Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Eating in Cape May, NJ

Over the Memorial day weekend, the TIGBG crew took a day trip to Cape May, New Jersey. We rode over from the Delaware shore via the ferry out of Lewes, a pleasant hour long ride.
Our first stop for snacks after we disembarked was The Lobster House. The place has the feel of a tourist trap, but we enjoyed sitting dockside on the pleasant day next to moored fishing boats. I was told by some friends to try their snapper(turtle) soup. We also ordered a small cup of their clam chowder. The snapper soup was very rich and hearty. Too bad, it did not come with some sherry. We were disappointed in the chowder which was not hearty enough.

Our next stop in Cape May was Gecko's, a Southwestern restaurant. We shared some chips with salsa and guacamole and a Ute taco. It's a Navajo fry bread topped with lamb adovada and bean & corn salsa. It came with a chipotle salsa. The lamb was similar to pulled pork, and it was a little spicy. Gecko's is definitely worth returning to as their dinner menu had some delicious sounding plates.

For supper, we went to the Magnolia Room, inside the Chalfonte hotel, for the Sunday supper buffet. Fougoo had heard that the fried chicken was special because the chefs use their mother's old cast iron skillet which is over a hundred years old to make the chicken. Also, a key component to their recipe is that the first fry onions brown in the oil prior to putting the chicken in. The chicken was good, with subtle seasoning. The skin was wonderfully crispy.
The rest of the buffet was Southern style cuisine including black eye peas, broccoli salad, ham, and stewed tomatoes. For dessert, we tried their chocolate cake and tapioca pudding.

The Lobster House
906 Schellengers Landing Road
Cape May, NJ

31 Perry Street
Cape May, NJ

Magnolia Room
301 Howard Street
Cape May, NJ

Friday, May 27, 2011

Freddy's Lobster & Clams, Bethesda, MD

The owners of Grapeseed Bistro in Bethesda recently opened Freddy's Lobster & Clams next door. It's a much more casual counterpart to Grapeseed that is in the spirit of a New England clam shack.
I popped in for lunch last weekend, and boy, I can't wait to go back already. I started with a small lobster stew. In tradition with how it's prepared in New England, the soup was basically cream and butter with a huge amount of lobster. It was wonderful. They serve it with a blueberry muffin that I ate the next day.
I decided to try their lobster roll as well. They gave the option of having it warm with a melted butter or chilled with a little mayo & lemon zest. I opted for the cold variety. The lobster was so good, and was really pleasant with just a dash of the mayo.
I need to go back soon to try their fried whole belly clams.

4867 Cordell Ave
Bethesda, MD

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Market Table Bistro, Lovettsville, VA

While visiting friends who live all the way out in Loudon County, Virginia, we had dinner at the Market Table Bistro in Lovettsville, VA. Because the area is basically farmland, the supply of local ingredients is bountiful, and this restaurant takes advantage of it's location to highlight the food of the area.
We started with a pair of snacks to start our meal. First up was a bag of toasted Virginia peanuts. They were also a little spicy, and very addicting. Our second app was warm olives in a cast iron pan with garlic & peppers.
I decided to make my meal of just starters. My first course was a chilled Kerry Springs Farm asparagus soup. It was topped with Cherry Glenn chevre cheese, olive oil and chive blossoms. The soup was light and captured the flavors of the early summer.

Next, I had the restaurant's version of "liver and onions". In this case, it was a chicken liver pate topped with a sweet red onion marmalade. It came with small house made toasts.

I ordered a second soup, a white bean soup with house made ham. It was rich and hearty.
I followed with a salad called "Spring Garden & Forest Floor" which was composed of seasonal items from local farmers & foragers. This evening, it consisted mostly of asparagus and beets. My favorite parts were the mushrooms.

Everyone at the table ordered desserts and we shared each others choices. I got the dark chocolate creme brulee with homemade ginger snaps. The brulee was sweeter than I expected, but I did love the ginger snaps which seemed more like ginger bread in texture to me.

The hit of the trio of items was the spring strawberry crisp with vanilla ice cream. It had the perfect combination of sweet, tangy, hot and cold.
We also tried the "cookies & milk", a chocolate cookie made in an iron skillet with a glass of milk. The server recommended some chocolate sauce.

13 Broad Way East
Lovettsville, VA

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

The Pure Pasty Co., Vienna, VA

My friend Claus lives in Vienna, VA just outside of DC, and in the past year, The Pure Pasty Co. opened right near his house. They specialize in making authentic Cornish pasties, which are like large empanadas or Hot Pockets.
The traditional kind has ground beef, potato, onion, and veggies. I like mine with a little HP sauce and some strong mustard.
They also offer other kinds of pasties. The Cornish Masala is filled with chicken & potato seasoned with curry. My friend Claus likes the Philly cheesesteak version. This past Easter, they made lamb pasties that were really good.
Pure Pasty started making 1/2 lb. pork pies in the last couple months as well. These are especially good. I particularly like the pork jelly that is between the crust and the pork.

128C Church Street Northwest
Vienna, VA
(703) 255-7147

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Chef's Table at Elements, Princeton

The list above (printed on plantable seed-infused card stock) was the inspiration for our recent Chef's Table at Elements. With so many courses and extra "snacks" this post will mostly just be a list of courses and photos, but hopefully you can vicariously experience Chef Scott Anderson's creativity at work.

We started with some fun cocktails and mocktails, and a bread basket with housemade focaccia, grossini, crispbread, and twists.

Next they brought out a sampling of amuse bouche: clockwise from left (radish with housemade mayo, salad of local beets and apple, sweet potato soup, murcia (blood sausage), and avocado mousse.

Course #1 was a salad of mixed greens with lardo, shaved ricotta, and asparagus puree. Asparagus being currently in season in NJ, they became an ongoing motif throughout the meal. The wine pairing for this was Grinalda Vinho Verde from Portugal.

Snack #2 came out next -- fresh kindai tuna tartare. By this point, we were starting to think we better pace ourselves if the "snacks" were going to number as many as the actual courses.

Course #2: Shimaaji (Striped Horsemackerel) with trout roe hollandaise. Wine: Bodegas Castillo de Monjardin El Cerezo Chardonnay 2009.

Snack #3: "Spaghetti & Meatballs" - where the "meatballs" were beak muscles of calamari and the "spaghetti" were julienned asparagus.

Course #3: Hamachi "short rib" - a playful presentation with fish bones as "ribs" - on sweet potato noodles, with a sauce of yuzu, nasturtium, and thai chile. Paired with: Dewatsuru Kimoto Junmai Sake.

Course #4: Blowfish tail and razor clams, on sticky rice. Paired with: Rio Maggio Telusiano Falerio. There were 2 sauces - one was a gingery puree, the other was slightly citrusy. The greens were black bean shoots. With a table full of mostly Chinese people, we thought maybe the texture of the sticky rice could have been better, but of course we were all comparing it to our moms' - who can beat that right?

Snack #4 was the piece de resistance - a foie gras "cookie" - yuzu-infused foie gras torchon sandwiched in between parmesan shortbreads -- absolutely rich, decadent, and delicious!

Course #5: California snails with whey and bonito foam, with cabbage, on macadamia nut puree. The snails were delicious though I wished I could have tasted more macadamia nut flavor. Wine: 1994 Kalin Cellars Chardonnay Cuvee W Livermore Valley.

Snack #5: Morel stem stuffed with pork butt and smoked ricotta. We got an added treat when we were invited into the kitchen to see the delivery of morels by their mushroom guy. They were the hugest morels I've seen in person!

Course #6: Duck breast with shaved asparagus, evergreen pine puree, english peas, glazed radish on wild rice. This came with two pinots: Robert Sinskey Aries Pinot Noir Carneros 2006 and 2009 Melville "Estate-Verna's" Sta. Rita Hills Pinot Noir.

Snack #6: Anchovy tart with olives and goat cheese, on chorizo puree.

Course #7: Lamb loin, vadouvan sauce (a North African curry) with housemade smoked ricotta, carrot and japanese almonds. This reminded us of Japanese curry. Wine: 2007 Dunham Trutina Red Blend.

Course #8 (Palate cleanser): Sheeps milk yogurt, with diced fennel, asparagus and apple, and housemade granola.

Course #9 (Dessert): Chocolate dome with dark chocolate ganache shell and milk chocolate mousse inside, with hibiscus puree, sorbet and ice cream. Paired with: Dow's 10-year-old Tawny Port.

Finally ending with a plate of petit fours: (front to back) pistachio hazelnut macaroon, blood orange gelee, passion fruit tart, and mango shortbread. We were fat and happy by the end of this great meal.

163 Bayard Lane
Princeton, NJ
(609) 924-0078

The Best Darned Blueberry Muffin!

Redneckhunter recounts the story well. A small coffee shop in Princeton, NJ, Small World Coffee, gets its start selling muffins made by a lady in town. They are amazing muffins. The proportion of blueberry and muffin is mindblowing. How does the muffin stay together?
The coffee place gets more well known for their coffee, and the lady decides to stop making the muffins full time. Now, these legendary blueberry muffins are only made on weekends. One tray only, and they are usually sold out by noon. Redneckhunter attributes this largely to some "regular" who sweeps in and buys half the tray each morning.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Corner BYOB in Baltimore

On the Avenue in Hampden in Baltimore, a new restaurant, Corner BYOB, opened in the last few months, and I stopped in for an early dinner one evening a few weeks ago. The chef, Bernard Dehaene, from Brussels, previously cooked at a Belgian place called Mannequin Pis in Olney, and I had heard that his new venture had a more adventurous menu. When I was seated, one of the days specials included kangaroo tenderloin, but I was immediately attracted to the boudin noir and the just in soft shell crab.
The crab arrived first on a bed of fiddlehead ferns. This started truly captured the local and seasonal spirit of the area. The crab was fantastic, just simply pan fried with no battering at all, and it paired wonderfully with the fiddleheads.
My second starter was the boudin noir on a bed of mash and topped with a whole grain mustard. The texture was creamy and the flavor was nice and earthy. I think Corner won me over with just this dish alone.
For my entree, I had the Veal Orloff, a veal that starts braised, then is topped with mushrooms and bacon, and finished in the oven. It's then smothered with a béchamel sauce. I liked it, but the star of the meal was the blood sausage.
I was too stuffed to try dessert, but I hope to return soon.

850 W. 36th St.
Baltimore, MD

Friday, May 13, 2011

Mini Hawaiian Food Safari in Las Vegas: Malasadas Hunting & Local Kine Grinds

My last full day in Las Vegas started with an idea that I could find malasadas in town. Fougoo posted about Leonard's malasadas when she went to Hawaii a few years ago, and I could not forget how much she and Redneckhunter loved these sweet treats. I knew that there were a lot of Hawaiians in the Vegas area, and by doing a quick survey online, I found several places mentioned that made malasadas.
The first place was a bakery on the northeast side of town, but I discovered they had shut down.
I had another lead, a branch of the chain L&L Hawaiian Barbeque was also noted to have malasadas. They certainly did. I ordered one of both kinds- plain and custard filled. They were made to order and came out piping hot. I would agree with Redneckhunter's preference for the custard filled malasadas. They were amazing: creamy, eggy, sweet and warm goodness.
I also tried some the the Hawaiian food at L&L. First I got the Loco Moco. It was not so good. I was told that L&L are more of a fast food chain, and this showed in their Loco Moco. The hamburger patty reminded me of a McDonald's hamburger patty.
At least their Spam musubi was decent. After all, you can't have a filler substitute when it's already Spam.

After a disappointing Loco Moco, I decided to go the downtown Vegas to Aloha Specialties for supper to make up for it. As I arrived, I saw that they were having a "Lei Day" festival, and I saw a big banner advertising "Malasadas".
I headed directly to the stand, and ordered just the custard filled variety. These were better than the ones at L&L. I watched them deep frying them and piping in the custard while I enjoyed a couple more malasadas.
After dessert, I walked over to the California Casino to the their mezzanine level to grab a bite at Aloha Specialties. This restaurant has been in Vegas for years, and they might make some of the best Hawaiian food in town. I decided on the Hawaiian tripe stew with a side of mac salad.
The tripe was tender and the flavor of the tomato and onion sauce was pleasant and mild. Their mac salad was delicious. The Hawaiian version of macaroni salad is usually less watery than mainland mac salad. When you scoop it up, it retains it's shape.

L&L Hawaiian Barbeque
7891 W Tropical Pkwy # 120
Las Vegas, NV

Aloha Specialties (inside California Casino)
12 East Ogden Avenue
Las Vegas, NV