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Underground Kitchen Debuts in Baltimore

May 2, 2017

Back in March of this year, Danielle and I found ourselves in matching outfits, drinking tequila in a bar in Station North at 2am on a Monday. Just like you, we were wondering…how did this happen? Like so many great mysteries, it started with an invitation to a secret club. Even better, a secret foodie club; Underground Kitchen had invited us to attend its maiden voyage to Baltimore.

Sneaky shot of CEO of UGK, Micheal Sparks (behind the table to the right) in the yellow sweater

Kitchen, Underground

Founded in Richmond, Va., Underground Kitchen (UGK) is an ultra luxurious, pop-up style, dinner club that gives off an air of “secret society.” Everyone is welcome to register for an invitation to the event, however tickets are extremely limited (25-40) and typically sell out within minutes. Disclosing the details of each individual dinner only in the 11th hour, UGK features top chefs in unconventional locations, deviating from the idea of a traditional dinner party and pushing the boundaries of culinary creativity. From their press release, “Dinners are based on themes in keeping with the season or the chef’s culinary direction, with theming woven throughout the atmosphere…Previous pop-up locales including art studios, cultural centers, historic homes, warehouses, urban squares, and farms.”

The historic 1840s Ballroom, part of the 1840s Plaza

Secrets Revealed

Danielle and I were told the date and theme of March’s dinner and nothing more. We were given the location two days before the event. It wasn’t until we showed up at 6:30p for cocktails at the historic 1840’s Ballroom off of Front St. in downtown Baltimore, that we were privy to the menu and name of the chef. The theme of the evening was Spring Fling, coupled with Executive Chef of Heart & Table, Tim Delling’s personal theme, In Like a Lion, Out Like a Lamb. (Sidenote: it was this Spring theme that lead to Danielle and I both wearing the same floral shirt in different colors to the event. *insert Miranda Priestly quote about florals for spring* )

Here we are in our matching Free People tops on a tour of the 1840s Ballroom

Cocktail hour kicked off with a fabulous rosé and mingling with other attendees. Approximately, a half hour later, CEO of UGK, Micheal Sparks, took the floor to welcome us, say a few words about the evening and encourage us all to sit next to someone we did not know in order to enhance the magic and mystery of the evening. Micheal also explained that each quarter, UGK partners with a nonprofit to receive partial proceeds from the events. This particular evening supported the Carol Adams Foundation which works to provide emergency assistance to women and children who are victims of domestic violence.

The Real Reason You are Reading This (Food Pics)

An Underground Kitchen dinner ranges from five to seven courses, each paired with a glass of wine (bless). Chef Tim Delling prepared a five course meal for us, plus a palate cleanser between courses three and four. The first course, burrata and crostini with dandelion greens (In Like a Lion), was delicate and full of flavor, with raisins adding bursts of sweetness to an otherwise savory dish.  The crostini was a tad chewy, but despite this, it was my favorite course of the evening.

Burrata Crostini. dandelion greens, golden raisins, pistachios.

Beef. pickled potato, asparagus, lemon, raspberry, maple.

Impeccable steak with crisp and fresh asparagus (I’m normally not a big fan of this vegetable but could have eaten a whole plate) served over pickled smashed potatoes followed the crostini.  What we thought was goat cheese, turned out to be powdered butter, which held up better and looked much more refined than regular butter as a part of the plating.

Cured salmon made for an unexpected pairing with rhubarb, beet rounds and goat cheese (for real this time). Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected to eat all of these ingredients together… that didn’t stop me though. The smokey salmon balanced well with the tart rhubarb and earthy beets making for quite the play on ‘surf n turf.’

Cured Salmon. beets, rhubarb, goat cheese.

Chilled Mint Pea Soup. herb salad.

In between the salmon and soup was what Chef Delling dubbed “Butterfly Tea ‘Snow'” which resembled a blue granita.  The “snow” turned violet when an acid was introduced and all the guests had a blast squeezing lemon juice into their glasses and swirling the mixture together. (Shout out to everyone at my table and our server putting up with me as I fought to get the perfect boomerang of this chemistry at work.) This kind of food performance art, coupled with the intimate setting, really separated UGK’s dining experience from any other dinner club or high-end restaurant (pop up or no) I have attended in the past.

A small confession: my notes on the final courses became shorter and shorter as the evening progressed, and more significantly, the wine kept flowing. I simply wrote ‘sea salt’ and ‘cool’ about the chilled pea soup, but I can assure you it was both of those things in addition to being light and delicious.  The final course was a most inventive take on dessert, given that it wasn’t sweet at all.  Cleverly resembling a biscuit and cup of coffee, the lamb jus in a mug with a cheesy, herb biscotti was Delling’s cheeky and savory sign-off to the meal (Out Like a Lamb).

Lamb Jus. herb biscotti.

Oh, and the bit in the beginning? About the tequila at 2am? I confess it was a hook to pull you in, but it all happened too. Taking Micheal’s words to heart, we got chummy over the meal with the folks seated at our table. In fact we enjoyed the camaraderie and conversation so much, that we decided to venture out together afterwards to continue the evening….hence the bar in Station North.

We have to thank UGK not only for the foodie’s paradise they’ve created, but for the engaging and stimulating atmosphere they have provided. As a person who leans more towards being Type A than Type B it was actually refreshing to walk into the unknown and allow a situation to surprise me. You can catch Danielle and myself at Underground Kitchen’s return to Baltimore on Monday, May 22nd. We don’t know what to expect from UGK this time around… but then again, that’s the point.

 

To register for the Underground Kitchen invitation list click here or try your luck with a ticket purchase here. There is a two ticket limit for members and pricing includes the meal, wine (a different one for every course. every. course.) and gratuity.

This post was sponsored by Underground Kitchen. All opinions belong to 30th & Weldon.
Eat/Drank

Bourbon Peach Tea (A Big Batch Cocktail)

August 22, 2016

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If you were able to join us at our Sip n Shop event at Brightside Boutique (THANK YOU! We had a blast!), we hope you got to try the Bourbon Peach Tea we made with peaches from the Fell’s Point Farmer’s Market. Super easy, full of delicious summer peaches, and a real crowd pleaser—definitely the thing to bring to that end-of- summer BBQ. The sweet peach nectar masks the bourbon well, so watch out! If you didn’t get the chance to try it, we’re sharing the recipe for you to make at home. We think you’ll love it!

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Bourbon Peach Punch

  • 8 peaches. Aim for half ripe peaches and half firmer peaches (more on this later).  We used a mix of yellow and white peaches, but you can also use yellow or white nectarines or any combination of the four, depending on your preference.
  • 6 cups unsweetened black iced tea.
  • 4 cups lemonade. 
  • 2 cups  bourbon-of-choice. We recommend
    Jim Beam or above, in terms of quality.
  • 1 cup light brown sugar.
  • 1 cup water.
  • Ice.

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Cut peaches into slices, and separate based on ripeness. Pour 1 cup bourbon into a container with slices from 3.5 firm peaches and set aside.

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Pour 1 cup water, 1 cup brown sugar, and remaining firm peach slices into a saucepan and heat on low for 30 minutes. Add slices from 4 ripe peaches to a blender and mix with 1 cup lemonade. Blend until liquified. Pour mixture over sieve into a large punch container (ours was 2 gallons, with a spout for easy access) and strain peach purée.

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Mix in brown sugar simple syrup, iced tea, remaining lemonade, remaining bourbon. Chill. Add ice and bourbon-soaked peaches to the mixture right before serving.

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Tag your pictures with #30thandweldon so we can share them on our Instagram. Enjoy!

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Eat/Drank

Muffin Cup Breakfasts – Two Ways

July 30, 2016

I recently made a life decision – I’m taking a big trip next year. This past year pretty much all of my travel has been wedding related because seemingly all of my friends got married in the same year (thank god I don’t have that many friends – that shiz is expensive) so next year is currently wedding free and I’ve decided home girl has earned it.

While I may feel as though I have earned it, that doesn’t necessarily mean I can afford it. I’ve needed to tighten up my finances for a minute, and having a goal is the perfect way for me to do so. When I really want something, I can be a real “dog with a bone” as my mother called me countless times growing up. I’ve been putting off really budgeting myself – but was reminded about it by The Office Goth a little while ago, and have finally decided to buckle down and do it.

I started with updating everything in my Mint account to make sure it was accurate and all of my accounts are there. I like Mint because you can see everything in one place, as well as use it for budgeting. One of my first transaction searches threw me for a complete loop: Starbucks. Okay, I’m not a complete fool, I know my daily ‘Bucks was adding up. But seeing that number from the last 6 months and realizing I could nearly pay for my flight in coffee alone was truly shocking. So I set out to change.

I made my cold brew, I picked up a few extra mason jar lids. But eating breakfast has always been a struggle for me. I’m not a morning person – no matter how hard I’m trying to be – and I just can’t eat as soon as I wake up. I end up with a rumbly tummy around 10 or 11 am, which leads to bagels and croissants being added to my mobile order. So I sought to find some easy breakfasts I can make ahead and bring to work.

I’ve found two easy breakfasts that can be made in muffin cups and frozen, so I can just grab two and microwave them at work. The best part is they are totally customizable, so you can add anything you’d like, and mix them up seasonally or based on whatever you have laying around. I made 1 batch of each, which is enough for two weeks of breakfast! Perfect for prepping on a Sunday afternoon and you’ll be good to go for the whole week. Here’s what you need:

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Oatmeal Cups:

  • 1 Cup Organic Steel Cut Oats (I used Harris Teeter Brand, another brand may have different instructions for 4 servings)
  • 1/2 Cup Brown Sugar, Packed (optional)
  • 1 tsp Cinnamon (optional)
  • 1 Banana, 1/2 cup of Frozen Blueberries (optional)

Follow the instructions on your oatmeal for preparing, I used the stove top directions for preparing 4 servings of mine. Add in what any mix-ins, I used brown sugar and cinnamon, but you can use anything you like. Coat your pan in cooking spray, or use cupcake liners, and fill with oatmeal. Top with whatever fruit you would like. Refrigerate for a few hours to cool, then freeze overnight. The next morning, pop them out of the pan and freeze in baggies or containers of two. (2 muffin cups = 1 serving)

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Egg Cups

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • Salt & Pepper (to taste)
  • Garlic Powder, Red chili flakes, Salsa, etc (Optional)
  • Veggies – Ex: Tomatoes, Broccoli, Spinach, mushrooms (Optional)
  • Bacon Bits or crumbled Sausage (Optional
  • Cheese (optional)

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Preheat oven to 350F. Crack all eggs into a large mixing bowl. Salt and pepper to taste, and add any other spices you’d like. Think of your favorite omelette or egg scramble, and use those things! Grease your muffin tin well or use cupcake liners, and pour in your whisked egg mixture. Top with whichever toppings you’d like, I used broccoli and tomatoes in half and Monterey Jack cheese, bacon, and tomatoes in the other six. Bake for about 20-25 min, or until a toothpick comes out clean. Let cool fully, then divide into baggies or containers of 2 per and freeze. When preparing, I like to use a little ketchup, but Sriracha would probably work wonders too! I know Shae carries it with her at all times, so I’m sure she’d agree.

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To reheat, place either muffin cup in the microwave for about a minute, depending on the wattage of the microwave. I stop the oatmeal ones about 45 seconds in and stir, then decide how much longer. Super easy, filling, and way way cheaper than my daily bagel – and healthier!

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If you have a super easy breakfast to go, what is it? I’d love to get more suggestions for my money saving! Let me know in the comments.

 

Eat/Drank

Cake Day Coca-Cola Cake

July 21, 2016

Don’t let the “cake” label fool you. This basically a big brownie pretending to be a cake.  In my recent trip to Charleston, SC., I got to enjoy this decadent dessert at one of my favorite Charleston restaurants, Jestine’s Kitchen.  Known for serving up southern favorites, this homey and humble restaurant often has a line of eager patrons wrapping around the corner, just to get a table.  This visit got me hankering for Coca Cola cake once I returned to Baltimore so I did a quickly google for recipes and landed on this one from Coca Cola’s website. It’s fudgey, rich and oh so sweet. And since today is my birthday, what better way to celebrate my cake day than by baking myself a cake?

Coca Cola cake from Jestine’s Kitchen

I left out the vanilla extract (I don’t own any) and if I make this again I will leave out the marshmallows (they added weird pockets of texture that I could do without). Other than that it was very reminiscent of the one I had in Charleston and satisfied my craving for this dessert. It also gave me the idea to try variations of this cake with other kinds of soda. Root beer float cake? Cherry Pespi cake? Candied Ginger ginger ale cake? Creamsicle Fanta cake?  I digress. Please enjoy this recipe for Coca Cola courtesy of Lee Avery Catts and the Coca Cola Company.


Ingredients

Cake:

2 Cups sugar

2 Cups all-purpose flour

1 Cup Coca-Cola

1 ½ Cup small marshmallows (optional)

½ Cup unsalted butter or margarine

½ Cup vegetable oil

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

1 Teaspoon baking soda

½ Cup buttermilk

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

Icing:

½ Cup butter

3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa

6 Tablespoons Coca-Cola

1 box (16-ounces) powdered sugar

1 Teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

1 Cup chopped pecans


Preheat the oven to 350 and grease a 13 by 9 in baking dish.  In a large bowl combine the sugar, flour and marshmallows (optional) and mix well.



In a medium saucepan combine the butter, vegetable oil, Coca Cola, and cocoa powder and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the dry ingredients. Dissolve the baking soda into the buttermilk just before adding it to the batter. The baking soda/buttermilk mixture should froth up. Add this and the eggs and vanilla extract to the batter and mix well.


Pour into the baking pan and bake for 40-45 minutes (baking time will vary by oven)



While the cake is baking, make the icing. Combine the powdered sugar, pecans and vanilla extract (optional) in a large bowl. Combine the butter, cocoa powder, and Coca Cola in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and pour over the sugar/pecan mixture and blend well.

Ice the cake immediately after it’s done baking. Allow to cool before serving. Enjoy!

Eat/Drank

Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls

June 27, 2016

Buffalo wings are one of my favorite foods – as previously implied by my vegan Buffalo Cauliflower ‘Wings’ recipe a few months back.  Spicy, tangy, fried and oh so messy, they are a fan favorite for game days, backyard barbecues and summer cookouts. As a less messy alternative to chicken wings – both in consumption and preparation (if you have ever deep fried anything, you know it’s a huge pain to clean up afterwards) – I started making these buffalo chicken egg rolls a few years ago.  It’s a more compact, less sticky and healthier substitute to actual wings that everyone will enjoy.  I mean, who doesn’t love something that resembles a tiny burrito, tastes like America and can be dipped in blue cheese dressing? Ammirite?

Buffalo Chicken Eggrolls

Ingredients

4 medium chicken tenderloins – cooked and shredded

1/2 cup buffalo sauce

6 oz (or half a bag) broccoli slaw – dry

Eggroll wrappers – I can normally find these in the fresh veggies section of the grocery store – often with the meat substitutes or with the Asian vegetables 

2 Tbsp olive oil

Small bowl of water


Add the buffalo sauce to the shredded chicken and mix well. Chicken should be fully coated and nice and saucy.


Place one eggroll wrapper (so that it looks like a diamond) on a clean, dry surface. Place a approximately a tablespoon or broccoli slaw and then a tablespoon on the buffalo chicken mixture at the bottom corner of the wrapper.


Roll the eggroll up like a little burrito, tucking the left and right corners in once you get almost to the top of the diamon shape. 

When you reach this point dip a finger into the bowl of water and imagine your eggroll is an envelope. Think of the water as “glue” and use the water to mimic licking an envelope. After that finish rolling your eggroll. 


Brush the eggroll all over with olive oil and place on a greased baking pan. Bake for 25 minutes at 400 degrees. Let cool, then serve with blue cheese dressing.