Destination: Oaxaca, Mexico

Mexican food—who doesn’t like it? It’s a cuisine that’s embraced worldwide. Interestingly, Mexican cuisine was the first to be awarded an UNESCO Culinary Heritage Status. As we embark on a new Food Explorer destination this month, we’re especially drawn to the cooking coming out of Oaxaca, Mexico (pronounced Wa-ha-ka).

We’re not the only ones who are slightly obsessed with Oaxacan cuisine. American chefs, restaurateurs, and cookbook authors are heavily influenced by Oaxaca, including Rick Bayless, Alice Waters, and Diana Kennedy, to name a few. It’s become quite the trendy food-lover destination bringing in tourists to the region and flooding their food markets. Although we can’t hold a candle to that experience, we’re excited to bring our interpretation of some of these food experiences to DLM.

Oaxacan cuisine has a large variety of ingredients coming from mountain areas, central valleys, southern coastline, and in and around the capital city that shares its name. Think staples like not only corn and beans, but a variety of chiles and stunning produce, seafood, chocolate, avocados, cheeses, and even the smoky mezcal that heavily influences this cuisine. Other more exotic ingredients are the delicious, but not super attractive, corn fungus called  huitlacoche (or corn smut) and a small type of grasshopper called chapulín that is full of protein and plentiful to the area.

We especially love favorites from Oaxaca, such as tlayudas, tamales, quesadillas, black beans, and Oaxacan cheese, also known as quessillo. Chocolate also is plentiful, mostly drunk hot. But the primary focus and foundation of Oaxaca cooking is mole, see page 6 for more! We’re excited to explore Oaxaca and we hope you join us for the journey.

Click here for some recipes to try at home or ways you can bite into Oaxaca, Mexico, via DLM.

Get Your Kicks with These 8 Recipes from Route 66

The ultimate road trip in America has got to be driving Route 66, spanning eight states with iconic comfort foods along the way. Although it was officially decommissioned in the 80s, it continues to attract tourists, road warriors, and food lovers looking to taste pure Americana. Today the historic route boasts vintage motels, nostalgic roadside attractions, and some really good road food.

After the Great Depression, folks finally had a little extra cash so they piled into the family car and embarked on a road trip of a lifetime with destination spots like the Grand Canyon or Disneyland Park in mind. Even great movies, songs, and books were inspired by the open road and aura of Route 66. For many, this road trip is also about the iconic flavors, like home-style baked goods, spicy chiles, BBQ, and all-around good country eating!

Buckle up and take a bite out of these eight recipes representing the eight states along Route 66!

1. Chicago Dog

2. Kansas BBQ Rub

3. Country Fried Steak

4. Buttered Pecan Blueberry Cobbler

5. Cowboy Steak

6. Easy Sticky Buns

7. Chicken Posole

8. Fish Tacos with Lime Crema & Cabbage Slaw

DLM Food Explorer Viva Italia

On my first trip to Italy some years ago, I was surprised to learn that Tuscans largely ignore balsamic vinegar, and Milanese favor rice over pasta. And right in between Milan and Tuscany you find many recognizable delicacies from lasagna to Prosciutto di Parma to balsamic vinegar in the region of Reggio Emilia. Hazelnuts are a big deal in the north and hot peppers in the south.

You learn that when speaking of Italy’s great food culture, it’s impossible to describe it without putting it in a regional context. Maybe it’s the Italian connection to the land, a long culinary history, or simply local pride. In any case, discovering the regional foods of Italy is both educational and incredibly fun. Over the years, so many of us at DLM have traveled to Italy to discover its food treasures, and we’ve made it a point to bring a number of those back to you.

You see Italy’s influence at DLM in the Italian products themselves, like our Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil hailing from the hills of Tuscany or our Parmigiano-Reggiano from Modena. Other times, you’ll find its reach in the form of a technique we’ve learned from studying with Italian masters that we then replicate here, such as our DLM Handmade Mozzarella, Naples-Style Pizza, and Tuscan butcher-inspired specialty prepared meats, to name a few. As you can imagine, we could write a book on our passion for Italian food, but for the purpose of giving some focus, we are spotlighting a few regions of Italy that have inspired us the most: Tuscany, Campania, Emilia-Romagna, and Southern Italy, mainly Calabria and Sicily.

We’ll be celebrating Italy all month culminating with our Food Explorer Day taking place May 18. Join us for great fun and good Italian eating on our next stop as Food Explorers…buon appetito!

TUSCANY

FOOD

Vera Jane’s Extra-Virgin Olive Oil (GROCERY), Pane Toscano (BAKERY), Pecorino Toscano (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP), Italian Oven-Ready Meats (MEAT)

WINE

CAPPONE CHIANTI CLASSICO – Count Sebastiano Capponi is a dear friend to DLM, hailing from his lovely Tuscan estate that’s been in his family since 1524! This young-vine Chianti is named for the first ancestor of Sebastiano. It’s 100% Sangiovese, brimming with beautiful fruit and richness.

VILLA CALCINAIA CHIANTI CLASSICO RISERVA – 100% Sangiovese from the best blocks of old vines near Greve in Chianti. It’s a well-structured wine that’s full of rich black fruits, leather, spice, cigar box notes, and supple tannins.

FONTALEONI VERNACCIA DI SAN GIMIGNANO – A wonderfully dry, minerally, and extremely pleasing white wine from the surrounding vineyards of the hilltop town of San Gimignano.

CAMPANIA

FOOD

Naples-Style Pizza (DLM WASHINGTON SQUARE & SPRINGBORO), San Marzano Tomatoes D.O.P. (GROCERY), DLM Handmade Mozzarella (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP)

WINE

COLLI DI LAPIO ROMANO CLELIA FIANO DI AVELLINO – A white wine from the Avellino province and a varietal the Romans called Vitis Apiana, vine beloved of bees. It’s dry, lovely, and has hints of pear and hazelnut, floral tones, and a hint of minerality.

EMILIA-ROMAGNA

FOOD

Prosciutto di Parma (DELI), Mortadella (DELI), DLM Aged Balsamic Vinegar of Modena (GROCERY), Lasagna (GOURMET TAKEAWAY), Parmigiano-Reggiano (THE DLM CHEESE SHOP)

WINE

CASALI ROSA DI ROSA RED SPARKLING WINE – Perfect chilled with a plate of charcuterie enjoyed al fresco with its bright raspberry/blueberry fruit and soft bubbles.

LO DUCA LAMBRUSCO REGGIANO – Lambrusco does not exactly excite most after we’ve suffered so many terrible mass-produced and exported representations of this wine. However, Lo Duca is bright, semi-sweet, and has a naturally carbonated essence. Try it in a cocktail.

SOUTHERN ITALY (CALABRIA + SICILY)

FOOD

Cannoli (BAKERY), DLM Gelato (FROZEN), Scalia Anchovies (GROCERY), Marinated Anchovies (SEAFOOD BAR)

WINE

VILLA POZZI NERO D’AVOLA – The Pozzi family is a fifth-generation winemaking family located on the island of Sicily.

DONNAFUGATA ANTHILIA BIANCO – An amazingly crisp, minerally, and vibrant white wine blend from Sicily that’s perfect for light seafood dishes, salad, or poultry.

 

The Gateway to Spring

The arrival of spring comes in many different forms, but there’s nothing quite like the brilliant colors of tulips illuminating our Floral department. Stuart Delk, Floral & Plant Director says it best, “Tulips are the gateway to spring.” Simple, yet elegant, these blooms have become a favorite flower during this season. But how did tulips come to be so significant?

A member of the lily family, tulips have a rich history. Because of its delicate nature and wide array of colors, this flower became a symbol of luxury in Europe. As the story goes, the price of tulips skyrocketed due to their extreme popularity and difficulty of cultivation. This frenzy is said to have caused a financial crash of the Dutch economy and caused what’s known as “Tulip Mania.” Although they have a complex past, or maybe thanks to it, tulips are celebrated each spring.

With their history rooted in the Netherlands, the idea that Dutch tulips are superior is a common misconception. Stuart states, “Dutch doesn’t necessarily mean quality.” We’re proud to receive our tulips from Mount Vernon, Washington. The cool maritime climate, defined by cold but not freezing winters transitioning to warm summers, paired with the fertile soil makes this location tulip paradise. In that area, spring has truly sprung when the fields are painted with these breathtaking blooms.

Throughout the month of April we will be carrying colorful cut tulips from Washington. Whether in a bouquet or an arrangement, these iconic flowers are a sure way to push away memories of the cold, wintry months and welcome spring with open arms.

Steps to Arranging Tulips Like a Pro

To keep flowers fresh, be sure to take them home and place in water as soon as possible.

  1. Clean your vase thoroughly. Flowers will last longer if the vase is free of contaminants.
  2. Fill vase with room temperature, clean water and flower food.
  3. Trim tulip stems with a really sharp edge. A crushed edge may make it difficult for your flower to absorb the food and water.
  4. Place several tulips in vase. A fuller vase will lead to a better looking arrangement.
  5. Keep it simple! Tulips are beautiful as they are—there’s no need to add foliage.
  6. Find the perfect spot. Place your vase in an area that is away from sunlight and heat drafts. These will cause your flowers to wilt quickly.
  7. Give the stems a fresh cut frequently. Trim the tulip stems every 2-3 days as tulips continue to grow after they’re cut.

Into the Field with Peach Mountain Organics

Every so often, you meet someone who is larger than life. What they do becomes more and more incredible the closer you look. Their passion and total dedication is inspiring. They are the best at what they do. Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics is one of those people. I am fortunate to know her as she grows certified organic flowers locally and brings them to Dorothy Lane Market. We are so beyond grateful to be able to provide our customers with her beautiful flowers.

Down a winding road in Spring Valley is where you’ll find that majestic farm called Peach Mountain Organics. As you walk through the greenhouse and fields, the vibrant colors draw your eye here and then there, while a rain-kissed fresh fragrance gently greets you. Although the local floral bouquet season started in the spring, it’s still going strong even as summer comes to a close and fall takes over. Right now, we are simply dazzled by all of the dahlias that Leslie grows with such care. These late-summer/early-fall beauties come in a variety of different sizes and together form a rainbow of luscious colors making for the most stunning bouquets. On a recent farm visit, Leslie showed us how she cares for each and every stem so delicately and told us why growing flowers is so meaningful to her. Her story is incredible.

 DAHLIA CARE TIP: Cut the stems with clean, sharp cutters and use floral preservative. Always re-cut the stems and change the water after a few days

Flower Arrangements in 5 Easy Steps!

Step #1 – Take a moment to enjoy the beauty of the flowers. 🙂

Step #2 – Sprinkle flower food in a wide-mouthed vase and fill vase two-thirds full with lukewarm water. Stir and set aside.

Step #3 – Lay out your flowers. Choose a stem that will be the centerpiece. Begin building the arrangement in your hand. Greenery near the center adds interest. Build each layer a bit lower than the last layer. Rotate the bunch as you go to make each side beautiful. Finish the arrangement with more greenery.

Step #4 – Measure your preferred height of the bunch against the vase. Cut excess length off of stems. Helpful hint: any cutting utensil will work as long as you are able to get a nice clean cut).

Step #5 – Drop flowers into vase and enjoy! Share your own arrangements on social media! #myDLMflowers

The Simple Pleasures of Culinary Herbs

This is my favorite time of year—I can fling open the kitchen window and invite the balmy air to swirl, reminding me of the pleasures of the garden, lazy evenings on the porch swing, birdsong in the morning, and signs of life refreshing itself. One of the first things I do to mark the season is to establish my potted culinary herbs in a sunny window.

culinary herb

I always choose organically grown herbs, like the Organic Potted Herbs we carry in the Floral Department. I think the organic herbs taste better and I like that they’re ethically grown and nutritionally sound. Two basil plants are a must because I love fresh pesto and it’s so easy to make. In addition, we’ll also have mint, chives, parsley, thyme, and oregano.

While I’m admittedly a casual cook, I seldom prepare a dish in the spring that doesn’t include at least one culinary herb from my window garden. When the honeydew melons are ripe, I pluck a stem of mint, strip the leaves, slice in strips, and sprinkle over a wedge of melon. The fruit is cold and sweet making the mint a refreshing counterpoint. The experience of preparing this also is pure pleasure as the act of stripping the mint releases its essential oils, adding an artful dimension to an ordinary morning.

Flavored vinegars are a cinch to make with fresh herbs, even for the modest cook. Pour two cups of white wine vinegar in a clean jar, add ½ cup of assorted fresh herbs, shake well, and set the jar in a cool, dry place for ten days. Strain the mixture through a cheese cloth into a clean jar and cap tightly. The herb vinegar should keep for about six months at room temperature, ready to jazz up a variety of dishes!

But why stop at the kitchen door? The use of fresh culinary herbs is limited only by the imagination. Tired tootsies? A friend of mine makes a tea with a handful of basil leaves, pours it in a basin, and soaks her feet. Basil contains a natural anti-inflammatory that will ease aches while the aroma soothes the senses. Mosquitoes a bother? Rub enough thyme between your palms to release the essential oils—the scent acts as a natural repellent. Most importantly, don’t wait for a recipe or a remedy to enjoy your fresh herbs. Pluck a leaf from the nearest plant as you go about your day, bruise between your fingers. Then breathe. Relax. Appreciate.

Why Buy Organic When it Comes to Flowers?

Customers frequently tell me that while they can understand why choosing organic and locally grown products for their tables makes a difference, they are less particular about why it matters when choosing flowers. So with that question in mind “why does organic matter?”, I spoke to some of our local growers, whose organic local bouquets you’ll see in our stores.

One of the first calls I made was to my longtime friend Leslie Garcia of Peach Mountain Organics located in Spring Valley. She and her husband Doug have been growing flowers and produce organically for more than 30 years. I asked Leslie why she chooses organic farming. “After I read Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring, I could not imagine farming any other way,” Leslie says. “It was the first book published that made a clear, meticulously researched case against the use of DDT and the dramatic and dangerous impact pesticides were having on our  environment and wildlife.”

Non-organic farmers may spray and then directly sow seeds in the field. The seedling emerge in a non-competitive environment. “One of my methods is to start seeds in the greenhouse, repotting them after seedling stage, allowing them to grow and become established. Then, I cultivate the ground and set a stronger plant into the bed. This will give it a competitive edge when weeds begin to sprout,” Leslie shares. This method is a successful alternative to using herbicides but requires more labor and materials.

Nellie Ashmore of That Girl’s Flowers, another organic grower whose flowers you’ll find at DLM, agrees. “Non-organic farmers are often able to offer products at a lower price,” Nellie says. “They will use fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides that are not only less expensive but can be applied mechanically. At my farm, I use a wide variety of methods to fertilize and control pests and weeds.” She explains that fish emulsion is an excellent organic fertilizer but that it’s costly and has to be applied by hand. The same is true for the essential oils that she applies to control insects. Nellie also hand cultivates during the growing season to control weeds. So why does organic matter? Besides the reasons aforementioned, health matters, the earth matters, wildlife matters, and clean runoff from farmland matters. Organic matters because it returns something to the soil, contributing value for goods received. “Farming is not suppose to be like mining, taking resources from the land and returning nothing. If we want the land to continue to produce, then we need to nurture it, treating nature with respect and graditude”, Leslie says pointedly.