Weekly Roundup: Easter (or is it Spring?) is in the Air

Anthony Chavez's Easter Egg. Yes, it looks like an egg. No, that's actually a cream cheese mousse. Yes, I was also fooled.

So, I know that Easter is a predominately Christian holiday, but according to the Food Timeline, a lot of secular holiday traditions (*ahem* Easter eggs, Easter bunnies) have their roots in pagan celebrations of springtime. And, really, given the beautiful weather this weekend, I’m really digging the idea of celebrating the spring.

Which is why I found Anthony Chavez’s Easter dessert at 2941 particularly fun. It’s a cream cheese mousse with a mango couliss and carrot cake ice cream. First of all, it’s incredibly clever – taking the elements of carrot cake and turning them on their head. And secondly, the mousse is in a shape of an Easter Egg, which definitely appeals to my Easter-bunny-loving, secular side.

But I know you’re not here to hear about why I love Easter eggs. So here’s the foodie blog news from the past week:

  • Um, Macheesmo is starting a restaurant!!! How frickin’ cool is that? Of course, that means he’s moving to Wisconsin. Less cool. But overall – really frickin’ cool.
  • Definitely agreed with Tammy Tuck and Bruce Falconer’s shout out to Pizzaria Paradiso on Young and Hungry. Paradiso’s great beer selection was overlooked in the Best Craft Beer Selection and Best Draft Beer Selection categories in the City Paper’s “Best of DC” contest.
  • Thank God I’m not the only one who hasn’t done my taxes. Florida Girl in DC hasn’t thought about them either, but she already wants some tax relief, BLT steak style. Yes, on April 15th BLT Steak will be taking half off their alcohol – wine, cocktails, bottles, wines by the glass. And that’s all day. All day. Um, could we make April 16 a national holiday, please?
  • Sometimes, I wish I were Jewish. The history, the community, the rituals, the food – it’s such a rich faith. But as I’m not, you’ll have to read about Becca’s memories of the food and celebration at her family’ Passover seders. It’s a lovely post.
  • Tim Carman’s write up of food-related April’s Fool’s jokes was awesome. I would totally eat from Alinea on the Road.
  • Oh God. I love bahn mi. Love it. It makes me miss the days when I lived in Seattle and was kitty-corner to an excellent little bahn mi restaurant. Check out this round up of good bahn mi spots in the DC area on Best Bites. Unfortunately, they’re a lot further than kitty-corner to my building.
  • Want to be a food blogger? Check out theses tips from Capital Spice guest blogger Jennifer Winter on food photography – a must-have skill for any food blogger.

Happy Friday!

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Recipe Roundup: Something New for This Good Friday

It's Easter. It's time to bake. Or buy and eat other's baked goods. Like, these sticky buns from Birch and Barley Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac.*

*Photo by Olga Berman, of Mango and Tomato.

Hey MD readers. So, I’m trying something different this week. Rather than having the recipes and blog news roundup in the same post, I’m breaking them up into different posts. I mean, the roundups were getting kind of long and I think two posts will be a little more digestible. But do you love this idea? Hate it? Let me know.

So, these are all the recipes I want to try from this week’s Internet perusings. But in case you’re not in the mood to bake, never fear. Tiffany MacIssac, the fab Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley, is selling her sticky buns with cream cheese frosting for pick up this weekend. Yes. Yes. That means you can have them at your Easter brunch. It’s $20 for a half dozen, and they come with coffee sauce and extra frosting (just the way I like it). Call 202-567-2576 48 hours in advance to order.

  • Um, can I just say that I wish I would have thought of this? Check out these adorable Easter egg pot de cremes from A Measured Memory.
  • Beet cake – AKA red velvet cake – a recipe from Bourbon Steak’s pastry chef Santanna Salas, via Counter Intelligence (she’s back!).
  • Raspberry clafoutis (one of those desserts I’ve meant to make for years, yet never have) from The Bitten Word. Now if only we could get some raspberries at the farmer’s market.

So, that’s my roundup. What’s on your list of things to cook or bake this weekend?

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Weekly Roundup: Roll Out The Red Carpet Edition

Salty and Sweet Chocolate Thumbprints

These salty chocolate thumbprints will be making an apperance at the Food Bloggers Bake Sale for Haiti this Sunday!

I felt like I was reading about Hollywood and not the DC food scene this week. Nominees for The Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington’s RAMMY awards and the James Beard Awards were announced this week. Well, okay, that’s only two awards. But still – there was lots of internet buzz this week about the DC nominees. In fact, several of the Beard and RAMMY nominees have been interviewed on this very blog – David Guas’ cookbook, Dam Good Sweet, was nominated for a Beard Award, and Pastry Chefs Travis Olson, Anthony Chavez and Josh Short received RAMMY nods.

Before you get all distracted with thoughts of sparkly dressed and red carpets, I want to put in a final plug for the Bake Sale for Haiti that’s happening this Sunday at Zorba’s (1612 20th Street NW) from 9-11. All proceeds will go to benefit Doctor’s Without Borders Haiti relief efforts, and many local food bloggers will be showcasing their best baking talents. Speaking of which, I’ll totally be spending tomorrow making lemon cupcakes and salty chocolate thumbprint cookies for the bake sale. So don’t be shy! Come out and get the baked goods you’ve been craving.

Okay, roundup time. Recipes I want to try, from this week’s Internet offerings:

  • Bacon cornbread. Bacon. Cornbread. I don’t need to say anything more. From Biscuits and Such.
  • Trash Bars from A Measured Memory. Dear God – they’re stuffed with everything one could want in a bar cookie – rice chex, muddy buddy’s, chocolate chips, peanut butter, and marshmallows. Oh, and butter. Don’t forget the butter.

And in other news:

  • Metrocurean rounds up all the DC peeps who were nominated for James Beard Awards, where DC made a strong showing. As I mentioned above, Pastry Chef Amanda Cook of City Zen received a nod, as did DamGoodSweet, the cookbook by DC Pastry Chef David Guas. And City Paper food writer Tim Carman was nominated for his piece about restaurateur Andy Shallal’s disastrous top-chef style competition to hire the new chef at Eatonville.
  • Whoo hoo! The food blogger bake sale for Haiti made it to the Young and Hungry blog!
  • Florida Girl in DC ponders what to make at the Food Blogger Bake Sale. I’m glad that someone else thought about this as much as I did! I willingly admit to having bake sale anxiety.
  • A new wine bar opening up on 14th street sparks a blog war with U Street Girl. The blogger removed a comment from her initial post about the restaurant’s opening date after the restaurant owner threatened her with legal action because he found the comment to be libelous. Wow. Well, now I really don’t want to go there, and I love a good wine bar.
  • No, I couldn’t attend Le Grand Prix de la Baguette de Tradition Française de la Ville de Paris – Paris’ annual contest for the best bread in the city. But you can get an inside look at the competition – one of the judges was an American living in Paris, and wrote about the experience on her blog. Found via Chewswise.
  • Gradually Greener takes a look at some unexpected RAMMY award categories – the best neighborhood gathering place, hottest bar scene, and restaurant power spot. I can’t quite believe these are award categories, but they’re very interesting to think about.
  • Rather liked this post from The Lancelot Sturgeons about finally getting to that point where you have enough pantry items improvise a gourmet weeknight meal. Haven’t we all experienced that moment when you realize you can actually make a nice meal from random things stuffed into your fridge and pantry? It’s a good feeling.

Happy Friday!

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Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

The whole wheat flour makes these better than regular biscuits.

I don’t often make biscuits. They’re something that are really best right out of the oven, and it’s rare that I want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting. Actually, that’s not true – I often want to eat a dozen biscuits in one sitting, but it’s rare that I would allow myself to do so. Instead, I like to save them for brunch or dinner parties or other large gatherings. And the good thing is, once you’ve made them, they’re something you can easily whip up in 20 minutes.

Ever since reading Good To the Grain, By Kim Boyce, I’ve been inspired to bake more with whole-grain flours, and I’ve been enjoying the hearty flavor they bring to baked goods. So the last time I was baking biscuits I thought – why not try them with some whole wheat flour and see what happens?

Well, I may have created a new go-to biscuit recipe. Since I still haven’t managed to pick up white whole wheat flour, I went with the recommendation from The Bread Bible, and used part all-purpose and part whole wheat flour. I decided that I wanted bring out the nutty flavor of the whole wheat flour, so I added some honey to the dough. Finally, I used buttermilk as the liquid, which brought a nice tangy note to biscuits. They were crisp and buttery, and I found the light sweetness from the honey, the tang from the buttermilk, and the hearty note from the whole wheat flour completely addictive.

But did I eat all these biscuits in one sitting? I’ll never tell.

Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits 2

Maybe I need to make these again. Like, right now.

Recipe: Whole Wheat Honey Buttermilk Biscuits

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Next Food Blogger Happy Hour: Wed. April 7, 6-8 at Art and Soul

Get your food and drink on with fellow food bloggers.

Are you a food blogger? A reader? A lurker? Thinking about starting a food blog? Then you should come out for the next food blogger happy hour on April 7th. We’ll be heading to Art and Soul on Capitol Hill (415 New Jersey Avenue NW). Come meet, mingle, and chat with fellow food bloggers. I can attest that it’s a very nice, welcoming group of people – so please don’t be shy!

RSVP on the DC Food Bloggers Facebook Fan Page.

Are you interested in helping us plan these shindigs? Then shoot me an email so I can add you to the planning committee – a very informal group of bloggers who keep these events rolling. And thanks to the planning committee for their hard work in making these events happen:

Arugula Files
Beer Spotter
Biscuits and Such
Capital Cooking
Capital Spice
Common Man Eats
Dining in DC
Girl Meets Food
Gradually Greener
Thrifty DC Cook
We Love DC

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Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

Passover Tart 2

Chocolate, almond, orange - perfect for Passover.

If you’re really looking to rile up your Jewish friends, ask them about their most detested Passover desserts. We got into just such a discussion at my book club this weekend, and our Jewish members were quick to trot out a litany of complaints. Cakes made with matzoh meal are coarse, sponge cake is dry, cookies taste weird without flour – the kvetching went on and on.

Now, as some one who really likes to show off at the holidays, I feel a great deal of sympathy for Jewish bakers. It’s really difficult to bake something delicious – or even halfway tasty – without two of the most basic ingredients in baking – flour and leavening. Matzoh meal just doesn’t have the same properties as cake flour and, no matter how finely it’s ground, it never will.

Still, with a little bit of planning, some high quality chocolate, and a love of almond flour, you can make a Passover dessert that’s both impressive and delicious. This tart is an adaptation of a recipe for a chocolate torte, which I found in Joan Nathan’s excellent Jewish Cooking in America. The recipe originally calls to bake the torte in a buttered springform pan, but I baked it in a tart shell made from ground almonds and flavored with sugar and orange zest. I also added orange juice and zest to the dense filling, which compliments the intense flavor of the chocolate. Finally, to help dress it up for the holiday in appropriate style, I topped it with a chocolate glaze and pieces of homemade almond praline. FYI: while the tart contains no leavening, it does use butter, so it can’t be eaten with a meal where meat is served.

Yes, the glaze and praline aren’t exactly necessary – but they add a note of grandeur to an otherwise fairly simple dessert. And, for those who like to impress, the extra half an hour of work is well worth it.

Passover Tart 4

No one could possibly kvetch about this tart.

Passover Chocolate Orange Almond Tart with Almond Praline

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My Style: Banana Whoopie Pies With Lemon Cream Cheese Frosting

Banana Whoopie Pie 1

I think these pies are my style.

Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about style. One of the questions I always ask the pastry chefs I interview is “what’s your approach to pastry,” which is another way of asking “what’s your style?” Well, these banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese frosting? They’re my style.

Whoopie pies aren’t fancy – unlike cupcakes, they can’t be topped with fondant hearts or elaborate swirls of frosting. They’re unassuming, simple – even a little homely. And yet you can’t deny the power of a great whoopie pie. This one, with two sweet, fragrant banana cake rounds that sandwich a sweet, tart filling, speaks to the great satisfaction one can take in simple things. The flavor of the bananas really sings through the cake, and is tempered by the fresh bite of the homemade lemon curd in the filling.

I was even more pleased with this recipe, because I actually adapted it from a recipe in Rose’s Heavenly Cakes for a banana cake. Rather than using someone else’s recipe, I wanted to see if i could make my own modifications and have it actually work. And I’m happy to say that it did. Slightly decreasing the oil and upping the flour amount to mimic that of another whoopie pie recipe meant that the batter held together well enough when scooped out on the baking sheet, and baked into light and fluffy rounds.

Simple, unassuming, great tasting – I think that’s my pastry style. So what’s your pastry style? Do you go for the fancy French pastries? The down-home desserts from the south? Or do you prefer your baked goods to be cute and whimsical?

Banana Whoopie Pies 2

These were a hit at my book club's two year anniversary party. Two years ladies!

Recipe: Banana whoopie pies with lemon cream cheese filling

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