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Archive for March, 2010

I was at a conference outside Phoenix the last few days, and in between meetings I managed to get out and look around a bit.  There’s a lot of beauty in the contrast between the dry desert and the areas that are artificially or naturally irrigated (river banks, golf courses, farmland, etc).  And, wouldn’t you know, there was  a little farmer’s market I was able to visit.  A lot of the produce was similar to what we can get here in DC, but there were a few things that were specific to the area.  Imagine being able to get citrus and olives and dates at your local market!

I think this is agave.

The citrus farmer at the market sold blood oranges, valencias, navel oranges, and the biggest lemons I'd ever seen. Seriously, they were almost as big as grapefruits! I bought two and brought them home with me in my suitcase.

I also bought some of those dates there on the left side of the photo.

The wonders of irrigation.

They were selling pepper plants that had been shaped into trees, bonsai-style. My pepper seedlings have some catching up to do.

I sort of think there are too many golf courses everywhere, but they sure provide a good background for photos!

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See and Be Seen With Us!

“Power Spot of the Year” nominee Art & Soul is, according to the RAMMY’s, a “spot to “see and be seen” with the movers and shakers on the national and local political and business scene.”  Well, naturally it is, because that’s where the next DC Food Blogger Happy Hour is going to be!  Come join all your favorite bloggers, including ModernDomestic, Arugula Files, Beer Spotter, Biscuits and Such, Capital Cooking, Capital Spice, Common Man Eats, Dining in DC, Girl Meets Food, Thrifty DC Cook, We Love DC.

See you April 7!  RSVP here.

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RAMMY Noms & Picks

Last night I got to attend the nominations gala as they announced the finalists for the 2010 RAMMY awards.  Swanky!  It’s funny, I don’t get starstruck talking to senators and cabinet members, but put me 5 feet away from a Top Chef finalist and suddenly I’m speechless.

Most of the categories will have their winner decided by secret panel, but a few categories are up for public voting.  To me, the most interesting of the public categories is Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year.  And the nominees are…

Neighborhood Gathering Place of the Year
This nominee is a restaurant that demonstrates a high standard of quality and congeniality rooted in its neighborhood.

Bar Pilar
Belga
Cork
EatBar
Kemble Park Tavern

That’s some serious competition.  I’m a big fan of both Bar Pilar and Cork, but I think Bar Pilar wins it by a nose for me.  I love all their little plates, and the cocktails are amazing.  The other two vote-able categories are Hottest Restaurant Bar Scene (nominees: Birch & Barley and ChurchKey, Bourbon Steak, Masa 14, Posto, POV) and Restaurant Power Spot (nominees: Art & Soul, BLT Steak, Bombay Club, The Source, Teatro Goldoni).  I haven’t quite made up my mind which places I’ll pick for these categories, since a few of them are places I haven’t been to yet.  But there’s plenty of time to make that happen; the ballot won’t go up on the Washington City Paper until April 29.

Anyone got a favorite horse in these races?  If I could only make it to one of either BLT Steak, The Source, and Teatro Goldoni, where should I go?  Does Bourbon Steak actually have a hot bar scene?  Hmmm.

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Fellow DC-area garden blogger The Dirty Radish had a rant last week about tomato and basil seedlings being on sale at local farmers markets.  As she wrote:

Why are people selling basil and tomatoes now? At least put a warning label on them! While the air temperature may be a balmy 75*F today, that’s not going to last and the soil temperature isn’t that warm. You plop a tomato in temperatures that are just now coaxing daffodils to bloom, the plant is going to go all “What is THIS?!?” on you. Planting before the soil and air temperatures cooperate isn’t going to give you an early harvest. If anything, it might inhibit the plant’s overall growth, according to a horticulturalist on the local news last night.

I tend to agree.  There isn’t much advantage, and there is certainly some risk, to putting your tomatoes and peppers out now.  I did see one vendor at the Dupont Circle farmers market selling a few heirloom tomato and hot pepper seedlings on Sunday, and I just hope that whoever buys them will know to keep them indoors for a couple more weeks.

On the other hand, I saw a lot of herbs for sale, and I think most of those (with the exception of basil) would hold up okay even if you put them out now.  Herbs are pretty resilient, especially the woodier ones like oregano and rosemary.  The sage and thyme and rosemary out at my garden are already bouncing back after the harsh winter.  You’re still probably better off waiting, but if you find those seedlings at the market irresistible, I would go for the herbs first.

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I spent several hours of this glorious weekend toiling in the garden.  Aside from some sunburn, it felt really good to be out there.  I did some weeding, sowed some beet seeds, excavated some invasive vine roots, and (most importantly) planted the bare-root strawberries and seed potatoes I got in the mail this week.  Meanwhile, blossom season is juuuust beginning.  Enjoy it, DC, before the tourist hordes arrive.

So lovely. I don't think this is a flowering cherry proper, but it's something similar.

The cherry blossom tree outside my apartment is about to burst open - the branches against the hot brick always blossom first.

Meanwhile, out at my garden, the garlic I planted last fall is sprouting up nicely.

I dug some very deep trenches in which to plant my Russian Banana Fingerling seed potatoes. I didn't full fill in the trenches - I'll add more compost as the plants grow, since this will increase the crop.

This ugly thing is actually a buried treaure: an old overwintered cilantro root I found while tilling the new potato bed. It had started to send up leaves again, so I replanted it in a pot. Hopefully it'll produce!

Camellias are blossoming now in my neighborhood, as are star magnolias and tulip trees. So pretty!

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La, I’m so happy about the warm weather.  Here’s are some various and sundry other things that are me happy this week:

  • Cardamom gelato at Pitango.  It’s awesome.
  • Eating the little basil seedlings that I now have to thin out of my seed trays.
  • The playlist at Mid-City Caffe.  When I was there last Sunday, they were playing all my favorite mid-90s swing bands, like Big Bad Voodoo Daddy and Squirrel Nut Zippers.  Perfect accompaniment to the Counter Culture coffee.
  • Jenna’s illuminating answer to my question about white whole wheat flour.  I’m adding it to my grocery list next time I’m at Trader Joe’s.
  • Top Chef’s next season being filmed here in DC.  I want to meet Tom Collicchio!!

Enjoy the 70 degree weather this weekend, everyone!

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Happy Pi Day

Yesterday, 3/14, was Pi Day, the day when numbers nerds celebrate our favorite irrational number.  Hooray for 3.1415…!  Most people bake sweet pies to celebrate, but I thought I’d go savory.  Et voila, la quiche.

The best part of this quiche is that I used up some of the last of my frozen garden-grown Swiss chard (along with onions and Keswick Creamery feta).  As I mentioned a few weeks back, March is one of the few months of the year when I expect zero harvest.  So it seems like a great time to use up all the stuff I preserved.  Now what do I do with a few jars of pickled peppers, carrots, and beets?

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