Monday, November 05, 2007

Almost Off The Menu

Cast Iron Ribeye modified with french fries and fried egg.

Hadn't hung out with Christine and Chef Mike for some time, so we made a date so they could try out Woodberry Kitchen. I was late getting out of The Spro so they had started off without me. Mike and Christine are adventurous eaters and are up for anything. In other words, my kind of people.

It was one of those nights where you seem to know everyone in the place. Beyond the Woodberry crew, there's Guti (pronounced goo-tee, as in Gutierrez) sitting at the Captain's Table with his entourage, Juan Manuel and Michelle are to the left and there's Tamara with her Scandinavian boyfriend (whom I always seem to run into when he's just about to winter back home in Europe). The Kitchen is getting a strangely family kind of feeling and you'll never know who you're going to run into.

Anyway to make a long story short, I finally got to try the Indian Summer Flatbread. Tasty. Sweet. Me likey. But what I was really looking forward to was the modified ribeye. Juan Manuel had come by The Spro earlier and we were chatting about menu options and how nice it would be to have the ribeye with french fries and topped with a fried egg instead of the potato gratin - and that's the way I had it. Just right with a little bit of yolk to act as a sauce. Nice.

Of course, Mike is similar to me in that a meal isn't complete without some rice. What better way to compliment the ribeye than with an order of the Bacon & Egg Fried Rice?


Smells Like Sweet Potatoes

Roasted samples from Royal Coffee New York ready for the cupping.

Finally got around to roasting the samples from Royal yesterday and cupped them today. The problem with cupping at The Spro is that I'm continually serving customers, which means that cupping five samples took all day long. It took awhile, but I got through them. Unfortunately, I did not find any of the coffees to be compelling. Nothing to get excited over. Nothing that I'm rushing out to purchase. Some were nice. Some were not. None of them were horrible, though. Some just were "meh" - kinda nothing on the palate.

It seems like this sourcing and roasting thing is going to take a long, long time.

Juan Manuel happened to be at The Spro today so I invited him to join in the cupping. Not too long after, my old friend and business partner, Sam Holmes stopped by with his son Michael to return some books and joined in the cupping. At first, I didn't think Michael was interested but at one point he just walked up, took a sniff and laid down some science. Descriptions such as "sweet potato," "metallic," "boiled potatoes" and more poured from his lips. And he was right. Quite impressive to see this young man working the cupping spoon along with the rest of us and, hopefully, a good omen for the appreciation of coffee.

Michael Holmes rockin' the slurp while cupping an El Salvador Cerra Las Ranas.

Good Breakfast Hunting

The French Toast - in serious need of help.

Had some extra time this morning and decided that I would go out and have a proper breakfast. A couple places came to mind in Baltimore but I wanted to stay in Towson, so I hit the pavement to see what I could find.

My first stop was at a local bakery cafe. As many of you know, coffee in the "real world" is quite disappointing, so I grabbed a cup of the house blend from The Spro before heading out to accompany my meal. I've eaten here before and wanted to give them another try. Looking over their menu, I decided to go with their French Toast. Would have liked to have some meat or eggs but the price would have doubled and I decided to pass.

The French Toast had some promising ideas: baguette, sliced almonds. Nice thoughts but the execution was flat. The bread was too thick so the egg didn't penetrate, leaving a doughy interior that was just unpleasant. Unlike Hawaiian Bread which is soft and fluffy on the inside (not to mention sweet), a baguette is tougher and less forgiving. The almonds added a nice crunch but that was the highlight of the dish. It wasn't "good", but certainly it wasn't "bad" - it was uninspired. Flat. Boring. Ho-hum. I left completely unsatisfied and regretting my choice.

Zia's Beef-filled Empanada. Tasty but with an odd shell.

As I wandered the streets of Towson, I decided to visit Zia's Cafe. The owner had stopped by The Spro a few times and she seemed pleasant enough but I hadn't had the time for a proper visit.

Zia's is a cute, brightly colored cafe that specializes in organic foodstuffs, coffee and fruit drinks. Since I'm always wary of coffee no matter where I visit, I orderd a fruit smoothie and picked up a beef empanada that they heated for me.

The smoothie was nice, pleasant, thick, smooth and tasty without being overtly sweet. A bit of tang, a bit of sweet, it was quite enjoyable. The empanada was like many of the "organic" and "vegan" stuff I've tried - not bad, just slightly weird. Since it was beef, it was decidedly un-vegan. The stuffing was tasty and nicely done but I found the shell to be on the dry side with an odd, unfamiliar texture. When you've grown up eating Filipino-style empanadas with their rich shell or the Mexican style with the crispy corn masa, then this shell really is something different. Not bad, just different than what I'm used to and in need of a good spoonful of lard.

Certainly, there must be a way to make manteca "healthy"!

Zia's was a pleasant time. An enjoyable time. A moment to sit quietly and enjoy the food. And a redemption of my morning after that French Toast debacle.