Saturday, June 2, 2007

Food Bloggers.... They're Just Like Us!

They take out the trash! They pick up the dry cleaning! That's right folks-- the world of food blogging is not as glamorous as you might expect (shocking, I know). Sometimes, we don't want to spend all day making demi-glace, or go out and eat animal heads. Sometimes, we just want good, old-fashioned, "Americanized" Chinese food.

And so we came to find ourselves at Hunan House Restaurant in Burtonsville, MD. After a whirlwind shopping trip to pick up the ingredients for Xani's upcoming party (post coming soon!), we met up with the BCD parents for a casual dinner. Hunan House is not far from Columbia, MD, and is where our parents usually get their take-out Chinese. They've had their ups and downs with Hunan House, but it was late, we were hungry, and Xani was craving a Mai Tai.

Mom had an "Eastern Sour" which had bourbon and orange juice in it. Not sure what is so "eastern" about bourbon, but hey, who are we to judge?

We got Hot and Sour soup for the whole table. This got things off on the right foot, as the soup was indeed very hot, tangy, and filled with lots of veggies and tofu. But no bowl of hot and sour is complete without those NOODLES-- they're like crunchy little bites of heaven!

We also split a couple of egg rolls, which were pretty standard:

Onto the main dishes: We love to order lots of different dishes and share them all. Some would say we "over-order," but those people clearly don't know the pleasure of cold chinese leftovers for breakfast. And we feel SORRY for those people! So our slection of main dishes included:

Pork Lo Mein

Roast Duck Cantonese Style

Spicy Crispy Eggplant

Red Curry with Chicken

We also had a spicy shrimp and scallops in garlic dish, but didn't manage to get a good picture of it.

All the dishes were adequate and some were supringly good. The lo mein was not too greasy and had large, tender pieces of pork (instead of just the little shreds you usually get). The duck was excellent, the skin was very crispy (we need to find out their technique for the next time we try duck at home). Curry was a non-traditional choice (the menu actually included a whole page of pan-asian choices, including Japanese, Thai, and Indonesian dishes), but ended up being quite good-- the chicken was flavorful, the veggies (carrots, green beans and potatoes) tender but not too soft, and Xani especially loved the spicy, creamy coconut broth. The only dish which was a little disappointing was the eggplant.

While this LOOKS delicious, it unfortunately didn't really deliver. Spicy crispy eggplant is one of those dishes that we never get as take-out or delivery, because it's best right out of the kitchen, before the crispiness goes soggy. But this order was a bit soggy right out of the kitchen, and it was not that spicy and way too greasy. Too bad.

We finished off the meal with traditional orange slices and fortune cookies (Erin wins for best fortune: "You love the night life."). Leftovers in hand, we headed back to Baltimore, to enjoy the night life and/or go immediately to bed. After all, we had a party to get ready for! Stay tuned...

Happy eating,

X & E

Thursday, May 31, 2007

We're Cuban, B!

By Erin

On Tuesday of this week, there was much reason for celebration: we were celebrating our petitions being turned in and DONE (thus indicating the end of our first year of law school!), it was my friend Lydia's birthday (belated), and it was most people's first day of work in their various legal jobs (myself included). Why not celebrate with a few mojitos? So, we went to a great place in Federal Hill called Little Havana, located on Key Highway, right on the water.

The folks at Little Havana definitely know how to party. How do I know this? The slogan on the backs of the waiters' shirts is "You can't drink all day if you don't start early." Amen, brother.

Anyway, Little Havana not only has a great atmosphere, with a large indoor bar/restaurant and a cute deck on the right water, but the food (and drinks) are great as well. I've been to Little Havana many times but this evening, lots of new folks came along (including some of my new fabulous work friends from my summer job at the US Attorney's Office), so I was excited to show them the Cuban ropes (um, what?).

The mojitos at Little Havana are great - so great that I forgot to take a pic...sorry!

However, I did remember to take pictures of the food...whew. I got my usual, which was a Cuban Sandwich. I love the Cuban Sandwich - pulled pork, ham, swiss cheese, pickles, and yellow mustard on crusty bread (essentially baguette), which is pressed in a sandwich/panini press to perfect crunchiness. It sounds like a weird combo but trust me on this one, it's AWESOME. (Cuban Sandwich anecdote: The last time I was at Little Havana, I was enjoying my sandwich when someone asked me if I kept kosher, to which I responded "well, there are TWO kinds of pork, plus cheese, on this no, not really.")

Cuban Sandwich

Normally the Cuban Sandwich at Little Havana is served with black beans and rice and plantain chips, which is what my friend Adam got with his. I wanted to try their sweet potato fries, however, so I requested those instead of the rice and beans. The fries were good - sweet and salty, though they had a little too much seasoning (Old Bay, I think) which overpowered the yummy yammy flavors. Here's a shot of the black beans and rice, with the plantain chips (which are quite good).

Lynn got a black bean bread bowl, which she said was "okay". The bowl sort of fell apart and couldn't hold up to the black bean soup. Also, if I recall correctly, she felt "mislead" since she thought it was going to be more like nachos - a word to the wise next time you're at Little Havana.

Black Bean Bread Bowl

Although we did not order this dish this time, Xani and I are known to get their appetizer, the masas de puerco fritas, which are little pieces of pork that are fried up and served with a cilantro lime hot sauce - this dish is delicious, intensely-flavored, and highly recommended.

We had a great time celebrating our various events at Little Havana, and I'm sure we'll be back soon for more good times!

Happy eating,

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

"Give it to us raw and wriggling!"

By Xani and Erin

So in honor of Xani's triumphant (?) return to Baltimore, we decided to go to dinner at Matsuri for dinner. Matsuri is our favorite local sushi joint-- it offers high-quality, freshness, and good selection. It doesn't hurt that it is also the closest sushi place in Baltimore, right next to the Cross Street Market, an easy walk from either of our homes. But while avoiding parking hassles is a priority, no way would we go to Matsuri as often as we do if it didn't offer great food, service, and atmosphere. I particularly like the atmosphere-- the downstairs has a small sushi bar and is crowded with tables that overlook the street. It seems cramped but once you are seated, everyone has plenty of room. The upstairs dining room is a bit more spacious (and has tables for larger parties) but I think the downstairs has a better "city-livin'" vibe to it. Also, we once saw a celebrity there, sitting downstairs -- none other than Chef Duff of Food Network's Ace of Cakes! So, there's that...

Moving on, we got seated downstairs right away and after catching up a bit (it's not often the BCD sisters don't see each other for a WHOLE WEEK) we got down to ordering. We have our favorites but we always check the specials to see if they have anything interesting going on. While they did have a Super White Tuna Sashimi special, which we have had before and was quite good, we decided to pass this time. Instead we ordered some wakame (seaweed) salad and vegetable tempura.

Seaweed salad was a hearty helping of the chewy, green strands, and the tempura featured slices of eggplant, zuchinni, green pepper, and sweet potato, and a green bean in that delicious, crisp coating. We were disappointed that we didn't get the broccoli that sometimes appears in this appetizer, but I guess thats the luck of the draw!

As we were finishing up the first course, the watiress arrived with the massive tray of sushi we had ordered. "Oh no!" we said, in unison. We always over-order! Everything just sounds so good! Anyway, here it is:

Um, yeah. We went a little overboard, I guess. Specifically we have here a soft shell crab roll, salmon avocado roll, hamachi with scallions roll, ruby roll (tuna with fresh crab meat and scallions), spicy scallop roll, and two pieces of ama-ebi (discussed below). Yikes! What were we thinking?? I guess we were thinking we were damn hungry!

Spicy Scallop Roll

Ruby Roll and Salmon and Avocado Roll

We have tried most of these rolls before-- spicy scallop is a favorite, hamachi and salmon avocado are good standards, always very fresh and flavorful. The ruby roll was new for us, and while it was good, the texture was a little unusual. The crab meat (which is cooked) was a little stringy/mushy. Not offensive, just a little odd.

Soft Shell Crab Roll

We Marylanders love us some crabs: hard-shell, soft-shells, cakes, puffs, etc. Sushi is no exception. This roll featured deep-fried whole soft-shells wrapped into rolls. Matsuri serves theirs with mayonaise which we had to specifically request not to have because please, people, sushi and mayo have NOTHING TO DO WITH EACH OTHER. Some of you are probably saying we have no room to talk, as we are eating COOKED sushi rolls, and you kind of have a point. But I still think mayo (or cream cheese, ick!) on sushi is just going too far!

We always save the best (weirdest) for last: Ama-ebi, which is shrimp (sometimes called "sweet shrimp"). The body is served as nigiri sushi (raw on top of a finger-shaped clump of sushi rice) accompaned by the deep fried shrimp head. Oh yeah. This is the good stuff.

Sometimes it seems people fall into 2 categories: first, the folks who suck crawfish heads, eat the "yellow" out of steamed crabs, and cheerfully crunch on ama-ebi. Then there are the folks who prefer their food not be staring at them while they devour it. To each his own-- personally, we think a ama-ebi is a thing of beauty. The raw shrimp has a very rich, creamy taste and texture, and the fried head is VERY crunchy, and the flavor from the... whatever is inside the head, is awesome (if you are into that kind of thing, of course).

Now having fully gorged ourselves on sushi, it was time to head home. We were glad for the fresh air on the walk home, and went to sleep with visions of shrimp dancing in our heads...

Happy Eating,


P.S. Extra points for readers who correctly identify the source of the blog post title!

Monday, May 28, 2007

A Taste of Virginia

by Xani

That's what I always say!

So I spent last week in Texarkana, TX/AR for work (Gotta thank EP for holding things down here at BCD Headquarters in my absence!). Sadly, I am not going to blog about Texarkana. Not that I didn't have some good food (particularly Mexican/Tex-Mex and the accompanying margaritas, definitely check out Zappata's if you ever find yourself in Texarakana, it's "tremendous"), but I just never got around to taking pictures of any of it!

Instead I'm going to blog about the other trip I took last week. About 12 hours after I got home from TX at 4am, I was heading BACK to the airport to catch a flight to Norfolk, VA. My good friend Sara lives there and this was another in a series of "Girls' Weekends"* that Sara, myself, and our friend Hayley have recently made a tradition. They both visited me in Baltimore in February (pre-blog) and this time we met up in Norfolk to eat, DRINK, and be silly!

* The other "Girl" attending Girls weekend was Hayley's dog Biggie, who is actually a boy. But how cute!

First stop after Hayley and I arrive: gotta hit the bar. We ended up at Guadalajara's in Virginia Beach, right across the street from Eric's (Sara's boyfriend and our gracious host for much of the weekend) house. First course at Guadalajara's was huge margaritas that we eventually just started calling "giant bowls of tequila" because that was really a better description.

We snacked on the delicious chips, salsa and a creamy ranch-type dip they gave us, then made a meal of their very yummy and fresh guacamole. After that I had just enough room left for this vat of beer:

Apparently this place is all about oversize drinks. Not that I am complaining.

All in all a good meal and a fun night, but maybe too much fun as the next morning we all wanted, no, needed, a breakfast of french fries and pizza with bacon on it, if you get my drift... [Pictures of pizza and french fries unavailable due to laziness of photographer]

Saturday night: Prom!

Sara is a teacher at a high school in Norfolk, and she wanted to make a quick stop at the Senior Prom to see some of her students. This was also an excuse for us to dress up and go to dinner in downtown Norfolk before we went to the dance. We joined a couple of Sara's friends and fellow teachers at Rama Garden, a Thai restaurant just a few blocks from the Prom. I am a big fan of Thai food, and I was excited to try some old favorites and some new flavors and see how this place stood up to my local Thai joint.

Of course, first things first, a cocktail or two:

This is a mango margarita (because apparently I had not had enough tequila the night before). It was actually more like a super-sweet smoothie than a cocktail, a bit too sweet for me actually. Perhaps I am becoming desensitized to tequila? No matter... we pressed on to the first course, where the table shared an order of crispy wontons (these were stuffed with chicken, I believe, and were good and crispy but a little boring) and, my usual appetizer, green papaya salad. This is a great starter because it is a little spicy, a little sweet, and a little tart. The unripe papaya and peanuts on top give it crunch; its the perfect thing to get your palate going. Rama Garden did a good job with both appetizers.

A few dishes from the main course:

Green Curry with Tofu

Panang Curry with Chicken

I had the Green Curry with Tofu (yes I go meatless sometimes!). Another of my usual suspects when I eat Thai--I love the creamy, spicy curry sauce, the firm tofu, and the crunchy bamboo shoots. Unfortunately this version could have used a tiny bit more heat and salt, but was otherwise quite good, and the portion was huge. Hayley had Panang Curry with chicken, also delicious (she didnt like the "meatloaf-like" appearance of the sliced chicken, but was happy with the overall dish), but, in my book, Sara had the winning dish, good ol' Pad Thai (not pictured-- hey, it was ALL THE WAY at the other end of the table. Sue me.). They did a well executed version with lots of flavor and a bit of heat, plenty of veggies and chicken mixed in, and that great "tang" you expect from good Pad Thai (which I think is from fish sauce-- I have never made my own Pad Thai at home, but I think I might have to try it soon!).

We lingered over dinner until the other teachers, who were chaperoning the Prom, were late, then headed out of there. Prom was... interesting. I saw some very unique dresses and tuxedos, and I got reminisce about my own high school dances, and how AWFUL they always were. Dinner beforehand was always the best part-- no exception in 2007.

So even though I spent another day and a half in Norfolk, unfortunately I don't have much more to report. Sara, Hayley and I ate several "meals" at her place, which consisted of guacamole, tzatziki, grapes, cookies, bourbon chicken, and leftover bacon pizza while seated on the living room floor. Nothing wrong with that, right?? I had a great time although at the end of the weekend I think we all felt like this:

Looking forward to next Girls' Weekend! Hope everyone had a great Memorial Day weekend. What did you eat?


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