Tuesday, August 31, 2010

My Maryland

The end of last week was a cooking whirlwind beginning on Thursday and ending on Sunday evening when I hosted a Maryland-themed dinner for Style colleagues and a few friends and family members. This was no easy task (though it was made easier by the fact that I decided to tackle making Maryland Stuffed Ham another day).

The menu included sweet potato yeast rolls and chow chow, recipes care of Mrs. Helen Avalynne Tawes, former First Lady of Maryland; Maryland Fried Chicken, recipe courtesy of John Shields, who was also a guest and brought beaten biscuits; and crabcake courtesy of my mother. Joe Sugarman made one hell of a turtle soup, and I tackled Mrs. Frances Kitchings' recipe for Smith Island Cake, the official state dessert (shouldn't that be sno-balls? But I digress.).

Smith Island Cake can have up to twelve thin as a pancake layers and as few as eight (which is what my rendering yielded). These days it's also made up in a myriad of flavors, but I stuck to the original yellow cake with chocolate icing. It's not half bad. Actually, it's pretty good, but only if you like icing. I do.

Stay tuned for a report of the whole dinner (plus photos!)in the November issue of Style.

What is your favorite Maryland dish?

We Be Jamun!

I love sweets of all stripes, but a cold case full of Indian desserts always poses a slew of questions. Why is it pink or seafoam green? Does everything have coconut in it? (No) Can something called barfi actually taste good? (Yes)

In this month's Style I learn how to make gulab jamun, little dough balls made with powdered milk, fried, and dipped in sugar syrup. They are my favorite Indian dessert, and I've been eating my parents' neighbor Veena's version for years, since she brought them to our house when I was a child.

Veena's husband, Rustum, venerates Bob Marley ("That's all he'll listen to in the car," sighs Veena), and so I feel compelled to use as the title of this post the phrase I sing over and over when I'm lucky enough to get a Tupperware bowl of these treats (with apologies to all Rastas).

Go here for the full story.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"A Signature Store"

It's no secret Baltimoreans love their old department stores, and though Stewart's often doesn't rouse as much nostalgia as Hutzler's or even Hochschild Kohn, as Brian Lawrence points out in his Editor's Letter in the current issue of Style, people who loved Stewart's really loved it. My article about the venerable Baltimore department store can be found here.

Writing about Stewart's was a labor of love, in part due to the voluminous response I received from a query posted to a Facebook group dedicated to the memory of Reisterstown Road Plaza. To those folks and the many people who shared stories and memories of shopping at Stewart's, my deepest thanks, and apologies to folks I with whom I wasn't able to connect based on deadlines and time restrictions.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Free Range: Honey Pig Korean B-B-Q

This week's Free Range review is Honey Pig Korean B-B-Q on Route 40 in Ellicott City. A sensory overload of pop music and stainless steel swirled together with the scent of sizzling pork bellies, Honey Pig brings Seoul just a little bit closer to Baltimore. As one of the young diners at my table exclaimed, "Pass the kimchi, Daddy!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Free Range: Bluegrass Tavern

This week's Free Range review is Bluegrass Tavern in Federal Hill. It's a sweet spot--a little country house rustic crammed into a corner bar--where over a half dozen house made charcuterie options (think rabbit rillettes or lamb and fennel boudin) and over two dozen bourbons are on offer. If the former doesn't entice me to return, the latter surely will.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Pickled to death

What do you get when you combine this

with this?


I also had a jones to try pickled carrots

and stringbeans

And plans are afoot for something sweeter, like pickled beets or watermelon rind.

Making pickles is pretty easy (the most time-consuming part is the jar preparation they must be washed and then sterilized [boiled] before you fill them with vegetables and brine.). Choosing a recipe is not. Do I want sweet bread and butter Kirby cukes or zippy, garlic heavy spicy slices? Carrots with mint and toasted cumin or ginger and yes, more garlic? It's hard to decide.

I'll judge the results in a few weeks, after the pickles have rested in the refrigerator, developing flavor on the cool shelves among bottles of beer.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Dare to eat a peach[cake]

If the weather hasn't already made it clear that summer is raging in Baltimore, the phone call from my mother does. "Your father wanted peachcake," she told me last week, so she got to work making raised dough and slicing fruit.

I eat peaches out of politeness rather than enthusiasm, so no peachcake came my way. It went instead to my parents' neighbors, who promptly made a pot of tea and dug some ice cream out of the freezer. The combination was marvelous, they told us.

Baltimore Sun columnist Jacques Kelly has some very definite ideas about peachcake, which he shared in this past weekend's edition. Several years ago, I visited Sharon Hooper and her cousin, Lou Sahlender, of Hoehn's Bakery to see how they make their peachcake. The bakery's website reports that they're making peachcake now, so if peaches are your thing, go and get some while the time is ripe.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Free Range: Prime

This week's Free Range, a review of Prime Steakhouse, former Top Chef contestant Timothy Dean's latest venture can be found here. Bon appetit!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Follow the thread

This blog has a bit of a split personality. The majority of the posts have to do with my professional work as a food/features writer for magazine. Other posts give a glimpse into my burgeoning, strictly amateur sewing life. This post does a little of both.

In the current issue of the Urbanite, I profile the African American Quilters of Baltimore (AAQB) who celebrate their 20th anniversary this year with a two month long show at the James E. Lewis Museum of Art on the Morgan State University Campus, August 7 through September 30. The article discusses the guild's history and members' perspectives on African-American quilting. And as a beginning quilter, it was fascinating, inspiring, and even a little overwhelming to hear how these women imagined and completed their own quilts.

The few quilts I've made have been for friends' newborns, like this one:

But this spring I took part in my first quilt swap via Modify Tradtion blog. In a nutshell, I told my secret partner what I like in a quilt and she made me this:

My secret partner recipient (not the same person who was making my quilt) told me what she liked in a quilt, and I made her this:

Sarah's quilt is beautiful enough to be included in a show. My technique still needs work. But the challenge of making something based on someone else's taste for someone I don't know one bit is an experience I'm looking forward to repeat, and the internet makes this incredibly easy. Although in our interview, one of the AAQB quilters speculated that fewer women are quilting, the plethora of sewing blogs, virtual quilting bees (where one quilter sends material and block patterns/suggestions to a group of other quilters who make blocks and send them back to the original quilter to put together as a quilt), quilt-a-longs, modern quilt guild chapters, etc. suggests to me that quilting is alive and well, even if the quilting community is diffuse rather than concentrated.

Monday, August 2, 2010

For Richard, 1914-2010

We received news today that an old friend from Chicago, Richard Gengler, passed away this weekend. Richard was a native Chicagoan, World War II veteran, bachelor, sailor, church usher, dahlia cultivator. He loved playing the stock market and reading about the apparitions of the Virgin Mary at Medjugorje. He mixed Manhattans and bragged about his salads, counting off the number of ingredients he managed to scrounge up from the refigerator, with equal pride. He left long, loud messages on our answering machine, always beginning with a hearty, "Helloooo!" He cherished a good strawberry rhubarb pie, and he always had a word (and a flower) for a pretty woman. Until the last few years of his life, he lived in the house where he was born in Chicago's Andersonville neighborhood. He would have been 96 in December. Although we hadn't seen him in several years, we will miss him, and tonight, though it is much too warm, we will mix a Manhattan--a perfect Manhattan, with dry and sweet vermouth, as Richard liked to remind us--and drink in his honor. Requiescat in pace.