Category Archives: meat

Restaurant Week DC- Ruth’s Chris

Steakhouses aren’t usually my idea of a good time. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t love steak dripping in butter, but the quality difference comes nowhere near the quality difference of making it at home. For restaurant week, though, I was willing to compromise a little to give the boy his favorite meal– steak and potatoes– without any dishes, and head out to Ruth’s Chris.

First of all, let me say, that this restaurant is so expensive for what it serves that I don’t think I would ever set foot in it normally– no matter how much money I had. It just isn’t a good value for what you’re getting at full price.  However, it was certainly worth it for restaurant week, even with the very limited menu.

The meal started with pretty good warmed bread and a basic salad. Everything was on the good side of average, with the exception of the “butter”, which, though room temperature, tasted very much like margarine. I wonder what they used.

Then, they brought out our main course– we both ordered the petit fillet, mine rare and the boy’s medium rare. Both came out perfectly cooked in a large pool of butter. Sooo unhealthy, but very tender and fantastic. They came out with a side of creamed spinach and a side of mashed potatoes, both of which were good (and equally unhealthy), but neither of which was as good as the ones I make at home, as we both agreed… and mine don’t even have cream (or usually butter) in them!

Last, we got dessert. I got bread pudding, which was more like a moist apple cake– good, though, and the boy got a flourless chocolate cake, which was just like flourless chocolate cakes everywhere, only with a hint of espresso.

All around, it was a decent value (at restaurant week prices) and the food was fine, but the real high point was the service, making it not worth coming back to again, likely even at restaurant week prices.

On a similar note, I ate a little less than half of each course served, and came out feeling fine, but the boy ate the whole thing (plus a little of my dessert), and threw up on the way home. Don’t know if he was sick or there was something wrong with the food, or if he just ate too much rich stuff… but either way, very sad!

Now, which should I blog about next… dumplings or orange pound cake? Decisions, decisions…

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Ethical Eating (2)- Why I’m Not a Vegetarian

This is part 2 of a three-part series on my views on eating ethically. The first one focuses on why I try to eat locally (and the resources I use to do so). This one will focus on why I’m not a vegetarian (even though I love veggies), and the third will be a mish-mash of everything left over, a discussion of any comments I recieve, and a little bit on organics. I may even try to throw in some seasonal vegetarian winter recipes while I’m at it, since winter tends to be the hardest. We’ll see.

I choose not to become vegan for a lot of different reasons. Food, to me, serves three main functions. It sustains health, it serves as a social binder, and it tastes good. The simplest reason for me not to be vegan is that I’m allergic to most processed soy (tofu, soy milk, etc) , and I prefer not to saturate my diet with heavily processed foods (seitan, tofu, tempeh, TVP, etc.). This leaves two good forms of non-animal product protein, nuts and beans, neither of which I like enough to use as staple foods. I also don’t absorb iron well from plant sources (found that one out the hard way, of course), so it would be very difficult for me to stay healthy on a vegan diet. If this were really important to me, I’d find a way to make it work– but it’s not.

Many social and community events are centered around food– in fact, food is often referred to as the glue of communities. Ovo-lacto vegetarianism is becoming more and more common, and thus more and more accommodated in these situations, but it is virtually impossible to eat a full, balanced meal– or even a snack– in most (though not all) social situations as a vegan. I would have difficulty staying healthy as a vegan, I enjoy the taste of dairy, and have no wish to make things difficult for the community around me for non-health reasons. I do not wish to opt out.

I also really enjoy the taste of dairy, and have no moral objection to obtaining it from ethical sources. Factory farming, in many cases, is abusive, and this troubles me, but it is increasingly easy to do the research needed to pick cruelty-free sources of dairy products. I have no problem doing that research for any product I bring into my house, and this influences my choices when choosing restaurants as well. As I said before, though, I try not to inflict my choices on other people– in a group, or at someone else’s house, there arevery few products I feel strongly enough to kick up a fuss about by asking for sourcing information.

The question of eating meat was a much bigger struggle for me. For a time, I didn’t like meat much, so I didn’t eat meat, and that was that. That was the time in which I found out about my iron absorption difficulties (seriously, you would not believe how much spinach I was eating at that time. I tried.) When I went back to eating meat again, I loved the taste. I don’t know how much of that was my getting older and how much of it was eating better meat, but I struggled with the idea of eating animals, particularly knowing the environmental impacts. Oddly, learning more about farming was what helped my decision. Small farms seem to be healthier as plant and animal farms. Hens can be the best field-tenders, and manure can be the best fertilizer. Knowing that reassures me that the life cycle is set up a certain way for a reason, and that there’s nothing wrong with accepting my role in the food chain- so long as I don’t abuse the privilege.

I don’t eat meat often, and I appreciate it when I do. I don’t mind the research it takes to find sources that don’t abuse their animals, and I don’t mind paying a premium for it. I do my best to buy the whole animal (chickens rather than chicken breasts, for example), so that I know that all parts are used and animals aren’t being bred unhealthily for profit. Eating meat is, in so many ways, a privilege to be appreciated and not abused– but now that I recognize that and eat responsibly, the little I do doesn’t trouble me.  Really, I have no problem with anyone eating anything so long as they’ve thought about it and accepted it first.

My biggest food-related pet peeve is people who only order meat not on the bone and in shapes that look nothing like the animal they came from, so that they don’t have to think about or accept what they’re eating. What’s yours?

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Ethical Eating (1)- Eat Local DC

This is part 1 of what will be a three-part series on my views on eating ethically. This one focuses on why I try to eat locally (and the resources I use to do so), the second one will focus on why I’m not a vegetarian (even though I love veggies), and the third will be a mish-mash of everything left over, a discussion of any comments I recieve, and a little bit on organics. I may even try to throw in some seasonal vegetarian winter recipes while I’m at it, since winter tends to be the hardest. We’ll see.

I eat locally and seasonally as much as possible, for four reasons. In my opinion, it tastes better, it’s healthier, it’s more environmentally friendly, and it’s often cheaper. This makes intuitive sense to me: food grown closer to home has to travel less. This means that it can be picked when ripe (and flavor and nutrient levels are highest), and can be bred for taste rather than easy transport, attractiveness, and ability to adjust to adverse conditions (like fowl bred with giant tasteless breasts to increase their value and sawdusty red delicious apples). Since it has less of a distance to travel, it’s fresher when you get it.

Food grown locally tends to be less- or at least more carefully- processed, so it’s healthier. It’s certainly intuitive to me that milk that goes from cow to bottle– or at least cow to normal pasteurization to bottle to fridge without lying about for months under bright lights is healthier and tastier. Knowing your farmers. or at least knowing about them, means knowing that your food is carefully tended to and healthy pre-harvest. Frequently, local farmers, even those who are not certified organic, use far fewer chemicals and more sustainable practices, than larger farms will. “Common sense farming” is much healthier to sustain than large-scale organic farming, even.

Nature is great at protecting us, too– frequently in season foods have the ability to protect us from the ills associated with the season– citrus during cold season, starchy potatoes when we need more padding and warmth, and water-rich vegetables and fruits during dehydration season. Local honey helps with allergies, too- because it is made with pollen from the plants you’re likely to be allergic to, it allows your immune system to adjust more easily.

Of course, sometimes I make exceptions. I can’t find any local oil, spices, chocolate, coffee, tea, or sugar (though I try to at least go for domestic), some regional specialties just can’t be made here, and sometimes I’m just priced out. For example, I buy fresh, local butter for eating on bread and making special occasion desserts and butter-based sauces, but for most baking I buy commercial products. $5 for 8oz is too much for me to pay for everyday baking butter, as much as I’d love to be able to, and you can’t taste the difference in strongly flavored baked goods– so I substitute organic east-coast butter or butter from the Cabot Cooperative. I usually don’t feel bad about it, either. I also sometimes buy canned or frozen fruit and vegetables, because I don’t yet can, and I can’t freeze or store that much now (that, I do feel guilty about). I’d love to garden, but my apartment has no usable sun and I’m still on the community garden wait list. And the list goes on. I do what I can, though, and the list below includes my favorite sources.

All of these providers are available at the Sunday morning Dupont Circle Freshmarket (open year-round) unless otherwise noted; many of them sell other places as well. The list is *not* exhaustive, especially for fruit and vegetable producers, and I would love to hear of your favorites.

Dairy:

  • South Mountain Creamery: South Mountain Creamery is… well, wonderful. It’s tremendously difficult in this area to source local milk and cream now that Blue Highland Dairy closed, but South Mountain creamery delivers to your doorstep in many areas of DC, MD, and VA- plus they’re only an hour away– and at very reasonable prices. They’re not officially organic, but use good common sense– and they also deliver tons of other amazing stuff.
  • Blue Ridge Dairy: Blue Ridge Dairy makes amazing Italian style cheeses with vegetarian rennet. They’re naturally very low in lactose, and amaaaaaaazing. Especially the low-fat ricotta. They also make really yummy yogurt and butter.
  • Highfield Dairy: The dairy for people who think they don’t like goat cheese. I love their goat cheese, especially the herbed variety, and doesn’t have the bitter taste I normally associate with goat cheese. They also sell really yummy giant pierogi and seasonally flavored ice cream, among other things.
  • Keswick Creamery: Keswick Creamery almost always sells out of their yogurt well before close. They also have the widest selection of cheeses I’ve ever seen out of one producer. They leave out tons of samples so that you can get exactly what you want, and make great cheddar-styles and fetas.

Meats:

  • Cibola Farms: The place to go for buffalo and pork. Their products are nothing short of incredible; they have everything, including jerky, and are happy to tell you how to fix anything you’re unfamiliar with.
  • Eco-Friendly Foods: The place to go for beef and poultry. Bev is a Joel Salatin protoge, and lectures quite a bit. Plus, they just built a processing plant so that they could process their own meat. As local as it gets.

Fruits and Vegetables:

  • Endless Summer Harvest: Endless Summer Harvest has a really cool hydroponic greenhouse that allows them to produce lettuces and other green leafys (with the occasional tomato) all year. They’re your go-to girls if you want anything out of season that’s still going to tasted good. As a bonus, they’re probably the friendliest vendors at the Dupont Market (they are at a few others as well)– give them a half a chance and you’ll learn a lot about hydroponic farming. Fascinating. As a bonus, they frequently give you plants with the roots on, so you can extend their shelf life.
  • Country Pleasures Farm: These guys have everything– fruit, vegetables, flowers, personal care products, and preserved produce, and they’re one of the most sustainable urban organic farms out there. Worth looking up just for their story even if you can’t buy from them, but they’re at Dupont every Sunday.
  • Quaker Valley Orchards: This farm grows a huge variety of apples and knows everything there is to know about them– plus pears, berries, and preserves.
  • Next Step Produce: Next Step Produce is very, very local and organic as well. They’re the most likely stop for “odd” fruits like persimmon and kiwi.

Other:

  • Wade’s Mill Farm: Your local source for flours, whole grains, and mixes. Locally grown, locally milled, inexpensive, and mailed straight to your door.
  • Jug Bay Market Garden: My CSA of choice. Scott and Tanya run the “Short, Jewish farm” (at 5’4″, I’m the tallest person on the farm when I go to visit, and my raised-Catholic friend who got an internship there is frequently mistaken for a Jersey Jew– funny.) It’s a lovely and friendly organic farm, and having worked there a day or two, I can vouch for everything being carefully tended (if occasionally cursed at.) CSA pickup is near Eastern Market, on Capitol Hill, and their distribution was plentiful even during last summer’s giant drought. They also sell periodically to Yes! Organic.

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