Monday, July 29, 2019

R & R Taqueria

What's your favorite holiday? Mine is Taco Tuesday, which, fortunately for me, comes every week!

Seriously though, I don't really eat tacos every week, though my Instagram feed might say differently. We do eat tacos more often now than we used to, because my Dad lives near the R & R Taqueria in Perry Hall. Every other month or so we all go out for a taco blowout.

We used to go to Fiesta Mexicana. They serve amazing Mexican street food, but I have found their tacos to be lacking...in tenderness. R & R's tacos are always tender, and they come in myriad varieties. They have chicken and beef, but also buche (pig stomach), lengua (tongue), cabeza (calf head), and tripe (cow stomach). Their carnitas (pork shoulder) is fantastic, and I enjoy the chorizo, too. Dad's a fan of the super spicy cochinita pibil and chicken tinga fillings.

In addition to a plate or two of tacos, we get other stuff. The carne en pasilla (grilled steak in a spicy pasilla chile sauce) is Mr Minx's favorite. It comes with beans, rice, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and corn tortillas. We've also tried the paradilla--steak, chicken, and chorizo--and chile relleno platters.

I love their tamales, which are huge, fluffy, and filled with chicken. Also super cheap. I've tried them with both mole and salsa roja, and I think I prefer the rich, sweet, chocolatey mole.

Among other deliciousness is the torta, a Mexican style sandwich layered with avocado, refried beans, jalapenos, and melted cheese. It's huge, so made for sharing. I like my tortas with a breaded beef cutlet, which happens to be one of the things that Fiesta Mexicana does better. Still, it's a great sandwich.

Other items we've enjoyed at R & R but are not pictured: sopes; huaraches; quesadillas; flautas; and alhambres, We've yet to try anything with seafood in it, enchiladas, fajitas, or burritos. But there is always a next time.

R & R Taqueria
5005 Honeygo Center Dr
Perry Hall, MD 21128
https://www.rrtaqueria.com

also at:
7840 Washington Blvd
Elkridge, MD 21075

and 2 W Lombard St.
Baltimore, MD 21202

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Flashback Friday - Minx Answers Your Questions

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 29, 2011.

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I've noticed that search engines lead many people to this site as an answer to a specific question. The most popular query, hands down, is "Is Fabio Viviani married?" I'm not sure why so many people need to know the answer, but it is "no, not currently." (He does, however, have a girlfriend.)

Here are some other questions I can answer. If you have questions for theminx, send them to me via e-mail and I'll do my best with them.

Where can I buy Nzorbit M tapioca maltodextrin?
There are a couple of outlets on the Internet that sell Tapioca Maltodextrin. Willpowder and L'Epicerie are two good ones, and both carry other tools for "molecular gastronomy" or whatever the kids are calling it today.

Are chia seeds more beneficial crushed?
More beneficial, no, but their crunchy texture is minimized by a spin through a coffee grinder or mini-prep. Otherwise, they've a texture reminiscent of poppy seeds, which might not be desired in something like a chicken burger.

And that there is the answer to "What can I add to extra lean hamburger for moisture?"

Does honey attract flies?
You had to look that up on the Internet? Really? Really? Basically anything that emits an odor attracts flies: decomposing bodies; feces; your perfume; your toothbrush; food. Honey falls into that last category, and sweet things are especially tempting to the type of flies known as fruit flies. So the answer is, "yes."

Where can I find recipe for Rocco's chicken salad made with yogurt?
I've seen a couple variations on this query, plus someone came right out and asked the Rocco's Dinner Party Facebook page where the recipe could be found in his cookbook. Guess people weren't paying attention to the show because they were too busy being blinded by the awesomeness that is Rocco DiSpirito, but the recipe was created by Chef Ryan Poli, a competitor on the reality show. If anyone would like Poli's recipe for his Chicken Salad, Celery, Herbs, Non-fat Yogurt, Lemon Zest, it can be found here.

Is Penny [Davidi, Food Network Star] an embarrassment for Middle Easterners?
What a question! I doubt the answer can be found on Minxeats, since we're not Middle Eastern, but she seemed to make really good food every week, which should count for something, eh? However, her caustic behavior should be embarrassing to her own self, which I guess would make the answer to this question, "yes."

Who will win the Next Food Network Star 2011?
Fortunately, or unfortunately, I am not psychic. And as far as I know, no sloppy Food Network intern has yet spilled the beans to the media. You'll just have to suffer for another 3 weeks just like the rest of us.

Posted by theminx on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 22, 2019

Golabki

From time to time we get a delivery of farm fresh produce from Washington's Green Grocer. A recent box included a fat savoy cabbage. I took one look at that thing and thought "golabki." (I suppose if I were more Ukrainian, I might have thought "halupki.") I had never made golabki (the word is pronounced "go-woomp-key" and means "pigeons") before, but that wasn't going to stop me. Once upon a time I had never made, well, anything that I make now. There's always a first time.

Genetically, I am very much Eastern European. Yet I seldom, if ever, cook food from that part of the world. I think if my grandmother had been younger when I was born, and up to cooking more labor-intensive dishes like pierogi and golabki and kruschiki (oh my!), I may have learned some recipes. Or would even have had the inclination to try making these things for myself. But she mostly made soups and stews, easy things that involved throwing a bunch of ingredients in a pot and adding a handful of peppercorns. (I'm not kidding. Every mouthful of Grandma's chicken/beet/beef/sorrel soup revealed hidden spicy pepper bombs that blew out the palate for a couple of minutes.) My mother was more of a convenience foods cook, and she never made anything more complicated than Shake 'N Bake when I was growing up.

But Golabki are cabbage rolls stuffed with a combination of ground beef and rice and sauced with Campbell's Tomato soup. How hard could they be?

I looked at a couple of source recipes, including ones my cousin Dianne had sent me last year. One was her grandmother's recipe. It looked good, but those old recipes are always a bit underseasoned--aka plain--for my palate. I decided to do a riff on the classic, but with additional onions, garlic, and fresh thyme from my garden, to perk it up a bit. And tomato soup was fine, but I thought it could be better with the addition of diced tomatoes and tomato paste.

I am too fancy for my own good sometimes.

I gotta say though, my changes worked out for the best. I hadn't had stuffed cabbage in ages, so didn't have a nostalgic taste in my mind's palate, waiting to taunt me if my version didn't taste as good as my memory. My cabbage rolls were pretty damn good, if I do say so. I served them with some green beans and the leftover rice. You can serve them with whatever you want.

Aren't these pretty? Raw golabki look like fancy green brains.

Golabki

1 large savoy cabbage
2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
Salt and pepper
1.5 lb fatty ground beef
1 cup cooked rice
1 egg
1 can condensed tomato soup
Chicken stock - 2 or more cups
1 can diced tomatoes
2 tablespoons tomato paste

Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil. Cut out the core of the cabbage and gently lower the head into the boiling water. Blanch about 10 minutes. If you notice the outer leaves softening and starting to float away from the rest of the cabbage, remove them as it happens. You don't want to cook the leaves, per se, just soften them enough to fold around a filling.

Remove the cabbage from the pot and blot it dry. Remove as many whole leaves as possible. The center of the cabbage will still be crunchy, so stop when you get to that point. I got about 19 leaves out of my medium-large cabbage. Set the nicest and larges leaves aside; reserve the rest. Discard the uncooked cabbage center or use it for slaw.

While the cabbage is cooking, melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat and add the onion and garlic. Cook, stirring regularly, until softened. Add the thyme and season with salt and pepper. Let the onions get slightly browned before turning off the heat and allowing them to cool completely.

In a large bowl, place the ground beef, rice, egg, cooled onion mixture, and additional salt and pepper to taste. Blend well to combine. Refrigerate for at least an hour to allow flavors to meld.

Time to fill the leaves. If any of them have a tough bit of vein at the end where they were attached to the head, cut it out. Add a few generous tablespoons of filling to the stem end of the leaf. Fold over the top, then the sides, and roll up. You will probably only get one or maybe 1/2 turns.

Use the torn and leftover leaves to line the bottom of a large pot. Arrange the filled cabbage parcels in concentric circles in as many layers as needed. Pour over the condensed soup. Fill the soup can with chicken stock to rinse it and add that to the pot. Dump on the can of tomatoes. Mix the tomato paste with a cup of stock and add that, too. If the liquid level doesn't reach to about halfway up the topmost layer of cabbage parcels, add enough stock to do that.

Bring pot to a boil over high heat. Once boiling, cover pot and turn heat down to simmer. Cook 1 hour. Remove the cover and continue cooking for another hour. If you want a thicker sauce, turn up the heat for the last 20 minutes or so. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper, if needed.

Makes 12-15 rolls.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 19, 2019

Flashback Friday - Au Bon Pain UMMS

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on July 12, 2011.

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Thai  peanut chicken wrap
When it was announced that Au Bon Pain was taking over the space at UMMS that for many years was inhabited by a Donna's, I greeted the idea with enthusiasm. Sure I was annoyed that a nationwide chain would be replacing a branch of the home-grown roasted vegetable maven's popular coffee shop, but after 12 years, I was tired of the food's high prices and the employee's attitudes. The folks at Au Bon Pain have so far been nothing short of courteous, and dare I say it, downright pleasant - always a good thing to encounter first thing in the morning, pre-caffeination.

While this neighborhood is already rife with restaurants that offer sandwiches, I was mostly excited about Au Bon Pain's array of fresh pastries and hot soups that would now be available to area diners. However, it's summer - too hot for soups - so I have stayed with sampling sandwiches for now.

On a recent weekday not long after Au Bon Pain opened the deli side of its operation, I tried the Thai Peanut Chicken Wrap (all natural grilled chicken, field greens, tomatoes, cucumbers, carrots, fried wontons, and Thai peanut dressing). The chicken, despite being white meat, was fairly moist, and I liked the inclusion of field greens rather than romaine or iceberg. The sandwich was crunchy and fresh tasting and the plethora of vegetables made it seem actually somewhat healthy. My only complaint - and it's a big one - is that they omitted the peanut sauce. Without the sauce, the sandwich was overall on the dry side. I'll chalk that up to being so new.

On my second try, I got the Roast Beef Montana, which had roast beef, an herbed cream cheese, and oodles of spicy brown mustard on a toasted cheese baguette. While mustard on roast beef violates Minx's Rule of Meat and Condiments (mustard on pink cold cuts, mayo on gray or white ones), the beef was pink enough to nearly qualify. As with much deli roast beef, it was kinda rubbery, but it tasted fine. Could have done with half the mustard, but maybe they were trying to make up for the lack of sauce in my Thai peanut wrap. The marinated red onions, however, were a nice touch and I wish there had been a wee bit more of them.

Finally, on an afternoon during which I was a bit pressed for time, I tried a Mediterranean Wrap (field greens, roasted red pepper hummus, feta, tomatoes, Kalamata olives, cucumbers, and sun-dried tomato relish) from their Grab N Go section. The wrap was not soggy in the least and boasted a filling heavy on cucumbers and olives with a bit of zesty sun-dried tomato flavor. The hummus was barely detectable, and then only as a texture. Not bad at all, and definitely a quick way to get in and out of the busy restaurant at lunchtime.

While the selection of sandwiches isn't groundbreaking or anything, and the chicken salad isn't half as good as that served by the hospital cafeteria (made by Aramark!) I think ABP fills a need for those of us in a hurry or who want a chocolate croissant or giant pecan roll for breakfast.

Au Bon Pain
UMMS
22 S. Greene Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
(800) 825-5227

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 15, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 2

I usually plan meals in advance of a trip to NY, except if I'm meeting someone there for dinner.  I trust a resident of the city to do a better job of choosing a place than I might. But I did plan my own Monday breakfast at Pondicheri. This modern Indian restaurant not far from my hotel has several interesting options for a morning repast, including stuffed South Indian dosas, omelettes and sandwiches, coconut pancakes, and masala fried chicken. I was originally going to get the keema (a minced lamb dish) and eggs, but when I realized there would be a chance of smelling like fried lamb all day, I opted instead for the saag and egg on sourdough toast.

The toast was thickly cut and topped with a generous portion of spicy creamy spinach and a just barely set sunny side up egg. It was messy and delicious. (Move over, avo toast!) The kale and cucumber salad on the side was equally tasty, but I was picking kale out of my teeth for hours afterward....

Though I was in town to attend the Fancy Food Show, I like to take a break from walking through the many aisles of specialty foods and do a bit of non-food shopping. My primary goal was to buy some dancing shoes. Mr Minx and I recently started ballroom lessons, and I have found my various non-slip-soled shoes to be an impediment to proper spins on the dance floor.

After breakfast I strolled over to a shop on Madison Street that had a small collection and nothing for my problem feet. I then hiked over to 8th Ave to Worldtone Dance. (The blocks between 7th and 8th Avenues must be the longest blocks in the city. So. Much. Walking.) Worldtone's selection was another thing entirely. The photo below shows less than half the shoes they carry for women, and they not only had shoes with some arch support, but also ones that had cushioned insoles. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a pair that had both AND low heels, so I settled for the heels and the comfort--I can add arch supports. The staff there was quite helpful and seemed happy to bring out piles of shoes for me to try on. They were also good at answering questions and instructing me on how to fasten the curious buckles that come on dance shoes.

After a bit more shopping, I hit up Bergdorf's for some perfume-sniffing and got a lovely makeover from David at Estee Lauder, my dining companion of the previous evening. He can make even me look good.

Later on, my roommate Dara and I met her high school chum Michael for dinner. He had chosen Cafe Fiorello, a New York institution situated across the street from Lincoln Center. Dara and I shared a chilled octopus salad while Michael enjoyed items from the vegetable antipasti bar.

I wasn't supposed to eat pasta, allegedly being on Whole30, but Cafe Fiorello is a bit spendy. The only things I could afford were pasta-based, so I sprung for the carbonara. Topped with a whole poached egg and a generous quantity of guanciale lardons, it was a worthwhile splurge.

Dara was craving eclairs, and Epicerie Boulud next door had them. Since I had already blown the diet (the day before...lol), I had a yuzu tart. It was very much a lemon meringue pie, with yuzu, and a crust that was a bit difficult to puncture with a plastic fork. However, I managed to soldier on!


Pondicheri
15 W 27th St
New York, NY 10001

Worldtone Dance
580 8th Ave
New York, NY 10018

Cafe Fiorello
1900 Broadway
New York, NY 10023

Epicerie Boulud
1900 Broadway
New York, New York 10023


* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 12, 2019

Flashback Friday - Aarti's Tandoori Marinade

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on June 27, 2010.

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I noticed that a few people have found my blog by doing a Google search for Next Food Network Star contestant Aarti Sequeira's tandoori paste. So I dug around on the Food Network Web site and found it. I was going to post it here, or maybe just the link, but I thought, "why not try it for myself?"

So last weekend I found myself toasting spices in a skillet, adding them to yogurt, and making a marinade. While I had most of the whole spices on hand, I did not have fresh ginger, and I increased the amount of paprika because the dish looked a bit pale when I used the amount as written. Plus I made half as much. My edited version of her recipe follows.

I served the chicken with various sides including the okra dish we got from B'More, some raita made with radishes and cucumber, a quick stir fry of onions and mushrooms seasoned with a little cumin and the leftover tamarind dipping sauce from our B'More samosas, and naans from Trader Joe's.

Our cilantro plant had gone to seed, but I used it for garnish anyway. The fresh and soft green seeds tasted almost exactly like the dried coriander in the dish, but with a tiny bit of cilantro-ish-ness.


It was really good! The spice mix was so aromatic, three days later the house still smelled like an Indian restaurant. And the sauce was so tasty, I stored the leftovers in the fridge for future use. So far, it's made a great spread for a tuna salad sandwich on leftover naan. :)

Tandoori Chicken (inspired by Aarti's recipe)

Spice Paste
2 fresh green cayenne peppers or 1 large jalapeno
1 1/2 Tablespoons fenugreek seeds
1/2 Tablespoon coriander seeds
5 cloves
Seeds from 4 green cardamom pods
2.5 Tablespoons paprika
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
4 cloves garlic
Juice and rind of 1 lime
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 cups full-fat plain yogurt
4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
1 tablespoon canola oil

Put the chiles, fenugreek, coriander, cloves, the seeds from the cardamom pods, paprika, and cinnamon in a saute pan and heat over medium heat until fragrant and toasty, about 5 minutes. Shake or stir the pan frequently to prevent burning. Grind to a powder in a coffee or spice grinder.

Blend the garlic, ginger, and lime in a food processor until the mixture is very smooth. Add the spice powder and blend again. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Refrigerate until ready to use.

Blend the spice mix with the two cups of yogurt. Use half of the yogurt mixture as a marinade for the chicken. Marinate the chicken for at least 2 hours and up to 8.

Add the oil to a saute pan and heat over medium heat. Remove the chicken from the marinade and add to pan. Turn heat

Find Aarti's original recipe for Tandoori Chicken here.
And read Aarti's blog here.

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Monday, July 08, 2019

Dining in New York, June 2019 - Part 1

It might seem that I go to New York a lot. I do--at least 3 or 4 times a year, and mostly for the purpose of eating. My most recent trip was to the Fancy Food Show, which I attended with the lovely Dara of Dara Does It and Dining Dish.

Though we both start out in Baltimore, we don't travel together. She favors the bus, while I take Amtrak. I mean, I ride the bus twice a day, five days a week. I deserve to travel in relative comfort sometimes! Our various means of transportation get us to the city at different times and in different places. So while Dara goes straight to the Javits Center and starts walking the show, I hoof it from Penn Station to our nearby hotel and check into our room. With that accomplished, I take the subway to Javits Center.

In past years, I emerged from the 7 train to a Hudson Yards complex still under construction. This time, my path was scaffolding-free. Since I was so close, I decided to check out the mall part of the new complex and have lunch. On my way in, I chuckled at the many people waiting in line to walk around in the Vessel, a huge sculpture made of staircases in the form of a shawarma (or gyro or al pastor) rotisserie.

You see, it, right? Shawarma.
Once inside, I made use of the touch-screen map kiosks to find Fuku, a fast-food fried chicken restaurant that is part of David Chang's Momofuku empire. I wanted to try one of his chicken sandwiches for a while now, but I had concerns. Would it be too spicy? and could I order it without its usual topping of chickpea butter? The answers were "no," and "yes," in that order. While the sandwich was indeed spicy, it wasn't beyond a level I could tolerate comfortably. And the cashier didn't blink when I asked her to leave off the butter. (Chickpeas and lentils give me severe stomach cramps.) I don't know what the butter added, but I certainly didn't miss it.

After the sandwich, I went upstairs to Van Leeuwen ice cream. I sampled a couple of both the dairy and vegan flavors and ended up with a scoop of Earl Grey. The ice cream was smooth and creamy, but not overly unctuous, and was a perfect antidote to the spicy sandwich I had just consumed.

The mall was otherwise unremarkable, full of overly expensive shops catering to the one percent. Not my scene. Yes, I do go to Bergdorf Goodman just about every time I visit New York, but only for the beauty floor; seldom do I purchase anything. I'm rather obsessed with perfume, and Bergdorf's has one of the best selections of fragrance around. Also I like to visit with friends who work there.

Speaking of friends from BG, I had dinner that evening with my friend David, a makeup artist with Estee Lauder. He was going to be in the Village, so we agreed to meet at North Square at the Washington Square Hotel.

Neal and I had stayed at that hotel 15 years ago, and I had no idea there was a restaurant. Or maybe it wasn't there back then. In any case, North Square seemed to be a popular place, as it was full by 6:30.

We started our meal with blistered carrots with lemon tahini, pomegranate, and pistachios. It was a generous portion and could make a nice light entree with a salad or a side. I liked the contrast of tender carrot and the various crunchy toppings.

For my entree, I had the coriander-crusted scallops with quinoa pilaf, sauteed market greens (spinach) and coconut lemongrass sauce. While the scallops were nicely cooked, and everything was tasty, I didn't really detect either the coriander or the lemongrass. David had a burger, which he seemed to enjoy.

We passed on dessert. I had already been bad and had ice cream at lunch, not to mention more ice cream at the Fancy Food Show. And I was supposedly on the Whole30 diet. Not on this day, sister!

Fuku
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

Van Leeuwen Ice Cream
20 Hudson Yards
New York, NY 10001

North Square
Washington Square Hotel
103 Waverly Pl
New York, NY 10011

* 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!

Posted on Minxeats.com.

Friday, July 05, 2019

Flashback Friday - French Laundry Salmon

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This post originally appeared on Minxeats.com on July 30, 2008

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After reading this entry on the blog French Laundry at Home, I was determined to try it for myself. After all, I owned the cookbook, and had neglected the huge tome ever since I purchased it from a book discounter several years back. Mr Minx and I both enjoy salmon, and I thought the recipe could be fairly simple, with some modifications.

The original recipe calls for creating a rub of citrus zest, salt, and sugar in which the salmon would marinate for a period of time. That was easy enough. Then it should poach in 110º olive oil. Yeahh...olive oil is expensive. Sorry. I'm not going to waste a bottle of it to cook fish. I figured pan-sautéeing would be good enough.

The fish was supposed to marinate for 1 hour for every half inch of thickness (if memory serves). That would be less than two hours for the salmon I had on hand. Unfortunately for us (and the fish) following that time frame proved impossible as the kitchen sink decided to back up and refuse to drain at just about the time I was ready to remove the fish from its citrus spa treatment and had pots and pans stacking up to be washed. The cookbook admonishes that leaving the fish in the marinade would result in a dish that was too salty. So as Mr Minx ran out to get some drain cleaner, I, in desperation, resorted to rinsing the fish in our tiny bathroom sink. As I opened the foil wrapper, I was sad to see a puddle of liquid under the fish. Not only would it be too salty, it would also have the consistency of rubber bands because too much moisture had been drawn from the flesh.

Maybe poaching in oil would have restored some resiliency? But I was not to find out.

In addition to all of the citrus zest, the recipe also calls for marinating orange segments in a mixture of simple syrup and vinegar to create a confit (you catch that, Kit?) As I had a whole grapefruit on hand, I used that as well. It turned out fine.

Another component of the dish was pea shoot coulis. The local supermarket doesn't carry pea shoots, and they're probably not in season anyway, so I used sugar snap peas. Unfortunately I had no tamis in the house so the purée wasn't as smooth as it should have been, and I opted not to thin it out so it was more like a mash. Or mushy peas. Only not mushy.

I didn't think that pea puree was enough of a veg, so I made asparagus as well. And of course the dish had no starch element, and that's simply not allowed in Casa Minx! So I fried up some sliced yellow potatoes, simply seasoned with salt and pepper.

Plated, it looked pretty enough. But the citrus flavor was barely noticed beyond the salt. And the texture of the fish was terrible. The confit was mild, as were the peas. The potatoes, however, were quite good. If not for the chopped chive garnish and the asparagus, this would have been a fairly flavorless meal.

One I'm not likely to try again.

Posted on Minxeats.com.