Table Talk May/June 2013

Phyllis Richman, Farm to Freezer and more



Where is she now?

Phyllis Richman, who retired in 2000 after 23 years as The Washington Post’s food critic, is now 74 and living in Takoma Park. We checked in with her recently to talk about retirement, Montgomery County eateries and the changing world of restaurant reviewing.  

What she misses most about being a critic: Leftovers

What she misses least: Going to restaurants once or twice a day

Most-memorable assignments: A series on soup kitchens; “Cooking with Herbs” (Washington men named Herb and what they cook); and getting to know the cooking of Jean-Louis Palladin (the renowned Washington chef who died in 2001)

View on the Montgomery County dining scene: Restaurants have definitely improved, with a lot more good, mid-level places.   

Where she eats in Bethesda: Bistro Provence, Mia’s Pizzas, Black’s Bar & Kitchen, Jaleo

Where she eats in Silver Spring: 8407 Kitchen Bar, Mandalay, Jackie’s and Jackie’s Sidebar, Moorenko’s Ice Cream, carryout from Nando’s Peri-Peri 

Restaurant reviews on social media: They’re fun to read and helpful for filling out the sense of a restaurant, but critiques from a professional critic are a known quantity and more trustworthy. 

Her influence as a food critic: Not as much as restaurants thought; a bad review never put one out of business.

Tips for diners: Order dishes that play to a restaurant’s strengths. If you’re ordering a dish made with lobster and there’s no other lobster on the menu, be wary: It could be glamorous filler. Don’t expect the expensive dish to be the best one. And be cautious about ordering showy dishes. If a mid-range restaurant has an appetizer with caviar, it’s not likely to be real caviar. 

A Farewell to Armagnac? 

Stories about the life and libations of author Ernest Hemingway have been collected in a delightful book called To Have and Have Another: A Hemingway Cocktail Companion (Penguin, 2012), written by local lawyer and Chevy Chase, D.C., resident Philip Greene.

Playing off the title of Hemingway’s novel To Have and Have Not (Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1937), the book is organized alphabetically by drink name (from Absinthe to White Lady).

Each chapter includes a recipe, references to where the cocktail crops up in Hemingway’s books, and other historical and anecdotal information.

The book is an ideal project for Greene, a cocktail history buff who has been a Hemingway fan since he attended St. John’s College High School in Chevy Chase, D.C. He’s also a co-founder of The Museum of the American Cocktail in New Orleans. 

Bread Line

4,000 to 5,000

Number of baguettes served in a week at Bethesda’s Mon Ami Gabi

Comings

As if he weren’t busy enough with his new Range restaurant in Chevy Chase Pavilion, chef-owner Bryan Voltaggio is opening another place in the renovated shopping mall. Lunchbox, a sibling of one of his three Frederick restaurants, will be opening later this year. Look for a menu featuring lunchtime favorites including upscale grilled cheese and turkey and meatloaf sandwiches. …Yuzu, a Japanese restaurant featuring sushi and robata (a style of Japanese grilling), was scheduled to open in April in the former Divino Lounge space at 7345-B Wisconsin Ave. in Bethesda. …Two local chains are opening locations in Silver Spring: Pete’s New Haven Style Apizza will open at 962 Wayne Ave. by late spring; and sweetgreen, the salad and frozen yogurt restaurant, at 8517 Georgia Ave. by summer. …Meanwhile, the international chain Le Pain Quotidien is scheduled to take over the space vacated by Tynan Coffee & Tea at 5310-C Western Ave. (The Shops at Wisconsin Place) in Chevy Chase. Look for a summer opening. …And two independently owned restaurants are scheduled to open in Potomac’s Cabin John Shopping Center & Mall: Benny’s Bar & Grill, an American eatery, will open this spring, and Gregorio’s Trattoria, serving traditional Italian fare, is on track for a late summer arrival.  

Pie, Oh My!

Photo by Charles BorstBy day, Catherine Gewertz is a mild-mannered reporter working for Bethesda-based Education Week. By night (and on weekends), she’s a baker, tying on a bib apron and heading into the kitchen to make pie crust. The Bethesda resident has always loved getting her hands into a mixture of flour, butter and sugar, but she didn’t become officially passionate about baking until after she spent a week rolling crusts in the kitchen of a New York City restaurant in 2011 and attended a six-month pastry class in 2012 at L’Academie de Cuisine in Gaithersburg. 

Now she’s turning out more than 20 varieties of pies—from decadent French silk to a lovely lattice-topped Morello cherry—that are “folksy, handmade, down to earth, nothing uppity or fancy,” through her business, CurvyMama Pies. Gewertz uses butter for flavor and leaf lard for flaky texture when making her crusts, but she’s happy to produce all-butter crusts for vegetarians, kosher clients and anyone else who wants them. 

The pies, which average about $24 each, can be ordered online at curvymamapies.com.

Harvesting to Fight Hunger

Farm to Freezer intern Katie Thatcher roasts eggplant prior to freezing last fall at Bradley Hills Presbyterian Church in Bethesda.Now that it’s farm market season, a pilot program that helps to feed the hungry in the winter will be significantly expanding its efforts. Farm to Freezer was launched last summer by Susan Kirk, executive director of Bethesda Cares, a local nonprofit that provides support for the homeless, and Cheryl Kollin, founder of Full Plate Ventures, to solve the problem of donated produce that spoils before it can be used.

Last summer, volunteers prepped and froze 5,000 pounds of organic vegetables donated by Spiral Path Farm in Loysville, Pa., which runs a stand at Bethesda’s FRESHFARM Market.

The food was used in 2,500 meals for Bethesda Cares clients during the winter.

This season, Farm to Freezer will receive produce from other farm markets, as well, and will donate tomato sauce, roasted eggplants and other frozen vegetables to additional organizations that serve those in need. Kollin says the program also hopes to sell food products to small local groceries.

Volunteers are invited to help process produce on weekends. For more information, or to sign up, go to farmtofreezer.wordpress.com.

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

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