Saturday, January 31, 2009

Vietnamese Coffee - My New Favorite Thing (not to get all Oprah on you)

Last night, Caroline was teaching a class on Vietnamese street foods down at The Kitchen Studio (she has traveled to Vietnam). In addition to the Pho, which is a little "clovey" for me, the rice paper rolls (boo yah!), the Hue chicken salad, and rice noodles with stir-fried vegetables, Caroline also brought in two Vietnamese coffee filter contraptions and some ground Vietnamese coffee (Trung Nguyen).

If you're unfamiliar with the concept, let's start with a picture of what the filter looks like:

Start by pouring 1/2" or so of sweetened condensed milk into the bottom of a small coffee cup (we used espresso cups). Next, place the bottom part of the filter on top of the cup, fill with a tablespoon or two of the grounds, place the little press (in the picture on the far right) on top of the grounds, then fill with boiling water. The water will drip through the grounds on top of the sweetened condensed milk (get Longevity brand at The Asian Supermarket on W. Patrick St. for around $2.50). Once the water has dripped through, press the grounds to squeeze out any extra yumminess. Stir to incorporate the milk with the coffee and enjoy! WARNING: This is super-delicious AND super-caffieinated, so beware. If you drink 3 or 4 of these, you may regret it later. If however, you're like me, caffeine doesn't really both you and you can suck them down all night long -- woo hoo!

You can find supplies at, or you can go check out Viet Gourmet on Rosemont where Lillies used to be (just past Military Rd. if you're headed out of town) and have them make it for you. They make good coffee there to go with your dinner, and I like the joint. More info coming on that new restaurant once I get to eat there just one more time.

Coming soon: Why the heck did I pay 15 bucks for one piece of fried catfish and shoestring fries???

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Volt Wins Recognition (again)

So I get an email from Dennis today (Hey Dennis -- looking forward to seeing you in class on Saturday!) telling me that I need to get it together (my words) and throw a little shout out to Volt. By now, everyone knows that I love Volt (if only I could afford to really eat there!), and I try really hard to make sure my fab 'ole blog here doesn't get too restaurant-centric on a specific establishment, so I try not to be all "Volt! Volt! Volt!" because I could totally write nice things about them all the time and I don't want to seem like I'm pandering blah blah blah, 'cause I'M NOT.


If you check out Washingtonian, our new local favorite has racked up yet another top spot on a top restaurant list. #1in MD, #15 overall. I wish that I had accomplished that in my first six months, which is quite an achievement and really says something not just about Chef Bryan and his awesome crew, but about Hilda and her end of things as well. Such great press this early in the game is a testament to the whole restaurant, not just the kitchen (don't forget that, 'k?). Here's the link: and here's the text if you just want to check that out:

15 Volt ★★★
228 N. Market St., Frederick 301-696-8658

Cuisine: Returning to his hometown of Frederick to open a restaurant in a renovated mansion, former Charlie Palmer Steak chef Bryan Voltaggio exchanged a beefhouse aesthetic for modish plates full of artful detail and savor.

Mood: Locals gather in the swanky bar with caramel-leather couches, while the gallerylike dining room fills up with couples and foursomes. The spacious chef’s dining room, where tasting menus—five courses $69, seven courses $89—are served, is high-energy, with Voltaggio and his busy staff on view in the open kitchen.

Best for: A celebratory meal; an important date; drinks and nibbles with friends in the lounge; lunch or dinner after shopping in downtown Frederick.

Best dishes: Sweetbreads with caper powder; yellowfin-tuna tartare with drizzles of chili oil; oysters on wheat-beer sorbet; an old fashioned with house-made bitters and muddled cherries; butter-poached Maine lobster; lamb loin with merguez sausage, lentils, and mustard greens; chocolate-hazelnut pavé with frozen hazelnut custard; “local fall apples,” a multipart dessert including apple butter with cinnamon doughnuts and caramel frozen custard.

Insider tips: The $14 bar lunch gets you three picks from a menu that includes an Absolut martini and a grilled lamb burger with bleu cheese. Parking is free in the lot next door on weekends and after 5 weekdays.
Service: •••

Gotta say, I forgot about the whole martini lunch thing. Seriously though, I'd rather have a little more food and skip the martini (I am sooooo useless after a cocktail, especially a martini thankyouverymuch).

A little dirt: Rumor has it that the gentleman heading up the service end of things is moving into the sommelier area (Aaron said sayanora, though I'm not sure why), and that someone new will be slipping into managing service. That could be cool, so stay tuned to see how things shake out.

One quick note on the whole Washingtonian thing: If you follow the link and look at the comments, you can see how snarky some of those hardcore food snobs are (though not about our beloved Volt). To this I say, Get a Life, People! I'm willing to bet that these yahoos who write and slam restaurants have never worked in a kitchen a day in their life (and everyone should at some point, imho) and get just a little too worked up about, you know, food.

The other thing is that I really appreciate that you all aren't snarky. Or bitter. Or nasty. So thanks for that and keep on reading.

Coming next: Where the heck can you find good fish & chips around here? Not...

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Why I Own a Cooking School

Three words: Creme Anglaise Shooter.

Had a really fantastic, fun private class tonight arranged by Gary from The Frederick Wine House on 7th St. across from the hospital ( Gary and his friend Steve asked if we could pull together a sauce class for them. Ok -- no problem.

So tonight, we had a sold out sauce class. Woo hoo! The menu:
  • Mixed Green Salad with Goat Cheese & Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette (teaching the principles of vinaigrette, and yes, there are principles to vinaigrette)
  • Beef Tenderloin Medallions with Port Wine Mushroom Sauce (pan sauces)
  • Asparagus with Hollandaise (an emulsified butter sauce; one of the "mother" sauces, and not because it's a mother to make)
  • Penne alla Vodka (special request, but a little saucing/pasta technique)
  • Molten Chocolate Cakes with Creme Anglaise (tempered custard sauce)

The class was so energetic and enthusiastic; a real pleasure to teach and have a little fun with. Plus, they kicked tush on the menu and had everything completed in less than 2 hours.

One of the perks of owning (and working at) a cooking school is that at the end of the night, the staff and volunteers share the leftovers to take home. It's a way to say thanks to the kitchen assistants and to also get the opportunity to give the meal a try (I sneak bites through class to be sure everything is working the way it should and so that there are no surprises when everyone sits down to eat).

Caroline (one of the fab instructors) always divides everything surprisingly evenly. Tonight, since the chocolate cakes were all spoken for, I arrive home (LATE!) and check out what I've got. Lo and behold, in addition to the pasta, salad, and a little leftover mushroom sauce, there it is: a little plastic ramekin with just a little creme anglaise. Please know this -- creme anglaise is one of the most delicious sauces you could taste. When I graduated culinary school, my dad threatened to lick the dessert plate because he loved the creme anglaise so much (hmmmm, I should make him some...). I looked at the container and debated finding something, anything, to drizzle the sauce over. Then I realized -- I'm standing in my kitchen at home, I'm tired from a long day at work, and there's nothing standing between me and my little mise cup full of sauce. It's a no-brainer. I down the sauce in one shot and settle in to catch-up on Top Chef. Good times. Good times.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Crabtrees Kittle House: One of my Top 5 Meals...Seriously

This past weekend I had the absolute pleasure of celebrating my friend Stacey's upcoming 40th birthday. It's always excellent to welcome a newcomer to the old hag club, and fab Stacey is no exception. Stacey's husband Jim (who I've known, uh, FOREVER) wanted to treat Stacey and her friends (woo hoo, I'm a friend!) out to dinner to celebrate. The only catch? They live just north of NYC and they weren't coming to Frederick.

Jim has pretty good taste and I was interested to see where we ended up. I knew that this wouldn't be an Olive Garden-type experience and I was pretty stoked about trying someplace new. After what seemed to be a lot of going back and forth, Jim settled on Crabtrees Kittle House in Chappaqua, NY (hometown of Billy & Hillary C. btw). I checked out the website, so you can too:

The husband and I were visiting dear friends even further north of The City (Wappingers Falls) and after a trip to the ER for a sledding accident (not me), and minus our friend Amy (not her either), the husband, the friend, and I set off to Chappaqua.

We arrive at a very large inn and I am ready to get my dinner on. Of course, we arrive first, so it's a Lemon Drop to get me warmed up. Good yes, but nothing like Jen's (of Acacia fame and a couple of previous blog posts:, so I'm dubious about the rest of the meal. You know the type of place -- big, fancy, well-know place never lives up to the hype etc. Hmmmm.

Our friends arrive and we're seated a large round meant to hold 10 (there are 9 of us). A little close to the door, so I'm catching a breeze every once and a while, but I'll survive. Anywhoo...
The waiter brings over the wine list...I mean binder...I mean, binders and plops them down in front of Jim. Now, I have faith in Jim, but this seems like A LOT to decipher. Jim has an idea what he likes (pinot noir) and we all agreed pretty easily, so here it comes. I wish I could tell you the wine we had, but I can't (surprise). I can tell you that I usually don't go for reds (migraines), but this was delicious. And pricey. Don't think I didn't notice. Most of the wines seemed to go triple digits, which is seriously out of my budget, but I could appreciate them...a lot, especially if Jim is paying (hee hee!)

The tasting menu (I am huge fan of tasting menus!) was priced at $125 per person with the wine pairings. It didn't seem like everyone was favoring that, so we all chose from the regular menu, and I'm really glad we did. Here's what I had:

  • A Trio of Hudson Valley Foie Gras with Fruit: torchon & vanilla scented pear ~ brûlée & green apple ~ brochette & grilled stone fruit (un-freakin' believable, and I do love me some liver)
  • Warm Cider Shooter with Cinnamon Foam (delicious, but because of the sweetness, it felt a little out of place. I would have preferred a savory amuse at this point)
  • Bacon & Egg, baby arugula & fresh herbs with panko crusted farm egg & prosciutto (the best salad I have ever had in my life, and I must find out how they make the soft-boiled panko-crusted egg because I need to dedicate my life to this creation)
  • Fillet on sauteed baby spinach with crispy potato cake, poached egg and Hollandaise (A moment please: I am not a fillet girl. I actually prefer fish. But I do believe in asking the server what he or she recommends and then taking it to heart. Our server recommended the fillet pretty seriously. Was he trying to jack up the bill? Maybe, but he seemed to really think that this was the best they had to offer. It was fantastic.)
  • Warm Valrhona Chocolate ‘Gift’crème anglaise with a snifter of Amaretto and a Cappuccino with Foam so high I wasn't sure how it would stay up there. There are no words left for the finish. It was, in a word, perfect. Simple. Almost traditional; but perfectly placed and the wonderful end to a great meal.
So, bottom-line: A WD-50 ( or Alinea ( molecular gastronomy-esque feast? Hardly. BUT, everything was cooked perfectly. The flavor combinations were spot-on; there were a number of fabulous choices (almost too many), and well, the company was pretty darn good too (though I really missed having my buddy Amy there). All in all, a pretty great night.

Where have your top restaurant experiences been?

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Rice Cookers @ Targhetto

If you took the Sushi 101 class, or are planning to, you may want to check out the rice cookers on sale at Target right now. I was breezing past the small appliance aisle and saw my favorite on an endcap. And what, pray tell, is my favorite? I love the Aroma 8-cup Digital Rice Cooker. It's 30 bucks right now and in the great Ron Popeil tradition -- just set it and forget it.

If you plan on making sushi rice, go ahead and grab one of these babies. Just add your rice, add your water (1:1 if you're making sticky sushi rice), close and push start. It will let you know when it's done. Don't get confused -- you're not going to use this for much more than rice, no matter what the packaging says.

You can also grab one at The Asian Supermarket on Patrick St. (LOVE that place!), but those tend to be a little larger and more serious and I'm just not that serious.

Up Next: Panko-Crusted Duck Egg (one of my top-5 meals...holy cow!)

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Up for a Challenge?

So, as I try to come off my FNP Sushi 101 article high (oh come to me sweet, free marketing), I stumbled across a little something you may be interested in.

But first, it is my belief that you can tell a lot about a cook by the food magazines he or she reads/subscribes to. For example; big into Food Arts? Serious cook who is in or follows the biz. Gourmet? Slightly food porn-esque and perhaps a bit more into food from an eating standpoint. Cooks Illustrated? Serious home cook, and don't mess around. I could go on and on, but you get the idea. Anyway...

I was reading through my latest issue of Fine Cooking, which I find to be really well laid out and have very reliable, go to recipes that last for years and years. The photography is pretty and the folks who contribute are usually well-known in the industry for either being restaurant chefs, cookbook authors, etc. (no Food Network Stars here!). So as I'm paging through (CVB quirk - I read magazines back-to-front...who knew?), I find a challenge in the magazine:


Now, I am all about free stuff and I'm thinking, how many recipes could there be? Wait for it...97. Ninety freakin' seven! Ok, ok. This could be a cool direction for the blog for a little while. You know, hard working cook puts her own rift on recipes from a national food mag and writes to tell about it blah blah blah. So I visit the web site for more info and...nuthin'.

Being the dedicated food blogger that I am and being interested in my dear readers and their willingness to get their cooking on, I drop an email. Well, I'll be darned if I didn't get a reply almost immediately from Sarah, Fine Cooking's Managing Web Editor. She could not have been more helpful (or sound sweeter) and let me know that the link for info was indeed difficult to find (needle in a haystack) but that a new web design would be launched this very week. Cool I thought, more info. So I wait. And I click.

I find the info and here are the basics:
  • Cook every recipe in the current issue
  • Take Pics
  • Make posts for every recipe on the Fine Cooking website and post with pics of the recipe
  • Be done by 11:59pm on March 5, 2009

That's a lot of work, but the prize that you will be entered for is a shopping spree at Well, that certainly doesn't suck but let me check the value...WAIT A MINUTE, and here's the rub: 2 months, 97 recipes, and you are "entered to win" a $200 GIFT CARD. 200 BUCKS? 200 SMACKERS? 200 CLAMS? That's it??? Did they leave off a zero? Is there any concept as to how much all of the ingredients ALONE will cost? HOLY COW! BTW - 50 Runners-up will win a special Fine Cooking "Make It Tonight" special issue, but can you imagine doing all of that work and getting a copy of a magazine???

Maybe I'm just being greedy. Maybe Fine Cooking is just being unrealistic? Maybe I'm underestimating the free time and unlimited cash flow their readers have. I was so seriously bummed because I thought that this was an awesome idea. I really love the concept, but the execution? Not so much.

Being the concerned blogger that I am, I dropped another email to my new friend Sarah. I mentioned that perhaps, this was a bit too much work to ask folks to so for such a well, ummm, you know, skimpy prize. That perhaps the magazine could hit up their advertisers and sponsors for some free stuff to include to really make it a whiz bang prize. Alas, even though it's been a few days and I was REALLY nice, I haven't heard back from Sarah. Darn.

Anyway, if you're really into it, or just want to check it out and giggle a little, here's the link:

While you're there, consider giving the magazine a try. It really is a great read and one of my favorites, I just think they didn't quite hit this contest right, but then again, I've been wrong before...

Sushi Article: Woo hoo!

Definitely check out today's Frederick News Post for an AWESOME article by Rochelle Myers about that Sushi 101 class I was telling you about. The photos are fantastic and there are a ton of them. There's even a short video recapping the class, just look on the sidebar under 'multimedia" and click away. I couldn't figure out a way to imbed it so if you know how, please let me know.

And yes, I totally know that I need a haircut with that floppy 'ole thing hanging in my eyes.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Sushi 101

By now, you all know that I'm about as Japanese as a Ford, so why oh why is one of my most popular classes at The Kitchen Studio Sushi 101? It must be my mad sushi-rolling skills, right?

Last Friday night, I had a sold-out (in 2009, in this economy -- oh yeah) Sushi 101 class. Now here's the thing: most folks associate sushi with raw fish. To quote on of my favorite Simpsons : Au contraire, mon frere! Sushi actually refers to the RICE. Hmmmm.

So, it's Friday night, with a sold out class (12 people), 3 fabulous and stunning kitchen assistants, 1 writer from the FNP, one videographer from the FNP, one photographer from the FNP, and little 'ole me. That equals way too many people, one heckuvalota rice, tons of yummy fillers, and a darn good time. Seriously? One of the most fun classes. Ever.

The students were hysterically funny (two sets of Mike & Jens btw) and good-natured, plus they rolled excellent sushi. We had just a few steroid rolls (that's what I call rolls that are over-stuffed, which is pretty typical when you're just getting the hang of things.)

Anyway, these folks rolled rolls stuffed with crab, mango, great fresh tuna (from Giant Eagle), avocado, carrots, sweet bell peppers, shrimp, and so on and so forth. Everyone ate until sushi shot out their ears (you should have been there!) and we still had a ton to send home with the kitchen assistants and a few of the folks from the FNP.

So, why do I mention? With any luck, there will be an article written by the talented Rochelle Myers (cue slight sucking up sound here...) in the food section this Wednesday or next, plus a little video feature on the FNP web site. Hopefully any photos will not feature me as I did not have the pretty working too well that night, but more on the students and fantastic food.

If you're interested, we still have some space on the first Friday in March (February is sold out - woo hoo!) and I'm considering adding another the first Friday in April too, but am waiting to see the response to March first. While I'm thinking of it, please be sure to let me know if there are any classes you're interested in that we don't have on the schedule. I'd love to have you visit me down at The Kitchen Studio and maybe learn a little somethin' somethin' in the process.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Holy Cow that's Good!

Remember yesterday's post where I talked about about buying the Baked cookbook & WW Magazine? No brainer here, but guess which one won out? The Baked Cookbook, duh.

So as I'm leafing through the book, looking at the awesome pics and reading the recipes, which don't seem too out-there btw, the recipe for Peanut Butter Crispie Bars stares me right in the face. Could it be? Rice Crispies (or "crispy rice cereal" if we're pretending to be generic), peanut butter, and chocolate. Hey there sailor; sign me up!

But first, a little background: Baked is a bakery in the Red Hook section of Brooklyn, NYC. I've followed them online (yet another hint that my life may be ever so slightly pathetic...), saw a little something on them on The Food Network, and read about them, albeit briefly, in Food & Wine mag. They opened a few years ago (January 2005) and have more or less slayed. Two guys just trying to put out excellent baked goods and make a buck. God bless them.


I get back from a trip to PA this afternoon anticipating (and hoping for) some bad weather. Snow days are some of the only days that I can cook for fun. Usually I make doughnuts, but today, Peanut Butter Crispy Bars are calling my name. Here's what appeals to me: The rice cripies are CANDIED (heck to the ye-ah!) before they're made a layer, so nary a marshmallow is in sight. The peanut butter/milk chocolate filling (when I die, forget the casket and just bury me in this stuff) is super-duper easy to make, and the top chocolate layer, come on, nothing could be simpler. The weather may not be working out the way I hoped, but the Crispie Bars? Oh yeahhhh.

Because of copyright laws and well, respect for the guys that wrote the book, I'm not going to give you the recipe here. However, I do recommend that you BUY the book (use the link from yesterday for 40% off) if you're into yummy baked goods that don't use a lot of freaky ingredients. Keep in mind that I've only made one of the recipes so far, but seriously...looooove it!

Here's a pic of the finished product, but keep in mind that 1. I suck at food photography or any other kind of photography and 2. I cut these much smaller than the guys who wrote the cook book recommend (some carryover from the WW thing I suppose):

What you can't do is taste the creamy, cool filling, crunch ever so slightly on those fabulous sweetened crispies, or lick off the chocolate layer on top. But you can take my word for it when I say...yum.

Monday, January 5, 2009


You know when you have one of those perfect moments of clarity and something just stares you in the face until you pick up on it?

Today, Barnes & Noble: As I sidle up to the counter and lay my two purchases down, I realize how screwed up I am when it comes to food. What did I buy? Weight Watchers Magazine & the Baked cookbook (really yummy sweets from a bakery in Brooklyn) (

How do you work with that?

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Chubby Wubby...

Seriously, how fat do you feel right now? I feel like I have cheese running through my veins.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I've lost some weight over the the past year (20 lbs ba-by) and numerous inches (40+, but I do measure roughly 8,000 places to be sure it all adds up :), and been sort of proud like a peacock about the whole thing. I've tried to wear my size labels on the OUTSIDE of my clothes, and have proudly whipped out my measurement chart for anyone who showed even a slight, passing interest. All of this despite my career choice (and this is soooooo not easy) and still being a bit on the Reubenesque-side.

So here's the thing: Like everyone else, I was very, very busy over the holidays and perhaps did not exercise with the same frequency that I had been, or like, you know, never. I've stopped paying attention to my diet, or really maybe kept paying attention but didn't really care (I do love me some foie gras). I hesitate to jump on the New Year's Resolution train because I've never been one of those "new year, new me" people.

What the heck does all of this have to do with a stinkin' food blog? I'm gettin' there!

The hubby and I are headed downtown tonight for date night (woo hoo!) and I'm trying to figure out where we should eat and not be bogged down with all sorts of fat and cheese and goo. I'm not a "diet" girl, I just want a healthier dinner that doesn't feel like rabbit food or diet-y. I'm not looking to join the Applebees-WW crowd, no offense WW, I'm a fan, just not when going out to dinner, partially because Applebees sucks and because they're a chain and well, really, I'm a downtown girl.

We had some lovely summer rolls from Lucky Corner last night (how do I love thee, let me count the ways...) and I do NOT eat salad when I go out (it messes with my margarita capacity), but otherwise, I'm stumped. I've been hitting the bar at Volt lately (again, great if you're on a budget and don't feel that you can afford the dining room), Acacia was good for a few Lemon Drops and nibbles on New Year's Eve, Viet Gourmet (review coming soon!) isn't downtown, even though I like it, 5-Guys is delicious but soooo artery-clogging and yes I know that violates my no-chain rule but I love those burgers AND they have malt vinegar to go with the fries, Cacique is good but Mexican food is bad since I have no chip-moderation system in place etc. etc. etc.

Where to go, what to order without feeling fatter, and how to not be bored by the whole thing...any ideas? I'm stumped.