Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Berkshire Mountain Bakery

Brownie was the one who introduced me to this place in Housatonic, MA. The Berkshire Mountain Bakery bakes natural sourdough bread, crusty and full of flavor. We stocked up with loaves to bring home - a sunny flax for brownie, a cherry pecan for 1000yregg, a peasant French for us (above).

But the real treats were the mini-ciabattas -- cheese jalapeno and dark chocolate chock full of dark Callebaut chocolate chunks. Toasted whole, then sliced, these were just so good - crunchy crust, gooey cheese and chocolate within...

Berkshire Mountain Bakery
367 Park Street, Route 183
Housatonic, MA 01236
413- 274-3412

The Southfield Store, Southfield, MA

While at the Berkshires, Brooklen recommended I try the Southfield Store in particularly for breakfast. He made the claim that their croissants were better than any croissant he had in NYC. Big words, eh?
I went early in the morning and ended up eating 2 croissants. They were warm, buttery, and flakey.
The store also made nice bite size pain au chocolat which were decadent.

Southfield Store
163 Norfolk Road
Southfield, MA 01259

Harry's Pizza, West Hartford, CT

I used to live in Connecticut, and one of my favorite places to eat at was Harry's Pizza in West Hartford center. The pizza places in New Haven get more attention probably because they're closer to NYC, but I always thought Harry's had better pies.
They have amazing crust- thin, crispy, and delicious. They use high quality toppings and when you eat in, you get an italian ice at the end of the meal. My favorite was always the pink grapefruit.

Harry's Pizza
1003 Farmington Ave
West Hartford, CT
(860) 231-7166

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Rubi's, Great Barrington, MA

We head up to BrookLEn and LBT's wedding in the Berkshires last weekend. BrookLEn had recommended lunch at Rubi's, a little cafe attached to Rubiner's Cheese shop in downtown Great Barrington.

1000yregg went for the country pate sandwich, served open-faced with cornichons and slathered with whole-grain mustard.

Redneckhunter got ham and cheese with dijon. I went classic based on BrookLEn's recommendation, and just opted for plain grilled cheese made with melted gruyere.

After lunch we, of course, had to browse the cheese shop and taste the delectable samples of cheese and pate.

Rubi's and Rubiner's Cheesemongers
264 Main St
Great Barrington, MA 01230
(413) 528-0488

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Breakfast at Shopsin's, NYC

Shopsin's has reopened in New York City! When the restaurant was mentioned in the penultimate episode of Heroes this spring, the West Village location had closed. Now, they've relocated to a nice corner of the Essex Street Market in the Lower East Side.

I stopped by there last week for breakfast and had the Diego - poutine topped with poached eggs. With it, a side of bacen. I'm glad they gave me a piece of cantaloupe and honeydew melon to make it healthy.
Their menu is now only 2 pages, but they still have about 30 kinds of pancakes and 50 kinds of soups. It's good to have them back.

Stall No. 16
Essex St. Market
120 Essex St.
New York, NY 10002

Monday, July 23, 2007

Girls Cooking Night: Basil

For last week's girls cooking night, we did it Iron Chef-style (though non-competitive) with basil as the theme ingredient, which yielded one of the prettiest, most colorful meals yet.

Kim started us off with peach, red pepper and basil bruschetta. This was amazing - the flavor combinations were wonderful - who would have thought? The peaches and roasted red peppers were marinated in balsamic and sugar and were so good we ate the remaining mixture straight out of the bowl. Brownie made grilled pesto chicken and Debbie made not one but two types of mozzerella, tomato, basil salad.

I made tomato basil biscuits (recipe came from the New Basics Cookbook by the Silver Palate gals). I was a little worried because my dough was really wet after adding the tomatoes, but the end product came out just fine.

But I think we'd all agree that the piece-de-resistance of the evening was Melissa's fragrant shrimp with crispy basil and shitakes. She actually made her own curry paste for this dish -- so impressive! The recipe came from the Pacific Terrific cookbook, but she added fresh basil as well as the fried crispy basil called for in the recipe. The more basil the better, as far as I'm concerned!

Incidentally, the other portion of the Iron Chef challenge was lemon, which we ended up using in drinks and dessert. But as per usual, by the time dessert rolled around I was too intent on eating to take pictures. I had made lemon lace cookies (also from the New Basics) and Brownie had made a lemon cake (from Ina Garten, I believe), and we toasted with limoncello.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Nasu Blanca in Baltimore

1000yregg wanted to try this new Spanish-Japanese place in Baltimore called Nasu Blanca. The restaurant boasts an extensive cold sake menu and all Spanish wine list, and serves tapas, zensai, paella, and fusion dishes. Located in a converted brownstone in the Locust Point neighborhood, the place has "date place" all over it.

With the place having a white eggplant as its logo (my guess is that nasu means eggplant in Japanese, blanca of course meaning white in Spanish), I thought that we should try the Japanese eggplant appetizer for sure. It was the best thing in the meal (above right). The eggplant was soft with slightly crispy skin, sweet through and through with a wonderful marinade. The accompanying miso sauce was great too.

We also got squash blossom tempura (above left). The tempura was nicely done - light and crispy and not oily at all; the blossoms themselves delicate. It was good, though I would have preferred a little less goat cheese stuffing inside, and the sauce was supposed to be an aioli, but a fusion one I guess, as it wasn't like any aioli I'd ever had.

Our third starter was halibut cheeks -- also good, but just missing a certain wow factor for me. I used the bread to sop up the yummy miso sauce instead...

1000yregg and redneckhunter did enjoy our bottle of sake. I don't know anything about sake, but 1000yregg said I should make sure to photograph that it was "Junmai Ginjo."

Of the entrees, 1000yregg liked his kobe filet the best. It came with an interesting spicy tuna tempura, which was spicy tuna wrapped in nori (no rice), then dipped in tempura batter and fried.

I had monkfish, served with a fennel gratin and bouillabaise of mussels and crab. It was good, except since it was served in a shallow dish it all got cold too quickly. I also took off the big dollop of pesto cream on top -- it was just too rich for me and just masked the seafood flavor.

Redneckhunter was very disappointed with his Paella Valenciana. It wasn't hot when it arrived at our table, the rice was undercooked, and the flavors were not infused. Definitely not a true paella...

I think the verdict is thumbs up on atmosphere (other than the strange fetishy posters in the bathroom though they are a conversation starter...) and thumbs up on sake, but the place is way too pricey. They seem to do Japanese better, so stick to sake and zensai...

Nasu Blanca
1036 E. Fort Ave
Baltimore, MD

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Making Runza's

Redneckhunter comes from the heartland, land of many people of Germanic descent, land of the Runza. What's a Runza? It's a chain of restaurants that makes bierocks. What's a bierock? See here.

Always looking for ways to use up our farm share produce, we decided to use our head of cabbage to make Runzas. I started out making the dough, which has plenty of good stuff -- milk, butter, and sugar -- and let it rise until doubled. Punched it back down, then let it double again.

In the meantime, I shredded a head of cabbage and sauteed it with ground beef, onion, and plenty of black pepper. Then to add more flavor I added some Worcestershire sauce and soy sauce, and thickened up the filling a little the Chinese way (with cornstarch dissolved in water).

All this was enough to make about 16 or so Runzas which we froze for later baking. They take about 30 minutes to bake at 350 degrees and come out toasty on the outside, tasty on the inside.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Eat at Your Own Risk

There's only one thing that warrants more than a 3 chili pepper rating on the menu at Pam Real Thai, and that's the catfish rated 5 chilis! (Like, this one goes to 11.) So naturally, I had to order it. Sorry I can't provide the Thai name, but it's not on their take-out menu (in fact they don't put anything rated more than 2 chilis). When I ordered it, the waiter said, "This you can't send back." It took me a while to realize what he was talking about. "Very spicy, can't send back." Oh, of course not! -- I assured him.

It certainly was hot, but delightfully, not painfully, so. The fish was fine, the mini eggplants retained more of the spiciness soaked in, but Thai spice never has the lingering burn -- just a pleasant wakes-you-up-and-clears-your-sinuses tingle. Definitely not "inedible-send-it-back" hot, and by far not the hottest thing I've had this year (that would be Prince's Hot Chicken in Nashville). The moral is, as 1000yregg so aptly writes in our intro, don't let the waiters scare you -- "eat without fear or prejudice."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Matthew's Pizza in Baltimore

I had heard about Baltimore's Matthew's Pizza for some time. It claims to be the best pizza in town, so I wanted to try it out for myself.
I ordered two small pies- the Everything pizza- with pepperoni, mushrooms, onions, green peppers green stuffed olives and anchovies, and the Traditional Tomato pie, which had just their tomato sauce topped with grated cheese.
Matthew's crust is thicker- like a Pizza Hut pan pizza crust, but not at all greasy, and pretty tasty. It has a nice crispy exterior with nice dough inside.
It's clear they use fresh, good quality ingredients to their toppings. I think the everything pizza is a bit too many toppings for a pizza though. I should tone it down next time. I do love their tomato sauce- it had a great zesty and sweet flavor. On the tomato pie, the flavor really shown.
I think I would definitely go back to Matthew's.

Matthew's Pizza
3131 Eastern Avenue
Baltimore, Maryland 21224
(410) 276-8755

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Dosa Grill, North Brunswick, NJ

Located in a teeny blink-and-you'll-miss-it strip mall on Route 27, Dosa Grill is a favorite of Brownie's. Strictly vegetarian and South Indian, the menu has 25 different dosas and 8 different types of the dosa's thicker cousin uthappam.

Pictured above and to the right, is the the old standby Masala Dosa, served with sambar (a spiced broth), a garlicky tomatoey chutney, and coconut sauce.

We also got Pesaratu with Uppuma, (pictured above and right) a green gram dhal pancake with a filling described as "cream of wheat with vegetables." The filling was nice and thick and creamy like polenta, but with the mild cream of wheat rather than corn flavor.

We also ordered the Dinner Thali (pictured below), an assortment of dishes which included a dhal, a channa masala, two flavors of sambar, a sweet beet dish, and a savory beet dish, along with rice and a chappathi.

I think we were the only non-Indian people in the restaurant that night - always a good sign. I will definitely be back.

Dosa Grill

1980 Route 27
North Brunswick, NJ 08902

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Summer Baking

It's positively sub-tropical today on the East Coast, but I took advantage of some cooler weather last week to do some baking. I turned fresh blueberries picked at Terhune Orchards into blueberry crisp. I just tossed the blueberries with about 2 tablespoons of sugar, and made a crumb topping with brown sugar, flour, oats, butter, and cinnamon.

My farm share yielded a head of broccoli the other week. I hate broccoli -- always have -- in fact, I don't think I've ever actually cooked broccoli myself. But determined to eat my green things, I made this broccoli-cheddar skillet flan recipe from epicurious, minus the potatoes. It was yummy - fluffier and lighter than a quiche, and without a crust of course.

Monday, July 09, 2007

Chapin Restaurant, Princeton, NJ

The Chapin Restaurant is a tiny hole-in-the-wall Guatemalan take-out joint on Witherspoon Street. Brownie tells me Chapin is some sort of beloved fictional character in Latin America. I guess it's like naming a restaurant Robin Hood, or something.

Anyway, the spot where Chapin is used to be a Mexican place that made its own hot tortillas, served menudo on Sundays, and always told me their tongue tacos were sold out even when I insisted.

We tried it out now in its Chapin Guatemalan makeover. Sadly no more menudo, no more tongue tacos, and prices have gone up! $2.75 for one taco! Tacos were good but I really liked the empanadas, freshly fried, the skins were crispy on the outside, soft on the inside. I also noticed sopes on the menu and gallina (hen) stew on the weekends, so I may go back to try them one day. But too bad the priced are more like sit-down prices rather than takeout!

Still I guess you take in Princeton, with its dearth of good Latin food...

Chapin Restaurant
146 Witherspoon Street
Princeton, NJ 08542
(609) 924-5772

Knife and Fork Inn, Atlantic City, NJ

On an impromptu trip to Atlantic City last weekend, redneckhunter and I noticed the Knife and Fork Inn because of its old world exterior. It's location on Atlantic Avenue is far off the main casino strip, almost to the neighboring town of Ventnor. It was only when we were walking up to the restaurant and we noticed the valets parking luxury cars that we thought, oh maybe this place is kinda schpanky...

Little did we know the Knife and Fork has quite a history. Originally established in 1912, the place has been a private men's club, a speakeasy, and a Rat Pack hangout. The latest proprietor is Frank Dougherty of Dock's Oyster House.
We didn't have reservations, so we sat at the bar and ordered a bunch of appetizers. The main menu looked pretty good with mostly steak and seafood, worth coming back for a real sit-down dinner. Appetizer #1 was mini kobe burgers, topped three ways - caramelized onions, blue cheese, and peppercorn remoulade. While I do agree with what Tony Bourdain says about kobe burgers being a waste of the great marbled beef, I must admit these were pretty tasty. Cooked perfectly medium rare and served on great toasted buns.

Appetizer #2 was an heirloom tomato caprese salad. The tomatoes were sweet and juicy and the vinegar and oil were both rich and thick. I always wish for more basil on these though.

Our third appetizer was disappointing. The lobster spring rolls delivered a mouthful of sesame oil, so much it overpowered any lobster flavor at all. Redneckhunter loves spring rolls, but I told him we should stick to ordering them only in Asian restaurants.

All in all, though, a nice surprise discovery - definitely worth going back to and trying from the full menu.

Knife and Fork Inn
Atlantic and Pacific Avenues
Atlantic City, NJ
(609) 344-1133

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Andy Nelson's Barbeque

I went to have lunch at Andy Nelson's Barbeque in my hometown of Cockeysville, MD. The place makes pretty darn great Memphis style BBQ ribs - they're smoked for hours and then coated with tasty, zesty sauce. The meat comes easily off the bone.

We ate up a generous full rack of ribs. We also got a whole Dixie Smokehouse chicken. This had a real nice smokey flavor with a nice coating of spices. I actually liked this with the restaurant's Carolina sauce which had a little mustard flavor to it.
We also got some sides: the cole slaw and the BBQ baked beans. I love good beans at a bbq place, and Andy Nelson's were actually pretty light for beans- more tangy, but this went really nice with the heavy meat load of the ribs and chicken.

Andy Nelson's Barbeque
11007 York Road
Cockeysville, MD 21030
(410) 527-1226

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Lunch at Huong Que- Four Sisters, Eden Center, VA

Last weekend, met up with some friends at the Eden Center in Falls Church, VA. The Eden center is the heart of the Vietnamese community in the DC area. It boasts some 120 shops in it's complex, including 30 restaurants. We ate at one restaurant, Huong Que - Four Sisters, a favorite of several area bloggers and on chowhound.
We started with their Bo Tai Chanh, a beef salad. The way I prefer it is with raw beef marinated in lime juice, but the beef in this dish was cooked with a salad. I was a little disappointed by this.

On the other hand, I did quite like their summer rolls with shrimp and pork and particularly, their crispy egg rolls. The skin was nicely fried - crunchy and a little bubbly.

My favorite dish at the restaurant was the Bo La Lot, or beef wrapped in grape leaves.
You take some rice paper, and then you place one of the stuffed grape leaves into it along with some rice noodle vermicelli and some vegetables. Roll everything up like a burrito and then dip in the spring roll sauce. Yummy.

I tried the Banh Xeo, or crispy pancake stuffed with pork, shrimp and bean sprouts. It reminded me some of a samosa. Nice texture, but the flavor was a bit bland, but then with some sriracha, everything was alright.
We also got the fish special which was cooked in a sweet and sour type sauce. Nice and light.

Huong Que / Four Sisters
6769 Wilson Blvd.
Falls Church, VA 22044