Free Range on Food

Mar 16, 2011

Free Range on Food is a forum for discussion of all things culinary. Talk about Virginia wine, the Obamas' restaurant visits, Texas barbecue and more.

Greetings, and welcome to Free Range. What's on your mind? Hope you enjoyed Dave McIntyre's fascinating portrait of a very ambitious new Virginia winemaker (below) and his attempt to prove that the Old Dominion can produce something world-class. Or maybe you want to talk about Texas barbecue after being inspired by Jim Shahin's profile of the man behind Hill Country. Or you have more questions about POTUS and FLOTUS's restaurant visits for David Hagedorn.

Those authors are all here for the chat, along with us regulars! Whether it's those topics or others, we're here to serve.

And we'll have giveaway books: Two that Bonnie wrote about today, "More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow" and "Slow Cooker Revolution." One will go to each of our two favorite chatters today.

Let's do it!

Love the Food section (rare is the meal at my house that does not have some WaPo derived component) and read all the FR chats, but this is my first submission to you. Two questions related to today's recipes: 1. I often do not have shallots on hand. How much of a culinary sin am I committing if I use a similar portion of sweet onion? 2. Your slo-cook turkey recipe doesn't mention serving the vegies used in cooking with the turkey, and does say to discard solids from the broth. You don't mean to throw out the vegies, do you? Thanks and keep up the great work. Pat in DC

Welcome aboard and thanks, Pat!  Subbing the shallots would not be so bad, but they do provide a sharpness and other flavor component that you won't find in the sweet onion. Do you ever keep red onions around? That might be a closer fit.  (Or buy shallots, mince/slice and freeze.) Re the slow cooker turkey: The vegetables get pretty well spent in service of making the broth/gravy, so yes, they're discarded. 

Truly, 20-30 agents each time????

For the president, yes. That's what people I interviewed related.

Jason: Is there really no drink recipe this week? Or is the lack of link just a victim of the new web design? (which, btw, is the best re-design the Post has ever done!) I've grown addicted to your weekly drink recipes, please tell me there's a new bourbon one this week. (if not, how about throwing one out there now?) cheers!

I thought, for this week, we'd enjoy the pleasures of bourbon neat. But here's a very simple drink recipe in case you need one. Pour about two ounces of good bourbon in a glass. Add two ice cubes. And here's a link to an Old Fashioned if you really need a cocktail.

And have no fear, we will have TWO cocktails next week to make up for our lack of one this week.

I love to bake for my coworkers, but one of them is on an anti-sugar kick right now and lets everyone know it when sweet baked goods are brought in. Any suggestions on something non-sweet that I could bake and bring into the office?

Biscuits! Specifically, how bout Parmesan Pine Nut Biscuits? People could eat with their soup.

Anybody found any local sources of honey/bees?

Sure. There's honey all over the farmers markets. At the Sunday market in Dupont alone, there's honey from Spring Valley (WVA), Quaker Valley (PA), Solitude (VA) and Toigo Orchards (PA). Sand Hill (MD) sells honey at the Penn Quarter market, but not just yet. I've also gotten honey at the 14th/U Market, from Kuhn Orchards.

Thanks for a well written article about a Virginia producer hoping to capture part of the $100/bottle market. If you would like to write about something that appeals to the other 99% of your readers who will NEVER PAY $100 for a bottle of wine, perhaps you should review widely available labels that can be found at Safeway and Giant, or do a taste off of wine from Costco and other popular big box stores. Heaven help us if your wine writers ever stoop to guide the average consumer looking for value selections at Trader Joes. Who are you writing for?

*Sigh.* Have you ever read one of my articles before? My monthly "Recession Busters" lists, of wines under $15? My weekly efforts to point out to readers the wide variety of delicious wines available from around the world that offer value, at all price ranges, especially the lower end?

I'm sorry but for one thing I think I've paid my dues over the past 2-1/2 years that I can write about an expensive wine once in awhile, especially a newsworthy one. This winery and this wine are important, because they are setting a new standard for Virginia wine, and de Vink's efforts are going to help improve other wines from the state. See my blog post for more on that.

And I think the majority of Post readers can stand reading about an interesting and newsworthy project, even if they probably will never splurge on the wine.

Forgive me if I seem sensitive, but your comment is especially ironic because I've just finished writing a recommendation for next week - of a Kendall-Jackson wine ...

As someone who's on a low-sodium diet, I always look at the sodium content in your recipes' nutritional analyses. I must confess that I'm often mystified at how you arrive at your numbers. For example, in today's "Cool as a Cucumber Salad," you report a sodium content of 360 mg per serving using 1 1/2 t. of kosher or sea salt based on 8 servings. I can't figure out how you arrived at that figure. The USDA ( shows 1 t. of salt contains 2325 mg. of sodium. If you do the math (2325 x 1.5 and then divide by 8), you arrive at 435 mg. per serving. I thought at first that maybe sea, table, and Kosher salt have different amounts of sodium, but I looked at several sites and they all stated that the sodium content was the same.

We use a professional database that calculates based on Mortons coarse kosher salt, and the total we have for 1.5 teaspoons of that is 2880 mg. (I just checked a separate Web site and came up with the same number.)

Some of the best honey I've ever had came from the Maryland Renaissance Festival from a supplier called "The Bee Folks". I know that it's quite a number of months away, but when it comes back around, if you're there already, grab some honey from them.

Great -- thanks!

I'm in the middle of Jason's Boozehound and started hyperventilating when I got to the part where Jason is talking to Italians about how Americans don't know that they should care for vermouth like it's wine. Is this true!? I've had bottles of sweet and dry just sitting on my counter for months now and I've been using it in cocktails that entire time. Should I toss it? I never drink open wine older than 48 hours even if I vacuumed it, how am I supposed to get through the vermouth that quickly?

It is true. If you've had the vermouth opened and unrefrigerated for months, it's time to toss and buy a new bottle. When you get the new one, keep it in the fridge after you open it, and it'll keep for about a month, definitely longer than table wine, but not forever. My solution is to buy smaller bottles of sweet and dry vermouth (both Martini and Noilly Prat come in 375 ml). That way you will be using the open bottle quicker. In any case, vermouth only costs about $7-8 for a full-sized bottle, so don't feel too bad about dumping a tiny bit after a month or so.

just wanted to say thank you for introducing me to Silk Road Cooking: A Vegetarian Journey (Najmieh Batmanglij). I just got it over the weekend and I'm already in love. Made the mustard seed/yogurt rice dish last night--just finished the leftovers for lunch. The crispy rice on the edges!? Love.

You're most welcome. I guess she was on "Martha Stewart" today, right? Hope I can catch the rerun. The meatballs are my new fave.



i am currently in britain and have noticed that food here is generally much tastier than in the us, especially meat. My question is: are their genetically modified products allowed in Europe? for example, the gamon pork imported from Denmark is very lean, but is not tasteless as the similarly lean US pork. chicken are not well cleaned off from feathers, but they dont have chemical aftertaste, they seem much leaner and tastier. Is the better taste coming from feed, processing, breeds or anything else? Thank you. Lucy from VA

My personal motto is "Everything tastes better in France," but perhaps that can be extended to Europe. Europeans are more against GMO than the US, so I doubt those foods are artificially enhanced in that way. It's probably different breeds, farming practices, etc., and maybe your sense of adventure living overseas has heightened your palate!

Have you had any good British wines? Their bubblies from Surry are supposed to be pretty good.

Hey Jim, Just read your blog and article on Hill Country in DC. Sounds great!!! Can't wait to visit and enjoy some good stuff. You say in the story that Texas barbeque isn't about the sauce, but even central Texas joints have sauce. What gives? Also, does Hill Country have plans to expand? Indiana could use an authentic barbeque place.

    Here's the thing on Texans and sauce. It's not as cut and (uhm) dried as we writers sometimes make it seem. 

    Yes, there is sauce in Texas. Especially in East Texas, where the bbq draws from a more Southern tradition, meats are often sauced. In central Texas, which is considered the expression of the Texas-style of barbecue, meat rarely comes sauced. But sauce is often served on the side. That sauce can range from Taylor's Louie Mueller's thin, peppery, vinegar-based, tomato-flecked "dippin' sauce" to Luling's City Market's tangy mustard-based (yep, mustard) sauce to Llano's KC-style red sauce. 

     But the meat is rarely (though, yes, sometimes) slathered or dipped in sauce. The sauce comes on the side and is considered more a condiment than an actual part of the barbecue. 

     As for Hill Country's plans to expand, the CEO Marc Glosserman and COO John Shaw both told me that, yes, they plan to expand. But Glosserman said he didn't think there would be another this year. As for where, exactly, they'd locate, Philadelphia,Los Angeles, and Chicago were among those mentioned as possibilities. None have been decided upon. Alas, Indianapolis (or any other town in Indiana) was not mentioned. 

Is there anything that can be done with black beans that is neither southwestern/Mexican nor Indian/curry in flavor? I need to break out of a rut. Thanks.

How bout this Cold Vegetable-Barley Salad? I did it for my cooking-for-one column, so it's scaled that way, but could be upsized. It uses black beans, but Mediterranean flavors.

hello! i won the "Food For Life" Iranian Cookbook a couple weeks ago in this chat, and i never received it in the mail :( I sent a couple emails to inquiring about it's whereabouts and even sent my address again, and no one has gotten back to me. do you know what i can do to get my cookbook? i was really looking forward to it! thanks, and love the chats!!!

Are you from Plymouth? We had a little email snafu. Our editorial assistant says you should be receiving the book by Friday.

Hi. I just opened a bottle of Marsala that we've had for a long time. Now that it is open, how do I store it? I used it for cooking and I can imagine it will be awhile before I use it again. Will it last? And is it better to keep it at room temperature or in the refrigerator? I thought someone told me to keep it cold but my husband thinks it is like sherry (and therefore doesn't need to be refrigerated). Thanks.

Once opened, it's best to refrigerate it;  marsala is still wine, even if it's a fortified one.  It'll be good for several weeks, maybe up to a month.  P.S. Tell your husband  sherry does need to be refrigerated -- that's where I keep mine. Hoping our wine guru Dave Mc will weigh in here as well.


I agree with Bonnie - keep it refrigerated. Both are fortified but they won't last forever, and they taste better slightly chilled. Sherry should be cold if it's a Fino or Manzanilla, cool otherwise; either way the fridge is the best storage once opened.

Not only do you need to refrigerate the sherry, if it's a fino or manzanilla, it's only going to last for a few days. Amontillado or oloroso may keep a little longer, but not much more than a week or so.

Bonnie, I read the reviews of the slow cooker books, but it was still not clear to me whether they were worth getting. I normally put a great amount of faith into the America's Test Kitchen books, but your review was a bit ambiguous.

It was?  Maybe it's that middle section where I was a little stumped at the recipes in both books that call for taking hours to cook things that normally go pretty fast. But hey, what "Slow Cooker Revolution" and "More Make It Fast, Cook It Slow" prove is that the appliance can be used to do more than the usual glopfest of chilistewsblahbloopmeh. That's what I meant. ATK's has more going for it, in terms of breadth and tips.  Not everything I tested from both books was  knock-yer-socks off, but I'm not sure that's a fair guide to go by.

Just want to say to you'all, "thanks" for all the work you do--and so glad to see WaPo hasn't deleted this chat...

Aw, shucks. Thanks!

I've saved a few chicken carcasses from roasted chickens. Is there enough collagen and such left in bones to make stock or broth, or am I only making chicken-flavored water?

Roasted chicken carcasses were meant for stockmaking. You'll want to add aromatics, of course: celery, onion or fennel, sprigs of herbs and a bay leaf.  Take the Stone Soup approach.

Hi Rangers! I'm poring over recipes for Irish stew to make tomorrow, trying to pick a good one (or piece together a few). A number of them call for a bottle of Guinness to be added to the stew liquid. I'm not the biggest Guinness fan, so I don't keep it in the house, but I love Irish cream ales like Wexford's (and the sadly defunct Caffrey's). Could I use a cream ale in the stew instead of the stout? Obviously they're very different beers. I don't know if the stout imparts a particular stew-y flavor, or if it's just the idea of having an Irish beer in there that makes it a popular stew ingredient.

Well, certainly the Guinness is a popular ingredient in Irish stew because it's such a popular Irish beer, but beyond that, it's the depth of flavor in the stout that matches so well with stew. I doubt a cream ale would be out and out bad, but you wouldn't get the same thing.

Making corned beef for St. Pat's Day. What's the difference between the two cuts?

    The flat is the lean end, the point (sometimes called the "deckle") is the marbled, or fatty, end. 


My husband and I just had twins. We are on our own - no family around etc., so caring for them takes up a lot of time. We used to make nice, leisurely meals for dinner. Now, we are lucky to even have dinner. Ideas for quick, minimal clean-up meals? (We eat mostly vegetarian, some chicken sometimes....) Thanks!!!!

I think dinner salads are one way to go. You can prep vegetables whenever you have time and/or have a little chicken ready to go (even from rotisserie). You can change up things by making a quick warm dressing, adding spiced nuts, citrus -- or stop by the grains section of a Whole Foods Market salad bar, where there are so many options these days.  You can roast piles of vegetables with herbs and other fave flavors of  yours in foil packets, which minimizes cleanup. Panini are fast as well; you can fill with hummus or red pepper spread,  grilled sauteed vegetables. Don't forget the soup universe. They reheat in the time it takes to warm up a bottle (or 2). 

Woah, woah, woah. Did that link in today's lunchroom blog entry to the top 50 best food and drink inventions really place the vacuum sealer, microwave and dehydrator above the blender, food processor and standing mixer? No way. Also, I agree about the lack of ice cube trays.

It did, but these kinds of lists aren't worth staring a barroom fight over. (The area's top burgers joints, of course, is a topic worthy of gang warfare.) I see these lists for what they are:  a fun way to stir debate on a topic (in this case, what are the top 50 kitchen inventions and discoveries). I agree, though, that in MY kitchen the stand mixer, the food processer and blender get much more of a workout than, ahem, my vacuum sealer. Which I totally (cough, cough) have.

And microwaves? Really? I just use mine to warm up cold coffee now.

I enjoyed your article today on the advances the Virginia Wine industry are making. There are truely some very good wineries striving to make the industry come alive. My questions - how can the wineries that are not performing catch up to what the new upcoming winemakers are trying to accomplish - there are many wineries in Virginia that are just really bad and those wineries don't seem to see the difference between their wine and the wine tasted for the article.

This is a very good question. As I noted in my blog post, most local wineries are afterthoughts - someone has a pretty piece of land in the countryside and decides to plant grapes. The site probably isn't ideal for high quality grapes, but they plow ahead, so to speak.

Also, Virginia and Maryland have had a few decades of trial by error. Vines were widely spaced and farmed for vigor, and that is not ideal. But once a vineyard is planted, the vintner has made a decision that is hard to reverse, and they are rooted in that decision. That's why there are so many skeptics to people like Lucie Morton and now Rutger de Vink who preach the merits of closely spaced vineyards with carefully managed vigor to reduce those vegetal flavors. But the quality of wines coming from wineries following this new path is convincing folks: Black Ankle in MD, Glen Manor, Chester Gap and Linden in VA. Barboursville is looking higher up the slopes on its property for new plantings as well, and planting newer vineyards more closely spaced.

On one of my recent visits to RdV, I stopped in at a nearby winery just off the highway. The large tasting room was packed. Yet the wines were horrible. They're probably making a profit. As de Vink said when I mentioned it, "At least people are drinking Virginia wine."

My first favorite way to eat black beans is hot with garlic, onions, jalopenos and a splash of red wine and served over yellow rice with shredded cheese and a dollpo of sour cream. It is a meal. The second is a nice side salad with corn, jalopenos, red peppers and red onions with a dressing of red wine vinegar, cumin, salt and pepper.

I'm with you -- do tons of things with black beans in this vein -- but keep in mind that the original chatter asked about something that didn't include Southwestern/Latin flavors. So these wouldn't qualify, right?

Free Rangers, now I'm concerned. It usually takes me at least 6 months to a year to use up my bottle of inexpensive Marsala wine. I only use it for cooking, usually chicken marsala. And I keep it in the cupboard, not in the fridge. I've never had any health issues or noticed any off taste from doing this. Do I really need to refrigerate it and also discard it after a month or two?

I doubt very much there are any health issues to leaving it on the counter. It would presumably turn eventually to vinegar; but if you haven't noticed that happening, I guess you could save the room in the fridge door for the milk. ;-)

Yeah, it was that middle section that threw me off. Thanks for the clarification!

I'll work on my delivery.

and raise you an ounce of saffron and two black winter truffles.

They'd probably go well together! :-)

Yes -- when is this party, and where is my invite?

What about the Dolin brands? I haven't seen those in smaller amounts and I prefer them for some cocktails. (Oh my life is so hard, where is my fainting chaise etc.)

Yes, add that to the list of first world problems that Dolin (which is about $15) is not available in small bottles. You'll just make more Manhattans, quicker, with it...

is that they often say cook something on low for 4 or 5 hours. This doesn't work for me as I really enjoy using the slow cooker so that we have a hot meal when we walk in the door at night. I guess one of us could run home at lunch to start it, but that still takes all the convience out, so is it ok to sometimes go over that time.

Yep, this was my problem, too, when I wrote about them awhile back. Not slow enough, right? The thing is, you need one of the models that switches to a keep-warm setting when they're done. Or you need some recipes that can be fine for longer, such as Slow-Cooker Chickpeas with Sunchokes and Chorizo, or Lamb Stew Agrodolce (below). (BTW, ignore that 2-star rating on the latter; it's from someone who's mad at the very idea that I would suggest that you defatten the stew before serving, which of course you certainly don't have to do if you don't want to. Funny.)

Hey guys, I'm the chatter who wrote in last week asking whether homemade stock was worth it. Just wanted to let you know that I did try one of the suggested stocks, Ris' chicken stock. So far the results are pretty good! The ingredients were cheap: $6 for the chicken, celery and carrots (I had the others on hand already) and easy to put together. It certainly made a lot, and I like that I was able to use the chicken for dinner later. I just cooked up some pasta and tossed it with the chicken and some pesto. Haven't actually used the stock yet, so can't rule on taste, but even if it's about the same as the store bought stuff, I'd say it was worth it! Now that I can actually see myself making stock on a regular basis, I had a couple more questions. I always have chunks of onion ends that I throw away all the time, and sometime onion halves when I didn't need the whole thing. Can I just freeze these and thaw them later when I'm ready to make stock? It's not the biggest deal in the world, but I figure I might as well reuse if I can. What about chicken bones I cut out from breasts and thighs that haven't been cooked? Can I just freeze these and use them to make stock just from bones? If so, how many would I need to make 4 qts of stock? Thanks guys, really appreciate all the advice!

Awesome.  Sure, if the onion halves you freeze are destined for stock then go right ahead. As for the bones, you'd introduce more flavor if you roasted them, so maybe save up/freeze a batch. I think about 5 pounds of bones etc -- seems to be the magic number whenever I look up a stock recipe.

Hi guys - I get that the page needs to be redesigned from time to time, but can you ask the webmasters to put a link to the chats on the food page? I had to do a search for the chat in the WaPo main search box, which took me to archives (link to today's wasn't up - same for Tom's - as it used to be). Then redirected to the "Q&A Schedule", scrolled down to Wednesday, and found you. Surely there's an easier way!

Yep, this is taking some getting used to, isn't it? But you know what? There is a link to the chat on the food page -- even bigger than there used to be, but it's on the right-hand side where you're not used to looking, in a big box labeled Live Discussions, right under the restaurant finder.

Hi Rangers! Does quiche freeze okay? I'm going out of town for a week and need to find a way to freeze perishables (particularly dairy) that I won't eat before I go. Thanks!

Yep. it's freezable. Couple of months.

I love shrimp scampi and make it regularly. It calls for vermouth and we do not keep alcohol in the house and substituted with various things. White grape juice, local unpasteurized apple cider, regular grape juice, and last night Dr. Pepper. The apple cider and Dr. Pepper have been the best to date.

Really? I mean, I'm a Pepper from way back (wouldn't you like to be one, too?), but ...

No need to wait for the Ren Fest; you can order online year round. I recommend their hand cream, although the peppermint goes on my feet.

Great -- thanks!

Jason: What might be an appropriate cocktail for me to pour out for my homie, Nate Dogg?

Did Nate Dogg sing on "Xxplosive," while Dr Dre was rapping about cognac? If so, perhaps a cognac-based cocktail would be appropriate? Maybe the Hoopla? Or perhaps a Stinger, smooth, sweet, and strong? RIP.

Julia Child has a recipe for oven-braising salmon in vermouth with diced onions, carrots, and celery that is very simple, very delicious, and a good way to use up the rest of that bottle as it gets close to the end of its shelf life.

Nice. Thanks! I bet it'd also be good in the Mulled Red Wine Syrup I so like to make. Don't see why not -- and I think I've got some vermouth at home that's ready to be done with in some way.

All this talk about storing wine makes me ask if I need to refrigerate my tawny port? I have always kept it in a dark cabinet (along with my vermouth and marsala) since I drink it at room temperature.

Refrigerating it should help it last longer once opened. Even in the cupboard, a good tawny, aged or otherwise, should be OK for a few weeks. Personally, I can't keep a bottle that long in my house.

hi! we are moving in a few weeks, and while i have every intention of "eating down the fridge" before we leave, what to do about the pantry? it is overflowing, and i could, in theory, pack everything up and unload it into the pantry of the new house, but do you have suggestions on how to tackle what to take, and what to throw out/donate? i tend to have more exotic ingredients, like rice paper, canned lychees, specialty sardines/olives, etc. ....stuff that is so tempting in the store, but never really gets used!

I tend to pack that stuff and take it with me, because a well-stocked pantry is an accomplishment. But check the dates where you can; assuming stuff is still good, your local food banks or women's shelters or vocational cooking centers should be willing to take canned litchis as well as tomato sauce.

Dave, that person is a crank that would have nothing to do if they couldn't complain about something. I never buy $100 bottles of wine, but I am part of your audience b/c I appreciate the article and find it interesting. Judging by the real estate prices and numbers of luxury cars on the roads around here, I'd venture to guess that there is a sizeable number of people that do buy $100 bottles of wine, and they read the paper too. There are a lot more worthy causes that person could waste their energy getting outraged about.

Agreed! Thanks.

Dave, I loved this column! I read your wine column often - usually for recommendations for wines that I'll actually buy (as you say, many under $15), but reading about $100 wines is like flipping through Vogue - I know I won't buy what's being written about, but it's fun to windowshop! Keep up the good work.

Thanks for the support!

(Feeling better now ... )

I occasionally make a pureed bean soup. It's Italian in nature and the ingredient quantities are flexible. I usually use borlotti or pinto beans but I'm sure it would be fine with black beans. Lets see... sautee some garlic, onion, and celery (or carrot and pepper - whatever you like as a base) along with some herbs (parsley? bay?) in oil. Add the cooked beans and some broth (I use veggie - use what you like) and simmer for 20 minutes or so. Hit it with a stick blender or use a foodmill to get it smooth. Thin with broth/water to a little beyond what you'd like the consistency to be, then throw in some small pasta (broken spaghetti, macaroni, etc) and cook until done. Serve as is or add a splash of oil in the bowl, maybe some chopped parsley, or other toppings that you have on hand that seem appropriate (crumbled feta or ricotta salata isn't bad).

Of course! Yes!

Why isn't David Hagedorn's article on the Obamas linked in the Food section? The redesign is just goofy. I know I'm missing a lot of content because it's hidden in a place that's perfectly rational to a designer, but not to a user. And it makes me sad.

I'm sorry you don't like it, but here's the thing: That story is featured on the Food section page. You're looking at this one, I assume? It's just under the Featured Recipes, on the right, with the headline, "When it's the Obamas, restaurants scramble."

Mix cooked black beans and cooked quinoa. Add some cubes of butternut squash or yam if you want. Add some fresh spinach. Some stock or water, some lemon and pepper and salt...and your favorite spice mix. Bliss and nutrition.

Nice. Thanks.

I had trouble finding the chats today too - until I figured out that my bookmark was still driving me to the "old" homepage - which appears normal, and all the links work - but most new content for this week (including most chats) are not listed in these old linked pages. So my suggestion is to check your bookmark.

Ah, good to know -- thanks much!

I have a new recipe for tiramisu that I am dying to try, it uses vin santo. I've made it lots of times before, with marsala, though. I've never bought vin santo before, what should I look for? This recipe also adds some orange zest, it's very similar to one I had in a restaurant that I still sigh over. I have very high hopes for this one and want to make sure I get the right ingredients.

Vin Santo will be a $ investment over a Marsala. But a good store that specializes in Italian wines might be able to steer you to one that isn't too expensive. It should go nicely with the orange zest; Vin Santo often has a flavor of dried citrus peel ... This tirimisu sound wonderful.

Thanks to whoever mentioned it. I always forget about it, and it is better than feta but works in similar situations. Should perk up a lot of veggie soupie stewie things, with or without cilantro (it's best cross-cultural friend)

Yep, it's great, isn't it? Not exactly a sub for feta, in my mind, but love it just the same. Like to shave it on salads.

My husband and I loved today's wine article. We have always hoped that VA would go for the gold and produce the fine wines we know the area is capable of and it seems we are starting to get some movement in that direction. Not too often we splurge, but we are excited by the prospect of not having to go to the other coast or Europe for our treats.

Exactly! I hope you do have the chance to try the RdV. It is special.

i LOVE black beans and squash! cube up some butter nut squash, or even sweet potato. throw in a pan with some roasted garlic and browned onion, add your beans, finish with a tiny bit of brown sugar, salt, pepper, and oregano. yum!

Yes -- they're a great match. Thanks!

Not to jump all over the other poster, but I enjoyed reading the article about a Virginia producer hoping to capture some of the higher-end market. I'm certain that I've never spent $100 on a single bottle of wine and probably won't be able to do that anytime soon, but I do enjoy more than my fair share of wine in general, and reading about local wine developments is interesting. Thanks for the article--full stop. (And thanks in advance for the K-J review.)

If I may jump into this tempest in a teapot: Some food/drink journalism isn't always service-oriented. That is, it's not always designed to entice you to buy or to avoid a product. Sometimes it's designed to inform. Or designed to give you a peek into another culture that you would otherwise never see. People read about Sotheby's wine auctions all the time, particularly when the auction houses fetch record prices. But how many of us have actually ever bid at an Sotheby's wine auction?

Tempest in a Spitbucket, you mean!

Exactly. It's the same in a section like Travel, right? Sometimes you just want to be entertained or transported by a piece; everything doesn't have to be (or should be) about something that everyone is able to do right then. That would make for boring journalism.

My father-in-law is visiting this week, in part to share in a bottle of very fine port. Can you suggest food pairings to go with this celebration?

If it's an old vintage Port, I suggest enjoying it by itself, after dinner, alone with the memories of good times spent with your family. If he likes cigars, okay ....

I have an ancient (probably older than my 27-year-old self) slow cooker that is not programmable. When I have a slow-cooker recipe that will be done before I get home, I use an electric timer to turn the power off and on in cycles to simulate the "keep warm" setting. If you don't have anything like raw meat in there you could instead use the timer to delay when you turn the slow cooker on to have it ready when you are.

Wow! You sound very handy. I have a few things around my apartment that could use your attention.

I read your column every week, including the recession busters, and am looking forward to your review of a KJ wine. When's the last time you reviewed wines available at Costco, Trader Joes, or Giant? Too often you find great value, low priced wines that are not widely available, or are not available in quantities - the few times I bothered to check with Arrow Wine for your suggestions they laughed and said they were sold out within an hour of the store opening. I'm trying to encourage you to do a better job for the other 99% of your readers.

You mean the readers who got to Arrowine faster than you did?

Sometimes Giant and Safeway do end up in my recommendations. But I purposefully try to look beyond the mass produced plonk that the wine industry serves up because they think consumers will drink any ol' swill to get a buzz on. I'm looking for quality wines, usually from small producers, often brought in by local importers rather than large corporations. These are wines with character grown with care, not made from a recipe. And yes, sometimes they can be found for under $15.

Have you ever thought that maybe you are the 1%?

Va has many fine producers of reasonably priced quality wines that rival cali in the $15 to $30 range. Problem with pursuing world class wines is perception. Even cult Cabs from Cali can't compete with a Chateau Margeuax. I used to have my cellar stocked with Cult Cabs, 98 pt Tuscan reds, top Cahblis etc but currently just cellar top notch va wines that can be drank in next 12mos. I dont cellar anything except for vintage Pol Roger Winston Chruchill. Wine is part of meal and should compliment it. Gave up chasing the cult Cabs and Margeaux when in blind tasting we preferred a fine Va red or white with our local prime steaks and seafood. I buy VA world class wines at $15 to 40 not at $90 an above. And there are a number of bottles that meet this criteria.

I agree. And RdV competes at the $90 to $150 level.

Out of curiosity, does anyone refuse to go in when the president and/or his family are at a restaurant. I'm specifically thinking of objections to being wanded considering the noise about unreasonable searches that occur over the random checks on the metro, but I suppose there might be other reasons. I understand the reason for the extra security, but going to a nice restaurant and then being subjected to a toned down version of airport security certainly doesn't appeal to me.

No one mentioned to me that anyone took issue with  the security at the door. I found it perfectly understandable to be wanded before entering Equinox, where the first lady was lunching. The Secret Service had me show them what was in my coat pockets (eyeglasses, cell phone, car key, pens). I had a wallet in my pants pocket, but didn't have to remove it. They were checking for metal objects, presumably to make sure I wasn't armed. I did not find that unreasonable at all. This is part of the price we pay for living in Washington.

Some restaurateurs don't let anyone else enter while the president is dining there. (That's their choice; the Secret Service does not have to right to demand that a business refuse entry to patrons.) When the Obamas ate at Citronelle for their first date night (May, 2009), the managment decided not to let anyone in. (The diners who had already been seated of course remained.)  Some diners with reservations were left waiting on the street until the president and first lady left, but only one couple took issue with it. (They were invited to return, on the house.) If any of the diners there had  issues, they didn't show it; they stood up and applauded as the first couple left. And not because they were glad to see them go.

Dave, we LOVE your wine reviews. We're 850 miles from D.C. and have a great local writer on wines, but her columns are monthly, at best. We love the pointers you provide even when we can't find the wines you recommend. Your piece on box wines (and your help in pointing us to it when we lost it!) was a huge bonus to us. We'd love to buy a $100 bottle some day, but know it isn't likely. Doesn't mean we can't enjoy reading about it. And we do dream of some visits back go Virginia wineries we have enjoyed. So, thank you. * OFTLOG - Oh For the Love of Goodness --- because this person crabs EVERY time you write anything. Put a cork in it, dude.

Ha! Thanks for chiming in!

Haven't seen this morning's, but thought I would chime in as someone who has been reading your offerings for about the last six months or so. I see many recommendations of moderately priced wines and I appreciate that you note where they may be purchased. Living in Frederick, I'm always happy when I see one available in my neck of the woods. Hang in there, Dave.




Just saying - it's 45 minutes in and you've answered 53 questions so far. That's impressive! Thanks for hosting this chat; it's the highlight of my Wednesday.

This is nothin'. We have gotten to 100. I challenge any chat on the site to meet our number of questions answered each week.

BTW -- thank you for noticing.

Since the holiday of Purim is this weekend, I'd like to ask the Free Range hosts and audience if they've got any suggestions for fun fillings! No idea is too out there, and if you have a recipe to back it up, that'd be extra awesome.

What's your favorite kind of pie? I'd try to re-create that in the oven or on the stovetop, then use it as filling. Make the lemon part of this Ultimate Lemon Squares recipe and use that. I might go wild with a saffron-coconut concoction, or do a spiced pear or berry thing. Or tomato jam -- yeah, that's the ticket!

I have a question that I've never seen addressed in any book, tv show, etc. When chopping whole clams for clam chowder (or any other preparation), do you include the darkish area, which I assume is the belly? It is unsightly. But if you cut this area out (I've done it both ways--leaving in and removing), you get half of the yield you'd get otherwise. FYI, I'm not a squeamish cook--I can remove or leave in shrimp veins for my taste. But those clam bellies are just gross! Any advice would be appreciated.

I had to ask MJ,  fishmonger at BlackSalt.

Do you have steamers? The darkish area -- is it at the end of the clam? Does it look like a nozzle or tube? You can eat it but you'll want to peel off the outer skin first. Otherwise, eat those clam bellies. (Less gross than nondeveined shrimp!)


A lot of the non traditional wine regions have decent wines, but they can be pricey. Why should we support therethese makers.

The same reason you'd support a local coffee roaster? Any local business? For the experience of trying something new and supporting a worthwhile endeavor? In the hopes of finding something really special and delicious?

Hey, Joe! I'm eagerly awaiting the release of your book! When's it coming out?

March 29 -- thanks! You should come to one of the events I'm doing in DC (or Boston or Richmond). Go here for details. NYC stuff will be added to it soon.

I think you guys and the Going Out Gurus should have a chat-off. Your teams are by far the most prolific.

LOL. You may have sparked a challenge.

Dave, We're having beef stew tomorrow for St. Patrick's Day, using the ATK recipe that includes Guinness (and their "secret ingredient," a touch of bittersweet chocolate to work with the G and take out the bitterness). We'd prefer to have a red wine with dinner rather than beer. Any suggestions? National brand +/- $12 preferred (we're not in D.C.) We tend toward meritages and merlots but are open to ideas. Thanks!

A Rosenblum zinfandel, such as the Vintners Cuvee might do the trick. Or a Bogle petite sirah. I think they're nationally available. Fess Parker winery makes a nice inexpensive Frontier Red.

Trader Joe's recently started carrying orecchiette, but I have no idea what to do with these things! Any ideas?

It's just pasta. Some ideas for you here.

Jason: Does Maraschino liqueur need to be refrigerated once it's opened? What about Campari? St. Germaine? Thanks!

Pretty much any spirit -- except for cream liqueurs, fortified wines, and some Italian apertivi -- you can keep in cabinet at room temp. So maraschino, no fridge. St. Germain, no fridge. and yes.  I always keep Campari in the fridge because that's how I like it. And from my own experience/taste I find it degrades a bit over many months -- though I have absolutely scientific evidence to say how or why.

Dave, I read your articles every week and they are fabulous and very informative! I started drinking Virginia wines about 3 years ago and have been to many of the wineries on the Monticello wine trail. I don't usually buy $90 wines but may try the RdV when it becomes available. Keep up the good work.


"I'm looking for quality wines, usually from small producers, often brought in by local importers rather than large corporations. These are wines with character grown with care, not made from a recipe. And yes, sometimes they can be found for under $15." I'm looking for a wine column that will review and suggest wines that I can actually purchase and enjoy - I guess you are not it. I'm part of the 90+ % of your readers shoppin gat Giant, Trader Joes and Costco, but 99% of the time you are ignoring us.

Can I jump in here? Dave does suggest wines that you can actually purchase and enjoy; you just choose not to. I don't mean to be snarky there, it's just a fact. What I mean is, throughout the whole food section we're trying to encourage you to do things in the kitchen (or in the wine aisle) that you might not otherwise be doing but we think are worth it. You should try to meet Dave halfway sometime, and perhaps you'd be pleasantly surprised. Also, I'm curious where such confident reader percentages are coming from. We have market researchers in the room?


Hi there. I hope you can help me. I am attending a brunch-themed shower this weekend and have at the last minute been volunteered to make a quiche. I am a vegetarian and I do not eat dairy (hard/aged cheeses and eggs okay). Normally I'd just go along and make what was requested, but I am assuming the reason behind the request is so there is something on the menu I can eat (others with dietary restrictions can probably relate...). And I have yet to find a quiche recipe that does not contain a lot of milk or cream (and also, am I the only one that thinks baked egg dishes are kind of gross?). Also complicating matters is that I'm traveling out of town and will only have that morning to prepare the dish. I would be forever grateful if you could provide some suggestions for dishes that are quiche-like, or some sort of savory brunch-y dish, that goes easy on the dairy and no meat/fish! Many thanks.

Well, perhaps you could get ideas from looking at this Green Quiche, which only calls for 2 ounces of cheese. You might explore vegetable pie options, which can be held together with beaten egg, or making an eggy/spicy tomato sauce type casserole, which wouldn't necessarily have dairy. Also, just thought of oniony pissaladieres or flatbreads where you wouldn't have to do a casserole at all.

Thanks, Joe! Looks awesome!

You're welcome!

My local wine shop here in Oxford has a great selection of Virginia wines, after reading this article I am definitely going to try some this weekend!

Good for you!

Free Rangers, I wanted to share the end result of my 7th grader's Depression Dinner for 4 for $3.50 (or less) school assignment. My son made inside out sushi rolls containing Spam (fried in an oyster sauce/soy sauce/brown sugar marinade), tamago (scrambled egg with salt & sugar), and chopped carrots. He made 6 rolls for the 4 of us. He also sliced up oranges for dessert. He had leftover carrots that became dinner for our guinea pigs. Total cost: $3.32. Thanks for the advice!

Great! Thanks for following up.

Has that person considered another option - maybe the reason wines at Safeway don't get written about is b/c they're just not very good? I love a $15 bottle of 7 Deadly Zins but I wouldn't expect the Washington Post to waste any breath writing about it. Everything there is to say about a mass produced wine like that has already been said.

Evidently he likes that style of wine. To each his own.

I have some pesto left over and some frozen salmon and tuna steaks in the freezer. Should I that some fish, marinade, then sear? Or better to bake it? Also - any veggie side pairing ideas?

Pesto's not always happy when heated. I'd cook the fish separately and apply pesto to the plating or side dish. You'd be surprised how good freshly cooked green beans or snap peas are with pesto stirred in. Or just cut grape tomatoes in half and toss with the pesto and perhaps a little gnocchi.

So if they are meals for one, I could double them to make them for two of us? Yes?

Yep -- and in a lot of cases they're generous enough that they'd serve two with the addition of a side salad and/or bread. Also, there are recipes for things like soup bases that make enough for four -- my idea is that for one, you'd freeze three of them to finesse another day, but you could certainly do all of it at once if you'd like.

Not every article, every week is going to appeal to every reader. I'm allergic to shellfish. Doesn't mean I can't enjoy an article written around a lobster boil or a new seafood restaurant venture. Live a little and look forward to new content EVERY WEEK. Thanks to all the Food Section staff for everything they do, regardless of what bits I personally like or not.

Right -- that's sort of my philosophy of editing in a nutshell, really. If we aimed every single article to appeal to the widest possible readership, I think the whole thing would be kinda dull.

Try a spanish torta - potato and egg dish that works a bit like a quiche but much less dairy.

You mean tortilla, I think. But yes, I agree.

Wow, it's pretty lazy to buy your alcohol only from a grocery store. I mean, I'm pretty lazy in that I usually do all my grocery shopping at one place, even if I could find some of the items elsewhere for less. But most grocery stores aren't known for their alcohol selection and I often go to a liquor store for that stuff (although it's a shame you guys don't have a Meijer out there - for a Wal-mart-like store, they have a GREAT selection of wine, including local ones.)

Our local laws also make it difficult for grocery stores to carry wine.

Thanks for the slow cooker reviews. May I share an idea that has helped me over the years? I happened to discover that my local library (Wisconsin) has quite a collection of cookbooks. Gave me the opportunity to peruse a wide array, enjoy parts of books I'd never buy (either too few recipes I'd use or too costly or whatever) and also select a few that were within my budget-and-quality parameters. Also gave me the chance to photocopy a few recipes I would not otherwise have seen. It's a good way to do your own reviews after reading a review in the WaPo or other fine publication (not that there are any so fine as the WaPo).

A fine tip -- especially when it comes to slow cooker books. Thank you.

wouldn't it be too liquidy?

I guess I was thinking you'd let it set up like lemon curd. So maybe lemon curd would be better. Or if you built the triangular cookie right to allow for cradle for the liquidy filling you'd be okay.

I'll bet 3 cents that the person writing in about cult Cabs is the person obsessed with their herding dogs that has been a chat troll for years. That's also about how much worth you can put on their opinions...

He must make good money herding them sheep then! Besides, that person usually hits me for ignoring VA wines.

Inquiring minds want to know. I sort of think I know what Purim is, if that redeems me at all.

Basically, tricorner filled cookies. The cookie part is tender and the filling can be whatever you want, although poppy seed or apricot are standard.  Love them all. Here's a link to the recipes we  have in our database.

"Dave does suggest wines that you can actually purchase and enjoy; you just choose not to." Wrong! I have tried to, but some of us have a job and can't go out to purchase reviewed wine first things Wednesday mornings. I want to try reviewed wines and compare my tasting preferences to those that the Post publishes, which is why I encourage you to do more reviews of wines consumers are actually buying.

Honestly, and we've said this before, but you need to cultivate a relationship with a good wine retailer, because he or she can help get you many, many wines that we write about, especially if you're a regular customer.

Bonnie, thanks for reviewing the slow cooker books! I've been contemplating getting a book about slow cookers so I can put something together before I go to work in the morning and have it ready when I come home. Great job!

With that pat on the back I can face the rest of this day.

Not even related. They really are called tortas.

OK, I'll have to look into this. I know the Mexican torta, but not the Spanish.

Well, you've covered us and cooked us on LOW for 5 to 7 hours, and then turned us off, so you know what that means -- we're done!

Thanks for the great q's today, and to all on the team for helping answer them. Now for the giveaways: The chatter who wrote in about using an electric timer to better operate a slow cooker will get "Slow Cooker Revolution." The one who wrote in complaining that too many of the recipes aren't quite slow enough will get "More Make it Fast, Cook it Slow." Send your info to, and we'll get you your books.

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

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