Author Archives: Ibti

About Ibti

Just your friendly neighborhood food educator.... (http://abikeablefeast.blogspot.com)

Nice to meet you: January 14 board interest meet and greet at Chaia

Many thanks to the slow foodies who joined us at Snail-award-winning Chaia Tacos our happy hour meet and greet! Over tasty, seasonal tacos and drinks, a dozen potential new board members chatted with current and former Slow Food DC board members about board priorities, areas for growth, and potential ways to get more involved with our local slow food chapter. Hoping to see many of you at upcoming events (and some of you at future board meetings)!

Batch 327

At 6pm on a chilly Friday evening earlier this month, eight adventurous local foodies wandered into New Columbia Distillers‘ Ivy City location to help bottle the latest batch of Green Hat gin. As I hung my coat on the rack, Ian and Travers handed me my first gin & tonic. I could tell it was going to be a good night. Travers welcomed the group, got us signed in, and as we sipped on our cocktails (the first step in the process) he explained how to affix the labels onto bottles (the second step of the bottling process)….

After quite a few cases of bottles were labeled, it was time to explain the various stations.

Though step three of the process was pretty fun — blowing out the bottles with an air blaster to remove any cardboard residue from the boxes — my favorite part was step four: filling bottles using the gin udder. I am clearly not the only one who loved this part:

Every few cases, members of the group rotated through the next few stations: capping, adding the top label, recording the batch and alcohol level, heat sealing, and boxing. 

It was hard work, but fun… and Ian made sure we didn’t go thirsty in the process, bringing around various batches of cocktails made with their in-house stock of gin, rye whiskey, and other tasty ingredients. You can’t label things correctly if you’re parched!

Our evening ended with a tasting and tour of the facility. We learned about the history of bootlegging in DC, the true story of The Man in the Green Hat after which the distillery is named, the challenges of local grain sourcing (and ultimate success finding local farm. And of course we learned about the gin making process: make beer -> turn it into vodka -> add botanicals to make it gin! Who knew? I do now. And had a chance to sample all of Green Hat’s offerings and purchase them at wholesale prices. Not a bad way to knock out some holiday shopping and support a local business, eh?

You have to be in the know to help at the small-group bottling parties, but you can stop by your local liquor store (or a number of farmers markets around town) to pick up a bottle. Or better yet, swing by the Green Hat bar in Ivy City:

  • Free Tours Saturday only at 1:30, 3:00 & 4:30pm
  • Cocktail Bar & Gin Garden Saturdays 1-8pm, Sunday 2-6pm
  • No Reservations Required

Oct 26: World Food Day poster contest and celebration!

OCT 26: WORLD FOOD DAY student poster contest and celebration!

Slow Food DC welcomes student artwork for the FAO Poster Contest — open to kids aged 5-19. The idea is for students to create a poster that illustrates their idea of what needs to be done to make healthy diets available for everyone and how each of us can improve our diets. SFDC is hosting a “gallery walk” of local poster submissions on the afternoon of Saturday, October 26 that will feature snacks, activities, and info tables led by local and international food organizations. The gathering is FREE and will take place at Busboys and Poets’ Anacostia location. We will take photos of student posters and vote on our local “people’s choice” winner!

Need poster ideas? Check out the Eating Healthy Matters activity book, available online.

Many thanks to our partners and supporters: Slow Food USA, DC’s Office of the State Superintendent of Education (OSSE), The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), Busboys and Poets, DC Urban Garden Network, and FreshFarm.

What: World Food Day poster gallery walk and celebration
When: 12:00noon til 2:00pm on Saturday, October 26
Where: Busboys and Poets @ 2004 Martin Luther King Jr Ave SE, Washington, DC 20020 (about a 10-minute walk from the Anacostia metro station)
Cost: free!
Register: here.
Questions? Contact ibti@slowfooddc.org.

Sustainable Beer!

It was a dark and stormy night… but that did not deter a dozen or so lovers of local beer from making it out to Vienna’s own Caboose Brewing Company on August 20th. As we sipped on a series of tasty beers, beginning with their tart and summery Blackberry Gose, the Snail of Approval winning team at Caboose Brewing Company led us on a tour of their brewing space. Matt Greer and Matt Ferda — owner and head brewer, respectively — walked us through their brewing process and philosophy, pointing out along the way how sustainability factors into various levels of brewery operations, from sourcing ingredients to brewing to re-purposing waste and by-products.

Matt (the owner) explained how from the day they opened 4 years ago, Caboose had a goal of being as green and sustainable as possible, and also a center for community engagement. From massive boil pots with steam jackets that conserve energy to recycling heated and cooled water for different purposes to stacking the wort vats to maximize space in the small but high-ceilinged room, the brewing process itself is more efficient that many other places. They even reuse locally-sourced yeast up to 10 times in their beer making, and casually pointed out that they send the majority of the 4,000 pounds of spent grain they generate each day to a farmer in Gainesville to feed his animals. (Lucky pigs!)

After our tour, we had a chance to meet the head chef and a few other members of the Caboose team while a flight of beer tasters made their way to our two long tables: Bienvenidos lager, their refreshing citra IPA, and a brown ale. I think there was another beer or two that came out, but by then I was distracted by the largely locally-sourced food extravaganza. A huge salad with house-pickled summer veggies, a cheese board, french fries, shrimp and grits, a noodle dish, mac & cheese…. We all left well fed and happy after an evening of good food, drink, and conversation.

In case you missed this event, fear not: Caboose hosts many events each month.

Sustainable Fish 101

This past Friday, over a delicious snifter of local brown ale, I joined a dozen other DC-area foodies for a crash course on how to become a more informed, ethical seafood consumer. First, Hellbender‘s operations manager, Bill Mitchell, welcomed the group to the Snail of Approval winning Fort Totten area brewery and spoke about the brewery’s sustainability efforts and partnerships (including hosting educational talks like the one that was about to begin). Then, SFDC board member and local seafood expert, Lauren Parnell launched into a fascinating introduction to the world of sustainable fish….

To be honest, things started out pretty bleak. If you think choosing ethically raised chicken eggs is confusing — should you seek out organic? cage-free? free-range? pastured?? — it pales in comparison to how complicated it is to truly know that you are choosing fish and shellfish that have been responsibly harvested. Even a basic question like “should I choose wild or farmed seafood” has various qualifying criteria that encompass social, environmental, and economic factors. I had read that wild Atlantic salmon was good… but it turns out there is no such thing as wild Atlantic salmon available in the U.S. I thought farmed shrimp were bad… but it depends on where and how they are farmed. Should I just stop eating seafood altogether?? I began to contemplate ordering another beer….

 

As we nibbled on smoked salmon and a tasty salmon spread supplied by Snail of Approval-winning Cold Country Salmon, Lauren talked us through the basics. Though wild-caught species seem like a clear choice, some are overfished or caught using methods that harm other species and destroy the delicate aquatic environment. Farmed seafood is not necessarily bad, and especially species farmed in American waters are a good choice, as the U.S. has some of the best fishing regulations in the world. But the best thing you can do to make sure you are eating the most sustainable seafood choice possible is to educate yourself: ask questions!

Before we headed over to sample delicious raw oysters from local purveyor Sapidus Farms, Lauren gave us some specific tips for choosing well-raised fish:

  1. Know your fish varieties and your fisherman — we do this with meat, don’t we?
  2. Ask questions of local retailers and restaurants — if they don’t have a good answer, don’t buy it. And the more often consumers ask for sustainably raised seafood, the more suppliers will seek it out!
  3. Eat locally as much as possible — support your local fishing economy. In this global economy, and considering comparatively strong regulations in our country, when in doubt, choose American.
  4. Eat a variety of species — not just salmon, tuna, and cod. There are so many tasty fish and shellfish out there!
  5. Eat lower on the food chain — you can never go wrong eating some of the abundance of our Chesapeake Bay oysters, clams, and mussels.
  6. Value quality over quantity — a 4 oz. portion is plenty of protein for a serving of fish. You can feed five people high-quality, wild-caught Pacific salmon for $20/pound, for instance. Consider that “cheap” fish also likely involves a company that disregards the health of the ocean and probably doesn’t pay/treat its workers well.
  7. Frozen seafood is okay — many fishing boats have high-tech flash freezers that will keep fish as fresh as (or fresher than) fish that’s been shipped fresh to the retailer.
  8. Use a guide — I have for a long time liked the Monterrey Bay Aquarium’s guide, though note that it only lists the most commonly consumed species.
  9. Look for eco-labels — an imperfect barometer, kind of like buying vegetables that are “certified organic,” but it’s something you can go by when the fisherman or processor isn’t around to ask questions to directly. Lauren recommended the Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) label as consistently reliable.

She did say there was a low probability that oysters would be overeaten, right? Oh, goodie, those VA oysters from Sapidus looked delicious….

Seasonal Recipe: Classic Gazpacho

This recipe comes from Jose Andres’ fabulous cookbook, Vegetables Unleashed.

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups crustless bread, torn into pieces
  • 1/4 cup sherry vinegar
  • 1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and roughly chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, cored, seeded, and diced
  • 3 pounds fresh tomatoes, cut into large chunks
  • 2 large garlic cloves
  • 1/2 cup oloroso sherry
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • Salt & pepper, to taste

Directions:

Put all ingredients except olive oil into a blender or food processor. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil, blending until emulsified. Pour the gazpacho into a bowl and refrigerate until well chilled. Taste, add salt and pepper as needed, pour into bowls or cups, garnish as you like, and serve.

 

RECIPE: Baltimore Fish Stew

This recipe is courtesy of SFDC board member and local food historian, Mark Haskell. It is more of a guideline than a precise recipe… which if you know Mark, is very typical of his free-form (and delicious) style. This is the version of the recipe he shared at the March 30, 2019 fish chili event at Common Good City Farm.

First, a bit of context: There are few examples of typical Baltimore Fish Stew recipes according to most culinary historians, but numerous anecdotal stories, and mentions can be found in
Chesapeake history. Fish Stew often used the chili that we now called the Fish Chili
because it was so ubiquitous an ingredient in the stew – thus the name. Baltimore specifically and the Chesapeake region in general used to be a major region for processing fish and shellfish, and before refrigeration was widespread, a lot of the catch was salted and pickled
to preserve the fish for storage  and shipping. Various forms of stew also used whatever
local, seasonal ingredients were available – i.e. in the summer more fresh tomatoes,
okra, fresh peppers, etc. — and in the winter more preserved ingredients like preserved
tomatoes, chiles, dried beans, rice, etc.

Baltimore Fish Stew with Chesapeake Fish Chiles, Our Recipe

Ingredients

  • Salted white fish (such as haddock or cod), soaked to at least 24 hours, changing water a few times to rid excess salt
  • Dry beans, soaked and cooked according to variety
  • Crushed tomatoes
  • Dried fish chilies, or sauce
  • Crushed garlic
  • Dried herbs to taste
  • Diced onions, celery, carrots, turnips, potatoes, or other vegetables of your choice, and/or cooked rice/barley/legumes if you like
  • Vinegar, and/or beer, wine or brandy
  • Fish or shellfish stock
  • Seasoning: salt, pepper, sorghum/honey/sugar – helps balance out chili and flavors
  • Oil, butter, or rendered fat to sauté veggies, and to enrich final stock

Directions

  1. Cook beans til tender with some oil/fat and seasonings (not salt). Cool and then salt to taste.
  2. Poach soaked fish with some garlic, onions and herbs, just til tender and able to flake, then remove any remaining bones and skin. Cool, then set aside.
  3. In a big pot sauté veg until tender (not garlic, will burn), start with onion and potatoes.
  4. Add Vinegar and/or other liquids to deglaze (clean and cover pan), cook for a minute or two to take edge off vinegar and cook off alcohol.
  5. Then add stock, tomato, garlic, chili, and herbs – let it all simmer, allowing time for flavors to “marry”. taste from time to time, see what it needs more of – to your taste.
  6. Add cooked fish and beans and let simmer together – then start seasoning (careful with the
    salt – balance with a sweet), then add more of what you want.

* Note: add more stock moisten or stretch, If too liquid crush some of the beans and
potatoes – or add some tomato paste.

Exploring the Fish Pepper’s Deep and Delicious Roots

On March 30, more than 50 food and garden lovers reveled in the first signs of spring and lounged on picnic benches decorated with cherry blossom bouquets at Common Good City Farm, while SFDC Board member and local food historian Mark Haskell and Soilful City‘s founder Xavier Brown expounded on the incredible local history of fish chilies.

Attendees learned about the Caribbean heritage of these Slow Food Ark of Taste peppers, their connection to enslaved people of the Chesapeake, and why they are called fish chilies in the first place. Xavier also introduced his business and let us try his DC-grown and produced Pippin hot sauce using fish chiles — a varietal that honors Philadelphia-area artist, historian and health advocate Horace Pippin. We learned how Xavier’s program works with community members all around the DC area to produce these delectable hot peppers, which are made into a variety of small-batch hot sauces.

After the official talk, we all dove into a feast, including big pots of traditional Baltimore fish stew, featuring, of course, a healthy dose of fish chilies. (I think we all went back for seconds…because slow foodies know that the best way to preserve culturally significant foods is to grow and eat them!) What a beautiful, educational, and delicious afternoon.

Now that spring has sprung, be on the lookout for other outdoor events coming soon. Sign yourself up for our free monthly newsletter and/or follow SFDC on social media to learn the latest!

Feb 25: Celebrate with the newest Snail of Approval winners

Join Slow Food DC on Monday, February 25 to honor and celebrate our 2018 Snail of Approval winners! Thanks to your nominations, we’re recognizing 14 additional restaurants, producers, farmers, and distillers for their commitment to support good, clean, and fair food in our region.

Come out to enjoy delicious and seasonally-inspired food and drink provided by 2016 Snail winner Urbana Dining & Drinks, while you mix and mingle with others dedicated to shaping our food community. There will also be a silent auction featuring food-related items, and other surprises from our local food purveyors.

Tickets are available here, with early bird pricing through February 10.

Congratulations to this year’s Snail of Approval winners:

Aperto
Caboose Brewing Company
Centrolina
Chaia Tacos
Clagett Farm
Cold Country Salmon
Don Ciccio & Figli
Eat & Smile Catering
Kyirisan
One Eight Distilling
Owl’s Nest Farm
Republic Restoratives
Sally’s Middle Name
The Salt Line

For more information on the Snail of Approval program, and to see a complete list of winners, check out: http://www.slowfooddc.org/snail-of-approval/.

Update on the 2018 Farm Bill

The 2018 Farm Bill passed was signed into law on December 20, 2018 – nearly three months after the last farm bill had expired. The farm bill, despite the name, actually covers nearly all things farm and food related, and affects each of us in some pretty big ways. One thing residents of the DMV might be excited to know is that the new bill creates an “Urban, Indoor, and Other Emerging Agricultural Production Research, Education and Extension Initiative” competitive grants program with $10 million in funding. The bill also instructs USDA to create a new “Office of Urban Agriculture and Innovative Forms of Production” — a 10-pilot Urban and Suburban County Committee — as well as a community compost and reducing food waste pilot.

The farm bill affects how Americans farm and who has access to resources, nutrition and anti-hunger programs, farmers markets and local food systems, and so much more! Right now, however, we’re in limbo until the partial government shutdown ends. Once the government is back in business, USDA will start the rule-making and implementation phases – we know that sounds boring, but it’s actually very important! This part of the process is where stakeholders like you get additional chances to weigh in and shape things by submitting formal comments and recommendations. For new programs (like the aforementioned urban agriculture initiatives), this kind of engagement can be particularly important!

For the latest Farm Bill analysis, news, and engagement opportunities, we recommend these great resources: