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Showing posts from January, 2020

Washington DC: The Round Robin at the Willard Hotel

The Willard is a classic District hotel and the Round Robin is a classic lounge. The room is fairly small given the size of the hotel and the propensity of locals to hang out there. The atmosphere is the highest levels of elegance and welcome. The snacks were a starting point for an enjoyable break from a hectic day. I sat at my table, pondered the universe, and enjoyed the atmosphere.

UNL BBQ Alert: Mary Ellen's Is Back

The Mary Ellen's truck is back on the UNL campus and was a welcome sight today. I tried the catfish today. It was excellent: tender flesh with rich flavor, superb crunchy crust. The beans were also excellent, as usual.

MSP: Smack Shack

Smack Shack has received excellent attention for its outstanding seafood. The fact that they are located in the northern Great Plains just adds bonus interest points. A new location at Minneapolis-St. Paul airport, directly in the center mall area, gives travelers like me the chance to try their food. I went with the classic Connecticut lobster roll. The lobster was outstanding: tender with just a bit of tug, moist, sweet. The bun was akin to a large, very high quality hot dog bun. The roll comes unsauced, allowing me to add my own toppings without worrying about a pre-applied topping drowning out the food. The slaw was also excellent. The meal wasn't cheap but it was well worth the price. And the service was very fast, an excellent option for a transfer.

The Lincoln Flyer's Club

My application to the Lincoln Flyer's Club was recently approved and my new membership came in very handy on a recent trip. The club is operated by the airport and is open to locals who fly 12 times per year. Membership gives you an access card that can get you into the room at any time. The room has a great view and is extremely comfortable. A TV provides a good set of cable channels. And coffee at 6 AM! My delayed flight required me to both wait for another flight and plan out the day. I was able to do so very graciously thanks to the club. Thanks, Lincoln!

Lincoln NE: Dinner at The Oven

We enjoyed a good discussion and excellent dinner over dinner at The Oven in South Lincoln. I ordered the vegetarian thali. It was both large and very flavorful. The spinach was possibly my favorite dish. Everything was nicely spiced; I also ate all the yogurt to keep my mouth in shape for all of the tastes.

The Road To Reuben: Finally, the Sandwich

Finally, after a week of work, the moment had arrived to build some Reubens. I started by toasting the rye bread in butter on the cast iron pan. I used the heat in the pan to help meld the ingredients as I assembled. The cheese (Edam, as I recall) went on the bottom slice. Russian dressing went on the top. The pastrami went on top of the cheese. I didn't make my own sauerkraut; the Bubbies sauerkraut I found at Hy-Vee was of excellent quality. Some Russian dressing went on the top slice of bread. We were too busy enjoying the sandwiches to get a lot of photos of the process. The pastrami was sublime. The brining came through very nicely without being overpowering. The texture was just firm enough, giving a gentle tug as we chewed. The Russian dressing was spicy and gave a nice kick. The cheese and saurekraut were of excellent quality. Everything came together for a wonderful---and very filling---sandwich.

The Road to Reuben: Bonus Pork Shoulder

I decided to smoke a pork shoulder while I had the smoker running. I made a rub using fairly standard ingredients and hung it in the Pit Barrel Cooker. After several hours I put it in the Texas Crutch, wrapped in foil and bathed in chicken stock. The result was wonderfully smoked and deliciously porky. The meat was tender and moist with just enough tug in a bite.

The Road to Reuben: Small Bites

BBQ takes time; bits of meat along the way help sustain the barbequer. As I put the brisket in the Texas crutch, I snipped off some burnt ends. I tossed them in Gates sauce and put them in the oven for a few minutes. Voila, treat number 1. Treat number 2 took the form of slices of pork from the pork shoulder. Wow, that was good pork, amazingly porky with a subtle but distinct smoke flavor.

The Road to Reuben: Smoking the Pastrami

Pastrami is corned beef that has been smoked and then steamed. I talked here about the corning process. I woke up early on a cold Sunday morning to start the fire for smoking. I made a rub with pastrami seasonings. After several hours in the Pit Barrel Cooker, I removed the brisket for the process known as the Texas Crutch. I wrapped the brisket in foil with some added beef stock and put it in the oven for about two more hours. Doing this in the cooker doesn't make a lot of sense given that the smoke can't get to the meat. I consider this process to be the moral equivalent of steaming. The next step was to assemble everything into the Reuben. That is the subject of a later post.

The Road to Reuben: Latkes

Latkes are great any time but I thought they would make a good treat with the Reubens. I mixed up a batch with grated potatoes, onion, eggs, and bread crumbs (sorry, I didn't have matzoh). Several Web sites describe variations on using a towel, and perhaps a lever, to squeeze water out of the grated potatoes. I found that to be much less effective than simply putting a wad of potatoes between my hands and squeezing. My technique extracted huge amounts of water. I fried them up, taking advantage of some beef fat that I had stored from my last batch of beef stock. The result was crunchy, hearty, and deeply flavorful thanks to the deep fat.

The Road to Reuben: Russian Dressing

A Reuben requires Russian dressing. I used the recipe from Epicurious here . I chopped some onions, then mashed them using my wooden pestle. I then mixed together the remaining ingredients, using siracha sauce for the hot sauce. The dressing was very good from the start and tasted even better after sitting in the refrigerator for a few hours.

The Road to Reuben: Rye Bread

A Reuben sandwich requires rye bread, which of course I had to make myself. Rye flour was harder to find than I expected. What I found was dark rye, while most recipes call for light or medium rye flour. I ended up with this recipe from Spruce Eats that calls for a mixture of dark rye and whole wheat. It resulted in an excellent loaf. (Two actually, the other half of the dough went into my freezer for later.) The rye itself was rich in flavor; the caraway seeds gave a nice highlight. The texture was dense but still very soft.

The Road to Reuben: Corning the Beef

Witty and I goad each other into food expeditions. Our latest round of discussions led to Reuben sandwiches. That, of course, means making everything, the subject of this week's set of posts. We start with the corned beef that is used to make pastrami. I picked up a brisket from Super Saver and some salt. Witty's pig geneticist friend assured us that you don't need special pickling salt. A pure salt without additives (no iodine, no clumping agents) works well. The fact that I am alive to write this post tells you that he did not lead me astray. I didn't have a large food grade container so I put the meat inside a plastic bag in my refrigerator drawer along with corned beef-appropriate spices. I let the meat soak in salt water from Monday until Saturday. At that point, I rinsed the meat and put it in a pure water bath to be sure that it wasn't overly salty. I left it there overnight. Cooking the meat is the story for an upcoming post.

Lincoln NE: Amigos

Amigos is a local chain in Lincoln. The Mexican menu is paired with King's Classic burgers. Many locations also include Winchell's Donuts and Kopeli Coffee. I needed a quick, fairly light lunch and decided this was my opportunity to try Amigos. My cheese enchilada was delivered to my table by the friendly counterperson a few minutes after my order. It hit the spot: flavorful sauce, good cheese, nice tortilla. I declared the lunch a success.

Lincoln NE: Yia Yia's

Yia Yia's is a pizza-and-beer spot in downtown Lincoln. The student-oriented vibe builds upon the nicely restored location supplemented by video games. Their pizza uses the cracker-style crust, similar to St. Louis pizza. The toppings were fresh and tasty, the sauce nicely tangy.

Omaha NE: Modern Love

My friend Steve introduced me to Modern Love, a vegan restaurant in Omaha. They recently expanded, a sign of their popularity. The space was welcoming and bustling; the staff was great. We started with two appetizers. The brussel sprouts struck the right balance between crunchiness and softness, topped off with great flavor. The vegan mozzarella balls combined a delicious creamy interior with one of the best crusts I've seen on this type of item. My homemade ginger ale soon came. It walked the line between sweet and spicy perfectly. Steve ordered this tofu and vegan pasta dish which he declared to be wonderful. My lasagne was outstanding. The tomato sauce was bright with a touch of sweetness; the interior combined vegan pasta, vegan cheese, and some beautiful vegetables. The bread was great, too. We both love figs and split this fig dessert. It was rich without being overly sweet; the pastry was wonderful.

Chocolate Pound Cake Muffins With Hazelnuts

In the mood for a treat, I decided to make a batch of chocolate pound cake from The King Arthur Flour Baker's Companion. I added hazelnuts from my pantry. The recipe calls for a bundt or pound cake pan. I didn't have one handy so I decided to make them as muffins. I had to monitor their baking progress since the times in the recipe didn't apply. The result was a lot of fun: chocolaty, moist, big enough to be indulgent.

Lincoln NE: Daffodil

Witty recommended Daffodil in south Lincoln for great food. As always, he is right. The restaurant is small and simple. The hospitality is like a big hug; a portrait of the owner and chef hangs on the wall. And the food is outstanding. We will spend more time on the pastries in a minute. The buffet of main courses and sides is the centerpiece. The chef's son guided me through the dishes and gave me a small plate full of samples. You really can't refuse these small bites, they are part of the welcoming process. I tried several meat dishes and all were outstanding. I went vegetarian for my main courses. The eggplant was excellent; the sauce reminded me of those I've had in outstanding New Jersey Italian restaurants. The chick peas were hearty and wonderfully spiced. I couldn't end my meal without a baklava. The pastry was flaky, soaked in flavorful honey. The pistachios were crunchy and full of flavor. Witty tells me that the rose baklava are t

Breakfast at the Moonrise Hotel

The Moonrise Hotel is a modern hotel on the Delmar Loop in St. Louis. The hotel shares the loop's emphasis on fun. My breakfast was anchored by this very nice veggie omelet: tender eggs, fresh veggies. (I decided not to include cheese to avoid the calories.) The hash browns play a key supporting role with their cruncy outside, creamy inside. And the coffee kept coming. Very nice breakfast.

Convenience Stores as Restaurants

In a recent post , I wrote about the role that gas stations and grocery stores serve as restaurants. This article by CNN describes how convenience stores serve a similar purpose in urban and suburban America. I don't often eat meals from convenience stores but I know people who do so frequently.

St. Louis: Three Kings

A meeting brought me to St. Louis. Upon arrival, I met my colleagues at Three Kings for dinner and discussion. The restaurant is located in the classic Delmar district. Located near the site of the St. Louis World's Fair, it captures some of the old-fashioned fun and optimism of the early 20th century. I went for a light dinner of a salad with salmon. The portion was generous, the salmon very flavorful. This meal hit the spot.