Glaze of Glory – Doughnuts are rising in popularity as restaurants give them a gourmet twist

Biting into a freshly fried glazed doughnut is one of life’s true joys. The crispy brown exterior gives way to a fluffy center. It’s sweet, warm and oh-so-comforting—like the best parts of childhood rolled into one bite. We revel in the moment, knowing that soon, all that will remain is the sticky glaze on our fingertips.

We’re not talking about the boxed doughnuts that you’ll find at the grocery store, however. Nor do we mean those that have been sitting out for hours (if not days) at the bakery. The golden circlets we’re referring to have hit the big time—they’re the new cupcake—and are showing up with gourmet twists and international inspiration on dessert menus at area restaurants.

“A doughnut is like a burger or a pizza—there are a million different things you can do with it,” says Chris Mack, executive chef at Rockville’s Quench, which offers a doughnut dessert (seen above).

Here are seven spots where you can get delicious doughnuts that are sure to satisfy your inner Homer Simpson.

Cava Mezze Grill
4832 Bethesda Ave., Bethesda, 301-656-1772, cavagrill.com
The Greeks have given the world innumerable epicurean inventions—gyros, souvlaki and feta cheese are among their tastier creations. To that list we’d add loukoumades. These fried doughnut balls were traditionally served to Olympic champions in ancient Greece, but you can enjoy them today without hurling a javelin or running a marathon. Made to order at this mecca of Mediterranean food, these gold-medal desserts come in a paper bag with a snowfall of powdered sugar. Crackly on the outside and soft at the core, they’re best when eaten while still warm. Price: $3.50 per order.

Finish reading this story on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

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Founding Farmers Cookbook Signings in Washington, DC

I’m excited to announce a series of signings in the DC metro area to commemorate the publication of The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers. The restaurant’s executive chef, Joe Goetze, will be hand at all of these events to also autograph copies. Hope to see you there!

Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show – Cookbook Sale and Signing
Saturday November 2 from 12pm-3pm and Sunday November 3 from 11am-2pm
Walter E. Washington Convention Center, 801 Mt. Vernon Place, Washington, DC

Founding Farmers DC – Cookbook Release/Signing Event
Tuesday, November 5, 4-7pm
1924 Pennsylvania Ave. NW, Washington, DC
Guests who purchase two or more cookbooks at the event receive a $10 Be Our Guest Gift Card for Farmers Restaurant Group locations.

MoCo’s Founding Farmers – Cookbook Release/Signing Event
Wednesday, November 6, 4-7pm
12505 Park Potomac Ave., Potomac, MD
Guests who purchase two or more cookbooks at the event receive a $10 Be Our Guest Gift Card for Farmers Restaurant Group locations.

Farmers Fishers Bakers – Cookbook Release/Signing Event
Thursday, November 7, 5-8pm
3000 K Street NW / The Washington Harbour, Washington, DC
Guests who purchase two or more cookbooks at the event receive a $10 Be Our Guest Gift Card for Farmers Restaurant Group locations.

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Japanese Whiskey Teases U.S. Consumers By Playing Hard To Get

Scotland is the de facto king of whisky. But now an unlikely challenger — Japan — is making a name for its whiskey far beyond its borders. Unfortunately for Americans, this highly coveted Japanese whiskey is very hard to come by.

“I stock everything that’s currently available,” says Eddie Kim, beverage director at the Japanese izakaya Daikaya in Washington, D.C. “I’d take more [Japanese whiskey] if it was out there.” Currently, he has on hand two Nikka and four Suntory whiskies — two big Japanese producers and the only ones that export to the U.S.

Japanese distillers have tried to emulate Scotch whisky production, so the flavors are similar. But you’ll find that the whiskies from Japan are smoother and a tad sweeter than what you’ll get from Scotland.

So why won’t Japanese producers just send us more of their delightful spirit? For one, they aren’t all that confident that Americans will drink their whiskey the “right” way. “Japanese whiskey distillers are very protective of their product,” says Kim. “It’s a made for Japanese palates, so it needs context.”

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

Photo courtesy of Suntory.

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Pied-à-Air

Forget the rickety little structures of our childhoods: Today’s tree houses are decidedly upscale

Look up in the trees this spring and you’re likely to spot more than birds, squirrels and the occasional lost balloon. All over the Bethesda area, people are branching out into their backyards by building tree houses. And these lofty abodes aren’t just a few leftover planks nailed together and lodged in the notch of an old maple, either. They’re handcrafted playhouses for kids—and occasionally adults—that can cost as much as a small car or more.

Homeowners looking to put up a treetop dwelling have three options: Do it themselves; hire a general contractor or yard design specialist, such as Fine Earth Landscape in Poolesville; or call in a tree house expert, such as Nelson Treehouse and Supply in Fall City, Wash., or Tree Top Builders of West Chester, Pa., both of which have worked on projects in the Bethesda area.

No matter who does the heavy lifting, builders say tree houses are a growing trend. “We’re getting more and more requests for them,” says Joel Hafner, 45, owner of Fine Earth Landscape. “I think it’s because people had—or wish they had—a tree house when they were kids, and now they want their children to experience one.”

So how does someone get into the business of building arboreal abodes?

“I had to create this job for myself,” says Pete Nelson, founder of Nelson Treehouse and Supply. “I thought that if I could set myself up as the tree house guy, it would be a neat way to do all the things I love—design, architecture, using my hands and traveling.”

Finish reading this story on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Erick Gibson.

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Chefs’ Tests – When the experts dine out, critical thinking is the order of the day

There’s nothing wild about the kitchen at Bethesda’s Wildwood Kitchen during the lunchtime rush. Chef-owner Robert Wiedmaier presides over the quietly energetic operation like a conductor wearing an apron instead of a tuxedo.

As each dish comes to him, he studies it for a moment. He might add a drizzle of harissa oil or wipe a smidge of something off the plate’s edge. Sometimes he just gives a satisfied nod. Once he’s sure that every element is right, he sends the food out to the waiting diner.

“I’m a mistake finder,” he admits later, after he has stepped away from the kitchen. “I’m trained to look for problems.”

If you think you’re a picky diner, you should see a restaurant through chefs’ eyes. They’re always looking for imperfections from every possible angle. And they go out a lot to see what the competition is doing and to catch up with their industry friends.

“I study everything from the moment that I walk in,” says Wiedmaier, who dines out three times a week in between working in his six restaurants. “Are the windows clean? Are the lights working? Did somebody welcome me? Were they smiling?”

That initial impression is key, as well, for chef Joe Goetze of MoCo’s Founding Farmers in Potomac. “It’s all about the first 30 seconds for me,” he says. “I want a restaurant to stimulate my brain and be creative about it.”

Once they sit down, chefs survey their surroundings again. “I don’t like flowers on the table,” says Bryan Voltaggio, chef-owner of Range in Friendship Heights. “If their scent is too strong, it can overcome the aroma of the food.”

Finish reading this article on the Bethesda Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Bethesda Magazine.

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13 Mind-Blowing Bites & Sips From the 2013 Fancy Food Show

I’m back in D.C., but I’m still savoring my three days at the Fancy Food Show. Here are 13 bites and sips that I won’t be forgetting anytime soon.

Maple Jelly by Northeast Kingdom Vermont Condiments

Why didn’t someone think of this sooner? If they have, I haven’t seen it. This is simply a mixture of maple syrup and a flavorless gelling agent, so the maple really pops. This and a pat of butter on an English muffin would be a great way to start any day.

Original Hot Pepper Sauce by Hot Diggidy Dog

Yowser! This stuff is damn hot, but damn good. Its creator, Simon Llewellyn, devised the recipe while he was stationed aboard nuclear submarines on months-long expeditions.

Cinnamon and Sakay Chocolate Bar by Madécasse

You can’t beat this sweet heat. The bar is dotted with bits of sakay peppers from Madagascar, which is where this company’s founders all served in the Peace Corps.

Mariachi Mac ‘n’ Cheese by Beecher’s

Mac ‘n’ cheese with a Mexican accent. Anaheim chilies add a little kick to the rich, gooey mass of penne and Beecher’s signature Flagship cheese.

Orange Blossom Champagne Vinegar by O Olive Oil

So delicate that you could sip it straight from the bottle, though it works well in martinis, too. I’m already plotting to use it in a spinach and walnut salad with citrus slivers.

1888 Dirtiest Martini Mix by Auryn Industries

Now you don’t have to cannibalize your jarred olives for their juice. Instead, top shelf Spanish olives are pressed, so their briny liquid can be bottled separately. If you’re wondering why the company is called 1888, it’s because that’s when the first martini recipe was published.

Pop Corn Pop Chocolate Bar by Chuao Chocolatier

This clever confection is spiked with house-made Pop Rocks, which add snap, crackle, and, well, pop. If only movie theater popcorn was this good, we wouldn’t mind getting gouged at the concession stand.

Sitka Spruce Tip Sea Salt by Alaska Pure Hand Crafted Sea Salt

Slightly woody, slightly coniferous, and totally winning. Great for cedar plank salmon or lightly sprinkled on French fries along with some rosemary (Dip those frites in some Sir Kensington’s spiced ketchup while you’re at it).

Espresso Coffee Soda by Manhattan Special

You can’t go wrong with the classics. This sweet, strong, super bubbly soda is the perfect pick-me-up at any time of day.

Just the Cheese Corn by G.H. Cretors

If I had a vending machine in my man cave, erm, basement, I’d stock it to the gills with this cheesy popcorn. Luckily, there’s an exercise bike down there, so I won’t feel too bad when I eat four bags of this in a single sitting.

Albacore Tuna Fillets in EVOO by Wild Planet

Tuna you can feel good about eating. Pole or troll caught, it’s 100% sustainable and 100% delicious.

Honey Aleppo Pepper Seasoning Mix by Victoria Gourmet

Smokey, sweet, and spicy, this seasoning mix hits all the right notes. Great for grilling, so fire up the Weber and get down to business.

Free Trade Certified Organic Madagascar Bourbon Pure Vanilla Extract by Nielsen-Massey

Vanilla with a conscience. An excellent addition to any pantry. 

Photo courtesy of Chuao Chocolatier.

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The 4 Worst Things I Ate at the 2013 Fancy Food Show

The Fancy Food Show was filled with some amazing new products (read about 13 of them here), but, inevitably, there were a few fantastic flops. We can all only hope and pray that these items don’t make it to market shelves.

KoKos Coconut Cheese by Cheeseland Inc.

“It’s very popular with Hawaiians,” the gentleman at this booth assured me, when I asked who would ever want to eat a coconut flavored cheese. You’d think it would be made with coconut milk for the lactose intolerant crowd, but the first ingredient is cow’s milk. Another point: though it’s wonderful to pair cheeses with sweet tropical flavors, the cheese itself should never be sweet and tropical. A true abomination.

Italian Pizza Flavored Vinegar by PGM Piazza Grande

This couldn’t be tomato vinegar or basil-oregano vinegar. No, it had to be Italian pizza flavored vinegar. A completely unnecessary bastardization that’s equal parts gimmick and gross. The gummy bear flavored vodka of the salad dressing aisle.

Road Kill Grill Meat Rub

It’s impossible to resist stopping to look at a seasoning mix emblazoned with the tagline “Makes all critters taste great!” I’m not sure how this would taste on day-old possum or a flattened raccoon, but I’m never going to find out. If someone found this on my spice rack, it would be as embarrassing as discovering margarine in my refrigerator. #nevergoingtohappen

Quinoa Flax Chocolate Bar by NewTree

Have you ever thought to yourself, “I’m in the mood for something sweet, but I also need to get in my fiber quota for the day?” Well, now you can with this candy bar packed with ancient grains. One major problem: you shouldn’t head to the candy aisle when you’re looking for something to keep you regular. That’s just plain weird. My advice to produced similar results would be have a bowl of Kashi cereal for breakfast and splurge on Chuao’s Pop Corn Pop chocolate bar for dessert later that day.

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The 13 Best Bites of the 2013 Fancy Food Show (So Far)

The summer Fancy Food Show at the Jacob Javits Center in New York City is going full tilt. Booths housing 2,400 exhibitors are spread out across 354,400 square feet. It’s a monstrous amount of food to try and a lot of ground to cover, but the calories you consume are nearly balanced out by those you burn getting around. Here the best of what I’ve sampled so far.

Roasted Coconut and Kaffir Ice Cream by High Road

Tropical and Subcontinental flavors meld seamlessly in this ultra-creamy dessert. This would be phenomenal in an affogato, as would the company’s Toffee Toasted Almond.

Hawaiian Press by Grace & I

Fruits and nuts from the Aloha State are compressed together into eye-catching bricks that are almost too beautiful to eat. Almost. Cut a wedge off to reveal the artfully composed layers, then dig in.

Pure Cane Sorghum by Bourbon Barrel Foods 

Super sticky with earthy, stone fruit, and caramel notes, this amber sweetener would work well in cocktails or cold pressed coffee. Or eat it straight out of the jar. No judgements.

Ghost Pepper Salsa by Mrs. Renfro’s 

What was once thought to be the hottest pepper in the world is having a moment. This fiery, flavorful salsa was an excellent example of how it can complement other elements without overwhelming them. For a guaranteed good time, put a bowl out at your next barbecue by the chips and secretly film your unsuspecting guests when they try a bite.

Sea Salt Caramel Popcorn by 479°  

Sweet + savory = awesome. Put those flavors on a perfectly popped kernel and you just can’t argue. Not that you can really argue when you’re mouth is full of popcorn.

The Chef’s Collection – Ultimate Gourmet Salt Sampler by The Spice Lab 

Spanish Saffron, Italian Black Truffle, and large flake Viking Smoked Oak are all represented in this fetching collection of gourmet salts. The set will look beautiful on your kitchen counter and taste beautiful in the meals you make with them.

Sundried Tomato Ketchup by Traina Foods

Watch out, Heinz, there’s a new kid on the block. Four pounds of Roma tomatoes go into each bottle of this thick, sweet, salty sauce. After one bite, you’ll be rethinking your French fry routine.

Bacon Schnecken by Queen City Cookies

A sticky cinnamon roll stuffed with bacon? Sounds like too much of two good things. I was skeptical, then I took a bite. Call me an instant convert. If my heart could take it, I’d eat this every day for breakfast. And for dessert after dinner.

Tomato Basil Truffle Sauce by Urbani  

Trufflize your pasta routine with this supreme sauce. Equal parts sweet, savory, rich, and herbaceous; it’s the epitome of umami.

Veggie Roaster Packets by Urban Accents 

Take the guesswork out of spicing your vegetables. Just add a little oil and a spoonful of these seasonings, roast, and enjoy.

Ghost Pepper Salt by Sea Salt Superstore 

This super spicy salt created a memory that lingered through two cups of water. Once I put the fire out, I started thinking about the ways I wanted to cook with it. I’m thinking I’m going to rub it on a brisket before a daylong smoke session.

Rocket Fuel by Ethical Bean  

There’s an old saying that I may have just made up: the darker the bean, the sweeter the buzz. These philosophically minded Canucks do an ultra dark roast (call it Beyond Italian) that’s guaranteed to keep you fired up all day long.

Espelette Pepper Mustard by KL Keller Foodways 

Sweet, fruity, and floral on one hand, piquant and a little tangy on the other, this blue ribbon condiment was a fun find. Sure to be a perky stand-in for the customary yellow mustard I’d be squeezing on my frankfurter this July 4th weekend.

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