Monday, December 31, 2007

2007: The Year of Eating Deliciously

The life of an intrepid food blogger is one fraught with stolen moments at work or Saturday mornings and late weeknights at home on the PC typing furiously about the latest and greatest (or not so great) dining experience. As such, there are several memorable experiences this past year that, for one reason or another, did not make it into the HPR (not to mention that I’ve only been blogging for about 6 months). As I reflect back on the year, I wanted to make sure I mentioned some places that I have not had a chance to before.

Here are some “short takes” on several restaurants that definitely made an impression in 2007.

Le Paradou

Yannick Cam’s penultimate incarnation simply exudes modern elegance and high style. Oddly devoid of customers the day we went. I guess they didn’t know about the Roast “Maine” Lobster in Sauterne Butter with Grapefruit zest. If they had they would be busting down the doors to get in.

Le Paradou
678 Indiana Ave NW
Washington, DC


Like a trusted old friend, Kinkead’s consistently delivers high quality fresh seafood in a relaxed yet upscale environment. The menu changes daily to reflect the freshest selections and the presentations are simple and elegant. Service is always top-notch.

2000 Pennsylvania Ave, NW
Washington, DC

BLT Steak

NY hot-shot chef Laurent Tourondel’s spin on all things “beefy” gets high praise from many of my friends, but not from me. Overpriced and overrated is my take. Still, I know some that swear this is their favorite and I have to admit, the fresh-from-the-oven popovers delivered immediately to your table could warrant a visit all by themselves.

BLT Steak
1625 Eye Street, NW
Washington, DC


What would happen if you presented Southern Low Country Cuisine in a French tasting menu style? Add to that recipe a drop-dead gorgeous space in Baltimore’s hottest new neighborhood and you have the makings of Chef Cindy Wolf’s Charleston, possibly my favorite restaurant in the DC/Balto area. Choose the number of courses you wish to enjoy (3,4,5 or 6 courses) then order anything on the menu. All of the selections are smaller than a full entrée but larger than typical tapas. Listed in categories such as Hot, Cool, Fish & Shellfish, Meats etc… The Foie Gras is sublime. Shrimp and Grits are a revelation. The desserts are transcendent, especially anything with chocolate.

1000 Lancaster Street
Baltimore, MD


Michael Mina’s SeaBlue

The new Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City feels a little like someone parked a
BMW 760Li in the middle of used Nissan car lot. The place is absolutely littered with original Chihuly glass and offers some of the finest shopping and dining opportunities AC has to offer. I implore you, please walk right past the glitz and fire of Bobby Flay’s Steak and sit your butt down in Michael Mina’s SeaBlue. What part of “Two Pound Lobster Pot Pie” didn’t you understand? If that’s not enough enticement, how about the cleanest and freshest raw oysters you ever tasted or the Tuna Tartare with Ancho Chili and Sesame Oil?
Miso-Glazed Chilean Sea Bass with shiitake consommé is also not to be missed. Seafood’s not your thing? Go for the American Kobe Short Rib. For a fish joint they sure know how to prepare beef. Service is impeccable, desserts are a celebration and the cheese course is one for the record books.

Michael Mina's SeaBlue
1 Borgata Way
Atlantic City, NJ 08401

Central Michel Richard

Michel Richard is having a little fun at our expense, and to our delight! The maestro behind world famous Citronelle has given us a "whimsy" of a place in his latest, down-market venture Central. Pronounced (Sen-trahl-with the accent over the "a" making it sound very snobby and French). Is it American comfort food gone upscale, or fine French Nouvelle gone downscale? It’s hard to tell, but then who cares? It sure tastes good. Try the “Faux” Gras, a chicken liver version of Foie Gras that doesn’t miss a beat. I found the much touted Lobster Burger to be a little fishy and frankly, not worth its $29 price tag, but the Fried Chicken with mustard sauce is a good example of why Michel Richard is considered to be one of the greatest chef’s working in our country today. Desserts are decadent and creative. Go for the Kit Kat Bar; a play on the popular candy bar that has to be eaten to be believed.

Central Michel Richard
1001 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20004


Eco-friendly and uber-fresh fish served in a modern yet casual space that typifies the definition of the word shibui. The crudos are a blast. Essentially small bites of raw fish paired with unique flavors and at $3 a pop, they are as accessible and as fun an indulgence as I can think of. Desserts here are nothing to write home about, but my Grilled Arctic Char over Mediterranean Cous Cous was one of the best entrées I sampled all year. I’ve heard the complaints that Hook’s portions are too small, but do what I do. Go with your boss and let him pay. That way you can order more food. We love you Peter.

3241 M St NW
Washington, DC 20007

Georgia Brown's

Georgia is looking a little rough around the edges these days. I think the grand dame of African American southern cuisine could use a face-lift, and at these prices, she can afford one. Service was terrible the day we went (near hostile) and the food wasn’t much better. A pity, when you consider that GB’s is one of the last bastions of upscale African American dining left in Washington DC.

Georgia Brown's
950 15th St NW
Washington, DC 20005

Swan Oyster Depot

The Swan Oyster Depot simply plucks at my heart strings. A San Francisco institution, the Swan opened in 1912 and has been serving simple fresh seafood ever since. Be prepared to wait in line, the Swan only has 19 stools at the long counter. However, the staff is unbelievably friendly and you can expect to be offered a soda or beer while you wait. Once seated, you can order some of the freshest cracked crab, raw oysters, or fresh fish this side of the Pacific Ocean, but remember, this is San Francisco and Crab Louie Salads are king. Iceburg lettuce, sweet Dungeness crab and Russian dressing served with lots of the Swan’s freshly baked sourdough bread make this the quintessential San Francisco lunch.

Swan Oyster Depot
1517 Polk St
(between California St & Sacramento St)
San Francisco, CA 94109

So there you have final entry of 2007. I guess you can consider this post the equivalent of blog leftovers. I always love leftovers. Thanks for reading and I am looking forward to sharing more dining adventures with you all in 2008!

Thursday, December 27, 2007

I Was Right

Just as I suspected… Urban Burger Company turns out a great product. After reading my review of Urban Bar-B-Que, yesterday, Steven said, well… we better go to the Burger place and see if it’s any good. In fact… it is fantastic.

Housed in a former Chicken Out Restaurant, Urban Burger has chosen a Navy theme, with Navy paraphernalia, plaques, hats and photos dotting the space. A clever idea, since all Chicken Outs are covered head to toe in “Navy Blue” tile. Life gives you lemons… why not decorate like you meant to have “Navy Blue” tiles on every flat exposed surface.

Simple fare here. I liked the menu choices and layout. Step One: Pick a meat. Step Two: Pick a Style. Step Three: Pick your extra stuff you want on your meat for $.50 more. Then you can order your sides, beverages and go sit down. Someone will call you when it’s ready.

We ordered the Black Angus Burger, "Franks Favorite" style cooked medium well, and Senator Ed’s Sausage, "Blazing Saddle" style. For sides we ordered the hand-cut French fries and the Onion Rings with spicy remoulade.

The burger came with swiss cheese and two onion rings. The sausage, made fresh by Binkert’s of Baltimore was studded with garlic, chiles and caraway seeds then topped with the homemade two alarm chili, cheddar cheese and green onions, served on a toasted hoagie roll.

Just like Urban Bar-B-Que, the sausage was the standout, but there was nothing wrong with that burger. It was perfectly cooked, meaty and juicy. The sausage was split-grilled with nice crispy edges and a snappy natural casing that seems to be so hard to find these days. The two-alarm chili lived up to it's two-alarm rating without being overly spicy.

Sides were good, although the fries could have been hotter. Still, they were quality fries, obviously produced in house from fresh spuds and fried in peanut oil. Scrummy. The onion rings were hot and crisp, not too greasy and tasted all the better when dipped in Urban's horseradish remoulade.

My final assessment, if you’re going to go Urban go Urban Burger and leave the barbecue to someone else.

5566 Norbeck Rd
Rockville, MD 20853

Christmas Bragging Rights

Guess who got an autographed copy of Anthony Bourdain’s book No Reservations? That’s right…Yours truly. Not only autographed by “the Man” himself, but inscribed as well with the oh-so insightful words: “To Patrick, you are a true foodie”. A gift from my favorite Christmas elf, Carlos, who stood in line for 2 hours to get the book signed. At the start of the book signing session AB told the crowd, he would NOT be writing dedications, but Carlos smooth talked “His Holiness” and the rest is… history.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Vosges Haut Chocolat

Looking for a unique experience? May I recommend Mo’s Bacon Bar by Vosges Haut Chocolat? Yes, that’s right: Chocolate Bacon Bar. In fact… if you have not tried any of Vosges' Exotic Chocolates yet, you should drop what you are doing right now and run to your nearest
Whole Foods Market or, for those of you with no access to Whole Foods, go online and order anything this treasure of a company has to offer. But back to bacon… applewood smoked bacon bits are laced inside a 41% Cacao deep milk chocolate bar with alder smoked salt to complement.



Vosges Haut Chocolat

Surgeon General's Warning Taken Too Seriously

Steve and I needed to do some last minute Christmas shopping so I convinced him to "metro" up to Bethesda after work and we would brave the masses on Rockville Pike in search of those final gifts. Of course that meant dinner, as well, so I dutifully did my homework looking for a fun, yet inexpensive place to eat. After consulting Zagat and Yelp I discovered two sister restaurants online, Urban Bar-B-Que Company and Urban Burger Company that seemed to fit the bill. When Steven arrived, I gave him the choice and he selected Urban Bar-B-Que. As you probably already know Steve and I are barbecue fanatics and always on the hunt for the next great place.

Urban Bar-B-Que has all the trappings of a great barbecue restaurant. It's tucked away on a side street off Rockville Pike in a small strip of shops that seem more like an afterthought than an actual destination. The interior is small and kitschy with 50’s style dinettes for seating, chalkboard menus, counter service and even a homemade decoupaged Elvis Clock on the wall (Thank you, thank you very much). The cashier/manager, Tony was clad in cammie slacks and a garage attendant shirt with his name embroidered on the front. A lone guitarist strummed lively tunes while perched in the front corner of the restaurant. Overall the place has a warm and welcoming feeling that sets you in the mood for a down-home good time.

Too bad the food doesn’t match up. Not that anything is bad, it just doesn’t seem to pull through on its promise. Urban Bar-B-Que is like barbecue karaoke. It sure looks like it should be great, but ultimately, it’s just a second-rate version of the real thing.

I ordered the brisket and sausage. Steve ordered the brisket and pulled pork. We shared the “Redneck Fondue” which consists of seasoned tortilla chips with chili and queso sauce. Everything has the feeling that they need to turn up the volume. The brisket was too saucy and bland. The pulled pork was also too saucy and bland. I did enjoy the sausage which had a nice flavor and crisp casing snap.

Urban Bar-B-Que offers three sauces: a Memphis style, sweet and smokey, a mustard based sauce and a North Carolina, vinegar, tomato and spice sauce. They’re all sort of bland, but decidedly, it’s the meat that falls short at Urban. WHERE IS THE SMOKE? Good barbecue has depth of flavor and nuances that come from low and slow cooking over hard woods. Urban has the “low and slow” portion of that recipe down but it all ends there. They claim to use apple and hickory to smoke their meats but I simply couldn't taste it. Somebody, please light a cigarette or something.

Sides are decent. I had the Mac n’ Cheese which was obviously homemade and appropriately cheesey. Steve had the BBQ beans which were meaty and dense. The warm cornbread was a real stand out. Moist with a hint of sweetness and whole corn kernels.

I am anxious to try the Burger half of this restaurant duo. Following the same format with a product that is easier to execute, like hamburgers, they should have a real winner on their hands. More to come…

Urban Bar-B-Cue Company

2007 Chapman Ave. Rockville, MD 20852-1614

Friday, December 21, 2007

Colombian Breeze: Food for the Soul

The national dish of Colombia is a hearty soup made of chicken and four different types of potatoes. It’s a heady broth spiked with grassy herbs, chunks of chicken and corn on the cob. It comes with crema for garnish, along with ripe avocado and capers. Ajiaco hails from the nations capita, Bogota and is a true special occasion dish reserved for holidays and birthdays.

Another great Colombian dish is Bandeja Paisa. This is a dish that hails from Medellin, Colombia’s second city and is more of a plato tipico (literally translated: typical plate), then an actual dish. Bandeja Paisa consists of white rice, stewed beans, chicharron (a fried pork crackling) ½ a chorizo sausage, grilled carne asada (skirt steak), fried plantains, avocado, an arepa and one fried egg.

Steve and Carlos (our resident Colombian) stumbled upon a jewel of a place in the fabulous Kentlands the other day as they were “galavanting” through the neighborhood.

Colombian Breeze is a quaint family run restaurant, featuring very authentic Colombian cuisine in a small, but cozy atmosphere.

One cold and grey Sunday afternoon we made a visit.

The service is friendly and suggestive, which I like. When we were about to order drinks, our server, the owner’s daughter interjected, "we have Passion Fruit and Blackberry juice today".
I ordered the Passion Fruit juice which was sweet and tart and very refreshing. Steven got the Blackberry Juice which was equally delicious.

We started with the Empanadas, again at our servers behest, and she was right to tell us to do so. Piping hot, crisp cornmeal pastries filled with creamy potato and ground beef are served with a spicy and herbaceous sauce, not unlike chimichurri sauce, but without the vinegar bite. I asked our server what was in the sauce and all she would tell me is that her mother makes it by hand, she closely guards the recipe (not even the daughter knows what’s in it) and that it is made with lots of love. You can definitely taste the love in both the empanadas and the sauce.

I ordered the Bandeja Paisa, Carlos got the Ajiaco and Steve orderd a breakfast dish which consisted of rice and beans, eggs and fried plantains. All I can say is that this place rocks! The food is fresh, tasty and soul satisfying. I loved the Bandeja Paisa which is like a mini tapas buffet on a plate, but the real star of the show was the Ajiaco.

Colombian Breeze only makes Ajiaco on Sundays and it is not listed on the menu. That doesn’t stop any one from ordering it though. There were several other Colombian nationals in the restaurant and I couldn’t help but notice that they all ordered the dish. Something like a cross between a stew and soup, the Ajiaco had a rich chicken flavor and a velvety texture supported by the pureed potatoes. A bowl of this stuff is like having your Mom wrap her arms around you after you've come in from the cold. This is the comfort food of the Gods.

Carlos has already been back to Colombian Breeze and we are planning another visit soon. I think my Sunday afternoons are going to be very busy for a while.

(240) 350-4217
348 Main St, Gaithersburg, MD 20878

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Nouvelle Slinger

In Saint Louis you can get a dish called a “Slinger”. Its origins are clouded in mystery and much debate, but it is likely that it started at O.T. Hodges Chili Parlor, a mainstay chili joint that has been serving Saint Louisans since 1904. It has certainly been on their menu for decades. Essentially a white trash version of Eggs Benedict, a slinger is composed of two cheeseburger patties, hash browns, topped with chili and two fried eggs.

You might as well take one of the burgers and lodge it directly in your aorta because the slinger has so much fat and cholesterol in it that it’s really just a heart attack on a plate. Oh, and be forewarned if the fat and cholesterol doesn’t get you, the gas and indigestion will. We’re talking Science Fiction Channel type gas and indigestion.

Needless to say, I love them, but haven’t had one in quite a while. Last night I realized that I had hamburger in the fridge but no buns for a proper sandwich. So I decided I would make a slinger. Unfortunately, I didn’t have any chili either, and I didn’t want to stop at the supermarket to pick some up. I decided to improvise. Here is what I did.

Chili Flavored Cheeseburgers with Fried Eggs and Salsa

¾ LB Ground Beef
4 TBSP Dried Chili Powder
3 TBSP Ground Cumin
2 Cloves Pressed Garlic
½ tsp Cinnamon
½ tsp Crushed Red Pepper
¼ tsp Sugar
Salt and Pepper to Taste
4 Slices American Cheese
4 Eggs
Salsa (Store-bought or Homemade)

In a large mixing bowl, thoroughly mix the ground beef with the chili powder, ground cumin, garlic, cinnamon, crushed red pepper, sugar, salt and pepper. Please note, you need a fair amount of salt to bring out the flavors of the chili. Fry the patties in a pan to desired doneness and top with the American Cheese. In a separate pan, fry the eggs to an over easy consistency. You want the yolks to be runny as that will create a sauce for the dish. Place fried eggs on top of burgers and top with salsa. Serve immediately.

“I don't reckon I got no reason to kill nobody” Billy Bob Thornton from the movie "Sling Blade'

Friday, November 9, 2007

Top 40! The Nation's Best Restaurants

MSN City Guides published this list of the nations top 40 restaurants of 2007. So far I've been to 2 on the list! Just 38 to go....



Carmel Valley, Calif.

Charlie Trotter's

Healdsburg, Calif.

Chef Mavro

Laguna Beach, Calif.

Las Vegas
Joël Robuchon
Restaurant Guy Savoy

Los Angeles
Spago Beverly Hills

New Orleans
Restaurant August

New York
Eleven Madison Park
Jean Georges
Le Bernardin
Le Cirque
The Modern
Per Se

Ogunquit, Maine
Arrows Restaurant

Le Bec-Fin

San Antonio
Restaurant Le Rêve

San Francisco
The Dining Room
Gary Danko
Michael Mina

Washington, D.C.
Michel Richard Citronelle

Washington, Va.
The Inn at Little Washington

Thursday, November 1, 2007

Cookie Monster!

My friend Michael sent this to me. Some of you may have already seen this forwarded via email. If you like to bake cookies this is the cookie motherload.

Just click on the name of the cookie and you will be redirected to the recipe. Happy Baking!
1-2-3 Cookies 7 Layer Cookies Allie Nelson's Famous Snickerdoodle Cookies Almond Crescent Shortbread Amish Sugar Cookies Andies Candies Cookies Angel Crisps Angenets Applesauce Cookies Apricot Fold-Overs Aunt Edy's Molasses Crinkles Auntie Linda's Ginger Gems Bakeless Dream Cookies Banana Drop Cookies Best Chocolate Chip Cookies in the World Biscotti Biscotti Blueberry Cookies Boiled Chocolate Oatmeal Drop Cookies Bronwnies Brown Sugar Shortbread Brownie Cookies Brownie Delight Brownies Buccaneer Snowballs Buried Cherry Cookies Butter Cookies Butter Nut Balls Butterballs Butterscotch Haystacks C.O.P. Cookies Candy Cane Cookies Candy Cookies Caramel Shortbread Cheesecake Brownies Cherry Buns Cherry Crowns Cherry Winks Chewies Chewy Noels Chinese Chews/Haystacks Chocolate Chip Cookie Bars Chocolate Chip Cookies Chocolate Chip Meltaways Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Cookies Chocolate Christmas Trees Chocolate Cream Cheese Squares Chocolate Crinkles Chocolate Mint Snow-Top Cookies Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies (no bake) Chocolate Snowball Cookies Chocolate Streusel Bars Chocolate Sundae Cookies Chocolate Walnut Crumb Bars Choco-Scotch Crunchies Choose A Cookie Dough Recipe Christmas Crackers Christmas Crunch Bars Christmas Ginger Snaps Christmas Macaroons Christmas Mice Cookies Christmas Shaped Cookies Church Window Cookies Coconut Cookies Congo Squares Cookie in a Jar Corn Flakes Cookies Cornflake Christmas Wreaths Cowboy Cookies (oatmeal) Cream Cheese Cookies with Apricot Filling Crème De Menthe Chocolate Squares Crème Wafers Crescent Cookies Crispy Crunchies Date Nut Balls Date-nut Pinwheel Cookies Diabetic Peanut Butter Cookies Disgustingly Rich Brownies Doodles Double chocolate chip cookies Double-Chocolate Crinkles Eatmore Cookies Eggnog Cookies Elizabeth's Sugar Cookies Elves Quick Fudge Brownies Emily Dickinson's Gingerbread Cookie Recipe Emily's Best Brownies Famous Oatmeal Cookies Firemen Cookies Fluffy Shortbread Cookies Forgotten Cookies Frosted Peanut Butter Brownies Fruit Cake Cookies Fruitcake Squares Fry Pan Cookies Gems Ginger Cookies Ginger Crinkles Gingerbread Baby Gingerbread Cookies with Butter Cream Icing Gingerbread Men Gingerbread Men Ginny's Gluten Free Chocolate Chip Cookies Glory's Golden Graham Squares Glory's Sugar Cookies Gramma Chapman's chocolate coconut drops Grandma Elsie's Zimt (cinnamon) Cookies Grandma J's Butter Cookies Grandma Olson's Parkay Cookies Great Grandmothers Sugar Cookies Gum Drop Cookies Gumdrop Gems Haystack Cookies Ho-Ho Bars Holiday Cereal Snaps Holiday Chocolate Butter Cookies Holiday Raisin Walnut Bars Holly Cookies Hungarian Cookies (Little Nut Rolls) Ice Box Cookies Irresistible Peanut Butter Cookies Italian Cookies Jacob's Peppermint Snowballs Jam Bars Jessica's Famous Brownies Jessie's Chocolate Chip Cookies Jubilee Jumbles Juliet's Peanut Butter Blossoms Jumbo Chocolate Chip Cookies Kentucky Colonels Kiefle (cream cheese cookies with jam filling) Kifflings Kiss Cookies Lacy Swedish Almond Wafers Lemon Angel Bar Cookies Lemon Bars Lemon Cake Cookies Lemon Cream Cheese Cookies Lemon Squares Linzer Tarts Log Cabin Cookies Luscious Lemon Squares M&M Cookies Magic Cookie Bars Melt in Your Mouth Cutout Sugar Cookies Melting Shortbread Meme's Cream Cheese Cookies Milk Chocolate Florentine Cookies Mincemeat Cookies Mincemeat Goodies Molasses Cookies Molasses Forest Cookies Molasses Sugar Cookies Mom Mom's Crescent Cookies Mom-Mom's Ginger Cookies Mom's Nutmeg Sugar Cookies Mom's Old Fashion "Puffy" Sugar Cookies Monster Cookies Moravian Christmas Cookies Nana's Famous Soft Southern Cookies Nitey Nite Cookies No Bake Chocolate Cookies No Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Cookies No Bake Peanut Butter Cookies No-Bake Chocolate Oatmeal Cookies No-Bake Cookies Norwegian Sugar Cookies Nut Balls Oatmeal Bars Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Nut Cookies Oatmeal Coconut Crisps Oatmeal Cookies Oatmeal Scotchies Old Fashioned Sugar Cookies Ooey Gooey Caramel Chocolate Dunk Ooey Gooey Squares Orange Slice Cookies Parking Lot Cookies Peanut Blossoms Peanut Butter Bars Peanut Butter Blossoms Peanut Butter Cereal Cookies Peanut Butter Chewies Peanut Butter Chocolate Bars Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut Butter Cookies Peanut butter fingers Peanut Butter Reindeer Peanut Butter Surprises Peanut Marshmallow Cookies Pecan Puff Cookies Peppermint Snowballs Peppernuts Persimmon Cookies Persimmon Cookies Petey's Yummy Spicy Almond Thins Pfeffernuesse Pffefferneuse Cookies Pineapple Filled Cookies Pizzelles Potato Chip Cookies Potato Flake Cookies Praline Cookies Praline Strips Pterodactyl Nests Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Bars Pumpkin Chip Cookies Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies Pumpkin Cookies Queen Biscuits Quick Cookies Raised Sugar Cookies Raisin Filled Oatmeal Bars Raspberry Meringue Bars Really Peanutty Butter Cookies Reese`s Brownies Reese's Peanut Butter Bars Rich Flavor Christmas Cookies Rich Lemon Bars Ricotta Cheese Cookies Royal Almond Christmas Bars Rudolph Cinnamon Cookies Russian Tea Cookies Russian Teacakes Samantha & Kelsey's Chocolate Chip Cookies Sand Art Brownies Santa Claus Cookie Pops Santa Claus Cookies Santa's Butterscotch Melts Santa's Shorts Santa's Special Squares Scotch Cakes Scotch Shortbread Scotcharoos Scotcheroos Seven Layer Cookies Short Bread Cookies Shortbread Skor Squares Snicker Doodle Cookies Snickerdoodles Snickerdoodles Snow Balls Sour Cream Apple Squares Sour Cream Christmas Cookies Special K Cookies Spice Cookies Spicy Oatmeal Raisin Cookie Spritz Cookies Stained Glass Window Cookies Stir & Drop Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Sugar Cookies Swedish Pepparkakor (Pepper Cake) Cookies Swedish Sugar Cookies Sweet Marie's Swiss Treats Taralle (Italian Cookies) Tea Time Tassies Texas Brownies The Best Shortbread in The World Thumbprint Cookies Thumbprint Cookies Toffee Squares Traditional Christmas Sugar Cookies Traditional Gingerbread Men Cookies Triple-Chocolate Chip Cookies Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies Vanilla Waffer Balls Walnut Butter Cookies Walnut Crumb Bars White Chip Chocolate Cookies Wild Oatmeal Cookies Will's Famous Apple Jack Cookies Yummy Yummy Peanut Butter Blossoms

Saturday, October 27, 2007

That's Using Your Noodle

Here’s a great restaurant suggestion for the more adventurous among you. Da Rae Won Korean Restaurant in Beltsville, MD serves up the best hand-made noodles this is side of Seoul. The first thing you’ll notice upon being seated at Da Rae Won is the rather loud “thwacking” noise coming from the kitchen. That, my friends, is the sound of the chef preparing each noodle dish, by hand, to order. It doesn’t get any fresher than this.

There’s a small window so you can peek at the noodle making progress if you are so inclined. We never do. We’re too busy eating the small array of panchan, house made pickles. We love the pickled daikon radish with onions and black bean dipping sauce. The kimchi is wonderfully crisp and spicy with the effervescent tingle of fermentation.

For those of you familiar with Korean cuisine, you will not find Bulgogi, Bulkalbi or Be Bim Bop here. Da Rae Won is actually a Korean style Chinese restaurant and as such offers a wide range of dishes that could be found on any typical Chinese menu. The presentations however are decidedly Korean without being too unfamiliar. There are some exotic choices to be discovered, such as the shredded or braised sea cucumber and it’s anyone’s guess what you’ll get if the menu item says simply “seafood” . On our first visit to Da Rae Won, I ordered the Noodle with Spicy Seafood Soup and honestly, I could only identify about half of the what I ate.

There is really only one appetizer on the menu: Fried Dumpling ($6.95). It’s not listed as an appetizer; you find it under “Pork”. You definitely want to order it. Large thin wrappers are filled with ground pork and scallions then fried so that they are crisp and hot. The order comes with 8 pieces so there is plenty to share. Your table is equipped with soy sauce and vinegar so you can make your own dipping sauce. If you like a little kick you can add some sambal, garlic chili sauce, or ask the waitress to bring you some of the dried pepper if you really want some heat.

But the real reason to try Da Rae Won is the noodles. Nine different variations are offered and most of those come out as some sort of spicy soup with seafood. They all cost around nine dollars. Our favorite, is the Noodles with Fresh Black Bean Sauce ($8.95). A large bowl of noodles arrive with a side bowl of the black bean sauce. It is studded with a copious amount of sautéed onions, bits of barbecued pork and potato. The noodles are thick, chewy and delicious. The black sauce makes them silky and unctuous.

Service at Da Rae Won is friendly and efficient. The servers are more than happy to help you understand what you are ordering, but not are proficient in English. Ultimately, this is a Korean restaurant for Koreans. On our last visit, Steve, Carlos and I were the only non-Koreans in the place and the restaurant was hopping. Still, you won’t feel unwelcome and if you like good noodles, you won’t be disappointed.

Da Rae Won Korean Restaurant
5013 Garrett Ave
Beltsville, MD 20705

Friday, October 26, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake

My friend Rachel sent these pictures to me. I'm not sure whether to be impressed or horrified. Do you think they saved the top of the wedding cake to eat at their one year anniversary?

Yes, that is a cake.

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Rubs Me the Right Way

Steve, Carlos and I decided to catch a late lunch one Saturday afternoon and since starting the blog, every dining experience is a potential essay. Being a bona fide barbecue fanatic, I had read about Rub and was anxious to give it a try. Until recently, Michael Marx, the chef and co-owner of Rub was the chef and owner of the Blue Agave restaurant in Baltimore, one of my former favorite Mexican places. Chef Marx sold the Blue Agave to open up Rub, and the Blue Agave suffers from his absence.

Rub, Authentic Texas Barbecue Restaurant is located in Baltimore on the farthest end of Federal Hill. So far in fact that it’s almost not on Federal Hill at all. In a semi-industrial neighborhood you can see the highway and the factories around the inner harbor from its doors. However, it is still close enough to action to be a draw for the Federal hill locals.

The décor is rustic and fun and what you would expect from a BBQ joint. The place is furnished with chunky wooden tables and brick walls with corrugated metal accents. The tables are set with a Corona Beer six pack container filled with sauces and condiments, and a horseshoe footed paper towel holder for you messy eaters. We were seated upstairs and had the place to ourselves due to the odd timing of our meal.

The menu is peppered with kitschy names for everything. Steve and Carlos ordered off the “Tween the Buns” section of the menu and I ordered from the “Big Plates” section. Steve got the “Trail Boss” sandwich ($11.00), a trio of smoked turkey, beef brisket and sausage served on a bun with pickles, cole slaw and cheese. Carlos ordered the Smoked Bologna sandwich ($8.00) and I ordered the “Lone Star Sampler” ($19.00) a sampling of all of their meats. The sandwiches each came with a selection of one of their “Damn Good Sides” and the platter came with two sides. We did order one additional side just for good measure.

So let’s talk about the bad stuff first. Rub should rename their “Damn Good Sides” to “Just kinda alright Sides”. The baked beans were watery and flavorless. I had to add barbecue sauce to them to pump up the experience. The Mac n’ Cheese sounds good, but I found it disappointing. A good Mac n’ Cheese needs some bite. These were creamy and fairly bland. I would have appreciated a nice crust on top that gave way to the creamy goodness below (Side note: Steven loved the Mac n’ Cheese, so maybe it’s just me). The “skin on” fries with garlic and cumin, had no hint of cumin or skin. The one exception with the sides was the corn pudding with Serrano peppers. It was “Damn Good”! A rich egg custard studded with Serrano peppers and bright corn. It could have taken a little more heat, but overall, that was the best of the “Damn Good Sides” that we tried.

I ordered the house brewed root beer and Carlos had the house brewed cream soda. The root beer was wan and unexciting while the cream soda was so damn sweet it was nearly undrinkable.

So much for the bad stuff… let’s talk about the good stuff. First, the portion sizes are incredible. Steve’s sandwich was HUGE, as was Carlos’s. My sampler platter was ridiculous; a mound of beef brisket, a quarter chicken, a full sausage, sliced turkey and three pork ribs. Please don’t ask me how much was left on my plate because I would hate to admit that I ate every damn bit of it.
This is a Texas barbecue joint and as such, beef brisket is the house specialty. Rub’s brisket is slow roasted for 12-14 hours and it is the juiciest and tenderest brisket I’ve ever tasted. At my first bite, I could swear I heard angels singing. The sausage was equally juicy and robust with a great smoke flavor that permeated the meat and casing. The sliced turkey held a dark skin from its time in the smoker and the white meat was moist and chewy. The chicken had a nice rub on the outside and like everything else was near perfection. The ribs were the weakest item on the plate, but that’s not a critiscism… in many other restaurants they would be considered the best thing on the menu.

Steve’s sandwich was piled high with brisket and slice of turkey and one sausage. The crisp cole slaw added the perfect amount of crunch and sweetness. Carlos smoked bologna was stacked high with smoked and griddled bologna that had a great dense and meaty texture. All plates were attractively presented with large cut dill pickle chips and a pickled Serrano pepper.

Rub offers three sauces: a mild and smoky sauce, a spicy and smoky sauce and finally a sweet mustard style sauce. I wasn’t overwhelmed by any of them, but I preferred the mild and smoky sauce finding the other two to be too sweet for my liking. I’m a Kansas City boy and Kansas City barbecue is all about the sauce, which is why it feels strange for me to tell you, that I didn’t want to put sauce on this meat. It was too good for sauce.

One of Texas’ great barbecue joints is a restaurant called the Kreuz Market located in Lockhart, Texas. It has been in operation since 1900. Lockhart, Texas lies out in the country somewhere between Austin and San Antonio. There isn’t much reason to go to Lockhart except to go to Kreuz Market, and people come. They come in droves. People drive for miles and hours to get there, just to sample their barbecue.

When you walk into Kreuz Market you will see a big sign that says, No Sauce, No Sides, No Silverware, and they mean it. You will not find any barbecue sauce, they offer no side dishes and they don’t even have a plastic spoon on the premises. If I owned Rub, Authentic Texas Barbecue restaurant, I would be tempted to make my own sign that said exactly the same thing.
1843 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

A Barbecue Primer

It’s hard to imagine a more hotly debated culinary subject than Barbecue. Countless barbecue joints across the country have developed a rabid fan base, all staking claim to having the best, the truest, the meatiest or the ultimate in barbecue standards. Essentially, there are 4 major barbecue regions in the country. These regions have established their own particular style of barbecue and for their constituents that style has become more than cuisine, it’s a philosophy and almost a religion.

Kansas City
The Meat: Beef Brisket, Pulled Pork, Ribs and Chicken.
Kansas City is all about the sauce, which is rich, spicy and not too sweet. (KC Masterpiece is NOT a representation of true KC barbecue. It’s a shame they opened a restaurant on the Country Club Plaza under the KC Masterpiece moniker, because unsuspecting tourists go there thinking they have had the best KC has to offer, when they most definitely have not… but I digress)

Signature dish: Crispy Burnt Ends. The outer layer of the brisket or pork shoulder is cut away and doused in sauce. It’s all the smoke, meat, sauce and fat one person can stand. It’s just about two bites from heaven.

The Meat: Beef Brisket, Pork, Ribs, Chicken, Sausage and Turkey.
Beef is king here, but in Texas anything goes. They are the “smoke if you got em” region of the BBQ world. Texas is all about the meat and not the sauce. Texas sauces do exist and are typically sweeter than KC style sauce, but true Texans swear that putting sauce on a good barbecue destroys the flavor.

Signature Dish: Beef Brisket. Piled high, moist, fork tender slices of brisket that need nothing else.

The Meat: Pork, Ribs, Beef, Chicken and Sausage
Memphis goes both ways. They believe in dry rubs and sauce. Memphis prides itself on its extra smoke flavored Pork products. Oink! Oink! Oink! There sauce is spicy and sweet.

Signature dish: Pork ribs. Mouth watering, fall off the bone, succulent pork ribs.

North Carolina
The Meat: Pork
There are two schools of thought in North Carolina. The first is Eastern NC Barbecue. A whole pig is roasted and the meat is pulled and chopped and served with a spicy vinegar sauce, with no tomato product. The Lexington NC Barbecuers cook shoulder meat and apply a vinegar based sauce that is also laced with copious amounts of ketchup and sugar. Some say this the actual cause of the Civil war and not that whole slavery thing. I don’t know if that’s true, but don’t try to serve Eastern NC Barbecue to a Lexington native, that’s all I’m saying.

Signature dish: Chopped Pork with hush puppies.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

2Amys are better than one

Don’t you hate being the last person to arrive at a party? The party is in full swing and everyone wants to know where you’ve been. What took you so long to get there? They let you know all the fun you’ve already missed. Such is my experience with the much lauded Neapolitan Pizzeria, 2Amys.

I’ve known about 2Amys for a few years now. Friends have told me that it is there favorite pizza place in the city. Countless reviews and food blogs have supported that claim, and still, I hadn’t gotten there yet. When you also consider that Steve and I can eat a pizza like two men on death row, it’s even more implausible that we hadn’t made the pilgrimage to Washington DC’s pizza Mecca.

Our good friend Mickey called me one afternoon while I was at work. He was looking for a good but reasonable place to eat in the city. He and Carlos had visitors in from out of town and they wanted to finish their day of sightseeing in the capital with a fun meal. I instantly suggested 2Amys, deviously adding, “and if you go there, let me know, Steve and I will join you.” Unfortunately, the timing didn’t really work out and it seemed that we were going to miss, yet again, another opportunity to eat at 2Amys. Then, as luck would have it, Mickey called again, because Carlos had left something in my car that he desperately needed. 2Amys is very close to where I work and I was more than happy to oblige by dropping the item by the restaurant. (You can see the wheels turning in my head, can’t you?) I called Steven immediately and told him to get his butt in a cab and go to 2Amys. Right now.

Mickey, Carlos and visitors had finished their meal when I arrived. We exchanged pleasantries and I gave Carlos the necessary item and off they went, just as Steven arrived at the restaurant.
Ahhhh bliss, joy and revelation. Everything about 2Amys screams quality. 2Amys is a celebration of food and a testament to how simple preparation using the finest ingredients can produce food that is sublime and transcendent.

The décor is very understated with simple wood topped tables and country wicker seat chairs. Light cream walls and a black and white checked floor evoke a retro sense while still remaining clean and contemporary. Not kitschy at all. As you enter the restaurant, you are greeted by an open kitchen, and the reason you are there, the wood burning oven. Black and white photos are evenly spaced on the walls and they add a simple yet elegant tone to the ambiance. The restaurant is filled with light and its noisy. 2Amys is a favorite for families in the city and is always filled with couples and children, so please don’t expect a quiet evening.
2Amys features a regular menu of appetizers, pizzas and salad. Additionally, they have a wine bar menu that features a listing of imported and house cured meats, cheeses, and what they call “small things“, a collection of Italian style “tapas” . Then there is the specials menu, which our server noted “was the reason people keep coming back to 2Amys. "

We started with the supli al telefono. Essentially, a deep fried risotto croquette studded with a dab of Mozzarella di Bufala. Supli al telefono, literally means “telephone wires” which becomes evident when you crack open one these gems and the Mozzarella oozes out in a long strand of melty cheese that looks just like an old telephone wire. 2Amys uses a tomato risotto and the balls are lightly crisp on the outside giving way to a soft starchy inside that is simple, delicious and very satisfying.

I also ordered the house cured anchovies with bread and butter. They come laid out on a plate drenched in olive oil with a rich glob of room temperature butter. Unlike their canned cousins, these anchovies have no hint of fishiness. Instead, they are nutty and salty and the perfect foil to the butter and the house made bread. The bread is unctuously dense and chewy and smacks of just baked freshness.

And now a word about Neapolitan pizza. This was lifted directly from 2Amys website.

“In 1998 the Italian government formally recognized Neapolitan pizza as a
traditional food worthy of preservation and granted it D.O.C (Denominazione di Origine Controllata) status, which specifies the legally permitted ingredients and methods of preparation necessary to produce authentic Neapolitan Pizza. Only soft-grain flour, fresh yeast, water, and sea salt may be used for the dough, and only Italian plum tomatoes, mozzarella di bufala, extra- virgin olive oil and fresh basil or dried oregano may be used for the toppings. Fresh garlic may only be used on the Pizza Marinara. All Neapolitan pizzas must be cooked in a wood-burning oven. The Verace Pizza Napoletana Association was established to protect and promote authentic Neapolitan pizza and defend its Neapolitan origins and traditions. As a member of the Association, we abide by these strict requirements and serve D.O.C. pizza.”

2Amys serves three D.O.C. pizzas, the Margherita (tomato, Mozzarella di Bufala and Basil), the Marinara (tomato, garlic and oregano) and the Margherita Extra (tomato, Mozzarella di Bufala, basil and cherry tomatoes). Additionally, they serve a variety of other pizzas that are made in the tradition of D.O.C, but offer other ingredients and toppings that are not considered true to the Neapolitan pizza tradition.

Pizzas can be ordered as meal for oneself or to be shared. They come in one size that would easily sate a hearty appetite if you were not ordering anything else. We chose to share a pizza from the specials menu so we could sample other items as well. Our pizza was topped with green tomatoes, Mozzarella di Bufala, Grana Padano cheese and an egg. The crust was perfectly cooked and had that almost magical quality of being crisp and chewy at the same time. A single egg was baked in the center of the pizza and was cooked to a perfect over easy doneness. The runny yolk made a lovely sauce to dredge the pizza dough in. The green tomatoes were lightly acidic and matched nicely against the rich and creamy Mozzarella cheese. Indeed, this was pizza heaven.

After our pizza we enjoyed a plate of Prosciutto di San Daniele. The ham is aged for over 12 months and has a much drier quality than typical proscuittos. Tender ribbons of pork fat run along the outside of the ham adding flavor and texture. A generous plate of ultra-thin sliced ham arrived with more of 2Amys excellent house made bread. It was gone in a matter of minutes.

Finally, for dessert Steven had the Marsala custard. Initially, I thought the Marsala custard would be more like a Zabaglione which is runny and saucy and typically served over berries. However, this was much more like an full set egg custard. It was served in a small coffee cup. The custard was dense and creamy and was permeated with the lovely aroma and taste of Marsala wine.

I had been advised to order the Cannolis, which I did with some reservation. Cannolis are, of course, a simple tubular pastry filled with a sweetened ricotta cheese mixture. Cannolis are the ubiquitous Italian dessert and suffer from two frequent maladies. Malady number one: the pastry gets soggy and rubbery because it can’t hold up to the moisture of the ricotta cheese filling. Malady number two: the sweetened ricotta cheese filling is so over processed and sickeningly sweet that it should be served with an insulin shot. Alas, I should have known by this time that 2Amys would not disappoint.

The pastry was cracker crisp and the filling was made with, what else, but house made ricotta cheese, delicately sweetened, lightly whipped and flavored with citrus zest. These are the finest Cannolis I have ever tasted. Leave it to 2Amys to take something so common and make it a revelation.

If you live in the Washington DC metropolitan region and for some reason you have not been to 2Amys yet, please stop what you are doing and go there right now. Yes, it’s noisy. Yes, it’s crowded. Yes, there may be a wait. There’s a reason for that. 2Amys isn’t just a great pizza place, it’s a great restaurant and I would venture to say, it’s one of the best restaurants in the city.
3715 Macomb Street, NW
Washington, DC 20016