Table Talk

Nicecream Factory, The Frat Pack, Pastry Chef Betsy Palmer and more



Pastry chef Betsy Palmer (right) shares her baking secrets with clients in their home kitchens.

Sweet Gig

Betsy Palmer thinks that even confident cooks can be intimidated by baking. So the Olney resident, who’s also a Paris-trained pastry chef, writer and former comedian, has made it her mission to take the mystery out of making piecrusts and other tricky baked goods.

With her new business, Baking with Betsy, Palmer travels to clients’ home kitchens to teach individuals and groups how to bake, whether the classes are for book clubs, bridal showers, Sweet 16 parties or just for a bunch of friends. She’ll help students tackle pies, cream puffs, crème brûlée or any other dessert they’d like to master.

Now with Valentine’s Day approaching, Palmer is offering an all-chocolate class (think caramel truffles, heart-shaped cakes) customized for those who want to make homemade gifts for their sweeties.

Classes are 2½ to three hours long, and cost $225 for the first student and $25 for each additional person. Palmer brings the equipment, such as cookie sheets and pastry bags, and will purchase all the ingredients for an additional fee. Class size depends on the capacity of the home kitchen. For information, see bakingwithbetsy.com.

The Frat Pack

Back in the late ’80s and early ’90s, they were all members of the University of Maryland’s Sigma Chi house. Now they own or work in restaurants and sports bars in Bethesda’s Woodmont Triangle: Jeff Trilling, who owns Maggie’s; Gabe and Rob Coulon, who own Caddies on Cordell; and Grant Schmelzer, who worked at Nantucket Landing and Tommy Joe’s for years, and is now at Maggie’s. Roberto Pietrobono, co-owner of Olazzo, never officially joined Sigma Chi, but he did go to lots of parties there. The frat boys are still friends—and still having fun.

We All Scream for…Nicecream

Who says ice cream is just a summer treat? Especially when it’s a wintry flavor like roasted butternut squash (sounds odd, but it’s surprisingly good) or when you can get it delivered to your doorstep.

Nicecream Factory, a new company based in Falls Church, Va., delivers pints of unique flavors such as French toast or chocolate bacon to Bethesda and other areas of Montgomery County. In addition to funky flavors, owners Sandra Tran and Gil Welsford have come up with a new twist: They add liquid nitrogen to flash-freeze the ice cream (and yes, they say it’s safe), resulting in smaller ice crystals and a smoother, denser product.

For a season-appropriate treat, order the Chocolate Drinking Pops, chunks of Callebaut chocolate affixed to lollipop-like sticks. Submerge the pops in cups of hot frothed milk and they’ll dissolve after three or four minutes, transforming the drinks into rich hot chocolate.

Tran and Welsford also are available to bring their stand-up mixers and liquid nitrogen to parties, weddings, farmers markets and other events for on-the-spot ice-cream making.

Ice cream delivery is $10 per pint, with subscriptions available ($45 for four pints a month; $25 for two pints a month). The Chocolate Drinking Pops cost $22 for five pops. To order, go to www.pintsplease.com. For information, see www.nicecreamfactory.com.

For booking parties or other events, contact Sandra at Sandra@nicecreamfactory.com.

Weigh to Go

For the past 25 years, Cabin John’s Phyllis Zimmet has collected kitchen scales dating from the 1920s to the 1970s.

How many: nearly 50

Where she found them: at antique stores, flea markets and garage sales all over the country

Where they’re displayed: on customized shelves and cubbies in Zimmet’s kitchen, which she renovated eight years ago expressly to showcase her collection

Why: “I like bringing back what’s old—the warm fuzzies of what the American kitchen used to be.”

Do the Jerk

Lots of food products are associated with a particular jingle. But Doctor Dread’s takes the concept a step further. Click on the website for Doctor Dread’s Caribbean food products (www.doctordreadsjerk.com) and you’ll hear reggae-inspired dub music by dub producer Mad Professor. David Hinds, lead singer of the Grammy Award-winning reggae band Steel Pulse, sings a jingle about the company’s jerk potato chips in a YouTube video. And other reggae artists are selling Doctor Dread’s foods at concerts.

This merging of food and music makes perfect marketing sense for Gary Himelfarb, aka Doctor Dread, who started RAS Records in 1981 in his Chevy Chase basement, eventually expanding into what he says was the largest reggae label in the world.

At the same time, Himelfarb owned a house in Jamaica, where he would cook jerk chicken, lobster and fish for reggae artists such as Bunny Wailer, who recorded on his label. After selling RAS, Himelfarb switched gears and worked for two Washington-area seafood wholesalers.

Now he has combined his two passions with a food company, Doctor Dread. The company’s product line includes jerk potato chips, jerk peanuts, a jerk sauce and rub—zesty, multilayered tastes infused with traditional jerk seasonings, including allspice, brown sugar and thyme. At press time, Himelfarb was rolling out a dipping sauce, and he also has plans for Roots Beer—a combination of root beer, ginger beer and ginseng.

Doctor Dread’s products are available at Chevy Chase Supermarket, Bradley Food and Beverage, the Bethesda Co-op, Glen Echo Pharmacy, Bethesda Crab House and the Bethesda Central Farm Market. A 2-ounce bag of potato chips sells for $1.50 to $2; 8-ounce bag, $3.50 to $4. Peanuts are about $4 for the 6-ounce bag and $5.50 to $6 for a 9-ounce can. The products are also sold online at www.doctordreadsjerk.com.

Comings & Goings

PizzaPass was slated to replace Bethesda’s Jiffy Shoppes at 4924 St. Elmo Ave. in December. Borrowing from the Brazilian steak house model, where diners pay a set price for continuous table-side service, the restaurant has “pizza passers” stroll the dining room, offering different types of pizza on their trays.

Local restaurateurs Jeff and Barbara Black’s first eatery, Addie’s in Rockville, closed at the end of November after 18 years. The reason: an impasse over the lease. At press time, a new location hadn’t been announced.

Annie’s Bistro Francais, the sweet little restaurant on St. Elmo Avenue owned by Carole Robert and Mark Manly, closed in October.

Carole Sugarman is the magazine’s food editor. Send restaurant tips or Food Find ideas to carole.sugarman@bethesdamagazine.com.

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