Feasting Famously with Erin McPike
If you watch the news, or have even been in a lobby on K Street waiting for someone long enough, chances are you’ve seen Erin McPike on CNN. Or perhaps you thought it was Jennifer Aniston. Regardless if you’ve seen her or not on television, I can assure she’s as funny and charming as she is intelligent and fierce on the tube. But don’t fret; she undercooks shrimp and chows down on Chef Geoff burgers just like the rest of us. [end clip, cue music]…our own Brian Johnson has the story. Growing up in the Midwest, Ohio to be exact, and attending college at DC’s American University, Erin’s transplanted D.C. roots are like many of ours. While they started somewhere distant, they have taken hold in and truly embraced D.C. I asked Erin where, in her college days, she liked to and hang out, or grab a bite to eat. “Chef Geoff’s,” she immediately said with a smile, “because that’s where I worked for three years and met my good friend Nora O’Donnell.” I thought supermugs of beer and $5 cheeseburgers drew her to their Monday night happy hours, but actually, she said her favorite thing to order there is, “The cashew curry humus. But I am not sure if it’s on the menu anymore. Hopefully it comes and goes.” You heard it here Geoff, bring back the curry humus – the people have spoken.
Don’t fret; she undercooks shrimp and chows down on Chef Geoff burgers just like the rest of us.We D.C. transplants all find ourselves longing for food that reminds us of home, and our backgrounds. Where does Erin turn when she is craving something from home? She thought for a minute and said, laughing, “Um, I think I would embarrass my parents if I answered that totally truthfully. But I loved going to Don Pablos, there was one around the corner from my house in Ohio. But, I do not try to capture Ohio here in DC, I can say. Well, other than I do love Skyline Chili.” Uh-oh, here comes the crazy chili rant, I think to myself. She continues, “And I wish everyone would stop knocking it and just try it. And I love also the BBQ sauce from Montgomery Inn, which is world famous and all these Southern boys need to get off their high horses and try some Cincinnati BBQ sauce.” Double-punch! When I remind her that I am Southern, and ask if I should get off my vinegar-based high horse and try it, she responds, “Precisely.” I said I’d take her word for it. To date I have yet to obtain some, however, if said sauce was procured, yours truly would happily make Cincinnati BBQ sauce ribs (Carolina sauce on the side, of course). In an attempt to redeem herself, she continues, “And I’ll tell you one other thing, so Cincinnati is a pretty lard-tastic town. We’re famous for Montgomery Inn, Skyline, and then ice cream. Oprah talks about Graeter’s, but no, Aglamesis Brother’s is the best ice cream in the mid west.” She schools Oprah and coins my new favorite word, “lard-tastic,” all in one sentence. Redemption granted.
I remind her that I am Southern and ask if I should get off my vinegar-based high horse. She responds, “Precisely.”Erin is currently attempting to broaden her culinary repertoire. However she admits her strengths on camera well outweigh her expertise in the kitchen. Does she cook? “I try a little bit. I am just beginning to learn. I used to bake when I was in high school, you know, for comfort I guess, but I can barely cook. I try to use the slow cooker. I am really trying to learn, but I am not great.” She handles her kitchen escapes with great humor and patience. She said recently she cooked an amazing meal, and everything was perfect…except the shrimp. “I did a really good job making everything else, it was my first attempt and making dinner, and my boyfriend could not even eat the shrimp. So my mom sent me a baking sheet and a grate and said ‘better luck next time’.” Before you go sending her online gift certificates for The Palm, never fear, she isn’t going hungry. Her boyfriend grills, and is pretty good at it too. “He grills a lot,” she said. “He has a Big Green Egg [hey, so does Amos!] and a Webber and he just made a pork shoulder and he just made a brisket last week. He is really pretty damn good at it I guess!” I decline to mention the benefits of a proper vinegar sauce on pork in the smoker and we move on – because brisket is amazing and I want an invite. Aside from a variety of what sounds like amazing smoked meat options, her culinary preferences are really a bit of a mixed bag – much like DC. So when asked what her favorite type of food to eat is, she replies, “That’s a hard question for me to answer because I basically like everything at diff times. I love Italian food like lasagna, but I also like sausage, egg and cheese biscuits in the morning. And I really like Thai food. ThaiX-ing is one of my favorite places. I also really like Rice as well, over on 14th Street, plus it’s one of the original 14th Street restaurants. So, yeah, I think that’s where I would go first: Italian or Thai.” I think Italian-Thai fusion is the one genre that is not on 14th Street.
Cincinnati is a pretty lard-tastic town. We’re famous for Montgomery Inn, Skyline, and then ice cream. Oprah talks about Graeter’s, but no, Aglamesis Brother’s is the best ice cream in the mid west.Erin loves the DC food scene and even has a great idea for an Americana-fusion inspired place. On her thoughts on the DC food scene, she said, “I think it’s exploded in the last 5 years. I do think they need to revitalize Dupont Circle and Georgetown because there is so much new on 14th Street now and so much on H Street now, and on 8th Street Southeast in Eastern Market now that I think anyone who is crabbing about that [DC not being as good a food city a New York] now is well in the past.” I agree about Dupont and Georgetown falling a bit behind some of the recent trends. She continued with a vision, “One thing that I would like to see is – and I think this is right place for me to say this publically – you have people in DC from all over America, and maybe this goes on 14th Street, but there should be some sort of restaurant that brings together all the local American cuisine. Like the famous green chilies from New Mexico and buffalo wings from Buffalo, New York. And, this may be my way of getting Cincinnati chili somewhere, but you have staffers on the Hill from every state in the country. So I think we should have something that brings together all parts of America; and DC is the only place you could have it.” Erin could really have something here. Think about it, a different region of the country each week. You could literally go to the same place, once a week, for a month, and have something totally different. You’d never get tired of the menu, and with seasonal ingredients changing; the menu could stay remarkably interesting. “An American bistro is one thing, but they don’t drill down and get local stuff that I would like to see,” she added.
“If I’m going all out,” she said, “I want a cocktail that’s made with whipped eggwhites.”Until her Americana mecca is conceived, she does have some favorites. “I live near Le Diplomate (however she recently sold her condo to our pal and former Feasting Famously interviewee, Jenna Golden), so I don’t need to give them anymore attention than they have already gotten in the past year. However I do know the best times to walk over and sit at the bar, so that’s good. I really like Hank’s Oyster Bar, the original one. I have not yet tried Rose’s Luxury, sadly. But I really am pretty partial to Chef Geoff’s, but I don’t get to eat there that much anymore. Talk about something that reminds you of home, I think Chef Geoff’s is just a great place like that. The food is good, Geoff is there a lot, it’s a friendly atmosphere, and so if I could only answer one thing it’d be that one.” If you think about it, Chef Geoff’s likely comes closest to the all-American transient place she spoke of creating earlier. They have a bit of everything, representing various cuisines or regions. Maybe Geoff Tracy should look into this regional mega restaurant concept. When hungry, she’s grabbing her dream burger with jalepenos, gouda, bacon, and chipotle mayo (no veggies on this burger for her)! After a bad day, she’s heading for a craft cocktail bar like The Gibson and whipping it up. “If I’m going all out,” she said, “I want a cocktail that’s made with whipped eggwhites.” Good day or bad, everyone likes to play with their food. We’re laughing and I ask if Erin was to get into a food fight with anyone, who would it be. “It would be Matt Dornic from CNN,” she said, laughing, “because it would be the most raucous food fight I could possibly imagine. And I’d want to throw spaghetti covered in tomato cream sauce,” she said – still laughing. She added, “You know, because it sticks!” We ended our interview with what came easily to a seasoned anchorwoman like Erin – the Feasting Famously Fast Five rapid-fire questions. I tossed out five words and she responded with the first thing that came to her mind: Chef Geoffs – Favorite Restaurant Champagne – favorite drink Ohio State – gross K Street – good times MSNBC – uuummmmmmm……just leave it at that If you don’t catch her on CNN, you just may see her waiting in the ever-growing line at Rose’s Luxury soon. As for presents and flowers from fans…I think a few cans of Skyline Chili may be better received. Stay hungry Erin, and keep up the great work!