Monday, January 15, 2018

Fiesta Mexicana

My brother discovered Fiesta Mexicana first, when he lived on the east side of Baltimore County. He and Dad would go to the tiny family-run restaurant for lunch on a semi-regular basis, which made me wish Mr Minx and I lived closer. The two of visited the restaurant in 2012, while we were writing Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore. We ordered the Paquet Eduques, a combo platter including two enchiladas, and one each sope, taco, quesadilla, and flauta. We would have ordered more, but in those days we were eating at multiple restaurants a day in order to write about as many as possible before we hit our rapidly approaching deadline. We especially enjoyed the authentic Mexican quesadilla, which only vaguely resembles what goes by that name here in the US.

Recently, my Dad moved to the area and we took advantage of the proximity to visit Fiesta Mexicana not once but twice in a matter of weeks. The first time, I tried the pambazo, a sandwich served in a roll that has been brushed with a savory guajillo chile sauce and seared, then stuffed with meat and garnished with lettuce, crema, and queso fresca. The normal meat filling is chorizo with potatoes, but I opted for the Milanesa, a breaded beef cutlet that they cut into pieces and pile onto the bread. The sandwich had lovely flavors and textures, from the slightly chewy seared parts of the roll to the cool cream and everything in between. I could get this every time, but there are so many other things on the menu, I'm definitely going to have to branch out.

On the next visit, I tried three of the tacos: carnitas, carne asada, and campechanos, which is a combo of chorizo with shredded beef. The fillings are generous and the corn tortillas are thick enough that they don't need to be doubled, but I was a bit disappointed. Both the carne asada and carnitas were tough and chewy, and I really couldn't tell the pork from the beef. The campechanos was the best of the three, but was also lacking in moisture.

My Dad got his favorite, the quesadillas. Made from pockets of fresh masa stuffed with your choice of meat, cheese, or veggies, these are closer to turnovers than what we normally consider a quesadilla. The texture is both crisp and tender, and they are especially good when stuffed with chorizo and potatoes, or spicy chicken. He normally doesn't like sour cream (or so he says) but he gobbled these up even with the generous drizzle of crema.

On one occasion, we ordered enchiladas to go. Normally stuffed with shredded chicken and topped with a spicy green sauce, they can also be filled with any other meat for a slightly higher price. Occasionally, molé sauce from Mexico City is available, which I am sure is a treat.

On both occasions, the restaurant was full of patrons ordering things like nachos, chilaquiles (eggs with tortilla chips soaked in chile sauce), cecina (flank steak), and tostadas, all of which looked tempting. Next time I'll try one of those, if I don't just get another pambazo.

Fiesta Mexicana
8304 Philadelphia Road
Rosedale, MD 21237
The menu can be found here.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Flashback Friday - The Oregon Grille

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This post originally appeared on on January 22, 2013.

January means Restaurant Week(s), and this year Mr Minx and I decided to stay in Baltimore County rather than stray into the City. Our first pick this year was The Oregon Grille, a cozy, clubby, and elegant restaurant just off the Shawan Road West exit on I-83. As befitting its location in horse country, the restaurant is decorated with equine prints and jockeys' accouterments. The menu has a nice mix of both seafood and meat dishes, featuring classics like steak au poivre and crab cakes, with a few more modern dishes like crispy duck legs stuffed with pears and a sushi-inspired appetizer called "spicy rolls two ways."

Sorry for the blurry photos, but the restaurant is dark-ish and a
flash would definitely have annoyed other guests.
I tried those spicy rolls as my appetizer, and they had a nice kick to them. The fish - tuna and salmon - was swaddled snugly within a nori wrapper padded with a layer of creamy rice. To continue with the Asian theme, we also tried an order of the crab and avocado wontons from the regular menu. They were heavy on the avocado, but crisp and greaseless. And prettily presented, I might add.

Mr Minx's RW appetizer was beef barley soup. It was a generous portion, with plenty of vegetables and nuggets of beef, but it needed a bit of salt.

For our entrees, I ordered the warm lobster salad, which was simply terrific. Lightly cooked julienned root vegetables were tangled with a bit of fresh watercress to form a bed for the meat from half a lobster, and everything was napped with a buttery lemon vinaigrette. On the side were pieces of truffled toast sorely lacking the truffle and a mite over-toasted, but I had a huge crusty dinner roll handy with which to mop up the sauce.

Mr Minx had the salmon with lobster risotto, crispy shrimp, and "vanilla dust" butter. Vanilla is a tricky flavoring to use in a savory dish, but it seems to be most successful with seafood. While all of the individual elements of his dish were well-cooked, the flavor of the vanilla was a bit too pronounced for his taste. I found it interesting, but a bit disconcerting because of the lack of accompanying sweetness. Vanilla = sweet stuff.

On to the actual sweet stuff. I had the orange-spiced apple crisp. The large shallow ramekin meant that there was a goodly portion of "crisp" - my favorite part. The combination of orange and apple was very fragrant and autumnal, and I quite enjoyed the dish. Mr Minx had the carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream, which was delicious and classic, if a bit dense from the number of layers of frosting.

While we had some minor quibbles about the meal, overall we really enjoyed the food at The Oregon Grille. The Restaurant Week prices are a real steal, and we recommend trying the place if you haven't already. Additionally, service was terrific, and our waiter, Tom, took excellent care of us. He even brought a tiny carafe of olive juice in case we wanted our extra dirty martinis even more dirty. We'll be back.

(Oregon Grille's Restaurant Week is extended to 2/2/2013, so there's still time to check it out this year.)

The Oregon Grille
1201 Shawan Rd
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(410) 771-0505

The Oregon Grille on Urbanspoon

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Best of 2017, Part Two - Home-Cookin'

Our last post was full of food porn, and this one is no different, except these foods were cooked by our own hands in our own home. Enjoy! (I know the photos seem blurry, but if you click on them to get a larger version, I promise those will be much more in focus!)

I love chicken wings, especially when they're crispy and all the fat has been rendered from the skin. That usually entails deep-frying in a restaurant, but at home it can be achieved by baking.

If I didn't know the meat from Mr Minx's Emergency Chili came from a can, I would never have believed it. It was tender and juicy and cooked up in no time at all.

Homemade spinach pie is easy and as good as the restaurant version.

Smitten Kitchen's sheet pan tandoori chicken is amazeballs. Plus easy cleanup.

I think my pizza twist on pimento cheese was pretty darn clever. And of course it tasted really good, too.

I'm still on a charred carrot kick, and think the vegetable is just lovely with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors, as in this salad with harissa, honey, Dijon, and feta cheese.

With the bounty of tomatoes we had on hand this summer, tomato pie seemed like the ideal way to use them up.

Though this chocolate strawberry "naked" cake was posted in September, it was actually served in August as my lovely husband's birthday cake. I haven't made a layer cake in a long long time, and the last one wasn't from scratch. This one was a bit of an effort, but definitely worth it.

Another successful September offering was this kung pao cauliflower, adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. We're big fans of the sweet and nutty flavors of kung pao chicken, and this vegetarian version was pretty fantastic.

Who knew cauliflower was so versatile? We did the Whole 30 diet thing in October and with rice being one of the verboten food items, we had to be creative. Cauliflower "rice" topped with chicken sausage and homemade tomato sauce was one of my favorite dishes of the month.

Forget turkey (blech!) - we had lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. I want to do this every year now. Maybe I will.

That's all for 2017. Looking forward to whipping up delicious things at home in 2018!

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Friday, January 05, 2018

Flashback Friday - Recycled Pot Roast

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This post originally appeared on on January 16, 2013.

It was our intention this most recent holiday season to make a Christmas dinner that took the least amount of prep work and little or no attention while cooking. We wanted everything to be easy, yet delicious, so we made a pot roast.

We had purchased a slab of chuck at Wegman's a few months earlier from which came a delicious pot roast, so we went there once again to purchase our meat. We found a 3+ pound roast for about $23 and thought we could do better with the "family pack" bulk roasts down the aisle. Indeed we did - there a two-pack that weighed about 5.5 pounds cost only $21 and change. Curious. Two pounds more meat for two fewer dollars.

After roasting our bargain meat with potatoes, carrots, mushrooms, and onions, it turned out we didn't need nearly that amount of beef to feed the family. A whole roast went into the fridge, with part of it ending up as cold pot roast sandwiches topped with enough horseradish sauce to make our sinuses hurt. The rest of it - about a pound and a half - went into a luscious, meaty tomato sauce. There was also a bunch of leftover onion gravy (a puree of the meat juices and about 2 cups of the quartered onion that had cooked along with the meat, seasoned with a bit of Worcestershire and herbs) so about a cup of that got added to the sauce pot as well. If you don't have any mild onion gravy leftover from your roast, or your gravy is too strongly "gravy"-flavored, you can omit it and still end up with something that's pretty delicious.

Pot Roast Pasta Sauce

2 cups diced onion
1/2 cup diced carrot
olive oil
1 tablespoon garlic, finely minced
pinch crushed red pepper flakes
1/4 cup vodka
2 32-oz cans crushed tomatoes in tomato puree
1 - 1.5 lbs leftover pot roast, cut into approx 1" x 3" slabs
1 cup leftover pot roast gravy (optional)
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano
salt and pepper to taste
sugar (optional)

In a large dutch oven over medium heat, cook the onion and carrot in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil and a big pinch of salt until softened but not browned, about 8-10 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and stir to combine. After a minute or so, pour in the vodka. Turn up the heat a little and cook until the vodka has mostly evaporated, about 5 minutes, then stir in the tomatoes. Add the pot roast, gravy, and oregano. Cover the pot, bring to a boil, then turn down the heat to low. Simmer sauce for 2-4 hours, until pot roast has pretty much disintegrated and the sauce is thick.

Season with salt and pepper to taste. If the sauce seems a bit acidy and needs balance, add a teaspoon or two of sugar. Serve over your favorite pasta, with a sprinkle of freshly grated Parmesan cheese.

Makes about 2.5 quarts.

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