Why the Cheesesteak Didn’t Count, and Other Memorable Meals

I left off quite a while ago, seeing as I’ve had some frantic evenings lately with kid commitments, homework, all that. Same old story. During the past week and a half since the coconut-shrimp disappointment, I’ve had three memorable meals and (perhaps more memorable – or at least momentous) three nights when the kids and I actually ate the same meal for dinner.

Memorable Meal #1

I have a dear friend with whom it’s fun to cook. It’s fun to be with her in general, because we connect on multiple levels. But doing anything food-related with her is particularly fun because she knows even more than me about quality kitchenware of all sorts and we instinctively link arms to prevent each other from entering (and thereby maxing out credit cards in) a nearby Le Creuset store when we pass by. Not to mention that we are familiar with the “stir constantly” tired-arm phenomenon and we power through it like champs. We had been in need of a food-and-beverage centered mutual gabfest for quite some time, because that’s another thing us gals can do. Last Saturday, the calendaric stars aligned and we were able to have Epic Mac & Cheese night.

Back story: a number of weeks ago, I came across a Facebook post with a number of delightful-looking macaroni & cheese recipes. I printed out my favorites. So far I’ve made the same favorite twice, because it is simply incredible. The first time I made it, I paired it with white wine. The wine just didn’t stand up… this stuff cries out for beer. I decided on a tricky accompaniment of Brussels sprouts (my personal beer consultant was skeptical but recommended Chimay (gold label) and I was not disappointed). Without further ado, I present to you a heart attack on a plate: Bacon Pretzel Mac & Cheese (with Brussels sprouts shown in-progress):

macncheese   brussels

I have considered making a beer-cheese sauce and using ‘real’ crunched-up pretzel chunks, but I have yet to try it. I do recommend thick-cut bacon (use a full package but consume at least two of the slices with your beer while you are cooking), Pipette pasta, and taking a handful of bacon and mixing it in with the cheese sauce. Also mixing up the bacon with the pretzel crumbs and misting the top with oil or (what I had at the time) spraying it generously with cooking spray. I tossed the Brussels sprouts (big ones halved) in the bacon fat and let them sit in the warm pan with the lid most of the way on for about 10 minutes until they got beautifully green, then tossed them on a baking sheet and put them in with the mac & cheese. The only thing we could handle for dessert was single scoops of ridiculous dark chocolate gelato. We put this all down college-style in front of the TV, plates balanced on our laps, watching the movie Sideways and stopping it every 10 minutes or so to discuss every single “WTF is happening here?” moment in that wonderful flick. Truly memorable.

http://picky-palate.com/2014/08/13/skillet-baked-mac-and-cheese-bacon-pretzel-topping/

Memorable Meal #2 (the first of two dine-outs)

This week, my overseas work counterpart was visiting our site. The obligatory night out took place on Friday. A small crowd of us headed to the Federal Taphouse in Lancaster, where there are (I dare you to count them) 100 brews on tap. I decided to indulge in their Duck Confit Grilled Cheese. I’m a sucker for a fancy grilled cheese and this one delivered, hands-down, accompanied by some nice crunchy house-made potato chips. I feel awkward taking photos of my food in restaurants (it just seems wrong somehow… food porn should take place in the comfort and privacy of one’s own home is the way I feel). There were chunks of duck, and cheese, and something fruity. All very, very good things.

I also added a few things to my fledgling Untappd profile, including a Hard Root Beer which I’m quite glad I tasted.

Memorable Meal #3 (dine-out #2)

I went to the Baltimore Museum of Art with a friend yesterday. She recently had a birthday so I told her last week to pick someplace nice to have dinner after geeking out on the art and I’d treat her. She picked someplace Super Duper Nice, and it happened to be right in the museum. And they had several veg-friendly menu items for her, too. SCORE. This would be Gertrude’s, and it was really very good. Again, no food porn pictures. Had there been a soundtrack with said photos, it may have sounded vaguely pornographic. That. Good.

We started off with cocktails at the bar because our art-geekery took a little less time than expected. My friend had something pink with Electric in the name and it was so delicious that she ended up having two. Had my own cocktail not been so tasty, I might have tried to drink half of hers when she wasn’t looking. Or perhaps just ordered my own, but hey, that’s what friends are for, right? I had a Rosemary’s Lady, which was rosemary vodka, rosemary-lemon soda, and a rosemary sprig. Sounds a little heavy on the rosemary, right? Wrong. It was delightful.

I wholeheartedly participated in a meat transgression, enjoying pulled pork sliders to start. There was also bread and butter, since there’s always bread and butter, and yes that was nice, too. My companion went back to her veg ways with some non-crab cakes, spinach, and noodles. I savored a path through parmesan crusted cod with squash & tomatoes and risotto, topped off with a Gruner Veltliner because I wasn’t feeling the house recommended Sauvignon Blanc. I know only embarrassingly-teensy bits about wine but that just sounded right to me. Might have had something to do with the fact that I like saying Gruner Veltliner more than I like saying Sauvignon Blanc. All of it was so tasty that it didn’t even occur to either of us to share.

Dessert was pumpkin ice cream for the pumpkin fanatic, and a candy-bar-like concoction for me which was a little disappointing. I realized part way through that it was probably just too cold… kind of like drinking stout when it’s too cold. But I was not patient enough to wait for it to warm up and I kept sipping on my coffee and savoring small bites of chocolatey caramely goodness, and all was well. Thumbs up.

All of this leads to the cheesesteak I mentioned in the title. That was last Friday and it was just fine because I wanted something I could eat with a beer, but my Memorable Meal Trio blew it clean out of the water. If only I could eat this well three times in the space of a week more often. Oh, and one night I had this:

EVOL_Classics_BeanCheddarEnchilada

It was kinda good in that frozen-meal kind of way.

 

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