Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Spotlight: Nevin Martell

Nevin Martell is a DC-based food writer and pop culture archaeologist whose work has appeared in the Washington Post Express, Washington City Paper and Maryland Life. His latest book, Looking for Calvin and Hobbes, is in stores now. 

Tell us about your blog.
My blog,, is a showcase for the writing work I do for various magazines and newspapers, such as the Washington Post Express, Washington City Paper, Maryland Life, Bethesda, DC Modern Luxury and others. Occasionally, I'll write a blog-only piece, but that's a rarity, since I'm usually on a deadline to get something done for someone else.

How did you get into blogging?
I heard that this interwebs thing was all the rage, so I figured I'd better get on the bandwagon. Ha. Actually, it's a lot easier to tell potential clients or friends to go to your website than to constantly send them clippings of your work, so that's why I originally started it.

Favorite ingredient?
My father had a sugar shack on our property in western New York state when I was very young and I'd ride around on the tractor with him to pick up buckets of sap from the trees that he'd boil down to make make maple syrup. Since then, I've always had a strong emotional connection to it, so I try to use it whenever I can -- in chômeur pudding (see below), sticky buns, salad dressing, barbecue sauce, whatever. On lazily decadent nights, I'll just pour some over some Empire State maple syrup over Häagen-Dazs vanilla bean ice cream.

How would you describe DC Cuisine?
Yes, I'm a food writer and I'm supposed to be excited about these things, but I am genuinely in love with the area food scene. There are so many wonderful restaurants, chefs and dishes that I could easily go out seven days a week (which I do sometimes) and still not get a chance to experience everything worth trying. It's a really amazing time for our dining scene, because so much is happening, locals are really into it and the national food writing press is finally realizing that we have a lot to offer.

What is your favorite blog post and why?
Earlier this year, I wrote a lengthy review of Dupont Circle's Eola for the Washington City Paper, which is one of my favorite pieces of all time. Not only did I get to have a philosophical conversation about snout-to-tail cuisine with chef Daniel Singhofen, but I also had the chance to try some of his fantastic cuisine. You can read the beginning of the piece on my website and then click through to finish reading it on the WCP website.

How long have you lived in DC and how did you end up here?
I've been living in the District of Confusion for five years now. I ended up down here for an externship that was the final component of my masters in broadcast journalism. I didn't think I'd like DC and didn't think I'd move here, but I was offered a job doing research for a film production company in Georgetown and everything fell into place after that. Now I can't imagine living anywhere else.

Who are your culinary inspirations?
I'm not a good enough chef to say that I have culinary inspirations. Maybe some day I'll get there, but until then I'm just trying to make sure that I haven't burned anything and that everything is tasty.

What is your favorite local restaurant and why?
This is worse than Sophie's Choice! I can't pick just one; that's impossible. So I'll give you five places that recently blew my mind: Blue Duck Tavern, Härth, Trummer's on Main, Tout de Sweet and Bourbon.

What is your favorite Food Show?
Believe it or not, I don't watch much television; I just don't have the time. That being said, I'm a Top Chef junkie (except for the season here in DC; that just sucked) and I have a little crush on Giada De Laurentiis.  

Do you have a favorite cookbook?
My Mom and grandmother both used the Joy of Cooking regularly and I still turn to it for those big family-centric holiday meals when everyone wants classic, comforting cuisine.

What are your most exciting challenges right now?
I'm trying to figure out what's going in my garden this year, which is always a fun conundrum. There will definitely be many kinds of hot peppers and tomatoes (two staples in our cooking), but the rest of the space is up for grabs. I'm just waiting for inspiration to strike.

Any recipes to share?
Here's my version of a recipe for maple chômeur pudding, which I originally got through Tasting Table (Thanks, Erin!).

Maple Chômeur Pudding
Makes 6 servings

•    3⁄4 cup (or 1 1⁄2 sticks) unsalted butter
•    1 cup granulated sugar, plus more for sprinkling
•    2 eggs
•    1 cup white flour
•    3/4 whole wheat pastry flour
•    1 teaspoon baking powder
•    2 cups heavy cream
•    1 cup maple syrup
•    1 jar peaches in light syrup
•    Vanilla ice cream, for serving

1.    In a large mixing bowl, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined. Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition until incorporated. Stir in both flours and baking powder until just combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
2.    Preheat the oven to 450°. In a small saucepan, combine the cream and maple syrup and bring to a boil. Transfer the sauce to a 13-x-9-inch glass baking pan. Cut up peaches and submerge in this liquid.
3.    Cut a large piece of wax paper and sprinkle it with sugar. Flatten out the dough on the wax paper, smoothing it to the size of the baking pan, then transfer the dough to the pan and place it on top of the cream and syrup mixture.
4.    Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden brown. Top with vanilla ice cream (and homemade whipped cream, too, if you're throwing healthfulness to the wind) and serve immediately.

Anything else you’d like to share with the viewers?
I'm on Twitter at

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