Sunday, October 19, 2014

My New Favorite Soup!

Like many people who love cooking (or, more truthfully, like many people who enjoy looking at food and imagining cooking it), I have a large folder of saved recipes on my computer. Currently, that folder has...only 322 recipes on it, just waiting to be cooked. I may have a slight blog-reading/recipe-hoarding problem--I'm planning an upcoming post with food blog recommendations, since I might as well use my blog hoard for the greater good. Within my recipes folder, there is a subfolder entitled "Tried", with all the recipes I've actually cooked. This illustrious folder contains a grand total of 17 recipes, most of which have become staples at our house. There's kale with fried eggs, and my absolute favorite potato salad, both recipes which can reach once-a-week proportions depending on my current level of obsession. There's the summeriest iced tea that I can make straight from my garden, and two breakfasts that I could eat nonstop. There's even recipes for when you need a quick dessert or an easy drink.

Last week, I moved another recipe over to my "tried" folder: this Immunity Soup from the lovely 101 Cookbooks. I was beyond excited to make the recipe, and it turned out even better than I had imagined it would be. There's really nothing like a garlicky, gingery, mushroom-infused broth to cure anything that has ever ailed you. We didn't have any tofu to add, but hey--more room for mushrooms! Our version also included some delicious greens--we used radish and turnip greens, since we got such good-looking ones at the farmer's market this past week. In the end, even though it was a quick-simmering soup, the carrots had deposited so much of their carrot-y essence into the broth that they were almost translucent, and the mushrooms were still fairly firm but had created kind of a mushroom stock in the pot. I've been eating this soup as often as I can, and I'm sure it'll be a mainstay all throughout the winter.

I wish you all happy recipe-hunting! No sooner had that recipe been moved to my "tried" folder that another 4 were added to the list. :-)

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Pupusas at Dutterer Park (Westminster, MD)

And now, for something completely different: a food review of a food stand so informal that it doesn't even have a name!

I was first introduced to the pupusas at Dutterer Park by one of my coworkers. During one of our work days, she asked me if I liked Latin American food. The answer being "of course!", she casually informed me that every weekend in the spring and summer there was a soccer league that played at a local park, and one of her neighbors had set up a stand to sell her homemade pupusas. Sure enough, when we went to check it out we found the Carroll County Hispanic Soccer League and one or two tents selling delicious homemade Latin American food. Carroll County can be fairly white-washed as far as racial breakdown goes, but all of a sudden I found myself in a position I've been familiar with on my food adventures in many urban metropolises: the only white person around. Very rarely, if ever, do I get the experience of being immersed in a different culture while in Carroll County, so this was very welcome. 

Usually the pupusa tent is busy with throngs of soccer supporters, and once you wend your way to the front of the line there is normally a bit of a wait for food. No matter; there is always a great soccer game to watch! I prefer to sit slightly back from the main group of spectators with their lawn chairs, on a bench where it is easier to balance my food. There is always an enthusiastic group and lots of young soccer players practicing their skills on the sidelines while you wait for your pupusas to be ready.

You can get pupusas filled with shredded meat, white cheese, or both--there is possibly also a version with beans, which I don't believe I've ever tried. I usually prefer mine with plain cheese, though it is definitely a lactose overload! The pupusas come topped with a refreshing cabbage salad which goes perfectly with the fried cornmeal dough and mountains of cheese. And it's really as simple as that--a quick and easy snack to enjoy while watching the soccer game.

If you'd like to catch a game and enjoy some pupusas, the Carroll County Hispanic Soccer League plays on weekends throughout the spring and summer at Dutterer Park.

Dutterer Park
Monroe St. and Pennsylvania Avenue
Westminster, MD 21157

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Cow (Westminster, MD)

The Cow is a cute little stand on 140 Boulevard that sells frozen custard and soft serve-type ice cream. Noah and I have been meaning to go there for awhile now, but we never seemed to be available when it was open. After a trip to Hanover, PA for sushi (look for a review in an upcoming blog post!), we decided now was finally the time to stop by The Cow.

We ordered a regular chocolate frozen custard, and it was great! It's a little difficult to write about soft-serve ice cream, because it either tastes like it should or it doesn't--not too much nuance out there unless you're going for some kind of gourmet soft serve (which we weren't). The atmosphere is also just right; a small stand with people milling around outside in the parking lot, with only a couple picnic tables to sit on.

The Cow also serves various ice cream-based desserts, and claims to have gelato, which I definitely will have to taste to believe--not a lot of gelato around here. We'll definitely be back!

The Cow
473 Baltimore Boulevard
Westminster, MD 21157
410-751-6269

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Garryowen Irish Pub (Gettysburg, PA)

For the Fourth of July this year, Noah and I decided to take a bit of a mini-vacation and spend the weekend at a B&B near Gettysburg, about 30 miles away from where we live. When we mentioned this to my parents, who visit Gettysburg a couple times a year due to my dad's job, they suggested an Irish pub in town that was very good--but they couldn't remember the name. Not a problem, because a Google search for "Irish pub Gettysburg PA" essentially brings up a full page on only one restaurant--the Garryowen Irish Pub.

Garryowen boasts an impressive menu of traditional Irish fare, as well as a strong beer list and a whopping selection of 55+ different kinds of whiskey to try. We sat at the bar even though there wasn't a wait, which might have been the right choice; not ten minutes after we sat down customers started pouring in, and suddenly customers who arrived not long after us were faced with upwards of half an hour's wait. Service was still friendly and moved at a good pace, and customers who arrived later were directed to another, upstairs bar where they could wait.

For dinner, Noah had bangers and mash, and I tried the fish and chips. Both were excellent--I remember Noah's meal being particularly strong, but I also thought the fish and chips were well above average, especially the quality of the fish and the fact that it wasn't completely fried to a crisp like many fish and chips can be. For me, though, the standout was when we got to dessert. Instead of having a traditional dessert, I opted for an after-dinner whiskey. I love whiskey, but have not had the chance to try many different brands. Because of this, I know how to describe what I like, but not how to pick the best whiskey that fits the description. Garryowen's whiskey menu helpfully gives descriptions of each whiskey, but since whiskey appears to be what they do here I asked the bartender for help. I like to drink whiskey that is not too smooth; as I described it, I like "a whiskey that kind of punches me in the face". One of the whiskies I was considering was the Jameson Gold Reserve, and after consulting with Noah and with the bartender we settled on that as the best option. I haven't had many different whiskies over the years, but this one was the best I've had; it starts out with that nice hit (the "punch you in the face" feeling I requested), but afterwards the flavor of the whiskey bloomed really nicely. Drinking it was definitely a pleasurable experience. It's an expensive whiskey to buy, but not so expensive that it wouldn't be appropriate for a special occasion...like a Christmas gift. *wink wink*


Garryowen Irish Pub
126 Chambersburg St.
Gettysburg, PA
717-337-2719
Open 7 days/week, 11AM-2AM

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Hickory Bridge Farm is a restaurant and B&B tucked way back in Adams County, Pennsylvania. Florence and I are staying for July 4 weekend near Gettysburg, so we thought it would be great to try Hickory Bridge for dinner. Getting there was an adventure - it's only 25 minutes away, but it's deep in the country and many of the roads are unsigned. We found it without having to call, but it was pretty close.

The place itself is a classic country restaurant - the menu is fixed and the price is by the person. The food is served family-style, and there are a lot of options. When we were there, they had crab imperial, oven-fried chicken, and pit beef for main dishes; scalloped potatoes, glazed carrots, broccoli with cheese sauce, corn fritters, and baked apples for side dishes; and bread, spiced peaches, and salad to start.

The quality of the food varies - the crab and chicken in particular were excellent. The corn fritters, potatoes, peaches, and apples were very good, and the pit beef was good but for an unusual glaze - I think raspberry, but I'm not sure. The other food was okay, but I just had a taste and focused on the better items. They'll happily bring you more of anything if you want, so I didn't waste space eating food I didn't love.

We also had a delicious bread pudding for dessert. Typical bread pudding in every way, but very well-made - and I think that describes the rest of Hickory Bridge as well. It isn't adventurous, but it is quite tasty.

Hickory Bridge Farm
96 Hickory Bridge Road*
Orrtanna, PA 17353
Dinner price as of 7/4/2014: $25.50/person + tax/tip

*Google dropped us off at the corner of Hickory Bridge Road and Jack Road. The restaurant is actually about 1/4 - 1/2 mile south of there.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Drink of the Day: Flying Dog Bloodline Blood Orange IPA

If you're looking for a fruit beer, Bloodline probably isn't for you. It isn't sweet or mild. If you want a fruit-influenced IPA along the lines of Stone's Grapefruit Slam IPA, however, this is an excellent choice. Like all of Flying Dog's beers that I've had, it's fairly strong (7% in this case) but very well-crafted, with enough body to offset the significant bitterness. The orange is subtle - if I were tasting blind, I might not even notice it. It adds a slight fruitiness to the bitterness of the hops, and I like it a lot.

I think Bloodline is seasonal, so you probably won't be able to find it for long. If you drink a lot of traditional American IPAs, this is worth a try for something just a little bit different.

Friday, June 13, 2014

Bamboo Garden (Brooklyn, NY)

Flushing, Queens, used to be the undisputed home of dim sum in New York. Dim sum is a style of Chinese food that involves eating small portions of many dishes. It differs from tapas and other styles of small-plate dining in that you don't order food - there are several carts wheeling around the restaurant, and they stop by your table and you pick what you want to eat.

Most of Queens' dim sum restaurants have either closed or gone significantly downhill in the last few years. My parents and I used to frequent Dong Yi Feng on 37th Avenue, but that too has declined recently. So it's been awhile since I've eaten dim sum. This brings us to last weekend, when Florence and I were staying with friends in Brooklyn. Sunset Park in Brooklyn is rumored to be the new home of dim sum in NY, so we looked up the best places on Serious Eats and decided on Bamboo Garden. Inside, it has the classic look - a huge and chaotic dining hall with many carts, and a stand at the front where you check in and get a number. We only waited about five minutes, which is impressive for a Sunday morning.

As soon as we sat down we were accosted by several carts. In fact, Bamboo Garden had more carts than I've ever seen at a dim sum restaurant - at least five stopped by our table within a few minutes of us sitting down. The weakness of dim sum is often that the food is not too fresh by the time the cart gets to your table, but Bamboo Garden was crowded and the food was flying out the kitchen. Everything was fresh, hot, and very, very good.

The standouts were the tripe and the water chestnut cake cake, both of which were easily the best I've ever had. The tripe was perfectly cooked, not rubbery as tripe can sometimes be, and not funky at all. It was the "white" style (I don't know what it's called in Cantonese) with ginger, garlic, and scallions. The water chestnut cake was the star of the morning - it was piping hot and perfectly cooked. The bottom was pan-fried, which I'd been hoping for, but you don't always see that in dim sum restaurants as it takes extra work from the kitchen. The combination of the crunchy bottom with the jellylike texture of the cake was fantastic.

The only thing that wasn't great was the chili sauce - it was a slightly-alarming bright red and tasted vaguely of chemicals. However, the food was so good that I didn't even miss it.

Bamboo Garden
6409 8th Avenue
Brooklyn, NY 11220
Expect to pay around $10/person, which is pretty typical for dim sum in NY

Tuesday, June 10, 2014

Cafe Kiev (Brooklyn, NY)

Despite how far food in Westminster has come (a tea bar! a place where most of the food is vegetarian! entire restaurants that don't even serve crab dip! real, honest-to-goodness Malaysian food!!!), when Noah and I visit New York we are itching for food that rural Maryland just can't provide. A few weeks ago, we spent the weekend in New York visiting friends and family and experiencing food from cultures we don't come into contact with at home. One of the standout restaurants we visited was Cafe Kiev, in Brooklyn.

Cafe Kiev is a small Ukranian/Russian cafe just outside of Midwood, where we were staying with friends. It's clean and attractive inside--a step up from the slightly dingy holes in the wall that Noah and I enjoy so much. The menu looked great, so we (four people, including our friends) decided to order as many things as possible. At this point, considering how many of them were in the dishes we ordered, it was clear that this meal was brought to us by potatoes.

We started off with a pitcher of Cafe Kiev's homemade fruit punch, which we all diluted with our waters because it was a bit too sweet for our tastes. Honestly, my sweet tooth is not what it used to be, so I laid low on the fruit punch altogether.

The first dish that came out was the herring appetizer, which was served with some lovely creamy mashed potatoes. I love fish, and this was excellent--very delicately flavored despite it being fish and there being chopped onions dispersed around it. I wouldn't have thought to put the buttery, creamy mashed potatoes alongside it, but they went quite well together.

Continuing on the potato theme, next we got their home fries with mushrooms. Now, as an across-the-board lover of potatoes in all their forms, I have to commend these potatoes for their excellence. These little guys were gorgeously friend and intensely addictive, a "burden" I took for everyone since the plate was right next to me. Even when I was full, I just could not stop popping those potatoes into my mouth!

We knew we had to get the vareniki with potato and mushrooms, since it's a very traditional dish and because we just can't resist dumplings in any form. These were very good, but not the star of the meal; as I described it, "they're not bad, it's just that everything else is SO EXCELLENT that they don't stand out as much".

We finished up with two different kinds of blintzes, one with red caviar and one with one with egg, onion, and mushrooms. The egg blintz was very different than the normal crepe-like texture of blintzes: a little sturdier, a little more textured. It was overshadowed, however, by the fact that the red caviar blintzes were the best thing on the menu. The caviar gave this dish a great fishy bite, and we were trying to spread it over every inch of the blintz to make sure that each person who took a piece got some. It was light and savory and delicious, and we left very happy.

The bonus draw to Cafe Kiev is the bizarre Russian pop music videos on a large screen that just happened to be right across from where I was sitting. I think the best thing we saw during this meal was this gem of a video. Enjoy.


Saturday, June 7, 2014

Lone Star BBQ (New Windsor, MD)

I love barbecue. Real smoked not-made-in-the-oven barbecue. This presents a problem in Maryland, where 95% or more of "barbecue" has never seen or touched a lick of smoke. One of the few good options, the aptly-named Smokers' BBQ in Finksburg, closed a few months ago, leaving me with nothing short of heading to Virginia.

Enter Lone Star BBQ in New Windsor. It's been open for a year, but Florence and I saw it for the first time passing through town last month. We needed an easy lunch today and decided to check it out. The first thing we saw as we drove up was a smoker out front: a very good sign. Inside it smelled like smoke and meat: another good sign. I was very encouraged at this point, and given the name I went for the most Texas of barbecue I could find: the brisket.

The platter arrived with sliced brisket, French fries, coleslaw, and cornbread. We dismissed the cornbread out of hand as it was wrapped in plastic. I did try it and determined that it was Northern-style sweet cornbread, which was too bad. The brisket was lightly smoky, juicy, and very flavorful. While I like my brisket to be more smoky and somewhat more fatty, this was excellent barbecue for anywhere in the North. It did not need sauce, which is another point in its favor. The fries were thick, hand-made, and very good. The coleslaw was particularly good - extremely fresh, not too much mayonnaise, and not sweet at all.

Would I eat at Lone Star if it were in Kansas City? Probably not. But in Maryland, or anywhere in the Northeast for that matter, it is excellent and deserves to be tried. I'll be going back with friends pretty soon.

Drink of the Day: Boulevard Mid-Coast IPA

I have a soft spot for Boulevard Brewing Company - I lived in Kansas City for two years. (Also, they're a phenomenal brewery.) They don't distribute much to the East Coast, so whenever I see some in the store I snap it up. The Mid-Coast IPA is one of Boulevard's "tasting room" beers, which they recently started selling as part of samplers. The sampler I purchased had the Unfiltered Wheat, 80 Acre (mildly-hopped wheat), Westside Rye, and Mid-Coast IPA. The IPA is likely the best of the bunch, and one of the best beers I've had from the brewery behind Tank 7 and Grainstorm.

Mid-Coast is my favorite kind of IPA: very well-hopped but not too boozy. A lot of strong American IPAs go overboard on the alcohol, up to 9-12%. Not only do I feel like taking a nap after drinking those, they have a hard time tasting balanced. Mid-Coast, by contrast, is well-hopped at just over 100 IBUs, but is under 6% ABV. I feel like I can drink a glass rather than just sip it. It's also not overwhelmingly bitter, even with 100+ IBUs. The hops are slightly floral and round out the beer rather than simply making it bitter. One of the better IPAs I've drunk.