Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Pig Restaurant in DC

To celebrate a friends birthday I recently went to The Pig in DC. We decided to go to this place because it is unique in how the whole menu is centered around one animal: the pig. I know I know. I am a bad Jew but pig can be delicious.

The Pig does not take reservations so we waited outside for awhile before we got a table (this would have not been so bad if the day had not been so hot and the waiting room hadn't been so stifling). The ambiance of the place  is casual, comfortable and new. The dishes are meant to be 'shared' but this does not mean that all of the plates come out small so that you can only have one bite, they are pretty decently sized. In fact due to the waiters urging we ordered one too many dishes for the table.

My friends refused to get the chacuterie because you can get that just about anywhere but I caught sight of another table that must have ordered the big pig (a large platter of chacuterie) because it was huge and delicious looking. The salads were also avoided as this is a pig place and that just didn't seem right (plus it would have had to be a really big salad to share) so we got the braised cheek, wild boar ragu, carolina smoked BBQ, boar spoon bread, gnocchi, and cassoulet.

The braised cheek was definitely a favorite as the true tenderness and flavor of the pork really shone through in this dish. The cheddar grits that came with the cheek tasted like it was cooked by a southerner and seemed to melt in my mouth. The wild boar ragu reminded me of a beef stroganoff with shiny silky noodles and a rich but lightly applied sauce. The gnocchi was heavy but came with a buttery, nutty sauce that was widely appreciated. The cassoulet fell flat with its thick and heavy mystery filling (I had no idea as to what was I eating, there was no distinct taste) and unpleasantly textured bread crumb topping (that seemed to be about two inches thick).  The boar spoon bread was also a dissapointment as it just reminded me of a badly made stuffing taken from a box that might be served at a Thanksgiving dinner. There was very little pork flavor in the boar spoon bread and cassoulet dishes. I felt a little bit betrayed when I saw that the Carolina smoked BBQ was not actually in the mac n cheese dish as it had sounded to me from the menu description but rather served separately, one in a  bowl and the other piled onto the side. I really liked the strong vinegar they used with the BBQ so that it was truly Carolina style but no one seemed especially enamored of the mac n cheese as maybe it just wasn't cheesy enough and had a bit too much butter (butter definitely played a strong role in the majority of the dishes).

The only menu item we got that was not pig-themed was actually really popular. This was a mushroom dish which had cooked mushrooms in a bowl that was topped with puff pastry and had a hollaindaise like sauce on the side.

We got really daring for dessert and ordered the sundae bloody sunday. Why 'bloody' do you ask? Well apparently instead of egg yolks they use pasteurized pigs blood to thicken the rich chocolate ice cream. The ginger whipped cream and peanut brittle that came with the sundae were not notable but the chocolate was so thick, flavorful and luscious it was astounding. I felt like a terrible Jew but it was worth it.

I really enjoyed dining at The Pig. The company was great and tasting all the different dishes was really enjoyable. I will admit the cooking wasn't masterful, nor did it highlight the pig itself as much as I had hoped but it was an adventure and I feel like every restaurant going experience should be as fun as the one I had at The Pig-essentially it is a great place to take a group of friends.

Please note that the dishes on The Pig's menu change regularly so there might be something new to try the next time you go and some of the dishes I mentioned might no longer be there. Bon apetit!

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Where to Eat Breakfast or Brunch in Providence Rhode Island

So I was fortunate enough to attend a conference this month in Providence Rhode Island. Okay, so Providence really doesn't have many exciting things going for it but there were some cool places to eat. Plus, Rhode Island has Johnson and Whales (with a culinary museum), a Botanical gardens, and Brown.

I definitely enjoyed the majority of my culinary adventures in Rhode Island (especially since I had my trusty foodie friend Elizabeth who used to go to Brown, so she knew the area pretty well and was more than willing to share meals with me).

I don't remember the last time I went on a trip and got to eat at so many quality breakfast places. I found three breakfast places which are guaranteed to please just about anyone. Each  restaurant was unique in their own kind of quirky way.

1) Brickway on wickenden: I really enjoyed Brickway. This place is clearly family run and the owner/manager was there both of the mornings I went. You MUST order the hot chocolate which comes out in one of those gigantic mugs (which send little tingles of kitchenware lust through me) and topped with huge dollops of whipped cream and swirls of chocolate syrup. This is not your standard instant hot cocoa from a pouch-this is the real deal people! Get it.  General consensus was that the best dish at Brickway was their eye popping blue berry pancakes. Just what do they use to get them so big, thick and fluffy (maybe there is some kind of magic pancake powder in the back).

I also appreciated the accommodating staff. I requested avocado on my eggs benedict and the owner/manager thought it was such a good idea it showed up on the specials board the next day along with a spicy cheese thrown into the mix-yumo!

The french toast with lemon yogurt and blueberries were equally good and I just loved the decor. It was homey, artsy, comfortable, and just the place you want to go for breakfast on a sunny weekend or weekday morning.

2) Rue De L'Espoir : This place looks like a fancy little french cottage (yes, in the middle of Providence) and you can tell things might get a little pricey if you go for dinner. However, we just stuck to breakfast which was pretty reasonably priced. Rue's real selling point are their popovers. Elizabeth and Meg were crazy about these fluffy muffin shaped creations whose taste reminded me of a crepe or a dutch pancake (light and eggy). The popovers came with some strawberry butter and jam which were put to good use. The first morning we went to Rue the popovers were a little burnt on the edges (hey, popovers are a tricky business, no doubt) but they came out just right on our second visit.

Best dish: The lemon ricotta pancakes. I have made these at home but they never turn out as moist or have the same luscious texture that makes Rue's pancakes melt on your taste buds. Other great dishes includes the Portuguese sweet bread (there is a large Portuguese community in Providence) french toast, the huevos rancheros and rumor has it that the massive cinnamon rolls are a must have. I also got a peak at another couples fruit, granola and yogurt combo which looked heavenly.

The only disappointing dish we ordered at Rue were the crepes with blueberry's, bananas and marscapone cheese. There was barely any fruit or marscapone in our crepe and the dish was topped with a creme fresche that smelled and tasted like stinky cheese/sour cream which just did not seem to fit (and was more than a bit off putting).

3) Julian's : This place is not only artsy its somewhat 'alternative'. At first, from the outside, I thought it was like a biker bar but when I went inside I saw it was just a creatively styled diner with crazy paintings/pictures on the wall and weird names on the menu. You can tell these people take pride in being different and when it comes to food I love to try new and different. It was extremely difficult to choose from Julian's menu because everything sounded so awesome. In the end Elizabeth and I just ordered an enormous amount of food and reluctantly said good bye to our leftovers as we had nowhere to keep them.

We got lemon poppy seed bread french toast with a blueberry compote (one of the many specials of the day), the duck confit hash and the fruit, granola and yogurt combo. The lemon poppy seed bread was thick and fresh, the duck confit was flavorful and the fruit + granola + yogurt combo was full of cool nuts, dried and fresh fruits and what tasted like home made granola (they actually sell bags of the granola at Julian's). There were so many crazy new awesome things on Julian's menu I was almost overwhelmed and would love to go back and try all of them.

All in all I had some great breakfasts at Rhode Island and look forward to a trip back!

Monday, August 27, 2012

Birthday dinner at Pizzeria de Marco

So my twin sister and her boyfriend live in downtown Bethesda now and just acquired a new puppy (meaning they need to stay close to home to make sure he is okay). Since she is my twin and we share the same birthday we decided to share a birthday dinner close to her new place this year.

I have been wanting to try one of the many new pizza places in Bethesda and I knew Pizzeria de Marco was getting some good reviews so I convinced my family that Pizzeria de Marco was the place to go (this was especially good at they were leaning towards Not Your Average Joe's and Mona Mi Gabi as alternatives-phew).

Pizzeria de Marco has a nice but comfortable atmosphere. I feel like it would be the perfect place to take a first date. As it was my birthday and I wasn't paying we got a few appetizers-the sausage stuffed peppers and the meatballs. When the plates came out I was so...disappointed. There were only three miniature stuffed peppers on the one plate and three miniature meatballs on the other. The dishes looked so small and measly I didn't even deign to take a picture of them. The taste, however, was BIG. The stuff peppers were topped with fried golden brown bread crumbs and the sausage they were stuffed with was spicy-as was the tomato sauce that accompanied them. The meatballs (soaking in a sweet tomato sauce) were the winners for me. I am a picky meatball eater and I like my meatballs tender, juicy and flavorful (just like these were) so I was a happy camper (if only there were more of them). Next time I need to order the trio of fried calzones stuffed with ricotta cheese and meat.

If you don't like pizza I would suggest not going to Pizzeria de Marco as they do not offer any other kind of entree. I believe their pizza's could be split by two people even though the severs suggest one pizza per a person (even Justin couldn't finish his).

The wood fired oven is clearly visible from anywhere in the restaurant so you know the pizza is going to be thin. However, you should also be aware that the pizza is also going to be chewy which I love. I really don't like 'cardboard' pizza (cough cough Matchbox) that is burnt and crispy. Soft, thin and chewy is the way to go (or else thick and luscious like Zeo's) but everyone to their own.

Justin got the Solo Carne (the meatlovers pizza) which has pepperoni (mini slices that are packed with flavor), saucy (delectably spicy) and salami (very strong and prosciutto like). I got the primavera pizza which has roasted tomato's, thinly sliced zuchinni (buttery goodness), mushrooms, and roasted red peppers plus I added some ham (a bit mild, I gotta add the pepperoni/sausage next time) to round it off. My dad got the mushsroom pizza, my mother and sister the Margharita Classico and Aaron the Burrata con Pesto.

All of the pizza's were good-no question about it. The meat and veggies had flavor, the sauces were good, the herbs (basil) were fresh and the pesto magnifique. Oh and lets not forget the heavenly creaminess of the cheese (just thinking about the cheeses they used on our pizza's make me drool).

We rounded off the evening (ahahaha round like PIZZA-I know I know I am sooo corny) with two nuttella calzones. So, maybe we were a bit ambitious with this order but let me tell you these ginormous nuttella calzones smothered and stuffed with sweet chocolate hazelnut fabulousness were devoured by my family members like they were a hungry pack of wolves suffering from a winter of starvation (you would never have thunk they had just stuffed themselves silly with pizza pie).

The restaurant was declared a success and I would move that it is an ideal place to take a big group of friends who enjoy swapping pizza pieces and trying each others selections (just avoid the too small but tasty appetizers in that kind of situation cause it will just add to your bill and there wont be enough to go around and absolutely DO NOT FORGET to order a couple nuttella calzones).

Sunday, August 26, 2012

The Original House of Pancakes in Rockville Maryland

Sadly enough there really aren't many good places to eat breakfast in the DC area (not even decent diners). I definitely think this is a niche that needs to be filled, especially in the suburban area when people are home for the weekends and want go out with their family and/or friends for brunch.

The Original House of Pancakes (TOHOP NOT IHOP this is different-there is one TOHOP in Bethesda and another in Rockville) has got to be the best place to go for breakfast/brunch in the DC area. Many people are aware of this so you should not be surprised if you walk in any time before 3 (the place closes at 3) on a weekend and find the waiting area packed full of breakfast hopefuls (just bring a book and sit down to wait on one of the many benches).

TOHOP definitely has a typical modern day diner set-up so don't go for the ambiance go for the food. Ah and what food it is. Well what is so great about this place?

1) If you order any kind of pancake or waffle you cannot go wrong.

2) They use fresh delicious fruit. For example even if strawberries are out of season and you order a strawberry something or other you are guaranteed to be presented with some fresh sweet strawberries on top of your waffle/pancake/crepe because that is just how this place rolls. I cannot STAND it when I order a strawberry waffles and I get some kind of strawberry glop that has been drowned/preserved in syrup and is half frozen thus sullying my delicious waffle (yes I am referring to you Plato's diner in College Park and just about every other diner in the area-including IHOP).

 3) The Dutch Baby and Apple Dutch Baby. These are Dutch pancakes that are essentially like giant crepes (and I do mean giant). If you order one everyone else at your table will be wowed and insanely jealous.

 4) Creativity. You can order just about any kind of darn pancake you desire. If you want it TOHOP most likely has it. Sourdough pancakes? Yes. Pecan pancakes? Yes. Chocolate coconut pancakes? Yes. I could go on and on and on.

Anyways, take your friends, take your family, take your neighbors. You are practically guaranteed to get good breakfast food that won't break the bank.

Bacon waffles. Subtle and delicious.

Swedish pancakes. Thin and sweet.

Lemon curd crepes.

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lemoncello Restaurant Review Rockville MD

Recently I was treated to dinner by my parents in Rockville at a restaurant that is literally right across from the Kareoke place that I mentioned in my last post. Lemoncello is touted as one of the higher class restaurants in Montgomery county so I was interested in seeing what it was like (plus my mom had a coupon from their website which is of course why she wanted to go there).

I thought the place was pretty cute and a perfect place to take your date for a romantic dinner out (but uh in this case I was with my parents). The restaurant looked just like one you would find in Italy-small, cozy but still a little bit elegant (they could stand to remove the wide screen tv in the back of the restaurant by the bar though). My problem with many Italian restaurants is the proportion of carbs to vegetables. Hey I love my carbs but I would like them to come with a decent amount of vegetables to add some more flavor and variety to my dish.

Lemoncello's menu suffered from the low-veggie affliction and I was going to get the Lemencello chicken since it came with mushrooms and asparagus (one of the most veggie-centric dishes on the menu) but my mom ordered it and since I can't get the same thing as someone else at the table I got the ravioli with bolognese (meat) sauce. My dad got the chicken and veggie pizza and all three of us ordered a different salad for an appetizer. My dad's salad was the best though it was only greens with a vinegary dressing with slices of white orange and slivers of quality parmesan cheese but the ingredients were so good I forgave it for its lack of pizzazz (my favorite salads are a jumble of at least a handful of different ingredients). My ceasar was dissapointing in its ordinariness (sometimes you can get a really good ceasar but this was not that time) and my moms house salad was normal and adequate. I thought that my dads pizza was similarly normal and adequare-nothing special but nothing bad about it either. My moms lemoncello chicken was the best of the three entrees but the chicken was a bit dry and I could have definitely made it at home. My own dish came in last in the race (er meal) since my ravioli had a riccotta cheese filling reminiscent of the ones I get in frozen ravioli dinners (processed, weird texture, less than no taste) and the sauce tasted like it came from a can. The noodles themselves weren't bad. I was so hoping that I would get an experience similar to the one I had i Italy at a random wine bistro in Venice when I had the best lasagna I had ever eaten in my life (the meat sauce made me swoon and fresh sheets of pasta made me swoon). Alas we were not in Italy but Rockville. 

I must admit that the desserts at Lemoncello blew me away. They really know how to do a cannolli-that marscapone cheese was FRESH and delicious. The chocolate souffle filled with chocolate sauce (which btw is not really a chocolate souffle-it is really a chocolate lava cake but heck they can call it whatever they want as long as I get to eat it) which came with a side of icecream and fresh berries. Mmmm. I would def return for some dessert but the rest of the meal I could forego.

Tapas in Bethesda and Kareoke in Rockville

Spanish tapas is the equivalent of the Chinese Dim Sum or Greek mezze. I am a huge fan of tapas. What is not to love about this small plates concept-you get an assortment of tastes and you don't have to feel guilty about wasting a ton of food (though I do appreciate left overs). Needless to say I was excited when my friend Theresa announced her birthday dinner was going to be at Jaleo in Bethesda but at the same time a little wary. Jaleo is one of Jose Andres' restaurants and if I have learned anything from my restaurant sojourns over the years its that sometimes food quality decreases with the increasing fame of the chef and the price of the food increases as well. One example would be Paul Deans restaurant in Savannah Georgia where quantity takes precedence over quality.

Well unfortunately Jose Andres did not prove my prejudices wrong. Not only were the plates even smaller than a small plate (I mean two mini red peppers the size of my finger) and overpriced but the food was also bland and mediocre. La tasca has better patata bravas hands down (these were soggy and the red sauce had an off taste). The low point of the meal were the ham croquettes. When I took a bite out of them I immediately reached for my water and almost gagged because they were so intensely salty. The sausage and beans were worse than a disappointment and the shrimp paella gave off a most pungent fishy aroma. The roasted red peppers stuffed with goat cheese were probably the best thing we ordered as well as the smallest. The duck was the most bland duck I have ever tasted and the chicken with herbs was not memorable. There really wasn't anything I would go back for and nothing else on the menu caught my eye. Luckily I was not very hungry that night, the company was good and at least I discovered that a cool empanadas place was nearby which had a variety of dipping sauces and seemed like a creative future lunch spot. Also, we got to end the night with some Kareoke awesomeness.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Creative Kugel Recipe with butternut squash

I am so excited about my new creative kugel recipe. It is like the ultimate kugel. I absolutely love my butternut squash so I decided to incorporate it into my kugel-along with two other food items I love cranberry sauce and riccotta cheese. My normal kugel uses dried cranberries but this time I decided I wanted to see what a can of fresh whole cranberries would taste like in my kugel. Instead of cream cheese I substituted riccotta cheese and I added an extra crunch and sweetness to the kugel by doing a crumb topping (like you might see on a fruit kugel). I thought all the flavors went together really well and would be a creative, beautiful, festive looking side dish for any occassion.


14 oz of egg noodles
15 oz of riccotta cheese
1 cup of milk
1 cup of butternut squash puree
4 eggs
1/4 cup sugar
1 tbspn cinnamon
1/4 tspn nutmeg
1 14 oz can of whole cranberry jelly

Crumb topping:
1/6 c brown sugar
1 tbspn granulated sugar
1/2 cup oats
1/2 tspn cinnamon
1/2 c flour
pinch salt 1 tspn vannilla extract 1/4 cup cold unsalted butter diced

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Cook the noodles in boiling water according to the packages directions. In the meantime mix the cheese, milk, squash puree, eggs, sugar, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl. In a separate bowl or in a food processor mix the sugars, oats, cinnamon and flour. After this add the butter to the sugars cutting into it with a fork until you see the butter form into pea sized crumbs. After the noodles are ready strain the water from the noodles take the noodles and put it into the liquid mixture in the bowl. Mix thoroughly and put into a lasagna sized dish. Take the cranberry jelly and swirl it into the pan. After spreading the contents of the pan out evenly sprinkle the crumb topping onto the surface of the mixture. Put the pan into the oven for an hour.

I actually brought this kugel dish to a New Years party and everyone loved it (even the girl who hates kugel). I say this is really great for potluck so give it a try and see what your friends/co-workers/guests think.