On this last episode, we look back on 23 years of joyous, difficult and always informative conversation.
You don’t need to live in Shanghai or Sicily to cook the cuisines those places are famous for. And, using local foods from farms or ethnic markets can give global cuisine a unique spin. Kojo explores the fun, and challenge, of creating international flavor with local ingredients with Chef Scott Drewno of The Source restaurant and other food experts.
- Bonnie Benwick Deputy Editor, Food Section, Washington Post
- Scott Drewno Executive Chef, The Source (Washington, D.C.)
- Craig Rogers Owner, Border Springs Farm (Va.)
MR. KOJO NNAMDIFrom WAMU 88.5, at American University in Washington, welcome to "The Kojo Nnamdi Show," connecting your neighborhood with the world. It's Food Wednesday. Consider the following culinary equation. Farm-raised lamb from Virginia, plus chef from upstate New York, plus kitchen stocked with ingredients sourced near Washington, D.C., equals explosion of quintessentially Asian flavors.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIt's the quirky kind of formula that Chef Scott Drewno follows every day at The Source, the D.C. restaurant where he takes ingredients local to Washington and spins them into cuisines that define life in cities across Asia. But it's not a formula for the faint of heart.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIIf you've ever tried to get serious about cooking global cuisine in your home, whether you're talking Chinese, Italian or Ethiopian, there's a good chance you've run into epic trouble trying to find some of the crucial ingredients, even if you're lucky enough to live by a market that specializes in the cuisine you're trying to craft.
MR. KOJO NNAMDIJoining us today to explore the challenges of cooking global by starting local is Scott Drewno, executive chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, an Asian fusion restaurant here in Washington, D.C. Scott, good to have you aboard.
MR. SCOTT DREWNOGreat to be here. Thanks for having me.
NNAMDIAlso in studio with us is Bonnie Benwick, deputy food editor at The Washington Post. Bonnie, good to see you again.
MS. BONNIE BENWICKIt smells good in here, doesn't it, Kojo?
BENWICKThat's because Scott has brought food like I asked him to do.
NNAMDINo wonder Craig and I are drooling. Craig Rogers is the owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick County, Va. Craig, thank you for joining us.
MR. CRAIG ROGERSWhat an honor it is. Thank you.
NNAMDIThe honor is all mine. You, too, can join the conversation at 800-433-8850. Where do you turn for ingredients in Washington when you're cooking from your favorite ethnic recipe book? 800-433-8850. You can send email to email@example.com, send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or simply go to our website, kojoshow.org. Join the conversation there.
NNAMDIScott, not that cooking for you hasn't been enough of an epic journey, it's taking you from your childhood home in upstate New York all the way to the top spot in a kitchen put on the map by one of the most famous chefs in the world. But it's my understanding that you recently made your first pilgrimage of sorts to mainland China to study the cuisine you're so passionate about. What did you see in China last month? And how has it changed your perspective about food?
DREWNOWell, it was just a fascinating journey through, you know, starting in Hong Kong, working my way through Guangzhou, Xian, Shanghai, Beijing, all such diverse areas of China with such great cuisines that are really distinct and separate. It's not just Chinese food. It's -- there's such different food in the north and the south. It was just a fascinating journey.
NNAMDIWhat pulled you into making such an intense study of Asian cuisine, particularly Chinese cuisine? It would seem that you had opportunities to hone your craft cooking in dozens of different styles. Why this region of the world?
DREWNOWell, I was raised in upstate New York, in a small town that's actually a village in the Finger Lakes, which is a great wine-producing region. But there is not a lot of Asian influence where I was from. So when I moved to Las Vegas at the tender age of 21, started working for Wolfgang Puck at his Asian restaurant Chinois and just really got lucky, fell in with an amazing group of chefs and a great leader in Wolfgang.
DREWNOAnd I was just so inspired by the diversity of ingredients that I'd never seen before -- lemongrass, ginger, galangal, all these things that I hadn't been exposed to -- and I immediately fell in love with it. And I basically cooked Chinese food since I was 21.
NNAMDIWas there a particular dish that piqued your interest that sent you down this path?
DREWNOYou know, I always go back to a simple dish. It's a pork dumpling. It's what I crave. And even -- it's like pizza. Even bad pork dumplings are great.
NNAMDIWhen did you start feeling comfortable about making pork dumpling?
DREWNOWell, I thought I was comfortable, and so I took a cooking class in China with a...
NNAMDIOh, we'll get to that.
DREWNOYeah, I took a cooking class with a -- basically, a Chinese grandmother, who was about 72. And she was showing me how to make a certain dumpling. And, you know, I, you know -- I thought it was pretty good. I'd been cooking Chinese food for, like, 15 years, but watching the skill and the technique that she showed me was really inspiring to me.
NNAMDIScott, Bonnie and Craig can't take it anymore. The aroma in this room is so delicious. What did you bring?
DREWNOSo I got -- well, you know, one lesson that Wolfgang certainly has taught me, it all starts with the ingredient. And you have to take great products to produce great dishes. And so I have some lamb from Border Springs Farms that -- you know, Craig comes to D.C. a few times a week...
DREWNO...so we're very fortunate to get really amazing lamb. So what we've done is make a stir-fry out of the lamb and served it in a lettuce cup with a cilantro and mint puree.
NNAMDIBonnie, does this satisfy you?
BENWICKI'm so happy.
NNAMDIBonnie has been asking for, like, three days now.
NNAMDIWhat's Scott going to bring? What's Scott going to bring?
NNAMDIFinally, she's happy with it. Bonnie, you curate the recipes printed in the food section of The Washington Post. And I heard that you tested with Scott and published a recipe for chili dan dan noodles with roast pork, a recipe that your piece describes as complex. What are the challenges of crafting a dish like that on your own, especially when you've got to hunt for the ingredients yourself?
BENWICKWell, Kojo, I -- first of all, I have to say I have a culinary dream for Washington, for everybody who lives in Washington, and that is that there's one place, one store. Let's take Rodman's on steroids. Let's have an aisle for Korean ingredients and an aisle for Japanese ingredients and an aisle for Salvadoran ingredients.
NNAMDII'm visualizing it, yes.
BENWICKYou know, like with fresh produce and all the great stuff that you can get when you have to drive miles and miles out to the suburbs to Grand Mart or Han Ah Reum or H-Mart or Bestway in town, there's just -- it's so hard to -- especially if you live in the city, to go to one space or two spaces or three spaces and find what you need.
BENWICKFor Scott's ingredients, luckily, he brought everything to The Post when we cooked that day. But when I had to test it myself and recreate, I had to drive into the wilds of Virginia to get what I needed.
NNAMDII noticed that, for one ingredient, a spicy Korean chili paste, you've directed readers to go to an Asian market and that you've got a beef with the lack of all of those kinds of markets for all the cuisines in the Washington area. Why do you think we don't have more of those ethnic markets?
BENWICKWell, I'm sure that real estate and floor space is cheaper out in the suburbs, but I -- you know, not having that fresh Asian produce store in the District is, you know, and -- or minimal amounts of it is really a sore spot with me and with a lot of readers, too. In our recipes online and in print, we try to give people, because it's the question they always ask, like this is a great -- really great dish, like, where can I find this stuff to make it? It's always an issue.
NNAMDILet's ask. Have you ever tried to cook an international kind of dish and struggled to find the right ingredients for the recipe here in the Washington area? How did you solve the problem? 800-433-8850. Send us a tweet, @kojoshow. Bonnie, how often are you contacted by readers who get lost in the treasure hunt to find the ingredients listed in more international recipes that you publish in The Post? Is this a regular challenge you find yourself up against?
BENWICKIt is a regular challenge. We get asked those questions on our online chat, which is going on right now over at washingtonpost.com and plug, plug, plug. And we get emails from readers. We get calls from readers. I mean, what can I say? It's definitely an issue, but I have to say that I -- you know, if you live in the suburbs or if you work out there, it's probably a really good idea, and a lot of people know what's around them.
BENWICKAnd they can shop. They can find, you know, the small market. And I think, actually, sort of for -- been talking about this with my colleagues in the food section at The Post. I think sort of block for block, surprisingly, the area in the burbs to me that has the most diversity is Vienna.
BENWICKYeah, they've got -- I don't know if it's World Bank. I don't know if it's affordable housing that's not too much farther beyond, but there's Indian. There's Mediterranean. There's, you know, Latin of all stripes. There's, you know, hardcore vegan and vegetarian. I mean, it's within a -- you know, Greek. There's a fairly small space. I mean, that kind of main drag is tough to negotiate on a Saturday, you know, all day long, but I think it's worth it.
BENWICKIf somebody -- probably, if you had to rent a Zipcar -- if you lived in the city and you had to rent a Zipcar, that's where I would send people to go shopping.
NNAMDIVienna, Va. We've had guests who said that before. Let's get some professional help from Scott on this kind of recipe hunt. Scott, what are the kinds of places you go hunting to for ingredients when you're looking to prepare an Asian dish at home?
DREWNOWell, I mean, I do go out to the suburbs, and that, you know, unfortunately, is a commute you have to make. But I think a lot of times, you know, we don't use chefs as resources enough. And I feel a phone call is probably not enough where people ask me, where can I buy this ingredient? Where can I get this? And I really think we should use, you know, the chefs and the hospitality professionals that are in the mix all day long with the ingredients. You know, we're definitely a resource to the community.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Scott Drewno. He is the executive chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, an Asian fusion restaurant here in Washington, D.C. Bonnie Benwick is the deputy food editor at The Washington Post. They both join us in studio, as does Craig Rogers. He is the owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick County, Va. Why we haven't asked Craig any questions as yet? Because he's busy eating, and Bonnie has joined him. So, for the time being, we're going to stick with Scott.
NNAMDIScott, we should note that, at your restaurant, you source a lot of your basic ingredients from local farmers, one of whom -- Craig -- is sitting at the table right now. What are you looking for in the foods that you take in from local farms?
DREWNOWell, I think it's a, you know, responsible farming and a passion for what they do, for sure. And, you know, there's a huge difference in the quality of product, and you can really tell when someone has their heart into -- whether it's a dish they make or animals they raise. If it's taken care of the right way, it really comes through on the plate, for sure.
NNAMDICraig, you don't just sell lamb to Scott. You're running a farm that does business with some of the biggest named chefs in the entire region. But it was not that long ago that you were an academic, a professor, a mechanical engineer with a Ph.D. How did you go from that life in academia to life on the farm? And take your time answering because I'm eating now.
ROGERSFabulous. Well, it was quite a journey. I was a professor at Virginia Tech, and my wife and I had the pleasure of seeing and old traditional Scottish sheepdog trial on campus. And it was just one of the most amazing things we'd ever seen. It -- the shepherds would control their dog with a whistle, and the dog would then steer the sheep around a course with precision and grace. It was like a ballet on a pasture.
ROGERSAnd we had just decided that upon retirement that that would be a wonderful thing for us to do. We had a couple of horses and thought we'd get six sheep and a trained border collie, and that would be our hobby instead of playing golf. And life took us in different directions. But when it was time in life to begin looking for our graceful retirement, we found a beautiful farm. And within a few days, we had six sheep and a trained border collie. I started actually competing in the sheepdog trials nationally.
NNAMDIAnd you're a very competitive guy, I understand.
ROGERSWell, and that got the best of me.
ROGERSSo what actually happened was a hobby gone bad. One day, I woke up and realized that, now all of a sudden, instead of having six sheep in the backyard, I had 600. And so one of things I had noticed while out on the sheepdog trial circuit was the guy with the most sheep generally won. The dogs had more experience, and the shepherd had more experience. And so I became a sheep hoarder of sorts.
ROGERSBut, you know, 25 years ago, while I was traveling the world, lecturing and going to symposium, I guess I was a foodie before most people even used that word, and I had a dear friend at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, who would join me on culinary excursions. We would leave the technical symposium, and, no matter where we were, we'd find something grand. And that was one was of the things I missed about moving to rural Virginia and taking on a more agrarian lifestyle.
ROGERSAnd so with all of these sheep -- and lamb had always been my favorite dish. The only time I was ever conflicted in a restaurant is if duck appeared on the menu as well. And so this gave me an opportunity to sort of marry a couple of passions. And so I set out to find the great chefs, was not so interested in how close they were by, and...
NNAMDIAnd your first big client was a pretty big one, Bryan Voltaggio, the former Top Chef contestant, the chef behind Volt in Frederick, Md. How'd you end up hooking up with him?
ROGERSWell, I had a few bad experiences, actually, with trying to sell my lamb to some local chefs. You know, shepherding and being a chef is no different than, I guess, plumbers and auto mechanics. By definition, half of them are below average, and I seemed to have found those in the bottom half to begin with. And I would go and eat, and I didn't feel like they were honoring my animals and were not...
NNAMDIThey were not doing justice to your sheep.
ROGERSNo. You know, it takes an awful lot time and effort and sweat and tears to be able to raise these animals.
NNAMDIWell, I'm getting back to the competitive aspect of that and you again because, regardless of what kind of restaurant you're pitching yourself to, whether it's someone like Scott, who's cooking Asian food, or Bryan, who's cooking modern American food, you're competing against Colorado lamb, Australian, New Zealand. How do you separate yourself from that pack, so to speak?
ROGERSWell, there's probably several different ways. One is, is that every chef has the opportunity to come to my farm and see the animals for themselves and to see the care and to see the pastures upon which they graze. But, for the most part, that's not so hard to compete. Although there are some important business issues between that because, basically, as a small farmer here in Virginia, and particularly on the East Coast, it's more of a boutique operation.
ROGERSI'm -- put a great deal more effort than a mass-produced commodity product. And the chefs understand the difference immediately, so that's the easy part. The hard part, though, is when they now have to balance their values with the pocket book.
NNAMDIScott, do you get a kick out of making an Asian dish with Virginia lamb from Craig or Virginia ham from the farmers you work with?
DREWNOYeah. No. I think that's -- it's great. I mean, it's -- to me, it inspires me to work with someone like Craig. And, you know, they're also -- the farmers are really helpful -- you know, he recently brought lamb necks to the restaurant. I never used lamb necks before, and in all the time I'm cooking, but, wow.
BENWICKThis is a hot, new ingredient.
BENWICKIt really is.
DREWNOWell, I -- you know, I didn't know that until I ate it, and I was like, wow. It's just amazing. So, I mean, just the fat content, the way it cooks is really dynamic. And I just think, you know, it's easy to separate, you know, Craig from other lamb because it's all about the taste of the lamb. You know, it has that beautiful, gamey flavor, but it's subtle and sort of, you know, more savory and subtle. And it's not as for with gaminess as some lambs are.
DREWNOSo it really adds a dimension and a depth of flavor to the lamb and to the dish that you're cooking without being overpowering .
NNAMDIOn to the telephones. We'll start with Kristen in Arlington, Va. Kristen, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
KRISTENOkay. Thank you. We're talking about not being able to find ingredients, and I've been looking for almost a year for something called ogo. It's a type of seaweed. And I wonder if any of the chefs there know if there's any of the markets that carry it.
NNAMDIWell, let's start with Bonnie first. Ogo?
BENWICKSpell it for me.
BENWICKWait. And you've checked out the large and small Asian markets?
KRISTENI've called them all. I'd stop by. The only place I've ever...
BENWICKCalling. Calling is a little bit of an issue. Really, I've had to -- I have found things that they told me they didn't have when I called just because there's a little -- sometimes there's a language problem. Let's face it.
NNAMDIThere's a little difference in pronunciation.
BENWICKWell, and they pass the phone. They keep passing the phone along to people they think have a greater understanding of what I'm trying to say. And a lot of times, I've just gotten in my car and gone and found that the ingredient is there. So I'd say you might...
NNAMDIYou might have to go for ogo.
BENWICKAnd there is a -- Joe Yonan, the editor of the food section, reminded me that there's a really nice -- there are apps, of course. There's apps for everything now.
BENWICKThere's one that Andrea Nguyen did that I just loaded, Asian Market Place. (sic) It's got over 100 ingredients, and it tells you how to use them. And it has voice pronunciation, so that when you're in the store -- you know, a lot of times, if I'm shopping next to somebody who looks like they know the products, I'll just say, can you help me find, you know, rather than asking the person who works there.
BENWICKAnd I've had success that way. But now that you've told me, why don't you -- I mean, I'd love to try to track it down for you. For me, it's kind of like a cheap dog version of, you know, detective work.
BENWICKSo I'd be happy to try to do that if you just email me at The Post. I'll see what I can do for you later today.
NNAMDIHow can she email you at The Post?
KRISTENOkay. Thank you very much.
BENWICKShe can email me -- my emails are at the bottom of my stories, or you can just send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
KRISTENOkay. Thank you.
NNAMDIKristen, thank you very much for your call. Good luck to you.
KRISTENAll right. Thanks.
NNAMDIYou, too, can call us 800-433-8850. Where to do you turn for ingredients in Washington when you're cooking from your favorite ethnic recipe book? Send us a tweet, @kojoshow, or email to email@example.com. Or you can simply go to our website, kojoshow.org, and join the conversation there. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
NNAMDIYep. That's Bonnie Benwick, agreeing to share the information she's gotten about ogo on the air. She is the deputy food editor at The Washington Post. She joins us in studio with Scott Drewno, executive chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, an Asian fusion restaurant, Asian-centric restaurant here in Washington, D.C. Craig Rogers is the owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick County, Va. You can call us, 800-433-8850.
NNAMDIWhat do you think the availability of ethnic markets or grocers in the Washington area says about the identity of this region? 800-433-8850. Craig Rogers, you have said that, for the most part, you consider selling to farmers' markets to be more or less a waste of your time. Why is that? And where can people go if they really, really, really want to buy your meat?
ROGERSWell, for a farmer, unless you happen to be very close to a large metropolitan area such as here, where you have such wonderful fresh farm markets and -- you know, just one of the most amazing places I've been is the Dupont farmers' market on Sundays. But if you live in one of the more rural communities, there simply isn't enough traffic to make it worthwhile. You kill an animal. You need to sell the whole thing.
ROGERSAnd, unfortunately, most Americans are accustomed to very prime cuts, and it's what makes the chefs that are more adventuresome and perhaps doing more ethnic cuisine so important to us because most ethnic cuisine deals with what we refer to as off-cuts. And they'll even use offal or organ meats and so on, so it gives us the opportunity to sell the whole thing. That's hard to do in a small market.
ROGERSAnd farmers' markets are notorious for not being the place where most people go to buy meat -- in Iowa, as an example, there was a recent study that only 4 percent of all the farmers' market sales were for meat. The margins are rather meager. Selling produce or cut flowers -- cut flowers is the way to go at farmers' markets.
ROGERSAwesome, awesome markets.
NNAMDIMoney, in general, is it a tougher deal to find farm-quality meat like Craig's at a farmers' market than it is to find, oh, produce?
BENWICKOh, no. No, it's fabulous. I mean, the -- unfortunately, I think, at least in Maryland, you have to bring meat to the market frozen. And I've been to farmers' market out on the West Coast and in Seattle where they've got this beautiful fresh, just -- it smells so sweet you just want to get it right home and cook it right away. I wish that were the case, but I have enough delayed gratification in me that I can take it home and defrost it and then have my way with it.
BENWICKSo I see more and more really, really good meat, poultry, sausages, artisanal, you know, cured salumi of all kinds in the farmers' markets all over the area.
NNAMDIScott, it's my understanding that you talked about sourcing ingredients with some of the chefs you met in China. What did you learn there?
DREWNOIt just reinforced what, you know -- this isn't a new concept. You know, D.C. has been very fortunate to, you know, have amazing chefs like Jean-Louis Palladin, who really, you know, emphasized buying from our local farmers, using our local ingredients. And in China, when I -- you know, I worked with a few chefs.
DREWNOAnd they were basically the exact same that -- they have the same feelings that I have, that it's really important to support our local -- our farmers and our growers, not because they're just local, but because the quality of ingredients can be really exceptional (unintelligible) you get, you know, produce that's fresh.
DREWNOAnd, you know, we have our challenges here because, you know, you don't have a long growing season like we have in California and some other parts of the world. But when we are in season, it's really, you know, definitely smart to take advantage of what we have.
NNAMDII read in the piece in The Post where you talk with executive chef Zhang in which you talked about the importance of sourcing. Zhang explained how the pork used at Tiandi is specially transported to Beijing from the southern part of China.
DREWNOYeah, it was a beautiful dish that I -- I wish I had a picture of it with me. And it was basically a very thinly sliced pork belly that was sort of arranged, so it came up to, like, a pyramid. And when it came to the table, we almost didn't want to eat it, and then you just kind of peel away the layers. But I feel the same way. We get our pork from Leaping Waters Farms in Virginia, and I know that they're responsible farmers.
DREWNOAnd, you know, Alec Bradford, who's the farmer there, they only raise heritage breed pigs, which, you know, have amazing, you know, qualities. And they raise four different types, and each type of pig that they raise has a different fat content and different flavor profile. So it's interesting and fun for the chef to be able to take, you know, a beautiful cut of pork that tastes a little bit different than the one I had the week before.
NNAMDIWe're talking with Scott Drewno. He is the executive chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck. It's an Asian-centric restaurant, Asian fusion restaurant in Washington, D.C. Bonnie Benwick is the deputy food editor at The Washington Post. And Craig Rogers is the owner of Border Springs Farm. We got this email from Kevin. "Talking about lamb, the lamb shank made at Indique Heights is to die for. Could you ask your guest, Scott, chef, if he can make something like that with Chinese flavors at The Source?"
DREWNOAbsolutely. And, you know, lamb shank is another, you know, great -- that's not, you know, necessarily a prime cut. And a lot of people, you know, as Craig said, are geared towards the tenderloin or the lamb chop. But some of the other cuts, like the shanks and the necks and the ribs of a lamb, you know, are for slow braised. We absolutely can do a dish that has Chinese flavor. It just incorporates a longer cooking period and a slower cooking period.
NNAMDIWell, I got to tell you, since the person brought up Indique Heights, the first person -- the person who first took me to Indique Heights was the same person who also took me to The Source along with Carla Hall, and that was Monica Bhide.
DREWNOYes, our great friend, Monica Bhide, who's a great, great chef in her own her right and has a wonderful cook book.
NNAMDIShe certainly is. 800-433-8850 is the number to call. What else did you learn about ingredients or cooking technique while you were in China? Did you come back thinking, well, I've got to start doing this or that differently when I'm back at my kitchen at The Source?
DREWNOYeah, there was a few tricks I learned that -- you know, just different techniques and methods that I learned. But, you know, it just reinforced to me that making the ingredient that you buy or that you purchase -- making it the best quality available and letting that ingredient be the star of the plate, and the simplicity there was really inspiring to me. And, you know, I've learned as I've gotten older that it's just as important what you leave off the plate as what you put on the plate.
NNAMDII wanted to get back to that Chinese grandmother that you talked about earlier. By the way, if you'd like to join the conversation -- we don't want to just talk among ourselves -- it's 800-433-8850. What would you say are the most difficult ingredients you've ever gone hunting for in the Washington region, the most difficult ingredients? 800-433-8850. Apparently, it turns out that the secret to those -- that grandmother's dumplings is chicken feet.
NNAMDICan you explain?
DREWNOSure. So, you know, a great Chinese dish that I have loved for a long time is xiao long bao, which is basically a soup dumpling. So it's a dumpling that, when you bite into it, it sort of burst with a rich chicken stock. And making that was somewhat difficult. And, you know, I tried over the years to use gelatin and other thickeners like agar-agar, and it just wasn't working.
DREWNOSo, you know, sometimes, it's the simplest thing. And, you know, I watched her make it. It's basically chicken feet and pork skin, slow cooked for, like, six hours and strained. And the high amount of collagen in the chicken feet and the pork skin, it sets it up just like Jell-O when you chill it. And then you fold it into the dumpling. And it just kind of dissolves after you heat it, so...
NNAMDIIt's like, what, chicken feet? Why didn't I think of that before?
NNAMDIBonnie, in Washington, are there particular ethnic ingredients that are easier to hunt for than others? Is it easier to go hunting for ingredients to, say, cook Mexican food than Italian or German or Korean?
BENWICKI think we have had a pretty good run of -- at Italian ingredients between (word?) Northeast D.C. and The Italian Store in Virginia, Marchone's in Wheaton, sort of got the bases covered. And I think it generally is easier. I mean, things are sort of filtering into stores. And there's even, in the past couple of years, these -- a chain, actually, called Spice & Tea exchange. There's one in Georgetown now, and there's one in Alexandria.
BENWICKSo you can walk in there and get a lot of different powdered ingredients, like powdered spinach or tomato powder, which really sort of will help boost the flavor of a soup or stew like you can't imagine. They also carry asafetida, which you might have had to go to an Indian market to get before, you know, for a Brazilian dish or whatever. So, I mean, that -- you know, we're getting better. But, again, I just -- I want that store. I want that store in Washington.
BENWICKI want someone who's got money and time to put this together, to hire me as a consultant, of course, but, you know, to make this happen in the District. And then everybody will come. You'll come, right?
NNAMDIThe aforementioned Rodman's on steroids.
NNAMDIHere's Brian in Springfield, Va. Hi, Brian.
BRIANHey there. How are you doing? Thanks for having me on. I just wanted to talk with your guests about a fruit that I just found after about 10 years of searching. It's mamey sapote. It's a Central American fruit. And of course, I use it for the batido de mamey, the mamey milkshake. I was wondering if they had any insights as to other ways I might be able to play with it a little.
BENWICKWait. Yes, Scott's...
BENWICKScott's pointing at me. Can you say it for me again?
BRIANIt's mamey sapote. It's like a...
BENWICKNo. It's like I'm getting stumped all over the place, although I -- I think I have handle on ogo now. But...
NNAMDIOh, yeah. We got to get back to ogo.
BENWICKNo. That's okay. I mean, tell me what it tastes like. What does it look like?
BRIANYes. It's really interesting, actually. It looks kind of like a chunk of wood.
BRIANAnd then when you cut it open, it's kind of like an avocadoey texture and almost tastes a little bit like a sweet potato. It's got a really deep, rich pink look, color to it. And it's definitely a really meaty fruit.
BENWICKAnd so you had it there? Or you were able to sneak it past customs, or you're making milkshakes in other countries?
BRIANOh, no, no, no. I actually -- it doesn't even grow in this country. It only grows overseas. And I've been looking for it or about 10 years and just recently found it at an ethnic grocery store in Woodbridge, Va.
BENWICKOh, really? What was that? What's the name of the store?
BRIANIt was Global Foods in Woodbridge.
NNAMDIGood. Thank you for passing that on. Mamey sapote, correct?
BRIANYou got it. Yep.
NNAMDIBrian, thank you very much for your call. And now, ladies and gentlemen, a fanfare, a drum roll 'cause Bonnie is going to tell us about ogo.
BENWICKWell, the intense research that I've done on my smartphone comes up with something that it sounds like I want to get my hands on for that caller. It's a red seaweed. And seaweeds have seasons, apparently, so maybe one of the reasons why she couldn't find it, if she's been looking recently, it sounds like April is a good season for that. It's in -- it's found in the Caribbean. They use it in Hawaii and Japan.
BENWICKThe longer name is ogonori. So if she was going looking for it, perhaps, if she said the full name, somebody at a store might be able to figure it out. And it looks like it's grown in California aqua farms. And it's crunchy, snappy and very briny. Don't you want to try that?
DREWNOI do. It sounds great.
BENWICKI know. There's an endless array of things that we ought to get our hands on, I think. It would go great with lamb, wouldn't it?
ROGERSI'm sure. And probably with lamb ribs, as you mentioned, which has just turned into the hottest product. I think David Hagedorn did an article in the spring closely followed by one in The New York Times, and, prior to that, I had not sold a single lamb rib in years of selling lamb. They were all turned into ground. And now I have waiting lists for lamb ribs.
ROGERSAnd if I -- if my neck -- if my sheep had three necks, I still could not keep up with the demand.
BENWICKYeah. You know, I've noticed that it's called for in some cookbooks that I'm reviewing for this season. So it'll be even harder to find it, is what you're saying, because...
DREWNOWell -- and it's really nice cut for the home cook as well. It's very much like shanks where you can braise it, put it in a Crock-Pot. But the necks have a more refined texture than shanks do. But you can replace them in -- you know, any place that you see shanks, you could throw necks.
BENWICKI wonder if halal markets would be a good source for that. Kojo, do you know about lamb stock, by the way?
NNAMDINo, I don't.
BENWICKYeah. This is something that Craig -- well, you know, you'll be salivating about, I'm sure.
ROGERSLast year -- you know, one of the nice things about my chefs is that they're truly passionate about where the food comes from, and they want to see the farm. And so, last year, Bryan Voltaggio wanted to bring his entire staff to the farm and asked if he could do that. And I said, sure, if you do it, I'll roast a lamb on a spit and get a mutual friend of ours to smoke a pig. And then he realized how far it was and said, well, can we camp out? And I said, well, I've got plenty of sheep pasture, so come on.
ROGERSAs it turns out, within about 30 days, we had 200 chefs from across the country who converged onto my sheep fields to sleep in tents in a sheep field. David Varley, who then was at Bourbon Steak, spent three nights sleeping in a hammock between two trees. And we just cooked whole animals over open fire for days, with plenty of great local wines and spirits and music. And so that's now become a tradition for chefs to actually converge to the farm where their food comes from.
NNAMDIYou got me with the sleeping in the hammock. I'm in.
NNAMDIBut you mentioned your smartphone, Bonnie. We're going to be doing a show about food apps soon on Food Wednesday, food apps for smartphones. Here now is Brazit (sp?) in Reston, Va. Brazit, you're on the air. Go ahead, please.
BRAZITHello? Hello, Kojo?
NNAMDIYes, Brazit. It's your turn. You are on the air.
BRAZITYes. Oh, very nice. I just wanted to tell people that there's a place in Falls Church, Va. called Eden Center, where all the Vietnamese food and restaurants are located, where there's a grocery there that sells a lot of different ethnic spice. And you can find fresh ingredients like, you know, lemongrass and all kinds of stuff there.
BRAZITSo it's worth the trip to get there. And it goes on -- you could get the Metro, Falls Church East, I think. It takes you there, but you have to walk about a mile to get to the destination or get a cab.
NNAMDIWell, you underscore Bonnie's point about going there rather than calling up because the variety might so great. You may not want to call up to do that. We have time for one more. Here is Michael in Falls Church, Va. Michael, your turn. Go ahead, please.
MICHAELHello, Kojo. Thank you for taking the call. I recently lived in Thailand for a number of years and became quite fond of cooking Thai-style. And there are two ingredients. And I live in Northern Virginia and certainly know an awful lot of the places that Bonnie was referring to, and I'm a regular patron of them. Two items, though, I have great difficulty finding.
MICHAELOne of them is kaffir lime leaves, fresh, and the other is galangal, where there is galangal occasionally available, but it's a very deep brown, and it's very stringy and woody. But if you've ever bought fresh galangal in Asia, you know it is a much lighter, thinner, sort of beige-colored, very soft root. And I'm just wondering, is there any place in which that is reliably available in the District, in this area, generally, or certainly in Northern Virginia, where there are so many Asian shops, none of which, unfortunately, ever have this?
BENWICKYou know what? I -- from somebody that I interviewed a couple of years ago for my Washington Cooks column, I found -- I mean, he always had kaffir lime leaves. And I said, so what's up with that? And he walks me into his living room, and there's a tree. I mean, you can actually grow it indoors in a pot. And then you can have an endless supply because when, in fact, I have found them, I think I found them at stores that freeze them.
BENWICKBut the texture is not the same, and you lose, you know, that really fresh grassy greenness. As far as the galangal goes -- and the kaffir lime, by the way, I believe there's a vendor at the Bethesda Central Farm Market on Sundays who was going to have kaffir lime trees available. They are very young, and I don't know how long it takes. But as soon as it starts sprouting leaves, it seems like you'd be good to go.
BENWICKThe galangal, I have a feeling, probably -- you know, you got your hands on young, fresh stuff. Tim Carman had a story in our paper today about young ginger, about some farms that are doing baby ginger. And Scott's nodding his head. It's the same thing. Like, once it grows the skin, or it's a little more mature, by the time it gets on whatever, you know, long-range vehicle, it came in, in a box to get to the United States, it's just not the same stuff that you had there.
BENWICKSo I wish it were here. Maybe it is. Maybe somebody is growing galangal as well as the ginger.
NNAMDIAnd thank you very much for your call, Michael. We're just out of -- about out of time, but Joan in D.C. says, "Ogo is available under the NOH, N-O-H, label, one of the main ingredients in a Hawaiian dish called poke, and that you can get it online." So, Joan in D.C., thank you very much for that.
NNAMDIScott Drewno, thank you so much for joining us.
DREWNOThank you for having me.
NNAMDIScott is the executive chef at The Source by Wolfgang Puck, an Asian fusion restaurant here in Washington. Bonnie Benwick, always a pleasure.
NNAMDIBonnie Benwick is the deputy food editor at The Washington Post. And, Craig Rogers, good to see you.
ROGERSThank you so much.
NNAMDICraig Rogers is the owner of Border Springs Farm in Patrick County, Va. And thank you all for listening. I'm Kojo Nnamdi.
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