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Schweppes Bitter Lemon

You can get the bitter lemon and both the regular and the light tonic on for a very good price. I gave up trying to find it in the stores.

Live lobsters in D.C. - where to buy?

I bought some last Friday (the 11th) in Bethesda. They had been having some problems with their mailing list, and their tech problem may have extended to their website, too.

I have been buying from them literally since they first started driving down here from Maine every Friday morning--some 20+ years ago. I have always had nothing but excellent lobsters from them.

Until last week. When I went to take them out of the bag, they were motionless. And light for the size. I cooked them anyway, and they tasted just fine. Just very short on the meat, however. I'm sure it was just a one-time thing. But you might want to give them a poke before you take the bag.

The N.C. shrimp and clams were excellent.

Saltless Tuscan Bread

Isn't the difference mainly in the language of origin? All I know is that it's called a "biga" in Italy", and since it is an Italian bread, that's what I call it. The literal translation of "biga" is "chariot.

I'm also always confused as to what people in this country mean by the word "gelato" when they carefully distinguish it from ice cream. Don't get me started on other misuses of the Italian language in American food. I've stopped ordering caffe latte in coffee places in the U.S. because I'm tired of being corrected by people who don't even know what "latte" means. I get revenge by imagining their faces when they go to Italy and order a "latte"in a bar.

Aug 26, 2009
bacchante in Home Cooking

Five days in Tilghman Island area. Ideas for great dining along the eastern shore?

Try Out of the Fire, also in Easton. Good for lunch or nice dinner.

Saltless Tuscan Bread

In response to a request on the D.C./Baltimore board, I am posting on my progress in developing a recipe for a rustic, saltless Tuscan-style bread using a locally-grown and freshly milled whole wheat flour.

This is not a fully whole-wheat bread, and, in fact, the whole wheat is a minor part. However, it has a very nice toasty flavor from the whole wheat.

This recipe is executed in 2 days, using a "biga" or starter. This gives the bread a much more full flavor than that made in a single day. The following makes 2 medium-sized loaves. I think it is too large for a single large loaf. I think my next step will be to try to make a slightly smaller, single large loaf, which we prefer. I do not have a bread machine or a standing mixer, so my instructions are for making by hand. I Also weigh flour instead of measure, so I can't give measurements.


175 grams of white flour (I use King Arthur regular flour)
2/3 C warm water*
1/4 t active dry or instant yeast

Stir the yeast into the water, and let it sit until it dissolves. Do this even though the label may tell you that you don't have to. Add the flour all at once and beat it in vigorously. Use a wooden spoon, or even better, use a type of whisk made for this purpose that resembles a small old-fashioned carpet beater. Beat it until you see it begin to form strings showing that the gluten is developing. It will take 120 or so strokes. Cover with plastic wrap and let it sit overnight. Since I have granite counters, I put it on a wooden or plastic cutting board, so that the temperature will be constant throughout.

It will be greatly expanded by morning.


The Biga
60 grams whole wheat flour
500 grams white
1 1/3 C water
1 1/2 t yeast
1 t malt powder**
pinch ascorbic acid***

Heat 1/3 cup water to barely warm (baby-bottle-warm--too hot will kill the yeast), add the malt powder and the yeast. Let it bubble, stirring occasionally, until the yeast is dissolved. Add the remaining water (room temperature--not cold) to the biga and stir it in, breaking up the biga. Add the yeast mixture and stir it in. Mix the flours and the ascorbic acid. Add to the biga mixture in at least 4 increments. Stir vigorously after each addition, as you did for the biga. Or at least as vigorously as possible. You should see the gluten developing in that it becomes elastic. The last addition will be difficult to do anything except stir it in. The whisk described above is of great help here. After the last addition, it should be a raggy mass. If not, it is too wet, and some more flour should be added. Cover the bowl with the plastic wrap and let it stand for 20-30 minutes for the flour to asorb the moisture.

Heavily sprinkle a surface with flour. A wooden surface works best--again, I do not use my granite counter because it would be too cold for the dough. Sprinkle the top of the dough with flour, and turn it out onto the floured surface. Knead for 10-20 minutes until it is no longer sticky. To fully develop the gluten, several times during the kneading process, it should be stretched and slapped--after it has become less wet so that it does not stick to the surface. To do this, pick up the dough and swing it around and slap it hard on the surface. As the gluten developes, it will string out to baguette form when you do this. This process helps to give the bread good structure when it is baked.

When it is nicely stretched and dry enough that you can stick your finger into it and get it out again, talk to it nicely and place it into a bread bowl that has been very lightly oiled. Let it rise until doubled. This varies greatly for me, depending on the ambient temperature in the kitchen. Cooler and slower is fine. It will be somewhere between 1 and 2 hours. If it over-rises at this stage, it isn't a big deal.

When it has risen, deflate it gently and turn it out onto the floured surface. Cut into 2 loaves and gently form them into ovals or small circles. Cover with cloth (cotton--synthetics might stick) and let rise until almost doubled. This will be less time, perhaps 45 minutes to an hour & a quarter. Watch carefully and don't let them over-rise, or they will deflate when they are jostled into the oven.

While they are rising, heat the oven to 450 degrees. If you have a pizza stone, use it and heat it too. I have a hearthkit oven liner, which is like a pizza stone on the bottom and two sides of the oven.

When they are ready, slash the tops a few times, and put them on the stone with a peel. If you don't have a stone, put them onto a pre-heated baking sheet, with some parchment paper underneath them.

Squirt water into the oven from a spray bottle. Bake them 15 minutes, spraying about 3 more times. At 15 minutes, move them around the oven a bit so they will bake evenly, close the door, and turn it down to 400. Bake for another 20 minutes or so. If you have a convection oven, you can turn it on and check after 15 minutes for doneness.

Remove from oven and cool on a rack.

This bread dries out beautifully and can be used for bruschetta, panzanella, and other Tuscan recipes that require a hearty, rustic bread.

* Our city water is heavily disinfected with chemicals, which affect how the yeast works. I use water filtered through our reverse osmosis system. I suggest using distilled or Dasani brand or other water using reverse osmosis. The Brita filter also may do a good job; I don't know.

**I get this from King Arthur Flour catalogue. You can substitute sugar, but it will give a sweetness to the bread, which the malt does not. I have not tried honey, but I know some people use it in rustic breads.

***I also get this from King Arthur Flour. When I've run out, I've broken open a capsule of vitamin C and used that. Some yeasts are sold with this already added--but I still add the pinch anyway just to be sure it has an acid environment conducive to the yeast..

Aug 25, 2009
bacchante in Home Cooking

local, freshly ground flour

Sorry I was not around for a while. I'll post my progress so far in developing my recipe on the home cooking board.

Yes, mushrooms are available there all summer.

local, freshly ground flour

There is a new vendor at the Arlington Courthouse Farmers' Market. You can buy locally-grown and freshly ground whole wheat and rye flours. They also have free-range eggs. I have only tried the whole wheat flour.

Even if you think you don't like the taste of whole wheat flour, you should try this. I mixed some in to my rustic, salt-free Tuscan bread. I've made two batches now, and the taste and smell of the bread is wonderful. I used a larger proportion of whole wheat in the second batch, and smell and taste was even better. The crust is beautiful, too.

It has none of the icky taste that I associate with whole wheat. I had tried King Arthur Flour whole wheat, and even their white whole wheat wasn't all that good. I think perhaps the freshness is part of the reason.

In addition, it makes a very nice bread that is not too dense when compared to other whole wheat breads.

Typically, when I use some portion of whole wheat, I have to increase the amount of yeast. I did this the first time, and it over-rose, deflating some when it hit the hot stone floor of the oven. I still used more yeast the second time, but I watched it like a hawk so that it didn't do this again. Rising times were down. In the future, I'll decrease the yeast even more so as to lengthen the rising and make it even more tasty.

I don't recall the cost, but whatever it is, it's worth it. Beats King Arthur all over the place, which isn't all that inexpensive, particularly when you factor in shipping.

Liberty Tavern: Any suggestions?

I want to resurrect this thread to report on a lunch there. I was very impressed. They clearly source their ingredients from high quality producers, and the chef has a good touch.

A friend and I shared a grilled octopus appetizer, followed by beef stroganoff and branzino entrees.

The octopus was perfect, with a nice char taste and a not-too-chewy, not-too-soft texture. It came over a salad of tiny spinach, shaved fennel, a few mint leaves and slivers of blood orange with a good vinaigrette. Not overdressed, the salad worked well with the octopus.

Too often beef stroganoff is simply rich and bland. Not the case here. A touch of mustard boosted the flavor and helped to counter the richness of the sour cream. It had slivers of wild mushrooms in it, judging by the texture. The delicious sauce clung to the egg noodles and so was not wasted.

The branzino was a fillet rather than a whole fish, which I would have preferred. I don't know whether the dish at night (at a higher price) is a whole fish. It might be criticized by some as being overcooked. However, it was exactly as I have eaten it in Italy, where medium rare fish isn't all that popular in my experience. Although well cooked it was not at all dry and had a light char taste, with nice, edible skin. It came over spinach spaetzle and pea shoots, with a smoked pepper sauce underneath and a slice of house-smoked bacon on top. I generally like food prepared simply without a jumble of ingredients. However, in this case, I really liked the combination. Each of the elements were simple, and they were separate enough that the taste of each was clear.

Decent wines by the glass at very acceptable prices.

All in all, an excellent meal. I'm glad we're getting such places in Arlington. So much easier on the carbon footprint to eat well.

Elevation Burger. let's see how this one stacks up.

I really wanted to like it too. But overcooking ruins the meat, as noted above. I hate the sauce. Fries are a waste of olive oil. All this for a huge price. After giving it a second chance, we never went back.

ice cream in northern virginia

Where is Moorenkos? I would like to try it.

There is an ice cream place in Westover on Washington Blvd where you can get those, but I think Lazy Sundae is probably better.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

That's it. I seem to recall that it is owned by a brother or something like that. I could be mistaken.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

I think loubiah is the green beans cooked with tomatoes. It's quite good at Lebanese Taverna Market. Another favorite there is the garlic sauce--can't think of the name for it. It's great to use with mussels instead of making aioli.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

Their kebabs are definitely good. I'm sorry they moved from Falls Church to Vienna. But for someone staying in Falls Church, it isn't all that much of a drive.

I've never tried Shamshiry, but I've been to the other one "in the family" on Old Dominion Drive. Must not have made an impression, because I don't recall it. I've never been that impressed with Moby Dick (McLean) the couple of times I tried it--recommendation from a cab driver notwithstanding.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

Where? Certainly not Lebanese Taverna, Me Jana, or Layalina.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

Well, they have gotten better about giving the "real" menu, but then I've never known whether that is because they recognize me by now. In the beginning, we always got the paper and had to ask. I wouldn't want to recommend the place to someone from out of town and have them end up with moo goo gai pan.

Looking for restaurant suggestions in the Falls Church Area

I pretty much agree with Steve's list. But be forewarned that when he says hole-in-the-wall, he means it.

Lebanese Butcher is literally that, with the restaurant alongside the butcher shop and a swinging door between. However, it has the best Lebanese food in the entire area. The raw kibbe is as fresh as it gets. Fried kibbe is as light as a feather and not greasy at all. Ditto the felafel. Fatoosh is the best around.

Give serious consideration to Myanmar (an inexpensive, regular restaurant)--particularly if Burmese food isn't an option where you live. You'll recognize elements of Indian and Thai cuisines, but it is different. For example, a curry is like neither Thai nor Indian curry.

Raaga, listed above is more upscale than Punjab Dhaba. The latter has good food ordered at the counter and eaten off of disposable plates. Large selection of desserts.

If you go to Hong Kong Palace, be sure they don't give you the paper Chinese American menu.

Dry Sea Scallops in DC?

Try Black Salt Market. They have large "diver" or "day boat" scallops that look pretty dry to me and sear very well. I do add a quick dusting of paprika or cayenne before searing to get a darker color. I can't verify that they aren't treated, and the sign doesn't specify "dry" or "dry packed," but just ask them. They are always pretty sweet and succulent (the scallops, not the fish monger, although they are nice, too).

However, if they have them get the Nantucket bay scallops instead while they are still in season. They could be served for dessert.

Shad Roe for the Home Cook -- Where to Buy in N. Va.?

America Seafood right off Lee Hwy will have it soon if not this weekend. Gary said on Monday they were too small and too expensive still.

The set I bought 2 weeks ago at Black Salt wasn't from here but further south.

Thirsty Bernie, Stachowski Is Out

Excellent suggestion. I would definitely buy his stuff at arrowine.

The comment above about having his sausages at Lebanese Butcher reminds me of the time that I was in there to buy lamb chops for Easter. When it was my turn I asked for pork chops and got the strangest look from behind the counter and a poke in the ribs from my husband.

Fish sandwiches

Yep. Too bad we've civilized ourselves beyond where food was plopped on a slab of bread instead of a plate. The food juices made stale bread edible, and the bread meant valuable nutrients weren't wasted by washing off plates. We still eat like this in my house, though.

Local Food in Local Restaurants

This may seem like the wrong season to ask this question, but what are restaurants in NoVa that serve locally produced food? This would include meat, fish, milk, eggs, etc., in addition to fruits and vegetables. To the extent possible, I buy local foods to cook at home, and I would like to patronize restaurants that do the same.

Besides the standard American cuisine, I'm thinking that maybe some ethnic restaurants have local producers that produce foods specifically targeted to them.

Any suggestions?

Trouble finding good indian food

Actually excellent Indian food is found in certain countries in Africa such as Kenya and Uganda, due to the large Indian population. While I haven't had Indian food in London, my favorite Indian restaurant in the world is in Kampala.

I've eaten in everything from truck stops to high end in India. To keep this on topic for this board, I have to say that I haven't found a place here that does more than just evoke the memory. I haven't eaten at Rasika, but places that I like are Indique Heights, Punjab Dhaba in Falls Church, and Passage to India, although it's been a few years for the latter.

Peking Gormet Inn Still Rockin

Isn't it crazy? I think the duck tastes as good as it did when it first opened and consisted of just the little room to the left as you walk in. Back then, we used to go for duck once a week--always carved by the old man who owned it.

Grass-fed beef/pork etc

Eco Friendly Farms at the Saturday farmers' market in Arlington at the Courthouse has grass-fed/field-grown beef, pork, and chickens. The market opens at 9:00 in winter and 8:00 in summer. They also come to Dupont farmers' market, but I don't know if they go all year. What has not been freshly-butchered is frozen but still worth it.

Another place would be the Organic Butcher in McLean. Ask them for specifics about their products.

Country ham - Need buns!

That's probably why I like them--they're a guilty pleasure. But, I can't imagine it's really butter. I wonder what it is? Probably better off not knowing.

Country ham - Need buns!

Making them isn't all that difficult, but if you don't want to, I think biscuits from Popeye's are better than those things in the dairy case.

Real Shabu Shabu in VA/DC?

I have had a dish many times in Japan that I assumed was shabu shabu. This was in various small non-tourist towns where we non-Japanese turned heads on the street, which certainly argues for it being "authentic" and argues against it being a "novelty." Typically, it was as described by Dean Gold below: what appeared to be rib eye sliced paper thin. In one case, the texture and marbling of the meat and the fact that it literally melted in the mouth led me to think it was Kobe beef. (And I mean real, authentic Kobe beef: raised near Kobe Japan, listening to classical Japanese music, and recieving massages--not what is typically billed here as "Kobe Beef." I couldn't ask my hosts because that would have been extremely rude). On another occasion several years apart but with the same hosts in another small town on the coast, we were served huge platters of seafood to cook in the broth. The shrimp were so fresh that they literally walked off the platter and down the table, trying to get out of reach of chopsticks.

In all cases, you dip and swish the morsel until cooked and then eat it immediately. We each had a personal small dish of dipping sauce (like you have with sushi), but I honestly don't recall the nature of the sauce, and chances are it was different for beef and seafood. AFTER you have eaten the meat or seafood, other things can go in: the vegetables and then noodles that you fish out and put in your own bowl to eat. As it was explained to me, you make a broth with the meat or seafood, give it more flavor with the vegetables and make soup with the noodles.

Like the OP, I was originally pleased to see shabu shabu in a restaurant in the area. However, I realized quickly that I wouldn't be happy with it based on the description in the threat and never even bothered to try it.

Are there any rules? I suspect there are in Japan. Nobody--even the French--are more precise than the Japanese when it comes to cooking and eating. I don't happen to know what the rules are.

Where can I get grain alcohol?

Such as we have here in Virginia. Don't bother looking for it here.

Ara in Annandale

Biologically speaking, the tentacles are not legs. The body is a long tube, which is closed at one end. It is emptied of innards and sliced to become rings. At the open end of the tube, the head is attached, which, visually, is predominately tentacles. Since squid use them to move around, they are analogous to legs. However, they also use them to wave food into their mouths, so they are analogous to arms. The tentacles are covered with little suction cups, but they are not analogous to plumber's helpers. They use them to hold on to things.

I guess I can see why a menu might call them legs. I personally do not like them large. They are best when tiny, as are the tubes. They are exquisite in Sicily.

Good Butcher in NOVA?

Question: I have 2 refrigerators. One is frost-free and the other is not. The frost-free one is dryer as the air turns over quicker. I use it to dry out the skin on chicken. Which should I use for dry-aging?