Thursday, December 6, 2007

Let it Snow!

I don't know about you, but I am enjoying an unexpected snow day today... woo hoo! I'll still work later today (we have a Make It, Take It, Bake It! session this evening), but for now, it's a warm cafe au lait and sweat pants. But it got me thinking -- the holiday season is in full swing and the pressure to cook for others is intense. Most likely I'll whip up some chocolate covered pretzels (you can check these out on last week's episode of "A Frederick Home" at http://www.fnptv.com/) or my famous Chocolate Chip Cookies (no, you can't have the recipe:) and distribute them throughout the town.

Last year I received a bounty of treats and enjoyed every one of them. I really loved the Chocolate Pecan Pie made by Mary from The Kitchen Studio, plus various and assorted cookies and candies. I have such a sweet tooth!

Here's what I want to know: What are YOU making for the holidays this year? Leave a comment for all to see. I really want to know.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

Wild, Wonderful Wegmans

I had the pleasure of visiting yet another Wegmans store just last week, and boy, do I love that place! For those of you who don't yet know of my obsession with the grocery store, let me fill you in.

Wegmans is a grocery store chain located in the North East (their headquarters is in NY state). They have an amazing prepared foods sections, rockin' bakery, and their cheese and produce is really unbeatable. I have visited stores in State College, PA (that one was a bus trip; I kid you not); Wilkes Barre, PA; Dulles, VA; and most recently in Hunt Valley, MD. What makes the Dulles store stand out of course is their amazing wine selection (I LOVE shopping in Virginia), but each store is consistent not only with great food (and the prices are pretty reasonable), but great customer service as well.

One of my favorite things to do is attack the cheese counter full force. Now any good cheese monger will allow you a taste of any cheese that you are interested in purchasing. The pleasure here is that I did this with 9 cheeses. Don't think I was trying to get a free lunch here, I purchased each cheese, but it was so cool to be able to taste each and speak with someone knowledgeable about the products. Here's where Wegmans stands out; after tasting each cheese, the cheese monger re-packaged and then re-priced each hunk. I didn't pay a thing for my samples. It's a little thing, but in these days of nickel & diming, it was a nice touch I appreciated.

When I was in the Hunt Valley store last week, my mom, daughter and I had a fantastic lunch in their upper balcony area (really, upper balcony in a grocery store!). The only problem is that it usually costs me a fortune because we see so many things we want to try. We probably all had the equivalent of 2 lunches each because of the fresh fruit, fresh sushi (it's good too!), Chinese food bar, salads, and the bakery. Wow! As we were taking the elevator up, there was an older gentleman nice enough to hold the doors for us. After a quick conversation that lasted beyond our elevator trip, I found out that he and his wife come to Wegmans every Sunday. She shops and he brings a portable tv, gets a snack, and watches football. Every Sunday since the second week that store opened 2 years ago. He was happy as a clam and almost evangelical about the whole thing.

So Why do I bring all of this up? Well, rumor has it (as does the Wegmans website http://www.wegmans.com/) that Frederick is getting a store of our very own. I heard a lot of buzz a year of so ago and have heard nothing since. As far as I know, they're planning to go into what is now some vacant land between Rt. 15 & Rt. 26. I've done a little research and found out that the store is being held up because there were water problems in the county and all commercial building was halted until they could get a handle on it. The good news is that the water issues are resolved and they're ready to go. There's only one problem: This store will be on a list with a bunch of other potential projects.

Here's what I propose: Let's get a letter writing campaign (or even email if that works best for you!) going and start sending letters to our aldermen asking that they give this project priority. If I understand correctly, the site needs to be annexed into the city and once that's done they can get rolling. It will take about 2 years until the store is finally open, and I'm getting tired of driving to Dulles.


If you've been to a Wegmans, write me a comment so that I can see what you think!

Friday, November 9, 2007

Middletown's The Main Cup



Woo hoo baby -- I just got back from another fantastic lunch at my new favorite restaurant, The Main Cup, located on Main St. in Middletown.

For those of you who have never heard of this little gem, I strongly recommend that you give it a try. I've been for lunch (twice) and have shared and had tastes of my lunch date's meal both times. So far, the rockfish and chips (so good plus they actually had malt vinegar on hand), the eggplant parm sandwich, & the steak sandwich, were really great and totally worth the drive from downtown Frederick. The chicken salad was good, but I can easily make that myself, so I didn't beg my friend too hard for hers. Besides, those fish and chips were cooked just right and I wanted to clean the plate without too much distraction (I did :). I even had the opportunity to speak to their new chef, Jordan. What a cutie! He's young and earnest and headed to the CIA (the good one, Culinary Institute of America) sometime in the next year. I even got a little sneak peak at his yummy new Sweet Tomato Dressing. I'll have to give that one a try next time I'm there.

My cappuccino was perfect with a nice foamy topper and served in a mug. It wasn't quite as hot as I like, but that didn't bother me too much because otherwise, it was great. I'd love to see a bigger selection of desserts to go with the coffee, because you know I've got to satisfy my sweet tooth. Kim (one of the owners) assures me that's coming soon.

The Main Cup is located right on Main St., but you'll do best to park behind the building. There are several additional businesses located back there and you may find something else you like (yoga anyone?). The building has been lovingly renovated and is cut up into many nooks and crannies. There's a small private room where I'm dying to take my investment club, a comfy coffeehouse-style gathering room in front, and then a little nook leading back to the bar area. With exposed brick and warm colors, this is the perfect place to hang out on a cold, rainy day.

The Main Cup serves dinners as well, though I haven't had the opportunity to give those a try yet. You can check out their full menu at http://www.themaincup.com/. They're open Monday through Saturday, and therein lies my only real complaint. As a small business owner, I recognize that you've got to have a day off, and even those days off are really just days you're not open to the public, not so much days you aren't working. But, in making the drive (ok, it's not too long, but when do I ever get over to Middletown?), often the only time I've got some time is Sunday. Hopefully someday soon Kim & Bob will be able to open regularly on Sunday.

The Main Cup is now featuring live music on some weekends. The next group to perform will be the Howard Burns Trio next Friday night (11/16) from 7-10pm. You may even see me there. Give The Main Cup a try and tell them Christine sent you.

One quick note: When I review a restaurant, I pay my own way. I don't accept food for free from the owners or staff so that I can be as unbiased as possible. It's a little thing, but it's important to me.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Go Go Metro! (Cooking Show That Is!)


The Metropolitan Cooking & Entertaining Show was in full swing this weekend, and I decided to take the staff at The Kitchen Studio down for a fun day of tasting and perusing new food products.

For those of you who have never heard of this event, held at the Washington Convention Center in DC, it is billed as a food extravaganza. It's held over the weekend (Sat. & Sun.) and this year featured Food Network's Queen of all things Southern, Ms. Paula Deen making 3 special appearances (tickets were $55 per person). Last year, the show's inaugural, Ms. Deen's sons were featured speakers (and for no additional charge). Now as charming as those Deen boys seem on tv, I have no problem with the ticket price for their mom and not so much for them. After all, she's a bonafide **STAR** and has worked hard to pave the road for them.

I should have known that this might cause a little problem when I checked the web site before we left Frederick and saw that all of the tickets for Ms. Deen's appearances were sold out. Hmmm. They probably sold a lot of tickets, but I was sure that everything would run as smoothly as it had the previous year. After all, now they had some experience and most likely a crew ready to handle anything.

Unfortunately, that wasn't so much the case. Don't get me wrong. We didn't run across a jerk the entire time, but what we did run across were were folks who didn't know what anyone was doing. The line to get in was atrocious -- many hundreds of people long. I had purchased tickets online in advance just for general admission ($20 each plus a weird $2 fee -- just tell me the tickets are $22, don't tack on some "processing fee" when I'm buying them directly from you please!). Once we came down the elevator, we were pushed toward folks with scanners then told to get in line.

This was a bit of a bummer because I wanted the TKS staff to feel relaxed and have a good time. Waiting in line for 45 minutes doesn't really help that feeling too much, especially since we were there for general admission. The clock ticked on and more than a few women in line were starting to get frustrated. Most of the people in line were there to see Ms. Deen; scheduled to go on at 11. At 5 'til, several hundred were still in line. One of my employees even heard a member of the convention center staff tell one poor woman that she wouldn't make it in time and there was nothing he could do. I felt really sorry for her, having spent $75 just to get into the show. Luckily, Ms. Deen held off until 11:30 so that everyone could be seated.

You should have heard the roar of the crowd when she made her entrance. They were thrilled!

After speaking to a few folks from the sponsor (The Tiny Kitchen - http://www.thetinykitchen.com/) , they tried to shift blame to the convention center folks, which I suppose I could understand. There was no clear signage, though the gentleman I spoke with said that NO ONE ever reads signs (sounds just like a guy -- girls read signs!!). I'm hoping that next year, they'll be better prepared, as there must have been 750-1,000 people there just to see Ms. Deen.


Onto bigger and better things -- we had a GREAT time. The group split off and everyone had more than her fair share of tastes and treats. Blue Moon Chocolates (available at Bones & Cones in Hagerstown) are AMAZING! I also picked up this delicious red curry sauce - sooo yummy. I'm thinking sauteed shrimp with some un-offensive veggie and some basmati rice. Woo hoo! While I was going hog-wild, I also picked up some Red Rocker almond toffee with dark chocolate. You can tell there's real butter in there ba-by!
There were workshops (small, personal, & no additional charge!) and "interactive cooking demonstrations". I attended one of these last year and had the BEST time. This year the price was raised quite a bit (from $80 to $125), but the layout looked much better and less crowded. Aprons were draped across each chair and I'm sure everyone took home lots of goodies, just like in 2006 (I still have my Spode turkey tureen).
Bottom line: This is a fun show and there were tons of vendors & presenters. Despite the initial difficulties, the show staff was kind and professional. I'm excited to see where this goes in the next few years. I'd love to see something major with cookbooks and I'm guessing that there will be more big stars. As for me, I'd really love to try to present there next year and give DC a little Frederick flavor. :)

Monday, October 22, 2007

Wait for it, wait for it...Hinode Japanese Restaurant

I've been wanting to give this new Japanese restaurant on the Carroll Creek Promenade in downtown Frederick a try since it opened back in September. I finally had this chance this past Saturday with a few friends on a kid-free restaurant adventure.

I was always a fan of the recently-closed Cafe Kyoko on Patrick Street. The service was never speedy (2 hours seemed to be the norm, regardless of what you ordered), but the food was always very good and the sushi was fresh. Since this Frederick good-old boy closed last month, I've had a hole in the Japanese-side of my stomach.

At first, I was afraid that Hinode would be a hibachi-style restaurant, a la Benihana. Thankfully, that wasn't true. We entered without a reservation right around 7p on Saturday evening, party of 4. We were seated very quickly, which was great. We were all hungry and didn't want to wait too long for our meal.

Our waiter was a really nice guy, but totally weeded from the second we sat down. Now that doesn't mean he was out back doing something he shouldn't -- "weeded" or "in the weeds" or "in the s*&t" is restaurant terminology for being really, really behind. That's never good, but especially at the start of a busy Saturday night.

We ordered our drinks; 2 beers, a margarita, and some yummy, fruity concoction with pineapple juice, Midori, rum, and something else. Unfortunately, it took almost 35 minutes to get our drink order. That was a bummer, but the drinks were really good, so we let it go.


We placed our orders: To start, Butternut Squash Soup (not Japanese, but working with the season I suppose), Crab Cake, & Potato Wrapped Shrimp with "sweet chilly (sic) sauce". The crab cake tasted tinny, but darn, those shrimp were goooood.


It had taken another 30 minutes or so for the apps to show, then another 30 or so after that for the main event. This wasn't careful timing to extend our meal, just a swamped kitchen.

Now don't get me wrong -- the company was great and the mood was relaxed, but we were just a little bit hungry and the food coming out to everyone else looked amazing.

The duck was in a cinnamon-scented sauce. Though cooked just right to a perfect medium-rare, I personally didn't care for the cinnamon. It did go with the figs in the dish, but just didn't work for my taste buds. However, my husband enjoyed it quite a bit.


My friend Ian and I both ordered the Red Snapper with Black Bean Sauce. We actually thought that we received the wrong dishes because of the absence of sauce. After being assured that we had the correct dish, we dug around a little bit and found it (sort of )under the fish. It was delicious, there just wasn't nearly enough. The snapper was cooked perfectly and the dish was really good. With a little more sauce, it could have been great!

Grand total for the evening, including tip, was right around $140. That included almost 2 rounds of drinks (I'm a total lightweight), 3 apps, & 4 main courses. All in all, it was a good experience, if a little slow. Hinode is a good restaurant. I'm anxious to go back in a few months to see how it improves. Maybe next time we'll even have time for dessert! :)

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Blowtorchs Aren't Just for Boys

First of all, a great big thanks to all of you who voted in the GNMParents.com "Hot Stuff" poll...We won!! I'm sure this award will carry many accolades and future awards (NOT!), or more likely that it's just really, really cool that this blog was recognized right as it's getting started. So, WOO HOO!!!

Now onto bigger and better things, like an awesome dessert I made this past weekend. I am a big fan of Rebecca Rather, The Pastry Queen and owner of The Rather Sweet Bakery in Texas. She has two books out with recipes from her bakery (the new one, focused on Christmas, includes way more than just desserts). (http://www.ecookbooks.com/p-5819-pastry-queen.aspx) On the cover of her first book is her signature dessert, Texas Big Hairs. Now, I love sweets, and I really love big, extravagant sweets, so this one appealed to me immediately.

I've made these "Big Hairs" once or twice before. The general idea is a citrus meringue tart, but better. The components are a nut-based crust, homemade lemon-lime curd, and of course, meringue!

I started on Saturday, making the curd by combining sugar, freshly squeezed lemon and lime juices, egg yolks, and a little butter. You combine these ingredients and then stir occasionally of the course of around 40 minutes over a pot of gently simmering water. It's not a difficult technique and the result is so much better than anything you'll ever buy at the store. Trust me.

The next day I went ahead and made the crust, which is kind of a pain in the neck. It may be that I don't chill it long enough (patience is NOT a virtue of mine), but I find it annoying to work with. Mine is always a little too thick, but still very tasty.

The meringue uses just egg white and sugar, and lots of it. Again you go with a gentle double boiler scenario to be sure to kill any of the nasties in the eggs. Whip on medium high for 5 minutes, the high for 5-7 minutes more. I should have let mine go a little longer, but that patience thing kicked in again. Nonetheless, they are great fun to work with and make look all cool and spikey.

The best part? Using a blowtorch to make it all brown and toasty. Woo freakin' hoo ba-by! My Uncle Pat gave me a blowtorch last year after a cooking class. I had been using a wussy culinary torch, with slow & iffy results. He hooked me up using just a regular torch you can get at any home improvement store.

SO MUCH FUN! The blowtorch caramelizes the sugar in the meringue and gives it that toasty marshmallow flavor. You can always use the broiler, but this is way more interesting. FYI-This is not something you want your kids to do. Have them help you spike up the meringue, but otherwise, hands off where a blowtorch is concerned. It's just too dangerous for them.

Here's the final result:


I made six and had to start giving them away right away, or else I would have been in a curd-induced coma. Our neighbors Mary Beth & Dan and family had meringue in their hair, on their clothes, and all over their faces in seconds. It was that good.
If you like big desserts that are super tasty and don't use processed, canned ingredients, check out Rebecca Rather's first cookbook, The Pastry Queen. Be sure to let me know what you think and if you make anything cool!

Monday, October 8, 2007

Deceptively Delicious or Just Deceptive?

I had a chance to catch up with my Tivo this evening and watch today's episode of Oprah (10/8). Now you would be hard pressed to find a bigger fan of Oprah than me, but today, I am all but FREAKING OUT about her latest guest/"next big thing".

Oprah hosted Jessica Seinfeld, yes, Jerry's wife, and led a discussion on Ms. Seinfeld's new book, "Deceptively Delicious". The premise of the book is that to get your kids/family to eat better, you should add vegetable purees to their foods so that the veggies go by unnoticed. Ms. Seinfeld's recipes are lowfat and there's no hint of the offending vegetables anywhere. I'm guessing the basic idea is that it's best to get nutrition in there somehow. I so strongly disagree with her ideas on how to do that.

Ms. Seinfeld is a busy mother of three, thin, beautiful, and let's not joke around here, pretty darn well off. Even with all of this, I have no doubts that she struggles with getting the good stuff off the kid's plates and into their bellies. It seems an almost universal problem. But here's my issue: What are we teaching our kids here? Why are we giving the control to the kids about what they eat? What about the lack of trust????

Before you start thinking that I'm some maniac who beats her children in order to get them to eat their broccoli, let me assure you that I am not (that was my dad ;). I work hard to teach my kids what foods are good, which ones are a treat, and which ones are necessary. I also work hard to get my kids to eat their veggies, but don't go overboard with the pressure. But, we're also not rocking out McDonald's that often either.

My approach is a bit more time-consuming than Ms. Seinfeld's, but I think it results in much happier, open-minded children overall. My approach? Get your kids cooking. Have then help you in the kitchen. Teach them how to cook. Teach them healthy eating from junk food eating by letting them shop with you and make decsions in the store. Give them some responsibility at dinner-time. (Please see my previous post.)

Parents don't have tons of time nowadays to spend cooking with their kids. I think that's one of the reasons that my cooking classes and cooking camps for kids and teens are so popular. I'll tell you this though, when kids have a hand in making their meals, they are so much more apt to give new things a try.

If you saw Oprah you also saw the part about "Honey, We're Killing the Kids" on the Discovery Health channel. Three very overweight young men and their parents got a rude-awakening as to where their health is headed without some important changes. The kid's initial reaction to the healthier diet (tofu right out of the gate...Are you kidding me???), was of course one of pain and disgust. But, cut to the next scene and watch Junior starting a stir-fry himself; he's soooo into it. He had a hand in making the dinner and was automatically more invested. I'd like to say "Thus proving my point", but I'm afraid of over-kill right now.

I promise not to dedicate this blog to just children and eating/cooking, but today, it's my soapbox and I'll stand if I want to!

What do you think? Agree or disagree?

cvb

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Why Your Kids Should Cook

Have you seen Wednesday's (9/26) Frederick News Post yet? Check out the Healthy Living supplement. I was lucky enough to be interviewed for an article. The topic? Healthy eating for kids.


Now this isn't too far of a stretch for me, because I've got 2 great kids of my own. But it was fun to be asked for words of wisdom. Bear in mind, I am the person whose son looked at her (after having a plate I had literally slaved over placed in front of him) and uttered the unforgettable words, "This is disgustin'." I consider it a great testament to my parenting skills that Benjamin is still around today.



To me it seems like healthier eating is a natural inclination these days, and I'm not talking sprouts and tofu here, though that would certainly be ok if that's your thing. I'm talking about branching out from more than just chicken nuggets. One of the coolest things that I've learned in owning a cooking school is that if they make it, they will more than likely try it.



I know you're stressed out and dinner is a hassle almost every night (shameless plug here, try our MTB sessions!), but wouldn't it be great if you could throw control of one dinner a week, heck, start with once a month, into your kid's hands. Be warned, the first meal will almost definitely contain fries and ice cream, but by getting your kids involved in the planning and the cooking, you give them a little ownership and a little pride. Any good chef tastes the food before it goes to the customer. Kids should be no exception.

How to get started? Let them plan the first meal, with your guidance of course. You can always add in a nice big salad to smooth out the rough edges. As you do this more and more frequently, start steering your child to a healthier option of a food they enjoy. Do they love chicken tenders? Make your own and bake them. It's actually pretty darn easy.

A great resource for kid-friendly recipes is http://www.familyfun.com/. This Disney owned site is tied to the magazine of the same name and is a solid resource. I'm also a fan of Rachael Ray's 30 Minute Meals for Kids. Say what you want about Rachael (no more EVOO, ever!), but she has pulled together a great cookbook targeted toward kids 4-17. She breaks it into sections based on age and increasing skill levels. You can get this for a reasonable price at my favorite cookbook website, http://www.ecookbooks.com/.

Looking for more tips on cooking with your kids? Check out our regular column in Frederick's Child magazine, distributed for free in Frederick County.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Everything Old is New Again!

This past weekend, I had the most fun I've had in a long time, and I usually have a pretty good time wherever I go. Did I hit some great new restaurant? Find an awesome new ingredient? Make the pilgrimage to Wegman's? None of the above in fact. Instead, my friends and family threw a progressive dinner to celebrate my (insert big, but not too big important number here) birthday!

For those unfamiliar with the concept, a progressive dinner entails traveling from home to home and enjoying each course of a dinner at a separate location. The idea is to spread out the work and spread out the fun. The respective hosts can coordinate a theme or go off on their own, focusing on something special to them.

The first stop was Karen's house. Ohh la la do I love some good apps and a cocktail or two! There was a corn and avocado salsa (delicious), fancy green beans with dipping sauce (perfectly cooked), a lentil-goat cheese-lettuce wrap (healthy and tasty), and, my personal favorite, veggie summer rolls made by Courtney from The Kitchen Studio. They were so good, I started and couldn't put them down until they were all gone. Good thing it was my birthday, so I could be a little greedy :). Top it all off with an espresso martini, and you've got the start of a pretty fabulous night.

Now here's a tip for you: Don't have the money for a full bar but want more than just beer & wine? Choose a signature cocktail for the evening. You'll need to have the ingredients on hand for just one fancy drink, plus, you can make it in a large quantity and just shake with ice when ready to serve. It saves you a hassle and still looks great and adds something special. I'm thinking of serving Pumpkin Pie martinis for my next fall soiree.

But I digress...The next stop on our adventure? Michele's house, just down the street. We feasted on stuffed chicken breasts, roasted pork tenderloin, tortellini salad and more! Plus, there may have been a few more espresso martinis on hand, but my memory was starting to go a little by then.

After an hour or two, we paraded on to our final destination...my house! The furniture had been cleared for dancing, with a champagne toast and three different cakes from my favorite bakery in town, Proof! I think the Cherry-Hazelnut was my favorite, but you won't go wrong with any cake from this fabulous Patrick St. bakery.

A good time was truly had by all, and I absolutely had the best time ever. So, when you're considering your next party, why not talk to your friends and figure out a plan to share the work and the fun! Split the tasks, split the courses, have a wonderful time. And don't forget, if you're planning that signature cocktail, it's always best to be able to walk from place to place, or at the very least be sure to have a designated driver!

Don't forget to post your comments below. I'd love to know what you're thinking! Bon appetit!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Welcome to Frederick Foodie!

Woo hoo! My first official blog post -- I am VERY excited!

The purpose of Frederick Foodie? To provide you with un-biased culinary observations and information concerning the food scene in Frederick, Maryland and the surrounding area. Features include
  • great restaurants that you don't go to but should,
  • food bargains,
  • culinary happenings,
  • tips and techniques to make your life a bit easier in the kitchen, and, well,
  • anything else I can think of!

Do you have a food-related question for me? Let me know and I'll do my best to answer it for you.

First topic: Awesome Restaurants!

One of my favorite places to eat in downtown Frederick is just a further down Market St.. You'll want to give Lucky Corner, on the corner of Market & 7th a try. This inexpensive, clean, well-run restaurant features food from Vietnam -- delicious! The Summer Rolls are a must (2 per order), as is any dish with crispy noodles or their rockin' peanut sauce. Dinner is cheap cheap cheap, with most entrees coming in under $10. You can't beat that with a stick, unless maybe that stick has their tasty chicken satay (4 skewers to an order)! My husband and I have fed 6 adults on $55 bucks and still had leftovers for lunch the next day. It generally takes about 20-30 minutes to pick up food for takeout, and be sure to check your order before you leave the store. It's not incomprehensible that a dish may have been left out of the bag by accident.

Lucky Corner does have eat-in and pick-up for phone orders, but no delivery is available. Beer is available in-house only, but no wine yet.