Staying Local – May 16, 2020

Today I decided to stay close to home when going out and about. We still have limited openings, and it was going to be a hot day (close to 80), so I didn’t want to wander too far from home.

I read some good news earlier in the week. One of my local favorites, The French Twist Cafe, re-opened on May 13th with limited hours. They were going to be open at 8AM this morning, so I wanted to get there as close to opening time as possible. I’m glad that I did. There were only three people in front of me when I got there, but there was a line that was starting to accumulate before I left.

Tempting as it might have been to get a crepe, I decided to go with an almond croissant and a Mocha Frappe. I missed this place, and they still have a great focus on quality. When I walked into the store, they had areas taped off for distancing as well as partitions. They wiped down the credit cards and all machines in between customer orders, so they were diligent with keeping with the current recommendations. The food is the main focus. Although I had been considering a crepe, the almond croissant looked too good to pass up. It was a really good croissant. The exterior was nice and crunchy, then you got some flakiness when biting through the croissant, and you ended up with the mild almond flavor. It was a very good almond croissant. The mocha frappe was delicious. I really enjoy their drinks, so I’m glad I was finally able to go back. The flavor and consistency were on point, as always, so they did not skip a beat in terms of quality.

Since it was still in the low to mid 70s in the morning, I decided to take a drive in the countryside and took a few moments to enjoy nature (from a relative distance). Sometimes we focus too much on what is behind us and what is directly in front of us, but we never consider to look a bit beyond and take an appreciation for what else is out there.

When it was time for lunch, I decided to stay close to home again and made my way back over to the Big Belly Deli.

I decided to go with the Italian Cold Cut sandwich. Bologna, ham, pepperoni, salami, lettuce, tomato, hots, red onions, Italian dressing and Provolone cheese on sourdough bread. This was a huge sandwich (it filled me up so much that I didn’t need to eat dinner. The combination of everything in this sandwich was just incredible. I especially like the hots, since they had a little bit of sweet heat to each bite. I didn’t just stop with the sandwich, though.

I also decided to go with a chocolate chip lava cake. If you think it looks good just like that, it was even better once I cut into it.

The liquid chocolate flowing out of this was truly a delight. The cake itself was really good, but having the liquid chocolate made those bites even better.

I was happy to stay local for breakfast and lunch (both within a mile from my house). I’m not sure if I’ll be venturing too far tomorrow, but today was definitely a good way to start the weekend and stay positive.

A Weekend of Appreciation for the Local Small Businesses

This past weekend, I went to quite a few of the local small businesses. These were all local to me, either in Sykesville or Eldersburg. There are other places I considered visiting, but last weekend involved the implementation of the face covering requirements here in Maryland, so I wanted to limit my interactions.

I was able to make a few basic masks for myself, which were better than using the bandana with an ever loosening knot. I purchased some socks and some gauze pads, cut the socks lengthwise, cut some earholes and used some safety pins to hold in the gauze pads. I’ll be trying those out next weekend, just to see how they hold up to the elements.

More importantly, on to the food.

My weekend started on Friday morning. As part of my new routine, I go to Kismet Cafe. They open at 6 AM, so I get there as close to opening as possible. There are no other people there, I can get my food and have plenty of time to eat before I start working. This past Friday, I ordered a Kismeccino, which is always good. I also ordered an egg and cheese sandwich on an asiago bagel, which was a really good way to start the morning.

When my work day ended on Friday, I decided to make the short trip to Big Belly Deli. I ordered the Rachel, which is turkey, Cole slaw, Swiss cheese, and thousand island on their toasted sourdough bread. Absolutely delicious. I would like to say that I can’t believe that I ate the whole thing, but I do it every time. It’s too good to stop eating.

The thing that made me really happy was that they were also selling loaves of their sourdough. This picture is taken from my house on one of my cutting boards, it’s not how it was handed over to me. I used this bread for the onion dip I made on Saturday night, and I used it a few times since then. It is a really good bread, so I’m glad that they had some loaves available.

I did not stop on Friday, though. I went out Saturday just before noon, and had two places that I wanted to visit if they were open and not too busy.

The first stop was at Smoky’s BBQ. I wasn’t sure exactly what I was going to get prior to walking in the door, but when I saw beef ends on the menu, I knew that I had to get that. They give you a choice of barbecue sauce, and I went with mild. The beef ends had nice flavor, but they also had really good texture. They weren’t too hard to bite into and weren’t too chewy. They were the right consistency and the smoky flavor of the meat worked well with the barbecue sauce. I had some of it for lunch on Saturday night, but left the rest for a sandwich to be made later. I knew that I would be making the onion dip on Saturday night, and had the idea to make a sandwich with the sourdough bread, the beef ends, and the onion dip.

After picking up the food at Smoky’s, I stopped off at Dandelion Bakery. It’s really close to my house, so it was on the way. They had window service and there was no line. I was able to park right in front and ordered a chocolate chip cookie. They run out of things fast, so I was fortunate to get them while I could. These are really good chocolate chip cookies. They are nice and soft on the inside, and they use a good chocolate. It was a great dessert!

When Sunday came around, I was able to make the sandwich I had been dreaming up. It was a perfect sandwich for the weekend. I had the bread from Big Belly Deli, the beef ends from Smoky’s BBQ and my homemade onion dip. This sandwich worked out much better than expected. I toasted the bread a little and heated up the beef ends, but kept the onion dip cold. The flavors all came together really well.

I have a feeling I might be ordering delivery this week, but I’ll want it to be something local (either local small business, or local small franchise). I don’t know what the weekend will hold for me. I know how my Friday morning will start, but I’m not sure about the rest of the week. I will just have to see how things go.

Full disclosure: my initial title for this post was going to be Living La Vida Local, but I think quite a few people would probably be rolling their eyes at that. Stay positive!

Big Belly Deli – Sykesville, MD – 3/18/20

These last few weeks have been very different. This past week in particular, even more so. With everything going on, a lot of stores are closed, but some restaurants are open for Carry-out, Drive Thru, and Delivery. I think that the larger corporations will be able to weather the storm, but the small businesses are going to struggle.

During a normal work week, I work from home and don’t go out anywhere until the weekend. I decided to change things up this week, to try and show some support to the small businesses while I can. I’m still cautious and making sure that I am okay before leaving the house. Yesterday, I decided to make my way over to Big Belly Deli, which is a favorite of mine.

I had checked online earlier in the day and saw that their special was blackened chicken nachos with guacamole, salsa, and sour cream. That was reason enough for me to get out of the house after work. Although I really enjoy the food there, the people who work there make it even better. The person who greeted me immediately called me by my name, which made me feel more welcome. I asked if they were still serving the nachos, and they confirmed that they were. These were really good nachos. The blackened chicken has a great flavor. The chips were warm and crispy. The cheese was melted just a little, but not too much that it was all gooey. And the bites with the accompaniments were even better. This was a great batch of nachos, so I was happy that I went out and got these.

They also had some nice looking desserts. I went with the Saint Patrick’s Day themed cake. The cake itself was very moist and the frosting was light and fluffy. The lucky charms marshmallows were a nice touch, and this was a great way to end the night. I’ve always enjoyed their desserts, and this was no exception.

I was happy to support one of my local favorites. And with the people that work there greeting me so enthusiastically, it was definitely easy to stay positive.

Dandelion Bakery – Sykesville, MD – March 2020

There are times when I have dessert cravings, and I don’t have time to stray too far from home. Fortunately, Dandelion Bakery checks off both of those boxes. I decided to make my way back there earlier this week. I looked through the many different offerings, and decided on slices of two different desserts: Tres Leches and Peanut Butter Pie.

The first dessert I ate was the Tres Leches. In general, Tres Leches is a dessert that I would only opt for every so often (something with chocolate is my usual preference). I’m glad I tried this one, though, because it was really good. The cake itself was nice and light, but very moist. The meringue topping was delicate and provided a nice balance to the cake. A whole bunch of sweetness in every bite, but that’s what desserts are usually about (for me, at least). I ate every last bite and was happy with the experience. Something I would definitely get again.

The next dessert I ate was the Peanut Butter Pie. I did not eat both of these at the same time, although I could see myself doing that on certain days. The majority of the bites was the peanut butter filling. Slightly dense, very sweet, and bursting with peanut butter flavor. The chocolate cookie crust had some nice flavor and texture, and I would have wanted to have even more with this. Having this topped with chocolate chips and chocolate sauce made it even better. The crust and the topping provided a nice balance of flavor and texture, which made those bites truly wonderful. This was another great dessert and I’m looking forward to going back for more!

Easy to keep happy and positive thoughts when eating this well!

Reuben Crepe – French Twist Cafe – Sykesville, MD

Ah, March. Great time of year. There were some great people born in the month of March, as well as some so-so people. Nod and a wink on that one. But for me, March is the time for Shamrock shakes and for corned beef. Sometimes in Sandwich form, sometimes with Cabbage, and sometimes in some other extraordinary way.

I am a fan of French Twist Cafe. Not just because it’s close to me, but because the coffee drinks and food are really good. I had the Reuben Crepe last year, so seeing that it was back for March, I knew I was going to order it again.

The Reuben Crepe comes with Corned Beef, Sauerkraut, Swiss cheese, caraway seeds, and Thousand Island dressing. I’m not the biggest fan of sauerkraut, but I can take it in small portions from time to time. This is one of those occasions.

I’ll start by saying how much fun it is to watch them making the crepes right there. Seeing them layer the food on, and then watching as they put on the finishing touches for the presentation.

As nice as it is to look at, it’s even better to eat. The crepes on their own are very good. There is the perfect bite through texture in the middle, and the nice crispness (without being too crispy or crunchy) on the outer edges. This was easy to cut through, which meant that the corned beef was not tough. The sauerkraut was not overbearing at all. It provided a nice textural accompaniment, but the flavor blended well with the corned beef, Swiss cheese, Thousand Island, caraway seeds and the crepe. I enjoyed eating this crepe, and look forward to getting it again if it’s available next March.

Good food and a happy stomach makes it easy to try and stay in a positive frame of mind.

The French Twist – Cannoli Crepe – Sykesville, MD

The Cannoli Crepe is my favorite crepe at The French Twist in Sykesville, MD. Earlier this week, when I saw that they were featuring it again, I knew that would be a destination breakfast for me.

I’m already a fan of The French Twist, and enjoy many of their crepes, but this one is something special. The outside is a traditional crepe, so you get the good flavor of the crepe and the crepe texture as well. The inside is a cannoli cream with chocolate chips, so when you bite into this, it’s like biting into a huge cannoli, but without the hard crunch. The flavor of the cream is very rich and sweet. The chocolate and powdered sugar topping (and the side of whipped cream) add to the sweetness. This would make a great dessert, but I’m okay with sugar at any meal, so I had it for breakfast. The size of this crepe is tremendous. It would be good as a shareable meal, but I was able to devour this on my own.

I had a mocha frappe to go with it, so I really loaded up on the sweets and the calories for breakfast, but I am okay with that. The French Twist always does a great job with their frappes, as well as their crepes. It’s easy to have a positive day when you start the morning with something as delicious as this meal.

French Twist Cafe – Frenchgiving Crepe

About a week or so ago, I noticed there was a new special at French Twist Cafe. I’m not sure how long it had been posted, but once I saw the name and description, I knew I would want to try it. I enjoy some of the seasonal foods, and around this time, there are holiday sandwiches and holiday bowls that are based upon Thanksgiving. The French Twist cafe has their spin, the Frenchgiving Crepe. Their description says it all. A Thanksgiving dinner served in a crepe: Pulled turkey, cranberries, cornbread stuffing, gravy and seasoning. That has all the ingredients for a meal that I just wouldn’t be able to resist.

Yesterday, I decided to make my way over there. I ordered the specialty crepe and also had their specialty drink, a Pumpkin Frappe. I could have eaten there, but chose to go instead. Their frappes are always really good, and yesterday’s was no different. It was made perfectly, had the right consistency and a really good flavor. It might have been my favorite pumpkin frappe of the season so far.

I like the fact that this restaurant is in a house. When you walk in, the crepe station is about 10-15 feet from the front door. There are a couple of tables on the first floor (and outside), or you can go upstairs for additional seating. When I get a crepe, I like to just stand behind the glass and watch as they make the crepes. I was able to get a picture before they started closing up the crepe. They started by pouring the batter and using the spreader to make it one giant crepe. Once it was flipped over, they started assembling the filling. They started with the turkey, then added the stuffing. Next was sprinkling on the seasoning. The cranberries were added and it was finished off with drizzling the gravy.

They folded it up and put it into a container for me, and I was on my way. It’s hard to tell the dimensions, but this is a very large crepe, especially when you factor in the fillings.

I thought it would be good to take a picture when I was still eating it, so you could hopefully see the fillings in there. I tried the turkey on its own and the stuffing on its own, and they were both really good. The bites that had everything together – crepe, turkey, stuffing, gravy and cranberry – were outstanding. The flavor and texture of the crepe added a really nice component, which made my tastebuds and mouth very happy. This was a new twist (pun intended) on a seasonal sandwich, and I was glad I had the opportunity to try it. It definitely helped me stay positive!

Chicken Fried Steak – Big Belly Deli – 11/8/19

As you are probably aware, I am a big fan of Big Belly Deli in Sykesville, MD. It’s not just because it’s close to my house, it’s because the food is really good. I’ve gone more often than I’ve posted on here. I actually went yesterday and got a cup of chicken corn tortilla soup and a side of Macaroni and Cheese. The macaroni and cheese was really good, so I was happy with that. But the soup was spectacular. It was a cream based soup, had some nice chunks of chicken in there and some really good flavor. They had put a dash of salsa on top and that gave it a unique flavor. I regretted only having a cup instead of a bowl.

I like to check out the breakfast and lunch/dinner specials, just in case something really catches my eye, and I have the time to get something. They post the lunch updates around 11 AM, and as I was checking this morning, the post indicated:

Today’s special is two pieces of chicken fried steak, homemade mashed potatoes, pumpkin glazed carrots all topped with sausage gravy!

I had to try it. One of the other things I do when I go there is to check out the desserts. Sometimes I just drop in to see what they have. They make their desserts fresh, so there are new options every day.

These are just some of the options that were available today. I have had their Moon Pies before and was really tempted to get one of those, but I opted for the Double Layer Pumpkin Spice Cake. I had two reasons to choose that: 1) I hadn’t had it before, so it would be new to me, and 2) I still think it’s pumpkin season, so I figured I should get it while it’s available.

Now, onto the food. I started with the pumpkin glazed carrots. I’ve had glazed carrots before, but it’s usual honey or butter, but I’ve never had it with pumpkin. This worked really well. The carrots were nice and soft, while still maintaining their shape. The glaze had the nice spice flavors to it, as well as some sweetness. I went through these fairly quickly. I might have to go back to ask for the recipe, since these might be fun to make (and I could consider it healthy since it’s a vegetable dish).

There are two pieces of steak in there (one on top of the other). The steak had the perfect tenderness to it, with the breading cooked properly. No oily feeling in the mouth while eating, no burned pieces. The mashed potatoes were also really good. Creamy, with small chunks here and there. I’ve had their mashed potatoes many times, and they’ve always been good. The last component to this dish is the sausage gravy. I was skeptical about it at first, since I’m used to having chicken fried steak with a traditional brown gravy. But the way they make their gravy and the way the dish was put together, this really worked. I was very happy to have gotten this and will be getting it again down the road if they decide to make it again. And this is great food when it’s in the 40s outside.

Although you might not be able to have the proper perspective on this dish, this is a lot of food. It’s two meals for me, but might be three or four for someone else. The bowl is 9 inches across, so it’s in a large container and definitely has some weight to it. You pay a good price for a large amount of food, which is always nice. But it’s even better when the food is really good.

After taking a little break, it was time for dessert. I decided to have this slice of cake over two meals, so I did not eat it all at once. I probably could have, but I do have the ability to show some will power from time to time. The flavor of the cake was really good. It was a little denser, due to the pumpkin, but had the nice pumpkin spice flavors to it. The frosting was definitely the star. There is a light and fluffy consistency to it. There is a sweetness to it, but not overly sweet. The spices in here were subtle, which created a balance with the sweetness. And when combined with the layers of cake, it made for a really nice dessert.

I’ll probably start a separate category for Big Belly Deli, since I go there so often. I’m glad that I can always try different items on the menu that are good, and glad that there are specials every day as well as freshly made desserts every day. It’s easy to stay positive when you are eating the food from here.

Food Truck Tuesdays – Koco Food Truck

Today was the last Food Truck Tuesday for the season at the West Friendship Volunteer Fire Department. They were doing a “Truck or Treat”, so there were a few young ones wearing their costumes, which made it more fun. I had been checking out the trucks that would be there, and decided that I would be going to the Koco Food Truck, as long as the lines weren’t too long.

I arrived just before 5PM, since I wanted to get there before it got too busy. The lines at Koco were not too long, so I was happy to wait. After reviewing the menu, I decided to order the Bibimbap with Bulgogi.

Bibimbap is a Korean rice dish. Bulgogi is Korean barbecued meat (beef, in this instance). I decided to stick with the basics of their bowl and added Bulgogi. There was white rice on the bottom, followed by the mixture of vegetables: red cabbage, carrots, lettuce, squash, bean sprouts, and cucumbers. The Bulgogi followed, and the dish was topped off with sesame seeds, oil and their special “K Sauce”.

The bulgogi had a very nice flavor. There was a nice kick to the dish, which was balanced by the cool flavors of the cucumber and squash. I’m not usually a fan of squash, but it worked well in this dish. The rice was cooked well and also helped to bring all the flavors together. The portion was perfect for me. Not too little, and not too much. I was able to eat it all without getting an uncomfortable feeling, and did not feel like I needed more.

I’m glad I was able to visit this truck today. I’ve wanted to try it out for awhile, so it’s good that I got to taste their flavors. We are getting to the time of year where food trucks will be more scarce due to weather, so this is a truck I will definitely have to keep an eye on next year. They did a great job with the Bibimbap, so I look forward to trying out some of the other items on their menu. I’m sad that Food Truck Tuesdays are winding down this season, but I’m glad that they were fairly close to home for me. Definitely a positive way to get through the first half of the week.

Big Belly Deli – Sykesville, MD

I was not originally planning on putting up a post today, but sometimes good things happen and I want to share them.

Today was expected to be a low-key type of day. I was getting a haircut and running a few errands, but planned on being home early and making myself something for lunch. I went to HeadMasters for my haircut and it went well. My stylist asked me if it was warming up outside since I was wearing shorts (jean shorts, to be exact) and a t-shirt. I said it wasn’t any warmer, but since it was in the 50s, it was still shorts weather to me.

I walked over to French Twist Cafe and ordered a small Pumpkin Mocha Frappe. It was delicious, and I’ll get it again. The Pumpkin Frappe is a vanilla base, but the Mocha base adds a different flavor dynamic, which I enjoyed. I ran a couple more errands and then decided to check and see what Big Belly Deli was serving for lunch. They had a chicken pot pie soup on the menu, so I knew I would not be making something at home for lunch.

I had confirmed beforehand that there were no mushrooms, which was a sigh of relief for me. The base was very thick and creamy. This is something that can be tricky with cream based soups, but they managed to keep the soup at the proper temperature, so there was no break-down of the liquid. The chicken had good flavor, and the variety within the bites made it easy to see that this was fresh chicken that was pulled and then chopped (not basic chicken breasts or thighs that are uniformly sliced). There was corn, carrots, green beans, peas and potatoes in there (might have been other vegetables, but those were the ones I could tell). The flavor of this soup really hit the spot. Even though I enjoy the outside temperatures when they are in the 50s, it’s still nice to have a good, hearty soup.

Before I ordered my soup, I was checking out the sweets. There was a Chocolate Peanut Butter Pie that caught my eye, so I ended up buying that as well. The pie is 5″ across, just for some perspective.

The crust on the bottom and sides is a chocolate crust. It’s very crumbly, but it works well with this type of pie. The peanut butter filling was very thick and very rich. This is why I feel that the crust worked well with this. Chocolate drizzle and peanut butter cups topped it off, and was a nice finishing touch.

Right before I left, there were some people who were staring at the menu. They asked me if I had any recommendations. Just like something that happened to me previously at French Twist Cafe, I was very happy to share with them about all of the goodness on that menu. I let them know that I never had a bad experience, gave them some 5 or 6 sandwich options as well. The regular Friday special includes a chicken curry sandwich, and I made sure they had a heads up on that one. Really good flavor, really big portions. Two of them planned on splitting, which is definitely a good idea. Big portions for a good price is nice, but when you add in the quality flavor, it makes it even better. I also let them know to check out all the sweets as well. I’m sure they enjoyed their meal, no matter what they ended up ordering.

A light, easy day turned out to have some moments that compelled me to write a little today. I’m planning on a fun-filled weekend, so hopefully I will have some more Positive moments to share.