Saturday, September 22, 2012

Grilled Cheese Season has begun!

Now that the weather is getting cold and fall is in the air, most people seem to have pumpkin spice on the brains. But we turophiles are dreaming about grilled cheese.  I will eat grilled cheese year around but there is something so comforting about a gooey grilled cheese with a side of soup on a chilly day.  We all have childhood memories of grilled cheese and tomato soup on a chilly day.  I was very excited a few months ago to give my baby boy a taste of his very first grilled cheese.  (He liked it but I still have not had much luck getting him to eat cheese, he does love yogurt and ice cream so I think there is hope for him yet)   

About a decade and a half ago, my dear cousin wrote a zine (remember those? Before blogs!) piece about quick and easy grilled cheese.  The basic recipe involved toasting the bread in a toaster, then add cheese and microwave, voila!  We have come a long way from that but making grilled cheese is not complicated.  Buttered bread + cheese + hot frying pan = grilled cheese.  It is possible to take grilled cheese to a whole ‘nother level.  

I have learned a lot about making grilled cheese from family and friends over the years.  My mother taught me to add weight on top of the sandwich while it fries in the pan.  She would use a mason jar (which was actually an empty tomato sauce jar that we normally used for drinking glasses) but you could also use one of those bacon presses if you have one.  An old boyfriend taught me to cut the sandwich diagonally to help cooling and oozing.  I know cheese is salty but one of my oldest friends would sprinkle just a bit of salt on his finished grilled cheese and I think it was a wonderful improvement.

There are a few other things you must consider when making a grilled cheese.  Grilled cheese is made from the combination of bread and cheese so let’s talk about these two simple ingredients that come in countless varieties.

Bread – for grilled cheese you want soft crust bread.  If you use a baguette to make a grilled cheese then you might be a masochist.  That hard crust when made crispy will cut up your mouth and leave you sore for days.  I love to use pumpernickel or rye bread but the ultimate bread is buttermilk bread from Mom’s Apple Pie Company.  This is a gigantic, tall, fluffy loaf of white bread and makes the best toast.

You do need to butter or oil your bread to get nice browning. My father used mayonnaise which added a touch of tart vinegar flavor.  You can butter your bread before it hits the pan but make sure your butter is soft or you will ruin your bread.  You can also add butter or olive oil (or any other kind of oil) to the pan then add the bread, move the bread around to soak up oil, then when you flip, add more butter or oil and move around again to soak.

Cheese – when we cook with cheese the flavor becomes milder.  I like to start with a stronger cheese for this reason.  When I was young we used American cheese more often than not but sometimes it was government issued cheese (which has a very special place in my heart with its enormous brown cardboard box case) but I know some used Colby jack, Monterey jack, or munster (not the stinky, yummy French stuff) which are decent melters but they don’t have enough flavor for my grown up taste buds.  I even find Cheddar a bit boring for a grilled cheese.  Here are just a few great cheeses (most are readily available at your local supermarket) for grilled cheese: Raclette, Appenzeller, Fontina val d’Aosta, sharp provolone, Gruyere, and Comte.  I do recommend shredding whatever cheese you choose to use to help it melt before your bread burns.  You can also combine cheeses which can be a great way to keep your food cost down.  You can mix a mild cheap cheddar and splurge with a more expensive Comte. 

It might be tempting to use Brie for a grilled cheese but a soft ripened double or triple crème cheese is too high in fat and too soft to withstand frying.  Cheeses that are very high in fat (even Cheddar) are more likely to leak oil while frying.  You want a gooey grilled cheese, not a drippy one.  You can add a soft cheese like Tallegio but you should pair it with another cheese (like Fontina Val d’Aosta) to provide more structure. 

Aged cheeses also do not melt as well as young cheeses because cheese loses moisture as it ages.  Parmigiano-Reggiano can make a great crunchy cheese cracker but it will not give you a gooey grilled cheese. You can add a touch for sharpness and flavor but it must be paired with a good melter.  Think about mozzarella, it is a wonderful melter and a very young cheese.  This cheese is made and consumed within weeks of being made which means it does not lose moisture and melts beautifully.  If you have a cheese and want to know how it will melt, make cheese toast for breakfast.  Take bread (a sliced baguette will work for this) add cheese, and put it under the broiler for a few minutes and see what happens.  If the cheese does not have an elastic give to it, it will not make a gooey grilled cheese.   

You might be tempted to use a flavored cheese to make grilled cheese but the cheese will lose flavor while it cooks.  If you want to add flavor use mustard, jam, chutney, relish, or any addition.  You could add tomatoes, pickles, bacon, herbs, onion jam, or Dijon mustard.  I think any sandwich (grilled cheese or even burger) is made better topped with a gooey egg.  A classic example is the Croque Madame

Some days I will buy plain sliced cheddar from the deli counter and use whatever bread I have on hand to make a grilled cheese.  I am usually disappointed by this cheese and the sandwich but they can't all be winners.  Sometimes I want a special grilled cheese and will put more thought into my cheese selection.  One of the tastiest grilled cheeses I ever enjoyed was Tallegio and Fontina Val d’Aosta with a sweet and sour onion jam sprinkled with thyme.  Here are 40 suggestions for grilled cheese.  What is your favorite grilled cheese? 

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Kiss My Curds Cheese Consulting

Kiss My Curds is the name of my cheesemaking operation which has been on hiatus in order for me to focus on caring for my son.  Cheesemaking is very time consuming, especially when you are driving two hours for the freshest milk.  Babies are also very time consuming, who knew?  I attempted to return to cheesemaking this summer but found I was spreading myself too thin and was not very good at multitasking.  Someone once told me that multitasking was just doing multiple things badly.  I have missed making cheese, selling cheese, cutting cheese, packing cheese, and talking about cheese. I wanted to get back into cheese in a way that would be more flexible. I am happy to announce a consultation arm of Kiss My Curds!

Kiss My Curds is an artisanal cheese producer and provider of personal Cheesemongering services in the Washington, DC metro region.  Kiss My Curds specializes in one-on-one cheese consultation and in-home cheese making and cheese tasting demonstrations for anyone with a passion or curiosity about the many fantastic cheeses available today.

Kiss My Curds is now offering a variety of educational cheese experiences and workshops:

Cheese Adventure with a Personal Cheesemonger

I will accompany you and a friend to a great local cheese counter and demystify cheese shopping, pairing, and serving. I will answer any cheese related questions you might have on topics such as artisanl cheese production, pairing, seasonality, storage, and presentation. I’ll make recommendations tailored to your personal preferences, and send you home with a selection of three cheeses to enjoy later.
Cost: $150           Duration: around 2 hours

Fresh Mozzarella Workshop

We will make and enjoy mozzarella in the comfort of your kitchen.  I will supply the milk, ingredients, and equipment all you need is a microwave and stove top.  This is a really great workshop for children who are interested in cheese or cooking.  I will also answer any questions and let you know what some great books are and website to get you started making cheese at home.
Cost: $150           Duration: around 2 hours (including a half hour to setup)

Cooking with Cheese

Cheese is wonderful to enjoy on its own but is also a staple of cooking.  We will talk about cooking with cheese, which cheeses are best suited for different recipes, how to save money on cheese shopping, and I will provide recipe ideas for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert.  We will also make and enjoy and a simple cheese-centric snack or I may bring along on of my favorite cheese dishes.
Cost: $150           Duration: around 2 hours

5 Months of Holiday Cheese Consultations

This entitles you to unlimited cheese advice via phone from October 25th 2012 - March 25th 2013 and anytime by email.  I will present you with cheese plate themes and ideas for Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, Valentine's Day, and St. Patrick's Day, all tailored to your palate and dietary needs.  This also includes one cheese adventure for 2 to your local cheese counter (see description above), and an in-home cheese platter making demonstration. 
Cost: $750

In home Cheese Tasting

A guided cheese tasting for you and your guests, conducted in the comfort of your own home!  Tailored to your preferences and interests, your party will be lead through a tasting of a series of fantastic cheeses expertly paired with accompaniments such as wild honeys, nuts, preserves, beers, wines, or spirits.  The theme of tasting can be constructed around any theme (seasonality permitting), such as a given milk type, region, style.  For example:
·        Great New American Artisanals
·        DC Locals
·        Rustic Traditions
·        Up and Down the Pyrenees
·        Craft Brew Pairings
All you’ll need to do is provide the tableware and workspace, then sit back and enjoy with your guests! 
Cost: $50-100/person, depending on theme                       Duration: 2 hour event, with 1 hour setup prior

About Kiss My Curds Consulting

Kiss My Curds is Charlotte McConnell, a professional Cheese expert, Cheesemonger, and Cheesemaker based in Northern Virginia.  Read more at

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Banana Walnut Brownies of Chocolate Deliciousness

I love cheese but sometimes what you really need is chocolate.  After a hard week with a fussy baby and being disappointed to miss out on a nice dinner out with friends because Orion was sick, I required chocolate.  I called Patrick to task him with picking up some chocolate deliciousness on his way home from work.  He needed more specifics and I was helpful enough to say “no ice cream, maybe something cake like or a brownie but nothing from Whole Foods as their sweets never satisfy me and nothing from Wegman’s, and not the standard chocolate cake from Santini’s”.  With instrusctions like that, it is no surprise he came home empty handed.

That night around 8 pm, I checked the cupboard to see if we had anything on had to create something yummy.  Cocoa powder-check, butter, we have that, brown sugar- yup, all of which I can transform into brownies.   I found an Alton Brown recipe, who I love, but he often makes things a bit complicated in his quest for food perfection.  His recipe had way to much sifting going on (how do you sift sticky brown sugar?) so I skipped it.

Here is my recipe for Banana Walnut Brownies adapted from Alton Brown’s Cocoa Brownies recipe By Charlotte McConnell adapted from Alton Brown

4 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar
8 ounces (2 sticks) melted butter
11/4 cups cocoa
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 heaping teaspoon cinnamon 
1 cup of walnuts
1 ripe banana, mashed and mushed

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F.
Butter and flour an 8-inch square pan.
Beat the eggs then add brown sugar and granulated sugar.  
Mix in everything else and pour batter into pan.
Bake 45 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean or you can no longer wait.

I love that Alton Brown says “resist the temptation to cut into it until it's mostly cool”.  Obviously, he is not a woman, and I did not wait.  Yes, they fell apart a little but it was near 10pm and I had been waiting many hours for a chocolate fix and I knew they would be cool tomorrow.

These really hit the chocolate spot and were so easy that I really can’t understand why anyone would make brownies from a box.  Plus they were almost, kinda, sorts healthy with the one banana and all its potassium and the healthy walnuts who are full of good fats and omega-3!  I know this picture really does not do these brownies justice but I was busy eating them.  I made them Thursday night and this was the only bit left on Sunday morning.  

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Blues and Bay

Over two years ago my father gave me all his canning equipment.  I finally got around to using the equipment this week.  I bought myself a new cookbook for canning inspiration and was very excited to make the cover recipe.  I made the Blues and Bay recipe from The River Cottage Preserves Handbook.  As it is blueberry season, it was perfect timing.  I had a lovely time blueberry picking but had to cut it short because someone had cranky pants.  I did pick just enough for this recipe.  I hope to make it back out to pick if this insane heat ever subsides.

Please keep in mind that this was a first time attempt at canning and I really don’t know what I am doing.  I do know how to read and follow a recipe so I did just that.  It seemed way easier than it should be which leads me to believe that I did something wrong.

I was excited by this recipe because of the combination of blueberries and bay leaf, something I would not think to put together.  I really wish this recipe had a yield.  The amount of berries filled 4 jars but the amount of liquid only filled 2.  I did spill some liquid and maybe I could have fit more berries into fewer jars but I did not want to smoosh the berries.  The recipe said not to smoosh, actually “Pack them firmly, without crushing”. 

I was eager to try out the fruits of my labor and was not disappointed.  We enjoyed this canned fruit with some fresh homemade chevre.   It was also delicious with coconut pancakes and later enjoyed with vanilla ice cream. The liquid was watery, not sure if it is supposed to be that way.  The recipe said to make a “fruit syrup” but not how much to reduce it by or how long too cook it.  I am excited to try out the other jars and see if the bay leaf flavor intensifies. My first attempt was not a totally success or failure but it was a delicious start.

Back in the saddle

On May 25th 2012, I decided to get back into cheesemaking by making my favorite, rosemary feta.  I opened up my cheese notebook to discover that the last time I made cheese was September 8th 2010!  At the time I was about 4 weeks pregnant.  I took a break from cheesemaking because I did not have to time to devote to making cheese or driving 2 hours to get the milk.

This first attempt at cheesemaking after 20 months off was a total failure.  What I made was a milky slop that would not coagulate because my rennet and cultures were dead.  Rennet and cheese cultures do have expiration dates and they are not a joke.  Everything I had was expired but I wanted to see if there might be some viability.  I had a lot of supplies that had to be trashed, very sad.  I wish I had had the forethought to give it all to someone who would use them instead of letting it all go to waste.

I did learn to buy my rennet and cultures in smaller amounts.  Liquid rennet will last for a year in the refrigerator and most cultures will last about 2 years in the freezer.  I have since made some chevre, I should have let it drain longer.  I also made some rosemary feta but added to much salt to the brine so the texture was too soft.  But at least I am getting back into the swing of things.

I did make some cajeta which was a delicious success!  Sometimes I don’t know what to do with just 2 quarts of goat’s milk but now I do.  I think I will be giving everyone on my Christmas list a jar of this decadent caramel.  Another failure was this rosemary honey goat milk ice cream, I left out the strawberries.  The texture was icy and I had never seen one whole egg used in an ice cream recipe.  The recipe did not say to strain the mixture before turning but I did because the egg white left an unappetizing film.  I will keep attempting to recreate the delicious rosemary honey goat milk gelato from Capogiro and once I have it cracked, I will tell you all about it!  

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Surprisingly delicious!

I have never been a big fan of combining alcohol and dairy products. I am not sure how The Dude managed to drink all those White Russians. The idea of an alcoholic float would gross me out but then I tried one. I was really surprised by the deliciousness of this adult float. Combine ice cream (vanilla) and Lambic (raspberry) and you may garnish with fresh berries if you are wearing your fancy pants.

You could try chocolate ice cream with Kahlua but I think the fizz in the Lambic makes something special occur. Any flavor of ice cream + your favorite alcohol = yummy potential. The possibilities are endless but I wouldn't drink too many. This is perfect for a hot summer day or any day that you wish had a summery feel.

Sunday, April 8, 2012

The Dark side of Chocolate

What Christ rising from his grave has to do with bunnies, eggs, and chocolate, I may never understand. Even though I do not celebrate Easter, this holiday has gotten me thinking about chocolate. I never really though about how many chocolate holidays we have, Valentine's Day, Easter, and Halloween. Halloween is the kick off to get fat season and what Thanksgiving or Christmas would be complete without a bit of chocolate.

I pay a lot of attention to where my food comes from and what is in it but chocolate somehow is not held to the same standard in my mind. I look forward to this time of year so I can indulge in Cadbury Mini Eggs and White Chocolate Reese's Eggs. I only recently learned that Monsanto owns Cadbury (they also own Betty Crocker, Duncan Hines, Peppridge Farms, Hershey's Nestle, and Famous Amos just to name a few). This means this year was the last time I will enjoy those Mini Eggs because I do not want to give my money to Monsanto.

The ingredient list for the aforementioned Mini Eggs looks pretty tame, but where does their chocolate come from? Chocolate is another example of you get what you pay for. Why is some chocolate really cheap and other chocolates are really expensive? The cheap stuff might be filled with flavor additives, high fructose corn syrup, and hydrogenates oils and the actual chocolate might be of a lesser quality, while the expensive chocolate is made of the "good stuff". Nothing is cheaper because of the goodness of the company, usually the opposite is true.

How would you feel knowing the chocolate stuffing your Easter basket was made with child labor? Chocolate is made from cocoa beans and 43% of cocoa beans are grown in the Ivory Coast. Working on a cocoa plantation is no easy job and often this work is being done by children who were basically tricked into slavery. We need to start asking ourselves where does our chocolate come from, how was it harvested, and what are the conditions for the workers. Cocoa beans do not grow in Virginia so you could also consider the food miles involved in getting that bar of chocolate into your Easter basket.

Chocolate should be a special treat, not an impulse buy at the cash register. This is an item that really should be purchased in a socially responsible way. Not to mention that we really do not need any help fattening up America. Granted, buying Fair Trade chocolate to give out on Halloween may get really expensive and you don't want to be the house giving out toothbrushes for fear of being egged. Maybe Halloween is the only day of the year when you buy low quality chocolates. If everyone did this, it would make such a huge difference in the world.

Personally, I would rather have something that is really good infrequently, then more of something that is low quality. I love these Earl Grey chocolate bars from Chuao. They are expensive and hard to find but for Christmas my husband bought me 3 bars and gave me 3 more for my birthday a month later. I can make one of these chocolate bars last almost an entire month. I keep them in the freezer and take one bar out a month and savor their flavor as I nibble away. I may be paying $8 a bar after shipping but that is only $8 a month for delicious, indulgent chocolate. That works out to about $0.26 a day for something that is delicious and I can feel good about buying.

And you really shouldn't bother with cheap chocolate on Valentine's Day. The Whitman's sampler picked up at the gas station does not say "love" it says "Oh, shit, I forgot". One thing I can really respect about Easter is Lent. I like the idea of giving something up for 40 days and then treating yourself after. It also helps to have Fat Tuesday or what we called Donut day, before the start of Lent. If you are going to have an Easter basket filled with cheap chocolate, I hope you would consider giving up chocolate for Lent.

I know things will soon get complicated when my now almost one year old son starts noticing Easter, Valentine's, and Halloween. I do look forward to celebrating Valentine's and Halloween with him but Easter will be hard to explain. I was raised Catholic so I do have fond memories of Easter baskets and egg hunts. I do not want to deny my son fun experiences and happy childhood memories. I also do not want those moments to come at a high cost to others, especially children. Also, Easter is a religious holiday and we aren't religious. I think it is funny that there is a whole put Christ back in Christmas campaign but I have never heard of a put Christ back in Easter campaign. I guess the slogan isn't as catchy.

Remember to vote with your dollars and carefully consider what you buy and who profits from your purchase as well as who suffers from that purchase.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Foie is not your Foe

I am so happy that I do not live in California! Recently, I learned that the state of California is banning Foie Gras. As of July of this year, foie gras will be illegal in California. This makes me feel bad for Californians. They get to vote on all sorts of different matters and enact real changes in their state and this is how they use their voting power. I don't understand why they would waste their time on foie gras. Does PETA run the state? People have a right to chose what they want to eat and foie gras is not dangerous.

I love foie gras! It is like delicious meat butter. It is creamier than bone marrow but they share that deep, rich, umami flavor. Foie gras is French for "fat liver" and it is just that. The fatten liver of a goose or duck. Foie gras does not have that iron metallic flavor found in most other livers. Foie gras is rich in iron, vitamin A, and good healthy fats (unsaturated) while being low in bad fats (saturated and trans fats) and low in sugar. I wonder how many voters in California have actually tasted foie gras.

The controversy is not that foie gras is dangerous to consume but that the farming practices are inhumane. Foie gras is farmed using a practice called gavage. Yes, gavage is a fancy French term for force feeding through a tube. Force feeding sounds really bad but when you don't have a gag reflex and are a total glutton it really isn't. Ducks and geese have no gag reflex and swallow whole fish that are bigger than the feeding tubes used in gavage. They also breath through their tongues which sounds insane but makes suffocation by feeding tube impossible.

The fattening of animals is nothing new. The cattle industry fattens up beef cows and feeds them food that is not even in their natural diet. A cows natural diet is grass but factory cattle farms feed them a steady diet of corn along with some really gross shit. The conditions of feed lots are overcrowded and disgusting with cows knee high in their own feces. These feed lot practices are not only bad for the animals but they are also bad for the meat. Yes the meat may be better marbled, more tender, and flavorful but it also has higher amounts of bad fats and less of the good Omega 3 fatty acids. They also create massive amounts of run off waste which can end up polluting local rivers and water supplies. Why didn't California outlaw commercial cattle feed lots?

Why is foie gras being singled out? Because foie gras is not an industrialized mega farming endeavor. Mom and pop farms do not have the muscle and money to lobby and protect themselves. The cattle industry is massive and has a lot of pull and protection. Making foie gras illegal is a strike against small independent family farms. This ban will definitely have greater affects than what you are able to eat. For one, a family farm will lose their livelihood.

What we need to do is go back to the time before industrialized farming. Your food does not need to travel thousands of miles before it arrives at your local mega supermarket. Food has a season and we should respect that. Food also costs money and you get what you pay for. The dollar menu sounds like a bargain until you start to wonder where that beef patty came from. I know that almost everyone is having money issues and it can be hard to pass up a bargain but sometimes it is better to walk away.

You also do not need to eat meat at every meal every day. Find your local farmers, go to your neighborhood farmer's market, and enjoy their bounty. You can feel good about supporting a local family, saving gas on food transportation which is good for the environment, and supporting a local patch of land that will not be turned into a strip mall plus providing good healthy food for your family.

You should care about where all your food comes and how it was raised. Were your apples sprayed with pesticides? Was your chicken shot full of antibiotics? Did your bacon come from a pig that was kept in a cage so small that it couldn't turn around? When it comes to foie gras, I think people are getting hung up on gavage. It think it matters more what environment the ducks and geese are raised in and how they are treated. Also as important is how the human workers are treated on the farm. I understand that not every foie gras farm is idyllic but I am sure the percentage of cattle/pork/chicken farms with worse conditions is much greater.

We are Americans and we were founded on life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Taking away my right to choose to eat something like foie gras is taking away my right to choose. They have already taken away our right to raw milk, whats next? Will they take away our sushi?

Read more about foie gras at:
Serious Eats
The Village Voice

Want to learn more about your food?
What to Eat
Real Food
The Omnivore's Dilemma
Food, Inc.
King Corn
Supersize Me
The Dive
Check out Slow Food USA

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


You may recall that I love Raclette. I think it blows fondue out of the milk! You don't have to worry about hot splash back or losing your chunk in hot lava cheese. Fondue also has limited creativity and combinations. The basic principal is skewer chunk (meat, veggie, fruit, bread) and dip in cheese, oil, or chocolate. It is hard to factor much else into the equation.

Raclette is full of possibilities. You take some Raclette cheese and add anything to it and keep adding different ingredients. You just don't want to pile on so much that the food will be touching the heating element because it will either burn or catch on fire. One trick to Raclette is to forget about it, then you will achieve that golden crunchy cheese yumminess.

I think of Raclette as a winter activity and was very happy to get a cold spell this weekend. We hadn't used our Raclette grill since last winter and I wanted to use it before next winter. We planned a small gathering of about 8 people total. You don't want too many people running around with hot cheese when you have 2 dogs and a baby underfoot. It was fun for everybody to come up different combinations and share "recipes".

The cheeses we had were Raclette as well as Beemster goat Gouda (which is a nice melter) and Robiola Bosina (not a good melter as the fat content is too high). The meats were a goose liver pate, Landjaeger which is a dried hunters sausage, Porchetta which is pork loin wrapped in pancetta, and Finnochionia. There was also crispy kale, olives, marinated mushrooms, portabello mushrooms, cornishons, melba toast, baguette, and of course boiled potatoes. I also offered a selection of salts, smoked Maldon, green herb salt, and a red spice salt.

The standout highlight combination of the night was Raclette with marinated mushrooms and crispy kale. I can't stop thinking of it even though I ate a ton that night. I am gonna put that combination into a grilled cheese. I could even do an open face grilled cheese under the broiler! What a great way to get in your greens.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

My cheese dreams are not dead

I am sorry that I have not been blogging more often. I am trying to get back into the swing of things but my life is much less cheese filled these days. I do intend to get back into cheese making this spring. In the meantime I have started a new blog about other aspects of my life.

I will continue to blog about cheese and food on Charlotte's Cheese Dreams.


A few months ago, we moved to Sterling. We had been pretty disappointed by neighborhood food establishments until we went to Mokomandy. I still can't believe such a great restaurant was hiding in our town. Mokomandy is a small Korean/Cajun restaurant. Seems like an odd mix but the chef has family roots in both ethnicities and spicy is also a common thread. Their menu is divided into small, medium, and large plates with a large selection of $3 snacks and sides.

We ventured out on a cold windy Friday night with baby in tow who slept through most of the delicious meal. I started with the Foie Gras Dumplings pictured to the left. These little pockets of yum where a wonderful start to a great meal. They were rich and luscious with that umami thing I hear so much about.

Any visit to Mokomandy would be incomplete with out a side of Cracklins. They came hot and popping to the table. Dusted with a touch of what I think was paprika. Our order during our second visit was spicier than our first visit. If you don't like hot spicy food I am sure you could request them without or just a tad of hot dust.

The first visit I had the Korean Karnivore Ssam, this was a pile of shaved beef shortrib and lettuce to wrap the meat. It was served with delicious and not too spicy kimche and yummy veggies. Patrick ordered the Wild Boar Bowl which was hearty and even though it was a medium plate, he was unable to finish it and brought home the leftovers.

This first visit I forgot my camera so all the pictures are from our second visit which took place on my 32nd birthday. Unfortunately, Orion was awake for this visit. He was almost asleep when we parked the car but was awake once we got into the restaurant. This made the meal stressful and less enjoyable as baby boy had on his fussy pants cause he was tired and wouldn't sleep. He didn't make too much of a scene but I know when to throw in the towel.

On our second visit I ordered the Oyster Poboys. These local oysters had a cornmeal crust and were served on delicious housemade brioche. Very yummy as I love cornmeal and brioche but it could have used more Oyster.

I also ordered the Gator Croquette. These were tasty balls but they could have been anything. They are made with house made bacon but I really couldn't tell. I have had gator before and felt there was a bit of that gator texture in the croquette. But by this point I was being distracted by a fussy baby boy.

Patrick ordered Steak Frites which was cooked perfectly to his taste and how cute are those lil' lumps of meat. I found the fries and bok choy to be really delicious, the carrots were a bit too crunchy for my taste.

The service at this place is wonderful. On our first visit we were told they were a man down so food left the kitchen more slowly but our server was very attentive. The place was packed during this visit and they put us in a table I assume they don't usually use when it is cold as the frigid air blows right inside. The table was by the front door and they turned the space heater in our direction to fight the cold front. The heater wasn't really necessary and we enjoyed our spot much more than waiting for a table. during our first visit, Patrick ordered a ginger ale. When they discovered they were our of the ginger ale one employee offered to run up to the supermarket to get him a Goya. We declined as they seemed busy enough.

Our second visit was on an unseasonably warm Thursday night, only a few other tables were occupied. When I took the baby out to the car, the hostess offered their bathroom for a diaper change. But I knew what he needed was a little booby snack and a nap. When Patrick eventually finished his meal and left, he had been given some free Chocolate Caramel Chicory pudding for our troubles which were of no fault of the restaurant. It was tasty pudding and gave me a bit of a late night sugar shock. The cane syrup salted caramels should be sold by the bagful!

Our first visit I ordered the Triple Chocolate Cake which was frozen dark chocolate mousse squares and devil’s food cake squares swimming in hot fudge with passionfruit sauce and the cake was topped with orange segments. It was just an OK dessert. The mousse was too frozen to eat, the cake was dry, and there was too much sauce but I did love the passionfruit.

Mokomandy has a very interesting cocktail menu. On each visit I ordered a different cocktail and enjoyed them both. I look forward to no longer breastfeeding so I can drink with abandon, not like I'm an alcoholic but I would like to try both their wine flights. The first cocktail i had was the Hibiscus 75 made with local Catoctin Creek Gin, Sparkling wine, Hibiscus, and Elderflower. I am not much of a Gin drinker but I do really like Catoctin Creek's gin. It is less juniper but more complex. The second visit, I enjoyed a Pomegranate Currant Fizz made with Pama Liqueur, Absolut Kurrant, Lavender Syrup, Lime, and Sparkling Rose. This may have been my favorite and I wish they came in bigger glasses.

I highly recommend this restaurant and believe it is worth the drive from DC. There are a number of menu items I want to try so I will be back. If you go mention my name, Charlotte the cheese lady!