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Home Cooking with Barry Waldman

Home Cooking is a regular feature on The Front Burner that offers a peek at how home cooks around the Fredericksburg area work in their kitchens. If you’d like to answer our questionnaire, download it here and return your responses to with a digital photo of yourself, or pass it along to anyone you think would like to participate.

Name: Barry Waldman

Tell us who you are and why you cook.

I am an attorney, Fredericksburg Board of Zoning Appeals member, and husband/father.  I cook because I like eating (a little too much…) and because my wife, who is a professional as well, deserves a break from all she does for me and my son.

Describe your cooking style in three words.

Tasty, Improvisational, Messy

How did you learn to cook?

Trial and error, mostly.  I started by trying to follow recipes, but found that I could often improve on the recipe with a little patience.  Now, I prefer to use recipes as general guides rather than specific formulas to a completed meal.

Favorite cookbook?

Men’s Health magazine, for now.  It provides me with ideas that I change (usually resulting in less healthy meals).

What is one dish on your menu this week that you’re excited about?

Tri-tip Steak bought at Olde Towne Butcher, grilled with Seasoning Salt, a little balsamic vinegar and salt and pepper.  Asparagus grilled with olive oil, thyme & garlic and served with a lazy man’s version of a Hollandaise sauce. (This past Saturday night…).

What is one thing that must be in your pantry at all times?

Olive oil.  It is so versatile and generally healthier than the alternatives.

What one kitchen gadget could you not live without?

A large deep frying pan.  Crucial for cooking meats, many improvised sauces and for the right place to finish a well-made pasta dish.  Beyond that, maybe a large stock pot for cooking pastas and a recent favorite, mussels.

It’s 6 p.m., the people in your household are hungry and you just walked in from work and need to get something satisfying on the table as soon as possible. What’s your favorite thing to whip up in this situation?

This is where my wife is great, because she usually would have this already planned.  If left to me, since we usually have flash-frozen bay scallops and shrimp, the meal would probably be seafood and pasta in an improvised sauce of olive oil, chopped garlic, chopped onion, mushrooms, basil and Old Bay seasoning.

It’s a snowy Sunday, you’ve just done the grocery shopping and have the rest of the day to spend in the kitchen cooking a meal that will bring comfort. What’s for dinner?

Mussels done in white wine, shallots, garlic with a bay leaf or two… Homemade baked French fries (or frites), spinach salad with onion, walnuts and honey mustard dressing and fresh bread.  Sugar cookies topped with whipped cream for dessert. Either that or salmon (sometimes smoked) in lemon cream sauce over bow-tie pasta dressed with spinach and finished with shaved Romano cheese.  Now I’m hungry…

What is your favorite dish to make for pot-luck dinners?

It’s boring, but meatballs in barbecue sauce.  My wife frequently makes a vegetable platter because most people like to make the fun and fatty items, so she frequently volunteers to do the healthy option (She’s much better at choosing healthy options for meal time than I am.).

Do you have a favorite food source in the Fredericksburg region?

I have two right now:

1. Wegmans for its huge selection, and

2. The Fredericksburg Farmer’s Market.  During the spring and summer the farmer’s market has a great cheese monger from Orange County, fresh vegetables, and an outstanding fresh bread baker from King George (the apricot scone is amazing). [Editor’s note: The bread bakers are Tanya and Alexander Strugatsky, of Artisan Bread Co. I spent some time in their home bakery a couple of years ago. Read about it and see a video here.]

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