tbt: Blue Moon Cafe

Blue Moon Cafe Captain Crunch WafflesThe first place I remember seeing featured on “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” was a breakfast spot in Baltimore that had a female owner with a rock-and-roll personality and a menu full of crazy, drool-worthy meals. I sat there thinking, “If I ever open a restaurant, THIS is what I would want it to be.” And when I had the opportunity to finally visit Blue Moon Cafe in Fell’s Point last month, that feeling only grew.

I’m not usually a waffle/pancake person when I’m out to breakfast, but there was no way I wasn’t getting the as-seen-on-TV Captain Crunch French toast. I’d been dreaming about this thing for, like, five years. I can still taste the sweet, buttery goodness… the tart berries… the fresh whipped cream. You need this. YOU. NEED. THIS. Continue reading tbt: Blue Moon Cafe

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unspoiled oil

It was about this time last year I acquired a deep fryer as part of my friends’ annual “Thieving Elves” party. I haven’t made anything too noteworthy just yet, but it does get used relatively often (at least more than the quesadilla maker I got the year before).

The worst part about the deep fryer — other than the unnecessary calories it makes me consume — is that it uses a lot of oil, and oil isn’t cheap.  Continue reading unspoiled oil

#pullupachair with Food Network

It’s halfway through November and I thought for sure I’d have cooked my way through a patch’s worth of pumpkin by now, but alas, I’ve been through only a measly two cans this fall season. I have all sorts of pumpkin-centric recipes bookmarked — pumpkin garlic knots, pancakes, mac ‘n cheese — but life is getting in the way. I’ve barely had the chance to cook at all over the last few weeks, and I’m oh-so-sad. Sigh.

Fortunately, my not-so-secret obsession, Food Network, has fixed up just the thing to get me out of my food funk: Virtual Thanksgiving. Continue reading #pullupachair with Food Network

we jammin’

The day my Food Network Magazine arrives in the mailbox is quickly becoming my favorite day of the month, and one of my favorite parts is the “50” ideas inserts they include. Last issue was all about potato salads. This month? BACON. It’s a heart attack handbook, but I’m dying to start cooking through the list.

This sandwich isn’t on there, but I thought it’d be fun to pay homage to bacon in my own way with this bacon & jam panini, courtesy of my fridge. Continue reading we jammin’

cheeeeeeese! (didn’t we lock you in a Dumpster one time?)

Grilled cheese. One of the cheapest and easiest meals you can make. Perfectly paired with a multitude of munchies. The matchless melted marriage of my two favorite foods. A bit of nostalgia in every gooey bite. It’s no wonder we have an entire month to celebrate this fantastic food.

Yes, that’s right: April is Grilled Cheese Month, and I’ve been remiss in giving you ideas for how to celebrate, so for that, I’m sorry. (I’d really like to blame my computer and its inability to stay on for more than 10 consecutive minutes, but it’s been cooperating today so far, and I don’t want to jinx things. [Hopefully it’s not reading this.])

I found my own way to celebrate last weekend with a delightful lunch at The Pop Shop in Collingswood, N.J., a place known for its crazy grilled cheeses; their Calvert grilled cheese —  roast turkey, avocado, applewood smoked bacon, Monterey jack cheese and balsamic mayo on rosemary foccacia — was featured on Food Network’s “Throwdown with Bobby Flay” in 2008.

The restaurant’s observance of NGCM includes a different special sandwich each day, and on my visit, I was sold: lobster, brie and garlic aioli on country white bread. Sloppy and absolutely delicious. I wish I could eat there every day. (My apologies for the photo omission. I lost all awareness once that glorious thing was set down in front of me.)

I like to get a little crazy with my grilled cheeses at home. I’ve done tomato, bacon, shrimp, chocolate, avocado, horseradish, Doritos… (not all on one sandwich, but now that you mention it…). Two of my favorites, though, are pretty standard grilled cheeses with easy twists. Whether you like experimenting, or you’re a grilled cheese purist, give ’em a try.

honeyed classic with tomato, on wheat

Honeyed classicmakes one sandwich
Two slices of bread (white, wheat — your choice)
Three slices of medium-cut American cheese (I prefer Land O’ Lakes)
1 tbs. honey
Little bit of butter 

Heat pan over medium heat. Construct cheese sandwich, and spread a small amount of butter on the outside of both sides. Cook sandwich evenly, about five minutes on each side. When bread is just about to reach desired color, spread 1/2 tablespoon of honey on one side and flip. Repeat. The honey will caramelize the bread, giving you a great sweetness to go with the salty sandwich. For variety, add tomato, avocado or other favorites inside.

crunchy grilled cheese

Crunchy grilled cheesemakes one sandwich
Two slices of bread
Three slices of medium-cut American cheese
1 egg OR 1 tbs. honey
1/2 c. corn flakes, finely crushed
♦Little bit of butter 

Heat pan over medium heat. Construct cheese sandwich. Using egg: whisk one egg in small bowl, and brush both sides. (I didn’t want to waste my last egg on this, so…) Using honey: Spread 1/2 tablespoon of honey on each side of sandwich. Dip wet sides into crushed cornflakes, and coat well. Drop on pad of butter and let it coat surface. Cook one side, add pad of butter between flip and cook other side evenly. The crushed cornflakes add an incredible texture to your classic sandwich.

I’m going to be on Food Network?

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned Food Network in at least half of my posts, so it should come as no surprise I dropped everything last week when my friend, Jay, e-mailed me about a show taping at a local sandwich place: Jake’s Sandwich Board on 12th Street in Philadelphia.

I took the notification — “We will be filming all day on Thursday, but opening our doors to everyone during some of the filming around 3 p.m.” — to mean the crew would get some B-roll and be on its way, but what we walked into was a full-out filming of an “Outrageous Food” episode about the eatery’s Five-Pound Philly Challenge, and they let us sit in on the entire thing.

(had to be stealthy)

If you’ve never seen the show, it’s almost as if “Diners, Drive-Ins and Dives” procreated with “Man V. Food.” The host, Tom Pizzica, travels the country in search of ridiculous foods a la Guy Fieri, but often pits locals against restaurants’ ludicrous food challenges, like the 105-pound burger and the 72-inch burrito.

At Jake’s Sandwich Board, the challenge consists of an assortment of tasty Philly staples: a two-foot cheesesteak, four Philly soft pretzels, 12 TastyKake Krimpets, 24 Peanut Chews and one Champ Cherry soda to wash it all down. Oh, and you have to do it all in 45 minutes.

To date, only two individuals have successfully completed the challenge (and if you don’t finish in time, it’ll cost you $34.95), so to make the episode a little more interesting, “Outrageous Food” filmed two teams of three (boys v. girls) taking on the feat. I won’t spoil the outcome, but what remained of the losing team’s plate is pictured at the left.

My friend, Steve, and I were seated next to the challenge table, so we’re almost definitely going to be on screen when the episode airs next season, but we were both interviewed, so we might get some feature facetime, too. (I was really nervous, though, so I’m almost hoping they cut me on account of blushiness.)

Tom Pizzica was hilarious, and the entire production was so much fun. Oh, and did I mention how incredible the sandwich I ordered was? The Philly Wasabi — rib-eye steak, wasabi spread, American cheese and crunch onions. Yup. And based on the few bites I had of Steve’s Village Turkey sandwich and how drool-inducing the two-foot challenge cheesesteak was, I can’t imagine this place puts out anything short of amazing. I highly recommend you check it out.

Jake's "Philly Wasabi" sandwich