Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Sheep Judging and Pics from the Maryland State Fair

I loved the sounds around the sheep judging area at the Maryland State Fair.

And off to the Cow Palace!

BrookLEn in Michigan: The One Who Smelt It

My family has been going to Ludington, Michigan for generations to soak up the beach on the sandy shores of northern Lake Michigan. But only in the past few years have I discovered that Ludington also has one of the best fish shacks in America, Bortell's Fisheries. It has now become a pilgrimage for my family (we WASPs go for pilgrimages!), and this year we managed to get there on a perfect evening. Okay, some tips for Bortells:
1) You will always miss it the first time you try to get there. It's on a local road, shrouded by trees and orchards. And it's really a shack, easy to pass.

2) You can't eat there. Well, there are picnic benches outside the shack, but the real secret is...

3) Go before sunset, get your food, and then head to the park. Right across the two-lane highway is a hidden drive to a small park that is on a bluff looking out to the lake. The view is incredible, and there are picnic tables for your convenience!

Everything is fried fresh for you-- you get to pick from today's catch, and receive it hot and greasy in a paper dish. This year, we whetted our palettes with (from left to right), smelt, walleye, and lake perch (the classic). Perfectly breaded, hot to the touch, this fish wouldn't have been better even if it was dipped in liquid sunset.

Birthday at WD-50

I've been traveling this last week, and I have a couple posts to add from my eating adventures in the midwest, but first I have to wish Happy Birthday to me, and rave about the excellent meal I was treated to last night at WD-50. I only got snaps of dessert, which was a chocolate mousse ribbon with lime gelato, spots of avocado, and chocolate crumbles that the waiter accurately described as "oreo dust". On top of that, the kitchen sent us a chocolate cake with candied tube and a candle inside...
Also, great foodie celeb spotting-- first, Lee Anne from Top Chef walks in with her posse, and heads straight to the kitchen to talk to the chefs. A little later, LBT asks, "where's Harold?"... and lo and behold, the winner of Top Chef showed up too!
Highlights of the dinner were a root vegetable lasagna and the steak entrees... we tried ocean trout, but it was a bit fishy... it was Monday, however... but would Tony make such excuses?

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Maryland State Fair - Agriculture Winners

So the Maryland State Fair's Agriculture building is pretty amazing. You see fruits and vegetables that don't necessarily have the same colors as those seen in supermarkets even the fancy ones like Whole Foods.
There were 5 different colored habanero peppers alone. I also realized that I've never eaten Indian Corn- is it used for anything besides autumn decorations.

Swine and Pork at the Maryland State Fair

So all week, the Maryland State Fair is running on the Timonium Fairgrounds. It's the 125th anniversary of this farming event. Whereas most people go for funnel cake, ride the ferris wheel, or see Rascal Flatts, it's also a serious competition among the Maryland farmers.
I arrived early this morning to check out the livestock exhibition and judging pens. First up, my favorite, swine!
This morning was the children's competition. It's pretty funny to watch little kids trying to direct pigs that are probably bigger than them around the pen. The announcer was helpful in explaining what made a particular pig superior to others.
Thankfully, across from swine judging, the Maryland Pork Association was selling delicious smoked ham sandwiches.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Philly Cheesteaks: Pat's vs. Geno's

My friend had never really explored Philly, so I took her on a day trip. No visit to Philly is complete without eating a cheesesteak. Now Abner's in W. Philly and Jim's on South Street are both good and hold many memories of late drunken evenings, but the undisputed champs and the biggest rivalry in town are Pat's and Geno's, across the street from each other at 9th and Passyunk.

I won't go into the "rules" behind ordering a cheesesteak, as you can read them yourself. We taste-tested Pat's (front) and Geno's (back) head-on, getting a "whiz wit" from each one. Hands down we both agreed Pat's won on aesthetics, overall flavor, ratio of meat to cheese to onions. Though as we ate on, my friend thought Geno's meat was actually more tender, Pat's being a little tougher and fattier. But where Geno's was lacking was runnier, less cheezy whiz, and blander, soggier onions.

Flying Monkey Part 2 and Other Reading Terminal Market Treats

Made it back to Flying Monkey later in the week to try the sesame-tahini rice crispie treat. I liked it, the tahini was not too overpowering, just sweet enough, almost could have been peanut butter. The little black things you see are black sesame seeds, not bugs...

Also, whenever I'm at Reading Terminal Market, I can never resist soft pretzels from the Amish place, Fisher's. Fresh and hot from the oven, they brush melted butter all over them before serving. Mmmmm....

Monday, August 21, 2006

Flying Monkey Patisserie in Philadelphia

Saturday we went to check out the Flying Monkey Patisserie in Reading Terminal Market in Philly. At 3 in the afternoon, the bakery cases were pretty picked over -- always a good sign. They were sold out of their tahini, sesame-encrusted rice crispie treats, so we opted to try a sampling of cupcakes. Clockwise from top left are white cupcake with coconut frosting, chocolate cake with white frosting filling and chocolate frosting on top, white cake with coffee frosting, and chocolate cake with vanilla frosting. Coffee frosting was rich and buttercreamy, white cake was nicely dense and moist. Chocolate frosting was delicious and pudding-y. We left the other 2 with my friend so she'll have to tell me how they were. But what I really want them to make are t-shirts with their cute logo!

Nassau Sushi/Bagel in Princeton, NJ

You would think an affluent community with a lively main street like Princeton would be full of good restaurants, but sadly it's not the case. Most places in town are just never worth the money or wait. In fact it's the divey places that cater to students that are much better -- the classic Hoagie Haven, the wings and other fried foods at Chuck's Spring Street (formerly owned by the infamous murdering Menendez brothers). And there's always sushi -- 6 places within 3 blocks and one more about a mile down the road!! -- though only one of them (and it's sister resto) are run by Japanese people.

So I've always liked the Sushi/Bagel place more for it's Korean food. Despite last night's horrendous service by the super-young inexperienced waiter (have you ever gotten so fed up waiting that you actually walked across the street to buy yourself something to drink?), I'll try not to let it sully my liking of this place. Panchan (sp?) -- Korean appetizers -- are always tasty. It's the only broccoli I actually like! N. and I were in the mood for "bops" -- N.'s was a kimchee bokum bop, mine was hwe dup bop (raw fish & veggies over rice). I'm also partial to the soon doo boo (tofu stew) which I got take out for my next day's meal, and the la bok kee (noodles in hot sauce with sticky rice cake, fish cakes and hard-boiled eggs).

And it's right next door to Princeton's famous Thomas Sweet's ice cream, and incidentally they do also make pretty good egg and cheese on bagel sandwiches...

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Return to Obrycki's in Baltimore

With friends in town from NYC and it being peak season, we had to go for crabs in Baltimore. Originally we planned to try Bo Brooks, but upon reflection, we decided to go back to probably my favorite crab place, Obrycki's.
Unlike many places who use the traditional Old Bay seasoning for the steamed crabs, Obrycki's uses a unique mustard and pepper seasoning. The crabs, now in peak season were sweet and juicy. This was Andy's first experience participating in the crab "pick and eat" activities. Vegetarians and hygeine OCD'ers would truly freak out at the process of cracking open each crab, fingers removing guts and eating out all the delicious meat inside. I think Andy licked the shell once to taste some of the great seasoning.
We also had some of the savory crab soup, fried clams, fries, and onion rings, and the dessert of the caramel coffee cake and key lime pie really hit the spot.

Rose's Cookies in Hampden

Since my friend Andy was in town from NYC, we had to go to Rose's Cookies on The Avenue in Hampden so he could sample the cookies. I believe he got the oatmeal chocolate chip, a ginger snap, and a snickerdoodle (I never know what the heck is in a snickerdoodle). They met with his approval, and I should note this means a lot as he is the cookie shop connoiseur of NYC.
I had enjoyed the Jell-o cupcakes from Rose's a few months ago, and the toasted coconut cupcake I had was also very tasty. If we hadn't eaten just a few hour before, they had some fresh chicken pot pies sitting out that looked simply delicious. I need to return.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Little Owl, NYC

On Friday night I went out with my friend Waynebow to a newly opened eatery called The Little Owl, deep in the saucy West Village. We had some big appetites, and ordered two apps and entrees, which the restaurant artfully split for us to share.

The appetizers were a seared hamachi and duck breast. The duck rocked, and the hamachi was bright and summery. But the rave for this dinner was the pork loin (shown on the right, with the cod)... spice rubbed, with a dark gravy, served over cannoni beans. Sometimes there's a dish worthy of eating the scraps that fall off the plate- the pork loin makes that list. Even the sometimes critical Waynebow left with a smile on his face...

Monday, August 14, 2006

High Tea at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise

Just a short post about high tea at Lake Louise -- gorgeous view, such an elegant setting for a civilized pasttime. It's all about the teeny sandwiches and desserts. My cousin's husband said, the sandwiches are so good, I'd want to just eat a big one, but I think there's something about the 2 bites that makes it perfect.

Eating Eastern European in Ohio

We roadtripped to Ohio this weekend to see Tom Waits in Akron, so we decided the ethnic of choice for our culinary adventures would be Eastern European. Saturday night before a Cleveland Indians game, we caught an early dinner at Sokolowski's University Inn. It was old-school cafeteria style and $24 got the two of us all of the food pictured -- mine was stuffed cabbage with homemade dumplings and mixed veg, N's was pierogies with cabbage and noodles and mashed potatoes, dessert was blueberry pie -- plus all-you-can-eat soup and salad bar, plus beer!

Sunday morning post-Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, we drove past an industrial wasteland punctuated by labor unions and Chinese restaurants to find Frank Sterle's Slovenian Country House. It was like they transplanted a dining hall from the old country -- the perfect setting for polka-dancing weddings. There were quite a few large tables of families of 15 or so people spanning 3 generations, probably there after church every Sunday. Again it was an unbelievable amount of food for not much money -- who can blame mid-Westerners for their size?

Where else can $16.95 get you chicken noodle soup, salad, bread, wiener schnitzel, kielbasa, roast pork loin, mixed veg, sauerkraut, and yummy oniony sauteed potatoes served with an ice cream scoop, plus coffee and delicious apple strudel!

I could only finish half of mine but had to take it to go it was so tasty -- perfectly breaded and fried schnitzel, smoky sausage, tender pork. Let me just say meat, potatoes, and any type of crust or dough as the strong points of this cuisine; vegetables not so much...

Down in Akron, we were still full from lunch, so we just had an ice cream dinner -- Mary Coyle's has been making "butter-rich" ice cream since 1937 - yum!!

Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tim Horton's

When we were up in Canada, we went to Tim Horton's, the largest fast food chain in all of Canada - eat it McDonald's. They sell primarily doughnuts and coffee, and despite the fact that Wendy's owns them, it's clear that the Canadian customers aren't there for Frosty's or chili.
The doughnuts were super-fresh, and despite the long wait, were well worth it. I loved the chocolate-banana cake doughnut as well as the maple frosted raised doughnut.
Canadians get homesick for Tim Horton's much in the same way I missed Dunkin Donuts when I live in Vegas. Horton's, dare I say, might be better than Dunkin Donuts.

Friday, August 11, 2006

American Gooseberries

In Canada, I discovered a new fruit. It showed up on top of a piece of chocolate banana pie at Canmore's Sage Bistro, a small yellow fruit with a tail of leaves. It looked like a small cherry with a texture of a tomato, but it's flavor was a little sour. It was a gooseberry, a fruit found in cooler areas on the west coast of North America.
I read up on the fruit, and there is a European version that looks more like a plum, but I really liked this fruit, so when we had a buffet at Hotel Lake Louise, and they were found scattered with the dessert platters, I ate a couple of them and got extras to have other people in our group to try.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Elk Filet at the Maple Leaf Grille

In Western Canada, eating out means beef, bison, or game meats. When we ate at the Maple Leaf Grille in Banff, the chef's Game Meat selection of the day was this Elk Filet wrapped in bacon.
Cooked medium rare, this slab of delicious animal was my favorite dish when we were in Canada.
I quite enjoyed the sides of beets as well. The Maple Leaf was another great Chowhound recommendation.