New York has Coney Island dogs, Hawaii is the home of puka dogs, and the Windy City is famous for Chicago dogs. The District has its own specialty sausage: the half-smoke. For more than half a century, these kielbasa-sized wieners have been D.C.’s favorite street food.
Like many regional favorites, there is a long-standing debate over what constitutes a classic half-smoke, but there are some generally agreed upon elements.
First of all, there should be a snap when you bite through the casing. The meat mixture inside is oftentimes half pork and half beef, possessing both slightly spicy and smoky notes. Either grilled whole or split down the middle, these quarter pounders are then popped into fresh steamed or griddled buns. Toppings vary, but almost always include chili with some spots adding a combination of shredded cheddar, a squirt of mustard, freshly diced onions and relish.
Oftentimes, chefs don’t want to cook a meal once they get home after an arduous 12-hour stretch behind the burners. But throwing together a comforting snack to help take the edge off the day is another proposition entirely. These scrumptious nibbles don’t require a degree from the Culinary Institute of America to make, but they’re worthy of winning a Top Chef Quickfire Challenge.
For our inaugural installment, we hit up Bourbon Steak’s executive chef Adam Sobel. He kindly shared his recipe for baked golden Gruyere gougères, which are the perfect way to unwind after a long shift – no matter what you do for a living.
There’s a lot of fowl play going on these days. That’s because local chefs have discovered that turkey — so often relegated to the Thanksgiving table or between slices of bread — can up the innovation and nutrition content of their menus. “It’s lean, high in protein and has more flavor than chicken,” says Bourbon Steak’s executive chef, Adam Sobel, who has created a Pilgrim-friendly burger. Here’s how they’re flipping the bird every day.
Bayou Bakery (1515 N. Courthouse Road, Arlington; 703-243-2410)
Chef-owner David Guas’ wife doesn’t eat red meat or pork, but he didn’t want to strike meatballs from his home kitchen. So, he created a turkey alternative with enough Southern sass that he decided to also serve them at his NOLA-inspired eatery ($6 for four). “It’s a tender, moist meatball with great flavor,” Guas says. “And it’s heart-healthy.” Freshly ground gobbler, pureed Vidalia onions, bell peppers and garlic get balled up, coated in Creole spices and blackened in the oven before coming out to be served in a pool of roasted tomato sauce. You can cut back on the calorie content by asking that the Parmesan and breadcrumbs that normally top it be held.
There’s a sizzle in the air these days. Steakhouses are stealing the spotlight with fired-up earnings reports, expansions and hot new menu items that are stoking consumer appetites. They’re even taking over reality television as chefs compete on the current season of Gordon Ramsay’s “Hell’s Kitchen” to win the head chef position at BLT Steak.
This is welcome news, because over the last three years steakhouses were getting burned. In 2008 and 2009, beef sales as a whole were down in both restaurants and grocery stores. Despite this dip, the average American still ate almost 60 pounds of beef in 2008, according to the industry newsletter Cattle-Fax, while statistics tabulated by Technomic show that commercial restaurant operators still bought 5.4 billion pounds of beef that year. “People have been loyal to their protein purchases,” says Russell Woodward, senior manager for product marketing at the Texas Beef Council. Though beef took a hit overall, it remained the top selling protein in restaurants, according to a study by Technomic.