Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Much ado about hemp
A commenter suggested I should try "hempenadas" at Ruggles Green, the new certified green restaurant on Alabama.
The dish comes with 3 empenadas made with "High-Protein Hemp flour" and "Nutty Hemp Seed." Depending on your view, the hemp ingredients may sound a little goofy, or even a little subversive, given social attitudes toward hemp's psychoactive variant, marijuana.
The truth is, I didn't taste anything uniquely goofy, subversive, or hempy about these empanadas. Of course, I couldn't tell you what hemp tastes like. But I expected something grassy, nutty, or weedy. I just didn't taste it.
What is the fascination with hemp and hemp products? Maybe it has health benefits. Or maybe if you eat a dozen, you might feel light headed and get the munchies. But after three greasy, fried hempenadas, I just felt full.
So how do they taste?
The crust tastes much like the fried empanadas at Marini's. If anything, the Ruggles' version tasted a little greasier. And, yes, it had that same frozen-burrito-like flavor.
But Ruggles does a lot to cover up that flavor. The tasty filling includes ground beef and raisins. More importantly, the hempenadas come with two very Ruggles-tasting dipping sauces - garlic and cilantro. The delicious sauces kept me from tasting the off-putting flavor of the crust.
With the great sauces, I enjoyed the first hempenada. But an order includes three. I tried to pawn the others off on my family. After taking a bite, my daughter made a disgusted face. After just a smell, my wife turned up her nose.
So I was left to eat all three grease bombs, which left me too full to enjoy my "hydropnic" butter lettuce wedge salad.
1 - At this point in the empenada wars, the baked empanadas at Manena's reign supreme.
2 - For now, I reserve judgment on Ruggles Green. The few dishes my family tried here were not as good as similar dishes at Ruggles Bakery in Rice Village -- a restaurant we enjoy frequently. Plus Ruggles Green seems unnecessarily pricey for such casual food. Yet so many dishes on the menu sounded delicious. Kudos to the menu author(s). I suspect that next time we will order better -- and maybe skip the hempenadas.