Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Next Iron Chef

Did you catch the new intro on Iron Chef this week? No Batali - finally. (He hasn't been on for at least a season.) Time for the Food Network to choose a new IC to join the ranks of Morimoto, Bobby Flay, Michael Symon, and Cat Cora. Starting Sunday, October 3, TFN will be airing The Next Iron Chef, featuring 10 competitors battling it out for the title. It's interesting that several of them were featured in the most recent episodes of ICA (Brad Farmerie and Jehangir Mehta come to mind). Which came first - the individual battles, or their selection for the competition?

I'm thinking Amanda Freitag, left, already a FNHo, is going to take this one. But I could be wrong. Not that it's happened before....

We will be spared annoying pissant squabbling between Michael Ruhlman/Andrew Knowlton. This time the judges are Jeffrey Steingarten, Anya Fernald, and Donatella Arpaia, who hopefully will keep bitching and moaning to a minimum.

For more info on the show, check out the Food Network site.

Starbucks VIA Ready Brew

I just had a taste of Starbucks' new instant coffee, VIA Ready Brew, and I gotta's good! I tried it black and it was just perfect - and I don't usually drink black coffee. Didn't taste like instant at all.

Over the weekend, Starbucks will be doing a taste challenge between Pike Place and VIA. Customers to correctly guess which is which will receive a coupon for a free tall brewed coffee and an offer for a buck off a VIA purchase. Here's a hint for the tasters - the one that tastes like burnt ass is Pike Place.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Rice Pudding

Rice pudding has always been a favorite treat of mine. My Mom didn't make it all that often, and when she did it came from a box (Jell-O Americana Rice Pudding), but I still enjoyed it, especially when she sprinkled a little nutmeg on top. I started making it fairly regularly in the early 90s when I picked up a copy of Puddings Custards and Flans, by Linda Zimmerman. It was part of a series of pint-sized cookbooks published by Clarkson Potter and I was busy collecting all of them (Meatloaf was another favorite book in the series.) The recipe for "English" rice pudding sounded like it would be creamy and delicious, and it was. My Dad loved it so much, I usually made a double batch.

Mr Minx is a fan of rice pudding as well, and we had a surplus of milk, so I dusted off the little cookbook (which automatically opened to the correct page) and threw a batch together.

Mrs Donaldson's English Rice Pudding
(adapted from Puddings Custards and Flans)

4 cups milk
2 T unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup raw short-grain white rice
1 vanilla bean, split
1 cinnamon stick
1 large egg
1 t vanilla extract
freshly grated nutmeg

Combine 3 1/2 cups milk, butter, sugar, rice, vanilla, and cinnamon stick in a 2 quart saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then immediately lower heat and simmer pudding for 10 minutes.

Beat the egg with the remaining 1/2 cup milk and stir into the rice mixture. Simmer for an additional 10 minutes. Remove from heat. The pudding may seem thin but will thicken during cooling. Let cool 20 minutes before transferring into a bowl. Refrigerate for several hours or until it reaches the desired temperature. Remove vanilla bean and cinnamon stick and serve with a garnish of freshly grated nutmeg.

Serves 6.

About fifteen years since I last made it, and still delicious.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Surgeon Turns in Scalpel for Chef’s Knife

For one night only, Thursday, October 8, Dr. Dean Kane, the well-renowned plastic surgeon, will be putting down his scalpel and picking up a chef's knife. Under the guidance of Sotto Sopra’s executive chef, Bill Crouse, Dr. Kane will be preparing a five course gourmet Italian dinner (menu below) of which a portion of the proceeds will go to the Susan G Komen Breast Cancer Foundation. It is an evening of seasonal dishes, wine selections from The Wine Merchant and camaraderie as guests dine at communal tables in Sotto Sopra’s beautiful 19th century building located at 405 N. Charles Street. The evening’s festivities kick off at 6:30 p.m. with entertainment by Tony Sciuto throughout the evening.

Along with sharing his culinary talent, Dr. Kane will be selling a selection of his original pop photo art with 100% of the proceeds going to this worthy cause. Cost per person is $70, which includes the five course dinner, wine and entertainment.* Advanced reservations are required; call Sotto Sopra Restaurant at 410 625 0534.

Dean P. Kane, MD
Thursday, October 8, 2009 – 6:30 p.m.

1st Course
Forest Mushroom Soup with Pine Nut Gratin
Arugula Salad
with goat cheese, dried cherries and Dijon mustard vinaigrette

2nd Course
Lobster Ravioli with Americana Sauce
topped with caviar

3rd Course
Lemon Basil Sorbetto

4th Course
Grilled Lamb Chop
with minted eggplant caponata
Seared Halibut
on parsnip puree with lemon butter sauce

5th Course
Pumpkin Soufflé
with balsamic soaked fig

Cost $70.00 per person includes food, wine and entertainment
*Tax, gratuity and alcoholic beverages are not included in the cost. No other discounts or promotions are applicable to this special event.

(Sotto Sopra will be donating 10% of the evening’s proceeds to
Susan G. Komen Breast Cancer Foundation/Maryland Affiliate)

Event Sponsor
10741 Falls Rd.
Lutherville, MD 21093
Ph: 410-321-6500

For further information on this event or Sotto Sopra Restaurant please contact Dara Bunjon at 410-486-0339 / email or contact Monika Pawlak-Bosio at the restaurant at 410.625.0534

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Roll with it, Baby

Did you realize that downtown Towson is a hotbed for sushi restaurants? Mr Minx and I started noticing that when we moved into the area - there are several stand-alone sushi joints, plus a few Chinese restaurants that also serve the popular treat. Even Purim Oak, a Korean restaurant that once stood on the corner of York and Chesapeake (now Café Spice), had sushi. And although many restaurants serve sushi, every place is different in its own way. I learned a bit about four restaurants on a recent tour, Towson on a Roll, sponsored by Baltimore County Conference and Tourism.

We started our tour at The Orient, a Towson stalwart for 22 years and the first area Chinese restaurant to include a sushi bar. I remember when The Orient opened; my family was excited to have another upscale Chinese restaurant in the area to satisfy our urges for kung pao chicken. Because of this, I always thought of it as a restaurant that served primarily Chinese food, but now I know the Huangs take their sushi very seriously. We were met by 2nd-generation owner David Huang who started out waiting tables while he was a Towson University student. He gave us a taste of the Phoenix Roll, comprising shrimp tempura and avocado inside and spicy tuna on the outside; a particularly nice rendition of the ever-popular California roll with chopped imitation crab; and a selection of very fresh sashimi that included yellowtail (my favorite) and lovely tender raw squid tossed with crunchy, bright orange tobiko. (I'm sorry, but I wasn't able to grab a photo before chopsticks descended.)

Next on the tour was Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar. I must admit when I first heard about this place I was skeptical. It's a gimmick, right? But owner Tony Yan says the real trick, once you entice them in, is getting customers to return. And that he does with quality food and good service. It's been working for him, because Kyodai has been open for five years now. This is especially impressive because of his location - in the mostly-abandoned Towson Commons building. Once a thriving shopping and dining destination, the building now contains mostly offices, plus a used bookstore, a multi-screen movie theatre, and Kyodai. Despite this, Mr Yan says his customers come from all over, including Pennsylvania and DC, in addition to neighborhood regulars. One customer, who was enjoying lunch as we visited, remarked that he likes the expediency with which he can eat at Kyodai - he doesn't have to peruse a menu or wait for his order to be prepared. He simply decides on a few items in rotation, eats, and goes. And speed is always a plus for a workday lunch.

We were served three items: Salmon Imperial (top), lightly cooked, meltingly-tender salmon wrapped around a ball of imitation crab and topped with broiled Imperial sauce; shrimp tempura with spicy mayo topping (center); and tuna tartare, lightly marinated in soy and sesame and served in a hollowed-out lemon. I especially enjoyed the tuna, which was a deliciously different way of having sashimi.

We were also invited to try anything we wanted from the dishes going around the conveyor belt. This dish was most intriguing - squid salad. It had the flavors of seaweed salad with lots of ginger, and the squid was pleasantly chewy.

So you're probably wondering how the whole rotating thing works, right? Simple - you take whatever dishes look appealing and when you're done, your dishes are separated by color and counted. Prices per dish range from $2.50 to $5.95.

The third stop on our tour was across the street at San Sushi Too, companion to Thai One On next door and the sister restaurant to Sushi San/Thai Jai Dee in Canton. Another relative old-timer in Towson, San Sushi Too has been in that location for 12 years. Owner Bruce Sesum takes pride in the fact that they have many regular customers and says that is in part due to his staff. Customers feel at home when they see familiar faces in a restaurant, and Sesum's crew has very little turnover. From a personal standpoint, I definitely prefer a familiar server to the manufactured friendly one gets from chain restaurants where the staff squats tableside or sits down beside me.

We were served two rolls: the Sarah roll, which had spicy tuna, avocado, and roe on the inside and topped with fresh salmon, crunchy fried garlic and Hawaiian barbecue sauce; the Terp roll was filled with shrimp tempura, avocado, tobiko, and scallions and topped with fresh crabmeat and a sweet teriyaki sauce. It was hard to stop eating both of them, but we still had one more stop to make.

The last stop of the tour was to Sushi Hana. Owners Po and Gina Chan have a second location at Lake Falls Village on Falls Road, which I will confess is the sushi joint we visit most regularly. We love the variety of rolls they serve and have difficulty limiting ourselves to just two or three. Or four. The Towson location, like San Sushi, has been around for 12 years, and stresses presentation as well as quality and service.

That was evident with the Roll on Fire, which was, as you can see in the inset photo, on fire. The roll of lump crab, Old Bay, and avocado topped with shrimp cake is placed on foil into a lake of 151 proof rum, which is then set aflame. I'm happy to report that no eyebrows were lost during the consumption of this meal.

The above is a unique type of rainbow roll with calorie-counters in mind - there is no rice, the yellowtail, salmon, and tuna are wrapped in cucumber, which made for an interesting and refreshing dish.

This was a selection of sashimi, tempura vegetables, and something called the "I Like That Roll," which was tempura-fried and topped with crab.

We also tried the Golden Roll of tempura shrimp topped with eel and avocado.

And finally the Hit Roll, filled inside and out with fresh raw fish and topped with dollops of wasabi mayo.

Overall, I was impressed with the quality and freshness of ingredients at all four restaurants, which of course should be paramount when serving raw fish. And despite the ever-present shrimp tempura-style rolls, each restaurant chose to feature quite different items. The Orient focused on the more traditional whereas Kyodai gave us something a little different. San Sushi Too fed us customer favorites that featured some of their house-made sauces, and Sushi Hana wowed us with their beautiful plates.

Anyone in Baltimore County with a yen for raw seafood should be content with a meal at any of these establishments. I'm trying to decide at which one we should have our next sushi supper. Or maybe we should do a tour....
Orient on Urbanspoon
Kyodai Rotating Sushi Bar on Urbanspoon
Sushi Hana on Urbanspoon
Thai One on on Urbanspoon

Friday, September 25, 2009

A Tapas Feast

The last tapas feast I prepared was so successful, I decided to do it again, this time in honor of my brother's birthday. Once again I made the potatoes with chorizo (this time using the proper Spanish chorizo) and the marinated mushrooms:

I also made a orange and red onion salad (top left), a simple endive salad with chopped scallion and a fig vinaigrette (top right),

a tomato and avocado salad (top left) and some roasted purple potatoes (top far right). Then I got ambitious and baked up some empanadas...

...and made romesco sauce.

Ordinarily, romesco is made with vegetables roasted in olive oil and bread fried in olive oil. At least by José Andrés' recipe. But I put together a batch that was as easy as tossing stuff in a blender by using pre-roasted veg. It tastes amazing, so I can't imagine my changes violated the spirit of the sauce in any way.

Romesco Sauce

1 small onion, chopped
2 jarred roasted red bell peppers, torn into chunks
1 15-oz can chopped fire roasted tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, crushed
¼ cup blanched slivered almonds
1 ounce white bread, toasted, crust removed
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
1 teaspoon pimentón (Spanish sweet paprika)
olive oil

Sauté the onion in a bit of olive oil until lightly browned. Place in blender with next seven ingredients and purée, drizzling in olive oil until a thick sauce is formed. Add salt to taste.

Yield: 2 cups of sauce.

As for protein, we had boneless leg of lamb, pork tenderloin, and shrimp skewers, all marinated overnight in some variation of soy, Worcestershire, vinegar, garlic, and mirin. Mr Minx cooked them over charcoal and wood chips and the results were pretty fine - tender, juicy, smoky, and garlicky. Can't beat that combination.

Oh, so you want the empanada recipe as well? Hmmm...well, I just tossed stuff together to make a kind of picadillo. I used a pound of ground pork, chopped onions, chopped dried apple (in place of the usual raisins), chopped green and black olives, and garlic, seasoned with pimenton, cinnamon, and S&P. For the crust, I used Wegman's house brand all-ready pie crusts (I tend to avoid Pillsbury brand anything because it all has a very distinctive Pillsbury flavor. Generic doesn't seem to have that problem.) which I cut into squares and filled with the picadillo and some chopped scallions, brushed with an egg wash, and baked for about 25 minutes at 350F until nice and golden brown.

They were a huge hit and were just as delicious eaten cold on the train on the way to New York a few days later.

Although this was quite a bit of work, I spread it out over three days so it wasn't so intense. And it was worth it to see my family gobble everything up and ask for doggie bags of empanadas and chocolate chip cookies (which we baked instead of a cake). I'd do it again in a heartbeat.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Top Chef Las Vegas Episode Six Recap

This week we have a guest recapper...please give a warm MinxEats welcome to...

Hon hon hon! You cannot geet reed of me zat quickly! Zees ees Mattin, an I am honored to be doozing zees, how you say? recap.

Zose crazy chefs are talking about zee Robin and how she should have go last week. Ah! They mees mee so much!

Mike, 'e pull out my dirty steenking sweated-on neckaircheefs that I have leave in zee closet and make everybozzy put on! I am touched!

Zat Robin, she not wear my steenking neckaircheef around her neck (and I do not blame her). I steel sink she should have gone last week instead of me.

Ah, zere is my lovely Padma! And she ees wit anozzair lovely lady.

Ze challenge ees to create a duo representeeng zee battle between zee angels and zee devils zat we all have. Zee good and zee temptasseeon!

Ash, 'e do a duo of custard. Mike V. takes de saumon. Kevin chooses halibut. Bryan, 'e must be crazee, 'e do dessert. Laurine does zee chicken. Mike I. does somesink with cucumbers and lamb. Robin, she go on about zee cancer and zee organic and zee sweet tooth. And Eli, Ron, Ashley, and Jen all play wis zee scallop.

Ash, 'e not get boff of zee custairds finis, so 'e ees on zee bottom, avec Laurine, and quel surprise! Brother Bryan. On zee top ees Brother Michael (who ees gloating), ScallopEli, and Robin. What? No-neckaircheef Robin? And she ween? Sacre bleu!

Ugh. I am deesgusted. But zee show must go on, no?

Don' you sink zat zee lovely Padma would look good in zee red neckaircheef? Be steel my heart!

Ooh! Zee dynamic duo! Zat would be Siegfried & Roy, no? Or maybe zee Captain & Tennille? Batman & Robin? Shrek & Donkey? Ahh...eet is Penn & Teller!

So zee Penn & Teller, zey do a famous treek wis zee balls and zee cups. Zey use zee foil balls and zee plastic cups - I guess even zey are poor in zis economie?

Zey do zee treek twice, once wees zee red cups. Zees treek ees not magique, eet is, how you say? slight of hand. Zey show how eet work weet zee clear cups. Ah...zey have deconstruct zee treek.

So zee Elimination Challenge zees week ees to deconstruct a classic deesh. Zee chefs draw zee knives to see what zey weel be working weeth.

Jen get zee meat lasagna. Robin get zee clam chowder. Laurine get zee feesh and cheeps. Kevin get zee molé negro. Ron get zee paella. Mike I. get zee eggs Florentine. Mike V. get zee Caesar salad. Bryan get zee Reuben. Eli get zee sweet and sour pork. Ash get zee shepherd's pie. And Ashley, she get zee pot roast. What? No Frawnch deeshes? Where ees ze beef bourguignon? Zee Frawnch onion soup? Merde!

So zee chefs, zey go to zee Whole Foods to shop for zair ingredients. When zey get back, they start zee deconstruction. Mike I., 'e does not know what ees zee eggs Florentine, so 'e ees having zee problem.

Meester Plays-wit-Liquid-Nitrogen ees excited about zee challenge. But of course.

Jen ees also having zee problem.

After zee chefs finish weet zee cooking preliminaire, zey go home. Poor Ron. 'E say 'e make zee paella hundreds of time, yet 'e still not know how eet made.

Eli and Kevin, zey are very nice, and zey coach heem a beet. I fear zat eet ees too leetle, too late.

Zee next day, zee chefs go to Marinelli's restaurant at zee M Resort. Zey have one hour to feenish zair deeshes. Ron seem to sink zat 'e is know what 'e is doing.

Ze chefs, zey serve zair deeshes in pairs, but weel be judged individually. Ze first pair ees Mike V. and Mike I. When Mike I. see Toby Young, 'e get nervous. And rightfully so. Zat beeg scary Toby, 'e say that hees deconstruction of eggs Florentine ees really a "reinvention." But zey all like Mike V.'s fancy Caesar salad with spherified dressing. Ooh la la!

Laurine and Bryan, zey are next. Laurine's feesh ees dry, and she do not have enough of zee cheeps. Bryan's, of course, ees delicieux. Zee judges, zey love eet, but zee Penn et Teller, zey deed not sink zat eet tasted like a Reuben.

Ash and Jen are next. Toby, 'e make Ash nervous too. Maybe eet ees good I not have to deal wees zee Monsieur Young, no?

Ash has zee good reason for being nervous. Eef anyone knows zee shepherd's pie, eet ees an Engleeshman! And Toby, 'e not like zis pie. Zee lamb eets both overcook and too rare. And where are zee potatoes? Jen, on zee ozzair hand, deed a good job wees her lasagna.

Eli and Ron zen present zair deeshes. Eli make zee sweet and sour pork meatballs.

Oh, zat ees not nice. Not nice to my beautiful Padma.

Eli's deesh ees fine. Ron, on ze ozzair hand, ees not. Hees paella ees not creesp, and hees rice ees very ovaircook. Eet does not seem deconstructed. Tom, 'e call eet a "sad bowl of food."

Kevin and Ashley, zey come next and zee judges are all very happy. Ashley's pot roast ees great, zee best meat she has cook so far. And eet was obvious zat Kevin work hard to make zee molé deconstruct. Even zee silent Teller raise hees eyebrow in approval.

Finally, zee Robin ees last. But she has zee immunity, so she can serve ca-ca and eet will be fine. And she does serve zee ca-ca.

Time for zee judges table! Padma first goes to zee, how you say? stew room and call out Ashley, Michael V., Kevin, and Jen. Zey are zee favorites. Because Kevin work so hard on zee molé, zee lovely Michele Bernstein geeve heem zee ween. And she geeve him a box of pots.

Zey call out Laurine, Ron, and Ash. Ash's deesh was not zee shepherd's pie by a mile. Laurine's feesh was overcook. And Ron, poor Ron.

Ron make zee worst deesh. And Padma steek in zee knife and she tweest eet. Like she did to my heart last week. Oh, zee lovely Padma - I am meesing you!

Sank you, I mean thank you, Mattin, for your recap. Next week - dining at home.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Eating New York - Baoguette

Last Thursday, after a trip to the Strand for more books I don't need, Mr Minx and I traipsed over to Christopher Street so I could sniff a couple of new fragrances at Aedes, then on to Baoguette for a real banh mi.

We got the regular "Baoguette" sandwich of pork, paté, cilantro, and pickled veg. The bread was really crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, and the filling was nicely redolent of fish sauce. The sandwich we had eaten at Saigon Remembered tasted good, but it was a poor imposter of the real thing, particularly the bread. The bread really makes the sandwich.

After lunch, we stopped to try gelato at both Grom (cassata and walnut) and L'Arte del Gelato (peanut and strawberry). The stuff is incredibly expensive (about $5 for a small, which is a small scoop of up to 2 flavors) but soooo good.

And thus concludes our eating tour of New York. At least for this particular visit. :)

Baoguette Pho Sure on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Real Chefs and Faux Chefs in DC

So there's this food event in DC this November 7th and 8th - the Metropolitan Cooking and Entertaining Show. There will be cooking demos by Top Cheftestants Bryan Voltaggio, Mike Isabella, and Richard Blais (plus others), all included in the price of the ticket ($20 for adults). There will also be appearances by Food Network douchebags like Guy Fieri, Tyler Florence, and the Neelys...for an additional charge! For example, a seat to see Fieri costs from $45 to $74.50, but if you want to go to the book signing, it's another fifteen bucks (and is already sold out)!

I'm shocked and disgusted.

For more info about the event, click here. And to see the cooking demo schedule of events, click here.