Friday, May 15, 2009

Baltimore: Day Four

While we were planning this trip, I looked for submarines in the area (you’re welcome, sweety) and found the Torsk, a WWII tin can moored in the inner harbor. It has the distinction of having fired the last torpedo of the war. So Saturday morning was sub time. I’m pretty sure that’s not the regulation paint job on her bow:

But that was not the only fearsome ship in the water on this day: it seems there was some sort of pirate convention in town:

We ambled around enjoying the sights until lunch time; for me this was the second picture perfect day at the harbor.

We went to the well-known Phillips Seafood right on the harbor for lunch and took our time just enjoying the moment. I decided to have just appetizers. Mussels and scallops, and what a contrast. The scallops were a daily special that sounded much better than it turned out to be. A handful of bay scallops (think mini-marshmallows for size) and some little chunks of under-ripe mango, not prepared in any way other than having been cut up. But served in an oh- so-chic martini glass. Yyyyyeah, okay. The mussels, however, were utterly delectable in their Thai chili sauce with a coconut milk base. Should’ve just had two orders of those!

As we finished, we thought we had about two hours to stroll around the harbor before we had to leave for the airport. Just for shucks and grins, I thought I’d check the flight time on our tickets. Aaaaaaaaaah! We have to leave right now! Someone mistook arrival time for departure time! It cut our day pretty short, but at least we weren’t going to miss the plane!

Baltimore: Day Three

Slept in and grabbed a cup of Starbucks for breakfast in the hotel lobby. We had intended to take the MARC train from the airport to D.C., so we asked the concierge about the hotel shuttle to the airport. The next one wouldn’t come for over half an hour. Not wanting to wait, we decided to drive. Got to town, parked, and headed for the first order of business: lunch. We ate at the Capital Grille. Nice place; lots of dark wood, ornate gilded picture frames, very old Washingtony feeling, uncomfortable little wooden chairs, nice menu. I had the daily seafood special, which was a sandwich with chunks of crab. Very tasty.

Then we started the National Mall walk on the east end, the capitol. Then it started to get warm out. Very warm. I do not tolerate heat well at all. Less than halfway across the mall, I was ready to call it a day, but I hated to disappoint, so I bought a bunch of water and we kept going. Professional photographers have taken far better ones than most tourists, so I will refer you to the Web to find thousands of postcard-perfect pictures and share just this one:

Dinner was just a bite at Ruby Tuesday. Of course, being in Maryland, this RT’s menu included crab cakes. It’s the culture. Crab cakes are everywhere, and seem to be on the tip of the tongue at all times no matter the occasion. They are so important in the state that even McDonald’s sells them. What’s a trip to Maryland without a crab cake or two? They’re okay for a change, but not really my cup of tea. Seem to mask, rather than enhance, the flavor of the crab.

Baltimore: Day Two

The meeting was on Thursday, so I was on my own for the day. We were staying at the Hilton near the airport in Linthicum, so I drove into the city to spend some time with my friend Cheryl, whom I hadn’t seen in over fifteen years. It was as though she had never left. We fell right into a comfortable companionship and time just flew. We met at the inner harbor, a highly developed recreational area with much to see and do—and we really didn’t “do” any of it except have lunch at one of the myriad restaurants. The rest of the time we just walked and talked and had a wonderful time. The weather was perfect.

I arrived back at the hotel just in time to pick up my partner for dinner with the Northrop folks at a local brew house. One of the guys took it upon himself to order appetizers for the group. You know the guy--orders the boring cheese plate (come on—I’m from Wisconsin!) and cold cuts (do they taste better when they’re billed as “charcuterie?”). I had come for seafood, so I ordered a nice appetizer of mussels with garlic, chiles, and orange peel. Guess who was the most willing to share those with me? Actually, he was a really nice guy, just misguided in his appetizer selection. I was tempted to get another order as my entrée, but then I would have missed the perfection of what Americans call the “Cuban sandwich.” This one was made with Black Forest ham, Gruyere, and a luscious mango salsa. I highly recommend Victoria Gastro Pub in Columbia, should you ever be out in that area.

I was driving back to the hotel, and as we approached a road sign pointing the way to D.C, I said, “Hey, want to go to D.C.?” To my nearly overwhelming astonishment, I thought I heard, “Sure, what the heck?” Was I hearing things? This is a person who usually doesn’t want to divert even a block out of the way to go to a Walgreens on the way home. D.C.? And, we were planning to go to D.C. the next day, anyway. Well, I took the exit and we drove down, saw some city lights, got the lay of the land (as much as you can get in an hour in the dark) and then headed back to the hotel.

Baltimore: Day One

My cooking partner had a meeting scheduled in Baltimore for the third Thursday in April. This would be the first opportunity, in over two years on the job, to meet the packaging manager face to face: the hiring process was done via phone. With one company paid airfare and hotel room, we decided I should tag along and we’d make a long weekend of it as sort of a birthday celebration.

I procrastinated so long in writing this, that I have to admit I’ve forgotten much of the food aspect of the trip. I do remember that I was very excited about the prospect of copious seafood, and that the reality did not live up to the image. Might have something to do with it being a tad early for crab season. Still, it was a great trip.

We arrived late Wednesday afternoon, starving. The hotel restaurant, Acqua, had closed, but they came up with a couple of fabulous burgers for us. Normally, I don’t like hotel restaurants, but this one was really good! Although I’d never heard of “Rockford” cheese before. We met with the group from Northrop for dinner there as well, where I had a nice piece of salmon. I’m not much of a beer drinker, but I had to try the local brew, Clipper City, and I must say it was quite smooth.

Of Course!

Right after we had the glorious but outrageously expensive short ribs, the Fresh Market had them on sale for $1.49 a pound—flanken cuts. I also picked up a couple pounds of tomatillos, some jalapeños, some cilantro and a few limes. It ended up being enough for three generous dinners (for two) and a lunch.
I browned the ribs then threw everything in the crock pot. About 4.5 lbs of ribs, 2 lb tomatillo, a generous handful of cilantro, and 5 or six peppers. I seeded all but one, and the heat was just about right. I forgot the limes.

This is a cooking method we’ve often used for chicken and pork, but without browning. So easy, so good. But I wanted the extra flavor that browning gives to the stock this time.

Add Spanish rice—which, by the way, I make with Basmati rice—and the lovely refritos featured in the Suburban Hausfrau’s Cinco de Mayo menu, and you don’t need a drop of Mexican blood in your veins to view this as comfort food.

A couple days later, I took the leftovers out of the fridge, skimmed the fat off the top and thickened the broth for a more stew-like consistency. We were too interested in eating to photograph it!