Beef and Shallot Stew

Winter months just call for a good stew. This is a recipe that I’ve had for a long time from Real Simple that I just think of every so often – Beef and Shallot Stew. I don’t/can’t eat beef, so I replace it with wild game. I’ve normally had venison but this time I found Wild Boar at Sprouts. It’s generally easier to have whole pieces of meat vs. ground, but sometimes you have to work with what you have.

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Ingredients

  • 4 pounds chuck meat, cut into 3- to 4-inch pieces, or 4 pounds pre-cut stew meat
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 bottle dry red wine
  • 1 1/2 pounds shallots, peeled
  • 1 cup low-sodium chicken broth
  • 8 sprigs fresh thyme

Directions

1) Heat oven to 300° F. Season the beef with the salt and pepper. Heat the oil in a Dutch oven or ovenproof pot over medium-high heat. Add some of the beef to the pot and brown on all sides. Transfer to a plate. Repeat with the remaining beef.
2) Spoon off and discard all but 1 tablespoon of the drippings. Add the wine and cook, stirring and scraping the bottom, for 3 minutes.
3) Return the beef to the pot along with the shallots and broth. Bring to a boil. Skim any foam. Add the thyme. Cover and transfer to oven until the beef is tender, about 2 hours. Spoon into individual bowls.

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Since I used ground meat, I didn’t need to cook the stew for nearly as long (can be a fraction of the time until the meat is cooked and onion are to the ‘softness’ you want). I serve it with some great French bread and green salad. Perfect for a cold day. Also pairs well with red wine. Cheers!

The Cache, Ft Collins, CO

With the recent opening of Ginger & Baker in Fort Collins, CO that also meant a couple new restaurants. Had to check out The Cache.

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Made a reservation a couple weeks ahead and the only times left on a Saturday were early evening or very late night. Went with the early choice. Of course the thing to start with was wine and opted for an Erath – Resplendent. It was a Pinot Noir. Had never seen that one from them and just a nice one, not too light or heavy. Also looked for it at stores the next week and didn’t see it anywhere.

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For dinner, we opted to split anappetizer – Cache House Salad, mixed greens, crispy onion, grape tomato, sourdough croutons, lemon-olive oil $8

The dressing, so amazingly emulsified, so awesome! Perfect size to split

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For the dinner, I opted for the Seared Sea Scallops, green apple-parsnip puree, quinoa, brocollini $36. Some darn big scallops. Bring it on! And I’ll say, I don’t go shopping for parsnips, but they made they taste pretty darn good!

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The other one at the table went with the Colorado lamb shank, whipped potato, haricots verts, lamb demi-glace $34. Apparently the lamb shank just sort of melted off the bone, into the potatoes, that melted in the mouth. They were devoured.

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Overall:

One thumbs down, we wanted to nibble on something before all the food came out and bread was not free but rather $11. No, that’s not a typo…eleven dollars. Really, it’s bad enough when a place charges you 5 bucks, rather than bringing it for free. But double digits? Nix that. And prices overall were a bit high for this area.

But on the thumbs up, the food was all very good, and nice presentation. The service was also excellent. A manager came out to check on us see how things were. We couldn’t have asked for more. We had one mishap with my lactose intolerance (which I told the waitress of when ordering) and it was beyond taken care of in ways I have never seen before.

So, while I will say for Fort Collins the prices are a bit high, at least everything else was great. Worth going to for a nice dinner if you’re going to splurge.

 

Seared Radicchio and Roasted Beets

Was looking for a new recipe for Christmas dinner and wanted something colorful. Came across this one when flipping through Bon Appetit magazine – Seared Radicchio and Roasted Beets.

Ingredients

  • 6 medium beets, scrubbed
  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 small heads of radicchio, cut into large wedges through root end
  • 1 cup pomegranate juice
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup pomegranate seeds
  • Flaky sea salt (for serving)

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Directions

  • Preheat oven to 450°. Toss beets with 1 Tbsp. oil on a foil-lined rimmed baking sheet; season with kosher salt. Roast, tossing once, until skins are charred and beets are tender, 40–50 minutes. Let cool.
  • Meanwhile, heat 2 Tbsp. oil in a large skillet over medium-high. Cook radicchio wedges on cut sides until browned, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer to a platter.
  • Add pomegranate juice to skillet; bring to a boil and cook until thickened and syrupy, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar; season with kosher salt.
  • Tear beets open and place around radicchio; spoon dressing over. Top salad with pomegranate seeds, sprinkle with sea salt, and drizzle with remaining 2 Tbsp. oil.

 

You can roast the beets early to knock that off your list, since that takes awhile. That was helpful. I found that it took longer than 5 minutes to thicken the pomegranate juice.

Regardless, in the end, the recipe turned out great. It had the eye-catching red/bright colors for the evening and was delicious. And, had leftovers (which tasted wonderful). Definitely saving it for future use.

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Los Tarascos

Got together with some friends to celebrate a birthday (not mine) recently and got to check out another new (to me) place in Ft. Collins. This time it was Los Tarascos.

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Love Mexican food so I was quite excited about this. We were meeting at 6pm, but I was told to get there a little early to make sure to get some Happy Hour specials. Well, I got there at 5:45pm and I happened to be the only one to arrive early. I easily chose a Classic Margarita and dang, that thing was good. Since I knew there would be several more people coming, I ordered a few pitchers of the amazing drink. When the other attendees arrived, they were quite pleased.

At this place, they bring you chip baskets…of course. I surveyed the table and was wondering about salsa. Then I found out they have a salsa bar. You get to pick what you get to dip those addictive pieces of corn in. Dang, talk about trouble. Now, the only problem is, the containers they give you for the salsa are small. But, you can make do. They have many choices and I liked how I saw one person use a menu as a tray to carry several cups of salsa back to their table.

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Somebody at the table ordered some guac and I grabbed a bite — very good. Excellent consistency and nice spice.

As I looked through the menu I found what I love at this type of establishment — ceviche. This one was Ceviche a la Tequila — Shrimp cured in lime juice and tequila mixed with tomato, onion, and jalapeno. And for a few more dollars, you could add Octopus, which I totally went for.

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This stuff was good, with the different texture of the octopus. The only downside was that the jalapenos made it very spicy for me. I don’t have a huge heat tolerance. I picked as many pieces of it out as I could. But, I will totally go back and get more of this.

So, between the delicious margaritas, tons of salsa, good guac and octopus ceviche, this place is definitely one I’m checking out again.

Salud!

Jax Fish House

Slowly but surely checking out more restaurants in Fort Collins, CO. One of them was Jax Fish House & Oyster Bar. It’s a cozy place where you can sit at the bar for happy hour and watch the oyster get shucked or get a table.

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Went on a Thursday night and though we had a reservation, we had a high top-like table facing the bar. It was quite loud and in one of those areas that was sort of ignored because it was almost invisible. It was between support beams/dividers and almost seems like it was more used for people to lean on while socializing during happy hour, but would be used to maximize table space.

We did get some service eventually and chose to start with some drinks while looking over the menu. I chose to go with some bubbles.

When the waitress came to take food orders, I decided to go totally hard core on fish that night for both courses. Started with the Fruit De Mer ($9) – Squid, shrimp, mussels, octopus, basil, jalapeño, red wine vinaigrette.

It was similar to a ceviche. And, there were green olives in there. Bring it on! Good amount for the two of us at the table.

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For the main course, I opted for the Seared Scallops ($32.50) – parsnip hummus, balsamic roasted beets, belgian enive, carrots, bourbon pecans.

Overall, each component tasted fine, but the bourbon pecans did not fit with the scallops. They just went against their taste and texture. The sweet didn’t work. The pecans go with the thought/taste of fall roasted veggies, but not scallops. I was pretty disappointed.

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The other entree ordered at the table was the Cast Iron Seared Salmon ($28.25) –
brown butter cappelini, roasted celeriac, butternut squash puree, crushed hazelnuts, roasted root vegetables, sage.

I was told it tasted quite good. The celeriac was a unique twist on traditional tastes.

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I took quite awhile for these entrees to come out — maybe 40+ minutes. It didn’t appear to be that busy of a night. And just getting our water refilled was a challenge. I was happy to go to the restaurant, there was nothing wrong, cooking-wise, with my food, but it’s not a place I am putting at the top of my list to return to.

 

Thai Pavilion

Was at National Harbor, MD and checked out Thai Pavilion. They have quite nice decor and just the doors to get in the restaurant are intricate — thick and metal with much design. You need to use both hands to open them. Couldn’t wait to get to the food!

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The menu blew me away. So many choices! It was very traditional Thai food, too. I flipped through the menu for quite awhile before finally deciding what to get. Went with a soup/salad meal:

AmNat ChaRoen or TOM YUM. Fresh mushrooms in lemon grass soup, galangal and Thai spices with chili paste. Your choice of chicken or mixed vegetables.

This was such a good soup. Just everything the description says. I got it with the veggies. Could easily have enjoyed more.

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PatTaYa orSOM TUM MA LA GORE. The most popular Som Tom. Julienned green papaya, roasted peanuts, tomatoes, and string beans tossed with spicy lime dressing.

This was so interesting because the papaya was crunchy. It wasn’t the taste I was expecting (which the waiter warned me of). It was all quite good and was brought together nicely with the lime dressing.

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Also enjoyed some Sauvignon Blanc with this. A very nice Thai dinner and this is definitely a place to return to so that more (of the many) menu items can be tasted.

I Am the Walrus

Well, actually, I just went to a restaurant called The Walrus. National Harbor, MD.

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First great/fun/cool thing about them – they have wine on tap. This perhaps used to be looked upon as an odd thing, but it’s great. Makes the wine last longer, it won’t go bad, and keeps it at the right temp. Cheers to that! I opted for the Rose (non-Moscato, of course). Nice and dry, light berry taste and perfect temp. And during happy hour, $2 off per glass.

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After looking over the menu, food-wise I went with the Butternut Squash Soup – Fresh Maryland lump crab, local butternut squash, chives and JO Spiced pepitas.  Very nice size for the dish, perfect thickness. It cooled down quickly, but nonetheless, with the crab it was even more delicious!
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Wanted more veggies and a soup/salad theme, so opted for the Roasted Beet Salad –
Roasted golden beets, goat cheese, baby greens, candied pecans, honey balsamic vinaigrette with sautéed shrimp. Good flavor and it came with both thinly sliced beets and cubed beets. The shrimp were also very nicely cooked.
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Liked the place and the service at the bar was pretty good. The initial bartender we had was perfect, then the amount of staff in the bar dropped so it was harder to get service, but it was not the end of the world. Check this place out if you’re at National Harbor.

Grand Ole Wasabi?

Was in Nashville recently and had to visit the Grand Ole Opry. Before the show started, there was time to roam around the Opryland Hotel and enjoy some dinner. After looking over the menu at the many restaurants the venue offers, we decided on Wasabi’s.

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When our waiter came over to take our drink orders, at a Japanese restaurant, we asked what they had to offer. He mentioned the traditional stuff, along with the local offering — the Gaylord Opryland 77 APA by Blackstone Brewing Company. Why not go local? Nice amber beer with a good history, so had to pair it with asian food, right?

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They have a traditional Japanese menu so deciding what to eat was sort of hard but sort of easy, in the sense that we knew what was on the menu. Ended up starting with some Seaweed Salad. Very nice taste to it.

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For the main course, we went with the Wasabi’s Sushi Sampler:
California Roll (6 Pcs)
Tuna Sashimi (3 Pcs)
Nigiri (3 Pcs): Tuna, Salmon, Shrimp

It was a very nice size and very well presented. Quite tasty, too. Now, since two of us were splitting this, we weren’t really full at the end. So, come the end, we opted to get one more bite to eat, which was/were some edamame. Perfect.
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And after dinner, the fun truly started…

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Sfoglina, DC

A restaurant visited in DC earlier this year in the Van Ness area was Sfoglina. It’s a ‘Fabio Trabocchi Restaurant, named for the female artisans and Italian cultural icons that carry on the tradition of rolling sheets of pasta by hand with a rolling pin, a technique passed through the generations.’

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Since it is a pasta house, they have quite the selection of that on the menu. There are some other choices, as well. I found some other stuff that sounded far too good not to try. So I went for the Grilled Spicy Calamari, Romesco Sauce and Maria’ Chilled Tomato Gazpacho, Vine-Ripened Tomatoes, Cucumber, Red Pepper. There were both very tasty. The calamari was just quite spicy. But I will say, quite the good size dish.

My friend opted for the special of the night, which was a spinach and veggie pasta dish. It was apparently quite good.
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Overall, the place was good. Fairly pricey for what it offered, but it’s DC. Service was intermittent. Simply getting water (re)filled was tough. We sat outside on the patio, which was nice. Glad I was able to check it out.

Black Market

Black Market can mean many things. Well, the most recent place I tested the name was at Jeff Black’s version of it in Garrett Park, MD, Black Market Bistro.

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The last time I visited the place was probably 12 years ago and that was for brunch. Wow, it’s changed – it’s gotten much more popular and the menu is different.

Went on a Wednesday night and it was a solid 30 minute wait at around 7:45pm. Once we sat down, it didn’t take too long to decide what to get because we’d had a chance to glance at the menu while waiting. I will say, I ordered a heck of a lot of seafood!

So for the first course, the food that came to the table included:

Marinated Warm Grilled Squid Salad | $14 | Over Arugula in a Red Wine Vinaigrette with Kalamata Olives, Chili Flakes, Feta Cheese, Red Onions, Pine Nuts & Lemon Zest

First — the feta was genuine feta, so I could eat it. Everything other than the lettuce was hot-warm (which was perfect), and the squid was perfectly cooked. Heaven! I had to not eat it all because of the 2nd course.

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Cornmeal Crusted Oysters | $13 | House Made Tartar Sauce

The plate was demolished, or the food on the plate was. Apparently perfect — crusted and cooked to perfection, with quite a tasty tartar sauce.

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Second Course:

Swordfish special of the night. Can’t remember the entire description, but solid steaks, lettuce, nice vinaigrette, and delicious!

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New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp | $27 | Sweet Corn & Scallion Grits, Wilted Swiss Chard & Toasted Baguette

Bring on the grit drool and mouth watering shrimp is what I determined/heard from across the table.

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I took home a good amount of leftovers because both courses were big. The service was a bit slow and it was hard to get the waiter at some points, and then at others he was always there. But, as mentioned, it was a busy night.

A couple good wines were enjoyed, but forgot to take note of those. I think the food was the highlight of the night.

Check it out if you’re in the area. It’s definitely a hidden gem. Even if you know the area, you might have to pull out your phone to get you there from Strathmore Ave.

Cheers!