Welcome to Dining In

On the surface, the challenge is simple – prepare a meal that consists of at least three courses (appetizer, entrĂ©e and dessert) and write about it. The bigger challenge, however, is to create an eating experience at home that transcends time and place and engages all the senses. It’s a meal that includes great food and wine for the palate and the nose, a sense of anticipation for the brain, a presentation and table that is a feast for the eyes and background music to set the tone.

If you would like to join, please fill out the form to the right and we will send you an invitation and the writer's guidelines for the Dining In blog.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

The Cooking Channel

The Food Network is starting a spin off  -- The Cooking Channel. Here's the story in the NY Times.

I'm glad, they're doing this. I've been bored with The Food Network for a long time -- really since they got rid of Emeril and Mario Batali. I hope they don't junk it up the way they did The Food Network -- with all those stupid challenges and contest shows.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Comeback for the Blue Crab

The Chesapeake's blue crabs, in decline for a decade, has more than doubled in two years, reaching its highest level since 1997. Here's the story in the Washington Post. Now why can't they do the same thing for the oyster? Anyway, it's a guilt free crab fest this year.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celebrating the Saints in March

St. Patrick's Day Menu
March 17
Celebrated Saturday, March 13

Even though St. Patrick's Day is March 17, we always celebrate on the Saturday before or after. I never celebrated St. Patrick's Day (at least not at home with a meal) until I met Doug, who is Irish. The menu is below. Nothing too adventurous here. It's all about tradition:

Corned Beef (bought 2 briskets at Wegman's and used the little pickling packet that comes with the corned beef.)
Mashed Potatoes

Mint Brownies

Smithwick Beer

Cook the corned beef according to the directions on the package. Don't leave out the pickling spices, it really ads a lot. When the corned beef is about an half hour to an hour from being done, add the carrots and onions. When it's about 15 min to a half hour from being done add the cabbage. To make Colcannon saute half a head of shredded cabbage (make sure it's shredded and chopped into tiny pieces) in about a half stick of butter until the cabbage is tender. Salt and pepper to taste. You can also grate a little nutmeg into it. Make mashed potatoes as you normally would -- adding butter and milk until smooth. Mix mashed potatoes and cabbage.  You can add more or less cabbage, depending on your taste. Serve hot.

St. Joseph's Day
March 19

We celebrated this day on Saturday, March 20, but St. Joseph's Day is actually March 19. St. Joseph is the patron saint of Italy and my father was his namesake, so we always celebrated this day in our house growing up. This year I made Scallops with Spaghetti Eugenie, a recipe I cut out of the New York Times magazine almost 20 years ago. It is delicious. It calls for a pint of Bay Scallops, but I use sea scallops, which I sear and place on top of the spaghetti before serving it. The spaghetti is sprinkled with breadcrumbs instead of grated cheese, which is perfect for St. Joseph's Day when the traditional garnishment for pasta is breadcrumbs. The breadcrumbs are to remind you of sawdust because St. Joseph was a carpenter. Some red flowers. Some red wine. A Frank Sinatra playlist. That's all you need. A great meal.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Oysters and the Chesapeake Bay

A 99% depletion in oysters in the Chesapeake Bay!? For god sakes, fish for something else and give them a chance to come back before they become extinct. I believe in eating locally raised food, but in this case I think we should be boycotting. When it comes to fish, we need to talk about sustainability. Also a great report on the general health of the Chesapeake Bay, which is not so great.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The Underground Supper Clubs of DC

Another cool story in the Washington Post, this one is particularly apropos to this blog. I don't think I could ever do this, the pressure would be too great and take all the joy out of cooking. But it might be fun with a few carefully chosen friends and acquaintances.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Cocktails with Dinner?

This is a trend I applaud. In fact, I'm going to give it a try this weekend. I may be calling in sick on Monday, but as they say, you can make the drinks smaller.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Let's Discuss -- Supporting The Washington, DC Foodshed

Here's an article about a group of students from Columbia University discussing a "foodshed"  with a planner from a nearby rural county. The article doesn't really say what a foodshed is, but here's a definition I found on line.

I find it a little disconcerting to find strawberries and asparagus in the grocery store all year long. I can't say that the quality of that food is good, not to mention the energy and global warming issues. Don't get me wrong, I'm not above buying it sometimes -- who doesn't want strawberries on Valentine's Day. But I like to support local farmers and fishermen/women, which isn't always easy particularly with the farmers. They live there and I live here and they pretty much disappear when the farmers' markets close.

It seems to me that if the "locally grown food movement" is going to grow, it has to become easier. I'm happy to see the grocery stores touting locally grown food. Of course at this time of year you don't see much of it. I'm wondering, what percentage of the average shopper's fresh food purchase -- produce, meat, eggs, dairy -- is grown within a 100-mile radius of their city. It would be a  good survey. I'd like to see the food section of the Washington Post take it on.

Anyway, I'd like to get your thoughts and comments on the local food movement. Is it worth the inconvenience and expense? Is there a way to make it more acceptable to you and others? What are your thoughts on how foodies, bloggers, grocers and shoppers can best support it? Should government be involved? Post your comments.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Fall Feast in Syracuse

In November, Cheryl and I got together at her house in Syracuse for a “girls only” weekend. The main event was the dinner we prepared on Friday night, which featured the recipes of Ina Garten and Mario Batali.

We started out with an antipasto. Ina never apologizes for assembling and neither will I.  An antipasto, my mother always told me, should be sweet and bitter, so I always try to include some sweet items along with the savory.  Most of the ingredients for this plate came from Wegman's Mediterranean Olive Bar. This plate included cheese, marinated mushrooms, melon wrapped in prosciutto, a tomato topping for bruschetta, olives, bread and a garnish of pomegranate, lemon and leaves.  The cocktail in the foreground is Cheryl’s Pomegranate juice and vodka on the rocks. The cocktail in the back is a dry Cosmopolitan – my drink of choice.

The next course was the Barefoot Contessa’s Onion Soup , which Cheryl prepared.

The salad course consisted of Mario Batali’s Shaved Fennel with Blood Oranges, Pomegranate Seeds and Pecorino. We couldn’t find blood oranges in November, so I used grapefruit. Not quite the same, but it was ok.  This is really a great salad to make in January and February when you can find blood oranges in the grocery store. This salad is all about flavor and texture. Every bite is five different experiences – sweetness, saltiness, cold, wet, crunchy … it’s awesome. Worth the effort.

Another Mario Batali dish was the main course – Lasagna Bolognese Al Forno. One of my all time favorite recipes and it never fails to wow the crowd. You have to use fresh pasta sheets for the lasagna. It really does make all the differences.  This is very rich with a lot of meat, but the tender layers of fresh pasta make each bite melt in your mouth. There’s very little cheese in this recipe, but the cheese is quite strong, so a little goes a long way.  Again – labor intensive, but worth every step. The picture here doesn't do the dish justice. It may look like the dog's lunch in the photo, but it is fabulous.

We finished the evening with a simple, but delicious Barefoot Contessa recipe – Frozen Berries with Hot White Chocolate.

To accompany all this we had an Italian wine, an Aglianico -- Tenuta del Portale Aglianico del Vulture Riserva 2004.  I thought it was delicious. 

The playlist (posted below) was a mix of fall-themed music.

Landslide, Fleetwood Mac
Ridgetop, Jesse Colin Young
Haunting, Carly Simon
We Just Got Here, Carly Simon
Season Of The Witch, Donovan
Stormy Weather, Etta James
How Deep Is The Ocean?, Etta James
Fields Of Gold, Eva Cassidy
Autum Leaves, Eva Cassidy
Witchcraft, Frank Sinatra & Anita Baker
All Things Must Pass, George Harrison
Anyway the Wind Blows, J.J. Cale & Eric Clapton
Spooky, Martha Reeves
The Long Black Veil, The Chieftains
Harvest, Neil Young
When The Leaves Come Falling Down, Van Morrison
Golden Autumn Day, Van Morrison
All Saints Day, Van Morrison
Moondance, Van Morrison
September Grass, James Taylor
October Road, James Taylor
Urge for Going, Joni Mitchell