Thursday, July 31, 2014

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Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Roy's Eat Creative Media Dinner

It's no secret that Mr Minx and I are big fans of Roy's and have been semi-regular patrons of the Baltimore branch since it opened 13 years ago. And while we're very happy to pay for our food at Roy's, it's even more fun to go when the food is on the house, as it was during a recent media dinner. The occasion for the dinner was to celebrate the launch of Roy's renewed culinary focus called Eat Creative, which showcases the very best of Pacific Rim cuisine.

Pacific Rim Cosmotini
(photo credit: Roy's)
We started the party at the bar with a round of Pacific Rim cosmotinis, a combination of blood orange, passion fruit, and ginger flavors with vodka. Once at our table, we were presented with a couple of the restaurant's new appetizers, including the misoyaki butterfish lettuce wraps, a twist on both traditional chicken lettuce wraps and the restaurant's famed misoyaki butterfish entree. We also got a taste of the new ebi roll, which adds coconut and cream cheese to the familiar tempura shrimp and avocado maki. It's served with dabs of habanero aioli and nitsume (eel sauce). We also sampled two items from Roy's bar menu, starting with the crispy pork belly buns, tender steamed Chinese bao containing crispy bits of pork belly, green apple slaw, and the sweet bbq-like Red Dragon sauce. While I think the buns themselves were a bit too large, the flavors and textures were appealing. Finally, we had bites of Roy's new Wagyu burger. A simple affair of juicy meat, caramelized onions, truffled mushrooms, a fried egg, and togarashi aioli, this burger is a contender for the Best in Town crown. Perhaps truffled mushrooms and eggs don't seem particularly simple to you, but none of the burger's toppings stood in the way of the main event: the meat itself. The accompanying onion rings, however, were, in a word, meh.

Misoyaki Butterfish Lettuce Wraps (photo credit: Roy's)
Close-up of Ebi Roll (photo credit: Roy's)
As an intermission, we each received our own Maui Wowie salad, a classic Roy's dish that was created at the Baltimore restaurant and served chain-wise.

Full-sized Lobster Pot Pie (see slide show for size we received) (photo credit: Roy's)
Alaea Salt-Crusted Bone-In Ribeye (photo credit: Roy's)
We then received an embarrassment of riches in the form of entrees: the 14-oz Alaea salt-crusted bone-in ribeye with peppercorn shoyu brandy sauce; a Maine lobster pot pie with potatoes, peas, honshimeji mushrooms, and pearl onions; and a tempura-battered whole snapper with a sweet chili sauce. And there were sides, too: truffled bacon mac & cheese with Thai basil bread crumbs; spicy Korean chili fried rice with scallions, cilantro, sesame, and egg; and a selection of over-sized tempura vegetables that included asparagus, broccolini, carrot, and shiitake mushrooms. The steak was a beautiful thing, pink, juicy and perfectly rested, with great flavor. I've always said that Roy's does land-based proteins as well as (or better than) the seafood for which they are most famous, and I stand by that. The lobster pot pie had a decidedly Thai twist with its coconut milk-based "gravy," and the proportion of lobster to everything else was generous. Also generous was the portion size, which we were surprised to find was a mere fraction of the normal portion size of this dish. In fact, all three of the entrees were on the huge side, which makes them particularly good for eating family-style with one's own ohana. The sides, also sized for sharing, were uniformly good. The mac and cheese was not the overly-decadent cream-fest that so many highfalutin' versions of this dish can be, and while I couldn't see the bacon, I could taste it. The tempura was light and crisp, and broccolini was a nice change from the usual common broccoli. My favorite was the Korean fried rice, which would have made a lovely entree on its own if topped with a fried egg.

Finally, dessert, which we wanted in theory but not in practice - we were so full! The classic melting chocolate souffle and pineapple upside down cake were as delicious as ever, and always a fine way to end a meal at Roy's.

During the evening, we also had the opportunity to meet the new Chef Partner at Baltimore's Roys, Matt Ellis, who comes to us from various Roy's in Florida. He's stepped into the big shoes of Opie Crooks and Rey Eugenio and seems to be filling them well. We also had a chat with Managing Partner Bryson Keens. He revealed something big that I think we all wish we had known earlier: Roy's offers shuttle service from your home to the restaurant and back. For locals as well as tourists! This means no worrying about parking or driving home after having too many Hawaiian martinis or Mai Tais!

The photos in this post are not ours, sadly, but the work of a professional photographer. The lighting wasn't the best that night (Roy's is on the dark side) so our photos aren't of the best quality. But you can check 'em out in the slideshow below.


Roy's Hawaiian Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Abbey Burger Bistro

Recently, as we were writing an article on burgers for Discover Baltimore, we felt the need to do just a tad more research. Also, we needed photos. We had been to Abbey Burger Bistro in the past on an epic day of eating. At that time, we were doing research for our first book, Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore, and did a tour of Grilled Cheese & Co., Thai Arroy, Abbey, and Midnite Confection's (apostrophe theirs) Cupcakes all on the same evening. By the time we got to Abbey, we were stuffed with cheese and tofu and weren't able to enjoy our burgers as much as we could have. Still, we came away with good feelings about the place and vowed to return.

We arrived early on this occasion and were able to snag a table near the front door, which offered us a bit of light for photography. We eschewed the meats of the month (nothing against wild boar, but camel sounded a bit too strange) and the build-your-own-burger option and ordered straight off the menu.

We chose the fried pickles as our starter. Such things can be really hit or miss. We've had really bad ones and really mediocre ones, and were still looking for really good ones. And we found them at Abbey. The sour pickle slices were in a light crunchy batter that the menu billed as tempura but we thought was more similar to fish-n-chips-style beer batter. They were so tasty, they didn't really need the lightly spicy mayo-based dipping sauce (but we used it anyway).

As for the burgers, Mr Minx went for the Baltimore burger, topped with crab dip, applewood bacon, and cheddar. He enjoyed it, but my palate doesn't care for seafood + bacon (shrimp, scallops, and clams being exceptions). The bacon makes the seafood taste fishy to me. He also ordered a side of fries, which were perfect - very brown, crisp, and fresh-tasting.

The same cannot be said for my side of chips (the default), which were the unfortunate victims of humidity. Most of them were melded together into one damp mega-chip, and the loose ones tasted stale. But my burger, a mostly traditional "paddy" melt, was nice. The burger was cooked to medium, as requested, and there was plenty of cheese and sauteed onions. I did, however, miss the Thousand Island dressing.

Abbey offers myriad meats, toppings, and breads, so one can have kangaroo on an English muffin with brie, grilled pineapple, and salsa, or lamb, sprouts, white truffle oil, and relish on a pretzel roll. Or even a tasty combination of toppings. We'll give that a try next time, and I'm definitely ordering fries with my elk, nacho cheese, fried egg, and buffalo sauce on a pita.

Abbey Burger Bistro on Urbanspoon

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Chicken Bulgogi and Kimchi Pancakes

Long, long ago, I had my first taste of Korean food. My Dad, who is usually up for anything, decided that we needed to try the new Korean restaurant in Towson. Sadly, my young palate was not ready for the bold combination of spicy and sweet plus garlic, and I swore it off for many years. After I moved to Towson, well into my adult years, I thought I'd give Korean food another try. And what do you know--I loved it.

Mr Minx and I soon became regulars at that Towson Korean restaurant. Until it closed. A sad day.

Sometimes we venture out to a Korean restaurant in Ellicott City (like Honey Pig), but mostly we make Korean food at home. It's not difficult, and the results are super flavorful. And it helps that gochujang paste can be found in some supermarkets (those that carry Annie Chung products), as can kimchi (in the refrigerated produce section; Giant has it). Otherwise, there are plenty of Asian supermarkets in the Baltimore area (H Mart, Lotte, Great Wall) that have the ingredients you'll need.

Typically bulgogi is made with beef, but one can occasionally find it made with chicken. That's what I had in the freezer, so that's what I used. And I just happened to have a jar of kimchi in the fridge! Kimchi, even the Americanized stuff, is highly seasoned. However, don't skip the salt in the pancakes because you think the kimchi is salty enough. The rest of the ingredients are bland, so you'll need the extra seasoning to take care of the veggies and the batter. When I say "bland," I don't mean "not spicy." Even mild kimchi is quite hot, and so is the gochujang. If you're not into a lot of heat, skip the gochugaru in the bulgogi.

Chicken Bulgogi and Kimchi Pancakes

For the chicken:
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
2 tablespoons gochujang
1 teaspoon gochugaru (Korean red pepper flakes)
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon mirin
1 tablespoon sugar
2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 teaspoon grated ginger
3 scallions, chopped

For the pancakes:
1 cup cabbage kimchi
1 cup chopped or julienned vegetables of your choice (I used thin asparagus but you can use carrot, regular cabbage, broccoli)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup rice flour
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
4 scallions, finely chopped
Vegetable oil for frying

For the chicken: Slice the chicken into strips, removing any excess fat.

Combine the rest of the ingredients in a large bowl. Add the chicken and toss to coat in the marinade. Cover bowl and refrigerate for at least one hour or overnight.

For the pancakes: Pour the juice off the kimchi and reserve. Add enough water to the juice to equal one cup. Finely chop the kimchi.

Combine the flours, salt, egg, and juice-water mixture in a large bowl. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before adding the chopped kimchi, veg, and scallions.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add a tablespoon of oil. When oil is hot, add about 1/4 cup of the batter per pancake to the pan. Spread batter with a spoon to get approximately 5" circles. Cook until bottoms are crispy, then flip and cook other side, about 2-3 minutes per side. Remove to a paper towel lined plate to drain.

Serves 2-3 with pancakes left over

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Orchard Market & Cafe

We've been to Orchard Market & Cafe again recently for a signing of Baltimore Chef's Table so I thought I'd add to our original write-up from 2010.

Does anyone remember Orchard Market & Cafe, Baltimore's "premiere Persian restaurant?" I say "remember," even though the place is still around, because I seldom hear anything about it. Seriously, when was the last time you ate there? I think the one and only time we tried it - at the suggestion of my Mother - was in the early 1990s; the food was very good so I don't know why we never returned.

I thought it was high time for a revisit, especially since Mr Minx had never been.

Orchard Market is a bit difficult to find if one doesn't know where to look. It's down Orchard Tree Lane off Joppa Road, between Mo's Seafood and Gardiner's furniture, not far from Loch Raven Boulevard. Unassuming from the outside, the interior of the restaurant is quite pretty, decorated in soothing shades of cream and dark celadon, with tapestries and replicas of Persian art on the walls, and more art that appears to be for sale.

On our first visit, we tried the Mango Shrimp (Jumbo shrimp sauteed with onions and vegetables in a unique mango chutney and garlic sauce). I thought it would be overpoweringly sweet, but it was actually well-balanced. The shrimp was full of iodine flavor (something we very much enjoy, YMMV) and the sauce contained little bits of mango.

We also had the Sauteed Bulgarian Feta (Pungent Bulgarian Feta melted over farm tomatoes, onions, and black olives), which looked similar to the mango shrimp, except for the olives. But the sauce was tangy, not sweet, and while I'd have liked more feta, it was quite tasty. With a salad, this dish would make a fine lunch. My biggest criticism of these two dishes is that the pita had been toasted, making it somewhat difficult with which to scoop the sauce.

On our second trip, we tried the eggplant and artichoke appetizer. I must admit, when owner Jason Bulkeley emailed me the recipe, I was a bit skeptical. One of the ingredients is honey dijon mustard, which didn't seem particularly Persian to me. But it's delicious! One doesn't notice the mustard at all; what comes through, however, is the lovely tangy-sweet flavor of pomegranate molasses. This is a dish I'm certainly going to cook at home now. Oh, and this time the pita wasn't toasted, which made things much easier.

On our first trip, I had the Seafood Advieh, mahi, shrimp, and scallops in a mango and honey advieh sauce. The sauce had an interesting sweet-sour flavor punctuated by cinnamon and rose, but wasn't entirely to my taste.

Mr Minx had Duck Fesenjune (orange-poached leg and breast of duck with the classic Persian walnut-pomegranate sauce). I'd had this dish on my first visit in the 90s and remembered it as being quite delicious, but this one was sadly overpowered by the large quantity of grated orange peel atop the otherwise nicely tender duck.

The second time around, we were much more successful with our entrees. Mr Minx had the kubideh, a ground beef kabob. It was moist and juicy and nicely seasoned.

My bademjune was a stew of fork-tender lamb chunks with eggplant in a tangy tomato sauce punctuated with intensely sour pickled grapes. Can't beat the combo of lamb and eggplant!

Orchard Market & Cafe has been around for over 25 years now, and while the shopping center around it is mostly empty, the restaurant is still going strong. Not only do they specialize in fusion Persian food, but they have some pretty terrific live music during the week, including singer-songwriters and  lively Gypsy Jazz. If you've never been there, do give the place a try.

Orchard Market & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Monday, July 21, 2014

Banana Puddin'

I've never made banana pudding before, and I've probably only eaten it a handful of times in my life. But I like the idea. Bananas, cookies, and pudding - what's not to like? It's a southern thing, and despite being south of the Mason-Dixon line, we don't see a lot of it in Baltimore. One of my co-workers brought it to a work party a few years ago, and despite my lack of experience with the dish, I thought it was the best I've ever eaten. Her secret: she used Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies instead of the usual 'Nilla Wafers.

When I saw that the ShopRite had certain flavors of Pepperidge Farm cookies on sale, one of which was those Chessmen, I grabbed three bags and decided I needed to use them in a banana pudding. I asked my coworker for her recipe. To my great dismay, she said she used one from that racist, southern-fried, capped-tooth, diabetes medicine-huckster, Paula Deen. Regular readers will know that she's not one of my favorite people, so I wasn't going to use her recipe. Co-worker did say she uses cheesecake-flavored Jell-O pudding instead of Deen's French Vanilla, and Cool Whip instead of cream cheese. So really, she doesn't use her recipe at all, except for those cookies.

I wasn't going to use any artificially-flavored pudding mix. I was going to make my own.

There are cornstarch-based puddings and egg-based puddings. Mine is a combination of both, more of a vanilla pastry cream than a pudding, making the resulting dish rather like a banana cream pie with a cookie crust.

I made my pudding a day in advance. The Chessmen cookies are thick, and I wanted them to soften up a bit. If you want crunchy cookies, serve your pudding shortly after assembling.


Banana Pudding

2 2/3 cups whole milk, divided
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 large eggs, lightly beaten
2 teaspoons of vanilla extract
2 bags Pepperidge Farm Chessman cookies
4 ripe bananas

In a medium saucepan, bring 2 cups of the milk to a boil. Combine sugar, cornstarch, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and then gradually whisk in the remaining 2/3 cup of cold milk. Whisk in the eggs. Once milk is boiling, whisk it gradually into the cornstarch mixture.

Pour the mixture into the saucepan used to heat the milk and put over medium heat. Bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Cook for an additional few minutes, until the pudding gets thick (it will happen all of a sudden) then remove from heat and add the vanilla. Set aside.

Place a layer of Chessman cookies in the bottom of an 8" x 8" or 9" x 9" square pan. Prop cookies up around the edge of the pan as well, creating a "crust." Slice the bananas and add a layer of them on top of the cookies. Pour over 1/3 of the pudding and spread to cover the bananas. Repeat cookie, banana, and pudding layers. Add another layer of bananas and the final layer of pudding.

Cover pan with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. There should be 6-8 cookies remaining. Crush these into large crumbs and sprinkle over the pudding before serving. Top with whipped cream, if desired.

Serves 6-8



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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Sidebar - Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament

We were perhaps a bit overzealous when we wrote our most recent book, Baltimore Chef's Table, and handed in far too many words. Unfortunately, this meant some of them needed to be cut, among them several recipes and sidebars. We're posting some of those sidebars here on Minxeats. Think of them as supplemental material.

Back in 2009, after recognizing the popularity of the many kitchen competition shows on the airwaves, Baltimore native and SYSCO food service professional Erik Folkart, an amateur chef himself, decided that local food industry people deserved the same opportunity. While not televised, his competition would allow chefs and restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area to participate in an event that would showcase their businesses, promote their geographic area, and help their communities through charitable contributions.

After talking to several chefs, restaurants, and suppliers, Erik realized that his idea could take off. He partnered with sister-in-law Karen Folkart, an experienced marketing professional, to start Mason Dixon Master Chef, LLC. And with the help of many people, including generous sponsors willing to supply food and financial support, chefs willing to give up their nights off to compete, and judges donating time and expertise, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament became a reality.

The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament is a multi-week, single elimination tournament. In each battle, competing chefs have one hour to prepare three courses, which are judged on taste, plating, and creativity. One chef goes on to the next round, while the other chef is sent home. These one-on-one battles go on until the finale, when one chef ultimately emerges victorious.

The competition is open to the ticket-buying public, who are encouraged to watch the chefs complete their pre-match cold prep up close and personal, then sit back and enjoy the competition as it unfolds. Special “Judge Experience” tickets allow some audience members to taste the chefs’ entrĂ©es and assist in judging.

The first tournament was held in 2010, at the venerable Belvedere in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood, with Moveable Feast acting as charity partner. After a year off, the competition was back in 2011 at Blob’s Park Bavarian Beer Garden in Jessup, MD and in 2012 was back in Baltimore City at Mari Luna Bistro. Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland was beneficiary of some of the proceeds in those years.

During the first three years of the tournament, numerous local chefs and food writers (including yours truly) participated as judges, masters-of-ceremony, and participants. This list of local culinary luminaries includes Sergio Vitale of Aldo’s and Chazz, Ted Stelzemuller of Jack’s Bistro, Chad Gauss of the Food Market, Jirat Suphrom of My Thai, Neal Langermann of Langermann’s, Chris Lewis of Iron Bridge Wine Company, Sarah Simington of Blue Moon Cafe, and Neill Howell, of Bond Street Social, who was the tournament winner in 2013. They competed using donated ingredients from local companies like Tulkoff, McCormick, Holly Poultry, Congressional Seafood, and Phillips Food, among many others.

2014 will bring a new season of competition, one that we hope will feature many of the chefs within these pages!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament

The Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament, a live, local, interactive culinary competition, completed Round 1 competition this week. The original field of 16 top area chefs is now down to just eight, as the competition enters Round 2 and the final weeks of competition. Each week the competition is getting more intense and the scores tighter, as chef teams vie for the over $10,000 in prizes and the title of Mason Dixon Master Chef Champions!

Matches are being held throughout the summer on most Mondays and Tuesdays at the Inn at the Colonnade in Baltimore. Round 2 matches are listed below. 10% of each ticket sold goes directly to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, the competition’s charity partner.

Tickets*: $25 for general admission (includes tax)
$45 for judging experience (includes tax)
Available for purchase at: www.masondixonmasterchef.com
*Tickets must be purchased in advance for the above pricing. $35/ $55 day of and at the door (if available).

The $25 ticket price includes admission to that night’s competition, wine/spirit tasting, passed hors d’oeuvres during happy hour, dessert and coffee bar, all taxes and a 10% donation to charity. Tickets are on sale now, and are expected to sell out quickly.

Round 2 Matches:
The line-up for July 21 and 22 matches in “Battle International Street Food” include:

Match 9: Monday, July 21 - Chef Jeff Keeney of The Point in Fells versus Chef Adam Snyder of Chef’s Expressions

Match 10: Tuesday, July 22 - Chef Nina Swartz of Aida Bistro & Wine Bar versus Chef Jake Hack of Conrad’s Seafood

The line-up for July 28 and 29 matches in “Battle Parisian” include:

Match 11: Monday, July 28 –Chef Chad Medina of Kelsey’s Irish Pub versus Chef Janny Kim of Bistro Blanc

Match 12: Tuesday, July 29 – Chef Gerardo Gonzales of Tapas Adela and Anastasia versus Chef Kiet Philavanh of Basta Pasta

Happy Hour each evening will feature a complementary wine or spirit tasting, hors d’oeuvres, as well as special pricing on drinks and food for purchase from Alizee American Bistro both days. Guests will also enjoy a complementary dessert bar and coffee to top off their evening. Event details available at: http://www.masondixonmasterchef.com/about-the-tournament/menu.php?match_id=53

When & Where:

Round 2: July 21, 22, 28, 29
Semi-Finals: August 11, 12
Championship Match: Sunday, August 24
5:30 -7:00p.m. – Happy Hour (free appetizers and wine/spirit tasting)
6:25 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins
7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition
8:00pm – Judging Begins (complementary dessert and coffee bar for all guests)

Inn at the Colonnade
4 West University Parkway, Baltimore, MD 21218

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Late Night Music at Orchard Market & Cafe

On Wednesday, August 6th, Orchard Market & Cafe in Towson will be featuring live music and a buffet from 9-11pm.

Mandolin player Johnny Howell of the High Sprung Bluegrass Band, guitarist Charlie White, and Berklee Prodigee will be playing Americana Rock with special guest Gary Shayne on the hammered dulcimer.

Cover charge - $7
All you can eat buffet - $15

Reservations only - call Jason at 410.339.7700 for more info and to make a reservation.

Orchard Market & Cafe
8815 Orchard Tree Lane
Towson, MD 21286
http://www.orchardmarketandcafe.com/

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Kooper's North

Not long ago, we were writing an article on local burger joints and needed photos. Though I've eaten burgers from Kooper's Chowhound food truck, I hadn't eaten them in-house, and neither had Mr Minx. Driving up to Mays Chapel and dining at Kooper's North seemed like a good way to get some dinner and perhaps some good photos, too.

It was a lovely day, but all of the outside tables were taken. Inside, the restaurant is fairly dark, so we took our photos both with and without flash. Can't say any of them turned out well, but at least we got to eat....

We started out with a bowl of the Slainte gumbo. No, it's not Irish gumbo, but it originated at Kooper's sister restaurant in Fells Point, Slainte. If you ask me, and I know you didn't, it's the best gumbo in Baltimore. It's thick and rich, with a nice browned-flour roux flavor and a generous amount of crawfish. It's spicy, but not overwhelming, and worth a taste. The bowl size is HUGE, so you might want to get a cup to start with, unless you want to share, or have it as your entree.

On to the burgers. Mr Minx had "Billy's Wagyu" burger, with applewood-smoked bacon, garlic herb cream cheese, and something they call "truffle arugula." The burger was juicy, with a nice grilled flavor, but between that and the bacon, the cheese and arugula could barely be tasted. And I was hoping I had found a substitute for my all-time-favorite burger, the Boursin Bacon burger at the late, lamented Gampy's.

My burger, the Farmstead Lamb burger also had the truffle arugula, plus feta cheese on a patty made from both lamb and veal. I found the burger to be extremely lamb-y (a good thing) which was probably why there was also some bland veal in it, too. The bun was weird - a tough, dry, ciabatta-ish thing that was too big for the burger. It reminded me of an un-toasted English muffin. If you get this burger, ask for a standard bun, which might also help hold on the crumbled feta that kept falling out of the sandwich.

The meat on both burgers was really pretty good; I think next time I'd choose the create-your-own option. And the gumbo - I'll always get the gumbo.

Kooper's North on Urbanspoon

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Weekly Promotions at Vivo Italian Kitchen & Wine Bar

Find our write-up of Vivo here.



Happy Hour - All day Monday, Tuesday-Friday 3 to 7pm, Saturday 4 to 7pm. Located at the bar or on the patio. Drink and appetizer specials, $20 for 1/2 liter of wine and a 2-topping pizza.

Wednesday Night - Flight Night and Tapas - $12 Wine Flights, $5 for each additional flight -- featuring small plate tapas pairings.

Movie Night - Every other Thursday Starting 7/31 - Enjoy classic Italian films and a 3-course prix fixe dinner. $35 including wine pairing. Each menu will carry a theme based on the evening's movie; the three courses include, Italian popcorn, salad, entree, dessert.

Movie Schedule:
7/31 - The Godfather
8/14 - The Big Night
8/28 - Cinema Paradiso
9/11 - Johnny Stecchino
9/25 - Godfather Part II
10/9 - 8 1/2
10/23 - Divorce Italian Style
11/6 - Godfather Part III

Friday - Lotsa Pasta - $25 per person with Endless Refills - Pick your Pasta, Pick your Sauce, Pick your Protein. Vivo salad and cannoli included.

Saturday - Family Style Italian Seafood Bake - $55 serves 2-3 people. Includes Caesar salad, Italian seafood bake from our stone hearth oven (3 oz salmon, 8 clams, 10 black mussels, 4 jumbo shrimp, 4 oz calamari, 1 soft shell crab, 3 ears of corn, 4 oz red potatoes, all roasted in Pinot Grigio, San Marzano tomatoes, toasted oregano, fresh basil, and extra virgin olive oil). Plus a dessert sampler of cannoli, tiramisu and gelato.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Crab Cakes

Sometimes dinner time is like an episode of Chopped. I look in the fridge and find a celery root, and on the counter are a pint of grape tomatoes and two ripe avocados. There's meat from 7 nicely-sized crabs as well, a leftover bonus after the crab feast we had the day before. Now how do I incorporate these things into something delicious?

I suppose it wasn't all that difficult. Not like I also had to use Chopped-style speed bumps like pop rocks or canned peaches (although we do have those in the house). I briefly thought I could stuff the avocado with crab salad, but I really felt like crab cakes. (:::feeling self::: yup - definitely crab cakes.) And don't get me wrong, I love Old Bay, but I think I might like Phillip's seafood seasoning even more. It's less, um, distinctive than Old Bay, and therefore allows the sweet flavor of crab to shine through while still tasting like seafood seasoning.

The celery root became celeri remoulade. Here's the recipe I usually use, adapted from Joel Robuchon. Because classic French is how I roll. (So untrue.) Unfortunately, I didn't have cornichons on hand, but since I was using the remoulade as a substitute for cole slaw to go with crab cakes, I squirted in a little Dijon. Hey, it worked great. Didn't even miss the wee sour pickles. The avocado was mashed with a bit of lemon juice and salt, and the tomatoes were quartered and lightly pickled in a bit of rice wine vinegar, green Tabasco, and pinches of sugar and salt.

The combination was nice. The avocado was rich, the tomatoes bright, the crab cakes luscious, and the celeri remoulade added a lot of texture. Would have made a nice sandwich, too.

Crab Cakes, a la Phillips, by way of theminx

1 teaspoon Phillips Seafood Seasoning
1 egg
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/8 teaspoon dry mustard
1 tablespoon mayonnaise
½ teaspoon lemon juice
1 ½ teaspoon prepared mustard
12 ounces blue crab meat, picked over for shells
Panko breadcrumbs
Oil

Combine all ingredients except crab and panko in a large bowl. Fold in the crab meat, then add enough panko to hold the mixture together (1/4 cup or so). Refrigerate the mixture for at least one hour to firm it up.

When ready to cook, form the mixture into 4 cakes. Heat 2-3 tablespoons of oil (I used extra virgin olive oil) in a large frying pan over high heat. Gently add the cakes and turn the temperature down a bit. Cook on both sides until nicely golden brown.

Serve with your favorite accompaniments.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 11, 2014

Sidebar - Chocolate Cups

We were perhaps a bit overzealous when we wrote our most recent book, Baltimore Chef's Table, and handed in far too many words. Unfortunately, this meant some of them needed to be cut, among them several recipes and sidebars. We're posting some of those sidebars here on Minxeats. Think of them as supplemental material. This recipe sidebar originally followed the recipe for Peanut Butter cups provided by the former pastry chef at Fleet Street Kitchen and Ten Ten, Bettina Perry.

The more adventurous among us might scoff at the idea of using pre-made chocolate cups for a fancy dessert, especially since making them at home is no big deal. Ok, it does take a lot of steps and some patience, but the result is pretty satisfying.

You might think that you can just use melted grocery-store chocolate chips, but it’s best to use good-quality chocolate. If you can find pre-tempered chocolate, you’re more than halfway there, otherwise it’s a good idea to temper the chocolate yourself. Tempering makes the chocolate less-susceptible to melting all over your hands, and it gives it a pretty, shiny appearance. Tempered chocolate also shrinks a bit when it cools, which makes it slip out of molds easier.

To temper chocolate and make your own chocolate cups, you need only one ingredient: chocolate. But there are also a few tools you should have on hand as well.

1 lb of good-quality dark chocolate, in block form
double boiler
silicone spatula
candy thermometer
cupcake liners, preferably silicone, but foil is ok too
paintbrush

1. Chop your chocolate into chunks.

2. Place 2/3 of the chopped chocolate into the top of a double boiler set over simmering water.

3. Stir the chocolate gently as it melts, using a silicone spatula.

4. Using a candy thermometer, continue to heat chocolate until it reaches 115°-120°F. When it reaches the correct temperature, remove the bowl from the double boiler.

5. Add the remaining unmelted chocolate and stir gently. Continue to monitor the temperature. When the chocolate has cooled to just below 84°F, scoop out any unmelted chocolate chunks (putting them aside for another use, or simply stuffing them into your mouth).

6. Place the bowl back on the double boiler and heat gently, stirring, until the temperature of the chocolate is back up to 89°F. At that point, remove bowl from double boiler.

7. Keep the bowl of chocolate warm while using, somewhere between 85-88°F. An electric heating pad set to low, placed under the bowl, works well. Make sure you stir the chocolate often so that the temperature remains uniform.

8. Paint a thin layer of chocolate inside of each cupcake liner. Refrigerate for ten minutes. Repeat painting and refrigerating.

9. Gently pop the cups out of the liners.

10. Fill and eat!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Pink Sultan

That's a funny name for a dip, isn't it? Pink Sultan? Perhaps a little pompous? But it's a thing--a yogurt and beet concoction that is a typical Turkish mezze. Traditionally made with labne, a yogurt cheese, the dish can be quite thick, like the one we had at Bosphorus earlier this year.

Labne isn't exactly in every supermarket, and I didn't feel like waiting 24 hours to make my own (nor did I have any cheesecloth), so I just used plain, unstrained, Greek yogurt to turn the dish into a dip for crackers and crudites. One thing that can be found in most supermarkets is plain cooked beets. Use the ones found in the produce section, not in jars in the canned goods aisle. Two 1 1/2" - 2" beets should do the trick for 1 cup of yogurt. Season it up with garlic, a bit of lemon juice, and salt, and you have a tasty and different party snack. And it doesn't even really taste like beets.

If you do find labne, or have the patience to make your own, you can still use the same recipe. The labne will be spreadable rather than dippable, so serve it with some fresh pitas rather than crackers or veg.

Pink Sultan Dip

2 cooked beets, chopped
1 cup Greek yogurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
Squeeze lemon juice
Salt to taste

Combine ingredients in a food processor until well-blended. Serve with pita, crackers, or crudites.

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Monday, July 07, 2014

Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt and Carrot top-Mint Pesto

I have developed a passion for carrots. Cooked carrots. I especially enjoy young carrots, so fresh they still have the greens attached. So when I saw a charred carrot dish on the menu at Bobby Flay's new restaurant, Gato, I had to have them. And they were wonderful.

There are recipes for "charred" carrots on the interwebs, but they are more caramelized than charred. Flay's carrots were literally black with char, as if they had been dropped directly into a fire and forgotten for a few minutes. I figured I could do the same thing at home, blackening the carrots over an open gas flame much as I do when I roast peppers. It took a few minutes to get the carrots black all over, and they had to be moved around regularly, but it worked beautifully. Although charred, the carrots were still mostly raw at this point, so I popped them in the oven after oiling and seasoning them.

Flay's carrots were served with a spicy yogurt flavored with harissa, a Tunisian spice mix heavy on chiles that can be found in both paste and dry form. The one I use is Frontier brand and not too spicy, so use your own tastebuds when seasoning your yogurt. I hated to waste those glorious carrot tops, which are a bit too metallic in flavor to eat like other greens. At first I was thinking a carrot top vinaigrette, because I had eaten one on a salad locally, but then I remembered that I really didn't care for that particular dish at all and opted to make a pesto, instead. And rather than remake Flay's crispy parsnip chips, some recently purchased fried shallots became the topping. The combination was stellar, if I do say so myself. (And I do!)

I think blackened carrots will become a part of the summertime vegetable rotation. Next time, with feta cheese and dill....or preserved lemon yogurt.

Blackened Carrots with Harissa Yogurt and Carrot top-Mint Pesto

For the carrots:
1 pound small to medium carrots with tops, scrubbed but not peeled
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the pesto:
About 1 cup loosely packed carrot tops, washed thoroughly and dried
Handful fresh mint leaves
1 clove garlic
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Handful of fresh grated Parmesan
Few tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
Salt to taste

For the yogurt:
1/2 cup 2% Greek yogurt
Harissa
Squeeze of lemon juice
Salt to taste

To make carrots: Turn on a couple of the gas burners on your stove and place the carrots directly on the flame. Use tongs to turn and move them around occasionally to make sure the entire carrot gets mostly blackened. Once carrots are nicely charred (about 10 minutes), remove them to a plate and set aside.

To make pesto: Place all ingredients into a food processor and blend until combined but still slightly chunky. Set aside.

To make yogurt: Stir either harissa paste or harissa powder into yogurt to taste. Season with a squeeze of lemon juice and salt. Refrigerate until ready to use.

To finish dish: Preheat oven to 400°F. Place charred carrots on a foil-lined baking sheet and drizzle with a little olive oil and salt and pepper. Roast for 15-20 minutes, turning once or twice during baking, until the carrots are tender.

Serve with harissa yogurt and carrot top-mint pesto.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 04, 2014

Happy Independence Day!

Have a safe and happy 4th!

Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

Sidebar - H.L. Mencken: Culinary Chronicler of Baltimore

We were perhaps a bit overzealous when we wrote our most recent book, Baltimore Chef's Table, and handed in far too many words. Unfortunately, this meant some of them needed to be cut, among them several recipes and sidebars. We're posting some of those sidebars here on Minxeats. Think of them as supplemental material.

Robert F. Kniesche, Baltimore Sun photo / September 20, 1950
H. L. Mencken, the cantankerous journalist who worked for the Baltimore Sun during the first half of the 20th century, wrote about everything that affected his era, from revolutions in Cuba to the antiquated ordinances of the city government. Despite his contrarian and sometimes fiery demeanor in print, he could also become quite romantic when it came to the culinary delights of Baltimore.

Mencken lived the vast majority of his life at 1524 Hollins Street, a three-story rowhome in the West Baltimore neighborhood known as Union Square. Some of his earliest memories are of his mother going to the fishmongers on Hollins Street to buy 8-inch blue crabs “with snow white meat almost as firm as soap” for ten cents per dozen. The rarer soft crabs were more expensive at 2 1/2 cents each. When his mother reported to his father that the price of a 20-inch shad had gone from 40 cents to 50 cents, his father predicted that the Republic would not survive the 19th century.

Breakfast and lunch were the heavy meals in the Mencken household. While many today would have a sandwich for lunch, this was a rare item then. “When I was a boy there were only three kinds of sandwiches in common use - the ham, the chicken and the Swiss cheese. Others, to be sure, existed, but it was only as oddities. Even the club sandwich was a rarity, and in most eating-houses it was unobtainable.The great majority of people stuck to the ham and the Swiss cheese, with the chicken for feast days and the anniversaries of historic battles.” A typical lunch would include a platter of Norfolk spots, Himalaya corn cakes, succotash, buttered beets, baked potatoes, and string beans. If they were in season, oranges and bananas for dessert. Mencken estimated that the calorie content of this family meal was around 3,000.

Fruits and vegetables were seasonal in those days, and in winter there wasn’t much produce at all. In the summer, however, Mencken recalled the African-American street vendors who sold produce from the back of their horse drawn carts, known as Arabs or Arabers. “Arabs (with the first a as in day)...announced their wares with loud, raucous, unintelligible cries, much worn down by phonetic decay.” A handful of these vendors can still be seen and heard wandering through the streets of Baltimore today.

To Mencken, oysters were a low class food eaten by drunks in oyster houses like Kelly’s on Eutaw Street. He did concede, however, that one of his favorite lunch spots, the now gone Rennert Hotel at the corner of Saratoga and Liberty Streets, had a decent oyster pot pie. He was more inclined to order the crab soups, either the shore-style with vegetables or the bisque.

Indeed, crabs were the most popular item which came from “the immense protein factory of Chesapeake Bay.” Mencken remembered how a former sheriff of Baltimore, Tom McNulty, had a special way of preparing soft shell crabs. He would spear a slice of bacon on a large fork, jam a soft shelled crab on top, and hold the fork over a charcoal brazier until the fat melted over the crab. Then he would slap it on a slice of hot toast.

Mencken loved strong drink as much as food, and was not a fan of Prohibition. "A prohibitionist is the sort of man one wouldn't care to drink with -- even if he drank." He felt that alcohol was “the greatest of human inventions, and by far -- much greater than Hell, the radio or the bichloride tablet." Indeed, he saw food and drink as prime examples of Man’s ongoing quest for the finer things in life,"...all the charming and beautiful things, from the Song of Songs, to bouillabaisse, and from the nine Beethoven symphonies to the Martini cocktail, have been given to humanity by men who, when the hour came, turned from tap water to something with color in it, and more in it than mere oxygen and hydrogen."

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