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 "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). ( 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?