Monday, September 16, 2019

NoNoNo New York

There is far more to Japanese food than sushi, but it's hard to find a restaurant that offers more than seaweed salad and tempura in addition to the usual raw fish favorites. At least in Baltimore. But in New York, one can dine at an izakaya--a Japanese style pub--or at a restaurant that specialize in one or more specific dishes, like yakitori or ramen. NoNoNo, on the edge of Manhattan's Koreatown, is one of those places, with a menu of yakitori, or various chicken bits on skewers, plus noodle dishes and various other delights.

I wanted to dine at NoNoNo last December, but didn't have the forethought to make a reservation. This time around, I did, and so we feasted. We enjoyed some dishes more than others.

I am a fan of chawanmushi, an egg custard made with dashi broth rather than eggs, studded with savory bits and bobs, usually a shrimp or two. NoNoNo's version can be had plain, or for a small upcharge, topped with salmon roe, snow crab, and uni. Unfortunately, they were out of uni, and the snow crab was a disappointing small spoonful of shredded meat, but the overall portion of custard was large and, I thought, quite good.

The yakitori on offer includes everything from thigh and breast to skin, gizzard, even back cartilage (a favorite of mine). But we bucked the trend and went for beef skewers, instead--short rib with onion and skirt steak with shishito peppers. In both cases, the meat was flavorful and juicy, with the expected pleasant chew.

A skewered soft egg wrapped in bacon and topped with truffle salt made for another lovely mouthful or two.

We also tried the duck nanban, or deep fried duck topped with egg salad. The egg salad seemed more like mayonnaise with bits of white onion in it, and I felt it was a strange topping for the duck. I've seen too many food competition chefs get dinged for putting a wet sauce on a crisp piece of protein to think this is a good idea. But even the pieces of duck that escaped the sauce were a bit on the soggy and chewy side. Not my favorite dish.

Because our meal was going to be meat-forward, we ordered the grilled romaine, which was much like a Caesar salad. A very good Caesar salad.

We also ordered the deep fried grilled mushrooms with a very garlicky basil and scallop filling. I'd love the filling tossed with pasta. Those mushrooms were a challenge to pick up with chopsticks, by the way. Slippery devils they were.

Then there was the grilled salmon belly topped with shaved radish and salmon roe. I was hoping for a fatty and lush texture, but the meat was a tad overcooked.

Finally, we had the cold sukiyaki udon, which may have been my favorite dish of the evening. Fat slippery udon noodles swam in a tasty broth topped with various mushrooms, slices of beef, tofu, scallions, and a goodly hit of wasabi.

I'm not sure if we ordered badly, or what. The beef dishes were excellent, but some of the others had issues. There was still plenty more interesting items on the menu to explore, and I think we may have made a mistake in overlooking the chicken skewers. There are plenty of other restaurants in NY in which to dine, so we probably won't be revisiting NoNoNo in the future. Still, I'm glad I was able to satisfy my curiosity.

Check out the online menu and be intrigued yourself. Prices per dish are all pretty inexpensive, but if you order as much as we did, your meal won't be cheap.

NoNoNo
118 Madison Ave
New York, NY 10016
https://www.nonononyc.com/

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, September 13, 2019

Flashback Friday - Spice and Dice

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on August 9, 2011.

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We Minxes love Thai food and ever since the demise of our regular haunt, Bangkok Place, we're always on the lookout for a new favorite. While we really enjoyed a meal at Bangkok Garden, being in Columbia makes it a bit of a haul and not exactly good for any spur-of-the-moment meal decisions. Recently, Mr Minx received a coupon for a place called Spice & Dice, located in a nondescript office park on Joppa Road about halfway between Goucher and Loch Raven Boulevards. That's not far from us, so we made a point to have dinner there one recent Tuesday evening. 

Spice & Dice has a bright and happy interior that, sans tables, would work well as a daycare center. Ignore, however, the many colors and patterns on the walls and concentrate instead on the menu which has a large selection of appetizers, plus curries, stir-fries, and noodle dishes. On our first trip, we sampled the fish cakes and the chicken laab from the appetizer section, plus the gingery chicken ped king and the vibrantly-spiced duck with basil sauce, all washed down with generously-sized glasses of sweet and milky Thai iced tea. After that successful experience, we vowed to visit again soon, this time with camera in tow.

A few weeks later, we met my father and brother for dinner at Spice & Dice. After taking some time perusing the many interesting menu options, Dad opted for the jasmine rice soup followed by pad thai with pork. The soup was outstanding, its light broth tangy with lemongrass and full of tender chicken. The pad thai was a fine rendition of the ubiquitous noodle dish, served with an extra helping of crushed peanuts on the side.

Jasmine Rice Soup
Pad Thai with Pork
We also sampled two appetizers, the chicken teriyaki dumplings and fried calamari. The dumplings were drizzled with an unfortunately goopy sweet sauce that did nothing for them and were otherwise forgettable. The calamari was slightly chewy, as it often is when served in the diamond-scored-rectangular chunks that tend to be typical of Asian restaurants, but was otherwise tasty, particularly when dipped in the lightly spicy pink mayo-based sauce.

Chicken Teriyaki Dumplings - pretty but meh.
Happy Calamari
As fans of Thai basil, my brother and I both ordered dishes that featured that ingredient. Or so we thought. His chicken with basil dish displayed no evidence of that herb's presence, but otherwise had a lively garlic flavor.

Chicken in Basil Sauce
My dish, shrimp with eggplant, contained a decent amount of basil leaves in a sweet-ish sauce that had partly been absorbed by the chunks of bright purple Asian eggplant. It was a bit inconvenient to eat the tail-on shrimp, but otherwise I happily hoovered up this dish, lusciously-sauced romaine leaves and all.

Eggplant and Shrimp with Basil
Mr Minx opted for the jungle curry, a preparation that contains none of the coconut milk present in other Thai curries. It had a very distinctive and unusual herbal flavor, predominately galangal and ginger, and was quite unlike any other Thai dish we've tried.

Jungle Curry with Pork
Some of the dishes at Spice & Dice are a bit on the sweet side - probably a nod to American palates - and the teriyaki dumplings were nothing special, but everything else was quite delicious.

While the decor was busy, the restaurant was not. I hope more people find this cute spot and stop by for a meal so it'll stay around long enough for us to become regulars.

Spice and Dice Thai Restaurant
1220 E Joppa Rd #108
Towson, MD 21286
(410) 494-8777

* 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, September 09, 2019

Dining in New York, August 2019, Part 1

Mr Minx wanted to see an exhibition of old Batman comic art at the Society of Illustrators in New York, so we made a long weekend out of it. Blessed with magically cool late-August weather, we enjoyed our wanderings even more than usual.

Our first trip after dumping our luggage at our hotel was to Rip's Malt Shop. Some of you may know that I am a graphic designer, but you probably don't know that I designed Rip's logo and menu. Their original Brooklyn location is a bit of a palaver to get to, but their new Manhattan location is a short subway ride away from our regular Midtown base camp. After I snapped some pics of their snazzy neon sign, we sat down to enjoy some vegan comfort food. I had the Chicago dog, topped with tomato, neon green relish, sport peppers, diced onion, celery salt, mustard, and a pickle spear (with another on the side). It was a pretty reasonable facsimile of a meat hot dog.

Mr Minx had the Rip's Burger, a vegan patty topped with chili, cheese, bacon, special sauce, and cole slaw. It, too, was tasty, but not as convincing a replica to my taste buds. I'm not crazy about meat substitutes, and never sought them out in my brief time as a vegetarian. YMMV, of course.

After Rip's, we wandered up to Dough for some giant-ass doughnuts. We tried the Cafe au Lait, "inspired by a classic coffee cake made with a roasted coffee glaze and crunchy pecan topping," and a blueberry one with an oaty crumb topping. They were pretty good, but maybe too big? If there's such a thing as a donut that is too large, that is. And they were super fluffy as well, more the texture of coffee cake than a donut. The flavors of the glazes could have had more oomph, too. I dunno. I wanted to be more impressed than I was.

After dinner at NoNoNo (post coming soon), we hit up the Spot Dessert Bar in K-town for dessert. The Milky Puff sounded best to us: warm puff pastry, brulee bananas, white chocolate honey comb, corn flakes, and condensed milk ice cream. It was pretty good. The puff pastry was cooked nicely, and the chocolate honeycomb was a fun novelty that we had seen made on a recent episode of the Food Network's Worst Bakers in America. (The trick is to spread melted chocolate over bubble wrap. When it hardens and is peeled off, the result looks a bit like honeycomb. Cool, huh?) I wanted more bananas though, and didn't see the need for cornflakes when the puff pastry had a similar texture.

I know my reactions to these items are pretty meh, but they failed to excite me. We did eat a lot more on our trip, and much of it tasted great, so stay tuned. In the meantime, check out these sites.

Rip's Malt Shop
48 Greenwich Ave
New York, NY 10012
https://www.ripsmaltshop.com/

Dough
14 W 19th Street @ 5th Ave
New York, NY 10011
https://www.doughdoughnuts.com/

Spot Dessert Bar
11 W 32nd St, 2nd floor
New York, NY 10001
https://www.spotdessertbar.com

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, September 06, 2019

Flashback Friday - Figckles

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on August 23, 2011.

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Recently, I picked up some fresh figs at the supermarket, and while I adore figs, I can never seem to get them all eaten before they start to spoil. In order to preserve them for a bit longer than the two days they're usually good for, I made a quick batch of pickles, based on the pickled cherry recipe mentioned here last week.

They turned out great, and worked really well as a sweet element to round out the flavors of a chicken salad sandwich. Granted, the sandwich was a little on the exotic side.

Figckles

3 tablespoons brown sugar
4 tablespoons fig or apple cider vinegar
1 branch fresh rosemary
six fresh figs, cut into halves

Bring brown sugar, vinegar, and rosemary to a boil. Add figs and cook about 5 minutes, using a spoon to baste figs with liquid. Remove from heat and pour figs and liquid into a glass container with a lid. Refrigerate until ready to serve. Eat within one week.

Chicken Salad Banh Mi

2 - 3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1/2 teaspoon Sriracha
1 teaspoon lemongrass paste
1 tablespoon finely minced cilantro
2 cups cooked chicken, cut or torn into chunks
2 scallions, white and some green part finely chopped
lime juice
salt and pepper 
Thai basil leaves
1 tomato, sliced
figckles
1 baguette, cut into 6" - 8" lengths

In large bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons of mayonnaise, Sriracha, lemongrass paste, and cilantro. Stir in chicken and scallions. If mixture is too stiff, add more mayo. Add lime juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Arrange 2-3 tomato slices on a baguette. Top with chicken salad and figckles. Serves 2-3.


* 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, September 02, 2019

Wholesome Pantry Snacks

I've really tried to be good this summer, eating whole foods and skipping things like sugar and grains, eating way more fruit and veg, and laying off the meat. Many people who do this go on forever about how good they feel, how well they sleep, poop, etc., because they're living this new somehow more perfect lifestyle. I won't. I feel as good as I ever did (I never felt bad, physically), but I've lost some weight, which is a plus. (I've always carried way too much weight for my medium-sized frame.)

Even those of us who are seemingly virtuous in our eating habits need to snack once in a while, especially when we're out and about doing summertime activities. Generally, when I feel snacky, I reach for dried fruit, nuts, and granola. My number one favorite dried fruit is mango. It's fabulous, chewy and sweet, and comes in pieces big enough that two or three makes an adequate nibble. So when I was offered a selection of snacks from ShopRite's Wholesome Pantry Organic line, and they included dried mango, I jumped at it. Besides, we shop at ShopRite regularly; it is honestly one of my favorite grocery stores.

Raw cashews are also a great snack, but they can also be transformed into stuff like cashew milk and cheese substitutes. And if you prefer toasted cashews, just toss them in a heavy dry skillet over medium heat and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant and lightly browned. Shake the skillet regularly and don't walk away from the pan--nuts are high in fat and can burn easily!

Wholesome Pantry Organic's sweet potato tortilla chips are so good! They're great with salsa, but perfect just on their own straight from the bag (my preferred method of snacking). And if you're feeling particularly naughty, they're also just lovely popped into the toaster oven with a sprinkling of grated cheese on top.

Those granola squares in the photo? Yeah, they're a smart snack for summer, but I ate one for lunch the other day (had a big breakfast) with a piece of fruit and it kept me satisfied until dinner.

The Wholesome Pantry Organic line consists of USDA-certified organic items, and "free-form" products made with simple, clean ingredients. Check them out next time you're in ShopRite--you'll find the products in every aisle, from fresh veg to meats to sauces.

* 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 30, 2019

Flashback Friday - Miguel's Cocina y Cantina

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on September 28, 2011.

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MinxEats is a proud supporter of Dining Out for Life and we did our part this year by dining out at Miguel's Cocina y Cantina, which offered 50% of their take to Movable Feast. We are big fans of Mexican food and Mr Minx and I looked forward to sampling chef owner Michael Marx's authentic fare from the moment I made our reservation.

Miguel's is in the hideous new Silo Point complex and is a bit hard to find, so thank goodness for the well placed signs and arrows. Once inside, we were taken to a tiny table across from a large bank of windows in the bar area. It was dark and gloomy outside, so unfortunately, it was rather dark and gloomy inside as well. And a bit noisy, despite the few other diners partaking of our normally early dinner hour.

While perusing the menu, we nibbled on a basket of freshly fried corn tortilla chips accompanied by two salsas - a tangy bright tomatillo and an almost creamy roasted tomato. I had a bad day and was in the mood for a margarita - the Miguel's, with Espolon Silver, Gran Gala, Miguel’s mix (simple syrup + fresh lime juice) really hit the spot. Mr Minx tried the Agave wheat beer, which was light and mild.

Chips and salsas and the Miguel margarita
While my mood was gloomy, the food definitely was not. Because the prices at Miguel's are reasonable and we wanted Movable Feast to get as much money as possible, we ordered three appetizers - the guacamole for two, the shrimp corn cakes, and the birria Guadalajara. The guac and corn cakes came out first, competing for space on the table with the basket of chips and salsa, and our beverages. The guac was nice and chunky, had a nice kick of heat, but was perhaps a tad too acidy for me. It came with fried flour tortillas, which were flaky and brittle and didn't work as well with the thick dip as corn chips did. The corn cakes were terrific - three delicate and fluffy discs topped with a scattering of very flavorful shrimp, some salsa fresca, and a drizzle of crema.

Shrimp with corn cakes
Guacamole for two
Our third appetizer, the birria, arrived with our entrées - enchiladas de pollo, and carne asada. My two large enchiladas were filled with pulled chicken bound together by a bit of cheese and were topped with a lake of molé negro. The molé was surprisingly mild and sweet, redolent of Mexican chocolate. Under the enchiladas were black beans and an arroz verde made with a pesto-like mixture of cilantro, basil, and pumpkin seeds that gave it a lovely nutty flavor.

Enchiladas de pollo
The carne asada - which also came with arroz verde and a pile of sliced zucchini cooked with achiote and a good dose of cinnamon (weird, but it really worked well) - was very tender and full of flavor. The molé Amarillo reminded me a bit of New Mexican red chile sauce, but with a brighter flavor. The components of this dish really worked well together - it was meaty, creamy, nutty, spicy, and tangy, all at the same time.

Carne asada
The birria had yet another, completely different, sauce, this one primarily tasting of dried chiles and cumin. Combined with the very tender, very lamb-y lamb, it seemed almost like an Indian dish. It was topped with a garnish of toasted almonds, which lent a pleasant crunch to the dish.

Birria Guadalajara
Finally, we ended up with two desserts, the churros, and a chocolate bread pudding, both accompanied by Taharka Brothers vanilla ice cream and a puddle of cajeta (goat's milk caramel - if you haven't tried this stuff, go find some NOW!). The bread pudding had a rather loose consistency, and was very moist and fudgey, but not overly chocolaty. The churros were even better, with super crisp, cinnamon sugar-dusted outsides and an almost creamy middle. Both were large enough to share.

Chocolate bread pudding
Churros
We were pretty happy with the goodies we sampled from the limited menu offered for Dining Out for Life and look forward to a return visit to taste some flautas, carnitas, and maybe a taco or two.

Miguel's Cocina y Cantina
1200 Steuart St
Baltimore, MD 21230
www.miguelsbaltimore.com
(443) 438-3139

* 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 23, 2019

Flashback Friday - Silver Spring Mining Company

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on August 17, 2011.

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Before last week, Mr Minx and I had eaten at Silver Spring Mining Company exactly once - in the late 90s. Back then, before we got married, we spent most Friday evenings in the company of married friends who were on the Atkins diet. These two were the kind of people who could and would talk endlessly (and of course didactically) about their diet, as if it was the most important, interesting, and indeed, only topic of conversation on Earth. Certainly the only diet. They loved SSMCo because they could get a steak and a cup of onion soup without the crouton and be in high protein-and-fat heaven. Bored by all of it, I'm afraid I remember absolutely nothing about that meal apart from having to wait for a table, and watching our friends greedily slurp up hot onion soup.

Our friends lost weight, divorced, got fat again, and are now completely out of the (our) picture. Without the distraction of their snooze-worthy dinner conversation, Mr Minx and I revisited the Mining Company one recent weekday because 1) we happened to be in the area; and 2) it was dinnertime.

Because it was early, we had the place pretty much to ourselves and were able to take in the scenery. Despite having been open only since 1995, Silver Spring Mining Company has the look of a far older and more established restaurant, with sun-faded photos on the walls and worn carpeting. The bathrooms, however, sported sparkling-clean, vividly purple-and-white checkered floors, which I can imagine are rather hard to take after partaking in a couple of signature cocktails or a pitcher of sangria.

The menu is rather chaotic, with too many photos and colors to distract from too many lists: "Starters;" "Fajitas;" "Specialty Sandwiches;" "Burgers;" "Chicken Sandwiches;" "Chicken;" "Wings;" "Silver Sides;" "Seafood;" "Salads;" "Soups;" "Miner Joe's Favorites;" and "Steaks." After spending several minutes perusing this mess, we decided to start with the fried pickles, because they were new to us. And who doesn't like fried food?

Fried pickles
While the idea was good, the flavor was very commercial. The pickles were from a jar, the breading was very thick and crunchy but rather flavorless, and the "country mustard sauce" promised on the menu was actually a Thousand Island-style dressing, presented in one of those lidded to-go cups used for tartar sauce or salad dressing. The real kicker was the price - a whopping six whole spears for $6.99. For that much they could have bothered to put the sauce in a non-disposable container.

On to our entrées.

Baltimore Reuben
After going back and forth, trying to decide if I wanted to be pedestrian and order a crab cake in order to take advantage of the $14.99 soup/entree/dessert "complete dinner" deal, or order one of the interesting-sounding sandwiches, I opted for a sandwich. The Baltimore Reuben looked good on paper, certainly better than it looked in person: two stacked slices of marble rye spread with Thousand Island and topped with a big ol' blob of mostly shell-free shredded crabmeat, a couple of nicely-cooked (probably steamed) shrimp, three slices of bacon, a slice of tomato, and some Cheddar Jack cheese. The only resemblance to an actual Reuben sandwich was the bread and dressing.

I had forgotten how the combination of crab and bacon can sometimes taste...funky...so I remedied that problem by peeling off the cheese and tomato (oh, that tomato! a razor-thin slice of nearly-white supermarket blandness that is a sin even during the Winter, but worthy of eternal damnation during tomato season), eating the bacon, then replacing the cheese. Without the bacon, the sandwich was...ok. There was a generous amount of crab, but I would have preferred a smaller amount of higher-quality meat, so the texture wouldn't be as...squishy.

All sandwiches come with fries, but I opted for a substitution of cole slaw. It was ok - a little mayonnaisey, but not bad. I probably should have chosen the garden salad or fresh zucchini medley to add some color to the dish. That is, color in addition to the sprinkling of whatever it was sprinkled clumsily around the edges of the plate. So Emeril Lagasse, ca. 1998, not to mention completely unnecessary on a plate containing a sandwich and a side dish that comes in a small bowl. It's not like dust is going to make things look more appetizing.

Jambalaya
Despite knowing full well that jambalaya is a rice dish, not a sauce-over-rice dish, Mr Minx went for SSMCo's version anyway. The "jambalaya" was pleasant, if not authentic, and contained a generous portion of chicken breast chunks, shrimp, and slices of spicy Andouille sausage in a tomato-based creole sauce, with garlic toast on the side. It was certainly better than my choice.

While I wasn't exactly happy with our meal, Silver Spring Mining Company has many fans - enough to support locations in Hunt Valley and Bel Air, as well as the flagship restaurant on Belair Road in Perry Hall. While we were eating, a party of six or so came in to celebrate a birthday and judging by their familiarity with the menu, they were regulars.

I'm pretty sure that's not a label that will ever be pinned on me.

Silver Spring Mining Company
8634 Belair Rd
Nottingham, MD 21236
(410) 256-6809

* 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 19, 2019

The Orient Perry Hall

I have often lamented the lack of good Chinese food in the Baltimore area. Oh sure, there are several carry-outs and smaller restaurants serving up Americanized food, but how many of them are actually good? As far as I'm concerned, Grace Garden in Odenton and Hunan Taste in Catonsville (which has been "temporarily" closed since at least November of 2018) are the only two that are consistently good. Szechuan House in Timonium is extremely spotty, but they have a huge menu and it is possible to find one or two decent dishes. Asian Taste in Ellicott City is good for dim sum, but we were disappointed by a recent dinner. Some folks swear by Chopstix Gourmet; we went for dim sum once and were not impressed. There's a new place in the city called Panda BBQ. I have heard positive comments, but their online menu indicates a very limited menu of mostly skewered meats and vegetables. We have gone to Galaxy Asian Cuisine for dim sum once and enjoyed it. We'll need to visit again to check out their dinner offerings.

And then there's The Orient. My family used to frequent the original Towson outpost back in the 80s and 90s. That location closed a few years ago, but there are others in Bel Air and Perry Hall. A new Towson restaurant opened a couple of years ago; we haven't been yet. The Perry Hall restaurant is right up the road from my Dad, so we have gone there a few times and haven't been disappointed.

The food is primarily American Chinese-style, but everything we've tried has been consistent and well-prepared.

We've had the crispy duck twice and have enjoyed the tender meat and salt-and-pepper seasoned skin.

The mai fun noodles can be had Singapore-style (with curry) or a simple soy sauce seasoning with meat and shrimp. They don't have as much wok hei as the same dish at Asian Court, but they are still quite good.

The Szechuan string beans, a family favorite, are still nicely crisp and green at The Orient.

We've also tried the House Crispy Pepper Squid and the whole shell-on shrimp with the same preparation (above), and have found them to be quite delectable. Shredded Crispy Beef and General Chou's have been admirable, with tender meat and a still-crisp coating, despite the sticky sauce on each.

Portions are huge, and prices are very reasonable. We've gone on Saturday afternoons and found the place abandoned, which is a shame. However, that means we get all the attention and the food arrives promptly. Though it's not Grace Garden, I am looking forward to our next trip to The Orient, mostly for the soy sauce noodles and the House Crispy Pepper seafood dishes.

Have you been?

The Orient
9545 Belair Rd
Baltimore, MD 21236
https://www.theorientmd.com/

* 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 16, 2019

Flashback Friday - Meatless Monday Tomato Tart

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on August 29, 2011.

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Recently, my brother donated to us a box full of ripe tomatoes and jalapenos given to him by a coworker. Yum! I love tomatoes, but this gift was more than we could eat in the short time we had before the fruits would go bad. I knew I'd have to make several things rather quickly; the first one to come to mind was a tomato tart.

I had both puff pastry in the freezer and conventional pie crust in the fridge. Heck, I even had a box of fillo in the freezer, but I oped to use the puff because it seemed simplest. I topped it with layers of shredded cheese and caramelized onions before the gloriously-red tomatoes went on, and then sprinkled it all with some of the abundant rosemary from our garden.

The best thing about baking at 400F (especially when it's hot outside) is that the heat releases food's incredible aromas. Almost immediately, my house smelled of onions and rosemary, a fragrance that lingered enticingly for several hours, long after we cleared the dinner dishes. And the flavors? Amazing. The tomatoes were sweet to begin with, and time in the oven only served to concentrate the sugars. The bed of onion added a bit of savoriness, as did the cheese. Overall, a gorgeous thing to do with an overabundance of produce.

Tomato and Caramelized Onion Tart

About 3 medium-sized ripe tomatoes
1 cup onion, thinly sliced
olive oil
salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
1 sheet frozen puff pastry, thawed
1/2 cup shredded Asiago cheese
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary leaves

Cut the tomatoes into about 1/4" thick slices, sprinkle them with a bit of kosher salt and place them on paper towel-lined plates with another towel on top. Allow to rest for about half an hour to absorb excess water. In the meantime...

...in a large skillet over medium heat, cook onion in about a tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt until they are very soft and golden brown, about 30 minutes. Add garlic and cook an additional 5 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Preheat oven to 400F.

Roll pastry out about a half inch larger on all sides and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Leaving a 3/4" inch border on all edges, first sprinkle cheese on pastry, then top with an even layer of cooled, caramelized onions. Finally, arrange tomato slices over onions, overlapping very slightly. Scatter rosemary over all.

Bake in preheated 400F oven for 4 minutes until pastry is golden brown and the tomatoes have started to shrivel quite a bit.

Serve hot or at room temperature.


* 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 12, 2019

Cypriana

When Cypriana was downtown, sprinkled here and there in office buildings and in the University of Maryland hospital, they specialized in things like kebabs and salads. I loved their Greek salad, the typical inauthentic pile of lettuce with cucumbers and tomatoes, topped with a generous amount of feta cheese and a cup of creamy tarragon dressing on the side. The dressing really made it.

A few years back, they closed their fast casual restaurants and opened a full-service place in the Broadview apartments, former home to the venerable French restaurant Jeannier's, among others. I'm not sure why we put off going for so long, but this spring we finally paid Cypriana a visit. It was a pleasant evening, so we asked to sit on the patio, which may or may not have been a good idea. The restaurant's patio is divided into two areas, one more loungy, and the other for dining. After we were seated, we noticed a lot of musical tables and chairs being played by a trio of people who were apparently hosting a graduation party. They never seemed particularly satisfied with the number of tables pushed together or the chairs arranged around them, and the whole thing got uncomfortably close to where we were seated. As in, perhaps one of us would get smacked with a heavy metal table or chair. Fortunately, seating arrangements were resolved before I felt we had to move out of the way.

But then the kids happened.

There must have been a large party inside, one with many small children. Many small children who decided to run around outside on the patio. A patio that is actually a large balcony. Had any of those children been curious enough to climb the short wall to see what was on the other side of the balcony (a drop into a courtyard), there may have been a tragedy. One parent was outside briefly, sitting on a chair and playing with his phone while the children ran in and out of not only the dining room entrance, but also the ramp into the kitchen entrance. Bad enough they caused a ruckus on the lounge section of the patio, but they also decided to run around in the increasingly more crowded dining section, hiding behind tables and running around servers with full trays of food.

And nobody said a word to anyone.

I'm not sure why half a dozen kindergartners were allowed to run around largely unsupervised in a restaurant. I don't understand why parents cannot parent their children.

Anyway...Cypriana is lucky that neither of us got belted by a chair or had food spilled on us by a waiter who had to avoid rugrats. And the food was good.

We mostly stuck with mezzedes, small plates. We tried the spinach and feta flatbread, which was crispy and melty and nicely cheesy.

Also the beef- and lamb-stuffed grape leaves. They were much larger than normal grape leaves, and really very nice, with flavorful filling and tender leaves. They were supposed to come with a yogurt sauce that our waiter forgot, promised to bring, but never did. I suppose they didn't need it.

The sesame roasted feta was drizzled with honey and served with fresh hot pita. I love baked cheese, and could have eaten a few more slabs of this stuff.

We also had the "Mousaka of Cypress," a small and unphotogenic ramekin with layers of eggplant, zucchini, potato, and a beef and lamb mixture, covered in a dreamy bechamel. It was quite possibly the best moussaka I have ever had.

We tried one entree dish of tender grilled octopus served with a cucumber salad (called tabouli on the menu) and some red quinoa, which brought nothing to the plate. The octopus itself was very nice. I tried dipping it in the container of what appeared to be plain, unseasoned, red wine vinegar, and felt that it was fine on its own.

We couldn't pass on dessert, especially when pistachio sea salt baklava was on offer. Made as individual pieces rather than in a large pan, it made for a much neater serving, though it was a bit difficult to cut into bite-sized pieces. The flavor was very good though.

The menu lists the chocolate rose cake as "layers of dark chocolate cake with rich Belgian chocolate and edible roses with a semi-sweet fudge icing." I figured the "edible roses" were made of frosting, but no, there was a definite rose flavor to the cake, and pulverized rose petal dust garnished the plate. I never would pair chocolate with rose, and while it worked here, I still probably won't pair those two strong flavors. The cake was otherwise moist and quite good.

I have mixed feelings about Cypriana. While by and large the food we had was good, the service was meh (still waiting on that yogurt sauce!) and the rugrat disturbance was pretty inexcusable. I can perhaps understand that management might not have wanted to upset their customers by asking them to mind their own brats (Really? I actually do not understand it at all.) but why sacrifice the enjoyment of the other diners?

Cypriana
105 W 39th Street
Baltimore, MD 21210

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Posted on Minxeats.com.