Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Heavy Seas and Restaurant Week

Let's take a quick break from Prague and Berlin (don't worry - we'll be back with more on the bars, museums, and clubs) to discuss the delightful little Saturday I had last weekend.

One of my girl pals is on one of those New-to-Baltimore List Serv thingies (even though she moved back here six months ago) and happened upon a chance to tour the Heavy Seas brewery just outside of Baltimore City. Heavy Seas makes deliciousness like its flagship IPA Loose Cannon and the delicious new Siren Noir (a chocolate stout aged in bourbon barrels). Even so, I never pass up an opportunity to see where one of my favorite things (beer, wine, chocolate, what have you) is made.

$5 gets you in the door and 5 "free taste" chips, each good for about 1/4 of a pint of beer from the sampler bar. Like many tastings I've been to, that 1/4 pint swiftly turned into 1/2 pint tastes, and there seemed to be chips materializing out of thin air, so I'm pretty sure we had more than five tastes. We might have had twelve. But who's counting?!

Beer? No beer here.

Much like my embarrassing recycling pile every Thursday morning.

Bottle conveyer belt thingy with mesh = technical term.

If I made beer, I would be too.

No one goes thirsty on the tour.

We're helping the local economy by drinking beer!

This is where the beer comes down the chute and into the...bigger chute.
And stuff.

Good for 14 free beer samples.

You earned every one, Heavy Seas, EVERY ONE!

Loose Cannon and Siren Noir

Following our beer tour, my gal pal and I headed back to the city to meet a bunch of my friends from high school for Restaurant Week, another favorite Baltimore activity.

Restaurant Week is held twice a year (in August and January) and local restaurants have special prix fixe menus with two courses for lunch ($15.13) and three for dinner ($30.13). Generally, the idea is to encourage traffic to visit higher-end restaurants to sample the best of the best, but the list of participating venues grows every year. Depending on the restaurant, it's only occasionally a great deal money-wise, but the pairings tend to be excellently chosen, and if going with a crowd it's a great opportunity to share and get a broad tasting of the menu. This particular night, we went to Grille 700, which is inside the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront. 

Here's my menu for the evening:

Buffalo Sweet Breads, Local Bleu Cheese Spread, Pickled Carrots, Micro Celery 
I had never eaten sweet breads before, but I am always down for trying new animal parts. (For the most part. I might draw the line at, say, haggis...but having not yet been presented with the opportunity, I can't say for sure.) A misnomer about sweetbreads is that it's brains - it's not. It's the thymus gland (and can also be the pancreas if it's called "heart" or "belly" sweetbreads) and comes from a calf. The consistency is kind of like a tougher tofu, and the taste is incredibly rich as you'd expect any organ meat to be. I also happen to LOVE buffalo sauce and bleu cheese, so you probably could have coated a pig's ear in that combination and I would have gladly eaten it. But, truth be told, I actually really liked the sweetbreads and would absolutely try it again with a different kind of preparation to see if it's thymus gland I enjoyed or just something vaguely meaty and smothered in buffalo sauce. 

House Made Duck Ravioli, Hominy, Smoked Duck Broth
For my main course, I did the duck ravioli. It was good, but incredibly rich. Duck itself is a deliciously fatty meat, and although the ravioli was fairly light and not overdone on pasta, the whole meal was kind of heavy. Especially after the sweetbreads. In retrospect, the two did not pair particularly well together. But this was nonetheless quite good, the broth was rich and sugary-smoky, and the hominy was roasted beautifully. Hominy is sort of like giant kernels of corn, and provided a nice sweet balance to the richness of the ravioli. By itself, this dish was a meal and a half, though. I probably would have done better starting off with something lighter.

And dessert didn't help:

Smores Tart, Graham Crackers, Dark Chocolate Ganache, Creamy Caramel, Marshmallows

Oh. My. God. I love s'mores. I LOVE them. They combine all of my favorite dessert elements: graham cracker, marshmallow, and chocolate. You don't even have to mess with this recipe too much to get me all excited.

Let's take another look though, shall we?

 Yes, they've added MORE AWESOME STUFF like chocolate ganache and caramel to the inside of it. And it's all encased in some kind of crunchy, delicious graham cracker cookie crust thingy. Swoon.

And once the beer tasting and the three course dinner were all over, I went home and went to bed. At 9pm. On a Saturday night. And had delicious, delicious dreams.

And this is why I run half marathons. So I can eat like this.

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