Friday, September 15, 2023

Cooking with Salsa

Ok, I know that's not such a pretty picture, but the dish itself was verrry tasty. And so easy!

I'm back in the office 3x per week after a summer of only having to be in on Mondays. Working from home allows me to make a nice dinner most days, and I've been trying to cook more vegetarian food because we eat too much meat. For whatever reason, meat dishes seem far less complicated to make, so with my now-limited time, we'll be back to eating animal protein a couple times a week. If I'm lucky, I'll have some goodies stockpiled in the freezer, but once in a while I'm gonna make something from scratch, and it will need to be quick.

Introducing Salsa del Rio Chicken. 

I'm pretty sure I've mentioned how much I love Desert Pepper Trading Company salsas. Their Salsa del Rio, a thin green salsa made with green chiles and tomatillos makes a mighty fine white chili with the addition of meat and beans. It also works as a flavorful sauce for chicken thighs. It honestly doesn't need anything to zhuzh it up, but we had half a yellow bell pepper in the fridge, and I had just bought a bunch of fresh poblanos at the farmers' market. A quick sauté of peppers and onion, a jar of salsa, and skin-on chicken thighs tasted ridiculously good for being so easy. 

Salsa del Rio Chicken
I would use bone-in thighs, but boneless would be fine. However, the chicken skin is non-negotiable, as it adds so much flavor to the dish. If you don't want to eat it, take it off after cooking. I suppose, if you're one of those people who are afraid of fat and flavor, that you can use chicken breasts, but I cannot be held accountable if you overcook the things. 

Extra virgin olive oil
4 skin-on chicken thighs
Kosher salt
1 cup diced peppers, your choice between ripe bell peppers and poblanos (we used both)
1 cup diced onion 
1 jar Desert Pepper Salsa del Rio

Put a tablespoon-ish of oil in a large skillet and turn the heat on medium-high. Add the chicken skin-side-down, generously sprinkle it with salt, and cover the pan. Cook for 4-5 minutes and check to see if the skin is browning. You can turn the heat up to high if you hang around and pay attention to the pan. If it starts smoking, turn down the heat. Once the chicken skin is a nice golden brown, remove from the pan and put the veg in. Add another sprinkle of salt and stir the veg to coat with the hot fat. Cover the pan and cook 5-6 minutes over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onion is turning translucent and the peppers are beginning to soften. Add the chicken back to the pan, skin-side-up and dump in about 2/3 of the jar of salsa. Cover the pan and bring the salsa to a boil, then turn down to a perky simmer. Cook about 30 minutes, or until a quick read thermometer registers at least 165F when inserted into the chicken. (Personally, I like my chicken thighs really cooked, so I'll go to 185-190F.) 

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Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Dry-Rubbed Cauliflower "Wings"

I know this blog is rife with recipes for my favorite cruciferous vegetable, but I'm going to add one more: dry-rubbed cauliflower "wings." Why "wings?" Because the word is more appealing than "chunks," "blobs," or even "florets," and because the recipe was inspired by a local restaurant's chicken wings. 

I've used this dry rub on both wings and other chicken parts. The whole cumin and fennel seeds create a unique flavor combination that would also work on pork ribs, steak, and even fish. However, we're trying to eat more vegetarian dishes at Casa Minx. Cauliflower is my favorite meat alternative because it's nutrient dense, low in calories, and full of fiber. Plus its relatively neutral flavor works with most kinds of seasoning. If you're thinking, "blech! I hate cauliflower," well, you should probably stop reading.

The amount of savory spices in this recipe calls out for the balance of a rich and creamy sauce, so I served it with a homemade blue cheese dressing made with one of my favorite blues, Point Reyes Original Blue. Use your favorite; even the pre-crumbled stuff is fine. If you don't like blue cheese, then try feta. And if you are one of those weirdos that likes ranch dressing with their chicken wings, then omit the cheese entirely and increase the amount of TJ's Green Goddess seasoning to a full teaspoon. Taste for seasoning before adding more salt, as the GG already contains salt.

There's not a lot of either heat or sweetness in this recipe, so if you'd like a bit more of both, a drizzle with hot honey might make you happy. (I recommend Runamok Chipotle Morita honey.) 

Dry-Rubbed Cauliflower "Wings" with Bleu Cheese Dressing

For the cauliflower:
1 batch dry rub (recipe follows)
1 large head cauliflower
3 T extra virgin olive oil
1 batch blue cheese dressing (recipe follows)

To make the cauliflower: Put the dry rub into a gallon-sized plastic zip-top bag.  

Trim off the tough green leaves from the bottom of the cauliflower and discard. Rinse the head and shake dry. Trim into florets, keeping small ones (1 1/2" and smaller) whole and cutting larger ones in half or quarters. Place the florets into the zip bag with the spices, zip the bag, and shake to distribute the spices. Open the bag and add the olive oil (more, if your head of cauli was particularly large). Push out the air, re-seal the bag, and shake it around to distribute the spice mix and oil as evenly as possible onto the cauliflower. (You could also do this in a large bowl, using your hands to toss the spices and vegetable together, but the bag is much neater.)

Put the bag in the fridge to marinate.

About 90 minutes before you're ready to eat, preheat the oven to 400F. 

Line a large baking sheet with foil and dump the bag of cauliflower onto it. Arrange the florets so they are more or less evenly distributed. Place tray in oven and bake cauliflower for 20 minutes. Remove tray from oven, and turn florets over with tongs. Put back in oven for another 15-20 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender but not mushy, and browned.

Serve hot, with blue cheese dressing.

For dry rub:
1 T sweet paprika
1 T smoked paprika
1 T whole cumin seed
1 T whole fennel seed
2 t salt
1 t dried thyme
1 t Urfa Biber or your favorite chili flakes
1/2 t onion powder
1/2 t garlic powder
1 t ground black pepper
1/4 t ground white pepper

To make dry rub: Combine all ingredients in a bowl.

For bleu cheese dressing:
1/4 c sour cream
1/4 c mayonnaise 
2 ounces crumbled blue cheese (I used Point Reyes Original Blue)
1 T fresh lemon juice
1/2 t Trader Joe's Green Goddess seasoning
Pinch kosher salt
Pinch ground white pepper

To make dressing: Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Use a fork to combine, crushing the cheese into small bits to distribute through the dressing. Refrigerate until ready to use.

* 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 14, 2023

Gluten-Free Double Chocolate Banana Bread

When the freezer rains bananas, I know it's time to make a banana bread. 

We buy bananas just about every week, eat most, but inevitably have one hanging around long enough to turn brown. I hate food waste, so I usually tuck the little fella into the freezer. There's got to be a dozen bananas in there right now, in every available crevice. Sometimes they throw themselves at me when I open the freezer door to grab an ice cube or ponder the evening's dinner possibilities. The other day, three different bananas suicided themselves, so I put them on the counter to thaw. 

When frozen bananas thaw, they become rather liquidy, which makes them perfect for smoothies. But also banana bread. Most recipes call for very ripe bananas which need to be mashed with a fork. Personally, I prefer using near-liquid banana. It doesn't need to be mashed, just stirred in, which produces sweet little pockets of soft fruit in the finished product. If you're a fan of a more homogenized texture, then by all means mash some never-frozen but overripe nanners for this recipe.

Oh yeah, the recipe. I usually put walnuts and chocolate chips in my banana bread, but I've been craving chocolate recently (I probably need more magnesium). I consulted the Google and found a chocolate chocolate banana bread recipe that was essentially Martha Stewart's non-chocolate recipe, with a couple of random tweaks. I happen to think Martha's recipe is the very best, so I consulted her web site and used her recipe, with two changes. Her recipe calls for 1 1/2 cups of AP flour, but I wanted to make this gluten-free and add cocoa powder. Cocoa is fairly similar to flour in heft and texture, so I swapped out a half cup of flour for a half cup of cocoa. The rest of the flour was replaced by oat flour. You may use any gluten free flour you wish, but I strongly suggest adding 1/4 teaspoon of xantham gum per cup of gf flour. You may leave it out, but the gum makes a big difference in the texture of the bread. Honestly, I cannot tell that I didn't use regular flour. I'm not your mother, so do as you please, but don't come crying to me afterward. The one other thing I changed was to add more sour cream. A quarter cup is good, but a half cup is better. It makes the texture outrageously moist. (Greek yogurt works here, too.)

If you make this, let me know in the comments. I'm going to go cut myself another slice to go with my coffee.

GF Double Chocolate Banana Bread

1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup oat flour
1/4 t xanthan gum
1 t baking soda
1/4 t kosher salt
1/2 cup butter, or dairy-free butter substitute, melted
2/3 cup sugar
2 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream
1 t vanilla extract
3 super-ripe bananas, mashed if fresh, thawed if frozen
1 cup milk chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
Preheat oven to 350º.

Spray the inside of a 9 x 5 loaf pan with Pam or similar release spray. Borrow a tablespoon or so of the cocoa powder and sprinkle it over the Pam, shaking and banging the sides of the pan to make sure every surface is coated with both release spray and cocoa. Knock out any excess cocoa.

Combine the rest of the cocoa, oat flour, xanthan gum, baking soda, and salt and stir well with a fork to distribute ingredients. If you're fussy, you could sift it, but I don't see the need to dirty a sieve or sifter.

In a large bowl, combine the melted butter, sugar, eggs, sour cream, and vanilla. If your bananas were frozen, you can basically pour them into the bowl, otherwise, scrape in the mashed bananas and give it a good stir.

Dump the dry ingredients into the wet and stir well. You don't want any streaks of flour. Fold in chocolate chips and walnuts. 

Scrape batter into baking pan and bake for 1 hour, or until toothpick comes out clean. You might have to try a few spots, in case you stab a melted chocolate chip.

Cool in the pan on a rack for 20 minutes. Run a paring knife around the edge of the pan to loosen bread, then turn over onto the rack. Put another rack on top and flip the bread over, so the top is...on top. Allow to cool completely before slicing. You can, of course, ignore this direction, but I can't guarantee the bread won't fall apart when you slice it.

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Wednesday, August 02, 2023

Best/Most Memorable Meals I've Ever Had

On a recent episode of The Dave Chang Show podcast, Dave and co-host Chris Ying listed their best and/or most memorable meals of all time. As I listened, I realized that I have lots of memorable meals, but they're not necessarily the best. Some meals are memorable because of bad food or service. Creating a list, even a short one, of truly great restaurant meals, is a difficult task for me. Perhaps I am jaded. Though I haven't eaten in the world's greatest restaurants--excepting Le Bernardin--I have dined in as many notable places as a person who doesn't travel much and who isn't wealthy can dine. 

Here's a list of restaurant meals that were highly memorable, even if they weren't the best, in alphabetical order.
pasta tasting menu for August 2004
Babbo - We celebrated Mr Minx's 40th birthday here, back in the early aughts, before we knew that Mario Batali was a rapey douchebag who stole his staff's tips. Mr Minx was somewhat of a pastaholic back then, so we opted for the seven-course pasta tasting menu with wine pairings. This was in the year before we started Minxeats, so there's no official write-up of the meal, but we did save the menu. I do recall that the starter was a bit awkward to eat. Whole cannellini beans on crusty bread might be a traditional antipasto, but it was impossible to take a bite without beans rolling off the bread and onto the table and the floor. Why not smash the beans? Dunno. Seems logical. In any case, the rest of the meal was fantastic, the first course being the best. So simple. So much butter. So good. We also enjoyed the wine pairing with the cheese course, a sweet sparkling wine called Brachetto d'Acqui. Sometimes we buy that to drink on New Year's Eve instead of champagne.  

foie gras with raw tuna 
The Bar Room at the Modern - I was in NYC for a Sniffapalooza event. I had not yet met my current NYC dining companion, Daisy, so I usually dined alone. One afternoon, I blew a wad of cash on a rather extravagant meal at the bar room of MOMA's restaurant, the Modern. The restaurant was an oasis after my morning of mingling with a crowd of chatty individuals amid clouds of perfume. Service was excellent--eager but not obtrusive--and the food was interesting and quite good. The unusual foie gras and raw tuna dish was particularly memorable.

Charleston is an example of a meal that has stayed in my mind for the wrong reasons. I had enjoyed a meal at Cindy Wolf's Savannah at some point in the 90s and looked forward to having a similarly splendid meal at Charleston. Instead, I found an oppressive atmosphere created by the ever-looming waitstaff. A "wilted spinach salad" arrived as a unadorned mound of barely cooked spinach with all its harsh tannins present. Cindy was at the pass and let this dish go by even though it clearly was not a salad and not particularly edible. Finally, the sauces for our entrees had been so over-reduced that it literally glued our lips shut. Even after eating dessert, I had to work to open my mouth to speak. The rest of the meal was unmemorable.

We've never been back, though we have eaten at other of Foreman/Wolf's restaurants. They may be run by one team, but I find the quality of them overall to be inconsistent. Pazo and Bar Vasquez were the best of the bunch; both are now closed. Petit Louis is a distant third. We haven't tried Cindy Lou's Fish House yet, and we miss the original Milton Inn. 

Harry's Seafood Grill on the Wilmington, Delaware waterfront was the site of a fun birthday lunch hosted by my best friend Kate, who had recently moved to Wilmington. While checking out the local restaurant scene, she had befriended a chef couple, one of whom worked at Harry's. Chef Applebaum generously sent out a couple of dishes in addition to the three courses we had ordered for ourselves. There was too much food, and all of it was delicious and of high-quality. I especially enjoyed my first sticky toffee pudding and my first taste of soft shell crab.

Herb & Soul is the site of another memorable-for-the-wrong-reasons meal. We had eaten there in the past and mostly enjoyed our food. It wasn't perfect, but the biscuits and fried chicken were stellar. On this particular occasion, we partook of a multi-course meal arranged by a member of the local Chowhounds board. I'm not sure whose idea it was to serve a selection of New Orleans-inspired foods, but it was pretty clear that the chef wasn't particularly familiar with any of the dishes he cooked that night. The first course of crawfish and octopus with brussels sprouts comprised two fingernail-clipping-sized shreds of crawfish on my plate and a dried-out, chewy octopus so small it was probably a fetus. Another dish was billed as an etouffee (which means "smothered") yet barely had any sauce. The bits of alligator meat in it were so chewy, if I hadn't washed them down with water I'd still be chewing them 9 years later. The fourth course was better: a well-prepared half chicken served with not nearly enough of a very good fig pan jus and a soupcon of cauliflower puree. The best course was dessert, French beignets (made with choux paste rather than a yeasted dough), and I could have eaten several more of those. Thankfully the dinner was dirt cheap. 
barely cooked scallop in brown butter dashi
Le Bernardin -- Mr Minx's next milestone birthday was celebrated with a 6-course lunch at Le Bernardin, a 3-Michelin star restaurant in NY. The service was impeccable, and the food almost perfect. I know, who am I to criticize a dish served at one of the "World's 50 Best Restaurants?" I'll tell you: someone who doesn't think a dark red wine sauce works well with wild rockfish. Mr Minx agreed with me. So there. The scallop in brown butter dashi, however, was mindblowing. So simple, yet so delicious. My one regret about the meal: I didn't take a roll every time the bread guy came around. There were about eight kinds of bread on offer, and I was only able to taste three of them. Le sigh.

NOLA - Back in the days before Minxeats, even before Mr Minx became Mr Minx, we took a trip together to New Orleans with a group of rabid Emeril Lagasse fans whom I had met online. Someone or other from that group was up our butts every time we tried to turn around. One person in particular stuck to us like a tick. After a couple days of eating at only Tick-approved restaurants, my beloved and I snuck off to have lunch at NOLA, one of Lagasse's more casual establishments. We ordered starters of gumbo and turtle soup, and a couple of pizzas to share. My soup was very good, but Neal's seafood gumbo was insane. We stopped short of literally licking the bowl clean, but we were tempted! 

As fate would have it, the man who made that gumbo now owns Cajun Kate's, a restaurant in Wilmington. We make a pilgrimage every year to keep our freezer stocked with gumbo.
my favorite course at Volt, tuna tartare in a delicate rice gelee wrapper. Photo credit: Kevin Eats.
Volt - We discovered Volt during chef/owner Bryan Voltaggio's turn on Top Chef. After our first delicious meal there, I was obsessed with getting seats at Table 21: a 21-course meal served in Volt's kitchen. We made our reservation ten months in advance, and the wait was worth enduring. For a measly $121 per person, we had 21 courses of surprising and delicious food. Sadly, this was back in the foodie stone age (2010) and I didn't have a phone with a good camera. Rather than bothering with my crappy little Canon, I sat back and enjoyed the meal. (Check out the post linked in the caption above for excellent photos of a meal very similar to the one we ate.) 

While the food was incredible, the service was a tad annoying. Servers replaced the silverware with each course, whether we had used a particular utensil or not. Remove clean spoon, replace with another clean spoon. Having disembodied hands appear over my shoulder or beside my forearm (we were seated at a counter in front of the garde manger station and couldn't see the utensil movers behind us) was a little disconcerting. It was like being served by Thing. I'm not a fancy-service kind of gal. Just give me my food and if I need a clean fork, I'll let you know.


I'm sure if I thought about it a little more, I could come up with a few more meals to add here. These were off the top of my head, clearly very memorable. I hope to have many more meals like these in the future. The good ones....

* 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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Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Dining in NYC: Urban Hawker

Once upon a time, Anthony Bourdain planned to bring a Singapore-style hawker market to New York City's Pier 57, near Chelsea Market and the Meatpacking District. It would have dozens of vendors of authentic Singaporean food, which comprises Chinese, Indian, Malaysian, and Indonesian cuisines. Sadly, Bourdain died in 2018, before he was able to realize his vision. His original partner in the enterprise, KF Seetoh--a Singaporean food critic and television personality who made appearances in Bourdain's various travel programs--finally brought the market to life in 2022, but on a much smaller scale. Rather than a hundred or so vendors on a pier, there are seventeen, and the venue, one of several food courts run by an outfit called Urbanspace, is located near Rockefeller Center. Eleven of Urban Hawker's purveyors came from Singapore; the remaining six are local, and on a recent trip to NY, my friend Daisy and I tried as many as we could.

Six of 17 is pretty good for one evening, huh?

Unlike some other of the city's food courts/markets, Urban Hawker has a good amount of space to dine-in. We chose to park ourselves at the far end of The Sling Bar. Singapore Slings in hand, we started our feast with an order of Hainanese chicken rice from Hainan Jones

Hainanese chicken rice from Hainan Jones
Hainanese chicken rice is the national dish of Singapore, so it was a must-try. When properly made, the chicken is meltingly tender and juicy. It might appear poached, but Hainanese chicken is cooked in the residual heat of boiled liquid, rather than with constant heat. A whole chicken is submerged in seasoned water that has been brought to a boil. Once the water, with chicken, comes back to a boil, a lid is placed on the pot and the heat is turned off. The chicken stays in the water for 45 minutes or so. The meat is chilled, then sliced and served with garlicky chicken fat rice and both a sweet soy sauce and a spicy chili sauce. The dish is simple and complex at the same time. 

Having never eaten Hainanese chicken rice before, I had nothing with which to compare the version from Hainan Jones. But as a stand-alone dish, it was beautiful. The chicken was juicy and flavorful and the rice was schmaltzy. The accompanying cup of broth, to sip or use as a dip, was richly flavored. The tiny cups of sweet soy and chili sauce were both tasty, but I found myself gobbling down the chicken without needing to dip it into other flavors. The accompanying Chinese broccoli was good, but I would have preferred it to be hot. 

Singapore Sling from The Sling Bar
Once the chicken was demolished, we went to work on an order of pineapple fried rice from Mr Fried Rice. I adore fried rice, but haven't had a good version of it since I was a kid. My Dad liked a tiny carry-out on Cold Spring Lane called Chung's, where we bought roast pork fried rice by the quart and ate it out of the container on the way home from the restaurant. I don't remember anything else from Chung's, but the rice was great, lightly sticky, just greasy enough, and full of porky flavor. 

pineapple fried rice from Mr Fried Rice
I was happy to find that the rice from Mr Fried Rice had a similar texture and porky essence. It was studded with whole shrimp and tiny pieces of the most tender squid I have ever eaten, garnished with a generous dusting of pork floss (imagine cotton candy made with dried pork), and a small pile of roasty cashews. There were also small nuggets of pineapple, of course, but not enough of it to make the dish overly sweet. I couldn't stop eating it.

Singapore Chili Crab from Wok & Staple
We also had chili crab, Singapore's second favorite dish. I have always been under the impression that chili crab was pretty spicy. This one was only mildly so. The sauce seemed to be a combination of ketchup and bottled sweet chili sauce (like one might serve with spring rolls). I thought it was overly sweet and too gelatinous in texture. The crab was Dungeness, which I suppose is fine if you're not from Maryland and used to blue crab. I didn't find it to be especially meaty, despite the vast size of the creature. What I did like about this dish was that it came with disposable gloves that made it fairly easy to eat. There were also lobster crackers to break open the legs, but they're only so useful when the crab shells soften in sauce and are not quite the right diameter to fit the cracker. 

I suppose it sounds like I hated this dish. Not so. It was unusual and one of the dishes I've always wanted to try. I think the expectations I set for it were probably a little too high.

murtabak - flatbread with beef filling from Mamak's Corner
Finally, we had murtabak, a ghee-laden flaky flatbread filled with beef, egg, and red onion, and griddled until crisp. It was served with a cup of a liquidy lentil curry to use as a dip. It was so delicious, and the switch to flavors characteristic of Indian food was a welcome change, but I was SO FULL at this point that I probably didn't appreciate it as much as I might have had we ordered it earlier in the meal. Still, we polished it off without complaint.

We had originally planned to finish off the meal with dessert from Lady Wong, a local vendor that specializes in cakes with flavors like mango and calamansi, and the gelatinous "cake" known as kuih. The texture of kuih, actually a firm custard, is hard to describe. It's smooth, cool, and bouncy, and quite delicious if fresh and well-made. My favorite has a layer of coconut sticky rice at the bottom. At this point, however, I couldn't fit another mouthful, so we passed on eating dessert at Urban Hawker. (I did pick up some kuih to snack on the next day.)

While I think we gorged ourselves like the champion eaters we are, there are many other vendors at Urban Hawker that need to be explored. I want some laksa from Daisy's Dream, a Roti John from Ashes Burnnit, stuffed bean curd from Yum Yubu...all of it! 

Urban Hawker
135 W 50th St,
New York, NY 10020

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Wednesday, July 19, 2023

Faux Crab Cakes

hearts of palm crab cake with corn salad and fonio pilaf
It has not escaped my attention that we've been eating pretty poorly recently. Poorly as in health-wise. We've consumed a lot of tasty food, but nothing with enough vegetables or fiber to make it beneficial to our physical well-being. Sure, a laminated pastry stuffed with pistachio cream does wonders for the psyche while it's being consumed, but ultimately it's adding to the layer of fluff that has been increasing around my midsection over the past year. 

I have the privilege of being able to work from home four days per week until Labor Day, so there's no excuse not to put a proper dinner on the table most nights. Plus, it's summer, so fresh produce is bountiful and delicious, and our balcony herb garden is ready to add flavor to any meal. While we Minxes are not vegan or even vegetarian, I've been trying to use less meat recently. Tofu has been in heavy rotation, and sometimes there's no meat substitute on the table at all. 

The other day, I recalled that we had a recipe for faux crab cakes, made with hearts of palm, in our second book, Baltimore Chef's Table. The recipe came from Great Sage, a very good vegan restaurant in Howard County. Rather than dig up the book and use that recipe, I decided to see what other variations on the theme could be found on the Internet. I found a couple of versions that included canned chickpeas. Yuck. No thanks. Another recipe called for sautéing the hearts of palm with celery and onion, but I wanted something even easier. I did pull out our cookbook and saw that Great Sage baked the hearts of palm for a bit, presumably to dry them out. It was 92F on the day I planned on making these, so turning on the oven was out of the question. It also used celery and peppers. What I wanted was a good old-fashioned Maryland-style crab cake with no extraneous vegetables or legumes. Just a simple binder, filler, and Old Bay Seasoning. So I made up my own recipe, and I gotta say, it turned out very well. Even the dog--who hates vegetables--liked them.

Faux Crab Cakes
This recipe can easily be doubled. 

1 14-oz can hearts of palm
2 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
1 teaspoon cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoon mayonnaise (use vegan mayo if you are so inclined)
1/4 cup + 1 tablespoon gluten-free panko (regular is fine, too)
Oil for frying (corn, canola, whatever you like)

Drain the hearts of palm and place them on a clean kitchen towel. Gather up the edges of the towel and twist them tightly together. Over the sink, wring out as much water from the vegetables as possible. You'll have crushed the hearts of palm in the process, but not enough. Using your hands, rip the vegetable into small chunks and pieces to resemble crab meat.

hearts of palm before squeezing, after squeezing, and after breaking down into small pieces.
Kinda crabby-looking, eh?
Put the hearts of palm pieces in a bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and mix well. Form into two rounded patties of equal size.

Add about 2 tablespoons of oil to a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil is hot, put in the palm patties. Cook for 3-4 minutes, until golden brown. Flip and brown the other side.

Serve with your favorite mayonnaise-based condiment, like tartar sauce. I served mine with an esquites-style corn salad and Yolele fonio pilaf.

2 servings.

Tell me that doesn't look like a crab cake.

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Tuesday, July 11, 2023

Tofu Gnudi - Two Recipes

tofu gnudi made from the Washington Post recipe
Gnudi is a funny-looking word. It's not, however, pronounced as spelled. The G is silent, "noo-dee." Yes, it sounds like "nudie," and essentially that's what the word means--naked. Gnudi are ricotta dumplings that could be the lovechild of gnocchi and ravioli filling, less-starchy than the former and more-starchy than the latter. Generally, they are made from ricotta cheese and enough flour to keep them from becoming cheese sauce once they hit boiling water. I like gnudi, and find them a bit easier to make than gnocchi. (I tried making potato gnocchi exactly once, with disastrous results, and have no plans to try again.) But now that I am lactose intolerant--and a bit of a broken record on that point, sorry--it doesn't make sense for me to make ricotta dumplings of any sort. When I found a gnudi recipe in the Washington Post that suggested firm tofu could replace the dairy, I made them post-haste.

Sadly, there was far too much moisture between the combination of spinach, artichoke hearts, and tofu, and the dough was too soft and sticky to make proper dumplings. Perhaps if the recipe had instructed cooks to press the tofu in addition to draining it, and omitted the artichoke, they could have been better? In any case, the artichoke added no discernible flavor, so why waste the money? I added nearly twice the flour called for and doubled the seasonings, so the dumplings ended up tasty but messy. The first batch leached so much of themselves into the cooking water, it was hard to see what was dumpling and what was just lumpy water.

Washington Post Tofu Gnudi
The Post recipe called for a beurre blanc-ish sauce of vegan butter, white wine, and lemon juice, which sounded boring. Instead, I made a raw tomato sauce. Pesto would be nice, as well. And because I like a little crunch with my soft and squishy food, I crushed up some garlic croutons and hazelnuts for the top.

1 tablespoon olive oil
3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
8 ounces fresh spinach (regular or baby), roughly chopped
One (14-ounce) package firm or extra-firm tofu, drained
1 cup (8 ounces) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
1 tablespoon nutritional yeast
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon fine salt, plus more to taste
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1/2 cup all-purpose flour, or gluten-free flour

In a medium or large skillet over medium-high heat, add the olive oil and garlic and cook, stirring until aromatic, about 30 seconds. Add the spinach and cook, stirring, until wilted, about 3 minutes. (Depending on the size of your skillet, you may need to cook the spinach in batches.)

In a food processor or blender, combine the tofu, artichokes, nutritional yeast, zest, salt, pepper and nutmeg and process until smooth. Scrape down the sides, add the wilted spinach and process until the mixture is a uniform green, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and process until incorporated, about 30 seconds more. Taste, and season with more salt, if desired.

Using a small ice cream scoop or two large spoons, shape dumplings slightly larger than cherry tomatoes (roughly 1 1/2 tablespoons’ worth) and begin to carefully slide balls of the batter into the boiling water. Work in batches and avoid crowding the pot. Boil the gnudi until they are bobbing in the water, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon or spider, transfer them to a platter and repeat with the remaining batter, if needed.

Tofu gnudi with spinach and a raw tomato sauce, made from a recipe generated by Chat GPT.
There was potential in the tofu gnudi concept, and I was willing to try again. Rather than search for another recipe on the web, I turned to Artificial Intelligence. The very first recipe I generated via Chat GPT seemed reasonable. I was pretty sure it would work better than the WaPo recipe, but I worried that it could have the opposite problem: dryness. Perhaps an egg would be needed to bind it all together. I wasn't sure that the small amount of lemon juice and oil would be enough.  

I used a food processor instead of my hands or a fork because I didn't want to work that hard. Rather than adding the ingredients to the processor in the order they appear in the recipe, I put in the tofu, nooch, basil, and 1/4 cup of the flour (I used oat flour) and whizzed that into a bunch of moist crumbs. I then added the lemon juice and oil and gave it another spin. Surprisingly, the dough came together quite well. I pinched a bit off and was able to roll a clean ball in my hands. I scraped it into a bowl and allowed the dough to rest in the fridge until I was ready to make dinner.

About half an hour before dinner, I removed the dough from the fridge and formed it into 28 sorta-equal balls, each of which I flattened lightly with a fork. I poured water into my largest sauté pan, enough to fill it about 2/3 of the way, and brought the water to a boil. After adding a pinch of salt, I put ten of the gnudi in the pan and hoped for the best. After 3 minutes, I gently flipped them with a fork and cooked them another 3 minutes. There was very little leaching of the batter into the water, though there was some. It was impressive how well the gnudi kept their puck-like shape. I cooked the rest in two batches, adding more water to the pan each time. I placed half of the cooked gnudi into a container with a light film of olive oil and put it in the fridge for later in the week. The rest I served with a raw tomato sauce and some sautéed spinach.

This version I will make again. Next time, I'll flavor it with a couple tablespoons of dehydrated tomato powder and cut back on the nutritional yeast. Perhaps I'll try artichokes again, but as part of the sauce.

ChatGPT-generated Tofu Gnudi 

14 ounces (400g) firm tofu, drained and pressed
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup all-purpose flour (plus more for dusting)
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh basil
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
Salt and pepper to taste

In a large mixing bowl, crumble the drained and pressed tofu using your hands or a fork.

Add nutritional yeast, lemon juice, olive oil, flour, chopped basil, chopped parsley, garlic powder, salt, and pepper to the bowl with the tofu. Mix well until all the ingredients are evenly combined and form a cohesive dough-like consistency.

Dust a clean surface with flour. Take a small portion of the tofu mixture and roll it between your palms to form a small ball. Place the gnudi on the floured surface and repeat until all the mixture is used. You should have approximately 20-24 gnudi.

In a large pot, bring salted water to a gentle boil. Carefully drop the gnudi into the boiling water in batches. Cook for approximately 3-4 minutes or until the gnudi float to the surface. Remove them using a slotted spoon and transfer to a plate.

Note: If desired, you can sauté the cooked gnudi in a little olive oil until lightly browned for added texture before serving.

* 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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Thursday, July 06, 2023

Sayso Cocktails

I just got back from the Summer Fancy Food Show in NYC and have lots to report! I'm going to start with one of my favorite new products, Sayso Cocktails.

I am a big fan of mixed drinks but I'm usually too lazy to make one at home. I'll toss stuff together without measuring--various liqueurs that are on hand, some juice, seltzer--and end up with something quaffable, but not worth remaking. (I will never claim to have any mixology talents.) Sayso lured me immediately with the ease of making a tasty cocktail with only three ingredients: a Sayso "tea bag" (which I prefer to call a "sachet,"), water, and alcohol. The sachet contains all-natural flavorings and a blend of no-aftertaste low-calorie sweeteners that turn water into the cocktail mixer of your choice. You can stop right there, adding a bit more water and ice to your glass and enjoy it a mocktail, or you can add your favorite hooch. Sayso comes in four flavors so far: rosemary honey moscow mule, old fashioned, skinny cardamom paloma, and skinny spicy margarita.

Cocktails can be super sweet, but Sayso drinks are not. If you like sugar, you can certainly add some simple syrup to taste! You can also use Sayso as a starting point and create variations on a theme. For instance, when I remembered we had a container of Talenti Mango Sorbetto in the freezer, I realized I could make a spicy mango margarita, which is exactly what I was in the mood for on the Fourth of July.

Spicy Mango Margarita

1 sachet Sayso skinny spicy margarita
4 ounces warm water
2 ounces blanco tequila
1/4 cup Talenti mango sorbetto
Seltzer (I used a tropical fruit-flavored one)
Fresh Mint

In a highball glass, steep the sachet in the water for 5 minutes. Wring all the goodness out of the sachet and discard. Add the tequila and sorbetto and give it a stir. Add a few ice cubes and top with a splash or two of seltzer. Garnish with fresh mint.

Order Sayso directly from the company, or from Amazon. I received samples of all four varieties from the company, but I will definitely be purchasing these again, particularly the spicy marg version. 

* 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, May 22, 2023

Just Say "NO" to Brioche Buns

my favorite burger, from Alonso's, on a too-absorbent brioche bun which fell apart as I was eating.
Can someone please explain to me why every restaurant seems to think that using a brioche bun to sandwich a hamburger is a good idea? For generations, a plain white-bread "hamburger roll" was just fine. Fast food companies still use them. McDonald's has been using regular white bread rolls for almost 80 years, on over 100 billion burgers, without any complaint. Up until recently, so did every other restaurant that served a hamburger. So why do so many places now use brioche, especially on big and juicy burgers?  

This leads to my main argument against brioche buns: their structural weakness. While the tender and buttery texture of brioche is appealing for various baked goods, it lacks the sturdiness required to contain the substantial and often juicy components of a burger. The porous nature of brioche buns tends to absorb moisture quickly, leading to sogginess and potential structural failure. Womp Womp. As a result, the burger may become a messy affair, detracting from the intended pleasure of enjoying a well-assembled sandwich...and requiring far too many napkins.

Then there's taste. The best burgers have a harmonious blend of flavors and textures. Personally, I think a brioche bun messes up that harmony. For one thing, brioche, a type of French bread known for its high egg and butter content, possesses a delicate sweetness that can overpower the savory elements of a well-seasoned burger patty. This imbalance can lead to a clash of flavors. I feel the traditional hamburger benefits from a neutral bun that complements the savory components without overshadowing them. Leave brioche for toast with butter and jam (my personal favorite way to eat it).
It's also worth mentioning that brioche buns tend to be higher in calories, fat, and sugar content compared to their traditional counterparts. Hamburgers are fattening enough. Opting for a brioche bun may contribute to a higher caloric intake without adding significant value to the overall dining experience. And what about people who have allergies to eggs or dairy? No burgers for you! (And stay away from Martin's Potato Rolls, though delicious and structurally sound, they contain milk and butter.)

I do love me a good hamburger, but I have found myself eating far fewer of them than in the past, all because of that damn brioche bun (which has also started ruining chicken sandwiches). Perhaps that is good for me, health-wise, calorically, but I'm also missing out on the happiness that a perfectly constructed burger can provide.

Restaurants, please reconsider following the fad and go back to using real hamburger buns. Leave the fancy French bread to French restaurants. Or breakfast.

* 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, May 15, 2023


It's almost June, and we're firmly into farmers' market season, so it seemed like a good time to post some all-veggie recipes. To be honest, I don't frequent the farmers' markets in the area because they tend to be on Saturday mornings. I'll get out of bed at 5:45am to catch a 6am bus to work, but I don't have much interest in getting up before 10am on the weekends. But if that's your thing, more power to ya. For a number of years, there was a Tuesday morning market in the park across from my office, but I don't know if it's happening this year. I hope so! I love to buy locally-grown peaches and corn to round out my garden of tomatoes and herbs. I don't really need much more than that to have a happy summer.

Here are some of my favorite vegetable recipes. Let me know if you try any of them.

All the Veg can be used in this unusual risotto made with steel cut oats in place of rice.

blackened carrots with other stuff
Blackened Carrots with Other Stuff - we first encountered the concept of blackened carrots at one of Bobby Flay's NY restaurants and I added the preparation to my repertoire. Roasted carrots, blackened or not, are meaty and versatile and make a great first course or entree, with the right accompaniments.

Brussels Sprouts Tacos - I can't imagine not loving brussels sprouts, but I know it's not everyone's favorite veg. They make a great taco filling though.

butternut squash toasts
Butternut Squash Toasts - I've seen this Jean-Georges Vongerichten invention pop up on restaurant menus from time to time, and it's worth ordering. It's also worth making at home. It's maybe more fall-ish than spring-y, so save it for later in the year. (Would make a great Thanksgiving app!)

Caponata is an Italian relish that uses celery, eggplant, and peppers, and it tastes great hot or cold. Spread it on a sandwich, serve it with fish or chicken, or use it to top crostini.

Cauliflower - I listed several cauliflower recipes in another post, so I won't repeat them here.

Celery Root Remoulade - Have you ever poked around in the produce section and wondered what the heck were those giant knobby bulbs that resemble alien brains? Celeriac is a kind of celery that has the appearance and texture of a root veg, with a mild celery-like flavor. It can be roasted and braised like a potato, but it's also delicious raw. Celery root remoulade is a classic French preparation that is super easy to make. Try it alongside crab cakes instead of the usual cole slaw.

Fried Green Tomato Caprese - In those rare summers when our tomato garden went crazy, we were eating the fruits both ripe and green. This recipe is gluten free, but use regular breadcrumbs if you prefer.

Gagooch, or Zucchini with Eggs - this is a childhood favorite of mine that couldn't be easier to make. And it's a great way to get rid of some of the inevitable abundance of summer squash.

Green Bean Falafel - what? this is heresy! Delicious, delicious heresy.

Mexican Street Corn, the Minx way, can be made all year long if you use frozen corn. I won't tell.

Minty Pea Pesto - put all your proliferating mint to use in this pesto made with sugar snap peas. There's a risotto recipe included on this page, too.

Nectarine Soup - have too many nectarines (or peaches)? Make this lovely soup, with crabmeat.

Peach Mostarda is another way to get rid of a plethora of stone fruits.

stone fruit crisp
Stone Fruit Crisp - Sadly, Mr Minx isn't a fan of cobblers, crisps, etc. Not so sadly, I have to consume the whole thing when I make one. 

Tomatoes make terrific tarts. And salads.

* 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, May 08, 2023

Gluten-free, Dairy-free Berry Scones

scone after a trip through the toaster oven
While I wasn't going to get myself out of bed at 5am to watch the coronation of King Charles III, I did think it would be nice to recognize the occasion with a batch of scones. Scones, like biscuits, can be made with butter and cream, or with cream alone. Being lactose intolerant and somewhat lazy, not wanting to get my hands all buttery, I opted to make cream scones using only coconut milk. And because a large bag of gluten-free flour had been staring at me from the pantry for a few months, I thought I'd use that, too. 

Cream scones are easy-peasy, and using gf flour means there's no way to eff them up by overworking the gluten in the dough. I still remember the very first scones I baked. My family had recently come back from a trip to England, where we had devoured many of the clotted-cream-and-jam-smeared, currant-studded, biscuit-like baked goods that often came with a pot of tea. We were a little obsessed, but found there were few places to purchase scones in Baltimore in the mid-1970s. That problem could be solved if we made our own, which we attempted with a recipe sourced from who-knows-where. Clearly my mother and I had overworked the dough, as the resulting objects--though pretty and pleasantly-scented--would more aptly be called "stones." They all went into the trash except for one, which we deposited into a lidded container and shelved as an experiment. Occasionally we'd take off the lid and poke at the stone to see if it had gotten any harder. It appeared to have reached maximum rigidity during baking, because it remained the same texture during its entire tenure in our house. We kept it around for a number of years before tossing it out, though it still smelled fine and never got moldy. 

Anyhoo...Mom and I were wary of attempting scones after that, though at some point I discovered that they could be made with very little handling. Gentle patting is really all that's required; drop scones are even more stupid-simple. 

scones immediately after baking
I briefly considered making drop scones on this occasion, but the dough produced with coconut milk and gf flour proved very sticky. A test drop produced something that resembled an albino hedgehog more than a baked good. I had a hard time scraping the dough off the spoon and my fingers; attempting to do so formed little spikes all over the sad blob on the baking sheet. After I plopped the hedgehog back in with the rest of the dough, I thought a short stay in the fridge would firm up the dough a bit. It works with cookie dough, so why not give it a try? About half an hour later, the dough was firm enough to divide into two blobby balls and pat into disks. I dampened my hands a bit before patting them down, which left enough moisture to help the gold-colored coarse sugar I sprinkled on top to adhere. 

Because I chose not to brush the tops with cream, the scones didn't brown very much. I think this is also a result of the gluten free flour. Again, I was lazy and didn't want to have to wash a pastry brush (we don't have a dishwasher). They scones did brown very nicely after a trip to the toaster oven, which I recommend, particularly if you are eating them the day after baking, as we did. The texture of gluten free flour is not the same as of wheat flour. It doesn't have the same springy crumb, and it's also a little, hmm...mushy? Easily squished? I am hard pressed to describe the interior texture accurately. This is why I chose to add almond meal to give the scones a tiny bit more interest. 

Overall, I think these scones were pretty successful. They were simple to make, and delicious with a smear of vegan butter and a dollop of lemon curd. If you try them, please let me know in a comment.

No-Gluten No-Dairy Berry Scones

1 cup canned coconut milk (don't use the "lite" stuff)
1 1/2 cups gluten-free 1-for-1 (cup for cup) flour
3/4 cup almond meal
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp baking powder
¾ tsp salt
¼ cup dried blueberries, cherries, cranberries, or a mix
grated rind of 1 lemon or half an orange, optional but tasty
1 tsp vanilla
Sugar for the top

Preheat oven to 425F.

Shake the can of coconut milk well, to mix in the cream. (If you don't shake it, you'll find a layer of coconut "cream" on top of a thinner liquid.)

Combine the dry ingredients, including the dried fruit, in a large bowl. Add the citrus rind, if using. Stir in most of the coconut milk to form a somewhat sticky dough. If the dough seems dry, add the rest of the milk. If it seems too sticky/wet, add a little more flour. With damp hands, form the dough into a ball, put it back into the bowl, and refrigerate for 30 minutes. 

Take the dough out of the fridge and divide it into two equal balls. Place them side-by-side on a large, parchment-lined, baking sheet. Using your hand, flatten each ball into a disk about 1-inch thick. Cut each disk into four wedges and pull them apart from each other. 

Bake at 425F for 20-22 minutes, until lightly browned and firm to the touch. (They won't get very dark.) Allow to cool to room temperature before serving with butter-like spread of your choice, jam, and lemon curd. 

Makes 8 scones.

* 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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Wednesday, May 03, 2023

Good Intentions

I was pretty gung ho about the blog last fall, when I started posting at least once per week. And now it seems I've run out of steam. Ugh. Let's call it "writer's block," and allow me to take a breather.

I promise I'll be back to writing regularly. I just need a break to gather my thoughts. :)

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Wednesday, April 26, 2023

My Poison Pen

I'm going to come right out and say it: writing positive reviews for good restaurants isn't fun. There are only so many ways of saying a dish works, that it's tasty, fun to eat, well-conceived, yadda yadda. There are myriad ways, however, of saying something is bad. While a meal might be unsatisfying during the eating aspect of it, the glee I get from trashing it verbally can more than make up for shitty food and worse service. The crazy comments a negative review can inspire are also pretty damn amusing. 

The highlighted text below contains links to my original posts, if you are so inclined to read them.

A long-ago visit to The Melting Pot in Towson left us wondering why anyone would pay good money to eat hot garbage. On the upside, the meal provided me with a fun-to-write blog post. Additionally, some unhinged TMP stan left an outrageous comment while posing as a West Coast food journalist. That got its own blog post.

Milan was a restaurant/club that was not well-received by its Little Italy neighbors. We ate there once. The food was actually pretty decent, but our first impression wasn't so great.

"Stepping into the restaurant, I was immediately struck by a smell. No, not of garlic and shellfish, nor of long-simmered tomato sauce, but of bathroom. A nasty chlorine+potty smell. Granted, we were the first people in the restaurant, and possibly when there are more people in the place and the kitchen is in full swing, the smell isn't noticeable. But it's really off-putting for that to be the first sensation encountered. (I eventually got used to it.)

"Once upstairs on the main floor, I saw that the glossy veneer from two years ago, when the restaurant was new, has faded. The black paint on the wood floor is worn off in paths, the paint on the ceiling has bubbled and cracked, and the tables and chairs show wear. One of the high-backed chairs, which doesn't quite match the others, is patched up with white tape. I'm guessing that the intended effect of the stark white decor with touches of scarlet is "modern" and "classy." And I suppose it is. Classy like a strip club with bottle service. It's a place where Pauly D and The Situation would be completely at ease, hanging out one on of the lounges covered with upholstery straight out of a '72 Nova."

From a write-up about a quick trip to NYC, which included dinner at A Voce in Columbus Circle:

"While the first course was successful, the pici that I ordered for my entree was a total disappointment. Pici is a hand-rolled pasta, somewhat like a thick spaghetti. Imagine making a snake of modeling clay by rolling it between your palm and a table top, and you've got pici. Because they're somewhat thick and about  4" long, picking them up with a fork is like wrestling with a bowl of tarantulas. They're not easily twirled, so a fork full had random ends hanging out in each direction, some of which were happy to slap me in the face as I brought the fork to my mouth. Eventually, I used my knife to cut them into shorter bits. In any case, awkwardness was the least of the dish's problems. The sauce was a bolognese in name only. It had an agrodolce (sweet and sour) thing going on that could have been quite delicious had the sauce had any other thing going on, too. The tiny nubbins of ground duck (which could have been any meat - turkey, rattlesnake) served as a textural element only, and I couldn't taste the cocoa in the pasta. After three or four bites, I was bored with the dish. Thankfully, it wasn't a large portion, so I pushed on and finished it, knowing that a doggie bag wouldn't safely survive the three-plus hours it would take me to get home."

Restaurant Week is always a fine opportunity to eat crappy food. I have always thought that the reason for Restaurant Week is to lure in new patrons with a reasonably priced menu, hook them with amazing food, and turn them into repeat customers who are willing to pay full price. Apparently that memo is only in my head. A 2008 RW meal at Tabrizi's had a high point or two, but was otherwise unexceptional.

"This unadorned plate of worms/bran buds/Plah-Doh after a trip through a Fuzzy Pumper play set is actually Mr Minx's chocolate mousse. Or, more accurately, chocolate ganache - melted chocolate whipped with heavy cream. If it was real mousse, with egg in it, I'd be very surprised. It tasted ok, but really wasn't worth the effort of washing out the ricer."
Another fun post to write involved our 2011 meal at Alchemy, in Hampden. It was Restaurant Week, and clearly Alchemy couldn't handle the extra-ness of it all. Though we normally eat on the early side of dinnertime, when the restaurant isn't busy, the kitchen still had a problem getting the courses out on time. The first course took forever, and the entrees came out while we were still eating our apps. Our waiter, who had promised to "take care of us," never gave us a second look, even while we were juggling five plates of food on a tiny table. The food itself was uneven, perhaps too ambitious. Dishes had multiple components that were under-seasoned or improperly cooked, though the proteins were pretty good. My dessert, a cabernet blackberry sorbet, was outstanding, and the only thing that would prompt my return to Alchemy. As it was, we never went back, and the restaurant closed a couple years later. If you check out the post, do read the handful of entertaining comments.

Occasionally, friends rave over a restaurant enough that Mr Minx and I have to try it. Over the years, I've learned that not all of my friends have good taste. One couple in particular loved Silver Spring Mining Company. I suppose lots of people like the place, as the restaurant has multiple locations. We, however, were not impressed. The food we ate was...edible...but not good enough for a return trip. I took umbrage to a mixed-protein creole masquerading as a jambalaya, and a "Reuben" sandwich that had rye bread and thousand island, but not corned beef, sauerkraut, or Swiss. Additionally, it contained 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." I stand by that opinion.

Some people think I'm a food snob, but that's not true at all. I just expect good-tasting food that is properly made and falls within standards that are acceptable to any local health department. My BFF's 50th birthday party was held at the Kentmorr, a seafood restaurant on the Eastern Shore. The only thing I remember about that meal is being served tepid crab soup, one of those half-and-half jobbies that was a mix of Maryland crab and cream of crab. Apparently, someone had accidentally turned off the burner under the pot of cream of crab, which remained on the stove long enough to get cold. Soup with cream and seafood in it. thanks. 

Occasionally an otherwise decent meal has dishes that fall short of expectations. And sometimes those dishes are pretty bad. But that makes them fun to write about.

Barcocina dip
"The Barcocina dip, listed on the menu as "an Oaxaca queso fundido" had a curious fluffy texture studded with odd rubbery and flavorless bits of chorizo, topped with a whole poached egg (not fried, as the menu indicated). While the yolk was runny, the white was very firm and required a knife to cut and distribute through the dip. The accompanying tortilla chips were weeny, as if made from taco-sized tortillas, and not big enough to scoop up a decent amount of dip."

While we adored Jesse Wong's Hong Kong, a restaurant on the lakefront in Columbia, we felt the opposite about his Hunt Valley restaurant. Jesse Wong's Kitchen served various Asian cuisines, including sushi, but wasn't particularly good at any of them. At least not the food we tried on our two visits. After our disastrous first meal, a lunch, I swore I'd never set foot in the place again. Then we received a gift card from my Dad's girlfriend, which made me eat my words. Sadly, they were tastier than the food at Jesse Wong's Kitchen. Turns out the gift card had no balance, and I had to pay for the crap we ate. I was pretty pleased when the restaurant closed, though I was sad that Hong Kong eventually shut down as well.

I'm sure I've written about several more poor restaurant experiences over the years, but I want to include just one more in this post. It's another Restaurant Week meal, this time at Oyster Bay Grille. The problem was not the meal itself (which was pretty good), but the way management handled a situation.  

"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." 

OBG's chef read my post and, in a comment, offered a free dinner. Because he knows how to treat guests properly. We declined, but I had enjoyed my rockfish entree enough to request the recipe for one of our books. 

Have you had any bad meals or bad service recently? I'd love to hear about leave a comment!

* 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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