Friday, October 24, 2014

Fleet Street Kitchen

We chose to celebrate our 14th wedding anniversary at a restaurant we hadn't tried before--Fleet Street Kitchen. To clarify, we had eaten in the Tavern Room part of the restaurant at the front, but had never dined in the more formal dining room at back.

The place is gorgeous, all wood and crystal chandeliers, but the unadorned row of windows on the west wall and horse-blanket upholstery on the long booth on the east wall give the place a more casual feel.

We started our feast by squinting at the cocktail menu. Honestly, with dim lights, serif font, and bad eyes, reading it was no easy task. Eventually we settled on our bevvies and proceeded to the food menu, which I had checked out earlier in the day. I settled on the scallops and halibut, with a side of broccoli rabe. Mr Minx ordered the short ribs, the rockfish, and a side of brussels sprouts. Everything was outstanding.

The scallops were aggressively seasoned, with a nice crust on the outside and properly translucent middles. The radish and radicchio salad offered both tart and bitter notes, and the broccoli puree was just plain pretty. (And tasty. And it didn't particularly taste like broccoli, which for some might be a plus.)

Mr Minx's tender short ribs came atop a mound of kale cooked with currants. A lot of currants. (From across the table, I thought it was a bed of lentils.) Leafy greens + raisins are a classic Mediterranean combo, and the deep, lightly sweet, flavors worked well with the beef.

I love halibut and wasn't disappointed by the perfectly cooked hunk of seared king halibut atop a veritable mountain of glazed baby carrots with lemon and hazelnuts. This carrot lover was quite pleased.

Mr Minx's rockfish dish paired the fish with elements of clam chowder, including baby white potatoes, bacon, clams, and a chowder emulsion. Turnips found their way into the mix as well.  The fish had a nice sear, and the elements worked well together.

We had gone for the four course prix fixe dinner, which included a vegetable course. The spicy broccoli rabe with garlic confit and brussels sprouts with marcona almonds and creme fraiche seemed more like side dishes than a course unto themselves, so we asked them to be brought at the same time as the entrees. Both were terrific, and I particularly enjoyed finding the nuggets of almond in the sprouts.

Those three courses provided a lot of food, but we had dessert coming, too. I had the frozen cappuccino, made with a frozen coffee-flavored cream (not sure it was technically ice cream, as it didn't melt) atop a thin slice of chocolate cake, topped with crunchy candied cocoa nibs and milk froth. It wasn't exactly like a frozen coffee drink, but the textures and mild cappuccino flavors were appealing.

I think I preferred Mr Minx's tender peach almond upside down cake with creamy mascarpone sorbet and candied almonds. Again, a lot of really pleasing textures and flavors there.

As expected, everything we ate was delicious and well-executed and service was friendly yet professional. The atmosphere was nice, too, that is until a large group of people who didn't have inside voices took over the dining room with their inappropriate shrieks of laughter. A shame there's no way to turn the volume down on other people.

Fleet Street Kitchen on Urbanspoon

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Pumpkin Spice Cake

Have you all noticed that Autumn is the time for pumpkin spice everything? Starbucks kicked off the Pumpkin Spice season in August, with the release of their pumpkin spice latte. I'm not normally a PSL gal--I prefer the more Christmas-y gingerbread or peppermint mocha flavors--but I jumped on the bandwagon when I discovered that PSLs are really quite tasty when iced. A jumbo one of those really hit the spot on the long-ass drive back from Pittsburgh.

Once Starbucks opened the floodgates, a plethora of pumpkin products hit the grocery store shelves. Everything from coffee creamer to yogurt got the pumpkin spice treatment, and it's a wee bit excessive. I've tried the yogurt and thought it was just ok. The Weis brand ice cream was decent enough (and Weis ice cream isn't particularly good, IMHO), just pumpkin-y enough. The other stuff I won't try for you, but feel free to leave a comment if you have.

Various pumpkin-flavored Entenmann's products, Chobani yogurt, coffee creamer,
ice cream, Tastykakes, cookie dough, and pudding, all available at Weis Market.
My contribution to the season is a pumpkin spice cake. It's somewhat like a blondie, but moister, and, filled with pumpkin and all of the spices that make pumpkin pie so good--cloves, cinnamon, allspice, nutmeg, and ginger. I also added some toasted pumpkin seeds for crunch.

This pumpkin spice cake makes a nice snack on its own, but is especially good with a scoop of pumpkin spice ice cream. Hell, drink a PSL on the side, too, if you want. Just don't blame me when you start turning orange like a human jack-o-lantern.

Pumpkin Spice Cake

1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 egg
1 cup pure pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
Pinch ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 cup toasted shelled pumpkin seeds

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 8x8-inch baking pan and set aside.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter and brown sugar until completely smooth. Whisk in the egg until fully incorporated, then add the pumpkin, spices, and salt, stirring well. Add the flour and baking soda and stir until no white bits of flour are visible. Fold in the pumpkin seeds.

Spread into prepared baking dish and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few moist crumbs, about 30 minutes. Cool to room temperature before cutting into squares and serving. Cover and refrigerate uneaten cake.

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Lamb Burgers

I've written about lamb burgers here before at least once. So sue me, but I think ground lamb makes some of the juiciest and tastiest burgers. And unlike beef, which purists insist must only be seasoned with a bit of salt and pepper, it doesn't seem to be a sin to spice up lamb a bit. True, the already strong flavor can stand up to some fancying. And so I take advantage of that and go to town with the spice rack.

Middle Eastern flavors seem to work best with lamb, so I added sweet spices like allspice and cinnamon to this batch of burgers, and a handful of pistachios as well. Topped with a tangy preserved lemon mayo (just chop 1/8 of a preserved lemon finely and add to commercial mayo) and my homemade beet ketchup, a bit of cheddar cheese and sauteed onions, they were rich and exotic tasting, and not all that much more involved than making beef burgers.

Of course, you do need to have preserved lemons and beet ketchup hanging around the fridge....

Pistachio Lamb Burgers

1/4 cup shelled pistachios
1 lb ground lamb
1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
Dash cayenne
Your favorite cheese (I used  Trader Joe's cheddar flavored with caramelized onions,)
Sauteed onions
Sliced tomato

Put pistachios in a plastic baggie and bash them with a meat tenderizer until some are pulverized into dust, some are small pieces, and a few are chunky bits. Combine with the lamb and seasonings. Make 4-6 patties.

Cook patties in a bit of olive oil over medium heat until browned and crusty on both sides. Top with cheese, lower heat, and cover pan for a minute or so until cheese melts.

Serve on buns with thinly sliced tomato, sauteed onions, and beet ketchup.

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Monday, October 20, 2014


We tried Liv2Eat last month during the Dining Out for Life event. It was our first time there, despite including the restaurant in Baltimore Chef's Table. (Hey, if we ate at every place it was suggested we *had* to eat, we'd never eat at home.)

The restaurant space is bright and light, with both high and low tables that somehow make the rooms seem less crowded. The menu is short, full of seasonal goodies with no differentiation between appetizers and entrees except for the prices. It was also happy hour, which meant we scored less-expensive booze, but we passed on the $8 mussels and $10 burger. (The latter, made with Roseda beef, sounded like a pretty good bargain. Next time.)

I started off with the Sungold tomato gazpacho. While I normally like the grainy texture of an unstrained gazpacho, the smoothness of Chef Kevin Perry's version elevated the summertime soup. The flavor was bright and sunny, like its color; a refreshing way to start a meal on a warm-ish evening.

Mr Minx chose the jamon salad, a huge pile of mixed greens and herbs, Granny Smith apples, and toasted hazelnuts, tossed in a light tangy vinaigrette on a bed of thinly sliced cured ham. I couldn't decide if the salad needed the ham, or if the ham needed the salad; nevertheless, all of it was tasty and I was happy to help eat it.

Because this event was raising money for Moveable Feast, I ordered an expensive entree, two crab cakes, with potato puree and cabbage slaw (one cake was available at half the price). The crab cakes were excellent, pan-crisped and dressed with a wee bit of a creamy mustard sauce. The crab itself tasted like it had been freshly picked, and I could detect neither binder nor filler. The lightly vinegary slaw tasted like it was made by someone's grandma, and in combination with the potato puree reminded me of a summertime picnic.

My handsome dining companion went for the sirloin steak, served medium rare, with more of that excellent potato puree. The menu listed arugula as a side, and our thoughtful server suggested that Mr Minx request something else, since he had just finished a large salad. The chef provided sauteed spinach and a mix of mushrooms, both of which were appropriate accompaniments to the meat. And Mr Minx enjoyed every morsel, including the slightly sweet yet meaty-flavored sauce.

The desserts that evening included cookies and milk and flourless chocolate cake, but we passed in order to pig out on ice cream at The Charmery, another Dining Out for Life participant.

We enjoyed our meal at Liv2Eat, and the service was friendly and thoughtful. What more can one ask?

Parking is a bit of a challenge in that neighborhood, because it's largely residential, so you may have to park around the corner or a couple of blocks down the street and walk a bit. It's well worth it, and burns off a couple dozen calories in the process.

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