Thursday, November 30, 2023

Throwback Thursday - Fleming's New Bar Menu

This post originally appeared on September 3, 2018.

Sadly, the Fleming's in Harbor East closed up during the pandemic and is being replaced by yet another overpriced and underwhelming Atlas Group restaurant. 

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar was one of the first restaurants to appear in the Harbor East development at the end of the last century. A great deal has changed in the now bustling location, but the bar menu for the elegant steakhouse had largely stayed the same over the last 20 years. Feeling that it was time for a bit of a facelift, Fleming's has introduced a host of new items to their bar menu for the patrons who wish to have a drink and a bite rather than a full dinner. We were invited to sample some of these new items.

We started off with some breaded and deep fried Casteveltrano olives. Unlike a lot of olives which can be mushy and salty, Casteveltrano olives are firm, mild, and bright green in color. When served with a deep fried crust and a spicy dipping sauce, they can be quite addictive. We also had candied bacon which was sweet, salty, crispy, and smoky all at once. The Minx said she could make a meal out of these two snacks and a cocktail.

Fleming's understands that some customers may go meatless, so they have added some vegetarian dishes to their menu, like this vegetable tempura that included asparagus, portobello mushroom, and red pepper fried in a light batter.

And for those who would like a little protein with their tempura, Fleming's also offers the Colossal Shrimp Tempura with U10 shrimp served alongside some of the vegetable items. An agrodolce dipping sauce is included on the side.

Also available for the vegetarian minded is the Mushroom-Farro burger. Vegetarian burgers by nature tend to be softer in texture than beef burgers, but the combination of mushroom, chick pea, and farro in this patty provides a burger that is firm enough to stand up to its toppings. Those toppings include goat cheese, arugula, campari tomato, and a French-fried onion ring. Although I knew we had more food to try, I couldn't help myself and finished the whole burger. By the way, all burgers are served with a side of French fries and some of those fried Casteveltrano olives.

We also tried their California burger which starts with a prime beef patty that's nicely grilled on the outside and perfectly pink on the inside. On top of that is tomato, arugula, bacon, avocado, cheddar cheese, and a smoked jalapano aioli. The toppings provide a great mix of flavors and textures, but the taste of the burger is not lost.

Since my grandfather was English, I've always been a fan of lamb, so I was looking forward to trying their grilled lamb lollipops. They did not disappoint with their grilled outer crust and moist, tender meat within. They were served on a bed of tomato, arugula, Casteveltrano olives, and herbed goat cheese.

Since this is a steakhouse after all, we had to try the filet mignon on potato waffles. I was concerned that the potato waffles might be too soft, but they actually had a crisp exterior like regular waffles and savory, fluffy potato inside. The filet mignon was perfectly medium rare and quite tender. The drizzle of demi glace over the top added just the right finishing touch.

While not technically part of the new bar menu, we were invited to try some of Fleming's dessert items. Chef Ty's key lime tart was definitely a winner, but our favorite was the molten chocolate lava cake served with ice cream and a delicate, crispy tuile. When we cut into the fluffy cake, a river of melted genache oozed out. The combination of the warm cake and cold ice cream was delightful.

We've gone to Fleming's in the past for special occasions like birthdays, but after sampling their new bar menu, I can see ourselves stopping by just to sit at the bar and enjoy some of these well-crafted  dishes along with one (or three) of their signature cocktails.

Fleming's Prime Steakhouse and Wine Bar
720 Aliceanna St.
Baltimore, MD 21202

Posted on

Thursday, November 23, 2023

Throwback Thursday: Butternut Squash Toast

This post originally appeared on January 30, 2015

If you want a dynamite appetizer for Thanksgiving (today!) try this butternut squash toast. It's very fall-ish, both sweet and savory, and just all around delish.

If you don't want to make it for dinner tonight (I realize it's very last-minute) it's great anytime in the colder months, or whenever you can find whole winter squash.

New Year's Eve 2014 was very much a repeat of New Year's Eve 2013: we went to Cunningham's for dinner, came home to watch Kathy Griffin taunt Anderson Cooper until midnight, then toasted the new year with champagne and Christmas cookies. We love that Cunningham's opened in our area; it's ideal for both casual and fancy meals, and because it's so close, we don't have to worry too much about encountering drunken revelers on our way home.

The restaurant offered a prix fixe dinner last year, but we opted to order from the regular a la carte menu. It was less-expensive that way, and allowed us to skip dessert. Plus, there were more selections. I had been intrigued by the idea of butternut squash toasts, a dish that was praised by Richard Gorelick in his 2013 review of Cunningham's. He describes the toast as comprising ricotta, maple syrup, and cider vinegar, in addition to the squash. We ordered the toasts as one of our appetizers and really enjoyed it, even Mr Minx, who is not the biggest fan of squash.

Those flavors stuck with me, and a few weeks into the new year, I decided to try to replicate it. But before I reinvented the wheel, I looked on teh Innernets to see if anything like it was out there. Lo and behold, there was--a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten, which had been restyled and reblogged a couple of times. It involved squash, ricotta, maple syrup, cider vinegar, and thick slices of toast, so I'm pretty sure it's the inspiration for Cunningham's dish. And it seemed easy enough to make at home.

What's not easy is peeling butternut squash. Jean-Georges' recipe called for roasting and mashing, but I liked the diced squash at Cunningham's. Thought it would be more attractive as well. J-G also called for what seemed to be an inordinate amount of cider vinegar and maple syrup--1/4 cup each--and 2 teaspoons of salt. Yowza. No need for either excess; the dish is even better when it's not cloyingly sweet. Besides, all of that additional liquid would make the dish too soupy. Yes, I do have the audacity to question Jean-Georges. Cooking is all about what pleases the eater, not the chef. And this dish is so good, I'd do it all over again.

Butternut Squash Toasts (adapted from a recipe by Jean-Georges Vongerichten)

1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded, and cut into small dice
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Large pinch aleppo pepper
1 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
1 yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons maple syrup
Country bread, cut into 1-inch thick slices
Ricotta cheese
Coarse salt
Minced chives and chile threads for garnish

Preheat oven to 450. Combine squash, 1/4 cup olive oil, aleppo pepper, and 1 teaspoon of salt in a bowl and toss well. Transfer the mixture to a parchment-lined baking sheet and roast, stirring twice, until tender and lightly caramelized, 30 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pan. Add the onions and remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the onions are well softened and darkening, about 20 minutes Add the vinegar and maple syrup and cook an additional 10-15 minutes.

Combine squash and onions in a bowl. Taste for seasoning. Add a touch more maple syrup if you want it to be sweeter, but we enjoyed it on the more savory side.

Lightly toast bread. Spread some ricotta on toasts, then top with the squash-onion mixture. Sprinkle with chopped chives and chile threads.

Follow on Bloglovin

Posted on

Thursday, November 16, 2023

Throwback Thursday - Apple Tart (Originally Raw Spice Bar)

This post originally appeared on November 19, 2018.

Sadly, this company no longer offers this very versatile sweet spice blend, and when I inquired as to why, I didn't get a very polite answer from them. However, you can still make a delicious tart with regular apple pie spices. And if you want to get closer to the original Raw Spice Bar blend, add tiny pinches of ground cardamom, star anise, rosemary, and black pepper, too.

Fall is apple season, and all I want to do is bake them up in some delicious way. Like good old baked apples, for example, peeled and cored apples stuffed with butter, spices, and brown sugar and baked until tender. I like to serve them warm with a dollop of whipped cream, or--even better--a scoop of salted caramel ice cream. And whipped cream. Apple pies, too. Mr Minx made a fab apple galette a couple of weeks ago, mounding sliced apples seasoned with a little lemon juice into a pie crust brushed with apricot jam and baking it until golden brown.

I normally only season apples with cinnamon, but when Raw Spice Bar sent me a selection of their freshly ground spice mixtures to try, I found myself using a far more exotic blend on my fall apple creations. Their Apple Pie Spices contain not only cinnamon, but also nutmeg, allspice, ginger, green cardamom, star anise, grains of paradise, and rosemary. Yeah, those last four are pretty out of the ordinary for apple pie, especially the grains of paradise. It's an African pepper that while not as spicy as the usual black peppercorns, still has a kick. Somehow, though, the disparate spices all work pretty harmoniously with apples. I'm thinking this blend would work well with other fall-ish creations, too, like pumpkin pie or bread and in oatmeal cookies.

Rather than a typical two-crust apple pie, I decided to try my sample of Raw Spice Bar spices in an open-faced apple tart. I used a removable-bottom tart pan that doesn't get nearly enough love, and a grand total of five ingredients. (If you want to make your own pie crust, that will add a few ingredients to the list, but not many.) the result was pretty darn good, if I do say so. And pretty, in a rustic sort of way (I am not a perfectionist).

Raw Spice Bar has several interesting spice blends, along with individual spices. I think I want to try the Ethiopian Berbere, Persian Advieh, and their salt-free chili powder when I place an order, also the Bourbon-smoked New Mexico smoked paprika, and the Hatch and Urfa Biber chiles. Their spices are sold in small portions so they're always fresh, and their subscription service means you will get a new fresh batch on a regular basis. Check them out.

In the meantime, here's the apple tart recipe. Enjoy!

Apple Tart

1 refrigerated pie crust
4 large apples, like Cortland
2 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons Raw Spice Bar Apple Pie Spices
2 tablespoons apricot jam

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Unroll pie crust into a 9" tart pan with removable bottom. Carefully press crust into all of the pan's nooks and crannies and trim the excess dough at the top. Refrigerate the crust for 15 to firm up.

Peel and core the apples. Cut each into quarters and cut the quarters into 6-8 slices. Toss the apple with the sugar and spices.

Remove the crust from the fridge. Starting from the outside and working in, arrange the apple slices--curved side up--in concentric circles. Don't worry if it's not neat or perfect. Once you have filled in the entire tart, take some of the remaining slices (you will have plenty) and insert them in between the pieces already in the pan. If there are leftovers, eat them.

Bake the tart for 15 minutes at 400°F, then turn the temperature down to 350°F and bake an additional 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and place on a cooling rack.

Melt the jam in the microwave for a few seconds, then use a pastry brush to top the tart with a thin layer.

Allow to cool completely before slicing. Remove the sides of the pan to make slicing easier. If you want, you can also slide the tart off the pan bottom, but I always leave it on. It makes life easier.

Serves 8.

* 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

Thursday, November 09, 2023

Throwback Thursday - The Orient Perry Hall

This post originally appeared on August 9, 2019.

Though we now have two excellent Chinese restaurants in our area, on occasion we do go to The Orient. The enormous portions and good prices are part of the allure, but also the food is very good.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Have you been?

The Orient
9545 Belair Rd
Baltimore, MD 21236

* 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