Ann’s Dari-Creme

Ann’s Dari-Creme, Glen Burnie, MD

I was joking around about local hot dog spots (see “What’s So Great About Ben’s Chili Bowl?“) and mentioned I might check out Ann’s Dari-Creme in Glen Burnie, MD — a tiny little place which looks even tinier since a shopping mall sprang up behind it. I had heard about it years ago when I first moved to the Annapolis, MD area from a friend who had grown up in that area, but I never bothered to check it out. I wasn’t inclined to go out of my way for a hot dog.  But, after I mentioned it in my other post I had to look it up to create the website link (they don’t have their own website, but I linked to the yelp.com section about them) and I discovered that it’s considered quite the little local gem. There’s an article in the Washington Post that I never could get to load, and allegedly an article in the Washingtonian that I couldn’t actually read because I refused to sign up and make an account just to read about hot dogs. (Clearly my research strategies are rather lazy on this topic). I can provide, however, the link to the tripadvisor.com reviews, the format of which I used to be very fond of back before I consigned myself to the endless grind of student-dom and signed away any possibility of having the time or money to do anything fun or actually travel somewhere more than 25 miles away.

I heard it can get nutso in there so I went to check them out on a quiet Wednesday night. The sign outside declares they’ve been there for over 62 years. It’s a small place, very intimate, and I had to step right up to the counter without preamble. There were people waiting for their food all quiet as could be. I was not prepared. I got flustered.

This is how confident Ann’s Dari-Creme is: there are only three mains on the menu – six, if you count ordering something with or without cheese as a separate choice – no descriptions, no elaborations. I ordered the Famous Foot-Long and when she asked me what I wanted on it, I blanked.

“Everything?” she prodded.

Ummmm. I looked at the sign. No clues. Onions? Relish? Ketchup? What’s “Everything”?

I didn’t ask.

Seconds ticked by as I imagined how you could put ketchup on a dog and then fry it. I pictured them dressing the dog and then putting the whole thing in the fryer, like a deep fried Twinkie. Impossible. I couldn’t make it add up, and she was waiting. I blurted out “relish and mustard” which is weird since I don’t think I’ve ever eaten a hot dog without ketchup before, and then I wondered if I was sweating. And why was it so infernally quiet in there? I also ordered, for market research purposes, a half a cheesesteak — another oddity since I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve deigned to order a cheesesteak outside of the Philadelphia area. There must’ve been a funny moon out that night.

I sat at the counter waiting for my order and listened to everyone else who came in. They all knew what was up. They sounded like they had been ordering the same thing for 30 years. I quickly realized I had made a mistake — I should’ve gotten “Everything” since “Everything” meant chili. Rats! Now I was just getting a stupid old dog. Without ketchup, no less. Lame.

My dog came and it looked mighty lonely wrapped up in that big bun without any chili on it. A foot-long sounds big, right? They’re actually not very big. They are about the diameter of my index finger, max, not like the hot dogs you get at a ballgame or picnic. And I have a thing about excess bun on things, so I cropped all the excess bun off my dog and thought about how to get my order right next time. My new plan: The Double Dog, Half Order. Yes. Think about that for a second. But, a half a double dog is like just getting a single dog, right? Right. Same amount of dog, half the bun. It’s genius! Now, on to the cheesesteak.

I can be real snotty about my cheesesteaks, but I have to tell you something about this one hit me the right way. The bread wasn’t Amoroso’s, of course, but they used thin minute steaks, so that worked for me. You know how some places try to jazz it up by using thinly sliced ribeye or some such nonsense? Nope, give me that shaved beef, preferably pressed into an unnatural sheet of meat so that when you throw it on the flattop you have to chop it up again with your grill spatula. Then give me those fried onions that still have some bite to them and shove it in a soft hoagie roll…That’s the business. It was tasty.

After I got home I revisited the reviews on TripAdvisor and realized everything I had needed to know had been there all along: order an “Everything” or an “Everything, no onions” or everyone will know you are a loser. Sigh. Next time.

Fast forward to: Next Time

This time I’m sure I’ll get it right. It’s daytime, so I can see they have a sign outside — a newbie cheatsheet- that breaks it down for you about how to order (so that’s how those TripAdvisor reviewers had it together so fast!). I discover you can request your hot dog onions grilled, so I do this, but it appears I used too many words for that request because the counter gal looked at me very tiredly and shorthanded it back to me. I was so consumed with getting the fried onion lingo down that I forgot my clever trick of ordering the Half Double. Sigh. Oh well. Next time. Practice makes perfect.

Foot-Long with Everything, Fried. Next time I’ll get the Half Double with Everything, Fried, which will put the whole hot dog in just half the bun. Perfect!

Ann’s was crowded this time and I sat at the counter waiting for my dog watching the ladies sling hot dogs. These gals are serious. Nobody writes anything down. The one taking the orders, Lady A, tells the one working the grill, Lady B, as she puts out the right numbers of rolls for her. Everything (that I saw ordered each time I was there, anyway) goes on the same roll, a sub roll, so that certainly doesn’t help them keep it straight. At one point the lady at the grill, Lady B, had fifteen — yes, I counted them — identical rolls laid out in front of her and she just kept on keeping on. Over the next five minutes she filled every one of those rolls without saying a word. Then Lady A takes them back, bags them up — I have no idea how she knows which thing goes with which order since they are all wrapped in the same white paper — calls them out, the people pay and everyone is happy. It was fascinating to watch.

I learned a lot sitting there. For instance, I learned that you can get a gigantic soft serve cone with rainbow sprinkles (“jimmies”) for $2.45. I learned that people in Glen Burnie love their Double Dogs with Everything. And I learned I would never be able to work there since I can’t remember any order for more than 5 seconds. Those ladies must have photographic memories. Like I said, practice makes perfect.

Just so you know, Ann’s also serves french fries in a cup (“boardwalk”-style), shakes and those soft-serve cones I mentioned. They also have soft-serve sundaes and one of the toppings is wet walnut, which you don’t see much these days. That might be a trip all its own.

Would I trek to Ann’s from afar? No. Would I go back if I was cruising by and got a bee in my bonnet for a hot dog or (kinda) cheesesteak? Totally. And next time I’ll slide in and out like a Dari Creme pro.

Cash only. Or, you can use the ATM inside.

What a happy dog!

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Wye Mill? Wye Not!

Flour bags

Every now and then I feel the need to go see a historic mill in action. You know I have a thing for colonial things. Doesn’t everyone? Fortunately, I live just about an hour away from historic Wye Mill. Wye Grist Mill, located in Wye, Maryland, borders Talbot and Queen Anne’s counties on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. It’s the oldest working mill in Maryland (1682) and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places. The mill is open from April to November and they mill flour about two weekends a month. I had tried going to Wye Mill once before many years ago but, of course, I arrived on a non-grinding day. Now my baking class was scheduled to go on a field trip in a few weeks to see the milling but I had a prior commitment. So, I resolved to check it out on my own. Wye Mill visit, Take II.

I had heard great things about fresh flour. I wanted some freshly milled flour ground before my very own eyes. The excitement! The very earthiness of it all! I would buy buckwheat and corn and wheat and make wholesome grainy treats. It would be my own personal Little House on the Prairie tableau. Like the food nerd I am, I was actually looking forward to this. So, naturally, something went wrong.

It was a fine Indian Summer kind of day, perfect for motoring around looking at historic sites (and stopping at the outlet malls, but that’s an aside). Blue skies, puffy clouds, the air redolent with rusticity and rural-ness — imagine birds chirping on gentle breezes and you’ve got your vibe. I roll into the mill on this cloud of contentment and anticipation to claim my grains. And sitting before me is one grand but silent grinder. No water wheel turning. No grinding stones a’grindin’…roto. Broken. It seems the mill broke down pretty much as I walked in. I believe I saw the last motes of flour dust settling into place as somewhere the mill gods laughed — foiled again!

Goodbye buckwheat pancakes and hush puppies! Never mind that I can make these anytime I want since I live in America, the land of year-round food opportunity. I did buy some flour milled on the previous grinding day — two weeks old, bah! — still probably the freshest flour I’ve ever had, but that’s not the point.

It seems that whatever stopped the grinder has laid it low for the rest of the season. There will be no more milling at Wye Mill this year. I guess I’ll have to give it a go next April.

(Click on photos for slideshow.)

Flatbreads: Griddle Me This

Brushing the naan with garlic butter

There must be something in the air about flatbreads because right after I mentioned them in “ A Month of Bread Making” a blog post byThe Way The Cookie Crumbles titled “Flatbreads With Honey, Sea Salt and Thyme” fell into my inbox. The photos are lovely and the flatbread looks very delicious.

Flatbreads are some of the oldest types of bread in the world. They can be made from almost any type of grain, tubers, or even pulses like lentils and chickpeas. They can be leavened or unleavened, griddled, baked, fried — you name it. Flatbreads are very accommodating. And very easy! Naan, tortillas, crepes, paratha, lavash, pita, matzoh, injera — all flatbreads.

Here’s how we did it — with an order of bagels thrown in for kicks (click for slideshow).

Every Baby Is A Cute Baby

This isn’t mine. Swearsies.

If you’ve been following, you know that I’m busy shaping and scoring bread. Bread dough is an ornery thing, and shaping it without deflating it entirely (bad) or overworking it so that it gets cranky, resists your every effort and needs to be put down for a nap (time delay) is most complex. Sometimes you win, sometimes you lose.

At this stage in the game we pretty much all suck, but the pastry students like to look at the culinary students and laugh at the way they shape bread because while nobody really knows yet who has The Touch, it’s pretty darn clear Who Doesn’t — and they’re generally Culinary. I only know this because they’re usually grumbling about how they hate baking while they run their blades through the dough in the same spot over and over (a no-no. If you don’t get the score right the first time, walk away; it’s dead to you. It makes it ten times worse to try to saw the blade through again).

So this lovely loaf in the photo, above, turned up at the table next to mine. We were all ogling it for the train wreck it was, but were trying not to be gauche about it.

I happened to have my phone out snapping pictures of my own loaves and I couldn’t resist trying to cop a feel on this beauty.

I sidled over all nonchalant and went in for a shot but the owner turned around right as I framed up and said, “Are you taking a picture of my loaf??”

And I said, “Nope, I’m texting” and pretended I was texting. When I obviously wasn’t texting.

So busted. And since my table partner couldn’t stop laughing, I sighed and said, “Yes.” And then took the shot.

Think I might say something smooth after that? Something consoling and appropriately optimistic?

I shrugged and said, “Every baby is a cute baby.” And then I beat it out of there.

Every baby is a cute baby.

What??

Sorry, I’m still kinda laughing, actually.

Maybe you had to be there.

Let this be a cautionary tale to you.  If you’re going to laugh at other people’s messed up loaves — which you should, because it’s funny — have the decency to do it from your own lab table using the zoom lens.

A Month of Bread Making

The little darlins coming out.

You might wonder what I’ve been up to since the whole “preferments and degas” tomfoolery. Well, more pre-ferments and de-gassing. We in HRM-201 Intermediate Breads have spent our first month of Wednesday labs making biga, then pate fermentee, then biga, then pate fermentee…then biga… well, you catch my drift. This might lead you to think making biga and pate fermentee are hard. Au contraire; they’re not so hard. It’s everything that comes after that’s the trick: the shaping, the scoring, the steam injection.

Well, the steam injection is no big deal. It’s really the shaping and the scoring. That’s hard. So we did that a few times and while you think that would make me better at it, it didn’t. Rome wasn’t built in a day.

We ended with a look-see at baguette just to make us feel even lamer about our shaping skills. But, as the French say, c’est la vie!

Here’s my first month of bread making in review.

Week one: Meet my new friends biga and pate fermentee. Weeks Two and Three had nothing much of note, except a little shout-out to the Kitchen Aid we killed (RIP, mon frere), and some fancy shaping. But Week Four! The shaping! The flouring! The bannetons! The mess!

And, for the finale, le baguette. Just click on a photo if you want le slide show.

Next week, Soakers and Flatbreads!