A Pennsylvania Avenue Food Show Down

12 Feb

Sometimes, in this crazy thing called life, we are forced to choose sides. Cats vs dogs. Seinfield vs Newman. Yankees vs Red Sox.

Have you experienced D.C.’s ultimate fast food faceoff, courtesy of chef Spike Mendelsohn?

Okay, okay, so this might be a bit melodramatic. But it’s true that Chef Spike has introduced a dilemma to the lives of Capitol Hill dwellers such as myself: burgers or pizza?

I like Chef Spike, despite that I didn’t watch his season of Top Chef and that he made some locals grumpy last year by calling D.C. a “second-tier city”.  (That one hurt, Chef.)

His Good Stuff Eatery opened up in 2008 at a prime Pennsylvania Avenue location, and We, The Pizza moved right next door in 2010, effectively dominating the block with affordable lunch options for hill staffers and non-politicos alike.

Make no mistake – these are both essentially fast food joints. But sometimes all you really need is a nice, cheesy piece of pizza and/or  a creamy milkshake, am I wrong? And the food at both of these venues is well above what you would ever find at the golden arches or your standard jumbo slice establishment.

And I have to admit that Good Stuff’s farm-themed decor makes this rural girl happy.

We, The Pizza

Love It: 
  • The buffalo chicken pizza can not be missed. The the Forest Shroomin’ pie is also a keeper.
  • The soda fountain is a fun touch – ask for the C.R.E.A.M. soda. The barista will  whip one up from scratch!
Leave It:
  • The gelato is not very flavorful, despite the proclamation that it’s homemade on site.
Notes:
The $10 for two slices and a soda deal is a good value. But be forewarned:  the  place gets busy. Really busy. I have run into some ver-r-r-y slow service on  multiple occasions. (Think one hour + wait for a couple of slices of pizza. Not good.)
 

Good Stuff Eatery

Love It:
  • The  Farm House cheeseburger is probably the freshest-tasting, juiciest burger that I have had in D.C.
  •  You must, must get a milkshake. Order the Dulce de Leche for a caramel-vanilla treat or opt for the Toasted Marshmellow.
  •  Spike’s Village Fries come with fresh thyme, rosemary, and sea salt and the  regular size bag is big enough to share. Check out the array of specialty mayos and dips.
Leave It:
  • The chicken sandwiches are okay, but let’s face it, this place is really about  the beef.
Notes:
The food is more expensive than most burger joints. Burgers run $6-8 and  milkshakes are $5. The portions are not particularly generous.
 

Verdict:


To me, Good Stuff outedges We, the Pizza due to consistent service and food that never fails to impress me.  If you go, be sure to scan the room for the guy with the beard and the fedora on. You might just see Chef Spike himself.

And a word to the wise: both are closed on Sundays!

Have you visited these fine establishments? What is your vote?

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Super Bowl ‘Skins

6 Feb

So, yesterday was kind of a big deal for football fans. Maybe you heard about it? Or maybe you only made it though the game to catch the first episode of The Voice, season two?

I admit it, guilty as charged…

But even if you don’t really care which team wins big, the Super Bowl is always a good excuse to enjoy some good old-fashioned party food of the greasy, potato-ey, cheese-y variety.

Behold:

(Photo courtesy YourHomeBasedMom)

PW’s Potato Skins, as found in the Holy Grail of country cooking The Pioneer Woman Cooks by Ree Drummond, definitely bring the “wow” factor.

Adapted Recipe:

4 slices of bacon
8 (smallish) russet potatoes, scrubbed clean
olive oil
kosher salt
A couple of generous handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
Dollops of sour cream to taste
4 green onions, chopped finely

Preheat the oven to 400 F.
Rub the outside of the scrubbed potatoes with olive oil and salt.  Place on foil lined baking sheet and bake for 45 minutes. Make sure they are fork tender!

Slice potatoes in half, lengthwise. With a spoon or small scoop, scrape out the inner flesh of the potatoes, leaving a small margin of potato in the skins.*

Brush both sides of the potato skins with olive oil and salt liberally.  Place potatoes cut side down on the pan and return to the oven.  Bake for 7 minutes; flip skins over and bake for 7 minutes more.

Cook bacon and chop into small bits.  Set aside.  Grate the cheese if you haven’t already. Chop green onions, too.

When the skins are crisp, remove from the oven and sprinkle each with cheese and bacon pieces.  Stick them back in the oven until the cheese melts.  Just before serving, add a dollop of sour cream onto each skin and sprinkle with sliced green onion.

* Warning – this is tricky, and your fingers will probably get burned. But it is worth it, so never fear!

I whipped up some of these bad boys yesterday and they did not disappoint. So simple, yet so delicious. Make them for your next get-together and you will not have to worry about what to do with the leftovers. (Get it? Because there won’t be any!)

Now for the good part:

  • If you ever wondered where exactly that sour cream (or cheese or milk or ice cream) came from, l would like to introduce you to one of my favorite bloggers, Barbara Martin, otherwise known as The Dairy Goddess, a third generation California dairy farmer who loves to blog about cheese, cows, and a little country fashion thrown in for good measure. Check out her blog at: http://dairygoddess.wordpress.com. Visit Barbara’s blog. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You might even learn something!

  • Have you seen these new commercials from McDonald’s that feature real farmers? Regardless of how you feel about Mickey D’s, I think it is pretty refreshing to have honest-to-goodness farmers being showcased in this manner. Check out the below ad featuring potato farmer Frank Martinez.

Like the ad? Loathe the ad? Make something particularly delicious for your Super Bowl get-together? Leave a comment below!

An Introduction…

29 Jan

(Image via National Archives)

 Do you long for the days when butter actually had its own legitimate food group? (Seriously. Check out the above chart from WWII.) Do you refer to Food Network chefs on a first name basis? (Not just Emeril or Paula, but Giada too.) Is D.C. Restaurant Week one of your favorite holidays of the year?

If so, I think this could be the start of a beautiful friendship.

In my day job, I help promote the importance of American agriculture. In this space. I want to celebrate good food by highlighting tried-and-true recipes from my own ‘test kitchen’ and spotlight some great places to find a good bite to eat in the district.

Since most of us are so removed from where our food comes from – seriously, only about two percent of us live and work on a farm, it’s crazy – I want to go a step further by “introducing” a few of the farmers who make our meals possible. You may not know it, but there is a vibrant, passionate group of agriculture advocates (ag-vocates, if you will) that are using social media to talk about their way of life.

Food is a hot topic, and I’m ready to dive into the conversation. Won’t you join me?