Friday, September 28, 2012

Flashback Friday - September 28, 2012

A friend recently asked for restaurant recommendations in the Times Square area of New York City. I immediately thought of Sake Bar Hagi, the site of a delicious and rather inexpensive meal with Mr Minx and our friend, blogger David Dust. This post was originally published on September 22, 2009.
Sake Bar Hagi

A couple of seasons ago on Anthony Bourdain's No Reservations, he visited a hole-in-the-wall Japanese restaurant in Times Square called Sake Bar Hagi. I filed that away in the back of my head for a future trip to NY. When Mr Minx and I went up for Fashion Week, I thought it would be the ideal place in which to dine with my friend, the somewhat-infamous, always-entertaining, and fabulously snarky Mr David Dust.

Sake Bar Hagi is an izakaya, or a watering hole that also serves food, comparable to Spanish tapas. It's a very popular place, and from what I read on teh innernets, it's best to get there early to avoid waiting in line. So we decided to meet when the doors opened at 5:30. Even at that early hour there were several tables filled. (When we left around 7, there was a line out the door.)

David didn't have much experience with Japanese food before, and what I hadn't eaten I had at least read about, so I did the ordering. We started off with the kushiyaki (things on skewers) sampler: beef, pork belly, garlic, chicken meatballs, and chicken... order of gyoza and an order of fried calamari.

The skewered tidbits were all delicious, particularly the steak. The gyoza were good/standard, and the onion ring-like calamari were a little chewy, but they tasted fine.

The specials menu offered corn dogs, so we tried two. They were actually seafood sausages dipped in standard corndog batter, and served with ketchup and mustard on the side. Good, but somewhat weird. Tasted better than tofu pups though.

Next I ordered some more unusual fare: fried gobo (burdock) chips. They had that essential starchy/greasy/salty thing going on and tasted a bit like dark-cooked potato chips, or maybe even plantain chips. The accompanying dip was a creamy honey mustard.

I've always been curious about takoyaki, or octopus balls. Ok, they're not octopus balls, but balls of starch with octopus meat inside. Kinda like round, squishy pancakes. They were topped with a preponderance of dried bonito flakes that moved around eerily as if they were alive. The red stuff is pickled, non-sweet ginger. Interesting, I can say I ate them, but not a big favorite at the table. David wouldn't even try one. I think the bonito freaked him out a bit. :)

Because the first round of skewers was so good, we went for a second, this time asparagus wrapped in bacon, duck, and beef. So good.

Finally, we ordered a noodle dish from the specials menu. It was stir fried with bits of pork, onion, and green beans. I thought it would be somewhat like the Chinese "ants climbing a tree" but it was far richer.

We washed everything down with glasses of very apple-y apple sake. And lots of ice water (one needs to stay hydrated in NY).

All-in-all, a pretty great selection of stuff, and I would definitely eat there again and again. Plus, everything is cheap - the noodles were the most expensive dish at $9.50, and the skewers were about $2 apiece. We ordered a lot (and had trouble finishing), but someone with an average appetite could probably get out of there for under $20, not including alcohol.

Sake Bar Hagi
152 West 49th Street (between 6th and 7th)

Sake Bar Hagi on Urbanspoon

Posted on

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The First and Last Time I Make Buckwheat

A while back, I was browsing Amazon and spotted a book called The New Whole Grain Cookbook: Terrific Recipes Using Farro, Quinoa, Brown Rice, Barley, and Many Other Delicious and Nutritious Grains. I've been trying to get more whole grains into our diet, so I ordered it.

We had quinoa and farro in the house, but the first recipe I wanted to try required buckwheat. This despite remembering that Mr Minx had complained about the god-awfulness of the buckwheat pancakes his mama used to make. I chalked that up to his mother's cooking, and not to the buckwheat itself, because he really enjoys buckwheat soba noodles. I bought a box of kasha, or buckwheat groats, and set to making buckwheat and broccoli salad with tangy miso dressing.

The recipe's intro reads, "the dark flavor of Buckwheat gives this salad a range of tastes, from the deep, nutty grains to the tangy, sweet dressing." I thought that sounded amazing...because I had no idea what the author was referring to when she wrote "dark flavor." The only experience I had ever had with buckwheat was with the breakfast cereal, Buc Wheats, which didn't necessarily contain actual buckwheat and had a nice maple-y flavor.

The first part of the recipe involves toasting the groats (which seemed ridiculously tiny to me, like sawdust, but maybe it was just the brand I used) until "crackling, hot to the touch, and fragrant." They did get very hot to the touch, but didn't crackle. And to say they were "fragrant" might be a bit generous. They flat out stunk. Like burnt non-stick pan. They tasted that way, too. Mr Minx said, yup, just the way he remembered.

I hoped that the miso dressing would hide the burnt flavor, and it did somewhat. Because my groats were so tiny, I had to make half again as much of the miso/sesame oil/ginger mixture to coat them all. That was fine, because I had plenty of miso and whatnot. And me being me, I didn't make the whole broccoli and carrot part of the recipe because what I had on hand was cauliflower and mushrooms. The cauliflower I roasted with garlic (just like this broccoli), and I sauteed the mushrooms with a little olive oil and salt over high heat. Added to the buckwheat "salad" (it looked more like oatmeal), it actually tasted just fine. More than fine, actually - it was good.

Until Mr Minx had the stomach cramps overnight. Methinks we'll avoid buckwheat from now on. But I liked the recipe - ok, the idea of the recipe - so I might try again with farro or wheat berries.

Posted on

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Someone's Mad at Outback

Another "Real Actors Read Yelp" video. Funny stuff.

Posted on

Monday, September 24, 2012

Lobster Rolls

Lobster rolls are uber popular in New England, where lobster is cheap and plentiful. They're sortakinda becoming a thing way down here in Baltimore, too, where even food trucks like The Silver Platter have been serving up a traditional version. And then there's GrrChe, where the classic becomes a grilled cheese sandwich in such heretical combinations as lobster and mac & cheese or lobster and Monterey jack.

The way I understand it, there are two basic schools of thought as far as lobster rolls are concerned: the salad is either mayo-based, or butter-sauced. A buttered and toasted top-split hot dog roll is the usual carrier for either version, which may or may not also include lettuce. I say as long as there's freshly steamed Maine lobster inside, it's all good.

Lobster Rolls

2 1.5 lb Maine lobsters, steamed
1 stalk celery, finely chopped
2 tablespoons good-quality mayonnaise (Hellman's, Duke's, or Kewpie)
squeeze lemon juice
salt and pepper
4 hot dog buns

Remove the meat from the tails, claws, and knuckles and chop coarsely. Blot the meat with paper towels or drain for a few minutes in a strainer; steamed lobsters are often quite juicy, which will dilute the sauce. Toss with celery and mayo. Add lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Toast the hot dog buns both inside and out and glaze with a thin layer of butter. Pile in the lobster salad. Serve with potato chips.

Posted on

Friday, September 21, 2012

Eden Eats Baltimore

I don't know why I originally posted this so early, with the wrong date...either the first (of three I received) press release was incorrect, or I was simply confused. In any case, the Baltimore episode of Eden Eats airs tonight, September 21st at 10pm.

The Cooking Channel show, Eden Eats, features the somewhat (ok, very) annoying Eden Grinshpan eating her way around various cities. Come September 21st, she'll be working her way through Baltimore, eating at a bunch of obscure places. Here's the PR blurb:

Eden is in the diverse city of Baltimore, Maryland and has just 24 hours to eat her way around the globe! Her first stop is lunch at a Kenyan restaurant, followed by making dinner with two Ukrainian sisters, and sampling some Newari specialties at a Nepalese restaurant. Then it’s off to Lithuania for a late night snack and dancing! As the sun rises, Eden heads to a Bavarian chocolatier to satisfy her sweet tooth and a Peruvian restaurant for breakfast. Lastly, she learns how to make some rejuvenating Nigerian bitter leaf soup and winds down with some traditional music.

Posted on

Flashback Friday - September 21, 2012

This post was originally published on October 17, 2009.
I Killed Gourmet

Christopher Kimball apparently thinks bloggers contributed to the demise of Gourmet Magazine: "The shuttering of Gourmet reminds us that in a click-or-die advertising marketplace, one ruled by a million instant pundits, where an anonymous Twitter comment might be seen to pack more resonance and useful content than an article that reflects a lifetime of experience, experts are not created from the top down but from the bottom up." That seems to give us far more power than we have. Perhaps it might be more useful to examine whether or not Gourmet was providing content that appealed to its designated demographic. Were the articles interesting enough to attract a sufficiently large audience? Was its editorial approach valid for today's readers? Plenty of long-running magazines have folded because they lost touch with their audience, and this has been going on well before the Internet.

On the other hand, maybe Mr Kimball is giving us our due. Bloggers represent the people, and our opinions matter. We're the ones who buy the products, patronize the restaurants, and read the magazines. Why should we not be allowed to say our piece? Why should it be that an elite group of food professionals has all of the authority?

I didn't stop reading Gourmet because I started blogging, or even because I started reading blogs. I stopped reading Gourmet because I don't have the leisure time to sit on the sofa, feet up, and enjoy a food magazine. I do, however, spend many long hours in front of a computer. As you may have noticed, the Internet is a treasure trove of foodie information. Not only are there food blogs by non-food-professionals such as myself, but there are also plenty of sites that are run by legitimate media outlets. Mr Kimball's own Cook's Illustrated site, for example. I also glean a lot of interesting information on the New York Times site as well as that of New York Magazine, including their...blogs. Foodie information also abounds on television. Not so much on the Food Network anymore, but in the early days of Emeril, Molto Mario, and David Rosengarten, I learned a lot. Now better foodie TV can be found by watching the interesting and creative competitors on Top Chef, and learning good home-cook technique on Christopher Kimball's America's Test Kitchen.

Back to blogs. I will admit that there are lots of them that are poorly-written and have nothing to say, ones that contribute no expertise or even opinion in some cases. The people who are their fans would never read Gourmet in the first place, so while I sneer at them and their lack of quality content, they are not to blame for the demise of the hallowed food magazine. As far as Twitter comments are concerned, many of the people I follow are food professionals. Should they keep their interesting information to themselves or save it up for an article rather than sharing spontaneously?

Media is changing and some venerable publications are losing their audience - this includes magazines and local newspapers. As other media become more popular - and more engaging - we'll continue to see the demise of print publication. It's a form of growing pains. I don't feel it's right to point fingers at things - like blogs - and make them villains.

Posted on

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Dining Out for Life

See that banner overhead? The one for Dining Out for Life? Well, that's today! So if you don't already have a reservation for a participating restaurant, what are you waiting for? Click here to find out more.

Posted on

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Salmon Lessons

The stovetop smoker has been making a regular appearance on this blog, hasn't it? Its latest adventure has been to smoke a slab of skinless salmon. While the results were pretty decent - smoky at the very least - there's a lot I could have done to make it better. 

1. I probably should have started out with a piece of skin-on salmon, just because the stuff from Neopol still has the skin. And if it's good enough for them, it should be good enough for me. Might have helped it stay moist, dunno. (Neopol's smoked salmon, while pricey, is outrageously good.)

2. I probably should have brined it in a mixture of salt, pepper, and brown sugar. And water, duh. I did rub on some sugar/pepper/salt before smoking, but the flavor didn't permeate the meat at all.

3. I probably should have cooked it for a shorter amount of time. I looked at various recipes that gave times from 15-40 minutes and settled on 30. The heat was very low, and the meat was on a rack within the smoker, but it was still a bit overcooked and dry. I have a hard time getting salmon to cook properly, so it may well have been me. 

Still - it was really very easy. Brining it can't make it that much more difficult, can it? 

Has anyone else tried smoking fish on the stovetop? Would love to hear from you.

Posted on

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Farro Risotto

When my dad and I went to The Fork & Wrench a couple of months back, the best thing I ate was the farro risotto that accompanied my fatty and under-seasoned duck breast. (Yes, I am still bitter about that. I wanted the scallops, dammit.) I fell in love with the pleasantly chewy texture of farro and vowed to recreate the dish at home.

Unfortunately, farro isn't one of those things available in just any grocery store, so I had to turn to teh Innernets to find a source. Farro ain't cheap, because in most cases, it has to be ordered in bulk. However, I did find one company, Capri Flavors, that let me order a single pound of the stuff for a relatively mere $4.44. (I also bought some other Italian goodies and was pleased that my order shipped so quickly.)

Despite being pretty gung-ho to make the risotto...err...farrotto...I put the stuff in the cabinet and forgot about it for several weeks, digging it out only recently to play with it.

I wasn't sure how long it would take to cook the stuff - would making a farrotto take longer than a risotto made with rice? or steel cut oats?  So I consulted the Google. Giada the Human Lollipop suggested soaking the farro in water for 30 minutes, which softened the stuff up nicely. After draining, the farro only needed about 2 cups of stock to make it tender enough to eat, but I used three. I used only onion and salt and pepper as seasonings, but that was adequate--the result was quite tasty. Next time though, I think I'll try adding some mushrooms.

Here's a recipe of sorts...I don't think this sort of thing is rocket science, since I didn't measure anything and it came out fine. You might want to read it all the way through before you start cooking.

Saute 1/2 cup chopped onion in 3 tablespoons of olive oil and a pinch of salt. That seems like a lot of oil, but once the onion has softened, toss in 1 cup of farro that has been soaked in 3 cups of water for 30 minutes and drained. Stir until the farro is coated with oil (add more if necessary) and starts to brown, 5 minutes or so. Meanwhile, have 3 cups of chicken stock warming in a saucepan nearby. When the farro is toasty, put in a cup of stock. Stir regularly until stock is mostly evaporated, then add another cup. Hell, put the rest in - it won't matter. Cook over medium heat until there's just a bit of moisture left, then put in a couple tablespoons of butter and a splash or two of cream (heavy, light, half-and-half - whatever you have). Cheese is nice, too - I added a half cup of shredded Muenster, because that's what I had. Stir until it's all nice and creamy, season with salt and pepper, and then eat. Right out of the pan, if that's what floats your boat.

Posted on

Monday, September 10, 2012

Vacation Time!

Not a real vacation, mind you, to a gorgeous island full of pineapples, but a virtual one. We've been busy foodies this year, what with blogging and some special projects in the works, so we think Minxeats deserves a nice vacation. For at least a week. But we'll be back, so stay tuned! :)

Posted on

Friday, September 07, 2012

Flashback Friday - September 7, 2012

This post was originally published on July 27, 2009. I have eaten a ton of blueberries so far this year, but haven't actually cooked with them, apart from some lackluster blueberry muffins (from a Top Cheftestant cookbook, no less). Maybe I should make some more ketchup?
Blueberry Ketchup?

This weekend I got adventurous with blueberries.

I love blueberries and whenever I find them on sale at the supermarket, I buy several pints. They're not just for pancakes and muffins - blueberries are great in sauces and with savory items, too. Plus they're high in antioxidants, so shouldn't one eat as many as possible, especially in season?

I was feeling like a burger, and we had ground lamb in the freezer. What goes with burgers but ketchup? How about blueberry ketchup? And to make it more exotic, I gussied everything up with spices from the East. I stopped short of making my own hamburger buns, but knew we had seeded rye and there's always a selection of cheese in our fridge. Patty melt! Mmmm...always loved those. So here's my version, featuring blueberry ketchup!

The smoky hot mayo and sweet ketchup paired perfectly with the burger, which was somewhat spicy but retained a lot of luscious lamb flavor. I pan-fried the meat but think it would be even better on the grill.

Moorish Patty Melt with Manchego Cheese, Smoky Hot Mayo, and Blueberry Ketchup

1 lb ground lamb
1 T minced onion
1 T minced fresh cilantro
1 T minced fresh mint
1/4 t ground cinnamon
1/4 t ground cumin
1/4 t hot paprika
1/2 t Sriracha or other hot sauce
1/2 kosher salt
1/4 t freshly ground pepper
manchego cheese

Blend first 10 ingredients together and form into patties. Grill or pan fry in a tiny bit of oil until done to your likeness. When burgers are almost done, top with manchego cheese and allow it to melt.

Blueberry Ketchup

1 pint blueberries (about 1 1/2 cups)
1 T minced onion
2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 T lime juice
1/2 t ground ginger
1/8 t salt
1/8 t freshly ground pepper
1/8 t ground cardamom

Place all ingredients in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Turn down the heat to medium-low and simmer until the blueberries pop and the sauce thickens. Remove from heat. Allow to cool slightly, then pour the mixture into a bowl through a strainer, pressing hard on the solids to mash them. Add the mashed solids to the bowl and stir well.

Pour ketchup into a glass jar or bowl. Chill until thickened, 3-4 hours. Makes about 1 pint.

Smoky Hot Mayo

1/4 t ground chipotle
1/4 t Spanish smoked paprika
2 T mayonnaise (I used Kewpie)

Mix ingredients together in a small bowl. Place in fridge at least 30 mins to allow flavors to meld.

To assemble sandwich:

Rye bread
sautéed onions
thinly sliced fresh tomato and lettuce, if desired

Lightly toast rye bread. Spread generously with Smoky Mayo. Top with lamb patty, sautéed onions, a dollop of Blueberry Ketchup, lettuce and tomato. Top with second slice of toasted rye.

Serve with Blueberry Ketchup for dipping. Serves 2.

I made some edamame succotash and "crash hot potatoes" on the side. (the potatoes were fantastic tasting AND fantastically simple.)

Posted on

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Mason Dixon Master Chef Finale!

This is gonna be fantastic!
Details Released for Mason Dixon Master Chef Final Championship Match
Chefs Cleared to Use Liquid Nitrogen in Final Competition

The final match is set, the two remaining chef teams are ready, only 30 minutes of cold prep and one hour of cooking time are left before the 2012 Mason Dixon Master Chef Champion is determined!

For those that have been following this tournament since it began on June 25th with a field of 16 local chef talents, you know what an incredible match this is going to be with Roy’s Restaurant, Baltimore taking on Iron Bridge Wine Co. of Columbia. For those that have not made it out to Blob Park to see this unique live cooking competition yet, your last chance is this Tuesday, September 11th.

Getting to this final match has been no easy task, Chef Patrick “Opie” Crooks had to compete and win against top chefs from Chazz: A Bronx Original, Barracudas Restaurant and Bar, and Gourmet Again. Chef Christopher Lewis of Iron Bridge Wine Co., didn’t have it any easier, competing and winning against Morsel DC Catering, SoBo Café, and Mie N Yu of Georgetown.

For the final match, chefs are required to create original appetizer, entrée and dessert dishes for a panel of three expert judges and 36 guest judges. Judges will determine the winner based on the presentation, recipe creativity and taste of each dish, as well as the chef’s ability to meet all of the ingredient requirements outlined below.

For this final match, chefs will be required to use products from three sponsors in their creations, including cheese products from Gold Sponsor Emmi-Roth Kase, duck products from Gold Sponsor Maple Leaf Farms and Aecht Schlenferla Rauchbier, a smoky German beer provided by Platinum Sponsor and venue Blobs Park Bavarian Biergarten.

Specifically, each team will have nine whole ducks and two tubs of duck fat from Maple Leaf Farms. Duck has to be used in both their appetizer and entrée dishes and each must feature different parts of the duck as the focus protein. In addition, chefs must use at least two of the cheeses being supplied by Emmi-Roth Kase in at least two of their dishes (these include, Moody blue, a smoked blue cheese, Kaltbach Gruyere, Vermont chevre logs, and Vermont butter, a high-end European style butter). Finally, chefs will be required to use the Aecht Schlenferla Rauchbier, a smoky beer being supplied by Blobs Park in one of their dishes. As an added element, because both finalists are familiar with the safety precautions required and have experience with using liquid nitrogen, they will be allowed to use this in their preparations. This will be a unique and seldom seen technique for the audience to witness first-hand.

Competing Chefs Include:

Chef Patrick “Opie” Crooks, Chef Partner, Roy’s Restaurant Baltimore
Led by a passion for the kitchen first discovered at the age of 14, Chef Crooks joined the Roy's Ohana in 2005. His extraordinary talent and passion have since earned him the Chef Partner position at Roy's Baltimore. He has cooked for many a celebrity and on numerous occasions has been flown out to cook with Roy Yamaguchi famous chef and owner of Roy’s locations throughout the world.

Chef Christopher Lewis, Executive Chef, Iron Bridge Wine Co.
Chef Chris graduated from the Pennsylvania Culinary Art Program, and has worked in a number of top restaurants in the Baltimore-Washington area, including the Milton Inn, Linwood’s, The Brass Elephant, 701 Restaurant and Again Tavern. He is now the executive chef at The Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia, Maryland.

Tickets*: $35 for general admission (includes tax)
$55 for judging experience (includes tax)
Available for purchase at:

*Tickets must be purchased in advance for this pricing. $40/$60 at the door. Doors open at 6pm.

Ten percent of the net proceeds of each ticket sold will go to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland, a nonprofit organization that delivers nutritious meals, personal contact and related services to homebound individuals.

Blobs Park Bavarian Biergarten
8024 Max Blobs Park Road
Jessup, MD 20794

Posted on

Wednesday, September 05, 2012

Monday, September 03, 2012

Roasted Broccoli

We had some broccoli in the fridge that needed to be cooked before it went bad, and I wanted to do something other than the usual blanch and quick sauté. I remembered reading a recipe for broccoli "cooked forever" somewhere on the Internets--I know, it sounds disgusting, but it's supposed to taste terrific. Possibly as good as my grandmother's green beans, cooked for hours, which turned out sweet and mellow and buttery. I used to eat them by the bowlful for dinner.

I see you--yes you--over there, sneering. You just go on ahead and continue eating your under-cooked beans that make squeaking sounds when you chew. Not particularly tasty, are they? Just...squeaky.


Back to broccoli. I'm just going to have to take the recipe creator's word that long-cooking the stuff makes for deliciousness. When I found the recipe, I saw that it required 1 cup of olive oil. Sorry, but I'd rather spend that $5 on something less-wasteful (I am, after all, one of the 99%).

Instead, I decided to oven-roast my broccoli. The Amateur Gourmet raved over Ina Garten's recipe, so I did a similar riff, tossing the broccoli florets with salt, a few tablespoons of olive oil, a fat clove of sliced garlic, and a pinch of red pepper flakes before popping it into a 425F oven for about 25 minutes. (On a foil-lined baking sheet. I did not just throw the broccoli into the oven like that.) When the broccoli was done, I topped it with a squeeze of lemon juice and a handful of grated Parm.

The result: perfectly tender-crisp vegetables with nice caramelized bits, and a house that reeked of roasted garlic (not necessarily a bad thing). It was pretty terrific, and I'm betting that cauliflower would be just as good, if not better.

Once the weather gets cooler, I see myself roasting vegetables in this manner more often.

Posted on