Red Truck is rolling out another bakery — and thousands of holiday baked goods

It’s 5 a.m. on a dark, rainy November in the Rockwell-worthy hamlet of Warrenton, Va. Buttery yellow light shines through the garage-door windows of what was once an Esso gas station, refracting off the downpour. Though the day hasn’t begun for most people, Red Truck Bakery is already humming.

The cozy kitchen is rich with the aroma of maple syrup and toasting pecans, which dot the pumpkin muffins almost ready to come out of the oven. Just-baked croissants, scones and muffins cool on racks, while a batch of dough for sunflower wheat bread rises in a plastic bin. A rustic mix of classic country and vintage rock, including Johnny Cash and Neil Young, pours out of small speakers.

At the center worktable, Brian Noyes, his apron dusted with flour, rolls out pie crusts and sets them into pans.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post website now.


Five Reasons I’m Switching from Whole Foods to Relay Foods

I don’t normally blog about stuff like this, but Relay Foods has made such a positive impact on my family’s weekly provisioning routine I feel compelled to write about them. Here are five great reasons why they’re better than Whole Foods, which has been my go-to grocery store for years.

1. Charlottesville-based Relay Foods makes a strong effort to showcase producers from the Capital Region, such as Growl, Moorenko’sCava Mezze and dozens of other local businesses.

2. It’s Whole Foods quality, but you won’t spend your whole paycheck shopping with Relay Foods.

3. It’s easy to fill the virtual shopping basket over the course of the week. I submit our order only after the selections have been double-checked and I’m sure we’re within our budget.

4. The pickup locations are easy to access and there’s a robust schedule, which means it’s stress-free getting groceries on any weekday (you can also pay an additional fee to have your order delivered to your home).

5. Setting up recurring orders to ensure we always get the staples – Trickling Springs organic whole milk, eggs from Nature’s Yoke and organic bananas – is just the click of a virtual button.

Bonus: No waiting in long lines at the checkout or jockeying for a parking space!

If you want to give this fantastic grocery service a try, just follow this link to get $30 off your first order of $50 or more (full disclosure, I’ll get a $30 credit as well).


What Happens When Classic Dishes Get Nixed

When Restaurant Eve’s team decided to take its much-loved miniature birthday cake off the menu earlier this year, co-owner Meshelle Armstrong was barraged with negative feedback. “People went nuts,” she says. “Many customers told us we had ruined their meals.”

There was more criticism waiting when she got home. Her daughter, Eve, the restaurant’s namesake, was devastated. For the past 13 years, Armstrong and her husband, chef and co-owner Cathal, have served the petite pink pastry to Eve in bed for her birthday breakfast. To say their daughter had an emotional attachment to the sweet treat was putting it mildly. She wasn’t the only one. “For a lot of people, the cake represents childhood, comfort and nostalgia,” says Armstrong. “It’s made with simple ingredients. No flash, no glitz, just happiness.”

The uproar made Armstrong realize the cake had to return. It was resurrected on the menu at sister restaurant and market Society Fair a short while later. They now offer approximately six per day during the week and 20 daily on the weekends. (The cake always sells out, so call ahead to check its availability). And here’s a secret for cake connoisseurs: The cute confection can be ordered in advance by phone through Society Fair to be served at dinner over at Restaurant Eve.

Finish reading this article on Zagat now.


Hoppy Days

I’m in the basement below Lyon Hall in Clarendon, and I feel like I’ve scored a backstage pass to heaven. Packed with small-batch potables from boutique breweries, the restaurant’s inventory is heavy on Belgian and Eastern European imports, along with regional craft brews from Virginia, D.C. and Maryland.

Beer director David McGregor points out various brands as we make our way, single-file, through the cold, cramped space. “We’ve got some Evolution, Dogfish Head, Heavy Seas’ double IPA, Old Rasputin…,” he says, rattling off the names in a raised voice to compensate for the steady whoosh of the fan. “There’s Deus and Steigl’s Goldbrau. Those big bottles are Liefmans.” I spy a few six-packs of Appalachian Brewing Co.’s gourmet root beer, but there’s nary a Budweiser or Miller Lite to be found.

A tumble of squat kegs on the floor connect to the tap system upstairs, which features nearly two dozen rotating craft beers. “We actually took the branded tap handles off a year ago in order to start a conversation with our guests,” says McGregor, who also oversees the beverage offerings at sister spots The Liberty Tavern and Northside Social. “When someone goes in, sees 20 beers and only recognizes Stella, they’re gonna order [Stella] and never branch out. We want people to try new things and not get stuck in a rut of drinking the same pint.”

Finish reading this article on the Arlington Magazine website now.

Photo courtesy of Skye Chilton/Flickr.



The Life and Times of the Plastic Swizzle Stick

The tiki god glass nestled amidst the bottles of my home bar bristles with a fantastical array of plastic swizzle sticks. There’s the yellow putter from the Brae Burn Country Club, a red, lobster-topped relic from Hugo’s in Cohasset, Massachusetts and the see-through turquoise marlin emblazoned with Jimmy’s Harborside Restaurant. My favorite is a slender white stirrer topped with a miniature billboard reading “Memo: See you at the office.”

I inherited these relics from my late grandfather. He spent a lot of time out on the road in New England as a publisher’s sales rep in the mid-1950s and on through the end of the following decade. Whenever he stopped for a meal, he ordered a cocktail (or two), which usually arrived with swizzle stick jutting up from its depths. The idea was that patrons would take them home—like they would a book of matches—as a reminder of the bar or restaurant. For the establishments, the imprinted plastic utensils were branding tools.

The origins of these plastic stirrers, while muddled, have their roots in the Caribbean. The term “swizzle” begins appearing in literature in the 19th century, though it refers to a longstanding cocktail tradition—not a bartending implement. According to Edward Randolph Emerson’s Beverages, Past and Present: An Historical Sketch of Their Production (1908) a swizzle was a cocktail from St. Kitts “composed of six parts water to one of rum and an aromatic flavouring.”

Finish reading this story on Punch now.

Photo courtesy of Siddie Nam/Flickr.



The Ten: Unconventional Burgers That Will Blow Your Mind

So many choices, so little time. The Ten is your guide to the best of the best that D.C. has to offer.

Next time you go out to get your burger fix, think beyond the usual suspects. By playing around with peculiar proteins, tasty trimmings and bizarre buns, restaurants have come up with new spins on the iconic American favorite.

Wisconsin Grilled Cheeseburger
Just writing about this burger (seen above) from Farmers Fishers Bakers can cause a heart attack. Nearly half a pound of ground beef plus bacon, onions and tomatoes are crammed between two grilled cheese sandwiches.

Born To Be Wild
Thunder Burger loves to showcase unexpected beasts. Case in point is this boar burger with Havarti cheese, pineapple salsa and remoulade.

Yummy Bunny
Sorry, Bugs. The rabbit burger at Lincoln is dressed up wiht pickled white asparagus, lemon arugula and apricot mustard jam. It arrives on a carrot brioche bun, of course.

Big ‘n’ Beefy
Rí Rá Georgetown  believes that you can never have too much beef. That’s why they put shaved prime rib on top of their 202 Burger, plus Swiss cheese, caramelized onions and horseradish aioli.

Finish reading this post on CityEats’ Plate blog now.

Photo courtesy of Farmers Fishers Bakers.



Food Comics Turn ‘ZAP’ And ‘POW’ Into ‘Sizzle’ And ‘Bubble’

Comic book heroes don’t have to wear brightly colored spandex or possess superpowers to capture readers’ imaginations anymore. They can don toques and wield whisks instead.

A growing number of comic artists are focusing on what’s on their plates, rather than dreaming up intergalactic showdowns and caped crusader capers.

So less ZAP, BOOM, POW. More sizzle, crackle, bubble.

On one end of the spectrum, you can find a mash-up of Dungeons & Dragons and a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge in Eric Feurstein’s webcomic and comic book Rutabaga: Adventure Chef. It follows the fantasy styled exploits of its titular hero and his miniature cauldron sidekick named Pot.

In between the slaying of dragons and questing for magical treasure, the duo whips up dishes, complete with recipes, both real (chicken kebabs with peanut sauce) and imaginary (stuffed monster meat rolls).

Personal stories about food have also found their way into comics, giving readers a bit of art to enjoy alongside a narrative. There’s the popular webcomic “Sauceome” in which creator Sarah Becan affectionately details her love of food and drink, along with her body image issues. And visual memoirist Mike Freiheit chronicles his time as a chef at a primate sanctuary in South Africa in his comic book Monkey Chef.

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

Art courtesy of Eric Feurstein’s Rutabaga: Adventure Chef.


Pancakes from scratch: Experiments in flapjacks even a kid would love

“Pancakes or waffles?” That’s what my father asked me almost every Saturday morning of my childhood.

I usually voted for the pancakes. They weren’t fancy: Dad simply added water, and sometimes an egg, to a few cups of Hansmann’s Mills buckwheat mix. If he was feeling particularly inspired, he would dot the griddled rounds with fresh blueberries or slivered strawberries. But I didn’t care what he put in or on them. His pancakes were just an excuse for me to drown my plate in maple syrup (the real deal, not the fake stuff in the aunt-shaped bottle).

It’s been a long time since my father manned the stove and cooked me breakfast. The spatula has been passed, and I’m now cooking for my 1-year-old son, Zephyr. I wanted to share my family’s pancake tradition with him, but I didn’t want my flapjacks to come out of a box.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post website now.