Friday, March 29, 2013

Flashback Friday - 3.29.2013

This post was originally published on November 5, 2008.
Khoresht-e Fesenjan
We bought a pomegranate at the Superfresh the other day.  When I was a kid, my Uncle Frankie bought a pom every fall for my mother and me. He had done this since she was young, and after so many years of wrestling with the fruit, she let me mangle and eat most of it.  When Frankie died, in 1983, so did the annual tradition of red hands and stained kitchen table.  Nowadays, I slice open the fruit and rip it apart in a big bowl of cold water.  The arils sink to the bottom and the tissue-like membrane floats to the top, making the fruit a breeze to dismantle. Plus the water keeps my hands from getting stained.

The pomegranate sat on our kitchen counter for a few days when I was struck with the idea of making fesenjan, a Persian preparation featuring pomegranate and walnuts.  I had eaten a version with made with duck at the Orchard Market and Café many years ago and remembered enjoying it. We had a small half leg of lamb in the freezer, and I decided that would be the perfect protein to match with the tangy fruit and nut sauce.

I got Mr Minx to whip up some of his delicious pilaf (sautéed onions, broken capellini pasta, and leftover rice, flavored with saffron) as a go-with, and cooked some okra pods with various spices: mustard and cumin seeds, charnushka, coriander, salt and pepper.

The meat was deliciously tender.  I had cut off most of the fat but left all of the annoying silver skin and other connective tissue, which melted away during the long slow cooking.  The sauce was tangy and rich, with just enough spice flavor to keep it far away from the realm of ordinary lamb stew.  In short, it was delicious, and I would definitely make this dish again.  Perhaps I'll try chicken next time....

Lamb Fesenjan
Serves 6
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tblsp oil
2 lbs lamb, cut into cubes
1 tblsp flour
8oz walnuts, chopped
1/3 cup hot water
1 1/2 cups pomegranate juice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
5 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tblsp honey (optional)
salt to taste

Sauté onion with turmeric and pepper in the oil until browned.  Remove from pot.  Add meat and brown on all sides.  Sprinkle meat with the flour and the chopped walnuts and sauté for a few minutes.  Add water, pomegranate juice, cardamom, and cinnamon and bring to a boil.  Lower the heat and simmer 2 hours or so until meat is very tender and the juices have thickened.  Add salt to taste and honey, if the pomegranate is too tart for you.  Conversely, if you want the dish to have more tart flavor, add lemon juice.

Serve with rice or pilaf.

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Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Fiesta Mexicana

My brother and father go to Rosedale's Fiesta Mexicana pretty regularly and rave over the authentic renditions of Mexican street food known as antojitos. That pretty much includes all the stuff most Americans are familiar with - quesadillas, tacos, enchiladas - plus thicker tortilla shells called sopes, and a chile sauce-soaked sandwich called the pambazo.

There restaurant is tiny - only four tables and a small counter - but the menu offers a panoply of options. Not only are there plain cheese quesadillas, but also variations filled with beans, mushrooms, roasted poblanos, potatoes, chicken, beef, chorizo, or a combination of chorizo and potato. The quesadillas at Fiesta Mexicana are not the Americanized version made with griddled flour tortillas layered with cheese, rather, they are fried turnovers made with fresh corn tortilla dough. In my mind, closer to an empanada.

We tried one filled with chorizo con papa, or spicy Mexican chorizo and potatoes. We also tried a beef flauta, chicken enchiladas, a mushroom sope, and a carnitas taco, all of which come on the "Paquet Eduques" sampler platter. Apart from the slightly tough beef in the flauta, everything was uniformly tasty and despite some items being fried, ungreasy. The two salsas served on the side - one green, one red - were both complex with roasted chile flavors that gave a nice hit of heat but weren't overly-spicy.

Drink choices are myriad and include imported sugar-sweetened Coke and various flavors of the Mexican soda brand Jarritos, all of which are self-serve from the refrigerated case at the back of the restaurant.

Service at Fiesta Mexicana is cheerful and helpful, especially for people like us who can't make up our minds. Definitely worth a visit for those who want a real taste of Mexico. Indeed, most of the other customers were Latino, which speaks well for the authenticity of the food.

Fiesta Mexicana
8304 Philadelphia Rd
Rosedale, MD 21237
(410) 686-0135

Fiesta Mexicana on Urbanspoon
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Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Mr. Minx's Gumbo Soup

Sometimes I get a hankerin' for a certain type of cuisine, but I just don't have the ingredients in my pantry that are intrinsic to that particular style of cooking. This happened to me not too long ago when I really got a craving for something in the Cajun/Creole department. I knew I had frozen okra, and we always have flour and butter on hand for a roux, so gumbo was a possibility. However, it was such a cold day, I decided a gumbo soup might be more comforting.

Then I looked in the fridge and realized that I didn't have the ingredients necessary for the trinity: onion, bell pepper, and celery. I had an onion, but no celery whatsoever and the only bell pepper I had was a jar of pickled sweet red peppers. This, however, would not deter me.

After some thought, I decided to use the pickled red peppers and add some ground celery seed to impart the celery flavor. Then I added chicken stock and seasoned the mixture with spices I felt would create that familiar Cajun flavor. It was still missing something, though. It had spicy heat, but a certain depth and sweetness was needed. I remembered how people added chocolate to chili, so I grabbed a jar of Nutella and dropped a blob of the chocolate and hazelnut spread into the soup. The added nuttiness and rich, chocolate sweetness balanced the spicy flavor nicely. The rest was just a matter of adding some frozen vegetables and protein.

The result was a satisfying soup that closely imitates the flavor elements of gumbo while having its own unique qualities. For example, the pickled sweet red peppers add a certain brightness and acidity. The Minx even said it tasted better than most gumbos she's eaten. Give it a try!

Mr. Minx's Gumbo Soup

1 medium onion, chopped
2 slices of pickled bell pepper, chopped (about a quarter of a pepper)
1 tsp. celery seed, ground to a powder in a mortar and pestle or coffee grinder
¼ cup flour
¼ cup butter
2 cups chicken stock
4 cups water
½ tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tsp. paprika
½ tsp thyme
2 tsp. Nutella spread
Salt to taste
2 gloves garlic, chopped
1 cup corn
1 cup okra
1 cup string beans
1 pound raw shrimp, shelled and deveined

Start a roux by adding the flour and cold butter into a dutch oven over high heat. As the butter melts, the flour will begin to toast. Stir the melting butter into the flour so that, by the time the butter is thoroughly melted, the mixture should take on a caramel color. Continue stirring until the roux turns a milk chocolate color.

Turn the heat down a bit to medium-high and add the onion, red bell pepper, and celery seed to the roux and stir together. Sprinkle some salt in at this point to sweat the onions. Once the onions are softened, put in the garlic, chicken stock, and water. Mix to combine and bring the liquid to a boil.

Add the okra, corn, and string beans along with the cayenne pepper, paprika, thyme, and Nutella spread. Stir everything together and bring it to a boil. Then turn the flame to low and let the soup simmer, covered, for about 1 ½ hours.

After the soup has simmered for 1 ½ hours, taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. At this stage, if you want to give the soup a restaurant look, you can puree everything together with a stick blender. Otherwise, you can leave it chunky and rustic as shown in the picture.

Add your raw shrimp and leave to cook for a few more minutes (until the shrimp turn pink). If you don't have shrimp, you can substitute almost any precooked protein like leftover chicken or pork.

Serve with hot steamed rice. Makes 4 entree servings or 6-8 appetizer servings.

theminx's thoughts: I was pretty amazed when Mr Minx told me he used Nutella in the soup. I couldn't taste it at all, and thought that he had to be kidding. But no, he was serious, and I have to give him credit for being daring. It worked. And the celery seed and pickled pepper combo was a dead ringer for fresh celery and bell pepper. Whoda thunk it?

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Monday, March 25, 2013

When the Cat's Away...

...we eat what we like.

With Mr Minx away visiting a relative, I took the opportunity to concoct a dinner with ingredients he doesn't particularly like. He's not a fan of zucchini, so my first stop on the way home from work was the Giant produce department, to pick up a few. Originally I was going to sauté them with onions and mushrooms and mix that concoction with scrambled eggs, but then I spotted some handsome scallops in the seafood department. He dislikes those as well, so I purchased three of them for less than $3.

Even with a hard sear, scallops are soft. Zucchini is definitely soft, so I needed to add something more textural to the dish. Toasted pistachios, bashed a little with a meat tenderizer, not only provided crunch, but were also color coordinated. Sweetness was added by a sprinkle of granulated honey that I had received as a sample from Marx Foods, but you could use brown sugar.

I didn't make a sauce for the scallops because the vegetable mixture was pretty moist, but you could always pour a little brown butter over the top, if you'd like.

Green and Brown

1/2 cup onion, chopped
1-2 small zucchini, peeled and sliced thinly (about 1 cup)
5-6 large button mushrooms, wiped clean and chopped roughly
salt and pepper
3 tablespoons olive oil (divided use)
3 U-10 scallops, patted dry
2 tablespoons toasted pistachios, roughly chopped
pinch granulated honey (or brown sugar)
squeeze lemon

In a large saute pan over medium heat, cook onion until softened, about 3 minutes. Turn up heat and add mushrooms, stirring regularly, until they release their juices and start to brown. Turn the heat down to medium and add the zucchini. Cover pan and cook until squash is soft, stirring occasionally, about 5 more minutes. Take off cover and add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove zucchini mixture to a bowl and set aside. Wipe out the pan and set it over high heat. After after a couple of minutes, when the pan is very hot, add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Watch carefully - it will heat up quickly. When small wisps of smoke start coming up off the oil, gently add the scallops. Cook about 2 minutes on first side, then turn them. Cook an additional 2-3 minutes until browned on bottom and mostly opaque.

Put the zucchini mixture in the center of a plate. Arrange the scallops on top. Sprinkle on the pistachios and honey or brown sugar. Squeeze the lemon over all and serve.

Makes one serving.

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Thursday, March 21, 2013

Black Bean Ragout

I cook most weekends and sometimes I just don't feel like dealing with meat. Especially if everything we have in that department is frozen into a giant block in the freezer. That's when I turn to canned beans, which we usually seem to have in great quantities. My favorite is black beans, which I find to be very versatile. I've used them to make hummus, veggie burgers, and even beans and franks. This time, I was feeling especially lazy and decided on a simple ragout of beans and tomatoes, flavored with chipotle.

We had a huge jar of pickled red bell peppers in the fridge; I had bought them by mistake, thinking they were an unusually-reasonably-priced jar of regular roasted peppers. The sweet vinegar tang of the peppers worked perfectly with the beans and tomatoes, and I didn't really need to use very much other seasoning, apart from salt and pepper and a bit of smoked paprika to reinforce the smokiness of the chipotle.

I topped the ragout with poached eggs made with Kenji's technique, as seen in this video I posted the other day. They were pretty gorgeous, as evidenced by the photo above.

Black Bean Ragout

1 cup chopped onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 canned chipotle in adobo, seeded and minced
1 15oz can chopped tomatoes and their juices
2 15oz cans black beans, drained and rinsed
1/4 cup chopped pickled red bell pepper OR 1/4 cup chopped roasted red bell pepper OR 1/4 cup chopped fresh raw red bell pepper + 1 teaspoon sherry vinegar + 1 teaspoon honey or agave nectar
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
salt and pepper

In a 2 quart saucepan, cook onion in olive oil and a pinch of salt over medium heat until the onion is translucent and just beginning to brown, about 5-8 minutes. Add the garlic, chipotle, tomatoes, beans, red bell pepper, and smoked paprika. Stir, raise heat and bring to a boil. Turn heat down to low, cover pot, and simmer until beans are very tender, about 45 minutes. If there seems to be too much liquid left, turn the heat up for a few minutes to allow it to evaporate. Smash mixture with a potato masher until it's a very chunky puree. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Top each serving with a poached egg or two, or eat as a side dish. Makes a nice burrito filling, too.

Serves 4

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Wednesday, March 20, 2013


Move over, Grrche, there's a second specialty grilled cheese truck on Baltimore's mean streets - Wheyich. And that's "'wich," as in "sandwich." (Like Grrche, they should just get used to hearing their name pronounced myriad ways, 'cuz that's what will happen.)

Like Grrche, this truck dishes up both plain and fancy cheese sammies, but Wheyich's menu is the more-amusing read. Their wares are named after famous bombshells (Marilyn, Sofia, Angelina) and menu descriptions use plenty of adjectives like "succulent" and "sumptuous," the latter referring to turkey.

So far, I've tried two of their offerings, a moderately but not completely plain grilled cheese with Swiss cheese and grilled onions on rye bread. I found it pretty close to perfect, as far as grilled cheeses are concerned. It had a nicely stretchy/oozy quality, with a generous amount of both cheese and onions, and it wasn't overly greasy. I'd definitely try it again. (Add a burger and some Russian dressing and it would be a boss patty melt.)

The next time I tried a Wheyich lunch, I was happy to play guinea pig with a new menu item, a cold shrimp salad sandwich named Eva (I'm guessing named for Eva Longoria, because she is physically a shrimp). Closer to a lobster roll than a grilled cheese, the "decadent" shrimp salad was served on a toasted hot dog bun and topped with shredded jack and cheddar cheese. While "decadent" might conjure up thoughts of truffle oil or caviar, the salad was simply large-ish shrimp bound in a lightly onion-y mayonnaise seasoned with a bit of Old Bay; the cheese was an unnecessary element. Overall, Eva will fit the bill nicely if you're in the market for a shrimp salad sandwich.

I also tried the lone dessert option, a salted caramel brownie. When I unwrapped it, I found the caramel completely stuck to the wrapper, the brownie naked. It was ok, but a bit too sweet and not salty enough.

Wheyich's prices are fairly reasonable: Eva, and her crabby seafood friend, Naomi, are the most expensive items on the menu at $7.99; meat and vegetarian versions come in at $6.99; and the lowly cheddar-on-white Marilyn is a mere $3.99. While their schedule is posted on their Web site, they occasionally change locations at whim, so check their Facebook page and Twitter feed for daily updates.

Wheyich Food Truck
(410) 262-4109

Wheyich Food Truck on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Keep Up With Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore

Our new book, the Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore, has been in the news now and again recently. We've been posting links to articles (and pdfs of said articles) on the book's own blog,

Catch us on Dan Rodricks Midday on WYPR this coming Friday, March 22nd, from 1-2pm. If you don't have a radio handy, you can listen to the station's live online stream here.

And, if you'd like to win a copy of the Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore, go to the book's Facebook page at and share the image posted March 6 that looks like the picture below. Just "liking" the image won't get you entered - you must share it. Contest ends 3/29.

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Monday, March 18, 2013

Favorite Restaurants

Since our book, Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore, has been released, we've been asked repeatedly about our favorite restaurants. Namely - what are they?

Richard Gorelick of the Baltimore Sun asked the question during a quick phone interview, and my response was basically, "I'm fickle. I can't pick one." Which is absolutely true. I don't really have a favorite anything. (Ok, I do have a favorite husband, a favorite co-author, and a favorite house-mate - they are one and the same person.) As an example, my favorite color is chartreuse. And purple. Celadon green is lovely, and I am very fond of particular shades of pink. I've always been partial to the "mulberry" crayon in that big box of Crayolas, too. Oh, and black.

See what I mean?

I love to eat, but I don't have a favorite food. Maybe part of me feels guilty for singling out one particular thing while ignoring all of the others. Or maybe I'm just fickle. :)

I do love Asian cuisine above all others, but can't say I prefer Thai to Chinese or Japanese to Vietnamese. I love them all equally, at different times of the day or the week or the year. Yet, when I get asked about my favorite restaurant, I usually find it easiest to say Grace Garden, that hole-in-the wall Chinese place across from Fort Meade in Odenton. There aren't all that many great Chinese restaurants in the Baltimore area (in my opinion); too many of them serve typical American-style, overly-sweetened-and-sauced glop. And that's fine from time to time, as long as the glop is tasty and well-seasoned with garlic and chiles. Grace Garden serves some really terrific stuff, as close to authentic Sichuan cuisine as I'll probably ever eat. Out of the dozens of times I've been there, I've been disappointed by only one dish, so it's probably safe to put Grace Garden at the top of my list.

And then I think about Thai food. Well, since we're talking about Asian cuisine.... Honestly, there was a time when I could say my favorite Thai restaurant was Bangkok Place, a rather ugly restaurant on York Road in Govans that was closed a few years back, razed, and is now a row of equally-ugly, presumably low-income housing. We were there every other week, to feast on tod mun pla and gaeng dang salmon. And then it was gone. While it was conveniently located near our neighborhood, we did really think they had the best Thai food in the area. The spicing was bold, the sweetness was subtle, and they didn't shy away from using some real heat. And now they're gone. Our favorite Korean restaurant, Purim Oak, met the same fate. Well, just the closure part. Maybe it wasn't the best Korean food around, but we loved it.

Crush is another restaurant that came to mind when contemplating favorites. The restaurant in the old Hess shoe store at Belvedere Square filled many needs for us. If we wanted a quick meal, they had terrific burgers and I really adored the salmon BLT. If we wanted something fancier for a special occasion, Crush also fit that bill. The small plates restaurant that opened on the lower level, Demi, was pretty special, too.

Demi closed just after I finished its write-up for the book, and Crush closed after the book went to press, too late to remove it from the manuscript.

Considering our track record for closing places down, perhaps we should stay mum on the topic of favorite restaurants, eh?

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Friday, March 15, 2013

Flashback Friday - March 15, 2013

This post was originally published on April 21, 2008.
Taiwanese Dim Sum
The Minxes love dim sum and this weekend we tried something new: Taiwanese dim sum from A & J in Rockville. Our favorite Hong Kong-style dim sum at Jesse Wong's Hong Kong features multitudinous dumplings along with seafood, noodles, and vegetable dishes. Taiwanese dim sum is quite a different animal. A & J's menu was heavy on fried things and noodle soups, and not a shred of seafood was to be found.

We ordered far too much, but that's ok - it was dirt cheap and there's always the doggie bag....

The thing that looks like a rolled-up wash cloth is actually a roll of glutinous rice filled with beef. It was somewhat like sticky rice in lotus, except the rice was firmer and the lotus was replaced by a sheet of plastic wrap. The other plate has thin slices of cold pork belly with a soy-based sauce.

Two versions of beef and Chinese turnip noodle soup, one with thick noodles (that reminded me of the storebought Polish kluski my grandmother made once in a while, very firm to the bite) and one with thin. The turnip was pickled, and added a piquant flavor to the broth.

Chinese fried chicken with sticky rice. The greenish stuff behind the rice was chopped greens of some sort (mustard?). The chicken was outstanding.

Foreground: Scallion pancakes that were piping hot, multilayered, and crispy good. Behind the scallion pancakes is another sort of flaky wheat pastry/bread that would have been good with some cinnamon and icing but was otherwise difficult to eat and somewhat bland. To the left is a plate of pot stickers.

Two pickled dishes: long beans with ground beef, and cabbage. The long beans were cut up very finely, and the flavor of the dish was not at all what I would call "Chinese" or even any sort of Asian. There was a spice in it that reminded me of caraway seeds, so I had the impression of eating a Reuben sandwich (I have a good imagination). MinxBrother thought it was more like a Middle Eastern dish. In any case, it would make a fabulous empanada filling. The cabbage tasted of Western pickling spices, and there were peppercorns visible among the pieces of veg. It wasn't sweet, unlike the pickled cabbage they sometimes serve at New Han Dynasty.

We also had steamed pork dumplings that were much like those from a Hong Kong dim sum, and a cruller, which was greasy and delicious. Unlike other dim sums where I can eat and eat and eat, I got filled very quickly this time. Probably all the grease. It was good, but I missed my cheung fun (shrimp crepes), turnip cakes, taro balls, savory shrimp, Chinese broccoli, shrimp dumplings....

A & J Restaurant
319-C Rockville Pike
Rockville, MD 20852
A & J on Urbanspoon
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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Chocolate Pound Cake

We ran out of Christmas cookies recently (yes, we did bake a lot!) and needed something else to put in our weekend bowl of ice cream (along with the ice cream). Mr Minx suggested chocolate pound cake, so I searched through our cookbook collection for a recipe that: 1) required regular cocoa powder; 2) did not require buttermilk or sour cream. Because I wasn't going to run to the store.

The cookbooks let me down, so I consulted teh Innernets. Martha Stewart offered a recipe that fit the bill, but I went back to Google to find something better. And I did - at Cook's Country. Hey, if the folks at America's Test Kitchen/Cook's Country come up with something, what with all the intense noodling around they do with recipes, I figure it's worth a try.

They say, "We retooled the classic pound cake recipe to make it plush and ultra-chocolaty. We did away with the need for chemical leaveners by properly creaming the butter and sugar." And damn if the result wasn't indeed plush - the cake's crumb is very fine and dense, resembling suede. And beating the hell out of the butter, sugar, and cocoa mixture before adding the eggs did create a cake that rose high in the pan without the use of baking powder or baking soda. The Martha Stewart recipe called for only 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, plus chocolate chips. It's probably not as chocolate-y as a recipe with 3/4 cup of cocoa plus an additional 2 ounces of milk chocolate. Oh, and while it calls for Dutch process cocoa, because there's no leavening in the cake, regular cocoa (Hershey's) works just as well.

Tastes marvelous with ice cream, and on its own as well.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Choice Bites 3.12.2013

If anyone has any doubt that Gordon Ramsay is a flaming narcissist, check out a partial list of his enemies, which include Jamie Oliver, Mario Batali, and Marcus Samuelsson. He's also talking smack about former NY Times critic Frank Bruni and Bobby Flay. Read the whole article here.

Sure, Tony Bourdain is a married man, but if you've ever wondered what he considers to be the sexiest foods, check out the list at the end of this Cosmo article.

What do you think? Does the prevalence of High Fructose Corn Syrup in so many products lead to an increase in Type 2 Diabetes? Seems reasonable to me, since HFCS is used in products that might not necessarily contain sugar because it improves mouthfeel, particularly in low-fat products.

Would you wear a dress made from bacon? My dog would love it.

The best restaurant in the world has issues, too, especially when its food makes 67 patrons sick in one week.  "Noma"virus, anyone?

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Monday, March 11, 2013

Vino Rosina

We found ourselves with a hankering for tasty food and interesting cocktails one February evening and that drew us to Vino Rosina, a wine bar/restaurant tucked into the side of the Bagby Building on the far northern edge of Harbor East.

I knew I wanted to start with a cocktail containing their amusingly-named "crotchless" vodka, an infusion made with Prairie organic vodka flavored with cerignola olives, pepperoncini, cocktail onions, lemon twists, and smoked ham hocks. Yes, ham hocks. It's supposed to taste like the dirtiest martini imaginable. The beverage I chose was the "Smoke house," which is made with a spicier version of the infusion (called "Fire Crotch," sadly making me think of Lindsay Lohan) blended with kummel, tomato, horseradish, Worcestershire sauce, and liquid smoke. I thought it might taste like a supremely fancy bloody mary, but with the prominent smoke, pork, and caraway flavors, it was not unlike drinking a liquified ham sandwich.

Mr Minx is a sucker for a Manhattan and went for the "Rabbit hattan" which included their carrot- and cinnamon-infused bourbon, punt e mes vermouth, orange bitters, and a lemon twist. Despite the carrot-cake-like flavors in the bourbon, the drink was less-sweet than the usual Manhattan and even somewhat savory (our server admitted that there was pork in the bourbon, too) with a strong hit of citrus.

The food menu offered as many interesting selections as the booze list, and we really wanted to try one of each. Instead, we settled on a handful of the items that interested us most, starting with a bowl of brussels sprouts topped with a Thai-style sweet chili sauce. Mr Minx was surprised at the sweetness, but I thought the sweet and the heat balanced nicely with the cabbagy flavors of the tender-crisp sprouts.

Brussels sprouts, Thai sweet chile sauce
We also tried one of the evening's specials, veal sweetbreads. These were battered and fried like chicken and served with a herby, garlicky, green goddess dressing. These were really nicely done, well-cleaned, tender morsels with a nice crunchy outside. We could have eaten far more of these beauties.

Southern fried veal sweetbreads with green goddess dressing
We hemmed and hawed between the intriguing-sounding beef tartare dressed down à la a very famous fast food burger and the charcuterie platter and opted for the latter. While everything on it was generally pretty tasty, it was the disappointment of the meal. The chicken liver mousse was very muted, tasting mostly of cream, and the pork rillettes were not particularly porky, but the texture of each was very nice. The pickled radishes, cauliflower, and carrots were one-dimensionally sour and the house-made whole-grain mustard was bitter. But the Surryano ham, a dried and smoked ham produced in Surry, Virgina, was delicious. Also a problem were the crostini, which had been made with a slender baguette that was full of air holes, leaving a mere skeleton of bread on which to spread the potted meats. Our server brought us some untoasted bread to use instead, but as it was made from the same airy baguette, it suffered from the same issue. C'est la vie. We made do and ate it all anyway. 

Charcuterie platter with pork rillettes, chicken liver
mousse, and Surryano ham
As a break from all the meatiness, we had the kale Caesar salad. It had all the flavors of a traditional Caesar, with the rough crunch of raw kale. We rather liked it. The gigantic sardine with it was rife with hard bones, which made it a bit awkward to eat.

Kale Caesar, rye croutons, crispy sardine
While everything we tried prior to our final savory course was pretty tasty, the dish with the most flavor impact was the flatbread topped with smoky guanciale (pork jowl bacon), lightly sweet pickled fried onions, and a gooey egg on a perfect thin and chewy crust. I would eat this for breakfast (and lunch and dinner) at least once a week if I had the chance. Maybe more often. It had the perfect combination of tastes and textures - smoky/sweet/rich/crisp.

Flatbread with guanciale, pickled onions, sunny-side-up egg
I was hoping bacon ice cream would be on offer for dessert, but alas, it was not to be. Mr Minx goes ga-ga over anything that has the words "red velvet" in the description, so we had to try the red velvet hot fudge sundae. The hot fudge was thick and appropriately fudgy but also somewhat savory (and I would not be surprised if it were made with pork fat instead of butter), and the bourbon ice cream was - wow! bourbon-y! But the crunchy cake layer was meh. It should have been either softer like cake or crunchy like a cookie, but instead it was in between, like the edge of a muffin top. Tasted ok, but just ok. Lose the cake, add toasted pecans and bacon, sweeten up the chocolate sauce and it would be fab. A completely different dessert, but fab.

Red Velvet hot fudge sundae
Vino Rosina is one of those places that seems to be doing the "in" thing these days. With the exposed brick, pale woods, and lots of black, visually it could be part of a chain that includes Birroteca and the Food Market, two newer and very popular restaurants that also offer interesting plates for sharing and fun cocktails. Honestly, this is exactly how I like to eat - my fickle palate loves being able to taste 5 or more dishes in the course of a meal - so VR is right up my culinary alley.

Vino Rosina
507 S. Exeter St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 528-8600

Vino Rosina on Urbanspoon
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Friday, March 08, 2013

Flashback Friday - 3.8.13

I made some gnudi this week, and they reminded me of Mario Batali's ricotta gnocchi. Same concept, really, just a bit larger.

This post was originally published on June 9, 2009.
Ricotta Gnocchi
I was flipping through Molto Italiano last week, looking for nothing in particular, when I spotted a recipe for ricotta gnocchi. I have had past experience with gnocchi-making, and let me say it was not a good one. But those were the potato kind, what most of us think of when we think "gnocchi." (Should we think gnocchi at all.)

The ricotta gnocchi seemed easy - mix a few ingredients, make some balls of dough, cook them. Presto! Dinner. But it was a bit more involved than I thought. Even so, they were not difficult and the end result sure was delicious, if I say so myself.

I didn't follow the recipe precisely - I didn't do the sausage and fennel part at all, just the dumplings.

First I had to drain the ricotta overnight. Here it is, post-drainage.

Next I took 1.5 lbs of the drained ricotta and mixed it with two eggs, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. A symphony of white. I also added freshly ground pepper and nutmeg.

After mixing, the dough was still a bit sticky, so I added more flour. Didn't want to add too much though, just in case they came out as gut-busting rocks (a.k.a gnocchi). I then "rolled" the dough into balls using about 2 tablespoons of dough each. They're not very pretty, are they?

After I had every blob of dough rolled (well, what I could get off my hands, anyway), I commenced to boiling them. The recipe calls for two boils, one for about 7 minutes and another one for 6. One 8 minute boil turned out light fluffy dumplings that were cooked all the way through.

Here they are, chilling in an ice bath while waiting for the second batch to cook.

And here they are, browned in butter with onion and mushroom, garnished with parmesan cheese, some leftover salami, and fresh chives and basil from the garden. The plates I used (our everyday pasta bowls) are a bit busy, so I highlighted the food so you could see it better.

Though light and fluffy, they were quite filling. With a salad on the side, 5 made quite an ample serving.

Next time I think I'll try making semolina gnocchi.

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Thursday, March 07, 2013

Perfect Poached Eggs from the Food Lab

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Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Heavy Seas Ale House

Heavy Seas' Hugh Sisson is no stranger to brewpubs; he ran his family's tavern, Sisson's, until 1994 when he decided he was more interested in the beer side of things. He started the Clipper City brewery and eventually, Heavy Seas. And now he's back in the brewpub business with the Heavy Seas Ale House.

Situated in the old Tack Factory building on Central Avenue, the pub retains many of the building's rustic attributes, including tons of exposed brick. The main room is spacious, with a long bar, a row of hightop tables, and spacious booths along the windowed front of the building.

After a quick perusal of the well-edited menu, Mr Minx went for the Heavy Seas burger, 8 oz of Creekstone Farms angus beef topped with onions cooked in Heavy Seas Peg Leg stout. The burger was charred on the outside, tender and pink on the inside, with a nice grilled flavor. A fine burger. The accompanying fries, however, were tough and overly-salty.

I had the pork belly brulée and the chopped salad from the appetizer menu. The pork belly was a slab of tender meat about 5" long, 1" wide, with a nearly burnt top layer that had a nice molasses-y flavor. The bit of slaw on the side, comprising fennel, radish and pickle with apple butter was unusual and tasty and surprisingly un-sweet. The chopped salad was also on the tangy side, a nice selection of lettuce, red bell pepper, and red onion combined with sour/salty elements like capers, olives, and feta cheese, dressed with a white balsamic vinaigrette.

Next time, I'd probably be inclined to try something from the entrees menu, which includes a couple of pastas, roast chicken, steak, fish, and a veggie plate, and maybe something from the raw bar.

Heavy Seas Ale House
1300 Bank St.
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 522-0850

Heavy Seas AleHouse on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Lindt Gold Bunny Celebrity Auction

Lindt chocolates is launching their fourth Gold Bunny Celebrity auction starting today, March 5th, 2013. More than 90 actors, athletes, chefs, and other personalities have lent their signatures to the cause by autographing a porcelain Lindt Gold Bunny. All bunnies will be auctioned online at between March 5th and 15th, with 100% of the profits benefitting Autism Speaks.

The images above are of bunnies autographed by Michael Symon, Wylie Dufresne, and Mario Batali. Pretty cool. Wonder what they'll end up going for?

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Monday, March 04, 2013

My Thai

A couple of years ago there was a fire in what I still think of as the City Paper building on the northwest corner of Madison and Charles Streets. The original outpost of Donna's was on the first floor, Indigma was in the side space that faced Charles, and My Thai was in the basement. Indigma was able to relocate across the street in a short amount of time, but Donna's is probably not coming back to that block. And My Thai has completely relocated to an area just behind Little Italy proper (but still technically Little Italy) on Central Avenue between Bank and Eastern, in what used to be another Thai restaurant called Lemongrass.

Mr Minx and I were invited to a happy hour media event recently, and we got to taste some of the restaurant's wares.

crispy green beans
First off were the crispy green beans, beans that had been battered and fried and served with a sweet black pepper sauce. We also tried the crispy wontons, which are a bit like crab rangoons, filled with shrimp and chicken rather than cream cheese and served with a sweet and sour sauce.

Green curry
We also tasted two entrees, the chicken pad see iew, a dish of wide rice noodles with veggies and a lightly sweet sauce. It was very mild, and like pad Thai, a good introduction to Thai food. We also sampled the green curry, which had chunks of chicken and eggplant in a fiery pale green sauce.

While My Thai has all of the typical favorite Thai dishes, from green papaya salad and laab, to drunken noodles to sticky rice with mango, the most exciting part of the menu is the "street food" served at the appetizer grill bar in the front of the restaurant. Several of about 100 choices are served on any given evening, and these can include grilled beef tongue, chicken livers, and even silkworms. Sometime soon we plan to get back to My Thai for a full street food experience. And yes, eat silkworms.

A bit off the beaten path, My Thai should however thrive because it's fortunate enough to have Heavy Seas Ale House as a neighbor.

My Thai
1300 Bank St
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 327-0023

My Thai on Urbanspoon

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Friday, March 01, 2013

Book Signings This Weekend - Baltimore Coffee & Tea

We'll be appearing at Baltimore Coffee & Tea this weekend! Pick up a couple pounds of your favorite caffeinated libation along with your copy of Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore.

Saturday, March 2nd
9 W Aylesbury Rd
Timonium, MD 21093
(410) 561-1080

Sunday, March 3rd
890 Bestgate Road
Annapolis, MD 21401
(410) 573-5792

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