Food Adventures 2: Spotlights

Tag along as we explore new culinary worlds to add to the discoveries made during last fall's inaugural food adventures mission.

A Taste Odyssey | One of a Kind | Around the World | Eat your Veggies | Life's Essentials | Sweet Dreams | Road Trip | Adventures Past | Spotlights

Dawn Viola/This Honest Food

Chef Dawn Viola began her culinary career 12 years ago by discovering she was allergic to legumes. “No peanuts, no soybeans, no guar gum,” she says. “Doesn’t leave you much to eat right off the shelf.” The former documentary producer entered culinary school to learn how to cook for herself (“I was in classes with Trina Gregory-Propst of Se7en Bites.”), earning two degrees and a Master of Science in Health and Nutrition Education before working for Second Harvest, Tupperware and Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts. Last spring, she opened This Honest Food, a teaching kitchen and retail store run by and for people with food and health issues. The shop is a bijou tribute to natural materials—white ceramic dishes, stainless steel cookware, smooth wood utensils—curated to eliminate allergic reactions. Weekly classes focus on kids’ cooking, handmade pasta, fundamental French classical techniques and “opening up new worlds. Listen to your bodies,” she teaches. “Don’t mourn the death of pumpkin pie; figure out what you can eat and enjoy the flavors.”

Wine as an Experience, But We Digress… 

Digress Wine, College Park. In the era of the giant box wine store, the local indie might get overlooked. Former wine distributors Brian Kerney and Rob Chase (L to R in photo) revamped the venerable Cavanaugh’s Wines, which opened in 1995, returning to its roots as a wine and casual food shop. The bookshelves in front of the windows and old dusty library style floor plan are gone, replaced by a concrete-topped bar, open wine displays and what Kerney calls “wine in context”: offerings categorized into five “paths” by experience rather than grape or region (Number 4: Feed Your Head; challenging, emerging and unusual wines). “We’d been talking to Jay Smith (former Cavanaugh’s owner) about taking over the space for seven years,” Chase says. “Last year he decided it was time.” Scheduled for its official grand opening on November 1, a year after the purchase, Digress has already become a gathering spot for a neighborhood willing to experiment with carefully curated wines, accompanied by small plates from Chef Ian Russell of the Smoke & Donuts food truck.

Spotlight: The Sharpest Knife in the Drawer

Edward R Knives. Cutler and leather worker Edward Ratanun surrounds himself with craft and art: His Brazilian jiu jitsu-developed arms are sleeved in color-saturated tattoos, the names of his parents and sister flowing in elegant Thai script around his neck. Working out of a shared maker space in Longwood, Ratanun forms chef’s knives and pocket blades out of raw steel, then puts as much attention into handles made from black maple, colored resin, copper-infused carbon fiber and curly koa exotic wood as he puts into the exacting geometry of the metal edges. He opened a College Park leather shop in 2006 (now closed) after more than a decade as a financial adviser, crafting wallets, watchbands and briefcases by hand. Then, almost two years ago, he was asked by a friend if he’d ever thought of making knives. “I hadn’t,” he says, “but then I was.” After attending “the University of YouTube,” he taught himself about everything from hand grinding to 3D modeling, hamon tempers and Damascus steel. “It started as a hobby,” he says, “and turned into an obsession. Knife making is a deep, dark rabbit hole and I learn something new every day. I’m fascinated by the process, how things work.” Ratanun was featured in Knives Illustrated as a “Rising Star,” and his artistry is available at The Cookery on South Street and online as special order.

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