FOOD: Season Kick Off of the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef

April 12, 2013 by · 4 Comments 

BY Kathleen Nixon
April 12, 2013
Falls Church Times Staff

As the weather has warmed up – considerably – we welcome the earlier hours of the Falls Church Farmers Market and the fifth season of the Farmer’s Market Chef Demonstrations. Last weekend the farmers’ market started opening up earlier, now at 8:00am, with a few vendors from the summer market.  We won’t be seeing the full contingent of summer vendors until later in May but a few will trickle in like Clear Spring Creamery.

The Farmers Market Chef series will kick off on Saturday April 20th with a market and series favorite, Willow Restaurant. The chef series always kicks off around Earth Day to remind us that eating locally and seasonally is another way to be green. The chef series will include other program favorites such as Bertrand Chemel, 2941, Will Artley, Pizzeria Orso and Andrew Dixon, Madfox Brewing Company. A new addition this year will be Lebanese Taverna and we look forward to seeing what they cook up later in the season.

All of the demonstrations occur in the Falls Church Farmers Market utilizing the produce and products available in the farmers’ market. Tastings and recipes are also provided throughout the two hour demonstration.

2013 Farmers Market Chef Demonstrations

April 20 Tracy O’Grady Willow – Restaurant and Nosh

May 18 Will Artley – Pizzeria Orso

June 15 DC Central Kitchen

July 13 Andrew Dixon – Madfox Brewing Company

August 10 Bertrand Chemel 2941

Sept 14  Lebanese Taverna

October 12 Steve Mannino American Tap Room

November 9  Tracy O’Grady Willow

FOOD: March is the Cruelest Month

March 22, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

BY Kathleen Nixon
March 22, 2013

March is the cruelest month. This week we had snow, then 70 degree weather and then snow forecasted again for Monday. The Falls Church Farmers Market has been plagued with bad weather several Saturdays in a row according to Howard Herman, Farmers Market Manager. Usually this time of year, we hear from the farmers that they want to bring in early summer goods, but not this year.

What do you find now that is fresh? Kale is coming back and the tender greens are perfect for salads. Last fall, one of the Little City’s favorite chefs Andrew Dixon of Madfox Brewing Company did a kale salad with butternut squash bacon for a Falls Church Farmers Market Chef Demonstration. Fortunately we have a special video of Andrew making the salad for the crowd at the market. The demonstration series will start up in April and shortly thereafter we can welcome back many of the familiar and new farmers’ market vendors.

March is when we start putting things in the ground such as potatoes and peas. Around our house we call it March Madness, not the basketball brackets but the bareness in the garden that drives you crazy that you think you need to put more plants in the yard to fill up all the bare spots. Take heart your garden will fill out in a month or two.

And while you may think warmer weather will never get here, have heart as there will be tomatoes soon! Spring Valley Farm and Orchards just posted on their Facebook page that tomatoes are showing up on the vines in their greenhouses. Other vendors have tomatoes started in their greenhouse as well. And why do we always use tomatoes as the temperature gauge for fresh food rather than look at what is seasonal and local?

FOOD: Miss Fat Tuesday? Need to Warm Up? Try this Jambalaya!

By Claire McConnell
February 15, 2013
Special to the Falls Church Times

Hurricane Katrina occurred about a month into my second year at culinary school. Not only was it devastating to the all the people that lived in New Orleans, but also equally as devastating to all the restaurants that would be affected over the coming months. In an initiative to raise money for the city of New Orleans, my school held a mock Mardi Gras in the town of Montpelier. The students were urged to cook their Creole and Cajun favorites, with the incentive of major bragging rights if our dish was the best. My mom use to make this Jambalaya for us growing up and although some have told me it is not traditional, it still tastes awesome. My dish was up against 3 other students, one of which was raised in the ‘Big Easy’. I knew my competition was tough and that wining wasn’t going to be easy… pun intended. Long story-short my dish won and helped prove that you don’t have to be from NOLA to cook a great Jambalaya.

Three of the ingredients for this dish are from the Falls Church farmers market. The pesticide-free, ecorganic potatoes and onions are from Potomac Vegetable Farm. The farm has two locations: in Vienna, Va., and Purceville, Va. And the Texas Red Hot Beef Frankfurters are from Stachowski Brand Charcuterie in Arlington, Va.

Equipment: Large Dutch oven (similar to a Le Creuset) or wide, 4 inch deep skillet with a lid.

2 ounces butter (1/2 stick) — $0.35

1 medium onion – small dice — $0.43

3 garlic cloves – minced — $0.10

1 cup long-grain white rice (such as basmati or jasmine) — $0.45

¾- pound sausage, such as Texas Red Hot Beef Frankfurters – cut into 1/2 inch, half moons — $5.00

2 medium Yukon gold potatoes – peeled and cut into 1/2 inch cubes — $0.75

2 ¼- cup chicken stock — $1.00

½- cup dry white wine — $0.49

½- cup roasted red peppers (canned) – cut into 1 inch, thin strips — $0.99

½- tsp. turmeric — $0.02

Pinch cayenne pepper — $0.01

1/2- pound wild, raw, large 18-20 count shrimp (peeled, deveined and sliced in half down the middle) — $5.49

½-cup cilantro – chopped — $0.20

Total cost = $15.28

Melt butter in the pan and add onions and garlic. Cook onions and garlic over medium heat until they are translucent, about 5 minutes. Make sure the onions and garlic don’t cook too high, the butter will brown and the garlic will burn, so no higher than medium heat.

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat with butter. Cook for about 1 minute to toast the rice. Add sausage and potatoes, stir. Add chicken stock, white wine, red peppers, turmeric and cayenne. Stir. Bring mixture to a boil. Once mixture comes to a boil, cover and simmer on med-low for 20 minutes.  After 20 minutes add the raw shrimp to the top of the mixture (DON’T STIR!) Cook for an additional 5 minutes until shrimp have steamed and turned pink. Let mixture sit with the heat off for additional 5 minutes before serving. Stir in chopped cilantro right before serving. Enjoy!


FOOD: Winter Farming

January 4, 2013 by · Leave a Comment 

January 4, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

While winter may have us in its icy grip, we do still have access to local seasonal vegetables such as kale, spinach, carrots, beets, sweet potatoes, and a wide variety of Asian greens. Many farmers markets including our own continue to provide fresh local vegetables. But what about growing your own? Yes, it is still possible to have vegetables growing in your garden like spinach, kale and carrots like I have in mine throughout the winter, but you would have had to plant them a little earlier in the fall. But why share this with you now? If you are like me, the seed and gardening catalogs have started to arrive in your mailboxes. Out with the gift catalogs and in with fantasizing about perfect well weeded tomato, zucchini and pepper gardens.

What I have enjoyed about this year’s seed catalogs is the opportunity to learn about heirloom seed varieties that will do well in our area in the winter. As I plan my spring and summer garden, I also pick a few vegetables that I will put in at the end of summer that will continue to grow throughout the end of the year and be harvested next winter.

Many of the farms in our area practice four season farming to support various CSAs ( Community Supported Agriculture ) and restaurants. My favorite book on this is Eliot Coleman’s Four Season Harvest which I read frequently. While many may think that we cannot grow food year round in our climate, Elliot shows how he has done this in northern Maine for several years based on techniques he learned in northern France.

Better than reading about this, you can actually see how this is done locally through the Winter Farming Lecture Series provided by the Accokeek Foundation. They are offering a four Saturday lecture series starting January 12 at local farms that support the Washington DC area with winter produce. One of the farms featured is Tree and Leaf Farm in Unionville, Virginia who is a regular year round vendor at our local farmers market. You can go to one or all four of the lectures.

This is an opportunity to get out and see winter farms in action, pick up a few gardening tips and maybe think about growing your own vegetables next winter.

FOOD: DC Central Kitchen Warms the Soul

November 9, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kathleen Nixon
November 9, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

Food is central is to our lives and there are many folks who go without. While we are blessed with an abundance of food, we are equally blessed with passionate individuals who come up with ideas on how to tackle some of our society’s biggest challenges. One such program is DC Central Kitchen.  DC Central Kitchen was founded in 1989 to tackle the problem of food being wasted by restaurants, hotels and grocery stores and has transformed this food into over 25 million meals served at shelters and institutions in and around DC. But don’t make the mistake that this program is about meals, it is about transforming peoples’ lives through food.

There are many programs at DC Central Kitchen that bring the focus of food back to its local source and how the connection with food can change lives. Programs range from feeding the homeless to providing school children with healthy meals to adults getting back on their feet with culinary job training.  From Food Recycling, – tackling food waste; Healthy Corners-tackling food deserts; First Helping- tackling building trust with the homeless communities and Culinary Job Training – tackling the need for job training and empowerment, DC Central Kitchen reminds us that our connection with food has the power to change communities.

The team from DC Central Kitchen led by Ed Kwitowski, Director of School Food Services came to the Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demonstration to showcase how to use seasonal ingredients such as kale from Tree and Leaf farms, or butternut squash from Potomac Vegetable farms in an Autumn Barley Salad. While many folks appreciated the vegetarian dish that will help them with holiday entertaining this year, several folks also appreciated the Lamb Merguez that was added in from Jaime Stachowski.

Assisting Chef Ed was Anand Shantam a graduate of the Culinary Job Training program class 82, who currently works at Walker Jones Education Campus, part of the Kitchen Campus program.  She has a great passion for serving food with integrity and was recently honored at the DC Central Kitchen’s annual Food Fight with the Shining Star Award as she exemplified the spirit of empowerment and change. Also quietly assisting the team was Isaiah, whose background is in catering, who also works at Walker Jones Education Campus and would someday like to own a restaurant.

The morning was cold and the Autumn Barley salad was warming to the tummy. However this could not compare with the warming of the soul as the Falls Church community came out to support DC Central Kitchen and its Culinary Job Training graduates.

Tomorrow, Andrew Dixon, Executive Chef of Madfox Brewing Company will be final Falls Church Farmers Market Chef of this season. Andrew, winner of the 2012 Taste of Falls Church, will be cooking up a kale salad with butternut squash bacon.

FOOD: A Crisp Fall Morning

September 21, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kathleen Nixon
September 21, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

With today being the Autumnal Equinox, thoughts may be wandering toward apples and pears – the seasonal fruit of Fall. We celebrated Fall last weekend with kids and Apple Crisp at the Falls Church Farmers Market Demonstration. Our guest chef was Bonnie Moore, who is now the Culinary and Agricultural Director at Willowsford in Loudoun County.

Bonnie was a natural in the farmers market as she has spent the last 25 years as a chef, and educator focused on the culinary arts, healthy eating and connecting farms with families. Formerly the executive sous chef at the Inn at Little Washington, she is in demand as an instructor at L’Academie de Cuisine, Sur la Table and Blackberry Farm and she has traveled internationally to conduct food demonstration classes and cooking workshops as part of food aid programs. Throughout the morning, many of Bonnie’s previous culinary students stopped by to say hello.

Willowsford is a new community in Loudoun County that connects residents with the farm and local food. The community comprises of 4,000 acres of which 2,000 acres have been put into open space conservancy. Within the remaining 2,000 acres are communities of new homes, a lake and 200 acres of the Willowsford farm along with open space filled with hiking and recreational areas. The community provides many opportunities to connect with the local food. All residents can participate in a CSA – Community Supported Agriculture – where they pick up their shares twice a week at the community center. With the farm share comes a newsletter talking about the Farm news, highlights about the food in the CSA share and recipes. There is a notebook that is included which illustrates what food each season and the food that comes from the farm. Even if the residents don’t choose to participate in the CSA, there is a Saturday morning Farm Stand that features the local produce and bakery items provided by Kate Jensen of Willow featuring ingredients from the farm.  Residents can volunteer on the farm or wander through the demonstration garden which grows asparagus, raspberries, and crab apples just for starters along with other seasonal produce or cover crops. Later this year the community will break ground on two demonstration kitchens that will feature cooking classes on local seasonal food. October 6th they will be featuring the Taste of Willowsford with barbecue, bluegrass, wine tastings and farm tours.

Throughout the morning’s demonstration, Bonnie invited kids to come help her assemble the crisp, mix the topping and put the finishing touches on the crisp. We had several kids help throughout the morning including enthusiastic Nathan and fresh from her soccer win Caroline. Bonnie shares, “This is a great recipe to make with kids.  Have the kids help you peel the apples.  Then while you core and slice them, have the kids blend the ingredients for the walnut topping together with their fingers – they love this step.”

Apple-Walnut Crisp

Serves 6

For the apple filling:

6 firm, tart apples, peeled, cored and sliced

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

¼ cup brown sugar

2 tablespoons flour

2 tablespoons water

For the walnut topping:

½ cup walnuts, finely chopped

1 cup flour

6 tablespoons brown sugar

pinch of cinnamon

pinch of salt

6 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the apples, lemon juice, ¼ cup of brown sugar and flour.  Turn the mixture into a large, 2” deep baking dish or several smaller baking dishes.  Sprinkle with water.
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the walnuts, flour, remaining brown sugar, cinnamon and salt.  Work the butter pieces in with your fingers until the mixture is crumbly.  Pour the mixture over the apples and press lightly to fit it all into the baking dish.
  4. Place the crisp on a cookie sheet and bake until it is golden brown and bubbly around the edges of the dish, about 45 minutes.  Let stand for at least 10 minutes before serving.

Pear-Hazelnut Crisp Variation: We love combining the sweetness of apples with crunchy walnuts. Try using Bosc, Bartlett or d’anjou pears instead of apples and use hazelnuts instead of walnuts.

Whipped Cream

1 ½ cups cold heavy cream

1 teaspoon confectioner’s sugar, or to taste

1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or to taste

  1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the cream, sugar and vanilla together until soft peaks form.  Be careful not to over whip and turn the cream to butter!  Chill in the refrigerator until ready to use.


FOOD: Heirloom Tomatoes Beat the Heat

By Christianna Sargent
August 2012
Special to the Falls Church Times

Step into a world of ripening heirloom tomatoes and enter a realm of bourgeoning discovery and endless flavor possibilities. The science population has been exclaiming the importance of food diversity and warning of the consequences of genetic erosion for years now.  With this in mind, consider for a moment the tasty, colorful array of heirloom tomatoes found at the farmer’s market that are replaced by bins in the supermarket full of  tasteless tomatoes almost identical in size, shape and color. If you take the time to just consider the benefits of selecting heirloom tomatoes, I will provide you with a few wine pairing tips that will maximize your efforts and return you to that tantalizing memory of how tomatoes used to taste. Your efforts will be rewarded three-fold when you experience the first flavor explosion in your mouth followed by a refreshing wine chaser in this sweltering heat.

Over 10,000 varieties of tomatoes exist today, but commercial growers have chosen to grow just a couple of them in order to focus on physical traits that increase profitability; namely consistency, productivity and hardiness. Consistency lends to every tomato being the same size and shape with no physical blemishes, creases or any variant color spots. Also, commercial tomatoes need to yield large harvests and be able to endure mechanical picking, long distance traveling and exposure to pesticides. Since most American supermarket shoppers deem physical attributes more preferential to taste, commercialized versions of tomatoes barely resemble their heirloom counterparts. Heirloom tomatoes are not used in large-scale agriculture, but rather are popular among small-scale farmers and home gardeners.

In the wine world, tomatoes can be one of the most difficult foods to pair with wine due to their acidity. Introducing the wrong wine to a tomato-based dish usually ends in tragic, mouth-puckering, bitter reflections. Furthermore, commercialized tomatoes present even more challenges to the food-wine equilibrium because they are bland in flavor and acid-centric. When you introduce heirloom tomatoes to the wine pairing, however, other flavor components enter the equation, such as sweet tendency, succulence, tanginess, earthy undertones, citrus components, and smoky factors. Imagine the mouth-watering, warm-from-the-sun, old-time taste you remember from your youth (or may have never experienced). So, next time chose those beautiful tomatoes of all shapes and colors and try out any of these three recommendations listed below to test your heirloom selections:

  • Classic Italian dishes made with tomato-based sauce and pasta like spaghetti, Bolognese, lasagna, manicotti, baked ziti, chicken parmesan. Just sub in a homemade marinara sauce made from heirloom tomatoes and go for Italian red wines, such as classic Chianti, Barbera, Dolcetto, Barolo, Brunello and the off-shore island reds like Cannonau and Nero d’Avola. My recommendation is a renowned Chianti – Fattoria di Lucignano Chianti Colli Fiorentini, average price $13.99 found in local, specialty wine shops like Arrowines.
  • Gazpacho made with garlic, red onion, vinegar and an assortment of other ingredients pairs best with sherry (Fino or Manzanilla) and lightly colored rosés from Spain, Provence and California. Sherry boasts the least amount of acidity of any wine and its savory, salty flavors mesh well with vibrant tomato flavors. In order to find the best sherry selections in the DC metropolitan area, venture to Jaleo restaurant in Crystal City and take a gander at their retail wine shop. Ask for Osborne Manzanilla from Andalucia Spain, average price $13.99.
  • Insalata Caprese salad is a simple dish of tomatoes, mozzarella and basil that can be dressed up with a fine-quality olive oil, balsamic vinegar and white wine vinegar. With the extreme aromatic characteristics of this recipe and sweet succulence of the tomatoes, try an Italian white wine such as Verdicchio. Red, White & Bleu in Falls Church carries an elegant version, Stefan Antonucci Verdicchio Classico Riserva from the Marche region of Italy for approximately $18.99.

This time of year, tomatoes offer a simplistic answer to quick, easy and healthy dishes that do not weigh you down in heavy, meaty dinner affairs. Served at cooler temperatures, red and white wines can match beautifully with your tomato recipes and leave you with a satiated appetite that does not weigh you down in hot, humid weather.


FOOD: Going Gluten Free

July 27, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

By Kathleen Nixon
July 27, 2012
Falls Church Times Staff

At a recent Falls Church Farmers Market Chef demo, a program favorite Willow Restaurant demonstrated something different – gluten free products.  Gluten is a protein found in wheat and other grain species such as rye and barley. Unfortunately there are many people who are sensitive to gluten and have to restrict their diets to not ingest any gluten. For some, the gluten sensitive is so severe due to having Celiac disease, an autoimmune disorder of the small intestine.

Willow has always been sensitive to their patrons who are sensitive to gluten and have provided many of their dishes gluten free. At the Farmers Market Chef demo, the team prepared potato gnocchi topped with sautéed zucchini, roasted tomatoes topped with parmesan cheese and toasted quinoa. The response was overwhelming to not only the recipes and the tastes but also to the other products the team had baked earlier in the morning to include chocolate chip cookies, granola bars and bread. All items sold out very quickly.

A few weeks before the demonstration, chef and co-owner Tracy O’Grady answered a few questions about why she and her partners have decided to provide more gluten free items including retail items.

Why Gluten Free?
Our business partner Julie Mounts’ husband was very ill due to Celiac disease and we’ve noticed that many other people have gluten issues. There are not a lot of choices for folks that suffer from this so we thought we could develop something that is very high quality.

Why develop another line of business during a down economy?

We feel there is a strong need for this line of business and not many chefs are doing this kind of work.

What have you been doing to create these recipes? Who are your local sources for the ingredients?

We’ve been making changes to our existing menu to make some of the products gluten free so that other people will not even recognize the difference.  Part of our goal is to make these products so good people who can eat and enjoy gluten products will like our gluten free products just as well.  We do use many local ingredients but unfortunately many of the special flours needed for gluten free baking are unavailable locally, this may change we are not sure.  The most important thing right now is sourcing the flours from certified gluten free facilities.

You have always had gluten free in your restaurant, haven’t you? What have you had?

We have always had some gluten free options like our crispy quinoa and quinoa cakes.  Now we are very close to having gluten free bread (not brick heavy) and an excellent flatbread that is not laden with chick pea flour.

What are your plans for the mixes? Will they be available for purchase at the restaurant or anywhere else?

We are still in the process of developing our gluten free mixes so home cooks can make something tasty and not have to rely on a restaurant. These mixes are probably 2 months out and we will begin by selling them at farmers markets as a test market to see how they work for the general public.

What are the different gluten free products that you will be producing?

We will be trying to make most of the items gluten free for people who have given up on items like breads, biscuits, pastries, breading’s, etc.  Many people I’ve spoken with have told me that options have been so bad they just have given up on many things they once enjoyed.

Willow Restaurant has a booth at the Ballston Farmers Market on Thursdays from 3pm to 7pm and will be offering their gluten free items there weekly.


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