Thursday, October 30, 2008

Cheesin' over Breeze'n

Oh my gosh, stop me now. The title of this post alone is too much. I completely cheese out when I find an opportunity to go to Bahama Breeze. I know it's a nondescript restaurant chain, but ever since my first Breeze revelation in Orlando, FL in 1997, I haven't been able to resist a dinner here.

So tonight, when my girlfriend and I were discussing where to meet to catch up between Owings Mills and Sparks, I volunteered Bahama Breeze in Towson. God bless her, she agreed. We ate "outside" on the enclosed porch with heat lamps and palm trees. (Mind you, this tropical oasis sits on top of a concrete parking garage adjacent to Towson Town Center. Not quite the white sand you would picture.) Outside you can listen to the reggae soloist croon away with his synthesizer and dreadlocks. Very island-y. Uh huh, right.

I've eaten at Bahama Breeze a blajillion times, but I still look forward to going. It's the perfect atmosphere for a cold winter night. I usually get the Roasted Cuban bread (tomatoes, Parmesan cheese, basil and cilantro) with the Breeze salad. Simple and light, but it's all about the atmosphere. 

Need to warm up? Go here. But be ready for excessive cheesiness. It's great.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Beet salad for a farm day

I spent all day Sunday at my clients' farm, hosting a foodies event for TasteDC. My client is a local high-end beef producer, so to emphasize the benefits of eating locally sourced foods, I volunteered to prepare a beet salad and fresh garden salad for 20 people, using only produce from the farmers market.

Saturday morning I schlepped down to the Waverly market in baseball cap and pajamas and gathered as many beets as I could find to make a new recipe from The New York Times food blog. I also loaded up on 6 heads of GORGEOUS Boston lettuce, grown hydroponically on the Eastern Shore. The farmer's table was nothing but Boston lettuce, and each head looked like a rose. It sounds totally cheesy, but the lettuce looked almost floral - like a table of green flower petals. I was entranced.

I spent the next 3 hours at home peeling beets in a white apron, and by the time I was done, I looked like a serial killer. My hands were stained red, and I had bright red smears all over my apron. Plus I was yielding a knife with much less respect than it deserved.

We served the beet salad and the garden salad on Sunday, along with copious amounts of gourmet beef, and the guests really seemed to enjoy it! I was anxious for feedback since this recipe calls for raw beets, and I always cook my beets before serving. I'll make it again, but on a smaller scale!

Champagne and lima beans. And brussel sprouts?

Yes, we had them all last night. In an effort to consume existing groceries, we made lima beans with fake butter and Parmesan cheese, and brussel sprouts with peanut sauce. However, Joe couldn't resist a stop in Bin 604, so while I pulled the car around, he snuck in and grabbed a bottle of Cava and two bottles of red. Oh darn.

Apparently Bin 604 staff had never been asked for Champagnes that complement lima beans. No way! They seemed to find it shocking that someone would serve Champagne with JUST lima beans, so we shook it up a little and added brussel sprouts, just for kicks.

It was an odd dinner, candles and Cava with two of the most loathed vegetables out there, but we LOVE them, and I think Joe is considering being reincarnated as a lima bean. But only if he can swim around in fake butter and Parmesan cheese.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Football in Annapolis

My girlfriend, Kelly, her hubby and I were going to scalp tickets for the Navy game on Saturday, but the pouring rain killed that idea. Instead, we went to a hole in the wall bar in Annapolis called Heroes, a favorite of Kelly's and the site of many a wild night for us.

It was almost 4:00, and I hadn't eaten all day, so I housed the West Annapolis Turkey Reuben - sliced turkey covered with melted swiss cheese, cole slaw and Russian dressing on rye bread. Plus fries. I don't know what got into me, but frankly I don't care. It was ridiculously good, and seemed to be the only bright spot as I watched my beloved Hokies tank against Florida State. Got me thinking about my freshman year watching Michael Vick (pre-dog killer) and the Hokies take on the stinking Seminoles in the Sugar Bowl...time does fly.

All afternoon I was sipping on Woodchuck Pear and Apple Draft Cider. For a non-beer drinker like me, this was an excellent compromise. Probably because it tasted like juice and not beer. Oh well, I'm a wine snob. At least I'm honest.

Best Buddies Halloween with a champagne finish

Friday night I went to a Best Buddies party in Columbia with my buddy Ginny. Ginny was dressed as Harry Potter (for the third year in a row. Think she's a fan?), and I went as a surgeon, courtesy of the University of Maryland. 

Best Buddies is a volunteer program that matches adult citizens, like myself, with intellectually, and sometimes physically, impaired adults. Think Special Olympics without the sports. 

This was the third Halloween for Ginny and I, and buddy pair Jill and Amanda threw a great party! The house was TOTALLY decked out with ceilings full of balloons, an electric clown that decapitated itself, vampires, moving picture frames, the WORKS!

I'll post pictures soon so you can see for yourself, but the buddies thought I was a dentist, not a surgeon. Guess that's good that they aren't too familiar with surgeons!

After the party, Joe asked me to meet him at Pazo. I raced home to boost my flattened surgeon hair and lose the scrubs. He met me at the entrance to Pazo with two glasses of champagne in hand. Sigh. The hostess lead us upstairs to the best table overlooking the main floor, and there was a pink rose, a cheese plate, and blueberries for the champagne waiting for us. I'm going to spare you the mushy love talk, and I'll just say I'm such a lucky girl. What a great Friday night.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Joe Squared

Last night a couple girlfriends and I went to hear Joe's band, the Aeroport Rocking Chairs, play at Joe Squared on North Ave. I think I've written about Joe Squared before, but this is the first time I've been since they installed the new coal-fired oven

The new oven claims to cook pizza in 3.5 minutes, but it definitely took longer than that from the time we ordered til the time it arrived. Who's to say when they actually starting making my pizza though.

Regardless of timing, the end result was delicious. The menu is overwhelmingly long, so we took turns yelling new options for customizing orders as we read the menu over and over. I ordered a 10" pizza, which they recommend for one person, with rosemary baked INTO THE DOUGH! I wish you could have smelled it. Add tons of tomatoes, black olives and vidalia onions, and I had dinner!

My friend got the Irish pizza, but instead of corned beef, she substituted mushrooms to go with the potatoes and onions. Potatoes on pizza? Odd, but it tasted great! Pack on the carbs!

Be warned, though. This is no cheap pizza place. You pay for customization. My pizza plus two $5 glasses of wine came to $28, before tip! Yikers! It was good pizza, but I think I'll space out my visits and rely on Maria D's to get me through the hard times ;)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Pesto salmon

Whole Foods kidnapped us after the gym last night. When will we stop being such suckers and develop the willpower to just keep walking past it? The MAC is becoming an expensive lifestyle.

Whenever I'm in Whole Foods, I catch my mouth hanging open, like a kid gawking in a candy store. I'm pathetic, I admit. How come I never see anyone else with their mouths hanging open?

We filled up a basket and had more fun than two sane people should at the self-checkout counter. (If surgery doesn't work out for Joe, I think he has a promising career as a supermarket cashier, and I make a mean bagger).

I have a philosophical issue with eating big meals after burning major calories, so we kept portion sizes super small and made the following:
  • Sauteed onions, snap peas and mushrooms, seasoned with minced garlic and soy sauce (very Asian)
  • Olives stuffed with sundried tomatoes (not so Asian)
  • Fresh salmon seared in butter and seasoned with pepper (Note - as Joe was walking out the door this morning at 5:30, he stuck his head back in to tell Sleeping Beauty that if I blogged about this recipe, I must clarify that it's important to mix the pepper into the butter first before pouring over the fish. Done, honey).
  • Homemade pesto made with soynuts instead of pine nuts, served over the salmon, plus a dallop directly on the plate for color

Our friends recently pointed out to us that our veggie-heavy diet probably doesn't provide enough protein, and we've been paranoid protein scavengers ever since. The soynuts provided DOUBLE the protein at HALF the calories, and were a THIRD of the price of pine nuts. Great alternative.

We popped a bottle of Marques de Riscal Tempranillo, 2004, which had an initial buttery flavor, followed by a peppery finish. This was the first of two Tempranillos we got at the Wine Market for a taste test. I loved this one, so I hope the Tierra de Vientos can live up to it!

Monday, October 20, 2008

J'aime Petit Louis!

Last night we went to Petit Louis for a much overdue "real" dinner. We've been trying to be super conscientious about eating what we have at home instead of going out, but it's so tempting! Joe suggested Petit Louis, and who am I to argue? Fine, twist my arm...

He took care of ordering the wine (a beautiful Chateau Cordet Margaux, 2004), and I manned the menu. There were so many gorgeous items to choose from, so I ordered a selection of small plates instead of entrees. (We were both hoping to be inspired for our own home cooking!)

We weren't disappointed. We shared the following (partially taken from the Petit Louis menu):
  • Pommes Frites (French fries served in a triangular basket. I saw them on someone else's table and couldn't say no).
  • Aubergines Croquantes (Crispy Eggplant Napoléon, Tomato, Chèvre)
  • Terrine à la mode Landaise (Foie Gras Terrine, Toast Points)
  • Salade de Betteraves (Beets, Chèvre, Mâche, Raspberry Dijon Vinaigrette)
  • Local salad special (Local lettuces and herbs, tossed in a house dressing)
  • Seared scallop special (No idea what was in this, but it was divine. None of the usual "fishy" smells that scallops often have).
We had one of our first dates at Petit Louis, and we've celebrated other events there too, but it was nice to be there on an average, nothing special kind of Sunday. The place was packed, so clearly the economy hasn't put a damper on high-end dining. Thank goodness!

Friday, October 17, 2008

Brilliant radishes

Several weeks ago, Joe and I were tooling around in Middleburg, VA, the epitome of horse country/yuppie-ville just outside of NOVA. We stopped for lunch in a beautiful little restaurant behind Main St. called The French Hound. Sounded right up our alley!

It was. We had a champagne "snack" with our lunch. As charming as it was, sitting in the renovated sun room of that antebellum home, admiring the worn brick floors and original fireplaces, my favorite part was the small plate of Radis & Sel - or radishes and sea salt.

Radishes are another one of those root vegetables that I never know what to do with. But at The French Hound, they served up miniature, imperfect, clearly homegrown radishes in a tiny bowl filled with sea salt. The radishes were picked fresh and served uncooked so you just dip them in the salt. I must have said to Joe 5 times, they taste "of the earth". You know how mushrooms have a very earthen taste, almost like you can taste the soil? That's how these tasted. Pure vegetable.

I was ecstatic to see an elegant way to serve these colorful vegetables. I've conquered another root! Last Sunday I was so excited to pick up a bag of radishes at the store and actually have something to do with them! And they were my post-workout treat last night.

They'll be on our holiday entertaining menu this season.

Lucy's in west Baltimore

Even though we have a huge apartment, I sometimes feel claustrophobic because it's a studio and we don't have any outdoor space. I was feeling the need to be around people, so we headed to Lucy's on Eutaw for a beer and some intentionally not-so-healthy food. (Sometimes you just need grease!)

Lucy's, formerly known as Maggie Moore's, is on the same block as the Hippodrome Theater. It's a solid Irish pub, and often attracts the before/after theater crowd. Joe's band used to play there a lot, and apparently it's a staple for UMD med students.

Lucy's has more than your typical bar food. Case in point, I got the fried green tomatoes with lump crab meat. Beats your average nachos. Joe got the crab dip with a French baguette and crudites. (It's addictive!)

Blue Moon on tap, and I was good to go with baseball playoffs showing behind the bar. (Not that I have any clue where we are in the series, but hey, it's all about the atmosphere).

Monday, October 13, 2008

Bucks County weekend

Joe and I were finally able to get out of Baltimore for some R&R in Bucks County, PA this weekend where his uncle was gracious enough to let us stay at his gorgeous home. We were in charge of dinner for his uncle and the two of us Friday night, so we decided to show off a little ;)

We took a bottle of one our favorite wines, Cat Amongst the Pigeons 2006 Shiraz, and we made homemade gnocchi with our own butternut squash sauce, served with steamed brussel sprouts and fresh apple chutney. It was a hit!

Saturday I went for a run on gorgeous back country roads while Joe had coffee and read on the porch. We headed into New Hope, a quaint little town on the PA/NJ border with a main street of boutique art galleries and commercial shops, and had lunch on a deck overlooking the Delaware river. The restaurant was Martine's, and it was nice for a simple lunch with great views. I had the pumpkin soup, and Joe got the crab cake with fries. The weather was perfect, so we took our time and honestly weren't too concerned with the actual food on our plates.

Saturday night we lit a fire, and Joe made champagne cocktails. Yummy! I'm no mixologist, but he made a to-die-for French 75, which is what Humphrey Bogart used to drink. (Yes, my Casablanca-loving boyfriend knew that). It's a mix of champagne, gin and lemon.

Dinner was homemade pesto tossed with noodles, and a fresh salad. Two of Don's friends joined us and brought a perfect fall dessert - fresh apple crisp with cranberries. To say we were stuffed is an understatement! I disappeared from the after dinner chatter to pass out from food coma!

FoodBuzz Publisher Community Launches!

I'm a Featured Publisher on this awesome social network (hence the beautiful artwork on myright navigation bar!), and we officially launched the FoodBuzz Publisher Community today! Read the press release below to learn more:

Contact:  Allison Costello



Doug Collister






San Francisco – October 13, 2008:   Foodbuzz, Inc., officially inaugurates its food blogger community with more than 1,000 blog partners, a global food blogging event and an online platform that captures the real-people, real-time power of food publishing in every corner of the world.  At launch, the Foodbuzz community ranks as one of the top-10 Internet destinations for food and dining (Quantcast), with bloggers based in 45 countries and 863 cities serving up daily food content.  

“Food bloggers are at the forefront of reality publishing and the dramatic growth of new media has redefined how food enthusiasts access tasty content,” said Doug Collister, Executive Vice President of Foodbuzz, Inc.  “Food bloggers are the new breed of local food experts and at any minute of the day, Foodbuzz is there to help capture the immediacy of their hands-on experiences, be it a memorable restaurant meal, a trip to the farmers market, or a special home-cooked meal.”    

Foodbuzz is the only online community with content created exclusively by food bloggers and rated by foodies. The site offers more than 20,000 pieces of new food and dining content weekly, including recipes, photos, blog posts, videos and restaurant reviews.   Members decide the “tastiness” of each piece of content by voting and “buzz” the most popular posts to the top of the daily menu of submissions.  Foodbuzz currently logs over 13 million monthly page views and over three million monthly unique visitors.       

“Our goal is to be the number-one online source of quality food and dining content by promoting the talent, enthusiasm and knowledge of food bloggers around the globe,” said Ben Dehan, founder and CEO of Foodbuzz, Inc.  

The Foodbuzz blogger community is growing at a rate of 40 percent per month driven by strong growth in existing partner blogs and the addition of over 100 new blogs per month.   “The Web site is like the stock of a great soup.  The Web site provides the base or backbone for bloggers to interact as a community, contribute content, and have that content buzzed by their peers,” said Mr. Dehan.  

Global Blogging Event

Demonstrating the talent and scope of the Foodbuzz community, 24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs offered online food enthusiasts an international, virtual street festival of food and diversity.  The new feature showcased blog posts from 24 Foodbuzz partner bloggers chronicling events occurring around the globe during a 24 hour period and included:

·         Mid-Autumn Festival Banquest (New York, NY)

·         The "Found on Foodbuzz" 24-Item Tasting Menu (San Francisco, CA)

·         Aussie BBQ Bonanza – Celebrating Diversity (Sydney, Australia)

·         The Four Corners of Carolina BBQ Road Trip (Charleston, SC)

·         Criminal Tastes – An Illegal Supper (Crested Butte, CO)

·         From Matambre to Empanadas: An Argentine Dinner (Buenos Aires, Argentina)

·         A Sweet Trompe l’oeil (Seattle, WA)

            24 Meals, 24 Hours, 24 Blogs” captures the quality and unique local perspective of our food bloggers and shared it with the world,” said Ryan Stern, Director of the Foodbuzz Publisher Community.  “It illustrates exactly what the future of food publishing is all about – real food, experienced by real people, shared real-time.”                

About Foodbuzz, Inc.      

Based in San Francisco, Foodbuzz, Inc., launched its beta Web site,, in 2007.  In less than a year, and its community of over 1,000 exclusive partner food blogs have grown into an extended online property that reaches more than three million users.   


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Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Picture this before you snack

I just saw this super cool website in the Washington Post Lean & Fit newsletter. We've all heard that your lean protein (like a chicken breast or fish filet) should be the size of your palm, but here are some other mental images to help control portion sizes for foods that are often indulgent. (I'm terrible on the cheese portions).

A dinner to come home to

I came home from work yesterday to the most delicious smells! Joe was post-call and in his own little world cooking a feast since we hadn't seen each other in 4 days. If they would only let him leave the hospital more... :)

He greeted me at the door with Gerbera daisies and then made us:
  • Steamed brussel sprouts with fresh apple chutney made with allspice, salt, pepper and cinnamon
  • Baked eggplant drizzled with soy sauce, ginger and baked sesame seeds
  • Baked swordfish with an onion, butter and dijon mustard sauce
  • A bottle of Sangiovese (just because we like saying it)
The food was divine, and as usual, his presentation was flawless. The eggplant was skinned and cubed, so it didn't take as long to bake since it was in small pieces. Both the swordfish and the eggplant were neutral foundations that allowed their respective sauces to shine.

Seriously, how lucky am I? We had our huge window open, so there was fresh, crisp air, and we lit all our candles. Bliss.

Monday, October 6, 2008

Taste of Thai

I went to Harrisonburg this weekend for what was supposed to be a final "girls only" weekend with D, Erin and Ashley to hang out before Erin's little baby girl arrives next month. But, thanks to the wonder of adoption, D's brand new baby boy, Payton, crashed our party. (I guess we'll cut him some slack this time since he's only 3 weeks old). We were up to our ears in baby talk all weekend, but it was wonderful to see my friends in their new (D) and almost new (Erin) mom roles. (Surreal, but great).

Friday I drove straight from B'more after work to Taste of Thai in Harrisonburg to meet them. It was a looong drive, but the girls had saved me a garden roll, which was divine! We inhaled various versions of Pad Thai, (I had tofu and veggies), and then we split dessert.

It was JMU's parents' weekend, so the place was packed. I was glad to see people flocking there with their out-of-town guests. That says a lot about a place when locals (do JMU students qualify?) want to bring their guests there for a little something different.

Taste of Thai is a local hit for the cuisine, but if you're looking for an authentic Thai atmosphere, this it is not. The decor is very strip mall-y, with basic wallpaper and bad artwork. The servers are all eastern European, and the desserts are calorie-loaded American sugar bombs. But it's not a chain, therefore we love it.

Our server was trying to hustle us out the door since we were talking our faces off long after the bill arrived, but no hard feelings. When in town again, we'll undoubtedly return for a change from Applebee's nation.

More to come on the weekend.

Friday, October 3, 2008

October nights in Mt. Vernon

I'm so happy to be in sweaters and jeans at night now! We went to the final First Thursdays of the year last night in Mt. Vernon, and it was just cool enough for a turtleneck and jeans. And a little Starbucks Pumpkin Spice latte.

We went to Brewer's Art for dinner after about an hour at First Thursdays. Something about body-hugging jeans season takes away my urge for a big meal, know what I mean? So I settled for the tomato soup and salad, Joe had the calamari and salmon flatbread with capers. And of course a bottle of wine - the Chateau Haut Surget 2003 Lalande-de-Pomerol, described as "an elegant alternative to your run of the mill Merlot." It was pleasant, but a little too dry for me to choose again.

We noticed something sad on our way up Charles Street to Mt. Vernon Square. There were hardly any diners in the restaurants between Fayette and Saratoga. We counted one couple in each restaurant on that block, and it was really unsettling. Is it the economy, or is that secluded block of Charles Street struggling on its own? Our friends had warned us a few weeks ago that no one was dining out there, but it was sad to see it first-hand.

However, at Brewer's Art, the only people there were students! Student loans are invincible in a failing economy :) Jealous.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

BBQ by Andy Nelson's

After a meeting yesterday out in Baltimore County, my client suggested a great local dive for BBQ - Andy Nelson's. So my colleague, Nick, and I headed there for a late lunch. It sits right on York Rd. just south of the Shawan Rd. intersection with the Wegmans.

Nick and I were in for a real treat. It looked like a hole in the wall when we pulled up, but aren't those always the best places? We each ordered the Express - a pulled pork sandwich with slaw, two sides and a drink. I got the potato fingers and a dill pickle, Nick got cornbread.

We took our trays outside and sat in this detached building, which looks like a former garage, that was filled with picnic tables and stocked with condiments. They were setting up for a dinner party, but graciously let us sit outside. What a great place for a party! You could probably fit 50 people in this outdoor dining area, and the walls opened on both sides for plenty of fresh air and natural light.

But back to the food. I haven't had a pork BBQ sandwich in a long time, and man, was it good! The potato fingers were a little dried out, but since we got there at 2:30, I think we caught all the leftover lunch fixings. I snarfed down that sandwich in no time.

My client, M, recommends Andy's ribs, ordered "dry", and then trying Andy's different sauces. M said most other ribs in the area have been boiled for hours, then baked with sauce on them. Apparently, Andy's is the only place in Maryland he will order BBQ since they slow smoke.