Can you guess how many questions the Food section folks get in the course of each weekly Free Range chat? Scores and scores, many of which don’t get answered because time runs out.
So I tackle one unanswered question every week. But yesterday, as I was trying to choose one from the long list of recent leftovers, it struck me that one is not enough. So, this week only, I’ll clean up a few quick-hit questions that don’t require deep research, lengthy interviews with experts, at-home experiments or trips to the grocery store.
But first, a look at what’s fresh in today’s section. Tim Carman writes about how some local chefs are betting that even in a tight economy, diners will flock to buy elaborate, expensive multi-course tasting menus. For her Washington Cooks column, Bonnie Benwick watches a local choreographer put together an Indian feast for 75 guests.And Jim Shahin’s Smoke Signals column takes him to the rooftop of local seafood chef Barton Seaver, who shares tips on grilling fish and shellfish — all on his tiny 18-inch Weber kettle. You can talk about those stories, and more, at today’s Free Range chat. Be there at noon sharp.
And now, on to those leftovers.
Is there any farm in the D.C. area that has pick-your-own figs?
I could find only one farm on the Maryland and Virginia PYO list that even mentions figs, and even there, it’s not listed as a PYO crop. Nevertheless, they sell at least two varieties of figs, and it’s a place that welcomes the public, and I think a weekend field trip out to Ticonderoga Farms to buy a few pints of figs would be fun. It’s a family-owned, family-run operation that describes itself as “Eastern Loudoun’s last operating family farm.” Besides fruit, vegetables, honey and eggs for sale, there are petting animals, hayrides, play areas, fire pits and other diversions. Note: There’s an admission fee of about $8 per person. Always call first when visiting this farm, or any farm, to make sure it's open and will be offering the produce and amenities you expect. The number at Ticonderoga is 703-327-4424.
Where is the best place to go for good-quality large, live blue crabs in the area? We live in Fairfax, but we are willing to drive to D.C. for them. Also, when is the best time to enjoy them if we love crab roe?
For this one we turned to John Shields, seafood chef extraordinaire and an expert on Chesapeake Bay regional cooking. His reply, via e-mail: “Have never purchased live crabs in the D.C. area, but spoke with some friends. and they love the Maine Avenue Fish Market. May/June through August are good times for roe. They generally have spawned before September.”
I bought a package (the only way to buy them) of bird’s eye chilies at H Mart and have used about eight of the 30 or 40 or so in the package. I don’t want them to go to waste but am not sure how I should handle them so they last. Puree and freeze would be my best bet, I’m guessing, but I wanted to know if there are other options.
When I was faced with the same problem, the owner of a Thai restaurant advised me to double-wrap the whole leftover chilies in plastic and stick them in the freezer; he said restaurants have to do the same thing, since they can’t get reliably good bird’s eyes year-round. So that’s what I did, using two resealable plastic freezer bags, one inside the other. I just went to look at my stash, and after six months those chilies still look as red and shiny as when I put them there. I don’t know whether their flavor has suffered, but I imagine that freezing the peppers whole preserves the taste far better than pureeing them first.
Your recent recipe for spoon bread calls for 2 tablespoons of dry sherry. It reminded me that I have a bottle in the back of the cupboard (a gift from Genghis Khan) that I used a bit of in another recipe. Is it any good?
Down the drain with it. Our Spirits columnist, Jason Wilson, has drilled it into my brain that wine-based spirits should go straight into the refrigerator (never into the back of a cupboard) after being opened and should be tossed out after a month. I confess to keeping my sherry, vermouth, Madeira, etc., longer than a month — sometimes many months, but don’t tell Jason — but I always, always refrigerate them. Genghis Khan might not be able to taste the difference, but that stuff can get nasty.
My husband and I love to make lobster rolls in the summer, but we have a hard time finding New England-style split-top hot dog buns. Anyone have any suggestions?
Domenica Marchetti just wrote about making lobster rolls in her Family Dish blog, which appears in this space on Mondays. She finds her split-top buns at Rodman’s in the District.
Do you think there will be a tipping point where free-range organic eggs won’t be $4.75 a dozen; $6 for a gallon of milk; $6 a basket for berries; $.75 for an ear of corn?