Monday, March 18, 2019

A Stroll Down Bleecker Street

Even before my first trip to New York, I was somewhat obsessed with Bleecker Street. It all started while I was in college, studying visual communications. A very famous illustrator who probably made pretty good money was a guest speaker at my school. During his talk, he dropped the fact that he lived on Bleecker Street in the West Village. Though I knew I didn’t quite have his talent, my life goals suddenly involved living in NY in an apartment on Bleecker. Looking back, I realize: 1) I had a bit of a crush on the guy; 2) He probably lived over a restaurant and existed in a constant fug of melted cheese and oregano. But what’s so bad about smelling like pizza all day every day? (I could probably rationalize it then. Now, not so much.)

I never did move to New York, but most of my visits to that city involve a stroll down Bleecker. In the days when a friend of mine worked at a now-defunct restaurant in the West Village, I liked to explore the neighborhood before meeting up with him for dinner. I would emerge from the Christopher Street station and, ninety-nine percent of the time, walk down a block and turn left onto Bleecker. A right turn would mean walking up the more expensive end of Bleecker, the one lined with clothing boutiques that are far less-interesting to me than restaurants. If you’re a Sex and the City fan, the original Magnolia Bakery is on that end, at W. 11th Street, but that’s about it as far as food is concerned. Unless you want to want to purchase pricey togs and accessories, head southeast.

There are also boutiques on the next two blocks of Bleecker, and I skip them all. Let’s face it--I’m a realist. I know I can’t afford anything in those shops, so there’s no use torturing myself by looking at any of it. But there are restaurants, too, like A.O.C., a little French joint where one can sit in an outdoor garden and enjoy a croque madame or duck confit while pretending to be in Paris. Modern Greek cuisine is offered down the street at Nisi Estiatorio. I like that I can get baklava oatmeal or grilled octopus for brunch and lobster moussaka for dinner.

Continue down to the next block for more food, though the walk can be mildly confusing with the criss-crossing of streets. The next intersection involves both Barrow Street and 7th Avenue. As you’re heading south(-ish, Manhattan isn’t on a straightforward N, S, E, W grid because the whole peninsula slants to the northeast), you’ll see Hummus Place and Bleecker Street Pizza on the left, though both are actually on 7th Avenue. Just keep walking straight. Once you’re across 7th Ave, you’ll see O. Ottomanelli & Sons, an old-school meat market that has been around forever. Next door is Ghandi Cafe, where the rather large menu of Indian favorites belies the rather cramped space. Bantam Bagels comes next, but you won’t find the NY classic with a schmear here--they specialize in bite-sized bagel nuggets filled with flavored cream cheese. Across the street you can eat sushi at Kumo, or, if you prefer your seafood cooked, there’s Fish next door. Craving pizza? John’s of Bleecker Street has been making coal-fired pies since 1929. You can’t get a slice there, only whole pies, but it’s worth a visit if your ultimate goal is similar to mine: taste all of the pizza NY has to offer (a lofty goal, I know.)

If you’ve ever had a hankering for ice cream flavored with, say, corn, or maybe sweet potato studded with bits of brie cheese, then you should hit up Cones. This shop specializes in helado--Argentinian ice cream similar to gelato--and sorbets, sometimes in unusual flavors. But also more familiar ones like pistachio, mint chocolate chip, and passion fruit.

Back across the street is Kesté, but this time the pizzas are wood-fired and Neapolitan-style. The crust is thin and blistered or “leopard-spotted,” and the toppings are plentiful. The menu boasts over 40 variations of white, red, and specialty pizzas including ones topped with housemade truffle burrata or porcini mushrooms and a walnut cream. There are over a dozen gluten-free pizzas, and a cheese-free vegan pie available, too. Also on this side of the block is my favorite tea shop, David’s Tea. The Canadian chain has three locations in Manhattan, but this one is my favorite. I like to snag something iced (or hot, depending on the season) to sip as I wander around, but usually end up buying quite a bit of loose tea as well. (Cardamom French Toast black tea and Coffee Pu’erh are two of my current faves.)

Murray’s Cheese is in the next block, next to Amy’s Bread, the perfect places to stock up for an impromptu park bench picnic in one of the green spaces nearby. If you’d rather eat your cheese indoors, Murray’s has a Cheese Bar up the block. The menu is predictably cheese-tastic, with items ranging from fondue and lobster mac & cheese to brie and mushroom soup, Buffalo cheese curds, and raclette for two. The dessert menu includes cheesecake, of course, but also s’mores made with a Spanish cheese called Arzua Ulloa. And now I’m seriously craving cheese, but as I’m on Whole30 right now, it’s verboten. [sad emoticon] [crying emoticon] [cheese emoticon]
A massive slice at Joe's
I have a couple of favorite places in the next block: taco joint Tacombi (with other locations in town if you can’t make it to this one); and Pasticceria Rocco. Going to Rocco’s is practically a tradition in my family; my Dad used to bring home boxes of their Italian cookies when I was a kid, and now I do the same. Their vaguely chewy hazelnut biscotti are one of my all-time favorite cookies, and I have a soft spot for their pignoli and meringue cookies as well. Rocco’s has gelato, too, but if that’s what I’m after, I go to Grom, on the corner of Bleecker and Carmine Streets. I’m a sucker for the pistacchio, but am happy with any flavor they offer. On that same block of Carmine is Joe’s Pizza, home to one of the best slices in the city.

While there are lots of tasty places on Bleecker itself, don’t be afraid to wander down one of the side streets. The first cross street after Christopher is Grove Street, and if you don’t wander, you won’t find Buvette or Via Carota, serving French small plates and rustic Italian fare, respectively. Turn left on Carmine after visiting Grom, cross 6th Ave, and you’ll find yourself on Minetta Lane which takes you to Macdougal Street and Minetta Tavern (home to one of the best burgers in the city), the enormous slices at Artichoke Pizza, plus several other eateries and cocktail lounges. The whole area is lousy with bars and restaurants that make up the many reasons I find myself exploring this area over and over again.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, March 15, 2019

Flashback Friday - St Patrick's Day Eats

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on March 17, 2014.

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Despite our last name, we are not Irish in any way, shape, or form. Consequently, we don't partake in drinking green beer or dressing up like leprechauns on St Patrick's Day. And we normally don't eat corned beef and cabbage, at least not together. So the recipes I'm going to share with you now are only vaguely related to the holiday. Around these parts, it's as good as it gets.

"Cabbage," aka bubble and squeak made with brussels sprouts.

Korean-style Rubenadas, aka empanadas stuffed with corned beef and kimchi.

Even better than making your own corned beef at home - go to Attman's and get a pound or three and feast on that.

Lamb stew with Asian flavors and sauteed cabbage

And finally, one of my all-time favorite ways to eat cabbage - okonomiyaki. Nobody will tell if you want to put corned beef in it, too..

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, March 11, 2019

Manhattan's K-Town

I’m going to let you in on a secret: I am not a New Yorker. However, I visit on business (and occasionally pleasure) several times a year and always try to stay in the same hotel. Or at least in the same neighborhood--Koreatown. This little one-block square area in Midtown Manhattan runs from 5th Avenue to Broadway and includes 31st and 32nd Streets, which actually makes the “block” a trapezoid. There’s a bit of spillover to the other side of 5th Ave, too. In any case, this compact area is studded with restaurants, bakeries, and bars, a handful of hotels, and is a convenient 2-block walk from Penn Station. That was the original selling point for me, the proximity to transportation, but after staying in the area a few times, I realized that if I were ever too busy to think about where to eat, I could have breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks without going very far in any direction. (Truthfully though, there has never been a time in my life that was too busy to exclude thoughts of food.) I also discovered that the alleged “city that never sleeps” does indeed roll up the sidewalks after dinner, at least in Midtown on a Monday night. On one occasion, I emerged from the Herald Square subway station at 1am after spending most of the evening elsewhere in the city. I was somewhat alarmed to realize that I was the only soul on the street. Fortunately, my hotel was nearby, in the middle of a block that is always busy, thanks to the surfeit of 24-hour Korean BBQ restaurants and late night karaoke bars.

Bibimbap at New Wonjo
 Among those 24-hour BBQ joints are The Kunjip, New Wonjo, and missKOREA, all on 32nd Street. missKOREA involves three floors of bbq, each with different decor and separate menus. The first floor has a somewhat naturalistic, hanging-out-in-the-forest, vibe, the second is more serene and modeled after traditional Korean study rooms, and the third floor is contemporary and spare. Diners have the option of ordering bbq both in set menus and a la carte, but also as part of multicourse feasts that include starters, a course of either hot pot or crepes served with meat and vegetables, the bbq main dish, a noodle or rice preparation, and dessert. The Kunjip and New Wonjo are both more casual restaurants with fairly straightforward menus that include stews, noodle dishes, and bibimbap as well as bbq cooked at the table.

Matcha latte at Grace Street
Three other restaurants, Gammeeok, Shanghai Mong, and Abiko Curry, are also open around the clock. Gammeeok specializes in seolleongtang, a rich soup made by simmering beef bones for many hours so all of the marrow, fat, calcium, and collagen are extracted, broken into tiny particles, and suspended in broth which turns a milky white, rather somewhat like tonkotsu ramen broth. They also serve bossam (braised pork belly, sliced and served with kimchi and usually cabbage leaves in which to wrap it), housemade sundae (blood sausage), and a few kinds of Korean pancakes. Shanghai Mong bills itself as an Asian Bistro; in addition to Korean dishes, they also serve pad Thai, udon, pho, and many Chinese-restaurant-style dishes like General Tso’s or sweet and sour chicken. If you like Japanese-style curry, and you like it spicy, you’ll probably enjoy Abiko Curry. Curry was introduced to Japan by the British, and it’s flavor is closer to the yellow-hued curry powder in your pantry than to that of Indian dishes like vindaloo or rogan josh, yet it’s also very much its own thing. Abiko simmers their curry for “100 hours” and offers a gravy-like version served with rice or noodles, and a thicker cream sauce mixed with pasta. Dishes can be customized with toppings like fried squid, raw eggs, pork cutlets, and cheese; the spiciness can also be ordered to taste, but be forewarned that even “level 2” packs some real heat. I like the donburi bowls, a mound of rice topped with some sauce, lots of sauteed onions, and a protein of your choosing. It’s not spicy at all but completely delicious.

Donburi at Abiko Curry
Several other BBQ joints dot the K-town landscape on both sides of 5th Avenue: Jongro; Her Name is Han; Dons Bogam; Kang Ho Dong Baekjeong. All have more limited hours than the round-the-clock places, and each has its fans. On quite the opposite side of the spectrum; rather than piles of meaty goodness, mushrooms and tofu are the stars at Hangawi, the rare Korean vegetarian restaurant. They also have what might be the ultimate Instagrammer’s meal: a hot stone bowl filled with rice, vegetables, and...avocado. Beats avocado toast any day.

If you’re in the mood for something sweet, you’re in luck. Everything from green tea lattes to fancy French-style cakes can be found in Koreatown. My favorite bakeries are Tous Le Jours and Paris Baguette. The former has a wide variety of pastries, both familiar and not. Croissants are big and brown and beautiful, but the much more homely hot dog encased in a squid ink roll with cheese inside and out has its merits, too. There are also French baguettes and loaves of fluffy Korean milk bread, donuts, and flaky pastries filled with everything from red beans to chocolate to sausages. Paris Baguette has a smaller selection of similar products, plus fancier layer and roll-style cakes. Both bakeries offer specialty coffee drinks as well. More coffee can be found at Grace Street, an expansive cafe that has an equally large menu of hot and iced coffee and tea drinks, including matcha, milk tea, and cocoa. Grace Street also serves waffles with various toppings, and something called shaved snow, a light and feathery frozen dessert made from blocks of flavored ice milk shaved into silky ribbons.and topped with things like red beans, condensed milk, or mango puree. Across 5th Avenue one will find Besfren, a dessert shop with a much smaller selection of pastries, but also delicious giant triple chocolate chip cookies, matcha/taro swirl soft serve ice cream, and a selection of ginseng products. Only want tea? Gong Cha is a closet-sized space that serves a seemingly infinite number of hot and cold tea drinks in flavors like familiar Earl Grey and Oolong but also wintermelon and taro. Order your tea topped with simple milk foam, or with boba, red beans, basil seeds, coconut or herbal jelly, or pudding (somewhat like flan)...even with all of the above. Don’t forget to grab a wide straw to suck up all the solids, because a regular straw simply will not do the trick.

If you’re not sure what exactly you want to eat, step into Food Gallery 32, a food court where you’ll find everything from Korean fried chicken, bibimbap, and ddukbboki to the savory Chinese crepes called jianbing, churros, and frozen yogurt. Seating is communal and the place always seems crowded, but it’s great for the undecided among us.

Fried dumplings at Mandoo Bar
And that’s not all, folks. There are at least two gastropubs in K-town, Itaewon and Osamil, and restaurants specializing in fresh tofu (BCD Tofu House) and Korean dumplings (Mandoo Bar), plus a somewhat more fancy restaurant called Gaonnuri. Located on the 39th floor of 1250 Broadway, overlooking Herald Square, Gaonnuri has some of the best panoramic views of the city. They offer both tableside bbq and entrees like bibimbap, but also fish dishes involving black cod, sea bass, and monkfish. I like the seasonal tasting menu, which at $115 per person isn’t exactly a bargain, but it does include 6 savory courses and dessert. There’s also a more economical $55 three-course prix fixe that includes bbq, but the whole table must participate.

I’m sure I’ve missed more than a few places, but I hope I’ve hit on enough to lure you into a stroll through New York’s Koreatown. There’s no shortage of food (there’s even an H Mart if you are in the mood or have the ability to prepare a meal for yourself) in this relatively small area. Shops too, if you’re into Korean beauty products. It’s definitely a neighborhood worth a visit.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, March 08, 2019

Flashback Friday - Creamy Chorizo, Chicken, and Corn Chowder

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on February 17, 2014.

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Nothing hits the spot on a frigid winter day like a bowl of soup. Especially a hearty soup made with a bunch of stuff that I usually keep on hand: frozen chicken thighs, chicken, and corn; canned tomatoes and chipotles; and chicken stock. A loaf of freshly baked bread is the perfect accompaniment.

If you don't have chicken, chunks of beef stew meat would work well, just cook the soup longer to ensure the meat is tender, adding additional stock if necessary.

Creamy Chorizo, Chicken, and Corn Chowder

2 links Mexican chorizo
1 cup chopped onion
salt
3 boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cubed
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 chipotle en adobe, plus 1 teaspoon of adobo sauce
1 15-oz can diced tomatoes and their juice
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen corn kernels
1 large red potato, peeled and diced
1/4 cup heavy cream or half and half
honey (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Remove chorizo from casing and place in a 3-quart pot along with the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onion is translucent and the sausage has browned and broken into small pieces. (There should be more than enough oil in the sausage to cook the onion without burning; if you have some weird super lean chorizo, add a dribble of oil.)

Stir in the chicken and garlic. Cook, stirring occasionally, until chicken is no longer translucent. Add the chipotle, tomatoes, stock, and corn. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down heat and simmer soup for 45-60 minutes, until chicken is very tender. Add potato and cook an additional 10-15 minutes, until potato is done to your liking.

Pour in the half and half and stir to combine. Taste for seasoning and add a bit of honey if you think the soup needs some sweetness (I did) and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 2-4

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, March 04, 2019

"But There's No Place to Eat in Midtown New York!" Part One: The 10 Best Fast Casual Restaurants

I may live in Baltimore, but I travel to New York a lot, mainly to eat. So pardon the occasional NY-based post around here from time to time.
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I hear it all the time, “there’s no place to eat in Midtown.” That is technically not true at all. There are hundreds of restaurants in Midtown Manhattan, an area that stretches from 14th Street all the way to 59th Street, and from the Hudson River to the East River--at least according to Google Maps. Other sources will tell you that Midtown starts at 34th or 23rd Street and stretches from 3rd to 8th Avenue. In any case, it’s a sizeable area, full of food. But is it the kind of food you want to eat? That depends.

If you’re happy with the sort of chain restaurants found nationwide, they are a-plenty in Midtown. Applebee’s, Subway, Olive Garden, TGI Friday’s, McDonald’s, Chipotle, and Au Bon Pain are all well-represented. Other eateries, like Le Pain Quotidien, and Maison Kayser dot the landscape along with Pret a Manger, Cosi, and Five Guys. If you’re like me, however, traveling is an excuse to eat in restaurants that I can’t find back home. So here’s a list of my favorite fast casual, multi-location, eateries that can be found in Midtown Manhattan, but probably not in my own back yard.

1. Shake Shack
Yes, there is a Shake Shack in Baltimore right now, and in a lot of other US cities, too, but if you’re from one of the 27 states that still doesn’t have one of Danny Meyer’s ridiculously popular hamburger restaurants, there are about 17 locations in New York City, six of which are in Midtown. Their hamburgers have become classics, but they also have hot dogs and a crispy chicken sandwich that is my personal fave. The Madison Square Park, Grand Central, and Penn Station locations offer breakfast sandwiches, and they all have frozen custard, which can be had as-is, or blended into a shake, float, or concrete.

2. Num Pang Kitchen
There are three Num Pang Kitchens in Midtown, each offering hearty Cambodian-style sandwiches served on fresh and crunchy NY-baked baguettes. Served with cucumber, pickled carrots, cilantro, and a chili mayo, these sandwiches have a lot in common with Vietnamese banh mi. Eschewing bread? Num Pang also has salads and rice or grain bowls with tantalizing toppings like coconut tiger shrimp or peppercorn catfish. My go-to is the five-spice glazed pork belly on semolina, with a side of charred broccoli with spicy goddess dressing, but I would devour pretty much anything on the menu.

3. Xi’an Famous Foods
This spot famous for hand-pulled noodles started out in a 200-square-foot basement stall in the Golden Shopping Mall in Flushing. Rave reviews from major publications and bloggers alike allowed Xi’an to rapidly expand to 11 locations in Queens, Brooklyn, and Manhattan, four of which are in Midtown. The food of Xi’an (pronounced shee-ahn), a city in northwest China, combines both Chinese and Middle Eastern flavors, so don’t be surprised to find cumin and other spices intermingled with the more familiar má là, or “numbing and spicy” qualities shared by Sichuan cuisine. The restaurant’s now famous noodles come with lamb, beef, pork, or chicken, served with sauce or in a soup. There are veggie versions too, so everyone can experience their lovely, slightly chewy texture.

4. Tacombi
With two Midtown locations, every day can be Taco Tuesday at Tacombi. The menu is short but sweet (tacos, quesadillas, and a handful of other items) but has everything I need to satisfy my taco jones. Sometimes I crave a crispy beer-battered fish taco and at other times the Mexico City classic pineapple and pork al pastor. I can have them both simultaneously at Tacombi because their tacos are sold per each, and not in pairs or trios of one kind (so annoying). I can even go wild and do a black bean and sweet potato vegetarian taco and have a porky carnitas (literally, “little meats”) taco alongside. I am probably going to stuff my face with their esquites and guacamole, too.

5. BonChon
There are two Midtown outposts of this Korea-based chain that specializes in crisp fried chicken with either a spicy or soy garlic glaze. Though chicken is BonChon’s speciality, they also offer other pan-Asian favorites like pork belly buns, potstickers, and takoyaki. I like to describe the latter as pan-fried savory donut holes with bits of octopus inside, cuz that’s what they are. Traditional Korean dishes like japchae, bibimbap, and bulgogi are also available, as well as the chewy rice cakes known as tteokbokki, served with the currently trendy topping of mozzarella cheese. That’s next on my list to try.

6. The Kati Roll Company
While tucking into a feast of Indian food, have you ever thought, “there should be a burrito version of this?” Well, there is--sorta. In Calcutta (Kolkata, as it’s now known) there’s a popular street snack that involves rolling a paratha around a kabob to make it easier to eat on the go. Brillant, no? The Kati Roll Company offers these portable snacks with other fillings, too, like chicken or beef tikka, spiced lamb, or chana masala. They’re especially good with a pistachio or mango lassi, but also chai or beer, though don’t try to take the latter out onto the street.

7. byCHLOE
This all-vegan establishment is perfect for when you want a kale and quinoa salad to go, or a couple of gluten-free chocolate chip cookies as a mid-afternoon pick-me-up, but also if you’re looking for a great burger or meatball sandwich. The burgers are veggie, of course, filled with good things like beans, chia, and sweet potatoes, and the meatballs are made with portobello mushrooms. Honestly though, you won’t miss the animal protein. Some locations offer breakfast and brunch, but you can get avocado toast all day, as well as cold-pressed juices and even house-made organic goodies for your beloved doggo.

7. Dos Toros Taqueria
While there are a couple Dos Toros Taquerias in Chicago, the vast majority of this chain--started by two Cali-born brothers--is in New York. There are about half a dozen in Midtown alone, so taco-lovers don’t have to look very hard to find one. The menu is pretty simple: choose one of the naturally-raised antibiotic- and hormone-free meat (chicken, pork, beef) or veg options and decide whether you want it in tacos, burritos, quesadillas, or in bowl or salad form. While their food is good, Dos Toros also tries to be good citizens by using compostable plates, straws, cups, and utensils. They also support projects like the Michael J. Fox Foundation and Food Bank for New York.

9. Luke’s Lobster
Have you noticed that Instagram pics of lobster rolls tend to get tons of likes? I’m going to go out on a limb and say the vast majority of IG users have never been anywhere near New England, original home of the lobster sandwich. These days there’s no need to travel. Luke’s Lobster has a bunch of locations on the east coast, with several in Midtown Manhattan. Their lobster rolls are Maine-style, that is, served with chilled meat and mayonnaise, on a traditional buttered split-top bun. They also offer crab or shrimp rolls, and you can get your shellfish on a salad, too. Maybe with a cup of clam chowder or half a lobster tail. Or both.

10. Sweetcatch Poke
As sushi-crazy as we are in the US, it’s no surprise that poke is everyone’s favorite new way to eat raw fish. Some Hawaiians will say, however, that the stuff we eat on the mainland is about as close to authentic as your favorite deep-fried, cream-cheese-stuffed, avocado-topped sushi roll is to the Japanese original. Sweetcatch Poke doesn’t seem too far off the right track though, with fairly classic tuna and salmon pokes, and a few other versions including one with tofu and one with...chicken. (Don’t worry, it’s cooked.) You can mainland the heck out of your tuna poke by putting it in a burrito with kale and pineapple or mango and pickled ginger, or you can have it simply on a bowl of rice with mixed greens. It’s tasty however you do it.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, March 01, 2019

Flashback Friday - Deconstructed Cassoulet

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on February 6, 2014.

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There's a new Asian grocery store in Catonsville called Great Wall. It caters to a largely Chinese clientele, and while I'm not Chinese, I find myself cooking more Chinese-style food than anything from other Asian cultures. That made Great Wall right up my alley, especially when I discovered the selection of duck parts, including whole ducks, duck tongues, and duck legs. On our first exploratory trip to the store, I grabbed a pack of two duck legs to keep in the freezer until inspiration struck.

Inspiration struck pretty quickly.

I had never cooked duck legs on their own before, but after doing some research found that confitting them (cooking them in their own fat) was a pretty simple proposition. Ordinarily, a confit involves extra duck fat in addition to the fat on the legs, but I didn't have that. (I did have a cup or so of bacon grease, left over from making a quadruple batch of bacon jam, but that wasn't going to work. Or maybe it would, but I didn't want bacon-flavored duck. I wanted duck-flavored duck.) Instead, I just went ahead and cooked the legs as is, figuring nothing could go terribly wrong.

Ok, I know you're now expecting me to relate a disaster story. But really--nothing went wrong. As the duck cooked low and slow, its fat was rendered, the meat cooked, and the skin got crisp. Exactly the results I wanted.

While the duck was in the oven, I threw together some white beans seasoned with sausage. In my mind, duck + white beans + sausage = cassoulet, and rather than going through the whole somewhat complicated process of making a real cassoulet, I cooked my components separately. I even toasted some plain bread crumbs in olive oil to mimic cassoulet's customary crusty surface.

The beans were an experiment. I found two lonely links of andouille sausage in the freezer, and added them, with a handful of carrot and onion, to a couple cans of cannellini beans. I didn't have all of the proper fresh herbs to make a bouquet garni for the pot, but I did have a little jar of bouquet garni seasoning that I got from Penzey's as a free gift the last time I placed an order. Their spice mix is a combination of savory, rosemary, thyme, Turkish oregano, basil, dill weed, marjoram, sage, and tarragon; it packed the perfect herbal punch for the bland beans. You, of course, can use an actual bouquet garni (fresh parsley, thyme, rosemary, and a bay leaf tied up in a bundle with twine), just make sure to remove it before serving.

Both elements of the dish were highly successful. And the beans were amazing. If you cook beans long enough, stirring regularly, they get dreamily creamy and taste really fattening. While my dish used pork sausages, I'm betting that if one used chicken andouille sausage, the result would be just as delicious but practically a diet delight.

Deconstructed Cassoulet

For duck confit:
2 duck legs
salt

For the beans:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup carrot, cut into small dice
1/2 medium onion, diced
pinch salt
2 andouille sausage, cut into small dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 - 1 teaspoon Penzey's Bouquet Garni seasoning
2 cans cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup chicken stock
additional salt and pepper to taste

To serve:
minced parsley
toasted bread crumbs

To make the duck: Prick the skin all over with a needle or tip of a sharp knife. Salt generously on both sides and allow to rest for at least an hour.

Wipe salt off of duck and place in a pan or baking dish into which they fit somewhat snugly. Place baking dish in a cold oven and turn oven to 285°F. Cook for 90 minutes to 2 hours, until fat has rendered and duck is tender.

Raise oven temperature to 375°F and cook duck for an additional 15 minutes to brown skin. Remove from oven and allow to rest for about 15 minutes.

To make the beans: Heat the oil in a 3-quart stock pot. Add the carrots and onion and pinch of salt. Cook over medium heat for 4-5 minutes, stirring occasionally, or until vegetables start to soften. Stir in the sausage and cook an additional 3-4 minutes before adding the garlic and herbs. Add the beans and stock and bring to a boil. Turn the heat down to medium-low and simmer beans for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until quite soft, stirring frequently.

To serve: Either pull the duck meat from the bones or serve legs whole on top of beans. Garnish with minced parsley and toasted bread crumbs.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Turmeric Cheesecake

I've been a fan of The Ginger People for a while now. I try to always have a bag of their chewy ginger candy--Gin Gins--in the house. They've recently moved into the turmeric market, which makes sense as turmeric is also a rhizome in the Zingiberaceae family. Turmeric is full of curcumin, which is thought to have anti-inflammatory properties and has long been used in Ayurvedic medicine. It's also delicious.

Among The Ginger People's new turmeric products are the Wild Turmeric Rescue Ginger Shot, a tiny bottle of concentrated goodness with 30% ginger juice, their Ginger Soother with Turmeric (a great tummy soother), and Turmeric Latte Mix, a zingy combo of palm sugar with turmeric and ginger extracts. I thought the latte mix would be good in other things, like ice cream and cheesecake. There was no room in the freezer to fit the capsule for our ice cream maker, so I decided to try cheesecake instead.

More like a cheese pie, since it's not that tall, this golden beauty is creamy and delicious.

Turmeric Cheesecake

For the crust:
1 1/2 cups crushed Lorna Doones or other shortbread cookie
1 tablespoon brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 stick butter, melted

For the filling:
2 8-oz packages cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
3 packs The Ginger People Turmeric Latte mix
3 large eggs at room temperature

To make the crust: Preheat oven to 350°F. Place a 9" or 10" springform pan on a piece of aluminum foil that is about 4" larger than the pan on both sides. Wrap the bottom of the pan tightly to prevent the butter leaking out of the crust into the oven. Put the pan on a baking sheet as an extra precaution.

Combine all the crust ingredients in a bowl. Stir well with a fork to coat every crumb with the butter. Pour the crumbs into the prepared pan and pat them down firmly to cover the bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Bake for 20 minutes. Remove to a rack to cool before filling.

To make the filling: Combine the cream cheese, sugar, latte mix, and eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer and beat until smooth. Pour into the prepared crust and bake for 50 - 60 minutes, until the filling is mostly set but the middle jiggles just a bit. Remove to a rack to cool for at least three hours before serving. It's actually best refrigerated.

Gently remove the sides of the pan. Cut cheesecake into slices and serve with whipped cream.

Makes 8 servings.

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, February 22, 2019

Flashback Friday - Nutty Bars

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on February 3, 2014.

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A day off work means free time to play in the kitchen! But first, I spent a few moments thumbing through a copy of Fat Witch Brownies: Brownies, Blondies, and Bars from New York's Legendary Fat Witch Bakery before deciding on the Pecan Bars.

We had about half a pound of pecan pieces in the freezer, but I opted to use half walnuts because they're less-expensive. I also didn't feel like opening the bag of light brown sugar when there was just enough dark brown sugar left to fit the bill. And...the original recipe called for rum. Mr Minx isn't the biggest rum fan in the world, so I used bourbon instead. The results were crunchy, sticky, nutty, and quite fabulous.

Make them. Now. Unless of course you have nut allergies.

Nut Bars adapted from Fat Witch Brownies

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed dark brown sugar
7 tablespoons cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts (pecans, walnuts, hazelnuts, almonds)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon bourbon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg
1 3/4 cups coarsely chopped nuts

Preheat oven to 350°F and grease and flour a 9" x 9" baking pan.

In the bowl of a mixer, combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and brown sugar. Add the 7 tablespoons of butter, a few small pieces at a time, and combine until mixture is sandy. Stir in the nuts. Gently press the mixture into the bottom of the prepared pan and bake for 15 minutes.

While crust is baking, melt the 4 tablespoons of butter and allow to cool. Combine brown sugar, corn syrup, vanilla, bourbon, and salt in a bowl. Stir in the cooled butter. Add the egg and mix well.

Pour the filling over the baked crust. Evenly sprinkle the nuts on top. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the filling no longer wobbles when you shake the pan gently.

Allow to cool completely before cutting, about 2 hours.

Makes 12 - 16 bars.

* Amazon links earn me $! Please buy!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 18, 2019

Products to Make Eating Right a Bit Easier

Every year, millions of us go on diets, claiming to lose a few pounds, get fit, or transform our lives. But it's difficult to stick with bland diet programs and sheer hell to keep a gym schedule. (Me, I'm more into dancing than treadmills.) There's not a one of us who doesn't get what I call, "snacky," a condition that often leads to a diet downfall. The rest of the time, we might just have a hard time finding the right substitutions for products we can no longer eat on whatever plan we're on at the time.

Personally, I'd love a diet that consisted entirely of coffee, cheese, chocolate, and sugar. Ok, so that is my regular diet. But I can't lose weight that way. Whole30 does work for me, albeit slowly, and it really works for Mr Minx. The following food products are great for fellow Whole30 adherents; they're delicious too, which is the most important thing.
I discovered this product and the next while perusing the many delight-filled aisles at last year's Fancy Food Show in NY. First there's Tio Gazpacho. I must admit I’m a bit of a gazpachoholic and can eat it every day, but I’m not into washing the blender on a daily basis. Enter Tio, a bottled chilled soup that owes its deliciousness to chef and humanitarian José Andrés, who crafted each flavor. Tio Gazpacho is made from real ingredients like carrots, tomatoes, sherry vinegar, and extra virgin olive oil, and is certified organic, non-GMO, vegan, and gluten-, dairy-, and soy-free, plus four of the five flavors are Whole30 approved. I love that I can tuck a bottle into my lunch bag and enjoy my fave soup every day.


In another aisle, as I was attempting to shovel a sample of chamomile tea-flavored ice cream into my mouth, I was interrupted by a group of French guys hawking mayonnaise made with microalgae. It’s hard to find non-soy (soy being a no-no on Whole30) mayo that tastes good. I’ve tried the ones with avocado oil and nuh-uh, they don’t work for me; let’s say I was skeptical about the algae stuff. But after a few spoonfuls, I was convinced. I swear it tastes like homemade mayo, yet it contains no eggs. No eggs means less fat, but that also makes it vegan. Who knew lowly microalgae could be transformed into something that doesn’t taste like, well, algae? The Good Spoon Mayonnaise comes in classic, curry, garlic & herbs, and smoky spicy flavors, all great in everything from potato salad to a turkey sandwich.


A Whole30-friendly product I found on my own is Nutpods. There are squillions of non-dairy milks out there, but dairy-free creamers that aren’t full of sugar are as rare as hen’s teeth. You might think: why not just use plain unsweetened almond milk? Have you tried doing that? It takes far more “milk” to adequately lighten a cup of coffee or tea to the same degree as a few teaspoons of cow-based half-and-half. All that liquid also makes hot coffee cold. That’s why I was excited to find Nutpods. Made from coconut and almonds, it only takes a tablespoon or so to make my coffee as light as I like. It also comes in flavors, all of which are unsweetened. Vanilla is tasty year ‘round, but the holiday season will bring Pumpkin Spice and Peppermint Mocha, too.


Last but not least are two snack bars that we use as meal replacements, though that's not quite in the "spirit of the diet." But when I am trying to lose a pound or ten and embark on some new eating plan that requires me to give up my three favorite food groups (sugar, grains, and dairy), I find breakfast and lunch a bit hard to deal with. I can’t have oatmeal or cereal, but I can have eggs if I don’t eat toast. Doughnuts or bagels are verboten. What I find myself relying on, especially during the work week, are RX Bars and Larabars. They’re both made with fruit and nuts, with natural sweetness provided by dates. RX Bars have a chewier texture, thanks to the addition of egg whites, while Larabars are softer. Each has 200-ish calories, which is plenty to keep me going for a few hours. I think they taste great, and eat one for either breakfast or lunch most days.

Anything that doesn't break the rules and keeps me sane are good things, right?

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com. 

Friday, February 15, 2019

Flashback Friday - Oyster Bay Grille

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on January 31, 2014.

I'm only posting this because it was the restaurant at which last week's Flashback Friday rant took place. See, I'm not mean-spirited--just honest.

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I've been sorta curious about Oyster Bay Grille since it received a measly 1-star from Sun critic Richard Gorelick. Urbanspoon users give the place a 40% positive rating, with only five votes. This prompts me to ask two questions: 1) is it really that bad? 2) does nobody know the restaurant exists?

When they posted a tasty-sounding menu for Restaurant Week, I thought it was high time we found out for ourselves. Our dining experience was as uneven as expected.

The place is handsome, with dark paneled walls and soothing blue-gray tones. The space is oddly-shaped, however, and the bar area runs the length of the restaurant. Diners looking for a quiet experience will be disappointed when Happy Hour rolls around with its crowd of Loud Talkers and People Who Have to Yell to Be Heard Over Them. (Honestly. Nobody really cares to hear about your crappy job and your idiot boss. Stop drinking so much and shut up.)

We had already determined we would order items from the Restaurant Week menu, but took a gander at the regular menu as well. Ordering oysters at a place called Oyster Bay Grille seemed like a fine idea. We decide on two each of the blue points, Delaware Bay, and Honeysuckle varieties listed on a chalk board in front of the oyster shucking station. Our server immediately ran off to place the oyster order and then lingered behind the far end of the bar until the oysters were ready, rather than return to take the rest of our order. We expected service to be spotty for the rest of the evening, and while we had other issues, our waiter ended up being fine.

On to the food, which was better than expected from a 1-star restaurant. The man in charge of the kitchen has some skill, which was apparent in the lovely hash of sweet potatoes, andouille, asparagus, and corn that accompanied my fish. However, billed as "crispy-skinned," the rockfish was anything but. It was also unseasoned, but nicely cooked otherwise.

Mr Minx's lamb duo featured two fat and well-seasoned lamb chops and a chunk of fatty lamb belly on a dollop of lentils lightly flavored with cumin. The chops were perfectly-cooked and had a nice smoky grill flavor. I thought it was a very nice dish.

Starters of tomato-based crab soup and fried oysters were fine, if unremarkable. The remoulade that came with the oysters did not taste of the promised goat cheese, but the breading on them was nice and light. The soup needed a bit more spice, but it was pleasant enough.

The online menu suggested that a chocolate mousse flavored with Thai basil would be a dessert choice, which was intriguing. Instead, there was a chocolate cake that was like a cross between a brownie and a pound cake, flavored with cinnamon and cayenne, and served with a bit of caramel. The serving was ridiculously small (hopefully a non-Restaurant Week portion would be bigger), but it was pretty good.

The dessert that was more intriguing, the "candied bacon caramel cheesecake," turned out to be a combination of elements that didn't necessarily work together. The menu listed a pistachio brioche crust, Charlottetown Farms chevre, and goat milk caramel. The crust was indeed nutty and reminded me of baklava, but the cheesecake itself was lemon-flavored, which made the bacon seem like an intrusion. There was no hint of goat (the lemon was too strong), and the sauce on the plate seemed more like dulce de leche than a goat caramel. Take away the lemon, or keep the lemon and remove everything else, and it would have been fine.

So...while the food was good, between the noise level and the oyster incident, the visit was disappointing. Take from that what you will. The place seemed pretty busy, so our staying away isn't going to hurt business any.

Oyster Bay Grille
1 East Joppa Road
Towson, MD 21286
(443) 275-7026

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 11, 2019

Eating Around New York

Mr Minx and I are serious eaters. We enjoy a wide variety of foods from all over the world. Asian food is my thing especially. Northern Baltimore County, where we live, isn't exactly a hotbed of good food, and really great Asian food is hard to find. So when we go to New York, we eat as much of it as we can get.

I like to stay in or near Koreatown, in Midtown Manhattan. 32nd Street between 5th Avenue and Broadway in particular is packed with Korean eateries, though there are some outliers on 31st and 33rd and across 5th. One can get bibimbap or barbecue 24/7, and fancy pastries and bubble tea most of the day. On our most recent trip to New York, we ate at two Koreatown restaurants, but also ventured elsewhere in the city for ice cream and pizza.

Our first stop of the trip was for a lunchtime feast of dumplings and noodles at Mandoo Bar. The soft and slippery udon with seafood was mild and soothing; the colorful steamed mandoo were variously filled with vegetables, pork, and seafood. All benefited from the mix-your-own-sauce collection of salty and spicy condiments found on every table. Personally, I prefer the fried mandoo, because I like a little crunch on the somewhat thick wrappers, but the steamed version was satisfying, too.

Later that evening, we visited Hao Noodle & Tea, which was written up here last week. Our lovely food tour guide, Daisy, remembered that Morgenstern's ice cream had recently opened a new flagship shop nearby, so we stopped in to sample a few of their 88 occasionally very unusual flavors.

When presented with that many choices, I have trouble making up my mind. I did manage to settle for cardamom lemon jam. The ice cream was strongly cardamom flavored with small pockets of a somewhat bitter lemon marmalade that contrasted nicely with the sweet spice and milky ice cream. Sadly, I didn't take note of what Mr Minx ordered, but he seemed to enjoy his flavors which likely involved chocolate. Daisy had a date-flavored concoction that was neither ice cream nor sorbet, with an odd grainy texture, that was saved by a dose of a very good hot fudge sauce.

After Morgenstern's, we trudged through the rain to Joe's Pizza, a slice joint on Carmine near Bleecker. Mr Minx, a proponent of NY-style pizza, really enjoyed the perfection of Joe's thin crust that audibly cracked when being folded. It's truly one of the best slices in town, relatively cheap and satisfying, too.

The next morning, after lattes at Starbucks (I know, but it was Sunday, they were open, and they are if nothing else, consistent), we walked the ten or so blocks to Bryant Park to check out the Bank of America Winter Village. The rain had stopped, but the clouds lingered. Still, it was a lovely winter day. We window shopped up and down the maze of tiny boutiques until we made a decision about food. Mr Bing was our first choice.

A few years ago, I saw Mr Bing at Urbanspace Vanderbilt. The food court was crowded and most stalls had lines; I found myself overwhelmed by foodie anxiety. Rather than choose something new to me, like bing, I quickly grabbed two tacos at one of the less-busy stalls, scarfed them and escaped the crowds. I resented my decision.

Jianbing is a traditional street food that originated in the north of China. Generally eaten for breakfast, this crepe-like pancake is coated with egg on both sides, smeared with various pastes and sauces, and folded. It can be filled with meat and veg, like our General Tso's bing. It's big enough to share, and fucking delicious. I won't pass up this treat next time.

Mian Kitchen was nearby, and we grabbed a couple of bao (fried chicken and pork belly) with a side of spring rolls. I enjoyed the spring rolls, which were piping hot and crispy, but was a little disappointed in the bao. The chicken was on the dry side, and neither were as flavorful as others I've eaten in town.

We also tried one of the famed liege waffles from the Waffles & Dinges outpost at Bryant Park. It was good, but I've had better.

Our plans for the evening involved visiting the tree at Rockefeller Center and checking out department store holiday windows. Barney's was a real bust; they didn't bother decorating at all. Bergdorf's windows were real winners, especially those dressed up with fake confectionery like cakes and gingerbread houses. From BGs we segued to the Parker New York Hotel (formerly the Parker Meridien) to hit up the fabled Burger Joint, a faux "dive" restaurant tucked away behind a curtain next to the hotel's front desk. The ambiance (posters, tons of graffiti on the walls and gouged into wooden tabletops) is very CBGB, but the food is classic Americana--burgers, fries, milkshakes, plus beer and wine.

The burgers were simple and very good, earning every "best burger in NY" accolade received in those glory days before the advent of the now-ubiquitous Shake Shack.

Much later in the evening, we enjoyed our second dinner at Samwon Garden, in Koreatown. Though it was nearly 10pm on a Sunday, most Korean restaurants in the neighborhood were packed, some with lines. Samwon Garden has multiple levels, so we were able to snag a table and order a few of the more interesting non-bbq items on the menu. The Honguh Kangjung, or deep fried skate wings with housemade Buffalo sauce were crunchy and overcooked and doused in a sauce more sweet than spicy (though it was spicy). Osam Bulgogi was another spicy sweet dish, this time with chewy chunks of squid and morsels of pork belly. The show stopper was a dish listed as a "side" - an enormous plate of fries with kimchi, bulgogi, and cheese curds, rather like a Korean poutine. I'm not crazy about fries in general, but I probably ate more than my fair share of this dish.

The next morning, we wandered around Chinatown in the chill wind, stopping for a porky plate of steamed dumplings at Chi Dumplings before ice cream at Chinatown Ice Cream Factory. I am endlessly amused that the "regular flavors" at this tiny shop include durian and taro, but the "exotic" flavors include chocolate and vanilla.

After ice cream came....pizza! I haven't been to that many pizza joints in NYC, but I did realize that one of my favorites, Pomodoro, was not too far away from where we had wandered. We had a quick vodka slice before heading to the Strand to browse through books.

After the Strand, we found ourselves wanting three things: 1) a place to sit; 2) to pee; 3) something warm. We spotted Max Brenner and found everything we ever wanted. 

And churros with milk chocolate, caramel, and raspberry dips. Lattes on the side. So good and so welcome.

We left the city later that afternoon, full of happy food memories and already planning our next visit.

Mandoo Bar
2 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Mr Bing
Urbanspace Vanderbilt
230 Park Ave
New York, NY 10169

Mian Kitchen
1065 Ave Of The Americas
Ste 2400
New York, NY 10018

Waffles & Dinges
Bryant Park
6th Avenue & W 42nd St
New York, NY 10018

Burger Joint
Parker New York
119 W 56th St
New York, NY 10019

Morgenstern's
88 W Houston Street
New York, NY 10012

Samwon Garden
37 W 32nd St
New York, NY 10001

Chi Dumpling House
77 Chrystie St # A
New York, NY 10002

Chinatown Ice Cream Factory
5 Bayard St
New York, NY 10013

Pomodoro
51 Spring St
New York, NY 10012

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, February 08, 2019

Flashback Friday - Shuck You Too

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on January 24, 2014.

Rereading this post made me angry all over again, especially the comments. The first one called my post "a mean-spirited review." What the ever-loving FUCK? I'm mean because I dared complain when my husband was injured because of the utter incompetence of a restaurant employee (or owner) and pretty much the entire staff (apart from the chef)? I didn't name the restaurant in the original post, nor did I actually review the food. I simply related a situation and my feelings about it. After all, it's my blog, so I can post what I want.

By the way, the restaurant was Oyster Bay Grille, and I am glad they closed.

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Sometimes I have to wonder why people go into the restaurant business.

It was Restaurant Week, and I chose a place we had never been to before because I thought their menu sounded good. The restaurant had a nice selection of raw oysters, so we decided to supplement our prix fixe dinner with a sampling of three varieties.

We could see the oyster shucking station from where we were seated. To my eyes, it didn't seem as though the shuckers had any idea what they were doing. They were wrestling with the bivalves, and each one seemed to take a while to open. I hoped that we wouldn't get a mangled mess.

When the oysters arrived at our table, accompanied by cocktail sauce, mignonette, and a grilled lemon wedge skewered by a single oyster fork, they looked quite nice. They were very fresh, but two of the three I ate had bits of dirt or shell inside and Mr. Minx ate one with grit in it as well. Moreover, the oysters hadn't been disconnected from their shells. Mr Minx found this out the hard way when he cut his lip on one of the shells during a vain attempt to slurp the creature out (the one at the top of the photo, which has quite a gnarly-looking edge on it.)

Blood ensued. Why does the tiniest cut seem to produce so much blood?

When a busser came by to remove our empty plate, I pointed out my husband's blood that was swirling around in the oyster shell. Our server had come back by that time and when he saw the carnage, the two of them scampered off together.

In a few moments, the man who had shucked the oysters came by, ostensibly to apologize. Now, let me give some pointers on apologies for restaurants. Restaurant Apologies 101, if you will. The very first thing to do is to say, "I'm very sorry." The next thing to do is to offer recompense. "Let me take the oysters off the check," or some such. And that's it. Then go away and let the diners finish their meal. Sticking around to make excuses like, "they were hard to open," and "this is why we put oyster forks out" are not acceptable. (Especially when there was only one oyster fork present, and it was jammed into the rind of a lemon. Were we to wrestle it out and then share it?) You work at a damn oyster bar--learn how to shuck a fucking oyster. Bleeding customers are not happy customers, and Mr Minx spent the rest of the meal in a foul humor. Especially when another man, presumably an owner or manager who had been randomly wandering, came around to say he saw something going on at our table. He did not offer an apology or anything else; it seemed that he was there simply out of curiosity. When each of these men returned to our table yet again, individually, to ask "you ok?" later on during the meal, it must have been the thought of liability niggling them. It just plain annoyed us.

Granted, the first man did say he was sorry, and he offered a free drink. Because alcohol on a cut would feel really swell. There were other things he could have done to make the restaurant seem more hospitable: send a warm damp napkin or paper towel to the table to help clean up the blood; offer a bit of Neosporin from the restaurant first aid kit. (Surely there was such a thing on hand?) I suppose we could have requested these things, but really, I don't think we should have had to. A restaurant's primary reason for existence, other than to feed people, is to make people happy. At the very least, not piss them off.

I did notice that the one who had shucked our oysters never went back behind the oyster bar. He wasn't dressed like an employee, so he was probably another owner "helping." He sure helped us decide never to go back, that's for sure.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, February 04, 2019

Hao Noodle & Tea

I normally go to New York 2-3 times a year. A few years ago, I had the great fortune to make a friend with whom I share several things in common; number one on that list is food. When I visit the city, we get together for at least one dinner...and one supper. Yes, they are both on the same night, Hobbit-style.

Though there are places I might like to try, I always bow to her dining expertise. She had spoken highly of Via Carota, so we decided to meet there at 8pm one very rainy Sunday in December. I had Mr Minx with me, and he was looking forward to a dining adventure. Unfortunately, Via Carota takes no reservations and was packed. We were told to expect a wait that would last until 9:30. Weary and wet, I texted Daisy to tell her the bad news. She didn't believe the wait would be that long, but suggested a different restaurant near her present locale, a modern Sichuan place called Hao Noodle & Tea. We're always up for good Chinese food and agreed to meet her there.

The rain and cold had made us cranky, my feet were soaked through my shoes, I had to pee, and I didn't want to figure out how to turn ourselves around and find this place. Daisy stressed that it was only a few blocks away from where we stood, but we could call an Uber if we didn't want to walk. My Uber app didn't want to cooperate, so I called a Lyft instead. I should have known better. It's a rare occasion when Lyft doesn't do a bait and switch. They'll post one price when I summon the car, and then charge twice as much at the end of the ride. So while taking a Lyft to go the equivalent of 4 blocks was an outrageous idea to begin with, it was maddening to have them overcharge me yet again. Fuck them.

Damn good thing the food was good.

Until I got a cocktail, I was still a bit grumpy so let Daisy take over ordering for us. She had been there before, and everything she recommends is worth eating at least once and usually twice.

Food came out as it was ready, so cold dishes came out first: Lu Beef; Spinach in Ginger Sauce; and Le Shan Sliced Chicken in Szechuan Peppercorn and Chili Oil. Also known as bobo, bon bon, or saliva chicken (because it makes one's mouth water), the latter dish was incredibly tasty combination of cold steamed chicken, chili oil, black vinegar, sesame, and peanuts. Long after the chicken was gone, I was slurping up spoonfuls of the chili oil and peanuts.

The beef had been stewed in a spiced soy sauce and was extremely tender. The spinach was cooked until it was no longer astringent and dressed in a flavorful ginger and garlic sauce.

As the restaurant specialized in noodles we ordered two dishes from that category, much to the delight of Mr Minx. The Hand-Pulled Noodles Mixed with Braised Fresh Lamb was rich, yet somehow lighter than the pulled noodles with lamb I have eaten elsewhere. It also contained braised carrots, which I thought was unusual.

Dan-Dan Noodles involve a spaghetti-like noodle in a dry sauce of ground pork, preserved mustard greens, chili oil, and Sichuan peppercorns, topped with peanuts. I felt the seasoning was well-balanced--spicy but not too, a little sweet, a little numbing--making this best version of the dish I've tried yet.

There were still more peanuts on the Crispy Shrimp Saute, along with enormous dried chiles that had been cut into chunks. Nestled within the spicy-looking pile were lightly battered shrimp that were juicy and perfectly crunchy. Along with the familiar flavors of ginger and garlic was rosemary, which combined with the fried peanuts made this dish absolutely addictive.

Thought I didn't get to eat at Via Carota--at least not this time--I was pretty happy with our dinner at Hao Noodle that night. First dinner. We had dessert and pizza afterward. More on that in next week's post.

Hao Noodle & Tea
401 6th Ave
New York, NY 10014

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, January 28, 2019

Hot Stuff for Your Super Bowl Wings

According to a story in USA Today, Americans eat 1.35 BILLION chicken wings on Super Bowl weekend. And that insane number of hot chicken parts needs an insane amount of hot sauce to flavor them. If you're like me and prefer to make your wings at home rather than consume them at whatever purveyor of alcoholic beverages you plan to visit in order to watch the Big Game, you might be interested in a few of the hot sauces I've encountered recently. Unless of course you're a wimp and like your wings sans sauce. :)

First up is the Harissa Hot Sauce from Moore's Marinades & Sauces. While the sauce is hot and garlicky with a North African flair from harissa spices, it's not a radical change from a classic Buffalo wing flavor once you mix some up with a good dose of melted butter. In other words, celery sticks and bleu cheese dressing are still a perfect match for wings made with this sauce. But if you wanted to switch things up, you could make your dressing with feta cheese instead of bleu. And if you want to go a different direction entirely, swap out the chicken wings for lamb sliders and top them with a dose of Moore's Harissa hot sauce (and the feta cheese sauce, too). Yum.

Moore's also makes a Spicy Mustard hot sauce, and both Jalapeno and Habanero sauces, plus a whole line of ready-to-eat wing sauces and marinades. Find them at various supermarkets including Giant and Weis.

Then we have Marion's Kitchen Coconut Sriracha and Coconut Sweet Chili Sauces. The Coconut Sriracha is fiery, like regular sriracha, but with the added creaminess of coconut. Never fear, the coconut doesn't do anything to ease the heat--the sauce is still pretty damn spicy. The Coconut Sweet Chili is like the chili sauce dip that comes with spring rolls in a Thai restaurant, again with the addition of coconut. It's not nearly as hot as the sriracha, but it does have a kick. If you don't want to set your mouth on fire, you can blend the two. I want to say that the coconut gives it a sweet heat, but that's like saying a summer day in Arizona is more pleasant than a summer day in Baltimore. It may be a dry heat, but it's still HOT.

Marion's Kitchen also has a line of marinades, stir fry sauces, meal kits, and coconut milk, all starring Asian flavors like ginger, lemongrass, lime, and of course, chiles. I have the marinades at home, too, and will be experimenting with them in the future. I'll be sure to post the happy results here.

In Maryland, you can buy Marion's Kitchen products at Sprouts, Wegman's, and select Walmart stores. Check the store locator for details.

Posted on Minxeats.com.