We Make Progress Through Olney

About 30 lucky folks gathered at Jane McCarthy’s lovely backyard to enjoy wines contributed by the Winery at Olney and appetizers for the Market’s Progressive Dinner fundraiser.

 

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Jane’s Back Yard

We then proceeded to Taste Gastropub for a tapas course of watermelon, radish and cherry tomato salad – and more wine.

Around the corner, we found ourselves in an upstairs room at Ricciuti’s, for a pasta main course accompanied by, yes, more wine!  James Ricciuti stopped by greet our party.

 

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Upstairs At Ricciuti’s

And lastly, we ended the festive evening at al Sospiro for a plate of three desserts.

 

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Al Sospiro, Ho!

Thank you, Taste,  Ricciutis, al Sospiro, the Winery at Olney, and Jane!  And all who contributed to our Friends of the Olney Farmers and Artists Market fundraiser!

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In Search Of “Natural” Food

Attending the Natural Products Expo East, you might wonder about the definition of “natural food.” Products from ice cream and gelato to whole grains (yes, Bob’s Red Mill was there), to soda, barbeque sauce and candy were on display.

I understand that there is no officially accepted definition of “natural,” as there is for “organic,” so the companies exhibiting at the Baltimore Convention Center are free to claim the descriptor at will. And they do! Unlike the Fancy Food Show, where an air of damn-the-calories decadence dominates, most exhibitors at NPEE want to sell you on a health angle. If that healthy product happens to be super-premium ice cream, so be it!

I had a good time, of course, because the show involved eating, and some of my favorite products were there to try. Bruce Cost Ginger Ale was showcasing their 66-calorie product, called, appropriately, “66.” It uses monk fruit to replace some of the sweetener in their full-cane-sugar ginger ale. Now, I would call that both natural and delicious.

And speaking of drinks, Honest Tea was there, pushing not only tea but a book. The founders, Seth Goldman and Barry J. Nalebuff, talked engagingly about the growth of their business from five thermoses into a 100-million bottles-a-year behemoth. Their social mission has survived from founding in Seth’s Bethesda kitchen to being sold to Coca-Cola in 2011.

Honest Tea's Goldman and Nalebuff

Honest Tea’s Goldman and Nalebuff

Their book, Mission In A Bottle, tells all about it. Tea is real. Tea is in earnest.

That brass band from Bob’s Red Mill was there again. So was Bob. It was nice chatting with him again, and marveling at the large variety of grains on display. Stores never carry the full range of Bob’s products, so seeing them all at once is awesome. And definitely natural!

Bob's Band

Bob’s Band

Bob's Products

Bob’s Products

And as for the frozen treats, the friendly folks at Gelato Fiasco were spooning a delicious sampling of their exotic flavors. It’s always good to chat and taste with them!

Fiasco Folks

Fiasco Folks

And just down the aisle, I was stopped in my tracks by the Gifford’s Ice Cream booth. Could it be the locally famous company which sold the Washington, DC area’s best ice cream back in the Twentieth Century, and had a brief revival in the Twenty-Oughts? Yes and no, and it’s complicated: the folks at the show are a dairy-owning family named Gifford who have been making and selling ice cream sporadically in New England since the late 1800′s, but not under their own name. When Gifford’s of Washington went out of business in 2011, the Giffords of Maine bought the name and trademark.

And how is their product? Well, it can’t match the memory of ice cream parlors with twisted wire chairs, a marble counter and individual pitchers of hot fudge for the sundaes, but it’s pretty darned good. Indeed, it has won prizes at the World Dairy Expo and other events, so it must be superior. And all-natural flavors – there’s that word again!

ISO The Gifford's Of My Youth

ISO The Gifford’s Of My Youth

There were some folks from the heartland (North Carolina, that is), who brought their grits, cornmeal, and whole-wheat flour to the show. Bear Branch Milling Company’s slogan is “A Man Full of Grits is a Man Full of Peace.” Still, they looked rather on the fierce side – like peaceful bears, maybe.

Bears Full of Grits

Bears Full of Grits

The Montanans had a display similar to the one last year, and were just as friendly. But, wait, olive oil grown in Montana? Well, no, imported, actually; but value-added with flavors in the Big Sky State. And all-natural, of course.

Made In Montana

Made In Montana

And lastly, Marisa McClellan was signing copies of her book, Food in Jars. The latest proof of the old maxim, “everything old is new again.”  Canning, as a way of preserving food: something my grandmother would recognize.

Marisa and Book

Marisa and Book

It’s an eclectic show. There are household, heath-related, and cosmetic products as well as food, filling the Baltimore Convention Center every year – a one-stop shop for retailers, who can find products to fill their store shelves which consumers can feel good about using.

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The Ends of The Earth, Next Door

I went down to the Folklife Festival on Saturday. I was hoping to go on Friday, because one of the demonstrations at the Chinese kitchen was listed as “Duck Blood Glass Noodle Soup,” but didn’t manage to.

“You didn’t miss it – it didn’t happen,” said Arnie Malin, the Foodways Coordinator for the Festival. “I couldn’t find any duck blood.”

He shouldn’t feel too bad about that, though, as he did locate an impressive array of other ingredients. Another dish was billed as “Capsella Meatball Soup.” Capsella is shepherd’s purse, a plant which grows wild just about everywhere around here but is not sold in stores. Chinese leeks, bought frozen, made a good substitute. Anyway, as he told me, the Festival isn’t about absolute authenticity in the food preparation, but about the people preparing the food, and the stories they tell while they do it.

I was allowed back in the kitchen to meet the cooks and take pictures. I found two chefs from the same restaurant in Beijing, prepping for the demos. Yuman Zhao is a pastry chef who was about to demonstrate “Huangyang-Style Jade Shumai.”

Chefs Yuman and Peng, With Dumplings

Chefs Yuman and Peng, With Dumplings

Chef Peng Wang in the Open-Air Kitchen

Chef Peng Wang in the Open-Air Kitchen

True to Arnie’s promise, Chef Yuman’s demonstration included an explanation of the significance of jade in Chinese culture. The dumplings are colored jade green with spinach juice, to represent the precious stone, which has a spiritual significance beyond its value as decoration.

Chef Yuman Got a Rhythm Going With the Chef Knives

Chef Yuman Got a Rhythm Going With the Chef Knives

But I was most impressed with her technique in forming the “flower-bottle top dumplings,” as she shaped the dough into a roll, pinched off bits, flattened them with her palm, then used a stick to roll each into a flat round. She had two sticks. The professional one had tapered ends, but the home-style stick was just a cylinder. I suspect it can be made from a broom handle.

Two Sticks - She Can Use Them Both

Two Sticks – She Can Use Them Both

The dumplings are filled with mixed vegetables, garnished with a little chopped bacon, and then steamed in a bamboo steamer. They are beautiful and delicious.

Flower Bottles, Garnished With Bacon

Flower Bottles, Garnished With Bacon

Over at the Flavors of Kenya, the “Swahili Snacks” program was just finishing up. The demos had been divided into Coast and Upland cuisine, and Amina and Fatma were cooking some coastal specialties.

Amina and Fatma, With Interpreter

Amina and Fatma, With Interpreter

The coastal areas of Kenya have been influenced by trade with India and parts East, while the uplands dishes use less spice and have a distinctive taste due to use of a fermented cooking oil (about which, more later).

Amina in the Kenyan Kitchen

Amina in the Kenyan Kitchen

Fatma is from Lamu, and works in a museum. She has been cooking since she was eight years old. She and Amina had made two traditional snacks. Date cake was made with dates, eggs, butter, flour, sugar, and cardamom, garnished with raisins. It was pleasant, but no match for the deep-fried goodness of bajia: fritters made with gram flour and baking powder, mixed with potatoes, bell pepper, onions, garlic, coriander leaves, and salt. (“Don’t forget to write down salt,” said Fatma. “It’s very important!”) She’s right.

Kenyan Snacks: Bajia and Date Cake

Kenyan Snacks: Bajia and Date Cake

The next session was equal time for upland Kenya. Emily and Alice Oduor live near Lake Victoria, and run a catering business. Emily demonstrated how to prepare “Upland Stew: Beef Pilau,” while explaining that pilau is a universal dish in Kenya, but has regional variations. The major variation in her version was the use of that cooking oil I mentioned earlier. I got a whiff of it, and it smelled like nothing you would think of as edible – but then the finished dishes smelled remarkably enticing! Its transformational power must be something akin to Asian fish sauce.

Chefs Alice and Emily Oduor, with Interpreter Phyllis Ressler

Chefs Alice and Emily Oduor, with Interpreter Phyllis Ressler

Emily explained that although it’s called “ghee” in Kenya, it is far removed from the clarified butter of Indian cuisine. Here’s how she explained its manufacture:

Put unpasteurized milk into a gourd at room temperature for 24 hours, until it starts to look like yoghurt. Then, shake it “for all afternoon,” and as it becomes covered with “yellow cream,” collect that cream and boil it for two hours. Now, the oil can be kept indefinitely, without refrigeration. Emily brought a bottle of it with her from Kenya, wisely assuming that she’d never find it here.

Audience Members and Pilau in the Mirror

Audience Members and Pilau in the Mirror

Then Alice cooked collard greens, after impressing us all with her knife skills. She shredded those greens while remarkably not cutting herself.

Cutting Collards Closely

Cutting Collards Closely

The dish is known as “Sukima Wiki,” or “Push the Week.” Alice explained that it means that, because the dish is cheap and easy to cook, it can push the food budget for the week to last until the next paycheck. The only ingredients are collards, onions and that “ghee,” and it only takes five minutes after the collards are added to the sautéed onions.

Emily gave us a lesson in Kenyan hospitality. Kenyans cook in big pots, enough for the “unseen [unexpected] guest.” House guests will be offered food without being asked first, in order to not give them an opportunity to refuse out of politeness. It made me want to book passage to Kenya immediately. Land at the coast, and make my way to Lake Victoria!

And P.S. There was a huge arch constructed on the grounds at the entrance to the Festival. It was a magnet for selfies. I couldn’t resist.

Arch Selfie

Arch Selfie

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OMG! Wine and Oysters and More at the OEG

Remember my article about the wonderful Stargazing Dinner fundraiser for the Olney Farmers and Artists Market? Elyse Kudo, of Jackson Family Fine Wines, who donated the wine for that event, arranged for us to attend a fabulous Matanzas Creek Sauvignon Blanc and Oyster Dinner at the Old Ebbitt Grill. It was a chance to educate our palates while indulging our senses.

The private dining room in the basement of the OEG (as its familiars refer to it) is decorated to resemble a cozy hunting den. There is a bar and room for several tables for eight. Each table was set with more glassware than I own.

The Tables Are Set

The Tables Are Set

After a warm-up glass of sparkling wine and a few passed nibbles, we were seated. Each place setting had a placemat with information about the wines and oysters we would taste together.

Place Setting

Place Setting

Marcia Monahan-Torres is the winemaker for Matanzas Creek Winery. She learned her craft in her native Chile, and has put her stamp on the wines made in Sonoma County.

Marcia Monahan-Torres Tells Us About Her Wine

Marcia Monahan-Torres Tells Us About Her Wine

She gave us a lively description of the characteristics of each wine, and led us through each taste. Together with Rowan Jacobsen, the oyster expert, she provided the knowledge and background to appreciate the taste experience of each wine and oyster variety.

We Wait For Our Oyster Lesson

We Wait For Our Oyster Lesson

The oyster pairings chosen for our dinner were mainly from the West Coast. The lone Easterner was from Maine(!) (O my Chesapeake soul!) Here are the pairings: Sonoma County with Kumamotos; Bennett Valley with Hood Canal (“frisky”) oysters, Helena Bench with Kusshis, and Journey with Maine Pinnaquins.

It was mentioned in passing that the OEG is the only restaurant which tests every single bag of oysters it accepts, for possible pathogens. That’s understandable, as its reputation rests on oysters and other seafood. I don’t think any pathogen would have stood up to the amount of alcohol served that night.

Still Life With Wine and Oysters

Still Life With Wine and Oysters

After the oyster service, we got down to the serious eating. A salad of asparagus and crabmeat was served with a 2012 Matanzas Creek Chardonnay; rack of lamb with 2011 Merlot; and Chocolate Decadence with 2011 Journey. Matanzas Creek is justifiably proud of their Journey wines.

Asparagus and Menu

Asparagus and Menu

Lamb, Rare and Very Tender

Lamb, Rare and Very Tender

Dessert Decadence

Dessert Decadence

The wait staff was having a good time as well – maybe not as good as the patrons, but they were cheerful and very polished.

At Your Service!

At Your Service!

This Waiter's a Pro!

This Waiter’s a Pro!

Altogether an amazing evening!

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Whirlwind World Tour at the Embassy Chef Challenge

The Embassy Chef Challenge is an annual benefit supporting the free programs and events provided by Cultural Tourism DC, a nonprofit organization dedicated to promoting Washington DC’s art, culture and heritage. This is a unique advantage of living in the Washington DC area – a chance to try a diverse selection of cuisines as interpreted by Embassy chefs from around the globe.

The Challenge is a compressed, indoor version of the two events that Cultural Tourism DC is best known for: the Embassy Open Houses held each spring, when many international embassies have thousands of people coming through their premises for a taste of culture.  Fifteen Embassy chefs took part in vying for People’s Choice and Judge’s Choice Awards. There was also an auction with items offering culinary and travel adventures.

I got to the Ronald Reagan Building a little early. There were some arty picture opportunities from the balconies surrounding the floor.

Looking Down On The Food

Looking Down On The Food

Floor Before The Event Begins

Floor Before The Event Begins

There was a small reception for the judges, organizers, and VIPs, with some very creative serving arrangements. At first I thought these spheres were little terrariums, but they turned out to be a unique delivery system for mussel salad provided by Belga Cafe. Participatory gustation: we were instructed to shake first, then consume.

 

 

Salad Spheres

Salad Spheres

The main event took place in the soaring atrium space of the RR Building. It started filling up with hungry and thirsty folks. There was a welcoming ceremony, in which the organizers thanked the participants, sponsors and embassy staff for their contributions to the cause of Cultural Tourism DC. Capricia Marshall, the honorary chair, spoke winsomely, as did Timothy Cox, Chair of the Board of Directors.

Timothy Cox and Capricia Marshall Say Hello

Timothy Cox and Capricia Marshall Say Hello

And then, the actual Mayor of Washington, DC appeared! He proved very popular.
Then we were free to taste. I started to methodically work my way around the room, determined to appreciate each country’s offerings. They ranged widely in the degree of detail applied to each station; some were simple and food-focused, others more elaborate. Of course, the latter made better photo ops.

Mayor Gray Appears

Mayor Gray Appears

Uzbekistan not only had very tasty food, but carved fruit as the highlight of an eye-catching display.

Trinidad and Tobago seemed to have modified a parade float for their display. They served marinated crab atop a giant Styrofoam replica of the same, with parade costumes on manikins and a colorful backdrop. And it was here that I learned that many of these plates were being served by the actual ambassadors themselves.

Uzbekistan

Uzbekistan

The Thai Embassy was distinguished by the wonderful matching silk dresses worn by the staff, and the Ambassador’s wife. And, as it turned out, by the food as well. They won the Judge’s Choice award with their Spicy Salmon Salad – “Phla Salmon.”

Trinidad and Tobago Crab

Trinidad and Tobago Crab

Thailand

Thailand

The Norwegian chef displayed his patriotism by his splendid pants.

Norwegian Pants

Norwegian Pants

But no one could best Poland for costume. Their servers were beautifully turned out in native garb, the men as well as the women. The food was artfully presented, as well. They had two dishes, smoked trout and a cheese terrine, as well as Polish beer.

 

The dish that captured the People’s Choice Award was served by the Russian Federation – Salmon Ice Cream with Black Caviar Sauce. Chef Roman Shchadrin found the recipe in an old book of dishes served at the court of Catherine the Great in St. Petersburg. He was churning it on site.

Poland

Poland

And way down at the end, Botswana had a sleeper hit with Pulled Goat Meat. They had a simple display, but the food was delicious.

Russian Ice Cream

Russian Ice Cream

Towards the end of the sampling time, I noticed some food swapping going on among countries. Poland and El Salvador improved International relations while posing for a picture.

Food Swap!

Food Swap!

And then it was time to announce the winners of the competition. The judges were introduced.

Judges, L to R:  Bart Vandaele,  Amy Riolo,  Joan Nathan, Xavier Deshayes, Lauren DeSantis, Tim Carman, Nathan Bates

Judges, L to R: Bart Vandaele, Amy Riolo, Joan Nathan, Xavier Deshayes, Lauren DeSantis, Tim Carman, Nathan Bates

The Judge’s Choice winner was Chef Jiraporn Bunlert of the Royal Thai Embassy. The People’s Choice award was given to Chef Roman for that amazing salmon ice cream. The winning chefs posed with the ambassadors.

All the chefs were assembled for a group picture with the judges.

Chefs and Ambassadors

Chefs and Ambassadors

The crowd of serious foodies and schmoozies (I just made that one up) was delighted. So was I.

All Chefs

All Chefs

Happy Crowd

Happy Crowd

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You Take A Stick Of Bamboo

And cook it in the springtime, oh oh, oh oh, yummy! I’m lucky enough to have a source of fresh bamboo, which is so different from the canned stuff as to be unrecognizable.

My friend Jim grows many varieties of bamboo in his backyard. He gave me a bagful with three different kinds. How does he cook it? He doesn’t. Fortunately, my other friend Liz does. She recommended the Chinese red-cooked method.

Raw Bamboo Shoots, With a Quarter For Scale

Raw Bamboo Shoots, With a Quarter For Scale

First you have to simmer it for an hour to tenderize it, then proceed with your recipe. I simmered, and then stored it to cook later in the week, but before I got around to red-cooking it, I had an emergency – a dish in desperate need of a vegetable, without time to boil the pokeweed I had picked earlier. Luckily, the bamboo was just sitting there waiting. It worked really well.

I had a package of sirloin steak tips and a recipe for steak in Balsamic vinegar. I added some sweet onions and planned to serve it over a scallion pancake (pa jeon), which came frozen from Trader Joe’s. (This pancake is not up to the dish served in Korean restaurants, but it’s not half bad.)

Steak and Bamboo Cooking

Steak and Bamboo Cooking

A quick slice and dice of three or four bamboo stalks and my dish was complete. I just added them at the end of cooking and let them heat up.

Finished Dish - Steak and Bamboo over Pa Jeon

Finished Dish – Steak and Bamboo over Pa Jeon

Delicious. Thanks, Jim!

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More Is More: Tom Sietsema and Jose Andres at the Newseum

In the Newseum Auditorium on Monday, the restaurant critic and the chef held about 500 people enthralled for nearly two hours. David Hagedorn was there, too, but as moderator he was lagniappe: a nice surprise but not vital to the experience. He did add to the ambiance of the sartorial spectacle with his chartreuse socks.

The Sign In The Newseum Lobby

The Sign In The Newseum Lobby

But I get ahead of the story. First, there was the reception for those in Press Pass, the annual membership program for the Newseum. There were passed nibbles, wine and a view on the sixth floor, then a trip down in the glassed-in elevator to the best seats in the auditorium. Those in the first row could rest their wine glasses on the edge of the stage. What a perk!

Marscapone Purses

Marscapone Purses

Wine And The View

Wine And The View

As an introduction, two short videos were shown. There were clips of a Sixty Minutes segment on Chef Jose, and “Tom Sietsema’s TV Dinners,” featuring a tour of Tom’s refrigerator. The highlight? A souvenir from the White House: M&M’s signed by POTUS himself.

M&M's or O&O's?

M&M’s or O&O’s?

Then they got down to a wide-ranging conversation encompassing not just the current foodie scene, but back stories of both men and tales of restaurants gone but not forgotten; the new neighborhoods of destinations like H Street, and the trend, partially fueled by social media (ahem), of reviewing new places as soon as they open.

David, Tom, Jose, Wineglasses

David, Tom, Jose, Wineglasses

That led to a discussion of amateur online reviews, which Tom described as both great and hellish at the same time. Now, critics get judged too – and even though “the Washington Post still has gravitas, it keeps us on our toes!”

Chef Andres reminisced that in the early 90′s, he would wait in front of the Post building on Wednesday for the Sunday magazine to be delivered, to see if he had been reviewed. His first review was only two stars!

Last Sunday’s Spring Dining Guide made amends for that. The only four-star review was for Chef Andres’ Minibar, and he was called a “genius” on the cover, to boot. That led to a discussion of the cost – at $600 a person, it should be a “transporting experience!” But Chef Jose maintained that good food costs money: “Put these things in balance – do you want the DNA of a clown, or do you want to be an avatar?”

First Row Perk - A Refill

First Row Perk – A Refill

Tom pointed out that the DC food scene has been encouraged by a President and First Lady who enjoy eating out and who have elevated their personal chef. And on the subject of trendy places which don’t take reservations, he expected that FLOTUS and POTUS would have to stand in line at Little Serow (but I’m not sure he was serious)!

Then he blamed Chef Jose for the whole “small plates” trend. After all, he was the first to introduce Washington to tapas at Jaleo. But tapas, the chef countered, gives one control over the dish – it is eaten at the perfect moment of creation!

The discussion ended on a high point with Chef Jose extolling the burgeoning food scene, including food trucks. Young people can own their own business, control their destinies! “More is more!”

And no occasion of 2014 would be complete without a selfie.

Selfie!

Selfie!

But this is my cherished souvenir:

Signed_Program

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Up To New York City: The 2013 Fancy Food Show, Part 2: Everything Off The Floor

Parties, panels, demos! Even before the show opened, there was entertainment at the opening reception. A medley of songs from “Les Miserables” was presented with the lyrics rewritten as a paean to Fancy Food. For the big finish, a checked tablecloth waved overhead in lieu of the Tricolor.

The Big Finish

The Big Finish

There was a lot to see and do off the show floor. One interesting synergy: a panel called “Chop, Chat and Charm,” with three very public chefs: Sara Moulton, Kelsey Nixon, and Roger Mooking, talking about the chef as performer; then, a little later the same day, Sara put advice into practice with an actual cooking demo.

Media Chef Panel

Performing Chef Panel

It was fascinating to see her enact some of the principles she mentioned in the panel: tell a story; know your audience; ask questions as well as answer them; recruit an audience member to help; have samples and giveaways. And, if you’re on TV, smile all the time!

Sara Moulton With Audience Volunteer

Sara Moulton With Audience Volunteer

The Italian Trade Commission sponsored a panel called “Find The Fake,” a tasting designed to educate participants in detecting fake olive oil. This is a growing problem around the world, and the Italians, with more olive trees than any other country, are understandably concerned.

There were two representatives of UNAPROL (Italian National Union of Olive Oil Growers Association), and Bill Marsano, a veteran food and travel writer, on the panel. After they extolled the virtues of Italian oil, we were led in a guided tasting of four samples, three real olive oils and one fake. Then we were rewarded with bottles of the real thing!

Olive Oil Experts: Bill Marsano at left

Olive Oil Experts: Bill Marsano at left

There were several off-site parties all on the same day, so we had to make a choice. We went with the Buyer’s Best Friend party at Vermilion Restaurant. There, we met folks from Gelato Fiasco, a company with two stores in Maine selling excellent Italian-style gelato. They also ship pints south, to be sold in grocery stores near us. Life is good!

Buyer’s Best Friend is a wholesaler that gives small, artisanal businesses a chance to be distributed in larger markets. They are always one of the friendliest places on the show floor, and I totally approve of their business objectives. And they throw a great party, too!

Star Cooper With Fiasco Flavors

Star Cooper With Fiasco Flavors

I got an arty shot of part of the New Product Display, one of the highlights of the show.

Impressions of New Product Display

Impressions of New Product Display

Stay tuned for Part 3: Product Spotlight

 

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Up To New York City: The 2013 Fancy Food Show, Part 1: The Show Floor

After two years in Washington DC, the show moved back to its home in the renovated Javits Convention Center. We made the pilgrimage north to attend. It was totally worth it.

The floor was full of exhibitors, there were after-hours events, and panels (especially one called “Chop, Chat and Charm”) were especially interesting. There was one disappointment, in that the Italy pavilion didn’t have a demo kitchen this year, but there were lots of features in other country’s establishments to compensate.

Part of the German Pavilion

Part of the German Pavilion

Two were right next to each other on the show floor. Germany had a kitchen with demos scheduled throughout the show, with happy chefs delighted to cook and chat. It was just one part of the larger German presence.

German Chefs

German Chefs

Morocco, surprisingly for a small country, had a big spread (both food and real estate)! Everyone there was happy to talk about their food, and they and their pavilion were candidates for Most Colorful Entry.

This is not to say that Italy was outclassed. There were rows of Italian food booths, each sponsored by a different importer. Cheese, Parma ham and other cured meats, and olive oil dominated, but the presence of truffles was duly noted. Funny, nobody was offering samples of truffles.

Morocco Pavilion

Morocco Pavilion

Moroccan Spread

Moroccan Spread

 

 

 

 

Italian Meats

Italian Meats

Italian-influenced food and importers of European products were also there in force. Marky’s had an especially impressive presence, with sampling and a chef on hand.

Truffles - You Could Smell, But You Couldn't Eat

Truffles – You Could Smell, But You Couldn’t Eat

D’Artagnon had their own exclusive version of ham – Mangalica from Spain. Oh, and truffles!

Markey's Chef Marc and Offerings

Marky’s Chef Marc and Offerings

 

 

D'artagnon Had Truffles, Too

D’Artagnon Had Truffles, Too

And Washington, DC’s own celebrity chef, Jose Andres, had a line of imported products from his native Spain on display.

Jose Looms Over His Products

Jose Looms Over His Products

Roland, another big importer, had Virginia Willis as their big draw. Well, they also had a display and sampling of their wonderful variety of foods, but a famous chef is a big attraction for yours truly!

Virginia Willis Cooks

Virginia Willis Cooks

Then there were the sweets. A tapioca maker had an eye-catching display of a giant inflatable bubble-tea cup. Trust me, it was more impressive in real time than a still photo, with the balloons in motion!

Attack of The Giant Bubble Tea

Attack of The Giant Bubble Tea

Sweet Shop USA showed their specialties, including handmade chocolate shoes.

Chocolate Shoes

Chocolate Shoes

And the Polish importers showed off the impressive cake that I remembered from last year’s Polish-sponsored party.

Polish Tree Cake

Polish Tree Cake

There was lots more going on, of course, but these were my best pictures!

Stay tuned for Part 2: Events Off The Floor.

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A Morel As Big As My Hand

No kidding!  And it was growing under the arbor vitae next to my porch, about three feet from my house!

The Morel In Its Native Habitat

The Morel In Its Native Habitat

 

I lost no time cutting it and cooking it for dinner.  Well, OK, I did make sure to check in the book that it actually was a morel – it’s been years since the last one popped up -  but there was positive ID and it became a main component of our dinner.

 

Morel With Quarter For Scale

Morel With Quarter For Scale

 

And since the pokeweed  is finally appearing, we had a truly seasonal dish of noodles with morels, pokeweed, Vidalia onion (left a little crunchy for contrast), and Parmesan cheese.  The morel was earthy and delicious, with lots of umami.

Morel, Poke, Noodles

Morel, Poke, Noodles

 

 

 

The pokeweed, first of the season, was mild enough not to overwhelm the other flavors.  An excellent supper!

 

I thought it would be a good time to try seasoning the noodle water in a new way.  At the Fancy Food Show, I picked up a sample of Numi Savory Tea.  This is a new line for the Numi company – a vegetarian alternative to bullion and caffeinated hot beverages.  I thought it might be used as a flavoring agent in cooking, and it did impart a subtle flavor to the noodles when I dropped a Fennel Spice teabag in the boiling water.  I can imagine other uses for these teabags, such as a substitute for chicken stock in creamed vegetable soups.

 

Numi Tea (from numitea.com)

Numi Tea (from numitea.com)

They are blends of different vegetables, spices, and decaffeinated tea, and contain all organic ingredients.  I look forward to trying other varieties, like Carrot Curry and Tomato Mint, but not the Broccoli Cilantro – those are two of my least favorite flavors!

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