Monday, June 30, 2008

Catch 54, Fenwick Island, DE

This month, Fougoo and I spent some time down at the shore at a place we've been going to since we were kids in Fenwick Island, Delaware.
We heard about a new place opened by the SoDel Concepts group, Catch 54 located near where we stay, so we went for dinner.
We started with the crabcake slider BLTs with arugula, tomato and a chipotle mayonnaise. These were a delicious take on sliders

We also got the crab imperial devilled eggs- served chilled, they included nice chunks of lump crab.
For an entree, Fougoo got the seared Chilean sea bass with an orzo and sun dried tomato salad. The sea bass was a large slab of fish.

I ordered the pan roasted scallops with sweet corn grits and roasted asparagus. The scallops were delicious and the asparagus was nice as it was in season.

For dessert, we elected to go a little lighter by having the sorbet. We chose the blood orange and wild berry sorbets. Hands down the blood orange was the better of the two.

Rt. 54
Fenwick Island, DE 19975

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Cochon, Philadelphia

This weekend, we were all in Philly to check out the Popped! festival, so we decided to try out Cochon, a French bistro on the south side of town. First off the place was BYOB, so Redneckhunter picked up a 6 pack of Yuengling from a place called The Dive a few blocks south.
We split a pair of appetizers. Of course, we had to get the sweetbreads served with haricot verts and red peppers. They were delicious. The sweetbread was delicately prepared and the veggies were really fresh.
Alas, they were out of the fried chicken livers, so we opted instead the seared scallops with a frisée, lardons, asparagus and fingerlings salad, which was good, but not as good as our other appetizer.
For entrees, we all tried different items and shared the wealth. Mine was deemed the best of the three. I got the pork shoulder over lentils duPuy, roasted Brussels sprouts, and topped with a poached egg. Omigosh, the pork was so tender and delicious, and with the egg yolk spilling over it, it was heavenly. The sprouts were good and I particularly liked the flavor and firmness of the lentils.
Fougoo ordered the duck breast with white bean ragoût, baby carrots, and pomegranate gastrique. The duck had a nice crisp skin on it. Fougoo particularly liked her white beans.

Redneckhunter got the stuffed pork loin with mushroom duxelle, potato gratin, and roquefort sauce. The shoulder was clearly the superior dish, but the gratin was very good.

For dessert, we got both the molten chocolate cake with ice cream and the creme brulee. Both were pretty great- we finished them completely.
All in all, Cochon was not expensive and the food was fantastic.

801 E Passyunk Ave
Philadelphia, PA 19147
(215) 923-7675

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Girls Cooking Night: Food on Sticks

For our food on sticks theme, I wanted to try to recreate my favorite Korean street food - the meat-wrapped dokbokki (rice cakes) on a stick.

I mixed the ground pork with minced ginger and garlic, soy sauce, egg, sesame oil, and pepper, the night before. I bought the dokbokki at the Asian market (it's the shaping of them I think that's the real pain in the ass of making your own), and even though I soaked them in warm water for about 20 minutes, they still didn't really soft enough to skewer on the sticks. I got them onto the sticks, but they didn't really stay on.

So I ended up giving up the stick idea, and just threw them on the grill as meatballs, and served them with my own made-up sauce concoction: roasted gochujang, Shaoxing wine, and sweet chili sauce. Brownie grilled lamb kofte (and yes she got them on sticks) and Melissa grilled asparagus on skewers.

Kim provided a salad (not on a stick), while Debbie made mozzerella s'mores and for dessert - frozen chocolate-dipped fruit skewers.

The next day I cooked my leftover dokbokki the traditional way, stewed in hot sauce. Usually there would be a lot more hot sauce, but I've been very parsimonious with the sauce I brought back from Korea. That's until I find a grocery around here where I can get it! Luckily I can get my fix of dokbokki right here in Princeton at Nassau Sushi Bagel - they make it nice and spicy in red sauce with fish cakes and hard-boiled egg.

Monday, June 16, 2008

BrookLEn in Marfa, Texas

When I told my Yankee friends in New York that I was heading to Marfa, Texas, I received bewildered looks. "Why?" was the question most charged upon me. The short story has to do with a country-rock band, a tour with a missing headliner, and a three-hour show at a roadhouse in the middle of nowhere that was one of the best gigs of my life. Most of the time, it's best to leave the scene of an eventful location preserved in memory, but as years passed, and I wondered about this strange part of Texas that I visited, and discovered Marfa.

Marfa is next to nowhere, which is not an easy place to visit. My wife and I drove from Austin, crossing through hill country, and flat and unpopulated stretches of highway I previously believed only existed on Paramount's back lots. Marfa is also a strange mix of cultures. This dusty town was descended upon by Donald Judd in the 70s; he purchased an abandoned military base, and made it a showcase for his sculptor-superstar pals. Now called the Chinati Foundation, one can take guided tours, where you're as likely to see a Dan Flavin installation as you are a jackrabbit or baby elk.

Because of this constant feed of creative people, Marfa seems to be a desert oasis of culture and food. We had a great lunch at a weekend-only spot called the Austin Street Cafe. Run by a couple of caterer-artists, this home-turned-eatery was recommended by our tour guide, who was also lunching there. We shared both breakfast and lunch with amazing waffles, a great salad, and homemade rugelach to top it off.

After more art tours, local galleries, and shade-relishing sit-downs, we took an early reservation at the Blue Javelina, probably one of the pricier watering holes in town. I started with the special, a tomatillo salad. This course really punctuated this restaurant's amazing local slant: great ingredients (many homegrown), tossed with avocado, bacon and feta, giving much credit to both sides of this border-town's heritage. Mrs. LBT tried a Caesar salad that featured an enormous fried corn bread 'crouton', which might have been the best bread I had the whole trip. We shared the Steak Frites Americain (pictured above), because When in Texas, Eat the Meat.

For dessert, we were offered a quatro leches cake, one of my favorite treats. The quatro turned out to be the dark caramel sauce, which Mrs. LBT found to be a tad bitter, though I relished it for that same reason.

The one spot we missed was a coffee shop called The Brown Recluse, which came recommended. Next time we find ourselves wandering in west Texas, I hope to try it. Like Marfa itself, the experience of being there feels like a summer daydream. I plan to nap there again.

Blue Javelina
1300 W. San Antonio Street
Marfa, TX 79843

Austin Street Cafe
405 North Austin St
Marfa, TX 79843-0387

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Pit Beef Under the JFX, Baltimore Farmer's Market

Every Sunday in the summer under the onramp to the Jones Falls Expressway is the Baltimore Farmer's Market. I've heard people recommend the pit beef stand there, so I went last Sunday to give it a try.
I gotta say the beef pit looked pretty impressive. I do prefer finer slices of beef rather than the hand carve, but the sandwich was not bad. My medium rare was more medium (not enough blood), but it was tender.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Grace Garden Chinese, Odenton, MD

Recently, boards like Chowhound and Don Rockwell have been buzzing about Grace Garden Chinese restaurant in Odenton, MD near Fort Meade. After reading a blog post on the spot, I made a plan to go with some tough Chinese food critics, my parents.

The place is really inconspicuous near the fort, and the interior was modest, but they did have tables with lazy susans, a good sign for a Chinese joint. The chef and his family welcomed us very graciously, and we proceeded to eat a pretty great meal.
I special ordered the Peacock Chicken, a steamed chicked topped with a spicy sesame sauce (similar to Mala sauce). It was spicy, but not too hot, and it was delicious.

The chef recommended we try the Pocket Tofu, that they made there. It was a light tofu mixed with shrimp mousse so that they were light and fluffy. This might have been my favorite item.
Foodies on the net have been raving about the Sichuan Steamed Pork with Rice Powder, a dish with pork belly cooked with rice powder served on potatoes. The chef specially steamed ours with a lotus leaf. It was really good- really fatty, but really good.

I had wanted to try the 3 cup chicken, but since we got the other chicken dish, we opted for the Basil Fish Filets ("3 cup fish") which also had a really nice flavor.
Since there aren't as many great Chinese places in the Baltimore area, it's nice to have Grace Garden nearby. My parents and I agreed that we would definitely come back.

1690 Annapolis Rd
Odenton, MD 21113
(410) 672-3581

Saturday, June 07, 2008


If you're a regular reader of the blog, you may have noticed that I love pretzels. So when I found out that Metropolitan Bakery added a whole wheat fennel pretzel to their menu, I had to seek one out. Super chewy, with great fennel flavor - like a soft taralle. A great twist on a local favorite.

I don't discriminate, I love equally bobo whole wheat fennel varieties, buttery Amish pretzels, my beloved pretzel croissant, and the original Philly classic from the Philly Soft Pretzel Factory.

Our friend who grew up in Northeast Philly turned us on to the place and we still find ourselves veering off I-95 to visit the original location on Frankford Avenue. But the factory has now grown to have franchise locations all over the mid-Atlantic. You can't beat hot pretzels fresh from the oven, and you really can't beat the price - 3 for $1, 20 for $5, 100 for $20, and on it goes...

Friday, June 06, 2008

Tinto, Philadelphia

To celebrate my dad's and my birthday (yep, it's the birthday season), we went to Tinto, Chef Jose Garces's Basque-style tapas bar.

I only had my cameraphone on me, so only have a couple crappy photos, but the meal was amazing!

Here's the run-down of the small plates we shared:

Chicken liver pate with orange gelee;

Sampler of salados (salty snacks) with olives, spiced almonds, homemade potato chips with smoked paprika cream, figs wrapped with serrano ham, anchovies with melon;

Montadito de panceto -- open-faced bruschetta with pork belly, honey, and apples;

Brocheta de pollo -- skewers of chicken served in individual tall shot glasses with delicious garbanzo puree and truffle jus;

Bocadillo de salmon -- smoked salmon and caviar on a croissant with goat cheese and crispy shallots;

Gambas a la Plantxa -- grilled prawns served with white asparagus flan and morel mushrooms, with a morel brandy foam;

Vieiras con Panceta -- sea scallops with benton's bacon, cider emulsion and apples;

Gatxutxa -- Basque-style paella with chorizo, prawns, and rabbit;

Hongos a la Plantxa -- roasted wild mushrooms, potatoes and shallots.

The mushrooms were my favorite of the evening -- simple, perfectly seasoned and wonderful. The pork belly montadito and the scallop dish were also great. The ones I would pass on next time were the bocadillo de salmon (just not that interesting) and the grilled prawns (foam was weird). Just the right amount of food, and beautiful presentation.

For dessert, we tried a traditional basque cake with cream and black cherries (3 mini cakes), and flourless chocolate cake with caramelized bananas and saffron cream.

114 South 20th Street

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Tria Wine Cheese Beer Cafe, Philadelphia

For my and my friend Jocelyn's birthdays we went to Tria in Philadelphia. It's a wine, cheese , and beer cafe -- what they call "the tasty threesome of fermentation." Their cheeses come from Murray's in NYC. We got 3 to start: from left to right, Boerenkaas (a cow's milk cheese from Holland described as "mouthwatering butterscotch, fruit and nuts explode in dense, crystalline hunks"), an Italian cheese aged and washed in prosecco, and Cashel Blue from Ireland. The 2 hard cheeses were to be eaten with fruit preserves, and the Cashel Blue with a fig jam. The Cashel Blue combo was my favorite - together with the fig it tasted like chocolate!

We got snacks to share: Bruschetta with Gorgonzola and Fig Jam; Warm Tuscan White Bean Spread; Italian meats; Smoked Chicken and Lancaster Cheddar Sandwich with Tomato, Piquillo Pepper, Herbed Truffle Aioli; and Panino with Wild Mushrooms with Grana Padano, Fontina, Baby Spinach and Lemon-Infused Olive Oil (pictured left).

The guys enjoyed several rounds of Kasteel Rouge (a beer that redneckhunter's brother fell totally in love with).

And for dessert, Blackberry-White Chocolate Bread Pudding with Citrus-Caramel and Blackberry Sauces; Banana, Goat’s Milk Caramel and Mascarpone Panino; and cookies served with lemon curd.

Rittenhouse Square • 18th & Sansom Streets • 215.972.TRIA
Washington Square West • 12th & Spruce Streets • 215.629.9200

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

BrookLEn in Texas: The Salt Lick

Leaving Austin, we headed into Texas Hill Country, and onto one of the more famous (and infamous) Bar-B-Q ranches in Texas, The Salt Lick. It had been a while since I had last visited, and every time I almost miss the turnoff. Even though The Salt Lick has become a much bigger production—online ordering, BBQ tours, etc.— the original stone barn and wood smoker feel revived from a different century.

Gluttony is the word, with an all-you-can-eat selection of ribs, brisket, and the indelible sausages. Athough I enjoyed it all, I still feel partial to the sausages, with their thin, mustard-y mop. Mrs. LBT opted for the leaner smoked turkey plate, which was (not surprisingly) also delicious. It's hard to do anything but waddle out of there when you leave, and any time spent staring at the pit might leave you considering vegetarianism.

The good folks there let me come into the kitchen for these pictures. I must give credit to a truly friendly staff and service at the Salt Lick, which will make you want to stay until they roll you away.

The Salt Lick
18001 FM 1826
Driftwood, Texas 78619

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

BrookLEn in Texas: Flip Happy Crepes

Trailer is the new gourmet vehicle in Austin. As we cruised the city, we noticed gorgeous silver-streamlined trailers selling treats like snow cones and cupcakes. We had been recommended a crepe trailer near Barton Springs called Flip Happy Crepes.
Even on a weekday, there was a surge of people waiting for this lunchtime-only eatery. Most of the menu leaned towards the savory, so we obliged.
Mrs. LBT tried the chicken and mushrooms, and I went for a more traditional ham and gruyere with a mornay sauce. Exceptional does not do these crepes justice. They were criminal, stolen from Paris, and smuggled like squealing pigs to this empty lot, to be slaughtered for the Texans. Amazingly light but still rich, I would go back again in a heartbeat.

Flip Happy Crepes
400 Jessie St
Austin, TX 78704

Monday, June 02, 2008

BrookLEn in Texas: South Congress Cafe

Me and Mrs. LBT headed down to Texas for a big ol' Memorial Day roadtrip. We arrived in Austin around noon on a weekday, and in our delirious and famished state, we tripped on over to South Congress Cafe. This is fancier that most Austin natives usually eat, but there was no lack of Texan love in the food. We started with a homemade salsa & chip sampler with a touch of guacamole. Even though the heat levels started at mild, I think it was a higher Scoville count than we expected. The crab cakes were the house specialty, and delivered as promised, with a great cornmeal crust. We even got a healthy seared tuna salad.
I'll be posting more reports soon from Austin and many points west, including Marfa, Marathon, and the Salt Lick!