Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Saffron at Costco? Ole'!

Just a quick post to let all of you paella fans out there know that Costco, yes COSTCO, has wonderful certified La Mancha Saffron in stock right now! It's a 5 gram bottle and goes for around $26. If you know anything about saffron, you know that this is a great deal! The threads are a dark red and are packaged in a glass bottle with purple cardboard surrounding it. It looks to be the real deal. Expiration is March 2010, so you've got some time to use it.

You can find this in the spice section. Now, go make some paella and let me know how it is!

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Caballo Viejo -- Oh Yes You Should!

My new favorite restaurant in town? Hands-down, it's Caballo Viejo in the 7th St. Shopping Center just behind Glory Days Grill & Bonefish Grill. I've been waiting to post about it until I took some snappy photos, but who knows when I'll ever get around to that...

Though more of a very casual counter shop than a fancy sit-down place (limited seating is available), you'll know that you've stumbled onto something delicious from the moment you walk through the door. But don't be confused, this is not Mexican, it's Venezuelan. I can hear you now, "Well, what the heck does that mean Chris?" It means not too spicy, and more than just burritos.

The basic menu is this: Burritos (the boys both love the steak version), Rotisserie Chicken (I don't know what they rub on those darn birds, but I am considering rubbing myself in the same thing so that I can lick it off whenever I want some :), a salad or two, and my favorite...Arepas.

Oh Arepas, let me sing your succulent praises! Arepas are a corn cake, polenta-esque really, that is steamed then very lightly grilled. They are hot hot hot, sliced open through the middle and stuffed with any number of great fillings. My favorite? It's a toss-up between the shredded beef (OMG!) with the white cheese and the Chicken-Avocado Salad. Holy cow -- that is some yumminess. They have a ton of different toppings and side dishes (plantains, yucca, etc.), but don't get too distracted. Simple can sometimes be the best. Ask the guys behind the counter how they would eat it, then trust them. The best part? This joint is totally inexpensive. You can get an Arepa for under $6 and it may even last you two meals (ok, a meal and a half). Whole chickens seem to be around $9, which is a lot more than Costco, but it is a really, really good chicken and totally worth it.

Tiny note #1: Dessert is really an afterthought and seems to be a mass-produced tres leches cake. It doesn't suck (just try to find a tres leches cake that does, actually no, don't), but I do try to avoid the mass-produced stuff unless it's completely excellent, and this is good, but really, stick to the main dishes).

Tiny note #2: The lore behind Caballo Viejo includes the fact that these folks were set to open in the Monocacy Shopping Center that was burned to the ground last spring. Scuttlebutt has it they they worked hard to recover and open in this new location. Do yourself a favor and give them a try. You won't be sorry!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Rising Food Costs & The Food Biz

Food costs are quickly approaching new heights, even locally. Certainly this is no news to anyone who has made a trip to the grocery store in the last couple of months. Being in the food business, food costs made a huge difference to my bottom line. Folks at home tend to think only of their soaring grocery costs, not those of the businesses they use.

Yesterday's Washington Post had a great article by food critic Tom Sietsema on how Washington area restaurants are handling the problem. Here's a link if you want to check it out:

At The Kitchen Studio, we're working hard to keep our costs in control so that no price increases are necessary as we weather this hopefully temporary storm. Rest assured, our customers and students will continue to receive the excellent quality fresh food that we are known for. We're not going to skimp just because it hurts a bit in the pocketbook right now. We're proud of the food we offer, both in classes AND Make It, Take It, Bake It! (and soon to be coming Chippa Chippa Bloem Bloems!) and promise the same great quality at the same great price.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

So, You want to Open a Restaurant???

Well, have I got a lead for you!!

A gentleman I know is interested in purchasing a great building on Rt. 26 just beside Ceresville Mansion. You know the's a large, vacant, old stone mill. Anyway, this gentleman (one of my Leadership Frederick County friends) and his partner are hoping to revitalize the building and make it something fabulous.

One of the big ideas is to create a destination restaurant on the first floor of the space. They're hoping for fine dining, but lacking any restaurant experience on their own, they would love to hook up with a chef with a great fine-dining vision and help that person to execute the idea.

Have you always wanted to open an upscale restaurant using your own vision? Do you have a solid idea ready to go? Have you lacked the funding? Do you know someone who fits the bill?

If so, please email me (comments will be fine) and I'll put you in touch. Here's the thing though, this is for folks with serious food experience only. If you've always hoped to open a great coffee shop except for that pesky 9 to 5 rountine you've currently got going, this isn't the deal for you. But if high-end fine-dining right here in Frederick County has always been your dream, please get in touch with me asap.

Bon appetit my friends!

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

R.I.P.: Proof

That's right...rumor has it (from pretty good sources) that our favorite bakery, Proof on E. Patrick St., will soon be closing its doors. Get your mini lemon-meringue tarts before it's too late!!

The owner is selling the super fabulous bakery and opening yet another great (if his track record has anything to say about it) restaurant a little further up South Market St. toward South St. No word yet on when we can expect to see the new place up and running, but I'll be sure to keep you posted as I hear scuttlebutt on the street.

The question is, NOW where to we go to satisfy our sweet tooth??? I have yet to find a local bakery that can even hold a candle to Proof. Cafe Nola makes their own desserts, but those aren't in the same league as the bite-size pastry masterpieces next door (and they're not supposed to be). Dolce Vita gets theirs from an outside supplier of baked goods, Starbucks, well, let's not even go there, and the former Stone Hearth Bakery on East St. is more expensive than Proof and frankly, just not as good. The Carriage House has it's devotees, but it's the whole way out Rt. 26 in Mt. Pleasant, and I'm just not driving that far. Plus, I like the fancy pastries (I'm totally a sugar snob...can't help it).

Whatever shall I do? Wherever shall I go???