots and national movement going on that has forced us to think about where our food comes from, who grew it, and how it got to us. But we now need to take that and bring it to the next step; we need to learn how to cook again. Michelle Obama could not be more right.

It’s not a lot. It’s boiling water, blanching, searing, marinating, grilling. It’s salting food, it’s making a dressing, and it’s maybe what you leave a Sunday afternoon for in your family. No one is asking anyone to be a chef. But food can and will bring people together, so why not start it on Sundays when the family is around? Why not open a cookbook or even watch the Food Network together? Cooking, after all, should be fun, not terrifying.

Let me know your thoughts on cooking with your schedule… What challenges do you face in trying to cook at home? And with your kids? What would YOU need to want to cook more??!

Michelle Obama faces the same challenges you all face when raising children to eat in order to understand the power of food, not just eating healthy. She gets that someone has to make those choices for themselves and she wants to help facilitate that connection….but I guarantee you, she wont be using the words “home economics” when she rolls out that plan.

DOWN SOUTH:Dinner and Presentation on Foodways

Learn about our Southern heritage and enjoy a truly delicious Southern meal on Sunday, October 2, 6:30 p.m at Georgia Brown’s, 950 15th St., NW, Washington, DC. Tickets for the dinner and presentation on African America Foodways cost $50 for Slow Food members and $55 for non-members will be available for advanced purchase on Eventbright.

Guest speaker, Michael Twitty is a recognized food historian, community scholar and living history professional of African American food and folk culture. His website, is devoted to the preservation of historic African American foods and foodways.  He has conducted classes and workshops, written curricula and educational programs, giving lectures and performed cooking demonstrations for over 100 groups, including the Smithsonian Institution, Colonial Williamsburg, Thomas Jefferson’s Monticello, Library of Congress, and the Oxford University Symposium on Food and Cookery. He has done research about African American heirloom crops, open hearth cooking, heritage breed meats, and wild flora and fauna utilized by enslaved Africans and their descendants.  His book, Fighting Old Nep: The Foodways of Enslaved Afro-Marylanders 1634-1864, can be purchased by cash or check for $10 at the event.

Executive chef Bryan Yealy of Georgia Brown’s will serve the following menu:

  •  Oyster Amuse; On the Half Shell/Choptank Maryland/Piquillo Pepper Sorbet/Pepper infused Vodka
  • Truffled Local Corn Chowder; Corn Shoots/Local Mushrooms/Truffle Salted Popcorn
  • Grilled Red Endive Salad; Virginia Ham/Organic Grits Corn Pone/Loring Peach Vinaigrette/Heirloom Tomato Salad/Black Strap Molasses
  • Farmers Market Duck Breast; 3 Grain Rice Pilaf/Roasted Shallots/Calvados Apple Cider Reduction/Micro Mirepoix Greens/Duck Cracklings
  • De-Constructed “Yankee Pot Roast”; Culpeper Farms Grass Fed Beef/Potato Parsnip Pure/Baby Vegetable Mirepoix/Rosemary Burgundy Jus/Crispy Fried Kale
  • Lemon Meringue Tartlet; Lemon Curd/Burnt Lemon Meringue/Nunda Orchard Cherry Ice Cream/Chicory  Chocolate Ganache/Lemon Short Bread

Dirty Pop…, baby, you can’t stop

Soda was everywhere.

In my last three years working with schools I have never seen such a high rate of soda consumption until this year. And I’m not just talking about soda at lunch or in the classroom. I’m talking about kids, first grade to 8th grade, bringing in soda at 8am and drinking it with their French toast (I had a hard time giving them the syrup condiment that morning), carrying it with them through the halls, craving more of it as they drool into the faculty lounge where the soda vending machine is, and then carrying it with them through lunch, into snack, and into their supper meals that we also provide.

It’ everywhere.

And it’s not their fault. It’s not anyone’s fault but our own. As most know who read this blog, food access in this country is a sad irony of a failed destructive system we build ourselves; a system that has set us up to become obese. The kid carrying their soda bottle at 8am into the school has no where to buy juice in the morning, little money and education to know why juice would be a good investment as opposed to the 99 cent bottle of orange soda, and no one telling him different at home. Of course he gets soda and brings it to class. It’s not only cheap but will also fill him up really quickly so at least he can pay attention in the history class he has first period.

This past week the kitchen staff started asking “where”. Where are you getting this soda? Before we gave them their breakfast we wanted to know where they were getting the soda so that the cooks knew why they weren’t eating the food…. soda consumption is effecting everyone and I wanted to get my cooks involved in the talk…after all, they are spending their time making the food and if they aren’t eating it, I would want to know who’s wasting my time.

And after each student gave us an answer they got their meal. We found most were actually getting it from home, which is absolutely terrifying. Again the disconnect in food access is always food education and asking why they are stocking their homes with soda is more important than wondering why the kid brought it in now. It’s cheap.

So, the ultimate issues, as stated, is education. How do we work with families to understand the priorities of moving their income to be spent on quality rather than quantity and telling them that truly, in the end, you will save more money and be healthy? Addressing this is huge and with parents. The last thing parents want to hear is someone preaching to them about how wrong they feeding their kids. But we don’t really have a choice….our work in our kitchen at this school becomes about the parents.

On back to school night you can be sure that not only will we be talking about the food we are serving but about the importance of what the food is and why. After all, the beginning of education starts with a conversation …and I’m looking forward to it.

1st Annual Snail of Approval Awards Party

Update: this event is sold out.

Come Celebrate with Us!

4-7 pm Sunday September 25, 2011* on the patio of Poste Moderne Brasserie, 555 8th St. NW, Washington DC

Purchase tickets in advance ($30 for Slow Food DC members, $35 for non-members; tickets will not be sold at the door).

Tickets include a sampling of local roasts and flavors:

● Porchetta from White House Meats
● Grilled Sausage from Simply Sausage
● Carrot Salad
● Kale and Apple Salad
● Mac n’ Cheese
● Apple Cobbler
● Gelato

Tickets also include a glass of local beer or wine.

*Rain Date: Monday Evening, September 26th