Friday, July 19, 2019

Flashback Friday - Au Bon Pain UMMS

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on July 12, 2011.

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Thai  peanut chicken wrap
When it was announced that Au Bon Pain was taking over the space at UMMS that for many years was inhabited by a Donna's, I greeted the idea with enthusiasm. Sure I was annoyed that a nationwide chain would be replacing a branch of the home-grown roasted vegetable maven's popular coffee shop, but after 12 years, I was tired of the food's high prices and the employee's attitudes. The folks at Au Bon Pain have so far been nothing short of courteous, and dare I say it, downright pleasant - always a good thing to encounter first thing in the morning, pre-caffeination.

While this neighborhood is already rife with restaurants that offer sandwiches, I was mostly excited about Au Bon Pain's array of fresh pastries and hot soups that would now be available to area diners. However, it's summer - too hot for soups - so I have stayed with sampling sandwiches for now.

On a recent weekday not long after Au Bon Pain opened the deli side of its operation, I tried the Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap (all natural grilled chicken, field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, fried wontons, and Thai peanut dressing). The chicken, despite being white meat, was fairly moist, and I liked the inclusion of field greens rather than romaine or iceberg. The sandwich was crunchy and fresh tasting and the plethora of vegetables made it seem actually somewhat healthy. My only complaint - and it's a big one - is that they omitted the peanut sauce. Without the sauce, the sandwich was overall on the dry side. I'll chalk that up to being so new.

On my second try, I got the Roast Beef Montana, which had roast beef, an herbed cream cheese, and oodles of spicy brown mustard on a toasted cheese baguette. While mustard on roast beef violates Minx's Rule of Meat and Condiments (mustard on pink cold cuts, mayo on gray or white ones), the beef was pink enough to nearly qualify. As with much deli roast beef, it was kinda rubbery, but it tasted fine. Could have done with half the mustard, but maybe they were trying to make up for the lack of sauce in my Thai peanut wrap. The marinated red onions, however, were a nice touch and I wish there had been a wee bit more of them.

Finally, on an afternoon during which I was a bit pressed for time, I tried a Mediterranean Wrap (field greens, roasted red pepper hummus, feta, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, and sun-dried tomato relish) from their Grab N Go section. The wrap was not soggy in the least and boasted a filling heavy on cucumbers and olives with a bit of zesty sun-dried tomato flavor. The hummus was barely detectable, and then only as a texture. Not bad at all, and definitely a quick way to get in and out of the busy restaurant at lunchtime.

While the selection of sandwiches isn't groundbreaking or anything, and the chicken salad isn't half as good as that served by the hospital cafeteria (made by Aramark!) I think ABP fills a need for those of us in a hurry or who want a chocolate croissant or giant pecan roll for breakfast.

Au Bon Pain
UMMS
22 S. Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(800) 825-5227

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 2

I usually plan meals in advance of a trip to NY, except if I'm meeting someone there for dinner.  I trust a resident of the city to do a better job of choosing a place than I might. But I did plan my own Monday breakfast at Pondicheri. This modern Indian restaurant not far from my hotel has several interesting options for a morning repast, including stuffed South Indian dosas, omelettes and sandwiches, coconut pancakes, and masala fried chicken. I was originally going to get the keema (a minced lamb dish) and eggs, but when I realized there would be a chance of smelling like fried lamb all day, I opted instead for the saag and egg on sourdough toast.

The toast was thickly cut and topped with a generous portion of spicy creamy spinach and a just barely set sunny side up egg. It was messy and delicious. (Move over, avo toast!) The kale and cucumber salad on the side was equally tasty, but I was picking kale out of my teeth for hours afterward....

Though I was in town to attend the Fancy Food Show, I like to take a break from walking through the many aisles of specialty foods and do a bit of non-food shopping. My primary goal was to buy some dancing shoes. Mr Minx and I recently started ballroom lessons, and I have found my various non-slip-soled shoes to be an impediment to proper spins on the dance floor.

After breakfast I strolled over to a shop on Madison Street that had a small collection and nothing for my problem feet. I then hiked over to 8th Ave to Worldtone Dance. (The blocks between 7th and 8th Avenues must be the longest blocks in the city. So. Much. Walking.) Worldtone's selection was another thing entirely. The photo below shows less than half the shoes they carry for women, and they not only had shoes with some arch support, but also ones that had cushioned insoles. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pair that had both AND low heels, so I settled for the heels and the comfort--I can add arch supports. The staff there was quite helpful and seemed happy to bring out piles of shoes for me to try on. They were also good at answering questions and instructing me on how to fasten the curious buckles that come on dance shoes.

After a bit more shopping, I hit up Bergdorf's for some perfume-sniffing and got a lovely makeover from David at Estee Lauder, my dining companion of the previous evening. He can make even me look good.

Later on, my roommate Dara and I met her high school chum Michael for dinner. He had chosen Cafe Fiorello, a New York institution situated across the street from Lincoln Center. Dara and I shared a chilled octopus salad while Michael enjoyed items from the vegetable antipasti bar.

I wasn't supposed to eat pasta, allegedly being on Whole30, but Cafe Fiorello is a bit spendy. The only things I could afford were pasta-based, so I sprung for the carbonara. Topped with a whole poached egg and a generous quantity of guanciale lardons, it was a worthwhile splurge.

Dara was craving eclairs, and Epicerie Boulud next door had them. Since I had already blown the diet (the day before...lol), I had a yuzu tart. It was very much a lemon meringue pie, with yuzu, and a crust that was a bit difficult to puncture with a plastic fork. However, I managed to soldier on!


Pondicheri
15 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Worldtone Dance
580 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Epicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway
New York, New York 10023


* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Flashback Friday - Aarti's Tandoori Marinade

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 27, 2010.

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I noticed that a few people have found my blog by doing a Google search for Next Food Network Star contestant Aarti Sequeira's tandoori paste. So I dug around on the Food Network Web site and found it. I was going to post it here, or maybe just the link, but I thought, "why not try it for myself?"

So last weekend I found myself toasting spices in a skillet, adding them to yogurt, and making a marinade. While I had most of the whole spices on hand, I did not have fresh ginger, and I increased the amount of paprika because the dish looked a bit pale when I used the amount as written. Plus I made half as much. My edited version of her recipe follows.

I served the chicken with various sides including the okra dish we got from B'More, some raita made with radishes and cucumber, a quick stir fry of onions and mushrooms seasoned with a little cumin and the leftover tamarind dipping sauce from our B'More samosas, and naans from Trader Joe's.

Our cilantro plant had gone to seed, but I used it for garnish anyway. The fresh and soft green seeds tasted almost exactly like the dried coriander in the dish, but with a tiny bit of cilantro-ish-ness.


It was really good! The spice mix was so aromatic, three days later the house still smelled like an Indian restaurant. And the sauce was so tasty, I stored the leftovers in the fridge for future use. So far, it's made a great spread for a tuna salad sandwich on leftover naan. :)

Tandoori Chicken (inspired by Aarti's recipe)

Spice Paste
2 fresh green cayenne peppers or 1 large jalapeno
1 1/2 Tablespoons fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tablespoon coriander seeds
5 cloves
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
2.5 Tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cloves garlic
Juice and rind of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups full-fat plain yogurt
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon canola oil

Put the chiles, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, the seeds from the cardamom pods, paprika, and cinnamon in a saute pan and heat over medium heat until fragrant and toasty, about 5 minutes. Shake or stir the pan frequently to prevent burning. Grind to a powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

Blend the garlic, ginger, and lime in a food processor until the mixture is very smooth. Add the spice powder and blend again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Blend the spice mix with the two cups of yogurt. Use half of the yogurt mixture as a marinade for the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

Add the oil to a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to pan. Turn heat

Find Aarti's original recipe for Tandoori Chicken here.
And read Aarti's blog here.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 1

It might seem that I go to New York a lot. I do--at least 3 or 4 times a year, and mostly for the purpose of eating. My most recent trip was to the Fancy Food Show, which I attended with the lovely Dara of Dara Does It and Dining Dish.

Though we both start out in Baltimore, we don't travel together. She favors the bus, while I take Amtrak. I mean, I ride the bus twice a day, five days a week. I deserve to travel in relative comfort sometimes! Our various means of transportation get us to the city at different times and in different places. So while Dara goes straight to the Javits Center and starts walking the show, I hoof it from Penn Station to our nearby hotel and check into our room. With that accomplished, I take the subway to Javits Center.

In past years, I emerged from the 7 train to a Hudson Yards complex still under construction. This time, my path was scaffolding-free. Since I was so close, I decided to check out the mall part of the new complex and have lunch. On my way in, I chuckled at the many people waiting in line to walk around in the Vessel, a huge sculpture made of staircases in the form of a shawarma (or gyro or al pastor) rotisserie.

You see, it, right? Shawarma.
Once inside, I made use of the touch-screen map kiosks to find Fuku, a fast-food fried chicken restaurant that is part of David Chang's Momofuku empire. I wanted to try one of his chicken sandwiches for a while now, but I had concerns. Would it be too spicy? and could I order it without its usual topping of chickpea butter? The answers were "no," and "yes," in that order. While the sandwich was indeed spicy, it wasn't beyond a level I could tolerate comfortably. And the cashier didn't blink when I asked her to leave off the butter. (Chickpeas and lentils give me severe stomach cramps.) I don't know what the butter added, but I certainly didn't miss it.

After the sandwich, I went upstairs to Van Leeuwen ice cream. I sampled a couple of both the dairy and vegan flavors and ended up with a scoop of Earl Grey. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, but not overly unctuous, and was a perfect antidote to the spicy sandwich I had just consumed.

The mall was otherwise unremarkable, full of overly expensive shops catering to the one percent. Not my scene. Yes, I do go to Bergdorf Goodman just about every time I visit New York, but only for the beauty floor; seldom do I purchase anything. I'm rather obsessed with perfume, and Bergdorf's has one of the best selections of fragrance around. Also I like to visit with friends who work there.

Speaking of friends from BG, I had dinner that evening with my friend David, a makeup artist with Estee Lauder. He was going to be in the Village, so we agreed to meet at North Square at the Washington Square Hotel.

Neal and I had stayed at that hotel 15 years ago, and I had no idea there was a restaurant. Or maybe it wasn't there back then. In any case, North Square seemed to be a popular place, as it was full by 6:30.

We started our meal with blistered carrots with lemon tahini, pomegranate, and pistachios. It was a generous portion and could make a nice light entree with a salad or a side. I liked the contrast of tender carrot and the various crunchy toppings.

For my entree, I had the coriander-crusted scallops with quinoa pilaf, sauteed market greens (spinach) and coconut lemongrass sauce. While the scallops were nicely cooked, and everything was tasty, I didn't really detect either the coriander or the lemongrass. David had a burger, which he seemed to enjoy.

We passed on dessert. I had already been bad and had ice cream at lunch, not to mention more ice cream at the Fancy Food Show. And I was supposedly on the Whole30 diet. Not on this day, sister!

Fuku
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

North Square
Washington Square Hotel
103 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.