Thursday, November 17, 2011

Sweet Baby Jesus

   We had a lot of incredible food while in Baltimore, but this might be my favorite.  One night after a show, a few of us needed some late night munching.  We found ourselves at "Blue Moon Cafe" in Fell's Point, an area right next to Inner Harbor if you're familiar with Baltimore.  This place is exactly what you would want a 24 hour joint to be.  Funky and eclectic decorations, lots of locals (even at 1 in the morning) and good music playing.  Blue Moon Cafe has been featured on Food Network's "Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives" for their now famous "Captain Crunch French Toast".  I had decided that was definitely what I should try until our waitress came over and told us the special of the day was a little dish called "Sweet Baby Jesus".  Our interest was immediately peaked. 
   "Sweet Baby Jesus" is a plate of hash browns topped with eggs, cheese, crab meat, old bay seasoning, tomato, and finished off with hollandaise sauce.  All I have to say about this is... sweet baby Jesus.


Wednesday, November 16, 2011

A Burger to Bank On

  I decided I needed a little break from crab meat and get back to my landlubber roots.  I went with some friends to "The Alewife", an old bank turned delicious bar and restaurant right down the street from the Hippodrome Theatre in Baltimore.  The atmosphere in this place was great.  They managed to keep many of the original doors, teller windows, lights, vault, etc. and incorporate them into a beautiful and very chill restaurant.  The Alewife is obviously a local favorite.  We were there at 5:00 and it was already full with a dinner crowd.  As we looked over all the amazing choices on the menu, we kept seeing the same thing coming out of the kitchen.  Plate after plate of a huge burger and incredible looking fries.  That was all the convincing I needed.  I ordered the "Smoke Burger and Duck Fat Fries" and waited anxiously.
   About 30 minutes later (they warn you it may take a while to cook this bad boy) this masterpiece was sitting in front of me:

  It is an 11 oz. house ground ribeye, brisket, skirt and filet of beef burger topped with smoked Gouda, Gruyere cheese, apple wood smoked bacon, caramelized Cipollinin Onion and chipotle aioli on a brioche bun.  And as the name implies, the fries are herbed and cooked in duck fat.  Yeah...

  Because of all the cheese and sauce, the burger had molded too much together for me to get a picture of the inside of it.  But I found this one online, just so you can get a better idea of what all was on this beast:

   This burger is a carnivore's dream.  The meat was super tender, juicy and flavorful.  The bacon was thick, but still slightly crunchy, not the chewy kind at all.  I love cheese in any form, but not when it overwhelms every other flavor it is paired with.  They put the perfect amount of each, smoked Gouda and Gruyere, so that they were more of an excellent accent.  The two worked beautifully together!  The chipotle aioli added just enough spice to help balance all the cheese, sweet onions, and meat.  And of course you can never go wrong with caramelized onions.  All the flavors hit you one by one as you bit into the burger.  The meat and gooey cheese, followed by the saltiness of the bacon, the sweetness from the onions, and lastly a little kick from the chipotle aioli.  The flavor was so wonderful (and the burger was so big) that I abandoned the bun completely and ate the whole thing alone with a fork and knife. I don't know if I can say this is the BEST burger I've ever had, but it certainly makes it into the top 5. Definitely one of the most unique. 
   The fries were pretty killer too.  The duck fat and herbs added a great, rich flavor.  I didn't need any ketchup or anything.  They were obviously cooked from freshly cut potatoes and had a great earthy taste with the herbs and fresh potato taste.  My personal favorite fries are the kind that have been cooked just long enough for them to be slightly crunchy on the outside but still soft on the inside.  The Alewife did not let me down.  They were cooked just the way I like em. 
  If you are ever seeing a show at the beautiful Hippodrome Theatre, The Alewife is definitely worth checking out.  I wish I could have gone back and tried out more of their amazing looking food!



Friday, November 11, 2011

Surely You Can't Be Serious, Miss. Shirley

    Miss. Shirley's Cafe is a shining light in Inner Harbor, Baltimore.  There are tons of delicious restaurants, but there is something special about Miss. Shirley's.  Maybe it's the southern flare, maybe it's that it is named after Shirley MCDOWELL so we are probably related some how,  but it's probably just the amazing food that leaves you dreaming about it the rest of the day. 
    My brunch buddy, Cathy, and I went to Miss. Shirley's and, after being overwhelmed by all the delicious looking options, opted for a sweet dish and a savory dish to split.  Ladies and gentlemen..... I bring you: 
   Crab Cake and Fried Green Tomato Eggs Benedict


Pumpkin Cheesecake-Stuffed French Toast

   Is your mouth watering yet?  The only thing traditional about this eggs benedict is the poached eggs.  The eggs are on mini jumbo (oxymoron...haha) lump crab cakes on top of fried green tomatoes.  It is then served with a refreshing corn & tomato relish with asparagus and old bay hollandaise sauce.  It was amazing!  The crunchy, fried goodness of the green tomato was the perfect base for the gooey poached egg and crab cake.  I can never turn back to an english muffin again.  And once you pour that hollandaise sauce on top of it all, you have truly reached perfection.  I put hollandaise sauce on the same pedestal as butter, chocolate, and peanut butter.  It just makes everything better! 
(A little side note about the relish: It had sunflower sprouts in it!  If you've never tried them, change that immediately!  They are delicious and such a surprise in this lovely relish.)

    On to dessert/more breakfast.  This stuffed french toast was just silly.  Pumpkin cream cheese, homemade whipped cream, thick pieces of bread dipped in an almond scented egg mix, graham cracker crumbs, and dusted with powdered sugar and cinnamon.  And as if that wasn't enough, there is an amazing raspberry puree forming a heavenly moat around the whole thing.  Surprisingly, this wasn't overwhelmingly sweet.  Granted, I didn't add any syrup, but the cream cheese added just enough creamy, saltiness to balance all the sweet beautifully.  The bread was soft and the whipped cream was light.  It was a very moving experience. 

    If you are in Baltimore, you must give Miss. Shirley's a visit.  But I recommend going during the week.  I walked by on Saturday morning and the line was out the door.  And rightfully so.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Miss. Baltimore Crabs

    The show just spent a week in Baltimore playing the beautiful Hippodrome Theatre.  Needless to say.... I ate crab.  A LOT.  My wonderful friend, Patrice, is a Baltimore local and took me on an adventure to try her favorite crab cakes in Baltimore.  We ventured into the famous Lexington Market (which is an experience!) to "Faidley's Seafood".  Faidley's has been serving up delicious seafood since 1886!  They have many amazing seafood dishes to choose from but their lump crab cakes are their crowning glory.  They have won many awards over the years including 1st place in Baltimore's Magazine for Best Crab Cakes 10 years in a row!
    Patrice and I both opted for the crab cake platter.  I got mine with collard greens and mac and cheese.  When our plates came out, I was eager to see what all the fuss was about! :)

    To say that these crab cakes were unbelievable is an understatement.  These were hands down the best crab cakes I have ever had!  The lumps of crab were flavorful, soft, and absolutely divine.  The cake itself had a perfect consistency that melts in your mouth.  It's browned and crispy just enough on the outside to match the soft, stuffing-like center.    It comes out warm and bigger than your fist.  And even though one is enough to leave you full all day, you're going to want 10 more.   
    Faidley's atmosphere just adds to the whole experience.  You eat at bar top tables with no chairs, shoulder to shoulder with your fellow crab cake lovers.  There are no frills to Faidley's, just good, fresh seafood.  After all these years it's still a family run business.  We got to meet Miss. Nancy Devine, current owner and descendant of founder John W. Faidley.  Not only can she make a mean crab cake, but she had seen La Cage Aux Folles on Broadway and loved it!  She was fabulous.
Miss. Devine with fellow cast member, Todd!
    If you are in Baltimore, you MUST go to Faidley's.  Thank you Patrice for taking me!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Brunch over lunch, please!

    My other favorite place from Minneapolis is another brunch place.  Can you tell I love breakfast food?  This next place was called "Moose & Sadie's".  It's an adorable coffee shop/cafe serving up delicious and homemade breakfast, lunch and dinner all complimented with organic coffee and made-from-scratch pastries.  Their whole brunch menu looked great but, being the southern girl I am, I couldn't resist the Andouille Sausage & Chedder Cheese Grits:

    I've eaten many a grit in my life and I have got to say these were some of the best!  They had that great, actually cooked on the stove from scratch taste.  They were smothered in cheese but not overpowered by it.  These are not your instant, overly salty and dry grits out of a box.  The andouille sausage was slightly spicy and very juicy and flavorful.  A perfect pairing with the cheesy and salty grits.   The eggs were from a local farm and you could taste the freshness.  My friend Rachel calls eggs fresh from the farm "Happy Eggs" because you can truly taste a difference.  The biscuit was a homemade buttermilk biscuit and was warm and fluffy on the inside but still flaky on the outside.  The butter just melted on top.  This meal is the ultimate comfort food to me.  It just makes you feel good.      
   Moose & Sadie's turned what could be a very ordinary meal into a delicious, flavorful and cooked with love experience.  I didn't get a picture of the coffee, but it was also incredible.  I got the dark roast and loved it so much I went back for 2 more cups!  It was a rich and smokey blend that went down so smoothly.  Moose & Sadie's is a great spot for food, coffee, or just to hang out.  A great and relaxed atmosphere, they support using organic produce and they brag about using REAL butter.  Any restaurant that is proud of their real butter usage gets an A+ in my book.