Thursday, May 31, 2012

No regrets

Not one regret...but plenty of love.

Gypsy brewer Brian Strumke of Stillwater Artisanal Ales and Ted Stelzenmuller, chef and co-owner of Jack's Bistro in Canton have come together to open one of my most favorite new bars in a long, long time - Of Love & Regret in Brewers Hill. 

Between the amazing beers (13 by Stillwater alone) and a smallish but carefully crafted food menu, they've created a fabulous, yet casual gathering spot. The place feels sorta European - tables close together, friendly servers and no televisions. 

The beer...that's what initially draws you to this place. I first learned about Brian and Stillwater from my friend Jed at The Wine Source. Stateside Saison and Cellar Door were the first ones I tried. Love them. And then, I tasted my favorite of his beers, Of Love & Regret. It's different...a little more aromatic with distinct flavors of herbs and spices. It's not always available...but when they do have it at The Wine Source, I grab a few bottles. Nice to have your favorite beer on hand, don't you think? Special treat.

So, as you can guess, at Of Love & Regret, you're not gonna see Miller Lite on the menu - you must know that going in. (And I'm all for it.) We each started with our own small draft - Cellar Door, Existent, Debutante and Kopstooje while we waited for our table for about 20 minutes (not bad at all for opening night.) Then with dinner, we shared a pitcher of Stateside Saison and a bottle of Our Side, the collaborative brew by Stillwater/Mikkeller. We loved them all. Be sure to try lots of different beers when you go!

And then there's the food. I had the Berber Burger - Moroccan spiced rubbed natural beef with goat cheese, wilted arugula, Moroccan tomato ketchup and sweet pickles. (See photo below...yum.) It is such a creative and tasty burger - way to go, Ted. One of my friends had the French Burger - brie cheese, brandy poached pear, grilled onions and bacon. other friend had what I think I might get when I go back, the Grilled Cheese - house smoked tomato, cheddar cheese, smoked gouda, brie and grilled scallions. I'm not always a fan of super fancy grilled cheese sammies, but this was ridiculously good. Also need to give a shout out for the fries - wide cut, soft inside, slightly crispy out. Perfect. We were told that the Smokey Burger should be on our list for next time - topped with slow roasted pulled pork, smoked gouda, smoked bacon and sweet & spicy pickles. Sold!

One appetizer I'd like to try next time: Crispy pig ears - grilled red peppers, grilled onions, lime, cilantro, jalapeno, poached egg and toasted garlic. Holy dirt.

So, go. Run, actually. Probably the best experience and meal I've had at such a new place. From the food to the service to the vibe - fantastic.

Congratulations, Brian, Ted and your hard-working staff. You did it.

Monday, May 28, 2012

Put an egg on it

I'm sure you've heard of the Portlandia bit "Put a bird on it!" where spazzy hipsters decide that everything's better with a bird on it. Etsy gone wild.The food version of that is "put an egg on it!" It seems to be the ultimate food porn of the moment. There are even Pinterest boards dedicated to it. I love this one

I made an amazing asparagus gruyere tart this weekend and shared some with my neighbors. They added a fried egg on top when they had it for dinner. Great idea, guys! Fresh eggs are the best, best, best.That's why I got my chickens. (Thank you, again, Joan!)  I get 2-3 fresh eggs everyday, so now I'm putting eggs on all kinds of stuff - pizza, chili, salad, pasta and more! 

Here is the recipe for the easy and good. And elegant, actually.

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

Flour, for work surface
1 sheet frozen puff pastry
5 1/2 ounces (2 cups) Gruyere cheese, shredded
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry dough 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce dough inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

p.s. Fontina cheese works well for this, too!

Best served immediately, but you can certainly reheat in the oven. 

Good stuff. I'm telling need to make this. Remember those salted caramel brownies I recommended? I will not steer you wrong, hon.

Here are a few more delicious things topped with an egg...

So, the next time you're cooking...think about your dish. Maybe an egg would make it even better!

p.s. A few people have asked for a list of what I've been cooking for clients. Since spring produce like asparagus and strawberries will be gone soon (oh, say it ain't so...), the menu will be changing soon. Charm City Cook Personal Cooking - Spring Menu

Monday, May 21, 2012

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote

Oh, say it ain't so...

This just may be the last week or two of local strawberries and rhubarb at the farmers market. Highly recommend getting the rhubarb from Gardeners Gourmet (the folks with the lovely salad greens, herbs, cabbage and radishes...) and the strawberries from the "pea man" Thomas McCarthy of Woodside Greenhouse. ( sure to get some peas from Mr. McCarthy. They are the best and don't last long!)

While I can still get strawberries and rhubarb, I'm making this! My chickens will be happy - they love strawberry hulls more than anything...

(and...p.s. I have another DAMN rooster. Agnes started crowing yesterday. Agnes is now Angus. But I digress...)

Strawberry Rhubarb Compote
from smitten kitchen


1 pound strawberries, rinsed and hulled
1 pound rhubarb, trimmed
1 lemon
3/4 cup granulated sugar


1. Select about 4 ounces of the smallest strawberries and cut lengthwise into quarters. These will be added raw to the cooked compote; set aside.

2. Cut the remaining larger berries in halves or quarters so that the pieces are about the same size. (You should have about 2 1/2 cups.) Place them in a medium saucepan.

3. With a paring knife, pull away and discard the strings that run the length of the rhubarb stalks. Cut the stalks into 3/4-inch pieces (you should have about 3 cups) and add to the saucepan.

4. Use a fine grater or a microplane to zest the lemon. Add 1 teaspoon of the zest to the pan. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice and add it to the pan. Add the sugar and stir to coat the fruit.

5. Place the pan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring often to dissolve the sugar. By the time the sugar has dissolved, the fruit will have released a lot of juice. Boil for about 4 minutes to reduce the liquid somewhat, then reduce the heat and simmer for another 2 minutes, or until the rhubarb is soft. Don’t worry if some of the rhubarb falls apart.

6. Take pan off the stove and stir in reserved strawberries. Cool to room temperature, then refrigerate in a covered container until cold.

This makes about 4 cups of compote - it will keep for a couple of weeks and is delicious for breakfast, especially with crème fraîche or even just spread on toast as you would jam.

I LOVED this over vanilla ice cream. Ohhhh. My.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Linguine with Fresh Peas and Fiddleheads

Ah...springtime at the farmers market. I'm so, so happy to see favorites like rhubarb, ramps, peas, fiddlehead ferns and more. I almost cried when I saw Mr. McCarthy, "the pea man" this week - he's wonderful, almost zen-like. Before you know it, he'll have those awesome beans, too. His asparagus and strawberries are so good right now, too! (Fact: He sells them for a dollar or two less than nearby stalls!)

Here is one of my favorite recipes using springtime vegetables. To me, the fiddleheads give it great taste, texture and uniqueness...and the peas lend nice sweetness. 
If you can't make it to the market to get fiddleheads, just use peas and asparagus! I'm a big fan of use what you've got, hon. Feel free to use any greens you have on hand, too. I sometimes use dandelion greens, arugula, etc.

Linguine with Fresh Peas and Fiddleheads
1 pound linguine
1/4 pound fiddlehead ferns
  • 1/4 pound freshly shelled peas
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/2 pound baby leeks, washed, trimmed, and sliced thinly
  • 1 1/2 cups baby spinach, stems removed
  1. In a large pot of boiling, salted water, cook the linguine until just al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, remove the papery particles from the fiddleheads. Fill a medium bowl with cool water; add 1 teaspoon salt and the lemon juice. Add the fiddleheads, and push them down gently into the water several times to clean them. Transfer them to a steamer rack in a saucepan and steam, covered, about 4 to 5 minutes.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the leeks and saute for 2 to 3 minutes, until soft. Add the fiddleheads and cook 2 minutes more, until warm and golden. Stir in the peas, then the spinach. Toss the mixture with the warm pasta, season with salt and pepper, and serve.