Monday, January 29, 2018

Wholesome Snacking

During the holiday season, I've been known to have meals consisting entirely of cookies (the oatmeal cookies with dried cherries turned out especially well last year). There are also plenty of celebratory get-togethers with friends, family, and co-workers that are perfect excuses to indulge. Not that I need excuses--I have always been an indulgent person. I don't feel "guilty" when I've eaten something naughty because I'm not a little girl anymore and I refuse to fall into the trap of self-loathing just because I occasionally do something that I enjoy. Ladies, you know what I'm talking about.

However, I do know there's a time to indulge, and a time to cut back on the snacking. Notice I didn't say "eliminate" snacking. Some people are snackers. Some would rather nibble a little of this and a little of that all day long than sit down and eat a meal with fork and knife. But rather than snacking on a fistful of cookies, full of sugar and fat and white flour, post-holiday snacking should involve more whole foods, like nuts and popcorn. I got into the habit of eating dried fruit and nuts when I was doing Whole30 last year, so I decided to stock up on similar snacks to ease me away from cookies and back into eating more healthily.

We shop at ShopRite Supermarkets' fairly regularly, so I decided to try items from their line of Wholesome Pantry snacks. The Wholesome Pantry brand includes hundreds of products like pasta sauce and eggs, all of which are made from simple, clean ingredients and free of unpronounceable chemicals. We already buy the Wholesome Pantry Organic Salad Blends, so venturing into snack land was a no-brainer.

We tried the Energy Mix (sunflower seeds, organic raisins, dried cranberries, nuts, and dried apples) that are great to toss in a backpack or in the car for when the urge for something crunchy/sweet/chewy arises, pecan halves, and dried Fuji apple crisps (sooo addictive) plus the somewhat more fancy Crushed Pepper & Truffle Oil popcorn. It was pretty easy to kill the whole bag while binge-watching The Crown. We also got a jar of almond butter. We eat the stuff all the time, and I like to use it in hummus.

My hummus is pretty non-traditional. I am allergic to chickpeas, so I use any other canned bean, plus almond butter, lots of garlic, lemon, and olive oil. The last time I made it, I used the Wholesome Pantry almond butter and lemon-flavored olive oil instead of lemon juice, which gave it such a sunny flavor.

I also tossed some of the Wholesome Pantry pecan halves on a warm farro and broccoli salad that I served with lamb meatballs. They added just the right crunch to the dish.

So far the healthy snacking has been working for me. The natural fats and sugars from nuts and dried fruit fill me up better than a handful of cookies, so I'm actually shoving food into my pie-hole less-often. Maybe now I'll drop those couple pounds I always seem to pick up in December.

Warm Farro and Broccoli Salad with Pecans

1 lb broccoli
Extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup farro, cooked according to package directions
Lemon juice
Wholesome Pantry pecan halves

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Separate the broccoli into medium sized florets. Peel stems and slice them lengthwise into strips. Place on a foil-lined baking sheet. Toss with olive oil and salt and roast in a preheated oven until florets start to get some good browning on them and the stems are tender, 15-20 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the farro.

Remove the broccoli from the oven and chop it roughly. Toss the warm broccoli and farro together in a bowl. Squeeze over lemon juice to taste and season with additional salt, if needed. You may also add other seasonings like chile flakes, garlic, black pepper--whatever sounds good to you.

Crush up a small handful of pecans and stir into the salad. Serve immediately.

Serves 2 as a meal, 4 as a side dish.

* 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, January 26, 2018

Flashback Friday - Minxeats Best of 2012 Part One

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on January 2, 2013.

By necessity, we Minxes spent a goodly portion of early 2012 dining in restaurants. You'll find out why soon enough. For the most part, we ate well, and in some cases, very well. Without further ado, here are our favorite restaurant dishes for 2012.

In January, we had an incredible Restaurant Week dinner at Ten Ten, in Harbor East. Their ricotta dumplings in a cheesy sauce were just about perfect.

Also in January, I sampled several varieties of bao at Eddie Huang's Baohaus, a tiny storefront in the East Village (New York). While the pork belly version of this Taiwanese treat was delicious, I may just have enjoyed the fried chicken version more. But damn, I'd eat any of them again.

In March, we tried Republic Noodle, a pan-Asian joint in Federal Hill. Sadly the restaurant closed because they couldn't get a liquor license. Honestly - I really don't care about boozing it up with dinner, but apparently other folks do, I guess. In any case, the Northern Thai-style chicken wings were ah-may-zing. I want to eat them right now.

In April, we sampled the wonders of Aldo's, in Little Italy. Everything was excellent - decadent, rich, flavorful - so it's hard to pick just one course to love. My personal favorite was the Tournedos Rossini, a perfect little filet topped with foie gras. I don't generally like filet, but this piece of meat made me understand why other folks buy the hell out of it. Unfortunately, there's no photo, as we were trying to be nice and not use flash.

In May, we wined and dined at the Prime Rib. The Sun recently named it the #1 restaurant in Baltimore, and it's pretty easy to see why. The food is all of very high quality, simply prepared with care, and the service is perfect. Friendly, generous, welcoming, and on-the-ball, but without the coddling found at some other high-end restaurants. While I really enjoyed the enormous oysters Rockefeller, I loved the juicy prime rib even more.

Later that month, we ate the best crab cake in Baltimore at Koco's. 'Nuff said.

May was full of good eats. We tried Pabu, Baltimore's first izakaya, and enjoyed pretty much everything we put in our mouths, from the food to the delicious sake and cocktails. Even the sweet potato beer. But my favorite dish, which I think about from time to time, was the okonomiyaki, a cabbage-filled kinda-omelette with crab. I was even inspired to make a home version of the dish.

June took us to Great Sage, a vegan restaurant in Clarksville (near Columbia). We're obviously not vegans, or even vegetarians, but damn if we didn't love our meal there. I particularly enjoyed the "crab" cake, cleverly made with hearts of palm. It's not Koco's, but it was far better than many real crab cakes I've eaten in my life.

Our favorite burger of the year came from Hamilton Tavern. (Ignore those onion donuts on the plate - they were a disappointment.) The patty was the perfect size, and the horseradish cheddar and sugared bacon were the perfect accompaniments. I haven't eaten a burger with that much flavor in a long time.

In July, we paid a visit to the newly-opened Earth, Wood, & Fire. We sampled one of everything on the menu, and while we really enjoyed the thin-but-chewy-crust pizza, I think my favorite dish was the asparagus with shiitake "bacon." Not only was it really delicious, with a lovely grilled flavor, but it was also visually appealing.

We took a rather large hiatus from restaurant dining. It gets expensive! But in November, we went to the Food Market in Hampden and had some lovely pork belly with a brown sugar crust.

And finally, in December, I had a really swell truck lunch from Charm City Gourmet. The scallops with creamed corn and prosciutto bacon was really delicious, and satisfied the scallop cravings I'd been having for most of the year.

So that's it for favorite restaurant dishes of 2012. Stay tuned for our favorite home-cooked delights of the year!

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Wednesday, January 24, 2018

Going Vegan? These Products Make it Easier Than Ever

More and more people are going meatless these days--a fine thing for our planet. The less we rely on meat products, the less we'll need factory farming, and that means fewer pollutants in our air and water supply and fewer greenhouse gases. But those of us who have trouble giving up animal products entirely need good substitutes. I'm not talking meat substitutes, per se. I'm fine with tofu and tempeh and other proteins that are really nothing like animal products. But I think turning vegan would be easier if there were more good vegan butters and cheeses. I've tried several over the years and have been pretty unimpressed. Most vegan cheeses are even more plastic-like than pasteurized processed cheese "foods," and their flavor is...let's just say they don't taste very good. I stumbled upon Miyoko's creamery last year and tried a sample of their French Style Winter Truffle soft cheese, thinking it was dairy cheese. (I didn't have my glasses on.) I thought it was mighty tasty stuff--lighter than cream cheese or boursin or brie, yet still cheesy-tasting, with a nice truffle aroma and flavor.

When I took a closer look, I was astonished to see it was completely animal-free. When I complimented one of the ladies who was preparing more snacks, she suggested that I try the butter. So I did. Vegan butter has been around forever--think margarine--but the closest it has ever gotten to tasting like butter is...never. I think that Earth Balance is pretty good, but Melt tastes too much like coconut to pass. Miyoko's Creamery butter, however, is pretty damn buttery. I tried one of the little squares of rye bread schmeared with their European Style Cultured VeganButter and was impressed at how close to cow's milk butter it tasted. I'm not saying it tastes like cultured dairy butter (like Kerrygold, for example) which has its own special funk, but more like conventional butter. Still--it's a vegan product that tastes like butter. Hallelujah!

Miyoko's secret is that they use proprietary bacteria cultures in their products, like in dairy cheese- and yogurt-making. Some of their cheese products also use miso, a fermented product that helps with the flavor.

I also sampled a bit of panini made with their VeganMozz, and can say that yes, the cheese does melt. It browns, as well, making it great for vegan pizzas. Better than dollops of mostly flavorless vegan "ricotta," IMHO. Miyoko products are available in Maryland at Whole Foods, MOM's Organic Markets, and a few other places. Check out their web site for more locations.

Another vegan product that struck my fancy was Amella caramels. Most vegan caramels I've encountered are made with coconut oil, and they taste like coconut. That's fine if you like coconut, but if you don't....then what? Amella caramels use cocoa butter as the fat, which is super clever if you ask me. Of course that means their product tastes like chocolate, but as they dip all of their flavors in chocolate, you know you're getting that flavor from the start. (Personally, I've always thought people who don't like chocolate are weird.)

Amella's caramels are fragrant and have a lovely chew, like a butter caramel. They come in flavors like coconut almond, habanero pink salt, and gray sea salt. I've tried them all, and want more.... Buy them online at Amella's Caramels.

Finally, another product that struck my fancy recently was Maprao Coconut Jerky. I don't like meat jerky. I don't like the texture or the smell or anything about it. But coconut jerky is lovely and smooth, yet somewhat chewy. There's no fibrous weirdness like there is with meat jerky. Coconut jerky of course has a coconut flavor, but the spices gave it a savory kick. I liked it. I have no idea where to buy it, but there's another company called Cocoburg that also makes coconut jerky; their products are available at Amazon.

There are even more interesting vegan products available these days, and I hope to talk about them more in the coming months.

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Monday, January 22, 2018

Sour Cherry Vanilla Ice Cream

I love cherries, especially the tart kind, but my birch pollen sensitivity causes me to have a mild allergic reaction when I eat these fruits raw. I can work around this issue by cooking the offending element, which includes pretty much all stone fruits. Happily, popping peaches, apricots, etc., in the microwave for a minute or so seems to kill whatever it is that my body thinks is an allergen. I can also eat dried, frozen, or canned stone fruits, so I don't really feel at all deprived.

When I found that Oregon Fruit Products sold red tart cherries in jars, packed only in tart cherry juice, I was elated. Tart cherries are available for such a short time in the summer, and sometimes I miss that window. Jarred cherries, however, are around all the time, so I can have them whenever I want. I've always been a fan of Oregon's products. I'm pretty sure that the very first blackberries I ever ate came from a can. Now there's usually a can of berries in the pantry for those times I have a need for instant fruit and am too lazy to walk to the grocery store (which is often).

Oregon Fruit Products was kind enough to send me a few jars of their tart cherries to try. Now what to do with them besides eating them directly from the jar? Pies and tarts seem the obvious choice, but why not ice cream? When I was a kid, one of my favorite ice creams was a certain name brand's cherry vanilla, back in the good old days when they advertised that their ice creams had no artificial ingredients. It had a strong vanilla flavor, punctuated by sweet fruit. My cherry vanilla ice cream is completely different than theirs. Not only is it made with ingredients that are more likely to be found in a home pantry than a chemical lab, the cherry flavor is the star. I wanted to taste the vanilla too, which is why the recipe calls for a whole tablespoon of extract. If you feel that's too much, by all means cut back. You just won't taste it as much.

The Oregon Red Tart Cherries are quite tart, as they are packed with no added sweetener, so I warmed them up with a bit of sugar before adding them to the ice cream. The tart cherry juice left over went directly into my gullet. Did you know that antioxidant-rich tart cherry juice is helpful in fighting inflammation and pain for people with osteoarthritis?

Tart Cherry Vanilla Bean Ice Cream

For the cherries:
1 13-ounce jar of Oregon Red Tart Cherries, well drained (drink the juice!)
1/2 cup granulated sugar

For the ice cream:
2 cups whole milk
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons softened cream cheese
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 1/4 cups heavy cream
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons light corn syrup
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

To make the cherries: Cut the drained cherries into quarters and place them and the sugar in a sauce pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar begins to bubble, 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and refrigerate until completely cold.

To make the ice cream: Mix 2 tablespoons of the whole milk with the cornstarch to make a slurry. In a separate bowl, whisk the cream cheese and salt together until smooth. Prepare a shallow ice bath: in a large bowl or baking pan, place an inch or two of cold water and several ice cubes. Set aside.

Cook the remaining milk, cream, sugar, and corn syrup in a large saucepan until it comes to a rolling boil, Boil for 4 minutes, watching carefully so it doesn't boil over (stir when it starts to expand), remove from heat, and slowly whisk in the slurry. Bring back to a boil over medium-high heat and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 minute. Blend a few tablespoons of hot milk mixture into the cream cheese to loosen it, then pour the cream cheese mixture into the pan of milk. Whisk well until smooth. Stir in the vanilla. Pour into a container with a tight-fitting lid and place the container into the ice bath until cool. Refrigerate until completely cold.

To finish: Freeze ice cream according to manufacturers instructions. Once ice cream is mostly done, add the cherry mixture a little at a time until it is completely incorporated.

Scoop ice cream into a lidded container. Press a piece of wax paper onto the surface of the ice cream. Seal container and freeze until firm, at least 4 hours.

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Friday, January 19, 2018

Flashback Friday - Avocado Soup and Crab Salad

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This post originally appeared on on June 21, 2013.

I do most of the cooking on the weekends, except when we go out to eat (of course). If I'm thinking ahead, I plan my meals by Tuesday, our usual grocery shopping day. Most of the time though, I don't give it a thought until Thursday or Friday and then I have to decide whether I should just use what we have in the house, or schlep down to the grocery store to pick up special ingredients.

One recent weekend, we had steamed crabs on Saturday and ended up with a nice container of leftover meat. Rather than default to making crab cakes, I decided to make a crab salad and serve it with a soup made from the two ripe avocados we had picked up earlier in the week. The soup was thick and lusciously creamy, and the citrussy salad added the perfect touch of acid.

I used black garlic to season the soup because I had it. You can use one clove of regular garlic, but chop it and add it to the scallion while it's cooking to cut some of the strong garlic taste. Of course, if you like the flavor of raw garlic, don't let me get in your way!

Avocado Soup

4 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
olive oil
2 ripe Haas avocados
3 tablespoons lime juice
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 cup plain yogurt or sour cream
3 cloves black garlic
couple shakes of hot sauce (I used green Tabasco)
salt and pepper to taste

Cook scallions in a bit of olive oil and a pinch of salt until wilted. Add them, along with the rest of the ingredients, to the bowl of a food processor or blender and purée. If the mixture is too thick for your taste, add a bit more stock or yogurt. Season to taste, adding more lime juice, if desired. Serve chilled, topped with a handful of crab salad.

Makes 4 appetizer or 2 main dish servings.

Crab Salad

2 tablespoons orange or grapefruit juice or a combination of the two
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon honey or agave syrup
1 lb blue crab meat (body and claw), picked over for shell
1 tomato, seeded and finely chopped
fresh basil and mint leaves

Combine the first six ingredients in a small bowl, beating well with a fork until the dressing emulsifies. Season with salt and pepper.

Put the crab and tomato in a medium bowl. Pour over the dressing and toss lightly to coat. Taste for seasoning and add additional salt and pepper, if necessary. Cut basil and mint into a chiffonade and stir in before serving.

Makes more than you'll need for the soup, so grab a fork and dig in.

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Wednesday, January 17, 2018

National Today

Have you ever noticed--especially if you're on Instagram--that there are a lot more holidays than just the usual Presidents' Day, 4th of July, Labor Day, etc? Tons more, actually, and so many of them are food related. I vow to spend more time in 2018 celebrating holidays like National Meatball Day (March 9) and National Coffee Day (September 29, but every day for me). To that end, I’ve partnered with viral holiday website National Today to share the ultimate 2018 holiday celebration calendar. They have a complete list of holidays you've probably never heard of with suggested ways to celebrate each one, along with fun facts and history, too.

Here are some sample holidays, ones I plan to observe in the coming year. They're all food-related, because hey, I celebrate food every day. There are also plenty of non-food holidays like National Lipstick Day (July 29) and National Barbie Day (March 9) on which to be festive. Check out National Today's site and never miss another opportunity to celebrate something.

Incidentally, today (Jan 17) is National Hot Buttered Rum Day. Here's my favorite recipe for the drink.


National Cheese-Lovers Day (Jan 20)
Whether you prefer Gruyere or Muenster, this is the day for you.

National Chocolate Cake Day (Jan 27)
I think this holiday should be celebrated more than once a year.

National Croissant Day (Jan 30)
Let's give a cheer for these buttery French crescents!


National Pizza Day (Feb 9)
Another holiday I would celebrate daily, if I could.

National Tortellini Day (Feb 13)
A special day for a special pasta.

National Drink Wine Day (Feb 18)
Not that anyone needs a special day to drink wine.


National Oreo Cookie Day (Mar 6)
America's favorite cookie!

National Meatball Day (Mar 9)
And not just Italian meatballs...makes sure to give Swedish meatballs some love on this day.

National Artichoke Day (Mar 16)
Artichokes don't get enough love, IMHO.


National Burrito Day (Apr 5)
Why not?

National Beer Day (Apr 7)
Like National Wine Day, this could be every day.

National Pigs in a Blanket Day (Apr 24) 
I remember my Mom making these for my childhood birthday parties. A memory worth celebrating.


National Shrimp Day (May 10)
If I wasn't contractually obligated, as a Marylander, to love blue crabs best, I'd call shrimp my favorite crustacean.

National Brisket Day (May 28)
Braised or smoked, brisket deserves a shout-out at least one day a year.

National Macaroon Day (May 31)
Remember, macaroons (mack-a-ROONS) are made with coconut. Those cute pastel colored French sandwich cookies are macarons (mack-a-RONS). And they should have a day of their own.


National Donut Day (Jun 2)
Another day that could really occur 365 without much argument.

National Cheese Day (Jun 4)
Jan 20 celebrated the cheese-lover, while this day celebrates the cheese itself.

National Rosé Day (Jun 9)
Literally, ROSE ALL DAY.


National Ice Cream Day (Jul 16)
Do you like vanilla or chocolate better?

National Chicken Wing Day (Jul 29)
There are plenty of opportunities to enjoy chicken wings throughout the year, but this is the only day where they are feted.

National Cheesecake Day (Jul 30)
I like my cheesecake moist and fluffy, not dense. How about you?


International Beer Day (Aug 4)
The US celebrates beer in April, but the whole world celebrates beer on this day. I think I'll join them.

National Rum Day (Aug 16)
A favorite libation that works wonderfully in Summer cocktails.

National Lemonade Day (Aug. 20)
When life gives you lemons, save them for National Lemonade Day.


National Guacamole Day (Sep 16)
Forget avocado toast. Guac belongs on chips.

National Pancake Day (Sep 26)
Have pancakes for breakfast and dinner today!

National Coffee Day (Sep 29)
I celebrate this day every day, though it officially only gets September 29th.


National Taco Day (Oct 4)
This day should run concurrently with National Guacamole Day, don't you think?

National Pasta Day (Oct 17)
Mr Minx's favorite day of the year.

National Bologna Day (Oct 24)
My bologna has a first name.... Actually it doesn't. Who names their bologna?


National Nachos Day (Nov 6)
Who doesn't love crisp chips coated with cheese and other goodies?

National Pickle Day (Nov 14)
Remember: pickle as in the food, not pickle as in getting yourself into trouble.

National Cake Day (Nov 26)
Not just chocolate cake day, though you can eat that on this day, too.


National Gazpacho Day (Dec 6)
I think of gazpacho as a warm-weather food, but I guess it's warm somewhere in the world in December.

National Ice Cream Day (Dec. 13)
I do eat ice cream all year long though.

National Bacon Day (Dec 30)
The most important holiday of all!

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Monday, January 15, 2018

Fiesta Mexicana

My brother discovered Fiesta Mexicana first, when he lived on the east side of Baltimore County. He and Dad would go to the tiny family-run restaurant for lunch on a semi-regular basis, which made me wish Mr Minx and I lived closer. The two of visited the restaurant in 2012, while we were writing Food Lovers' Guide to Baltimore. We ordered the Paquet Eduques, a combo platter including two enchiladas, and one each sope, taco, quesadilla, and flauta. We would have ordered more, but in those days we were eating at multiple restaurants a day in order to write about as many as possible before we hit our rapidly approaching deadline. We especially enjoyed the authentic Mexican quesadilla, which only vaguely resembles what goes by that name here in the US.

Recently, my Dad moved to the area and we took advantage of the proximity to visit Fiesta Mexicana not once but twice in a matter of weeks. The first time, I tried the pambazo, a sandwich served in a roll that has been brushed with a savory guajillo chile sauce and seared, then stuffed with meat and garnished with lettuce, crema, and queso fresca. The normal meat filling is chorizo with potatoes, but I opted for the Milanesa, a breaded beef cutlet that they cut into pieces and pile onto the bread. The sandwich had lovely flavors and textures, from the slightly chewy seared parts of the roll to the cool cream and everything in between. I could get this every time, but there are so many other things on the menu, I'm definitely going to have to branch out.

On the next visit, I tried three of the tacos: carnitas, carne asada, and campechanos, which is a combo of chorizo with shredded beef. The fillings are generous and the corn tortillas are thick enough that they don't need to be doubled, but I was a bit disappointed. Both the carne asada and carnitas were tough and chewy, and I really couldn't tell the pork from the beef. The campechanos was the best of the three, but was also lacking in moisture.

My Dad got his favorite, the quesadillas. Made from pockets of fresh masa stuffed with your choice of meat, cheese, or veggies, these are closer to turnovers than what we normally consider a quesadilla. The texture is both crisp and tender, and they are especially good when stuffed with chorizo and potatoes, or spicy chicken. He normally doesn't like sour cream (or so he says) but he gobbled these up even with the generous drizzle of crema.

On one occasion, we ordered enchiladas to go. Normally stuffed with shredded chicken and topped with a spicy green sauce, they can also be filled with any other meat for a slightly higher price. Occasionally, molé sauce from Mexico City is available, which I am sure is a treat.

On both occasions, the restaurant was full of patrons ordering things like nachos, chilaquiles (eggs with tortilla chips soaked in chile sauce), cecina (flank steak), and tostadas, all of which looked tempting. Next time I'll try one of those, if I don't just get another pambazo.

Fiesta Mexicana
8304 Philadelphia Road
Rosedale, MD 21237
The menu can be found here.

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Friday, January 12, 2018

Flashback Friday - The Oregon Grille

flashback friday graphic
This post originally appeared on on January 22, 2013.

January means Restaurant Week(s), and this year Mr Minx and I decided to stay in Baltimore County rather than stray into the City. Our first pick this year was The Oregon Grille, a cozy, clubby, and elegant restaurant just off the Shawan Road West exit on I-83. As befitting its location in horse country, the restaurant is decorated with equine prints and jockeys' accouterments. The menu has a nice mix of both seafood and meat dishes, featuring classics like steak au poivre and crab cakes, with a few more modern dishes like crispy duck legs stuffed with pears and a sushi-inspired appetizer called "spicy rolls two ways."

Sorry for the blurry photos, but the restaurant is dark-ish and a
flash would definitely have annoyed other guests.
I tried those spicy rolls as my appetizer, and they had a nice kick to them. The fish - tuna and salmon - was swaddled snugly within a nori wrapper padded with a layer of creamy rice. To continue with the Asian theme, we also tried an order of the crab and avocado wontons from the regular menu. They were heavy on the avocado, but crisp and greaseless. And prettily presented, I might add.

Mr Minx's RW appetizer was beef barley soup. It was a generous portion, with plenty of vegetables and nuggets of beef, but it needed a bit of salt.

For our entrees, I ordered the warm lobster salad, which was simply terrific. Lightly cooked julienned root vegetables were tangled with a bit of fresh watercress to form a bed for the meat from half a lobster, and everything was napped with a buttery lemon vinaigrette. On the side were pieces of truffled toast sorely lacking the truffle and a mite over-toasted, but I had a huge crusty dinner roll handy with which to mop up the sauce.

Mr Minx had the salmon with lobster risotto, crispy shrimp, and "vanilla dust" butter. Vanilla is a tricky flavoring to use in a savory dish, but it seems to be most successful with seafood. While all of the individual elements of his dish were well-cooked, the flavor of the vanilla was a bit too pronounced for his taste. I found it interesting, but a bit disconcerting because of the lack of accompanying sweetness. Vanilla = sweet stuff.

On to the actual sweet stuff. I had the orange-spiced apple crisp. The large shallow ramekin meant that there was a goodly portion of "crisp" - my favorite part. The combination of orange and apple was very fragrant and autumnal, and I quite enjoyed the dish. Mr Minx had the carrot cake with cream cheese buttercream, which was delicious and classic, if a bit dense from the number of layers of frosting.

While we had some minor quibbles about the meal, overall we really enjoyed the food at The Oregon Grille. The Restaurant Week prices are a real steal, and we recommend trying the place if you haven't already. Additionally, service was terrific, and our waiter, Tom, took excellent care of us. He even brought a tiny carafe of olive juice in case we wanted our extra dirty martinis even more dirty. We'll be back.

(Oregon Grille's Restaurant Week is extended to 2/2/2013, so there's still time to check it out this year.)

The Oregon Grille
1201 Shawan Rd
Hunt Valley, MD 21030
(410) 771-0505

The Oregon Grille on Urbanspoon

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Monday, January 08, 2018

Best of 2017, Part Two - Home-Cookin'

Our last post was full of food porn, and this one is no different, except these foods were cooked by our own hands in our own home. Enjoy! (I know the photos seem blurry, but if you click on them to get a larger version, I promise those will be much more in focus!)

I love chicken wings, especially when they're crispy and all the fat has been rendered from the skin. That usually entails deep-frying in a restaurant, but at home it can be achieved by baking.

If I didn't know the meat from Mr Minx's Emergency Chili came from a can, I would never have believed it. It was tender and juicy and cooked up in no time at all.

Homemade spinach pie is easy and as good as the restaurant version.

Smitten Kitchen's sheet pan tandoori chicken is amazeballs. Plus easy cleanup.

I think my pizza twist on pimento cheese was pretty darn clever. And of course it tasted really good, too.

I'm still on a charred carrot kick, and think the vegetable is just lovely with sweet, spicy, and tangy flavors, as in this salad with harissa, honey, Dijon, and feta cheese.

With the bounty of tomatoes we had on hand this summer, tomato pie seemed like the ideal way to use them up.

Though this chocolate strawberry "naked" cake was posted in September, it was actually served in August as my lovely husband's birthday cake. I haven't made a layer cake in a long long time, and the last one wasn't from scratch. This one was a bit of an effort, but definitely worth it.

Another successful September offering was this kung pao cauliflower, adapted from a Bon Appetit recipe. We're big fans of the sweet and nutty flavors of kung pao chicken, and this vegetarian version was pretty fantastic.

Who knew cauliflower was so versatile? We did the Whole 30 diet thing in October and with rice being one of the verboten food items, we had to be creative. Cauliflower "rice" topped with chicken sausage and homemade tomato sauce was one of my favorite dishes of the month.

Forget turkey (blech!) - we had lasagna for Thanksgiving dinner. I want to do this every year now. Maybe I will.

That's all for 2017. Looking forward to whipping up delicious things at home in 2018!

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