Sunday, February 14, 2010

I fail as a Baltimore foodie!

After I heard the sad news that venerable Baltimore Sun food critic Elizabeth Large is retiring, I realized it has been a while since I read her blog. I stumbled across a post where she asked her readers to come up with a list of 100 Things every Baltimore Foodie Must Do. Having lived my entire life here, I figured I would ace it. I have a lot of work to do.

  1. Have a jumbo lump crab cake from Faidley's on a Saltine.
  2. Pick steamed hard shells at Mr. Bill's Terrace Inn in Essex.
    1. I give myself credit for Whitey and Dot's
  3. Eat Bertha's mussels.
  4. Drink a Natty Boh.
  5. Snack on a Berger's cookie.
  6. Put marshmallow on your snowball.
    1. This really should be an Egg Custard snowball with marshmallow to count. Either way, I'm good.
  7. Split Maryland beaten biscuits and put some thin slices of ham in them.
  8. Serve sauerkraut with your turkey.
  9. Get a chicken box (fried wings, western fries, dinner roll) from a Baltimore City public market.
    1. or Royal Farm Store
  10. Maybe the chicken box should be from Tyrone's?
  11. Lake trout. And for those of us who watched "The Wire," have a grape soda with it.
  12. Breakfast at Blue Moon Cafe down in Fells Point.
    1. Personally, I think breakfast at the Paper Moon in Remington should count.
  13. Corned beef on rye at Attman's.
    1. I am giving myself credit for roast beef because corned beef violates my rule of never eating anything that was intentionally rotted before I ate it.
  14. Chiapparelli's house salad.
    1. I think that's all I ate my junior year of high school.
  15. Knock back a goblet of Resurrection Ale at Brewer's Art.
  16. Take a Sunday morning stroll through the JFX Farmer's Market.
  17. Thrasher's french fries from the boardwalk in Ocean City.
  18. Have a Black Eyed Susan at the Preakness.
    1. I have issues with horse racing so I will never go to Preakness but I have had a Black Eyed Susan at a bar while the Preakness is on TV
    2. I also give myself credit for this because I can't hear "Black Eyed Susan" without thinking of Kirk McEwen asking for a Black Guy, Susan
  19. Chow down on a pit beef sandwich at Boog's during an O's game.
  20. Shop for shoes and chocolate at Ma Petit Shoe in Hampden.
    1. I assume any store called Petite Show doesn't carry shoes to fir my size 11W gunboats so I have never gone in
  21. Have a soft crab sandwich on white bread.
    1. I am a lifelong hometown girl and soft shell crabs still creep me out
  22. Eat a box of Rheb's buttercreams. Not at one sitting, of course ... on the other hand, why not?
    1. Why would I eat a box of Rheb's butter creams when I could eat a box of Rheb's assorted caramels?
  23. Order a Tio Pepe sangria (red). It contains fruit, so it counts as food!
  24. Polish sausage from one of the two Ostrowski shops.
    1. Does buying Ostrowski sausage regularly from Mars Supermarket count?
  25. German sausage from Binkert's
  26. Fisher's popcorn downy ocean, hon!
    1. I am deeply insulted by this one because we are a Dolle's family but I am giving myself credit anyway
  27. Sunday brunch on the terrace at Ambassador Dining Room, an atypical setting for an Indian restaurant.
    1. I should get double credit for this one because I used to eat Sunday Dinner at the Ambassador Dining Room when it still WAS the Ambassador Dining Room. It's a much better restaurant now.
  28. Get peach cake from Woodlea Bakery.
  29. Eat the pumpkin appetizer at the Helmand.
  30. Eat a Wockenfuss caramel apple! Mmmmm.
  31. Thin crust pizza! Iggies and Joe Squared.
  32. Savory muffins at Red Canoe in Lauraville.
  33. Try some of the special flavors from Taharka Bros. (formerly Sylvan Beach) ice cream and Pitango Gelato.
  34. Make fun of the hipsters at Golden West and Rocket to Venus in Hampden.
  35. Have a special occasion dinner at Charleston. Ask Chef Cindy Wolf to fix what she thinks is best that night.
  36. Change your mind about vegan/vegetarian food at Liquid Earth.
    1. I have no idea where Liquid Earth is but I had the same revelation at Great Sage in Clarksville. It counts.
  37. Try the charcuterie at Clementine.
  38. Macaroni and cheese with bittersweet chocolate from Jack's Bistro.
  39. Throw in a shrimp salad from Kibby's and/or Mary Mervis.
  40. Smith Island Cake, but only from Sugarbakers.
  41. Gorge yourself on the Monday night all-you-can-eat at Vaccaro's.
  42. Discuss a bottle of wine with Tony Foreman at Cinghiale.
  43. Eat roasted vegetables at Donna's ... wearing black.
  44. Veal Chop at Da Mimmo.
  45. Bookmaker salad at Sabatino's.
  46. Get a crab cake and a lemon/peppermint stick at the Flower Mart. Isn't a fabulous crab cake, but even an average crab cake in Baltimore is better than anywhere else!
  47. Order any sandwich at Trinacria. But no calling ahead to order like I do. You must wait in line for the full effect.
  48. Order the popcorn and deviled eggs at Woodberry Kitchen. Before your appetizers, not in lieu of.
  49. Have lunch on the patio at Sanders Corner overlooking the Loch Raven Reservoir.
  50. Head to Carroll County for the best cream of crab soup at Smokey's BBQ on Liberty Road.
  51. Stop at DiPasquale's in Highlandtown for their Italian and meatball subs.
  52. Fried chicken livers from the Lexington Market.
    1. Ewww. I watched my mother eat these for years. Not on a bet.
  53. Bagel with lox and cream cheese or apricot spread from Greg's.
  54. Sit at the bar at Cinghiale and order anything. Talk to Rob about wine when Tony isn't in town.
  55. Tamales from the food truck on Broadway.
  56. Coddies on a cracker from a rowhouse bar.
  57. Wander aisles of exotic produce - lychees! jackfruit! Indian eggplant! - at H Mart or Lotte Plaza in Catonsville. Eat some yummy bi bim bap or udon soup at the food court and then pick up a beautiful fresh whole fish for dinner before you head home.
  58. Go to a bull/oyster roast or crab/shrimp feast at any number of Baltimore venues as long as you go to at least one at a V.F.W. hall, American Legion, Steelworkers Hall, fire hall, state park, etc.
  59. Prime rib at the Prime Rib.
  60. Greenberg Potato Skins from Prime Rib.
  61. How about the fried green pepper rings at Gunnings!
  62. You have to get a Popular Mozzarella Pie from Matthew's Pizza!
  63. A baloney-wrapped hot dog from Attman's.
  64. Pit beef from anywhere without a door.
  65. Late night dinner at the Bel-Loc Diner.
  66. Eat a "Tour of Samos" at Samos in Greektown (Greek salad, tzatziki and pita, kalamari, spinach pie, chicken souvlaki, dolmades, lamb chops, garlic shrimp, gyro, roasted potatoes).
    1. I've eaten all of that many times over at Ikaros.
  67. Krispy Kreme Bread Pudding at Ale Mary's
  68. Eat anything on the menu at Andy Nelson's.
  69. Gravy fries.
  70. Chicken salad from Graul's Market!
  71. Old-fashioned Maryland stuffed ham.
  72. OTTERBEIN'S COOKIES!!!!!!!!!!!
  73. Raw beef and onion sandwich with raw yellow onion and salt and pepper on fresh rye bread (or pumpernickel).
    1. This also falls in the "I can't believe my mother eats that" category.
  74. Buy a crepe at Sofi's and enjoy it while watching a movie at the Charles.
  75. Naron candy.
  76. Polish dog with "the works" at Polock Johnny's.
    1. Not quite "the works"…
  77. Italian cold cut sub at Pastore's in Towson.
  78. WOCKENFUSS CANDIES!!!!!!!!!!
  79. Order the chocolate-chili bread pudding at the Blue Agave.
  80. Have a picnic at Fort McHenry.
  81. Any sandwich from Eddie's in Roland Park.
  82. String bean rolls at Cafe Zen.
  83. Garlic fries at Brewer's Art.
  84. Oysters and beer at Cross Street Market!
  85. Coffee from Zeke's.
  86. Smoked platter from Neopol at Belvedere.
  87. Go to the Wine Market on a Monday night and enjoy a neighborhood discount (extended to all diners).
  88. Have an ice cream that contains vegetables at Dominion Ice Cream. [Ed.'s note: Now relocated to Hampden.]
  89. Have Old Bay on things other than seafood. For instance, corn on the cob, potato salad, coleslaw.
    1. I rolled goat cheese in Old Bay last night. I wouldn't make chicken salad without it.
  90. Margarita in a hubcap from Nacho Mama's.
  91. Take the Clipper City brewery tour.
  92. Have a Black Eyed Susan cupcake at Charm City Cupcakes. It's one of my favorite things about Baltimore!
  93. Get fruit and veggies from an a-rab.
  94. Sip 'n Bite.
  95. Sip a Bloody Mary with an Old Bay rimmer. I only see this done at Baltimore restaurants.
  96. Enjoy a meal at Salt.
  97. Eat the Berger cookie pie at Dangerously Delicious Pies in Federal Hill. A new tradition built on the old.
    1. I can't believe I never had this pie. I feel sad.
  98. Mary Sue Easter Eggs.
  99. Eat sushi in Towson.
  100. Wiener schnitzel, red cabbage, and more at Eichenkranz in Highlandtown. The last traditional German food in the city.

Baconny Bacon!

I love bacon. I am eternally grateful that I was born and raised in a religion that doesn't forbid the eating of pork because I am fairly certain I would feel a gaping hole in my life where it's salty, greasy goodness should be. When the weather people started predicting apocalyptic amounts of snow recently, the first thing I did was open the freezer and check my bacon supply. I counted 6 different kinds so I figured I just might survive. OK, I confess, it's not so much 6 kinds of bacon as bacon from 6 different sources but each has its own distinct personality.

Double Smoked Bacon from Smokehouse of the Catskills in Saugerties, NY

If I could have only one bacon for the rest of my life, this would be it. Their bacon is so meaty and delicious; it's like eating a piece of pork. It is also an excellent base for any recipe that starts with bacon. My oldest and dearest friend lives in Saugerties. I claim to go visit her a couple of times a year but in reality, I sleep at her house when I go up to get bacon. Luckily, she knows this and understands completely. When she came down for Christmas, she gave me 2 lbs of bacon. I gave her 2 packages of Berger's Cookies. There is a reason we have been friends for 30 years.

Farmer's Market/Butcher Bacon

Unfortunately, the best farmer's market in my neighborhood is n Wednesday afternoon. My boss is unsympathetic to my requests to take the afternoon off to see if there's anything good at the market this week. Fortunately, I work right down the street from a Pennsylvania Dutch Market so every Thursday or Friday, I can pop by and pick up some Amish country bacon.

Thanks to Baltimore Magazine's "2009 Best of" edition, I finally have a butcher. It's no Smokehouse of the Catskills but J. W. Treuth & Sons in Oella comes pretty close. The upside to picking up bacon at a butcher is you can also grab some real ground beef while you are there. Treuth's is so full service they even have an excellent cheddar most days. If only they had hamburger buns and fries, it would be a one-stop shopping experience for one of my favorite dinners.

I have been addicted to Top Chef on Bravo since the first season so when I found myself in the Quarry Lake shopping center with a Fresh Market, I had to check it out. I'm not sure I would want to try and find the ingredients to cater an entire wedding that night in there but they do have Nueske's Applewood Smoked Bacon. Charles Kimball and his merry band of taste testers in America's Test Kitchen rated Nueske's really poorly but can you really trust a guy who cooks in a bowtie? Personally, I love Nueske's.

Supermarket Bacon

Let's face it, sometimes you can't get to the farmer's market, the butcher, or Upstate NY and you have to buy bacon at the grocery store. I keep an eye out for sales on the premium, center cut stuff and stock up the freezer. There are also certain recipes that just work better with grocery store bacon, especially ones that require crumbled bacon like Cheese and Bacon Crackers. The meaty quality of really good bacon actually works against you in that case.

So you see, having 6 kinds of bacon makes perfect sense.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

My Very First Chicken and Dumplings

I am lucky enough to work in an office with a cafeteria on site. Even luckier, we have a real chef in the kitchen. Besides the salads and sandwiches, we get three hot entrees every day that are always good but sometimes are outstanding. Case in point, one day Becca made Chicken and Dumplings. My experience with dumplings in the past has been dough lumps roughly the density of a hockey puck floating in industrial gravy. The last time I had them was at IKEA and the sign did not lie. Not these here we had light, fluffy clouds of dough floating in a clear chicken broth. I was in love.

I told Becca how great they were and she claimed they were really easy to make. I did not believe her but she swore up and down. She gave me her recipe and I decided to give it a shot. True to her word, they were really easy! Unfortunately, her recipe also made enough for an army and I only feed two people at a time. After a couple of tries, I got it down to a reasonable portion for the two of us and made some other alterations to arrive at my very own dumpling recipe.

This recipe is an excellent way to use up a rotisserie chicken. Strip off the meat to put in the soup and use the carcass to make the stock. Leftover vegetables also work really well in the soup.


  • 2-3 cups chicken stock
  • ½ cup flour
  • ¾ tsp baking powder
  • 2 ½ tbsp cornmeal
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ¼ tsp dried thyme
  • ¼ tsp dried sage
  • ½ cup milk or cream
  • Cut up chicken
  • Soup vegetables, to taste


Make a pot of home-made stock and get it simmering on the stove in the widest pot you have. Cut up some cooked chicken and throw in whatever soup vegetables you like. If you aren't using leftover vegetables, you might want to throw them in a sauté pan with a little olive oil just to soften them up before you add them to the soup.

Mix the dry ingredients together well. Add the milk or cream and mix just until the dry ingredients are incorporated.

If you have never made dumplings before, this is the point when you will think you have misread the recipe because you have a loose, gloppy mess. If that's what you have, you made it right.

With 2 large spoons, drop spoonfuls into the simmering broth, leaving a little space between each one. Put the lid on and leave it on for 12 minutes. No peeking!

Scoop the dumplings, chicken, and vegetables into bowls and cover with broth to serve.

Printable version

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Lazy Tamales

After the bacon and scones were done, I needed an excuse to keep the oven going to keep the house warm during SNOWPOCALYPSE X! so I rummaged around the fridge to see what I could braise. I came across a half a chuck steak I bought during last weekend's paltry 3" snow event and never got around to cooking so I figured it was time for some lazy tamales.

When I was growing up, my grandparents lived in San Antonio, TX. Way back in medieval times (the late 70s and early 80s) there was no Mexican food in Baltimore. The closest Mexican restaurant was in Rockville and we happily drove an hour to get there whenever we could, which was not often enough. Whenever we visited them, we ate Mexican food nonstop the entire trip. Now, I won't claim that I had the most adventurous palate as a 6-year old but I did appreciate the original Mexican Kid's Meal, the tamale.

But when we got home, it was back to reality. We had to make do with the Mexican food we could cook at home with the ingredients we lugged home in an extra suitcase that arrived in Texas empty and we filled to bursting after a couple of trips to the Piggly Wiggly and the H.E.B. Sure, we always brought home a couple of jars of Derby Tamales (made right there in San Antonio) but they never lasted long and soon I was left with just the memory of shredded meat inside a protective, steamed corn coating.

To this day, tamales make me happy. They are my #1 go to choice in any Mexican restaurant. I prefer fresh ones but I have been known to stoop so low as to eat the nasty canned ones with the paper wrappers out of total desperation. Mexican food may be available in every strip mall, but a good Texas tamale, even frozen, is not easy to find.

So why not make your own? you ask, quite reasonably. The answer is simple. I am lazy. I hate making fussy things that require me to make endless, individual portions. I like one pot dishes. One of these days I will gather my family to me and make the Christmas Eve tamale feast but until that time, I make do.

This recipe is very flexible. I've only done it with chuck steak but I am guessing any crappy, tough cut of beef would work. I actually paid attention to the amounts of spices I used today because I wanted to finally write this recipe down but in all honesty, I never measure. I just chuck a bunch of spices in the pot until it smells right.

When you get done with this, you will have a ton of leftover sauce. This is a Good Thing™. It is perfect for enchiladas. Head over to Lily's Market and get yourself some fresh corn tortillas, shred some cheddar, roll them up, and you've got another of my favorite childhood memories, Cheese Enchiladas (no onions, please).

Mmmmmm. If I close my eyes, I can almost imagine I am back at La Fonda on Broadway.

Lazy Tamales


  • 3-5 lb chuck steak
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium or ½ large onion
  • Half head of garlic
  • 4 dried chili peppers (your preference)
  • 3 Tbsp chili powder
  • 3 Tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • Water
  • Grits (instant, quick, or slow – whatever you prefer)


Preheat the oven to 325°. Heat the olive oil in a 3 or 4 quart oven-safe dutch oven. Sear the chuck steak in the olive oil. Peel and quarter the onion and peel the garlic. Cut open the dried chili peppers and remove the seeds. Add the onion, garlic, chili peppers, chili powder, cumin, and salt to the pot and add enough water to cover everything. Bring to a simmer. Put a lid on the pot and put it in the oven for 3 hours.

When the meat is tender enough to fork apart, remove the meat from the pot. Strain the solids from the liquids and return the liquid to the pot. Carefully pick the chili peppers out of the solids you strained out and return them to the pot. Using a hand blender, puree the chili peppers in the sauce. (I assume you could do this with a regular blender or a food processor but mine are never handy when I need them.) Put the pot back on the stove and reduce the sauce until it has thickened significantly (at least half an hour). Add more salt to the sauce to taste but only after it has reduced.

Meanwhile, make some grits according to the directions on the package. I like to make cheese grits for this dish but any old grits will do.

Shred the beef using 2 forks. Put 3 or 4 tablespoons of sauce in a small sauté pan and add the shredded beef, just to warm it through. Serve beef over grits with sauce spooned over it.

Printable version

Friday, February 5, 2010

What are your snow day essentials?

Now that SNOWPOCALYPSE '10! has officially started, I got to thinking about snow day food. As a life-long Maryland resident, I am required by law to run to the nearest grocery store to stock up on the snow essentials (milk, bread, and toilet paper for the uninitiated) as soon as the S word appears in the forecast but I try not to imagine the scenario that requires surplus amounts of those three items. When snow comes, I have my own list of essentials.

Snow days require cinnamon rolls. Not fancy bakery ones, the kind that come in a tube in the refrigerator section of the grocery store with a can of white, oozy stuff substance in the end. Yes, I can make yeast bread from scratch now but not before coffee. This storm I am trying something new, refrigerator scones from The Immaculate Baking Company. I like scones and I had a coupon so I am hopeful they will be an adequate substitute. I have plenty of powdered sugar in the house (I've got milk of course) so I will be making my own white oozy stuff.

Snow days also require bacon. In all honesty, days of the week that end in Y call for bacon in my book but a snow day especially needs that porky, salty manna. Aside from its life-sustaining properties, bacon also helps warm up the house on chilly mornings ever since I discovered the wonders of making bacon in the oven. I used to slave over a hot, sputtering pan of bacon, making batch after batch because I didn't have a pan or a burner big enough to make more than 5 or 6 strips at a time. No more!

The key to great oven bacon is the combination of a half sheet pan with a rim and an oven-proof baking rack. I got my first half sheet pan from K-Mart from the Martha Stewart line but then my K-Mart closed and now I get them from Sysco, the restaurant supply store on Rt. 1 in Elkridge. The oven-proof racks were a lot harder to find. All the ones I got as wedding presents were lovely with little rubber feet to keep them from slipping on the counter. Unfortunately, they also kept me from putting them in the oven. I searched kitchen supply stores and catalogs. Then when I was just about ready to give up and order something really expensive on the internet, I spotted these at Target. They fit in a half sheet pan perfectly.

The other great thing about oven bacon is that it's very flexible about temperature. You can throw it in at whatever temperature the cinnamon rolls, apple oven pancake (recipe coming soon), or frittata is already in there. The hotter the oven, the faster it will cook but the final product won't suffer from being in there longer at a lower temperature.

Oven-baked Bacon


  • Bacon
  • Non-stick spray (Pam)


Preheat oven to 350-450°. Put the oven-safe rack in the half sheet pan. Coat the rack liberally with non-stick spray. Lay the bacon out so it covers the whole rack. It can overlap a little but it won't shrink nearly as much as bacon cooked on the stovetop. Depending on the oven temperature and how well done you like your bacon, bake for 15-25 minutes.