Monday, July 01, 2024

Stupid Yelp Reviews

This image was generated by Adobe Firefly AI with the prompt: "a couple sitting in a restaurant, the woman making a face like something tastes bad". So this isn't exactly what I wanted, but it pretty much sums up how I feel about Yelpers. (The Yelpers are represented by the slop on the plates.)
I don't use Yelp. I feel that many review sites and message boards are populated with people who are either truly mean or truly stupid (I'm looking at you, Next Door). That's not to say that I won't give a place a bad review if it is deserved--I've done so here several times. But if I say something bad about a restaurant or a book or a product I purchased on, it's because the restaurant or book or product was faulty/incorrect/just plain bad. I don't give something one star because the shipping took too long or that parking wasn't available. That fact has no bearing on the product or place at all, and it's not fair to use that as the basis for a review. There's a lot of that on Yelp, and I'm sharing examples of stupid and/or mean low-star reviews here so you know exactly what I'm talking about. Italics are mine.

True Chesapeake

May 5, 2021
1 star
Michael O, an "Elite" Yelper from DC had not even eaten at True Chesapeake when he left this review. Clearly the man didn't understand that: 1) the patio was part of the restaurant; 2) it was damn hard to find people who wanted to work during the pandemic. The restaurant likely couldn't afford to spare a server for outside tables after a particular time. He chose to read minds, make assumptions, and generally feel superior. If he asked, "AITA?" the resounding response would be "Yes!"
We went here on the weekend about 10-15 minutes after 2:30 PM. There were still 3 outdoor tables unoccupied and we approached one of the waiters if we could be seated for beers and oysters. At first, he was willing to seat us but had to check up with supervisor inside. The supervisor informed us that they stopped seating prior to 3pm. According to website, they close at 3pm. Ok no biggie, but we decided to get food from another place at White Hall and returned to the same patio. Once we were settled at one of the patio tables and already eating our food, we were interrupted by one of the Oyster restaurant employees (who was Asian . . were they worried that we didn't speak English . . . Perhaps Unconscious Bias) who told us we couldn't sit there. Note there were two other employees that saw us and didn't bother to tell us to move before we had our food set up already. We reasoned that prior to Oyster place reopening this was not an issue to sit down. Anyhow the employee stood her ground but we were annoyed. There was no signage to say that patio had transitioned to restaurant only. To make matters worst the Asian employee echoed that although they stop seating at 2:30 pm they continue service until 5:00 pm. Note to management: probably unwise to turn people away who want to eat and drink since there were still tables available on patio.
Nov 5, 2022
3 stars
John G. from Baltimore fancies himself the expert on Smith Island cake and because True Chesapeake's version wasn't exactly the same, he dinged the whole meal for it. I've had TC's Smith Island Cake and thought it was great. In fact, I'm disappointed that it's not a permanent part of the dessert menu.
The food was pretty good and the service reasonably attentive. But that's not what I want to talk about. They had a Smith Island cake on the desert menu. It didn't taste right, and the texture wasn't right, so I asked our server, and she confirmed that they have someone come in and make it for them. It was disappointing for us, but an insult to Smith Island, and for a restaurant that calls itself True Chesapeake, a slap in the face to the Chesapeake.

Feb 19, 2018
2 stars
Lia A. from Lutherville-Timonium, MD probably spends too much time watching the Food Network and playing on Instagram if she's so concerned that the actual, real, honest-to-dog Chef at Cosima isn't a "foodie chef." What even is a "foodie chef?" I think that Lia A. is one of those "foodies" who makes the word an insult. She's a person who has a little bit of knowledge about the subject, which makes her dangerous, but not correct. 
Definitely wouldn't go back. Neither would anyone at my table of four. Ambiance, wait staff, hostess, building and drinks are all great (the atmosphere is very cool) but the food is pretty bad if you're a real foodie. There is zero refinement to the dishes. The arancini balls were terrible - nothing like you'd find in Italy or at a good Italian place. The pizza was fine but not preferred over most of the pizza places nearby. The main course was muddled and over seasoned and we picked at it. These prices are crazy for food worse than a chain macaroni grill! The food quality, style, preparation and taste are well below the atmosphere. They squirted chocolate sauce that tasted only a little better than cheap Hershey sauce all over my cannoli. No foodie chef would do that. We paid so much for that food too. Why treat a cannoli like a Dunkin' donut? No refinement. None.
Kung Fu 12

Nov 4, 2023
1 star
I have one thing to say to Towanda M. from Philadelphia, PA. KUNG FU 12 IS A CHINESE RESTAURANT, SO WHY DID YOU ORDER THAI FOOD? 
The food lacks favor and is plain. I had the pad Thai, the noodles were over cook without any other ingredients than chicken.Thai basil chicken did not have any sauce or fresh basil. This was huge disappointment .
Apr 5, 2022
2 stars
Hey, Claudia C. Elite 24 from Essex, MD, if you don't like authentic Sichuan food, why did you go all the way to Towson for lunch? Do any Chinese restaurant menus list every vegetable that appears in every dish? KF12 doesn't offer wonton soup for their lunches because they don't offer a small sized portion of wonton soup at all. Nobody was stopping her from ordering plain chicken with vegetables, which is listed on the regular menu. Just because it's lunchtime it doesn't mean you have to order from the lunch specials. In all honesty, there was absolutely no reason for Claudia to leave a review at all because what she did say seemed more vengeful than something that might help future diners.
We visited this place new to us today upon the recommendation of a friend, he said it was excellent. So we took him at his word and went to try it out.
Now to the food....these were lunch specials. my husband had the Pineapple with pepper/beef ($11.95), I had the General Tso's chicken($9.50). Both were served with white rice. You have a choice of ONLY hot and sour soup or egg drop soup and a spring roll with the lunch special (I am wondering where's the standard wonton soup?) No such luck! I asked for it and the server said no.That was disappointing.
Both came out at the same time and the presentation was beautiful. The beef and green peppers and pineapple was too spicy, it is not indicated on the menu. The General Tso's was very spicy, almost to the point of clearing your sinuses.
The lunch menu does not describe what is in each dish, such as vegetables and what kind of vegetables, you have to ask, and that got tedious real fast. Actually what I wanted was some chicken with mixed vege's, again no such luck.
A pot of tea is included with the meal, you have to request it. It had a smokey taste to it.
Their food appears to be geared more toward the hardcore Chinese food rather than the Americanized Chinese food we are used to. I say this because of the menu selections that are other than lunch specials.
Portions are right on target, not too much and not too little, prices are a bit on the high side for the main menu.
Probably won't be back.
Red Pepper Sichuan Bistro

Dec 31, 2022
1 star
Ty F., from Towson, MD is a moron. This is a Yelp review for Red Pepper Sichuan Bistro, not GrubHub. If you have a problem with the restaurant, you should talk about the restaurant, not the delivery service. I'm pretty sure you can't be allergic to fried foods. However, if you think you are, then why order a dish that is fried? My brother's allergic to peanuts, but he's not stupid enough to order kung pao chicken and request that the peanuts be left out. The menu at Red Pepper is huge--order something else? Also, did Ty F actually threaten a GrubHub employee? What a loser.
The fact that the restaurant sent fried chicken instead of steamed chicken despite our request, because my SO is allergic to fried food is the least of my complaints.

We got the delivery from DoorDash, because the GrubHub website was not working properly. When I hit the submit button on THREE SEPARATE TRIES, the page said something was wrong, try again. I bailed and used DoorDash. That worked.

As I'm finishing up I notice an email from Yelp/GrubHub that my order (Order #483221171916533) went through. I call GrubHub and explain that their web site is broken and we bailed and we never saw a sign that the purchase went through. I told the person on the phone to cancel the order. He said it was too late to cancel. I told him that was the wrong answer. I told him this was their web site making an error THREE TIMES and if he didn't cancel it, things would not go well for him.

I hung up, called my credit card company and put a stop on the purchase. They said the transaction was still pending, but I could stop it, if Yelp/Grubhub decided to be foolish and posted it.

PS: Apple's HEIC picture format has been around for over a year. Please tell your web people to also change the site so those files don't need to be converted to .jpg or .jpeg first.
Nov 21, 2019
1 star
Mac N Mj M. of Las Vegas, NV is another moron. Why give Red Pepper the low rating if you're mad at GrubHub?
Couldn't tell you how the food was, driver was rude, the address was off by 4 numbers, yep my fault, he trashed my food, His words not mine. Not a slam on Red Pepper, was looking forward to the food. More a slam on Grub Hub.
Nov 17, 2022
1 star
Red Pepper had the misfortune of having Thomas B. of MD, MD as a guest on my birthday. He is clearly a moron. Red Pepper's menu is quite large and yes, they offer mostly more traditional dishes. Thomas B. might enjoy Szechuan House more because they seem to cater to white people with no tastebuds.
Don't waste your time or money here. They have a very small menu, and I understand that 90% of the dishes on the menu are traditional Chinese dishes with that said the service is subpar at best the food is bland and without flavor. I had a chicken dish and my wife a beef dish but were really bad. The only bright spot here was my 15 year olds orange chicken. If you want good Chinese food go to Joey chens in Green spring station.

* 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, June 13, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Guan Fu

This post originally appeared on on July 30, 2018.

I can't believe the amount of food that I consume when I'm with my friend Daisy. It's as if I sprout a second stomach to hold it all. I liked this place a lot, so of course it closed. :( 

I have always loved Chinese food and can still remember the taste of my very first shrimp in black bean sauce. I was on a "date" with my Dad. My mother had shooed us out of the house so she could have some quiet time with my newly-born baby brother; this makes me about 5 at the time. I had already eaten plenty of American-style Chinese food by that age, but the piquancy of the fermented black beans was a new flavor to me. And I liked it.

Sichuan food appeared on my table sometime in the late 70s, and though may palate was not yet accustomed to heat, I appreciated that the flavors and ingredients used were a bit different from the usual celery, onions, and starchy sauces used in familiar dishes like moo goo gai pan and chow mein. Though the Sichuan and Hunan dishes I ate in my youth were quite different from the ones I ate as a small child, they were still fairly Americanized.

In 2018, there doesn't seem to be as many Chinese restaurants in Baltimore as there used to be. Certainly no good ones (I am sure someone will be happy to argue that point). I've had a hard time finding even mediocre food in my neck of the woods. Thankfully, there is some really good Chinese food to be had outside of Baltimore. I've spoken here many times of my love for Grace Garden in Odenton, and for Hunan Taste in Catonsville. Asian Court in Ellicott City is my place for dim sum. And of course there are plenty of places in Montgomery County, which is a bit of a hike. Chinese food has gone from being a regular weeknight meal to something for a special occasion, but that makes me appreciate it all the more.

New Yorkers, however, don't have to struggle to find really fine Chinese food from many different regions of that vast country. There's a Michelin-starred Sichuan restaurant in Midtown, for god's sake, not to mention the five locations of Xi'am Famous Foods! Flushing, Queens, a half hour subway ride from Midtown, is rife with Chinese restaurants, which made it a bucket list destination for me.

My friend Daisy knew I wanted to eat good Chinese food when I was in NY, so she took me to Guan Fu, in Flushing. The New York Times gave it three stars, which normally doesn't happen to non-European ethnic restaurants. It had to be good, right?

And it was.

The restaurant is full of dark wood, with large tables to hold ample feasts. There are also comfortable wide chairs--which easily accommodate ample posteriors, like mine. The menu has photographs of every dish, which is nice, but only makes one's choice more difficult. Everything looks great.

Daisy had eaten at Guan Fu before, and had tasted a good deal of the menu. I was happy to let her decide what we would eat. Or over-eat, as the case may be. We ordered five dishes, and did a pretty good job of finishing almost everything. It helped that only two of the dishes contained meat, and only one as the star of the dish, but none of them were small.

Dishes were served family-style, arriving at the table in the order in which the kitchen finished preparing them. The bean jelly noodle salad is served cold, so that came to the table quickly. It was spicy yet refreshing, the gelatinous texture of the noodles holding a chill quite well--much appreciated on a day that had reached 98°F.

The Guan Fu style fried yolk corn was perhaps the most intriguing and unfamiliar dish. It was also the largest. The giant plate contained a mountain of fried corn kernels dusted in dried egg yolk; they were both sweet and salty, with a crisp-tender texture that made them a perfect snack. Except eating this dish was slow going, as chopsticks made it difficult to pick up more than one kernel at a time.

Speaking of chopsticks, Guan Fu has a novel approach to them. Rather than using coarse wooden disposable chopsticks, or plastic ones that require washing, they use chopstick handles with replaceable wooden tips. The tips come in little paper packages, which the diner removes before screwing the tips into place. This way they use much less wood and paper than traditional disposable sticks, and there's no doubt that the tips are sanitary.

We also ordered Chinese black fungus in Guan Fu sauce, a quite spicy (three chile peppers, according to the menu) dish of snappy-textured mushrooms (also called wood ears, commonly used in moo shu preparations) with raw onion and chiles in a clear, ginger-forward, sauce.

Our lone meat dish was a stir fry of chicken with Sichuan prickly ash. Prickly ash is a member of the citrus family, which explains why Sichuan peppercorns--which are actually buds--are somewhat lemony in flavor. Oh, and they have a numbing quality, too, with which those who have tried them are familiar. The combination of Sichuan pepper numbing and chile pepper heat is known as ma la, and this chicken dish was loaded with it--but not in an uncomfortable way. There were also bits of crispy potato and even crispier lotus root in the dish, which added some textural contrast.

My favorite dish was the dumplings, which, oddly enough, appeared in the dessert section of the menu. I have been looking for a dish of dumplings in hot chile oil like the one served at a place called Szechuan Best, in Randallstown. We went there semi-regularly in the 80s, and I had to get the dumplings every time. The sauce was hot and oily and redolent of five spice. I think. It's been a long time, but I would know the flavor if I tasted it again. The dumplings at Guan Fu were not the same, though the delicate wrappers filled with pork seemed somewhat similar. The sauce, however, was its own thing. No five spice, and actually quite mild to my palate, but eminently slurpable. Now that I think back on it, I can understand how their relative mildness (only two chile peppers) might be a relief after eating an otherwise highly-spiced meal.

Overall, I liked Guan Fu. I think it's on par with Grace Garden and Hunan Taste, and I'm happy to have been able to compare them so favorably. However, each restaurant has its own personality. I'd definitely like to go back to Guan Fu and get to know it better.

Guan Fu
39-16 Prince St g01
Flushing, NY 11354

* 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, June 05, 2024

A Pet Peeve

generated with Adobe Firefly AI
This may be my briefest post ever.
It's BELGIAN waffle/chocolate/whatever, not BELGIUM, dumbasses. Ya don't eat CHINA or MEXICO food, you eat CHINESE or MEXICAN food. BelgiUM is the country. BelgiAN refers to things that come from Belgium.


* 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, May 30, 2024

Throwback Thursday: New Designs at Redbubble

This post originally appeared on on March 21, 2018.

Hey! My Redbubble store is still up and running, and has a lot more cool designs than just the ones linked below. I did pretty well selling masks during the pandemic, but these prints also look great on shower curtains and fleece blankets. Please check them out!
Not only do I write about food and take photos of food, I use those photos to create fabric designs. The four below are some of my latest designs and can be found on everything from travel mugs to duvet covers and more. I particularly like them on scarves, tote bags, and sofa pillows.

Check out the links below every photo to see my whole line, sold by

Good Morning


Little Italy

Taco Tuesday

* 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, May 16, 2024

Throwback Thursday: MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Co. at The Avenue in White Marsh

This post originally appeared on on March 15, 2018.

It's a shame this place couldn't make it. Mr Minx and I liked it quite a bit. The pizzas were tasty and the salads were huge and interesting. I think the odd fast casual-ness of the ordering process was its downfall. Had there been a more normal sit-down dining experience, I think this place might have lasted longer. Though the pandemic might have closed it anyway, hard to say. Also, the name was mighty weird and I'm betting 0% of people knew how to pronounce it properly. 
There's been a real push toward Neapolitan-style pizza in the last few years and I am so happy for the trend. The thin but pliable crust with a scattering of tasty scorch marks has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid. When the trend shifted to fresh dough pizzas in the 80s, I lost interest in pizza altogether. Now we have several places in the Baltimore area that are embracing Neapolitan again, like Paulie Gee's in Hampden which imported wood burning ovens from Italy. MidiCi Neapolitan Pizza Company, with a brand new branch on The Avenue in White Marsh, is the first chain that I'm aware of that's attempting to spread this style of pizza nationwide on a large scale.

The Minx and I were recently invited to check out their space and sample their food and drink offerings. The space is clean and inviting, with a curving bar that runs along most of the dining room. The design allows patrons to watch the pizzas being prepared and cooked in their authentic wood burning ovens, just behind the bar. The menu itself is stripped down and very much reflects Northern Italian cuisine. Instead of crab pretzels and sliders, the appetizer menu has a selection of meat and cheese plates and several pairings with fresh burrata. There's also a nice selection of salads, but the main focus is the pizza.

Of course, diners do not live by pizza crust alone, so there is a wide selection of beer, wines, and specialty cocktails. The Minx and I sampled a few, including the Angel Margarita and Devil Margarita. The Angel is a fruity and refreshing concoction flavored with blackberries, while the Devil has some serious heat thanks to the whole Fresno pepper floating in the drink. We also sampled an Italian variation on the whiskey sour that incorporates an herbal liqueur known as amaro, and a Tequila Mojito that has a bright, citrus kick.

In addition to the meat and cheese boards, MidiCi offers an appetizer of meatballs with fresh mozzarella. The meatballs are made with angus beef and are a bit firmer than the meatballs you might get at a red sauce Italian place, but I'm fine with that. The dish is accompanied by their house-made wood-fire toasted bread with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Speaking of meat boards, the one we tried featured prosciutto, spicy Italian salami (calabresi), Neapolitan salami, and rosemary ham. The board included two types of mustard and a smattering of kalamata olives as well. This and a nice glass a wine is perfect start to a lively evening with friends.

Okay, let's get down to business. MidiCi offers about 15 different specialty pizzas as well as five classic Neapolitan pizzas that can be modified with a selection of toppings. The Minx and I tasted several, with the shrimp scampi pizza being a particular favorite of mine. The Minx enjoyed the Egg 'n Bacon pizza which also included Italian sausage and fingerling potatoes in addition to applewood smoked bacon and a freshly cracked egg on top. While I typically do not go for margherita pizzas, the freshness of MidiCi's ingredients made theirs quite appealing; the version with prosciutto and arugula was even tastier.

While eating all that pizza can be quite filling, MidiCi also has a selection of desserts to finish off the meal, including gelatos and sorbettos. If you're more into the concept of a cheese plate as a perfect end to a meal, there's also burrata with pear and honey. Their signature dessert, however, is the Nutella calzone with fresh berries. Made from the same dough as their pizza, the calzone is filled with Nutella and fresh berries, topped with more of each, and drizzled with a balsamic reduction. 

MidiCi is a rapidly growing franchise, but they haven't skimped on the details, like the choice of ingredients, the design of their restaurants (even the bathrooms are special), and the quality of their wood-fired ovens that make all the difference in preparing Neapolitan-style pizza. I'm looking forward to trying more of their specialty pizzas and diving into their wide selection of salads.

MidiCi The Neapolitan Pizza Company
The Avenue at White Marsh
8139C Honeygo Blvd.
Nottingham, MD 21236
(443) 725-5456

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* 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!

Monday, May 06, 2024

Dining In NY - April 2024

On my most recent trip to New York, food wasn't the first thing on my mind. Strange, I know. But it was Sniffapalooza Spring Fling weekend, so eating took a back seat to perfume sniffing. That's not to say I didn't have some delicious noms, too.

nutella earl grey swirl and coffee with oatmilk at Dominique Ansel Workshop
Of course I had to stroll over to Dominique Ansel Workshop to pick up a quick breakfast of pastry and coffee before I met with my BFF Andree. I ate half of this gorgeous laminated swirly pastry filled with Nutella/Earl Grey cream, saving the rest for an evening snack. I offered it to Andree, but she's apparently not that crazy about Nutella. Honestly, I've never heard such a thing. 

eggplant parm with arugula salad at Cecconi's at The Ned Hotel in NoMad
When Andree finally got her butt into town, she was hungry, so we went to Cecconi's--only a block from our NoMad hotel--for eggplant parm. I had eaten a horrible version not too many days earlier and found this one to be a welcome contrast. We also had a giant salad (in addition to the one that came with the eggplant) and doggie bagged about half our lunch. Our room at the Ace had a full-sized SMEG refrigerator so we took advantage of a cool spot to keep our leftovers. 

lemon meringue and nutella tarts at Masseria Cafe & Bakery
After a trip to Bergdorfs to do a little sniffing and to drop off a custom scarf for my friend Donna, we hiked to the theater district. We had tickets for the 7pm showing of Lempicka and an hour or so before it was time to queue up in front of the theater, so we grabbed an outside table at Masseria Cafe & Bakery across the street for coffee and pastries and people watching. There seemed to be a Vogue magazine photoshoot going on in the street, with models in pastel tulle frocks that gave sad 80s prom dress vibes but probably cost 10K each and a photographer in a Vogue sweatshirt. I'm tempted to pick up some late summer issues of the mag to see if these images show up.

After the show, we walked the nineteen blocks back to the Ace through the mayhem of Times Square and ate the leftovers from lunch for dinner.

The next morning, we had coffee and pastries at the Stumptown Coffee in the hotel before heading downtown for hours of perfume heaven. 

the hot antipasti course at La Mela
We broke for lunch at 1:30 for a five course family-style feast at La Mela. Their Cinque Corsi is $60 pp and gets you a salad, hot antipasti, (roasted red peppers and olives, asparagus parmigiana, spedini alla romano, stuffed mushrooms), a pasta course (rigatoni marinara, tortellini alfredo, gnocchi sorentina), a combined meat and fish course (veal francaise, chicken Scarpariello, shrimp marinara), and a wide selection of desserts (Italian cheesecake, tiramisu, cannoli, tartufo, zabaglione with fresh fruit)

the pasta course

It all looks a confusing mess, but everything was quite good. The pasta course in particular was impressively al dente--hard to achieve when made in mass quantities. I sampled all of the desserts except the cheesecake and cannoli and found them to be uniformly tasty, if messy.

Later that evening, back at the hotel, Andree determined she was hungry again but didn't want to walk anywhere (I had exhausted her the day before) so we went down to the The Ace Hotel Lobby Bar and sat for a while with this pathetic cheese plate.

this sad cheese and charcuterie plate cost $25 at the lobby bar at the Ace
I wasn't in the mood for savory food, so ordered the baked lubeck marzipan, which was two long, rather hard, and fairly uninteresting almond cookies that cost a steep $12.

brunch at The Harold: shakshuka and the smoked salmon platter with potatoes on the side
The next morning, we had our usual brunch at The Harold. Andree always gets the smoked salmon, while I try new things. The shakshuka was too brothy for me, but otherwise tasted fine. I think my favorite thing on their morning menu is the rosemary potatoes that accompany most egg dishes. Andree likes them too, so we ordered them on the side. While I like the Harold quite a bit, I do wish they'd use oatmilk instead of/in addition to the sweetened almond milk they offer for coffee.

best deal all weekend: yakitori bento at Kushi Kushi Yaki $17
My last meal of the weekend, after Andree left early and I spent some time in Saks' fragrance department, was at Kushi Kushi Yaki. I've eaten there many times and have never been disappointed by their yakitori. The little pork sausages are especially tasty, and I appreciate the wide variety of pickled items that come with the bento box.

This weekend didn't involve nearly as much food as my usual excursions to NYC, and honestly, my stomach was happier for it. The next trip, however, will be for Fancy Food, so it's likely to be a gut buster. Stay tuned!

* 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, April 25, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Best of 2017, Part One - Restaurant Food

This post originally appeared on on January 1, 2018.

I get sad looking back on some of these posts and seeing dishes I can no longer get my hands on (or sink my teeth into). Like that beet reuben--Pen and Quill is long gone. Or anything from Smoke, though the former owner is hinting that he's planning a re-do. Hunan Taste is also gone, and the owners owe my brother $100 for the gift card he bought before they closed their other restaurant (a hot pot joint in Timonium). I've threatened to make the zucchini bread from The Turn House many times, but have never followed through. Thankfully, I can still get the tempura broccoli from Ekiben and the pambazo from Fiesta Mexicana anytime I want.
Welcome to our annual round-up of our favorite dishes from 2017! This first post will include all the restaurant dishes we enjoyed last year. Not all of them were written about here on Minxeats; some were Instagram-only posts (they'll be the ones without links). We tend to eat at the same restaurants over and over, so it makes more sense to post pretty photos than to write repetitive posts (which we are also known to do!).  (I know the photos seem blurry, but if you click on them to get a larger version, I promise those will be much more in focus!)

So. Many. Parentheses. Sorry.

The tempura broccoli from Ekiben is a flavor revelation! If you haven't tried it, what on earth are you waiting for? Be sure to order it with the optional Chinese sausage, unless of course you are a vegetarian.

Everything at Hersh's, especially the housemade pasta, like this tagliolini with shrimp and lemon breadcrumbs. And the pizza. Always get a pizza.

I loved the smoked beet reuben at Pen & Quill. Though the chef that created it is gone, it's currently on the online menu; if you're lucky, they really still do have them. A perfect reuben, with all the gooey cheese and tangy sauerkraut, with beets instead of beef.

At the B & O American Brasserie, the agnolotti with smoked carrots, morels, onions, and peas really floated my boat. Smoked carrots! Everything else we tried from the Spring menu was pretty delicious, including sweetbreads that nobody else seemed to like (they took them off the menu fairly quickly) and luscious lamb ribs.

We've tried all the sandwiches at Smoke, and the Boss Dawg is my favorite. It's got everything one needs in a sandwich: pulled pork, house-cured bacon, cheddar, slaw, crispy onions, jalapeno-bacon glaze, and pickles.

While our entire seafood-forward meal at By the Docks was really great, I can't stop thinking about the baklava cheesecake. BAKLAVA CHEESECAKE.

OMG the fried oysters and artichoke veloute at La Cuchara. Mr Minx thought they were the best fried oysters he had ever eaten. I concur.

While I was quite disappointed with the soft shell crab roll I had there in the same meal, Azumi's age dashi tofu was tender, crisp, and loaded with umami. Outstanding. Enough to lure me back to try more? Maybe.

The brisket the Turn House served at a media dinner in July was the best fuxxing brisket I have ever eaten.

Ditto for their zucchini bread, which was served with molasses butter. Find the recipe for both at Savory Experiments.

I normally don't order chocolate desserts in restaurants because they can often be too rich. But we couldn't resist this warm chocolate chess pie at Nickel Taphouse. Even my brother, who claims he's not a dessert person, couldn't help but assist in the demolition of this gooey delight.

This tomato water bloody Mary served at a lovely al fresco dinner held by Copper Kitchen was the best damn bloody Mary I have ever had. And it's dead simple.

Do you like sweetbreads? I sure do, and this pile of perfectly cooked specimens with a lemony sauce was served up at the Bluebird Cocktail Room one happy Happy Hour.

Back at B & O again, the Buffalo Pig Tails were dyn-o-mite (as was everything else).

We were invited to a Friendsgiving dinner at the Turn House where we had a lot of really fine food, but my favorite item of the evening was this chocolate nut pie. It wasn't too sweet, nor too chocolatey. I know--no such thing as too chocolatey for some folks, but there is for me.

We always go to Hunan Taste around my birthday. This year, we might have had the best meal there ever. The twice-cooked pork was fantastic and something we'll definitely order again to go with our usual Sichuan green beans and beef on toothpicks (seen in the background).

I've eaten the Buffalo brussels sprouts at Nickel Taphouse a few times this year, and they are always dynamite. So flavorful!

The pambazo at Fiesta Mexicana is definitely worth writing home about. I ordered mine with "milanesa" or breaded beef, and my mouth was very happy. Can't wait to get back there again where I just might order the same thing.

Hope you enjoyed reminiscing with us. Here's hoping for a delicious 2018!

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Monday, April 08, 2024

Epic Fail

a truly epic bowl of cream of crab soup
I gotta laugh at native English-speaking influencers (AKA people who spend too much time posting on Instagram or TikTok) who have no working grasp of the language. And I get that there's slang--I do, honestly. Every generation has had it. We went from "nifty," "swell," and "keen" to "groovy" and "far out," to "rad" and "bitchin'" and even "bodacious." All stood in for "good" or "great." Then came "awesome," and "phenomenal," which were used to describe even the most mundane of things. But they already had their own meanings. To be awesome means to inspire awe (awe=reverential respect + wonder or fear). God, for example, might be awesome, so too an active volcano, Stonehenge, or the strength and diligence of an ant. Something that is exceedingly great can be phenomenal; the word also refers to phenomena. Calling a well-prepared hamburger "awesome," or a piece of clothing "phenomenal" (I'm looking at you, Nina Garcia) is gross exaggeration, plain and simple. 

There are many words that mean "good" or "great," including extraordinary, noteworthy, fine, splendid, terrific, first-rate, marvelous, outstanding, exceptional, top-notch, stellar, lovely, delightful, fantastic, fabulous, tremendous, superlative, essential, remarkable, and dozens more. When one is talking about food, however, be it a specific dish, ingredient, or entire meal, those words don't mean a whole lot. Let's use cream of crab soup as an example. One diner might prefer a thicker soup because that's the way grandma made it, or one using shellfish stock in addition to milk. Another diner might want a more liberal seasoning with Old Bay, and another may prefer a pinch of JO spice, or a glug of sherry. They're all "good," and none are "awesome." The bowl you just ate might be the best of your lifetime, so tell us why. "The cream of crab at __________ is so silky smooth and full of crab flavor, it's almost a bisque. Not only did every spoonful contain crab, but there was also a mound garnishing the top along with a sprinkle of parsley and Old Bay." Or maybe, "the cream of crab at ___________ was thick and lumpy, not with flour but with chunks of crab meat and little bits of onion and celery, which made it more savory than most." I know, my mouth is watering now, too.

Do you know what word never makes my mouth water? Epic. Let's examine that word more closely, shall we?

1 of 2
ep·​ic ╦łe-pik 
1: a long narrative poem in elevated style recounting the deeds of a legendary or historical hero;
the Iliad and the Odyssey are epics
2: a work of art (such as a novel or drama) that resembles or suggests an epic
3: a series of events or body of legend or tradition thought to form the proper subject of an epic;
the epic of the winning of the West

2 of 2
1: of, relating to, or having the characteristics of an epic; an epic poem
2a: extending beyond the usual or ordinary especially in size or scope; his genius was epic

In layman's terms, epic generally refers to something that is long or large, lasts a long time, or takes a long time to achieve. Good examples are Beowulf, the Civil War, and pretty much any movie with a running time over 3 hours. Unless a bowl of cream of crab soup is forty feet wide and contains the meat of a thousand crabs, it makes no sense to describe it as "epic." 

Yes, language is changing. But why should we accept giving new meanings to words that already have perfectly fine ones that have endured? Because people are too lazy or dumb to use words properly or to even make up new ones? One of my favorite new words is "rizz," which refers to romantic appeal or charm. AKA "charisma." Note that the middle syllable of the word "charisma" is pronounced "riz." Yes, so it makes total sense. 

C'mon people--smarten up! English has lots of words. Please utilize more than 2 of them.

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Thursday, April 04, 2024

Throwback Thursday: Pastabilities

This post originally appeared on on April 9, 2018.

While it was fun to play around with making our own pasta, we'd much rather have someone make it for us. Plus, since we started doing Whole30 off and on, we've discovered how much better we feel if we're not consuming wheat. Yes, there is gluten-free pasta out there, but frankly, most of it is awful. At best it's a poor imitation of the real thing. And I'd rather eat bread. Mr Minx is still somewhat of a pastaholic, but even he doesn't crave it as much as he used to.
I started following @BaltimoreHomeCook on Instagram last year because I enjoy her photos of homemade pasta. Not just linguine and fettuccine, but fancy stuff made with colored doughs in interesting shapes. I admire her experimentation in the kitchen and wish we had enough space for that sort of thing. Our counter is not much bigger than a desk calendar and it already has several bottles of olive oil and a KitchenAid heavy duty stand mixer in permanent residence. Though I have always known that we could make pasta dough in the food processor and hand-form cavatelli or orecchette at the dining room table, we never got around to it.

I met @BaltimoreHomeCook--Laurie--in person and immediately she volunteered to lend us her KitchenAid pasta attachments. The next day, as I accepted the heavy bag holding the roller and cutting blades, I realized we had no more excuses. We'd be making fresh pasta ASAP, as she had also given us a small bag of 00 pasta flour with which to play. Oh boy. This was getting real.

I didn't want to lean on Laurie for everything--I hate being a pain in the ass, or needy--so I looked up pasta recipes on teh innernets. I found one for dough made in the food processor involving 2.5 cups of 00 flour, 4 eggs, and 2 teaspoons of olive oil that seemed easy enough. The directions indicated that half a cup of flour should be held back and added if the mixture seemed too wet. After pulsing the remaining ingredients, the dough felt good to me, so we put the other half cup of flour back into its bag.

After the pasta dough rested in the fridge for a while, we began the rolling process. I had found a video on YouTube instructing that a blob of dough should be run through the #1 setting several times, folding once before each pass through the roller, and then once through each successively numbered setting all the way to #8. Seemed easy, though looks are usually deceptive.

We ended up putting the pasta through the rollers three times. I broke down the initial 1-pound ball of dough into about 8 smaller sections. As we passed each through the roller, we noticed that it started wrinkling badly at setting #4, becoming a total mess at #5. It happened with each piece of dough, so we tried again, this time stopping at setting #4. I had set out a sheet pan with a piece of parchment paper on which to arrange the sheets, but I hadn't realized that the dough would stick to itself and the other pieces without flouring the sheets. (Duh!) We re-rolled each of the 8 pieces of dough for a third time, this time placing them on a light dusting of cornmeal, which stopped the sticking. More sticking ensued, however, when we cut the sheets into fettuccine, and more cornmeal was employed to keep the strands separate. The whole process was a bit of a hot mess.

We cooked the pasta and tossed it with a simple tomato sauce with arugula, cheese, and breadcrumbs. Because we stopped at the #4 setting, the pasta was too thick and chewy, resembling my Polish grandmother's kluski far more than tender Italian flat pasta. We'd have to try again the following weekend.

I posted the photo above on Instagram, and Laurie complimented me on a successful first try. I told her about our problems and she quickly offered solutions. Our dough was too wet, causing it to wrinkle during the rolling process. She offered her recipe, which was a bit different than the one we had used: 2 cups of flour, 3 eggs, no oil. If made in the foodpro, the mixture should be pulsed to the texture of couscous. If the dough still seemed too wet, we should fold some flour into it while rolling. Also, we should let the rolled dough dry a bit before cutting; the texture should be somewhat leathery.

The following weekend, we tried again. We used 2 cups of 00 flour and 3 eggs, which we pulsed to a couscous texture (cooked couscous, I should add). It was a little stiffer and required a bit more kneading, but in a few minutes Mr Minx had worked it into pliability. We let the dough rest in the fridge for about 45 minutes before we rolled it out. It still wrinkled a tad at #5, but we soon realized that the dough needed to be held a bit more tautly at the top as it was being pulled down through the roller. Mr Minx was better at it than I was, so he manipulated the dough while I was in charge of changing the levels on the roller attachment. In no time, we had nine beautiful sheets of very thin dough that were laid atop tea towels on baking sheets.

I had a hair appointment in Hampden, so we covered the dough with parchment and left the house. I figured we'd be back in a bit over an hour, as my hair is very short and takes little time to cut. I didn't take in consideration that there are several levels of "leatheriness" and perhaps Laurie meant the pasta should dry only slightly, to the texture of a supple glove leather. As it turned out, a late arrival before me kept me waiting 30 minutes before my turn in the barber chair. When we arrived home, our beautiful pasta had become more like stiff saddle leather. Not knowing the difference at that point, we unsuccessfully attempted to feed the sheets of dough through the pasta cutting blades, which only crumbled them into uneven bits. Not wanting to waste our efforts, I stacked the stiff sheets and sliced them into pappardelle with a sharp knife. To be honest, wide flat pasta is my favorite anyway.

This thinner pasta cooked much quickly than the thicker stuff we had made the week before, and, despite our issues, was lovely. Not in looks perhaps, because the noodles were of varying widths, but the texture was amazingly silky, with the barest al dente bite. This time, we served it with pancetta and mushrooms, chopped raw tomato, fresh basil, and grated Parm.

The third time's the charm, as they say, so we figured trying it once more would result in perfection. I followed Laurie's recipe again, but the dough seemed stiffer and drier this time. I didn't want to add water in case I accidentally overdid it, so kneaded the dough a little longer before tucking it into the fridge for half an hour.

It rolled out beautifully, but dried too quickly. We had to cut the first sheet of dough immediately after rolling the final sheet. It was almost too dry, but not as brittle as the last time. The final product, however, was lovely, with a silky texture and a gentle bite. Tossed with red pepper walnut pesto, artichoke hearts, and Italian chicken sausage, it was fabulous.

Our next pasta adventure will be with semolina dough, which requires water instead of eggs. We've already purchased the semolina flour so we won't have excuses not to try something new. But I have to admit, even though fresh pasta is amazing, it is a real pain in the ass to make. Kudos to Laurie and to everyone else who does that stuff on a regular basis. And thanks to the manufacturers of dry pasta, because we'll never stop using it.

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