Wednesday, December 19, 2012

A Diner Isn't Always a Diner

Last week a coworker and I took the HR Manager out to lunch for her birthday. We decided to try out Family Meal. It's one of the newer creations of Bryan Voltaggio, owner of Volt in Frederick, MD. We had a great meal, even tho there was some confusion as to who our waitress was at any given time.

Great Design, this used to be a car dealership

We all started off with an Iced Tea. I really loved the detail of branding the sweeteners. It's just one of those little things that are so often overlooked. Why advertise Equal or Splenda when you can use it as an opportunity to advertise your establishment? The other cool thing was the ice. It's square and melts really slowly so as to not water down your drink.

We started off with the Chicken Pot Pie Fritters. They were kinda like tater-tots, but with the yummy goodness of Chicken Pot Pie inside. Great comfort food re-imagined!

Turns out, you can fry anything!

One of coworkers got the burger. It is topped with cheddar, bacon and caramelized onions. I did sample a bite and was burping those onions the rest of the afternoon. Darn my tummy!

The pickle was really good too.

I got the Mac & Cheese, of course. Anytime I see it on a menu I have to sample it. It was perfectly crispy and made with Tillamook Cheddar, which is one of my favs.

Warm cheesy goodness!

The HR Manager ordered the Grilled Chicken Sandwich. It includes roasted peppers, provolone cheese, shiitake mushroom and a delightful basil mayo. I tried it too and it was delish, but darn those peppers!

They had pounded the chicken thin...nice touch!

Ok, we ate a lot of food, but I was not leaving till we sampled the Duck Fat Fried Potatoes. They come with 3 dipping sauces...a spicy mayo, smokey ketchup and an amazing pesto. I couldn't get enough of them and wanted to order a second, but they stopped me.

Duck fat! Who knew???

I ordered coffee because I love the blend they use at Volt. If I'm not mistaken, this is the same creature. Even cooler was the vessel the cream came in.

I sooo want to steal one of these cream containers!

Since it was the HR Manager's birthday, we had to order dessert. I know...the horror! We let her choose, so gracious of us! She chose the Chocolate Earl Grey Donuts. They come with hazelnut pudding on top and a scoop of Coffee Ice Cream. Now I'm not a huge chocolate fan, but these were great. They were crispy on the outside, but warm and almost fudge-like on the inside. The ice cream was great, but for 3 of us it would have been nice to have an additional scoop.

Yes, we sang to her!

It was a great meal. I'll be going back, but I hope to see some changes to their menu. Typically a diner has a huge menu and Family Meal...not so much. I would love to see their take on meatloaf! I would also like to check out their breakfast menu someday. Tho, when am I ever out of bed early enough to do that???

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Cookography: Brie, Cranberry & Pecan Tarts

We interrupt this Holiday Season to talk about the last one...Thanksgiving. Yeah, I 'm behind on posts, sue me! Anyway, I am always tasked with bringing a light appetizer to Thanksgiving dinner. It's my lot in life. Also, it's easily transportable. Last year I took the Pumpkin Garlic Bites. They were a huge hit and just the right savory combination of flavors.

This year, I was looking for a baked tart of some kind. I found something along the lines of what I was considering on the web, but it wasn't exactly what I wanted so, as I tend to do...I modified it. Here are Brie, Canberry & Pecan Tarts.

Warm, yummy, sweet and savory

They're incredibly simple to put together and since everyone complains that I never provide recipes, here is a stab at one. Remember, I hardly every use them, so take this with a grain of salt.

          Brie, Cranberry & Pecan Tarts

                    8 T   Chopped Pecans
                    8 T   Chopped Craisins
                    4 T   Honey
                    8 oz  Wheel of Brie
                    30     Filo Tart Shells

         Mix together the pecans, craisins and honey in a small bowl. Add a little extra honey if it's too dry. Here is what that will look like. Everything nicely coated, but there shouldn't be extra honey pooling anywhere.

Yeah, I could just eat this by the spoonful.

Leave it to sit at room temperature while you cut the skin off the brie and cube it into roughly half inch by quarter inch cubes. (Note: I found it easiest to cut the wheel into the half inch cubes first and then simply cut each of those cubes in half and then cut the skin off).

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and place the tart shells on a non-stick baking sheet. Place a cube of brie in each tart shell and cover with the pecan/craisin mixture. Use all of the pecan craisin mixture. They may look over-filled, but as the brie melts it all fills in nicely. Bake for approximately 10 minutes. Keep an eye on them. I found in order to get things nicely combined I wound up baking them a little longer.

Let them cool a bit before tasting. I got anxious and burned the heck out of my mouth. That honey is hot!!! Even at room temperature they still tasted great. My Mom also just took these to a Christmas Party and they were a huge hit.

One last Thanksgiving thought...I ate too much!

My view of the table.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Theatre: ECSETATS (One Heck of an Acronym!)

Last evening I had the pleasure of traveling to Martinsburg, WV to see my BFF Tod in a production of "Every Christmas Story Ever Told (and Then some)". Well, the travel wasn't a pleasure, lot's of highway construction and crazy drivers. But the show was delightful.

The show is as jam-packed as the poster

I had never experienced this particular show and Tod wouldn't even let me help him learn his lines because he wanted it to not be spoiled for me. In the space of what seemed to be a half hour, they managed to stuff every Christmas story I could think of into a very tight stocking. The audience was catapulted from Dickens to Grinch to Charlie Brown like so many flying reindeer. Or as they're referred to in the play "Reingoats". (some sort of licensing issue)

Tod was joined onstage by Diana Jurand and Tim Eichelberger, both of which gave amazing performances. Ms. Jurand is nothing short of a master at accents. So much so that when an Australian accent popped out of her mouth I was surprised, but probably shouldn't have been considering the round-the-world trip she had taken us on throughout the evening. When Mr. Eichelberger stepped to the front of the stage, gently pulled a blue blanket out his pocket and proceeded to deliver Linus' christmas speech from "It's Christmas Charlie Brown" I was moved to tears. It's no surprise that he played most, if not all, of the children's roles in the show. His honesty on stage and sheer innocence was of clear effect on the audience.

What can I say about my BFF Tod that won't be construed as blowing sunshine up his a*s? Well, the show begins as a production of "A Christmas Carol" before it starts it's merry race through the Christmas Story Canon (at first to Tod's characters chagrin). I really enjoyed watching the transformation of his character as he eventually throws himself in the frivolity. When the voice of Jimmy Stewart popped out of his mouth in the form of George Bailey from "It's a Wonderful Life" I was giddy with laughter as was the rest of the audience. Still, I have to say I would really like to see him perform the entire roll of Scrooge in "A Christmas Carol" some day.

All in all it was a solid production. That can probably be attributed greatly to it's director, DC Cathro. Not everyone can weave a coherent production out of so much chaos. I can only imagine what things backstage look like for this show. I'm thinking it's something akin to "Noises Off" where the backstage drama of quick changes, running actors and shear panic is practically as entertaining as what is happening onstage. Kudos to the crew for keeping it running smoothly, or at least making it appear to the audience that what is happening onstage is what is supposed to be happening.

This will mark the 4th (I think) show I have been to at the Apollo Civic Theatre in Martinsburg. I have been quite impressed with their work. Even "1776"! It's a show I hate and their production didn't make me hate it less, but I did really enjoy the experience. The rest of their season includes "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "High School Reunion, the Musical" and "Hello Dolly!" I would highly recommend checking out any or all of those performances out for yourself.