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School Lunch

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The USDA just passed new school lunch guidelines a couple of weeks ago, and people are ecstatic. While there were some real setbacks (like the whole pizza is a vegetable thing) overall it’s a huge improvement and Mark Bittman at the New York Times breaks down what it all means. I haven’t thought about — let alone eaten — a school lunch in years, but reading all the hoo-hah about it made me wonder, “What’re the kids eating these days?” So I thought I’d treat blog readers to a photo tour of the state of school lunches today.

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It is a crusty thing. And a waffle. And that is probably a peach but
maybe a weird spider egg?

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It’s a vegetable plate! Potatoes and tomatoes. I mean: tater tots and ketchup.

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Oops, that’s a prison lunch.

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Sorry, prison lunch again.

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There we go – back to school lunch.

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Either it’s worms or it’s spaghetti. And garlic white bread!

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For a comparison between American school lunches and overseas school lunches, check out this blog. Spoiler Alert: American school lunches are don’t come out looking too good.

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But nothing beats this photo essay over on Holy Taco. For some unknown reason, a school in Harrisonburg, VA started posting truly terrifying photos of their scary school lunches, each given a “hip” nickname. Go feast your eyes (and try to keep down your own lunch) on pictures of Italian Dunkers, Chicken Fryz and Taco Patties.

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School lunch, I don’t really miss you at all.

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Eggplant Tiramisu and the Perils of Cotton Candy

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As molten chocolate cake was to France and the 90′s, tiramisu was to Italy and the late 80′s. Tiramisu got so huge that Japan was importing 140 tons of mascarpone cheese per year in 1991 to supply its tiramisu jones, and they even had a canned tiramisu drink. I’m a lover of desserts that fall into and then out of fashion (see: Molten Beet Cake) so it seemed obvious to me that tiramisu was going to be my next dish. And voila, after a lot of work, here it is: Roasted Eggplant Tiramisu with Rosemary Cotton Candy.

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Read the rest of this entry »


Solo Diner’s Week is coming!

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Yes, yes, Valentine’s Day, etc. But I just wanted to remind folks that from Tuesday, February 21 to Saturday, February 25 it’s Solo Diner’s Week here at Dirt Candy. I’m doing a special prix fixe menu that is focused on solo diners who want to try more dishes (in mini form) than they’d normally get to order if they ate here by themselves. Full details are here, so come on down! Already, reservations are filling up fast with folks who are piloting their dinner tables by themselves, and it’s going to be a lot of fun!

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“It just means more for me, nerds!”

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Remember: you’re never eating alone, you’re just on a date with the coolest person you know!

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It is the Valentine’s Day

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It is Valentine’s Day and while I’m always suspicious of a holiday celebrating a priest who was beaten to death then beheaded, who am I to stand in the way of a national outpouring of love? (On a personal note, I prefer Lupercalia, the pagan holiday that Valentine’s Day replaced, but that’s mostly because its Wikipedia page mentions “shaggy thongs.”)

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Let it never be said that Dirt Candy doesn’t love you!

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Vegetarian Food Supply

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If you’re reading this blog then you’re concerned about two things: great food and the end of the world. As everyone knows, the ancient Mayans predicted that 2012 would be the year of the apocalypse and since I base almost all my life decisions on the wisdom of Mesoamerican cultures that dominated the world 2000 years ago, I’ve been worried. I’m not sure how the world will end — whether it’ll be a sudden explosion or a long, slow decline into anarchy and mutant biker gangs — but if it turns out to be “anarchy and mutant biker gangs”  there’s just one thing that’s been weighing on my mind.

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Imagine this: the world has ended. You and a few survivors are huddled in the shattered foundations of your home. At night, roving gangs of angry cyborgs stalk you. During the day, you are on guard for Bearsharktopus attacks. And then, today, a doctor shows up. Some of your tribe are suffering from radiation poisoning and zombie bites and you thought you would have to hack off their infected limbs yourself, but with a medical professional on hand things don’t look quite so bleak. You’ll have help! You prepare canned spaghetti and meatballs that you dragged out of the smoking ruins of a Shop Rite store after killing a troop of feral Boy Scouts and you dish out a hubcap full to your new doctor friend. She licks her lips, swallows hard, and then looks up at you with accusing eyes. “I’m a vegetarian,” she says.

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SO EMBARRASSING! Fortunately, Costco is there for you with 275 servings of vegetarian food in a 23 pound bucket. It’s called…Food Supply!

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Here’s what they say: “Making a healthy meal has never been so easy or affordable. Just add boiling water, and in 25 minutes, a mouth-watering meal is ready to serve; priced under 35 cents…”

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Wow! And what do customers say?

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“Good deal for Emergency food! Hope I never get to eat them…”

“This is our second purchase of this product and we haven’t used up the first bucket yet.”

“It is a good feeling to know I have emergency food on hand that can be kept for 15 – 20 years.”

“This was a real bargain. Food is good, we eat it a few times a week. Should save it but it is quick and convenient.”

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Sounds delicious! But what do you get for $99?

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275 servings – 55 pouches per kit (5 servings each pouch)

  • 25 Servings of Cheesy Broccoli & Rice
  • 30 Servings of Vegetable Rice
  • 35 Servings of Creamy Potato Soup
  • 25 Servings of Italian Tomato Pasta
  • 25 Servings of Tuscan Butter Pasta
  • 35 Servings of Barley Vegetable Soup
  • 50 Servings of Maple Brown Sugar Oatmeal
  • 50 Servings of Whey Milk

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From the good people at Food for Health. Never be embarrassed by your culinary insensitivity in a post-apocalyptic situation again! For me, this is a huge relief. Thanks, Costco!

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Kitchen Ballet

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No part of being a chef feels more unique to me than the kitchen ballet. Other jobs may have something like it, but to me it’s one of the most gratifying parts of my job. The kitchen ballet is the timing of service when the entire restaurant is in full swing and the whole crew are in telepathic communication with each other and you reach for something and your sous chef already has it ready for you and you put an order out into the waiting hands of your server and the second you need glasses your dishwasher is just taking them out of the machine. For me, it’s one of the most beautiful parts of working in a restaurant. This video, shot over an entire day’s service at Amber in the Mandarin Oriental Hotel, Hong Kong, is the closest I’ve seen someone come to capturing the kitchen ballet on film.

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(courtesy of Cha Xiu Bao)

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Solo Diner’s Week

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February marks the month of my least favorite holiday of all time: Valentine’s Day. So fraught with expectations, so impossible to get right, so burdened with Meaning and Importance that it winds up feeling more like a grueling chore than a celebration of love. I don’t celebrate it myself, and working in restaurants has made me like it even less. There’s nothing wrong with people going out for dinner on Valentine’s Day, and I love the fact that people choose to come to Dirt Candy to celebrate a day that means a lot to them, but every Valentine’s Day I bust my butt to make sure that everyone’s meal goes flawlessly and yet diner expectations are so high (“This is the most important meal of our lives!” I was once told) that I feel like I fail just as many times as I succeed.

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So this month, I’m doing something different. This month, I’m holding a week-long Solo Diner’s Week as an antidote to Valentine’s Day.

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For the week of Tuesday, February 21, if you’re a diner flying solo I want you to know that not only are you welcome at Dirt Candy, you’re appreciated. The bummer about dining alone is that you don’t get to try enough of the menu. I love going out to eat in groups so I can try everyone’s food, allowing me to taste a little bit of everything on the menu, but when you’re eating by yourself you don’t get that advantage. Now you can. Between Tuesday, Feb. 21 and Saturday, Feb. 25 I’ll do a prix fixe meal for solo diners only:

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- $47 gets you -

- a mini-order of hush puppies

- a choice of any of the four appetizers

- a choice of any two entrees (each entree will be a mini-version of itself)

- a choice of desserts

- coffee and tea

- a half-glass of wine

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So make your reservations fast and come on down for Solo Diner’s Week and taste more of my menu than you’d normally be able to do on your own. And remember: you’re not eating alone, you’re choosing to go on a date with the coolest person you know – yourself.

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As every lady and every gentleman knows:
dining alone is a privilege
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menu


Menu

Snack

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Jalapeno Hush Puppies $6
served with maple butter
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Appetizers

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Mushroom $13
portobello mousse, truffled toast
pear & fennel compote

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Cucumber $12
roasted cucumber hot and sour soup,
black sesame, garlic chili oil, wood ear
mushroom, cucumber jelly

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Tomato $13
tomato cake with smoked feta,
yellow tomato leather, herb puree

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Potato $12
warm potato salad, crispy Japanese
yams, grilled sweet potato, olives,
bitter greens, apples

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Entrees

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Beets $20
salt-roasted beets, thai green curry,
beet gnocchi, whipped coconut galangal cream

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Pepper $18
fennel & pepper tofu,
parsley spaetzle, grilled
yellow pepper broth,
mustard crumbs

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Broccoli $21
smoked broccoli dogs,
broccoli kraut, salt &
vinegar broccoli rabe

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Corn $19
stone ground grits, corn cream,
pickled shiitakes, huitlacoche,
tempura poached egg

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- everything on the menu can be made vegan on request.

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Dessert

Rosemary Eggplant Tiramisu $12
grilled eggplant, rosemary cotton
candy, mascarpone

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Ice Cream Nanaimo Bar$11
sweet pea, mint, chocolate

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Popcorn Pudding$11
salted caramel corn

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Celery Cheesecake Roll$10
celeriac ice cream, peanut filling,

& candied grapes

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- vegan dessert selection changes regularly, please ask your server.

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Our wine list (and other beverages)

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Gift Certificates

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