Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Old Town Alexandria: Fontaine Caffe & Creperie

The other day Carrie and I were trying to decide on somewhere to go for lunch and ended up at Fontaine Caffe & Creperie, right off of King Street, in Old Town Alexandria. 

We went halfsies on two savory crepes. Our favorite was the Moroccan spinach and feta topped with a mint-yogurt sauce $10.95If you have ever had a spinach pie at a Lebanese restaurant (or from other middle eastern cuisines) this is reminiscent of one. Something about spinach and feta just goes so well together. The mint-yogurt sauce was a lovely touch and added a brightness to the dish. We were not as big fans of the Old Towner ham, sauteed spinach, caramelized onions $10.95. The texture of the ham was a little off, and although it is hard to believe, there were way too many caramelized onions that were not quite caramelized enough. 
Would I come back? Yes, this was a great place for lunch - loved the side salad served with the crepes. Maybe avoid the Old Towner. Next time I am trying a sweet crepe!!  

119 South Royal Street
Alexandria, VA
Fontaine Caffe & Creperie on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Recap: Lamb Jam DC VIP Seminar at the Occidental 2015 "Curriculamb: Lamb 101"

Two weeks ago, I was invited to the VIP Seminar, "Curriculamb: Lamb 101" for the DC Lamb Jam. Lamb Jam is put on by the American Lamb Board. ALB helps host events in Seattle, Boston, Austin, San Francisco and DC, where the winners from each city compete for the ultimate title - the LAMB JAM MASTER.
This year was DC's 5th Lamb Jam (this year is the 6th Lamb Jam - which started in Seattle), and the VIP Seminar was hosted by the winner of last year's Jam, Chef Rodney Scruggs of The Occidental. Also co-hosting was last years winner of Boston's Jam, Chef Nemo Bolin of Cook and Brown Public House in Providence, Rhode Island. After tasting their winning dishes from last year, I can see why they each won in their respective cities. 
After arriving at The Occidental for the event, Nadia and I bee-lined straight for the bar. They offered local beer (Devil's Backbone), French wine and a "Lambtastic Libation" made with local rye whiskey (Catoctin). It had strawberry puree, apple vinegar, jalapeno, simple syrup and soda water - very light and refreshing. I had to try one of each of the drinks throughout the night (the woe's of blogging) and was happy to report that each was delicious. 
With drinks in hand, we claimed a spot at the table (by the bar of course). The tables were adorned with awesome lamb guides giving tips on cooking, pairing and recipes. Along with that we received a meat thermometer and an apron. 
With our spot claimed, we wandered around - meeting the adorable French Master Butcher, Marc, of Four Seasons in Baltimore, who would later on butcher an entire lamb in front of the group. It was not as bad as you think, take it from someone with a weak stomach. 
We also wandered back to the outdoor grill that you had to pass when entering and checked out Chef Nemo and Chef Rodney working together to grill some lamb that was going to passed around for an appetizer. Teamwork. 
The passed appetizers were a lamb croquette, lamb sausage and a lamb chop. While all delicious, the chop was my favorite. 
While they were passing out appetizers, Master Butcher Marc started butchering the lamb and explaining all of the different cuts. 
Each chef presented us with 2 dishes - their winning creation from last year, and a new dish of their choosing. The first dish brought out was the winner from last year's DC Lamb Jam by Chef Rodney Scruggs - the Dagwood Sandwich. I LOVED the salty-sweet combo of the goat cheese and strawberry preserves paired with the lamb. I'm a huge fan of fruit with my cheese, and peppery arugula...mmm. The last dish of the night (and Chef Rodney's second) was grilled lamb with a avocado, pearl couscous and a berry compote thing. By this time I was stuffed so I just ate the lamb which was wonderful. You know it's a good cut when it shines on its own. 
The second dish we had was a Scotch Egg by Chef Nemo. Although I had never had a scotch egg before because eggs sometimes creep me out - I decided to try it and was super impressed. The egg was cooked perfectly inside. The fried lamb exterior paired with the spicy harissa, tangy yogurt and creamy yolk made for a party in your mouth. 
For Chef Nemo's, second dish, the Banh Mi inspired sandwich, he wanted to make something that the home cook could replicate. While he explained how to make it, Rodney took over the grill. While his ingredients are from scratch - the home cook can definitely take shortcuts, easily being able to make this dish at home! 
We also got to sample some of the freshly carved lamb that they grilled up in front of us. So amazing. All it needed was a little salt and pepper and the lamb spoke for itself. 
Before leaving, I made sure to get a photo with Chef Rodney. Both he and Chef Nemo were great - they were not stuck up and were willing to talk to everyone. Chef Rodney even recognized me at Sunday's Lamb Jam and made an effort to talk with me. Respect. 
Tickets for this event were $100, but my +1 and another blogger and her +1  both agreed that this was well worth the money. From what I hear this VIP Seminar is different from what they have done in previous years, but please, don't change a thing. If this is the way it is set up next year, and I don't get invited (but I would love to be - ;)) - I would be willing to buy my own ticket - that's how much fun I had. Thanks for a great night!! 
I also want to throw in a shout-out to the employees at The Occidental - one of our table mates was gluten and dairy free and they were very accommodating without complaint! 

DC Lamb Jam review coming soon! 

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Although I was invited to attend this event with a +1, I was not paid, nor was I required to write about it. 

Friday, May 15, 2015

DC Weekend: American Lamb - DC Lamb Jam

Love lamb? Need something to do this weekend? Look no further, because I have something exciting for you. The American Lamb Board is hosting a culinary cook-off with some of DC's wonderful chefs at Union Market this Sunday, May 17.. 

This years categories for dishes are Best in Show,” “People’s Choice” and “Best Global Flavor.

There are two parts to the DC Lamb Jam going on this weekend. I will be attending both - come say hi if you attend! 

Winning dish from the recent lamb event in Boston (photo from Harvest PR)

1. Friday night VIP event hosted at the Occidental in DC, $100 a ticket 6:00-9:00PM
  • 2014 Boston Lamb Jam and Lamb Jam Finale Champion, Chef Nemo Bolin of Cook & Brown Brown Public House will join 2014 DC Lamb Jam Champion, Chef Rodney Scruggs of Occidental Grill & Seafood for a one-time only collaboration “Curriculamb Dinner” 
  • A one of a kind panel including both chefs, a local butcher, a sommelier, and an American Lamb Producer will explain the entire “shepherd to chef” concept – walking guests through how lamb is raised, the various cuts found at your local butcher shop, and simple tips for grilling at home! 
  • Guests will enjoy h’orderves and cocktails, four unique American lamb concepts including Chef Rodney and Chef Nemo’s previous winning dishes, local wine, beer, and spirits 
  • Each guest will leave with one pound of American lamb to take home and cook with! 
2. Lamb Jam Grand Tasting, Union Market 4:00-7:00PM $60 a ticket
  • 16 of the most talented chefs from the DC area 
  • Beer and wine from DC’s top breweries and winemakers 
  • Interactive photo booth 
  • DIY lamb spice rub station 
  • Butcher demonstration 

Now, I know this is a little pricey, but - if you have the money, it will be worth it! Plus part of the proceeds will be going to D.C. Central Kitchen - so you are pretty much eating to donate to charity. Makes perfect sense to me. 

Come hang out with me and try all the delicious variations on lamb!  Check out the chefs / restaurants below that will be participating (16 different lamb dishes!!!), as well as bunch of awesome sponsors
  1. Chef Rodney Scruggs - The Occidental Grill & Seafood
  2. Chef Nemo Polin - Cook & Brown Public House
  3. Chef Adam Howard - Mike Isabella Concepts
  4. Chef Victor Albisu - Taco Bamba
  5. Chef Ed Witt - The Partisan
  6. Chef Austin Fausett - Trummer's on Main
  7. Chef George Rodrigues - TICO
  8. Chef Nathan Beauchamp - Fainting Goat
  9. Chef Will Artley - BLT Steak DC
  10. Chef Dylan Fultineer - Rappahannock
  11. Chef Greg Sharpe - Belle Haven Country Club
  12. Chef Kyle Bailey - The Arsenal at BlueJacket
  13. Chef Matt Baker - City Perch Kitchen + Bar
  14. Chef Mario Raymond - The Washington Court Hotel
  15. Chef Brian McPherson - Jackson 20
  16. Chef Franck Loquet - iCi Urban Bistro
  17. Chef Dimitri Moshovitis - Cava Mezze
  18. Chef Michael Costa - Zaytinya

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Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Staunton, VA: Cranberry's Eatery and Grocery

Back in February, some friends and I had a girls weekend in Staunton, VA (more to come on that later). About a block from our hotel was a quaint shop called Cranberry's - I had read a lot about it and decided that we needed to go there for breakfast. 

Not only a restaurant, they are also a mini grocery (I would classify them as a healthy/organic product convenience store). I picked up a few essential oils while I was there.

On to the good stuff. I ordered the Immigrant Scramble $7.99 scrambled eggs, diced ham, cheddar, bell peppers, onions, tomato with toast. This was very simple, delicious and well balanced omelet. The cheddar and veggies balanced each other out very nicely. 
I also ordered the Hash Brown Casserole $5.79 potatoes, onions, cheese for the table. Heaven in a ramekin. If you like cheese, or potatoes, or moments of extreme joy then you need this. 
Carrie ordered the Breakfast Burrito $7.49 scrambled eggs, cheddar cheese, black beans, brown rice, red onion, tomato and salsa in a flour tortilla. Another winning dish. This was flavorful and filling without being overfilling like burritos normally are. 
Sam ordered the Oatmeal Bake $5.79 oatmeal muffin served with bananas and maple syrup. Sam said she loved this dish. 
Sarah ordered an Everything Bagel and thought it was decent - nothing special. Would have been better used on a breakfast sandwich. 
I had to try one of their fresh smoothies, so I chose the Crancherry $4.79, their signature smoothie with cranberry juice, cherries, bananas, soy or hemp protein powder. I enjoyed it and would order it again. 
I was very happy with Cranberry's. It was a great place to get a bite to eat and to wander around after to see what sort of fun things they sell. I can see how this place could get pretty crowded when the weather is warmer and there is a lot more tourism in the area. If you happen to be hungover (I was not) either of the egg dishes or hashbrown casserole that we ordered would be perfect. In fact the only complaint that we had was that their coffee was pretty terrible - all the serious coffee drinkers (and a former barista) were very disappointed in it. 
Would I come back? Yes, this is a quaint, simple, no fuss eatery. 

7 South New Street
Staunton, VA
Cranberry's Grocery & Eatery on Urbanspoon

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