Feb 02, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. You can share your thoughts on the latest Washington Post Food section, get suggestions from fellow cooks and food lovers, or swap old-fashioned recipes the new-fashioned way.

Greetings, Nation, and welcome to Free Range. Today, we've got lots of guests: Gillian Clark and Robin Smith of General Store are in the house to talk about the controversy surrounding the video reenactments they made about customers, and about Tim Carman's profile today. We hope --  barring any technical difficulties -- that we'll also have Barbara, Jeff and Simon Black, who can talk about cooking for someone with diabetes. And of course, we're here to answer questions about our annual Super Bowl smackdown -- shouldn't it be snackdown? -- and our veggie approach this year.

We'll have giveaway books for our favorite posts: "Skinny Dips" by Diane Morgan" and "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook."

Let's do this thing!

I'm the person who asked the original question to Todd Kliman about the General Store videos, leading to the Washingtonian and DCist coverage. I actually learned about the videos from my husband, who learned about them by reading a tweet from David Hagedorn! I have no problem with Gillian Clark and Robin Smith having made the videos; I doubt there's anyone who doesn't kvetch about the people they deal with at work, whether customers, clients, or co-workers. If they'd kept the videos private on Facebook, all would have been well. The problem came when the videos were made public -- very public, given that these videos were related to the Guy Fieri videos of Clark's appearance on his show. I was a fan of Colorado Kitchen, and often went there for brunch, which was always delicious. I found the signs, such as the rules for children, to be rather amusing. I'm not looking for smiles or any other kind of acknowledgment from someone busy working the line, though I do expect that from someone working the front of the house. But public mocking of paying customers and, judging from Tim Carman's interview, not understanding what's wrong with that, is a far bigger problem. Gillian Clark did herself no favors with this interview.

Tim left out a lot of good things about me.  This article really did lean to a charicature.  I found it interesting that he did not include that many of our customers love the videos and came in to tell me so.  It sells papers to create a villain.  Tim also did not include that 45% of my friends are current and former customers of both the General Store and Colorado Kitchen.  Much about me was left out.  I found it interesting that he interrogated me about my father's death to the point I was fighting back tears and none of that was included.  It could have been a very different article if the editors deemed it so. 

It's true much was left out of Gillian's portrait, but that is the nature of newspapering. But what was there, I think, is far from a caricature. I spent hours interviewing Gillian, Robin, former associates, and other colleagues in the restaurant industry. I read much of the commentary online about Gillian and Robin. What we published, I feel, is a fair representation of many of their many points of view.  I think the hardest part about trying to get a grasp on Gillian and Robin is that they are more comfortable talking about others' behaviors than their own. At one point in the interviewing process, I asked Gillian three times to examine what role, if any, she has played in the reputation she has earned. Each time, she focused on others' behaviors, not her own. I'd say that she's now focusing on my behavior, right or wrong. In my defense, I pushed very hard to portray Gillian and Robin in the fairest light, giving them a platform to tell readers who they are. I think a great deal of the story is given to such commentary.

Have any of you eaten at this restaurant in Rockville? I love love love their cole slaw and would love to replicate it, but have no idea where to start.

You're in luck luck luck. Chef Armando tells me it's dressed with fresh ginger, sesame oil and soy sauce -- no mayo. Vegetables are cabbage and red/green bell peppers.  He promises me a recipe tomorrow, so e-mail us at food@washpost.com and I'll do my best to get it to you.

Hello. I am looking for a single serving coffee maker that can make coffee similar to what can be found in Europe and Asia. (a little lighter than espresso but has a great crema). Do you have any suggestions taking into account the taste of the coffee, price, durability of machine, availability of the coffee pods/ cups/ discs/ whatever, and price per serving? Would prefer not to spend over $250 on the machine and more than $1 per serving of coffee. Thanks!

Yes, I have a suggestion after testing/analyzing some of these several years ago when I was in Boston: Don't do it. For single-serve coffee, you're much better off with a simple pour-over system. It makes amazing coffee, it a fraction of the cost, and you much more control: any kind of beans from any source, which you can grind right before making. Coffee starts to get stale as soon as it's ground, so even vacuum-packed pods lead to staler-tasting brew, and you can't control the strength that easily, and you have to find the pods, which also create a lot of waste. Here's the system I use -- many baristas and other coffee snobs do something similar.

When Anthony Bourdain mouths off about picky customers and such, he's seen as frank and funny. When Chef Clark does it, she's some angry, bitchy woman. It's a double standard. Anyone who has dealt with the public knows customers, and especially diners, can be incredibly picky, rude and frustrating. She's the chef; why shouldn't she get to say no if she wants to. If you don't like it or her, eat elsewhere. But considering her skill in the kitchen, I'd say you were a fool if you did.

Thanks for noticing the double standard, gentle reader.  I have often said that when a woman tries ont he emperor's new clothes she's quietly told it makes her butt look big.  A man chef is told how great he looks in it.  This is an age old dilemma.  I think some people get irritated with me because they have some expectation of who and what I should be and I don't always fit that.  The charicature of me that continues to be portrayed in the local media--while it sells papers and gets folks to read a blog or two, is not reality.  Most people thats come to my restaurants are treated with gracious generosity.  I've been at this for over 16 years.

Has anyone seen kumquats in the DC/NOVA area? Or know any store that would order them? I need them for a party I am having next weekend and they aren’t at the usual suspects. I know "needing" kumquats is a silly predicament but I am going nuts trying to find them! Thanks so much

I just saw them at the Whole Foods Market near Mazza Gallerie over the weekend/was surprised!

I'm sure I am chatter #293838 to ask you this question, but if you could make one chili for a super bowl gathering, what would it be? Also, if you've got a vegetarian recipe that would be great too - I'd like to make two options for people. Thank you!

Well, duh, it would be my traditional Chili Con Carne! Very meat-heavy, so it would go nicely with a veggie one. Hmm, a veggie chili...  We've got two of them for you: Vita's Vegetarian 3-Bean Chipotle Chili, and Vegetarian Chili With Butternut Squash and Rutabaga. For the Super Bowl, I'd go with the latter cause the ingredients are more seasonal.

Oh, I GUESS you could also check out Bonnie's Weeknight Chili. Some people say it's great. ;-)

speaking of veggies -- do you know of anyplace that sells real baby carrots, not big carrots have been whittled into little pieces?

Farmers markets. At Sunday Dupont market, one farmers has been selling absolutely delicious small carrots -- they're longer than those fake babies, but just as skinny. And the flavorful is incomparable.

Do we have to talk about Ms Clark again? Fact is, she's a great chef. But the other facts about her include the fact that she is NOT great at the front of the house stuff. Nor is Ms Smith. So many problems could be solved by building a closed kitchen and hiring a competent dining room/bar managed and letting that person handle customer interactions. I loved Colorado Kitchen. I'll never go to another one of her places because of bad customer service experiences that which appear to be the norm, and to be funny to Ms Clark and Ms Smith.

Thanks for supporting CK for all those years, reader.  We did start out with a rag tag crew of kids and eventually had a great staff.  I'm certainly not a waiter, I give you that.  But Robin has always been a very gracious host.  We don't find poor service funny and there are many staff that have been fired or reprimanded by not giving customers optimum service.  As for the open kitchen.  To me at CK it was a window into our integrity in the kitchen.  That neighborhood hosted places where food was passed to customers through bullet proof glass.  That was the concept I wanted to smash through its very heart.  Interaction with customers, that came too, but surely not Benihana style.  I shared recipes, made friends, let a woman watch me make my roasted chicken 6 times so that she could make it at home.  Colorado Kitchen had 8 succesful years because of great food and great service.  Busy brunch often was the source of complaints.  But I challenge any restauarant to serve 250 guests in 15 tables in 3 hours the way we did.  I'm sure not everyone got the gracious smile they wanted or the leisurely time with a server.  But on any given night when service was at a much better pace, customers (even Tim Carman and his wife) enjoyed a nice and attentive dining experience at CK.  Service gaffes will happen. I have been the victim of them myself.  And I'm sure they happen in my restaurant as well.  We do our very best but we are human.

I think that the Super Bowl snacks are awesome, and Im looking forward to do them, but first I have a question: I love Kimchi and everytime I go to the Korean market there are so many options that I always end up buying the regular one (napa cabbage, scallions etc.). What is the main difference between this "regular" kimchi and the other varieties? Is the flavor the same but just using other vegetables (like radishes & eggplant)? I imagine the main difference is in texture and the condiments remain the same but I'm not sure, could you please clarify this? Also when you said Light Miso for the Carrot Cashew Spread, is this like a paste or powder? I'm sure I can get it at the Korean Market but would like to know how it looks.

Here's the Carrot Cashew part of your question: Miso is a fermented soybean paste. The lighter-colored versions (yellow or white) have a more delicate flavor than the darker ones (red, brown). It lends some saltiness  at a reduced-sodium level. Kinda love this recipe. Even my smackdown adversary admitted he did, too.

And here's the kimchi part: Indeed, the main difference is the vegetables. There's a wide world of kimchi, but the basic idea is that it's spicy and fermented -- traditionally made with salted shrimp and/or fish sauce and Korean chile pepper. But it can be radishes, cabbage, eggplant, even edamame or Asian pear. (I have a recipe featuring the latter in my cookbook.)

i assumed this was closed until spring: "At Sunday Dupont market, one farmers has been selling absolutely delicious small carrots..."

Nope. Dupont is year-round.

So what are some for Sunday? Or are they in the Food Section which I haven't looked at yet?

The latter. Follow the link at the top of the chat to our snackdown!

I asked about microwaving plastic last week - I pretty much knew the answer would be to NOT microwave the containers, but my sister and mom had both rolled their eyes - mostly because the container in question didn't melt - and I wanted expert backup. Thanks again!

You're welcome!

This dish sounds interesting, but I was surprised by some of the ingredients. Ketchup, for example, which I was surprised to see, as well as spaghetti. If I wanted it to be more Asian, what kind of noodles should I use? And if I omit the ketchup, what do I lose?

It's kind of a mashup, with a flavor that ends up very kid-friendly. It won't win any awards for beauty on the plate, I can tell you that! I felt bad for the poor photographer who had to shoot the dish....More Asian: Use a sweet chili sauce instead of the ketchup and udon noodles.

Joe, I'm so glad you're not on the Keurig/etc. bandwagon. Where others seem to see all positives, I see all negatives! I just got a 1-3 cup Chemex in the mail yesterday and I'm SO excited to use it. I got it on Amazon for about $35 (including a big box of filters), so it's very reasonably priced and beautiful to boot.

Great! I had one and loved it -- until I broke it while washing in the sink! Be careful...

Bourdain runs his mouth on TV and in books, and no longer runs a restaurant. I doubt he treated customers like that in his restaurant. (Then again, I find him revolting.)

As you could probably guess, I'm a Bourdain fan. Yes, he is opinionated, mouthy and often rude. He is also the first person to call himself a sell-out, a second-tier chef, and a guy full of knee-jerk reactions. He has reversed his opinions on a number of issues/people, like Rachael Ray and Emeril. I think he's open to others' opinions of him, good, bad and even vicious.

Chef, We are looking forward to having you over in NE/Noma/H St/Cap Hill. Any update on how the new place is coming along? Are you still shooting for April or May?

Yes, we have a great team with us on that project.  We are building a real neighborhood place and I am so excited about this project.

The carrot dip looked great! What are some other uses for miso so that I don't get stuck with an entire tub and only one recipe?

It is really good. Miso lasts for months in the fridge. Add it to pasta sauces, soups, stews. You get that umami thing and maybe you can cut back on your sodium intake a bit, which is apparently what many of us should be thinking about.

Gillian Clark is not the only difficult female chef out there....I have not been to the restauraurant and have always wanted to go and, hopefully, will at some point. Look at the former chef of Buck's Hunting and Fishing Lodge. She was always lambasted for her "behavior." It's her restaurant and she can make the rules, just as Chef Clark and many male chefs do. Men are not criticized for it ; women are....!!! Give me a break!! The old double standard in any field still exists!! We still have a long way to go.... a Bethesda reader and foodie

So true, Bethesda reader.  I orginally got this reputation coming to Carole Greenwood's defense.  Chef's have standards and lines they won't cross.  While mine may not have been as severe as Carole's and perhaps more severe than some, there are some things we w0n't do.  Man or woman, we draw a line.  I have two kids and I bristle at a kids menu.  Talk about carbs, and fat.  I am dissappointed at how many parents come in and reject a balanced dinner and opt for the mac and cheese for their kids.  Green veggies are important.

A word of support for Gillian and Robin. It must be terrible to be in any sort of industry where you are expected to serve the general public -- who can often be really obnoxious -- with a ready smile and "yessir" or "yesmaam" no matter what. Whether the videos are a wise business decision is your concern, but I fully support your right to make them! Glad to see you are expanding to NoMa, by the way.

We are very excited about NOMA and all of the other projects were are trying to bring to DC.  Thanks for your kind words.

Don't think it has anything to do with gender. Anthony Bourdain is funny. That is the difference. Not sure is you are mean-spirited because you feel attacked but your videos/chatting comments are not coming across as humorous (e.g., "not sure, cuz im 12").

I agree. Anthony Bourdain is funny.  Sometimes he's not.  He can be brutally honest and insulting.  And it sometimes it is things we need to hear.  I'm sure Alice Waters doesn't think he's funny.

I wish that the online recipes would be printed in the paper, such as the Citrus Panna Cotta. Is there a reason for these online recipes, other than saving paper?

Unfortunately, we just don't have unlimited space in print the way we do online. Years ago, we just wouldn't have been able to share recipes that didn't fit in print at all. Now we have an option to give people even more.

You've got a good recipe eye. That's a nice dessert.

Well, that's exactly what you did when you made those videos. You created caricatures of your customers. You created villains. I would not want to eat in a restaurant that did this.

I'm sorry you feel that way.  There are incidents that happen.  I'm sure you've had them in your work day.  Sometimes they make us laugh.  We shared them.  No one was killed or villified in any way.  We have a number of customers who have come to us and told us how much they enjoyed them.

What were your reactions when Wal-Mart and Michelle Obama announced working on bring healthy food to Wal-Marts?

I know many people were upset that the First Lady would lend her support to a company with such a poor  labor record. I share those concerns, but I think both the President and First Lady understand we live in an imperfect world. They rightly see Wal-Mart as the 800-pound gorilla that can spur change across the country and can spur change among growers, too. It's a smart campaign that could have ripple effects far beyond Wal-Mart.

I work hard. When I choose to spend money at a restaurant, I expect to be treated with respect. I want a retreat, a sancturary. Even a hint of a possibililty that the chef will post a video of me--her customer--on youtube keeps me away. I would be fired if I treated my customers like that!

True, we make choices.  And no one was named or publicly humiliated.  I treat everyone that comes in with respect.  If you did come in you'd find that to be so.

also...don't be too sure you've not already been the object of ridicule.  There are server blogs where people are called out by name.  Pictures are posted of bad tippers and sloppy eaters.

Hi All - I wrote in months ago, even followed up with an e-mail as asked, to find out about a recipe for Cafe' Asia's 'cole slaw' - a light sesame cabbage and carrot salad that got me through pregnancy....never heard back...any luck finding what is in that magic elixer?

Never heard back, either. Bolstered by the Mosaic Cafe response, though, maybe I can give it another shot. Thanks for your patience!

Safeway is Burke has them. They are in the produce section with the specialty mushrooms and peppers and organic herbs.

I've found that you can make veggie stir fry very quickly if you prep all the veggies. For weeknight meals, on Sunday, cut up a huge assortment of veggies (zucchini, yellow squash, broccoli, cauliflower, napa cabbage, carrots, red cabbage, bell peppers, etc) and put them in zip lock bags with a little water. Also mince some garlic, ginger and chop some onions. Precook 3 cups of rice (we use brown rice). Each night, you heat up the pan with some olive oil with a mixture of garlic, ginger and onion, toss some in whatever veggies you want, stir fry for 2-3 minutes, add some sauces and voila in 5-10 minutes you have a meal...only a few minutes longer than microwaving leftovers. When you reheat the rice, put in a bowl with a wet paper towel over it to microwave for 1-3 minutes (depending on quantity reheating). For sauces, you can vary it night to night. For Asian, I usually mix soy, a dash of vinegar (red wine, rice wine or cidar), a dash of sesame oil, hoisin and a slurry of corn starch and water. For European, I go with butter, fresh chiffonade of sage and lemon juice.

My boyfriend and I want to make a nice dinner this weekend to celebrate our anniversary. We're kind of tired of heavy foods, and don't want to over-do it before the Superbowl. Do you have any ideas for something nice and light that's still romantic? Bearing in mind I don't eat meat and he's allergic to shellfish.

Try a nice Grilled Salmon, with a soba noodle and vegatable salad.

I have a great fajita marinade that I was hoping to use this weekend. I'd love to use it ina healthy way, without the unhealthy additions of cheese, sour cream and tortillas. The basic meat and veggies will be great, but do you think I could serve them as lettuce wraps instead? Maybe use Greek yogurt for the sour cream? I'm trying to limit the dairy and carbs if possible. Or, is there another healthy way to use fajita marinade? Thank you!

Yes, they could be lettuce wraps and you could use Greek yogurt, I would suggest a decomposed fajita salad with tomatoes, roasted peppers, black beans, cilantro, and a red wine vinagrette, or a citrus vinagrette.

I have a friend who lives in Silver Spring and is ailing. I live too far away to bring over a frozen casserole or other pick-me-up myself. Does anyone have any suggestions of someplace local that will deliver a meal or maybe a treat that she and her family might enjoy? Thanks.

Try to see if River Falls can deliever to him/her.

I wing it too and it usually comes out good. But then, I learned from my Chinese mother. Here are some tips. Make a base of soy, dash of vinegar (red wine, rice wine or cidar), dash of sesame oil (a little goes a long way), minced garlic and minced ginger. Let sit for 15-30 minutes. Taste to make sure that it tastes good...a little sour is okay as you'll add more sweet. Make a small amount of corn starch slurry. Make sure add the sauce last when everything has been mostly cooked. Add a tablespoon or two of each thing at a time until you get the right balance. Add hoison or oyster sauce. Then add soy mixture, then add the corn starch slurry...when the sauce thickens, taste. Adjust the hoison and soy quantities for taste (you can take it off the heat once the slurry thickens). After you've discovered your taste balances the first time or two, it will get easier and you won't have to experiment quite as much...I can do it by sight now.


I bet if the article were written by Joe or Bonnie, it would have been quite different. Personally, for juicy gossip and scandals I religiously peruse Roxanne and Amy's offerings in the Reliable Source.Food section I read for food talk, not chef's bedside manners. I am more interested in Gillian's recipes than in her personality. I am not interested in judgement of her behavior by Sandra Lees or people I know nothing about. I was very impressed by Gillian's stand on "no substitutes" after reading her comments in Sietsema's column several years ago. It hit home. As a serious and adventurous home cook I wholeheartedly sympathize with her. I hope your next opus magnum in Gillian will be focused on her food.

I thought Tim's piece was very even-handed. We worked to make it so. And we cover all aspects of food in our section -- restaurant culture, cooking, food trends. This fits right in.

I bought a rack of beef ribs (whole) and I'm not quite sure what to do with them, besides the obvious of rubbing them with seasons and slow roasting. Any other suggestions? Thanks!

You can braise them, slowly, let them cool, pull the meat, and make a ravioli pasta filling or a sandwich with BBQ sauce. (Of course homemade)

Like what? Is this more unsweetened orange juice or vinegar, or -- what?

Depending on the style of cuisine, lemon, lime, red vinegar, balsamic vinegar, and champagne vinegar.

Are you going to do another article listing all the CSAs in the area? It was very helpful last year. (Apologies if it has come out and I've missed it).

It's happening; probably by end of February it'll be up and online. Most of the CSA folks we've been contacting say there's still time and space to sign up.

I've made this dip more times than I can count just because everyone really loves it. It's a sort-of Greek layer dip. The first layer is hummus, then Greek yogurt seasoned with garlic/salt/pepper, next layer diced tomatoes, then diced red onion, chopped black olives, feta and finally some chives. It ends up being really light and you can mix/match layers as you please.

Gracious good morning. I asked last week about a souffle recipe and just want to tell you that I used Julia Child's recipe for a cheese souffle last night and it was probably one of the best things I have ever made. Her book gives a 5-6 page demonstration of how to do each step. It was fun to make and tasted absolutely delicious. I even beat the egg whites by hand (next time I will use the beater). So have no fear and dive on in and make one.

Love it.

A tradition I tried to start a couple of years ago for the Super Bowl was to make black and white cookies but make the color of the icing represent the two different teams. So one half of the cookies would have the two colors of one team, and the two colors of the other team would be on the second half. Where things broke down was that I had to make black frosting but didn't want to melt chocolate. So two questions: 1) Is there a way to make black icing without using chocolate, and 2) Do you know a good recipe for a basic cookie for black & whites?

Take royal icing and divide by four, and colored dye to each depending on team color.

Hi. The Kentucky Bourbon Pound Cake from last week calls for 3.25 cups light brown sugar, but doesn't specify whether it should be "packed." When measuring brown sugar, should it always be packed, or only if the recipe says to pack it? Thanks!

We can amend the recipe. I can't thin k of a time when "packed" wouldn't apply.

I noticed a comment on the recipe for Nutty Beefy Noodles about the high sodium content. Is that correct - 510mg/serving??? Any way of reducing it?

According to our guidelines for designating recipes as healthful, 510 ain't so bad. (600 mgs is the  maximum). In fact, all the numbers for the dish fell in line so it is healthful.

question for Gillian--In reading the Post article, I wondered if you still adhere to the "no substitutions" rule? If so, I'd like you to address it in the context of the Blacks and their son. I realize no restaurant can serve everybody, bu I bring this up as you can see from the article how substitutions make a diabetic's life easier (read: livable!). And there are other very valid reasons for substitutions out there as well, but I thought this was an interesting juxtaposition to point out. (speaking as a T1 diabetic for almost 40 yrs, who now also has food allergies.)

Robin here:  I haven't read the article on the Blacks' son.  As for the "no substitutions" rule there are just some times we cannot remove the ingredient.  If a customer brings it to our attention we have always provided them a list of what they could eat.  If we can remove the item of course we will.  The "no substitutions" apply to the requests of extra chicken for the cornbread...and yes, that was a special needs request.

Look at how people react to your own David Haegadorn. Then again, he didn't say stuff about his customers in public until he got out of the restaurant business because he couldn't cope with the public any longer.

Yep, I do remember when I first started at the Post in 06 I couldn't understand why there was such rage against him!

What made you decide to vent your frustrations publicly as opposed to just keeping it behind closed doors, in the work place? I have worked in the restaurant industry for 8 years and I know how it feels to get worn down by dealing with people who are picky, impossible to please, or sometimes downright mean. Why air your grievances publicly? Did you ever suspect that it would create such a backlash and has it affected your business?

They are neither frustrations or grievances.  Sometimes strange things happen in the dining room.  We all have stories. We found even our customers saw things in the dining room--behavior by other customers that they reported on blogs.  These things happen very infrequently.  There are 11 videos.  We have been open for two years here.  We have had a lot of customers come in to tell us the videos are funny.  Our business has not suffered. 

er thanks? You do realize that makes people want to stay home even more? That whole "cool to go to the place with the rude staff" fad fades VERY quickly.

Most places don't have rude staff.  Many times what appears as rudeness may simply be that they are overwhelmed.

And you wonder why restaurant patronage has decreased so much.

We haven't seen that.

On Monday, the Post wrote about the new U.S. nutrition guidelines - "Cut down on salt, government says." Yet recipes in the Post often contain well above 1,000 mg of sodium per portion, like the mahogany short ribs and salmon papillottes featured in your New Year's chat. Those of us on low-salt diets simply cannot prepare a lot of recipes from this newspaper as-is. How would you go about cooking Washington Post recipes with less sodium? Will Post recipes be cutting down on salt this year?

We'll continue to do what we're doing, which is to provide some healthful recipes regularly (including Stephanie Sedgwick's weekly Nourish recipe, which is low-sodium), and to provide others that are fabulous in other ways but might be higher in sodium. We're not the government, and we're trying to appeal to a wide range of eaters, giving some things that some might be drawn to more than others, but trying to cover a lot of bases overall.

Tim Carman is planning a piece for Feb. 16 that should illuminate the struggle people might have keeping to the USDA guidelines on sodium (which actually haven't changed), and we will plan some recipes to go with it (right, recipe editor Bonnie?), promise.

Gulp. Sure, Editor Joe!

Hi Free Rangers! In an effort to prolong the life of some scallions until I could get around to using them, I stuck them in a glass of water and left them on the counter. Lo and behold, they have grown. This seems like a great way for me to keep scallions, and I'm always excited when I can manage to keep a plant alive, but will the growth have a negative effect on the flavor?

Post gardening columnist Adrian Higgins says "Yes, if the stalk begins to grow and produces a little flower bud, which it may, this will degrade the bulb and lower stalk. Scallions should be kept dry and cool."

My bread machine loaves of bread are just never as soft as the grocery store bread. I'veadded more fat, but that doesn't help. Do I need to add more yeast to give it a better rise? Or would adding wheat gluten help? If so, where can I buy wheat gluten locally? I can't seem to find it at my grocery stores and I hate to pay for shipping. Please help.

Maybe you don't want the loaf to be as soft as grocery store bread, and by that I'm referring to the packaged stuff on the shelves. It has preservatives and many things to give it that "special" softness. If texture's a big issue, skip the bread machine and try baking soft, yeast rolls like these?

If you are trying to increase acid without increasing liquid, try cream of tartar.

A word in support of the Post recipes. OK, the government said on average we as a nation eat too much salt. And OK, some people have extreme conditions for which their doctors prescribe especially low-salt diets. But that does not mean the government said we should all eat an especially low-salt diet. And it certainly doesn't mean all the Post recipes should be low-salt. Thank you Foodsters.

That's my feeling exactly. We are not your mother!

I am older then Robin and Gillian but I remember back over 30 years ago when I was waiting tables and how I ahted customers who ordered their beef well done. Not only did it take better planning on my part because well done takes longer then anything else but the customer complaints. sorry sir a 10oz Ny Strip cooked well done is going to be that small. Yes I go get the manager. Larry could go talk to my customer. Another one complaining about the size of his well done steak. i finally broke my girlfriend of ordering her beef well done. Told her most steak houses save their so so pieces for folks that want it well done since a burnt and charred piece of beef all looks and tastes the same. She is now happy with a medium well prime dry aged grass fed. We are working on Medium. Not sure I ever get her to Pitssburged.

Good luck to you.  I have gotten Robin to Med Well as well and now she eats chicken off the bone...HOORAY.  But yes, we have had the same issue.  That well done steak started out 11 oz and is now 7.  It hurts to take those back.  But we do it.

You could forge the way with a kids' menu WITHOUT mac & cheese and chicken nuggets. The kids menu is smaller less expensive portions. The ingredients are up to the creativity of the chef. We like one place that gives my nephew a kid's potion of ribs for $6.

That's what we have done in all of our stores.  Still parents insist that their kids will eat nothing but fries.  Some we have convinced to try the small roasted chicken dinner at CK and they are stunned to see their children eating green beans.

What are the particulars for making a donation to the "Food Center" project at Children's Hospital that was mentioned in the diabetes article in today's paper? Also, being the mother of a diabetic daughter, age 22 now, diagnosed age 11, kudos to the Blacks for establishing the good eating habits with their children now. Dealing with diabetes in the current college environment is very difficult, so the stronger their foundation, the better it will be!

Thank you for the nice comments. It's still a battle

You can donate for the kitchen at the New Diabetes Complex at Children's at any of our restaurants or through our corporate office at Black Restaurant group 301-215-6397.

Thanks for asking; we should have included that info. You can find a donation form online here.

There's been some discussion here about using unsweetened applesauce in place of oil and, I think, sugar. Do you ever do that? If "yes," please share recipes.

You can use it in place of either - or even to decrease the oil and sugar. You want to be careful about the recipe. Banana, zucchini and carrot bread seem to work best.

I suspect Clark and Smith didn't make that comment. The names are getting mixed up. I think maybe 12 year old Simon was being funny.

Ah, yes. We have done our best to clean things up so that all the technical issues are resolved, but this might have slipped through the cracks...

I have never found anything better than my wonderful, old Melita pot and cone. I live in fear of their discontinuing it or the cone filters.

Hear, hear.

You don't have to purchase the pre-made little containers. Keurig makes a single cup filter system called Personal K-Cup and you get to use your own coffee that you like...works for some loose leaf tea too. Just make sure you bring the top needle's rubber seal down to almost off the needle so the water doesn't spit at you. My coffee using my new Keurig with the Personal K-Cup is wonderful.

That's an improvement, definitely. But I still much prefer my stripped-down system to anything else.

I love Nancy Szokan's chicken paprikash recipe but rarely have time to make it on a weeknight. I would think it could be converted to a slow cooker recipe without too much difficulty. Any advice on how to do this?  Thanks! love the chats, just wish I could actually join one LIVE one of these days!

Nancy's not a slow-cooker, but she says this:  For what it's worth, I have found that the longer and slower I cook paprikash, the better it tastes. I've often left it on the stovetop for two hours. so i'm sure it would convert well to a slow cooker. It also tastes better if you make it one day, leave it in the refrigerator overnight, then reheat and stir in the sour cream just before you serve.

One thought: I'd still brown the chicken pieces in a saute pan before tossing everything into the slow cooker.

I think the article was far from charicature and it captured Ms. Clark perfectly. The condescending attitude and patronizing tone with which she operates her establishments drove me away years ago, which is sad because I enjoyed the food. You know, you are not doing us a favor by feeding us. We are paying you to have the opportunity to do what you love. Count your blessings and stop dismissing those who let you have a career many would dream of. And Tim, I am happy for you on your move to the Post if it was what you wanted, but I do miss you a lot at the CP. You were part of what made it a real, local newspaper.

Thank you for the support on all fronts! And let me just say (suck up alert! suck up alert!): Joe and Bonnie are exactly the people any self-respecting food writer would want to work for.  It was the perfect move for me, even though I love the City Paper dearly. 

I am happy for Tim as well.  Just wish there was a fairer portrayal of me.  I don't believe we've met, kind reader.  I have made a great many friends in this business and I dont think that would have happened if I was that person.  Can you recall a time where I was rude to you.  I don't think the article captured me at all.  It just seemed to fortify a notion that I'm a bitch.  I've raised two children by myself and they are wonderful children.  One is about to graduate from Oberlin.  The other a senior at Visitation.  I have never been condescending or patronizing.  If the videos offended you I am sorry.  It was a slice of our life and some folks found it funny.  I think Tim missed the mark and I have known me 47 plus years.

There is this thing that diabetics must just avoid consuption of sugar...its more than than its is foods that convert into sugar or better yet insulin. My grandma had to watch her bread/carbs because once the body broke it down it elevated her sugar levels. Is there a decent bread recipe that addresses this? She had to purchase then what was can diet bread. I would love to make homemade.

Diabetes is most definitly not just about sugar. It is very important to eat a balanced diet and understand how protein interacts with carbs and simple sugars. It is also very important to control portion sizes in your meals.

Also it's helpful to find breads that contain more complex carbs - they don't cause the blood sugars to spike. Helpful to have protien such as cheese with it.

I'm not trying to romanticize the restaurant business but some folks seem to lose the perspective that it's about food and the effort and passion a chef puts in to serve a delicious, sensuously nourishing meal. From my mom, as mercurial a personality as there ever was, to the "Soup Nazi" of Seinfeld to Mark Furstenberg (have you ever worked for him? I have.) one is left wondering why these creative types seem so at odds with the product they create. There is no disconnect between the two because it's in the food they make. Whatever one makes of Gillian's temperament it cannot be denied that she shows her love thru the good food she makes every day at the General Store. With that in mind, I think she's mean. Every time I bite into some of her chicken I say that's one mean piece of chicken

Yes, wow.  You hit the nail, kiddo.  Mark is hard to work with.  Did anyone notice his sign in the bathroom at Breadline???   But you can not argue with his desire to feed people well...whether they want it or not.  He does not serve tomatoes in January and that was often a point of contention at that place that served sandwiches.

Loved today's article on family cooking and diabetes. I really want to make the ginger cookies. It is blizzarding here in greater Boston and I have buckwheat groats (kasha), but not flour. Could I grind these in my clean coffee grinder or food processor to make flour and use that? As always, you are the best cooking section/discussion etc out there!

Boy, maybe Barbara Black can address this, but I see that the flour is made from ground buckwheat seeds, whereas the groats are hulled/crushed kernels. What the heck; you may have some time on your hands. Give it a try.

Yes, you should be able to grind them and sift. Depending on how moist the dough is - you might want to add a little all purpose flour or something with a little gluten. Hope that helps -stay warm!

You are in touch with most of America, many people shop at Walmart instead of paying prices at other stores. The economy is bad, people are watching their dollars...so you back companies that employ and stores that have reasonable prices. Walmart IS reforming.

Joe, I saw you on a TV show the other night that was on NBC4 at 7:30. In one sense it kind of seemed like a big infomercial for the new Wegmans, but I enjoyed your piece about Virginia wines (or was that an infomercial for Rapahannock Cellars?) The best part was the commecial that played for Mie-N-Yu restaurant - that was the most god-awful local commercial I've ever seen - who came up with that song???

I missed that one! I filmed the VA wine thing several months ago, to coincide with a column by Dave McIntyre. Not sure what you mean about infomercial -- I mentioned wines from a half-dozen wineries, not just RC.

But for those of us who do not eat meat, this is a great chili: Serves 8

1 large onion, chopped (2 cups)

2 Tbs. olive oil

4 cloves garlic, minced

1 chipotle chile in adobo sauce, drained and minced

8 oz. baby bella mushrooms, finely chopped (11/2 cups)

2 8-oz. pkgs. seitan or tempeh, chopped (3 cups)

3 Tbs. tomato paste

2 tsp. smoked paprika

2 tsp. dried oregano

1 1/2 tsp. chili powder

3/4 tsp. celery seed

1 can each black beans, kidney beans, and pinto beans, partially drained (or equivalent of same beans soaked overnight and cooked)

1 cup chopped carrots (2 to 3 large carrots)

2 Tbs. low-sodium tamari or soy sauce

1 Tbs. vegan Worcestershire sauce


1. Heat oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion, and saute 7 to 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown, stirring often. Add garlic and chipotle chile, and saute 1 minute more. Stir in mushrooms; cook 3 to 4 minutes, or until softened. Add seitan, tomato paste, paprika, oregano, chili powder, celery salt, and 1 cup water; cook 3 to 4 minutes, stirring occasionally.

2. Add beans, carrots, tamari, and Worcestershire sauce. Cover, and reduce heat to medium-low. Simmer 1 hour, or until carrots are tender. FYI: you can also marinate the seitan ahead of time by putting it into a bowl with some dired porcini mushrooms and soaking both. You can then chop the mushrooms and add those, the seitan, and the soaking liquid to the chili.

No sneering here!

I disagree 100%. He comes across as a condescending jerk. Rudeness is never clever, especially about those who are providing your living.

If you haven't already, read "The Dialectic of Sex" by Shulamith Firestone. She notes the constant pressure on women to smile and be sweet even when a situation doesn't please them. I thought of that when I read your thinking that racism is behind some of the way you are perceived/treated. I think sexism has much more to do with it.

You might be right, kind reader.  I have to get that book.  I also think we should all read, In praise of difficult women.  I have met some tough gals in this business.  Women, aside from me, that folks think are prickly.  They are the warmest, gentlest souls who would do anything for you, but prefer to make you the best damned salmon or dacquoise you've ever had.

Hi, folks. I am wondering if it is possible to access the holiday feature in which experts answered cooking questions. I emailed a question and am curious if it was answered. Or, I'll ask it here: is there a substitute for whole wheat pastry flour? I grind my own wheat flour with a home wheat grinder and am reluctant to buy flour when I can grind my own. Will it make a big difference in recipes to use regular wheat flour as opposed to whole wheat pastry flour?

We'll contact our Sifted experts. Pls send your email to food@washpost.com so we can answer you directly.

The recipe sounds great, and I plan on trying it this weekend, and 1 ball is 1 ww point. Just one question, how can there be zero fiber with chickpeas being the main ingredient? thank you!

Good q. I think it's just because of how much fiber's in each hush puppy (serving, nutritionwise, if it registers as less than 1 gram we revert to zero). We ran it with channa dal...I'll doublecheck later today.

It's funny, my friend Vered Guttman e-mailed today to say it sounded like falafel to her, and that maybe an Indian ancestry for that dish would trump any Middle Eastern claims.

Any luck on finding a licorice recipe for me? If not, I still think you all are fabulous. :)

Have you seen this one? Seems easy, and doesn't use any color.

and fresh chicken soup bubbling on the stove for lunch after all our shoveling. Just wanted to chime in with something warm and happy.

I love my french press immensely but wonder if there is any cheap home-grinding solutions so that I can grind at home, and keep the beans in the freezer, rather than grind and freeze?

We're running out of time, but don't put your coffee in the freezer, and don't pre-grind it. Keep whole beans in an airtight container, and grind them right before using. Makes a world of difference in quality of your cup.

How's your diet doing? Did you get reax to the WaPo article about it in December?

Tim's article had me pounding a cookie.  But I'm back on.

I've never had the opportunity to enjoy your cooking, but I love your attitude. Frankly, I would rather you cook me a good meal than waste your time meeting me--I should be enjoying your food anyway! As a vegetarian/aspiring vegan, I would likely need you to make changes for me. You don't want me messing with your masterpieces and I don't want to insult or inconvenience you. So, I will admire you from afar. Rock on!

You can surely dine with us as a Vegetarian.  I'm not sure Vegan will make it.  But we are always growing and expanding our menu.  Please stay in touch.  I was a vegetarian for 2 years.  So I know what it is like.  We are planning other concepts that might work better for you...so stay tuned.

I just wanted to say, genuinely, thank you for offering the metro-DC area some wonderful food and for taking the heat of this controversy so well. Though I disagree about the video postings, I acknowledge that you are a strong woman and a professional who stands up for what you believe in. It is admirable that you have taken the time to respond and respectfully answer the public's questions. Much respect to you! Thanks for being an asset to the area and the dining scene.

I truly just want to do my job and all that I feel called to do.

Have you found having parents as Chefs to be any advantage in your learning process about diabetes? And what is your favorite meal to eat out and where (other than in one of your parents' restaurants)?

My parents have really helped me learn about food, counting carbs and other things realted to Diabetes. Some of my favorite restaurants are Brasserie Beck, Chipotle, Ruan Thai and Matchbox.

I enjoyed the article immensely. I'm the food-loving mom of a little girl with multiple anaphylactic food allergies, and the daughter of a man with type 2 diabetes. We love to cook (and eat!) and it's been a journey to find good tasting food that we can safely feed to our family. We're always on the look-out for new restaurants we can take my daughter to, and yours are now on our radar screen. Thanks!

Thank you - we look forward to seeing you!

My wife introduced me to good Dixon chili powder. Now all of our chili recipes taste better. The quality of the chili powder makes a huge difference. I've used this in regular ground meat chili, a different cubed meat chili, a Cincinnati style chili and a chicken chili verde recipe and all of them taste better with the better quality chili powder. One of the best ways to immediately improve your chili recipe.

Good wife.

But that's true for ALL of us at work, regardless of our gender or profession. But because of our celebrity worship, the chef gets a chat on the Washington Post for being rude and most of us would just get fired.

trust me.  this is no picnic

Most of the massive salt intake of Americans comes from processed food, not what you add when cooking.

For seasoning meat, a lot of salt is often called for, especially in brines. How much do they actually increase the sodium content?

A question for the ages. Francis Lam took a good shot at it awhile back.

Whew. You've placed us in the steamer basket in a single layer, covered and steamed us thoroughly until heated through, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, all, and our apologies for the technical confusions. (That got a little strange, didn't it?) Well, we've cleaned it up to be readable (I think). Now for the giveaway books: The chatter who asked about makig two chilis, one meaty and one non, will get "Skinny Dips." The one who asked about making healthy fajitas will get "Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook." Send your mailing info to us at food@washpost.com, and we'll get them to you!

Until next time, happy cooking, eating and reading...

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