** Free Cupcake Alert!! **

Henry Ford would have turned a 150 years old today and, well, I can’t think of a better way to celebrate his accomplishments (like, you know, revolutionizing the assembly line and all) than with free cupcakes!!

This Tuesday from noon to 2 p.m. Ford Motor Company is partnering with local food truck Curbside Cupcakes to hand out free cupcakes*! The trucks will be located at Metro Center (intersection of G and 12th Streets, NW) and Capitol Hill (intersection of D and First Streets, SE).

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Are you a Henry Ford buff? Curbside Cupcakes is posting twitter trivia via its twitter handle starting at 12:05PM. A new question will be posted every half hour or so and the first person to tweet the correct answer answer using the hashtag #HenryFord150 will win a price (which I assume will involve cupcakes…) And if you don’t know much about Henry Ford, there’s still time to learn! Head to www.henryford150.com to brush up before the contest 😉

Joyeux anniversaire Henry Ford (and enjoy the free cupcakes DC!!)

 

* while supplies last

National Crème Brûlée Day

Seems like everyday is a different “food” holiday of sorts. Bars around D.C. just celebrated National Tequila Day and I just received a press release alerting me that National Lasagna day is coming up this Monday. Bon Appetit published this fun article last year about How National Food Holidays Became A Thing. They’re basically Hallmark holidays that brands and restaurants promote with more or less success as a marketing campaign to sell more things.  And today the “thing” in question was a trio of mini crème brûlée doughnuts (vanilla, chocolate and raspberry) offered by Astro Doughnuts and Fried Chicken in honour of National  Crème Brûlée Day. Since Nevin Martell of the Washington Post recently declared Astro Doughnut’s crème brûlée doughnut the best doughnut in the city, I thought I might want to celebrate the holiday 😉

creme brulee donut, creme brulee doughnut

Oh, and while national maple syrup day isn’t for another few month (December 17 if you want to mark your calendars already) and international bacon day isn’t until August, I couldn’t resist getting the maple-bacon doughnut as well…

Nutella Pizza and More at Osteria Marzano

I ate a lot of good food over the past week. There was the banh mi at Bonmi and the tasty nibbles at Proof (including the amazing sticky toffee pudding cake) where I was volunteering during Jose Andres’ Dine-N-Dash fundraising event. I tried the Jersey Shore pizza with fried calamari at Graffiato for the first time and discovered Chef Sébastien Rondier’s new mediterranean inspired menu at Decanter. And of course all the July 4th weekend indulgences… Somewhere in there, I managed to make my way to newly opened Osteria Marzano at Metro Park VI building at 6361 Walker Lane in Alexandria. I must say, I’m glad I did! While I don’t seek out Italian food (or trips to Virginia), I definitely enjoy it when it’s good. And it was definitely good at OM! The 6,000 square feet, modern restaurant is owned by chef Carmine Marzano and his daughter Elena Pouchelon. I am a big fan of the wood oven pizzas at Famous Luigi on 19th street, which is also owned by the Marzano family, and Osteria Marzano’s features a number of great pizzas as well as antipasti, homemade pastas and traditional Italian main courses like ossobuco and veal scalloppine. In a “French-Girl-Gone-Wild” kinda moment, I ate my way through the tagliere di formaggi, a sample of different Italian cheeses. Le gasp right? They were actually really good, especially the fontina (I have a soft spot, literally, for soft cheese…) The juniper flavoured ham and wine cured dry salami were perfect pairings to the cheeses as we moved on to main courses.

Taglieri di formaggi with robiola due latti (soft cow and goat cheese), gorgonzola, fontina, pecorino toscano and parmesiano regianno served with homemade fig jam and Virginia honey.

Taglieri di formaggi with robiola due latti, gorgonzola, fontina, pecorino toscano and parmesiano regianno served with homemade fig jam and Virginia honey.

The charcuterie plate

The charcuterie plate

As far as pastas are concerned, the mezzalune di zucca, with a surprising sweet crunch added by the amaretto cookies was definitely my favourite though there are plenty I’d love to go back and try! Of course the dish I was the most eager to try was the Nutella pizza. That dish alone warrants a trip to VA! The crust is the same that is used for the savoury pizza but topped with a thin layer of hot chocolate-hazelnut sauce, whole pistachios and melted mini-marshmallows.

nutella pizza, nutella, dessert pizza

Save room for dessert, the Nutella pizza is only one of the many desserts options! I really enjoyed the OM Sorbet, made of lemon sorbet in a hollowed Sicilian lemon and the bonet.

Apparently Nutella pizza is pretty common on pizzerias’ menu, though I had never seen one. I don’t know why all Italian restaurants don’t offer it. It’s a simple dish and who doesn’t love Nutella? Oh well, more reason to go check out Osteria Marzano I guess 😉

ps: Osteria Marzano is open Monday-Saturday. Monday through Friday they have a pretty amazing $10 lunch combo for those of you who may work in the area…

 

If D.C. were an ice cream, it would be chill. Capitol Chill.

Earlier in June it was announced that Ben and Jerry’s would be churning up ice cream flavours to reprensent five different U.S. cities. Washington, D.C. was one of the chosen few and last week, we kicked off the show with the reveal of our very own ice cream flavour. Drumroll: Capitol Chill.

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As part of Ben and Jerry’s City Churned Campaign, ice cream fan based in the district voted (sort of) to have the following represent us: chocolate ice cream (we’re known as Chocolate City after all…) with Divine Chocolate corn-flake clusters, marshmallows and caramel swirls along with a Route 11 sweet potato chip. Sounds pretty good right? It was. Though you’ll have to trust my word for it because it was available for one day (well… hour really) only at a community event at Farm at Walker Jones last Saturday.

ben and jerry's capitol chill, capitol chill, ben and jerry's dc ice cream, dc ice cream, ben and jerry's

Ben and Jerry’s Capitol Chill – just so you know what you missed.

The reveal capped off an afternoon of community service with free tacos from the Rito Loco food truck (which were quite good by the way) and some scoops of Capitol Chill of course. I’m a big fan of the work the Farm at Walker Jones does so I’m glad Ben and Jerry’s paired up with them. The urban farm and educational campus is located at the corner of New Jersey Avenue and K Street NW. It produces over 3,000 pounds of food annually for neighbours who help out with some of the garden work, students from Walker Jones Educational Campus, where 100% of the students receive free or reduced lunches, and the DC Central Kitchen.

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IMG_2304IMG_2303Next up for Ben and Jerry’s City Churned Campaign? San Francisco (7/13), New York (7/27), Portland (8/10) and Seattle (9/14.) I can’t wait to see what flavours these other cities come up with 😉

 

Des larmes éclairs de crocodile

Joyeux Anniversaire Lacoste! The brand with the green crocodile logo was founded 80 years ago by French tennis champion René Lacoste. Lacoste is an iconic French brand and so for its birthday, it partnered with other iconic French brands like Hermès or Veuve Clicquot to create a collection of celebratory items. My favourite collaboration though is with Fauchon. I mean, you can’t be a French brand and not celebrate a big birthday with a special pastry right? Right. So Fauchon, which makes the BEST and most beautiful éclairs, came up with four stunning limited edition “crocodile” éclairs branded in Lacoste’s logo and colours. I *love* them!

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Sadly, these are only available for a limited time, June 17-21,  at Fauchon’s Place de la Madeleine boutique (24-26-30 place de la Madeleine, 8ème). They will also be on display at Colette (213 Rue Saint-Honoré, 1er) from June 10-16. And for those of us who can’t be in Paris during that short window of time, well, there’s always the special 80th collection available online and at Lacoste stores throughout the United States (Washington, DC: 3146 M St NW in Georgetown).

Speculoos Alfajores

I always look forward to passport D.C. and, this year, managed to squeeze in 9 different embassy visits. The one where I spent the most time was probably Chile, in part because I really enjoyed the traditional dance demonstrations outside the Embassy but also because the line was deceivingly long inside the Embassy. But the wait was worth it. I got to see the 2011 winning peep diorama “Chilean CoPeepapo Mine Rescue” and taste a number of Chilean culinary specialties like quinoa, pisco sour, wine, fresh fruits and alfajores.

passport DC, embassy open house, embassy of chile, washington dc embassies

From top left to bottom right: wine tasting, alfajores, traditional dance demonstrations, winning Peep Diorama “Chilean CoPeepapo Mine Rescue”, the office of the Ambassador

Alfajores are delicate cookies typically associated with Argentina, but baked throughout Latin America. Delicate. Not dainty like macarons. Though they’re composed in a similar fashion. Here you have 2 crumbly cornstarch cookies (as opposed to almond flour cookies) held together by dulce de leche and sprinkled with powdered sugar. The Embassy provided visitors with a recipe sheet for alfajores de maicena and other intriguing dishes like a panna cotta with honey and quinoa (might I remind you 2013 is the International Year of the Quinoa?) or a meat and corn pudding. I decided to give the alfajores a try at home but with a (dubious) French twist… why dubious? Well, because I replaced the dulce de leche with speculoos spread. And while I grew up eating spéculos, they’re more of a Belgian and Dutch specialty than a French one. So maybe we’ll call this a Northern French twist on a classic South American dessert.

Ingredients

alfajores, baking alfajores, recipe with speculoos spread

1/2 tsp vanilla, 1 egg, 1 cup flour, 1/4 cup sugar, 1/2 cup cornstarch, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 1 stick of butter at room temperature, speculoos spread and powdered sugar.

I used speculoos spread from Maison Dandoy that I brought back from my latest trip to Brussels. If you ever visit the Belgian capital, you should definitely make your way to 31 rue du beurre (that would be butter street, I kid you not!) to visit the oldest Belgian speculoos shop. Their spiced shortcrust biscuits are still crafted by hand and made of 100% natural ingredients just like their great-great-great grandfather did 184 years ago.  Of course, you can also probably walk into any grocery store there and find a more generic brand. I grew up with spéculos, the cookies, but not with speculoos spread. That’s actually a new product that came out of a 2008 reality TV “invention” contest and became very popular throughout Europe… In the US, you can find it at Trader Joe’s under the name Speculoos cookie butter or at Le Pain Quotidien.

Preparation

Start with a stand mixer and cream the butter and the sugar. Add in the egg, vanilla (you can drop a half a teaspoon of pisco or brandy as well apparently) and beat over medium speed. In a separate bowl, mix flour, cornstarch and baking powder together, then add them to the butter mixture and continue mixing until it becomes a consistent dough. Remove the dough from the mixer, separate into 2 balls. Wrap each of them in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.

Once it has chilled, roll it out to about 1/4 inch thick  a floured surface and cut little rounds into it. I used a shot glass for mine, you probably don’t want anything much bigger. Repeat the rolling until you have used up all the dough. Place the cookies on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake for 15 minutes. The cookies should brown very slightly.

Once they are cooked, let them cool down before placing a generous dollop of speculoos spread on one and topping it with another cookie and pressing slightly to make a little oreo looking cookie sandwich. You can cover one side of the cookie in sifted powdered sugar too.

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Speculoos alfajores, a French slash Belgian twist on a South American classic

Stanley Cup(cakes)

So far so good… the Caps trumped the Rangers 3-1 at the Verizon Center last night and you can celebrate with cupcakes. Crumbs Bake Shop has partnered with NBC Sports Group and the NHL to design and create a a limited edition of Stanley Cupcakes, with either the Stanley Cup or team specific logos.

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Crumbs is selling the cupcakes for $4.50 in its 69 locations throughout the country, including its two locations here in DC. Let’s hope we can enjoy Caps cupcakes all the way to the finals right? Right! And at the very least, Washingtonians can enjoy them today. An NBC/NHL/Crumbs co-branded mobile vehicle will be distributing the specially “iced”  Cupcakes for free today at Union Station from 12 to 3 pm and 5 to 7 pm. Sweet 😉 

Roland Garros Macarons

Tennis and macarons go la main dans la main in France. Every year, Paris plays host to one of the grand slam tournament, les Internationaux de France de Tennis, which the French just call Roland Garros (after the stadium where it takes place.) I’ve attended a couple of games in my days, including an all Williams women finals back in 2002. While we don’t make everyone wear white like some other fancy tournament, this is Paris and it’s tennis, so you probably won’t be too surprised to hear that you can purchase champagne and macarons at the concession stands. I mean, beer and hot dogs are SO Flushing Meadows 😉 In 2011, they came in kind of unappetizing colours though: yellow (for the tennis ball), dark ocre (for the clay) and dark green (for the logo.)

Photo credit Compass Group France

Never one to miss a good marketing opportunity, Laduree launched a commemorative macarons box for Roland Garros last year:

Image courtesy of Laduree

And this year, it’s Häagen-Dazs that’s hitting an ace with these macaron ice cream sandwiches. You won’t find them at the stadium though, the limited edition macarons will be sold exclusively at Häagen-Dazs’ flagship store on the ChampsÉlysées from May 15 to June 15 (for your info, the Roland Garros tournament takes place Porte d’Auteuil, right on the edge on Paris, from May 21st to June 9, 2013). They will come in 5 flavours: banoffee, pralines & cream, vanilla, macadamia nut brittle and lemon sorbet. A box of 5 will retail for 10. 

Photo credit: Haagen-Dazs

I know Roland Garros macarons is quite a mouthful to pronounce (that’s a lot of rrrs right?) but how cute are these?

A Tale of Two Waffles

Turns out today is international waffle day… I’m always looking for an excuse to spread some Nutella on something (anything!) so I’m all about celebrating. But I’m also all about using this opportunity to “waffle” in on a very important debate: who makes the best waffle? Brussels or Liège?

You see, waffle’s native land is a very divided place… Belgium is home to two regions, Flanders and Wallonia, who speak two languages, French and Flemish (which is kind of like Dutch), and are home to people of two different faiths, catholics and protestants. But none of this matters when it comes to waffles…. all the good ones are from the French speaking regions (duh!). Still… they’re a source of great divide as some swear by the Bruxelles waffle, and others by its Liège counterpart. What’s the difference? Well, for starters, one is round. The other rectangular. But really, it’s all in the texture. The  Liège waffle is more dense since it uses crystalized sugar in its batter. The sugar caramelizes upon cooking, forming a crispy, crunchy, golden coating. (cheats!) The Brussels waffles is make with a thin, yeast-leavened batter and is lighter, with deeper holes.

 

Which is better is really a matter of personal preference, but I still would like to settle the debate once and for all: my favourite waffle is neither! It’s actually the gaufre fourrée de Lille. I mean, I’ve gotta cheer for the hometown waffle right? Don’t get me wrong, I love the gaufre de Liège though I do tend to prefer its rectangular Brussels cousin. BUT, I used to devour the gaufres at Meert as a child and I will always be faithful to my first gaufre love. I’m thrilled the love has spread to Paris too, where you can now find them in their brand new marais boutique, as well at Pierre Herme, who gives this oh-so-sweet treat the Ispahan treatment.

 

Trust me… try both if you’re ever in Paris. Or if for some reason you stop in Lille (maybe as a pit stop on your way to Bruxelles) definitely visit the original Meert. There’s not much else to see there anyway 😉