Friday, April 28, 2017

Apropoe's in the Marriott Hotel

It's hard to believe that 15 years ago, there was precious little in Harbor East besides a few restaurants and the Marriott Hotel. The Minx and I would venture down there occasionally for dinner at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion or Charleston, but most of the area was parking lots and office buildings. It wasn't long, however, before the area was transformed into a destination spot for shopping and dining. And now with the towering edifices of the Legg Mason building and the Four Seasons Hotel. the Marriott seems tucked away like a cozy corner table in a large restaurant. One might forget that the hotel has an expansive, modern restaurant with an impressive view of the Harbor.

During Light City Baltimore, we were invited to the Marriott's restaurant, Appropoe's, to sample some of their cuisine and take in some of the flashy sights going on in the Harbor. We were more than happy to accept.

We decided to order four items that might represent a cross-section of the menu. From the appetizers section, we ordered the jumbo lump crab cake with corn relish, wilted spinach, micro sorrel greens, and tarragon aioli. You can also order two crab cakes as an entree, but this cake is quite large and filling unto itself. The cake is mildly seasoned, allowing the natural crab flavor to come through, while the tarragon aioli is a nice touch for the relish.

Burgers are always a go-to meal for people who might be dropping in after work for a cocktail and the Marriott burger is a solid choice. The patty is thick and luscious with crisp strips of smoked bacon, melted cheddar, lettuce, tomato, and red onion to round out the flavor and texture profile. Also, it's served on a proper hamburger bun rather than a brioche bun that usually dissolves in your hands, leaving you holding a pile of meat and condiments. Herb fries are a great side as well.

From the pizza options we chose the white crab pizza because...Baltimore. The crust is coated with a tasty pesto and topped with gooey fontina cheese, Old Bay seasoning, and giant chunks of crab. The crust is crispy around the edge and has a nice chew in the middle.

The Minx and I are quite fond of wedge salads and Apropoe's has one of the prettiest we've ever seen. A small head of baby iceberg lettuce is sliced in half and set side by side. Then blue cheese dressing is applied and equal stripes of Nueske's applewood smoked bacon, finely chopped egg, and chopped parsley are layered on top. We each devoured an entire half, savoring the perfectly caramelized, thick cut bacon. I could see myself ordering this salad every time I go to Apropoe's.

The day we went to Apropoe's had been rainy and cold. We had dragged ourselves into the restaurant, weighed down by the dreariness of the day. But the meal warmed our spirits with its diversity and heartiness. Stepping out into the chilly air, the Minx and I felt renewed. As we walked the promenade toward the Inner Harbor festivities, the gray clouds cleared away and we were greeted by a spectacular sunset. Funny how a good meal can turn your day around.

Apropoe's
700 Aliceanna St.
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 895-1879

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Keystone Meats Celebrates National Beef Month with a Contest

The weather is warming up and most folks would probably rather spend time doing fun things with the family than cooking. So during the month of May, Keystone Meats will celebrate National Beef Month with the "Beef Up Family Time" recipe contest. Throughout the month, Keystone fans are invited to enter by submitting their favorite beef recipe on Facebook or online. All dishes must use Keystone Beef and take 30 minutes or less to make.

We've tried Keystone Beef before and were impressed with the quality and flavor. I never thought I would embrace canned meat, but hey, I like tuna salad and that's technically made with canned meat. We plan to enter and already have a couple of recipes in mind.

There are three contest categories (5 ingredients or less, family tradition, lighter meals) but only one winner. The prize? A year's worth of Keystone Meats.

Enter at https://keystonemeats.com/beef-up-family-time-recipe-contest/ or on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/keystonemeats/app/247578258730350/.

The deadline is May 31st, 2017.

To learn more about Keystone Meats, visit https://keystonemeats.com/ or follow and vote on Facebook @KeystoneMeats.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, April 24, 2017

B&O Brasserie Spring Menu

When Chef Scott Hines took over from his predecessor Mike Ransom, there was a bit of a transitional period in terms of the B&O Brasserie menu. With the new spring menu, Chef Hines has revamped the entire lineup. focusing on familiar favorites with sophisticated refinements and getting back to the true mission of a brasserie. To that end, you will find the burgers, steaks, and salads that you would expect in a brasserie alongside more adventurous items like sweetbreads and quail. Also, the daily specials--fried chicken, pot roast, meatloaf--have a homey quality that should attract diners looking for comfort foods.

We were excited to get an opportunity to try out some of the new offerings.

Of course, we always have to start with an exotic cocktail from the wildly creative mixologist Brendon Dorr and his crew. Rabbit's Revenge, with flavors of gin, carrot, and beet, is reminiscent of a Bloody Mary, and would be lovely with a big fat shrimp or two perched on the rim. The Rook's Return is a refreshing cocktail using Ford's Gin; it reminded us of pickle brine with a floral aspect. That description might turn some people off, but it's actually delicious.

I certainly experienced a flash of nostalgia when I ate the salmon tartare. It reminded me a bit of the salmon mousse that my Aunt Kay always served for holiday parties. While salmon mousse is typically made with canned salmon, the tartare, a simple yet elevated dish, is made with fresh raw salmon mixed with tiger sauce (mayo and horseradish). The feather-weight, crispy salt and pepper crackers provide the perfect vehicle for the tartare. Even the Minx liked it and she is not a fan of raw salmon.

For some reason that escapes us, many people are turned off by sweetbreads. I think it's just the idea of eating the glands of an animal, but going on taste alone, they are tender and mild. (The Minx likes to think that the phrase "tastes like chicken" came about because of sweetbreads.) At the B&O, they are drizzled with a completely unexpected ancho and bourbon barbeque sauce with some straight-off-the-grill smokiness. The dish also has a scallion cornbread for a contrasting texture.

Chef Hines's sous chef Tyler Johnson once worked at Wolfgang Puck's Italian restaurant, so he has quite a few tricks up his sleeve when it comes to Italian cooking. He has strong influence over the pastas and sauces at the B & O and his rich Sunday gravy is excellent. It has great depth of flavor, as if Grandma was cooking it all day, and is the perfect accompaniment to the tender beef, mortadella, and foie gras meatballs. Now it might seem odd to add fancy bologna and duck liver to meatballs, and I couldn't really taste them specifically. They're mostly there to add unctuousness. The Minx was all over this dish and would love to make it at home.

The lamb rib appetizer is braised in gin for a long time, and the constant reduction of the sauce coats them in a rich glaze that shines like glass. The apricot yogurt accompaniment cuts the meaty intensity with its fruity sweetness and the pea salad brings acidity and crunch.

The Minx loves carrots for some reason, so she was insistent about having the smoked carrot agnolotti with morels, onions, and peas in a simple butter sauce as her entree. This dish of tender pasta filled with a cream-enriched puree of mesquite-smoked carrots may be the vegetarian entree on the menu, but we carnivores found it immensely satisfying. The combination of smoke and mushrooms made up for the absence of meat. More restaurants should offer such well-thought-out meatless options.

As a pasta person, I really wanted to order this too, but we had to try as many dishes as we could so....

My entree was the crispy black sea bass in a spicy boullabaisse with potatoes and confit tomatoes. Crusty bread with rouille is a traditional accompaniment to a fish stew like this, and the B & O doesn't skimp with their coating of the garlicky sauce. Be careful with this; the flavors of garlic and saffron are pretty intense and can linger in your mouth for some time, so if you don't want so much rouille, feel free to scrape it off. As for the bass, it was perfectly cooked with a lovely crisp skin and silky smooth flesh, and the broth was spicy but mellow.

As if that wasn't enough food, we sampled three desserts.

The B&O Oreos, chocolate cookies sandwiching creamy marshmallow filling, are served two to an order. That would be plenty, but it also comes with a large bar of peanut butter mousse encased in chocolate along with several dots of creme anglaise on the plate. It's almost like one dessert to eat there (the mousse) and one dessert to take home (the cookies).

If not a trend, elevated versions of humble s'mores have become a frequent feature on many dessert menus. This particular version takes the unique approach of sandwiching toasted marshmallow flavored ice cream in between house-made graham crackers. A pool of chocolate sauce and some actual toasted marshmallow completes the flavor profile. The ice cream is really subtle, and I recommend that you try a few bites without the cracker to notice its toasty flavors.

Possibly our favorite dessert of the evening was the buttermilk pie with blackberry jam ice cream. The sweet lemony pie has the consistency of thick custard, and the blackberries provided a tangy counterpoint. The ice cream is served on a bed of feuilletine bits, which keep it from sliding all over the plate and also add a crisp texture.

It's a special treat to go to the B&O Brasserie because, while the food has evolved over time, it's always inventive and offers new taste sensations. I think Chef Hines is on an especially smart track with this new menu, blending the familiar with the exotic and evoking taste memories while creating new ones at the same time.

B&O Brasserie
2 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21201
443-692-6172

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Date, Walnut, & Nutmeg Cake

I am not a baker, although I love eating baked goods. I also love watching the Great British Baking Show and have really been enjoying the "Master Class" addendum series with Mary Berry and Paul Hollywood demonstrating their recipes. It's actually more fun for me to watch people baking than to do it myself. In fact, the thought of making something more complicated than a bundt cake or brownies is more than a bit intimidating. How those people--amateur, home bakers--can make such incredible fantasias with meringue and gum paste and multiple layers of cake and icing is incredible to me. Also time-consuming and potentially kitchen-messing.

Sometimes I do go into the kitchen to bake, and sometimes it goes well. Normally when I cook, I alter recipes like crazy, but I can't do that with baking. Baking is science, and therefore shouldn't be messed around with because it could end badly. So I rely on cookbooks most of the time. Like The Cardamom Trail, by former British Baking Show contestant Chetna Makan. Chetna was known for using unusual flavor combinations in her baked goods, which is one of the things that endeared her to me. But she also liked to bake straight-up British favorites, like Victoria sponge and lemon drizzle cake. The recipe I've included in this post is for a cake somewhat similar to sticky toffee pudding in that it uses dates as a main ingredient. There's also a sauce component, which I have omitted, that would make this dish even more like STP. (And I would have made it, had we double cream on hand.) Without it, this cake is somewhat like a quickbread in flavor and texture, and it is lovely with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or a cup of coffee or tea.

Date, Walnut, & Nutmeg Cake (from The Cardamom Trail)
You need a kitchen scale for this one. Also, you can make your own self-raising flour by adding 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to a cup of flour. For this recipe, you'll need about 2 cups of flour. Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and then measure out the 10 1/2 ounces.

4 1/2 ounces pitted dates, chopped
1 cup water
5 1/2 ounces of unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing the pan
5 1/2 ounces light brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon baking soda
10 1/2 ounces self-raising flour
1 3/4 ounces walnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a bundt pan and set aside.

Bring dates and water to a boil in a saucepan. Reduce heat to low and simmer 10 minutes. Allow to cool.

Cream the butter and sugar until fluffy, then add the eggs one at a time, beating until each is incorporated before adding the next. Add the baking soda and the flour and mix well. Fold in the dates and any leftover liquid, the walnuts, and the nutmeg.

Scrape batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes, until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Cool pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes before unmolding cake. Allow to cool completely before dusting with powdered sugar.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.