November 30, 2008
Mad Men and drinking red wine
Sometimes when I go to publish comments there are so many I use a function the blogware has that lets me hit one button and publish them all at once. I always mean to go back and comment on those comments that need it or answer questions. One I'm just getting around to now is this one from Laura Lee:
Did you finish watching Mad Men? Was it as swell as I said it was? What was your favorite scene?
I've been meaning to write more about Mad Men anyway because I'm intrigued by all the wine drinking, especially the red wine drinking that the writers think was going on in 1960. ...
I believe it's an anachronism, but I can't be sure. Certainly my parents, who were well-traveled, and their friends sometimes served wine with dinner (never during cocktail hour) when they entertained; but day in and day out, the drinks of choice were sherry or beer if it was before 5 p.m. and bourbon or mixed drinks after.
Wine was never served with an ordinary meal, and no suburban wife would have been sipping red wine alone. She would have been having sherry or gin. A few years later it might have been a small glass of chablis, but never red wine before the '90s.
Of course, Manhattan would have been more cosmopolitan, so it might have been different; but I bet not.
I haven't spent much time Googling to see what the truth was, although I did come upon this site which seems to support what I think was true. If you think otherwise, please let us know why.
I hope I don't sound too nit-picky, because I truly enjoy Mad Men. It's my new obsession. In fact, I liked the first season so much I couldn't wait until the second season comes out on DVD, so I watched the second season premiere online.
I did something very stupid. I started to TiVo the second season of Mad Men when it started, but I couldn't get hold of the first season from Netflix for a long time because it was so popular. I wasn't even sure I would want to watch the second season, so I stopped the auto-recording and killed out the episodes I had to make room.
Now I'm regretting that deeply.
My favorite scene, Laura Lee, is actually two, in the first season finale. The first is when Draper comes home to go with his family to Thanksgiving dinner at the in-laws. It didn't hurt that Bob Dylan's "Don't Think Twice" was playing in the background. But even better was the scene in the therapist's office, where Betty Draper is dressed in gunmetal gray, lies down on the gray couch and delivers a beautifully written (and delivered) monologue.
But back to anachronisms. They always fascinate me because they show what this generation takes for granted. For instance, I was watching Life on Mars the other night. In 1973 you didn't get the plastic thingie in your nose automatically in case you needed oxygen when you were in the hospital, did you? The only time I was hospitalized was for my daughter's birth much later, and they didn't do it then at Sinai.
(Photo courtesy of AMC)
You don't want to miss this
"This" is Kevin Cowherd's story on Spam in today's paper. The news hook is that in this troubled economy, sales of Spam, the canned meat product (funny how it seems wrong to call it just "canned meat"), are rising.
I must have tasted Spam sometime in my life, but I can't imagine when.
One thing that struck me was Kevin's description of the "gel" that put so many people off. Apparently that's been eliminated. It amused me because some very fine French pates (technically terrines) are decorated with aspic. Maybe the original manufacturers were trying to upscale their meat product.
It can't help sales that its name has been given to the most dreaded fact of our 21st century lives. And yet Spam has endured, and is now even flourishing.
Life is strange.
November 29, 2008
Is topic drift bad?
While I'm calling attention to comments, I wanted to mention one that just posted from someone I don't think we've heard from before:
I like the blog topics and all but when I get about 5 comments in and everyones little chats and injokes and topic drift comes out, my eyes glaze over and I realize its not worth it for me trying to figure it out -- which I guess is fine for you all already in the blog, but I would imagine detracts from new posters.
I like this comment because it's just so darned tactful. In the past we've gotten a couple of comments about topic drift. They sounded so angry -- is it really worth getting angry over? -- and so like personal attacks on the drifters (I imagine the posters didn't think about how they would sound) that they were scorned and ignored by other commenters. That's too bad, because it's certainly a point of view worth discussing. Here are a few things to consider: ...
* There are very few rules on this blog, and the ones there are are almost all of my own making. Topic drift isn't something that bothers me in the least because a) I think we'd get bored just discussing food, and b) food is connected to so many things in so many ways it would be difficult to disentangle them.
* I don't understand why topic drift is such a problem for some folks, and I would like to hear their point of view. Here's mine: We don't have space limitations. I mean, of course the space isn't infinite, but it isn't like the print edition. So I like to think you can skip the comments or commenters that bore you and move on to the next one without much trouble. What's the downside of doing that?
* I get as bored by the stupid or really obscure stuff as the next person, but I just ignore it and hope it goes away. I hope other readers will do the same for me when I'm being stupid or obscure.
* I'm sorry if some new people feel that because there are in-jokes they can't join in. All of us were new here once, some of us more recently than you might think. (See Eve and Bucky.) Polite and/or funny newcomers seem to get welcomed in pretty regularly by other posters, it seems to me. Pretty soon they're contributing to the in-joke, or just asking what it means and someone else explains it.
The Comment(s) of the Week
I just went back and reread the past week's comments. Ah, vacation. I was thinking I'd find some deep and insightful comment that I could pull out and post as a separate entry so we could have a deep and insightful discussion.
That didn't happen.
So instead, I'll just post a couple that amused me. They appeared under the entry on where the host or hostess seats you. EL
The smartest thing I did this Thanksgiving was to buy a 10-pound turkey for six people. We had enough leftovers for one round of sandwiches and one dinner exactly like Thanksgiving dinner except the plates were heated in the microwave.
I don't have to make turkey curry or turkey meatloaf or turkey on the half shell. I can have seafood tonight without feeling guilty. I don't have to eat turkey that isn't in any way bad, but just doesn't taste quite right by the third day. ...
Unfortunately for me, I'm not a big leftovers person. I don't particularly enjoy them, but they are absolutely necessary given my life right now. I can't afford to cook something for my husband and myself and not double it for the next night. But I like variety, so I'd rather not eat the same meal two nights in a row.
At least I'm not as bad as my stepmother, who couldn't bear eating the same thing for breakfast, and I don't mean just two days in a row. So I would come down and she would be eating kippers or kidneys or something I just couldn't believe any human being could handle first thing in the morning.
Below is the caption for the photo, which is absurd. Surely there must be something more interesting to say about turkey sandwiches. For instance, if memory serves me correctly, my Brother Bim always has day-after-Thanksgiving turkey sandwiches made with bacon and radish slices. But when I actually write that down, it seems unlikely. Maybe he'll weigh in.
Here's that caption info:
Americans' top choice for leftover Thanksgiving turkey is to use it in sandwiches, so be sure to be prepared and have sliced bread on hand. The sandwich pictured is from a recipe for leftover turkey created by celebrity cookbook author Ted Allen. (PRNewsFoto) [Photo via NewsCom]
November 28, 2008
In case you missed the review
In case you missed Richard Gorelick's review of Sapore di Mare in yesterday's weekend section, here it is.
We aren't always as understanding about service on this blog as we could be (I'm not anyway) so I like to point out when a server gets a deservedly excellent rating from Richard or me.
(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)
The Christmas cookie haiku contest
Robert (the Single One) has suggested a Christmas cookie haiku contest, which I think we should have in honor of Wednesday's Christmas cookie edition of the food section. Please remember the format for haiku: five syllables in the first line, seven in the second, five in the third. A successful haiku creates an image in the reader's mind. Here's a good example from commenter Laura Lee:
Fine Christmas cookies
Require bourbon-soaked currants
Cosmo Girl gave us this excellent one:
Oatmeal, chocolate chip
Sugar, Stollen, gingerbread
Oh, Christmas cookies!
Now it's your turn.
The occasional restaurant
A colleague sent me an e-mail with a link to Jack: An Occasional Restaurant with the message: "Check this out. New biz model?
It's an intriguing thought. Jack is a restaurant that's only occasionally in existence. When it is, there's a fixed price menu. The restaurant is BYOB.
I love the randomness of it. ...
The cooking and service are handled Danielle Sucher and Dave Turner, the chefs behind the food blog Habeas Brûlée. And, no, I'm not thinking of opening my own occasional restaurant.
The only problem is that Jack is located in Brooklyn, NY. Still, maybe someone local will decide to do something like it in this area.
Here's the menu for Dec. 6, the next time Jack is open.
Butternut Squash Soup
pumpkin seed cream, ginger ale froth, pickled garlic seeds
oat, pomegranate, capers
Clementine Saffron Rice
quail leg confit, pan-seared quail breast, sorrel, mushroom clouds
Bread and Pickles
a homemade selection
kumquat, chestnut stracci
Sour Cherry Molten Chocolate Cake
mesquite whipped cream, almond brittle, sour cream bourbon ice cream
(Photo of dinner at Jack courtesy of Virginia Fioribello)
'Tis the season: The holiday pot luck
There ought to be a law against making someone post a photo this ugly this early in the morning the day after Thanksgiving.
Ah, yes, the holiday pot luck. Certainly one of my favorite events of the year. And Bucky tells us exactly why.
Mr. McIntyre, Bucky made me put that headline on his guest post. EL
'Tis the Season
Thanksgiving is over. Time to start planning your office Holiday Pot Luck. And, unlike other office pot lucks held throughout the year, at THIS one, you also get to bring a gift.
I’ve worked for six different employers in my adult life and, at all of them, we had office pot lucks. What I’ve found is that all office pot lucks are pretty much the same:
One person—the “pot-luck coordinator”—goes to a lot of trouble to circulate a sign-up sheet for people to record what they are going to bring, assigning different groups of employees different categories, like “main dish” or “salad” or “dessert.” About 80 percent of the people who will ultimately attend the pot luck dutifully sign up to bring something in their assigned category. About half of THOSE people will then bring dessert, no matter what their assigned category was.
Managers will ignore the sign-up sheet and the pot-luck coordinator will assign them to bring things like “plates” or “plastic ware” or “napkins.”
Roughly 60 percent of managers will bring desserts instead.
A couple of managers—the ones who aspire to be vice-president some day—will bring the assigned plates or plastic ware or napkins, because they are young, eager and under the mistaken impression that you rise to the top of a business enterprise by being a team player.
Ha Ha Ha. You don’t, of course.
You rise to the highest levels of American business by making and following your own rules, not by following the ones established by the pot-luck coordinator. Do you think that when the Berkshire Hathaway pot-luck coordinator assigns Warren Buffett to bring plastic ware to the pot luck, that’s what he does? Hell, no. Warren might go out and buy a plastics company. But then he brings dessert to the pot luck.
On the day of the pot luck, everyone will bring their dishes to work with them and, because hardly anybody ever has a breakfast pot luck, all the food needs to be kept either hot or cold until noontime. (I say “hardly ever” because I know of one office breakfast pot luck and my friend Jerry brought the best pot-luck dish I’ve ever heard of. He brought cold pizza, ordered the night before, to the breakfast pot luck. THAT was a stroke of genius.)
But, back to the warm/cold thing. No office I’ve ever worked in has been equipped with enough refrigerators or enough unused electrical outlets to keep an entire pot-luck spread at the proper temperature for an entire morning. So by the time the pot luck starts, most of the food is at room temperature, which is OK for all the people who went to the grocery store before work and bought dessert in the bakery. But for people who actually made their pot-luck dishes, room temperature is never the right temperature. So, pot-luck food usually sucks.
Pot-luck main dishes might suck anyway, regardless of temperature, because nearly all pot-luck dishes are...how do I describe this?...they are “cheese and something.” Nobody ever brings a nice standing rib roast, medium-rare, to an office pot luck. They bring “cheese and something” dishes which, even at the right temperature, are barely tolerable.
Mmmm, I say.
If it’s a Holiday Pot Luck, you also get to bring a gift. The gifts for Holiday Pot Lucks fall into one of two theme categories: Secret Santa or White Elephant.
If it’s a Secret Santa theme, you draw a name a couple of weeks beforehand and then you go buy a thoughtful, personal gift for the co-worker whose name you drew. This is almost always a thoughtful, personal coffee mug, candle or tree ornament.
If it is a White Elephant theme, you bring a gift that you just have laying around the house. Like a coffee mug, candle or tree ornament.
Well, except for that one employee who, of course, wraps up a dessert they bought in the grocery store bakery before work, using a big sheet of paper—the 1-inch by 14-inch size—from the bottom tray in the copy machine.
Yes, Virginia…this jolly old elf from Colorado says, “‘Tis time to ring in another Holiday Pot-Luck Season. God bless us, everyone.”
(Photo courtesy of Uncle Larry's Photo Gallery)
November 27, 2008
Fewer words, more pie
Owl Meat has come up with a delicious ending to our festivities today. His original title sounded much better: "Less Words, More Pie," but I knew I would never get it past McIntyre. EL
When you die, if you get a choice between going to regular heaven or pie heaven, choose pie heaven. It might be a trick, but if it's not, mmmmmmmm, boy.
-- Jack Handy
If you want to make an apple pie from scratch, you must first create the universe.
-- Carl Sagan
Things I'm thankful for...and not
My mother always said that the hardest part of cooking was bringing a meal to a head.
I used to pride myself on doing so much in advance and being so organized that I could sit and have a glass of wine with my guests, then rise, spend ten minutes in the kitchen and then put a fabulous meal on the table no more than an hour after everyone arrived so no one would end up drinking too much before dinner.
I can see today isn't going to work out that way exactly. ...
First of all, my husband and daughter, sensing trouble, have disappeared, ostensibly to pick up Grandma in Washington and bring her back. That takes two people? I heard something about a stop at Starbucks on the way.
My brother is a super sous chef, and is downstairs right now washing the incredible amount of dishes I've already dirtied this morning, but I just have a feeling this is not going to be a meal that's going to come to a head.
Regret No. 1: Going to the gym early this morning instead of making the turkey stock, and then forgetting to make it when I got home, so that when the time came to add the turkey stock to moisten the stuffing, no turkey stock. It will be ready in time for the giblet gravy.
Regret No. 2: Not buying unseasoned bread cubes this year for the first time ever for the stuffing instead of making my own. Could anyone tell the difference?
Regret No. 3: Not checking to see if I had paprika for the stuffing before this morning.
Regret No. 4: Coming upon the paprika after the turkey was stuffed.
Regret No. 5: Not looking on the Internet to see how long a turkey takes when you're using a convection oven, or even if that's a good idea, before I put the turkey in. I'd better not look now, because what if I find out it's not a good idea?
Regret No. 6: Letting the others talk me out of making scalloped oysters, even though I'm probably the only one who would eat them.
Regret No. 7: Letting Gailor see the raw turkey, even though she immediately started chanting, "It's a tofurkey, it's a tofurkey" to convince herself it was never alive before she has to eat it.
What I Did Right No. 1: I controlled my impulse to make too much food for the first Thanksgiving ever. We will be six. I bought a 10-pound, not a 16-pound turkey. I did buy two bags of cranberries, but I only cooked one for the first time ever. I didn't double the recipe for braised onions or the carrot souffle. I made one pie, pumpkin chiffon, and skipped the chocolate pecan. And I bet you we will still have lots of leftovers.
What I Did Right No. 2: I did not make rice (a Southern tradition in place of mashed potatoes). Nor did I make mashed potatoes.
What I Did Right No. 3: I bought coleslaw (another Southern tradition) instead of making my own.
What I Did Right No. 4: We are having a four-veggie dinner, so there will be at least a pretense of healthfulness: carrot souffle, braised onions, le sueur peas (for color) and coleslaw.
What I Did Right No. 5: I managed to corner my husband before he escaped and got him to beat the egg whites for the pumpkin chiffon pie in a copper bowl with a balloon whip instead of using a mixer. (I can't do it anymore because it's too hard on my shoulder.) The egg whites took on enormous volume and the chiffon pumpkin pie is a work of art.
What I Did Right No. 6: I haven't started drinking yet so the meal may actually get on the table after all. My menu is virtually the same as the Virtual Thanksgiving Menu I posted last year, with the exceptions I've noted.
Owl Meat has sent me a lovely Funtastic Thursday for dessert, but it's going to take me some time to post it -- something I don't have right now, so check back later.
One of the things I'm thankful for is all of you making work fun again for me with this blog. Many thanks, and have an excellent Thanksgiving.
(Photo of somebody else's turkey by Myung J. Chun/Los Angeles Times photographer)
November 26, 2008
Another restaurant goes under
I checked my work e-mail and found this:
I went by Fazzini's [Italian Kitchen] in Cockeysville last night and they were closed. The sign said that they were forced to close and that they were sorry to their customers. Do you know what is going on with them?
I don't. If it were a downtown restaurant someone reading might be able to tell us more, but I usually don't get any more information when the place is in the county. Still, if you know anything...
When I went to the Web site, it confirmed that the restaurant is closed.
Today's Table Talk
I don't always remember, but I like to link to my Table Talk restaurant news column on Wednesday, which appears in the food section.
I've always wanted this blog to have a little something for everyone who's interested in food and restaurants. A big part of that, of course, is restaurant news; but on the other hand, I don't like to scoop the print edition so I tend to mention newsy things in passing.
Still, for those of you who feel we should all be staying on topic more, this is hardly fair. So a link to Table Talk would probably be welcome to the hard news folks. It isn't always easy to find online.
Next week there won't be a column (because I'm on vacation this week -- the section prints early -- and because of the cookie theme), so I'll try to keep you more up to date than usual on Dining@Large.
Cleaning out the corners of the metaphysical closet
Multimedia Editor Emeritus and Cleaner of Metaphysical Closets John Lindner is at it again. Another Shallow Thought Wednesday where I want to grab him by his lapels (if he weren't wearing his Grateful Dead T-shirt) and ask him, "How could you have left off tiramisu?" EL
"Again from the metaphysical closet, favorite food words in no particular order:
* Coq au vin
Happy Thanksgiving, Sandboxers"
Where the host or hostess seats you
It's a subject we've touched on before, but I think it deserves its own entry.
Here's his e-mail:
Should hostess be savvy about seat selection. The one thing I hate about going to restaurants is when the hostess seats you at a table in a crowd of noisy patrons and passed a section where is nobody sitting. Then when I ask can I sit in the section we just passed, she says ok and sits us there. How many time have you been seated by the bathroom or kitchen door when the table with the view by the window is empty?
Out of curiosity I did some Googling and came up with advice on how to be a great host or hostess. It all sounds good, but it doesn't really speak to the seating arrangements from the customers' point of view.
I can understand not wanting to give one server too many tables just because those tables are more desirable, and I appreciate it when the host/hostess says, "I can give you that table but you probably won't get as good service as if I give you one where the waiter isn't so busy." Then at least I feel as if I get the choice. ...
But sometimes there doesn't seem any reason that I'm being seated at a less desirable table. If I were more paranoid, I would think that's because I don't look like I'll make a fuss, so they might as well save the tables away from the bathroom door and closer to the window for someone who would.
Hahahaha. Little do they know.
On the other hand, I try to remember my grass-is-always-greener tendency and remind myself to ignore it. I rarely get led to a table, even a very good one, that I don't look around just to see if there's a better table before the host or hostess lays the menus on the table.
(Photo of Darlene Kennedy, who as far as I know was an exemplary hostess at Maggie Moore's, by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)
What to do about the snarkers
Eve made some very good points about the snarkers who have visited recently in a comment you may have missed:
As regulars know, I find the censorship issue very thorny, and I'd like us to discuss it further here. For instance, once a long time ago I raised Rule No. 4 when one regular attacked someone else's grammar, and another regular told me basically to back off. My impression then was you as a group preferred some latitude.
Two issues seemed to have been at the heart of the recent negativity (not counting the weird dog park thing), and I'd like you to at least consider this from the posters' point of view:
First, as Hal first noted, csmertycha is general manager of Jack's Bistro. Now she could have been more eloquent in her defense of the place, but I believe she was genuinely outraged at what she perceived as negativity toward her place of work. In this economy it probably was even more upsetting. It's not like making Rachael Ray the butt of our jokes. These are local people who probably read this blog regularly.
Second, Jill Snyder is a local chef with plenty of friends who probably read this blog, or at least Google her name to see what the media are saying about her. We outraged them, too, I'm sure.
I'm really, really not happy that Lissa has taken the brunt of the negative comments and from now on she's off limits. She doesn't deserve them, but as a group we should keep in mind that we're probably going to get as good as we give. And the people we offend have a right to speak up. I don't think these are middle-school kids.
I'm not so worried about these people. If they don't go away quickly, as they always have once they've had their say, I'll disappear them.
What I'm more worried about is when one of you regulars makes a comment that I know could hurt some other regular's feelings, but is more thoughtless than anything else or that would be acceptable if the other person could see that you were joking. I'm reminding you again that much as I hate smiley faces, they are useful, even necessary.
Also, as extravagantly as we love Owl Meat and Bucky, shouldn't people who have a bird phobia or are xenophobes be allowed to have their say at least once? Shouldn't Janelle Parker be allowed to compliment me by suggesting I might be the Owl Man to boost ratings?
November 25, 2008
The crab cake wars
I sent my brother the tourist downtown today to entertain himself while I got some stuff done for Thanksgiving. (OK, I actually went to the 2 p.m. show of Twilight at the Senator. Big mistake.)
He walked around the Inner Harbor, he went to the Aquarium, and he ended up at Phillips for lunch.
I asked what he had, and he said he had wanted a crab cake, but they were $28.99 for lunch, so he had the crab salad instead. It was $13.99.
Puzzled by the price difference, he asked the waiter if it was the fake crab -- that was OK, he told the waiter, he just wanted to know. But the waiter told him it was real crab, but it was lump. The crab cakes, on the other hand, were jumbo lump. Thus the difference in price. ...
This was totally amazing to my brother.
"Wouldn't it make more sense to use the jumbo lump for the salad?" he asked me.
It just shows how crazy the crab cake wars have gotten around here. Once crab cakes made with regular lump would have been more than acceptable. Now you'll lose your status as Best Crab Cakes in Baltimore if you make them with anything less than jumbo.
(Photo courtesy of Phillips Web site)
The holiday blues
I thought Joyce W. raised a very good question earlier, mainly because it was the same question I was asking myself:
Where are all these Snarkers coming from? If Lissa said almost 2 wks ago that she didn't like the way the woman is dressed and if the woman's not even on the show anymore, why is Lissa now being attacked? WTF?
I asked my husband the therapist if he thought it was the stress of the holidays that had people so grumpy recently, but he just said, "What do you think?"
There are plenty of Christmas family traditions, but I don't know of many Thanksgiving ones that don't take place around the actual meal.
My favorite tradition is one I heard from a local tennis pro. He has a huge family, and the night before Thanksgiving they all gather together, young and old, to make pies.
I asked him what kind and he said every kind -- apple, pecan, key lime, cherry and, of course, pumpkin. They end up with around 30 pies. ...
It's because, he told me, there are so many in-laws involved in this big a family they can't all be together for the Thanksgiving meal. So on Thursday they'll be at different homes, but they'll all be the ones who bring the pies. I love that.
The only Thanksgiving tradition I have is that if I'm cooking, I get to drink one glass of champagne late morning while I'm in the kitchen stuffing the turkey and making the chiffon pumpkin pie. I'm not much of a drinker, so that's my limit or the meal will never get itself on the table without some disaster, minor or major.
(AP Photo/Larry Crowe)
My Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts
I just learned that a week from this Wednesday, when this Top 10 would normally appear in the print edition of the food section, there won't be any room. It's going to be the all-cookie issue. This seems serendipitous because I'm on vacation and don't want to work too hard anyway.
I certainly don't want to waste the Top 10 Places to Get Sour Beef, which I know the print edition readers would love.
So quick change of plans. Instead I'm going to tell you my Top 10 Favorite Blog Posts (mine) of last year. I have to say I had a lot of fun going through the archives and reading past posts, especially around the holidays. I probably ended up spending more time on this Top 10 than I do on a regular one.
Here we go: ...
November 24, 2008
Snow cones are the new black
I just discovered this quotation on Gailor's Facebook page: "Snow cones are the new black."
I haven't asked her what it means or where it's from. For some reason it just amuses me, and I'm afraid any explanation will spoil it. I did Google it, but got nothing.
Snow cones are the new black.
The $5 glass of wine
Recently I've noticed restaurants that could be real wine snobs are offering $5 and $6 glasses of wine. I feel like this is a new phenomenon, brought on by the economy, but I could be wrong.
Juniors has a glass of Red Diamond Merlot, La Vielle Ferme Rhone, and Cielo Pinot Grigio for $5, with almost everything else $6 or $7.
Corks has nothing for $5 but several at $6, including a Lockwood California Sauvignon Blanc and a Rabbit Ridge Allure Paso Robles.
In contrast, the restaurant we ate at last night, where the focus is more on mixed drinks than wine, had less interesting wines by the glass for more money.
(Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune/MCT)
Where we ended up for dinner
Gailor also took this photo of her roommate cooking dinner dressed as a bumblebee (her Halloween costume), which she kept saying she was going to send me. Better late than never, I guess.
(Photos by Gailor Large)
Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Mari Luna
Yesterday my review of the new Mari Luna Latin Grille appeared in the Sunday paper, and I did something I've never done in all my years of reviewing. I went to a restaurant I had given a positive review to the same day it appeared in the paper.
I had an excuse. ...
I told my brother about it, and he just really wanted to go. He lives in Silverlake, a neighborhood where there is easy access to some wonderful Latino restaurants, and I was curious what he would think.
We had to be in Pikesville anyway for another event, so I didn't try too hard to dissuade him. I just made sure I had the addresses of a couple of alternatives in the area. He said let's make sure we got there early and we'd be fine.
Unfortunately early in LA is 6:30 p.m., and when we got there it was an hour's wait. By the way, Mari Luna's doesn't take reservations on the weekend: Friday, Saturday or Sunday. That last turns out to be a weekend night. Who knew?
We would have gone down to Mari Luna Mexican Grill, south on Reisterstown Road, but the owner had transferred the liquor license to the new place. Apparently in the county you can do that if the two places are within a certain distance of each other, something you can't do in the city. I wanted my brother to be able to have a beer, and I doubted if the liquor store nearby would be open.
So where did we end up? The answer's not very exciting, but Gailor took a nice photo of it, so I'll wait to tell you until she wakes up and uploads it for me.
(Monica Loppossay/Sun photographer)
November 23, 2008
Next Sunday's review
It might have been our discussion of places in Mount Vernon that are alternatives to the Helmand. Or it could have been the information I got about the restaurant's truffle dinner. But I was inspired to go to Feast@4East in the 4 East Madison Inn for next Sunday's review.
This is an interesting place. It opened last June for dinner. (It had been serving lunch in the courtyard before then.) And it's only open for dinner three nights a week.
If you're looking for a relatively inexpensive dinner out (not cheap, relatively inexpensive) or if you're a vegan, Feast is a good place to know about. Look for my review in next week's Arts & Entertainment section.
(Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)
Comment of the Week
November 22, 2008
The waiting dinner
Faithful readers will remember when I reviewed Luminous in the Westin BWI that the fortune cookies were advertisements for the restaurant. I had taken a couple home. Today when I got home after running some errands, my husband said, "I ate a fortune cookie today, and it said something about having dinner at Luminous."
So that's where we ended up waiting for my brother's flight once we picked up my daughter. I thought it was a good choice because when we ate there before it took forever, and we had three hours to kill. Of course, the service was superb this time round, just when we didn't want it to be. Unfortunately the menu has been drastically pared down, so it's more expensive and there's less choice.
Strangely, we find ourself in the middle of an Indian wedding. Gailor and I are in our jeans, everyone else is in beautiful saris. Now we're waiting in the lobby. I'm typing this; my husband and daughter have wandered off to see if they can snag some gulab jamun.
(Photos by Gailor)
More musings over the pre-holiday shopping cart
Well, wasn't I the clever one, going shopping at the Giant the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There weren't any other shoppers there, oh no.
However, the fact that the Giant now carries naan stopped me in my tracks. I mean, there are 800 things the store doesn't have that I would have expected before Indian flatbread. (My Giant isn't as cutting-edge as some.)
I wish someone else would tell me if it's any good. I might have to rethink my pre-Thanksgiving meal plans and make a curry. ...
It reminds me of KristinB's suggestion:
Top Ten Places to Eat Before or After Thanksgiving. This isn't for the Thanksgiving meal, but for counter-programming, so to speak. A friend and I have theatre tickets that week, and we're debating, is Thai a good meal to have - nice and spicy - the night before Thanksgiving richness?
Definitely worth discussion.
I was shopping for my two guests, my brother from LA and Gailor, who are both getting in tonight, and so I was buying foods I knew they would like. Other shoppers looked like me, wandering around sort of lost either because they were buying foods they didn't buy every week because of the holiday or shopping for guests who had unfamiliar tastes. I must have looked particularly pitiful, because one woman who was filling shelves actually stopped and asked if she could help me.
At one point I was standing in front of the yogurts when I realized I was buying four different brands for four different people. The guy who was putting yogurts in the refrigerated case told me this Giant carried 270 different kinds/flavors. Even I, who likes choice, think that's too many.
Today is the first day of the rest of my life, and I'm going to eat bagels
Yes, I'm on vacation. And at home. (Naturally I won't abandon you.) Usually at this point I've already gotten six chores done, including putting in a load of laundry, because Saturday and Sunday are the only two days that are busier than my weekdays. But today I think I'll go get bagels for breakfast.
Today, nothing has to happen. OK, I have to get to the Waverly farmers market before 7 a.m. because the Saturday before Thanksgiving is its busiest day of the year. But if I want to after that, I can sit and watch the rest of Mad Men Season 1. In the morning.
Vacations always start with such promise and stretch out endlessly before you, don't they? And then blink, they're over.
I'm worried you may have missed rpb's link to the turbacoducken, so I'm going to give it to you here. I didn't spend as much time on the original entry as I did on the comments, which are short, funny and come at you fast. They had me laughing out loud last night.
I'm thinking I won't have bacon for breakfast today.
November 21, 2008
Dealing with a nasty post
I had hoped that csmertycha's post would simply be ignored by everyone, which I think is usually the best way to handle such things. Then it would have sunk into obscurity, quickly getting pushed off the Most Recent Comments list.
However, that didn't happen. And, OK, I have to admit Owl's response was pretty funny. Perhaps even brilliant. Unfortunately it kept getting responses so the post is rapidly becoming the post that wouldn't die.
There are two reasons I'm giving the whole subject its own entry. ...
I (heart) liver
Bucky has brought up an interesting topic today: Foods you don't eat because they offend one of your senses (other than taste).
For me, it can't offend my sense of smell, which is fairly acute. Or maybe things smell good to me that don't smell good to others (some cheeses, for instance) because they taste good. I'm not sure which came first.
Anyway, here's Bucky. EL
I (heart) liver
Nah, I don’t really. I just thought it would make an interesting topic headline. Even better would have been, "Eye (heart) liver" and even better than THAT would have been"Eye (heart) Sarah Palin’s Liver."
Have you ever wondered about the thought process that the very first person to eat something went through when deciding to eat whatever it was that they were looking at?
Take eggs, for instance. I cannot imagine what led a person to pick up an egg, crack it open and decide, "Embryo of bird…mmmm." On the l-o-n-g list of things that I don’t eat, eggs occupy the top slot. Liver is probably next, tied with any other food that can colloquially be described as "guts."
For me to like a food, it has to be appealing to each and every one of my senses. There’s no "majority rules." Any one of my senses can veto a potential food selection. The food has to not only taste good, but it has to look and smell good, and it has to have a consistency that is not offensive to my sense of touch. "Slimy" is offensive to my sense of touch.
This includes the sense of sound. I don’t like slurping noises, so if the food has to be eaten in any way that produces a slurping sound…off my menu it goes.
These neuroses not only affect what I eat. As much as I would like to walk over the Swilken Bridge on the Old Course at St. Andrews, I can’t bring myself to visit a country where I run the risk of haggis.
(Photo courtesy of freefoto.com)
Food for a football fan...an Eagles fan
Even though Mark Krajnak is the enemy (he doesn't know about my relationship with Ray Lewis), he needs our help. Football and food are his two passions, and whenever the Philadelphia Eagles play he likes to make the food of their opponent. He's also a food photographer, so then he photographs the meal. Here's the link to his photo project.
Surprise! He's making crab cakes this Sunday and wrote to me asking what sides would be appropriate. He also wants me to suggest a Maryland-based beer.
I could just e-mail him back and say cole slaw and fries, but maybe we could be more inventive than that. Or maybe we could suggest something else besides crab cakes.
As for the beer, I leave that up to you to answer. Or I could just direct him to Rob Kasper's beer blog.
(Photo courtesy of Mark Krajnak)
Great places for sour beef and dumplings
November 20, 2008
In case you missed these reviews...
I just want to direct you to a few things in today's features section in case you don't read the print edition. First of all, Thursday Reviewer Richard ate at Eden's Lounge in Mount Vernon and liked it. Here's his review.
Finally, I thought I had found a story about passionate foodies I should link to, given the headline; but after reading it I realized maybe not.
(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)
Looking for a safe place to eat
Q and A with Jill Snyder, ex-Red Maple chef
"The good news for Baltimore chef Jill Snyder was that she had much more screen time on Episode 2 of this season’s Top Chef. The bad news is that she was eliminated. Snyder's next step is uncertain -- she has left Red Maple -- but she does intend to stay in the food business, just maybe not as a chef.
The judges found fault with not only her ostrich-egg quiche (looked like "dog food," tasted like "glue") but her half-hearted defense at the judges’ table, too.
An earlier Quickfire Challenge involving hot dogs didn’t go so well for her either, when she appeared to take an easy way out with the assignment by not "making" her own hot dog. ...
Q: Jill, you’ve had time to adjust to this, but how did your friends and family take it?
A: Well, they’re on my side! So they were like, What’s going on! But what happened, happened.
Q: What were your expectations going in? Did you want to win the whole thing?
A: Maybe not, but I did think I would do a little better. I was trying to take it episode by episode. I was really surprised that they hated my dish so much. I was caught off guard because the feedback at the restaurant during the challenge was good. When the servers were bringing plates back from the dining room, every one of mine was empty. Which means that people enjoyed them.
Q: That wasn’t the case with everyone’s plates?
A: Definitely not.
Q: Watching the show was the first time you heard judge Gail Simmons call your judges’ table performance the "lamest defense of a dish" ever on the show. Do you think that had something to do with your early dismissal, even before a contestant whose food was spit out of a judge’s mouth?
A: Yes, definitely, I think that’s true. The pressure of the cameras really bothered me. Also, I tend to be quiet. For TV, you need someone more outgoing than I am. But I still was surprised. I thought using an ostrich egg was a creative choice, and there were good things about my dish that they never mentioned. It took a lot more skill [than competitor Ariane’s dish].
Q: In the Quickfire Challenge, you were criticized for not making your own hot dog, but I thought the way you interpreted it made sense to me. I don’t think hot dog vendors make their own hot dogs.
A: The challenge was just to make a "gourmet hot dog," which I interpreted as something else than making your own sausage.
Q: What’s next for you?
A: I’m going to buy an ostrich farm."
I was going to do a post on popcorn this week. I just hadn't gotten around to it.
Sunday night I popped my own popcorn for the first time in, I don't know, years. My recipe is simple: You take a big skillet with a tight-fitting lid, cover the bottom with one layer of popcorn (I used organic for the first time) and shake it constantly over medium high heat until it's so popped it almost pushes the lid up.
In spite of what the Owl Man says below, this works better than using oil because then the popcorn absorbs the enormous amounts of real butter I pour on it better. I had a fleeting moment of considering melting the butter in the microwave, thought better of it, and heated a large bowl in the microwave instead. Then I put the popcorn in it, melted the butter in the skillet (I'm embarrassed to tell you how much), poured it over the still-hot popcorn and tossed it with salad implements. Then I ground salt and black pepper over it and tossed it again.
Anyway, Owl Meat scooped me, so I won't be able to do that post now. Here's his excellent Funtastic Thursday. EL
"I have 1341 Dining@Large posts in my reader and not one mention of popcorn. Is that possible? I think popcorn is something we take for granted and is a particularly American passion. When I lived in Madrid, the movie theaters didn't have popcorn. I blame Franco. Today I would like to salute the humble American kernel -- the only food that we want to explode.
Check out this video of popcorn popping in slow motion. It is beautiful and a little suggestive. It's like vegan erotica. (It's just popcorn; you can watch it at work.)
For me the only great popcorn is at the Charles Theatre. It's not just a snack, it's an event. My secret pleasure is snarfing up a few morsels with my tongue like a lizard before I get to my seat.
In a graduate school class on Petrarch, the Italian professor used to veer off topic and tell stories about life in Italy. He stunned the table of earnest learners by reminiscing gleefully about something he loved as a child: Exploding mice on a stick. Roasting mice over a fire. Ka-pow! People seemed stunned or nauseated and then I laughed. He was saying "maize" with a heavy Italian accent. Exploding mice indeed.
Paramour Bourbon Girl and I saw our first movie together recently and I had anxiety about the popcorn situation. What if we were not popcorn compatible? It happens. We were, but some people are impossible to share popcorn with. You know what I mean.
There are tons of movies with popcorn in the title, including ten simply named "Popcorn." My favorite is a horror movie from 1991 with the tagline: Buy a bag, go home in a box.
Apparently "Popcorn" was a hit song in the 1970s. Dig on this: "Popcorn" by Hot Butter (Techno Remix).
Since cell phones use microwaves, have you ever wondered: Can cell phones pop popcorn?
Hooray for the fiftieth anniversary of the invention of Jiffy Pop: In 1958, after five years of experiments, Fred Mennen completed the first Jiffy Pop pop-in-pan container. He began marketing his product, featuring natural and butter flavors, in 1959, and a year later it was distributed to every major U.S. market. The butter flavor was made even better in 2002.
Even better? Is that possible? I wonder what the ingredients are ...
INGREDIENTS: Popcorn, Partially Hydrogenated Soybean Oil, Salt, Hydrogenated Cottonseed Oil, Natural Flavor, Color, TBHQ, Methyl Silicone.
Methyl silicone? Did Jiffy Pop get some "work" done in 2002? Hmmm ....
Popcorn crimes against humanity:
* Artificial "butter" flavor.
* Movies theaters that dump stale bags of pre-popped corn into their popcorn display bins. I'm talking to you, Senator Theatre. Oh, the humanity!
* Air poppers and air-popped popcorn. (That's you, Landmark Theatres.)
* People who tell you how bad it is for you. Shut up already. It's a whole grain snack with lots of fiber. At my popcorn Mecca, my beloved Charles Theatre, it is popped in canola oil and ... insouciance.
(Photos courtesy of Getty Images)
Festive restaurants in the Tio Pepe mold
When I was at Mari Luna's Latin Grille recently I was struck by the fact that it's a very festive restaurant. It occurred to me Most Festive Restaurants would make a good Top 10 for next Tuesday at the beginning of the holiday season.
First of all, we need to define festive. Tio Pepe has it. You need a lot of people having a very good time. But it can't be a lot of people having a good time being really hip and cutting-edge and too cool to let on that they're having a good time.
There's nothing cutting-edge about festive restaurants, I don't think, but we love them anyway. ...
The problem is that I got kind of stuck after Mari Luna and Tio Pepe. (I also think it's a coincidence that they're both Latin. Other kinds of places can be festive. Or not?) Anyone want to take a crack at what festive in this context means and what other restaurants provide that kind of atmosphere?
While I'm at it, I'll bring up an e-mail that seems related. MrBill2U suggested this for a Top 10:
Have you ever done a top 10 on where to go for the office holiday lunch party?
The answer is no, but this is certainly the time to discuss it, if not come up with 10 places to recommend. The lists for both could be the same.
November 19, 2008
Pikesville's cutting-edge McDonald's
I don't know where to begin to tell you about -- it's hard to say this -- our chic new McDonald's.
I missed letting you know about the ribbon-cutting ceremony today at 5 p.m. for the new Micky D's at 502 Reisterstown Road in Pikesville.
Sorry about that, but you can still stop by tonight and get a specialty Mccoffee at the McCafe. (I'm not making this up.)
McDonald's seems to have turned into a -- gasp -- stylish coffee house with cozy nooks, custom furniture, limestone countertops, limited edition artwork, wi-fi and flat screen TVs. (OK, a coffee house wouldn't have flat screen TVs.) ...
I'm just having fun with you. I'm sure you can still get a burger and fries; you just might be embarrassed to eat them in this environment.
The part that blows me away is that it's the creation in part of the person who brought you Nouveau Contemporary Goods, Steve Appel.
I'd heard about it from a friend of a friend, and had been meaning to stop by to see for myself when I got the press release about the ribbon-cutting.
If you stop in before I do, let us know what you think. I Googled the concept and came up with a story a couple of years ago in Business Week about McDonald's master plan for reinventing itself. I guess this is it.
(Photos courtesy of Jim Lucio)
You vote: Australian gastropub or Mexican-Latino restaurant?
Not that your vote will officially count, but co-owner Gavin Buckley might take note. He tells me that Australian gastropub and Mexican-Latino are the two concepts that are being discussed for the space formerly known as Tsunami east of Little Italy. It would open in the spring.
If it's a gastropub (and he's Australian, so he may be leaning that way) it will be called Melbourne Standard. If it's Latino, the name will be El Centro. (It's on Central Avenue. Get it?)
To have a gastropub is "a pet project of mine," says Buckley. It would be more food-oriented than regular pubs and the food would be a bit lighter. But he probably knows, just as you and I do, that a Mexican-Latino restaurant has a greater chance of success in that location.
(Photo courtesy of the Station Hotel)
Cleaning out the metaphysical closet
Here's Multimedia Editor Emeritus, Biker Dude and Deep Thinker John Lindner with this week's Shallow Thought Wednesday. I'm sure everyone expected it to be on creamed corn. I know I did.
How many of you had to look up "elutriate"? It sure wasn't on my word-of-the-day calendar. What about "salubrious"? EL
"In preparation for Thanksgiving, I spent Saturday morning cleaning my metaphysical closet.
Of course, when you tidy up the MC, you elutriate your very soul. And all such purgings, like, for instance, cleaning your garage, share the same salubrious properties.
Now you can find things, sometimes things you forgot you had: the antique apple corer, the thrice used exercycle, the embarrassing tamborine. (Free advice: you oughtn’t let someone else clean your spaces. You’ll return to foreign ground where events took place and items were rearranged outside your brain’s subliminal catalog. You won’t be able to find anything and you’ll often wonder, “Did the bastard steal from me?”)
Since it wouldn’t be Shallow Thought Wednesday if I didn’t waste your precious time, I decided to share some of the treasures I pulled from my closet.
Quote that’s source escapes me:
"If you have nothing nice to say about anyone, come sit next to me" (or words to that effect).
Foods I will never serve for Thanksgiving:
1. Creamed corn
2. Sea cucumbers
3. Salmon loaf
Why does tobacco taste best after meals and accomplishments?"
Where to go for Thanksgiving dinner
Good morning. Today is the first day of the rest of our life, not to mention about the 12th day of the Christmas season judging from the decorations, so we're going to be nicer to each other on this blog. Especially me, even to Eric.
We're going to remember that Top 10 Tuesday draws first-time visitors, including silent ones who might come back and even comment one day if we (and I mean me, too) aren't too snarky to those who don't know netiquette.
I've been extra busy because I'm on vacation (but home) next week, and something snapped when I got the e-mail from the poor woman just trying to find somewhere to have Thanksgiving dinner. However, this is a reminder that the more information you can provide when you have a question like that, the better.
Now, to make up for it, I'm going to give you a link to my Table Talk column of this morning, which has a few suggestions for restaurants that are open on Thanksgiving. And I'll send my correspondent McCormick & Schmick's as a possibility, since I didn't hear back from her when I asked for more details on what she wanted. ...
November 18, 2008
The creamed corn post you've been waiting for
I have to say when I went to look for art for this post in our archives, I didn't expect to find this photo of Maine lobster with spicy creamed corn and herbed carrots. Wow. I don't want to hear one more word about how awful creamed corn is.
I was going to link to a creamed corn recipe for you, but then I decided to just give you my own. ...
Cut the kernels off as many ears of summer corn as you can eat. Place the corn in a pan with some butter and as much heavy cream as will boil down to a nice texture by the time the corn is cooked. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper.
Like many of my recipes, it will never make its way into the print edition because a) it doesn't have any measurements, b) I don't know how many it will serve, and c) if I gave you the nutritional information you would have a heart attack just reading it.
(Photo courtesy of the Kansas City Star)
E-mails that leave me speechless
Famous locals and their Charm City secrets
Take a look at this link to the American Airlines magazine, American Way, which features Baltimore.
Notice that I wasn't asked to contribute, not after what I did to the poor AirTran woman.
The end of that story was that after I sent her the link to my Top 10, she wrote back to say she wasn't going to do the story on Baltimore restaurants that have crab cakes with an interesting twist anymore because they wanted original content. Oh, well.
(Jed Kirschbaum/Sun photographer)
And I thought people weren't getting upset enough about my fries list
Silly me. Check out this e-mail I just got. Of course, it's probably Owl Meat in disguise. EL
"No No. You really got me upset. We are not talking about all this Nu Veau crap. Go try G and A , a Baltimore institution on Eastern Ave. You are not in New York my dear. You are in a hell hole called Baltimore. Both you and Jacque must be on 60's acid, as you both treat this colloquial wannabe town as some kind of an international stopover. He is stuck in the past, an And you , well.......go to G n A. Get some education"
Top 10 Places to Get Fabulous French Fries
I got so many suggestions for places to get good regular french fries that I decided not to include sweet potato fries. We'll have to make up another list for them.
This list also doesn't include creations like the beer-battered fries topped with a Gorgonzola cream sauce at the now-closed Fire Rock Grill in Columbia or the blue cheese french fries at Morton's the Steakhouse because they seem like more appetizers than a side dish.
I tried to give a range of options from basic done well to very fancy. If anyone is really dedicated to fries, I hope you'll try all 10 and report back. The list is in alphabetical order by restaurant: ...
* Garlic-rosemary fries at the Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon.
* Capital Grille's fries tossed in parmesan, kosher salt and white truffle oil.
* Corks' fries that come with a burger and should come with its fish and chips. The homemade chips are very good, but we're talking tradition here.
* Five Guys because the bags of potatoes are sitting right there and they are cooked in peanut oil.
* McDonald's fries. What can I say? Even global chains get it right sometimes.
* Pommes frites at Petit Louis Bistro in Roland Park: thin and crisp, with peel along one side.
* Duck fat fries with a trio of sauces at Salt in the Butchers Hill-Patterson Park area.
* Curly fries at the Swallow at the Hollow (5921 York Road, 410-532-7542) in Govans.
* Boardwalk fries from Thrasher's (807 Atlantic Ave., Boardwalk, 410-289-4150) in Ocean City. Served with vinegar, of course.
* Fries at Waterfront Hotel in Fells Point with Old Bay and a chipotle dipping sauce.
November 17, 2008
Another restaurant closes its doors
I should be keeping a scorecard. It looks like Saturday was the last day for Tsunami in back of Little Italy. I haven't been able yet to get hold of someone who has enough authority to talk to me at its sister restaurant, Lemongrass, or the original Tsunami in Annapolis to find out what the plans for the space are. Right now the answering machine simply says, "Tsunami has merged with Lemongrass Baltimore and you can get Tsunami's sushi there." ...
What I've heard, but not confirmed, is that it may only be closed for the winter and could reopen with a Aussie brew pub theme. And, I presume, a significantly different look.
I also heard workers were only give one week's notice, although I can't imagine the closing coming as a huge surprise to anyone. Baltimoreans seemed to take to Lemongrass but not Tsunami.
(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)
What chefs cook for other chefs
What do chefs cook for other chefs? Well, a dinner for other chefs can be a little less formal than you might think.
Baltimore Foodie Lars Rusins sent me an e-mail saying that a good friend of his who is a chef is cooking a spectacular meal for other chefs tonight. Lars isn't invited, he says, because he's not in the business; but he was quite taken with the menu and passed it along.
Here's the invitation, which I received with the identifying information blanked out. The other blanks are where I had to remove language that wouldn't be appropriate for a family blog. ...
You are cordially invited to _______ on Monday, November 17, for the dinner of our generation. This evening has been designed for the most talented, hard-working and creative chefs of Baltimore.
The "**** show" starts at 6 p.m. and ends when the overindulgence defeats you.Our goal is to throw a dream party that we wish someone would book at our restaurant. You will be sharing this experience with your colleagues. The feast will be presented mostly family style. You will be sampling cuisine that is utterly ridiculous in concept and magnitude. I promise you that.
Why does the Helmand get all the buzz?
Robert of Cross Keys, never one to shy away from a controversial position, had the following to say under a previous post. It didn't get quite the response I expected and was looking forward to, so I thought I would post it as an entry. Anyone want to tackle it? EL
"I consider the Helmand to be Baltimore's most over-rated restaurant. The Helmand is ok, but I don't understand the buzz it gets. Why go there when a few steps away you could go to the Brass Elephant, Prime Rib or the Brewer's Art?"
(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)
Monday Morning Quarterbacking: Corks
We were seated at the bar because at first there was no table for us; and if I hadn't been reviewing, I definitely would have stayed there. It's one of the most attractive bars in Baltimore.
Reading over my review to link to it here, I hope I didn't give you the impression that if you don't like cheese you won't find anything to eat there. But for those who like American artisanal cheeses: this is your spot.
If you've tried the new Corks, please tell us what you thought below. Or you can just tell us about your weekend.
(Monica Lopposay/Sun photographer)
November 16, 2008
Next Sunday's review
I've never eaten at Mari Luna Mexican Grill in Pikesville (the other reviewer wrote about it), so I didn't realized the full extent of its popularity.
Mari Luna Latin Grille, its new, more ambitious sister restaurant, is on its way to being just as big a success.
Why? In this economy particularly, people value decent food at good prices, friendly service and a fun place to be. What they don't seem to be caring as much about is whether a restaurant is "in," cutting-edge or so overpriced you must be important to be eating there.
So how was my experience at the new Mari Luna? Please look for my review next Sunday in the Arts & Entertainment section or online.
(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)
A Giant Merry Christmas...
...or More Musings Over My Shopping Cart.
I know this photo isn't one of my best efforts, but I also know chains don't like people taking unauthorized photos in their stores, so I was a little nervous. I'm not sure why. What were they going to do to me? Confiscate my camera and throw me out?
But it does illustrate my point, which is that my Giant has its Christmas decorations out, along with some harvest-themed decor, and has had for at least a week.
Now this is not your usual diatribe against starting holidays too early yada yada yada. ...
I may not agree with it, but I get why department stores and gift shops decorate for Christmas before Halloween. They want us to get in the mood for early gift shopping. I accept that.
But why a food store? To me, the big food holiday is Thanksgiving. Don't they want me concentrating on buying bread for my stuffing and cans of pumpkin for my pies?
What they don't want me thinking is, "Wow. I'm going to have to do all this again in a month. Not to mention the money I'm going to have to spend between now and then on gifts."
November 15, 2008
The Comment of the Week
Some people tell me they read my blog entries but not the comments. That's too bad, because often some of the most interesting reading is in the comments. Anyway, this week Lissa wins the Comment of the Week award. In case you missed it, I'm reposting it here. EL
...Like any other group, foodies have members who take things way too far. Originally, a foodie was someone who paid attention to food and enjoyed it all, from hot fudge sundaes at the local custard joint to artisinal cheeses at the local farmer's market.
Now we have folks who can't eat out without taking pictures of every dish, blogging every bite and yelping the bejeezus out of every food stall and yuppie grazing place in the world.
Setting the holiday table
Last week I didn't link to the story I wrote on slipcovers because good as I am at justifying not staying on topic on this blog, I had a tough time justifying linking to slipcovers.
Not so this week. ...
I wrote a story on setting a festive table for Thanksgiving, which appeared in today's Home & Garden section. Here's the link. Actually, it started off as a story on setting a festive table for Thanksgiving, and I was just about finished when the designer called me over to show me the photo (above). I took a look at it, and my eyes started to bug out.
It was like one of those exams where you've written about two pages of the essay and you suddenly realize you've misread the question, so you have to say something like, "That's how some people would argue the case, but they would be wrong" and then go in a completely different direction.
I rushed back to my desk and started turning my Thanksgiving table story into a festive holiday table story.
When I had called about the photo assignment, the manager at the new Great Gatherings in Annapolis, where the picture was taken, described the setting as "transitional." I just hadn't focused on what that would mean.
But if you want your table to transition from Thanksgiving to Christmas, it's a great example. Just not a concept I had thought of before.
I couldn't use my friend in the story, but here's the link to the post I wrote last Thanksgiving about her beautiful table setting.
(Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)
I don't blog
I had my semi-annual dentist visit this week, and although I love my dentist I break out in a cold sweat in the dentist chair. I wasn't a fluoride baby, and anyone who thinks fluoride in our water supply is a bad idea should come talk to me. But that's another post.
Anyway, as I was leaving my dentist starting asking me restaurant questions. People love to talk about restaurants, as you may have noticed, especially with a restaurant critic. I suggested he read my blog and was about to give him the URL, but he said, "I don't blog." ...
You'd be surprised how often I hear this. I felt like saying, "I'm not asking you to blog. I'm the one who blogs. All you have to do is read, and if you feel like it, comment. I'm always grateful for comments."
OK, sometimes I suck readers into blogging (see Owl Meat, jl and Bucky), but you don't have to blog.
A lot of people out there still have blogophobia. They don't know what blogs are, and they don't want to sound uncool and admit it. So they just insist they don't blog. What I have to do is come up with some new name for what Dining@Large is so I can say, "You ought to read my online tidbits column" or whatever.
The hygienist used cinnamon paste/grit to clean my teeth this time. How weird is that? I thought there was only mint, but it turns out there's also chocolate and bubblegum for the kids. You'd think they would give adults a choice.
November 14, 2008
The chicken-fried steak post
I think before the day ends, and in spite of Hal Laurent VofR's excellent explanation, we need to talk a little more about chicken-fried steak.
My theory is that -- unlike, say, fried chicken -- you can't appreciate it unless it's part of your past. ...
The last time I had chicken-fried steak was in the Mount Olive Elementary School cafeteria in Knoxville, Tenn. We had hot lunches every day, and there were no choices. You couldn't bring your own lunch either. If you didn't clean your plate, you weren't allowed to have dessert. I lived for chicken-fried steak day with slow-cooked green beans and mashed potatoes, and died on liver day. It was served with spinach.
So I have a fondness in my heart for chicken-fried steak, but not enough to ever order it as a grown up.
I don't know of any restaurants around here that offer it, although if I had to guess I would try a diner.
I just looked it up on the Chowhound board, and all I came up with was this.
(Detail of photo by James F. Quinn/Chicago Tribune)
Baltimore has another Top Chef contestant
With all the hoopla about Jill Snyder, we shouldn't forget that there is another contestant on Bravo's Top Chef who is a Baltimore native.
OK, Melissa Harrison now lives in Colorado, and may even know Bucky; but she went to Garrison Forest, the University of Maryland and Baltimore International College for cooking school.
I'm not sure why the paper hasn't made more fuss about her. That way we'd have two horses in the race.
(Photo courtesy of Bravo)
Of Chopstix, Aunt Erma's and the Helmand
I don't want to add yet another regular feature to Dining@Large (Friday Morning Quarterbacking) because I think blogs should be free wheeling and filled with the unexpected; but for those of you who don't read the print edition, I know it's hard sometimes to track down the food features on the Web site.
I'm thinking, for instance, of two that appeared in yesterday's Weekend section. ...
Thursday Reviewer Richard had something of a cheap eats find yesterday with the Chopstix Cafe in White Marsh. Here's the link to his review.
On the same page in the print edition, Rob Kasper wrote about Aunt Erma's Bakery in his takeout column.
I take part in the coordination, such as it is, of these reviews, and I'm struck by the fact that our territory is getting narrower and narrower. The new restaurants that are opening up now are often more casual. More full-service places also seem to be doing take out because it's cheaper for folks than eating in a restaurant. Everybody wants to know about the great cheap eats restaurants in this economy.
It's an ill wind that blows nobody any good. I walked by the Helmand in Mount Vernon last night, and at 7 p.m. it wasn't even half full. Now's the time to get Baltimore's most sought-after table.
(Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)
The Top Chef audition video
Here's Jill Snyder's audition video for Top Chef in case you missed it. It's quite entertaining; you can see why she won her spot on the show. I don't know the woman, but I'd rather watch her than Rachael Ray any day. ...
However, Grand Central nearby seems to have picked up the slack, and about half the guests went there to watch. The rest stayed at Red Maple and partied.
Finally someone has articulated what makes our blog great. Thanks, Bucky.
For those of you who are just dropping by, Bucky lives in Colorado. After I read this, I was trying to think of not-a-foodie foods unique to this part of the country. The best example, I think, is the stuffed and fried hard shell crab.
Here's Bucky: ...
So, the word is getting around the dusty ol’ cowtown that I’m doing this every Friday and, I have to tell you, people are laughing. Not just at me, either. At y’all too.
The laughing people understand that I’m not a foodie. They are greatly amused that I would be contributing in any way to a blog whose reach extends beyond the lowly, simple cheeseburger. They are amused to a greater extent that y’all would be reading what I write.
That’s OK. As I told Michael A. Gray not long ago, I have a high threshold for humiliation. Y’all should too. Life is A LOT more fun when you don’t give a rat’s patoot what other people think of you.
But I did start thinking about the difference between a foodie and a, well, not-a-foodie. Which led me to come up with a dinner menu for each:
Cocktail before dinner
Not-a-Foodie: Bourbon & branch
Foodie: Seared foie gras with pound cake and blackberry jam
Not-a-Foodie: Another bourbon & branch
Foodie: Heirloom tomato gazpacho
Foodie: Endive salad with onion confetti and raspberry vinaigrette dressing
Not-a-Foodie: Tossed salad -- lettuce, tomato slices, carrot shavings (with ranch dressing, naturally)
Foodie: Seared sea bass with vegetable fricassee, shiitakes and port reduction
Not-a-Foodie: Chicken fried steak with mashed potatoes and gravy and a side of corn
To drink with dinner
Foodie: Pouilly fumé
Not-a-Foodie: Coffee, black
Foodie: Vanilla bean cheesecake with orange sauce
Not-a-Foodie: Peach cobbler, a la mode
Foodie: Demitasse of espresso
Not-a-Foodie: Ah, why not. Another bourbon & branch
Choice of food isn’t the only thing that differentiates a foodie and not-a-foodie. For example:
Foodie: For an important dinner, designs a "tablescape" using grandmother’s china, silver and crystal
Not-a-Foodie: For an important dinner, sets the table using the good Fiestaware, making sure that place settings alternate blue, orange, blue, orange
I’m sure there other things that illustrate the difference between a foodie and a not-a-foodie...
(Photo by James F. Quinn/Chicago Tribune)
November 13, 2008
French fries, part deux
One possibility is french fries. I know we've discussed them before, but we've never done a Top 10. However, I just got this e-mail from a colleague:
I was just thinking that for dinner I wanted a big plate of french fries. JUST french fries. But then I remembered that I still haven't found a place that really satisfies on that score. Thought it might be a good idea for your top 10 list! (Since I did score with the fish & chips at Ryan's Daughter, but the fish was much much better than the chips!)
Another colleague is anxious for me to do a list of rotisserie chicken places. Obviously this isn't an either/or -- those Tuesdays keep rolling round -- but it might be a little close to when another bird takes precedence.
Or maybe we need to veer off into a completely different kind of Top 10 list, like Top 10 Best Restaurants for a Winter Meal. Top 10 Places With Fireplaces. Or whatever.
(Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)
What kind of pizza eater are you?
Owl Meat is back in full feather this week. In today's Funtastic Thursday he asks this provocative question: What kind of pizza eater are you? EL
Look at the happy couple, let's call them, uh, Falcon Loin Au Jus and Sourmash Girl. Pizza only enhances their love-wonderment. Yes, it makes them slightly pixilated and oversaturated, but even still, that's pizza amore just like when the moon hits your eye.
Here's some pizzatastic vids to warm up your gastro-cockles.
PIZZA-LA ... a Japanese pizza commercial -- predictably odd, weirdly cute, slightly frightening. Dig it up gai-jin. Can you ID some of the whack toppings dancing around? I can't. And why is Pizza crying? All theories welcome.
Pizza Elmo - scary and annoying. Elmo must be stopped. This is how Pol Pot started.
David Sedaris delivers a pizza. David Sedaris is funny, but I wouldn't want to be his pool boy.
Vertical pizza - it could happen.
I have seen people eat pizza in a lot of different ways. What kind of pizza eater are you? Or do you do something totally different? For this particular purpose I'm only thinking of round pizzas.
(1) Do you start with the pointy end?
(2) Do you eat the crust first?
(3) Do you stop at the crust?
(4) Do you fold it in half?
(5) Do you use a knife and fork?
(6) Do you roll it up?
(7) Do you use the crust to dip into something else?
(8) Do you pick the toppings off and eat them first?
I witnessed the most puzzling pizza technique in Baltimore. I watched a Dutch dude roll slices of pizza into weird big fat cigars and eat them out of his fist. It was like watching a flying monkey or Hugh Jackman at a spelling bee.
The stupidest pizza order I've witnessed was in Baltimore, too. I was at Little Italy's Isabella's right before one of the insanely crowded free Italian film festival Friday nights. This is where cheapskates from miles around bring lawn chairs to sit in the street or an asphalt parking lot that is radiating August heat like Cerberus in a gelateria to watch Moonstruck.
Isabella's is stretched to the limit during such events. A man came in and ordered a pizza, but didn't want it right then. He wanted it to come out of the oven in exactly 50 minutes to coincide with the arrival of his friends. Obviously they couldn't accommodate that with orders coming in constantly, yet he persisted. No luck, plus the guy standing behind him was laughing derisively in support of the beautiful and harried flour-dusted Russian counter girl.
Now for the weird part. He wanted his large round pizza to be cut into squares. By this point the conceptual and linguistic limits of floury Russian girl were exceeded. The guy standing behind him muttered something about Anaxagoras. By this point Laughing Guy was practically choking as three different people try to explain that a circle cannot be cut into squares. Sweet Fancy Euclid!
The oddest pizza behavior that I've seen happened in high school. I was chillaxing with my boyz in a booth at the local Hut and a man came in with a ventriloquist's dummy. He lovingly seated the dummy opposite him in the booth. He had the waitron set up a place setting and a glass of water with a straw for the dummy. He ordered a pizza, ate it and conversed with the dummy as if they were on a date. Pizza love sure comes in many styles.
(Photo courtesy of Getty Images)
Next week is Truffle Week
I'm not sure why it's Truffle Week, but as regular readers of Dining@Large know, I believe that three examples of anything constitute an important trend. So consider it a truffle week trend.
I'll work my way up from least to most expensive.
First, on Thursday, Nov. 20, your local Godiva boutique (I'll leave it to you to find your local Godiva boutique) is offering complimentary, as in free, chocolate truffles between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. The press material doesn't say what the limit per person is, but I would guess one. ...
Next, Feast at 4 East Madison Inn in Mount Vernon has created a menu in honor of the fresh truffles (the fungus kind) that have arrived in the U.S. It will be available Nov. 20, 21 and 22:
Crostini with Truffle Butter
Fresh Diver Scallops Layered with Fresh Truffles
Half Roasted Organic Chicken with Truffle-Infused Potatoes
and, for our Vegans...
Fresh Pasta with Truffle Shavings
And finally, Volt in Frederick is having a Winter White Truffle Dinner on Friday, Nov. 21. Chef/co-owner Bryan Voltaggio is creating a seven-course tasting menu featuring the delicacy. There will be two seatings: one at 6 p.m. and one at 8:30 p.m. Cost: $150 a person, with wine pairings for another $50.
(Carl Court/Bloomberg News)
November 12, 2008
I (heart) my pressure cooker
My Atlanta brother, who occasionally comments on this blog, just sent me the reply he received from the Presto pressure cooker customer service department when he sent them this query:
What is the preferred method for removing an old air vent?
Here's the answer he got back in its entirety: ...
From: "Presto Customer Service" <firstname.lastname@example.org>
To: <his e-mail address deleted>
Sent: Wednesday, November 12, 2008 10:17 AM
Subject: RE: Pressure cooker air vent removal
> That would be a plier. Liz
To me that epitomizes why you have to love pressure cookers. And I do. I use mine frequently, or as frequently as I use any piece of kitchen equipment. I can cook pot roasts in 45 minutes, potatoes and cabbage in five. They are simply wonderful.
I used to be afraid of them until I saw how fearless my mother-in-law was in handling hers. Of course, she was a RN in her day and used to autoclaves. So she thought nothing of pulling off the pressure valve or whatever it's called before the pressure had dropped and opening it up.
She would also cook green beans in hers, and somehow she never managed to overcook them. They stayed a wonderful green color, but it seemed to me like a lot of trouble to go to for one minute of cooking.
John's excellent adventure deep-frying a Thanksgiving turkey
Creamed corn One year, for Thanksgiving dinner, I pulled a fast one. Rather than make a mockery of a good turkey's violent death (again), I roasted a batch of Cornish game hens.
The kids loved it because each got a personal bird. Me? I felt iconoclastic for a few minutes. Win-win. But novelty dies young and packing stuffing up seven or eight oversized pigeon butts requires more patience than I consider healthy. I haven't cooked Cornies since.
Last year, expecting a walk on the wild side, I deep fried a tom.
I was lured to fying by the danger. Internet articles warned me that boiling grease would explode all over my face, turning me into a fragile version of Hell Boy (Hell Geezer?). Friends warned that I'd blow myself up and burn down the house. (Turkey frying involves one of my favorite gasses: propane. I love it. It's probably the closest I'll ever come to handling dynamite. See video.) My kids worried that I'd embarrass them by catching fire and running around the yard fully involved, my screams matching the pitch and decibel level of the oncoming fire department sirens. Cool. I borrowed a frier and bought 24 bucks worth of peanut oil.
Disappointingly, the frying process proved anticlimactic. I speed-cooked an 18 pounder in 90 minutes* and nothing went awry. The bird tasted OK, but not worth 24 extra bucks for the jug of oil. Frankly, I know of two bottles of $12 wine that would have more than made up for any lack of juiciness in the bird.
Deep frying did offer one saving grace: for once, the family and guests stood around all day worried that their meal would be ruined not by a burnt bird, but by a burnt cook. It's not often one gets to upstage the bird.
By the way, I hate creamed corn.
*Might have been closer to 130 minutes.
Where can Amy get Girl Scout cookies?
Amy sent me this sad little e-mail yesterday. (No car. More importantly, no thin mints.) If anyone can help her out, please post below:
Forgive me for writing to you about this non-restaurant related question, but I figure you're plugged into the food scene and might be able to direct me - ever since we moved here I haven't been able to find anyone selling Girl Scout cookies!
Do you happen to know about a source? We live in Mount Vernon and are without a car.
Sam's Bagels and the Crazy Man Restaurant Group
I've been getting e-mails from people wondering about what's happening with the Sam's Bagel space at 500 W. Cold Spring Lane. Apparently the sign on the door says something like "Coming soon: another Crazy Man restaurant."
Crazy Man isn't a chain, but the restaurant group that includes the two Miss Shirley's and Loco Hombre. (Crazy Man. Get it?) ...
Edward Dopkin, one of the owners, tells me Crazy Man is turning the space into a bagel shop and deli that should open in late December. The bagels will be baked on site. In case you don't think Dopkin knows bagels, he started in the food business with the Bagel Place, which ended up being a successful local chain of 15 by the time he sold it and started working in his family's business, Classic Catering.
Besides 12 to 14 varieties of bagels, the new place -- which doesn't have a name yet -- will offer breakfast pastries, eggs cooked on the grill, not microwaved, breakfast sandwiches, french toast and pancakes.
Lunch will feature paninis and salads -- and also what Dopkin describes as an "awesome corned beef sandwich on rye. We had to squeeze it in, but we need a corned beef sandwich bad in this area."
If there's enough space, the new place may also have a smoothie bar.
And how about this? Bagels, cream cheese and lox will be delivered on Saturdays and Sundays to a "very small radius."
The Crazy Man Restaurant Group also has the space next to Sam's that used to be an ice cream shop and is now using it as office space. Eventually it may become yet another eatery.
(Photo of Sam's Bagels in Westminster, the best I could do, by Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)
I (heart) Tribune Interactive
I hope all of you are enjoying the new servers as much as I am. I signed on this morning and, whoa, I was on the blogware. Wait. I need the time it usually takes to sign on to check my e-mail, answer a few of them, file my nails, put the laundry in the dryer. Now how am I going to get anything done? And what about the great novels I've been reading while I wait for the site to rebuild after I've had to kill out nine of the 10 comments you created when you kept hitting "post" out of frustration?
I could get to like this.
November 11, 2008
This is the night
...we've all been waiting for. Tonight the migration to internal servers takes place. It should speed things up, both for your posting comments and my publishing them or writing an entry.
Or, on the other hand, the whole thing will crash forever and we'll have to find something else to do with our time.
Anyway, between midnight and 2 a.m. you won't be able to post comments. I won't be able to post either, but that's not a problem for me because I'll be fast asleep.
Free cake at Joe Squared
In about 10 minutes, Joe Squared Pizza's third Anniversary Party starts. Other Restaurant Critic Richard (I've got to do better in the name department for him) gave me the news:
[Joe's] excited about the cake Charm City Cakes is making for him. Three stacked pizza boxes, the top one open to reveal a pizza pie (but still a cake, of course), and, on the side, another pizza on a pizza-ring pedestal (or whatever that's called).
Cake cutting at 9:30, with free cake for all.
Tell us about your turducken
I thought everyone knew about turducken because this specialty, a sort of Russian matryoshka doll of poultry, got to be so trendy a few years ago. All the newspaper food sections were writing about it, and cooking shows were demonstrating how to make your own.
I'm intrigued, but not enough to go to the trouble of deboning poultry and stuffing a chicken inside a duck inside a turkey. Or maybe it's a duck inside a chicken. ...
Not only have I never made one, I've never even tasted one. Anyone out there want to explain what the appeal is other than general weirdness?
If you can't make up your mind what to have for Thanksgiving, you could order a turducken for $85 delivered. Here's a link to one place that sells them, the Cajun Grocer.
The same Web site also gives you the recipe for making your own, I think because once you read it you'll realize it's a lot easier to buy one.(William Archie/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
Top 10 Alternatives to a Traditional Thanksgiving Roast Turkey
Obviously anything could be an alternative to a traditional roast turkey for Thanksgiving, from a ribeye steak to a deep fried turkey. But I wanted to pick foods you know would work (because of their association with native Americans, for instance) or that I've actually served or had served to me.
By the way, I'm cooking this year and I'm having a traditional roast turkey dinner. I was just talking to my brother, who's coming from the West Coast, and he says he's bringing some interesting recipes he got from Sunset magazine. He's talking about adding Swiss chard to the stuffing.
Sorry. No way.
Here's my list: ...
* Wild duck with sauerkraut (particularly appropriate because Baltimoreans eat sauerkraut with Thanksgiving dinner anyway, which I've never understood)
* Goose with fruit stuffing. Unfortunately the one time I cooked a wild goose (a hunter friend had brought it to my in-laws), it also contained buckshot.
* Native American foods like beans, squash and corn for vegetarians and vegans
* Turducken (partially boned turkey stuffed with boned chicken stuffed with boned duck)
* Small roast chicken with cornbread-pecan stuffing for a couple or people eating alone
* I make a very good stuffed ham (with a bread stuffing where the bone would be). I haven't tried it for Thanksgiving, but I think it would be an easy make-in-advance choice that would taste good with traditional sides.
* An old college friend invited us to Thanksgiving once and served each of us a whole lobster. Lobster didn't go very well with the side dishes the rest of us had brought, but it was so wonderfully extravagant no one was complaining.
* My sister-in-law, using recipes from Gourmet magazine, served curried turkey breast with cranberry chutney one Thanksgiving. Her family was outraged, but it sounded kind of good to me for a change.
* In some places on the West Coast, Dungeness crab is a common alternative to turkey because the season starts in November.
* Crown roast of pork with wild rice stuffing. Pork has a autumn feeling to it (I would never serve it for Christmas dinner even though I know it can be traditional), and the fact that it's a crown roast makes it seem grand enough for an important meal.
(Photo of turducken by William Archie/Detroit Free Press/MCT)
November 10, 2008
Tipping and a White House chef
I regularly get an e-newsletter from the National Restaurant Association pointing me to interesting stories in papers and trade magazines. OK, and some not-so-interesting ones.
But today there was a link to a story in the Wall Street Journal, a follow up on one of our favorite subjects, tipping. I thought I would link to it to cheer everyone up. Haha. Just kidding.
There was another interesting story, too, a former White House chef talking about his old job and what the Obamas should expect. I've been meaning to blog on something along those lines, so I followed the link right to...the Baltimore Sun. It appeared in yesterday's paper, which is still on my kitchen table waiting to be read.
I'm really on top of things today.
Are there any wine absolutes anymore?
There's a discussion going on under the cassoulet post about whether you can drink white wine with duck.
I have to admit I didn't think wine aficionados still discussed the subject in such absolutes. It's kind of like the eclectic decor trend where you can mix 18th century antiques with mid-century modern and no one objects anymore. Or wearing jeans with a lace cami.
I'll bet I could put out the name of any dish here -- cheese souffle, lamb curry, roast suckling pig -- and a respected wine connoisseur would be able to suggest a white and a red that would go very well with it. Am I wrong?
(Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Just now I took a look at my review of the Brewer's Art that appeared in yesterday's paper so I could link to it. In it I said this:
Finally, there's no place in town even remotely like it - a brew restaurant, not brew pub, which treats beer drinkers as just as deserving of fine food as wine lovers are.
I know better. Not that my point isn't valid, it's how I said it. I'm just waiting for one of you to come up with some restaurant in Baltimore that IS remotely like it.
The Hamilton Tavern is a possibility, but it's too much of a bar and not enough of a restaurant.
Anyway, at this point in my career I know to leave myself some wiggle room.
Are there other things you want to discuss about the Brewer's Art? This is the place to do it. Or, knowing you guys, anything else you feel like talking about on a Monday morning.
(Jed Kirschbaum/Sun photographer)
November 9, 2008
Next Sunday's review
Next Sunday I review Corks in Federal Hill.
This was a fine-dining restaurant we hadn't been hearing much about with all the new places opening up in Harbor East and other neighborhoods around town. So maybe owner/chef Jerry Pellegrino did a smart thing in closing Corks for a couple of months to reinvent it.
It's certainly more in tune with the times now. You can still spend a lot on a traditional appetizer-entree-dessert-with-wine meal; but there's much more flexibility in the menu now, and it's more fun, with sandwiches, fondues, entree salads and even a gourmet corn dog on offer.
To see what I thought of the food, please check out my review next week in the Arts & Entertainment section or online.
(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)
Is this the worst mistake ever in a recipe?
The answer is no. Here's the e-mail I got from my friend and grammar guru, John McIntyre:
Fred Vultee at Headsup reports this delightful correction:
"A recipe for Ginger Apple Stir-Fry in the Oct. 29 Food section was missing two ingredients. Add 2 cored, sliced apples and 2 tablespoons minced gingerroot while stir-frying the vegetables."
Perhaps you could ask your readers to supply a list of the top 10 errors they have found in published recipes.
I'm not going to ask you because who can ever remember something like that?
Well, I can. And that's how I know this isn't the worst error in a published recipe ever. ...
The worst error was in a recipe from some edition of The I Hate to Cook Book by Peg Bracken. It was a recipe for Pedro's Omelet, which my husband made for me when we were newlyweds. He hadn't done much cooking, and didn't think it was odd that a recipe for an omelet for two called for six onions. But he was good at following directions.
In all the years of our marriage since, he has never had to cook another meal.
Which is why I say it's the worst mistake ever made in a published recipe.
(Photo of a ginger apple stir-fry courtesy of the U.S. Apple Organization)
November 8, 2008
No parking and orange beets
I wanted to give a word of warning to those who enjoyed shopping at farmers markets this summer and plan to come to the Waverly Farmers Market, which is open year round, once the others close. I got there a little later than usual and the parking lot was really jammed up, so I pulled into the parking lot of the closed Papa John's across the street. ...
I knew they towed when they were open, but this wasn't even 7:30 a.m. yet. When I crossed the street a woman on the corner selling earrings said, "You better not park there. The tow truck just circles the block waiting for people to park there. It's my second job, warning people."
I moved the car immediately, but isn't that weird? I don't enough about towing companies to know: Do you have to pay them to patrol? If so, why would you bother when you aren't open? Or does the towing company just do it because it's a sure-fire way of making money?
Anyway, don't park in the Papa John's lot, even at 7 a.m.
I didn't think you wanted to see art of a car being towed, so I uploaded a photo of some fine orange beets that were for sale today.
Not all pig candy is chocolate
Please forgive me for not doing my homework before posting my last entry. It turns out there are plenty of recipes for pig candy (I continue to be in love with the name) on the Web, and they don't involve chocolate. Here's one from Bucky's Barbecue & Bread blog. Try saying that 10 times quickly.
Basically it's just bacon with brown sugar and some spice put under the broiler, but Bucky (no relation to our Bucky) spends quite a bit of time and hundreds of photos telling you how to make it. As he says, it makes a great Christmas appetizer but not for Hanukkah. Well, I agree with the last part of that sentence anyway.
It's hard to imagine that it was a year ago that we first discussed the chocolate bacon bar here at Dining@Large. Now after hundreds, perhaps thousands, of bacon discussions, we come full circle, sort of, with...ta-da...chocolate-dipped bacon.
You can get Roni-Sue Pig Candy dipped in either dark or milk chocolate, and it costs $38 for a one-pound box. That doesn't include the $15 priority mail shipping fee.
Roni-Sue deep-fries the bacon for extra crunch, rendering out most of the fat (though we can't claim it's health food!), then each piece is hand-dipped in Callebaut dark or milk chocolate. The dark chocolate plays against the saltiness of the bacon, while the milk enhances its caramely sweetness--trust us, you want it mixed! (from the catalog)
Deep-fries the bacon???
Federal Hill Jim read about chocolate-dipped bacon in the New York Times and sent me an e-mail about it. I went to the source. ...
First of all, great name. Every successful product needs a great name. (Remember the Baconator.) I am a little surprised, though, that bacon isn't part of the name, given its popularity.
Second, you can see how things have progressed in a year. The idea of putting crumbled bacon in a chocolate bar seemed kind of disgusting to me last November, and probably to a lot of other people.
OK, I'm still not sold on it, but clearly chocolate makers, or at least one chocolate maker, now feel bacon can be the main ingredient, while chocolate takes a secondary -- or maybe equal -- role. I can't quite tell. But when one of you brave souls orders some, please report back.
(Photo courtesy of LocalLabels.com Web site)
November 7, 2008
A new burger bistro and bar
Midnight Sun Sam scooped me when he discovered the Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill before I did.
Its soft opening, for drinks only, is tonight.
Sam kindly wrote up part of his interview with the owner for me to post while he's posting the info about the bar at Midnight Sun, so please visit him there for more on the beers and wine offered.
Here's what Sam discussed with owner Russell Miller: ...
Abbey Burger Bistro will have salads and appetizers, but burgers are the centerpiece of the menu. A variety of specialty burgers, including turkey burgers, chicken burgers, foie gras burgers, veggie burgers, portobello mushroom burgers, lamb burgers, and local Black Angus burgers will be offered. You get the picture. They range in size (from 6 to 10 ounces) and price ($7 for a basic burger and $20 for the fanciest meat, depending on the market).
You can order specialty burgers from the menu or pick from nine different cheeses, a variety of meats, buns (English muffins, pitas, etc.) and toppings.
But doesn't Federal Hill have enough burger joints?
"Not really," Miller said. "In Federal Hill, there's nobody that really specializes in burgers."
Miller visited high-end burger joints in New York City and Washington before deciding to bring the idea here.
"We figured we'd catch the niche of high quality food at relatively inexpensive prices and pair that with good beer and good wine," he said.
The chef is Chris Patternote, who came to the Abby from the presently closed Vin in Towson.
"We got really lucky," Miller said of Patternote.
Starting Monday, Nov. 17, the Abbey will open for lunch and dinner six, if not seven, days a week. They may only serve dinner on Mondays.
The address is 1041 Marshall St. (the former home of Sky Lounge) and for now, the phone is 443-453-9698. That will change in the next few days.
(Photo of Chris Paternotte at Vin by Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)
The Top Chef party
Baltimore Foodies is holding a Top Chef fifth season premiere viewing party next Wednesday at, where else, Red Maple in Mount Vernon. (Surely everyone in Baltimore who's interested in food knows by now that the executive chef, Jill Snyder, is a contestant on the popular Bravo reality show.)
You can get your tickets at the Baltimore Foodies Web site. The $35 will cover "heavy hors d'oeuvres" created by, who else, Snyder and, I presume, a view of a TV screen.
The evening will start at 8:30 p.m.; and after the show, the fun will continue with DJ Rahman and belly dancer (!) Leyla Fahadal.
Your family's own
In a topic a while back, Lissa talked about having 'Pooh butter" when she was a kid, and MD Canon talked about "honey balls."
I think every family has its own food creations — usually a treat of some kind, but often a soup or stew — that they make and call by a name that nobody else has ever heard of.
When I was a kid, every time my mom baked a pie, she would make extra pie dough, which she would use to make "rollie-pollies." Rollie-pollies are little cinnamon rolls, but made out of pie dough instead of bread dough.
When my dad and I went camping he always made "Fisherman’s Delight" on our last night out. Fisherman’s Delight is what restaurants call a "skillet." There were only two ingredients that were in every batch of Fisherman’s Delight: fried potatoes and Worcestershire sauce. Beyond that it was improvised — onions, peppers, carrots and whatever else might be on hand. At its best, Fisherman’s Delight was a side dish served with fresh fish, baked in the coals of the campfire. Sometimes — not often, I want to stress — it was the main course.
Bucky Jr. knows what Rollie Pollies and Fisherman’s Delight are (and loves them both) but when he got married, we had to explain them to Mrs. Bucky Jr.
What are your family’s own dishes?
November 6, 2008
Restaurants we'd like to see in Baltimore
Someone suggested restaurants we'd like to see in Baltimore as a topic awhile back, and, of course, I didn't take note at the time who it was. Please stand up and take a bow if it was you.
It can be either a specific restaurant in another city that you would like to see come here, or a type of place (an upscale crab house, for instance).
For me, it will always be an Urth Caffe. I yearn for its fabulous fruit plate; the best tortilla soup ever loaded with ripe avocado; the Urth salad with mixed greens, artichoke hearts, chickpeas, feta, olives, plum tomatoes and a wonderful vinaigrette; the farmer's salad of spinach, fennel, radishes, candied pecans, shaved Asiago and other good things served with La Brea walnut-raisin bread.
I have to go now to see what a ticket to LA costs these days.
I loved this election night comment from Robert of Cross Keys:
I'm watching ABC News, and in the Times Square crowd there are two signs: Cassoulet and Cassoulet Forever. I didn't even know Cassoulet was on the ballot. If so, I may have changed my vote.
The signs were later explained by hmpstd, but it does seem a timely subject for exploration.
Cassoulet, for those of you who have never had it, is a rich French stew of duck, sausage, often other meats and beans. I feel like I've seen it on Petit Louis' menu in the past, although it's not there now. If any of you has had it at other French restaurants in the area, please post below.
Here's a column Rob Kasper wrote on a local cassoulet competition, which suggests that Brasserie Tatin might sometimes have it on its menu (not now). You will be able to get cassoulet stuffed in a sausage casing, though, as I mentioned in a Table Talk item this week. ...
It's a great company dish, if you like to cook. The one time I made it (from a Julia Child recipe, of course), I was living in a one-room apartment in Philadelphia. After the last guests left, I got violently ill -- not from the food but from a weird facial neuralgia thing that lasted three days. It was very painful and was accompanied by terrible nausea.
I couldn't get off my bed of pain even to wash out the cassoulet dish that sat on my kitchen counter. The rich smell lingered in the apartment for those horrible three days, and for years I equated cassoulet with being sick. It took me a long time to be able to enjoy it again.
Funny how great dishes can be spoiled by association.
The photo, by the way, is of a winter chicken and white bean cassoulet, definitely untraditional, but it looks good. Too bad I don't have the recipe to share with you, just the photo from our archives.
(Photo by Tammy Ljungblad/Kansas City Star/MCT)
Two more openings for you and a closing
First the closing. I should say the alleged closing, although the Web site is gone and when I phone I simply get the message, "This mailbox is full."
L Good reported in a comment that Trapeze in Maple Lawn closed this last weekend. I also got an e-mail from MM yesterday telling me the same thing.
As usual, if this is temporary, or if you know anything different, please post below. ...
As for the openings, Midnight Sun Sam tells me Red Fish in Canton is open yet again, but he seems to be suffering from Red Fish Reopening Fatigue and wants me to report the story so he can link to Dining@Large. I'll get right on it, Sam. You bet.
Finally, Catches Restaurant, Grill & Wine Bar has opened on Pulaski Highway. The wine bar part is a little puzzling, but the steaks look good on the Web site.
(Photo of Trapeze/Sun archives)
November 5, 2008
Eat in Season Challenge: Tapas Teatro
Tapas Teatro in Station North will take Slow Food Baltimore’s Eat in Season Challenge Nov. 8-15. Chef Antonio Baines has created seasonal, locally sourced tapas dishes for the challenge, which is the seventh in the series.
Now that the series is drawing to a close (there's one more in December), I'm curious: Is anyone participating? I haven't heard word one from any of you on the subject. I don't mean are you going to Tapas Teatro when you would anyway, or ordering something from the special menu just because it happens to be there, but are you going to any of these restaurants specifically for the locavore menus? ...
Anyway, all the produce and herbs are from Fig Leaf Farm in Howard County, five acres leased by Tapas Teatro owner Qayum Karzai (also owner of 'b" in Bolton Hill and the Helmand in Mount Vernon).
The apples are from Black Rock Orchards in Carroll Country and poultry and eggs are from Evensong Farms in Sharpsburg.
Here's the menu:
* Fried green tomatoes with herb-scented yogurt and a sweet garlic-cornichon-piquillo vinaigrette ($6.95)
* Mixed roasted beets "au jus" finished with pinenuts, hazelnut oil, and sea salt ($5.95)
* Roasted beet and arugula salad with toasted hazelnuts, dried cherries, currants, golden raisins, and marinated red onion finished with a currant vinegar-elderberry vinaigrette ($8.95)
* Roasted turnips "au jus" finished with shaved garlic, farm fresh sage, cracked peppercorns, and housemade creme fraiche ($6.95)
* Brussels sprouts in a parmesan-truffle cream ($7.95)
* Pan-roasted halibut paired with wilted spinach finished in a Serrano horseradish cream ($14.95)
* Duck leg confit with cannellini beans ($17.95)
* Organic egg omelet with farm fresh broccoli, cremini mushrooms, Swiss, and truffle peelings ($8.95)
* Chicken and orzo soup with roasted garlic, fennel, and mint ($6.00)
* Dessert: winesap apples in puff pastry ($5.95)
(Photo of Fig Leaf Farms banana peppers by Kim Hairston/Sun photographer)
The Thanksgiving list
Today I have to make a final decision on what next Tuesday's Top 10 is going to be. The only thing set in stone is that it has to have a Thanksgiving theme.
I was going to do Top 10 Places for Thanksgiving Dinner; but now that seems so, well, yesterday. It's my fallback plan, though.
And in spite of what hmpstd said, I'm kind of intrigued by MD Canon's Top 10 Alternatives to Turkey. He has, after all, given me three excellent ones. And if I make it Top 10 Alternatives to a Traditional Roast Turkey Dinner, I might have something doable. ...
I'm also entertaining the notion of Top 10 Dishes to Make With Pumpkin. That's probably close enough to Thanksgiving to fit in with the theme of the Nov. 19 Taste section, where the list will be reprinted. Thanks, tbm.
I can't do side dishes, because that's going to be our centerpiece story, and I'm contributing one. Stay tuned.
I could also do the economy version of the Places to Eat Thanksgiving Dinner, although I haven't heard of any. (You know, $25 or less.) It's a hard thing to report if I don't get any leads. Otherwise I'm just randomly calling likely restaurants, which can be pretty frustrating.
(AP Photo/Disney, Kent Phillips)
The David Palmer Effect
Even though this is a food blog, I think we should pause for a moment to consider the momentous events of yesterday.
Enough with the Bradley Effect already. Nobody but Bradley has ever been affected by the Bradley Effect. I want to mention the David Palmer Effect. Seven years ago David Palmer on 24 was so fabulous he made it super cool to have an African-American president.
Did the CNN pundits point that out?
I thought not.
And now back to our regular programming. ...
November 4, 2008
Champagne and frozen peas outtakes
The best salad dressings in town
I'm working through the ideas generated by my call for Top 10 topics last Sunday. Maybe I can't get 10 out of them, but they are worthy of discussion. One of these was salad dressing, which I have strong opinions about, like everyone else, but couldn't name more than two or three I'd put on a "best" list.
Part of the problem is that even salad dressings I really like are too often applied with a heavy hand in restaurants. I sometimes ask for the dressing on the side; but in a fine restaurant, I like to think that's an insult to the chef. ...
Am I right in thinking Sabatino's salad dressing -- basically oil, vinegar and lots and lots of Romano cheese -- is the most famous in Baltimore? Or would it be Chiapparelli's?
I would love to know how sugar became an indispensable ingredient in salad dressing. It's counter intuitive. Lettuce doesn't seem like something that needs a sweet sauce. I've even had blue cheese dressings that tasted sweet. Ugh.
One of my favorite dressings is made with oil, lemon juice and heavy cream beaten into it so it has a nice texture; but my go-to dressing is pretty simple: olive oil, red wine vinegar and seasonings -- one or more of mustard, garlic, herbs, salt, freshly ground pepper. Whatever strikes me as I'm making it.
Salad dressing trends come and go like everything else. Before salmonella was an issue, just about every fancy restaurant in town offered a Caesar salad made tableside with a raw egg. I haven't seen that in awhile, even made with pasteurized eggs.
And then there was green goddess dressing. I wonder what happened to it. (I know you can get it in a bottle, but I never see it on a restaurant's menu.)
And how did balsamic vinegar get to be the vinegar of choice? How did ranch dressing knock out orange French as the American favorite? Remember when blue cheese dressing always cost extra in restaurants? What changed there? Is Russian dressing dead for good until the iceberg lettuce wedge comes back?
These are all questions to ponder.
(Photo by Ringo H.W. Chiu / For the Los Angeles Times)
Top 10 Places to Celebrate Your Candidate's Victory...
...or mourn his loss.
This was a tricky one. Since we don't know who will win, I have to offer a few places where Republicans will feel comfortable and a few for Democrats.
I've also thrown in several restaurant/bars with no obvious political affiliations because once someone has won we'll all be in this together.
And then there are a some election night specials included for good measure.
Feel free to tell us about any other special events you've heard about by posting below.
Here's my list: ...
* Chick & Ruths Delly in Annapolis. Any place where the Pledge of Allegiance has been recited every morning since 1989 seems like a good place to celebrate a political victory. Plus, the sandwiches are politically themed.
* The newly renovated Corks in Federal Hill has a warm, cozy, beautiful copper-topped bar where you can celebrate your candidate's win or mourn his loss and enjoy the new cheese-centric menu.
* Germano's in Little Italy has a half-price menu today and tomorrow for anyone who voted for Obama and the Democratic candidates. They'll take your word for it because "Democrats don't lie."
* Iggies in Mount Vernon has been selling "Iggies/Obama memorabilia," and they have good pizza. But you have to BYOB.
* The newly reopened Metropolitan in Federal Hill is offering three election night entrees for $13 each: a 14-ounce T-bone steak with mashed potatoes and green beans, seafood linguine in Cajun cream sauce, and honey-glazed chipotle chicken with wild rice and asparagus.
* Morton's The Steakhouse in Baltimore and Annapolis will be opening their private "boardrooms" for viewing the election results. The election night prix fixe menu is $52.95 a person, and there are election cocktails: the Republicantini, the Democratini, and the Undecided-tini.
* Ropewalk in Federal Hill has photos of Reagan and Ollie North over the bar. Republicans will be embraced there, and Democrats can go to gloat if their candidate wins.
* Salt in East Baltimore isn't doing anything special for the election, but the TV will be on in the bar, and the food is good enough to console you if your candidate is a loser, or be worthy of the celebration if he's a winner.
* Teavolve in Harbor East is having a Watch Party tonight with a large screen TV. The kitchen will be open till 11 p.m. The Obama Bellini and McCain Margarita are two of the drink specials.
* I didn't pick the Tusk Lounge in Mount Vernon for any political affiliation, but for the beautiful space and the upscale bar food. Still, the name is certainly appropriate.
And a couple of bonus suggestions, although no food is involved:
The Windup Space in Station North is offering $1 off drinks tonight for anyone with an "I voted" sticker. You can watch the results on its large projection screen.
Tell Starbucks you voted, and you'll get a free cup of coffee today.
(Glenn Fawcett/Sun photographer)
November 3, 2008
Restaurants with great soup
Among the many excellent suggestions for Top 10 ideas I got this weekend was a cry for soup. (In fact, a couple of cries for soup.) This was the subject for a Top 10 Tuesday last fall, and here's the link to the list. But it can certainly use updating.
My first nomination is the sweet potato and coconut soup I had at the Brewer's Art. I'm just sorry I don't have a photo of it.
(Randy Pench/Sacramento Bee/MCT)
Monday Morning Quarterbacking
Yesterday I reviewed Luminous in the Westin BWI Hotel in Linthicum. I talked about how often people wanted to know about a good place to eat around the airport, although I didn't quite understand why.
Well, now I do. I just found out that Gailor is flying in a little after 6 p.m. on the Saturday before Thanksgiving, while my brother, who's coming from LA, will be getting in some three hours later. The only thing that makes sense is for us to pick up Gailor, drive somewhere nearby and eat dinner while we wait for her Uncle Tom.
So this is the place to tell me you had great service at Luminous so I should give it another try, or suggest an alternative. Or let me know other places where you had an incredible wait and what the restaurant did about it.
(Christopher T. Assaf/Sun photographer)
Red state and blue state restaurants
It looks like tomorrow's Top 10 is decided just from the discussion that's going on under the earlier post. Top 10 Places to Celebrate Your Candidate's Winning. Cosmo Girl, most appropriately, suggested it has to have a large, efficient bar where you can crow about the win or drown your sorrows about the loss.
Jon Parker came up with a couple of Democratic suggestions. Lissa suggested Columbia for Republicans, cheap, ethnic places for the Dems. Robert of Cross Keys outdid himself with a list of Republican haunts. Hal Laurent VoR suggested Birds of a Feather but wanted it checked out by someone who has been recently. ...
I think we've made an excellent start here, folks. For one thing, I never thought much about the fact that there were red state and blue state bars and restaurants in Baltimore. I can only imagine how much they are going to enjoy being characterized as such. (Well, they could always have spoken up if they didn't like it. Their fault for not reading D&L.)
But following Cosmo Girl's lead, I think we should also include some fabulous bars. For that I will need Midnight Sun Sam's help, unless you want to take a crack at it.
(Andre F. Chung/Sun photographer)
November 2, 2008
Next Sunday's review
Next Sunday I review the Brewer's Art in Mount Vernon. Because I'm not a beer drinker, I sort of forget about it although I've had very good meals when I've eaten there in the past.
I love dishes made with beer, though, so I was happy to hear that the restaurant's new chef was getting into that. The fact that there is a new chef and a new menu, and also all the places that have opened in the Hamilton/Lauraville area that have some connection to Brewer's Art, inspired me to pay it a return visit.
Please look for my review next Sunday in the Arts & Entertainment section, or online.
(Photo courtesy of the Brewer's Art Web site)
To heck with the economy: New restaurants are still opening
Lately I feel as if I've only been reporting gloomy news about restaurants' closing. Then suddenly I have a slew of openings that all deserve to be the lead item in my Wednesday Table Talk column with photo. That means you'll be reading details about them spread over the next few weeks, but I do feel like they are important enough to deserve a timely mention here.
For instance, the downtown branch of the popular breakfast and lunch spot Miss Shirley's is now open. ...
The Parkside Fine Food & Spirits has just opened in Lauraville. This is another one of those restaurants that is peripherally connected to the Brewer's Art folks. (I can't remember exactly how, if anyone wants to jog my memory.)
Mari Luna Latin Grille in Pikesville has opened, and will be featured in this Wednesday's Table Talk. It's had to take the other Mari Luna's liquor license, unfortunately (or fortunately if you like to BYO). The owner has applied for a second license.
I had a long talk last night with Joy Martin, whose new Lost City Diner is scheduled to open at 1730 N. Charles St. the last week in November. At least she has all the permits she needs from the city, so that might actually happen.
I also talked to her chef, Christina DiAngelo. Apparently they have what they call a "gastropub" going at the Club Charles at the moment. When workers severed a gas line to Martin's Zodiac restaurant in the same block, it had to close. That meant vegans had one fewer option for eating out, as DiAngelo says she considers herself "a vegan chef."
Martin said she heard from so many folks about how disappointed they were when Zodiac closed, she decided to start serving a limited menu at Club Charles.
I don't, for once, have any closings to report. If you do, please post below.
(Photo courtesy of Miss Shirley's Web site)
November 1, 2008
My foodie friends come through
This is great. I got a lot of good ideas for Top 10 lists. Some we've done, like soup. Some are excellent but I'm not sure I can come up with 10, so they may have to be subjects for discussion but not Top 10s.
Take a look at the comments and place your vote for what you'd like to see. My favorite is Mags' comment. The question is, though, can we come up with nine more great places to get stood up in?
I like justagrrl's suggestions, too. In fact, I like most of them. But the question is, what's the best one for Tuesday? Maybe place to celebrate your candidate's winning? Love that, so timely, but...er...what characteristics does such a restaurant have to have?
(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer)
Desperately seeking a Top 10 idea
Cripe. I forgot until this morning (actually about 2 a.m. when the thought woke me up) that I need a last-minute Top 10 Tuesday idea. I had it in my head that next week would be Top 10 Restaurants to Have Thanksgiving Dinner, but the editors want to do an all Thanksgiving food section on Nov. 19, so that would make the Top 10 about Thanksgiving have to be on Nov. 11 unless I can come up with a second Thanksgiving idea. And frankly, one is about my limit.
So that leaves this Tuesday unaccounted for. Somehow the ideas haven't been coming thick and fast lately. ...
For one thing, we've been doing Top 10s for 18 months now, which translates roughly to 75. That's a lot of lists about restaurants, even if we allow ourselves some latitude. That's not a royal We, by the way, it's a we, as in you're in this with me.
We did an ingredient last week (duck) so it needs to be a bit broader this week. And it can't be too over the top because it has to appear in the print edition. The standards are stricter. In fact one of the comments I chose for last week's list was pulled at the last minute in case it might offend someone. (Sorry, I don't remember which one.) That means I probably can't do Top 10 Restaurants Not to Break Up In, as I think one of Owl's personalities once suggested, with the explanation that steak houses would be on the list because of the sharp knives.
Now that I've put my mind to the subject, maybe there is more than one Turkey Top 10. I could bag the whole Thanksgiving/restaurant thing and do Top 10 Best Uses of Turkey Leftovers on Nov. 11. Although my immediate problem is Nov. 4.
(Colby Ware/special to the Sun)
The market by moonlight
Actually, I don't think the moon was up at 7 when I went to the Waverly Farmers Market this morning, but it sure was dark. I don't remember this from past years. I guess it must be because of how late Daylight Savings Time is this year.
Maybe that's why the blogware clock is messed up. Maybe when we switch over tonight, comments will start appearing in their proper order at the proper time. ...
I go to the market all winter, just not as frequently. (It never closes, even in the snow, if you aren't familiar with it.) But what I'll miss once the first frost hits is the variety of things. You don't get as much variety even in Baltimore's gourmet supermarkets, like all the different kinds of sweet peppers.
Today Gardener's Gourmet had four kinds of kale. Actually kale probably isn't affected by frost, and Gardener's Gourmet has a greenhouse anyway.
As for apples, I learned that the last Honeycrisps were picked in September. They hold up well, but they have been in cold storage. Fujis are a "younger" alternative. The latest apples are more tart, like Granny Smith and Braeburn. And, oh yes, trendy Pink Ladys will be in next week.
He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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