Table Talk

Table Talk

A local meal-kit company, restaurant news and more

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Butcher Rap

Photos by Deb Lindsey

When Potomac Grocer owner Tom Spencer was looking for an electrician on his neighborhood listserv last fall, chef Mike Haney responded to the posting with a recommendation. The two struck up a conversation online, and Spencer discovered that Haney, who was working at The Salt Line, chef Kyle Bailey’s hot new restaurant in Washington, D.C., was interested in pursuing his passion: butchery. Haney, 31, became the chef and butcher of Spencer’s Potomac Village store just before Thanksgiving. A bonus for Haney? Potomac Grocer is minutes away from his River Falls home. We checked in with Haney to find out about the path to his new job and what he’s serving at Potomac Grocer.

How did you get into cooking and butchery? 

I grew up in Cape Cod [Massachusetts]. My mom was a single mom and loved to cook. I was always in the kitchen with her and my brother, who’s now the sous-chef at Toro Boston. I went to private prep school. One of the few things I excelled at in science was the fetal pig dissection. I turned that into a career, I guess. I worked at the meat counter at a small market in Falmouth [Massachusetts] when I was 14, breaking all the chickens down. 

What brought you to this area?

I cooked my way through college in Florida and came here in 2009 for a change of scenery. I met [chef] Kyle Bailey and worked for him for 6½ years at Birch & Barley in Washington. He and his sous-chef, Erik Rollings, taught me how to butcher my first pig. We did whole animal butchery—a whole hog and a full quarter of beef a week.

What changes have you made at Potomac Grocer?

The first thing I introduced was a grain salad with farro, bulgur, roasted peppers, dill and yogurt. I added a lot of sausages; making them is my forte. I keep the staples and add in some funky ones, like Spanish chorizo and Buffalo chicken sausage. Currently we are rotating hot Italian, sweet Italian, bacon cheeseburger, chicken ranch, Cajun, andouille, Marylander (with Old Bay), merguez [North African lamb sausage] and maple breakfast sausage. I’ve also added house-made lamb bacon and pork bacon. I’ve also been growing the produce program and making the catering menus more custom-made to reflect my previous restaurant work.

Passover and Easter are just around the corner. What will you be offering? 

For Passover, a simple braised brisket made with red wine, mirepoix [carrots, celery, onions], tomatoes and beef stock. I also do short ribs, pressing them into a neat rectangular shape after they’re braised to make them more aesthetically pleasing. Also latkes, tzimmes, haroset, kugel, Seder kits, gefilte fish, chopped liver, whitefish salad and matzo balls. For Easter, deviled eggs, spiral hams, city hams that are brined for two weeks and smoked for half a day, beef tenderloins, local pork, lamb and rabbit. And specialty seasonal produce, like fiddlehead ferns, pea greens and morels.

Potomac Grocer, 10107 River Road, Potomac; 
301-299-4200; potomacgrocer.com

Empanada Enterprise

Margarita Womack

Growing up in her native country of Colombia, Margarita Womack would hang out with her father in the kitchen and share bonding moments when he made empanadas, the stuffed, semicircular savory pastry pies common to Latin America and Spain. So, when the Bethesda resident and her husband, Andy, were looking for something quick, tasty and portable to give their three kids, empanadas seemed a natural choice. “We were running around so much. I was teaching science at the National Cathedral School. Andy works for a biotech company. And I thought, what could we give the kids that wasn’t awful and I could grab and take?” Womack says. “Andy loves to cook, so he started making all different kinds. We’d give them to the neighbors and they’d tell us we should start a business.”

So they did. They rented kitchen space from Union Kitchen, a food incubator in Washington, D.C., and joined its accelerator program, which provides guidance for growing the company and distributing their product. Last June, they launched their business, M’Panadas, selling four kinds of the deep-fried pies: shredded chicken; ground beef with onions and red peppers; vegetable (cabbage, corn and tomatoes); and caprese (mozzarella cheese, fresh basil and tomatoes). Womack left her teaching job to develop the empanada and catering business full time and is also in an MBA program at Georgetown University.

M’Panadas are fully cooked and can be quickly reheated. They are available online at mpanadas.com in two sizes, meal size (about 3 inches in diameter, $3) and cocktail size (about 2 inches, $2.50). In Montgomery County, meal-size empanadas are sold at Bethesda’s Bradley Food & Beverage on Arlington Road, Bethesda Market on Sangamore Road and Silver Spring’s Corner Market & Pharmacy on Grubb Road.

Super Supper Club

In 2011, college friends Jason Lundberg and Nick Phelps launched an online produce delivery company called From the Farmer, initially running it out of the Potomac garage of Phelps’ mother. Fast-forward seven years and the company operates out of a 10,000-square-foot warehouse in Beltsville, having added dairy items, eggs, meat, juices and prepared foods to its line of customizable farm boxes.

In January, the entrepreneurial duo began offering cook-at-home meal kits. Called Supper Club, the kits are delivered before 7 a.m. (Friday is the Montgomery County delivery day). Kits include two meals for two ($49) or four ($95) people, selected from a weekly menu of three or four choices. Subscribers can also purchase add-on items, such as eggs, whole-bean coffee, fresh fruit, microgreens from The Little Wild Child Microgreen CSA and breads from Lyon Bakery.

We tested three kits: barbecued beef brisket sandwiches with kale slaw and oven steak fries; poached eggs and shrimp with butternut squash and grilled tomato chutney along with quinoa and pita bread; and pasta with tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini, a grapefruit and orange salad, and garlic bread.

Directions are precise and include hands-on time and total preparation time. (They say the meals take 30 minutes or less, but we find it can take up to 45 minutes.) Portions are generous, the food is full-flavored and the ingredients are first-rate, with produce coming from purveyors such as Chocolate and Tomatoes Farm in Poolesville, and the Tuscarora Organic Growers Cooperative in Hustontown, Pennsylvania. 
From the Farmer’s Supper Club meal kits are available at fromthefarmer.com.

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