Ambar Capitol Hill serves small plates with rustic Chic flair
Ambar on Capitol Hill is the seven-year-old birthplace of a Balkan and Mexican restaurant empire now sprinkled across the DMV.
Its mezze-focused flagship operation (523 8th Street SE). The 3,000-square-foot Balkan oasis is twice as large, with a new pastel-hued patio.
The rooftop welcomes guests 365 days a year with movable, teal slats that open up and close at the push of a button.
Its first-floor patio can fit dozens of diners across the two outdoor areas.
As you walk in, guests are surrounded by visually bold floor-to-ceiling stone walls.
Four separate dining areas create a vibe with their own names and themes:Chef’s Room, Rakia Bar, The Wine Cellar and Garden Room.
Balkan spirts and wine are poured at all four bars on-site.
A second-floor wine cellar, lined with a 360-degree assortment of vintage bottles, plans to evolve into a bar that hosts educational tastings.
Ambar ran a series of virtual wine classes during the pandemic to help build up a following for the less-known wine region.
Ambar is mbest-known for its small plates menu: familiar spreads, salads, Serbian small plates, flatbreads, and lamb lasagna.
$25 per person at lunch and $35 per person at dinner with a two-hour time limit.
A takeout menu for two ($39) includes mains like wild mushroom risotto or beef short rib goulash.
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By Contributor — 4 months ago
How to Design a Zero-Waste Kitchen
By Caleb Leonard
As we witness the impacts of plastics and other waste on our planet, more and more people are looking to reduce, reuse, and recycle. Creating a zero-waste kitchen involves adopting a mindful and sustainable approach to reduce waste at every stage of your buying, cooking, and eating routines, and it is an impactful way to minimize your carbon footprint.
Here’s a step-by-step guide to help you get started:
Plan Ahead to Leave Less Behind
Look through your pantry and kitchen to see what you have on hand. Assess areas where waste is generated and rethink your shopping list.
Food waste can be prevented by effectively using your ingredients. Make creative use of leftovers. Freeze excess food for future meals. Don’t over-purchase perishable items. Make a shopping list and stick to it to avoid impulse purchases.
Buy in Bulk and Refill
Stock up on staples like grains, pasta, nuts, and spices in bulk. If you are heading to a store with bulk bins, bring your containers to avoid excess packaging.
Another way to reduce plastic packaging waste is by shopping at stores where you can refill cleaning and personal care products.
Choose products with minimal or sustainable packaging. Opt for glass, metal, or cardboard packaging over plastic whenever possible. These items can be repurposed or recycled.
Avoid individually packaged items and single-use packaging.
Shop Your Local Farmers Market
Farmers markets facilitate zero-waste kitchens.
Reduced food packaging: Farmers markets offer fewer packaged and processed foods than grocery stores. Buying fewer single-use plastics keeps packaging waste out of landfills.
Local and seasonal produce: Farmers markets prioritize regionally grown and seasonal produce. By buying from local farmers, you support sustainable agriculture practices while minimizing the environmental impact of long-distance food transportation.
Bulk purchases: Many farmers markets offer the option to buy produce in bulk, allowing you to choose the quantity you need without redundant packaging.
BYOB (bring your own bag)
Those flimsy plastic bags from the grocery store are no match for a reusable tote. Reusable bags made from canvas or recycled plastics are larger and more durable than single-use bags. Plus, more states are implementing fees to curb the use of plastic bags.
Go Green with Reusable Kitchenware
Most people know about reusable water bottles, but there are tons more reusable items on the market (many are dishwasher-safe too). From reusable K-cups for your morning cup of joe to stainless steel straws, there are lots of eco-friendly ways to eliminate kitchen waste.
Here are a few examples:
- Reusable food wraps (plastic wrap alternative)
- Washable cloths (paper towel/napkin substitute)
- Fiberglass chopsticks
- Compostable sponges
- Silicone storage/freezer bags (Ziplock alternative)
- Silicone muffin liners
Reusable products not only cut down on the production and consumption of new products, but they also save you money.
Consider Eco-Friendly Upgrades
With all the money you’ll save by going green, consider upgrading your appliances. New technologies use less water and electricity. The money you spend on energy-efficient appliances will be recuperated over time.
Freeze as You Please
A high-performance freezer is a powerful tool for keeping your food fresh. Food waste often comes from leftovers. Rather than throwing away leftovers, you can freeze them. These frozen meals can be quick and convenient options on busy days, especially when stored as pre-packaged meals.
Freezing foods can significantly extend their shelf life; this way, you can buy in bulk and take advantage of sales without worrying about ingredients spoiling.
If you have produce nearing its expiration date, freeze it before it turns. Freeze fruits, vegetables, and other perishables. Sauces can be frozen too.
Your freezer can also store dry goods. Freeze bulk items like nuts, grains, and flour for later use.
Reimagine Your Food Scraps
Almost all organic material has multiple uses. For example, banana peels make great hair and skin masks, banana tea is a powerful sleep aid, and plants love the potassium-enriched water of peels soaked overnight.
Orange peels can be boiled as a room deodorizer or baked and ground into a vitamin-packed powder.
Bones can be made into bone broth, and new plants can be grown from viable produce seeds, while herbs can be propagated for an endless supply of seasonings.
Before you toss it in the compost bin, perform a quick search and scope out any additional uses.
Compost is King
Composting is the backbone of the zero-waste kitchen. Once you have re-used your food in every imaginable way, it’s time to give it back to the earth. Create a compost pile in your yard; use a tumbling bin or a countertop composter.
Benefits of composting:
Reduced landfill waste: Food scraps account for a large chunk of landfill waste. When these materials decompose in landfills; they release methane, a potent greenhouse gas. Composting diverts these materials away from landfills, reducing their environmental impact.
Enriched soil: Compost improves soil structure, water retention, and nutrient availability. By composting, you’ll foster healthy plant growth, reducing the need for excessive watering and fertilizers.
Minimized odor and pests: Properly composting food scraps and yard waste reduces the likelihood of attracting pests and generating foul odors in trash bins.
A zero-waste kitchen is one way to live a greener, more eco-friendly lifestyle. Once you hit your stride in the kitchen, you’ll likely find other areas to cut waste. Small changes add up, and you’ll make a big difference.
Caleb Leonard is a freelance writer and marketing professional. A graduate of the University of North Texas, his interests include gardening, podcasts, and studying Spanish.Post Views: 2
By Charlotte Billingsley — 2 years ago
Estadio delivers Festive Spanish tapas & Playful Bites
Welcome to Estadio, a fun, convivial restaurant serving contemporary Spanish cuisine in the Logan Circle neighborhood of Washington, DC.
Estadio Northern Spanish cuisine
Executive Chef Dimas Mendoza offers a small plates dominated menu focusing on Northern Spanish cuisine, consisting principally of the chefs’ interpretations of classic dishes found in the country’s Basque and Catalan regions.
Estadio’s wine program
Estadio’s wine program includes over 150 labels, more than 90% of which are Spanish, with a smattering of South American, Portuguese and domestic wines, all housed in custom temperature controlled wine vaults that greet guests upon entry into the restaurant.
Affordable selections of Cava, Txakoli, Rioja and Sherry dominate the list, while a few high-end offerings from wineries such as Lopez de Heredia, and Vega Sicilia complete the selections. An inventive cocktail menu that includes frozen alcoholic “slushitos,” Sangria and Sherry concoctions, as well as a thoughtful selection of Spanish and domestic craft beers, round out Estadio’s beverage program.
Estadio’s design shows love to the space with 19th century Spanish tile, Spanish marble, and custom steel and wood chairs and stools.
Brushed with a terra cotta palette, Estadio’s walls play on the restaurant’s theatrical name with bull fighting and flamenco murals.Post Views: 0
By Contributor — 5 months ago
Planet-Based food? You heard right. Find out more from Chris Langwallner and WhatIf Foods.
WhatIF Foods believes in a better better.
Tasty, delicious foods that are better for our bodies, better for our taste buds and farmer buds alike. Better for degraded lands, our eco-systems and naturally… better for cows.
Today I had the chance to have a conversation (via zoom) with WhatIF Food’s Chris Langwallner to talk about inspiration, their foods, their flavors and the science and technology making it all happen.
This conversation has been edited for length and clarity. For the full conversation visit our YouTube channel.
Today we are here with Chris Langwallner from What If Foods. Thanks for joining us today.
Absolute pleasure. I cannot thank you enough. It’s fantastic to be here and letting our story get out a little bit. So thank you very much. I’m excited because it’s gonna be a lot of fun.
We’re talking about plant-based foods, we’re talking about planet based foods and for a “better-better” world. I’m hoping you’ll clarify that for us.
I look forward to it. Yes, it’s all about a planet based food company. It’s all about regenerating. It’s all about reconnecting to communities, restoring the greater land, and making sure that we are replenishing the nutrients we need on a day-to-day basis.
What inspired you to get into plant-based food?
To be honest with you, as a planet based company I think what really inspired me to get into a better way of doing things is actually a call out of my grandfather.
He has been always saying, leave this planet a better world than how you found it. When I was a young boy, I couldn’t understand. It was too abstract. I couldn’t really get my head around. But as I was then working in the industry for 20, 25 years you look behind the scenes, and you see how food is being manufactured on large scale and how profitability over shadows a lot of decision making.
And on the other flip side of the coin, there is a community out there, about 2.6 billion people. This planet makes a direct income or an indirect income from farming activities. And the vast majority, more than two thirds of these people are the poorest of the poor. And we are leaving them behind. And that’s not fair to them because what we have on the plates has been harvested by them.
They take care of their land. And if we leave them behind in the current state of affairs We’ll see many tears in their eyes. And it doesn’t have to be that way. It can be totally different. And hence my strife was really to look at the planetary health and its affairs as well as humanity overall.
And thinking about that must be a better way of doing things and how can we improve it, not incrementally, but really make a system change. And here we are basically inspired by my grandfather.
On your website, you take some very science-based heavy content and you make it fun and easy. Talk about that process.
It’s a team effort. Honestly, there’s a huge team behind the scenes that works tirelessly on improving our communication and our style and our tone. But the essence of it all is that we understand that Gen Zs and today’s youth are essentially those consumer groups that are on this planet.
Probably the first sort of generation that is fully educated in sustainability. And they have their ability today by one click of a button to really look behind the scenes and understand whether or not there is BS or whether or not there’s transparency, there’s honesty, and there is a different approach to things.
So that is one aspect of things. So we wanted to really make sure we are speaking to the youth on this planet. The second aspect of it all is that, You open your social media feeds today, or you open a media channel, you switch on your television and you are bombarded with bad news, after bad news.
And quite frankly, I have worked in universities and with students and I have been shocked by the fact that people, young guys, talk to me, ‘Hey, I don’t care about sustainability. I don’t care about our planet because it’s so crappy. Everything is so bad. I might as well just enjoy the time span I have on this planet.’
And I was shocked in contrast to what my grandfather told me. Today’s youth, some of them, not all, a fraction of them think like that. Or in other words I met this young girl and she says, I don’t know if I want to have children. Because I don’t know whether or not I would like to give birth to people that then inherit a planet that is so hot.
And all of that together was just making me restless and I wanted to really change things and and take this finite time span that I have on this planet to try as hard as I possibly can to leave it better than I found it. And that’s what I strive for. Hence we’re speaking with a fun and engaging voice.
We are speaking with colors and we are speaking with cartoons so that we basically get this heavy message across in an uplifting way and saying, Hey, you can be part of something. That actually does the opposite. It’s not grim. Yes. If we change, we can make this. We’re a better place and here we are.
Thanks for the call out. The credit goes to my team.
As we segue into the products themselves, what I wanna highlight is this BamNut Is that the nickname for the Bambara Groundnut?
Yeah, so we came up with Bamnut as a short version, as an acronym for the Bambara Ground Nut, which in reality is a legume, a legume that helps us fix nitrogen organically in soils that are essentially degraded and left behind by intensive agriculture.
The Bamnut word came about in Singapore. We actually did not quite know when we started using it. We didn’t quite know how the Americans would pronounce it. And then we found out, alright, it’s the Bamnut. So it all turned out to be so witty and entertaining and just perfect fit for a “better, better” to be honest.
Because that’s a main ingredient in all of your food. Let’s talk about what is a BamNut. Why is it magical and unique?
I was walking through the world of agro food over the past 20 years, and I’ve always been hugely concerned about the massive speed of land degradation, particularly on arid land.
And that’s getting accelerated because of climate change; and the weather is changing; and the rains and the monsoons are not hitting regularly anymore. So it becomes increasingly more difficult to plant, the planting season to make sure that you are having the seeds in the ground before the rains hit them and so on and so forth.
So it becomes really challenging for folks. So land turpitation has always been a huge concern of mine because another, on the flip side of that, we are losing about 25 soccer fields worth of arid land every minute, while at the very same minute, the same amount of primary forests have been cut down.
So if you compare and contrast these two figures, what it tells me is that in order to make way for the old food industry, we actually cut primary forest and we leave land behind. And that is the wrong thing to do. That is one aspect of things.
The other aspect of things is I had once the fantastic opportunity to have an interview with Dr. Roy Steiner of the Rockefeller Foundation. And he gave a casual shoutout and he said, nowhere in the world do we produce and consume enough legumes. And I was thinking, why does he say that? But then it’s quite obvious if you think it through, because we are depending so much on crops that the land that basically holds the crops is deprived from organic nitrogen fixing crops like the legumes, and in the absence of nitrogen being fixed through the legumes, we throw endless amounts of synthetic fertilizers on the ground in order to make up for it.
That’s an aspect of things that also worried me. But today the input costs have gone through the roof is it unravels all over the world and it has gotten more and more expensive to do so the degrading of land in one pocket, I was basically going through my work with that sort of lens.
Then there’s this whole water issue. We are big time irrigating crops, but what does that do? It just slows down the loss of water tables because the moment we take water out of the ground, the water tables are collapsing. I have numbers for that. I had a business in India a long time ago, and it used to be 30 meters, and today it’s probably 90 to 120 meters.
So water is basically a huge issue. There was another lens through which I looked at, and then I was at a conference in Jakarta, and I happened to run into a scientist. He said to me that he works on the Bambara groundnut. It’s a complete crop. I thought, “Oh, that’s interesting. So what does that mean?”
And I started to really explore that much more deeper. And a complete crop turns out to be essentially a crop that has all micronutrients in the sort of right balance that we need. On top of it, it has all nine essential amino acids that we need. It has rich fatty acids, quality fatty acids, as well as car complex carbohydrates. So fiber.
You remember the forgotten macronutrient fibers for our microbiomes? So I got really inspired. So I looked up the amino acid profile and I saw it is rich in plutonic acid or spartic acid. So these are very cool amino acids in terms of generating nice flavors. And off I was; I organized the first couple of five kilos and the trial started, and that’s years and years ago.
In the meantime, the Bambara groundnut actually taught us a few lessons because it’s a very hearty nut and it really takes an effort to make cool products outta it.
It’s called a complete product, is that correct?
A complete food. A complete crop or complete food crop.
Right now all of the products on your website are based from BamNut. I see Bam Nut milk. I see noodles with seasonings, and then there’s bundles and swag and all kinds of delicious things.
In the future, are we expanding that beyond or what’s the scope?
We would love to explore new categories as we build our business. There are so many occasions throughout the day where we can actually incorporate the bambara ground in exciting products, and we look forward to doing that.
Our focus right now is definitely our milk portfolio. It’s a wonderful product. I encourage everybody to have a little taste and Judge for yourself. We have a client in Los Angeles, a coffee roaster, who said ‘This is the closest thing to cow milk that I’ve ever seen in plant-based milk.’
We call it planet based milk. I have to say again, shout out to my team in the R&D side of things because they have established a wonderful product essentially with just three ingredients: that’s water, the bambara groundnut, not coconut oil. The rest is essentially technology behind the scenes that actually makes it foam nicely, very stable foam, small bubbles. So you can do latte art.
Our Airy [flavor] is essentially the one that I would use for a nice drink, like a shake.
In between there is the Every Day [flavor] that goes essentially into my cereal in the morning.
What are the flavors?
Today we are in the market with three different products.
The first one in a slightly black sort of packaging is the Barista. It has the richest mouthfeel. It is the creamiest. We have designed it to perform fantastic or be able to perform fantastic latte art. So it really goes into the cappuccino sort of an experience rather nicely.
I personally take it also for Boba tea. I might as well use the bambara groundnut and foam it up.
I have my little trick with the barista. I actually froth it in the frother and I put my espresso shot into the frother with the barista together. So I froth it together. But that is just me. I just like it that way.
Then we have the purple package, which is our Everyday. My wife uses it in baking. We do make cakes, like traditional Austria style, and we totally use only the Everyday [flavor] for that.
Friends of mine [pour] it into their cereals in the morning. It’s a little bit richer, earthy, nutty in character because we do tend to roast the nuts a little bit stronger in the process of making it.
Last but not least, we have our Airy [flavor], which is the lightest one of it all. It is the mint colored package. It is the one that people take into milkshakes and protein shakes.
Let’s move on to Noodles
We wanted to create technologies that help us regenerate what’s broken. And today a large portion of all ramen that is being consumed on a day-to-day basis globally is deep fried in palm oil. Palm oil leaves huge banks of land degraded behind, particularly after the third cycle of palm plantations being grown.
We see the aftermath of the palm plantation industry essentially now in Southeast Asia. Therefore we were alerted when we started this project to basically say no to frying and no to deep frying and no, to essentially dehydrating instant noodles or ramen using that sort of process.
So we invented a technology that actually took that sort of challenge away. We invented an industrial scale air frying technology. Once you actually don’t fry anymore, you save about 20% of the space because 20% of palm oil is [based] in the noodle product of classic ramen. That’s what it absorbs in the frying process.
So if you don’t deep fry, you save 20%. Now nutrients will survive. Now colors may survive. Then we replaced all the palm oil with the Bambara.
We started to actually say, how can we bring color and different flavors and textures on the plates of consumers? And we created these four different products with the four different colors, which is essentially the black one, which is charcoal driven, moringa is green, pumpkin is orange and the original is yellow.
So four different options, all the same philosophy.
The backbone of making it is the same, but then we add different nutrients to it to have fun, and then we add fancy seasonings to it, which makes just a nice flavor experience as well.
Our audience is passionate, hungry, curious, foodies. What does it actually taste like?
I’m extremely proud of our Noodles because even without the seasonings, you can cook them up and eat them and you will have a wonderful experience.
Try and contrast that with other ramen that you find in the market, and you will come back to our offering immediately because they’re just tasting nice.
So our starting point of then adding the seasonings to it, like hot and spicy, or the mushrooms is an easy undertaking. It is actually an easy sort of concept to work with because if you have a neutral and nice taste to start with from the noodle base, you can build interesting flavor profiles on top.
Rather than having to use heavy flavors to mask off-flavor from a product base, or not so nice processes or even crappy raw materials. We don’t have that challenge.
We also decided very early on to keep the salt at a minimum to stay away from any flavor enhancers. No MSG, we’ve tried to keep it as clean as we possibly can.
We’ve tried to use as much spice as we can access. No flavoring and stuff like that. I’ve been in that industry for over 20 years. We thought let’s stay honest, to the product as well, to the noodles as well. And that has been a fantastic journey.
Our “Original, is a hot and sweet, hot and spicy pairing. In Southeast Asia, it’s based on wok cooking. That’s my personal favorite. I eat it on salads with a little bit of a balsamico dressing
We have with Sesame Garlic, many kids who go for a green one.
Pumpkin with the traditional Indian curry offer a great pairing. Watch out, it comes hot and spicy. Typical Indian flavors.
Last but not least is our charcoal with mushrooms. It’s fantastic for, if you go out to have a beer and come home and wanna have a bite, go for it. It’s a good one.
How did you decide which flavors to choose? Was it a lot of trial and error?
There’s a lot of trial and error. There’s a lot of pairing up with our noodles.
What we have tried to do is really look into what are the best pairings for these sort of flavors.
From that point of view, we also wanted to stay with our seasonings. We wanted to stay essentially planet based. None of our ingredients have any animal derived products in it.
You look at the charcoal, you cook it up, you eat it, you give it to a chef, let him experiment around.
We had a Spanish chef take our charcoal and put it into a paella. All of a sudden there was a totally different sort of recipe.
The way we actually derived the final products has also a lot to do with people that actually use it day-to-day in the kitchen and learn from them.
What’s the future of WhatIf foods?
We are going to enter new categories of food and we are gonna expand our existing categories with new products.
But I probably would love to use the opportunity to take you along on a more philosophical sort of journey for WhatIf foods and what comes hopefully in the next couple of years to come, because I think we have a better opportunity that needs doubling down now.
What I’m talking about is really the cost of the way we are making everything right from originating bambara groundnut, with partnering farming communities in all parts of Ghana. Encouraging them, making the ingredients ourselves, and then making the food applications, making the food, and then basically taking it to retail all the way through to Manhattan and other parts of the US.
So it’s that entire regenerative value chain that we have created and what that actually represents to us is an opportunity to really explore the intersection between soil health and restoring the soil that has been once degraded from intensive agriculture.
It is that intersection of renewable energy because the Bambara groundnut now grows in a shell and hence the shell has energy in there and can be used in order to fire up essentially for power.
If you do that smartly, you generate biochar. With biochar, you then actually sequester carbon from the atmosphere into the soils permanently for hundreds, if not a thousand years to come.
And last but not least, another intersection is wellbeing for consumers. We call them “Better Believers” as well as farming communities because we work with them directly.
We are proud of the fact that we have increased profit, not income; profit of farmers who work with us by 300%.
At 2.5 acres, these farmers are permanently uplifted above the poverty line. That’s the intersection we really wanna double down to. Again, soil health, renewable energy, carbon sequestration.
Well-being for both the better believers as consumers, as well as the farming communities. Its possible and we’re looking forward to doing that on a large scale. If we wanna fulfill the demand that we hopefully can create, then we will probably need about 20,000 farmers to do that in the next five to ten years to come.
And then generate all the energy that we need internally to be there for carbon zero. Even further carbon or maybe even participate in the carbon market through certificates. That’s our next challenge. That’s where we wanna go.
Find more about What If Foods on their websitePost Views: 0