Posts Tagged ‘Barracks Row’
Oooh, la La..Champagne & Sparkling Wine Tasting on Barracks Row
I attended a really fun Sparkling Wine Comparison Tasting of Champagne vs. The Rest at the Hill Center as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013. There were actually 2 speakers at the event: Burnie Williams of Chat’s Liquors who did most of the educational component of the event and a French gentleman I only remember as “Charles” who spoke about the specifics of the 4 wines we tasted because he imported them.
The Wine: There were 4 sparkling wines poured of which 2 were non-Champagne (one Italian, one French Cremant) and two “true” Champagnes. (I’ve included “suggested retail price” which usually means you can get them for a bit less..)
- Ca’ dei Zago DOC Proseccor Coi Fondo 2010 – Prosecco is actually made in a less expensive method than traditional Champagne – the Charmat method, where the second fermentation is done in tank. This was also a pretty dry version of Prosecco – they usually are a bit more sweet.
- Klein “Cremant d’Alsace” Chardonnay Extra Brut (Alsace, France), $29.99 – very nice Chardonnay based sparkler – pretty good value.
- Champagne Francois Diligent Rose Cote de Bar, NV (Champagne, France), $36.99- this wine was a bit funky, but I think the cork had ruined it..
- Laherte Freres “Les Vignes d’Autrefois-A Chavot” Extra Brut, 2006 (Champagne, France) $74.99 – My favorite by a long shot – price doesn’t always determine quality, but this wine had the wine on the lees for 3 years in bottle and this created that nutty, smokey, yeasty complexity that I LOVE in Champagne – by this one for me!
The Education: Burnie Williams, the owner of Chat’s Liquors did an excellent job of covering a pretty involved and complex topic. You see, sparkling wines are created different from other wines – they must go through a second fermentation to create the bubbles, the first fermentation creates the “wine” and alcohol. He did an excellent job of covering both the history (yep, Dom Perignon was NOT the inventor of sparkling wine!) and the process of making sparkling wines. I’ve attended many sparkling wine classes so rather than bore with you with all the details, the most interesting parts of making this type of wine are:
Lees – these are the dead yeast that drop to the bottom of the barrel or bottle, depending on how you’re aging your wine. If you let them stay with the wine and age, they create a yeasty/nutty flavor and aroma, if you take them away (slightly different than “filtering” a wine, but similar process), then the wine will have a cleaner more fruit-driven expression.
Riddling – this is the process of turning the bottles a few turns every so often for maybe a year or two to get the dead yeast from the 2nd fermentation out of the wine. This was once done by humans wearing cages on their face to prevent chards of glass from cutting their faces if the bottles exploded (19th century bottles had poor technology!), but now often done by machines.
Disgorging – After riddling, the dead yeast/lees are now upside down in the bottle and form a plug of..dead yeast! This has to be removed or “disgorged” – the way it’s done today is by freezing this gook but putting the bottles part way into an ice bath with salted water – the low temperature freezes only the plug and thus it is pulled out.
Dosage – This is after the dead lees are taken out, the final flavor and sugar level is added back – Brut is less sugar than Extra Dry, so the type of flavor/sweetness is determined at this point.
Overall, had a really fun time at this event and it was a helluva deal at such a low price! I’m chatting it up with Chat’s Liquors to do more tasting events – DC has very few wine tastings right now, and the demand is there. As always, keep drinking good sparkling wine, Champagne or whatever is in your glass..you only live once – Cheers!
Charlie “I Drink on the Job” Adler
DC Foodie StartUP Competition
And the Winner is..
I attended a Startup Kitchen competition sponsored by ThinkLocalFirstDC on Monday, February 25th held at the Tabula Rasa event space at Barracks Row, a main street of Capital Hill in Washington, D.C. The competitors for this competition were Yael Krigman of Baked by Yael , Nadia Mitchem of S’Mores Amore and Meg Murray of Thunder Pig Confectionary. The Concept of this event was that 3 food producers in the DC area compete to raise funds for their culinary venture. In a nutshell, The winner was offered an 8-week incubation and mentorship program with Penny Karas of Hello Cupcake in her Barracks Row location – here’s the actual competition info:
Through a competitive process modeled on the Kauffman Foundation’s StartUp Weekend, food entrepreneurs will be given the opportunity to present their concepts before a panel of food industry veterans who will critique their business plans, offer constructive advice and review the general soundness of the concepts. The selected winner of the competition will be given access to an existing restaurant during its off hours, mentorship of the incubating business owner as well as assistance marketing and running a ticketed Pop-Up of their concept for six weeks. The restaurateur will receive 75% of ticket sales from restaurant as well as feedback from the consumers dining. The long-term goal is the growth of StartUp Kitchen incubators citywide. StartUp Kitchen is a joint partnership between Think Local First DC and NURISH: Center for Creative Culinary Economy.
The evening began with a nice reception of sparkling wine and tons of sweets – take a look..About 50 people watched the Judges and the competitors each make 10 minute presentations with 10 minutes of mostly Judge questioning. Yael started and of course we got to sample her Cakepop. Yael was very seasoned and professional, but maybe the presentation was a bit “canned” – her background was as a Corporate Lawyer, and it really showed for 2 reasons: 1)she’s a perfectionis and she had pretty much memorized her verbal presentation, 2)she was very secretive about her financial matters. Although I understand were she was coming from, she really needed to let go a bit and show the passion..maybe even show a little emotion – it’s obvious she could make WAY more money as a corporate attorney, the only reason to get into a Startup food business is an emotional release and the “possibility” of one day making it Big. I also thought her Cake Pops were too sweet and when I heard the retail price was $2.75 for essentially 2 bites of cake and icing, I didn’t get it! Having said this, I spoke with her afterwards and I actually felt her desire to succeed – I mentioned that her concept would do best as a corporate event giveaway or for weddings and personal catered events – there is no reason to open up a storefront and compete with the world!
The next competitors were the S’mores Amore ladies – they focused on their presentation on the vegetarian and potentially vegan aspect of their s’mores. To be honest, I really enjoyed their product with the crunchy cookie and chocolate, but the marshmallow..well, it wasn’t really a marshmallow – it had no fluff to it..this is because they don’t use gelatin because it’s an animal-based product. My thoughts were these were 2 passionate food producers who don’t really need a storefront – there are enough family, friends and friends of friends in their circles for them both to make a nice profit just selling there. Too many entrepreneurs want to open a storefront and expand too quickly before they’ve exhausted their existing resources – the people they already know. The other reason to focus on your existing personal networks is feedback – is there really enough demand for vegetarian desserts, should this just be an option that they offer?
And the final presentation was the winning presenter – Megan Murray of Thunder Pig Confectionary (here’s an article of her win on Eater) – This was an easy choice for a few reasons: 1)She showed the passion and even a bit of nervousness in her presenation that just made it very Real, 2)Her background and culinary training plus she works at a fine dining restaurant in the region (The Foodie Mafia!), 3)Even though she sampled 3 products, they were all very good (especially the Salted Caramel and the Marshmallows!) and 4)She knew her competitive market or at least mentioned that – it’s next to impossible to find decent caramels and handmade marshmallows in the DC market. I also found out that she was already producing her products for wholesale at Union Kitchen, a new culinary incubator which just began in the area. She won the competition and I’m sure you’ll hear about her products soon in the DC area!
How To Make Pasta with Class
I’ve been to many cooking classes and in fact many Pasta Making classes so it was really fun to attend a creative take on a cooking class organized as part of the Barracks Row Culinary Education Crawl on Sunday, February 17th, 2013 held at various restaurants on Capitol Hill, Washington, D.C. as well as the Hill Center at the Old Naval Hospital – a truly cool space!
I took 2 classes, but this article will only cover the class Pasta Making With Chef Wendi – a 60 minute class where 12 total participants got to make our own pasta and share in the meal afterwards – all for a whopping 20 Bucks! I’ll take you through a quick run-through of the class:
Instructor: Wendi James who teaches quite a few culinary classes at other schools in the region including at Culinaerie, Sur La Table – Pentagon City, VA (or she said she once did – another story!) and at her own cooking school Rutabaga Sweets. I spoke with her before class and she has quite a pedigree having worked at many top-rated restaurants in the U.S. (she worked at Restaurant Daniel NYC, The Inn at Little Washington and Charlie Trotters Chicago) and hailing from serious Foodie City Chicago. Her attitude was refreshingly honest and she spoke her mind about the local restaurant scene and her plans to open up a breakfast place in Asheville, NC. As an instructor, she was direct and “get to work” – but of course we only had 1 hour to make both hand-roll fettucine and ravioli with the hand-cranking pasta machines – no time to dilly-dally..
Pasta Ingredients – simple..all you really need is All-Purpose flour, some eggs, and a little olive oil (you could actually skip the olive oil). I was working with 2 other cooks who had never made pasta homemade before. Maybe you can get a little fancy and learn to crack an egg with one hand, but one secret to getting the egg in the flour with No Shell is to crack the egg against a flat surface NOT the bowl. If you mix it in a bowl, it’s very forgiving, but it’s nice to make a small “well” in the middle of the flour to hold the eggs and then swirl a fork (or your hand – watch out, it can get sticky/messy!) until the ingredients all become a dough..if it’s too sticky, add some flour, if it’s too dry, add a little water, it’s very forgiving.
The Facility and Setup: Class is held in Hill Center’s state-of-the Art teaching kitchen. It was relatively small – only fitting 1 instructor and 12 participants, but it was truly an easy kitchen to learn from and to do hands-on cooking. There was the main table where everyone gathered round in a circle with the burners, and then there were 2 work tables in the back for up to 6 participants each. Things were kept very simple – we were given a bowl of flour and eggs, some olive oil and a tablespoon, and the ravioli filler which we had to cut up the basil and add to the ricotta and parmesan cheese to put into the ravioli’s – just like Italian food, there were simple ingredients and simple instructions. If you’ve ever been to Italy and have seen how pasta is made – it’s very simple and traditionally was done by Grandma at home. BTW – you can also make pasta without the eggs and just using water – that’s how it’s often done in the south of Italy. And then, we had to roll..
Once you make the dough, you can wait an hour or immediately begin rolling it out into sheets. The way it works is that you begin with the widest opening, do that a few times until the dough kind of “comes together” (the gluten begins to stretch and take shape) and then you keep feeding the sheet into smaller/narrower settings until you get to the lowest setting – and boy, does the dough spread out – I mean it can go for yards! The same sheet of dough can be used for noodles or for ravioli and fillings – I once took a class where different kinds of flour were used for both (All Purpose Flour for Ravioli because it’s relatively soft/tender, semolina flour for a chewier pasta) but frankly it’s a matter of personal taste.
Cooking Pasta: The sauce in this class was made for us (another post on Sauce..soon..) but in a nutshell there was a white sauce with cheese and cream and a red sauce with tomatoes of course. So Chef Wendi boiled the pasta in unsalted water – a discussion ensued – in Italy, they always salt their water for pasta (“as salty as the sea” is the famous quote on how much salt for pasta water – this always starts an argument with Italian cooks!) – her philosophy is you don’t salt the pan when you sear a steak, you salt the steak – so my interpretation is that the pasta/ingredients and the salt should be properly salted. In my own defense of the Italian way of salting the water – it depends – for example, if you cook your greens in the salted water before you cook your pasta (like for Broccoli Rabe and Orecchiette), you have a very flavorful pasta water..well, just like 2 Italians, Chef Wendi and I may never agree!
Upcoming Pasta Classes on the TasteDC Site:
–Handmade Pasta Workshop at the Kitchen Studio (Frederick, MD) (February 21st, 2013)
–Pasta Fatta in Casa (Pasta Made at Home) II at Culinaria (Saturday, February 23rd, 2013)
–Pierogi Cooking Class at Hills Kitchen (February 23rd, 2013)
–Fresh Pasta Workshop at Sur La Table (March 13th, 2013)
-Handmade Pasta and Sauce at Cookology (Ashburn, VA) (Saturday, March 23rd, 2013)