Tag Archive for spicy

Tweat-Up at An

Steamed dumplings

Steamed dumplings

When An’s (2800 Renaissance Park Place, Cary) promotional team invited me to a blogger night to sample some cocktails and appetizers, I was thrilled. An’s beautifully presented dishes, photographs of which are always on rotation at the RDU baggage claim screens, have tempted me for years, but I had not managed to visit the restaurant before. So the opportunity to try their fare for free (I see you, obligatory disclaimer!) was a chance I couldn’t pass up.

And I wasn't the only one.

And I wasn’t the only one.

Members of the Triangle food media (including representatives from Taste Carolina, Cary Magazine, and Visit Raleigh in the above photo) gathered in An’s attractive bar, and a driftwood-inspired presentation set the mood for a relaxing reception and light selection of appetizers.

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My favorite was perhaps the most conventional choice, but it was done in a manner that made it feel new to me.

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Those giant osso bucco wings are rolled in crushed cashews and served with a tamarind dressing and a delightful mango slaw. The combination of tangy tamarind with the sauce’s sweet heat and the nuts’ crunch bathed my mouth in contentedness. I am only slightly ashamed of using such flowery language for that food description—it was that good.

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Maximillian’s Grill

Maximillian’s Grill
8314 Chapel Hill Road
Cary
Website
$19-$35

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Maximillian’s Grill, not to be confused with Maximillian’s Pizza Kitchen next door though I’m going out on a limb and saying they’re related, appeared this year on Greg Cox’s annual list of top 20 Triangle restaurants. It always flies under my radar; I keep forgetting people have recommended it, but the placement on Cox’s list stuck it firmly in mind this time.

The menu is manic, reaching into Asian, Mexican, Southern, and Nouveau American cuisines, sometimes all in the same dish. Spiciness in many forms is its main unifier. Usually the spice is conveyed through sauces with names like hellfire, demon, and voodoo. As a lover of all things fiery and kitsch, that is not a problem for me. Our waitress deserves bonus points for remembering the details of 2 appetizer specials, 6 entrée specials, and 2 dessert specials. This is not a restaurant that dreams small.

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With that sort of menu, I expected a bolder atmosphere, but Maximillian’s sticks with a cigar room and steakhouse feel. It’s pretty dark (standard apologies for the photos), and walnut wood paneled the walls. It’s also rather cold early evening, likely due to the floor-length windows and stone-tiled floor. But the place warmed up well enough when more people came in. By 7 pm, it was hopping. Contemporary pop played from hidden speakers.

The wine list underwhelmed, mainly because the cheapest glasses are $10. The cocktails are similarly priced, so I chose one of those instead, the Blood and Sand.

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It took an imaginative route toward a manhattan’s flavors by combining salty caramel vodka, Dewar’s scotch, vermouth, an orange twist, and a maraschino cherry. Pretty in the glass, and I was surprised by how the caramel’s sweetness imparted bourbon characteristics to the Scotch, thus invoking my impression of it as a roundabout manhattan. The caramel note lingered pleasantly.

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Firehouse Subs Sampling and Talk with the Founder

Firehouse Subs Sampling and Talk with the Founder

Blogger David of Lunchboy Says, Robin Sorenson, and myself.

Blogger David of Lunchboy Says, Robin Sorenson, and myself.

Two weeks ago, I was invited to the Firehouse Subs on Kildaire Farms Road in Cary for a night of sub sandwich and soda tasting with my blogging peers. The real draw for me was the chance to hear Robin Sorenson, who founded Firehouse Subs with his brother Chris, speak about the origins of the company, their goals, and their nonprofit work. I jumped at the chance because (a) I am not against chain stores unless they have dubious practices or a bad quality of food, and (b) I had never been to a Firehouse Subs.

The real draw for you is to leave a comment on this blog to win a $10 gift card to Firehouse Subs! First five comments will be mailed a gift card.

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In case you’re one of the few people in the country who also hasn’t been, Firehouse Subs is decorated to resemble the inside of a firehouse with rows of firemen jackets, fake hoses, and attractive murals depicting local fire trucks and scenery.

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Why the firehouse theme? Both of the Sorenson brothers are former firefighters, and Robin was inspired by the quality of eats and the sense of fellowship that came from breaking bread with his coworkers in the firehouse. I’ve heard legends of the skills of fireman and policemen at the stove, so I believe him. The Sorenson family has a history of entrepreneurship, so it was only natural the brothers would eventually try their hands at it. And they did, opening the first Firehouse Subs in Jacksonville, FL, in 1994.

Robin showing off the brisket used in their restaurants.

Robin showing off the brisket used in their restaurants.

The Firehouse Sub sandwich-building technique involves toasting the bread then adding the meat, cheese, and dressings and sending all that through a steamer. The cold toppings are added before serving the sandwich. The result is outstanding for me, but I’m a fan of messy sandwiches with lots of mayo. For my husband, it was generally too drippy. I was especially impressed with the creamy, mellow mustard they use because strong mustard can be off-putting for me. The mustard on these sandwiches was a nice complement instead.

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