RSS Feed

Category Archives: Food

In Vino Veritas

Spring came to our area last weekend. It doesn’t seem to be leaving anytime soon. It was a perfect weekend for a winery trip, and we didn’t even have to leave the state.

Maryland has over 60 wineries now. When we first got married and interested in local wine, there wasn’t much out there. Byrd, Boordy, Basignani, Fiore, Elk Run, Linganore, and Montbray are the ones I remember. Back then, we were looking to buy a few Maryland wines to have with our wedding anniversary dinners. Knowing that most of the wines weren’t made to age for decades, we focused on whites for the first few years. We also looked for those specially made reds, or dessert wines, to get us through our second decade of marriage. Byrd made decent reds in 1980. So did Elk Run. Not much else. Cabernet Sauvignon wasn’t widely planted in the state. Now, it’s different.

On the Maryland Wine website, I see that we’ve visited 14 of the 68 active wineries. Quite a list to ponder future destinations.

For this “trip”, we went to two of the closest wineries to our home in Central Maryland. Black Ankle and Old Westminster. We have been to these wineries before. I have written about their wines in my local dining challenges, and just in my locavore posts.

Why were we visiting wineries this weekend? Black Ankle, because it was wine club pick up weekend. Old Westminster, because the weather was gorgeous and we hadn’t seen the new tasting room, which opened last year.

If you have good local wineries where you live, you might want to consider their wine clubs. There are many different models. Look into them, you may find one that fits your budget, and your desired types of wine. Also, compare, some clubs are extremely flexible about exchanges and substitutions.

The clubs are very popular. They also give you special events, and small lot wines not available for general purchase. We belong to three in Maryland. Big Cork, Black Ankle, and as of yesterday, Old Westminster.

Why these three? Convenience of pick up, flexibility, and quality/consistency of product. There are quite a few excellent wineries in the state these days. For us, it came down to location coupled with selection. We enjoy the events at the local wineries. We tend to take picnic lunches or dinners with us when we go to get our quarterly allocation.

All three of these wineries allow you to bring in food, and have ample space for you to picnic on their grounds. I finally figured out what drew us to this model. It was simple. Feeling as if we had returned to the days where you could pack a picnic, spread out a blanket, listen to good music, eat good food and drink good wine. We lost that model in our communities and our parks. Restrictions on alcohol, due to liability issues, mostly.

But I digress. We had a lovely weekend around here. It warmed up enough on Friday afternoon for us to take a small cooler with some salads, fruit and yogurt and head out to Mt. Airy. Black Ankle is open from noon until 8:30 PM on Fridays.

black-ankle-008

Every Friday night they have live music, year round. Winters, they are indoors. In good weather, they set up out front and tables, chairs and picnic blankets cover the lawn.

black-ankle-013

Second Saturday nights, every month, are member only music events. After the winery is closed to the general public. Black Ankle has over 2300 wine club members, so there is always a crowd. A much younger crowd than what we used to see at wineries. Which I think is a great thing. A few decades back, we would only encounter people older than us at winery events. Nice to see the resurgence in interest in good wines. Black Ankle’s wines are pricey. But worth it. Consider a Friday night there as a better choice for dinner and music. Yes, the wines begin at $28 a bottle. They are a bargain compared to spending that much in a chain restaurant for a bottle that retails for $6-10. They are also very well made. All of them.

Yesterday, we headed up to Old Westminster to visit that new tasting room.

old-westminster-021

So did many others as seen in the picture taken as we were leaving, just before closing time at 5pm. The building is sleek, clean lined and there is adequate space to host events for the over 1000 club members here. A relative newcomer to the Maryland wine scene, Old Westminster began selling wine less than 5 years ago. They make very, very good sparkling wines. One of only a handful of wineries in our state that make sparklers. It’s the reason we joined their club. Limited numbers of their premium wines.

We will be getting our first trio of wine in March. Looking forward to it. Also interested in food truck Fridays at the winery. They should be fun. Coal fired pizza with wine, anyone?

Stay tuned this spring and summer when we wander the state to see what else is out there.

Simple Indulgences

Just in time for Valentine’s Day. A compilation of some of our latest simple meals. Made with high quality local items and consisting of less than six ingredients (not counting salt and pepper).

I will be cooking at home again tomorrow to avoid the overcrowded restaurants. It will be simple also.

You can easily make these at home.

I did parsnip fries the other day. I loved them so much we will be making them tomorrow again.

csa-and-omelet-008

Baked in a 400 degree oven. Just cut the parsnips, lay them on a baking sheet with olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary. Mix them before putting in the oven. Roast for about 12 minutes. Put them on a paper towel to drain. We had them with a yogurt based dressing for dipping.

I will be making halibut, maybe on the grill like I did these a while back.

grilling-and-ec-market-035

The weather here is going to be close to 50 degrees tomorrow. It’s time to check out the grill and move things back outdoors, as spring isn’t that far away. This grill method is very easy. Minimal seasoning. Brushed with oil. I used some of my pesto cubes from the freezer for this meal, but you can always buy a small jar of good pesto. Or, just whirl some parsley or basil in the processor with olive oil, salt and pepper.

We will have assorted cheeses from my CSA, and do another of our comparison wine flights, like we did here with two local Sauvignon Blancs. These were from Virginia. Glen Manor is made in a New Zealand style. It has that pineapple-y citrus-y taste. It goes well with seafood, and with omelets, and of course, with cheese. The Linden Avenius, made more in a French style, flinty and with a bit more acid on the finish. We served these wines with a mushroom omelet. And with an aged Gruyere cheese.

csa-and-omelet-024

Tomorrow, I am thinking of serving two Viogniers for comparison. More on our final decisions when I post again, after Valentine’s Day.

You may want to try a simple meal at home, instead of going out. Take your time. Dine by candlelight. Make something with just a few ingredients.

Craft-y

Posted on

Ever noticed how many places we use the word craft? Like in beer. Or maybe distillers. Or chocolate. Or, how about the word artisan? Like in cheese. Or bread. Or vinegars, oils. Or jams and jellies. The list goes on.

I have been seeking new sources for foods and beverages. Looking for those small local producers. I considered the post title “Growlers, Bottles and Bars, OH MY!” but thought shorter was the way to go.

Somewhere in our youth we believed bigger was better. Now, not so much. For me, better is better. We spent a bit of time lately seeking artisan sources for foods and beverages.

Like our visit to Lost Ark Distillery. Newly opened right across from my car repair place. And right next to an about to open craft beer brewery. We took the tour. Sampled the rums. Brought home some of them to use in cocktails.

csa-and-cooking-007

Dark and stormies, maybe? Or rum punch?

We also joined the growler community. Buying our first one at The Wine Bin. Roy Pitz “Mind Your P’s and Q’s”. A triple Belgian ale, brewed in Chambersburg PA. P’s and Q’s in the beer world translate to pints and quarts. As in keeping track at the pub of how many pints and quarts of ale were being consumed by customers.

csa-and-cooking-028

Interesting to say the least.

Finally, what about bars? For us, that would mean Salazon chocolate. Locally produced right up the road.

csa-and-kitchen-021

csa-and-kitchen-022

Looking for people who are passionate about their craft. That’s what makes being a locavore such a great thing. Now, I may head off to watch some recorded shows while sipping a glass of red wine, and sharing a chocolate bar.

Parts Unknown

Posted on

OK, I admit it. I am an Anthony Bourdain fan. Love the series of travel/food shows. We tend to record and watch TV shows of interest, in the winter, when we can’t spend time outdoors in the evening.

I record all the past episodes and watch them when we finally collapse after a day of putting our house back together. Last night, one of my favorite countries, France, was highlighted, or should I say, a city we once passed through on our travels.

Marseilles.

Our gateway to a week in Provence. The part of the world that influenced my cooking for the past 15 years. We flew into Marseilles (no customs at arrival, that was something) and boarded a bus to travel to Arles.

dscn0233

Followed by Avignon.

dscn0273

Nice after a night in Monte Carlo, to board a sailboat.

dscn0451

A week sailing the Med. This was a major vacation. One to celebrate my 50th birthday. A life changing trip. Which hooked me on markets. Fresh food. Good wine.

dscn0581

Bourdain’s shows get deeply into culture. Not just a surface look. They make me dig deeper into cuisines. Look for restaurants. Like now, when my husband wants to try the Ethiopian restaurant in Burtonsville.

I didn’t really make any resolutions this year, but maybe I should have. To resolve to travel a bit more. To try to find authentic ethnic fare. To expand my cooking capabilities. After all, I certainly am not getting any younger.

Where do you want to go? What foods inspire you? What cuisines would you like to try, if you could?

Me, I just would love to find a market that features spices, like Arles.

dscn0318

Updates

Posted on

I promised myself I would try and blog at least once a week, but life keeps getting in the way of writing. This week I finally sat down and cleaned up all my pages. Some of them hadn’t been touched in two years, but now, hopefully, no broken links and no outdated information.

What is new? I visited a new to me farm in Carroll County. Evermore Farm. According to the owner, Ginger Myers, the farm was once part of the vast Charles Carroll’s holdings, established in 1783.

evermore-and-cookies-002

Their farm store is located on the property, which is just southwest of Baugher’s Restaurant and Market, off of Rte. 31. I went up there specifically to get Rheb’s Candy for Christmas presents.

evermore-and-cookies-015

I saw a video of the store. I bought some eggs and lamb while there. A good source for grass fed beef, too. And Freedom Ranger chicken. Heritage pork. If you want to fill your freezer, they sell many varieties of packages. I am partial to their lamb package.

Head out Main Street in Westminster and keep going west on Uniontown Rd to Rockland, a left turn to the farm. I am seriously considering using their CSA program for meat, chicken and eggs.

As for other updates around here, I added some services and changed some restaurant information on my HoCoBiz page. I want to commend Chandler’s Collision Center in Columbia for the outstanding work they did on my car, which was a casualty of a hit and run in a parking lot. Who knew that a daytime running light assembly cost more than my first car? Yep, someone backed into my car while it was parked at Royal Farms, and left my light assembly smashed. A new assembly and a paint job on the scratched bumper, and it looks like new. Chandler fixed our old Jeep twice, after front end damage. They are absolutely the nicest people and their work is guaranteed for “life”. Right now, they are so swamped they are only taking insurance work and the backup time is at least two weeks. We were lucky that our car wasn’t damaged enough to make it undriveable, so we just waited 10 days to put it in there. They told us they are seeing a very large amount of deer-car damage. It’s one of the main causes of the body damage they are repairing. We know to be careful out here, but it is almost inevitable that an encounter will happen to most of us living here. If you need your car repaired, contact Chandler.

Other than car repairs, house painting, and bird watching, we seem to be rather settled in for winter. Anyone want to guess whether our new resident hawk will bother the cardinals in the yard?

csa-and-kitchen-011

Oh, and as usual, I am still cooking like crazy. Just trying to make it work around all the changes in the kitchen.

ice-pantry-and-lamb-032

Lamb shanks with spelt berries, parsnips and carrots. It may not be pretty but it definitely tasted great.

A Winter CSA

Posted on

Community Supported Agriculture. In the dead of winter. Believe it or not, many farms here in the MidAtlantic have crops in high tunnels and greenhouses, all year long.

Recent comments on local blogs and Facebook lament the condition of produce in our grocery stores. Yes, even the higher end stores have slimy produce. We all miss that fresh from the ground delivered produce, ours is only one day from the field.

Here, where we live, there are two winter CSAs. Zahradka and Lancaster Farm Fresh. There are other delivery services, but not all their produce is local. And yes, Zahradka and LFFC bring in regional vegetables to augment the harvests. After all, who would complain about a chance for citrus, or maybe greens from the Carolinas.

Here is our first delivery from LFFC, yesterday.

csa-007

Looks good to me, for roughly $26 a share. All organic. About 10 pounds total. A couple of pounds of carrots. 12 ounces of tatsoi. Turnips. Chard. Red beets with their greens attached. Onions. Two absolutely lovely watermelon radishes.

I added many specialty items. Pantry item. Yogurt. Cheese. Bread. I could have added meat or chicken, eggs, milk, tofu, grain and flour, fermented beverages.

It is nice to have a source of fresh food when the farmer’s markets are closed. There are just a handful of us this winter. Thanks to our CSA for keeping us going, even when we didn’t meet the minimum. I suppose we should all be thankful for Roots and David’s and MOM’s, the local organic markets where our driver drops off produce on the same run as our CSA pick up. It’s really nice for us, since our cost is lower than buying the produce there.

I missed having fresh veggies on our four week break. So happy they are back.

Inspiration

Posted on

So, say HI to my chicken water pitcher. The inspiration for my kitchen.

kitchen-lights-015

I have followed the Mediterranean diet for years. First inspired by a trip to the Med in 2002, where we bought our chicken while in Sicily. He is a cute rooster. His bright colors are the inspiration for our kitchen renovation.

kitchen-lights-013

It is almost there. Next up, countertop, stove, sink and cabinet hardware. This is the first real cosmetic upgrade to our house. Almost everything before this was energy driven. Better insulation. Better appliances. Better windows and doors and roof. Well, besides replacing the rotting deck and crumbling patio.

I use my kitchen. Some say I could be abusing my kitchen, with all that steam and chopping and cooking. I know, I should be looking for granite and open concept and the other buzz words. Spoken by people who may have Pizza Hut on speed dial. Our decisions are based on durability and use. So, probably no to granite and yes to quartz. If I mistakenly drip olive oil on quartz, I have a much better chance of recovering.

To christen the new kitchen, a Mediterranean dinner.

kitchen-lights-034

Slow baked tuna in tomatoes and Italian seasoning. Sautéed chickpeas. A nice old red wine.

Now, I need to update my HocoBiz page to thank our electrician for the great work he did to replace our old fluorescent lights.