Ice cream update! With coffee rant bonus!

31 10 2008

Last summer, I was going on about ice cream.  In the comments, I was asked if there was Gelato anywhere in town.  At the time, I did not think so, but now there is!  Gelato at the new coffee place: The Baltimore Coffee Company opened in a new shopping center on…Corporate Drive?  Or is it Crestwood?  I can never keep them straight.  Anyway, it’s behind MOMs.  We met a friend for coffee there yesterday.  It has that nasty flavored coffee whiff and the espresso was burned and the brewed coffee weak…but we’re serious coffee snobs.  People who are able to just enjoy coffee without judging may be perfectly happy.  Steve was bummed to see that they keep the beans in open bags, as light and air are the enemies of roasted coffee.  We went home w/half pound each of Tanzanian Peaberry and Ethiopian Yergacheff. Made the Peaberry today–bleh.  I’ve been getting Peaberry from the Frederick Coffee Co.  It’s better.  But still not great.  We used to get Peaberry from a roaster in Leesburg, but the actual roasting machine set the building on fire so we can’t get THAT anymore.  After that, we got Arabian Mocha Sanani from Starbucks, but they discontinued it and we don’t like any of their other coffee.  So now we are adrift, trying coffee here and there.  Steve roasted his own for a while, but his rigged up roaster broke so THAT was out.  Being a Polly Pickipants can be troubling.

Oh, the Gelato was pretty good.  I had Tirmisu, Steve had Chocolate Hazlenut.  Not stellar, but good.  It looks gorgeous in the case, though.  I’ll try a fruit flavor next time, since those are generally my faves with gelato.   I just wanted a flavor to go with coffee.

So.  yes, there is gelato.  Anyone got a great coffee secret?


As American as…

13 10 2008

Apple pie!  A couple months ago, we saw the Good Eats episode about apple pie and it just looked soooo good.  But it required a few purchases before I could get started.  I got grains of paradise from The Spice House (don’t forget the “the” in that address or you will get a…different sort of website). I went to Amazon for my pie bird and a deep tart pan.  Then I went to Mountain Valley Orchard in Cavetown for my apples.  They have a great selection, really good prices, and they don’t spray the trees with pesticides past the blossom stage.  It’s not organic, but it’s better than nothing at all.  The Stayman are great this year.  They were my childhood favorite and I hadn’t had a good one in years.  Finally, I hit Trout Liquors for my Applejack.  I was ready for piemaking.

I used a mix of all sorts of apples, mainly stayman, gala, and fuji.  It was sort of an all-day thing, but well worth it in the end.  The apple juice reduction made the top crust super crisp.  The texture was just perfect.  And so pretty, look!

With the tart pan, you can just push it out and it looks gorgeous.  And when sliced, the apples just stay put, perfectly stacked, each coated with yumminess.

We each had a slice before bed and then a slice for breakfast…and then it was gone.  Sigh.  Guess I have to go back to the orchard…

Family Favorites–Weaver’s

28 08 2008

This is a new family favorite.  Like, we just developed an obsession this weekend.  I’d been there once before, passing through with friends, and remembered it as a nice family-style place with an awesome bakery.  Last weekend, we were headed to Ohiopyle, PA to do some camping, and were going to pass through Hancock, so I timed out trip so that we could lunch at Weaver’s.  It’s on the main street in Hancock (west of Hagerstown, it’s about 45 min- an hour from us, right where 70 hits 68), not a place to dash out for dinner, but a place to remember if you’re headed West.

It’s a total time warp restaurant.  It feels like all restaurants in small towns used to feel–perfectly clean, but a bit shabby, and you’re instantly a regular.  Now, as this IS a vegetarian blog, I must disclose that there is not much on the menu that is critter free.  But you’re here for pie, really, so just soldier on.  The grilled cheese is as good as that at Frederick Memorial, and that–believe it or not–is a supreme compliment.  I’d said I’d almost have another baby to get that grilled cheese.  The french fries are the kind that seems to have a light batter on them and are SUPER crispy.  in other words, the yummy kind.  But again, it doesn’t matter, because you’re here for pie.

On Friday, they were down to apple pie, lemon meringue, coconut creme, and chocolate creme.  We got all but the lemon.  Because who wants that?  Steve, who is a HUGE apple pie fan (but a very picky one) declared it The Best Apple Pie Ever.  Crispy, tart apples of the right quantity, fabulous dense but flaky crust.  The meringues were a marvel.  Four inches tall and perfectly cooked to be dry but not chewy.  The coconut and chocolate parts were equally great.  Pie heaven.  AND apparently there was some sort of hostage situation going down a few roads over.   Dinner and a show!

On the way back through, after camping, we stopped for lunch again.  This time I was so craving vegetables that I got the salad bar.  It was the salad bar one expects in such places, iceberg lettuce and cottage cheese, but there WAS some raw broccoli and cauliflower, so I replenished my stores of fiber and vitamins.  And then had pie.  This time there was “graham cracker pie”  which, as one might surmise, on a graham cracker crust.  It was a vanilla custard topped with that meringue.  Grand.  But I did miss the pastry crust.  On Sunday, the front pastry case was full of cookies and sticky buns and wee carrot cakes, but you know…pie.

So, if you’re passing through Hancock, MD, and you need to gain a couple of pounds, pull of the highway and stretch your legs and your stomach.   And don’t go into the archery or sporting good stores that are right next door…unless you really enjoy some taxidermy.

Ethnic Grocery–Russian!

19 08 2008

Little makes me as happy as an ethnic grocery of some sort.  The less familiar I am with the food the happier I am.  It’s like a little vacation in an exotic local–new smells, unfamiliar language, packaging that doesn’t look like what you see at Giant Eagle.  One of my favorite grocery experiences was at the Carribean place on the corner of N.Market and 7th St.  The carried a product called “Dried Snails on a Stick.”  And it appeared to be–wait for it–dried snails on a stick.  There were meats in the coolers I couldn’t identify with a forensics expert.  Blackened and haphazardly hacked.   I maintain that it looks as if some animals were herded into the shop.  The coolers were opened and a bomb went off.  Then the coolers were closed.  Eat up!  Hot sauce that would curl you hair, too.   There wasn’t enough there for a vegetarian that I’ve been back, but it makes me happy to see it there.

My newest discovery is the Russian market on the corner of E.Church and East St.  It’s in that location that people keep opening delis.  Steve and I often wonder what makes the 3rd guy think HIS deli will thrive when the previous two have closed within months?   I think it changed hands 5 or 6 times in the 8 years we lived downtown.  Well now it’s a deli/grocery specializing…okay pretty much exclusively carrying, Russian and other Slavic foods.  I know NOTHING about Russian food or language.  The girl working in the store very sweetly escorted me around trying to tell me what things were.  Most packaging has some English on it–at least an ingredients list–so it wasn’t a total walk in the dark.

My family loves Halvah–traditionally a sweet sesame paste.  Ben likes that traditional kind, but most of the rest of us find it bitter.  We loved, however, the sunflower seed halvah we found at the European Market (that’s what it’s called.  Even though most of its food is techincally Asian).  I always have to sample the sweets of other lands.  It’s a pretty safe bet that the candy bar doesn’t have meat, even in Slavic countries.  We got a pretty tasty vegetable pate in a jar and I saw a lot of pickles.  Other than that, well, you’re left with a few cheeses.  It’s a meaty place, so if just seeing meat skeeves you, you might oughta stay out.  I’m hearty farm girl stock, though, so I spent a good long time poking around.  I visited twice, once getting mostly sweets (you can get various chocolates by the pound, and they have some yummy German Kinder chocolate as well).

My second trip, I got some kefir cheese, which I’d never tried.  Kefir is a terrific source of probiotics and can often be digested even by people with sesitivities to most dairy (your mileage may vary).  The cheese is textured like feta, but flavored like cream cheese.  I find I like it crumbled on my salad.  I got a whipped butter, which was disappointing.  Not the grand European butter experience I’d hoped for, but the kids like it b/c it spreads easily.  From the freezer, I got…crud, I through out the package and I wont remember what they were called..but they were like teeny pieroges–pasta stuffed with potatoes and fried onions.  I boiled them and served them mixed with broccoli and cherry tomatoes.  Simple and kind of bland, but the kids LOVED it.  I have to go back and try the feta, it comes in such huge blocks I was daunted.

It’s tiny and cramped, but certainly worth a field trip, if only to gawk and pick up a Kinder Egg before you go.  Support diversity of cuisine!

New ice cream shop!

28 07 2008

I make it my mission to try all the ice cream shops/stands/parlours in town.  The kids’ school used to be right across the highway from Dairy Queen (ick) and Cold Stone Creamery (pretty good, but too damned expensive) and to put an end to the begging everyday, I just declared Wednesday to be Ice Cream Day.  I’ve since moved it to Friday, but it remains a tradition.  The right to choose the location rotates among the children.  Rita’s remains a favorite when it is open, with Way Cool picking up the slack in the off-season.  Of course, I like to patronize local establishments, but good taste always wins out.  I’ll run down our current opinions and then get to the new place.  Let me know if I’m missing one!

Baskin-Robbins–not worth the bother

Pretzel and Pizza Creations–the owner was mean to my kids several years ago and he is dead to me now.

that place that used to be Calico Creamery on the corner of Church and East–haven’t been in ages, but it was good.  We need to revisit…

Market St. Coffee co.–standard fare

Meadows-YUM!  Many thanks to LizFrog for telling us about this place, I never would have stumbled across it.  There’s a nice little market next door, too.

Bruesters–tasty.  The flavors can be kind of gimmicky, but the texture is nice and dense.  Again, seriously costly to take my 3 kids, though.

that place on East Patrick next to the Dawg Wash–the flavors were new and exciting, but the texture was really grainy.

Way Cool–Real ice cream as softserve.  I like it a lot and just harbor such an affection for Friscos that I encourage going there.  And the fact that I can pick up decent wine for under 10 bucks doesn’t hurt.

Ritas–you love it or you hate it.  I used to L-O-V-E it.  then I went all clean in my eating and it tastes like a chemical dump to me.  But the texture was just sooooo good.  Please someone, find me real soft serve custard.  Other than that place in Harper’s Ferry b/c that’s just too far.

Freeze King–vanilla malteds with extra malt.  I hear they serve other things there, but I’ve no reason to find out.

the Amaco station on the way into MIddletown–Hershey’s ice cream at reasonable prices.  sometimes the machine works for that weird soft serve with teh flavor stripes.  Not to my taste, but the kids dig it.

South Mountain Creamery–I want to like it more than I do and often the smell just kills what enjoyment I could get from it.

Maggie Moos–blech.  The lurid colors make the ice cream disgusting.  And I’m not bothering with the other flavors when my kids are going to pick those nasty poisonous blends and then act like maniacs from the chemicals.

So!  The new place! (’bout damned time)  It’s in the Safeway shopping center on the way into Middletown.  It’s called Jarels, I think?  We were about to go get ice cream at the gas station last Friday when I saw those hallowed words, “ICE CREAM” on the building.  What’s this?  The sign said “Coming soon” when I got closer, and I was bummed, but only for a minute, for then I saw the one below it that said, “Opening today at 5 pm”  It was 4:35.  So we went into Safeway, bought some groceries and trotted in for some ‘scream at 5:02.

They serve Hershey’s, which is good non-premium scoopable fare, but they have 48 flavors.  Now, it may have just been that it was opening day and maybe things weren’t all up and running “right,” but the temp of the ice cream was juuuust right.  Not melting, but beginning to think about it around the edges.  My very favorite way.   I got Peanut Butter Cheesecake Monster, which was very yummy.  Julianna got Red Velvet cake, which was better than Red Velvet cake.   Lily got her old favorite Cotton Candy, which tastes disturbingly like it should.  Ben got Superman which was foul, as all deeply dyed ice creams are.  The space has a bar with stools, which suggests that I should get a malted or an ice cream soda.  They should trade in their baseball hats for paper soda jerk hats, though.  Lots of other seating, too, which I hope is not too optimistic on their part.  It must be hard to open an ice cream shop as summer is wrapping up, but I wish them luck!