Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Stoudt's Brewery, Adamstown PA

I had a conference to go to in Gettysburg, PA, so on the way home we made a point to stop at Stoudt's Brewing Company and Black Angus Restaurant, which is right off Route I-76, between Reading and Lancaster PA.

The place is sort of in the middle of nowhere, but well worth the stop.  Redneckhunter was naturally excited about the beer.  He started out with a seasonal Kolsch. And later got a sampler of 4 -- the Triple (a Belgian Abbey-style ale), the Double Inda Pale Are, the Heifer-in-Wheat (their version of a hefeweizen), and a raspberry rhubarb beer (that I wanted to taste).

I was happy with housemade cheese from their own Wonderful Good Market.  We got three to try -- the Elderbritch, an aged cow's milk cheese (from local pasture grazed cattle) named after a PA Dutch prank in which grown-ups would send kids out to hunt for the elusive imaginary Elderbritch; the Ferdinand, a trappist monk-style cheese steeped in Stoudt's own Fat Dog Stout; and the best one -- the Fresh Eliana, a soft Italian-style cheese like a brined Mozzarella.  The cheeses were served with walnuts and a spiced apple chutney (which, though tasty on its own, was a little overpowering for the cheese).  The homemade bread, also from their own Wonderful Good Market was also great.

For our main dish, we shared the sausage platter for two with bratwurst, kielbasa, and weisswurst with sauerkraut, red cabbage, and German potato salad. 


The Stoudt family have a full complex on their 62-acre farm there with the brewing company next to the Black Angus Restaurant and Pub.  There's also a banquet hall for large events like weddings.  Behind that is the Wonderful Good Market and Black Angus Antique mini-mall, and across the street from the market is Stoudtburg Village -- modeled after a Bavarian hamlet, with shops and 60 residential units.  Must be a nice place to live if you're a big Stoudt's beer drinker to just stumble right home.

Route 272 2800 North Reading Road
Adamstown Pa. 19501

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Saro Bistro, New York

Saro Bistro is a tiny place in the Lower East Side serving old world Balkan cuisine.  The restaurant is named after the chef's Bosnian grandmother Saro. The place is charming -- the wait staff like to tell you about the chef and his grandmother, and the type of rustic cuisine they serve. Perhaps they're even part of the family - they certainly don't seem like pros. 

We started off with a platter of cured meats, truffle cheese, alvar and tursija (which were pickled vegetables and fried corn balls - not sure which is which). 
For main dishes, we shared the kale pappardelle, which had both kale in the pasta and sauteed kale and snap peas and plenty of white truffle oil.  The fresh homemade pasta was really nice, and the greens were wonderful.  We also shared the rabbit duo -- smoke pork crusted loin, braised rabbit legs, braised red cabbage, and root vegetable puree with rabbit jus.  I also liked the homey dinnerware that everything was served on.

The food is simple, but delicious - I would definitely go back. 

Saro Bistro
102 Norfolk Street, Lower East Side, NY
T: 212 505 7276

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Café Integral, New York

Coffee fanatic Petitesoeur had read about this place on Serious Eats -- a one-man vertically-integrating coffee roasting operation run by 24-year-old César Martin Vega.  He imports the coffee (all from Nicaragua, where his family is from), roasts it, delivers it (on his bike!), and serves it cupped to order at his Café Integral, located within American Two Shot -- a clothing store in Soho.

When we arrived around 6-ish on a Friday, César was at the counter.  We think he was closing up, but he still cheerfully talked to us about the 3 varietals of coffee he had on offer.  He positively exudes a passion for coffee.  We opted for the Maragogype, which he brewed for us using a Sowden Softbrew.  The softbrew is like the French press in that it lets the water circulate evenly with the grounds - immersion brewing.  However, rather than pressing out the grounds, the softbrew has a much finer mesh sleeve, which you pull out of the pot leaving a cleaner brew than the press.  To me, it seemed a gentler process, much more like the delicate process of brewing tea.  You can read about more about why they like it at the Cafe.

Intrigued by the other blends we bought a sampler set.  He sells his coffee in 12-ounce Ball jars - which are refillable and more sustainable than paper bags.  For the sampler, you get three 4-ounce Ball jars - one of each varietal.  Petitesoeur took home two, and I took home the jar of Maracaturra, which was very a delicate coffee. I could drink it black (and I am not generally a black coffee drinker).

The softbrewed Maragogype we had at the Cafe was a nice smooth cup, and we loved chatting with César about his business -- so much so we ended up being late meeting our friend for dinner.  But it's absolutely fantastic what he's doing all on his own -- definitely an enterprise worth supporting!

Café Integral at American Two Shot
135 Grand Street
New York, New York, 10013

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Joe Special

I have been dreaming of an amazing sandwich we had recently at Touch of Italy in Rehoboth Beach over Memorial Day weekend.  The Joe Special was simple, yet perfect -- just prosciutto with fresh ricotta and extra virgin olive oil on semolina bread.  At Touch of Italy, they bake their own bread, and we were lucky enough to get a sandwich on a freshly baked still warm loaf.  It was probably the best thing I've eaten in a long time.
 So when I saw fresh ricotta from Salvatore Bklyn at Beecher's, I grabbed a tub with the idea of making the Joe Special at home.  Salvatore Bklyn makes their ricotta by hand in small batches daily -- the texture is dense and creamy, the flavor is of rich whole milk with a hint of lemon. It's absolutely amazing and I could have probably eaten the whole tub with a spoon. But semolina bread and cured meat was calling.

Instead of prosciutto, we already had smoked bacon at home from Pulaski Meats, the Polish butcher in the Trenton Farmer's Market, and grabbed a loaf of semolina from D'Angelo's Italian Market in Princeton, drizzled it with plenty of olive oil, and went to town with our own version of the Joe Special sandwich.

I also happily devoured ricotta with honey on toasted bread - yum...  I need to get back up to the city to get more ricotta! I'm also excited that Touch of Italy is opening a bakery in Lewes, DE where you'll be able to buy loaves of their delicious bread.  Hopefully they'll be open by the time we make it back down to the beach again later this summer. 

Thursday, June 14, 2012

LAMILL Coffee, Baltimore

Another fine addition to the Four Seasons in Baltimore is LAMILL Coffee, originally from LA. While the coffee is excellent, an added bonus is that pastry chef Chris Ford is responsible for most of the items on the menu.
He is certainly fond of making seasonal macaroons that are larger, usually a whopping 2-3 inches in diameter. I've had flavors like cinnamon brioche and red currant in the past.
One time, I tried his dense rich bacon cheddar scone as a savory alternative.

One of my favorites is hot beignets with your choice of dips. I end up getting the Meyer lemon curd all the time.
I recently tried the everything cookie, similar to Momofuku Milk Bar's compost cookie, it's got an assortment of items baked in it. What I could tell was chocolate chip, oatmeal, raisins, popcorn, potato chips, and pretzels.
I also recomment the delicious cinnamon brioche.
200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Beecher's Cheese, New York

 In our wanderings last week, petitesoeur and I also found Beecher's Cheese.  I love the smell that hits you upon walking into cheese shops.  I had heard of Beecher's, but I had no idea the place was so huge!  In addition to the cases of cheese and shelves of food accompaniments and gifts, there's also a lunch counter that serves grilled cheese sandwiches (naturally), salads, and other prepared foods with an upstairs mezzanine seating area.  They also make cheese on the premises.

And downstairs, there's a bar called The Cellar with clever cocktails named for notorious New York miscreants (click to enlarge the menu) to read the descriptions, with bar food -- mac and cheese (again, naturally), charcuterie, and small plates.

Of course we couldn't help tasting some cheese and taking some home. Coffee junkie petitesoeur naturally gravitated toward the Beehive Buzzed -- a cow's milk cheese rubbed with coffee and lavender.  What a unique flavor!  The combination was really striking -- after more tastes, you could taste the 2 separate flavors of coffee and lavender, but the blend really worked and was surprisingly delicious.  The Carr Valley Cocoa Cardona also caught my eye - goat cheese rubbed with cocoa powder and aged 2 months.  I went home with a chunk of each.

Beecher's Handmade Cheese
Flatiron District
900 Broadway
New York, NY 10003

Monday, June 11, 2012

A nice spring mash-up

My brother once called me a great "last day before vacation" cook - meaning I can take whatever happens to be in the fridge and make a meal out of it.  This remark was in response to a meal that my 18-year-old self had made from the contents of his 23-year-old summer sublet bachelor pad fridge.  I can't remember what that meal was, other than I know it included a leftover Hamburger Helper flavor packet. These days my leftover fridge ingredients tend to be higher quality than Hamburger Helper, but I still like to think of myself as pretty good at improvising.  So faced with a new week's re-up of CSA farm share vegetables, I was trying hard to use up our greens, and came up with a surprisingly yummy lunch yesterday. 

I had some garlic scapes and leeks sauteed in butter which were left over that I hadn't put into last night's risotto.  I added this into swiss chard sauteed with pancetta and added some broth to help it cook faster and give it some liquid.  Then tossed in fresh Korean noodles -- these are great jia-jyung-myun-style round wheat noodles that have a great toothsome bite.  And the final ingredient -- the one that really pulled it all together -- was a chopped salted preserved duck egg, homemade by my mom's friend.  I've never made salted eggs, but whatever the Chinese do to preserve it not only infuses a salty flavor throughout the egg, but also does something to the texture.  The egg, including the white, gets a dense grainy creaminess -- almost like a blue cheese.  And that's exactly the kind of thing it added to the noodles -- coating everything with an extra dose of flavor and texture.  It was so good, Redneckhunter even liked it, despite all the green things!

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Madison Square Eats, Burdick Chocolates and other stops

Petitesoeur and I met up for the last day of Madison Square Eats last week.  Even though we tried to arrive on the tail end of the lunch hour, it was still packed.  So we did a walk-through to strategize and split up to divide and conquer.  We bypassed old favorites like Red Hook Lobster Pound, Sigmund's Pretzels, or Eataly in favor of new things we hadn't eaten.

I waited in line at Asia Dog and she at Roberta's. I was torn between all the delicious dog flavors but opted to go more summery with a chicken dog topped Sydney style (Thai style relish with mango, cucumber, red onion, cilantro, peanuts and fish sauce).  The dog itself was superb (hard to believe it was chicken!) and the relish was refreshing.  We scarfed that up quickly while waiting for our pizza. We had both wanted to try Roberta's especially after 1000yregg's post. Finally the kale, leek, and ricotta pie came out.  The crust was more chewy than crispy, almost like Indian naan. I kind of liked it, but I think petitesoeur was disappointed -- still hungry enough to wolf it all down though.

Still a little peckish, we considered going back for a different flavor Asiadog, but instead decided to split a sandwich from Mayhem and Stout, after smelling the aroma of the braised meat emanating from their stand.  You get a choice of meat -- brisket, short rib, or pulled chicken;  sauce -- dragon sauce, harissa, or blueberry sriracha;  and relish -- pickled chilis, cucumber salad, and asian slaw.  We opted for brisket with blueberry sriracha and cucumbers.  Since we wanted to keep grazing, we just ate everything with a fork and left the bread.  I also got a coffee popsicle from People's Pops.  Petitesoeur stopped me from getting sweets from Momofuku Milk Bar because we had a bakery destination to head to in Soho.

While walking downtown, we stumbled upon L. A. Burdick Chocolates.  We were drawn in by the sidewalk chalkboard offering the adorable-sounding "Chocolate penguins and mice."  They were indeed very cute!  Apparently Mark Zuckerberg had the penguins as party favors at his wedding.  The nice girl behind the counter who tole us this also offered us a taste of the Earl Grey bonbon.  In classic drug dealer style, she knew that giving the first taste for free would get you a hooked customer.  So after that one we decided to buy the Richelieu -- milk and dark chocolate center with cherry liquor, dried cherries, and cumin. The cherries had a great pop of flavor, while the cumin was very subtle.  The chocolatier is from New Hampshire, with locations also in Boston and NY - a great find!

More walking brought us to the Union Square Greenmarket, where Strawberry Infusion and Lemon Verbana drinks hit the spot.

Finally, we reached Dominique Ansel Bakery, which had been getting rave reviews from Serious Eats.  They were out of their famous DKA ("Dominique's Kouign Amann") -- which are like croissant balls with a caramelized crust.  So we ordered 2 desserts and coffee.  A ganache-frosted chocolate caramel torte, and a blueberry religieuse (choux pastry filled with custard and topped with blueberry cream).  They weren't bad, but they weren't great either.  The crust of the chocolate caramel torte was dry.  The religieuse was fresh and moist, but too sweet for our taste.  It was a so-so and definitely not worth the long walk.  The coffee was lame as well.

We both agreed the big winner of the afternoon was the Asia Dog. We'll have to make a point to try all the different toppings - at the Flea or Smorgasburg or Summerstage or their store in Nolita.

Asia Dog
66 Kenmare Street (btwn Mott and Mulberry in Nolita)
NY, NY 10012

261 Moore St
(between White St & Bogart St)
Brooklyn, NY 11206

Mayhem and Stout
At the Dekalb Market, Brooklyn

L. A. Burdick
5 East 20th Street
NY, NY 10003

Dominique Ansel Bakery
189 Spring Street (between Sullivan and Thompson)
New York, NY 10012

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Mintwood Place, DC

We braved tornado warnings the in the DC Metro area to have dinner at Mintwood Place in Adams Morgan this past week. Chef Cedric Maupillier's new restaurant has garnered some rave reviews since opening at the start of this year. The place is casual and a bit noisy, but our food was great. At first glance of the menu, nothing jumps out, but everything we had was wonderful.
We started with a trio of "nibbles". First up was pickled devilled eggs.
We ordered a seasonal item, blanched radishes, snap peas, and baby carrots "a la croque au sel". The dip was an herbed butter and salt combination.
I realize I am a sucker for shishito peppers. Their version was simple- roasted and sprinkled with fleur de sel.

My favorite dish was a seasonal starter: burrata with spring garlic and asparagus. The perfectly cooked asparagus in combination with the creamy cheese and the fresh garlic flavors was out of this world.
My main was wild salmon on a bed of spring peas, carrots and sorrel. The skin was crispy and the fish was fatty and good.

Kathy & Karen both had the vegetarian dish, a marvelous five grain risotto with asparagus, peas, mushrooms, and broccolini.
Homer got the steak frites. It looked beautifully cooked. I tried one of the delicious fries.
For dessert, we shared a few items. Karen and Homer had the sorbet trio: strawberry, pineapple, and green apple. The winner was the apple.
Kathy had the blueberry tart topped with a Greek yogurt ice cream. It was loaded with berries.
I had the strawberry rhubarb crumble a la mode.
1813 Columbia Road Northwest
Washington DC
(202) 234-6732