Urban Butcher

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Glass Case of Love

It takes love to make good charcuterie. And there’s a lot of love going on at Urban Butcher.

This new boutique butcher shop/eatery in downtown Silver Spring is a destination worthy of Bacchus himself. On one side of the open breezy space is a giant case of meats, sausages, and pâtés, all locally sourced and made in-house. On the other side, a 20 seat bar featuring approximately 100 labels of wine from across the country as well as signature cocktails. Located in the back, the Pièce de résistance, a giant glass cased room filled with beautiful links of different kinds of salami and ham. Talk about a glass case of emotions!

We’re not just talking about pork either. The menu also features duck liver spread, foie gras terrine, and three kinds of ceviche. They’ve got you covered by land, sea, and air.

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Shots of Happiness

But wait! There’s more!

Charcuterie aside, they serve composed small plates and snacks like grilled calamari with salsa verde, beef empanadas, and crispy ham croquettes. Oh did I mention the 11 artisan cheeses all from this side of the Mississippi?

Chef Raynold Mendizabal says he wanted to “create a place where the community can come and enjoy great tasting, honest food expressing the natural flavors of the ingredients in a care-free and welcoming atmosphere surrounded by their neighbors, friends, and like-minded strangers they just met.”

Well, at Urban Butcher, these ‘like-minded strangers’ might as well be fellow Kings and Queens of suburbia because that’s exactly how everyone will be eating – like royalty.

Urban Butcher is located 8226 Georgia Ave., Silver Spring, Maryland 20910.

301.585.5800

Reservation not required. Hearty appetite recommended.

*Disclosure. Food was sampled at a preview event and was free. However it had no way influenced my opinion. It was damn good.

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Links of Dreams

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Everything that is good in this world.

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Chef Raynold showing the piglet some love.

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Remember the time Chef Tom Colicchio gave me props on Twitter?

Top Chef is back!!

Les bon temps roule! (You're going to be REALLY sick of this phrase soon.)

Les bon temps roule! (You’re going to be REALLY sick of this phrase soon.)

Season 11 is going to be in New Orleans (finally), one of the greatest food and culture cities in the world.

Yes. It’s right up there with Paris or NY or where ever the hell else you want to argue with me about. Go there for a week. Avoid Bourbon street and take the trolley up town through the Garden District. Put your name down at Jacque Imo’s and go wait at The Maple Leaf. When your table’s ready, order some gator cheesecake and a Godzilla. Oh yeah, you’re welcome.

Soft shell crab. Fried green tomatoes. Boudin.

“Godzilla” – Soft shell crab. Fried green tomatoes. Boudin.

There will be a full post about New Orleans before the season starts – call it an “amuse,” if you will. Until then feel free to catch up last season’s Top Chef in Seattle. I did a full season’s recap for the website FoodieGossip and I suggest you relive the excitement and the snark at my Top Chef Recap page. Because if it’s good enough for Tom Colicchio, it’s good enough for you. (Full disclosure, his tweet was directed at the FIRST episode’s recap, not the entire season. I’m being exact and specific because I know Tom would have wanted me to. As you know, he’s like that.)

Proud moment in Recap history...
How many recappers can boast a claim like this!!
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Summer time…the drinking is easy.

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It’s a bit crowded. I need a drink…

It’s a gorgeous sunny day. 

You’re lounging by the pool in your flippy-floppies. Staring up at the sky, you watch little puffs of clouds drift by. A lazy breeze cools the beads of sweat on your forehead and reminds you that it’s warm out here. You reach over to grab your favorite….

Wait. You forgot to bring a drink!!

No worries. I’ve got you covered with my list of our favorite Summer Cocktails!

First up. You know what they say about beating the heat. Eat something spicy. Well we’ve got just the drink. The Jalapeno Margarita.

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It’s all about the spicy rim.

With its spicy salted rim, this drink captures all three flavors of salty, spicy, and sweet. A perfect drink to wake you up and cool you down.

Prepare your garnish by combining some kosher salt, a few dash of chili pepper, cayenne pepper, some lime zest and chilosito into a shallow round container.

Blend a jalapeno pepper with some fresh lime juice and agave nectar and set aside. Then pour tequila, limeade and fresh orange juice together over ice. Combine the two mixtures into a shaker and shake vigorously. 

Dip the rim of your glass into the shaker, then dab it into the round container to get the chili salt mix onto the rim. Then pour your spicy margarita into the glass and viola! 

 Next up is the Moscow Mule. The key to this drink is its tangy addition of ginger beer. With three simple ingredients, it’s something you can easily make. However, I recommend procuring yourself some copper mugs. The copper keeps your drink nice and chilled, exactly what you want on a hot summer day. Don’t take my word for it. It’s on Oprah’s Favorite Things List.

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The cooper mug is KEY.

 Combine two part vodka, one part lime juice, and three parts ginger beer (preferably Cock ‘n Bull Ginger Beer since it’s what was used when the drink was first invented, not in Moscow but in New York). Pour it over ice, quick stir and serve it in that copper mug with some mint or a sprig of thyme.

Let’s stay with the vodka theme for a moment. 

One of the most popular summer drinks that doesn’t involve alcohol is the Arnie Palmer. Supposedly the famous golfer used to combine lemonade and ice tea at home. One day a lady overheard him making the request at a country club and subsequently ordered “that Palmer drink” and from that the drink got its now equally famous name. 

Gotta hand it to him, the combination of lemonade and ice tea is damn tasty. Sometimes lemonade can be too tart or too sweet. Adding ice tea kinda smooths out the flavor and makes it more balance. To improve upon near perfection, we add vodka. The best thing about this drink is, for some reason, the taste of vodka disappears, so you can’t even taste the alcohol. Some people call this the John Daly (He’s also a golfer, more famous for his drinking problem than his golf game) but I rather not to be reminded of someone’s drinking problem when I’m having a drink, so let it remain nameless.

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“Lemonade…that cool, refreshing drink…”

This one is easy so feel free to play around with flavors. Some people add some O.J., some a splash of cranberry. Be inventive and make it your own. Who knows, maybe some day they’ll name that drink after you.

Ok. Now something for the beer lovers. 

The Michelada is a Mexican drink that combines beer with lime juice. It’s reportedly a great hangover cure because you’re sorta doing that “hair of the dog” thing but since it’s not straight liquor, you’re not simply getting drunk quickly, again.

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Thank you Chow.com for the image!

There are many variations. Some add hot sauce, some worcestershire, some even put clamato (clam juice and tomato juice) in it. We’re not gonna get that adventurous. 

Start with a light mexican beer like Corona or Dos Equis. Add some lime juice, Cointreau (orange liquor,) and wait for it…a shot of tequila. That’s right. After all, this is cocktail list. Don’t shake it up though (it’s got beer = bubbles.) Pour it over a salted rimmed glass. If you’ve got some left from the spicy jalapeno margarita, use those! Now go ahead and drink your hangover away.

Last but not least. We’re going old school.

Ladies and gentleman. The Watermelon Daiquiri!

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Not the best picture but hey, I made the glass!

Nothing fancy about this drink. Just peel and cube your watermelon, add rum and triple sec then throw it into your blender. For nice added touch, chop up some mint leaves and toss them in there too. Add some crushed ice and blend away. One very important trick. Make sure you throw your watermelon cubes in the freezer for a few hours before blending. It’ll make the whole thing icy and not watery. Don’t forget your little umbrella!

Okay now that we’ve given you some ideas, you can finally grab that cocktail and head back out to the pool to enjoy the gorgeous day. That magazine isn’t going to read itself.

 

 

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So long and thanks for all the fish!

You know that saying “there are plenty of fish in the sea?”

Well, unless you’re giving someone cliched advice about their disastrous dating life, that statement is not true.

We are running out of fish.

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Running on empty.

According to a Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations’ report, global fish consumption hit a record high of 37 pounds per person per year. At this rate, we’ll probably run out of fish by the time Haley’s Comet swings back around in 2061, especially with the global population growing faster than expected. We all need to find a way to make the Earth’s resources last.

Chefs all over the world knows this, and that is why there is such a push for sustainability in sourcing ingredients and ways to prepare them.

Sure. Every snobby “gourmand” would enjoy some spicy blue fin tataki, Chilean sea bass en Papillot, and wash the whole thing down with a bowl of shark fin soup, but those days will soon be gone. (Many places already banned shark finning for cruelty/ethical reasons.) So let’s do our part. Shall we?

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Delicious but not sustainable.

There are many website and articles with lots of statistics and detailed studies on exactly what and where you and how should buy your seafood. We’re just gonna cut through all that and pick some sustainable and delicious stuff to eat.

First off. Eat some of the smaller and less “in-demand” fish like anchovies, mackerels, and sardines. These smaller fish are mostly forage fish that feed on plankton instead of other fish. They’re also high in Omega3 and low in stored toxins. So it’s a win-win situation. Best way to eat them? On the grill. The great thing about these fish is that they’re already packed with oil and flavor. So all you need is some salt, pepper, and lemon juice.

Another great use for anchovies is to make this super delicious dip called bagna cauda. Originated from the Piedmont region of Italy, this warm dip can be used for

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Love on a plate.

anything as  a spread on bread to a sauce for pasta. Simply combine butter, anchovies, garlic, and olive oil and cook it down and grind it into a paste. It is one of the most amazing and easy things you can make. I added some parsley and served it with some pappardelle and topped it with a fried egg.

Next on the list – shellfish, specifically oysters, clams, and mussels. These filter feeders are not only good to eat, they’re also good for the cleaning the water source. With oysters there are SO MANY ways to scarf down these lovely mollusks. The best is simply a squeeze of lemon and dash of hot sauce. Here’s a #protip: steaming shellfish. Instead of using white wine like many recipes suggests, use vermouth. The herbs and botanicals in vermouth adds a level of complexity to any steamed clams or mussels dish.

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Super sustainable!

But avoid foreign farmed shrimps. These things are often a cause for pollution and habitat damage. Not to mention they’re often raised without strict environmental regulations. Stick with domestic shrimp that are either wild caught or raised in fully recirculating systems, just check the label or ask the fish guy.

Ok. One of the most popular fish we love is salmon. Almost every restaurant has a salmon dish. However, most of the salmon we see in the supermarket are not sustainable and could contain high levels of harmful chemicals. When shopping, try to avoid “Farmed Atlantic Salmon.” These bad boys are generally raised in open cages and their waste goes directly into the water. Also did you know it takes up to three pounds of small fish to grow one pound of salmon? Talk about NOT sustainable.

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Salmon with grapefruit and greens.

The alternative is to look for either wild caught or inland tank raised salmon from Alaska. They’re equally delicious and you can prepare them just like any salmon dish. My favorite is just keeping it simple. Hard sear with the skin side down so that it’s crispy, drizzle some rosemary infused olive oil to finish. Serve it with some pan roasted corn hash or simply on top of some salad and grapefruit.

There are a LOT of websites and information out there to wade through. The best resource is the good people at Monterey Bay Aquarium. They’ve developed a Seafood Watch program that helps both consumers and businesses make healthy choices for the environment.

From farmers to chefs to consumers, everyone would like a more sustainable way to live, to eat, to enjoy our stay on this planet without destroying it. Shopping locally, eating seasonally, and learning how to grow and preserve food are all things we can do to help ourselves in this endeavor.

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Eat them with the heads on!!

Next time you’re at the market, talk to your fishmonger. Ask where the fish is from and how is it sourced. The more you know, the more you can help educate others. After all, if we don’t find a way to extend what’s in the ocean, it might not be long before we’re forced to say, “So long and thanks for all the fish!”

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Daikaya Ramen

Ramen. It might be the perfect food.

Proteins, veggies, and noodles combined in bowl of harmonious broth when done correctly, is magic.

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Zen in a bowl

And there’s something magical about the ramen at Daikaya.

Daikaya is the creation of Daisuke Utagawa (Creative Director of Sushiko) and Chef Katsuya Fukushima (former chef of José Andrés’ Think Group.)

This 40-seat hip ramen joint is conjuring up a couple of hundred bowls of Sapporo style ramen daily.

What makes their ramen magical?

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It’s not the carefully prepared Chintan stock, a complex concoction which contains chicken, beef, and pork that takes over 16 hours to make.

It’s not the custom noodles made by Nishiyama Seimen company and then imported from Sapporo, Japan.

It’s not the toppings that consists of onions and bean sprouts wok fried with minced pork and flavored with garlic and garlic oil.

It’s the delicate balance and perfect combination of all of the above that transforms something as deceivingly simple as a soupy noodles into, magic.

Daikaya serves 4 kinds of ramen, shio (salt), shoyu (soy sauce), miso, and veggie. Each with its own unique flavor profile and toppings.

However, ramen is now an interactive experience. You can “built your own” by picking additional add-on items. These range from something as simple as seaweed or canned corn to a complex piece of braised pork belly. So go nuts. The bowl is your oyster.

Aside from ramen, these guys also make a mean plate of pan fried pork gyozas (dumplings). Wash the whole thing down with a can of imported cold sake or a chilled bottle of Sapporo.

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Don’t be afraid to slurp, it’s the polite thing to do and everyone around you is doing it. Finally, here’s a #ProTip. Show the cooks some love and choose the menu item that lets you buy the kitchen a six pack ($10), which is the least you can do to say “arigato.”

Daikaya Ramen Shop

705 6th Street NW

Washington, DC 20001

202.589.1600

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Izakaya Seki

One of the best places to eat is at a pub. You can chit chat with the bartender, talk about the place, the food, the drinks. Maybe start a conversation with someone next to you, make a new friend or two. It’s even better when they have an open kitchen, then you get to see the cooks work during service, always a treat.

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Best seat in the house

Usually when someone mentions a pub, people think some version of a McShay O’Flannigan’s with pints of beer and fried cheese. In my humble opinion, the best kind of pub is Japanese.

They’re called izakayas.

A long time ago in Japan, liquor stores provided small and simple snacks to serve alongside the vats of sake they sell (Don’t want people to drink on an empty stomach!) From there it evolved into small joints where people gathered after work to drink, eat, and socialize. Like all pubs, now izakayas have evolved into gastropubs where the focus is just as much on the food than the drinks.

Raise the Red lantern…of gluttony.

Izakaya Seki is a father/daughter joint located one street off the chaotic U Street corridor in DC. It’s nestled in on a block that looks more residential than than any place you would expect to find a Japanese pub. However, a red lantern, the traditional mark of izakaya, hints that something wonderful and delicious is inside.

Seki has two levels. Upstairs is a traditional dining room. The main floor focuses on the tiny open kitchen and a simple wooden counter. This intimate 10-seat bar is where you want to be, watching the chef at work. Chef Seki slices fish, grills skewers and shapes rice balls – creating art right in front of you.

The upstairs dining area hold about 30 seats. But honestly, you should come only in groups of two and wait for the bar. The whole point of an izakaya is the intimate back and forth between the chef and the eaters. A satiated smile, a satisfying sigh, a simple nod lets the chef know you’re enjoying his creations.

Grilled Squid

Grilled Squid

Start with some sushi like vinegar-cured mackerel and octopus in wasabi, then move on to some of the more obscure stuff like grilled beef tongue and stewed trotters. The tongue, ridiculously tender; the trotters gooey and delicious. It’s always interesting to see how a chef elevates some of these old school ingredients. Chef Seki manages to turn these “off cuts” into works of art.

Sauteed wild mushrooms packed with umami. Monkfish liver, a torchon of ocean’s bounty, meltingly smooth. Chicken thighs crispy on the outside and perfectly tender underneath. Hamachi collar grilled to perfection. Finish the meal off with a plate of cold soba noodles with dipping sauce.

Grilled Hamachi Collar

Grilled Hamachi Collar

Food isn’t the only treat here. Seki boasts an extensive collection of sake, shochu, whiskey and scotch so you’ll be able to find the perfect pairing with your food.

Don’t forget that reservations are only for large parties (5 – 9 people) so be prepared to show up early, put your name down and go grab some drinks on U Street while you wait. The wait is worth it.

Izakaya Seki

1117 V Street NW

Washington, DC 20009

202.588.5841

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Pearl Dive Oyster Palace

Sometimes, the best things are the simplest things.

All you need is a sharp knife, a strong wrist, and some oysters.

Oysters on the half shell

Oysters on the half shell

Silky texture surrounded by the briny liquor that captures the essence of the sea. Sometimes sweet, sometimes buttery, an oyster delivers the perfect bite that stirs up memories of summers past by the ocean.

Luckily, you don’t have to go all the way to beach and put that sharp knife to use.

Located on the bustling 14th Street in the heart of Washington D.C., that ocean might as well be right outside Pearl Dive Oyster Palace’s big bay window.

PearlDive Outside

Created by chefs Jeff and Barbara Black (who own 4 other restaurants in the D.C. area) Pearl Dive serves East and West coast oysters, and have oysters cultivated specifically for them by oyster farmers in Virginia.

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Po’Boy

The menu boasts New Orleans influenced seafood items like Oyster Po’Boys and Wood Grilled Gulf Coast Redfish. They also have 6 different kinds of stews and gumbos ranging from crawfish and shrimp to oysters and braised duck.

Food isn’t the only thing that’s delicious at Pearl Dive. They have a killer specialty cocktail menu with the likes of Fleur ‘75, a play of the classic French ‘75 with Creme de Violet and thyme. Another must try is The Pearl Cup, a version of Pimm’s Cup with the addition of gin instead of the usual darker liquors. These playful creations make Pearl Dive one of the hottest happy hour spots in town.

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Fleur ’75

The real star of the restaurant though, is its oysters. Usually the best way to enjoy an oyster is simply by itself. Maybe a squeeze of lemon or a dash of hot sauce just to give it a little kick. However, the main attraction at Pearl Dive are the hot oyster preparations.

Like fried oysters? Get the cornmeal crusted ones that are served on top of a bed of diced andouille sausage and potato hash. Or maybe you prefer them cooked confit with some blue crab, tasso ham and roasted corn. Like bacon? They got grilled-bacon wrapped around the oysters and served with a rich vinegar reduction.

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Hot Oysters

The dining room is adorned with vintage nautical themed decor lik portholes, mermaids, and a giant anchor chain light fixture over its beautiful bar. And the bar is where you wanna be. When the weather is nice, Pearl Dive opens up their giant window and it’s the perfect spot to people watch.

So grab a cocktail, order a plate of oysters, and get lost watching the sea of people outside your window. Sometimes, it’s the simple things that make you happy.

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