Thursday, July 24, 2008

We're Practically Locals

by Xani

So by now most of your know that the BCD parents have relocated to Taylor's Island, MD, and are happily settling in to their new home, Blackacre. We've also mentioned, once or twice, that the kitchen at Blackacre is pretty freakin' awesome. But as of our second visit this past weekend, the kitchen had barely been used! In the craziness of moving, unpacking, etc., there just wasn't that much time for cooking. All that was about to change...

EP and I headed down to Blackacre on Saturday morning, and stopped at Emily's Produce, one of a handful of farm stands on the Eastern shore to pick up some fresh veggies to serve at dinner, while BCD Mom and Dad promised to pick up the main course and dessert. This was July 19, which was coincidentally the first day of Maryland's Buy Local Challenge! Emily's farm stand had all kinds of delicious looking produce grown only yards away-- tomatoes, corn, green and yellow beans, blackberries, cherries, and more. They also had a variety of freshly baked fruit pies, jarred preserves and salsas, etc. (Note to future visitors to Blackacre: stop here and bring us treats!) We picked up some great looking green beans and corn for a fraction of the price we pay at the regular grocery stores.

Later that evening, after frolicking with Gellie in the water, and doing some manual labor, it was time to deflower the new kitchen! Mom and Dad had picked up some very fresh and very local steamer clams and rockfish fillets from Kool Ice Seafood (also THE place to go in Cambridge if you need up to 33,000 pounds of ice. Which you might. It's THAT hot out), and a half a peach praline pie from Emily's! We planned the menu as follows:

Steamed Clams with broth and melted butter
Green Bean Salad
Corn on the Cob
Pan-fried herb crusted Rockfish Filets
Peach praline pie

First we prepared the green bean salad so it would have time to marinate. We used this recipe, which called for us to blanch and chill the beans, then mix with minced ginger, garlic, sliced green onions (didn't have any-- used shallots instead), cilantro and a little oil and rice vinegar. We also made some soy-glazed almonds (toast almonds in pan, add soy, cook until liquid evaporates) but they ended up being SO salty that we didn't put them on the salad. No great loss.

Dad uses a big cleaver for big garlic and ginger flavor
too salty-- too bad
The steamers were easy: just place clams in a pot with a little bit of boiling water-- steam until they open up, remove from pot, serve with melted butter and mugs of the "broth" (the steaming water plus the flavor-rich liquid the clams release). Eating these can be a little tricky at first, but its nowhere near as tough as picking crabs! After you've eaten all the clams, you can dump your leftover melted butter into the clam broth and drink it (slowly, there could be sand on the bottom)-- delicious. Those New Englanders know whats up... even if they do talk funny.

Next we prepared the main dish and the corn. The corn we just boiled up, but the fish needed a little extra preparation. First, we found a recipe online that sounded yummy. The BCD family doesn't have a ton of experience with cooking straight-up fish. Shellfish of all types and sizes? Yes. But fish-fish? Not so much. Luckily this recipe was pretty straightforward. EP made the crust with crushed up UTZ potato chips (also local!), parsley and tarragon and I whipped up an egg white and some mustard-- this went onto the fish to get the crust to stick better. Observe:

We love UTZ!
Once the fish was coated on both sides, into the pan it went! This is where the new stove really showed its strengths: there was space for the big pasta pot (which was cooking the corn) and the big frying pan, with plenty of room leftover. Also, the powerful hood quickly disposed of any fishy smells. Once a fillet was nicely browned on both sides, I set it on a tray, topped it with a dab of butter and a squeeze of lemon, and covered with foil while I cooked the others. Finally all was ready and it was time to eat!

Our first home-cooked meal in the new house was... awesome! The fish was really a big hit. I was pretty nervous about cooking it, not having much experience and knowing that fish is not that forgiving. Bad fish is BAD-- but this was great! Really moist, not fishy-tasting at all, and the crust was light and crispy. The corn was sweet and very fresh-tasting, and the green bean salad was a knock-out! I will be making this salad again and again-- it was packed with flavor from the garlic and ginger, a little sweetness from the rice vinegar, and plenty of crunch from the barely cooked beans. It was too bad those almonds were a bust-- I'll know to skip that whole step next time.
For dinner we enjoyed the delicious Peach Praline pie from Emily's-- no pictures but trust me, it was excellent. The next morning we used the kitchen again to whip up some of Dad's famous omelets (with curry vegetable filling-YUM) and then quit cooking for the rest of the trip. It was another great visit with great weather-- but we think Gellie had the most fun of all!

Don' forget, Buy Local Challenge is on until Saturday!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Victoria's My Middle Name!

by Erin

While we are sad that the BCD parents have left our childhood home for greener (sandier?) pastures (ps. first meal in the new kitchen post coming soon!), we often criticize our hometown, Columbia, MD, as being a "culinary wasteland." One of the few exceptions to this rule is Victoria Gastro Pub, a relatively new restaurant with wonderful food and a wonderful vibe.

Xani and I both happened to be in Columbia last week running various errands independently, so we decided to meet up for dinner at Victoria. We wanted to sit at the bar since they have truffle parmesan popcorn and fried oysters on the bar menu, but it was full with some private event, so to the dining room we went. (We unfortunately found out that the bar menu is not served in the dining room - that's a tip for the future!)

This was the second time I had been to Victoria (the first time, Xani and I took Mom for Mother's Day lunch), and both times I've been, our waiter has been the same guy: my old friend Alex! I had heard that Alex was a waiter there, but it was by pure coincidence that the two times I went there, Alex was working, and we were seated in his section! Alex and I went to high school together (go Golden Bears!). You might remember us from such productions as 42nd Street and Fiddler on the Roof. Alex was the rabbi; I was Hodel. Anyway, we were very close in high school and it was great to see him and relive the good ol' days. (Note that Xani limited our reminiscing to about 5 minutes; I needed to focus on the menu!)

Anyway, onto the food! We each ordered a glass of Hoegaarden to start off the meal. Then, we ordered the soup of the day (that sounds good, I'll have that), which was a Vichyssoise, a classic French cold soup made with leeks, potatoes, and lots of cream. Mmm mmm good. The soup had a nice texture and good, delicate flavor.


Blurry Vichyssoise

For our next course, we had one of the house specialties: the duck fat fries, served with roasted garlic aioli and truffle sea salt. These were EXCELLENT! They were like boardwalk fries but classed WAY up. (We ordered these the first time we came too; the pictures turned out way better, so we used those.)

We also enjoyed the Prince Edward Island Mussels, made with Hoegaarden, garlic, cilantro, orange peel, and chile de arbol. These were also quite good and were served with several pieces of grilled, buttery bread for the irresistable dipping that goes along with eating mussels.

Mussels and delicious bread - what could be better?

The last thing we ordered was the Cuban Sandwich, which was made with pulled Duroc pork, mango mojo, blackforest ham, and gruyere on sourdough bread and served with yucca fries. It should be noted that this was not your traditional Cuban sandwich (it was not pressed flat and I did not detect any pickles or mustard), however, this was a really delicious sandwich. The salty meats played wonderfully off of the sweet mango, and the yucca fries were awesome! Some of the best yucca fries I've had in a long time. We were really full by the time we got to this sandwich, but I'd like to think that we were still able to appreciate its finer points.

Cuban and Yucca Fries

Gratuitous (but blurry) close-up of the fries

It was a delicious meal at Victoria, and Alex did a wonderful job (he is quite the beer afficionado). Thanks, Alex, for a great time, and we'll be seeing you soon! Next time, however, I hope to sit in the bar so I can get my hands on some of that popcorn!

Erin Victoria

ps. We didn't have dessert this time, but we did the first time with BCD Mom, and they were beautiful AND delicious:

Gelato & Cookie Trio: Hazelnut, Espresso, Chocolate

Chocolate Praline Cake

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