I made some crystallized ginger today for use in a gingerbread cake. The process is fairly simple: slice the ginger thinly, boil it to soften it, then boil it down in sugar water. (I used Alton Brown's recipe---thanks, big guy.) The whole process was a surprising treat for the senses. The first boiling step gave the entire house a smell of ginger. That served as a teaser for the intense ginger flavors of the next step. Boiling the ginger in heavily sugared water created a combination with a wicked one-two punch when I sampled the ginger on the stove. The hot candied ginger has an intense pepper taste and intensified sweetness. The syrupy candy of the boiling water added a textural dimension. After I pulled out the candy to cool, I sampled the small amount of syrup that was left in the pan. It was the distilled combination of peppery ginger and hot syrup, a wonderful finish. Once the ginger cooled, the flavors were less intense, although still great. But I may have to make this more often just to enjoy the experience. I'll also try the candied ginger in my tea in the morning---we will see if the hot tea wakes up the ginger.
Trev, Jan, and Karem took me to a wonderful evening at West End Grill located, appropriately enough, in the West End. The restaurant still has its old tin ceiling festooned with stained glass chandeliers. I was too hungry to take a picture of our appetizers: crab cakes and bleu cheese tarts. The crab cakes had just a bit of heat to them, something you don't always find in a crab cake but which worked very well. The bleu cheese tarts lived up to their intriguing premise, rich and tangy. This is my caprese salad. The mozzarella, tomato, and basil were all outstanding. The balsamic vinegar had been very well aged, giving it a thick consistency. My main course was tuna, perfectly prepared to a medium well. The tuna left just enough room for a chocolate lava cake paired with decaf coffee. The cake was rich and moist. I kept scraping my plate to be sure I retrieved all of the chocolate.