Friday, October 31, 2008


I've been seeing a lot of these on the Innerwebs today, but this particular pumpkin version of our future president is pretty darn good (except for the blurriness of the photo).

Unless of course it's Photoshopped (not by me).

A Taste of Five Boroughs with Spike

Spike Mendelsohn is just everywhere these days....

Cat Food Fail!

fail owned pwned pictures

Behind the Burner

Check out the brand spankin' new site, Behind the Burner, which is still in beta. The site offers a look behind the scenes at New York restaurants, and includes video clips of chefs demonstrating their techniques. For instance, Harold Dieterle of Perilla (and Top Chef), demos his spicy duck meatballs and shares his recipe with members.

Membership is free, and members receive discount codes for ingredients used in featured recipes, such as the Long Island Crescent Duck from Fossil Farms in Harold's recipe.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Anne Hathaway Goes Shopping

...and is lonely, judging by the amusement she's getting from the ginger root and other phallic vegetables in front of her.

Hermaphroditic, Cannibalistic, and Crabby

No, not me.

Anyone remember reading this article in the Washington Post about the dual-sex crab? I stumbled upon it while looking for blue crab photos for a non-blog-related project. Inneresting....

Wednesday, October 29, 2008


I like to avoid Halloween completely. It comes from living in Baltimore City for many years, a stone's throw from Greenmount Avenue. Few little kids braved our long driveway, but lots of hoodie-sporting older teens with nary a mask did. Go buy your own #@#*(@ candy! When he was still around, I would answer the door with our Rottweiler, Max. Off the leash. He'd leap on the glass-over-cast-iron vestibule door and usually scare the yutes away. I miss that dog! After he died, we just turned off all the downstairs lights and hid upstairs, hoping for the best.

These days, Mr Minx usually hangs out on the front porch with a book and a bowl of candy, but in this economy, why should we be expected to hand out free cavities to strange kids, most of whom don't live in the neighborhood and are driven in from the city? So we're going to spend the evening elsewhere and hope no beasties will mistake our turned-off porch light for an invitation and pound furiously on our all-glass storm door, breaking it.

Holidays should be fun, not torturous.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Say It's Not So! (TC Spoilers!)

Buddy TV is trying to start the rumor that Baltimore's Jill Snyder is the first chef eliminated on Top Chef this coming season. Their reasoning?

"A cast list of 16 was revealed but it was rumored that 17 appear on the first episode and one is eliminated in the quickfire challenge. Since Jill Synder's name does appear on any official list of the 16 chefs competing this season, it seems that she is the unlucky one to head home first."

The typos/misspellings in that statement confuse things a bit. I am guessing they mean that her name doesn't appear on any official list, but had Buddy TV bothered to check the Bravo site, they'd see that there are indeed 17 chefs listed, one of which is Jill Snyder. And her name came up very frequently in the Google Alert I have set up for Top Chef.

Guess we'll see what happens come November 12th!


On Saturday, Mr Minx and I ventured down to DC to have lunch with our friend Melinda and her beau, Dave. She suggested her favorite restaurant, Oyamel, a perfect choice for a vegetarian like her, that also fit in with my desire to try one of chef José Andrés' establishments.

I haven't eaten a meal in DC in many years, partly because it's annoying to get down there, and once there it's hard to find a place to park. We solved that problem by meeting Melinda at her home and then taking the Metro from there. Oyamel is located a convenient two blocks from the red line Gallery Place/Chinatown stop and another of Andrés' restaurants, Jaleo. We'll try that one next time.

We ordered a ton to eat, but the portions are small - tapas-style - even though the food is Mexican. After starting with a molcajete (Mexican mortar) full of guacamole, with super-salty tortilla chips, we tried....

Tortilla de queso y salsa Veracruzana - Omelette with Chihuahua cheese and a Veracruz-style sauce, with tomatoes, onions, olives and capers

Sopa de chileatole al lima y tequila con camarones - A delicious lime and corn masa soup with shrimp, marinated red onions, cilantro and reposado tequila. I expected the soup to be thick, since masa was an ingredient, but it was of standard broth-consistency. Mr Minx thought the added tequila shot made it taste perfume-y.

Ceviche de salmon curado en mezcal - Mezcal and serrano chile cured salmon, thinly sliced and served with diced vegetables and mezcal air. Mr Minx's favorite dish, a very fresh-tasting and well done ceviche, and our first encounter with foam. Or "air" in this case.

“Gaspacho” estilo Morelia - From the historic city of Morelia, a salad of jicama root, mango, cucumbers, jalapeños and Mexican sour orange

Quesadilla huitlacoche - Traditional folded corn tortilla with oaxaca cheese and black Mexican truffle. This tasty quesadilla was generously filled with huitlacoche, a.ka. "Mexican truffle." It's actually the product of a disease called corn smut, caused by the pathogenic plant fungus Ustilago maydis. The accompanying salsa was incendiary, but Dave was happy to put it on just about everything except dessert.

Platano con crema - Fried plantain with sweet cream and sesame seeds. Um. Looked obscene, tasted good.

Huevo Rancheros "Oyamel" - Fried egg with a house made tortilla, guacamole, tomatillo sauce and queso fresco

Ensalada de palmitos - A salad of hearts of palm, orange segments, radish and avocado, with a tamarind dressing. Would be nice to get fresh hearts of palm sometimes, but where?

Gazpacho Verde - A refreshing cold green gazpacho with tomatillo, cucumber, green chile, cilantro and lime juice. Would be very easy to make at home, as it tasted largely of cukes and cilantro.

Papas al mole - José Andrés’ favorite fried potatoes in a mole poblano sauce of almonds, chile and a touch of chocolate, topped with Mexican cream and aged cotija cheese. After reading good things about this particular dish, I was left disappointed. The fries were stubby and greasy and difficult to pick up without a fork, and the molé was so mild, it could have been Hershey's syrup.

We also tried carnitas, mushroom, tongue, and duck tacos. So far I still haven't found carnitas to match the meltingly tender ones I ate in San Diego in the 80s. The duck confit was dry, but the tongue and mushroom versions were tasty.

On to dessert:

Café de Olla (beverage) - Traditional spiced Mexican coffee flavored with cinnamon, star anise, and brown piloncillo sugar

Café de Olla (dessert) - A Mexican custard of milk chocolate and Chiapas coffee, with a gelatin of Kahlua liqueur and spiced syrup of brown piloncillo sugar. Sprinkled with crumbled cookies and almonds and served with a scoop of star anise ice cream. Dave loved the ice cream, but I thought it tasted like some nasty medicine I had to take as a child.

Chocolate Caliente - Delicious Mexican hot chocolate with sugar, cinnamon, vanilla beans, cloves and very hot milk

Pastel de chocolate con crema de Mole Poblano y helado de vanilla - Warm chocolate cake with a cream of mole poblano sauce and a froth of spiced Mexican hot chocolate, sprinkled with crushed peanuts, corn nuts and cocoa beans. Served with a scoop of homemade vanilla ice cream. Yum! The cake was very moist and very dense, and the oddball accompaniments were actually pluses. The mole sauce tasted heavily of anise, which I could not detect in the version on the fries.

Cajeta tradicional y moderna - A traditional sweet caramel made from goat’s milk,with crumbled Mexican shortbread, sprinkled with caramelized cinnamon, fresh mango and fresh lime zest. Served with a scoop of passion fruit sorbet and a scoop of coconut sorbet. I love cajeta. This was a little thin, but the combination of caramel and mango plus the sorbets was fantastic. The passion fruit sorbet was my favorite part of the whole meal.

About that. While the meal was good overall, neither Mr Minx nor I were particularly excited by anything. The flavors weren't as bold and interesting as we had expected them to be. Perhaps we're spoiled? (Actually, I'm sure of that.) I think if the carnitas and the duck had been tender, they would have swayed our opinion. Not that I didn't enjoy the meal; I just didn't enjoy it as much as I had thought I would.

In any case, I'm glad I got to try Oyamel. Now I have to try Zaytinya, Jaleo, and Café Atlantico. And I'd love to try Minibar most of all.

401 7th St NW
Washington, DC 20004
(202) 628-1005

Oyamel on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 27, 2008

Everything is Better With Bacon

Well, almost everything....

Looking Good!

Chef Tyler Florence and Mariska Hargitay on the red carpet at the Joyful Heart Foundation Dinner, held on 10/26 at the Bon Appetit Supper Club and Café in NY (Bon Appetit as in the magazine.)

The BA Supper Club, at 221 W. 57th Street, is open for two weeks only - actually only until 10/31 at this point. The café is open for lunch; its menu features dishes designed by top chefs like John Besh, Johnny Iuzzini, Mario Batali, Michael Psilakis, Charlie Trotter, Ben Ford (Harrison's son!), and Pichet Ong. Today's special is Bon Appétit's Ciabatta Pizza with Gorgonzola, Walnut Pesto and Pears served with Mixed Greens, for $8.

If you go, have one of François Payard's Flourless Milk Chocolate Cake with Grapefruit and Hazelnuts for me. Or maybe I'll just make one myself.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

People Just Don't Think at All

fail owned pwned pictures
see more pwn and owned pictures
Yeah, I've always wanted to drink from a giant sperm with a face.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Learn from Chef Blais!

Man, wouldn't it be fun to take a cooking class with a Top Chef alum?  Well, not just any alum (I can think of some I'd rather avoid). Richard Blais (my fave from last season, but you all knew that already) is doing a one-time-only class at his alma mater, the CIA in Hyde Park, NY on November 8th.  

More details can be found on the Bravo site.  If anyone is lucky enough to have the $225 to attend the event, I'd love to hear about it!

Gotta Stock Up on These!

Engrish Sh*tto Peppers
more the engrish!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The End of an Era

Read on David Dust's blog that MillerCoors is ending the production of everyone's (least) favorite malt beverage, Zima.

Back in the day, when I would go country line dancing 3 - 4 times a week, if I wanted something alcoholic, I'd drink a Zima. I suppose I wasn't into beer at the time, and hard liquor left me too impaired to dance. In 1995, after a disastrous date with a guy I met on AOL, I changed my screen name to Zimagal1, as an avoidance tactic. I had a bottle of the stuff in front of me when I came up with the new moniker. Yes, I admit I was horribly uncool.

Zimagal1 was quite notorious in the Marylanders chat room, and I had a good time with that name. But then I became theminx and dropped Zima pretty much for good.

I haven't had a bottle of it in years, but still I'm vaguely sad that an era has come to an end.

Kill Grill

See more funny videos at Funny or Die

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Pumpkin Swirl Brownies

I read about these pumpkin swirl brownies on Smitten Kitchen and thought I would give them a try this weekend.  I love pumpkin and I love chocolate, plus the weather has gotten significantly cooler and that's a perfect signal to bake something.  To me, anyway.

After reading comments on the Martha Stewart Web site about the recipe practically overflowing the 9" square pan called for in the recipe, I used a 9 x 13 and cut the baking time by 10 minutes.  They turned out to be rather cakey confections, rather more like moistly dense cake than the fudgy and somewhat wet brownies that I prefer.  Like Deb, I think I'd prefer them with a cream cheese swirl.  

I think next time I'll try my favorite Ghirardelli brownie recipe with a pumpkin cream cheese swirl.  That way, I'll get fudgy and pumpkin-y!

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Peanut Soup

When I was a kid, my dad would make soup with peanut butter. Jif, to be exact. Sautéed onions and chicken stock were about the only other ingredients in his concoction, maybe some cream. It was delicious - rich, savory, rib-sticking.

I had no clue what to make for supper on Saturday, but I remembered there were at least four jars of various peanut butters in the fridge (chocolate, spicy Thai, and peanut/almond butters from Peanut Better (now Sunland, Inc.), and a jar of salted but unsweetened natural pb from Trader Joe's. PLUS a jar of almond butter. (I won't mention the humongous jar of Jif in the cupboard. Oh, I guess I just did.) I thought I should make some peanut soup to get rid of at least one jar. I found this recipe for West African Peanut soup with bell peppers and tomatoes and thought that was interesting enough for a main meal.

I halved the recipe, substituting jarred roasted red peppers for the raw bell pepper, and before adding the rice and peanut butter, I whirred it to a smooth consistency with a stick blender.   Because I used the unsweetened natural pb, I needed to add a bit of honey to the soup to help bring out the flavor and to temper the tartness of the tomatoes.

Then I cut some rounds from the plethora of wheat bread we had on hand and toasted them to make croutons, topping each piece with a sliver of some interesting cranberry chipotle cheddar I picked out at Wegman's a couple of weeks ago.  A touch of scallion for color, et voila - delicious peanut soup!

It was almost as good as Dad's....

Monday, October 20, 2008

Good News for UMB Students and Staff

Café on the Square, 11 South Paca between Baltimore and Redwood, is back under the leadership of the hyperactive John Shin. He can seem gruff at times, but the man serves some tasty soups, salads, and sandwiches. I had to tell him today, when I stopped in for a tuna sandwich, that I hadn't eaten there since he sold the place a couple of years ago and only returned because he had; He seemed happy to hear that.

When I got the sandwich back to my office, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the herby bit in my tuna was part of a branch of fresh thyme.

I almost ordered his pasta salad of the day, Neptune's Delight. I normally don't care much for pasta salad at all, but John's are somehow terrific. I especially like the spinach pasta, made with bi-color fettuccine, spinach, pine nuts, currants, Parmesan cheese, and plenty of sautéed garlic. Yum!

If you haven't tried Café on the Square, and you work on or near the University of Maryland campus, I recommend you stop in and try his lunch offerings.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Desperate People Will Eat Anything

I met my friend Amber for lunch the other day. She was in town for a conference at the Convention Center, so to make things easy, we just went across the street to the Wharf Rat. She's a vegetarian and they have a few veg options, so that was a plus.

The place was packed, but we managed to squeeze into an awkwardly-placed table in a doorway. She got a taco salad with veggie chili, I had a Cobb salad. She didn't complain about her food, and I didn't taste it, so I can't make any comments on the quality of their veg chili. My salad, on the other hand, was fairly dismal. The chicken breast was horribly overcooked to a tough and stringy consistency, and the hardboiled egg sported a nasty green ring-around-the-yolk. At least the greens were fresh. For twelve bucks, I at least want something that tastes good. But the Wharf Rat has a ready-made clientele of convention-goers and pre- and post- ballgame attendees, so they don't really have to try very hard at all. So they don't. Must be nice being one of the only nearby restaurants. California Tortilla is far superior.

(I've eaten at the Wharf Rat a few times in the past and can't say I've had a particularly good or memorable meal there at any point.)

Guess What I Got in the Mail Last Night?

....a $30 gift card to Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, and a $30 gift card to Asean Bistro.  Looks like she *really* wanted to make me happy.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Attack of the Vegetables Week

I love Iron Chef Japan and have probably seen every episode at least twice. It's currently running on the Fine Living Network, and they have a special veggie-themed week coming up for our viewing pleasure. Check out the clip - it's really cute!

I really really wish we got FLN with our basic cable package....

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Wine Baskets

Mr Minx and I took Minx Brother to Pazo for a belated birthday dinner last Thursday. We were happy to see that their menu seems to have gone back to their original tapas concept, with dozens of selections arranged under category headings like "bread" and "cheese" and "seafood" and only a handful of full-sized (and priced) entrées. I happen to like tapas very much. With Pazo's return to its strong suit, and the recently opened Tapabar in Little Italy, it's good to see that Sun critic Elizabeth Large's frequent proclamations that the tapas "fad" has gone out of fashion is not correct.

The food was as good as ever at Pazo, but there was one new element to the presentation: the weird little wine basket pictured above. What an awkward and unnecessary piece of tablewear! It takes up the space of three bottles, so it had to be placed on a separate little table that was brought up to abut ours. And it takes two hands to pour - one to hold the basket handle, and one to hold the neck of the bottle so it doesn't roll out of the basket. Because it was so awkward, we did not dare pour our own wine, which forces the servers to be extra attentive. Luckily, as they are pretty much constantly bringing new plates to the table, they can be. But would this work in a different sort of restaurant?

The only purpose I can see for having a wine basket is to keep the wine on its side and sediment at the bottom of the bottle, but really, how much sediment forms in bottles of recent vintage? And who cares about sediment in an $18 bottle of wine?

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Just in Case...

engrish sloops of your flavor
...your potato needs soothing....

Monday, October 13, 2008

Ocean City Dining

Mr Minx and I just got back from a long weekend in OC.  Remind me next year that the second week in October has become a bad week for a visit to the beach. It's Cruisers' weekend and the place is full of muscle cars with ridiculously loud "mufflers," booming and popping and revving at all hours of the day or night. Also, there was some kind of kiddie soccer tournament going on so there were jillions of pre-teens running around.  Running around and slamming doors seems to be the favorite pasttimes of kids when they are at a resort.  And why is it that their parents never seem to say a word to them about proper comportment? the food. I wasn't in the mood to take any photos, so sorry about that.

We had dinner at Yokozuna Sushi (in the Gold Coast Mall) on Friday.  So far, it's still the best sushi we've found anywhere - properly dainty maki rolls with lots of flavor, very fresh fish, and the best eel ever.  They were out of our favorite kahlua chocolate bundt cake this time though, which was a bit disappointing.

Saturday's breakfast was at the Bayside Skillet.  Mr Minx had Crepes Wilbur (crepes wrapped around generously-sized sausage links) and I had the spinach and bacon crepes with hollandaise.  The food is good enough (even though I suspect the crepes are made well in advance and refrigerated, as I detected off flavors in mine), but the prices are a little outrageous...particularly for the coffee: $2.50 a cup.  And you're lucky if your dingbat waitress notices you might need cream.  Or a refill.

The one good thing about being in OC this particular weekend is that we were able to experience the last few days of OC Restaurant Week.  We chose Jules for Saturday's dinner because the menu looked particularly appetizing.  A good thing we had the sense to make a reservation - the place was hopping.  

Mr Minx had the Chicken Satay (skewers of marinated free range chicken breast, spicy peanut sauce, hoisin glazed soba noodles), the House Salad (mixed greens tossed in a maple walnut vinaigrette, croutons, fresh veggies, and peppered pistachios), and the French Onion Rack of Lamb (New Zealand rack of lamb chops atop focaccia crouton and caramelized onions, gruyere cheese sauce, and local vegetables).  The chicken in the appetizer was extremely tender; it tasted fine but suffered from oversalting.  The noodles were probably spaghetti and not soba, and they were most definitely spicy.  The salad was pretty standard and had an overabundance of dried fruit on it.  The lamb chops were gorgeous specimens, perfectly cooked.  The cheese sauce was a little grainy, but overall a very flavorful dish.  

I had the Wild Jambalaya (wild boar sausage and wild gulf shrimp jambalaya, slab of corn pone, grilled scallions) , the Blue Ice Wedge (wedge of iceberg lettuce, house bleu cheese dressing, candied walnuts, applewood smoked bacon, bleu crumbles, and balsamic reduction), and Drunken Duck (breast of Maple Leaf Farms duck, marinated in sake, soy, ginger & garlic, chive oil, mashed sweet potatoes and local vegetables).  The jambalaya was pretty darn good, authentic-y even, and though the corn pone seemed a bizarre accompaniment (corn mash with rice?  carbs, anyone?) it was delish, sweet and corny, and I could have eaten a whole bowl of it on its own.  The salad didn't need the bleu cheese dressing, as there was enough crumbled bleu cheese for three salads.  And the duck was unfortunately salty, but well cooked.  The sweet potatoes were simple and buttery and really very good, but the string beans were so undercooked as to be raw.

Sunday, after a depressing Ravens loss to Indianapolis, we went to Galaxy 66 for another restaurant week dinner. Mr Minx started with the "red curried glazed ribs with a jicama and radicchio salad, and sunchoke chips," following that with "whole wheat pasta with shrimp, crab, broccoli, mushrooms, andouille sausage, tomato fondue, finished with basil cream," and creme brulee.  The ribs were fall-off-the-bone tender, but the thin bbq-type sauce didn't taste of red curry (it was good, however).  Didn't see any sunchoke chips.  The pasta dish was weird - the components didn't quite work together, and the pasta (penne) probably had been cooked much earlier in the day. It had an unpleasantly hard and dried-out texture.  There also was no basil cream.  The creme brulee was standard issue, attractively garnished with strawberries and squiggles of chocolate and caramel sauces.

I had the "seared scallops with pickled jalapenos, crispy sweet goat cheese" and the "pork roulade with garlic, mango, arugula, and goat cheese, sided with spicy potato cakes and grand marnier drizzle," with Heath bar crunch ice cream for dessert.  The five scallops were enormous and perfectly cooked, but the breaded goat cheese round, cranberry sauce (!) and slices of jalapeno had no business being on the same plate.  As for the roulade - hardly.  It was a large center cut pork chop that had been cut into a spiral and dabbed with a bit of goat's cheese.  The arugula and diced mango were scattered on top.  The potato cake tasted like old refrigerated potatoes, a flavor I happen to hate.  The pork was pretty nicely cooked, only slightly dry.  The ice cream was regular commercial stuff, but there was plenty of broken bits of real Heath bar distributed throughout the generous serving.

That's the thing about Galaxy 66 - the portions were extremely generous.  The scallop appetizer was entree-sized, and Mr Minx's ribs were almost that large.  The food was well-cooked for the most part (except the pasta) but the combinations of ingredients seemed ill-conceived.  One can almost say the same for Jules, but there was a bit more cohesiveness there.  In both cases, the food was well worth the $30 per person.

It's good to see that there is an attempt at fine dining being made in our humble resort town, and hopefully it will become a trend that will continue.

Jules Restaurant on Urbanspoon
Bayside Skillet Crepe & Omelet on Urbanspoon
Galaxy 66 Bar and Grille on Urbanspoon

Friday, October 10, 2008

Beef - It's What's for Dinner

Because we've got a lot of dining out coming up in the next few days (last night at Pazo, a belated birthday dinner for my brother; tonight and the rest of the weekend at assorted restaurants in Ocean City), Mr Minx and I decided to stay at home for our anniversary. We did stop by the Belvedere Market to pick up a sirloin from Ceriello's and both a peach tart and a flour-less chocolate cake with banana at Atwater's.

I seared the steak on both sides in a hot pan, then put the pan in a 350° oven for fifteen minutes, then I made a nice pan sauce with onions and button and oyster mushrooms. Mashed potatoes with sour cream, horseradish, and chives, and a salad with goat's cheese, Granny Smith apples, and toasted walnuts rounded out the meal. Mmm, mmm good!

We split the tart and the chocolate thingy, garnishing both with a scoop of pretty decent "Simply Enjoy" brand French vanilla gelato (from Giant; I want to try the pistachio next time), and washed it down with a bottle of Brachetto d'Acqui.

All in all, a very good meal on a very good day.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Jonathan Ogden Cabernet Sauvignon

At first I thought Ogden had left the Ravens to become a producer of fine wines, then I realized the only thing he has to do with the product is his name and image on the label.

Support the Jonathan Ogden Foundation for student athletes by buying his wine here. Except, of course, if you're in Maryland, cuz the direct shipment of alcoholic beverages from outside the state to consumers in Maryland is a felony.

Oven-baked Ribs

I had a hankering this past weekend for my Mom's oven-baked ribs. She used a recipe from an ancient Better Homes and Gardens cookbook that called for ketchup, Worcestershire, and lemon slices, and in my mind, that's what bbq sauce is supposed to taste like. Lemons. Mmmm.

I bought some country ribs from the Giant on Saturday (blissfully empty, due to traffic on York Road being banned during the Michael Phelps parade). They ended up being too lean, and the ribs didn't turn out as succulently tender as I would have liked. The flavor, however, was the stuff memories are made of, particularly as I served it with the traditional rice and corn...albeit not my mother's favorite Uncle Ben's (gag) and canned corn! I made a little succotash with organic frozen yellow corn and left-over edamame, and the rice was jasmine.

Here's the recipe, if you're interested in a blast from my past:

3 to 4 lbs spareribs or loin back ribs, cut into pieces (we always used country style ribs)
1 lemon, thinly sliced
1 large onion, thinly sliced

Basting Sauce
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp salt
2 dashes Tabasco
1 1/2 cups water

Preheat oven to 450°

Salt ribs; place in shallow roasting pan, meaty side up.  Roast at 450° about 30 minutes.  Drain excess fat from pan.  Top each piece of ribs with a slice of lemon and a slice of onion.

Make sauce: combine remaining ingredients and bring to a boil.  Pour over ribs.  Lower temperature to 350°; bake till well done, about 1 1/2 hours.  Baste ribs with sauce every 15 minutes.  If sauce gets to thick, add more water. Makes 4 servings.

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

The Only Thing I Can Say is "Yum"

Engrish menu - strips of head
Although "yuk" does also come to mind.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Today... my anniversary. I'll be sure to give you all a full report if we eat anything exciting today. :)

Monday, October 06, 2008

Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Icing

I thought my Dad deserved a home-baked birthday cake this year (well, every year), especially since his chemo-affected tastebuds seem to work best with sweet foods. He loves pumpkin pie and caramel and dried fruits and nuts, so I decided to use the recipe that my friend Kate used for my 40th birthday cake: Spiced Pumpkin Cake with Caramel Icing.

It involves making home-made caramel enriched with not only heavy cream but also cream cheese.  I substituted dried cherries for the raisins in the recipe (Dad likes raisins, but neither MinxBro, Mr Minx, nor the Minx herself is very fond of the cucaracha-esque nasties), and because MinxBro has very specific nut allergies, I used a combination of chopped hazelnuts and almond slivers in place of the walnuts.

It was gooooood.  The cake is moist and airy, the caramel is rich and gooey, and with a leetle beet of vanilla ice cream, it's a perfect dessert.  

Dad enjoyed it. :)

Saturday, October 04, 2008

First, the Good News...

...Jesse Wong's Kitchen's manager called me again to say her programmer did finally find that the gift card had an original $60 value when it was purchased on 11/16/07 (the day before my birthday) and then it had a $0 balance without any explanation or transaction date.  Apparently there was some monkey business, but the current manager basically said it wasn't on her watch and what's past is past.

The bad news: she thinks trying to issue a credit on my Visa would cause more trouble, so she's putting the $60 balance back on my JW Kitchen card and returning it to me via registered mail to guarantee I'd get it.  And she said because she will do anything to make me happy, she will give me an additional discount on my meal there.  I said if she really wants to make me happy, she can exchange the card for Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, since we love that place. Unfortunately, the three JW restaurants are owned by separate corporations, but she'd try.  As she's also in charge of Asean Bistro, I said I would also take a card from there if Hong Kong was no go. So we'll see how it all works out.

I hope I don't have to go back on my word and eat there again.  LOL  But if I do, I'll be calling her to make sure she's there when I am, so this whole f*cked up transaction doesn't happen again.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Restaurant Names

I'm going to go off on a rant at some point here, so you are forewarned.

Mr Minx and I are heading to Ocean City in October for a long weekend. I was never a big fan of OC in the summertime (I don't like to bake my brains in the hot sun, hate hot weather to begin with, am not all that fond of looking at flabby, sunburned people in bathing suits, plus there are children running around all over the place) but I do enjoy going there in the off-season to walk the boards and do some outlet shopping.

Several years back, we had a particularly fruitful dining experience in OC, finding both Yokozuna (in the Gold Coast Mall) for terrific sushi, and Iguana Surf for interesting cuisine that included stuff like wild boar. The latter restaurant closed, so I recently started perusing the Internet for other dining options in the area that might be more creative than the usual JR's ribs and Lombardi's pizza.

And what did I find?

Places with names like "Nantuckets," "Fresco's," "Castaway's," "Magnolia's." WHY are so many restaurant names either plural or possessive? I have a strong suspicion that many of the possessive names are plain old bad grammar; the proper use of an apostrophe has become a lost art in this country. Otherwise, is there really someone named Fresco? Or does the name refer to a style of painting that involves paint and wet plaster, in which case "Frescoes" would be a more appropriate spelling? And just how many places are there in the world called "Nantucket?" More than one, requiring a pluralization? Or did the restaurant simply forget the apostrophe, in which case I ask, "Nantucket's what?" Does the restaurant belong to someone named Magnolia? or to a castaway?

Needless to say, I will not be partaking of any of the "food's" served at these establishments. I hate to imagine the spelling on the menus. Mescaline, anyone?

Thursday, October 02, 2008

News As It Happens

I just received a call from Jesse Wong's saying that I would have to produce proof that the gift card was purchased. Their programmer found no evidence that the card had been used, nor had it been assigned any initial value to begin with. 

The onus should not be on me to prove the card was bought, nor should I have to make the purchaser go through her receipts and credit card statements from October and November of 2007.

Ridiculous business practices. For a lousy $60. What happened to "the customer is always right?"

A Father's Influence

Today is my father's birthday; he's 72. This year has included for him a battle with colorectal cancer, producing a lot of worry for us kids.  He completed his last round of chemo last week and we're all so happy that he came through everything so well.

Dad has always been a big influence in my appreciation for exotic foods.  And by "exotic," I mean foods that wouldn't ordinarily be served in my Polish-American household.  I was almost five when my brother was born, and to get us out of her hair once in a while as she dealt with the new baby, my mother would send my father and I out on a "date." I remember vividly our experience at a hole in the wall 2nd floor restaurant, in what was then Baltimore's Chinatown, called Mee Jun Lo.  The stairwell was a little dark and intimidating, and the restaurant wasn't particularly well-lit itself, but I can still taste the wonderous salty-garlicky flavor of the shrimp in black bean sauce that Dad ordered for us, on my mind's palate. I've not had that flavor experience since, and I've given up ordering the dish in Chinese restaurants.

Dad also introduced me to Japanese cuisine, first with the thrilling spectacle of teppanyaki dinners at Nichi Bei Kai, and later to tonkatsu (fried pork cutlets) and tempura at home.  He cooked Chinese food for us too.  When my mother went into the hospital for three weeks in the early 80s, Dad bought a new wok and a Chinese cookbook and proceeded to prepare my brother's favorite dish, Chicken Ding, or chicken with almonds.  Later, I would use the wok to make tempura, which would scare the heck out of Mom who thought I was going to burn the house down.  But Dad had given me the confidence to prepare the exotic dish in my early teens.

I'm pretty sure I had my first taste of Indian food with Dad, when we tried out the new Bombay Grill on Madison Avenue. Thai food too, possibly, but I can't remember. Korean, definitely, as exactly once Dad took my brother and I to Purim Oak (before it was called that) in Towson.  We tried bulgogi cooked on little table top burners, and I remember being dismayed at the unsubtle taste of sugar and garlic and not much else.  Only later did I become enamored of the flavors of Korea.

Today we're having a simple spread of grilled meats, because chemo has effected Dad's tastebuds quite a bit.  I hope that someday in the near future, however, he will be able to join us in a customarily exotic meal, perhaps something we've never tried before.

Wednesday, October 01, 2008

Jill Snyder

The new season of Top Chef premieres November 12th at 10PM!

AGE: 28
RESIDES IN: Baltimore
POSITION: Executive Chef, Red Maple
CULINARY EDUCATION: Baltimore International College
FAVORITE SIMPLE RECIPES: For spring: Grilled shrimp with pea tendrils and roasted baby beets
BIO: Born in Latrobe, Pa., Jill's culinary interests were sparked at an early age when she began helping on her uncle's farm, picking berries and baking cookies to sell at the local farmer's market. She didn't plan on becoming a chef, but counts her decision to attend culinary school as one of her best moves. After moving to Baltimore, Jill studied under the celebrated chef and restaurateur Spike Gjerde. She loves to create imaginative sushi rolls and unique desserts and the five ingredients she always keeps on hand are semi-sweet chocolate, sushi rice, micro-herbs, Banyuls vinegar and champagne. Her goal is to one day own a small resort that serves amazing food and features rides in her hot air balloon.

Baltimore Chef on Top Chef

I've heard rumors for a while that Jill Snyder of Red Maple is competing for the title of Top Chef this fall, and now the Baltimore Sun has confirmed it.

Jesse Wong's Kitchen - Revisited

Oh, I know I said I'd never set foot in this place again, but my father's girlfriend gave me a $60 gift card for my birthday last year and we just now got around to using it. Believe me now when I reiterate that I will never go to Jesse Wong's Kitchen ever again. Not even if someone else is paying for it.

Mr Minx and I decided to attempt their sushi, since the hot lunches we had eaten the last time were so miserable. The miso soup was standard, rather skimpy on the tofu bits. Vegetable tempura included three pieces of bell pepper, four pieces of carrot, and one asparagus spear. All but the carrot were limp and overcooked, the batter was not at all delicate, and the dipping sauce had no flavor whatsoever. Not exactly off to a good start. But wait - it gets worse.

We ordered three maki sushi: Cowboy roll with shrimp tempura, cucumber and eel; Yellowjacket roll with spicy yellowtail, avocado, scallion, and Japanese radish; and the Dynamite roll with crabstick, salmon, and asparagus, battered and fried, topped with mayo & spicy sauce. The rolls were heavy on the rice and light on flavor - I noticed no cucumber in the Cowboy, no scallion in the Yellowjacket, and no salmon in the Dynamite. The "spicy sauce" was tasty, but served in dime-shaped dollops on each slice, rather than drizzled over the roll.

We also got the Sushi Deluxe entrée, comprised of about six pieces of
assorted nigiri, a "Neptune maki" which was just a variation of California roll made with flavorless Asian blue swimmer crab, plus three hand roll-type pieces topped with lobster salad and roe, just roe, and a itty bitty baby octopus. I enjoyed the lobster salad, and Mr Minx appreciated the freshness of the tuna, but everything else was just meh.

Full to the brim, we ask for our check. I put down my $60 gift card and a credit card to handle the few dollars balance plus tip. Several minutes later, I notice our waitress at the register, seemingly having trouble with the gift card. She called over the only Caucasian working in the place to help her out; he seemed to be the assistant manager, but he was merely a dolt. He comes back to our table, squats down (I hate when they do that - it's like "I'm being condescending to you but so it doesn't seem that way, I'm physically putting myself below your level.") and asks "how much is the gift card supposed to be for?" I told him the amount and handed him the little envelope in which the card came, sporting the number in orange marker. Dolt then informs me that the card shows no balance.

Ok, let's let that sink in. My $60 gift card was suddenly a worthless piece of plastic. I ate $60+ worth of food that I didn't even enjoy, and I was going to have to pay for it.

I told Dolt that we had a bad dining experience there before and the only reason we came back was to use the gift card. He said he was sorry, and I said he wasn't sorry enough. He went to call his manager, while I seethed. Had there been more than two other people in the rather large restaurant, I would have raised a very loud stink, but sadly there was nobody there to hear me, apart from our waitresses who looked genuinely apologetic.

Dolt comes back and says that his manager is going to call me in the morning. That if there's money on the card she'll find it. But they charged the full amount to my credit card and that was that. So, in essence, Jesse Wong's Kitchen is calling me a liar and a cheat, claiming in not-so-many-words that my gift card was used, or perhaps even stolen.

When in actuality, the f*cker who issued the damn card was probably too stupid to remember to put the balance on it to begin with.

UPDATE, 2:43PM I just spoke to the manager who apologized profusely and said she was waiting to hear back from the programmer who set up the gift card program. He can apparently retrieve any and all transaction data. I am supposed to hear back from them by Friday. I feel better. It's amazing what a little bit of sincere apology and pleasantness can do.