Thursday, May 28, 2009

Cacao: My love affair with Chocolate continues

Hand crafted premium chocolates, pastries and more (including those addictive European Macaroons). What's not to love? If you're a choco-phile, like myself, there is nothing better than a simple espresso laced dark chocolate truffle, rolled in cocao powder, and because Cacao makes these in small batches by hand, you won't find any fresher. They use 100% cocao butter for a truly rich experience.

Truffles can be purchased in several gift box options and the prices are very reasonable. It's the perfect house gift when you don't want to bring the obligatory bottle of wine and better still, you can pick up something for your own selfish indulgences!

Cacao Fine European Chocolates
7129 Bethesda Ln
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 215-6945

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar and Grill


I was hesitant to stop in so early after their opening and especially after reading the some of the early reviews on Yelp, but I am happy to report that Blue Dolphin met my expectations and I anticipate, in time, will become a Anne Arundel County favorite.

Please note: they are in soft opening mode.

Long time AACO and Balto county diners will no doubt be familiar with Timbuktu, G&M, Romano's and the Olive Grove Restaurants. If you fall into that category, then you will be pleased to note that the Blue Dolphin Seafood Bar and Grill is owned by the son-in-law of the owner of those venerable restaurants. Furthermore, if you are a G&M fan, you will LOVE the Blue Dolphin, because they are modeling their menu, including it's crab cake recipe on G&M's.

The space is interesting. Essentially, a small shopping center was built to house the Blue Dolphin. The owner of the restaurant also owns the shopping center (Crofton Princess Center) at the junction of Highway 3 and 424. The Blue Dolphin commands the premium spot on the corner of the center.

The interior is like a time warp. It's East coast Greek diner meets upscale 1980's dining room, with inset tray cielings painted Greek-Sky blue with clouds and large paintings of Greek seaside fishing villages. Crystal chandeliers, carved wood mouldings (check out the carved wood dolphins on the crown moulding) and white table tablecloths all adorn the space. Despite the subtle nods to Grecian decor, the menu is totally Maryland Seafood House and the almighty crab cake is king here.

If crab cakes are not your thing, you will not be disappointed, there are also a number of other seafood, chicken, steak and pasta options. We opted for the single crab cake platter which comes with two sides and a softball sized crab cake. We started with side salads which are enormous and come with homemade salad dressings. The bleu cheese is incredible with extra big chunks of the bleu in a creamy dressing. As for your crab cake, you can have it either broiled or fried. Have it broiled! It stays extra creamy on the inside with genorous chunks of lightly seasoned jumbo lump crab meat and nice crisp exterior. I know that they are using G&M's recipe, but I have to say... I liked this better than any crab cake I have ever eaten at G&M.

The single crab cake platter is $16.95 and the twin crab cake platter is $24.95. It all comes with a basket of bread and two sides.
BARGAIN ALERT! Keep an eye out for their weekly specials.Monday.... Lobster night. 1lb Lobster $8.95 (I'll be in next week ordering 2 of them)Tuesday... 1lb Steamed Shrimp.... $8.95!Thursday.... All fish on the menu are priced at $12.95.There were others but I don't remember them all. Our service was good. It was rather quiet in the dining room, but the lounge was hopping. I'm certain, with this restaurants' pedigree, they will work out any of the issues with service that others encountered, and since the Blue Dolphin is a scant 3 minutes from our house, I can see myself here again and again and again and again...

Friday, March 20, 2009

Boston Pictoral

There is too much to tell you about what we saw and ATE in Boston! Here is a pictoral tour. A fantastic trip to be sure.

Carlos and U2
Patrick and U2
Caffe Lil' Italy, Espresso and Sfogliatelle
Cafe Vittoria, Interior
Gourmet Dumpling House, Assorted Dim Sum Dumplings

Al Dente Restaurant, Angela our server giving John hell for not finishing his vegetables.
Al Dente Restaurant, Chicken Umberto
Union Oyster House, Lobster Roll Sandwich
Somerville Theatre!
Daily Catch, Mini Cannolis
Al Dente Restaurant, Housemade Gnocchi al Pesto
Daily Catch, Squid Ink Linguini with Anchovie Butter and Grilled Shrimp
Reginas Pizzeria, Margherita Pizza
Daily Catch, Calamari Platter

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

The Awe Shack: Awe-shome, Dude!

Oh Joy, Oh Bliss, Oh Happy Day! The Awe Shack, an Afghani Kabob restaurant has opened. If you live in Crofton, you should be dancing a little happy dance of joy right now.

We stopped in this past Saturday, their first night, but the kitchen was having some difficulty, so we decided to come back Monday night. Sure glad we did!

We started with the Aushak (the name Awe Shack is a play on this appetizer specialty), delicious Afghan dumplings filled with mint and herbs and topped with yogurt and a spicy sirloin ragout. The dish is exceptional, my only complaint, since they use paper and plastic products, the dumplings stuck to the paper plate a bit.

We also shared the Fried Pumpkin. If you go... this is a must. Tender chunks of baby pumpkin, caramelized and fried then topped with a dollop of the spicy sirloin ragout and yogurt. It's a real treat.

The show stoppers, though, are the kabobs themselves. We had the chicken kabobs. Big, meaty, juicy chunks of white meat chicken, that's spiced and grilled then topped with sumac and served with a slighty spicy cilantro yogurt chutney. You may choose to have basmati rice, brown rice or the Kabuli rice. Get the Kabuli! Basmati rice studded with caramelized carrots and raisins. yummo! The kabobs also come with a small chopped salad and of course, fresh from the oven flat bread.

The staff is delightful. They are excited to be open and very eager to please.

This is a fantastic addition to the local dining scene and my guess is that they will work out any kinks they are experiencing in short order and become a staple for casual dining in Gambrills, Crofton, Bowie area.

The Awe Shack
Crofton Princess Center
2510 Conway Road, Suite 101
Gambrills, MD 21054

(410) 721-5022

Thursday, March 5, 2009

O'Leary's Seafood: A Guilty Pleasure

Ok, so if you want to feel like a complete, totally insensitive American jerk, go see "Slumdog Millionaire" followed by an 8:30 reservation at O'Leary's seafood.

If the food wasn't so damn good, the guilt could be overwhelming.

So, it is with the humblest of apologies to Salim, Latika and Jamal that I tell you how fantastic our dinner at O'Leary's this past Saturday was.

Steven, Carlos and myself just made our 8:30 reservation after hurridley rushing from the theatre. We were welcomed warmly and escorted to our table nestled gently in the corner. We had a charming bayside view which gave way to the twinkly lights of boats moored in Eastport and over to Annapolis.

We started with three appetizers. Seared Scallops over Mushroom Polenta, Lobster Cappuccino and the Grilled Romaine Salad. The scallops were perfectly seared with an aggressive crust giving way to a tender opaque center over the creamy polenta. The grilled romaine was nice but I don't know that I would order it again. The Lobster Cappuccino, however, I will order each and everytime I visit O'Leary's. A deep rich Lobster bisque topped with a generous dollop of Lobster foam and served with a spoon of Lobster Ceviche. Our lovely server told us to stir in the ceviche and enjoy. Indeed we did.

O'Leary's is a seafood house and the chef clearly knows his way around a fish or two. For entrees, we had the crab cakes, which are baked rather than broiled or fried, the Sea Bass and the Crispy Grouper.

Crab Cakes: Extraordinary. No filler, all jumbo lump crab meat with a simple beurre blanc and a nice roasted root vegetable hash.

Crispy Grouper: Extraordinary. Simple seasoned grouper battered and flash fried at an ultra high temp, sealing in all the juicy goodness of the fish and creating an almost impossibly crisp exterior which was light and greaseless. It was served over a Succotash and a very simple sauce.

Sea Bass: Holy Moly! One large simple generous piece of bass, seasoned with nothing more than salt, pepper and olive oil, oven roasted and served over candied brussels sprouts with crisp pancetta lardons and a saffron rice gallette. The rich and sweet brussells sprouts mixed with the salty, fatty pancetta was the perfect foil for the luscious and creamy bass.

For desserts we had the Bread Pudding, Carrot Cake and the Coconut Cream cake with Mango Sauce. All were exceptional but I have to say the bread pudding is something transcendant.

I love it when a chef realizes that quality ingredients, cooked properly need nothing more done to them.

Service was delightful. Casual, friendly, suggestive and efficient. All in all a charming restaurant worthy of the high price you will pay to dine there. Next time I go, though, I will try to see a movie that is a little less challenging to my moral compass.

Hmmm... when is the next showing of "He's Just Not that Into You"?

O'Leary's Seafood
310 Third Street
Annapolis, MD


Sunday 5PM - 9PM
Monday - Thursday 5PM -10PM
Friday and Saturday 5PM - 11PM

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

And the Winner is....

Hosea won this season of Top Chef, by default if you ask me. Not that I don't like the guy...but Top Chef? Seriously?

Stefan's ego got in his way and my beloved Carla let herself get led astray. Oh well... there's always next season.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Buzz Buzz Buzz

Here's the latest buzz that's got me licking my chops in anticipation:

Kinkeads's is opening an outpost in Annapolis in the recently vacated Philips Seafood location. It will be named Hell Point Seafood, (Hell Point being the original name of the spit of land which is now more commonly known as Annapolis Harbour). The restaurant will feature Annapolis inspired cuisine with the Kinkead's touch and priced about 30% lower than his much revered DC flagship. It's due to open in April!

Crofton is set to experience it's first Afghan Kabob restaurant with the impending opening of Awe Shack, a play on the word Aushuck, the delicious handmade Afghani ravioli. Slated to open doors in early March, we've done a couple of drive by's and they are very close! The menu will feature, Kabobs, of course, (Chicken, Lamb, Beef) and a full compliment of Afghani side dishes including my favorite...fried pumpkin!

It looks like Jose Andres, Spain's answer to Emeril and Washington DC Food God, will finally make good on his promise to take the six seat MiniBar experience big time with a "full scale" restaurant featuring all the avant garde and molecular gastronomy you care to eat. Could this be the American version of Ferran Adria's El Bulli? We'll have to wait a while for the answer, he's only ordered the plans for the restaurant and does not expect an opening until 2010.