I love stores that surprise me, and Dual Specialty Store almost always manages to do that. Quite a feat, since I've been shopping there for twenty years. In the summer, there are swoonily fragrant Indian mangoes piled in boxes outside, and mango lassi served inside. It's the only place I've ever seen fresh turmeric, too. Someday I'll even learn what to do with it.
Dual's narrow aisles are lined with everything from chutney to ayurvedic remedies. Spices have a long, fragrant wall of their own. (Insert your own bad Spice Aisles pun here.) Opposite the spices are an ever-changing array of spicy snacks. I picked up a bag of masala banana chips, which made a just-tingly-enough (and dirt cheap) cocktail snack. Speaking of cocktails, Dual features the famous Fee Brothers Bitters, made in Rochester, NY, which I'd been searching for everywhere. Never thought to look on the Dual shelf marked "British Foods," but they carry the whole line, from peach to rhubarb (!) to cherry. I can't imagine a cocktail that those cherry bitters wouldn't perk up.
Life can't all be snacks and cocktails, more's the pity, so I picked up a package of curry leaves, which work in an array of foods well beyond the Indian kitchen. They smell distinctly of the spice blend, with an added toasted nuttiness that goes wonderfully well with winter squash. This is a tough recipe, so follow closely. Preheat oven to 375.Cut the top off a winter squash (or cut squash in half, depending on the variety). Scoop out seeds. Add a chunk of butter to the cavity. Salt. Pepper. Toss in a couple of curry leaves. When the squash starts to soften, stab the cavity flesh in several places with a knife or fork, so that the spicy melted butter soaks into the flesh. Continue cooking until soft and scoopable. Serve.
Stop by Dual sometime. It's the best kind of neighborhood grocery, where you always find something you didn't know you needed!
91 First Avenue, bet. 5th and 6th Sts.
Promised awhile back that I would return to Luke's Lobster to sample the crab roll. I should perhaps first explain where I stand on this critical issue: While I'd rather have a lobster on my plate than a mess of crabs, I'd almost always prefer to have crabmeat in my bun. If it's Maine crab, that is. All crustaceaholics know the adage, "The colder the water, the sweeter the meat." Why then, are Maryland's crabs held in much higher esteem than crabs from the chilly waters of Maine? I can only assume that Maryland's proximity to DC lends it access to the Congressional Seafood Roll Committee.
If you are in doubt, stroll over to Luke's and sample a Maine crab roll. The crabmeat will be sweet, with a touch of the ocean. It's topped with a nicely suitable spice blend that reminds me a bit of Old Bay. The other good thing about crab rolls? Universally cheaper than lobster rolls. At Luke's, they run five bucks from the small, nine for the large.