Friday, May 18, 2007

Skepticism Put to Rest or... You so crazy, Lil!

By Xani and Erin

Tonight we went to Crazy Lil's in Federal Hill (on Cross St.) for dinner. Before tonight, I had only experienced Crazy Lil's as a crowded bar which on Saturday nights is filled with your typical Federal Hill crowd: basically like every frat party you ever went to, but the crowd is (slightly) older. So, when Xani said the food was good there, I was skeptical to say the least. Also, when Xani had this so-called "good" food there, it was on St. Patrick's Day, when her judgement may have been very slightly skewed by alcohol. VERY slightly, she insisted. So, even after being convinced to go, I was still skeptical.

How wrong I was! Our meal there was sensational! As per our usual, we got a few things and shared everything. First, we had the Crabcake Sliders.

They were good but definitely the weakest dish of the meal. We loved this idea for mini crabcake sandwiches (Xani especially, loving all things tiny- a story for another time), and their little buns were toasted on the grill, but they weren't oh-my-goodness-can-we-have-a-moment-of-silence-for-how-good-these-are good. You know?

The next dish was the Crazy Skins, and these, my friends, were AMAZING. They were potato skins filled with pulled pork and covered with cheese, and they were crispy and crunchy, and sweet and salty all at the same time. These could also vie for the title of Least Kosher Dish Ever. (Note: best line of the night, when the waiter took our order for these, he asked, "do you want those with pork or bacon?")

Finally, we got a burger.

You are probably thinking, "those girls are so boring - they call themselves food experts and then they order a stupid burger?!" First off, we never claimed to be experts in anything (except in maybe laughing at our own jokes). Second, we deliberately chose something simple to see how they could pull it off! To see their technique!! And it WORKED. The burger was great - delicious, juicy, toasted bun, and cooked to a perfect medium rare. (Here we reach another Food Rule of Dating: Men worth dating order their burgers/steaks to be medium rare or rare - anything more cooked is OVERCOOKED and therefore WRONG. We stick firmly by the following creed by Anthony Bourdain: "I carefully select my friends according to the doneness of their meat." We concur.)

Also, the fries that came with the burger were good. They were like boardwalk fries, but they had a few red pepper flakes on them! What a pleasant surprise.

In all, it was a lovely meal - good food, good beer, and of course good company. We love Lil!

Happy eating,

E & X

Thursday, May 17, 2007

For Goodness Sake, its our Namesake!

by Xani

Black coffee and a donut--- ooooh HELLS yeah! We didn't pick that name by accident. I LOVE coffee. I love it so much, I kindof don't understand when people don't like it. I get in a lot of conversations like this:

Me: (incredulous) What do mean you don't drink coffee?

Them: I just don't like it.

Me: (getting angry) So you don't drink it EVER?

Them: No.

Me: I don't know if we can be friends anymore.

I'm also implementing a "No Dating Men Who Don't Drink Coffee" Rule, effective immediately. If he can't understand and share my obsession, its never gonna work between us (look for similar Rules appearing in posts about pork, sushi, and doneness of meat, coming soon!).

Um, anyway, I think I got off track there for a minute. Love coffee, morning, noon, and night; also love donuts. So, after a minor "incident" at Starbucks this morning ("Thank you, ultra-hip barista, for this delicious coffee, now I would like to pay with my Starbuck's car... I mean, will you accept this Marriott keycard to a hotel room in Denver which I stayed in a month ago as payment? No? But its all I have!!" <hanging my head in shame>) which left me without my morning coffee, I decided to make up for it this afternoon with a quick trip to Dunkin Donuts. Sure, its a block further than The Buck, but its totally worth it for 2 reasons:

1. Spares me the shame of going back into Starbucks only hours after embarrassing myself there;

2. This:

Toasted Coconut Donut. O.M.G. I don't know what my life was like before I found this. I think they put crack in the coating. Its amazing. Highly recommended. Totally worth the trip, risking life and limb to walk through West Baltimore (ok, not really-- its the "revitalized" section), and $2.25. Just the pick-me-up I needed today.

So I had to post about today's afternoon snack, as it is what this blog is all about. Literally.


Wednesday, May 16, 2007

A Sandwich Named Guiseppe

by Erin

Today while I was sitting at home, trying to muster up some attention span to work on my petition (for you non-lawyers/law students, it's basically a long paper that is due even though finals are over), I decided I would take a lunch break by going to a tiny Italian deli a few blocks away in downtown Federal Hill. Xani and I had tried to go there this weekend for lunch, but it was closed, OF COURSE (our eternal struggle to find somewhere for brunch/lunch in Federal Hill is another story - we'll get to that in due time). So, I figured they should be open in the middle of the day on a Wednesday, right? Right!

The place is called Trattoria Annamaria. I couldn't get a pic of their storefront but I picked up their menu as I always do:

Xani and I had seen a sandwich on their menu posted out front called "The Real Guiseppe" and it sounded great: prosciutto, soppressata, dry capicola, prosciuttini, provolone, oil & vinegar, etc. I was determined to meet this Guiseppe.

And here he is:

Guiseppe was good - he was tasty and I saw the guy slice the meats and put them on my sandwich - very fresh. However, the bread was a little soggy, there weren't enough hots, and there was so much meat that I could barely bite through it! Imagine trying to bite through two inches of deli meats - not easy on the ol' chompers.

But, I would go back and give them another shot and try their Italian coldcut sandwich - maybe it'll be better. Also, they are a grocery store too, so maybe I would go back to buy delicious italian goods (and they had cookies there!).

Happy eating,

ps. Sorry my food photography is terrible - it's a combination of a complete lack of talent on my end and a pretty old digital camera. Maybe I'll get a new one (or at least get some more skillz).

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Various food pictures

by Xani

Enjoy a few delicious pictures I've taken over the past year or so. Yeah, I started taking food pictures way before I started a food blog--I just can't help myself!


Monday, May 14, 2007

Welcome to BCD/Happy Mother's Day!

by Xani and Erin

For our first post, it is only appropriate that we begin with a description of one of our Sunday Dinners at home. Every Sunday, our family gets together to cook a (usually) elaborate/ridiculous meal, and this Sunday was Mother's Day, so it was extra special. This week we tried a new recipe but also brought out a few tried and true ones. Here's the menu:

  • Margaritas
  • Bruschetta on the grill
  • Prime rib
  • Frites
  • Ice cream

Xani made the margaritas this time, and our twist is to use lime juice, orange juice, and grapefruit juice instead of just lime juice. Then we added triple sec and tequila. We should have used the good tequila but didn't know we had good tequila until it was too late.

For the first course, we tried a new recipe for "Grilled Bruschetta" from License to Grill. It had a lot of steps but was good. First you roast a head of garlic in the oven (note: any recipe that starts with this step is probably good). Then, you puree sun-dried tomatoes with the roasted garlic and more olive oil. Spread that onto a baguette sliced lengthwise (we didn't have baguette so we used this other bread - don't worry, we figured out it was approximately the same surface area as baguette - whew!). Then sprinkle with grated asiago cheese and put on the grill to get crispy and to melt the cheese. This ALONE would have been fantastic, but its not done yet! Meanwhile, you make a topping with tomatoes (we used canned, Italian-flavored ones that we drained), basil, balsamic vinegar, red onion, and olive oil, let that sit for 30 minutes in the fridge, and then spoon it on top of the grilled bread. We thought it would be less messy to have the cold tomato mixture on the side instead of on top, sort of like a dip. It was pretty good - very tomato-y.

The main course of prime rib and fries is an old stand-by of ours - we LOVE prime rib. The recipe is from an ancient cookbook (Entertaining- author unknown) our parents got many years ago. We are unsure of the book's whereabouts but the recipe is burned into our brains. The recipe for the fries is something Xani developed over the years, with a few techniques taken from Anthony Bourdain's Les Halles Cookbook (you must get this book if you are a fan of his - the recipes are wonderful and his writing style is dripping with sarcasm and profanity - good times!).

The prime rib was a 6.5 pound, bone-in rib roast which was aged for 3 weeks or so-- our Dad has begun "wet-aging" most of the beef he and our Mom buy for improved flavor and tenderness. (Wet-aging means you leave vacuum-sealed meat from the store in your fridge for a few weeks. Then you open it up, rinse it off and trim and butcher the meat. Sounds unsafe but its not, as I learned at a butchering workshop at Sotto Sopra. But that's a story for another time!). After removing it from the freezer it was then left to come to room temperature. Well, actually, it was left out for so long we assumed it MUST be room temperature by now, when in reality it was about 45 degrees internal temperature when we inserted the thermometer. Oops.

ANYWAY, before insertion, it was coated with softened butter (why not?? seriously though its part of the recipe!) and salt and pepper. Preheat the oven to 500 degrees, and cook the meat for 5 minutes per pound (we had a 6.5 lb roast, so that's 32.5 mins, which I know because I am a MATH GENIUS). Then the oven is turned off and the meat stays in the oven for 2 hours. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN! That is key to this recipe as the residual heat in the oven is what cooks the meat the rest of the way. As you can see, it turned out perfectly! Of course we had the added insurance of the instant-read meat thermometer but for many years we did not use a meat thermometer for this recipe, and it was fool-proof every time! (Note: We must warn you however that this formula only works for roasts larger than 4lbs and less than 10lbs. If you have an extrmely large roast (like the 20-pounder we cooked for Passover this year), we recommend cutting it in half and cooking one at a time!

Xani's fries are the best in the land. Okay, okay, the best I have ever had (and I've had a lot of fries mind you). She takes frozen shoestring fries (gasp! but really they turn out GREAT!), a few tablespoons of fat/oil (this time it was duck fat, SOO delicious, but you can easily just use olive oil if you don't happen to have duck fat lying around), and finely chopped fresh rosemary (sometimes she uses thyme). She tosses all ingredients together on a sheet pan. Then she puts them in a HOT oven (about 425 degrees) and bakes them for about half an hour, checking often and tossing them around until they get golden brown and crispy. She uses Bourdain's trick where she puts the fries into a bowl lined with a clean dish towel, and then tosses the fries in the towel to remove the extra fat. Sprinkle with kosher salt. They are FANTASTIC.

We served the meal with a lovely 1996 Bordeaux. Delicious.

Look at this plate! It should be in the dictionary next to "gluttony." But so worth it... especially on a special occasion like Mother's day!

Then we had Haagen Daaz Extra Rich Light ice cream for dessert - sort of ridiculous that we had "light" ice cream after this meal but we did. No pics of the ice cream - you know what that looks like, right?

We hope you have enjoyed our first post! There will be more to come as we cook more and explore more Baltimore restaurants, and of course plan our various summer parties! Looking forward to your comments!

Happy eating,

E & X

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