The First FAIL, and a Karmic Ass Kicking

January 11, 2010 § 1 Comment

With as much as I’ve been bragging about how easy it is to eat only local food, I was bound to get a karmic kick in the ass soon enough.  Well, that time was Saturday.

Saturday morning was fine- I had a lovely weekend breakfast of Bev’s bacon and buckwheat pancakes with Toigo Orchard’s apple butter and honey.  The cakes were delicious, and made with a mix I ordered from Wade’s Mill, a family owned Virginia grain mill about an hour outside of Charlottesville. 

But it was all downhill from there.

I was going to a friend’s house in Herndon for a party Saturday night, and I knew there would be no chance of any food I could eat there, so I tried to make a loaf of bread to take with some of my chicken liver mousse. I was determined make Rhea’s beer bread (from You Are Delicious), since she had said how easy it was.  So I threw it together before I was going out to run some errands, and turned on the oven so I could set the bowl on top of the stove where it would be warm.  Well, the errands ended up taking longer than I expected and apparently the stove top got warmer than I expected, because by the time I got home the dough was half-cooked in the bowl!

I tried to salvage it, but it was a lost cause.  And, I was so concerned with the bread that I forgot to make myself any dinner, so by the time we were supposed to leave I was starving and had nothing to bring to the party. I slapdash made a farmer’s cheese and hothouse tomato sandwich, but it really didn’t do anything for me.  I was hungry again by the time we got there.

There were all kinds of things there I would have gladly eaten a month ago, and I’ll be perfectly honest with you… I did eat a few bites.  And felt terribly guilty about it.  I was really disappointed in myself.  Then I found some Old Dominion beer (brewed in Dover, DE and Ashburn, VA), and proceeded to drink way too much on an empty stomach and lose $20 playing poker.  Let me assure you, I paid for my digression with a monster headache this morning.

But I’m moving past my slip up, and on to better things. So I’m going to try again with the bread tonight, and am going to try my hand at making my own yogurt with my Homestead Creamery milk. I’m thinking of making some sausage meatballs for dinner, or perhaps a mushroom cream sauce over fresh pasta from Smith Meadows.

Things are looking up.  I won’t let a moment of hungry desperation throw me off. And if your trying this too, neither should you.

Restaurant Review: CommonWealth GastroPub

January 7, 2010 § 3 Comments

Local powerhouse chef/restauranteuse (and genius behind Hank’s Oyster Bar) Jamie Leeds’ newest venture, CommonWealth: The People’s GastroPub, has been up and running in Columbia Heights for almost a year now.  I’d been a couple times before and enjoyed it- a comfortable but lively atmosphere, a great beer list, and solid British-American food.

I went there again last night to hang out with some new friends (ok fine it was technically a TweetUp, god I’m a nerd).  I expected to have a localish beer, and head home to make dinner, figuring there was no way I’d be able to eat there and stick with this experiment.

As it turns out, I’m a daft arse.  It somehow had slipped my mind that Jamie Leeds is a badass (and clearly whomever the chef and beverage manager are at the pub, whom I now must meet).  

Their ENTIRE American bottle/can beer list is from PA/MD/VA (I had the Lancaster Milk Stout, which I just tried a few nights ago at The Wonder– so good, tastes like coffee and chocolate).  There is also a small note at the bottom of their menu that says which local farms they source from.  Being both excited and skeptical, I quizzed our darling, pink-haired waitress Robin about where practically everything on the menu came from.  I apologized for being so difficult, but it turns out she works at the Mt. Pleasant Farmers Market on the weekends, and was only too happy to find out the answers for me. 

And here’s where this local food experiment gets almost TOO easy.  I had a juicy grass-fed burger (beef from Groff’s Content Farm in MD) with local chevre and their seasonal, local vegetable of the day- roasted brussel sprouts.  The brussel sprouts were so delicious I actually felt bad for A, who got the burger with (probably not local) hand-cut fries (I am a notoriously awesome restaurant orderer.  It’s sort of my claim to fame.).  

And, because it was Wednesday Happy Hour (4-7pm), my glorious burger was $5.50.  FIVE DOLLARS AND FIFTY CENTS.  And my beer was $7.  I had a delicious, satisfying meal made with local food at a restaurant owned by a famous chef and my bill was $12.50.  I love DC. 

While not everything on CommonWealth’s menu is made with local food, their daily, seasonal side always is, they serve local, grass-fed beef, and have a variety of local cheese to chose from.  They get produce from the farmer-owned Tuscarora Co-Op (one of the few vendors of local food that is nearly as easy to buy from as Sysco, though significantly more expensive), and have a clear preference for all things local and sustainable. 

I have long adored Jamie Leeds (every time I see her I just want to hug her, I have the same reaction to Ris Lacoste), but now I am fully devoted to CommonWealth.  I never thought I’d be able to eat bar food again, much less a burger at a bona fide pub (complete with the occasional sketchy man lurking at the bar- what’s a good pub without its characters?). 

I’m adding CommonWealth to my list of Where To Eat, and I would encourage you to add it to your mental list.  Be sure to let them know you are there to eat their locally sourced food, they need that kind of feedback to continue to do the right thing, even though it may be more expensive. Supporting restaurants BECAUSE they support local farms is a big part of this fight.  

Do your part, stuff your face with a burger and beer. It may be the most important thing you eat this week.

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