Friday, April 11, 2014

Beer of the Day: Allagash Odyssey

I've decided to start a new series on interesting beers I come across, inspired by my recent membership in the craft beer club of College Square Liquors, my Friendly Local Beer Store. Every week I get an email with a list of new beers they have in stock, and I happily head over to the store and buy a couple to try.

A few weeks ago, that list contained Allagash Brewing Company's Odyssey. I've known about Allagash since I visited Portland (Maine) a few years ago - they're an excellent brewery, so this was worth checking out. Some research told me that Odyssey represents one of my favorite beer styles - the dark wheat beer. It's sort of a hybrid dark wheat/Belgian to be more accurate, but I let that slide. Dark wheat beers (or dunkelweizen in German) combine two styles I love into a wondrous whole. I had one with my cousin in Toronto a few years ago - sadly, I can't remember if it was Erdinger or Paulaner, but it remains the best beer I've ever had.

So I had to try the Odyssey. It comes in a 750 mL bottle with a champagne-style cork top, which I've come to love. No special equipment needed - just wrist strength and care. It's ultimately much closer to a wheat than a Belgian - no syrupy, fruity, or boozy flavors that I normally associate with Belgian ales. Actually, it's remarkably clean and subtle considering the ABV is just over 10%. Instead, it's much closer to what I was hoping for - a dunkelweiss. It's slightly bitter, more dry than sweet, with the crispness I associate with wheat beer. It's also slightly oaked - not to the point of an Oaked Arrogant Bastard, but it's noticeable and blends very well with the other flavors.

This beer isn't cheap - I paid $15 for the bottle, more than I usually pay for beer. But it's worth every penny, and I'm buying another bottle this weekend if it's still in stock.

Sunday, April 6, 2014

An Easy Sauteed Spinach with Creamy Yogurt Sauce (plus Leftover Yogurt Sauce Mashed Potatoes!)

Your drive-by recipe of the week: I sauteed an entire bag of spinach with a few cloves of garlic (instead of putting raw garlic in the sauce; raw garlic induces an upset stomach in some people), then made the rest of the creamy yogurt dressing from this recipe as written. I've been very into putting plain yogurt into everything lately! I've also been very into putting a fried egg on everything lately, which may have been partially spurred on by the fact that we participated in a meat CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) program this winter and were thus given 3 dozen eggs a month...

There was a lot of yogurt sauce left over from this recipe, which got recycled into these a few days later:

The yogurt sauce just gets used in place of milk or whatever other liquid you would mix into your mashed potatoes at the end. I think I still used a little bit of butter to soften things up as well.

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Delicious experiments with Hainanese Chicken Rice

I have wanted to try Hainanese Chicken Rice for quite awhile now, after seeing it on lots of travel shows and reading about it on lots of food blogs. Since there are approximately zero restaurants anywhere around here that serve something like that, we decided to go ahead and make it ourselves.

We used this recipe, in combination with some other recipes we found around the internet, and the results were great. Hainanese Chicken Rice seems like such a simple dish, but just under the surface it is more complex and delicious. We used lots of ginger flavors--in the chicken, in the rice, in the dipping sauce, and everything was kind of permeated with this gingery goodness. The gingery rice was so good that I was eating it with everything, and I used all the leftover ginger dipping sauce finding new and exciting things to dip it in. Plus the different preparation helps guard against any Roast Chicken Fatigue that we local eaters might have experienced in a long winter of lots of meat and not many vegetables.

Our finished product (garnished with some raw turnip slices). Deeeeelicious.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Squash soup

Just a short post to share a recipe and a few pictures of a squash soup we made last month. We used a recipe from Laylita's Recipes, a blog that I have been following for years. The only substitution we made was that instead of using tomatoes we used a bunch of tomato sauce that we had made in the height of summer and froze to break out in the dreary winter months.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Woodberry Kitchen (Baltimore, MD)

I've lived in Maryland for almost my whole life, and I've now lived in the Baltimore area for about 3 years. While I spend plenty of time discovering new restaurants in the counties adjoining Baltimore, I hadn't spent a lot of time looking at restaurants in Baltimore itself--it just never seemed worth it to venture out to the city, and even though Baltimore is rejuvenating itself over the years, it's a hard place to go on a casual visit. The neighborhoods with great restaurants are spread out just enough that in order to get between them you sometimes have to go through places you really, really don't want to go through. For awhile, I only had one restaurant I really liked to go to in Baltimore, and I didn't have much desire to branch out.

Last year, Noah suggested that we try someplace new for our anniversary. He'd heard a lot of great things about Woodberry Kitchen, and it was certainly in demand--the wait time for a reservation was more than we were used to. We managed to get a late-night reservation, which we still had to secure several months ahead of time. I don't have a record of that visit for you, but suffice it to say that we loved our experience at Woodberry Kitchen and decided to go back for our 1-year wedding anniversary this January. This time we were able to get a slightly earlier reservation, but at the cost of coming in at a much busier time. We also sat in an area with heavy traffic, which didn't have anything to do with our reservation but certainly made me miss the more secluded room we had been placed in last time. Because there was a wait, we sat at the bar and enjoyed some snacks and cocktails. I'm incredibly partial to the Gov't Mule cocktail, a ginger-based vodka drink. From what I gathered by looking at our neighbors at the bar, this is one of Woodberry Kitchen's most popular cocktails. Noah drank a Snake Charmer, a spiced rum drink with lots of delicious apple flavors.

Our snacks at the bar included popcorn (not only my favorite snack, but a Woodberry Kitchen mainstay that should not be missed), smoked rockfish fritters, and house made chips and sour cream and onion dip. There was not a misstep in anything we had, and the snacks paired perfectly with our cocktails. We were seated a bit after our reservation time due to a busy night (we were stunned to look up at one point and see Bill Cosby exit the restaurant with a group of his friends; at that point, you don't begrudge the staff for being a bit swamped), where we were given more chips as a consolation. Woodberry Kitchen's menu has changed as of this writing, so I don't have as many details on our dinner, but we had some boudin sausage, an incredibly smooth and delicious beef tartare, barbecued oysters, and a pasta with egg sauce.

Woodberry Kitchen is often crowded, loud and busy, but it's easy to see why. The restaurant specializes in making the most of local food and does it spectacularly well. The attention to detail in each area of the food and drinks is excellent, and the staff is busy but attentive and pleasant. There are a couple of spin-off restaurants associated with Woodberry Kitchen that are at the top of our list when we are in town again.

Woodberry Kitchen
2010 Clipper Park Rd. #126
Baltimore, MD

Friday, February 14, 2014

What I've Been Reading: Endless Feasts and Secret Ingredients

Lately, I've been very interested in compilations of food writing from magazines. Food writing collections always seem like a fantastic around-the-world journey comprising of everything from travel to restaurants to home cooking, and I love being able to open up the book and get a snippet of a new experience. In that vein, I've read two food writing compilations recently that are both well worth exploring for yourself.

Endless Feasts is a collection of food writing from Gourmet magazine, edited by the inimitable Ruth Reichl. While I never had the pleasure of actually reading the print version of Gourmet, I can't seem to get enough of its writing, even in book form. Everyone from M.F.K. Fisher and James Beard to E. Annie Proulx and Ray Bradbury has contributed to the magazine, and therefore the book, in some way or another, and every story is a delight--even the early travel stories that shine a rather embarrassing light on America's cultural ignorance and insensitivity. Though I love all the stories, there is one I keep coming back to: "Down East Breakfast", by Robert P. Coffin, is a funny portrait of the hearty breakfast required to keep Maine lobstermen and outdoorsmen going all day. I read it again and again. Also keep an eye out for Jane and Michael Stern's piece on road food, "Two for the Road: Havana, North Dakota", which portrays small-town America as only these two travelers can.

I grew up reading The New Yorker, and so did Noah (probably more so, considering he actually grew up in New York; my dad is a native New Yorker, but our family never lived there). One of my favorite things to do was always to flip to the back of the magazine, where the restaurant reviews were located, and imagine the wealth of different foods available in the city. The restaurant blurbs were like personal ads for restaurants, which was apt because at that time I was also strangely fascinated by newspaper personal ads. I also enjoyed reading the full-length food articles, so when I started dating Noah I gave him Secret Ingredients: The New Yorker Book of Food and Drink as a birthday present. In the same vein as Endless Feasts, this book is a compilation of articles from The New Yorker's history and includes plenty of big names, including A.J. Liebling, Bill Buford, Calvin Trillin, and (you guessed it) M.F.K. Fisher. It also contains Anthony Bourdain's infamous story, "Don't Eat Before Reading This", which inspired his book Kitchen Confidential (also known as the book that launched a thousand thoroughly grossed-out diners). Secret Ingredients also includes a very impressive fiction lineup with pieces from the likes of Roald Dahl, Italo Calvino, and Alice McDermott. If you're interested in some great writing about home cooks, M.F.K. Fisher's "The Secret Ingredient" profiles Fisher's vain attempts to decode the secret ingredient in a friend's cooking. One of my favorite pieces for humor value was Woody Allen's "Notes from the Overfed", a funny Dostoyevsky-esque parody on a "Weight Watchers" magazine he read on a plane.

Have you read either of these collections? What was your favorite story?

Monday, February 3, 2014

Welcome back to From Bach to Stock!

Hello again!

It's been a long time since we've posted here at From Bach to Stock. We went through a long dry spell in which we just didn't feel like blogging about our food, but lately we've been excited to share with you again.

What, you may ask, have we been up to all this time?

For one thing, Noah moved back to Maryland in the fall of 2012. He got a full-time job, and we moved into our own place.

Not long after that, I graduated with my Masters of Science in Special Education and was hired a month later by the nonprofit I had been working for to teach with them full-time.

In January 2013, Noah and I decided to make things official and invited our families over for a small courthouse wedding.

That was so much fun that in October 2013 we decided to do it again, but with 100 of our friends and family (and with a religious ceremony).

Now we're working, cooking together, and loving life!

Here's what you can expect from our blog in its new phase:

-We are not terribly interested in taking pictures of our food at restaurants. You may see some photos every now and then, but for the most part restaurant reviews will be narrative with lots of descriptors, light on the photography.

-We will photograph a lot of our food that we cook at home! This blog is less of me and Noah coming up with our own recipes (Noah does that more than I do, and I will usually be the one posting) and more of a compilation of Recipes I Have Loved. Expect to be linked to other blogs for recipes or for recommendations of cookbooks and food magazines I read. I enjoy being a conduit for other people to find media they love, and I feel like I enjoy being a curator of recipes rather than a recipe developer.

-I will review food media (food writing, movies about food, etc.) and post links to food-related articles I find interesting.

I hope this appeals to all of you who subscribed to us in the beginning, and that new people may find what they're looking for in the blog's current direction!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Taco Bar (Gaithersburg, MD)

I'm a sucker for good, authentic Mexican food--the more hole-in-the-wall the location, the better. The only exception is for someplace like Papa Joe's, which I wrote about in a previous post (though it's still acceptably out-of-the-way, hidden facing the back parking lot). So when I got a Mexican food craving while visiting my family in Gaithersburg, I figured I'd give a new place a try.

Taco Bar definitely has the atmosphere down, which I could tell before even going there because of its appropriately no-frills name. But when I got there, I realized it was an authentic Mexican taco bar, inside a liquor store. Which was attached to a gas station. Facing out onto the highway. If that's not hole-in-the-wall atmosphere, I don't know what is.

I ordered 3 tacos: 1 pastor, 1 suadero, and 1 lengua. I honestly couldn't tell which is which in the picture, since they all looked uniformly like meat on top of more meat. The tacos came out with just the meat in the tortillas, and there was a toppings bar inside where you could dress your taco up with 4 different sauces (2 mild and 2 hot, a red and green version of each), tomatoes, onions, and a mixture of the two. There may have been other toppings there as well, but those were the ones I used. These tacos were very good, but quite greasy and very filling. I still prefer Papa Joe's for overall quality, though I'd visit it again in a heartbeat when I'm in Gaithersburg.

My sister got a veggie burrito, which I think was a more American-style preparation. I only had one bite of it, but it was very good. She definitely enjoyed it a lot and is eager to go back here and eat more burritos.

Tacos here are $2.69 each, which is a pretty good price for Montgomery County. Of course, I'm used to $1 taco Tuesdays when Noah and I lived in Kansas City, but I recognize that's hard to find most places. They also have a selection of tortas I'm eager to try, as well as sopes, pozole, and empanadas. For such a small, slightly unsavory location, it's usually doing great business. I'll have to go back again and try more things!

Taco Bar Washingtonian
10003 Fields Road
Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Mon.-Thurs. 9-9
Friday 9-10
Saturday-Sunday 10-9

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Birdie's Cafe (Westminster, MD)

I don't drink coffee. I have an immunity to caffeine, and the taste of coffee is not enough for me to justify drinking it on a regular basis. But no matter where I live, I have to find the perfect coffee house, one of those places where I can feel right at home even when I'm not at home. My ideal coffee house has the following qualities:

-excellent food
-great hot chocolate (gotta drink something instead of coffee!)
-quirky atmosphere (I like coffee houses with lots of art on the walls, or books lying around, or even just a slightly eccentric clientele)
-friendly staff

When Noah and I lived in Kansas City, my coffee house was called Broadway Cafe, and I spent many lunch hours drinking hot chocolate and reading there. The baristas knew my name, and it was a great place to sit and watch the world go by. Of course, when I moved to Westminster, I had to find a new coffee house. I tried a couple, but they didn't really wow me. I eventually found my way to Heinz Bakery, which was great on the "excellent food" and "friendly staff" front but not the exact place I was looking for. And then I found Birdie's.

When I ran into Birdie's, it hadn't even had its grand opening yet (and yes, it was open before its grand opening. I don't even know). I was walking back from the farmer's market with a friend and I saw it from across the street. The logo, with its name inside a stylized drawing of a bird's nest, and its friendly-looking, colorfully-painted building caught my eye and I insisted that we go in. Walking in showed me a narrow hallway that led onto chalkboards with a variety of delicious-looking food specials, and the walls were covered with art. (Birdie's now posts a flag outside their door alerting people to the fact that they are officially an art-friendly business.) There were flowers and decorative birds on the tables, colorful couches to sit on, vibrant painted walls, a small magazine rack, and the tables had a checkerboard pattern so you could play checkers or chess with a friend while eating your salads and sandwiches. It immediately became my go-to coffee house.

My favorite things to have at Birdie's:

1. Avocado salad. Avocados are one of my favorite foods, and this salad features a mound of salad greens topped with avocado slices, peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and a variety of other things you can ask to have included. Their homemade vinaigrette is my favorite dressing for this salad.

2. Veggie sandwich. Much like the avocado salad but on a sandwich, this includes avocados and hummus (!), plus all the above vegetables. I like to have it on their sourdough, but it's probably excellent with any bread.

3. Lox sandwich. I have them go light on the cream cheese, because I don't like a lot of cream cheese on a sandwich. Go for onions, capers, or both on this sandwich--you won't regret it.

4. BLT. Need I explain! I like them to put pesto on the BLT (along with the mayo they include--you would think this would taste bad, but the flavors actually meld together rather well), though sometimes I have them put avocados on instead. They have no problem customizing sandwiches.

To drink I love their hot chocolate, which is nice and rich with a strong dash of vanilla, or their raspberry ice tea, which is unsweetened and delicious. Over 4th of July weekend they had blueberry lemonade, but regrettably I didn't have an opportunity to go over there and try it. :-(

Well, I'm off to the library. And Birdie's is just a 5-minute walk from my house...maybe I'll stop by for an avocado salad on my way home? ;-)

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Summer is coming!

(Asparagus and scallions ready to be roasted)

...And I'm making use of the (finally back!) farmer's market produce. Happy summer, everyone!