Jennie Tai
American Farm Fresh Town of Vienna

9 Things To Love About Maple Ave

The twin ‘MA’s’ on Maple Avenue in Vienna believe great tasting food can come from responsible roots. While Maple Ave–the restaurant–is a notable new restaurant that locally sources their ingredients (recently ranked #6 in Northern Virginia Magazine’s 50 Best Restaurants of 2012), Maple Ave–the market–is a daily farmer’s market that offers locally-sourced meats, produce, drinks and snacks at a one-stop shop a few doors down.

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Recently earning shout-outs from all corners of the culinary community,  Chef Tim Ma can be seen in NoVA Magazine’s top 2012 list and in the Washingtonian‘s most current issue. It’s been a great year for the Maple Ave team, and one of my favorite things about the engineer-turned-chef is how he values sourcing his ingredients as locally as possible and is continually creative with his menu–which changes often and currently includes items like creme fraiche chicken wings, girl-scout-cookie-inspired truffles and seared scallops with coconut scallion risotto and basil ice cream.

I was lucky enough to snag a seat at their ‘Meet The Farmers, Meet The Chefs’ dinner one Wednesday night, where ten diners got to experience a unique “tasting menu” in which Chef Ma free-styled a few courses made from ingredients he plucked from the market’s fresh selection of the day. A few friends of the market and I sat on foldable chairs by a wooden table, covered in purple linen as we listened to Chef Ma tell us a story about how each dish was prepared and where each ingredient came from. Behind us were shelves of cookbooks, silverware and mismatched couches that made us feel as if we were waiting for each dish in his living room as he cooked from his kitchen at home. This was different from ordering the typical “Chef’s Tasting Menu”–Chef Ma prepared the meal on his own–beginning with the ice cream he churned the night before–and even came out between each course to tell us a quick story about how he came up with the dish and what was in it exactly. Below are a few things you’ll find at the market (where the dinner was hosted) and a few things I remembered from the night’s meal.

1) Indian In The Cupboard
At the Maple Ave Market, you’ll find boxes of fresh produce, shelves of local honey and peanut butter, refrigerated glass cases of cheese and meat; and much more. Around the corner, by the freezer of Trickling Springs ice cream–you’ll find an old cabinet full of various hand-crafted spices made by scientist-turned entreprenuer, Deepa Patke, owner of Aromatic Spice Blends in Vienna. Inside the cabinet, you’ll find packs of garam masala (one of the basic spices for Indian butter chicken), dhansaak, and vindaloo.2) Sous Vide Magic
“It’s kind of like our third baby,” Joey–Chef Ma’s wife–says of Chef Ma’s beloved sous vide machine, “If there’s one thing that gets ‘babied’ in the kitchen, it’s this!”After taking his first bite of the short rib (mentioned in #7), my boyfriend looked over at me and asked me what it was, how Chef cooked it, and told me to take notes. Unfortunately, I don’t own a sous-vide machine, so it wouldn’t matter anyway–but the point is, Chef Ma didn’t braise short rib (like the rest of the world would) and made it even more delicious.
3) Words of Wisdom
Maple Ave Market makes it easy for shoppers who want to pick up groceries from local producers at a one stop shop that’s open seven days a week–not just on Saturday mornings!
4) Daily Farmer’s Market
As mentioned in #3, Maple Ave Market brings together all of those favorite things you wake up to grab from your local Farmer’s Market every Saturday morning in one little shop in Vienna. They even allow you to pre-order different meats ahead of time (like organic turkeys for Thanksgiving).
5) Naked & Delicious
Sometimes, a simple salad of incredibly fresh ingredients is worth savoring slowly, like a bowl of lobster bisque. Chef Ma claims he lightly dressed the salad in a simple vinaigrette, pepper and salt–but fellow diners and I couldn’t believe it. Sliced carrot, radish, spinach and pomegrante seeds never had us wanting a salad to never end before.
6) Farm To Table
I know, I know… I’ve mentioned the term several times now–but farm-to-table doesn’t just mean eating dishes with farmed ingredients. Sometimes it also means being able to share a connection with someone else who values the same things you do when it comes to delicious, responsibly sourced food from growers you can actually chat with. At Maple Ave’s ‘Meet The Farmer, Meet The Chef’ dinner, it meant being able to eat food cooked by someone who could talk to you about how it was prepared, and someone who could tell you where each ingredient came from.
7) Short Rib Double-Take
As mentioned in #2, Chef Ma didn’t braise short rib like most people would, and instead cooked it in a vacuum packed sous-vide machine that sealed in all of its flavor as it cooked slowly over time. As a result–the sliced short rib was soft, flavorful and unforgettable… just ask this guy.
8) Four Squash Soup
And none of the four were butternut! The four squash soup was made of peanut, seminole, and acorn squash with a savory spoonful of chopped spaghetti squash at the center to pair with the sweetness of the soup. No fancy pomegranate seeds or popcorn toppings here–just simple, delicious flavors from the market’s selection of squash that day.
9) Praline + Persimmon
Candy, crack and cream, actually. The peanut-brittle like praline crackers were so addictive, I would have stole my neighbor’s piece if he hadn’t gobbled it up so quickly. The salty praline brittle, slices of mildly sweet persimmon and mellow vanilla ice cream was perfect for a salt tooth like me. It was another dish of the meal I really didn’t want to end.

 

Last year, MA started growing their own garden on their restaurant’s roof top–something Joneve Murphy is also working on at DC’s Inn at Little Washington. Taste is only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to Maple Ave’s growing success, and Chef Ma’s perpetual creativity and dedication to building bites from wholesome resources is a thriving combination that will only continue to flourish this year. To track new additions to Maple Ave’s menu in 2013–follow their facebook page for the latest updates.

Maple Ave Restaurant, 147 Maple Ave W, Vienna, VA; 703-319-2177; www.mapleaverestaurant.com.
Maple Avenue Market, 128 Maple Ave E, Vienna, VA; 703-957-9284; www.mapleavenuemarket.com.

Congrats to Tim & Joey for all your success! 🙂 Thanks for inviting Bub and I to this special meal–we enjoyed the it very much! … Love, Jennie.

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