Thursday, February 28, 2008

Black Coffee and Donuts, LA-style

by Xani

A week before the big debut at Great Tastes, my real job took me to LA yet again. I decided to go out a few days early and enjoy the President's Day weekend in sunny SoCal. And moments after landing at LAX (at 9am-- you do the math and figure out the god-awful hour I had to leave my house in Baltimore), my lovely cousin Ann and I were off for our first culinary adventure: Randy's Donuts !

They have a drive-thru!

Mmmm.... Donuts.

You may recognize this iconic building-- The World Famous Randy's Donuts is a tiny shack right near the airport with a HUGE donut on top. And more importantly, dozens of delicious regular-size donuts inside. Ann and I picked up a dozen assorted types (plus an extra twist, "for the road") and a couple of coffees and headed back to her sunny apartment in Santa Monica.

We were sure to sample all the interesting/recommended types of donuts from Randy's, as well as our personal favorites: twist (supposedly a favorite in-the-car treat), buttermilk, apple fritter, double chocolate cake, maple bar, coconut, etc. And here they are in all their glory!

And here are the remains after we devoured them, along with more cups of delicious strong black coffee...

Yum! These were excellent. My favorites were the buttermilk and the double chocolate cake. The buttermilk had a not-too-sweet inside with a nice cake-y texture, and the double chocolate cake tasted like Cocoa Puffs! The maple bar had a super-sweet filling (a little too sweet for my taste, but not for Ann!). The coconut, apple fritters and bear claws-- all good, but now just a fuzzy memory, swirling with sugar and caffeine...

Feeling super-full of donuts, we took a nice stroll down to the Santa Monica Farmer's Market, which was closing up shop but still had a delightful array of fruits, veggies, herbs, cheeses, organic products, etc, etc, and then through the Promenade to people-watch and window shop. Pretty soon we all had "donut hangovers" (did you know this was possible??) and needed to rest for a bit before our next meal.... Coming soon!


Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Great Tastes: The Rest of the Story

by Erin and Xani

Well we've kept all five of our readers in suspense for long enough - it is time to reveal who our new CELEBRITY friend is!

It's Michael from season 2 of Top Chef!!

Remember?!?! Loved him.

Mike was a special guest celebrity at the Great Tastes event, where he judged an omelet contest (note: I bet BCD Dad could have kicked all their butts) and had an hour-long session where he made some hors d'oeuvres. BUT, we will get to how we met him in a moment...

So, after our panel discussion, we mixed and mingled a bit, and then headed home to rest up for the next phase of the evening: dinner. One of the Great Tastes "special events" was a special four-course dinner at Da Mimmo's, a fancy restaurant in Little Italy, where it was promised that some of the food celebs from earlier in the day would be there. The BCD parents thought the dinner would be fun so we bought tickets.

After a few minutes hanging in the lounge enjoying a cocktail or two (props to Xani for remembering the most complicated drink order ever: one champagne cocktail, one Johnny Walker Black, on the rocks, with a twist, one sweet vermouth on the rocks, one Tom Collins, and one Hendricks [no, make that Bombay Sapphire] martini, extra-dry, up, with a twist, olives on the side-- and props to the bartender for getting it right!) we headed to the upstairs dining room to start the meal...

The advertisement for the dinner said there were 30 spots available, but there were only about twelve of us in total (in other words, the BCD family comprised half of the entire dining party). As promised, Michael from Top Chef was there with his buddy Danny, along with Barrie Lynn, The Cheese Impresario, and Greg Nevins of Moorea Marketing, organizer of Great Tastes. Xani bravely took the seat next to Mike, and that kicked off our new friendship!

Before we talk more about Mike, let's discuss the meal itself, shall we? The first course was Penne Amatriciana, which was al dente pasta in a sauce of tomatoes, onions, garlic, and proscuitto. This was our favorite dish - the sauce was very flavorful without being too heavy, and the pasta was very al dente! Some may say it was undercooked, but we (especially Xani) enjoyed the bite left in the pasta. Also note, the wait staff poured white white wine during the first and second courses, and red during the third. And when we say poured, we mean poured! And that is why all the pictures are so blurry!

Next up was a salad of greens, apples, walnuts, gorgonzola cheese, and yummy garlic bread pieces instead of croutons.

Next came the main course, a t-bone veal chop. Oh wait, not a veal chop, veal CHOPS. Yes, PLURAL (they claim it was one chop butterflied, we're not so sure). The point is it was HUMONGOUS. It was really bordering on ridiculous/obscene. (Dad's theory was that they were expecting more people so they just doubled up the portions.) The veal was very tasty, though, and good for leftovers (they happily offered doggie bags).

The dessert was a zabaglione (Italian egg custard) with strawberries, which was kinda boring. Also, they did not offer coffee, which we thought was a bit tacky for all the money we were spending there. They did, however, bring us large portions of limoncello, which is so delicious but so strong! Just what we needed after all that wine...

Overall the food was fine, but not over-the-top amazing. This begs the question: where can we get good Italian food in Little Italy? We welcome your recommendations.

Anyway, the little issues in the meal were overshadowed by the lovely conversation we were having around the table. We talked with Mike about food (of course), his time on Top Chef, his friends from the show (including Ilan - hot!), and big name chefs he got to meet while on the show, including our idol, Anthony Bourdain. We talked about places we've eaten, dishes we've made, and our traditional Sunday dinners (Mike wants an invite!).

We learned that it was Mike's first visit to Baltimore, and that, on the advice of a cabbie, he had gone out partying in Federal Hill the night before (which he likened to Bourbon Street in New Orleans - not too far off if you ask us). When we heard this, we immediately felt that we could show him a hipper, cooler, more diverse and interesting side of Charm City, so after dinner we took him to none other than The Brewer's Art. We've talked about Brewer's on the blog before but it's worth mentioning again how cool this place is - they brew their own (extremely strong) Belgian beers, they have the best Belgian-style fries in Baltimore, and the place is filled with a diverse crowd ranging from hipsters to lawyers to librarians.

Xani and Mike enjoying some fine Belgian beer at Brewer's

We happened to run into a bunch of folks we knew there, which ended up being doubly cool: Mike could obviously tell how super-popular we are, and our friends thought we were awesome for hanging out with a celebrity! Strangely enough, we promised him a diverse Baltimore, but everyone we introduced him to was either a lawyer or a law student! Ah well...

It was a great evening with our new friend, and we are so excited to have met him. We love celebrities - they are so fierce!

Happy celeb hob-nobbing,

E & X

P.S. A big shout-out to Baltimore Metromix for covering this event, and namechecking BCD! Here we are in the slide show, pictures 26 and 28!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

A Great Time at Great Tastes!

By Xani and Erin

As many of you know, Black Coffee and a Donut was asked to participate on a panel of Baltimore Food Bloggers at Great Tastes 2008, which was on Saturday. It. Was. AWESOME. We had such a fabulous time at the event. Thank you so much to all of our awesome FANS who came out to see the panel and enjoy the day with us (especially our lovely cousin Karen who came all the way from Detroit to SURPRISE us there-- how FIERCE of her!).

There were a few technical difficulties during the panel discussion (mostly projector issues which meant that the PowerPoint presentation that Kit prepared wasn't seen-- boo!) but overall the panel went well and all the bloggers got to share a little bit about themselves and their blogs, and answer questions from the lovely audience. The rest of the day we spent wandering around the dozens of exhibit booths, watching cooking demos, sampling, snacking, and schmoozing.

We watched Warren Brown of Cakelove prepare Italian meringue buttercream frosting, then got to taste some! Rodney Henry of Dangerously Delicious Pies told great stories as he showed us how to make sweet and savory pies. We sampled absinthe, Maker's Mark punch, coffee with Jameson's AND Kahlua, cosmpolitans, Clipper City beer, dirty mojitos, red wine, white wine and... probably some other stuff but it's just a haze of tiny martini glasses at this point. We got to try mini-pulled pork sandwiches (on sweet potato biscuits), oysters Rockefeller risotto, raw oysters with a spicy cucumber relish, artisinal cheeses, imported olive oils, lasagna, chorizo, salmon spring rolls, apple butter crepes, vegetarian (yes, vegetarian-- I bet it would have been better with bacon!) cake, cherry pie from Dangerously Delicious, bacon, sausage-- the list goes on and on! We chatted with folks from all different food-related organizations: Kate from Todd Conner's (a new bar and restaurant in Fells Point), Josh from Slow Food Baltimore, Dan from the Hungover Gourmet, and the head chef at Sotto Sopra, amongst so many others.

Overall we has a fantastic time and we want to again thank Dara from Dining Dish for asking us to be involved. And now, what you've all been waiting for (?)... pictures!!

EP and Matt prepare to sample Cakelove cupcakes

BCD Girls about to make their debut!

During the panel discussion

Our fabulous fans!

Keep your eyes peeled (ew) for more posts about Great Tastes coming soon. The BCD family was lucky enough to attend an exclusive dinner after the event with some of the organizers and a certain CELEBRITY whom we now consider a close personal friend! Who was this mystery person?? Any guesses...??

Stay tuned! Thanks again to everyone who made the day and night unforgettable! You are all so fierce!

Happy eating/drinking/schmoozing,

X & EP

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