Monday, February 28, 2011

Schmankerl Stube Bavarian Restaurant in Hagerstown, MD

This weekend, Fougoo, Redneckhunter & I drove out to Hagerstown in western Maryland near the Antietam Civil War battlefield to have lunch at Schmankerl Stube, a Bavarian restaurant. Our friends, Olironstomach & Gubeen arranged this lunch with a large party of friends because of a certain dish made at the restaurant, the Knusperige Schweinshaxe, a Bavarian style pork shank, which needed to be ordered at least a day in advance to get.

When we arrived, the decor and atmosphere of Schmankerl Stube was Bavarian through and through. There was a bar with steins hanging on the ceiling, the waitresses wore German style dresses, and German music was playing.

We started with liters and half liters of Spaten Münchner Hell lager. We were given bread at the table: a dry sunflower seed rye served with butter and a cream cheese mixed with anchovy, capers & pickles.

We ordered several plates of appetizers. First was the Wurst sampler that came with a selection of strong mustards for dipping. It included Weisswurst, Bratwurst, Knackwurst, and Debrezinerwurst. Fougoo and I agreed that our favorite was the Weisswurst.

We got a plate of Herring a’la Hausfrauenart, or pickled herring with sour cream sauce and onion.
We also shared the day's Gefülltes Brot, a wintertime dish that was a crispy sourdough bowl filled with roast pork and Hunter's sauce.

After appetizers, they brought out the Knusperige Schweinshaxe. It was a massive piece of pork, about the size of my head. The pork was amazing. It had a wonderful crispy skin. The fat just under it was gelatinous and flavorful, and the meat itself just fell off the bone. It was served with sauerkraut, an apple flavored red cabbage, and a bread dumpling. It was such a large portion, I could only eat about a third of my plate.

Fougoo ordered the Herzhafter Sauerbraten, the sweet & sour pot roast. It was also quite delicious.
Our table passed around a side of their tasty Spätzle.
After so much fatty goodness, it was a relief to have a little digestif of gooseberry schnapps.

Certainly, we could not leave without some dessert. Our end of the table shared two items. The first was Schwarzwälder Kirsh Torte, or Black Forest cake.
The second was Apfel Strudel, or apple strudel with a vanilla sauce. Both were made in house and both were delicious.
After this impressive luncheon, I did not eat any more meals for the rest of the day, and I even felt full ths next morning.
I would love to go back to try other items off their menu.

58 South Potomac Street
Hagerstown, MD

Friday, February 25, 2011

M. Wells Diner, LIC Queens

One Sunday we made the drive up to meet our Queens friends up at M. Wells Diner. Since Au Pied de Cochon is probably our favorite restaurant in the whole world, we got so excited when we had heard about this place -- by a former APDC chef -- opening in our backyard!

Scared of long lines we read about on the Yelp reviews, our friends were kind enough go early to wait, so by the time we arrived, we only waited about 15 minutes. Even so, that wonderful greasy spoon smell was driving us crazy while we waited!

We started out with bone marrow and escargot, a perfect breakfast appetizer. The marrow was scooped out, the escargot stuffed into the bone, the marrow placed back on top, and probably put under a broiler (there was a nice crisp top), with parsley. Delicious! We had also ordered a couple of biscuits to start, with honeycomb and apple butter - those, however, were scarfed up before I could get pictures...

My friend couldn't get enough of the biscuits, apparently, because she got two more atop her seafood cobbler - super rich and hearty. Not only was the seafood good, but the brussels sprouts in the cobbler were surprisingly yummy! Her fiance ordered bacon, egg, and potato hash - with perfect soft-poached eggs, and tasty leeks.

I opted for a less rich option, and got the egg souffle - nice and light flavored with dashi, and topped with bonito flakes that were still twitching from the heat.

Redneckhunter got the hotdog -- a twist on a Michigan, topped with bacon chili, and a nice slaw, served on a Balthazar bun.

Luckily, we had saved room for dessert! I had forgotten the Serious Eats warning against the donuts - it was dry, stale, and not even worth eating... But we were happy with our 2 slices of pie - banana cream & coconut cream. Mmmm...

Addendum: M. Wells, Part Deux, 1000yregg's take.

M. Wells Diner
21-17 49th Avenue,
Long Island City NY 11101

Monday, February 21, 2011

13.5% Wine Bar

I stopped into the bustling 13.5% Wine Bar in Hampden for a late supper before a show at the Golden West last week.
Friends recommend I try their brussel sprouts. They were roasted with blue cheese, bacon, and walnuts.
I also had the seared foie gras served with a maple-balsamic reduction on top of parsnip oatmeal. The waitress wisely recommended I have this with a glass of Gewürztraminer.
I finished up with a pear bread pudding with whipped cream.

1117 W. 36th Street
Baltimore, MD

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Bacon Explosion Night at George's, Baltimore

Last night I went to George's on Mount Vernon Square for their semiannual Bacon Explosion night.
I started with a spicy Bacon Bloody Mary, served with so many chunks of bacon floating around, they would get stuck on the end of the straw when you drank. The olives were stuffed with blue cheese & bacon as well.
They offered two versions of the Bacon Explosion. The traditional (above) consisted of Italian sausage, bacon & BBQ sauce wrapped in a bacon lattice.

I opted for a variant also on the menu, called the Explosion Explosion. It had the sausage mixed with rib meat & BBQ sauce in the Tholian web of bacon. Topped with a delicious coleslaw, this might have been one of the best variants on the the Explosion idea I've had. Previous experiences resulted in salt bombs that made it very hard to finish. Not so with the "XX".
Oh, I should also note, all the plates came with bacon wrapped white asparagus and bacon mashed potatoes.
For dessert, they served warm brownies with vanilla ice cream topped with bacon. As one of my dinner companions noted, it was a perfect meeting of warm & cold, sweet & salty.

101 W. Monument St.
Baltimore, MD

Monday, February 14, 2011

The Chivito at Fast Gourmet, DC

Forget hoagies, tortas, and banh mi, the hot new sandwich in DC is the Chivito, a sandwich originally from Uruguay.
Located in a Lowest Price gas station on the corner of 14 st NW & W is recently opened Fast Gourmet which has been getting serious buzz on food boards as well as the Washingtonian as the next big thing.

I drove down this past weekend to try this remarkable sandwich. The Chivito consists of beef tenderloin, Black Forest ham, bacon, mozzarella, hard boiled egg, olives, escabeche (onion, garlic, peppers in olive oil), lettuce, tomato, and mayonnaise served on a soft roll that is also grilled. It makes for a knockout taste combination.
It was very big and came with very thin fries that reminded me of Steak & Shake fries from the Midwest. I already want to go back as Fast Gourmet's menu includes a Cubano, lemongrass coleslaw, and empanadas. Locals are lucky in that they deliver.

1400 W St NW
Washington DC

Friday, February 11, 2011

Mi Viejo Pueblito, Baltimore - A Postmortem

I feel bad about posting a review about Mi Viejo Pueblito in the Highlandtown area of Baltimore now because just in the past week, the chef-owner Iveth who made all this great food has moved on. I see this now as a tribute to her former restaurant. I certainly wish good luck to the new owners.

I was lucky to have eaten a few times at the place for lunch. I really enjoyed their tortas and tacos. My favorite was the Tacos Árabes, braised fatty pork & skin wrapped in tortillas and dipped in Árabes sauce, a spicy chipotle based sauce with a lot of smoke and heat.
I also really liked their Oaxacan style tamale filled with chicken and delicious mole sauce.

Last month, I helped organize a dinner for local Chowhounders, and Iveth pulled out the stops. I told her to make authentic Mexican cuisine and she introduced us to some amazing new Mexican dishes.
We started with some snacks including Chapulines, grasshoppers fried up with just lemon and salt. It was my first time trying this traditional Oaxacan snack. They reminded me of small shrimp and had an earthy spicy flavor. We also tried some homemade Mexican candies that were chunks of dried fruits.

Chef Iveth was excited to make Esquites, a favorite dish for the winter. I is a soup made with kernels of corn, butter, and lime served with a glop of Mexican mayo and chili powder. It was like a soup version of the Mexican style roast corn on the cob.
We had picaditas, which are corn tortillas topped with different salsas, queso cheese and crema. They were like Mexican pizzas.
For the mains, we had several items: Lengua (tongue!) with your choice of salsas, an unforgettable Mole Poblano and Chicharron en Salsa Verde. The chicharron was soft and reminded me of the texture of tendon in pho.
I also had my first taste of Moronga, Mexican pork blood sausage, served in a tortilla boat.
I've been in touch with Chef Iveth, and I will be sure to let readers know when she returns to the kitchen, hopefully soon.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Brunch in Brooklyn: Palo Santo

On New Year's Day, I had Latin American style brunch at Palo Santo in Park Slope.
Their take on the New Year's day meal of pork and black eye peas was a cube of delicious pork belly on top of black beans smothered with a hearty mole sauce.
We also had some appetizers. First, we tried their bean and cheese pupusas topped with pickled cabbage and guacamole. I admired the presentation of the roasted plantain which came with some dipping crema.

652 Union Street
Brooklyn, NY

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Brunch In Brooklyn : Al di là

Brunch at Park Slope's Al di là was good enough that I want to go back to try their impressive dinner menu of North Italian cuisine. We started with a very garlicky fava bean puree that I had no problem polishing off.
My friend got the banana & mascarpone cheese pancakes while I opted for a spaghetti with pancetta and chard. My plate was simple but so delicious. The pasta was wonderful, light and flavorful.

248 5th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY

Monday, February 07, 2011

Sometimes Dining- Flanker

On the evening of Superbowl Sunday, Sometimes Dining had their first meal of the 2011.
This year, they're trying to adjust their format- serving a smaller number of diners and introducing a family style of food presentation. Being Chinese, this struck me right away as a good thing, turning the meal into a more communal experience.
We started with a pleasant amuse bouche of halibut, radish, smoked lemon and oregano.

Our first course consisted of two large platters: one had lentils, beets and fresh dill, and the other had pieces of sliced bison with radicchio, grapefruit, and fried leeks.
I thought the bison was cooked nicely, but my favorite was the lentil dish. They were cooked firm, not too mushy, and the beets and dill flavors blended wonderfully.

Our second course consisted of a pot of homemade pork rillettes with Calvados, an apple brandy, served with homemade sourdough, and poached pear slices with cheese.
The third course was roasted artichoke with fennel butter for dipping and blood orange slices. The fennel butter went especially well with the artichoke.

The "trou normande", or palate cleanser, was a very subtle ginger infused potato vodka.
The last savory course was different kinds of ravioli topped with a beef consomme: a swiss chard pesto, mushroom duxelle, and egg yolk. The pasta was fresh and delicious. My favorite was the soft egg yolk.

Dessert was a piece of salted chocolate shortbread topped with rye ice cream accompanied by pieces of marzipan covered with candied lemon pieces. I was really impressed with how well the rye flavor is in ice cream, and I really enjoyed the pieces of marzipan.
The last item was homemade black pepper and nutmeg chocolate pieces.
I was happy to have been able to make it to another special meal with the folks at Sometimes Dining. They've got a great series going, and I feel the changes they've made improve the experience even more.