Thursday, October 31, 2013

Happy Halloween!

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Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Darua Food Truck

There are lots of Baltimore-area food trucks that serve largely American-style food, like burgers, cheese steaks, grilled cheese sandwiches, bbq, etc. They're all terrific, but sometimes I want something more exotic. More...ethnic. Like traditional Brazilian food.

The first time I tried Darua, I was attempting a vegan diet. Lucky for me, Darua offers a pastel, or hand pie, filled with a medley of tender and juicy vegetables like corn, peppers, onions, collards, and summer squash, all very fresh-tasting. The crust was crisp and light, and made with a dash of the Brazilian sugar cane liquor, cacha├ža. I had mine with a side of collards; the generous portion of greens was flavored with garlic and only lightly sauteed, which means they were still a bit chewy and bitter. Personally, I prefer long-cooked collards, but these were actually very good.

Another time I tried the chicken croquettes (they also come in ham). Crisply fried on the outside, the innards were a creamy mixture of chicken with corn and bits of spring onion. They were served with a container of sauce that was like a tartar or remoulade and not particularly necessary because the croquettes themselves were so moist.

Darua also offers feijoada, the bean and meat dish that's often considered the national dish of Brazil, and espetinho, or meat on a stick, plus sides like black beans and yucca fries. I plan to try the latter the next time, because I do love me some yucca fries (I think they're better than potato fries!).

Darua Food Truck

Darua Food Truck on Urbanspoon

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Monday, October 28, 2013

Quinoa Milk

We went to the Natural Foods Expo at the end of September but have been so busy we haven't had an opportunity to go through our bag of brochures and business cards and sit down to write about some of the more interesting products at the show. Still haven't gone through that bag yet, but as I'm currently finishing up a glass of Suzie's Quinoamilk, I thought I should talk about it while it's on my mind.

For a while there in the summer I was attempting a vegan diet, at least during breakfast and lunch. That means no animal products of any kind, so I was left with using non-dairy milk in my coffee and cereal. I have always disliked soy milk, plus I have a mild allergic reaction to it. Rice milk is an abomination. Almond milk is much better, but I only like the stuff made by Blue Diamond. Coconut milk is ok, if you like coconut. But I find all of them leave an aftertaste.

Enter quinoamilk. As we were finishing up at the Expo, I noticed a table with little cups of off-white liquid. I was thirsty, saw that the product was made from quinoa, and thought why not? And it was very, very good. Not at all like cow's milk, of course, because it lacks that fatty mouthfeel, but much much better than all of the other non-dairy milks I have tried. And it doesn't have an aftertaste. The Suzie's rep was encouraged by my reaction and gave us a quart each of the original unsweetened and vanilla sweetened flavors to take home.

Suzie's Quinoamilk is great for people who have soy or nut allergies, and it's gluten-free, too. And while it's great in coffee and cereal, I enjoy a glass of it on its own, cold from the fridge. I would never do that with cow's milk, so I'm thinking that rather than drinking a glass of cold water with my chocolate chip cookies this Christmas while Mr Minx and MinxBro are drinking milk, I'll have me some Quinoamilk.

The stuff should be available at Whole Foods and other fine retailers nationally, but if you don't see it, ask for it!

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Friday, October 25, 2013

My Brother the Brew Master

Nearly three years ago, the Minx was contacted by Smithwick's to promote a Facebook sweepstakes they were holding. In return, they were sending us a home beer making kit made by Brewer's Best, a company that specializes in home beer making equipment and ingredients. The Minx agreed and the kit was sent on its way. When she told me about this, I was dubious. I've known people who have made home brews and the project requires a lot of equipment and space. Given that our modest house was already crammed with stuff, I couldn't see how we would have the room to use it. The Minx assured me that this was just a small kit and it would not be a problem. A few days later, a box the size of a water cooler was left on our porch. I transported it to a corner in the basement and that's where it sat until last Labor Day.

While my bother Craig was visiting for the holiday, I talked him into giving the kit a go. Since he was retired and had a spacious basement, he might be in a better position to brew beer than we were. Thankfully, he agreed and we loaded the box into his Taurus.

A couple of weeks went by and, frankly, I had forgotten all about the beer kit. Then Craig shot me an e-mail saying that he had just started a batch of red ale. I was surprised and curious about the process, so he filled me in on some of the details.

The kit included everything you would need to make a five gallon batch of beer:

• Primary Fermenter  • Easy Clean
• Carboy                   • Econo-Lock
• Carboy Brush         • Thermometers
• Bottling Bucket       • Hydrometer
• Capper                   • Siphon Hose
• Bottle Filler             • Bottle Brush
• Plastic Paddle         • Lid
• Bottling Spigot        • Auto-Siphon
• Book                      • Bucket Clip

The contents of the kit plus some extra stuff my brother purchased.
The book they refer to is The Complete Joy of Home Brewing by Charlie Papaziar which takes you through all the ins and outs of home beer-making and offers several recipes for different styles of beer. Craig decided to buy an ingredients kit rather than individual ingredients to make his beer. The packages give you all you need to make a specific type of beer. Each ingredient pack also comes with an instructions sheet with the information necessary to make a successful brew. They even show you how to determine the alcohol content of your beer.

Ingredients from kit
Basically, the grains provided in the package are first steeped in 2.5 gallons of water at 150 - 165 degrees F. The bag of grains is removed and the resulting "wort" is brought to a boil. Liquid malt extract is then added and boiled for a time before being cooled down to 70 degrees F. This is achieved by putting the pot in a tub of ice or by a cooling device I will discuss in a future post. The cooled wort is strained into a plastic bucket and enough water is added to bring the entire contents to 5 gallons. Yeast is then mixed in and the tub is sealed. An airlock is inserted into the sealed container and put into a cool, dark place for fermentation (a closet, in my brother's case). If you see bubbles forming in the water in the airlock after 24 hours, you have fermentation.

The wort is sealed in the container for fermentation

Top Tip: Don't let your kids swim in the wort! Sad thing is, you know there was a law suit.
After five to seven days, it's recommended that you transfer the brew to a five gallon bottle known as a carboy. This allows for a clearer beer with a more pure taste. The airlock is inserted into the top of the carboy and stored away again for another week or so.

After a week, the wort is transferred to the carboy for further fermentation.
Once the beer has sat in the carboy for two more weeks, bottling can begin. First, priming sugar is dissolved in boiling water and added to the brew which has now been transferred to a bucket for the bottling process.This will encourage carbonation. Siphoning the beer from the bucket into bottles can illicit some aggravation and colorful metaphors, but the result is 40 to 50 bottles of beer that's ready to drink in two more weeks. I tried the red ale straight from the bottle as well as poured into a glass. The first few sips from the bottle were highly carbonated and lacking in flavor, but as I drank further down, the carbonation lessened and a nice caramel flavor emerged. Pouring it into a glass allowed the carbonation to be released into the head and the flavors were more evenly mixed. Aside from a slightly bitter after taste, the red ale was pleasant and smooth and superior to many mass market domestic brews.

Okay, I know you can make numerous trips to the liquor store in the time it takes to finish this brewing process, but that's an awful lot of beer for your trouble, and it's really meant to be a hobby. Next time, my brother and I tackle a special Christmas brew for the holidays.

* 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, October 24, 2013

Fall Menu at J. Paul's

I love when restaurants change their menus seasonally, not only to reflect available produce, but also to include heartier dishes when the weather turns cold. At J. Paul's, Chef Jason Dyke does just that. The new fall menu for 2013 includes a rib-sticking Virginia beef chili that combines ground beef with smoked short ribs topped with cheese and sour cream. There are also baked oysters topped with bacon, smoked gouda, scallions, and garlic butter...

...and chicken Marsala, with fettuccini, goat cheese, mushrooms, and asparagus.

There are also two salmon dishes on the fall menu; one is a salad with dried fruits and hazelnuts, and the other is grilled with a honey bbq glaze.

J. Paul's also has a new Ravens-inspired cocktail on the menu, the Ravens Nation, comprising Bacardi Razz rum, black raspberry liqueur, cranberry juice, lime, a splash of soda, and served with a sugar rim.

J. Paul's will also be part of Downtown Partnership's Maryland Crab and Oyster Celebration. From October 25th-November 3rd, J, Paul’s will be offering a special menu that highlights crab and oysters from Maryland including the yummy crab cake appetizer: a Maryland jumbo lump crab cake over a boursin-stuffed fried local tomato with corn relish and cherry pepper remoulade. There will also be a fried oyster po' boy, local fried oysters in an amoroso roll with lettuce, tomato, red onion and tarragon mayonnaise; and a crab cake salad with mixed field greens, tomato, onion, corn, red and green bell peppers and cucumber tossed in peppercorn ranch topped with a Maryland jumbo lump crab cake. For more information on the event:

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Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Bagby Pizza Company

Sometime last spring, Mr Minx and I visited Bagby's for the first time. We had started out eating dinner at another Harbor East restaurant and quickly determined that if we ordered enough food to sate our appetites, we'd be broke before the entrees came out. So we nibbled on a couple of items and beat a hasty retreat to the much more-affordable Bagby Pizza Company in the old furniture company building on Fleet between Exeter Street and Central Avenue.

On that trip, we tried a "Sweet & Spicy," featuring spicy tomato puree, spinach, roasted red peppers, red onion, applewood bacon, asiago, goat cheese, and balsamic glaze. It was indeed both sweet and spicy, with a bit of tangy and meaty in there for good measure. It was a perfect balance of flavors. The ultra thin crust was cracker-crispy without being dry, and its lightness made it very easy to eat several pieces without feeling like a pig.

We had intended to go back, but we got busy writing and then promoting Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore and sort of forgot about it. But then a book signing at the Power Plant outpost of Barnes & Noble, within walking distance of Bagby's, gave us an excuse to go back and try a few more things for a late lunch/early dinner.

Bagby's chop salad was named "best chopped salad" by Baltimore's City Paper in 2011, so we thought we should try that, along with a couple of small pizzas.

A mixture of romaine lettuce, squash, asparagus, carrots, celery, onions, and tomato was topped with a sherry-shallot vinaigrette and a dusting of Parmesan cheese. We would have liked a bit more of the dressing and at first wondered if they had forgotten to put it on at all.

We tried two pizzas this time. I chose the duck confit and pear pizza, with herb oil, duck confit, bosc pear, caramelized onions, blue cheese, dried cherry drizzle, parmesan, and a generous topping of arugula. Mr Minx thought the duck pizza could possibly be too sweet, so he ordered something on the saltier side of the aisle, the prosciutto and goat cheese pizza, with tomato puree, prosciutto, arugula, sundried tomatoes, goat cheese, mozzarella, and provolone.

I thought they were both pretty perfect. The duck pizza was not too sweet, and the onions, pears, and bleu cheese were smashing together. The other pizza was a salty, cheesy delight. And both of them were just as tasty (maybe more so) when we reheated the leftovers the next day.

Bagby Pizza Company
1006 Fleet St
Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 605-0444

Bagby Pizza Company on Urbanspoon

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Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Champagne Dinner at Waterfront Kitchen

This event is coming up on November 7th, and is sure to be a good time. Definitely get to the event early for a tour of the greenhouse. While the growing season will be largely over by that point, Jo Cosgrove will still have a wealth of gardening knowledge to share.

Kick off the holidays with Waterfront Kitchen and Moet Hennessy at a dazzling wine pairing dinner for a great cause: Living Classrooms' BUGS Program

You be the judge! See how beautifully Chef Jerry Pellegrino pairs dishes with such glorious wines as Newton Claret, Numanthia Termes and Chandon sparkling wines. It'll be a spectacular evening of tastings, live jazz and a live auction featuring a magnum of none other than Newton Puzzle 2005, with two tickets to an upcoming event, plus a private cooking class with Chef Pellegrino, a dinner cruise aboard the Lady Maryland and much, much more.

And it's all for a great cause. Proceeds will support Living Classrooms' BUGS kids and celebrate Waterfront Kitchen's donation of a brand new greenhouse for the program. Come at 5 p.m. if you'd like to tour the greenhouse with expert gardener Jo Cosgrove. See you there.

Date Thursday, November 7, 6:00 p.m.
Place Waterfront Kitchen 1417 Thames Street Baltimore, MD 21231
Cost $125.00
Reservations Email

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Monday, October 21, 2013

Cardamom Ginger Pear Butter

Some people might be intimidated by the thought of making jams and butters and "putting them up." I am one of them. For one thing, I don't have a lot of extra cupboard space for storing jars of fruit and whatnot, for another, I don't trust my ability to sterilize something well enough to prevent botulism. Oh sure, I could probably sell my failed fruits to a dermatology clinic that would shoot them into the faces of people who refuse to grow old naturally, but both the American Board of Dermatology and the FDA would probably have something to say about that.

Instead, what I like to do is make tiny batches of various fruit products, things that can be consumed in a week or so. I make a pint of this and a pint of that and once they're gone, I can make more, or something else entirely. My fridge is usually full of these Crate and Barrel working glasses with lids (the pint size, which they don't seem to have on the site right now), each containing some concoction or another.

One of my more successful ones came when I noticed that three of the large bosc pears I had recently purchased at the farmers' market had soft spots. I didn't want to eat all three pears at once, so I decided to cook them down with some sweet spices. The result is a delicious butter-type spread that can be eaten on toast, stirred into plain yogurt, or used as a side dish for roast pork or chicken. It would also make a nice filling for hand pies or little tartlets. The recipe is also easily doubled or tripled, as needed.

Cardamom Ginger Pear Butter

3 very ripe bosc pears
5 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 cup water
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
pinch of salt

Peel pears and cube the flesh. Place into a saucepot with the brown sugar, spices, and water. Bring to a boil, then lower heat and simmer mixture until the pears break down and are easily smashed with the back of a spoon, about 15 minutes. Turn up the heat to evaporate any excess water, then smash the pears with a potato masher. Stir in the vanilla and salt and allow to cool before eating.

Makes about 2 cups.

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Friday, October 18, 2013

Banana Upside Down Cake

When I originally made the Pineapple Upside Down Cake from Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends, I thought it might also be delicious if made with bananas. I happened to have a bunch of perfectly ripe bananas and was jonesin' for some cake, so it happened. And it was good.

What I did not have was a full cup of toffee bits, so I compensated with a couple of tablespoons of brown sugar. I also didn't have any plain yogurt, but I did have a cup of So Delicious Dairy-Free Cultured Almond Milk. "So Delicious" is a complete and utter lie--cultured almond milk is weird and bitter and has a funky texture, plus, it's brown. Brown yogurt is just not all that appetizing, you know? But the stuff made a fine substitute for the real thing.

I also remembered to put the cake on a foil-lined baking sheet to catch the dribbles of caramel that ooze out of the corner of the pan. Saved me some scrubbing later!

Banana Toffee Upside-Down Cake (adapted from Tate's Bake Shop: Baking for Friends)

3 ripe bananas
1 1/2 sticks salted butter, 4 tablespoons sliced, 8 at room temperature
1 cup toffee bits (I used Heath Bits 'O' Brickle baking pieces)
1 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup plain nonfat or low-fat Greek yogurt

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven and preheat it to 350F.

Slice two of the bananas and mash the third banana. Set bananas aside.

Melt the 4 tablespoons of sliced butter in an 8x8 or 9x9 square cake pan over medium heat. Remove from the heat and sprinkle the toffee bits evenly into the pan. Arrange the  reserved sliced bananas in rows over the toffee bits.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. In a large bowl, beat the sugar and 8 tablespoons of room temperature butter with an electric mixer set to high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. One at a time, beat in the eggs, followed by the vanilla and the mashed banana, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. With the mixer on low speed, add the flour mixture in thirds, alternating with the yogurt in 2 equal additions, mixing until just smooth after each addition and scraping down the bowl as needed. Do not overmix.

Pour the batter over the bananas in the pan. Bake until the top is golden brown and a wooden toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean, about 40 minutes. Let cool in the pan for 5 minutes. Run a dinner knife around the inside of the pan to loosen the cake. Place a large plate over the pan, and, using pot holders, invert the pan and plate together to unmold the cake. Serve warm or at room temperature.

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Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Meyer Lemon Salsa

Up until this point, I had never tasted a Meyer lemon. I had read about them repeatedly, how they were sweeter and less tangy than regular lemons, but hadn't even seen them in the store. Then, on a recent trip to Wegman's, I discovered bags of the fruits in their voluminous produce department and tossed one in the cart.

Now the question was: What to do with five Meyer lemons? 

The rind of Lemon One went into both an apple galette and a garnish for some Parisian gnocchi I made for dinner one night. Another piece of that rind went into the bag I used to sous vide some pork tenderloins, along with salt, pepper, and pinches of onion and garlic powder. The flesh of the lemon was squeezed into a glass of mighty tasty Meyer lemonade.

That left four Meyer lemons. I consulted this LA Times list, "100 Things to do with a Meyer lemon," which encouraged me to find Suzanne Goin's recipe for Meyer lemon salsa. I found an adapted version, which I adapted further. You know, because I can't ever follow a recipe to the letter...I have to make everything mine. 

Goin's salsa recipe, kind of a gremolata on steroids, calls for raw shallot, which is macerated in Champagne vinegar for a few minutes before adding the other ingredients. I felt the combination might be too sharp, so I cooked the shallot until just translucent. The combination of shallot, lemon, and a ton of parsley was delicious, and perfect with the subtly lemon-infused flavors of the fork-tender 135° pork tenderloin.

There are two lemons left. Any suggestions?

Meyer Lemon Salsa
Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques by Suzanne Goin

2 tablespoons finely diced shallot
olive oil
2 large Meyer lemons
1/2 cup green olives pitted and chopped
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 1/2 teaspoons champagne vinegar
1 teaspoon agave syrup or honey
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Cook shallot in a tiny bit of olive oil until translucent. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.

Remove both ends from the lemon and cut the remaining part, including peel, into small dice. Put in a bowl with the olives, parsley, and cooled shallot.

Whisk together the vinegar, agave syrup, and olive oil. Toss with lemon mixture. Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

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Monday, October 14, 2013

Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

A couple months back, Mr Minx and I had a scrumptious meal at PABU, in Harbor East. We basically ate the special Satori prix fixe menu, with an added sashimi course. One of the non-fish courses consisted of two crisp, red chili-glazed chicken wings, and one Berkshire pork baby back rib with a not-too-sweet chili garlic sauce. The rib was tender and juicy, and the sauce added just enough heat and messiness.

When an opportunity to make baby back ribs presented itself, I attempted my own version of the barbecue sauce from PABU. It would be great on chicken and brisket as well as pork.

Sriracha Barbecue Sauce

3 T brown sugar
2 T Sriracha (or more, to taste)
3 T white miso
1 T soy sauce
2 T rice wine vinegar
1 T tomato paste
1 large clove garlic, minced
3 cloves black garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1 cup pork or chicken stock
1 T toasted sesame oil

Combine first nine ingredients in a sauce pot over medium heat and stir with until the sugar is melted and the miso and tomato paste have been amalgamated into the mix. Stir in the chicken stock and cook until the mixture thickens into a barbecue sauce consistency, about five minutes. Remove from heat, stir in sesame oil, and allow to cool.

When cool, transfer sauce to a squeeze bottle. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Makes about 1 cup.

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Friday, October 11, 2013

Parisian Gnocchi

I like to read Serious Eats, but can't always find the time, especially when I'm trying to get a book written. So I keep up with the more interesting posts via their various newsletters. One recipe newsletter taunted me with Parisian gnocchi. I *love* gnocchi, and from time to time I make a batch of the easy sort that involves lots of ricotta cheese and a bit of flour. I've made potato gnocchi in the past, too, albeit unsuccessfully, so I haven't attempted those again. But Parisian gnocchi - those are a completely different animal.

I've been meaning to make choux pastry, something I've never attempted, and figured this was my chance. For Parisian gnocchi are essentially gougeres that are boiled rather than baked. And who doesn't like a cheesy, eggy, gougere? 

Kenji Lopez-Alt's recipe calls for chopped parsley, chives, and Parmesan cheese. I had the first two ingredients, but not the third, so I used half a cup of various other bits and bobs of cheese (we always have several varieties of cheese in the house) including Jarlsberg and a tangy English cheese flavored with chives. And rather than using the accompanying topping recipe involving corn and zucchini, I whipped up a little something caponata-like with produce from our garden.

Parisian Gnocchi with Caponata

1 medium or two small eggplant, peeled and diced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 onion, chopped
extra virigin olive oil
2 large or 4 small tomatoes, diced
1 roasted red pepper, diced
pinch red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
1 recipe Parisian Gnocchi
Meyer or regular lemon zest

Place diced eggplant in a colander and toss with salt. Allow to sit for 30 minutes, then rinse and drain thoroughly.

Cook the onion in a bit of olive oil until translucent. Add the rinsed eggplant, tomatoes, and peppers, and cook for an additional 10-15 minutes, until the eggplant is tender. Stir in vinegar and sugar and cook an additional minute or two. If the vegetables seem inordinately juicy, turn up the heat and boil excess liquid off.

Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper.

Serve with Parisian gnocchi that have been pan-fried in a combination of butter and extra virgin olive oil until they are lightly browned and crisp on the outside. Serve garnished with the lemon zest and parsley.

Makes 4-6 servings.

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Wednesday, October 09, 2013

Best Brownies Ever

We're brownie fans. Not fake brownies made with black beans, egg substitute, and artificial sweetener - the real deal, made with real eggs, real sugar, and a whole stick of real butter. And lots of chocolate. Our favorite brownies have more chocolate than flour, and they are chewy and gooey. It just so happens to be the recipe on the back of a can of Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa, which I've included for you here.

A word of advice: wait until brownies cool a bit so you don't burn your mouth as you attempt to eat the whole pan in one sitting with a spoon.

Ghirardelli Brownies

2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup butter, melted
3/4 cup Ghirardelli Sweet Ground Chocolate and Cocoa
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup chopped walnuts

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a spoon or a mixer, combine eggs with sugar and vanilla. Beat in butter. In a separate bowl, mix together sweet ground chocolate and cocoa, flour, baking powder, and salt. Gently stir into the egg mixture. Add nuts. Spread batter into a greased 8 inch square pan. Bake 25-30 minutes.

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Tuesday, October 08, 2013

Galen Sampson's Farmstead Grill

People who were sorry to see The Dogwood in Hampden close will be happy to know that owner Galen Sampson didn't retire. Rather, he's working on a new restaurant, this time at the Shops at Canton Crossing. Farmstead Grill, slated to open spring 2014, will offer locally-sourced ingredients at affordable price points. “We don’t think diners should have to pay a premium for locally sourced food,” says Farmstead Grill COO and Executive Chef Galen Sampson. “At the same time, we believe that farmers who work so hard on our behalf should get their due.”

Sampson just spent a year working  as an apprentice team leader on an 800-acre farm in Charlottesville, Virginia. In the process he learned how to work more closely with farmers to lower costs while increasing quality in the restaurant kitchen.

The 200-seat Farmstead Grill will be located across a leafy green park from Farmstead Shack, a carry-out kiosk with 30 outdoor seats. Menus and beverage programs for both restaurants are in development. Now under construction at 3501 Boston Street, the Farmstead restaurants are part of the new urban development, The Shops at Canton Crossing, and will open in spring 2014.

Farmstead Grill and Farmstead Shack are owned by Charles Nabit and Michael Klein of Mission-Driven Dining II. The pair opened the restaurant Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point in 2011. “We’re excited about the prospect of expanding the marketplace for locally sourced dining,” says Nabit. “And we’re looking to create a concept that can be replicated in other places.”

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Monday, October 07, 2013

KoCo Korean Food Truck

A new-ish truck that seems to do pretty bang-up business (at least when I visited and saw the crowd already waiting at 11:45am), KoCo Korean Fusion doesn't even have a proper sign on their all-white truck, just one that says KoCo taped over the logo of whomever owned the truck before them. It's a fancy truck too, with a full-length window and customer-side bins for dessert and beverage offerings.

The offerings are sparse, but they hit all the Korean dishes most familiar to Americans: japchae (translucent noodles with vegetables and meat), bibimbap (rice with vegetables and meat and an optional fried egg), and Korean tacos or burritos. On my first visit to the truck, when they were still very new, I ordered a vegan version of the bibimbap, which came with kimchi, lots of vegetables, and spicy gochujang sauce, but no protein. Now they have tofu, which makes it all the better.

I've also tried the Korean Burrito, stuffed with rice, kimchi, bulgogi, and lettuce and served with lime wedges. It's spicy, moist, and quite delicious. It's nothing like a Mexican burrito, except for the wrapper. I would have liked more meat, but as it was, it's a tasty and filling lunch.

Koco Korean American Fusion Truck on Urbanspoon

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Friday, October 04, 2013

California Olive Oil Council

Because Mr Minx and I had registered for the Natural Foods Expo, we were invited to attend a dinner at Woodberry Kitchen sponsored by the California Olive Oil Council. The California Olive Oil Council (COOC) is a non-profit marketing and trade association that promotes the consumption of California extra virgin olive oil. They represent 90% of all olive oil production in California. Because their standards are pretty strict, you can be assured that any extra virgin olive oil bearing a COOC seal is top-notch stuff that passed various chemical analysis standards and was taste-tested by the organization's taste panel.

There was a tasting of eight olive oils before dinner, but we only got to sample half of them, because you know how people like to stand in front of things and chat and generally get in the way. Rather than fight them, we got glasses of wine and walked away, figuring there would be plenty more oil to taste during dinner.

I like a good, peppery olive oil with a fairly strong green fruit flavor and moderate bitterness. The oils we did try on their own were very mild to my palate, and I think that made them perfect for cooking, as opposed to raw applications. We did start off the meal with an arugula salad though, topped with a lovely ricotta-like goat's cheese and pecans, and a creamy dressing containing olive oil from the producer Bari.

Roasted fall vegetables (Bari)
One of my favorite dishes was the bowl of glorious roasted fall vegetables, brought to the table family style (as were the remaining savory dishes). There were at least three colors of carrot in there, eggplant and squash, all bathed in more of the Bari olive oil. I love me some roasted carrots, and these were delicious. I just wish they had been peeled....

House-made linguine, garlic & herbs, Eve's Dream, cherry tomatoes
bread crumbs (Calivirgin)
Another fine dish was the tender linguine, served with a simple sauce of Calivirgin olive oil, garlic, and herbs. One of the other diners at our table determined that the pasta would be better without the garlic, so she ordered another dish to be prepared that way. And what do you know - she was absolutely right. Without the pungent garlic, the flavors of the olive oil and the cherry tomatoes and bits of other vegetables were more evident.

Slow-cooked swordfish, Anson Mills rice, kale,
summer garlic (Pasolivo)
We also ate a lovely tender swordfish with a soupy rice and vegetable combination. The garlic wasn't as evident in this dish as in the pasta dish, so all of the flavors were able to sing. This one was prepared with an oil from producer Pasolivo, who also produces oils flavored with citrus.

Oven-roasted chicken, braised chard, carrots
Enzo green sauce
The final savory dish was a perfectly roasted chicken flavored with rosemary, with more of those terrific carrots, and a green sauce made with certified organic Enzo olive oil.

Ascolano cake, highland bitters, fig conserve,
fig-peach ice cream
There was also an olive oil dessert featuring a cakelet made with Ascolano olive oil from the producer Lucero. With its almost tropical fruitiness, this oil worked beautifully without making the cake taste like, well, olive oil. The fig conserve, made in house of course, was delicious, but the flavors in the ice cream were too mild to discern, perhaps because the bitters in the whipped cream were too strong.

Overall, the meal was a nice introduction to California olive oils. To be honest, we tend to buy oils we can afford, regardless of the region in which they were produced, and regardless of flavor. Hey - they don't offer olive oil tastings at the Giant. But when we're in the market for a high quality oil, we will certainly look toward the olive oils of California, and I'll be keeping an eye out for their quality seal.

* 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.

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Thursday, October 03, 2013

Top Chef New Orleans Recap

Dear Top Chef Viewers,

While I watched Top Chef along with all of you for ten seasons, you can count me out this time.

The first several seasons were enjoyable, particularly season 4, the first season I recapped here. There were a couple other fun seasons after that--season 5 with Stefan and Fabio, season 6 with the Voltaggios--but the more recent ones have left me cold. Season 9 was actually the one that broke this camel's back, with that ridiculous time-wasting two-part premiere, and the insanity of making chefs ride bicycles in the blazing heat, not to mention staying up all night to make barbecue. And then there was that stupid-ass finale involving target shooting and gondola cookery.

I watched season 10 with a bad taste in my mouth. It wasn't as ridiculously stretched-out as season 9, but it came pretty close. And the finale, with its completely revamped format, didn't seem quite fair.

And so to avoid yet more of that nonsense, I am neither watching nor recapping Top Chef season 11. Probably not any season after that, either.

Sorry, people. You are on your own.


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Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Strawberry Pie and News

Back in the day, one of my favorite treats was a strawberry pie from Haussner's. A relatively simple-seeming affair of pastry cream, glazed berries, and whipped cream on a flaky crust, the pie was the perfect combination of fruity and creamy. Especially to this ten-year-old.

We ordered slices for dessert on the occasions we dined at the restaurant, but there were also special times that my Dad would bring a whole pie home. There was never any particular occasion (although he may well have been in the doghouse) but I know it was definitely a surprise that was welcome by all.

I normally opened the box and surreptitiously picked off the slices of toasted almond before anyone else had a chance to portion the pie. This resulted in a scolding from my Mother, who also liked the buttery crunch that the nuts provided. 

Haussner's closed in 1999, but I can still taste that pie. Literally, because I made one recently. And that's where the "news" portion of the title of this post comes in.

Mr Minx and I are working on a second book. This one will be called Baltimore Chef's Table, and will feature recipes from restaurants all over the Baltimore Metro area. Since there's a recipe for Haussner's strawberry pie floating around the Internet, I thought it would be fun to include it in the book - only after I made it at home and adjusted it to fit my memories.

The photo above is my result. It's not as tall as the pie from Haussner's, where they used very large berries, and the glaze isn't red and oozy (which didn't seem as appealing to me as an adult). The flavor, however, was spot on. 

If you want my variation on the recipe, you'll just have to hold on until Baltimore Chef's Table comes out in 2014. I promise there will be dozens of great recipes worth trying, and it will be worth the wait.

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