Table Talk

Recipe contest at La Madeleine, Max Brenner Chocolate Bar, Food Trucks and more

Laurie Webber’s winning Tomato Basil Mini Pochettes. Photo courtesy of La Madeleine

From Pochettes to Paris

Laurie Webber was having lunch in February at La Madeleine on Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda when she spotted a notice that the chain was holding a recipe contest to celebrate its 30th anniversary. The rules required that recipes be original and include the restaurant’s signature Tomato Basil Soupe—which it sells in jars—as an ingredient.

Webber, a private tutor and cooking enthusiast who lives in Bethesda, has been a loyal customer of the French café ever since it catered a teacher appreciation luncheon that she had organized in 1994 at Bethesda Elementary School. Since then, the restaurant’s Tomato Basil Soupe has been a favorite, so she decided to enter the contest.

Drawing on the ingredients in lasagna, Webber quickly envisioned ricotta and shredded parmesan as good accompaniments—but with a French twist.

The result: Tomato Basil Mini Pochettes, which are puff pastry pockets filled with a mixture of egg, the cheeses and the soup.

It proved to be a winner. Webber’s recipe beat out four other finalists, garnering 38 percent of 5,000 votes nationwide. The prize? An all-expense-paid, weeklong trip for two to Paris and the Loire region.

Webber with La Madeleine founder Patrick Esquerré at the Rockville café. Photo courtesy of La Madeleine“I feel really grateful to everyone who voted for me,” Webber says. “I’ve been to Paris, but I’m really excited about going back.”

From 200 nationwide entries, La Madeleine picked the 12 best-sounding recipes, tested each and narrowed the field to five. The public then was invited to vote online. That’s when Webber and her three daughters launched into action, spreading the word on Facebook.

What’s more, Webber got out the vote by making pochettes for everybody she knew, including friends, her tutoring students and their parents, and the staff at her dentist’s office and at her Bethesda gym. One of the gym’s trainers even tweeted a daily reminder to vote for Webber.

To see the recipe, go to

Follow That Truck!

Now that the weather’s warm, why not try lunch at one of the many food trucks rolling into Montgomery County?

For one-stop information on their names, locations and menus, check out

A New Industree

People may think that running a restaurant is glamorous, but Alisia Kleinmann knows better.

The Gaithersburg resident, a former personal chef and head of private dining events for Matchbox Vintage Pizza Bistro, has created a new events-based organization that hosts speaker series where local restaurateurs can dish about their trials, tribulations and successes.

In partnership with the Restaurant Association Metropolitan Washington and other organizations, industree expects to hold six events annually, aimed at helping restaurateurs learn, connect with each other and grow. The next speaking event will be in July.

What’s on Tap

Looking for a summer weekend drive? Check out retired Gaithersburg High School social studies teacher and former Rockville attorney Tom Barse’s new hobby: the first farm brewery in Maryland.

Located in Mount Airy, Milkhouse Brewery offers tastings of handcrafted pale ale, porter and India Pale Ale made with hops grown on Barse’s Stillpoint Farm, plus beer to go in bottles, kegs or growlers.

Barse, a risk taker who says he has had fun with his varied careers, and his wife, Carolann McConaughy, also run a small apiary, board horses, make hay, raise rare breeds of sheep and sell fleece and yarn at the farm. The brewery “is my retirement plan,” Barse says.  

Anatomy of a Food Find

Why do the creative pastries sold by Silver Spring’s Baklava Couture taste so good? Maybe it’s because they’re made with products from two local small businesses: olive oil by Manoli Canoli and honey from BannerBee Co. Here’s a rundown of the three:

Baklava from Baklava Couture. Photo by Katerina GeorgallasBaklava Couture: Katerina Georgallas, a former interior designer who lives in Silver Spring, grew up thinking that too many Greek desserts taste the same, all of them doused in overly sweet syrups. After much experimentation, she came up with a line of beautiful and not-too-sweet hand-rolled pastries with unusual (and sometimes savory) filling combinations, such as fig and candied garlic and rosemary and dark chocolate. While most layered Greek pastries call for butter, Georgallas switched to Manoli Canoli Olive Oil because its low acidity and light flavor provide a cleaner canvas for highlighting the other ingredients. She likes the raw honey from BannerBee, which gets darker and more robust as the harvests progress, making it compatible with the seasonal variations in her pastries.

Manoli Canoli Olive Oil: Rockville resident Stavros Manolakos has come full circle. Growing up on an olive farm in Sparta, Greece, he came to the U.S. to attend college on a soccer scholarship, got an MBA and then worked in the technology field. Now he’s importing his family’s extra-virgin olive oil.

BannerBee Co.: Andrea and Chet Langworthy of Laytonsville harvest honey from about 60 hives on seven organic farms in Montgomery, Howard and Frederick counties. In addition to raw, unfiltered wildflower honey, the family-owned company sells infused and flavored honeys and enriched and varietal honeys.

Baklava Couture products are sold at the Bethesda and Rockville Central Farm Markets, the Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market, and online at A box with half a dozen sells for $15; a dozen, $28.

Manoli Canoli Olive Oil is sold at more than 30 Whole Foods Markets, including local stores; the Chevy Chase Supermarket; at Manolakos’ Greek-Italian Manoli Canoli Restaurant at 8540 Connecticut Ave., and to other local eateries, including Cava Mezze. Order online at Prices range from $9.99 to $29.99 for the oil.

BannerBee honey is sold at the Silver Spring FRESHFARM Market and the Kensington farmers market, and at Prices vary.

Comings & Goings

Chocoholics have much to celebrate with the opening of Bethesda Row’s Max Brenner Chocolate Bar. The global chain’s first U.S. sweets-only restaurant, it was scheduled to open in mid-June at 7263 Woodmont Ave. Among the offerings: chocolate drinks, fondue, fudge cake, chocolate pizza, crepes and more. …Fish Taco, a casual seafood eatery from the owners of Bethesda’s Food Wine & Co., is slated to open mid-July at 7945 MacArthur Blvd. in Cabin John. …Plaza del Sol, Bethesda’s Tex-Mex eatery at 4932 St. Elmo Ave., closed in April. …Zen Tara Tea, the serene tea shop on Bethesda Avenue, was shuttered in May, a casualty of the surrounding construction mess in downtown Bethesda. …Rí Rá, the popular Irish pub that spent a decade on Elm Street in Bethesda, is closing in September. ...Longtime Bethesda Row restaurant City Lights of China went dark in May and will be replaced by ShopHouse Southeast Asian Kitchen sometime in late 2013. The Southeast Asian concept developed by Chipotle, ShopHouse will also open in the new Pike & Rose development in Rockville sometime in 2014.

Carole Sugarman is the magazine’s food editor. Send restaurant tips or Food Find ideas to

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