Sherwood Gourmet

Wed, Jul 27 • 0

There’s a little sandwich shop named Sherwood Gourmet, not too far from where I live, that I’ve been trying to help stay in business all summer long, even though they managed just fine without me for over 2 decades. My wife suggested we try it one day, and I’ve been going once or twice a week, feeding myself, my wife, and any number of my nephews, who have been working to help get my back yard into some kind of shape. Their prices there are only slightly more expensive than those at the Subway chain, so we’re trying to work our way through their extensive menu of sandwiches. Mind you, there are about 2 dozen different choices from their list of standards and all have been very good, but here are some stand outs worth recommending.

#1 — Little Italy :  Mortadella, capicolla, salami, provolone, lettuce, tomatoes, red onion, oil & vinegar, hot peppers, on a kaiser roll.  This is a popular sandwich among my small circle of taste-testers. One nephew has ordered it twice, though he’s decided it needs extra hot peppers. I think the amount they put on is fine. $6.99

#2 — Suzanne’s Favorite (aka The Suzy) : Smoked turkey, black forest ham, havarti cheese, lettuce, honey mustard, on rye. This is my wife’s sandwich of choice. $6.50

#3 — The Hawaiian : Sweet challah bread, avocado, chicken tarragon salad. I have no idea why this is even remotely related to Hawaii. Maybe it used to use hawaiian sweet bread at some point. The chicken salad has a noticable and pleasant tarragon flavor. I think I prefer this on whole wheat, though. $5.99

#4 — Sherwood Egg Salad : Egg salad on toasted pumpernickle with lettuce. As simple and basic as it gets but very satisfying. $4.50

#5 — Bumble Bee: Black forest ham, smoked turkey, swiss, onions, honey mustard, on challah. The onions provide a nice bite. We prefer it on something other than the challah, though. $5.99

Honorable mentions :

FCPD (presumably “Fairfax County Police Department”) : Hot pastrami, provolone, on a baguette toasted with onions, yellow mustard, a little mayo, and pickles. This is a pretty huge sandwich. One nephew managed to finish it, but decided he’d eaten too much. It’s a hot sandwich. I’ve yet to order it and taste it for myself. $6.50

South of France : Pate de Champagne, brie, dijon mustard, lettuce on a baguette. This is a rich sandwich. You have to really like pate to enjoy it. We’ve ordered it a couple of times. I found the pate to be a little much, but one nephew calls this sandwich his favorite. It’s also the most expensive sandwich on the menu. $7.50

The staff that works there is incredibly friendly, and if you can’t find something that appeals on their regular menu, they’ll happily make substitutions, or help you come up with something that suits you exactly. I still have a bunch more sandwiches to try. In the meantime, you should go visit them at 7900 Andrus Road, in Alexandria, VA, two blocks south of the Sherwood Hall Library.

Sherwood Gourmet
703-799-4041
M-F 7a-7p Sat 9a-6p Sun 10a-4p


Trader Joe’s Taste Test : Frozen Langoustine Tails

Fri, Jun 5 • 4

langoustineThe package instructions couldn’t have been more tempting : “Thaw, rinse with cold water, and serve.” About the size of medium sized shrimp these little pink curls have the consistency of lobster or crab, which isn’t surprising, because they come from the same family. Langoustines are north atlantic lobsters, usually harvested in Scotland and Norway. Unfortunately, these particular langoustines have zero flavor. I can’t think of any preparation method that would have improved them, short of not buying them. Grade: F.


Southern Restaurants

Mon, May 4 • 0

On a recent trip down south, my (other) brother, his son, and I managed to hit a couple of fine and famous eateries on a road trip to Nashville and Memphis, Tennessee, ending up in Huntsville, Alabama. Although we only went to each place once, we tried to go for variety in what we ordered.

We all agreed that the Loveless Cafe in Nashville was, hands down, the best meal we had. Down-home-style food, friendly waiter, and an endless supply of homemade buscuits. I had the country ham plate, with a side of collards and carrots. My brother, Tom, had their pit-smoked turkey breast with cranberry barbecue sauce. My nephew, TJ had the fried chicken. (TJ, 16, born in Richmond, but raised on Cape Cod, claimed it was the best fried chicken and the best biscuits he’d ever eaten in his life.) I have a feeling, if I were a local, I’d be a fixture at this place. So, so very good, and definitely worth revisiting. (Open 7 AM – 9 PM, 7 days a week. 8400 Hwy 100, Nashville, Tenn. 615-646-9700.)  Review @ Roadfood.com / Loveless Cafe Menu

I’d intended to make this trip all about southern barbeque, but neglected to confirm this with my traveling companions, who only had a very limited appetite for the delicacy. Internet searches claimed that the best bbq in Nashville was in the touristy part of town. Called Jack’s, the ribs were pretty smokey, almost too smokey for my taste, and they were served dry, though there were several options of sauce to choose from. Tom had a pulled pork sandwich, and my nephew had the pulled chicken. They both thought it was pretty good.

The other bbq restaurant we tried was called Interstate, in Memphis, the city of bbq. I’d gotten several recommendations about this being the best place in the best city for bbq. I ordered the combination platter, so I could try everything they had to offer. It came with a couple beef and pork ribs, some pulled pork, and pulled beef, and some smoked sausage. It was all covered in a thin bbq sauce, so the plate looked bloody. The spicy sausage was the best, I think, while the pork ribs and the pulled beef were close runners up. It also came with a side order of bbq’d spaghetti, which I was told to specifically look out for. I wasn’t too impressed, unfortunately. Regular spaghetti coated in more of the sauce and bits of pulled pork, I think. I guess I was hoping for a transcendental experience, being in the best of the best bbq restaurants, so maybe I was expecting too much. I almost think I’ve had better bbq here in Virginia than the stuff I got that day. I’ve since read that some locals think the place has gone downhill in recent years.

I really should have sampled more places while I had the chance. The other places we ate were unmentionable — chosen for convenience rather than quality food — a necessity on a road trip. I do hope to get back to the Loveless Cafe again, though.


Why are people afraid of pressure cookers?

Wed, Mar 18 • 1

Don’t let your grandma’s tale of kitchen terror dissuade you from using this great time-saving device.

(I realize I’ve been talking incessantly about my new toy, so I hope you’ll indulge me a little longer…)

Aside from the rattle of an old-fashioned pressure cooker, and the escaping of steam, there’s really nothing on the face of them that make them any different from a regular pot and lid. Except for the possibility of them exploding. And you might even have some family lore that would justify the fear.

The pressure cooker was invented back in the early 20th century, and was used as a method for industrial canning. They didn’t make it to the home market until the late 1930’s, and were thought to be completely safe. (They were even used on early transcontinental airline flights to provide hot meals for passengers.) Then came World War II, and the US government was hungry for the aluminum that the pressure cookers were made from. Companies that manufactured them were retooled to make military equipment, like airplane engine parts. Housewives were encouraged to donate their pots and pans for the war effort. After the war, the swords returned to ploughshares, and companies retooled once again to make household goods. But the quality of the pots and pans weren’t that great. Production methods favored quantity over quality. Tons of cheap, poorly made pressure cookers hit the market in the late 40’s and early 50’s, and they had the reputation — rightfully so — of exploding under the higher than normal pressures. So if you were a lucky enough cook not to personally experience an in-kitchen detonation, chances are you were wary enough of them to tuck the pots in the deepest depths of your cupboards — only to have them be resurrected by your heirs in the 70’s, who also experienced the same disasterous results.

These days, however, the newer pressure cookers are designed with safety features — pressure regulating systems, and durable, high-quality stainless steel construction. There’s little reason to fear them now.

And there’s certainly no reason to splurge on the electronic gadgetry that mesmerized me recently. Although I’ve used it for some aspect of every meal I’ve made since I bought it — either for the main course, or for a side dish — you can certainly make do with a less expensive, more conventional model. It’ll just require a little more attention and care, but you’ll save a lot on the price. A good 6 quart pressure cooker can be had for as little as $40.

One thing I’ve really noticed while working with mine is that pressure cookers seem to eat up garlic. No matter how many cloves of garlic I add, the flavor just vanishes.


Hook, Line and Sinker

Wed, Mar 4 • 0

Ok. So I fell for it.

I watched Jacques Pepin make chili con carne in an electric pressure cooker. I didn’t even know these things existed. I’d been contemplating purchasing a regular pressure cooker for awhile now. I added one to my Amazon shopping cart; I turned down the corner of the page in the Sur la Table catalog … but nothing pushed me over the edge until I watched this cooking show.

He just poured the dried beans into the pot right out of the bag. He added raw hamburger, and water and canned tomatoes and tomato paste and spices. He clamped on the lid, and said that he’d have chili in an hour. (I’ve snipped out just the parts where he demonstrates the chili recipe … the first video is the prep, and the second one shows him serving it. The whole episode is here.)

I looked on the internet, and saw recipes for pot roast in less than an hour. Chicken stock in 40 minutes. I read that this cooker let you brown your meat in it first without making you dirty up another pan. It also has a setting that lets you simmer the contents once the pressure is off, to keep it warm. Contrary to his demonstration, it really doesn’t seem to be designed to let you put the ingredients in, then go off to work or the store, and have it wait, and then turn itself on 45 minutes before you get home. Instead, the timer is more a way to limit the amount of time the food cooks under pressure — the device will build up the pressure, cook for the time you’ve set on the timer, and then shut off. (On re-reading the manual, it’ll cook for the allotted time, and then switch to “simmer” mode — so I guess you could set it up, let it cook, and then it’ll keep warm all day long while you were shopping or at work.)

Well, of course I had to have one. I had some credit built up on Amazon, so I ordered it.

And then I re-watched the cooking show, and only then realized that the whole damn show is sponsored by Cuisinart, the people who make the electric pressure cooker. What’s more, the unsweetened chocolate he puts in is made by yet another of his sponsors. I realized I’d been bamboozled. Oh, Jacques! How could you? If anyone would resist being a infomercial pitch-man, it’d be you.

So, the cooker showed up this afternoon, and I was tempted to make dinner using it, but then I figured I should wait and try some of the recipes from the little cookbook that came with it, instead of just winging it. I don’t have much buyer’s remorse. I’m still glad I bought it, but the proof will be in the pudding.

Cuisinart CPC-600 1000-Watt 6-Quart Electric Pressure Cooker, $149


Mysterious Food on the Internets

Wed, Dec 10 • 0

twinkiesDaily Lunch is a japanese site detailing one obsessive artist’s lunch box, and their artistic creative presentations.

How frozen pizzas are made. What’s in a twinkie?

(Amazing. Twinkies have been around for 78 years! They’ve been around as long as the Chrysler Building, in New York, and Betty Boop. Here are more events from 1930.)


Welsh Rabbit

Wed, Nov 19 • 0

This was one of my granddad’s favorites. It’s very economical. You can probably make it for less than $5 total provided you have all the seasonings on hand. (Especially if you grab your cheddar from the dairy aisle of the grocery store, instead of the specialty cheese or deli section.) Supposedly the name dates back to early eighteenth-century England, when meat was so expensive that the poor could only eat cheaper cuts, like rabbit, which was the cheapest meat of all. But, as the slur goes, even rabbit was too expensive for the Welsh, and so they were forced to substitute cheese for meat. I’ve always considered this meal to be luxurious.

2 cups (½ lb. or 250g) aged, sharp Cheddar, grated
1 tablespoon (15g) butter
½ cup (125ml) beer
1 egg, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon dry mustard
pinch of cayenne pepper
sliced bread, toasted

Melt butter and cheese together over low heat; stir in the beer and continue to stir until the mixture is well blended. Remove from heat and beat in egg and seasonings. Arrange several slices of toast in a shallow pan and pour the rarebit over them. Brown briefly under a broiler and serve while still bubbling. Serves 2, or 4 as an appetizer.

(I really have no idea why Winsor McCay made such a big deal about the hallucinatory properties of this dish, but do let me know if you have any weird dreams after eating it!)

Dream of the Rarebit Fiend. by Winsor McCay, The New York Evening Telegram, May 30, 1908;
Waking Dream of the Rarebit Fiend
, Boston Globe, Oct. 31, 2007;
Dream of The Rarebit Fiend: The Saturdays
, by Winsor McCay.


Great Food Processor, only $100

Wed, Sep 24 • 2

I’m not sure how long this deal will last, but if you need a new food processor, or don’t have one yet, Amazon is selling this Cuisinart food processor for $80 off its list price, a savings of 44%. This is the same model I’ve used since 2005, and I have no complaints about it. It works great, and this is a great, great price.


The Omnivore’s Hundred

Thu, Aug 28 • 1

A foodie blogger in the UK has manufactured a meme and came up with a list of 100 items for people to repost on their blogs to say what they’ve eaten, what they haven’t, and what they won’t. I managed to tick off 71 items, and only indicated 4½ items I wouldn’t ever touch : horse, roadkill, head cheese, a raw scotch bonnet pepper, and a fat cigar (which was listed with cognac, something I’m more than happy to drink).

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred


Keep reading…


More from the Road

Wed, Aug 6 • 0

When you’re the only one who can cook, and you’re used to cooking for two and have to feed a crowd.

Well, it looks like I’m the chief cook on this visit to my in-laws. Not that I mind much, though it is a little stressful, especially since I’m not used to cooking for a crowd. Two nights ago, I improvised and just picked up various grillable things (two ribeye steaks, two orange roughy filets, and an assortment of bratwurst and mittwurst, all of which I cooked on my sis-in-laws gas grill, along with some storebought potato/macaroni salad and cole slaw.) Last night, given time to plan, I completely overdid it and made twice as much food as was required. (I made a pan full of manicotti (cheese) and a pan full of cannelloni (meat), with garlic bread and salad greens.) The first night, the mixed grill was a great success, with only a couple of the hot dogs left over. Last night, half of each of the trays of pasta remained, with the manicotti being slightly more popular. Compounded by my unfamiliarity to the kitchen I’m working in, and that it belongs to a person who really doesn’t cook much, so a trip to the store sometimes involves buying the cooking equipment as well.

The pasta was improvised from the manicotti recipe I posted last February, as best I could remember it. i wimped out and used jarred spaghetti sauce in the interest of saving time. The cannelloni was stuffed with browned ground buffalo meat, onion, oregano and garlic, that I whizzed briefly in the food processor to get a finer mixture. The meat rolls were harder to make than the cheese rolls because the meat mixture kept dribbling out of the tubes as I filled them. I was afraid when I took them out of the oven, since the pasta on the cannelloni looked a little dry, but they were fine. Next time, I think more liquid to the ground meat mixture might solve both the filling and the baking issues. I even made a bechemel sauce which I anointed each pan with before putting them in the oven.

I also tried making a summer fruit crumble (blueberries, black raspberries, and white peaches, tossed with some flour and sugar, as well as some orange zest and orange juice, and topped with a mixture of flour, oatmeal, brown sugar, pie spices and butter … based on a recipe I saw Ina Garten make), but I didn’t take into account that it’s supposed to be served warm or at room temp, and it was past 8 before I even took it out of the oven. I figured I’ll serve that with dinner tonight. Instead, I improvised and broke out one of the jars of peach preserves I brought down as gifts, and spooned them over vanilla ice cream, and that seemed to be a good success.

If I could just get away from being such a control freak in the kitchen, it might be less stressful. i had plenty of offers for assistance, and my sister-in-law actually does want to get more proficient in the kitchen. I will make an effort to let her help me make the dinner tonight.

Yesterday we went to a local foodie landmark, Jungle Jim’s — a one-of-a-kind super-duper supermarket — part supermarket, part carnival, really. They’ve taken cast offs from a nearby amusement park in an effort to jazz up the place, so shoppers are greeted by giant fiberglass animals in a mock oasis, as well as a non-functioning monorail system. Once inside the warehouse-sized store, it’s hard not to be dazzled by the selection. Their international foods section is amazing. Where most stores have a section of one aisle devoted to different world cuisines, Jungle Jims offers aisle upon aisle to products from different countries. I took one or two covert pictures (cameras aren’t allowed inside), which I’ll upload and post later. One standout highlight is their hot sauce aisles – yes, aisles — every hot sauce made on the planet can be bought at Jungle Jim’s, I think. Hundreds of different bottles. Jungle Jim’s

Today, the plan is to go to the Findlay farmer’s market in Cinci, and perhaps a trip to the Newport Aquarium, if all goes well. I’m not sure what’s gonna be on the menu tonight. Probably leftovers, if they’ll have it, augmented with something fresh from the grill — shrimp or fish, I think.

Some of the delicacies available at Findlay Market.


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