Archive for March, 2009

See You at Brunch

March 28, 2009

As the whether gets warmer and you folks slowly emerge from hibernation, eager to welcome warmth and sunshine . . . well, first I’d tell you to go back into hibernation, we’ll keep having cool days until closer to May!  Then I would tell you to ease back into the bar scene slowly and with mimosas.  It’s really the best way to do it!

Capt. and I finally got to go to Little Havana in Baltimore for their highly popular brunch.  I have heard nothing but raves about brunch at Little Havana, and after almost 2 years of bugging Capt. to take me, he finally gave in.  I was tickled and excited, and as he called to make our 11am reservation, I knew it was going to be a good Sunday.

We arrived at Little Havana at 10:50am and there was a line.  It wasn’t a big line, but it was a line . . . the line consisted of intermural teams eager to have a sip before (or after, I don’t really know) their big game, couples like Capt. and myself, and parents with their children.  We all had the same intention, to eat and drink ourselves silly for $13.95 per person.  And boy did we succeed.

Little Havana’s brunch is just that, $13.95 per person for a brunch entree (Cuban-inspired) and bottomless mimosas, bloody mary’s, and non-alcoholic beverages, like coffee, that I couldn’t care less about when promised orange juice and champagne.

Thanks to Capt.’s good thinking about making us a reservation, we were seated and served quickly.  We got our drinks within the first few minutes of sitting down.  I ordered a mimosa and Capt. ordered a bloody mary.  Trust us, we learned that day that Little Havana does not skip on the libations.  They want everyone to get happy and drunk.  We started off with pint glasses of beverages at 11am and left at 1:30pm, having killed off 2 pitchers.  They weren’t strong, but they did the trick!

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A word to the wise, Little Havan prepared their bloody mary’s the night before and are very generous with Old Bay in the actual mix and on the lip of the cup.  The drink ended up being strong for Capt. and less than pleasant for me.  If you’re on the fence about sipping on Mary, go for the mimosas.

We were only about halfway finished our drinks when our brunch arrived.  I had ordered a side of plantain fritters sprinkled with powdered sugar, and an avocado omelette, which included eggs, topped with fresh avocados and a mixture called sofritos on the inside.  Sofrito is advertised as “peppers and onions stewed in a spicy tomato sauce, as a girl who can hardly tolerate pepper, it’s not spicy and reminded me of a watery cooked pico de gallo.

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You can see in the picture I didn’t just get the omelette.  Served with it was a very welcome surprise of 2 strips of bacon, a delightful sugary sweet mini muffin, cuban bread strips, and honey butter that was so good it could have been eaten on its own.

The meal was totally worth the $13.95!  We finished shortly after and sat and watched basketball on TV while drinking as many pitchers as we could handle.  Unlike other popular brunches I’ve been to, no one was trying to kick us out, we were welcome to stay as long as we like.  It was glorious!

By noon the atmosphere really started picking up at the place.  Truthfully, it seemed like for a lot of the people, brunch at Little Havana was the equivalent of going to the bar.  Capt. and I both agreed that we would almost prefer doing brunch than going out on a Saturday night. 

There were large groups killing pitcher after pitcher of mimosas, people playing shuffle board and pool, the NCAA tournament was showing on all TVs, and no one was rushing you out.  It was really like a night out on a town.  There were all age ranges, college student, parents with small children, people my parents age and older.  Everyone was welcome!

So as you’re easing back into the routine of hitting the pavement and reentering society after a winter of hibernation, make your first stop brunch at Little Havana.  It won’t disappoint.

Happy Weekend!

March 27, 2009

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Salads are only for murderers
Cole slaw’s a fascist regime
Don’t think that they don’t have feelings
Just ’cause a radish can’t scream

– Arrogant Worms
from Carrot Juice Is Murder

Contortionism at it’s Best!

March 26, 2009

Tonight my parents, Capt., my friend DG, her husband, her parents, and I (we’re a HUGE party!) are going to see Cirque du Soliel’s Kooza.  I am so excited to see a Cirque show, hang out with one of my all time oldest and closest friend, and just enjoy a night out. 

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We’re starting the evening out at Lucy’s Irish Pub (formerly Maggie Moore’s), which might be one of my favorite Irish restaurants in Baltimore.  Lucy’s is different than the other Irish places in the city because it’s not an irish pub that serves good irish food, like James Joyce and Mick O’Sheas.  It’s an Irish restaurant that serves beer.  I has great authentic Irish meals, like stew, Shepherd’s pie, and corned beef and cabbage, but also has some great looking nontraditional meals that sound delicious.  I’m already eyeing up their Low Country Shrimp and Grits.  Mmm . . .

A cool note about Kooza, Charm City Cakes, of the Ace of Cakes fame, made a specialty cake for the cast of the show.  See the cake presentation here: http://weblogs.baltimoresun.com/entertainment/dining/reviews/blog/2009/03/post_129.html

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Give Me a Fruit Bar!

March 25, 2009

I love eating breakfast.  I’ve definitely taken the advice that you should eat breakfast every single morning and if I skip it one day, I usually end up feeling very sluggish.  I tend to be a creature of habit with certain things and my breakfast is one of them.  On weekdays I alternate between plain oatmeal sweetened with honey, greek yogurt sweetened with honey, Cheerios, or waffles, always a piece of fruit on the side.

I wanted to mix up my routine a little bit while sticking to its roots, so I pulled out an old recipe that I snagged from US Weekly probably over a year ago.

I added a few variations to the recipe, as I tend to do . . . I doubled the recipe so I could feed myself, my mom, and my dad.  Instead of strawberries, I cooked up an apple with some honey and cinnamon until it softened and then I added it to the mixture.  I also used agave syrup instead of artifical sweeter (my dad claims he can always taste artifical sweetener in food and will not eat anything if it’s cooked with it, I am also trying to steer clear of artifical sweetners and start using natural sweetners, like honey and agave syrup).  I wanted my bars to be more dry, like granola bars, so I added an extra cup of oats. 

For a little more sweetness, sprinkle cinnamon throughout the mixture.  Also, before you pop them in for the second and final bake, drizzle a little honey and sprinkle some cinnamon overtop.  The bars can be bland if you don’t try to add a little something extra to sweeten them up!

All in all, I thought they turned out great and I am excited to eat them tomorrow morning as an accompaniment to my greek yogurt and sliced apple!

Strawberry-Oat Energy Bars With Yogurt

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Serves 2
1 cup strawberries
1/2 cup rolled oats
1/2 cup egg whites
3 tsp Splenda
1 cup low-fat plain yogurt

 

Preheat oven to 350. Combine sliced strawberries, oats, egg whites and 1 teaspoon of Splenda. Coat a shallow baking dish with cooking spray, and pour the strawberry mixture into the dish. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.
Increase oven temperature to 425. Slice into bars, and remove from baking dish. Recoat dish with cooking spray. Place bars back in dish in the oven for 5 minutes until golden brown. Mix remaining sugar into yogurt, and serve as a dipping sauce

Making Whoopie!

March 24, 2009

One of the highlights to visiting my best friend, JC, in Chambersburg, PA is getting breakfast at the Big Oak Cafe.  The food is delicious and almost gourmet for a town where the only places open on a Sunday afternoon is Cracker Barrell, a Chinese restuarant, and K-Mart.

After eating at Big Oak, we usually head right next door to The Butcher Shoppe to get a little shopping done.  Last time we headed there, I let out a little squeal and froze when facing a small display of whoopie pies.  I couldn’t choose between gingerbread flavored whoopie pies or pumpkin ones, so I grabbed both!

Whoopie pies are another sweet treat that really bring me joy.  You can’t find them everywhere, so they have proven to be a surprise and special treat.  Actually, even more difficult than finding a whoopie pie is explaining them.  I have met way too many people who just have no idea about this treat and I have found myself explaining them as being “like Little Debbie oatmeal pies but homemade by the Amish” more than I would like.

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The New York Times must have felt that way too because they wrote a whole article on it, which has prompted me to write about.  Seriously folks, next time you’re in Pennsylvania, at a craft show, or anywhere with the Amish, try to grab a whoopie pie, guaranteed it’ll make your day!

Oh yea, and because they must have known that I would read the article, they gave a recipe.  Whoopie!

Whoopie Pies
Adapted from Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Ann Arbor, Mich

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Time: 1 hour

 

FOR THE CAKES:
1/4 pound (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
1 cup light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup cocoa
1 cup buttermilk

 

 

FOR THE BUTTERCREAM FILLING:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), at room temperature
3/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon sea salt.

 

 

1. For the cakes: Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream together the butter and brown sugar. Add the egg and vanilla extract and beat until light and creamy. In a separate bowl, whisk together the baking soda, salt, flour and cocoa. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in three parts, alternating with buttermilk, and combining well after each addition.

2. Using an ice cream scoop or a spoon, scoop out 12 1/4-cup mounds of batter and place about 6 inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake until tops are puffed and cakes spring back when touched, 12 to 14 minutes. Remove from oven and cool completely before filling.

3. For the buttercream filling: For best results, follow directions carefully, paying attention to required temperatures. Fill bottom half of a double boiler (or a medium saucepan) with an inch or two of water, and bring to a boil over high heat. In top half of double boiler (or a metal bowl), combine egg whites and sugar. Place over simmering water and whisk just until sugar is dissolved and temperature reaches 180 degrees on an instant-read thermometer.

4. Using a whisk attachment on a heavy-duty mixer, whisk egg whites and sugar on high until they double in volume and become thick and shiny. Continue to whisk until cool. Reduce speed to medium and begin to add butter about 1/2 tablespoon at a time, until all the butter is incorporated. Add vanilla and salt. If mixture looks curdled, continue to whisk until it is smooth. Increase speed to high and whisk for 1 more minute. Use immediately or place in an airtight container and chill for up to 3 days, whisking buttercream again before using.

5. For assembly: Using an ice cream scoop or spoon, place 1/4 cup buttercream on flat side of each of 6 cakes, spreading it to edges. Top filled half with another cake to sandwich the buttercream. Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days, or wrap individually and freeze for up to 3 months.

Yield: 6 pies.

Smell the Cherry Blossoms

March 23, 2009

My mom is a Southwest flight attendant and yesterday I found out that she and I will be walking in the Cherry Blossom parade in Washington, DC to support Southwest.  I am assuming that they’re a sponsor, hence their call to all flight attendants and their family members who are available to walk.  My mom and I love ourselves a good parade and I’ve always wanted to see the Cherry Blossoms in DC, so we jumped on the opportunity.

So, when Lisa of Lime in the Coconut had a post about Cherry Blossom inspired cocktails, I had to take a peek!  Maybe mom and I will celebrate post-parade with one of these drinks.  I only think it would be fitting . . .

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Maybe we’ll go to Asia Nine and try all three of their cherry blossom inspired cocktails!  I know, we’re wild . . . !

Make Mine a Barrel!

March 22, 2009

Capt. and I are going to an engagement party in New York in a couple weeks.  The friends whose wedding we’re celebrating enjoy their booze, so we’re getting them this . . .

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We’re such suckers for good packaging!

Happy Weekend!

March 22, 2009

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I love you like a fat kid loves cake – 50 Cent

Top O’ Your Cabbage

March 17, 2009

I’m somewhat inclined to post a recipe for corned beef and cabbage, but as an Irish-American, I am well aware that corned beef cabbage can either be really really delicious or really really terrible.  I don’t want to advise anything and be the one to drag your meal down.  I don’t roll like that . . .

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What I will dig up a recipe for is for something that you can top your corned beef and cabbage with!  It’s much simplier and something I am willing to take responsibility for.

Last year, my friend KW and I trekked through New York, looking for an Irish place that wasn’t insanely packed with drunk people who had been at the parade earlier in the day so we could get our traditional St. Patrick’s Day meal.  It took over an hour and lots of walking, but we ended up somewhere that fit our requirements.

The meal was decent, corned beef was salty and the cabbage was soft but not mushy.  The ultimate highlight for both of us was the Guinness Mustard that was served to top the meal.  I think KW and I could have drank the mustard, it was sooo good. 

So, here’s a recipe for it that I found, hopefully it’s the same and hopefully it brings you some St. Patrick’s Day joy!

6 servings

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup coarse-grained Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons regular Dijon mustard
  • 2 tablespoons Guinness stout or other stout or porter
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1 teaspoon golden brown sugar

Preparation

  • Whisk all ingredients in small bowl to blend. Cover and refrigerate at least 2 hours. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.

HAVE A HAPPY ST. PATRICK’S DAY!!!

Where to Eat Tomorrow

March 16, 2009

Baltimore Sun’s Sam Sessa ate corned beef and cabbage at five different restaurants in the area so you could figure out a place to eat tomorrow.

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Here’s where he ate and what he had to say about it . . .

An Poitin Stil

Address 2323 York Road, Timonium

Phone 410-560-7900

Hours 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily

With Irish-themed tchotchkes crowding every wall, this sprawling suburban restaurant beats you over the head with its brogue. The pile of corned beef, cabbage and potatoes is worth savoring, though. At $13.29, it’s a pretty good deal, too.

Let’s start at the bottom, where melt-in-your-mouth potato chunks sat in a watery sauce. The potatoes were blanketed by a layer of large, steaming cabbage leaves. And finally, pink corned beef that came apart in hunks at the touch. This is Irish-American food at its best: warm and comforting.

Kelsey’s Restaurant and Irish Pub

Address 8480 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City

Phone 410-418-9076

Hours 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily

“Hope you’re hungry,” the waitress said as she set down this dish of corned beef and cabbage, $14.99. We were famished, but still could barely finish everything on the plate.

Several spears of corned beef – tender enough to slice with the side of a fork – lay next to a pile of creamy mashed potatoes and a halved head of cabbage. Mashed potatoes may be less traditional, but they were no less welcome. And the sauce underneath the corned beef, cabbage and potatoes was rich enough to lend some flavor to the food without overpowering it.

Kelsey’s has a more formal setting than the Stil, with less Irish-themed memorabilia. The restaurant likes to advertise that its corned beef marinates for hours before it’s served. We believe it.

Quigley’s Half-Irish Pub

Address 633 Portland St.

Phone 410-539-9052

Hours 11 a.m.-2 a.m. daily

Even a half-Irish pub should know better. Instead of offering hearty hunks of corned beef, this Ridgely’s Delight establishment served tough strips of meat that looked more like beef jerky. This chewy corned beef was sliced extra-thin and sat next to a pile of red-skinned potato chunks, cabbage and crunchy carrot spears.

Little about the cabbage or potatoes was remarkable, either. Everything except the carrots tasted bland and, at best, the dish was barely passable. The whole order cost $7.69 – about half the price of the others we tried.

The Irish Channel Restaurant and Pub

Address 1053 Maryland Route 3 North, Gambrills

Phone 410-451-4222

Hours 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Saturdays; 10 a.m.-2 a.m. Sundays

Nothing stood out about this order, $13.99, except the sheer size of it. Several corned beef strips – each about the size and shape of a piece of biscotti – shared a plate with chopped potatoes and moist cabbage. All told, it felt like 2 pounds of food. But the beef and potatoes bordered on dry, and the cabbage wasn’t cooked quite long enough. Overall, this order was just middle-of-the-road.

Slainte Irish Pub

Address 1700 Thames St.

Phone 410-563-6600

Hours 11 a.m.-2 a.m. Mondays-Fridays; 8 a.m.-2 a.m. Saturdays and Sundays

The first few bites of this order, $12, tasted fine. The long, thick strips of corned beef, which sat between two halves of a head of cabbage, were soft and juicy. A few forkfuls later, we realized there was a pool of butter at the bottom of the plate, and everything had been drenched in it.

Normally, we’d say the more butter the better. But – believe it or not – there is a limit to just how much melted butter you can soak food in, and this corned beef and cabbage went over it.

For the price and the amount of food, Slainte could easily have made this into one of the best corned beef and cabbage deals in town. A little less butter would have gone a long way. As it was, this dish was just too rich.