Archive for October, 2009

Weekly Roundup: Happy Halloween Edition

Pumpkins 2

Pumpkins from Homestead Farms. Happy Halloween!

Tonight: lots of baking, frosting making, and whoopie pie and cupcake assembling.

Tomorrow: Food Blogger Bakesale and Halloween parties.

Sunday: Singing, cleaning, and possibly collapsing.

For those of you who weighed in on my search for a perfect/doable Halloween costume – many thanks. I finally made my final selection, based on your ideas, laziness, and my current obsession with Mad Men. I loved Meg’s idea of being Lucille Ball, but that costume would take a little bit too much work to put together. Instead, I’m going to be a generic, tortured 1950s housewife. I have a full skirted 50’s style dress that I’ll pair with an apron and pearls, and I intend to walk around with a large bottle marked “Valium” and a martini glass. Hopefully people will get it. If I really get it together, I might hand out these (even if it might be fake, the sentiment rings true).

So now that you’ve heard about my fabulous Halloween plans, I’d love to hear yours. Any creative costume ideas you’re dying to share? Any great parties you want to brag about? Any Halloween-themed food you’re going to be making? Please share!

And now, onto the roundup. Recipes I want to try, as found on my RSS reader:

And in other news:

  • This tale of cupcake woe over at Sassy Radish, who recently made four dozen cupcakes for a friend’s wedding, is possibly my favorite thing I read all week. Anyone who’s had to make a large batch of any baked good in a home kitchen will sympathize – the batter is too big for your mixer, the frosting is impossible to pipe, etc. Haven’t we all had those days when we’ve been a tad overambitious in the kitchen?
  • The Black Rooster, a local dive bar, isn’t closing after all. Via Young and Hungry.
  • The Washington Post has a much-needed primer on making stock.
  • I cannot wait to find out the results of The Tipsy Baker’s onion ring challenge, which pits homemade onion rings against Burger King’s.
  • Behold this beautiful pumpkin cake from Rose’s Heavenly Cakes.

Happy Friday! And Happy (early) Halloween!


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An Interview With Tiffany MacIssac, Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley

Birch and Barley - Cookies

There's more than just beer available at Birch and Barley.

DC pastry lovers – take note: Birch and Barley isn’t just about the beer.

No, there are equally great things happening in the kitchen under the skilled direction of Pastry Chef Tiffany MacIsaac. A self proclaimed “cookie snob,” MacIssac most recently worked as the pastry chef at Allen & Delancey in New York City before moving to DC to take the job at Birch and Barley, the newest restaurant from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group.

Tiffany MacIssac

Tiffany MacIssac - the Pastry Chef at Birch and Barley, the long-awaited beer-centric restaurant that opened last week in Logan Circle.

In case you were wondering, MacIssac prefers her cookies freshly baked and still warm from the oven – when a cookie is in its most Platonic, enjoyable state. In fact, one of her ideas for the newly opened restaurant is to have a “late night cookie bake,” where lingering customers can purchase freshly baked cookies from their waiter.

After all, after a couple beers, who wouldn’t go for a fresh, warm cookie, straight from the oven?

It’s ideas like this – creative spins on classic comfort foods – that should make Birch and Barley patrons as excited about the desserts as they are about the beer. I sat down with MacIssac at Birch and Barley last Saturday, and she impressed me with her creativity, attention to detail, enthusiasm, and, of course, her lovely desserts.

DC’s beer lovers should be pleased that MacIssac is no beer novice herself; she and her husband Kyle Bailey, Birch and Barley’s Executive Chef, brew their own at home. “I appreciate beer for all its details,” says MacIssac. “I think it’s so much more interesting than wine. And for the price, you can try so much more of it – it’s a small commitment.”

Birch and Barley - Dessert Plate

From left to right: pumpkin pie ice cream, pudding pop, "Hostess" cupcake, oatmeal cream pie, passion fruit marshmallow, and chestnut honey caramels.

Her dessert menu for features classic, nostalgic desserts that are updated with thoughtful, elegant touches. Her chocolate peanut butter tart is paired with a whiskey vanilla milkshake, which she thinks will become the restaurant’s signature dessert. Her French toast is deep-fried in clarified butter and served with oatmeal ice cream. Also on the menu are caramelized bananas served with a bacon caramel sauce and a figgy toffee pudding made with black mission figs. And for the kid in you, there’s a cookie plate – complete with a gourmet “Hostess” cupcake filled with white chocolate mousse and a melt-in-your mouth oatmeal cream pie.

Some of the menu items incorporate beer, such as the honey crisp apple beignet, made with apples roasted in hard cider and battered in an oatmeal stout batter. For the table bread service, she makes a pretzel roll that uses porter, giving the bread “a rich golden color and a nice yeasty flavor.” If you need help paring a dessert or any menu item with a beer, never fear – Greg Engert, the NRG beer director, has been intensively training the wait staff on expansive beer menu, so they should be well equipped to offer food pairing suggestions.

Birch and Barley - Sorbets

From left to right: concord grape, vanilla buttermilk, apple cider, cranberry, and passion fruit yogurt sorbets.

MacIssac also offers a rotating selection of fourteen sorbets, which is one of her favorite menu items (she even thought of opening an ice cream shop before the Birch and Barley opportunity came up). “Everyone at the table has a different favorite,” she says of the sorbet plate, which features five flavors at a time. On the day I visited, I tried concord grape, cranberry, passion fruit yogurt, vanilla buttermilk, and apple cider sorbets. “The vanilla-buttermilk sorbet gets the strongest reaction,” MacIssac added, which was certainly true in my case. It was light and tangy and refreshing – and definitely my favorite of the bunch.

MacIssac is committed to making everything in house at Birch and Barley, from the breads to the cookies to each component of her desserts. “I don’t see why a pastry chef should use [pre-packaged] graham cracker crumbs,” MacIssac says. Right now, Birch and Barley’s bread program is almost entirely in house – the only thing they order out is the Ciabatta for the sandwiches at ChurchKey. And if MacIssac has her way, soon they won’t even be doing that.


Glamour shot from ChurchKey - I want those chairs!

So yes, you can get excited about the beer – about the 50 beers on tap, and hundreds of beers in bottles. But also, get excited about the pastry – like a “Hostess” cupcake that actually tastes like chocolate, delicately flavored passion fruit marshmallows, and the possibility of a “build your own sundae” dessert (another one of MacIssac’s ideas for the dessert menu). Get very excited.

You really should be.

Birch and Barley - Beer Organ

Okay, so you can still get excited about the beer. The "beer organ" at Birch and Barley carries the beer to the taps at Churchkey, which is upstairs.

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Food Blogger Bake Sale Preview: Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcake 1

My homage to the Reece's Peanut Butter Cup.

Why should you come to the food blogger bake sale this Saturday at the 14th and U Farmer’s market? These cupcakes. Now I know they don’t look like much, but believe me – I am in love with these chocolate peanut butter cupcakes (my homage to one of my favorite Halloween candies, the Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup).

Now, I tend to be very critical of my own baking. Even if something comes out well, I always see room for improvement – my cakes could always be a little moister, my frostings a little less sweet or more flavorful.

But this cake recipe is everything I’ve been looking for in a cupcake – the cake is moist and fluffy, but still chocolately enough for the chocolate lover. The frosting kind of tastes like the inside of a Reese’s Pieces, which I consider a personal triumph. In fact, that’s one of the reasons I adorned them with Reese’s Pieces – well, that and Reese’s Pieces are much more decorative than peanut butter cups.

I served these to my book club last week and they got rave reviews. Even my coworkers, who are usually carbohydrate shy, loved these cupcakes.

If you want the recipe so you can make them yourself, just sit tight – I will reveal the recipe next week. In the meantime, you’ll just have to come down to 14th and U to the Farmer’s Market Saturday morning and pick up one of mine.

Besides, it’s all for a good cause to benefit Martha’s Table.

See you Saturday!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cupcakes 2

After the book club party, only one cupcake remained. Spooky.

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Don’t Miss the Spooktacular Food Blogger Bake Sale This Saturday!


It will be spooktacular!

What are you doing on Halloween morning? Why you’re going to the 14th and U farmer’s market and picking up a fabulous baked good made by a local food blogger. And you don’t even have to feel guilty about the extra sugar consumption, since all the proceeds will go to benefit Martha’s Table. Don’t you know that calories don’t count if they’re for a good cause?

The bake sale is the brainchild of Adventures in Shaw, who is also organizing.

So far, there’s a stellar blog and food line up, which you can find over at the The Arugula Files. As for me, I’ll be making chocolate cupcakes with peanut butter frosting and chocolate mint whoopie pies. I’m excited.

Food Blogger Spooktacular Bake Sale
14th and U Farmer’s Market
Saturday, October 31
9:00am to 1:00 pm

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November Food Blogger Happy Hour: Nov. 4, 6:00 pm at the Black Squirrel

Nov food blogger happy hour

Will you be there?

Next month, the Food Blogger Happy Hour moves even closer to my house – we’ll be meeting at The Black Squirrel in Adams Morgan, up on the second floor. I recently visited this beer-centric bar for the first time a couple weeks ago with Nonnka, and was really impressed with the place. The place has a great beer menu (as far as I can tell about such things) and a really nice laid-back vibe – which, believe me, is really hard to find in Adams Morgan.

Many thanks to The Arugula Files, Gradually Greener, Beerspotter, Capital Spice, and Capital Cooking for help plan. Please leave a comment on one of our blogs, so we can get a headcount!

November Food Blogger Happy Hour
Wednesday, Nov. 4, 6:00 pm
The Black Squirrel
2427 18th St NW
Washington, DC 20009

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Weekly Roundup: Beer Frenzy Edition


A reader made the Chocolate Guinness Oreos - and even sent me photographic evidence. Thanks Holly!

Birch and Barley, the new beer focused restaurant from the Neighborhood Restaurant Group, finally opened this week, and the blogosphere has been set on fire. Well, at least all the folks on the DC Beer listserv. That, my beer ice cream extravaganza, and the excess of beer sitting in my fridge, has made this a beer-frenzied week.

Um, I kind of want a glass of wine.

Now, this week was a proud week for this food blog: someone actually made one of my original recipes – and sent me photographic evidence! The photo above is from a friend of my friend Holly – he made the Chocolate Guinness Oreos. And, apparently, they came out really well. I know that people  have made my stuff before (friends have shared stories – and my friend Alice really is my resident recipe tester), but the Guinness Oreos were my invention, so I feel particularly tender about them.  It feels pretty cool.

Recipes I want to try from this weekend’s Internet perusings:

  • The Bitten Word makes cashew chicken – that actually looks like it could rival takeout.
  • A luscious and seasonally appropriate pumpkin creme brulee from Capital Cooking.
  • The Arugula Files makes a deconstructed vichyssoise (i.e., leek, pototo, and gruyere) pizza. This is pure brilliance.

And in other Internet news:

  • The Washington Post’s Tom Siestema releases his 10th annual dining guide.
  • Obama visited Pete’s Apizza, which is actually right up the street in Columbia Heights. Young and Hungry investigates how the New Haven style pizza joint landed on the President’s schedule.

Happy Friday!

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Pumpkin Beer Ice Cream

Pumpkin Beer Ice Cream 1

The last of the beer ice creams.

We’re at the last of the beer ice creams from this weekend’s ice cream making extravaganza. And I saved the best for last, because this final offering – pumpkin beer ice cream – was definitely my favorite. And science will back me up – I had an ice cream taste test with Elpis and Justice and her out of town guests this weekend, and this was their favorite one of the bunch as well.

I made this beer ice cream with Dogfish Head’s Punkin Ale, which I bought because it promised “a full bodied brown ale brewed with real pumpkin, brown sugar, allspice, cinnamon, and nutmeg.” In other words, it already sounded like it was on the path to dessert land (more importantly, it was available at the Whole Foods across from work).

Now, from the few pumpkin beers I’ve tasted – and after reading Capital Spice’s excellent notes from their pumpkin beer tasting last week – I can safely say that pumpkin beers run the gamut from the extremely pumpkin-y brews to those that merely “suggest” a pumpkin flavor. The Punkin Ale was a nice mid point – it was sweet and pumpkin-y, but not overwhelmingly so, with malt and spicy notes.

I modified a Williams-Sonoma recipe for regular old pumpkin ice cream, but halved the pumpkin, cut down on the cream, and added the beer. The beer gives the ice cream a hit of malt and spice, with a slight bite from the alcohol, and the pumpkin custard brings out the pumpkin flavors of the ale. Set against the creamy sweetness of the custard, it’s a lovely combination. This ice cream is like eating a creamy, spicy, slightly alcoholic pumpkin pie filling. But I think I like this more than pumpkin pie.

Like I said, ice cream is my great weakness.

Pumpkin Beer Ice Cream 2

You are my favorite. Yes. You.

Note: I have no idea why the original recipe directs you to mix the vanilla and the pumpkin together and let it sit for three to eight hours. I’m sure there are good reasons behind this step, but I really don’t care to know what they are. I added the ingredients at the end, like a normal person, and the final ice cream tasted fine.

Pumpkin Beer Ice Cream

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Chocolate Stout Ice Cream

Chocolate Stout Ice Cream

Part two of the weekend beer ice cream extravaganza.

Ice cream is a forbidden item on my grocery shopping list. If I buy it, then chances are it will be gone the next day. Dryers, Ben and Jerry’s, even the cheap stuff from Safeway – it doesn’t matter. It’s one of those few, special dessert items where I lack any semblance of self control.

I’m hoping that I can get some people to come over next weekend and polish off the rest of this beer ice cream sitting in my freezer. Although, next weekend might be too late. The next installment in my weekend of beer ice cream madness is almost gone.

My second batch of beer ice cream, after the peach and strawberry lambic sorbet, revisited the chocolate/stout flavors I used in the Guinness Oreos. But this time I took my commenter’s advice and used an actual chocolate stout – Brooklyn’s Brewery’s Black Chocolate Stout, to be exact – as the basis for the dessert. The beer really calls out to be used as a dessert item. It’s lovely stuff, but it was so rich and dark, with prominent chocolate notes, that I could barely drink a bottle on my own.

I used this David Lebovitz recipe for milk chocolate Guinness ice cream as a jumping off point for my ice cream. I made only minor changes – substituting the chocolate stout for Guinness, and cutting down on the sweetness by using half milk chocolate and half bittersweet chocolate.

The final ice cream has a rich, sweet chocolate flavor that’s accented by the yeasty flavor of the beer. Flavor wise, I loved it – you could taste the stout, but it didn’t overpower the chocolate – it was nicely balanced. But I had some problems texture-wise; the chocolate didn’t quite incorporate with the custard, and the ice cream had a slightly silty texture. While not entirely unpleasant, the ice cream didn’t have that perfectly smooth creaminess that I hoped to achieve. And I’m really not sure what went wrong – although I suspect I may have cooked the custard for a tad too long.

Still, I would make this again in a heartbeat. Chocolate, chocolate stout, cream – what is there not to love? It’s a recipe that deserves to be perfected. Now if I could only find someone to take the rest of this batch off my hands.

Chocolate Stout Ice Cream 2

That beer should really be sold in the "dessert" section of the grocery store.

Recipe: Chocolate Stout Ice Cream

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Strawberry and Peach Lambic Sorbet

Strawberry and Peach Lambic Sorbet 2

The first of several beer flavored ice creams.

I went a little crazy this weekend. A little beer crazy, to be exact. See, ever since I decided that my October project was going to be desserts and baking with beer, I can’t stop thinking about it. Every time I go on the internet and see a new dessert recipe – mousse, pie, custard – I wonder, “can I beer that up?”

This weekend, it was beer ice cream. On Friday night, rather than going out and braving the rain, I stayed in and made batch after batch of beer ice cream. Let me tell you, there are few better ways to spend a Friday.

Based on the comments on my last beer baking post – Guinness Oreos – I decided to try to make a sorbet using Lindeman’s Pêche lambic, which I chose purely because one of my friends in college was forever drinking Lindeman’s lambic beers (and because it was available at the Whole Foods near my work). My original idea was to pair the peach lambic with a peach puree, but, since peaches are entirely out of season, I couldn’t find any. I thought at least I’d be able to find some peaches from Chile (therefore committing a deep crime of unseasonal dessert making), but I couldn’t even find those. So I committed a different crime of unseasonality, and paired the peach lambic with strawberries (from California) instead.

I was worried that having too great proportion of beer to fruit would prevent the sorbet from freezing, but the final product was a little weak on the beer and strong on the strawberries. Part of this, I think, was my choice of beer – the Lindeman’s peach lambic is very sweet and very mild – too mild, I think.  The other problem was the strawberries – I think if I had used peaches it would have brought out the lambic’s flavor more. Instead, the strawberries overwhelmed the lambic – it tasted mostly like a regular strawberry sorbet.

My question for all you beer lovers out there is this: do you have any good lambic suggestions for a re-do of this sorbet? As I’m a beer novice, I’d love your help.

Also, because I know some of you are thinking it – it wasn’t until I had done all my shopping and was safely at home on Friday that I realized I should have just made a sorbet with hard cider. There are great hard ciders out there, and I could have mixed it with a non-alcoholic cider to make a lovely sorbet. If only I had thought of that before I started shopping. Oh well. Maybe next weekend.

Peach Lambic and Strawberry Sorbet 1

Not perfect, but not bad either.

Recipe: Strawberry and Peach Lambic Sorbet

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Weekly Roundup: Halloween Costume Query Edition


It may be rainy, but I'm excited about Halloween.

We seem to have skipped fall and gone straight to winter this week. But I actually kind of like this weather – the rain and cold remind me of winter where I grew up in Oregon, and I can’t help but get excited that the holidays are on the way.

So, I have a question – what should I be for Halloween? The Arugula Files has already taken Julia Child. Some of my friends want me to go as “The Modern Domestic,” which is intriguing, although I can’t figure out if going at my own blog is a cool idea, or the ultimate act of self obsessed narcissism. Also, I kind of hate going as something that no one recognizes, as you have to spend the entire evening explaining what you are. Any thoughts? Ideas?

Recipes I want to try, found from this week’s internet adventures:

  • Capital Spice is making David Lebovitz’ Roquefort and honey ice cream. Everyone is in the mood for ice cream these days – and it looks delicious!

And in non-recipe news:

  • Tim Carman asks on the Young and Hungry blog: when should a critic trash a place? Is it okay to trash celebrity restaurants? What about neighborhood places?
  • Spike Mendelsohn, of the Good Stuff Eatery (and former Top Chef contestant) has put his competitive skills to use once again. Mendelsohn’s Prez Obama Burger won the New York City Food and Wine Festival burger competition. Via Metrocurean.
  • Lemmonex is taking the food stamp challenge and trying to eat on $3 a day. So far, the hardest part is figuring out the financials.
  • Ezra Klein at the Internet Food Association posted a criticism (not his own) of Christopher Kimball’s op-ed on the death of Gourmet and the rise of food blogs (Kimball’s not a fan). A comment war ensues.
  • This week’s blogtoberfest theme is travel stories. The Beerspotter tells us how he learned in Prague that “dark” beers are actually “girly” beers (they’re sweeter). Huh. Well, that explains why I like a nice porter . . .
  • In love with the “Food Flags” over at Mansion Mogul (scroll down).
  • Also in love with the Halloween Cakes over on Endless Simmer. Especially the spider wedding cake.

Happy Friday!

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