Fastnacht Day: In Pennsylvania Dutch country, there’s only one way to celebrate Fat Tuesday

It took me years to work up the courage to tackle one of my grandmother’s most memorable and well-loved creations: fastnachts. Every year, the night before Shrove Tuesday—also known as Fat Tuesday—she would stay up late prepping big batches of the potato-based doughnuts. The next morning, she would rise before dawn to fry the puffy orbs to a deep mahogany, then shower them in confectioners’ sugar while they were still hot.

I made a point of getting up early those days, too, so I could gorge myself on the yeasty treats. By the time my parents joined us, splashes of sugar spotted my pajamas and my fingers were sticky.

Finish reading the story on the Saveur website now.


Are You Gonna Eat That? Thip Khao’s Tree Ant Egg Laab Salad

The Dish: Tree Ant Egg Laab Salad

Price: $15

Where to Get It: Thip Khao; 3462 14th St. NW; (202) 387-5426;

What It Is: “I call it Laos caviar,” says chef Seng Luangrath. The white pill-shaped pods don’t come from the sea though. Known as kai mod daeng in Laotian, they’re actually tree ant eggs. A commonly eaten protein in the Southeast Asian country and neighboring Thailand, the ova are hand-harvested from nests often built on the leaves of mango trees. One method of obtaining them is to shake the nests over a bucket of water. The eggs sink to the bottom, while the insects either drown or crawl out. It’s tough work, because the fierce bugs will bite. Though Luangrath remembers painfully procuring the eggs as a child, she now imports frozen eggs when they’re available from January through March. You may not find them on the menu every day.

Finish reading this story on the Washington City Paper website now.


Could Matchbox become the next Cheesecake Factory?

There’s no sign outside Matchbox restaurant’s test kitchen. It’s tucked away in a stretch of personality-free warehouses in Silver Spring. The compact room features everything you’d find in the full-scale kitchens of the popular D.C.-based chain best known for its pizzas and mini burgers. There’s a brick pizza oven, glass door refrigerator, deep-fryer, flattop stove, grill, range, a pair of counters and a sink. A window on the far end looks into the Matchbox man cave — well, conference room — outfitted with a small artificial-turf putting green and an impressive flat-screen TV mounted on a wall of reclaimed barn wood.

Stephen Lyons, vice president of culinary operations for Matchbox Food Group, is moving around the tight kitchen space with a quick, studied efficiency. He’s preparing a selection of new dishes for a tasting, but he has more than Washington on his mind. Matchbox Food Group is about to launch a national expansion.

Finish reading the story on The Washington Post website now.


An hour after my son was born, I was right where my wife needed me. In line at Shake Shack

My son was just an hour old and I had just become a proud first-time father. Guess what I was doing. Cradling him, while singing him his first lullaby? Nope. Showing him off to gathered relatives? Try again. Triumphantly posting a picture to Facebook? Sorry, wrong.

Actually, I was in line at Shake Shack. I was waiting to get the Shack Burger and cheese-sauce-covered fries my wife, Indira, had been craving for nearly 10 months. As a patient of Wisdom Midwifery at George Washington University Hospital, she had been on a strict diet. No undercooked meats, no processed foods and no sugar. (Being an empathetic fellow, I made sure to eat at least twice as much of those banned substances while she was pregnant.)

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post website now.


The Third Wave Coffee Shop Adopts Cocktails

Amble into Washington, D.C.’s Slipstream during the morning hours and you’ll be met with a small army of baristas lined up behind the dark wood bar, ready to pull an espresso or fire up the Seraphin automatic pour-over machine. The menu features a few surprises—a house-made soda flavored with dried coffee cherries and an espresso tonic—but the place offers everything you’d expect from a craft coffeehouse. That is, until you notice the shelving behind the countertop. Instead of neatly arrayed bags of MadCap beans, there are rows of liquor bottles—a not-so-subtle clue that the coffee shop enjoys something of a double life.

Slipstream is one of a growing number of hybrid coffee-cocktail bars across the country—from the Octane micro-chain in Atlanta and Birmingham, Alabama to Phoenix’s Lux Central and NYC’s The Randolph at Broome—where you can do shots of espresso at breakfast and come back for a Manhattan during happy hour.

The duality of concepts leads to an unusual mixture of customers. “We’ll have a room full of high schoolers in study groups and adults by the fireplace drinking cocktails,” says Lori Chandler, owner of Take Five Coffee + Bar in the Kansas City suburb of Overland Park. “From a social aspect, this has been going on forever in Europe. I’m surprised it didn’t happen over here sooner.”

Finish reading this story on the Punch website now.


Take A Bite Out Of Ringo: Giant Cookies Honor Pop Culture Icons

Chocolate chip. Oatmeal raisin. Snickerdoodle.

When it comes to cookies, these are the classics. They aren’t the prettiest confections in the bakery case, but you don’t feel guilty about gobbling them until only crumbs remain.

You will probably hesitate, however, about nibbling on an edge of one of the artfully decorated sugar cookies from Snickety Snacks.

Twenty-nine-year-old Brittanie Reed and her mother, Wendy Fitt, 51, are the self-taught pastry pros behind a catering company based in Lovettsville, Va., that specializes in hand-painted sugar cookies of musicians and pop culture icons. Among their inspirations? Calvin and Hobbes, the Beatles’ Yellow Submarine and poppy emo rockers Fall Out Boy.

The venture began as a hobby for Reed in 2008. Four years later, her mother came on board, and Snickety Snacks became a licensed business (they also make customized cakes, cupcakes and cake bites). Forget Ace of Cakes. These ladies are the Queens of Cookies.

Finish reading this story on NPR’s blog The Salt.


Ten Tips for Cooking with Little Chefs

My latest cookbook is It’s So Good: 100 Real Food Recipes for Kids, which encourages little chefs to spend time in the kitchen (under the supervision of an adult, of course). The recipes are simple, quick to make and incorporate a lot of fresh fruits and vegetables, which I hope you’ll pick up at your local farmer’s market. However, I know parents can feel hesitant about tackling cooking projects with their children. Don’t worry mom and dad – it’s easier than you think. Here are 10 tips to make your time together fun, interactive and educational.

1. Plan ahead. To make kitchen projects as fuss-free as possible, make sure you have all the necessary ingredients and equipment on hand before you start.

2. Clean is cool. Everyone should wear an apron and clothes they don’t mind getting dirty, and don’t forget to clean your hands thoroughly before starting to work. 

3. Get ready to learn. Use your time cooking together to tell your children where your food comes from, how it’s grown and raised and the benefits it has for your bodies. 

4. Give clear instructions. Walk children through what you want them to do and how it helps create the finished dish.

5. Kids can cut. Give them a small plastic knife with a rounded edge to cut through herbs, peeled fruits and soft vegetables, like strawberries and tomatoes.

6. Tasting isn’t just okay, it’s encouraged. Try a small nibble of the ingredients that are safe to eat and test the dish along the way to make sure it’s seasoned properly. 

7. Ask their opinions. Find out what your children think about what you’re making, how you’re making it and what it tastes like.  

8. Be generous in your praise. A little encouragement can go a long way in building confidence in little chefs, which will get them excited to cook again in the future.

9. A mess will be made. Set aside time at the end of your work for everyone to clean up the kitchen together.

10. Above all, cooking with your children should be fun. So breathe deeply, laugh often and relax.

Now go get cooking!


Instagramming Food Porn For Restaurants? That’s A Real Job.

Society Fair’s butcher and self-described “curd nerd,” Justin Owens, is spooning out quenelles of pistachio-studded pâté. He’s placing them onto a butcher’s block adorned with artfully displayed rounds of Genoa ham, ribbony piles of Serrano ham, and triangular pork rillettes. While he creates the charcuterie platter, Vina Sananikone darts around him with her iPhone, trying to snap the perfect picture.

Wearing a carrot-colored sweater over a lace sundress and cowboy boots, she could never be mistaken for a member of the kitchen crew. Rather, she’s actually a multimedia maven—“that’s what it says on my business card,” she says.

Unhappy with the shot she got, Sananikone asks Owens to stop for a moment and pick up the twine he uses to ensure the meats are in perfectly straight lines. She checks her screen. “Hold it right there,” she instructs, and then takes the photograph. “Got it.”

Later that afternoon, the well-composed shot will appear on Society Fair’s Twitter and Instagram feeds. In the meantime, Sananikone heads into the back room of the upscale food emporium in Alexandria, where she works most days. On an elevated pub table, her laptop is set up—a sticker of a juice box coyly framing the glowing Apple logo—next to a pro-grade Canon camera and a flurry of papers. The space is framed by shelving on three sides jammed full of gear for the market: coffee filters, cupcake towers, and wooden berry baskets.

Finish reading the story on the Washington City Paper website now.