Wednesday, September 30, 2015

World of Beer Towson

The newest addition to the Towson Square complex on Joppa Road at Virginia Ave in Towson (duh) is World of Beer. It is also the noisiest addition, at least it was on the night we were there. It was the beer emporium's first day open and when we arrived at 6pm, it was half-full of loud rowdies. They may well have been perfectly normal people, but the acoustics of the place turned them into shouting idiots. (Or, they could have been shouting idiots to begin with.)

By the time we left, it was 3/4 full, and I was so glad to have had a pair of earplugs in my purse. Sadly, the din, with or without the plugs, prevented any conversation with my spouse, apart from pointing to the various foodstuffs on the table and mouthing, "good?" So you are forewarned that World of Beer is not the place to go for a romantic date, nor if you want to have any conversation at all that doesn't require shouting. For some odd reason, there was a couple there that felt a restaurant with the word BEER in the name was the ideal place to bring their three small children. Fine parenting. If the kids hadn't been getting up and running around, as the children of fine, fine parents are wont to do, it wouldn't have bothered me. It was so damn loud in the place, I couldn't hear their typical childish whining/squeals.

That said, the food was pretty good, and one cannot fault the beer selection.

Although there were so many beers, we had difficulty deciding from the lengthy list. Mr Minx eventually decided on the "Batmobile" from the mixed draught section. A combo of Guinness and hefeweizen, it was like a sorta-banana-flavored black and tan. I had a Full Tilt Patterson Pumpkin, mostly because of the name, and also pumpkin. Later, hoping that the more we drank the less we'd be able to hear, we also had a Brooklyn Oktoberfest and an RAR Nanticoke Nectar.

Now, we only went to World of Beer on the opening day because we thought that, as media, we'd get a tour, and perhaps some free food. Otherwise, it's always better to wait a few weeks before trying a place so the kinks have been worked out, both food- and service-wise. An owner and a manager came over separately to shake our hands (one of whom had a nasty, limp, wet fish handshake...shudder), but neither offered anything in the way of telling us about the establishment, about its infusion tower, its partnership with Jail Break Brewing Company and special Monkey Hefeweizen + banana infusion, or the Heavy Seas firkin tapping that occurred earlier in the day. I only know these things because we received a press release a week before the event. Hey, but if an owner didn't care, or think we were important enough to bother to share this information, we shouldn't care either, right?

The service, as is usual on a first day of operation, was a bit off. We were approached at various times after entering by employees who welcomed us and told us to sit anywhere. After we picked what we hoped would be a relatively quiet location (near the open front), a few more people came by to say hi (and ask if we had ever been there before, and when we said no, still didn't bother to tell us about the infusion/firkin/etc.) before the person who would be our actual server showed up. She seemed nervous yet eager to please, but spoke too quietly to be heard over the screaming in the background. I originally wanted to order a flight of IPAs, but after realizing there were too many choices coupled with my inability to hear her recommendations, I gave up.

Though I would rather have left, we ordered food. Fortunately, it was generally pretty good. I had two ahi tuna tacos, which were generously-sized and fresh-tasting. Mr Minx ordered a pesto grilled chicken sandwich. It also was huge, filled with nicely moist and juicy chicken breast, and good amounts of pesto and cheese. The steak fries on the side were cooked properly and both dishes were overall pretty well done.

Except we had ordered appetizers, which hadn't arrived yet. After reminding our server, she ran off to set things right. She had recommended their mac and cheese, which is made with spiced pepperjack cheese and topped with crisp bacon and herbed breadcrumbs. The textures were nice --super gooey cheese, crispy crumbs--but apart from being properly salted, the dish was bland. The bacon wasn't even particularly bacon-y.

We also tried the fried pickles. Another huge portion, the pickles featured a melange of shapes and some Peppadew peppers, all lightly battered and fried to a nice crispness. They were well-seasoned and didn't necessarily need a dip in the accompanying sweet-ish dipping sauce (which was maybe a tad too thick).

Limp-fish-hand presented us with our bill, saying he had comped the mac and cheese because it had come to the table so late. But we apparently had to pay for the pickles, which were even later. And everything else, too. But the prices are very reasonable for the portion sizes and the bill wasn't that bad. If we hadn't ordered beers (I know, at a place called World of Beer), it would have been downright cheap.

We sucked down our second beers and beat a hasty retreat. I couldn't help but notice that al fresco diners at the restaurant next door had to put up with the noise emanating from World of Beer, which by that point in the evening also included live music. I wonder how it will end up affecting the adjoining businesses.

World of Beer
125 Joppa Road
Towson, MD 21204

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Parsnip Hummus

Once again the end of the month showed up and that meant another stitch-n-bitch get-together with friends. Regular Minxeats readers know that I like to make both something dippy and something sweet for the ladies. Dippy, because it keeps the hands relatively clean, and knitters need clean hands. Sweet, because we all seem to have a sweet tooth.

This month's dippy component was homemade hummus, as it often is. I wanted to try something really different this time and leave out the beans completely. I had a bag of parsnips without a purpose in the fridge, so decided to use them. They were already hummus-hued, so why not?

It's best to par-cook the parsnips until they are quite soft, so the food processor doesn't have a hard time breaking them down (especially if  you use a Cuisinart mini-prep, like me). Parnips are denser and dryer than beans, so you'll need to use a bit of water to help in the processing, as well.

The resulting texture is much smoother than a hummus made with beans, but the flavor was somehow quite hummus-y. I was too lazy to cut up vegetables so I served it with Wild California brand Twice Baked Apricot Ginger Crisps. I had picked up a bag at the fancy food show in July and was waiting for the perfect occasion to serve them. Parsnip hummus seemed to be it. The light sweetness of the crisps worked well with the light sweetness of the hummus. The chips are also quite nice on their own, or eaten with cheese. If you've tried the Trader Joe's brand of crackers with fruit bits in them, then you already have an idea of what the Wild California ones are like.

This recipe makes about 1 1/2 cups of hummus. We put a dent in it, but we absolutely demolished the bag of crisps.

Parsnip Hummus

1 lb parsnips
Extra virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons almond butter
Lemon Juice
Garlic powder
Harissa powder or cayenne

Peel the parsnips and cut into chunks. Put into a saucepan with water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until parsnips are very tender, about 20 minutes. Drain parsnips, but reserve some of the cooking water.

Allow parsnips to cool to room temperature and put them into the bowl of a food processor with a few tablespoons of cooking water and a glug of olive oil. Process to a fairly smooth texture, adding a few more spoonsful of water or olive oil, if needed, to move things along. The consistency should be thick, not runny. Add the almond butter and process until completely incorporated. Season with a fair amount of lemon juice, plus garlic powder and cumin to taste (start with 1/2 teaspoon each). Salt and pepper, of course, also to taste, and if you want a bit of heat, add a bit of harissa powder or cayenne.

Scrape into a bowl and drizzle on some olive oil. Serve with crudite of your choice, crackers, pita, whatever.

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Flashback Friday - Prune

The menu at Prune is pretty simple, and I was a bit skeptical of all the kudos the restaurant had received--until I ate there myself. Gabrielle Hamilton's memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter: The Inadvertent Education of a Reluctant Chef and her cookbook, Prune, are must-reads for any serious foodie. And for those lucky enough to have been able to dine at Prune, the cookbook has recipes for just about everything ever served there.

This post was originally published on August 2, 2011.

Earlier in the month, I had a crazy week scheduled in which I was pretty much booked solid: Fancy Food show Sunday through Tuesday, media dinners on Wednesday and Thursday, and a trip to NJ-DE-PA on Saturday. Then I received an e-mail from one of my oldest and dearest friends, Felicia, whom I had not seen in about eight years. She was visiting her sister in New York and could I possibly get together with her? During that crazy week? After I explained my schedule, she resorted to bribery: a trip to the Met to see the Alexander McQueen show and dinner at Prune, an East Village restaurant that I've wanted to visit for a while now. I thought about it for 30 seconds or so and put in a leave slip to switch my days off work. When I got home, I ran my rearranged schedule plans past Mr Minx, who advised me that I would have more fun with Felicia than I would have at a food show.

He was right.

We met at Momofuku Milk Bar Midtown and started off the day with some blackberry Kaffir lime soft serve before heading up to the Met. We waited in line for 45 minutes, but it was well worth standing around. The show was magnificient; I loved seeing both the genius of McQueen up close and the amazing curation. For more info, and photos, check out the Met's blog.

After the show, we went to Mario Batali's all-Italian food court, Eataly. While perusing the various mostardas, fresh and dried pastas, sauces, and other imported products, we sipped glasses of Prosecco. I managed to control myself and come away with only two bags of pasta and some brown carnaroli rice. Unfortunately, the fizzy wine + lack of food made me a bit dizzy; suffice it to say that this did not make for a fun rush-hour subway trip to our next destination: Prune.

Chef Gabrielle Hamilton has been in the news recently because of her well-received memoir, Blood, Bones & Butter, which is on my must-read list. After settling ourselves at a two-top in the front of her tiny restaurant, Prune, and guzzling down a couple of glasses of ice water, I was ready for some sustenance. The menu at Prune is short and sweet, but it still made for a difficult decision. Because Felicia is a vegetarian, we tried several veg dishes, all of which were simple yet fantastic.

Dandelion greens with mastic and feta
Smoky eggplant with flatbread
I'm not sure I actually tasted the mastic in the dandelion dish, but the combination of olive oil-drenched greens and creamy feta was completely delicious. As was the eggplant dish, although it could have been smokier. The flatbreads were corrugated, which made for lots of crispy surface area, and I loved their toasty flavor.

Suckling pig with pickled tomatoes, black eyed peas, and chipotle mayo
I was torn between ordering the grilled quail and the suckling pig, and when I realized that I'd probably have to eat the quail with my grubby NY-ed fingers (despite having been thoroughly anointed with hand sanitizer), I went for the pork. The meat was simple, well-seasoned, tender, but the standout item on the dish was the pickled tomatoes which were redolent of chile and coriander. Oh, and the chunk of crackling. Mmmmm!

Parmesan omelette
Felicia enjoyed the Parmesan omelette, which she said was fluffy and cheesy. I took her word for it because I'm just not a fan of browned egg yolk. While the dish looks austere, she gussied it up a bit with the leftover mastic-flavored olive oil from the dandelion dish.

Celery salad with bleu cheese
While I'm not a huge fan of celery, the celery salad served with a hunk of brie-style bleu cheese on buttered bread was a lovely bridge to dessert. The cheese was outrageously creamy and I wish I had noted the exact brand and variety (I'm thinking Cambozola). Finally, we had dessert - a simple scoop of very firm mascarpone ice cream topped with lightly candied shreds of lemon zest and a shot of espresso, meant to be poured over top, on the side.

Mascarpone ice cream with espresso and candied lemon
This is known as "affogado" or "drowned," and what a way to die!  I loved the combination of coffee and candied lemon (a proper espresso should be served with lemon) and thought this was the perfect ending to the meal.

Compared to other somewhat exotic New York restaurants in which I've dined, Prune is a plain Jane, but in the best way possible. All the dishes we had were very well thought-out, perfectly seasoned, and a meal there was a pleasant way to end a perfectly lovely day in New York.

54 E 1st St
New York, NY 10003
(212) 677-6221

Prune on Urbanspoon

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Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Pork, Kimchi, & Dr. Pepper. Or, How to Take an Idea and Make It Your Own.

Yum yum - don't those look delicious?  And they were. The general recipe for these ribs came from Bryan Voltaggio's new book, Home: Recipes to Cook with Family and Friends. It's a very nice book with lots of interesting and not overly-complicated recipes (quite a change from the very chef-fy VOLT ink, his book with brother Michael). This recipe is so simple, in fact, there are only five ingredients: pork spareribs, kimchi, Dr Pepper, ketchup, and scallions.

The recipe is written for a pressure cooker, but since not everyone has one of those hanging around the house, there are also directions for baking the ribs. Rather than the 15 mins for a pressure cooker, oven cooking takes 3 hours at 300°F. For both versions, the ribs, soda, and kimchi are dumped into the cooking vessel. Simple, right?

The recipe's instructions are pretty simple, too. Once the ribs are cooked, the cooking liquid is poured off, the kimchi reserved and kept warm in a separate pot. The liquid should be cooked down with the addition of 1/4 cup of ketchup, to make a glaze. The ribs are then browned on a grill, glazed with the sauce, and served with the kimchi on the side. Easy, peasy. Except....

I don't know how much liquid comes off of the ribs in a pressure cooker, but the oven method produces well over a quart of various pork juices and fat. And I didn't even use the recommended amount of kimchi. The recipe calls for two 30-ounce jars. That's 3 3/4 POUNDS of kimchi. My supermarket had only two 16-ounce jars; I thought that was plenty. There's no mention of salt in the recipe; I'm guessing the massive amount of kimchi was going to supply that element, so I salted the ribs before cooking them. Now what to do with all of that liquid, which tasted nice and porky, with a light cabbag-y element that reminded me of my Polish grandmother's cooking. I decided to keep a cup of it, which I defatted with ice cubes. I didn't think a mere 1/4 cup of ketchup would make much impact, so I upped it to 1/2 cup, added a bit more Dr Pepper, plus 2 tablespoons of brown sugar, and, because the kimchi is a Korean thing, a heaping tablespoon of gochujang. I also tossed in an entire bunch of scallions, chopped. After this sauce boiled for a few minutes to a nice thick consistency, I gave the scallions a whiz with a hand blender to make a chunky sauce redolent of meat, sweet, and heat.

Rather than firing up our charcoal grill for about 10 minutes of cooking, I put the ribs under the broiler, instead. Browned them on both sides first, then brushed them with my sauce for a final broil. The result was pretty delicious. There was no obviously Korean flavoring to them, despite the kimchi and gochujang. Perhaps if I had added a bit of sesame oil and a bunch of garlic to the sauce, but I didn't want to risk burning the oil during broiling. Yuck. The cooked kimchi itself had lost a lot of its oomph, but was still tasty. I had been slightly skeptical that the ribs would come out with much flavor at all, being that they hadn't been dry-rubbed the day before, but they had absorbed a good deal of the kimchi's garlic flavor.

I think that if I make this recipe again, I'd do it with baby backs, which are far less-fatty and easier to work with, since they are so much smaller and don't require any trimming. I'd use my tried-and-true Alton Brown method of dry-rubbing and foil-wrapping the ribs the day before, except instead of a dry rub, I'd puree the kimchi with some of the Dr Pepper to make a paste and allow the ribs to marinate in that overnight before adding more soda for the final cooking. Will let you know how that goes if and when it happens.

In the meantime, I have to figure out what to do with a pint of leftover cooked kimchi.

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Monday, September 21, 2015

Firehouse Subs

Tuesday night is grocery night at Casa Minx, but since every supermarket has its own pros and cons, we tend to vary where we shop depending on what we need to buy on a given week. One of our frequent go-to markets is Shop-Rite on Aylesbury Road in Lutherville. While we're in the area, we try to find a place to eat dinner, but we've become a little bored with the usual haunts. So it was a great surprise to us when we received an invitation to try out the new selection of cold deli heroes at the Firehouse Subs right down the street from Shop-Rite.

We were unfamiliar with the fast-casual chain that was started over 20 years ago in Jacksonville, Florida by Robin and Chris Sorensen. Both firefighters, the two decided to start a family business based on something they love: subs made with high quality meats and cheeses on toasted bread with a wide range of toppings. There are now over 850 locations nationwide and two happen to be in Baltimore County in Owings Mills and Lutherville. They are both owned by Ayaz Moledina, a former financial planner who wanted to start his own business. Moledina not only loved the product but the charitable work Firehouse Subs does within their respective communities through the Firehouse Subs Public Safety Foundation.

Battalion Chief Sub
Although Firehouse has offered hot subs like their barbequed brisket and pastrami subs for years, they recently decided to cool things down with a line of cold sandwiches. Baltimore is one of only 100 markets where the six new subs are currently offered. While the meat and toppings are served cold, they are still nestled in a toasted bun.

Hook and Ladder Sub
The Battalion Chief is a roast beef sub with cheddar cheese, onion straws, lettuce, tomato, and a horseradish mayo. The meat and cheese are substantial and the horseradish mayo adds just enough heat to keep things interesting. The Hook and Ladder combines smoked turkey and honey ham and Monterey Jack cheese. I was concerned the Italian dressing would make the sandwich too tangy, but the sweetness of the ham adds a nice counterbalance and the turkey is quite smoky,

Malibu Sub

Smoked turkey breast and bacon highlight the Malibu, but the avocado and spinach really made the sub special. As the name implies, the Sicilian is Firehouse's take on an Italian cold cut with capicola, ham, pepperoni, salami, and Provolone cheese. This would be a great sub for a really hungry meat lover.

Sicilian Sub
That's not to say that a vegetarian couldn't be equally satisfied with their loaded Mediterranean sub, which includes feta, hummus, marinated artichoke hearts, olive mix, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, tomato, and onion. It's topped off with a balsamic vinaigrette and placed on Asiago cheese bread. (This sub is also available with grilled chicken breast.) The crusty layer of Asiago cheese on the toasted bread adds a whole new dimension of texture and flavor. The Asiago bread is also used with the Chicken Caesar sub: grilled chicken breast with romaine lettuce, tomato, and Caesar dressing. It's basically a salad wrapped in bread, and there's nothing wrong with that.

Mediterranean Sub (with Chicken)
All the subs are well packed with ingredients and the meats are shaved thinly so they melt in your mouth. Unlike some sub chains who will go nameless, you can actually see the abundance of ingredients overflowing the bread. Also, the bread is flavorful and has a slight crunch from toasting.

Chicken Caesar Sub
I can honestly say there was not a single dud among all the subs we tried, although I think the Minx was partial to the Hook and Ladder and I enjoyed the exotic flavors of the Mediterranean. Next time grocery night finds us heading to the Shop Rite in Lutherville, I'm sure we will be making a stop at Firehouse Subs for dinner.

* 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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Friday, September 18, 2015

Flashback Friday - The Modern Bar Room

I've had many good restaurant experiences in New York, but this one was among the very best,

This post was originally published on May 3, 2011.
The Modern Bar Room

I went to New York this past weekend primarily to attend the fragrance event, Sniffapalooza, but also to eat. Sniffa lasts two days, both of which include a prix fixe lunch, but after last year's debacle at Opia, I wasn't going to waste my money, taste buds, and sanity on grilled chicken breast and two extremely long hours of guest speakers. Being cooped up in a room with over a hundred gabbing women (and a handful of men) makes me a little, well, homicidal crazy, so I opted instead for a nice quiet luncheon elsewhere with Anthony Bourdain as company.

That is, my copy of his most recent book, Medium Raw.

I asked the good citizens of the Manhattan Chowhound board for suggestions for a Saturday lunch in the vicinity of Bergdorf Goodman and the restaurant that got the most mentions was the Bar Room at The Modern. I made a reservation post haste and was glad for it.

After nearly four hours at Bergdorf's and already laden-down with perfume samples and purchases, I was happy to check my overflowing tote bag and settle down in a comfortable chair in the middle of the restaurant and peruse the menu. Divided into three pages of starters, fish, and meat selections, the menu suggests that diners choose one from each category to create a personalized tasting menu. Bucking the trend, I decided to order two courses from the fish category, with a third meat course possibility waiting in the wings were I still hungry afterward.

Grilled Diver Scallops with baby carrots, spring peas and rhubarb broth
I couldn't decide whether I wanted to start with the scallops or the skate; my very able server suggested that the scallops would be an appropriately light appetizer, and he was right. Two half-dollar-sized mollusks, lightly grilled and still translucent at the centers, were served with a carrot puree, grilled yellow baby carrots, very tender young peas, and a tangy broth. There was something vaguely Southwestern in the scallops seasoning, definitely a hint of cumin, but overall the dish was the essence of Spring. I just wish those scallops were, oh, twice the size. At least.

Alsatian Buckwheat SpƤetzle with Yellowfin tuna paillard crudo,
roasted foie gras, pine nuts and black pepper gastrique
My second course was perhaps one of the most unusual restaurant dishes I've ever eaten. It was certainly not going to win any beauty contests: a slab of heavily-seared foie gras rested atop a blood-red piece of raw tuna, from under which oozed some brownish liquid and a few nubbins of gray stuff. I first lifted the edge of the tuna to sample some of the large colony of buckwheat spaetzle that was hiding under the fish. They were very tender and buttery, but without the pleasant chew of other spaetzle I've eaten. Then I took a forkful of tuna and was immediately disappointed that even though it was raw, a state of being that my brain normally registers as "cold," was actually warm. As I continued eating, however, I began to realize that not only was the tuna not cold, but the spot under the seared foie was actually being cooked by its heat. At that point, I thought the dish was brilliant. I never cared for the textural contrast of seared tuna, with the dried-out edges and cold, raw insides. The lightly cooked portions of this tuna, however, were moist and delicious, bathed as they were in hot duck fat. As for the source of that duck fat, the foie gras, it was perfectly cooked and seasoned. The top was a bit crusty and salty, and the inside was quivery and melty. Swoonworthy. Perfect, if the spaetzle brought a texture other than soft to the party.

With the savory courses, I enjoyed some of The Modern's terrific bread, including lovely little torpedo-shaped rolls schmeared with sweet butter that had been topped with sea salt.

After clearing my plates, my waiter brought the savory menu just in case I did need to try the pork belly I had been contemplating earlier. He also had the dessert menu, which I barely glanced at after he mentioned its newest addition: panna cotta with pistachio ice cream. I love panna cotta. I love pistachio ice cream. Sold!

White Chocolate Panna Cotta with blackberries and pistachio ice cream
The custard itself was extremely rich, the ice cream accompaniment smooth and delicious and almost light by comparison, but my favorite elements on this plate were the little surprises of a sesame biscuit under the panna cotta and a tiny square of lemon-infused cake under the ice cream. I also enjoyed the white chocolate wafers which were flecked with not only bits of lemon rind, but also sea salt, which gave them a bit of a potato chip quality. (Potato chips and vanilla ice cream were a favorite childhood treat. Don't knock it until you try it!)

With my meal I enjoyed a pint of draught Brownstone ale and a rather strong cappuccino. And my Bourdain, but only between courses. I didn't need his snark interrupting my enjoyment of the food.

Overall, I enjoyed my lunch - the food, the service, and the ability to relax in comfortable surroundings after having been on my feet for several hours, doing strenuous shopping. It was an excellent choice, and I would definitely go back.

The Modern
9 W 53rd St
New York, NY 10019
(212) 333-1220

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Monday, September 14, 2015

Be One Korean BBQ

We are carnivores, so we love us some Korean BBQ. We've been going to Honey Pig, which we like a lot, but sometimes we don't want to get on the beltway and eat in another county. So we looked to Baltimore City for a solution. There's a Koreatown of sorts in Station North around Maryland Ave/21st Street with several notable restaurants like Nak Won, Nam Kang, and Joung Kak. We decided to skip the tried and true and try the new-ish BeOne, in the little shopping center on Maryland between 20th and 21st. And with that we found our new favorite Korean BBQ joint.

We went for a few kinds of meat including bulgogi and pork neck. The bulgogi was scrumptious, tender and lightly fatty, with lots of sweet and garlicky flavor. The pork neck was a completely different animal (obviously), unseasoned and chewy. It's not for everyone.

We also had a pork and squid combo, and boneless kalbi (short rib). Squid gets a little tough on the grill, so again, it's not for everyone.

We also had the dolsot bibimbop (the one in the hot stone bowl) and couldn't resist the seafood pancake. And while we enjoyed the bulgogi the most of the BBQ items, the pancake was the best thing on the table. Huge, packed full of octopus, and super crispy, we couldn't stop eating it. Of course, we're all pigs and managed to eat pretty much everything on the table, including most of the large bowl of tofu soup, the eggs, and all of the various bowls of pickles and whatnot (panchan) that comes with. Among the panchan dishes we enjoyed the most was a rather horseradishy kimchi, and thin strips of fish cake in a spicy sauce. Hell, it was all good.

Service was pretty good, too, but the place wasn't at all busy on that particular Saturday afternoon, so YMMV. Be One didn't have the hustle-bustle that Honey Pig has, so we felt a bit more relaxed while we enjoyed our food. So, to sum up - food great, service pretty good, and we didn't have to drive to Howard County. Win. Win. Win.

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Friday, September 11, 2015

Flashback Friday - Kitchen Sink Chili

Football season has begun! Time to make chili.

This post was originally published on September 27, 2011.
Kitchen Sink Chili

When the Ravens play at 4pm, we tend to eat dinner in front of the television. Most of the time, I'll make something that doesn't involve utensils, but this particular Sunday, I had lots to do between waking up and settling down on the sofa, so I decided to whip up some chili.

Chili is great because there's relatively little prep and plenty of unsupervised cooking time. Just chop up an onion, open some cans, and go do other stuff while the meal basically makes itself.

I had some odds and ends that I wanted to use up, so they went into the chili. Also, straight-up ground beef seemed really expensive last week for some reason, so I bought whatever other ground meat I could find that was less-expensive. All-turkey is kinda boring, so a package of mixed meats went in with it. Honestly, we couldn't tell that it wasn't beef chili, what with all of the other flavors going on.

Kitchen Sink Chili

2 tablespoon ancho chile powder
1 tablespoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
2 cups chopped onion
drizzle olive oil
1.5 lb meatloaf mix (ground pork, veal, and beef)
1.5 lb ground turkey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup leftover salsa (I used salsa verde)
1 5oz can chopped green chiles
1 roasted red pepper, diced (from a jar, or roast it yourself over a gas flame until blackened, place in a paper bag until cooled, peel off charred skin)
2 cans fire roasted tomatoes with garlic
1 can black beans, drained
2 cups chicken stock
1 jalapeno chile
2 dried chipotle peppers
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
honey or agave syrup, if necessary
salt and pepper to taste
sour cream, cilantro, chopped scallions, shredded cheddar cheese for garnish.

Mix first four ingredients in a small bowl. Set aside.

In a dutch oven, heat a bit of olive oil and add onions. Cover pan and sweat onions until translucent. Add ground meats. Cook until meats are no longer pink, breaking clumps with a wooden spoon. Stir in garlic and half of spice mixture. Add salsa, chiles, red pepper, tomatoes, beans, chicken stock, jalapeno, and chipotles. Bring mixture to a boil, then turn down to a simmer. Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours, stirring every once in a while. After two hours, if there seems to be too much liquid, remove lid and turn up heat to evaporate some of it. When consistency is more to your liking, check for seasoning and add the remaining spices and the cocoa powder. If you think it needs a bit of sweetness, add the honey. Allow to cook for another 30 minutes or so, then add salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat and serve in bowls with garnishes and corn bread or muffins.

Moist and Dense Corn Muffins

2 cups corn meal
4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups milk
2 eggs
1 8.5oz can creamed corn
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
3 scallions, white and some green part chopped

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Lightly grease muffin tins or corn stick pans with a bit of butter or oil. Place pan in oven to heat.

In a mixing bowl, combine the corn meal, baking powder and salt. Stir in the milk, eggs, creamed corn, and oil, mixing together until the batter is smooth. Stir in frozen corn and scallions. Pour batter evenly into preheated muffin tins or corn stick pan. Bake 20-25 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes 12 regular or 6 jumbo corn muffins.

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Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Spiced Peach Cake

Today is my brother's birthday, so I thought it would be appropriate to post a cake recipe. Happy birthday, Dave!

Peach season is almost over, unfortunately, and I have been loving all the sweet juicy ones we are getting from either the farmer's market or in our weekly Washington's Green Grocer delivery. I am sadly allergic to raw peaches, but if I cook them a little bit, they give me no problems (same with plums, cherries, nectarines). Ordinarily, I chop up a peach or two and put them in a microwave-safe bowl, nuke for 2 minutes, and let them cool before shoveling them in. This time, I had several more very ripe peaches than I could comfortably eat in one day. Mr Minx is not a fan of crisps or cobblers, so I decided to make a cake.

Half my life ago, I worked at Gordon's Booksellers at the Rotunda with a bunch of terrific people, many of whom are still among my closest and dearest friends. One year, we had a staff Christmas party at my house. Everyone who worked at the store was invited; we also invited one of our favorite customers. Jay worked next door at Maryland Casualty, but he dropped into the bookstore every morning to buy a newspaper and shoot the shit. He was fun and we figured he was as much a part of the Gordon's experience as any of the rest of us.

The party was pot luck, and Jay brought a loaf cake studded with peaches. Because the peaches had been canned in syrup, each piece was in a juicy little pocket of cake. I loved the texture variation, and asked him for the recipe. He complied, I put it away for safe keeping, and never used it. So this cake, while not the same as Jay's, was made with him in mind.

Spiced Peach Cake

2 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 large eggs
1/2 cup sour cream or plain yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)
1 pound peaches, peeled and sliced

Preheat oven to 350°F. Grease and flour a standard bundt cake pan.

Combine flour, baking powder, salt, and spices in a bowl. Set aside.

Cream the butter and sugar together until fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the sour cream and vanilla. Add the flour mixture, beating only until combined. Stir in the walnuts by hand.

Put about a third of the batter in the bottom of the pan. Cover with a layer of the peaches. Repeat batter and peach layers, ending with batter.

Bake for 50 minutes to 1 hour, or until a toothpick inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Because of the peaches, there may be pockets of moisture here and there, so try the toothpick in several areas. Don't overbake!

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Monday, September 07, 2015

Clark Burger

When the Senator Theatre changed hands a while back, we were promised an expansion and a restaurant. The expansion added three smaller screening rooms without changing the size of the main room, allowing the theatre to show multiple features simultaneously. A welcome addition to our movie-viewing pleasure. But the small space in the front of the building, once a dry cleaner, stayed empty for well over a year. The story was that a burger joint would be opening in that space, which, considering its petite size, was probably all that would fit comfortably. And that the owners would be Canadian. And they would serve poutine. We waited impatiently.

Not that there isn't plenty of terrific pre- and post-movie eats available just around the corner at the Belvedere Square Market, and at Sofi's Crepes across the street. But we wanted gravy smothered fries topped with cheese curds. Who doesn't? (Shaddup, vegans.)

Clark Burger opened in January 2015, with the promised poutine. But we didn't get an opportunity to dine there until the summer, when the big front windows were open up to the fresh air, making the small restaurant seem a little bit bigger. And, well, kinda too warm. (Ugh. Hate summer.)

Before a screening of Ant Man, Mr Minx, MinxBro, and I sampled three of their burgers and an order of poutine. My brother had the "Wake N Bacon," topped with a fried egg, Tillamook cheddar, fried onion, srirachi aioli, and of course, bacon. I had the Clark Burger, with cheddar, bacon, lettuce, pickle, and CB sauce, hold the sliced onion. Mr Minx had the Barque Burger (shown above) with Montreal-style smoked brisket, minced onion, dill pickle, and spicy mustard.

The burgers are good. The patties are thin, so you won't find too much pink inside, but the chuck blend they use is flavorful. Even more flavorful is the bacon they top their burgers with - it's lean and thick cut and pretty perfect, at least to my tastes. And no, it's not "Canadian" bacon. One can also concoct one's own combo of burger toppings/sauces. If you choose this option, do make sure you add bacon.

The poutine was delish. The house-made gravy is thick and rich and there were ample cheese curds. They have several versions beyond the classic version we tried, including ones with smoked meat, bacon and fried egg, or chili and bacon. As long as there's bacon, I'm there.

I also enjoyed the smoked meat. I wish they served it as its own sandwich, rather than merely as a burger or poutine topping. It's good, pastrami-esque, and deserves to be showcased.

Burger joints are popping up all over the place these days. I'm glad some of them, like Clark Burger, are worth a visit.
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Friday, September 04, 2015

Bobby's Burger Palace

I know a lot of people don't like Bobby Flay for one reason or another, but I'm not one of those people. I've had positive experiences at his restaurants, Gato being the most recent, and enjoy watching him on TV, particularly when he gets his ass beat on Throwdown. For months I looked forward to the opening of Bobby's Burger Palace in Towson, and at long last, that day came in early August.

BBP is of the order-at-the-counter, server-brings-food style of fast casual restaurants. This keeps the prices somewhere between full sit-down (Red Robin) and fast food (Five Guys) service. Burgers hover in the $8-9 range and most have toppings inspired by US regional specialties; the Miami burger, for instance, is styled like a Cubano sandwich, with ham, swiss, pickles, and mustard. There are also plainer versions, like the classic with American cheese, the Bobby Blue with bleu and bacon, and the "Crunchburger,"which includes potato chips.

We settled on the New Mexico and the Philadelphia, with an onion ring/fries combo, paid, got our number, and took a table outside to wait.

The place wasn't busy, so we got our order pretty quickly. The onion rings and fries came first, accompanied by a spicy "fry sauce" akin to chipotle mayo. The fries were excellent, crispy, skin-on, Boardwalk-style specimens. The onion rings (there were only two, one at the top and another on the very bottom of the container) were large and crusty with batter. A bit too much batter for my tastes - I prefer very little, actually. But they were crunchy and the hot onion didn't slide out of its casing and slap me on the chin, so I have to give it some points for that.

The New Mexico burger had queso, roasted green chiles, and pickled red onions. It didn't taste anything like the green chile cheeseburger that I had in Albuquerque, and that's a good thing. The patty itself was moist and cooked to a perfect medium, the cheese had some staying power and didn't drip out, but the chiles didn't pack the punch I was looking for. The surfeit of onions made up for it. There were so many, I'm sure Scott Conant was being offended somewhere.

Neal's Philadelphia burger DID have a punch - those hot peppers were indeed HOT. I would have taken at least half off, but my brave husband worked up a sweat as he ate all of them. His burger was also perfectly cooked, with a nice amount of cheese.

One of the best things about the burgers at BBP are the squishy sesame seed buns. Honestly, why do so many places insist on brioche buns? Fancy isn't better. Squishy rules.

We had fountain sodas with our meal (Fresca!), but milkshakes and malteds are available in 10 flavors, including pistachio, which I might have to try at some point. There are also three flavors of booze-spiked shakes (also on the "to try" list), plus beers, a lone margarita, and BBP red or white wine. The wine is definitely not on my "to try" list. Sorry, Bobby. The food menu also has a couple of grilled cheese sandwiches and salads, but it's a burger palace, so eat burgers. They were pretty good, so we'll be back.

Bobby's Burger Palace
515 Virginia Ave
Towson, MD 21286

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