Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Baking with Bacon

Recently for a friend’s big birthday, one of us helped plan a party in true GWG fashion. The theme was bacon because this particular friend loves it and really, what reasonable person doesn’t? We pulled together a basket of pork-inspired items including chocolate covered bacon, a growler of Fullsteam Hogwash, and other piggy presents.
Every birthday party needs a cake, and we decided to try one that fit right in with our theme—Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cupcakes. Taken from a Minneapolis couple’s food blog, this recipe combines the sweet, richness of chocolate with the salty satisfaction of bacon. We followed the recipe closely since this felt like a bit of a culinary experiment, and to our satisfaction the cupcakes turned out rather tasty. Maybe not something you wake up in the middle of the night craving, but definitely the perfect treat for our pork party.

We considered canned icing to save time, but with this recipe the icing pulls everything together adding a nice sweetness and moisture to the cake. A few tips if you make it from scratch: the icing calls for dark cocoa resulting in a deep, almost black coloring—it may look like a bowl of tar but it is still very edible and delicious. You should also allow plenty of time for the icing to cool (maybe an hour+) so it will set on top of the cupcakes—otherwise they may look like they took a mud bath (which actually worked in our favor).

If you are like GWG and think bacon goes with everything, these cupcakes are worth a try.

Dark Chocolate & Bacon Cupcake

8 slices thick-cut bacon
1 cup unsalted butter
½ cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
¾ cup water
2 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs
½ cup well-shaken buttermilk
2 tablespoons vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
¼ tablespoon salt

Preheat oven to 350 F. Prepare 24 muffin tins.

Chop bacon into about ½ inch pieces. Cook over med-high heat in a skillet until bacon is brown & crisp. Remove bacon with a slotted spoon to a paper towel to drain. Pat any remaining oil off the bacon. Set aside.

Melt butter in a large heavy saucepan over moderately low heat, then whisk in cocoa. Add water and whisk until smooth. Remove from heat. Whisk in separately sugar, eggs, buttermilk, and vanilla. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into the cocoa mixture and whisk until just combined (it will be a little bit lumpy). Stir in bacon.

Fill muffin tins to about 2/3 full. Bake for 20 minutes until a skewer or toothpick comes out clean. It’s a moist cake, so don’t worry if a few crumbs stick to your tester. Allow cupcakes to cool. Makes 24 cupcakes.

Dark Chocolate Frosting

½ cup unsalted butter
2/3 cup Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa
3 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Melt butter. Stir in cocoa. Alternately add powdered sugar and milk, beating to a spreading consistency. Add small amount of additional milk, if needed. Stir in vanilla. Makes about 2 cups frosting.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

When Only a Burger Will Do

When you can’t wait for the burger to come to you, go to Only Burger’s storefront location for the same great food available seven days a week. Being that GWG are fans of the burger via truck, we wanted to check out the new location and were easily sucked in by a tasty tweet about the daily specials.

Located in the corner of the Hope Valley Square shopping center, the Only Burger restaurant is painted in bright colors that mirror the friendly personality of the logo. Their fan base has obviously followed to the new location as we watched a steady flow of people treat themselves to burger and fries. Seating is a little tight during rush hour but it created the type of atmosphere where you might share a table with a stranger and end up with a new friend.
As mentioned, we were there to try the specials of the day—pimento cheese and fried green tomato sliders, a Greek pita burger and fresh onion rings on the side. The pimento cheese/fried green tomato burger is something we’ve seen before, but Only Burger got it just right. These mini sliders had the perfect proportion of cheese, meat and veggie so you could enjoy all the flavors with each bite—we’d love to try this in full size, but also liked being able to order based on your appetite (1 for a snack, 3 or 4 for a meal).
The Greek pita burger was another tasty alternative, made with lamb meat and topped with lettuce, tomato, onion, feta cheese, and something like a tzatziki sauce. For us the pimento sliders came out on top but we like the creative options. The onion rings were also a nice addition to complete the meal—the breading was light and crisp with a hint of pepper. All said, we think the restaurant is a great extension of the business—although we will always be food truck chasers at heart.

Only Burger’s brick and mortar location is part of the rebirth of the Hope Valley Square shopping center. The shopping center’s recent makeover offers a lovely exterior with outdoor seating and a variety of businesses. Local favorite, Rick’s Diner, recently completed a move to the area, Tutti Frutti will be serving up fro-yo next to Only Burger, and Charleston’s Bull Street Gourmet & Market is reported to be opening as well. Next time you’re looking to mail something, do it over lunch and take advantage of everything Hope Valley Square has to offer.

P.S. As if we didn’t have enough reason, the recent N&O report that milkshakes will soon be offered at Only Burger has us planning our next visit.

Friday, November 5, 2010

A Fair to Remember

For the Girls with Guts, food is more than a meal. It is woven into most of our relationships and experiences. This year, the N.C. State Fair was a great example of how food plays a large role in our lives.

The state fair has been a tradition for GWG for two years. Even before we were blogging, we were attending the fair together and trying all the fun fair foods. This year, the state fair dictated when one of us would be married and the annual fair visits were planned as pre-wedding and post-wedding festivities.

To kick off the wedding weekend, the GWG, along with 22+ others, traveled to the fair on Thursday, October 21. The group was made up of friends and family, first-time fair-goers and seasoned veterans. It even included some who flew in from California and were picked up from the airport en route.
We must admit that it was slightly difficult to accommodate such a large group (especially on canned food night) but it was fun sharing things like: the Krispy Kreme Burger, Fried Candy Bars, Ham Biscuits, Fried Mac-n-Cheese, Fried Mashed Potato Bites, Fried Pumpkin Pie, Fried Banana Pudding, Fried Cheese, Fried Fish Sandwich, Turkey Legs, Koolickles, Specialty Cupcakes, Pineapple Lemonade, and Sweet Tea.

Friday and Saturday of course included the rehearsal, rehearsal dinner (at P.F. Chang’s), and the wedding (with the reception at The Weathervane at A Southern Season) but then Sunday, it was back to the fair for the bride and groom; this time in a wedding dress and tux, with a photographer. The fair has also been a tradition throughout the bride and groom’s courtship, so it seemed natural to use such a fun event to “Celebrate What’s Great”--the start of a new life together. Oh and just so you don’t freak out…the dress was only $100!

Some of the best pictures include one in front of the Cary United Methodist Church eating the amazing ham biscuits, sharing a bite of hot fried cheese and letting the cheese string from one person to the other, eating a fried candy bar from each end, playing in the fun houses, sitting on the carousel horses, and riding on the Ferris wheel. There were lots of funny looks from other fair-goers, but it was totally worth it.

One of the best things about food is that it can make memories. This year, the NC State Fair provided great memories during a great weekend for a lot of great people.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Full Steam Ahead for Farmhand Foods

(We realize this food event was already covered by Carpe Durham, but are so excited about this delicious Durham addition we decided it couldn’t hurt to cover it some more!)

Last Thursday’s pairing of local food and local brew brought out the crowds to taste test Durham’s newest food truck addition, Farmhand Foods. When we arrived at Fullsteam shortly after 5:30 p.m., people were already lined up along Rigsbee Avenue, with beers in hand, chatting and waiting for their turn at the sausage truck. Despite the wait everyone was relaxed, enjoying the casual atmosphere and eager to show support for the local food scene. It was very exciting to see everything coming together for this corner of downtown Durham.

Besides adding a new genre to the growing food truck scene, Farmhand Foods provides handcrafted sausages made from animals that are pasture-raised in North Carolina. The result is fresh and tasty beef and pork sausages served up with a twist. After reading the descriptions on the menu, we struggled to narrow down our options and ordered all five—four sausage variations and one vegetarian sandwich (since we aren’t trying to grow our guts, we split them between the two of us).

The first thing to note is that all the sausages were served up on Guglhupf pretzel rolls—we are not sure if this will be standard practice, but from the positive feedback we think they should consider it. The bread was soft and fresh but substantial enough to hold together while you dive into your sausage. We each had a clear favorite, but were quite pleased with all four sausage offerings.

For one of us, it was the Spicy Italian Sausage served with chow chow and mustard. The combination of spice and tang had hints of tradition, but with its own stamp.

For the other, the favorite by far was the Country Breakfast Link featuring maple butter and roasted apples. The sweetness of the butter and apples on the fresh bun make even Monday mornings worth waking up for.

We also enjoyed the bratwurst and polish sausages, but they didn’t quite have the standout flavor of the other two—our suggestion would be switching up the pickles for jalapenos on the polish sausage. Finally, we shared the Seasonal Vegetarian Sandwich made with shitake mushrooms, goat cheese, arugula and pesto. Although fresh, we thought it lacked flavor and was overpowered by the goat cheese, but being that we aren’t vegetarians, we are hesitant to make a final judgment.

Fullsteam’s open space with large tables and open doors to allow for moving inside and outside easily, was the perfect spot for a food-truck-get-together. After enjoying our meal on the wall outside, the GWG ventured inside to finish our evening with a beer and check out the live music.

We tried two of Fullsteam’s beers: the Hogwash, a hickory-smoked porter; and the Carver Sweet Potato Beer. Both were refreshing after a large dinner and were nice to sip while we enjoyed the blue grass band playing on the stage and watching the variety of people who attended the event. From families with children, to friends young and old, Fullsteam has a distinctly Durham feeling and is a great spot to slow down and catch up.
The GWG think Farmhand Foods has it right, “(m)eat [and drink] local” at these two great Durham establishments.