Victor Albisu Grills Guac (Really!), Juggles Two Restaurants and Impresses His Mom (Sometimes)

Food and cooking have always been a central part of Victor Albisu’s life. He grew up outside Washington, D.C., the son of a restaurateur Cuban father and a Peruvian mother who owned a Latin market. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu School in Paris, he scored a job at L’Arpege before returning home to work at a series of top-tier establishments, including Marcel’s and BLT Steak.

This spring he opened the fast-casual taqueria Taco Bamba and the white tablecloth South American steakhouse Del Campo, which Esquire recently named one of the year’s best new restaurants. While taking a break from tending the flames, Albisu told tell us how the heck he is able to grill guacamole, why he loves sausage, and who his favorite VIP diner has been.

Read the Q&A on Plate‘s website now (free registration required).

Photo courtesy of Greg Powers.


How One Chef Keeps the Focus on the Farm–While Opening More Restaurants – Q&A with Joe Goetze of Founding Farmers

Joe Goetze’s official title at Founding Farmers is executive chef, but everyone simply calls him “Chef Joe.” He presides over the kitchen at Founding Farmers, a farm-to-table concept in Washington, D.C. owned by the North Dakota Farmers Union. The restaurant is grounded in a philosophy of sustainable operations, natural ingredients, and regional sourcing (except for the Durham wheat, which comes straight from North Dakota).

Goetze oversees a menu that focuses on continental comfort food. It’s made from scratch daily, so there are no freezers—except to keep ice cream frozen and glasses chilled behind the bar. Many of his most popular dishes are represented in the restaurant’s first foray into publishing, The Founding Farmers Cookbook: 100 Recipes for True Food & Drink from the Restaurant Owned by American Family Farmers, which Andrews McMeel published at the end of October.

The restaurant group currently owns three eateries, including another location of Founding Farmers in Park Potomac, Md. and Farmers Fishers Bakers, which is situated down in D.C.’s Georgetown Waterfront. Goetze will have one more restaurant to keep tabs on next year, when the group opens its third Founding Farmers in Tyson’s Corner, Va. Goetze found time to chat with his about all of his impending projects and more.

Read the Q&A on Plate‘s website now (free registration required).

Photo courtesy of Founding Farmers.



Homemade baby food: Can it help you raise an adventurous eater?

Late last year, my pregnant wife and I were out for one of our last dinners together before we became parents. As a family with a pair of preschoolers sat down at the table next to us at 2 Amys, a part of me happily thought, “That could be us in a few years.”

When the waiter arrived to take their order, the mother put down the menu. “Could the kitchen make something for the kids? Maybe some buttered noodles or chicken nuggets? They won’t eat anything else.”

“I hope that isn’t us in a few years!” I thought.

I’m a food writer, so my diet spans the globe. One day I might be eating Ghanaian stew on a ball of fufu for lunch, then sushi for dinner; the next might include dim sum in the morning and roasted duck breast with orange marmalade at night. Don’t get me wrong: Chicken nuggets and buttered noodles aren’t inherently bad; I’ve enjoyed both. However, the thought of my child exclusively eating the so-called “beige diet” — fried foods and carbs — made my stomach churn.

So what could my wife, Indira, and I do to ensure that didn’t happen? Could we raise an adventurous eater?

As it turns out, my wife’s dinner that very night (anchovy crostini, burrata drizzled with olive oil, and prosciutto-topped Neapolitan pizza) was already stimulating and shaping our child’s tastes. So was the vegetable burrito, drenched in hot sauce, she had eaten for lunch.

“Learning about food occurs long before the first taste of food,” says Julie Mennella, a biopsychologist at the Monell Center in Philadelphia, where she studies how we learn and accept flavors. “The flavors of the mother’s diet get into the amniotic fluid.”

The same thing happens when the mother breast-feeds, she said. We had already decided that Indira would, and because her diet is nearly as varied as my own, she’d expose our child to a panoply of cuisines.

Born in early January, Zephyr was a healthy little boy with a full head of chestnut hair, a cute button nose and a ravenous hunger. The next few months were a happy blur, and it wasn’t long before we were talking about adding solid foods to his diet.

Though I have a set of rudimentary cooking skills, I’m no culinary maestro. Before Zephyr was born, Indira did most of the cooking, but now the opposite was true. Because I work from home, I had more time to spend in the kitchen.

Still, I needed help crafting the purees that Zephyr would like now and that could be the bridge to more complex solids. After consulting our pediatrician on a flurry of questions, I reached out to Tucker Yoder, executive chef of the Clifton Inn in Charlottesville and father of 11-year-old Ella, 9-year-old Joshua, 7-year-old Gabriel and 2-year-old Hannah. He agreed to come and teach me a few tricks.

Finish reading this article on the Washington Post website now.


Fishing — and making memories — with his dad in Costa Rica

“It wasn’t like this the last time I was here,” my father harrumphed as we cast our lines toward the shallows of Lake Arenal.

It was easy to believe him. We’d been fishing for more than two hours and there’d been nary a nibble. He had visited this lake in the northern reaches of Costa Rica nearly two decades earlier. His fond memories of bringing up more than his fair share of guapote, a cichlid fish with hypnotic spotting, and razor-toothed machaca had become one of his favorite tales to tell at family get-togethers, cocktail parties and anywhere else he could find an audience.

I didn’t mind that we hadn’t caught dinner yet. It was a sunny morning in early November of last year. A few wispy clouds punctuated the blue sky, and a slight breeze ruffled the lake, keeping us cool. At the far southeastern end, a wall of mist obscured Arenal Volcano, an active peak that had experienced its last major eruption in 1998.

I wasn’t sure that my father and I would ever have another day quite like this one. Although he’s the most active and adventurous 86-year-old I know, his hearing and eyesight have been slowly deteriorating in recent years, and he often gets dizzy spells — aftershocks from a decade-old stroke. Back home in Washington, my wife was eight months pregnant. Soon my responsibilities and schedule would change, making long trips like this one difficult.

“Let’s try trolling,” our guide, Sancho, suggested as he fired up the outboard motor at the end of his flat-bottomed johnboat.

He guided us away from the water’s edge until we were 100 yards out, then angled us parallel to the jungle-covered shoreline. As we cast our lines on opposite sides, I mentally crossed my fingers in the hope that we would catch something. I didn’t want this new adventure to end in disappointment for my father, who clearly wanted to add some new myths to his storytelling arsenal.

“I’ve got something!” I heard him exclaim behind me. Unfortunately, when he pulled in his line, he found an immature, six-inch machaca wriggling at the end of it.

Thankfully, his next strikes yielded a pair of two-pound fish that were tossed into an ice chest after a few quick smacks to the head. After another hour, I managed to add another to our haul. It wasn’t enough to brag about, but it would be enough for dinner.

Finish reading this story on the Washington Post website.


Up to Snuff

Though D.C.’s restaurants and bars have been smoke-free since 2007, tobacco is still finding its way in. Chefs and mixologists are incorporating loose leaves to add a slight kick and a compelling dried-grass finish that works especially well with darker beverages like bourbon, coffee and black tea. “You get the flavor of a cigarette,” says Jack Rose bartender Amy Russell of the restaurant’s tobacco-infused cocktail, “without smelling like an ashtray after you drink it.” And although these tobacco-laced cocktails (and one dessert) are tempting enough to double up on, you won’t need to worry about developing a nicotine habit, as the amount in them is negligible.

Smoker’s Delight

PX, 728 King St., Alexandria; 703-299-8385, (Braddock Road)

A few years back, Restaurant Eve chef Cathal Armstrong was trying to quit smoking. His master mixologist, Todd Thrasher, decided to taunt him during his detox with a cigarette-inspired cocktail, the Smoker’s Delight ($13), which he featured on the menu at his nearby speakeasy, PX. Thrasher created a sweet “tea” out of sugar, water and a small amount of dried tobacco. “I change the type of tobacco all the time,” Thrasher says. “I started with a Virginia varietal, but I’ve used clove cigarettes and pipe tobacco.” He combines an eyedropper’s worth of this mixture, Woodford Reserve bourbon, a squeeze of fresh lemon and a little honey syrup and serves it up in a martini glass with a coil of lemon peel.

Finish reading this article on the Washington Post Express website now.

Photo courtesy of PX.


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,
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.


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.


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.