Friday, March 08, 2013

Best Of: Posts

As I've done with the restaurants I've visited and the recipes I've interpreted and/or created, I tried to hone down my 1,700+ posts into 10 favorites.  I failed utterly.  So below, in chronological order, are my favorite 25ish posts of this blog.  Okay, I know you're thinking "John, damnit, man, winnow this down a bit!"  To which I say, "Well, I would but this blog only has a few more days to go, so what the heck, why not do more?"  Besides, I've never been all that decisive anyway.  So here, in chronological order, are my favorite posts from The Baltimore Snacker.

"Trailer Park Cooking Special with Jolene: Pinto Bean Fudge" (published December 10, 2006) - Why the hell doesn't Jolene Sugarbaker, the Trailer Park Queen, have her own cooking show on LOGO yet?  Or at least the Country Music Channel?

A spray of hons - not in the post mentioned below.  I just liked the photo.

"Baltimore Festivals: Festival-a-Go-Go! Part III - Honfest" (published June 10, 2007) - Not my most interesting writing, but I am amused by the people I snapped shots of while there.

"Artscape - in haiku" (published July 25, 2007) - My first Artscape trip. / Felt the urge to blog about / it all in haiku.  Blogging in poem format has been one of the sillier things I've done, and I get a kick out of it.  Other silly notable examples include one memorable trip to Rehoboth Beach (in haiku), one live blog of an episode of The Next Food Network Star season 5 (also in haiku format) and 2008's Great Tastes Show (not in haiku this time, but enclosing rhyme quatrains!)

"Amsterdam Trip Part Vijf: Wagamama" (published March 28, 2008) - Ever since some friends living in London introduced me to Wagamama during a New Year's visit in 2006/07, I've been eager to try them out wherever I can find them.  I dragged my friend Jim to the one in Amsterdam when we visited a few years ago.  Since then I've been waiting for them to expand their stateside offerings to just more than the three they have in Boston.

"NFNS4 Live-Blogging: Finale!" (published July 27, 2008) - Today we have a ridiculous bevy of cooking challenge shows, from celebrity wanna-be chefs to amazing food truck races to CUPCAKE WARS!!! (the phrase "cupcake wars" should not exist).  Way back when there were really only three to speak of - Top Chef, Iron Chef and the Next Food Network Star - I enjoyed snarking over the Top Chef show in live blog format.  I enjoyed it so much in fact that I decided one day in June 2008 to do the same to season 4 of the Next Food Network Star.  Yes, the same season that gave us Aaron McCargo and his long-forgotten Big Daddy's Kitchen, silly man Adam Gertler and the incredibly perky!!!1! Kelsey Nixon (now on the Cooking Channel, still incredibly perky!!!1! too).  And runner-up Lisa Garza?  She is a restaurateur in Dallas.

"Rebuilding the Enchanted Forest" (published July 15, 2008) - When I finally got to Clark's Elioak Farm in Ellicott City, a flood of childhood memories came rushing back.  So many of the iconic monuments that had once lay decaying Life After People-style somewhere off Route 40 were now in a farm in Howard County that anyone with a few bucks could go visit and recapture some of that youthful magic that Baltimoreans of a certain age lost when the original Enchanted Forest burned down in 1990.  Plus there are baby goats, because, well, baby goats.  I kid you not.

"Cochinita Pibil" (published August 3, 2008) - Ah yes, that favorite Yucatecan cousin to pork barbecue, which I have eaten so much of in Mexico and the US.  I tried to recreate it using a Rick Bayless recipe, with satisfying results.

"Semi-Homemade Halloween Craziness 2008" (published October 27, 2008) - Watch as pseudo-chef-lebrity Sandra Lee dazzles as a bevy of various historical queens for her 2008 Halloween special.  Thrill as she gets drunk off crappy cocktail after crappy cocktail, and makes some sort of strange ham ball appetizer.  Oh yes, and somehow I interject RuPaul into all of this. She actually topped herself in 2011 with this hour-long Alice in Cray-Cray-Land Halloween special, which I gave the same treatment a year later.

"I should not be allowed into Wegman's, like, ever" (published November 25, 2008) - I got a little pissy after a pre-Thanksgiving visit to Wegman's.

"Snacking around the Beltway - Final Assessment" (published January 18, 2009) - I didn't rank any particular Beltway Snacking post as a favorite.  How could I?  Each was a piece of a larger project that just can't really be parsed apart.  The final assessment is a nice summary of the whole project and really sums up my attitude towards it.

I must have written my best stuff in 2009 from the looks of it...

"Kitchen Experiments: Popping Sorghum" (published March 19, 2009) - Easily my most popular post with those who don't follow me on a regular basis (31 comments as of this writing), it seems like my initial failed attempt to do this attracted a lot of people trying to do the same.  All because of Andrew Zimmern's Ethiopia episode of Bizarre Foods.  My recent follow up post was much more successful.

"How to Pack Beer and Wine into Your Luggage" (published June 3, 2009) - Back before New Belgium hit the Chesapeake region, I had to resort to this to get it at home.  Also works with other beers we can't get back here.

"Georgia on My GPS Part 3: Moon River Brewing Company / Savannah Candy Kitchen" (published June 27, 2009) - Dang, I did a lot of traveling that summer of 2009, didn't I?  When I was visiting my sister and her family, now firmly ensconced in Savannah, we hit up the Moon River Brewing Company for some grub.  Apparently, it's haunted.  I didn't see anything. I was too busy with my microbrew sampler to notice.

"LP Steamers... and several local food bloggers" (published July 26, 2009) - Crabs, friends, colleagues, crabs, oysters, beer, crabs...

"On 'Julie & Julia' and the act of food blogging" (published August 14, 2009) - I think Julie & Julia - the legendary American chef who made French cooking accessible and really the first true food blogger in America - affected a lot of food bloggers in different ways.  The post ended up being more about Powell's observations in an article in The Atlantic about how the movie "Julie" is not the real life Julie.  She also writes a bit about food blogging being a narcissistic venture.  That's not meant in a bad way, but I had to agree with her that it is, in part, exactly that for all of us - otherwise, why write about what you are doing?  I still haven't gotten around to making boeuf bourgignon, but that's a task for another day.

"Moon Pie vs Whoopie Pie: The Taste Test" (published October 1, 2009) - The Yankees have truly invaded, as the favorite dessert of Maine has swept across the country in spectacular fashion. I remember prior to 2008 I thought a whoopie pie was some kind of Moon Pie.  Maryland is still Moon Pie country, but I had to taste the two to find out the difference.  I must admit I have eaten a larger share of whoopie pies since, though a good Moon Pie is rarely something to pass up.

"Bacon Cook-Off: Bacon & Pancetta Wot" (published June 3, 2010) - Thanks to Dara Bunjon for this experience.  This was fun.  I was in a bacon cooking contest at the Great Grapes Wine Fest with Kathy "MinxEats" Patterson and Kit "Mango & Ginger" Pollard.  I combined two things that just don't get seen together - pork in various formats and Ethiopian food (Ethiopians for the most part do not eat pork - not Jewish, Muslim or Orthodox Christian Ethiopians).  The result was delicious. I think I came in second or something.  I won some wine from Boordy.

"Food Network vs Cooking Channel" (published July 31, 2010) - Here I lay out why I pretty much stopped watching the Food Network and made the switch to the eminently more informative Cooking Channel (both made by the same folks): one emphasizes its personalities, the other its food.  Update: I barely watch the Food Network anymore, but often cannot get away from the Cooking Channel.  Here's to Nadia, Ching-He and Chuck, and yes even the aforementioned Kelsey the Perky!1!!! and Bobby Dean trying to slim down Mama Paula's recipes.

"Food Truck Crawl on the Miracle Mile in LA!" (published May 25, 2011) Move over, Portland!  LA has some awesome food trucks, too, serving up everything from Korean-Mexican fusion tacos to samosas to hot dogs to frybread, and soooo much more.  And what better place to shill all this stuff than across the street from the gorgeous LA County Museum of Art?

"Snacking State-by-State: Illinois V - She Fed Me... with Science!" (published June 2, 2011) - I could do a list of my favorite State-by-State posts alone.  This project easily lasted about a third of the blog's entire lifespan, and most of the posts in the last year have been specifically tied to this series.  Why did I choose this post instead of the one where I bought myself a nice 12" cast iron skillet to make Chicago deep dish pizza (also Illinois), or the one where I peeled crawfish to make a buttery, silky étouffée (Louisiana), or the one where I taught myself how to make poi of all things (Hawaii)?  I chose this post because it taught me a thing or two about molecular gastronomy.  Using a free sample of tapioca maltodextrin, I turned olive oil into something almost dry and powdery.  While this experiment didn't go quite the way it should have, by the time I got to the ensuing mashup recipe I made a truly successful nutella powder.  I'm going to have to explore this stuff some more.

"Snacking State-by-State: Maryland I - Crab cakes like mah great-great-aunt used tah make, hon" (published August 28, 2011) - After digging out my Aunt Florence's hand-scrawled ledger book filled with recipes (some were probably not hers, others probably were), I had to try out one of her two crab cake recipes, which ended up tasting just like one my mother ate often as a little girl.  And I got to go back in time with food.

"Wedding in Provincetown I: Civil Marriage is a Right" (published September 20, 2011) - Sure, same-sex marriage is now legal right in my own backyard, but my friends Alan & Eric didn't have that luxury when they decided to finally tie the knot a few years ago.  They wanted to go to where it all first became legal: the Bay State, and the gayest, most lesbiany city in America, Provincetown.  It really was a beautiful wedding in a lovely gay resort I had never visited before, and hopefully can again.  But when the time comes (meaning when I land myself a man.  Still looking...) I probably won't be going all the way to New England to do it.  I won't have to.

I didn't have a lot of favorites from 2012 it seems.  A few of those are covered in the recent best of recipe post.  But a few of the posts I remember fondly from the last twelve months include:

"Snacking State-by-State: North Carolina I - East Is East, West Is West, Never the Twain Shall Meet" (published March 11, 2012) and "Snacking State-by-State: North Carolina II - It's All About the Lexingtons" (published March 14, 2012) - Out of all the barbecue recipes I've done for the State series and not, I choose these two together because with this I learned how to convert my slow cooker into a food smoker.  Honestly, it can be done.  This is best for the things that have to smoke for a very long time.  You can also transform your oven into a food smoker, as I did for these Kansas City and Memphis ribs (Missouri and Tennessee respectively).  Plus, it's pork barbecue!

"Austin City, Unlimited Part I - Of Barbecue and Barbacoa" (published June 5, 2012) - I went to Austin for a conference and came back with a few extra pounds, as would anyone.  While I didn't find the heat that bad (Palm Springs in August: now that's bad, and I lived with that sort of heat for several summers in my life), I was happy to get indoors nonetheless and experience some of the delicious Texas barbecue and Mexican / Tex-Mex barbacoa the city had to offer.  Someday I will return, Austin, oh yes.

That was difficult - as many posts as I have mentioned above, it was still pretty tough to winnow down the list to just a few of these favorites.  But this is a good representative sample of the stuff I wrote that I remember most fondly from these past 6 1/2 years, and it works for me.  Besides, this post is long enough as it is.