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.

Nando's Peri Peri at the Rio in Gaithersburg

So I have a ton of places to blog about since I banned myself from blogging until after my qualifying exams (which I passes-yay!). One of the first places on my list was Nando's Peri-Peri which recently opened at the Rio town center in Gaithersburg MD. I recalled seeing a review of the Nando's in DC by Tom Setsiema years back and when a groupon for the new place in Gaithersburg became available I knew I needed to make a trip to try the place myself.

Nando's claims it serves Portuguese cuisine but the menu set up was very my like you would see at a Peruvian restaurant where the main star of the menu is an order of a quarter, a half or a full chicken with various sides.  a Nando's gives you a choice of getting your chicken plain, lemon and herb, medium, hot and extra hot. Honestly who WANTS to order plan chicken? You can get 'plain' chicken anywhere so Katie and I split a medium half chicken. We chose to get a side of Portuguese rice, macho peas and the butternut squash with grilled corn. Justin got the portobello mushroom sandwich.

I wills say that the portobello sandwich was actually one of the stars of the night. The halloumi cheese and chili jam have it an excellent flavor and the sandwich was piled high with a generous portion of slices portobellos as opposed to one single cap. There was nothing special about the Portuguese roll it was served on even though it was advertised as one of the sides that could come with the chicken (good choice on forgoing that) but it served its sandwiching purpose.

A huge dissapointment was the star of the menu-the chicken. There was no way the chicken we got could have been referred to as 'medium' in the spice departments. Hey I love spice and I love Indian/Thai/Asian food/and buffolo chicken anything but this chicken went past the line of 'medium spicy' and into the danger zone where I could not detect any flavor other than the hotness of the chili. If I had wanted this I would have gotten some plain chicken, slathered it in hot sauce and just eaten it at home. I was very excited when I saw the range of condiments the restaurant offered to its customers for chicken dipping (or any other kind of dipping) but all the condiments were merely different levels of tongue torture-the same options as you can as for your chicken (chicken plain, lemon and herb, medium, hot and extra hot). The lemon and herb sauce did have a little bit of lemon in there but that was it-you couldn't detect any herb over this version of hot sauce.

Fortunately I had my side dishes to ease my pain. The butternutsquash dish was a home run. The squash had been perfectly roasted and caramelized with onions and an assortment of other dishes. Now this was a flavor explosion (in a good way). The peas had a unique cooling taste (must have been the mint). The rice was mediocre but helped take the heat from the chicken down a notch.

Honestly, all I really need is one really main dish at a restaurant to keep me coming back so I would return to Nando's and get a portobello mushroom sandwich with the peas and butternut squash medley. I don't know what Justin is going to get though because the rest of the menu lacked creativity or else packed too much heat for his tastes. I'll let you decide if Nando's is worth an outing-I was just glad I had my groupon handy when I paid the bill. Next time when I get a craving for some good chicken I am heading to Sardi's in Gaithersburg or College Park.