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.