Sunday, September 23, 2007

Claytons in Federal Hill

Friday night, spur of the moment dinner with four great friends, and we chose Clayton's in Federal Hill on Light Street, a couple of blocks south of the Cross Street Market. They don't seem to have a website, so I can't link them.

I used to go to this place when it was Sean Bolan's (RIP) and they had the beer club, trivia night and St. Pat's Day morning breakfast in PJ's. But it changed hands a couple of years ago. My friends, the Houplas, raved about the food, so we walked over there from their house. The host seated us in the empty upstairs, which was good, since the first floor was a bit smokey. We're all counting the days until Maryland bars go smoke free! Clayton's logo is fun - it looks like a ring from a wine glass, but they slap it on each page of the menu, which makes the menu hard to read.

We got the menus and immediately ordered the Maytag & Bacon Potatoes, and some drinks. The drinks came but the appetizers didn't... and still didn't until about 45 minutes after we'd ordered them. It didn't look like there were a lot of people downstairs eating (maybe 30 people total downstairs) and we were the only ones upstairs, so we had a hard time figuring out what the delay was. When the waitress finally brought them, she didn't have an explanation.
K&N ordered rockfish and chips, and a burger. He-Houpla ordered the roasted pepper and whitefish soup and She-Houpla and I ordered half-pints of the Guinness stew, which is served in pint or half-pint glasses. It's their Guinness beef stew, topped with mashed potatoes to look like a drawn pint. Clever. She-Houpla and I also ordered the house salads, side-sized.
After another eternity, the food came. The soup was warm, not hot, but was good. The burger was fine. The rockfish and chips was huge with four fillets of rockfish. K said that she could have done with only one fillet. The salads were quite good - lots of blue cheese, pears and dried cranberries. The Guinness stew was hot and tasty and with the clever presentation, the hit of the evening.

We wanted after-dinner coffees and He-Houpla asked if the bar had Goslings Rum, which they didn't. He likes coffee, cream, Goslings and equal sweetner as a nightcap. That lead into discussions of other drinks, including a fave called a Purple Mother F*er. At that point, a bunch of 20-somethings had come in and were taking loud bets on whether one could tell the difference between Ketel One and Belvedere. We didn't care to find out whether he could.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

H-Mart Again

The other day, I was interviewed about this blog, and when I was asked where I do my grocery shopping (as if!), I had to come up with a name or two. I have to get food for the Connor-pup, but PetSmart doesn't count...

I figured that the places I food-shop most are H-Mart and the Farmer's Market. I went to H-Mart early this morning because I wanted to get all of my errands done so I could get back to the hood before the lunatics started arriving for today's Ravens game. H-Mart was relatively empty, compared to the usual mobs.
H-Mart's produce is always spectacular in both freshness and variety. I got lots of grape tomatoes, which I am now oven-drying for pastas. I toss them with a tiny bit of olive oil and some sea salt, put them on a jellyroll pan (cookie sheet with sides) and stick them in a low oven. I have gas utilities, so can keep the oven really low. After a couple of hours, the tomatoes will start to de-hydrate and the house will take on a bright tomato-y smell. The dried tomatoes are like candy, they're so sweet.

H-Mart also had some yummy-looking strawberries that were really cheap. I watched one of the produce guys culling the bad ones and consolidating the boxes. I may make some jammy sort of thing. Additionally, I bought some new potatoes, organic brown eggs, a can of peach soda, and some tubes of blackcurrant fruit pastilles to share with Coconut & Lime/Food Maven who has them on her list of things she's looking for. I also got a tube of mixed fruit pastilles, but there are pear-flavoured ones in there, which nearly made me crash the car in horror, especially since I thought they were going to be grapefruit.
H-Mart has vastly improved since I started going there about five years ago. It used to be a little on the grubby side, but they've really shaped up and it's very clean, as far as I can see!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Food Photo

I took this photograph a couple of months ago at the Mount Clare Museum House's 300 Years of Wedgwood press event. My mother got their newsletter this weekend and they had used my photograph. If you've never been to Mount Clare, go during October when it's free!

Incredibly, the white bowl is Wedgwood, and what's even more interesting is that it's more than 100 years old, and was used in a dairy. The contrast between the white bowl and the dark red apples is amazing. The way the late afternoon light is coming through the window makes the photo look like a Dutch still-life painting.

Saturday, September 8, 2007

Donna's Cross Keys

It was a gorgeous end of summer evening and the last time the three of us had eaten dinner together was exactly the same time two years ago, in Paris where Mr. & Mrs. Bee spend part of the year. We wanted a Baltimore place, outside, easy parking and convenient to all of us. Donna's in Cross Keys was the result.

As many people know, Donna's is the creation of Donna Crivello, ex-Sun staffer and current chef, recipe-creator and on the night we were there, general greeter. There are a couple of locations, but I like the Cross Keys one the best, for it's huge outside patio and abundant parking. The evening we visited, it was full but not crowded, and Donna's parents were on floor duty, her father serving as the host.
I got there before the Bees, and ordered a small bottle of prosecco, an Italian sparkling wine. It's chilled bright taste was perfect for the evening. Mrs. Bee ordered a martini, which came in a martini glass the size of a wading pool, and Mr. Bee ordered Jack on the rocks. He started with a beautiful gnocci with portabello mushrooms and basil. We all tasted bits of it and it was lovely. Mrs. Bee ordered an eggplant cannoli, Mr. Bee ordered a four-cheese pizza and I got a summer pasta with farfalle, tomatoes, garlic, basic and a light white sauce.

Unfortunately, Mrs. Bee has problems with peppers and her cannoli was loaded with them, despite not being mentioned in the ingredient list on the menu. She hailed the server, explained the problem and within minutes has the same dish I had. The servings were huge, and none of the three of us could finish them, so we had the leftovers wrapped to go.
We did manage to find room for dessert and coffee. I had a tiramisu and Mr. & Mrs. Bee had a bread pudding, which we had a long discussion about earlier in the evening. Dinner at Donna's with the Bees was the perfect ending to the summer!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Miss Shirley's...NOT

On Sunday, the Runner and I attempted to meet at Miss Shirley's in South Roland Park for brunch. I had a sneaking feeling that it wasn't going to happen, as it was a holiday weekend and there's slim pickin's for place to have brunch in that 'hood. The Runner was coming from the north side of the city, and I was coming from the south, so it seemed pretty middle. As I drove by, there was a huge line of people out front, so I called the Runner and suggested we think of some place else.
Her suggestion was Sanders Corner in the Loch Raven watershed, just off upper Cromwell Bridge Road. I had always heard about this place, but since it's rare for me to venture that far north, I'd never been. There were some people milling about waiting, but nothing like Miss Shirley's. We wanted to get brunch and just squeeked in under their time limit of 1:00 p.m.

I ordered the "Full English breakfast", but having lived there, it really wasn't. Full English brekkies have grilled tomatoes and mushrooms, baked beans, black pudding and decent streaky bacon, sausages and lashings of hot tea. This didn't. I had watery scrambled eggs, well-done scrapple and a raisin bagel. And a coke. But I did have brunch with the Runner, which was the main event!
While the restaurant is on the Loch Raven watershed, you can't see the water. It's mostly on Loch Raven Drive, where there are lots of motorcycles. We did get to eat outside, which made it nice. And I got to spend quality time with the Runner, which was even nicer.

Fogo de Chao

There's been a lot of eating out the past couple of days. It all started on Thursday with dinner for four at Fogo de Chão (fo-go dèe shoun) on Pratt Street at Lockwood Place. It's a "concept" restaurant from Brazil. Gauchos come around to your table and slice hunks of meat off a skewer. All of the meats have an "outside" if you want it, as they are cooked over a charcoal grill. The selections include beef selections, leg o'lamb and tiny lambchops, pork and chicken, tenderloin, ribs, sirloin, filet mignon, etc. It's a fixed price of$42/person, plus drinks and desserts.
Before you get your meat, there's an amazing salad bar with lettuces, mayonaise salads, cheeses and cured meats. Each person gets a disk, red on one side and green on the other. When you want more meat, you flip it to the green side and a parade of gauchos bearing meat on skewers arrive at your table. When you're done, flip to red. Repeat as often as you're able.

We managed to have dessert, amazingly. The guys had strawberry mousse and papaya mousse topped with casis. I had to try the creme brulee and V had mashed potatoes. She doesn't like sweets, so this was perfect and the waitress brought it!

We all drank Caipirinhas, which are WICKED! They're made from cachaça, sugar and lime. Cachaça is a sugar cane based liquor like rum. Rum is made from molasses, but cachaça is made from sugan cane juice. Apparently cachaça has a very high alcohol content and was illegal to sell in Maryland for a long time. It's still hard to find.

Everything was wonderful until we had to get the car from the valet (too hard to park around that area). We took the ticket to the valet and they said about 10 minutes. So we waited, and waited and waited.... you get the picture. It took more than a half an hour to get our car. They seemed to be giving preferential treatment to nicer cars (we had a 2007 Toyota, luckily not my vintage Volvo wagon). Even the manager couldn't get them to get our car. It was unfortunate that was the way the evening ended.

Follow-up: I got a phone call and e-mail from the Operations Manager from Fogo's national office just checking to see if everything other than the valet parking was okay and giving me the name of the local manager for the next time I make a reservation. It's good to have personal follow-up and to know that the company is listening. The Ops Manager assured me that changes have been made to their valet system.