Monday, March 28, 2016

Spring Has Sprung at Seasons 52

Seasons 52 opened in the summer of 2014 as one of the new shops and restaurants in Columbia Mall's outdoor extension. A national chain in the Darden Restaurants group (which also owns Bahama Breeze, Capital Grille, and Olive Garden, plus a few others not in the Baltimore area yet) Seasons 52 is all about "what's good now." Their food is seasonal (but not necessarily local) and designed not to bankrupt anyone's calorie budget for the day/week/month. That's not to say that they serve diet food - not at all! But you won't find a deep fryer in the kitchen, or french fries anywhere on their menu. Instead, entrees tend to include something starchy and something vegetal and average around 580 calories or so.

We were invited in to Seasons 52 to sample selections from the spring menu, with wine pairings; the multiple courses of deliciousness were a treat.

As we waited for the rest of our party of local food bloggers to arrive, we sampled two of the restaurant's seven flatbreads. New for spring are the lobster and fresh mozzarella (with roasted sweet peppers, scallions, and lobster sour cream) and the crispy prosciutto and asparagus (with Camembert and chervil). They are true flatbreads, with a very thin and crisp crust, and not just oddly-shaped pizzas. Toppings are generous and flavorful, with the lobster flatbread's creamy drizzle having a particularly pleasing lemony kick.

With the flatbreads, we enjoyed a Chartogne-Taillet Cuvee Sainte Anne, a lovely floral champagne.

Once we were seated, we received a spoonful of an intensely flavored chilled asparagus soup with lemon chantilly cream, paired with lightly effervescent Aveleda Vinho Verde.

Next up was a spinach salad dressed in a white balsamic vinaigrette, tossed with spring strawberries, toasted pine nuts, nuggets of Gorgonzola, and fresh pea tendrils, and drizzled with some 15-year aged balsamic. I felt the delicate greenness of the pea tendrils (also called pea shoots) was lost in all those assertive vinegar flavors, but sweet strawberries + toasty nuts + funky cheese are one of my favorite flavor combos.

(The salad was huge, and at 250 calories, when paired with an under-500-calorie flatbread, the combination would make a lovely lunch for two. Just a suggestion!)

With the salad we enjoyed a Tilia Torrontes redolent of jasmine, honeysuckle, and rose.

We then received two appetizers. The first, Meyer lemon ricotta ravioli with brown butter, roasted peppers, and English peas, was an actual appetizer. With it we drank a Robert Sinskey Los Carneros Pinot Noir, the earthiness of which worked well with the rich brown butter and overall sweetness of the citrussy ricotta filling.

The second "app" we sampled was actually an entree. Six handsomely-sized scallops with lemon risotto, English peas, and roasted asparagus won me over. I've complained many a time about the insane cost of scallops in a restaurant. You're lucky to get three puny ones for $30. Seasons 52 serves six big babies, perfectly cooked, for $23.50. The accompanying risotto was delightfully creamy and Mr Minx and I found ourselves fighting for the last morsels on the plate.

With the scallops we drank a Mer Soleil Chardonnay, which, while delightful on its own with its unusual almost-sweet butterscotch and apple flavors, didn't work so well with the scallops. The wine made them fishy on my palate. YMMV, of course. The wine is generally recommended for seafood.

We also sampled two entrees, the Asian-glazed Chilean Sea Bass with organic black rice, snow peas, shiitake mushrooms, and micro wasabi. I loved it. The somewhat sticky black rice positively oozed with heavenly brown butter flavors, and the fish was ultra fresh and very moist. The sauce, which could have erred on the too-sweet side, was just right to my palate. Mr Minx and I also finished every last drop of this dish, along with the accompanying Selbach-Oster Kabinett Reisling, apple-vanilla sweet with nice lime-y acidity.

Our last savory dish was the wood-grilled rack of lamb with spring vegetables (including English peas, asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, pearl onions, carrots, and mushrooms), Yukon Gold mash, and shallot jus. The chops were cooked to a juicy and well-rested medium-to-medium rare, and all the veg were crisp-tender. With them we drank a smooth Cab blend from South Africa, the De Taren Fusion V, with flavors of berries, licorice, and spice.

But wait kids, that's not all! We were also served desserts. Just about all of them. As part of Seasons 52's reasonably caloried meals, desserts are wee parfait-style treats that range between 220 and 370 calories (and if they have that many calories, just think of what a full-sized slice of pie a la mode is worth!). We sampled pecan pie, strawberry cannoli, key lime pie, Belgian chocolate s'mores, mocha macchiato, chocolate peanut butter torte, and a tiramisu-style concoction that came with a pipette of amaretto. All rich and tasty; the cannoli, chocolate peanut, and key lime concoctions were our faves. We had another nice Selbach-Oster Reisling, a Bernkasteler Badstube Auslese, with dessert.

It was an excellent meal, all said, with the strawberries, pea shoots, asparagus, and fiddleheads adding happy hints of spring here and there. Seasons 52 is certainly worth a visit, not only for the lovely food, but also the great selection of wines. (The 52 in the restaurant's name indicates the 52 wines available by the glass. One hundred are usually available by the bottle.) Just don't fall in love with any of them, because, as is almost always the case for us, few if any are available in local stores (the Mer Soleil being an exception).

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Friday, March 25, 2016

Mother's North Grille

Mother's Federal Hill Grille is one of those long-time hangouts that the Minx and I never got around to visiting, mostly because we don't have the opportunity to venture down to Federal Hill that often. Recently though, we were invited to try out the new Mother's North Grille just off Padonia Road, which is a quick drive up 83 North for us. Built in a former Applebee's, the decor in Mother's North Grille is sleeker and more modern than it's exposed-brick-and-wood-columns counterpart in Federal Hill. The food, however, is very much in line with the upscale pub food philosophy that all locations share.

We started with some appetizers, including their Blechman's Famous Hummus Platter. The creamy hummus is flavored with roasted garlic and paprika sesame oil. A side of kalamata olive and roasted red pepper salad compliments the hummus and there are plenty of veggies and naan to scoop up the delicious dips.

We also indulged in two styles of wings from their ample wings selection. The Old Bay® wings have a dry rub which I prefer and the spice has a nice kick to it. The Sriracha BBQ wings also had the right amount of spice, but I'm glad the waitress brought us wet-naps since the sauce is pretty sticky.

One of our tablemates ordered the Double Phat Crab Cake Dinner. While it normally comes with two meaty cakes, she went for the single cake option after our filling appetizers. The cake is loaded with jumbo lump crabmeat and very little filler and is lightly broiled.

The fresh fish options vary daily based on what can be obtained. Salmon and swordfish were the two choices the Minx and I went for. I took my salmon sesame seared with a soy glaze, while the Minx's swordfish was blackened and served with a Cajun remoulade. Both flavor profiles worked well with our respective seafood, the blackening seasoning being a particular standout.

The Minx was dieting and decided to forgo dessert, but I couldn't resist trying their homemade ice cream created from a recipe passed down from the owner's grandfather. I selected the chocolate, which is always available, and one of their flavors of the day, red velvet. As I had hoped, the ice cream was rich and creamy, and the chocolate really tasted of chocolate. I know that may sound funny, but some chocolate ice creams I've encountered taste like some abstract notion of chocolate rather than the real thing. This was the real thing. Red velvet is a fairly subtle flavor, but I think this ice cream got it right.

I'm happy to see that some of downtown's long standing establishments are starting to venture into the 'burbs. First Birroteca set up an outpost in Belair, then Bagby's Pizza opens a location in Pikesville, and now we have a Mother's in Timonium. I hope this becomes a trend. It's always nice to have some downtown flair in the strip malls of Baltimore County.

Mother's North Grille
2450 Broad Avenue
Timonium, MD 21093

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Monday, March 21, 2016

Gluten-free, Sugar-free, and Dairy-free Mexican Pasta and Meatballs

One of the drawbacks to being food writers is that it is all too easy to overindulge and put on weight. It's especially bad when we are working on projects where we have to go to a lot of restaurants in a short period of time and sample all manner of food and drink which is so delicious but so detrimental to our physiques. The Minx decided that she was overdue for a curtailing of her naughty foods intake and put herself on a month-long boycott of wheat, sugar, and dairy. I was not willing to go quite that extreme, but I certainly wanted to help by creating dinners that would suit her dietary restrictions.

The biggest challenge for me was to find a way to work my favorite food, pasta, into a meal that we could both eat. We remembered that, several month ago, we tried gluten-free pasta made from corn. It was tasty enough, but for me it didn't quite work with an Italian red sauce, my mind being too conditioned to the taste of semolina in relation to Italian cooking. I tend to associate the flavor of corn with Mexican food. That's where the idea came to me to create a red sauce with Mexican flavors.

I was going to make a meat sauce, but Kathy really had a craving for meatballs, so I had to not only bring Mexican flavors to the meatballs, but also find a way to avoid bread crumbs. Kathy suggested oatmeal, which worked perfectly. The recipe that follows is a low-and-slow, all-afternoon, labor-of-love kind of affair, but everyone should make a meal like that now and again. There's a real sense of accomplishment when you take the time to create something really flavorful and satisfying.

Mexican Pasta and Meatballs

For the sauce:

28 oz. can tomato puree
14.5 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 medium onion chopped
2 cloves garlic crushed
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 teaspoon cumin
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon ancho chili powder
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1 tablespoon tomato paste

For the meatballs:

1.5 pounds of ground beef
1 chipotle chopped
2 cloves garlic smashed
1/4 cup cilantro chopped
1/2 cup oatmeal
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon onion powder
1/4 teaspoon smoked paprika

For the pasta:

1 pound corn pasta
4 teaspoons kosher salt

Start your sauce by sauteing the onions in a large sauce pan with a tablespoon of olive oil. Once the onions have sweated and are slightly caramelized, pour in your tomato puree and diced tomatoes, Add the garlic and tomato pasta and stir to combine. Then stir in the chili powder, cumin, salt, and ancho chili powder. Bring to a simmer, then turn down the heat and cover. Let it continue to simmer with the cover on for two hours, stirring occasionally. Add cilantro.

After two hours, you can create your meatballs. Combine all the ingredients for the meatballs in a large bowl and mush it all together with your hands until everything is thoroughly integrated. Form the mixture into golf-ball-sized meatballs. Heat a frying pan until a drop of water will sizzle in it and add the meatballs. Regularly turn the meatballs with tongs until all sides of the meatballs are nicely browned. Then add the meatballs to your sauce and allow them to simmer in the sauce for at least another half hour.

To cook your pasta, bring five quarts of water to a boil and add four teaspoons of kosher salt. Pour in your pasta and stir. Use the instructions on the package as a guide, but use your own judgement. I find that the instructions for cooking corn pasta tend to overstate the cooking time. After about ten minutes, check a piece for doneness.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain it, put some in a bowl, set two or three meatballs on top, and then ladle sauce over the whole dish. The flavors will remind you of a Mexican restaurant while the textures and the visual with make you think of an Italian red sauce joint. There's also the added comfort of knowing that you're not eating wheat, dairy, or added sugar.

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Friday, March 18, 2016

Crabbie's Alcoholic Ginger Beer

For those of you who have never tried ginger beer, it's like an extra-pungent ginger ale. The ginger is usually pretty spicy and it makes a great cocktail mixer, as well as a drink on its own. I often wondered why, since it's called ginger "beer," that there's not an alcoholic version of the stuff.

And then I discovered Crabbie's.

Crabbie's was started in Edinburgh, Scotland, in the 19th century by grocer Miller Crabbie and his son, John, but it's only been available in the US fairly recently. We were offered some samples to try, and as fans of regular ginger beer, we couldn't pass them up. Crabbie's tastes like the perfect spicy ginger soda, nicely carbonated, sweet but not too, with a little kick (4.8% ABV). You can't taste the alcohol, but you'd certainly feel it after drinking a couple.

As you can see from the pic,
 I like Cruzan Black Strap,
which once upon a time was bottom
 shelf but with recent popularity
 has worked its way up closer to the top)
Ginger beer is perfect in a classic Dark & Stormy, but the drink is even better with Crabbie's.

Dark & Crabbie's
1/2 oz dark rum 
1 bottle Crabbie's Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer
Fresh lime wedge

Method: Fill your glass with plenty of cubed ice. Pour over ½ oz of dark rum. Then add your Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger beet to create the perfect drink. Garnish with a lime wedge.

Crabbie's can also be used in a pretty tasty Moscow Mule. Serve it in a copper mug, if you can.

Crabbie’s Moscow Mule
3 – 4mint leaves
¾ oz lime juice
½ oz simple syrup
1 ½ oz vodka
Crabbie’s Original Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Method: Muddle the mint gently in the bottom of your glass. Add the lime juice, simple syrup and vodka, along with 3 – 4 ice cubes. Then add a splash of Crabbie’s Alcoholic Ginger Beer.

Here's a third recipe, using the Spiced Orange flavor. I suppose you could use the Raspberry flavor to make a Crabbie's Raspberry Punch, too.

Crabbie’s Orange Punch 
1 oz dark rum
1 oz gin
1 oz vodka
2 oz fresh lemon juice
1 ½ oz cranberry juice
Crabbie’s Spiced Orange Alcoholic Ginger Beer

Method: Add the spirits and fruit juices to a cocktail shaker. Shake well and stir into a pitcher filled with ice. Then add a generous hit of Crabbie’s Spiced Orange Alcoholic Ginger Beer. Garnish with slices of your favorite fruit.

Crabbie's is available at places like the Wine Source, Eddie's, Total Wine & More in Towson, Dulaney Liquors, and at some restaurants. Use the locator tool on Crabbie's website for more.

* 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, March 14, 2016


As I mentioned in a post a few weeks ago, I stayed in Koreatown when I was in NY for Fashion Week. Despite all the tempting offerings that surrounded my hotel, I kept my consumption of Korean food to one meal. And what a meal it was!

Gaonnuri is on the 39th floor of a building at 32nd and Broadway. The sweeping views of the city are only somewhat distracting from the excellent food. With a menu full of tempting Korean dishes like haemul pajun (scallion and seafood pancake) and japchae (stir fried glass noodles) plus the option of tableside barbecue, I had a hard time making decisions. I wanted it all, so that's what I had - the tasting menu. Eight courses, including dessert, plus an amuse bouche. Washed down with Hite beer.

The rather bland amuse was a thin rice porridge, perhaps to clean the palate of any previously consumed flavors.

Thinly Sliced Steamed Pork Trotter Wrap With Vegetables And Soy Mustard Dressing
If I didn't know this dish was pork, I would have thought it was beef. The medium-thin slices were served chilled, and were somewhat difficult to eat with chopsticks and a spoon (traditional Korean tableware). I managed. The dish, though meaty, was a light and refreshing start to the meal.

Steamed Dumpling Soup With Mushroom
Two kinds of Korean dumplings and shredded beef and egg floated in an intensely beefy consomme-style broth. I'd take this over won ton soup any time.

Pancake Sampler – Oyster, Perilla Leaf With Pork, Beef Shortrib
I'm most familiar with crispy, lightly greasy, haemul pajun and we almost always order the seafood and scallion pancake when we eat Korean food. I was not at all familiar with the three varieties served in this course. None were crispy, and the oyster and perilla/pork versions reminded me more of omelets than pancakes. The beef one, wanja jun, was similar to a meatball. Or in the case of my pancake of ground shortrib, beef tartare. The outside was browned, but the inside was close to rare. It was mildly seasoned, so the beef flavor shone. I think it was my favorite of the three.

Traditional Korean Braised Prime Shortribs
One normally finds galbi (or kalbi) in cut in thin slices across several bones, but at Gaonnuri, the short ribs were western-style, served in big meaty chunks, off the bone. Easily the best short ribs I have ever eaten, the meat had a perfect fat-to-meat ratio, and were melt in the mouth tender, with that lovely sweet galbi flavor. Gorgeous.

Broiled Black Cod in Caramelized Bean Paste Sauce
If you've ever tried misoyaki butterfish at restaurants like Morimoto or Roy's, then you have an idea of what the black cod gui was like -- tender, very fresh fish with a sweet, caramelized skin. A little bean paste and gochujang on the side could be employed to add variety to individual bites, and the lightly cured kimchi added tartness to the dish.

Mixed Rice With Seafood And Vegetable Served In Hot Stone Bowl AND
Korean Bean Paste Stew With Beef, Tofu & Vegetables
I love dolsot bibimbap, a dish of rice with vegetables and protein served in a sesame oil-slicked screaming-hot stone bowl. The bowl and oil lightly fry the rice, making for mouthfuls of varying textures once the ingredients are stirred together. This version had shrimp, squid, and a little fish roe, and it was as good or better than any other I've tried. The final savory dish, served at the same time, was a lightly spicy stew with chunks of zucchini, beef, and tofu, and also among the best versions I've tried. A big bowl of it would be a great choice on a blustery night, warming and soothing.

A LA MODE 된장찌개
Frangipane-Apple Galette, Huckleberry Compote, Mascarpone Ice Cream
By the time dessert arrived, I was stuffed, so I couldn't do the lovely crisp apple galette justice. I felt the huckleberry compote to be a little on the sweet side, but otherwise I enjoyed the few bites I was able to eat.

All that for $105, with an amazing view of the city. I'd definitely do it again (and take Mr Minx along for the ride).

1250 Broadway
Penthouse, 39th Floor
New York, NY 10001
212. 971. 9045

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Friday, March 11, 2016

Flashback Friday - Grub Street Diet

My diet is pretty boring.


This post was originally published on April 24, 2013.
Grub Street Diet

One of my favorite features of the New York Magazine Web site is the "Grub Street Diet." Every week, some NY-based celebrity (actor, musician, director, media mogul, etc.) is asked to keep track of everything he or she eats during the week and submit it to the magazine in essay format. Some folks have an interesting life but a boring diet, and with some others it's vice versa.

Recently, Mr Minx and I found ourselves eating in restaurants a lot more than usual, which made me think of the Grub Street Diet. We're in the "interesting diet, boring life" category, as you'll see.

Monday, April 15
Monday is usually Panera day, and my regular order is a large coffee and a breakfast sandwich. I've been stuck on their Mediterranean egg white, which has pesto, spinach, cheddar, and roasted tomatoes on ciabatta. It's quite a tasty combo - love the roasted tomatoes - and plenty filling to satiate me until lunch.

Around 1pm, lunch was a Voskos exotic fig non-fat Greek yogurt. It tasted ok, but the fig seeds made it unpleasantly crunchy.

Mr Minx always has dinner in the works when I get home from work. This evening, he was in the process of making a day-glo yellow Curry of Indeterminate Origin from a recipe he found on teh Innernets. He insisted it was supposed to be a Thai-style curry, but it looked Indian. Smelled Indian, too. In any case, it was brightly colored and slightly sweet and went nicely with a big pile of basmati rice. It also used up the block of super-duper-firm tofu we picked up at Trader Joe's a few weeks ago that was on the verge of expiration.

Tuesday, April 16
Today, I went to Au Bon Pain for my coffee. I like iced coffee when the weather is warm. ABP only offers the caffeinated stuff, so I make my own by overfilling my cup with ice and mixing hot decaf and their Irish cream flavor half and half (their hazelnut is rather flavorless) with some milk. Their large iced drinks are so huge, I end up finishing it with lunch. But first, breakfast, which is a boring cup of Muller FruitUp yogurt in the Peach Passionfruit flavor. It's tasty enough, I suppose, though the fruity part on the top is a bit gelatinous. And now that I've gone to look for the nutrition label online, I've decided that I can no longer eat this particular yogurt. Why? Because it contains tilapia. Yes, I realize that is a fish, but I wonder if Muller knows that?

I was hoping that the UMB farmers' market would have started up already so I can get my summertime fix of two tacos from Ruben's Mexican Food. Instead, I ate the lunch I brought, which was home-made sweet potato hummus with baby carrots and sweet potato tortilla chips.

Mr Minx picked me up from work today. When I asked what he wanted to do for dinner, he suggested we could eat the leftover pasta from Friday. Except for the tilapia in my yogurt this morning, I hadn't eaten meat since Saturday, so really wasn't in the mood for that particular pasta, which had a vegetarian goat-cheese-and-tomato sauce. Mr Minx then suggested we go to Burger Brothers, which at that point on our ride was about a block away, so that's what we did. The first time we ate there, the burgers and fries both were super-salty. This time, the saltiness of my cheeseburger with bleu cheese, pickles, and tomato was my own damn fault, since bleu cheese is salty, but it wasn't anything like the first time. The fries were pretty good, too.

Wednesday, April 17
On Wednesday, I took the day off work so we could get a bunch of errands done. Breakfast was a bowl of cereal - a handful of Honey Bunches of Oats to finish off the box, and another handful of Mini-Wheats, topped with 2% milk.

Squire's everything pizza
We then went to Home Depot to pick up stuff for our new vegetable garden, made a trip to the storage locker to pick up some furniture, including a much-needed office chair. We had been using one of my Dad's old chairs from probably the late 80s. It was so wonky that after sitting in it for more than ten minutes we found ourselves sliding so far forward our knees were in danger of hitting the ground. That one was disposed of in a quick trip to the dump. We had borrowed my brother-in-law's truck, so after returning that to him, we visited with my mother-in-law who lives in the same area. By the time 3pm rolled around, our stomachs were growling and Mom suggested we order a pizza from Squire's, which we did. Almost nothing satisfies a ravenous appetite more than one of their hearty "everything" pizzas topped with pepperoni, sausage, mushrooms, and meat sauce. I was a pig and ate three slices, but other than the cereal, didn't eat anything else all day.

Thursday, April 17
I was home on Thursday, too, and after a breakfast of toasted Panera honey wheat bread topped with a bit of Richard Blais's recipe for pimento cheese (post on that coming soon!), I decided to tackle a recipe from a cookbook that I received for review. The pineapple upside-down cake from Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends turned out extremely well. Except for the part when the caramel oozed up the side of the pan and out onto the bottom of my oven. Luckily, it was lined with a sheet of foil that caught the now-burning and smoking caramel, and I quickly whipped it out and replaced it with a fresh sheet, all without: 1) burning myself; 2) causing the cake to fall.

No lunch again today because we planned to have dinner with my brother at Birroteca. He's been threatening to move out of town and has been trying to eat at as many of the restaurants I've recommended as possible. Earlier in the year, Mr Minx and I had a terrific meal at Birroteca with our friend Melinda, but it was mostly vegetarian in nature. This time, we ordered dishes fit for a carnivore (and a post about that meal will be forthcoming). We again ate the calamari alla plancha because it's so freakin' good, but we also tried the meatballs, the duck duck goose pizza, and the Thursday special of Sicilian steak.

Friday, April 18
I was back to work today and had an Oikos Café Latte yogurt for breakfast. No fish in that yogurt, but it does have "black carrot" juice for color. Huh? It was really good - I'll buy this one again. Lunch was leftover hummus from Tuesday with more baby carrots.

For dinner, we had the leftover pasta that we eschewed on Tuesday, beefed up (literally) with some of the steak left over from Birroteca. We try to be really good about eating all of our leftovers, whether they come from meals eaten at home or in restaurants. There's too much waste in this country as it is.

Four days a week, we eat nothing between dinner and bedtime, but on the weekends, we indulge in a bit of ice cream. Tonight we had it with some of the pineapple upside-down cake from Thursday.

Saturday, April 19
Breakfast was leftover black bean enchiladas from last Sunday's dinner, topped with a fried egg. We need the protein for the day ahead.

For the past three Saturdays, we've been attempting to downsize our storage locker. This week, we made still more progress before calling it quits and going home to wash up a bit. Honestly, I can deal with dust and grime for only so long before my dirty hands trigger my semi-compulsive need to wash them.

After washing up, we decided to have dinner at Earth, Wood, & Fire. The last time we were there, I fell in love with their coal-fired chicken wings. They're perfectly cooked, tender and juicy, with a nice crisp skin with patches of char and a light smack of cumin. I had some of those with a small arugula salad with bleu cheese and seedless grapes.

Late night dessert was a bowl of ice cream with pineapple upside-down cake.

Sunday, April 20
The original plan was to meet my brother and Dad at the Nautilus diner for breakfast. Mr Minx and my brother were then going to head down to the Orioles game and Dad would drive me home. But Dad wasn't feeling well, so I stayed home with the dog. While the boys ate omelettes and bacon, I made myself a sandwich with pancetta, a fried egg, and a spoonful of Blais' pimento cheese on toasted rye. While the Nautilus is fine and dandy, I dare say I probably got the better end of the breakfast deal.

After taking quite the long walk with the dog in order to obtain one of those horrible "e-collar" thingies so he won't scratch his eyes out (he has terrible hay fever), I spent the afternoon reading cookbooks before heading to the kitchen to work on dinner. I wasn't sure if the boys would be up for dinner after the game, but I made enough for several people anyway - red-braised chicken thighs, smashed marinated radishes (both from Fuchsia Dunlop's latest Chinese cookbook) and some oven-roasted asparagus with sliced garlic. I fixed a "beauty plate" for photographing, then ate that as my dinner, along with the lion's share of asparagus.

We finished up our ice cream stash with more cake before hitting the sack a bit earlier than usual.

See. Boring. And long-winded, to boot.

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Wednesday, March 09, 2016

Savannah Bee

The Savannah Bee Company offers both edible honey and honey-enriched beauty products. We were both suffering from bad colds and drinking lots of hot tea with honey and lemon, so we jumped at the chance to sample some of Savannah Bee's products.

They sent us three flavors of honey shortbread cookie bites and a jar of spun cinnamon honey--both perfect additions to our tea habit. The cookies are little bitsy things with a big buttery taste and pleasantly granular texture. They are honestly some of the best shortbread we've ever tried, tasting pretty close to home-made.

The spun honey is made from crystallized honey and cinnamon, creating a smooth and dense product that tastes delish eaten right off the spoon, but it's also terrific spread on toast or warm biscuits. I like to add it to my overnight oats, to give them a nice sweetness with a hint of cinnamon. Of course, it's great in regular hot oatmeal as well.

Savannah Bee also sells different types of artisan honey, in flavors like acacia and sourwood, and honeys they call "everyday" honeys, formulated for adding to tea or eating with cheese. They also have a ton of beauty products made with honey or beeswax, including lip balm, body lotion, hand cream, and shampoo. I'm eyeballing the beeswax lip gloss and royal jelly body butter myself to keep dry lips and hands at bay. Hm...might need more of those cookies, too.

Savannah Bee products can be ordered online, from their Web site, but some local Baltimore-area shops also carry their honeys, like Baltimore Coffee and Tea, Eddie's, and the Teavana in Columbia.

* 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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Points South Latin Kitchen

Last week at a fun VIP party, we got a sneak peek at Bryson Keen's new Fells Point restaurant, Points South Latin Kitchen. One might remember Bryson from his 10 years as the very visible managing partner at Roy's Hawaiian Fusion, where he not only kept the place in tip top running order, but also led the very fun wine dinners that we attended from time to time. Bryson grew up around Latin cuisine; his grandmother owned a Tex-Mex restaurant in Fort Worth. We had high hopes for a fine eating experience at Points South, and our experience so far has been very good.

As we explored the newly revamped space (formerly home to both Meli and Anastasia) we enjoyed white and red sangria and selections from the restaurant's menu. Both kinds of pinchos, beef and shrimp, were among the passed appetizers that also included patacones (fried green plantain chips) topped with dollops of the Yucatecan toasted pumpkin seed dip known as Sikil Pak, and a meatless version of their carimanolas (yucca croquettes). Later, we were treated to a buffet that included grilled steak with Argentinean chimichurri, rice and beans, chicharrones of pork belly, and several salads.

We're hoping to go back sometime soon to have a real sit-down dinner and will keep you posted.

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Monday, March 07, 2016

NY Fashion Week Dining

I went to New York earlier this month for Fashion Week, and of course I made sure to eat well.

My hotel was in Koreatown, on 32nd Street between 5th and Broadway, and on both sides and across the street were tons of great dining options. I would have been quite content to eat Korean food for every meal, however, as I was getting my makeup done a couple of times during my stay, I didn't want to offend the poor makeup artists with garlic breath. So I indulged in the spicy garlicky fare just once, and that will be outlined in a separate post.

On the day I arrived, I wasn't able to eat anything until late in the afternoon. I was backstage at the John Paul Ataker show, watching Charlie Price's team do hair. There was food and drink, but as a guest and a blogger, I wouldn't think of indulging in something that clearly was not intended for my consumption. (I am sure there are others who would have no compunction about digging in.) After I left the Pier 59 Studios, I checked into my hotel and decided, since it was still light out, to hop a train up to Bergdorf's to do some perfume sniffing (my second thing to do in NY, after eating). The Plaza Hotel and its food court were standing in between the subway stop and BG, so I ducked inside to have a bite to eat.

I had read things about No. 7 Sub labeling it the "mad scientist of sandwiches," mostly because the fillings are somewhat unorthodox. I decided to try the zucchini parm, which named as one of NY's best sandwiches in 2013.

A combo of panko-coated zucchini, fontina cheese, sweet onion puree, bbq chips, and pickled jalapenos, it was indeed unorthodox. "If you don't like this sandwich, you're not human," says the Complex article. Well, I may be a little inhuman then. It's not that I didn't like it, but that the components weren't particularly balanced. There was far too much panko and potato chip (and bread) and not enough zucchini or cheese. The moisture ratio was a bit off. The jalapenos were fine though; I definitely could taste those.

For dinner, I ducked into a "Japanese Pub" on 32nd Street called Hana Michi. I put pub in quotes because it didn't really have what I think of as typical izakaya food. Instead, they had a selection of fancy western-style sushi rolls, katsu dishes, hot pots, teriyaki, and both rice and soup dishes. The place was packed and quite lively and the food there is probably pretty decent, judging by the happy patrons. I obviously ordered badly. It was freaking cold outside, and windy, so I thought a nice bowl of ramen would hit the spot. As you can see from the pic, it wasn't very attractive ramen. There was too much broth, and it was rather insipid in flavor. It looked like tonkotsu, but it tasted like not much at all. And the noodles were overcooked. But the Asahi Super Dry that I drank with it hit the spot and both kept me warm on my short trip down the block to my hotel.

My dessert was much better. There's a Paris Baguette right next door to the hotel, so I stopped into the Korean bakery chain and picked up a canele and a bomboloni with coffee cream. The canele was not typically crisp on the outside; it was quite custardy-textured and pretty tasty. The bomboloni (an Italian donut) was fresh and cream-filled and not too sweet. While not the best or most authentic French bakery in NY, I have always found Paris Baguette to be pretty satisfying.

The next day, I skipped breakfast, opting instead for a simple flat white at Starbucks before heading to get my makeup done at Caravan Studios at the Gregory Hotel, a couple blocks from my hotel. I ducked back to the room to drop off a bottle of crappy fizzy drink that was the lounge's only freebie, and then set out for lunch. I had scouted out several options around the corner on 5th Ave. Uncle Sam's Burgers, the first US outpost of a burger chain from Beijing, won this round. I didn't feel like eating a beef burger, but the "dim sum" burger of ground shrimp and pork caught my eye. Topped with shiitake mushrooms, lettuce, and house sauce, it was indeed reminiscent of a dumpling filling. Pretty tasty, although it definitely needed more salt. The Thai iced tea on the side was perfect.

The next day, my big meal was brunch. I'm not a brunch gal, and I certainly don't routinely eat brunch alone. But, as it was Saturday and I had to get out of my hotel and down to the West Village/SoHo area early, I made a reservation at El Toro Blanco. Out of all the various places that serve weekend brunch in that area, ETB's menu seemed most interesting (and affordable). I opted for the chilaquiles, described as "baked saucy nachos, guajillo salsa, fried eggs, melted Mexican cheese, crema, avocado, pico de gallo." It was good. The eggs were perfect-- no crunchy brown bits and plenty of gooey yolk--and there was just enough cheese and salsa-coated chips to please. I had a margarita called a Chile Rubbed Mango (tequila, mango, cilantro, habanero, lime, agave) on the side. (Yes, it was 10:30 am. Don't judge.) The habanero was in the salty rim, and it added a nice punch, but wasn't noticeable at all when I used the straw. Not bad, but could have been spicier and fruitier.

So that's most of what I ate in NY for Fashion Week, minus a small Pinkberry grapefruit yogurt with pink grapefruit, coconut, and those tasty little mango pearls, and the fab dinner I had at Gaonnuri. The latter will be in an upcoming post, so stay tuned.

One W 59th Street
between 5/6 Avenues
New York, NY 10019

6 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

28 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

307 5th Ave
New York, NY 10016

257 Avenue of the Americas
New York, NY 10014

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Friday, March 04, 2016

Flashback Friday - Fennel Marmalade

Fennel marmalade seems so hipster-ish, doesn't it?


This post was originally published on July 28, 2010.
Fennel Marmalade

During the latter part of the week I usually start to mentally go through the contents of our fridge and attempt to plan the weekend's dinners. This past week, I knew it was going to be too damn hot to take an impromptu walk to the grocery store, which meant I needed to utilize the ingredients on hand. Luckily, we had plenty of goodies in the larder: fennel and asparagus in the fridge and several kinds of meat and fish in the freezer.

For Saturday, I settled on making something with the fennel and pork chops. Fennel marmalade came to mind. I don't know why, but I want to make jam out of everything these days (see  Jam, Bacon and Jam, Red Curry).

It was pretty simple and turned out very well.

Fennel Marmalade

olive oil
pinch salt
1 small onion, cut and half and sliced thinly (about 3/4 cup)
1 fennel bulb, sliced in half, cored, and sliced thinly (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup orange juice
grated zest of one lime

Heat oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat Add onion, fennel, and salt. Cover and cook until onion and fennel start to wilt, about 10 minutes. Stir in 1/4 cup of the brown sugar. Pour in the orange juice and reduce heat to the lowest setting. Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the mixture starts to seem dry while the fennel is still on the crunchy side, add a few more dribbles of orange juice. Do not let the mixture burn.

After 45 minutes, add the rest of the brown sugar and raise the temperature. The mixture should bubble and caramelize. When most of the moisture seems to have evaporated, take the marmalade off the heat. Stir in the lime zest.

Place marmalade in a jar or a covered bowl in the fridge until ready to use. Makes about one pint.
I served it on top of simple sautéed pork chops that had been marinated in a bit of soy and crushed garlic for a couple of hours. On the side, I made a bulghur salad with asparagus, red and yellow tomatoes and a green cayenne pepper from our garden, scallions, mint, lime juice, cumin, goat cheese, and olive oil.

In hindsight, polenta might have worked better with the pork chop, but I thought the combination of hot pork chops and hot corn mush might be too much for this humid weather. Mr Minx thought it the cold salad was fine, so what do I know?

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