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Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Rosy Rice Pudding

At the Summer Fancy Food Show last year, I noticed a mini-trend (a teeny tiny-trend, actually) of things flavored with rosewater or roses. Yeah, roses as in the flower. It's a popular flavoring in the Middle East and India, but maybe not so much in the western world. Roses taste the way they smell, so I suppose if you're not a fan of rose aromas, your palate might not appreciate their flavor, either. I like it myself, but a little goes a long way.

I purchased some rose water in an Indian market a few years back, and it was so weak as to be unnoticeable. I never ventured back to see if I could find another brand and then forgot about it until the SFFS reminded me.

One company on my list of booths to hit at this year's show was Nielsen-Massey, perhaps best known for their vanilla extracts and pastes. However, I didn't have time to actually pay them a visit, so the nice people at N-M sent me some sample bottles of a few of their various non-vanilla extracts--pure coffee, orange blossom, and rose water. I immediately opened each bottle and took a sniff. Yup - coffee, orange blossom, and rose scents were pretty strong! Couldn't wait to use them.

This time of year, post SFFS, I really wish I could stay home full-time and cook (and eat). I have so many fun things to play with, but they usually have to wait for the weekend until I find a bit of free time. I decided that the rose water games would come first, and I would make a rose water-flavored rice pudding for the 4th of July. Why? because my samples arrived on the 2nd of July, that's why.

Nielsen-Massey included a recipe for rice pudding, but it was the fussy kind with raw rice that requires a bit more time (and stirring) than I had to offer. We already had some leftover cooked rice in the fridge, and I wanted to use that. So I did. When the rice is precooked, it takes less than 30 minutes to prep and cook. Prep basically equals measuring stuff directly into a pot. Once the rice absorbs all the yummy cream and sugar, just stir in the flavorings, let cool a bit, then eat.

I decided since roses are red, and my pudding would be served on the 4th, that blueberries would be an appropriate accompaniment. Red, white, and blueberry!

If you're going to use rose petals as garnish, make sure they are grown without the use of pesticides or herbicides. Do not eat flowers from a florist! It's best if they are grown in your own yard, and they should smell pretty. If they don't have much fragrance (like most of the old, not-well-cared-for roses in my neighborhood), they won't taste like much, either. You don't have to ingest them, of course - use petals as garnish, then pick them off before eating. The Nielsen-Massey rose water will supply plenty of flavoring.

Rosewater Rice Pudding

2.5 cups cooked short grain rice
1.5 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon Nielsen Massey vanilla paste
1/4 teaspoon Nielsen Massey rose water
Fresh blueberries
Food grade rose petals (optional)

Combine the rice, milk, cream, sugar, and butter in a saucepot. Bring to a boil, then turn heat to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes, until most of the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. Remove pudding from the heat and stir in the vanilla paste and rose water.

Eat warm, at room temperature, or chilled, garnished with blueberries and optional rose petals.

* 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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Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Fork & Cork 2.0

Last year, Wit & Wisdom, Aggio, and Fleet Street Kitchen combined forces in a series of spectacular wine dinners. Both chefs and sommeliers participated, which meant diners were not only enjoying the food of Zack Mills, but also of Chris Becker and Bryan Voltaggio, while drinking wines selected by Julie Dalton, Chris Coker, and Tim Riley--all in the same meal. This year, they've added a fourth restaurant; Chef Ben Lefenfeld and somm Greg Schwab of La Cuchara will be joining the others in both the kitchen and the wine cellar.

The chefs have fun cooking together, the sommeliers enjoy a bit of friendly one-upmanship as they choose the right beverage for each dish, and diners get to sit back and experience the talents of four of the best-regarded restaurants in Baltimore. A win-win for all involved.

This year, Fork & Cork starts off at Aggio on August 16th. The next dinner will be at La Cuchara on September 13th, followed by Fleet Street Kitchen on October 18, and Wit & Wisdom on November 15th. Tickets can be purchased through Eventbrite. There's a big bonus for folks who buy tickets to all four events - they will receive a $20 gift card for each participating restaurant, plus they have the chance to win dinner for two at all of them.

Will you be joining us at Fork & Cork this year?

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Monday, July 25, 2016

Blue Pit BBQ

We'd been meaning to try Blue Pit BBQ for a while and finally got around to it last month. Located in Hampden across Union Avenue from Union Craft Brewery and Artifact Coffee, Blue Pit is a bourbon bar as well as a 'cue joint. They offer 40+ bourbons, plus 20+ ryes, and dozens of other whiskies. There are a few cocktails, a list of beer in cans, and if you simply must have wine with your pulled pork (weirdo), they have a bottle or two of that hanging around, too.

Service is pub style. You order at a counter, take a number, then sit somewhere patiently and wait for your food to be brought to you. The bar area on the first floor has a few tables, and there's a patio, but we chose to eat upstairs where the tables are larger, the light is better for photographs, and there were no other diners (for it was 4pm on a weekend afternoon). The lack of chatter around us, however, meant we noticed the seemingly endless loop of music by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons. Fine if you like that sort of thing (and my Dad did get into it quite a bit).

We went whole hog, so to speak, and ordered three kinds of meat and three sides--a pound of brisket, a half rack of ribs, and a pound of pulled pork, plus mac and cheese, collard greens, and baked beans.

I am going to confess that we are semi-regulars at Andy Nelson's, that 'cue stalwart in Cockeysville. Andy's grub has only gotten better over the years (his beans are a-maze-ing), so it was really hard, nay, impossible, for me to not make comparisons. But I'm going to be as fair as I can here.

The brisket, rubbed with local Zeke's coffee before being barbecued, was pretty darn good. Smoky, but not overwhelmingly so, with a nice edge of fat that kept the meat moist (dry brisket is a sad thing). The bourbon-glazed St Louis-style ribs also tasted good, but they were very hard to cut apart with a plastic knife. That's not to say the meat wasn't tender, but there was some connective tissue thing going on in there which led to a bad hack job on our part. The glaze on the ribs is lightly sweet, but if you want more wet sweetness, there are several styles of sauce available in squeeze bottles on each table. Out of the sauce choices (which included mustard, vinegar, sweet and hot, and smoky), I liked the Zeke's coffee-spiked sauce. It was a bit sweeter than the others, but it reminded me a good deal of the house sauce at Cafe Tattoo, a bbq joint that used to be in Gardenville on Belair Road. (God, I miss that place.)

The pulled pork was nicely moist, if not particularly smoky, and was just fine without an extra dose of sauce (although I'd probably add some if I were eating it in a sandwich).

All three sides were good. The collards, made with neck bones and flavored with sherry vinegar were extremely tender; I can never get mine so soft. I loved the vinegar flavor, wished there was even more, and doused it with a bit of the vinegar sauce on the table to bring the tang up a tad. The baked beans, made with bits of both brisket and pork, were fine (and the only thing I'm going to compare unfavorably to Andy Nelson's, mostly because I love the latter so much). Finally, the four cheese mac and cheese was a nice creamy and slightly bland foil to all of the other textures and flavors on the table.

In addition to all the meaty goodness, Blue Pit also offers the new yuppie bbq nod to vegetarians and vegans--pulled jackfruit. I'd really hate to be a vegan in a bbq joint, but I suppose if they drink enough bourbon they won't notice that their sandwich isn't full of beef.

Service was great, mostly in that there was so little of it needed. Someone took our order and gave us cups for soft drinks. Someone else brought our liquor, and a third person brought all of our food--pretty quickly, too--and pointed out the location of extra utensils, and should we need them, carry-out containers and bags for transporting them home.

So...while not that favorite county bbq joint, Blue Pit more than holds its own. Plus it's a non-chain restaurant in the city. With enough good bourbon to drown in. Go.

Blue Pit BBQ
1601 Union Ave
Baltimore, MD 21211
(443) 948-5590

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