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Friday, June 26, 2015

2015 Kitchen Experiment #3- Monkey Bread

     I'd seen it, I'd seen people's faces light up in its presence, but I had never tried it or knew what it was made of exactly. Then, I found a recipe in a compilation put together by my mother-in-law's ladies' church group, The Merrymakers. This group of Southern belles gathered together all their kitchen secrets and published a beautiful book to raise funds for their church. I've been looking through it the way you look through an old trunk preserved as a time capsule in someone's attic, and it does contain a treasure trove of recipes, from appetizers to desserts and everything in between.
     I looked at the ingredients and the prep time and it seemed innocuous and something I could manage. Simple, inexpensive and oh my! the results.

Ingredients:

3 cans of biscuits
3 cups of sugar
6 teaspoons of cinnamon
2 sticks of butter, melted

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Separate and cut the biscuits in quarters. Mix sugar and cinnamon. Dip each quarter in melted butter and then dredge through sugar and cinnamon mix. Drop them into a greased tube pan. Bake for 30-40 minutes.

I served it with salted caramel ice cream, but even a cup of coffee will do just fine. Enjoy!
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Friday, June 12, 2015

Yard House


      130 different varieties of beer course through gargantuan metal veins hanging from the roof. They all lead to a beer estuary, a  keg room at the far wall of the space, dimly lit with foggy red lights and barely visible through opaque glass. These are the most distinctive elements of the decor at Yard House in Coral Gables, Florida.
     The rest consists of over sized wood booths with severe black seating that dramatically contrasts the metal on the roof  and the nebulous keg room. I asked if I could take a picture inside the mysterious chamber, and suddenly, troops of servers seemed to mobilize as if I had given a secret code. The manager, a friendly man by the name of Shane, knelt beside me and in furtive tones explained why he couldn't let me in this impenetrable room. He talked about little black boxes with blinking blue strobe lights, all part of a 'proprietary' system to keep the beer pure and sanitary. It all sounded very clandestine, as if I needed security clearance just to hear it all. Basically, I understood "we invented this system, it's classified and if we tell you anymore, we'll have to kill you." And I don't even drink beer!
     John, however, does like experimenting with hop juice, and this time he chose the Lost Coast Tangerine Wheat which they served with two orange wedges on the side. I guess they're supposed to enhance the tangerine flavor. After squeezing the juice of both wedges, I asked him if he detected the citrus and he said there was "something there." Hmm... I don't know what that means.
     I ordered the sweetest cocktail on the menu, the Malibu Peach, a mixture of rum, vodka and island punch. I wondered where the 'peach' would come from, but there it was mixed in the punch, the delicate nectar to complete my confection in a martini glass.
     Besides the covert mission adventure, other things made this meal enjoyable. The menu is extensive and varied. John and I picked items from the Snacks and Appetizers sections and the portions were the most generous I've ever seen for starter dishes.We even had enough to take home! John ordered the sliders, and four chubby sandwiches came with a hill of shoestring fries. This is an appetizer? I ordered the crispy Brussels sprouts and the chicken strips. Now, everyone would eat their veggies if they were always served like this- crispy, tangy, served with roasted potatoes over a malt vinegar aioli. The chicken strips were standard issue and also arrived in the company of a mound of shoestring fries. However, they also came with a captivating maple mustard dipping sauce. Without a doubt, mustard's romance with maple syrup is sweeter and happier than its traditional relationship with honey.
     You can't help feeling contented when you're fed so generously, even if the dishes aren't spectacular, and contentment leads to dessert. I love when I see a dessert sampler option on the menu because it means I can get a real taste for what that particular kitchen does with sweets. The Mini Trio Sampler included a chocolate soufflĂ© cake, a peach apple cobbler and a lemon soufflĂ© cake. The lemon cake was the only disappointment. Lemon desserts should go "Bam!" in your mouth with the perfect balance of sweet and citrus.You really had to search deep for any hint of lemon in this version.The chocolate was rich and pillowy. Surprisingly, I thought the headliner was the peach apple cobbler. I don't care much for apple desserts, but this one was luscious in its sweetness, the peach adding an extra layer of flavor, the crunchy sugar of the crumble topping remaining in your mouth as a souvenir.
     Maybe not every dish wows, but the menu contains a little bit of everything, and many offerings, although commonplace in most American fare menus, have whimsical elements that set them apart. No matter what you order, though, you won't go hungry at Yard House.

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