Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Dining Club's first outing: Mas (tapas)

HEY! Ok.. this is a lengthy entry, so read at your own discretion.

Tonight, the self-proclaimed "Dining Club" (CL, JK, JC, EC, AW, LS, CC, and I) went to Mas, a tapas bar in Middleofnowhere, Charlottesville. Mas gets good reviews when it comes to food and consistently bad reviews when it comes to service. Not to mention the owner doesn't know how is intarweb formed? No, but really. He was involved in a huge online saga with site owner of Charlottesville-dining.com (a great site for Cvillers!!). See the whole thing here. Tomas seems like a douchebag (excuse my français).

Let me begin with saying that I had a very bad first impression of Mas even before I got there. I called to ask if they had a "call ahead" option (giving the place a heads up about your party and possibly putting you on the wait list). The guy answered with all kinds of noise in the background, asked me to repeat myself literally over 3-4 times (I understand you're standing behind the bar and it's loud, but don't give me the 'tude like it's my fault), and snapped back: "WHY does everyone ask me that?! IT'S THE SAME THING AS A RESERVATION! No, we don't do call aheads." Then I dared to ask him if a gratuity was automatically added for parties of a certain number. He curtly replied with, "Yeah, there's an autograt. *click*."

And so went our conversation. Thank goodness we had a pretty nice server, though. She was attentive and servers came around to refill our glasses often.

We were seated at the outside patio, which was full of tables and gigantic orange parasols. The weather was quite warm and breezy, which was awesome! I never checked out the inside, but from what I could see, it was dimly lit with low tables and a bar.

Tapas come in two portions: tapas (for about 2 people) and raciones (for about 3-4 people). We went with the tapas portions in order to try a larger variety. It took a while for all the tapas to hit the table, but everything was served hot. Meats came last. We ordered 15 tapas and shared (7 people total). DELICIOUS complimentary olives began the journey.

Photos by the lovely LS ;)

Ensalada de espinaca: baby organic spinach w/ mango vinaigrette, Manchego cheese, pine nuts and golden raisins.
This was the better salad of the two we ordered. I could really taste the mango vin, though I mistook it for cheese at first. The pine nuts were toasted and added a lovely nutty flavor that went well with the mango. But really, I wouldn't order salad at a tapas place for the price.

Ensalada de arugula: baby arugula w/ aged sherry vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, tomatoes, organic eggs and Manchego cheese.
Rabbit food. Actually, I'm not sure a rabbit would like this... The arugula was surprisingly bitter (not really Mas' fault). There was a total of 3 or 4 tomatoes, and barely any vinegar or oil. I don't know why "eggs" is plural, seeing how there was only one. Lots of cracked black pepper. Nobody was a fan. I see that I made a note of CL's "BLEGH!" when he tasted this.

Broccolini salteado: fresh broccolini sauteed with Madeira, garlic and olive oil.
This was a straightforward tapa. It was perfectly cooked, but I would've enjoyed more garlic. I like the broccolini better at Edo's Squid in Richmond (though it was a bit salty).

Papas bravas: spicy roasted Yukon potatoes w/ garlic alioli
These papas were perfectly roasted, and the alioli was out of this world. LS (along with everyone else) really liked this. It was the first "hearty" tapa we had. I loved the peppery seasoning on the potatoes and the crunch of the sea salt that was sprinkled over the dish.

Queso con mermelada: melted artisanal Monte Enebro goat cheese over brick oven bread w/ wild strawberry preserves.
This was simple and absolutely delicious! The goat cheese wasn't too pungent but had that distinct flavor. It was quite nice and creamy... Paired with the preserves, it was awesome! It was like the upscale version of my lunch today (stale dining hall bagel with cream cheese and strawberry jam.. HAHA)

Membrillo con queso: sweet quince paste w/ a slice of Valdeon blue cheese.
This is definitely not for blue cheese dislikers. I don't like blue cheese (this was extremely strong-- look at all the "blue" in the background!). But I did appreciate the quality of the cheese. Quince paste was alright; I loved the texture of it more than the flavor.

Queso con miel: melted Bica cheese over brick oven bread w/ lavender honey.
This was good. According to my googling, bica is a raw Portuguese farmhouse cheese made from a blend of cow, goat, and sheep's milk. It was mild in flavor and went well with the lavender honey that the bread had absorbed underneath. Wish I tasted more lavender.

Bocadillio Jamón: a small sandwich of dry-cured Spanish ham, crusty roll, Manchego cheese.
A nice take on the traditional "ham and cheese." The bread was extremely tough, which made this an unattractive thing to eat. But the ham and cheese were good, and they smeared some garlic alioli on it (which, again, is delicious). I usually spread a lemon garlic aioli on my sammiches at home.

This is the point where JC asked, "So... Where are we eating for dinner?" Obviously none of us were full.

Datil con tocino: dates wrapped in applewood smoked bacon, roasted til crispy
Simple and delicious. And who doesn't love bacon? Especially when it's wrapped around somethin fruity like a date or fig? I could definitely taste the smoky wood flavor of the crispy bacon. I have a thing for sweet&salty combos in food. And BACON! CMON!!

Carne asada: marinated hanging beef tenderloin grilled rare over flatbread w/ smoked tomato alioli
Yay for meat. I loved the char on the beef, but was left wanting something more in this tapa. I love that the beef was rare, but my piece was SLIGHTLY chewy (I did get an end piece, though...). Flatbread was meh, I could've done without. The tomato alioli added a creamy heat which I liked.

Atun a la parilla: yellowfin tuna grilled rare w/ smoked tomato alioli
Mas certainly loves its aliolis! This was good. I liked the seasonings on the tuna. Pretty fat portion too.

Solomillo de Akaushi: chilled rare Akaushi Wagyu beef strip loin w/ baby arugula, truffle oil and Manchego cheese.
This was my first time having Wagyu beef and I was not disappointed! It really was melt-in-your-mouth good. The only thing I could've asked for was MORE! JK loved this like nobody's bidness. So did everyone else! I have a small qualm with the waitstaff when it comes to this though: they go around calling it Kobe beef carpaccio, which is false. Kobe beef comes from cattle in the Kobe region of Japan... This doesn't. Akaushi Wagyu beef comes from Japanese cattle bred in Texas.

gulf shrimp grilled Catalan style in the shell w/ garlic and grey seal salt, served with garlic alioli.
This was great. And who doesn't like more alioli?! The shrimps were fat, hot, flavorful and juicy.

The sun started to set and soon we were sitting in the dark, save for one lit streetlight across the restaurant. For some reason, the festive Christmas lights strung across the outside of Mas weren't on, so patrons were left sitting in the dark trying to figure out what exactly they were forking into their mouths. No pictures of the last two tapas for this reason.

Croquetas de jamón: applewood ham, Yukon Gold potatoes, and Manchego cheese pan-fried with crème fraîche. I thought these were ehhhh. Hot, creamy and hammy, but I thought it was a little too mushy. LS liked this one a lot.

EC: It's alright, but it's pretty... normal.
LS: I like normal.
(L doesn't like things like undercooked beef, blahblah. hehe)

Pecho de pato chamuscando: pan-seared duck breast (medium rare) w/ apricot and candied ginger glaze. The duck was definitely cooked a lot more than "medium rare." The meat was too dry and chewy. I'd say it was pretty much cooked all the way, but I couldn't tell because it was too dark out. We didn't even know we were eating sauteed apricot slices, so we thought we were eating strange, overly tangy and sweet caramelized onions. I do like the duck/apricot paring. I really wanted the duck breast to be a lot rarer. and YUMMMM for duck fat! I was lucky enough to get an end piece with lots of delicious fat. Hehe.

I like that Mas uses fresh, local and seasonal ingredients. This allows for simplicity in dishes, or better flavor in more complex ones. The menu has so much variety and lots of vegetarian options too. The cheeses and other specialties are great and hard to find. But I think some tapas had so much potential that wasn't being showcased! Still a great, "hip" place to try out here in lil ole Charlottesville, especially if you're part of the 21+ crowd.

Tapas are small portions, almost like appetizers, that are usually eaten leisurely with a drink (sangria, cocktails, wine, etc). We knew we probably wouldn't be full (especially with the broke student's budget), but a lot of us wanted to try the place out anyway. We ended up bouncin to Wendy's afterwards for some frosties and burgers (GOURMET!!!!).

Thanks for reading, and thanks to the Dining Club for making this such a great experience. Hopefully there will be many more outings in the coming years :D


P.S. CL would like me to announce that he found a strand of hair in his glass of water ("DOCUMENT THIS!" he exclaimed), and one of the servers kept brushing up against his shoulder every time she passed. Haw haw.

501 Monticello Road, Charlottesville
Mon–Sat 5:30pm–1am
434 979–0990
No reservations or call-aheads

Random food fact: The Popsicle was invented by an 11 year who kept it secret for 18 years.

The inventor was Frank Epperson who, in 1905, left a mixture of powdered soda and water out on the porch, which contained a stir stick. That night, temperatures in San Francisco reached record low temperature. When he woke the next morning, he discovered that it had frozen to the stir stick, creating a fruit flavored ice treat that he named the epsicle. 18 years later he patented it and called it the Popsicle.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Don't be scurred...

This isn't the best or newest picture I've taken. But it holds a significant food memory for me.

Those garlic knots were my first (and sadly, only-- I'm kitchenless!) attempt at bread making. I'd been scared to make bread until then: I remember being over at my aunt's old house as a child, and it'd take her hours to go from flour, eggs and yeast to hot bread fresh from the humungous breadmaker.

But the memories of eating hot, delicious breads with pats of cold butter in the company of my cousins pulled at my heart and appetite. I can still smell the lovely yeasty aroma that wafted through the kitchen and overflowed into the living room while I watched cartoons. I can still see those air pockets in each steaming slice of bread that caught the melting butter which had started to pool.

Scared and intimidated as I was, I picked up a recipe for garlic knots. Literally only using my hands for the entire recipe (minus the measuring and baking... My hands cannot accurately measure nor produce enough heat to bake something), I followed the recipe with anxiety. The wait for the dough to rise TWICE didn't help the situation.

On that very fateful August day, I did not keel over in despair. The knots came out well and edible! My family scarfed the knots down within minutes, and bread wasn't scary no' mo'.

So the moral of the story isssss: don't be afraid to try an intimidating recipe! You might be pleasantly surprised ;)

Recipe and tutorial here.


P.S. I've decided to end every entry with a random food or food-related fact.

Ears of corn always have an even number of rows of kernels.

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Happy birthday, Mom!

Long entry ahead.

Hey dudes and dudettes,
First of all... Sorry for the lack of updates. Maybe if I saw some evidence that people actually read this piece of crap, I'd be more motivated.. *nudge nudge*. Like my puppy friend JK likes to say, "I NEED WORDS OF AFFIRMATION!!!!"

Last weekend, my little sister stayed with me. When my parents came to pick her up, they gave me a box full of goodies: vibrant and succulent strawberries, two oranges, a corn bread muffin the size of my head, and... umm.. contact solution (I was running low). I finished the strawberries and corn bread muffin that very night and left the oranges for another time. That time came a few days later, when my darling hallmate Y and I each had one. She ate hers first, and said the flesh was really "dark." WTF? I was kind of worried. Apparently it was a dark orangish-red color... I was so confused.

Then we realized...

YESSS!!! THE TWO ORANGES WERE BLOOD ORANGES! WHAT MY VERY DREAMS ARE MADE OF (FOR REAL. If you missed it, it's right here). I grabbed my orange eagerly and ripped it open. DEAR GOODNESSSSS! I WAS SO ECSTATIC! Yes, yes. I'm a freak. I took pictures of my "first time." D:


The blood orange had a very floral note. This sweet, perfumy air lingered in the back of my mouth well after an hour. The flesh was really soft, as was the outside. It was juicy as heck, and stained really easily so be careful. Mmm.. very interesting. I'd love to make a granita or sorbet out of it some day.

In other news, I'm home in Richmond for Easter weekend. It also happens to be the weekend after my mom's birthday (April 9), so I thought I'd whip up dinner for the family so she wouldn't have to worry about what to make. I was MORE THAN HAPPY to drive to Whole Foods in Short Pump and shop around anyway! Man... I love grocery stores, especially Whole Foods... I spend hours in there. Anyway, the menu was simple and random.

- Pan seared flank steak with chimichurri (argentinian-style.. thanks for the tips, silv!) on the side
- Red potatoes au gratin (fancy shmancy for thinly sliced and baked potatoes in this case)
- Thin spaghetti with a tomato cream sauce
- Pan-warmed baguette
- Baby green salad with corn, peas, and beets in a honey-lemon vinaigrette (inspired by EC's salad when we had dinner ;) )
- Crepes for dessert (choc-hazelnut spread aka Nutella, strawberries, blackberries, and bananas)

I didn't think we'd finish all the meat, but we did somehow. The flank, which is stereotyped as tough and stringy, was tender and flavorful. Recipes will follow pictures. Also, forgive me for the crappy pictures. I wasn't thinking about composition or anything other than cooking! My hands were perpetually saucy and herby.

Oops.. Make sure you use a sharpened, serrated knife for the meat. My knife sucked which resulted in some not-so-pretty slices on the right.

From well-done to med-rare (this is only half the meat). My family members have lots of different preferences pahaha. MEDIUM RARE FOR ME THX


My precious mommy right before prayer

A makeshift open-face sandwich (the salad, flank, chimichurri on baguette)

This is when my camera lens started to fog up / screw up

My family is pro. Demolishedddd! Phone pic (cam ran out of battery).

Lens still foggy

If I'd had confectioner's sugar, I would've dusted that jank on top for a nice touch. Alas, we ran out. Also, acknowledge the ghetto paper plates we used throughout the whole meal.

Hope you enjoyed the pictures! Here are the recipes (some are guesstimates because I just threw a bunch of crap together when cooking).

Flank Steak Marinade
Adapted from For the Love of Cooking's carne asada marinade
  • 1 1/2 - 2 lbs of flank steak
  • 1/3 cup vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar because that's all I had)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1-2 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder (I eyeballed... put in as much or as little as you'd like. Same for onion powder)
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 lime, juiced
  • 4-5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 tbsp brown sugar
Dump everything but flank in a gallon size ziplock bag, seal, and shake/mix around. Throw in the flank steak, seal, and lightly move around so the steak is completely covered by marinade. Marinate in fridge for at least an hour; the longer the better (I marinated for about 5 hours). Take the bags out of fridge 30 mins prior to grilling/pan searing. After cooking, let the meat rest for at least 10 minutes. This will lock in the juices, hollaaaa.

Argentinian-style Chimichurri
  • a crapload of fresh Italian (flatleaf) parsley, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves (more or less) of garlic, minced
  • vegetable or olive oil
  • vinegar (I used brown rice vinegar)
  • red pepper flakes (optional)
Put the parley and garlic in a bowl. Add a glurg (hehe) of oil and a dash or two of vinegar. Add a pinch of red pepper flakes (honestly I just did it for color). Adjust things to your liking, you can't really go wrong. Add s&p if needed (I didn't need them). Warning: breath will be kickin' for hours.

Red Potatoes Au Gratin
  • 6-7 red potatoes (depends on size. Mine were smaller than a clenched fist).
  • 5 tbsp butter or butter substitute
  • parmesan or gruyere cheese, grated
  • any seasoning of your choice (I used a mixture of dried rosemary, garlic powder, onion powder, salt and cracked black pepper)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice potatoes thinly, about 1/16 of an inch (I used a mandolin). You can leave the skin on or peel; Personally, I think the red rings are gorgeous. Parboil the slices for about 7-10 minutes, pour out water, and let cool (you can speed this up by pouring in cold water and draining. But you'll lose some starch that helps keep the galette together). While you're waiting, melt butter and mix in seasoning. Spray/butter a 9-inch cake or tart pan. Starting from the outer edge, line the bottom of the pan with potato slices, overlapping just a bit each time. After every two layers, brush the top with butter mixture and sprinkle with cheese. Continue until you get to the last layer, and top with butter/cheese (and fresh herbs if you'd like). Bake for about 40 minutes, checking often for doneness by sticking a thin knife or fork in the galette (it should be tender, not crunchy at all). The cheese should be golden on top, and the potato slices should shrink away from the pan a bit.

Baby Green Salad w/ Honey-lemon Vinaigrette
  • salad mix, your choice. I used baby greens obviously
  • frozen peas, thawed but still cold and firm
  • 1 can beets, drained and diced/sliced
  • 1/2 can corn, drained (or half bag of frozen corn, thawed... or even better-- some fresh corn)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 small lemon, juiced
  • olive oil (I prefer extra virgin)
  • 1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 tbsp dijon mustard
  • salt and pepper to taste
Put honey, lemon juice, oil, vinegar and dijon mustard in a container. Tightly seal and shake vigorously until vinaigrette is emulsified. Test and adjust levels. Add s&p to taste. Oil to acid ratio is roughly 2:1, but it's up to you. You'll have a good amount of vinaigrette, so you can leave some on the table. Add to greens, peas, beets and corn. Toss gently and serve!

Basic Crepe Recipe
Via norecipes.com. Click here for tips and further instructions!
  • 1 1/2 C milk
  • 1 C flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt
Note: I added a tbsp of water to the batter, but adjust however you like until the batter is slightly thicker than heavy cream)

Whisk everything together and refridgerate for about an hour. Click here for cooking tips/directions. Add any type of filling. I added nutella, strawberries, blackberries and bananas. Dust with powdered sugar and maybe a sprig of mint!

As for the pasta recipe, there isn't one. I just put random stuff in there because I was in a hurry. Experiment with tomato sauce / cream combinations! Try adding sauteed shallots, garlic, sausage, etc! And some parm cheese and fresh herbs :) Yummy.


hey, cool! my picture actually got published on TS :D exciting for a noob like me.