Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Restaurant Weeks Galore

The restaurant weeks are coming! The restaurant weeks are coming! It looks like August will be a great month for dining as there are no less than THREE count them THREE restaurant weeks on the horizon.

Bethesda-Chevy Chase Restaurant Week July 28 - August 3
Bethesda-Chevy Chase Restaurant Week returns to offer prix fixe lunch and/or dinner menus at 33 Bethesda area restaurants. A two-course lunch is $12 or $15 and three-course dinner is $30.

Baltimore Restaurant Week July 28 - August 3
Enjoy a variety of three-course dinners, for only $30.08, or three-course lunches at select restaurants for just $20.08.

Washington DC Restaurant Week August 11 - 17
Lunch: $20.08 for a three-course fixed-price mealDinner: $35.08 for a three-course fixed-price meal.

Follow the links to see who's participating and to make reservations. Reservations are strongly reccomended!

Tuesday, July 22, 2008


The fine folks who brought you Mendocini in Georgetown and Sonoma on Capitol Hill have done it again with their new venture, Redwood. In a word... spectacular. We were on our way to Uncle Julio's for Mexican food when I noticed that Redwood was open and serving. I've been stalking them through the pre-opening stage and have been anticipating this day. Steve and I ran in, just to get a peek at the menu... It was love at first site. Uncle Julio would have to wait.

The decor is upscale, chic, comfortable and elegant.

For a starter we had the chicken liver mousse with pickled figs. The mousse was rich and flavorful and the sweet figs, which seemed more like wine poached than pickled to me, made the perfect foil for the pate.

For my entree, I ordered the day scallops. The sweetest, plumpest most perfectly seared scallops I've ever tasted. They were served on a bed of mashed potatoes in a seafood and morel mushroom reduction studded with fresh herbs, roasted trumpet mushrooms and pea shoots. Steven had the Rosa Andes Pork Loin, served medium, over creamy grits with "melted" vidalia onions and demi glace. It also came with one roasted pork rib. Truly exceptional.

We loved the house bottled sparkling water, using the Aqua-Health System. We were brought lemon and lime for the water, but after one drink, I wouldn't have dared muddy that libation with citrus.

Moana, our server was delightful. I can count on one hand the times I've had service that was as personable, knowledgable and as, genuinely great. I would go back to Redwood just to see her.

Desserts are a MUST. I had the chocolate torte with peanut butter mousse. It was REALLY rich and if you aren't a chocoholic it may be too much. I, on the other hand, finished every bit of it and wanted more. Steven had the butterscotch pudding with pistachio cookies. Who knew butterscotch pudding could become something transcdendant. The holy grail of pudding.

They are still in soft-opening mode, but this was their first full night. If there were any bugs to work out, I didn't see them. This was as close to flawless as I can remember.

Redwood Restaurant and Bar
7121 BETHESDA LANE, BETHESDA, MD 20814 301.656.5515

Monday, July 21, 2008

Farmer's Markets I Love

Those of you familiar with my blog, know that I am a dedicated Farmer's Market aficionado. Recently noted in the satirical and humorous book "Stuff White People Like" if you release a white person on a Saturday morning, he will return to you with organic produce. It's true. It's all true.

Dupont FreshFarm Market

Simply the best. I can think of no better way to spend a Sunday morning than to peruse the stands at the FreshFarm Market at Dupont Circle. Specializing in fresh produce, regionally cultivated, often organic, the selection here can't be beat. We love the Mushroom Stand! Firefly Farms a MD cheese monger makes exquisite fresh goat cheese. Don't miss Keswick Creamery either. You will also find hormone free meat, eggs and even fresh made pasta here. Try to make it for one of the Chef's presentations. Local chef's of outstanding DC Restaurants preparing food that they have just culled from the very stands you are presently shopping. It doesn't get any better than this.

1500 block of 20th St., between Massachusetts Ave. and Q St., in the adjacent parking lot of PNC Bank

Takoma Park Farmers Market

One of the finest Farmer's Markets in the Washington DC metro area, the Takoma Park Market is true to its "hippie-esque" environs with vendors selling primarily regional, organic and sustainable produce, meats, baked goods and more. Don't miss Smith Meadow Farm for its cage free, chemical free beef, and pork products. Get there early if you want some of their eggs! They sell out quick. Keswick creamery from Pennsylvania makes a variety of cows milk cheeses, including a habanero cheese called Dragon's breath, that lives up to its name.Always great to do breakfast at Mark's Kitchen before the market opens then hit the floorboards. It's a great way to spend a Sunday morning.

Sundays, 10AM - 1PM

Cross Street Market

Cross Street has had it's ups and downs over the years, but a couple of it's mainstays, make this a perennial favorite. A myriad of produce stands populate the city market and most are just wholesalers of the same produce you would find in the supermarket, but there are exceptions. There are a couple of decent food stands in the market selling everything from deli sandwiches to fried chicken, but nothing holds a candle to the scrummy delights to be had at Nick's Seafood Counter and raw bar. Belly up to the bar and suck down a few raw oysters, or crack a few crabs if you would like. Nick's is a Baltimore institution. The sushi bar rocks! As for vendors: Nunnally Brothers Butchers have been in operation since 1872 and they deliver quality cuts of beef, pork and veal. Service at their counter is tremendous, too. Very helpful. Piedigrotta Italian Bakery & Pastry Shop makes a Ricotta Cheesecake that will make you slap your Italian grandmother. This is a great alternative to the Inner Harbor and the virtual bevy of local restaurants, pubs and shops which surround the market and the adjoining Federal Hill neighborhood, make this a true foodie destination.

Federal Hill Established 1846 1065 S. Charles St. Baltimore, MD 21230Mon. – Sat., 7 a.m. - 7 p.m.

The Market at Belvedere Square

Across from the Baltimore's iconic Senator theatre sits one of the regions greatest culinary secrets, the Market at Belvedere Square.While Balto tourists throng to the inner harbor and hit the markets at Fell's Point, uptown locals are going to the market at Belvedere square. Roughly 5400 square feet of space and sitting at the heart of a transformed shopping enclave sits the Market. Home to Atwater's bakery, a true boulangerie which carries a bevy of excellent baked breads, cakes and pastries. Don't miss their cheese selection, either, which focuses on regional or artisanal American cheeses. Cierello Fine foods will quench any Italian desires you may have from pastas, to oils, to olives and more, including one of the finest butchers I've seen anywhere. This place SCREAMS quality from every corner. Neopol Savory Smokery is a true delight and creates some of the best and most unusual smoked goods you've ever seen. Their savory smoked cheesecakes are are true standout. Don't forget to visit Steve at Planet Produce. He carries some of the finest selection of produce you can imagine. Also, the freshly squeezed citrus juices can't be beat. Literally squeezed and bottled in front of you, his blood orange juice is a favorite. Getting hungry? Atwaters has a homemade soup and sandwich counter that can't be beat or you can sample a little sushi at Ikan Sushi bar in the back of the market.

540 E. Belvedere Avenue Baltimore, MD 21212
Monday through Friday 10am - 7pm Saturday 9am - 7pm Sunday 9am - 4pm
NOTE: Market Bakery opens at 8am Monday – Saturday

32nd Street Market/ Waverly

One of my favorite outings is to hit the 32nd street Farmer's Market. This is Baltimores biggest and best Farmer's Market, open year round, but of course much enhanced in the summer. Parking can be a little difficult so it's best to get there early. Not all of the produce here is local, but a good deal of it is, so you will have no problem finding a great selection of regional and organic food here. Also, there is representation from some of Balto's finest food vendors, including Atwaters bakery and Neopol Smokehouse, which is a must stop. Neopol smokes everything they can think of. Try the smoked garlic, or their insanely thick cut bacon. The savory smoked cheesecakes are to die for, and they make some of the best smoked salmon you've ever tasted. There are a couple of noteworthy prepared food vendors as well. The Curry Shack makes a mean curry and Ethiopian delights is also a treat. If Mrs. Williams is there, take home one of her sweet potato pies!

32nd and Greenmount Ave, Baltimore
7AM -12PM Saturdays, year round

The Farmers Market at Westfield's Mall Annapolis

For those of us too lazy to get out of bed on Sunday morning to run down to the FreshFarm Market Annapolis, the fine folks at the Annapolis Mall have provided us with an alternative. The market will run Sundays, from 12PM - 3PM between now and September 28. If you've been to the market on Saturday mornings at Riva Road and Harry S. Truman Blvd, some of the vendors will be familiar to you, however, there are a number of new folks and an impressive variety of produce, meats, cheese, eggs, seafood and sundries to sample. Of particular interest was The Secret Garden, who, oddly sells no produce but rather high end olive oils, vinegars and a collection of salts, ranging from Pink Himylanyan, to black hawaiin sea salt to a cherry smoked salt. (about 17 different varieties) Also, the Pickle Guy has a huge selection of hand-crafted pickles. McCormack and Schmick's was on hand yesterday for the festivities, handing out free samples of grilled salmon and asparagus. What a way to open! Sure beats free sno-cones. I still prefer the FreshFarm market earlier in the day, but on those days when I'm not motivated to get my butt moving early, this is a great alternative.

2002 Annapolis MallAnnapolis MD 21401
Sundays 12PM - 3PM

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen/ Wine Bar

We have been waiting with baited breath for the opening of the latest edition of the Monte Restaurant group's mini Italian empire here in Anne Arundel County. Each of their restaurants bears its own name and distinct/ unique concept. We've only made one visit, but the early buzz about Carpaccio is that this is MRG's finest hour.

The decor echoes some of MRG's previous restaurants, namely PomoGrille (Bowie) and 4Season's Grille(Crofton), but with a much subdued and more sophisticated slant. Housed on the curve of the new Park Place development on West Ave in Annapolis, the outdoor seating here reminds one of being in a chic cafe in Florence, Italy. I would typifiy the interior as decidedly elegant casual.

The menu is clearly "upmarket" when held against some of the other locations. 6 types of Carpacci are offered, including filet mignon, tuna, anchovies, eggplant and prosciutto. A nice selection of salads is offered. On our visit, my Steven and I, both ordered the Panzanella. It was very good, but I would have preferred a "breadier" presentation. This was more of just a good salad with homemade croutons, which is not a bad thing, just not what I think of when I think 'Panzanella".

Pappardelle Bolognese is one of those things that... if it's on the menu... I'm going to order it. I can honestly say this was the best Pappardelle Bolognese I've ever tasted. This is a real diet breaker. If I was at home I would have been licking the bowl.

Steven had the Monte Santo Pizza, one of the 9 choices of wood burning brick oven Neapolitan pizzas. All I can say is MMMMMMMMMMMMM! Mozzarella, Artichokes, Mushrooms, Peppers, Parmacotta on a crisp and snappy crust. It was equally good the next morning with eggs and coffee.

There are 18 homemade pasta choices (some classics and some not so classic) and 5 Risottos. That's all before you get to the fish or meat entrees. For dessert, we split a Tiramisu. Typically I wouldn't order Tiramisu as it is so overdone, and rarely done right, but this was the real McCoy. I watched one pass by our table earlier and I went all "Homer Simpson" for a minute. "Arrrghghghhhghg" Actual lady finger cookies, with espresso and rum and a heapin' helpin' of sweetened Mascarpone. DEEE-lightful.

Word is already out and it's difficult to get in on a weekend evening, so if you are going, I suggest you make a reservation. Lucky for us we live nearby and a weeknight visit is not out of the question.

As an added bonus, MRG has also opened Carpaccio Pizzaria 2 Go, right next door. Featuring brick oven pizza by the slice, panninis, salads and more!

Carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen/ Wine Bar Carpaccio Pizzaria 2 Go
One Park Place, Suite 10 One Park Place, Suite 11
Annapolis, MD 410-268-6569 Annapolis, MD 410-268-8646

post script: MRG is looking to expand the Pomo Grille concept with locations opening up soon in White Marsh MD, Sterling VA and Herndon, VA.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Chanterelles: Who needs Morel mushrooms anyway?

So I missed Morel season again! Last year, I bought a small bag of Morel mushrooms at the farmer’s market in Baltimore, and then somehow lost them without realizing it. It was the last week for Morels. Oh gloom and despair! Not to mention $10 down the drain.

Determined to find Morels this year I hit a couple of the farmers markets I know, but always came up empty handed. This past weekend, we revisited the Farm Fresh Market in Annapolis and to my delight, discovered that a mushroom vendor had joined the ranks of this newly launched market. However, when I queried about Morels, “We sold out of our last Morels last week” was the reply.

NOOOOOOOOOO! My disappointment was clearly visible. “If it’s any consolation,” the lovely mushroom girl said, “This is the first week for Chanterelles, and we should have them for a couple of months”

As a matter of fact, Chanterelles turned out to be a marvelous consolation!

Whole Wheat Pasta with Pan Roasted Chanterelles, Crab and Shrimp

1 lb Whole Wheat Spaghetti (Ronzoni is the best)
½ lb Chanterelle Mushrooms, rinsed and halved
2 Cloves Garlic
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
½ Cup Chicken Stock
12 Large Prawns, peeled and deveined, tails removed
Juice of ½ lemon
1 tsp lemon zest
1 Cup Jumbo lump crab meat
2 Tbsp Prepared Pesto Sauce

Bring 2 quarts of salted water to a boil and cover with a lid. In a large sauté pan, heat the olive oil until wisps of smoke appear and the oil begins to shimmer. Smash the garlic cloves, but do not remove their paper. Add directly to the pan. Rinse and halve the mushrooms, just prior to cooking. When the olive oil is ready add the mushrooms to the pan and stir to coat. Reduce the heat and let the mushrooms begin to caramelize, stirring only occasionally. When a fond has begun to appear on the bottom of the skillet, remove the garlic and add the chicken stock. Reduce to a simmer and let the mushrooms absorb all of the liquid. Once all of the liquid has evaporated, remove the mushrooms and reserve until later.

Drop the pasta in the water and cook until done.

In the same pan used to cook the mushrooms, add the large shrimp. You may need to add a little more olive oil. As the shrimp are cooking, squeeze the juice from the half lemon and add the lemon zest. Add the two Tbsp of pesto sauce and the crab meat. Return the mushrooms to the pan and stir. Using a ladle, add a small amount of the pasta water to the pan to remove any of the fond that has formed. Add the cooked pasta to the sauté pan, mix well and serve.

Cooking time: 15 minutes
Serves 4

*For my weight watchers friends, this turns out to be 5 points per serving.