Monday, August 31, 2015

Become a Kahikian Giveaway!

We've written about Kahiki Foods before - in fact, we're brand ambassadors for this line of frozen Asian meals. Today, we're helping them give away a beautiful stainless steel wok!

Like this one:
Here's how it works. All you need to do is to subscribe to their newsletter. All subscribers get a $2 off coupon right off the bat, plus deals and coupons at other occasions, including birthdays. There are also easy recipes, diet and nutrition tips, chef tips, and other stuff.

But there's a catch. This is a competition for us, too. The more subscribers we get to sign up, the better the chance of getting a wok. We get a wok, and one of you (chosen randomly) will get one, too.

If you haven't tried Kahiki products before, we're also giving away three vouchers, worth a total of $22.50, to one lucky winner. Enter to win via this Rafflecopter giveaway. You can increase your chances of winning by visiting the two social media options on the Rafflecopter site.

So...that's a two-step Kahiki giveaway.

STEP 1: To enter for your chance to win the wok, click this link (Kahiki.com/minx) to sign up for the Kahiki newsletter.

STEP 2: Enter the Rafflecopter raffle daily to increase your odds of winning!

The contest ends on September 13th, so you have two weeks. Good luck!

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, August 28, 2015

Alewife

I've been to Alewife more than a couple times in the past few years, yet have never written about it. Full disclosure: Chad Wells, the chef at Alewife, has helped us out with more than a few recipes for our books, as well as information on invasive species in the Chesapeake for the upcoming one. He's a smart guy with a lot of passion for fishing and food, and is a fine chef to boot. And...he makes one of the best crab cakes in town--no lie--with actual local blue crab (Alewife is True Blue certified).

I work about two blocks from Alewife, and I love craft beer, yet I manage to avoid the place at lunchtime. (It helps that they're not open for lunch most of the week.) This is not to say that I haven't occasionally had a liquid lunch, but most often I go to Alewife to chat with Chad. Recently, however, I've found occasion to have dinner there. Twice in a month. Alewife just happens to be the most interesting restaurant within short walking distance of Oriole Park at Camden Yards, a great place to have a beer or three and maybe a burger or something more exotic before taking in a game.

On my most recent trip, Mr Minx was my dining companion. He had never been and was eager to try a few beers and maybe the wild boar sliders or blue catfish tacos. Unfortunately for us, the restaurant had been hit by packs of rabid eaters and drinkers during the week, sucking most of the taps dry and devouring many menu items. "I'll have the [insert brewery name here] IPA, and she'll have the [insert other brewery name here] porter," was met by, "oh, sorry, we're out of that," more than once until I asked our waiter to just tell us what of the rather voluminous list of brews was still available.

Eventually we received our beers (Right Brain Fuzz Face peach ale for me, Union Perfecta pilsner for Mr Minx) and ordered some food: Thai peanut wings, brussels sprouts, egg rolls du jour, and a smoke burger to share.

I'd been craving wings and liked the idea of ones bathed in a spicy Thai-style sauce. These were good--well-cooked, not overly saucy or messy, and not overly spicy. Marinated carrots were a nice twist on the usual celery sticks, and a cilantro Sriracha sauce stood in for bleu cheese. I would have loved a handful of finely chopped peanuts on top, but  maybe the dude with the peanut allergy at the next table wouldn't have appreciated it.

Chad told us the eggrolls that day were filled with his mac and cheese, Buffalo-style. Sold! They were great--perfectly fried, with a filling of Chad's super creamy Palmyra cheddar, Gruyere, and Grana Padano-sauced rotelli pasta and little nuggets of hot-sauced chicken. They reminded me a bit of my friend Don's glorious deep-fried mac and cheese. Loved the Parm-tinged dipping sauce on the side, though the creamy eggrolls didn't really need it.

The Smoke Burger, an 11-ounce patty of local Roseda Beef topped with smoky stuff like applewood bacon, smoked Gouda, and chipotle aioli, plus Gruyere and caramelized onions, was perfect for sharing. It deserves every accolade it's received as the Best Burger in Baltimore. The meat was tender and juicy, perfectly medium, with just enough toppings. Even the brioche bun, which we usually hate because they always fall apart, worked perfectly. The accompanying duck fat fries dusted with rosemary were crisp and lovely. A great burger and fries combo.

We also had the tasty Brussels sprouts, simply pan-roasted with some bacon lardons and balsamic vinegar.

A few weeks earlier, my brother and I had pre-game nibbles that included the pork belly fries. Like the mac-and-cheese stuffed eggrolls, this is a perfect dish for someone planning to have more than a few drinks. The restaurant's customary duckfat fries are topped with mac-and-cheese, braised bbq pork belly, and pickled collard greens to cut the richness. It's a somewhat insane combination, but one that works very well, even for folks who aren't hitting the sauce.

We had the shrimp and grits (which is more like an app than an entree). Loved that the grits came in the form of crispy fried cakes. Also had the snakehead cakes, kinda like an invasive species version of Baltimore's famous coddie, served with a corn and bacon salad and dill avocado puree. (Somehow I deleted that photo. I'm sure it was blurry.) All delicious. (And if you want the recipe for the snakehead cakes, it'll be in our next book!)

All this rambling to say...wish it hadn't taken us so long to sit down and enjoy a full dinner at Alewife. Food's great, beer selection (when it hasn't been decimated) is really nice, and Chad's great, too. Go check it out, even if you have to buy Os tickets or see something at the Hippodrome (across the street) or Everyman (next door) theaters to give you an excuse.

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Monday, August 24, 2015

Annie B's Caramels

Caramels are a homey sort of snack that makes one think of a simpler time. One that we never actually lived in but that we all like to romanticize about, like looking at a Currier & Ives painting. There's something about the rich, buttery texture and pure sweetness of a caramel that makes you pause to savor the moment. Every Christmas, I help the Minx make dozens of caramels of various flavors that we give away as gifts to our family and friends. They are always a big hit and makes all the trouble of boiling the caramel, cooling the trays, cutting up the sugary slabs into bite-sized morsels, and wrapping them in wax paper well worth it.

As for the rest of the year, going through all that difficulty doesn't seem quite as worthwhile. Thankfully, Annie B's sells a line of tasty caramels that can be had with just a few clicks of the keyboard. Annie B’s is a small family-owned caramel and popcorn company based in Kellogg, Minnesota. 

They take pride in using natural ingredients, free of gluten and high fructose corn syrup. Each individually wrapped caramel is made using local products including brown sugar, water, corn starch, butter, corn syrup, sweetened condensed milk, and inverted sugar. Annie B’s caramel is slow cooked in copper pots using a small-batch method. Each piece is hand crafted with the exception of cutting and wrapping of the caramels.

There's over a dozen flavors from your traditional caramel to exotic concoctions like amaretto, huckleberry, black licorice, and coconut. The pieces are quite large, so one caramel can satisfy a quick sugar pang, and they are creamy and soft.

As I mentioned, Annie B's caramels can be purchased from their web site, but they are sold at hundreds of locations throughout the US. Take a gander at the retailer locator on their  web site to find a location near you.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, August 21, 2015

Fatty Crab

I'm occasionally amused by the way restaurants view themselves. Fatty Crab, a Malaysian-influenced restaurant owned by a non-Malaysian, Zak Pelaccio, seems to think it's a "joint." The Web site makes the place seem really funky, but it's just a small Meatpacking-district restaurant with tall front windows and a menu with lots of interesting and tasty stuff on it. Maybe we ate early, and the funky/joint stuff happens after dark. I'll never find out, nor do I particularly care. I have never been a scenester, so vibe isn't nearly as important as the food, and the food was good.

My semi-regular NY dining companion, David, and I chose to split three apps and one entree. We got the green mango and papaya salad, which was the typical Thai-style salad with chili, lime, and peanut. It was tasty, but not the best version I've had. The mango wasn't particularly green, but it was appropriately fiery.

Next up were pork belly buns served with a sriracha soy sauce and a cilantro salad. These were really nice, with tender fatty pork and nicely pillowy buns. The pork was flavorful enough without needing the sauce, and the cilantro salad added a bit of herbaceousness to cut the fat.

Not to be redundent, but we also tried the Fatty Sliders, made from a blend of beef and pork with sambal aioli and caramelized onions on potato rolls. The aioli was incendiary, but the burgerettes are something I'd love to replicate for one of summer's many grilling occasions.

Finally, we had the beef rendang, which was gorgeous. Short ribs had been braised forever in a mild lemongrass chili sauce and served with coconut rice and a side of pickles. So much better than the local version I had earlier in the year, I wished I didn't have to share this dish with someone else.

We didn't order dessert, but were brought little squares of sweet glutinous rice cakes, which were delish.

There are lots of other interesting items on the menu, including chili crab (with Jonah or snow crab, at either 45/60 bucks - a little rich for my blood) a clay pot chicken, a Malaysian fish fry, and Szechuan pepper lobster.  Maybe next time I'll splurge.


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Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Tava Ghee

Several years ago, the Minx and I were wandering through an Indian market looking for exotic things to cook with. The lady behind the counter asked if there was anything in particular we were looking for. We replied, "no," but she started naming some Indian products we might be interested in. "Some ghee, perhaps?" The Minx's eyes lit up and she gratefully allowed the woman to lead her to the aisle with the ghee in it. After we left, I asked, "What is ghee?" She said, "It's like clarified butter." I thought she was going to say something more interesting considering how excited she got about it. It wasn't until later that I realized how versatile the product can be. 

Traditional clarified butter involves removing the liquid from butter through simmering and also separating the fat from the milk solids. Ghee retains the milk solids that are caramelized in the simmering process. Therefore, ghee has a nutty flavor and aroma. You can also flavor ghee for different cooking applications. Ghee is a staple of Indian cooking, but it can be used in virtually any cuisine as a replacement for butter or oil.

Recently, we received some samples of a new ghee product. Tava Ghee is an organic, gourmet, flavored spreadable butter that comes from 100% grassfed cows. Created by founder Raquel Tavares Gunsagar in her kitchen, she quickly turned her product into a highly successful business. Tava Ghee has since moved from Raquel’s home to a factory kitchen in downtown Los Angeles.

Along with the original ghee, there's also vanilla ghee, green chili ghee, and Himalayan pine salt ghee. We used the vanilla ghee in place of some of the butter in a chocolate cake to enhance the vanilla flavor. I even ate it on crackers. The vanilla flavor is subtle but pleasant, and there's no sugar added, so don't expect it to be sweet. I also used the green chili ghee for some shallow frying of my hand-cut French fries. I only seasoned the fries with salt and garlic powder, but the chili flavor from the ghee added a spicy element.

Tava Ghee is steadily popping up in specialty grocery stores across the country, but if it isn't sold in a market near you, you can order it directly from their web site.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Monday, August 17, 2015

Super Moist Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

The last time I was in my brother's apartment, he plied me with a package of bacon and a big container of sour cream. The bacon would come in handy later in the year when I made a big batch of bacon jam for holiday gift giving, so that went directly in the freezer. The sour cream, however, needed to be used much sooner. The sell by date was nigh; by the time I had the opportunity to open the container, it had passed. But only by one day, so the stuff was still plenty fine. (I'm still alive, aren't I?)

I like sour cream, but how was I going to use up two cups of it immediately? Who said "baked potatoes!" Nah. I don't like sour cream on my baked potatoes. Butter all the way for me. But sour cream goes well in chocolate cake. It makes it nice and light and moist. I wasn't going to be able to use the entire container of sour cream, but I could at least employ half of it.

This cake is very moist and tender. You could glaze it, I suppose, but powdered sugar is really all it needs. Oh, and maybe a scoop of your favorite ice cream or a cold glass of milk or cup of coffee.

Chocolate Sour Cream Bundt Cake

1 cup unsalted butter
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons liqueur of your choice (I used Kahlua)
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda
2 large eggs
1 cup sour cream
2 teaspoons vanilla

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a 10 cup Bundt pan.

Combine the butter, cocoa, salt, and 1 cup of tap water in a saucepan over medium heat. Cook only until butter is melted and mixture is completely combined. Stir in the liqueur.

Place the flour, sugar, and baking soda in a large bowl. Pour in the chocolate butter mixture in 2 or three batches, stirring between each to combine. Beat the eggs with the sour cream and vanilla and stir into the flour mixture. Whisk until fully incorporated.

Pour batter into the bundt pan and bank for 40-45 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Place pan on a wire rack. After 20 minutes or so, invert the cake onto the rack to cool completely.


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Friday, August 14, 2015

Happy 10th Anniversary, Minxeats!

Minxeats began ten years ago today, on August 14th, 2005. The first post was about dim sum, still one of our favorite things to eat. Since then, we've written 2,153 posts that shared close to 500 recipes and our thoughts on about 300 restaurants, plus a bunch of other stuff like reality show recaps and product and book reviews. Also during that ten year period, we've written two books (Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore and Baltimore Chef's Table) and are currently working on a third (Maryland's Chesapeake, to be published in 2016).

So much has happened, yet time seems to have flown by. Thanks to all our many fans who have stuck by us through the years. Here's to ten more!

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Photo source: Corbis.com

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Cinnamon Tree at the Hunt Valley Inn

When Baltimoreans of a certain age hear the words "Cinnamon Tree," they think of brunch. At least we do. The Cinnamon Tree restaurant at the Hunt Valley Inn, once famous for its lavish brunch, has been around forever, and...it still is. Marriott no longer owns the facility; new owners, the Laurus Company, have turned the hotel into a Wyndham Grand and sunk some serious money into renovating the entire place.

Northern Baltimore County is horse country, so of course there's a horse theme at play in the decor. It's pretty subtle though - no hunter greens or plaids to be seen anywhere. Instead, the hotel is decorated in soothing neutrals, lots of browns, grays, black, and white, with a horse sculpture here and there. The Cinnamon Tree, too, is done up in neutral shades, with interesting lamps and chandeliers to catch the eye. We appreciate the carpet and padded seats, which will absorb the noise that 100+ people eating brunch can make.

While that signature brunch is held on both Saturday and Sunday, we came in for dinner one evening. We started the meal with two of their race-themed cocktails, the whisky-based Belmont and the vodka-based Black-Eyed Susan (official drink of the Preakness!). Mr Minx had originally ordered a Mint Julep, but the bar had run out of mint. Partway through our meal, mint had been obtained and two juleps were brought to our table. All three drinks were generously sized and quite tasty.

We started off our meal with a creamy she-crab soup with a pronounced sherry flavor and a decent amount of crab lumps. Think cream of crab, but without that soup's normal overly-thick quality.

We also tried the crab and corn fondue, which while thicker than a fondue and meant to be a spread rather than a dip, it had the customary Swiss cheese flavors, but with crab and corn added. Both the soup and fondue came with crusty garlic crostini, which were also delicious on their own.

We shared a classic wedge salad, which was light and refreshing with just the right amounts of bleu cheese dressing and bacon bits.

For our entrees, Mr Minx enjoyed the beef short ribs in a rich cabernet sauce...

...while I had the crab cakes with bearnaise sauce. Both dishes came with a slab of what the menu calls au gratin potatoes, but is actually a very rich potato pavé loaded with cream and butter, and sauteed asparagus and grape tomatoes.

We were quite full, but couldn't turn down the desserts that chef Patrick D'Costa himself brought to the table: a creamy almond cheesecake with a sturdy butterscotch-flavored crust, and a rich key lime pie. Both made in house, both delicious, both taken home in doggie bags to be enjoyed when we had some room to appreciate them.

It's nice to see an old classic being reborn like the Cinnamon Tree. Even the famed cinnamon tree sculpture itself, once a fixture of the dining room, will be given new life in the form of a waterproofing treatment and a new home in the courtyard of the hotel, visible through the restaurant's large windows.

Other dining establishments at the Hunt Valley Inn include the Polo Bar, on the other side of the lobby from the Cinnamon Tree. This cozy bar serves tapas like flatbreads and empanadas. Cafe 245 offers Starbucks coffee and light bites like pastries, sandwiches, and salads. And later in the year the Black Horse Pub will open, serving casual fare.

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Monday, August 10, 2015

Fancy Food Show - New Popcorn Products

Gourmet popcorn has been a trend for several years now and new companies continue to emerge with new and inventive ways to jazz up the humble popped kernel. The Minx picked up several samples of new gourmet popcorns at the latest Fancy Food Show in New York and tasked me with tasting them and reporting on these new flavors. I was more than happy to comply.

Pop Art Gourmet Popcorn takes its lead from the Pop Art movement of the 1960s where everyday objects were transformed into extraordinary works of art. In this case, they are elevating popcorn with sophisticated flavors like rosemary and Italian black summer truffles. When you open the bag, your nose is greeted with the savory scent of rosemary and truffles. Clearly, Pop Art does not skimp on the flavoring if just the aroma is that strong. The flavor is even more intoxicating with the luxurious taste of truffles in every bite and just enough sea salt to enhance the flavors without overpowering them. Texturally, the popcorn is also quite pleasing with plump popped kernels throughout the bag. Pop Art offers a variety of exotic flavors like Thai coconut curry, tandoori yogurt, and nori sesame.   

G.H. Cretors organic popcorn has a jump on the rest of the pack in that he invented the popcorn machine in 1885. The current generation is carrying on the tradition of small batch methods but adding the modern approach of all organic ingredients. There's something homey and familiar about the flavor of Cretors popcorn even though my mother never used extra virgin olive oil on our popcorn. Still, the light touch of oil and sea salt is just enough to bring out the toasty quality of the corn.

Pop! Gourmet Popcorn offers a walk on the wild side with Sriracha Hot Chili Sauce flavored popcorn. This is no half-hearted nod to the famous Huy Fong Foods brand of chili sauce either. After a half-dozen kernels, your mouth will go numb and the back of your throat will burn. When I eat spicy food, I find that after I get over the initial shock of the heat, I find the spice addictive. That's exactly what happened when I ate this Sriracha popcorn. I really had to force myself to stop eating it. Pop! offers over a dozen flavors of popcorn both sweet and savory including African peri peri, Chinese 12-spice, and Wakaya Perfection Organic pink Fijian ginger, sea salt, and caramel. 

I have to admit, I've never been one for buying popcorn snacks when I can easily make popcorn at home, but gourmet popcorn that shows this level of sophistication makes me rethink that opinion.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Friday, August 07, 2015

Chipotle Cherry Brownies

Regular Minxeats readers have to know that I am obsessed with brownies. Obsessed. (Well, not really, but that's one of those words you young'uns use all the time, regardless of its actual meaning. I'm trying to be hip with the lingo.) I've tried many brownie recipes over the years, and posted a good many of them here, including one abomination made with Splenda and black beans. (Go ahead, read that post. It's one of my favorites. Read the comments, too, while you're at it.) My all-time favorite brownie recipe is the one found on cans of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa. The large sugar-and-fat to flour ratio makes for brownies that are gooey and messy, as opposed to cakey. (I suppose cakey brownies have their place, but why not just eat cake?) Mmm. So good.

I must confess that when I saw The Messy Baker: More Than 75 Delicious Recipes from a Real Kitchen in my Amazon recommendations, I put it on my wish list solely because of the cover photo. Of brownies. Deep Dark Cherry Chipotle Brownies, no less. (Yes, that's the link to the recipe on her blog. No need for you to buy her book, too, unless you want all of the other goodies inside.) Nobody purchased the book for me last Christmas, so I took it off the wish list and put it in my shopping cart. In January. But I didn't pull the trigger to buy it until August. Of course, the first recipe I tried from the book was for those brownies.

At first taste, when they were just a bit warm, I wasn't sure of the texture. They're very fudgy and dense. Which is fine, better than cakey, but not as gooey as I like. So I refrigerated them, and that made all the difference in the world. Cold from the fridge, they are like candy. Chocolate candy crack. They are spicy, but not too (and I added the full teaspoon of ground chipotle) and fruity from the cherries, which does help cut back the heat. I also added some walnuts, to add a bit of crunch, plus I like walnuts in my brownies. They are really, really good. Really good.

I think I found my second-favorite brownie. Try them. If you don't like spicy, then skip the chipotle, substitute ancho instead, or leave the pepper out entirely. And eat them cold, straight from the fridge, with a glass of milk (or a bourbon, if you're me). You won't regret it.

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Remo's of N.Y.

The various incarnations of the Italian restaurant at 8811 Waltham Woods Road in Parkville has played a role in our lives (however small) over the past 17 years. The Minx and I first went there in 1998 on one of our early dates. We were in the area on a Saturday night poking around for a place to eat that didn't have a 30 minute wait or golden arches outside. The place, called Milano's at the time, seemed serviceable enough if a bit old fashioned with its formica table tops trimmed in shiny chrome. The food was also straight forward red sauce Italian. I don't recall exactly what the Minx or I ate, but I remember feeling pretty satisfied with it and, given my infatuation with my new love, the company was far more important anyway.

Fast forward a decade or so and we were now a boring married couple on a pilgrimage to BJ's to buy vast quantities of paper towels, toothpaste, and toilet paper. While driving through that part of Parkville, we usually stopped at El Salto for dinner, but neither of us was in the mood for Mexican, so we decided to give the old Italian restaurant across the street another try. This time it was called Pasticcio's and the decor had been modernized quite a bit. Looking more like a comfortable family restaurant with wood floors and cream colored walls, the menu still reflected the same kind of cuisine we experienced many years earlier. We still liked it, though, and the service was quite good.

Recently, we learned that the restaurant had changed to Remo's of N.Y. so we decided to give them another try. The decor has been slightly altered to pay reference to the "N.Y." in the name with pictures of New York Italian neighborhoods on the walls along with street signs bearing the names of familiar New York locations. The wait staff seemed to be largely the same, which was a good sign since the service was not something in need of change.

The menu also tries to pull in the New York Italian theme with dishes like Angel Hair Times Square, Calamari Badabing!, and Shrimp Sinatra. Despite the hokey names, the dishes show a level of inventiveness not available in the previous incarnation. I was curious about the Salmon Limocello and Mussels Fra Diavila, but since we didn't have much time, I decided to see how they could handle an Italian classic: Chicken Parmigiana.

As it turns out, they handled it quite well. The twin pieces of chicken breast were moist and tender, and I liked the fact that the parmigiana was lightly broiled on top, The accompanying angle hair pasta was not overcooked (a common problem I find with such a thin pasta), and the sauce was quite tasty.

The Minx opted for the Mignon Steak Salad. which in addition to filet mignon tips, includes fresh arugula, red roasted peppers, roma tomatoes, gorgonzola cheese, and crispy potatoes. A balsamic vinaigrette was drizzled around the edge of the plate, but Italian dressing was provided on the side. The steak tips were properly cooked and the generous mix of ingredients made for a hearty, filling salad.

We left the restaurant feeling satiated and ready to take on the challenge of warehouse shopping. With an inventive new menu, comfortable decor, and a friendly wait staff, Remo's of N.Y. will likely become a regular dinner spot for us whenever we are in Parkville,

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Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze

Since the Fancy Food Show, we've been getting lots of tasty products to review. One of my favorites is Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeeze. Part cereal, part smoothie, completely delicious, Munk Pack is a great snack to throw in your bag and take with you to eat at work or on the road.

There are three flavors: raspberry coconut, blueberry acai flax, and apple quinoa cinnamon. My favorite is the raspberry coconut, which definitely tastes of raspberry, but also has banana and apple in it. (All three flavors have apple, the Blueberry Acai Flax has banana, too.) It's hard to describe the texture of the stuff....it's not thick and gloppy like oatmeal, nor is it runny like applesauce, but perhaps somewhere in between. Mostly smooth, with bits of grain. And bits of coconut in the raspberry flavor. It's really quite tasty, and at 100 calories or less, a lot better for you than a candy bar (but, I understand, not chocolate).

Munk Pack products hit all the right buzzwords du jour: gluten-free, non-gmo, kosher, vegan. The products have no added sugar, 3-4g of fiber, and are packed in a BPA-free pouch that lets you squeeze every drop of goodness right into your gullet.

You can purchase Munk Pack Oatmeal Fruit Squeezes at Eddies on Charles Street and on Roland Ave and at Wegman's. Or at Amazon, which of course has everything.

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats. Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

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Tuesday, August 04, 2015

13.5% Wine Bar + Food

I know, I know - you're thinking that we should change the name of this blog to "Stuff Cyrus Keefer Feeds Us." And maybe we should. We've covered his cuisine at Fork & Wrench, his Pique pop-up, and at his most recent gig, 13.5% Wine Bar. And we're doing it again. This time, we were invited to a media tasting, which meant we would get to try several more of his dishes than the two of us would normally order on our own.

13.5% Wine Bar has really embraced their new chef. For one thing, notice the recently added "+ Food" in their name. While it's still a great place to enjoy a glass or three of vino, the food game has been stepped up considerably. It's now a place that even non-wine-drinkers can enjoy (they have cocktails and beer, if you're still into the booze). The restaurant is bigger, with table seating for 70, 20 additional at the bar, and al fresco dining, too, courtesy of the new retractable facade.

But we were there for the food, so let's jump right into it. Here's the current menu, for your perusal.

Cyrus started us with an off-menu app of tuna and tomato crudo with miso poached mozzarella. The mozz and tomato made it a bit like a Caprese, but with tuna instead of basil, and the chef's customary touches of Asian flavors, like kombu. This dish hit so many flavor points - tangy, sweet, umami, salty - and I would love to see a larger version of it on the menu.

We had two types of pizza next, the "pizza pie," which had classic pizza flavors and aromas on a crust of pate brisee, or regular pie crust dough. The other was a French bread-style pizza topped with snails and chorizo. The two versions were as different as night and day, the "pie" version light and fresh (despite the very buttery crust) and the other rich and garlicky. Not expecting to get so much other food, we each ate two slices, almost (but not quite) regretting it later in the meal.

Then came a salad of sauteed zucchini, white corn, and baby arugula with fresh cherries and avocado. The vinaigrette showed off the chef's talent with such sauces, being both savory and acidic, with the lightest kiss of black truffle oil. While I normally don't see the point of white corn, especially the tiny kerneled-type, here it punctuated the salad with juicy bursts of texture.

We also tried the tender and cheesy gnocchi-esque goat cheese dumplings with smoked tomato caper sauce and the sous vide octopus with a similarly smoky red pepper sauce, zucchini puree, and polenta. My palate doesn't enjoy smoked + some non-fish seafood, but the octopus was so fork-tender, I ate it all anyway.

So. Much. Food. And we're not done, folks! We also tried "our heavenly take on ramen," which was on the menu the last time we ate at 13.5%. (If soft shells hadn't also been on offer, I would have ordered it.) The soup takes elements from traditional Japanese tonkotsu and Hokkaido-style broths by using both pork (in the form of house-made bacon) and corn (a corn dashi). The genius noodles are actually house-made linguine with baking soda, to give them a very ramen-like bite. There's also a soft-boiled egg, kale, and mushrooms in the mix. There was no way I could finish the dish, so thank goodness for doggie bags.

Our last item, which I didn't photograph, were the pork belly and smoked shrimp spring rolls we had eaten before. They were lovely then and still lovely today, even though I had to eat mine slightly soggy at lunch the next day. Best spring roll in town though.

Whew. Lots of food. No room for Morgaine Brunn's desserts (which could have been a wee peach ice cream-stuffed almond macaron, were we not stuffed). Lots of excellent flavors and textures, too. Cyrus has some great and clever ideas floating around in his head, and the ability to execute them.

The whole purpose of this post is to continue to get the word out about the new focus on food at 13.5% Wine Bar + Food. If you don't go, I'll just have to post again in the future. You are forewarned.

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Posted on Minxeats.com.