Friday, October 24, 2014

Chesapeake Reads

I always get a little thrill when I read something about the Chesapeake Bay - or someplace Bay-adjacent - in the national press. This month has been a good one for that.

First, in the November issue of Food and Wine, there's a solid article about Bay oysters and the Croxton family's work, through their family business, Rappahannock Oyster Company, to revitalize the local oyster industry. The article's not online yet, which is a shame - it's good, though I had a couple quibbles.

The article does makes it sound like the Croxtons are solely responsible for the resurgence; while they are important figures, that gives short shrift to other players. Also, there's no mention of Maryland in the article - ah, clearly an oversight? We have oysters, too! And, finally, there's a rockfish recipe included but no notes indicating that Bay rockfish are stripers in other parts of the country. That gets confusing for some people.


A couple articles in the most recent Garden and Gun also caught my attention. I loved reading about the Leakes, a father and son team in South Carolina, who build custom cellarets, which are like little wooden bar boxes on legs.

The cellarets are gorgeous - and have Chesapeake roots themselves. The designs the Leakes recreate were originally popular during the 18th century, especially on the coast, from Maryland down through the Carolinas.

Right now, we divide our booze between an antique sugar chest (upstairs) and the wine cellar (downstairs). Oh, and the freezers (upstairs and downstairs). But I would happily make room for a cellaret, as well. It's about history, after all.


The same issue of G and G spotlights Jim Banagan, a St. Mary's County native who's spent his life collecting oyster cans. He's in his eighties now and his collection is upwards of three thousand cans - and he continues to buy and sell (he's also branched out in clam cans).

I love old oyster cans partly because they look cool - Harris Crab House does a great job decorating with them - and partly because they're a prop that illustrates a big chunk of the history of Maryland. The article does a nice job summarizing the way oysters and canning intersected here - it's succinct and informative.

And Jim Banagan? He just seems like a good guy. With a great collection.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Trendy: Sidewinder Fries (with a side of Fieri sauce)

In Canton, Silks is doing it.

Downtown, Guy Fieri also does it.

What more could you want?

As a side note, I think it's great that Richard Gorelick avoided the urge to lay down the snark - any snark, really - in his review of Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen + Bar. He defends his choice to be sincere, saying"you'd have to have a heart of stone not to respond, on some level, to its good cheer and basic American enthusiasm."

I think this is the right approach. From a restaurant perspective, Fieri is such low-hanging fruit. I'll admit, I laughed when I read Pete Wells' NYT takedown of the Fieri's Times Square restaurant - but I also cringed. Pete Wells was clearly not the audience for that place and he knew it. He reviewed so he could mock.

Yes, as a public figure - especially one with such a very, very clearly branded image - Fieri opens himself up to mockery. I get that his public persona can be grating. But he means well - that much is obvious.

So I'm glad to hear he makes a good burger and trains a friendly, knowledgeable waitress. Annoying catchphrases or no, I'd rather see him succeed than fail. This is America, after all.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Vegetables Are So Fetch

And by "so fetch," I mean that somebody is really trying to make them happen.

Exhibit A: This article in today's WaPo, in which the author talks to Jose Andres about his new vegetable-oriented restaurants. It also dishes up a side (ha ha) of other recent veggie victories and openings.

Exhibits B and C: This post and this post, which I wrote way back in 2013. In the food world, veg-love is not exactly new.

So that's why I chuckled when I saw this morning's Post article. It's title? "Vegetables: Are they the new bacon? Jose Andres and other chefs think so." I don't doubt Andres' commitment to the veggie revolution is real - and valuable. Vegetables are good for us - and definitely better than bacon.

But let's get real, here. They're not bacon. They're not gonna be bacon. Bacon will remain bacon. There is, most likely, a biological reason for that. (If I was a more committed blogger, I'd totally find a journal article or two to prove that. Sorry.)

Look, I get that bacon has gotten too much press over the past few years. And that even the most gorgeous, crispy piece is not nearly as sophisticated as a single, perfect, locally-grown carrot. But come on. A plate of Brussels sprouts is just never going to be good as a plate full of pig. It's just not.

Thursday, October 09, 2014


My sister just sent me a link to this NYT article about what kids around the world eat for breakfast. That it's different everywhere is not really a surprise, of course. It's also not a surprise that breakfast looks gorgeous when it's in little bowls and shot from above.

You know what is a surprise, though? That kids in Amsterdam are hoodwinking their parents into serving them chocolate-topped bread every morning:

Good job, kids in Amsterdam. Good job.

Friday, October 03, 2014

Birthday Babies

I am so behind in posts. Trust me, I'm feeling the anxiety, as I look at the photos I haven't shared and the recipes I haven't written about.

But it's been a busy few weeks - not least because we had back to back birthday weekends. First, my mom turned 65 and we celebrated by throwing a small party for her, at her house. My brother and sister and I collaborated (with help, of course, from Cooper, Clark and Cail), making way, way too much food and having a lot of fun.

Then, this past Monday, Dixon turned eight. Over the weekend, we had two parties - a boys-only get-together featuring a video game truck, lots of pizza, and a boatload of Nerf weaponry, followed by a tamer Sunday party with our little group of friends and a lot of cheeseburgers.

The parties:
Clockwise, starting at the top left: My brother's perfectly cooked tenderloin (#nofilter!!!); Dixon just before school on Monday morning; Cail's very simple, very delicious crab; the inside of the video game bus; the singing of happy birthday; a monster antipasto platter; Erin's homemade cheese straws at my mom's, 

At my mom's party, we started with a cocktail, dubbed "The Medicare Eligibility Elixir" - it was a combination of vodka, sparkling clementine juice, ginger beer and pomegranate juice. To eat, we had the crab, antipasto platter (lots of hearts of palm, which we all love), cheese and crackers, cheese straws, heart of palm dip, and parmesan and celery stuffed dates. THEN we had cider-braised pork with caramelized onions and Cooper's barbecue sauce, Tom's grilled tenderloin, Cail's garlicky mashed potatoes and a really bright cucumber and cabbage slaw by Erin.

At Dixon's party, the menu was not quite as fancy. Pizza from Pizans and some chips. 

They were equally well-received.

And of course, at both parties, there was cake:

For my mom, my sister made a chocolate hazelnut cake with buttercream frosting, topped with candied hazelnuts (Hazelnut and chocolate are my mom's go-to flavors. If she had a blog, it would be called Chocolate and Hazelnuts.) It was awesome, both flavor-wise and texturally.

For Dixon's birthday, he and Alicia collaborated on the main cake - for the fifth year in a row! This year's extravaganza was a camo cake made using Duff's cake mix (which I made), with buttercream frosting and silver sprinkles, topped with a giant Xbox controller made out of rice krispie treats and covered in fondant. It was impressive.

For Dixon's party #2 - the Sunday friends and family celebration - AKB made vanilla bean cupcakes with buttercream frosting topped with purple Ravens sprinkles. Some of her best work yet.

Two big weekends, back to back, can be exhausting. And it's not over yet! Yesterday was Cail's birthday and next Monday is Cooper's mom's. It's birthday season chez Pollard. Good thing we always have room for cake.

Thursday, September 25, 2014


Longtime M&G readers know that I love me some food-related intellectualizing. And yesterday was a banner day for just that.

First, I ran across this FWx article about a recent academic paper, authored by a team from the University of Arizona, that examines Twitter language related to food. The map below, which shows, by state, the food term that was "trendiest" between October 2103 and May 2014. (Yes, I know that "trendiest" is not really scientific - and it's my word, not the authors' - but it's the quickest way to describe what they're trying to achieve. They eliminated words used broadly on a national scale but this study does show where words spike regionally - it's not one of those maps that shows the most distinctive word by state.)

The big finding in the map above? It's all about the grits.

The paper itself is wonky but for research and/or food geeks (or both, like me) worth a read. There are some findings related to politics and health matters. Nothing wildly surprising...but interesting, nonetheless.


But that wasn't the end of yesterday's nerdy food and language reading. Last night, Cail sent me a link to this totally interesting Financial Times article about menu and review language. The article's author, Dan Jurafsky, is a linguistics and computer science prof at Stanford. He has recently published  book called The Language of Food: A Linguist Reads the Menu, which I just - a few minutes ago - downloaded to my Kindle.

I can't wait to read it, as the article has some great teasers. Like this: when describing food that's delicious, people use the language of sex to describe expensive foods ("seductive" or "voluptuous" for example) but when they're talking about cheap foods, they use the language of addiction ("craving" or "like crack").

That kind of finding is my favorite. I read it and thought, "Of course! That's exactly what happens!" - but I'd never noticed it, even though I do it in my own writing.

Friday, September 19, 2014

What I Read and Write

The big news around here is that our internet connection has worked for more than 24 straight hours. It's been a trying couple of weeks with fading signals and new modems, but last weekend, I made fast friends with a Verizon tech named Phil who worked his tail off to figure out the root of the problem that has plagued our lines since...oh, pretty much since we moved in. Nine years ago.

Anyway, moving on. I will be happy to put all of that behind me. Because I've spent so much time researching articles on my cell phone, shuttling back and forth between Atwater's (where the wireless is free and easy) and on the phone with Verizon, my work schedule has been a mess. As ever, it's the blog that suffers.

So, instead of writing about the stuff I've eaten lately, here are some fun things I've read and written:

Source: Sylvana Ward Durrett via Vogue
Outdoor tablescapes from Vogue. Alicia sent me  link to this slideshow, knowing that long tables, outside, beautifully set for dinner are my kryptonite. Seriously, they fill me with so much joy, I can almost forget how much time I've wasted on the phone with Verizon lately.

Hangover food, courtesy of FWx. This would have been especially useful during my twenties - but it's still full of good recipes. The baked huevos rancheros is actually a go-to dinner around here. In fact, we had it last night!

Shop Girl at Baltimore Fishbowl. Last week, I wrote my first article for local website Baltimore Fishbowl - a super fun piece about where to shop in Baltimore. I bet you can't even tell I researched the whole thing using my cell phone...or maybe you can.

This weekend, it's off to Severna Park for my mom's birthday festivities. We have a big weekend of Waskom ahead of us...and I still have some cooking and shopping to do!


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