Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Beer Bread!

Being a well-traveled fatty, it's always surprising to me when I come across a food that I have not yet tried. Tonight, I picked up a gift loaf of beer bread made by my friend Alyssa

She's a recovering vegetarian, and I'm proud to say I am a big part of her recovery- I cooked the bacon that was her first bite of meat in years.  

Anywho, the beer bread was amazing. I cant believe I've never had it before. I had a slice at Charm City Run when I first picked it up, and then I had another 3 slices when i got home (toasted with butter, which is amazing). It smells like beer, but when you eat it, you dont taste beer- it's a sweet, dense bread, that's nutty and definitely awesome. Even Jackie, who hates beer and generally doesnt eat bread, really enjoyed it. If you're not lucky enough to be friends with Alyssa, I suggest u check out her blog and get her beer bread recipe, because it was awesome. 

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Pat's, Geno's, Jim's,  Delessandro's, Tony Luke's, John's Roast Pork- I've eaten dozens of authentic Philly cheesesteaks.  A shockingly high number of them, actually, especially for someone who has never lived in Philly. For example, when my college friend Esther moved to Philly for medical school, my wife and I visited her during her 1st year and tried Philly cheesesteaks for their time (not mine, theirs). We went to the famous Pat's/Geno's corner, and I had 1 from Geno's, 2 from Pat's, and the rest of the (sigh) Pizza cheesesteak that Esther ordered. (My wife finished hers despite not even being hungry, which is more evidence of why she is the most awesome person ever). 3 1/2 cheesesteaks in about half an hr. Hence my high number of cheesesteaks consumed despite not living in the city.  For a while, my favorite was the original.

Maybe it's the bias of knowing that Pat's invented the cheesesteak, or maybe it's the memories associated with Pat's (my above mentioned wife crushing a cheez wit, or my buddy Tim finishing one of their sandwiches before even getting to the soda window (5 feet, maybe 45 seconds))- but for years, any time I was driving up 95 and I had an extra 10 minutes to spare, I'd stop at Pat's and crush 2 "cheese wit's."

Within the last 2 years, however, I've been all about Tony Luke's.

Visually, it's not much different, but I believe their ribeye is more tender, their onions are well cooked, their Cheez Wiz is properly warmed, and importantly, their bread is awesome (yes, i'm aware it's not Amaroso's, the gold standard of cheeseteak bread in Philly). I dont know who makes their bread, but for the last 10 or so cheeseteaks I have had, the bread has been amazing- so, Tony Luke's is awesome, and for now, the standard by which I judge Philly-style cheesesteaks.

Despite my love for cheesesteaks, I haven't eaten them as often as I would like. For one, they're not very good for you, and I try to not be totally disgusting. But more importantly, there hasnt been many options for an authentic Cheez-wit here in Baltimore.  Until this year (at least to my knowledge), there was really only 1 place where you could get an authentic Philly-style cheesesteak- McGerks (there are good non-Philly cheesesteaks in Baltimore, even fancy versions,- but my favorite has always been a good Cheez-Wit). McGerk's sells a very good Philly cheesesteak, but for whatever reason, I just dont eat them that often unless I'm out for a night in Federal Hill- and that doesnt really happen anymore because I'm old and cranky.

Enter, Fat Larry's, just around the corner from McGerks.  Maybe because it's not a bar, or just the half block makes for a quieter location, but I've already taken to getting carryout from Fat Larry's much more than I ever did at McGerks.

To date, there have been 6 times I've eaten a Fat Larry's Philly-style cheesesteak (cheez-wit), and  they've been pretty good each time. The bread was good, the meat was tender, juicy, and well seasoned, the wiz was well-proportioned, and the onions were softened enough to take the bite off of them. This place is definitely trying to make as authentic of a Philly-style cheesesteak as possible, and it shows.  It is now my go-too spot for a Cheez-Wit in Baltimore.

PS-  I've heard that Tony Luke's cheesesteaks can also be had in Baltimore- at Scores strip club.  Can anyone confirm that? Has anyone actually eaten one there and is it really up to the standard of the Tony Luke's name?

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Birmingham 2012

Each fall for the past 7 years, a few close friends and I have traveled to a random city for 3 or 4 days to do nothing but golf, eat, and drink. What started as a one-off weekend of golf just to catch up with some buddies I hadn’t seen in a while has turned into an annual ritual for us that is always a highlight of my year.  Fredericksburg VA, Hilton Head SC, Tampa FL, Birmingham AL (3 times), Omaha NE - different locations, but the trips have all been the same - 6am wake-up calls, golf until we run out of daylight, early dinner and drinks, and usually asleep long before 11pm.  Of course, there’s always low stakes gambling, drinking, and plenty of heckling on the course.  Some years we’ve mixed in fancy steakhouses, some years we’ve blundered into local restaurants of suspect quality (Mexican-Irish fusion anyone?) with painful results.  

For the most part, the focus has been golf and catching up on each others’ lives.  The last few years, however, we’ve also started to focus on the food.  Food focus for a group of thirty-something golfers is not complicated. We eat meat. It doesn’t have to be gourmet, but it has to be right for the trip - tasty, nothing too stuffy, and heavy with the drink pours. Last year, we were in Tampa, so of course we went to the legendary Bern’s Steakhouse, and found the experience to be everything it is purported to be. In years past, we’ve also genuinely enjoyed Outback Steakhouse.  Before all you food nerds click away in horror, just know that the Birmingham Outback is a different animal that the typical TGI McFunsters - first, it’s somehow about $5 cheaper per steak than its Baltimore counterpart. Second, a medium rare is actually cooked medium rare. Third, the Blooming Onion is awesome and everything that is right with #fatfluential America. If you still need convincing, go to a foodier blog- you’re not going to get me trashing a place just because it’s a chain.  I can appreciate when something is exactly what it’s supposed to be.  

Anywho, this year, Jon, Brian, Dominic and I went to the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail in Birmingham, Alabama for the 3rd time in 5 years.  117 holes of golf in 4 days (18 thursday, 36 friday, 45 saturday, 18 sunday).  We have a special affection for Birmingham- it’s inexpensive, the golf is terrific, and we love the food.

Dreamland has been our BBQ joint of choice for our last few visits to Birmingham.  Right off the campus of UAB (and just 1 exit down the interstate from our hotel), it is what I want from a BBQ joint- casual, no fuss, and delicious.  White bread and their signature BBQ sauce is brought to the table with your drinks.  We shared the following- sausage, chicken, ribs, pulled pork, collards, mac and cheese, coleslaw, banana pudding.  We washed it all down with a tasty local brew, Good People IPA.  To me, the best items at Dreamland are the sausage and banana pudding.  Not that the other items are bad- they certainly beat almost everything I can get in Baltimore- but their sausage is juicy, well textured, and a perfect blend of smoke and spice.  And, the banana pudding is terrific.  In fact, they believe in it so much, it’s their only dessert.  

In years past, we were perfectly satisfied with Dreamland and Super Outback.  Birmingham rookie Dominic, however, wasn’t about to let us do the same thing for a third time, so this year, we added Saw’s BBQ into the rotation.  I cannot be happier with that decision.  We got sausage, pulled pork, coleslaw (vinegar based, unlike Dreamland’s mayo base), mac and cheese, and of course, banana pudding.  Saw’s easily has some of the best pulled pork I’ve ever had.  Dreamland’s sausage and banana pudding are superior, but honestly, a BBQ place is all about the pork (with all due respect to Texas BBQ).  Smoky, juicy, perfectly spiced.  Insanely good.  Saw’s will definitely be a part of the rotation going forward.

It’s been 2 weeks since all the golf and BBQ in Birmingham, and I’m still smiling thinking about how much fun we had. I know lots of people have a similar annual trip with friends.  I see a few of the guys on this trip but once a year- on this trip- and yet, we pick up as if nothing has changed.  If you’re a runner, maybe it’s a particular destination race you do every year.  If you’re a poker player, maybe it’s an annual trip to Vegas.  Whatever it is, it’s a highlight of your year- the same group friends making the same dumb jokes every year, doing the same nonsense you did the year before.  

Readers, I ask you this- what annual rituals do you have with your friends and what makes it so special?

Saturday, September 22, 2012

1st Post

So, I've started blogging. It's been over 2 months since Chocolate is my Life showed me how to set up a blog, but now feels like the right time to get started.  People blog for various reasons- to keep track of their lives, to reflect, to connect with others and discuss things that are going on in their lives.  I guess I'm blogging for all of those reasons. I don't know what took me so long, but hopefully, this is something you find entertaining. My focus will primarily be on food and fitness, but honestly, how strictly I stick to that remains to be seen- this could just end up being a personal diary from which I seek advice from random Blogosphere strangers and where I keep track of where I've eaten.