Friday, August 20, 2010

Mezze, Fell's Point

I missed out on last year's summer restaurant week because we hadn't moved here yet and then we missed winter's because I just couldn't decide which restaurant to try (and I'm a busy grad student!).  But I was determined to try restaurant week this year.  I read all of the menus and made lists of potential places to go until I finally settled on trying Mezze.  Mezze had never really been on my "need to try" list, but their menu looked really good and it was an awesome value; instead of 3 courses for $35.10, you would get about 20 tapas dishes.  Bargain!  And I knew there would be enough to take home. 

Mezze is located in Fell's Point and it's a really cute little place.  We were seated right away with our reservation and were given the choice between inside and outside.  We chose inside, which meant that we were very close to the tables next to us (this seems to be a trend lately).  Everyone in the row of four tables where we sat was also doing the restaurant week menu.  Our server came over right away and explained everything to us.  We each got a glass of red sangria (on special for $5 each) which was very good and fairly large compared to other restaurants' versions.  Then we waited for the immense amount of food to arrive.  First out was some fresh pita bread, which was hot and very good.  I started to get worried here because the tiny table was already almost full with just glasses and plates and pita.

I decided to copy the menu here and just give you a run down of each item.  First out were the dips:

Mixed Olives
These didn't actually make an appearance.  Not sure why, but no one seemed to get them.
This was a really thin hummus, but had good flavor. 
This was pretty standard, but G loves Tzatziki, so he was happy.
Very good and I had more leftover for lunch the next day.

Next, we got the "vegetable course":
Grape Leaves
I really liked the actual leaves, but the filling seemed a little under seasoned.  Plus for not being too oily.
Spinach Pie
One of my favorites that we had all night.  It was perfectly flaky and the filling was delicious.
Goat Cheese Stuffed Roasted Peppers
I could have taken these or left them.  The filling was mushy and I'm not crazy about roasted peppers.
Then came the main course:
These were some of the worst falafels that I have ever had.  Very dry.
Shrimp Cakes
Interesting.  I liked them, but didn't feel like I would necessarily order them again.
Fried Calamari
Pretty typical calamari.  Good, though.
Chicken Kabob
The chicken was very moist and flavorful.
Beef and Lamb Meatballs
Very moist and tender.  They were good, but again I don't think I would get them again.
Baby Lamb Chops
My first experience with lamb chops.  They were decent, I guess, but I don't feel qualified to judge.
Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes
Good for a place that isn't known for seafood/crab cakes.  A little too much filler, but good flavor.

At this point we were stuffed, but the dessert course was on its way and it looked amazing!
Yummy, yummy, yummy.  Lots of honey and nuts.
Kind of like the other two desserts combined.  Interesting and different and delicious.
Baked Custard
Probably my favorite of the three.  Delicious chilled custard with a yummy philo-type "crust."

The bill, with tip, came up to around $100.  We had a ton of food to take home, but I still do not think that the restaurant week pricing justifies a visit to Mezze.  You could go there, get only the dishes you want, and go home happy and probably spend less than half what we did.  The food was hit or miss, but the dishes that we liked, we liked a lot.  And like I said, the tables are really small and close together, so I felt like I was doing a balancing act the entire time.  A person at the table across from us did knock over his water and sent it flying every where.  My advice: try Mezze, get what you like, and don't go for restaurant week. 

Kali's Mezze on Urbanspoon 

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dogwood, Hampden

The first thing that you will realize when you step into The Dogwood is how amazingly gorgeous the decor and layout are.  This is seriously a beautiful restaurant with amazing lighting and a perfect spot for a romantic evening.  I wasn't actually on a date when I went there, though; I was with roommate from college and we thought that it was fantastic.

I have gotten several recommendations to try The Dogwood since I moved to Baltimore, but had been putting it off for a while.  When my friend came to visit, I knew that a girls' night would be the perfect time to check it out.  It was loud in there, so be sure that you're prepared to talk loudly.  Our server was very friendly and helpful.  To start each table is given some homemade brown bread with a mango chutney butter.  Mmmmm!!!  Seriously, I could have just eaten this and gone home happy.  But of course, I needed to try more.  For dinner, I ordered the seared Cape May sea scallops ($31) with, sweet corn-local mushroom risotto with baby spinach, apple smoked bacon.  My friend ordered the local corn and mushroom risotto ($18), with baby spinach, garlic sauteed greens, sage persillade, local oyster mushrooms.  We were both so happy with our food.  The scallops were cooked perfectly and the smokiness of the bacon played so well with all of the other components.  I even had some to take home and eat for lunch the next day! 

The Dogwood is definitely a beautiful space with fantastic food, and very worthy of taking company!

Dogwood Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Blue Agave Restaurante Y Tequileria, Federal Hill

I had mixed feelings about Blue Agave.  Some of the things that we tried were outstanding, while others were not favorites.  One thing is for sure: the atmosphere, like a lot of Federal Hill's restaurants, is really nice.  You get a mix of renovated rowhouse feel and Mexican villa.  I wanted to walk around the place and see everything.  I got a glimpse of the bar, which looked really cute.

We started out with complimentary chips and salsa (always a plus).  We were given three types of salsa and fresh chips.  I enjoyed the green salsa and the chipotle a lot.  I was eager to try the  chipotle shrimp corn cake, which luckily came in an appetizer assortment ($14) that we ordered.  I loved the little corn and jalepeno cakes with shrimp on top and they were probably my favorite part of the meal.  With the appetizer, we also got a shrimp quesadilla, chicken flautas, a chile/cheese tamale, a queso stuffed jalapeno, and guacamole.  All of these were very good and I would have been content just eating that.

As my entree, I ordered the Enchiladas de Mole Poblano ($16.50), which came with rice and beans.  I guess I am just not much of a fan of mole, because this did not appeal to me too much.  Plus I already ate so much with the appetizer!  I do think that this was a very well done dish and others would probably love it.  G got the Burrito de Pollo ($13), which also came with rice and beans and he thoroughly enjoyed it. 

This restaurant definitely had great, authentic Mexican food and it's in a great location.

Blue Agave Restaurante Y Tequileria on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 13, 2010

And the winner is...

Sorry about the slight delay, but the gods have spoken!

And shannoncarman is the winner!

Thanks to everyone who entered!

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Mari Luna Mexican Grill, Pikesville

We've been living in Baltimore for a year now and have yet to find Mexican food that we're really crazy about (or Chinese, for that matter).  One of the restaurants that I had high hopes for was Mari Luna Mexican Grill.

I met a friend from college there recently.  She's not from the area and I don't know Pikesville very well, so we both decided to check Mari Luna out.  One plus for them is that they started us out with free chips and salsa.  I hate it when Mexican restaurants do not serve chips and salsa.  And they were pretty good, too.  The chips were multi-colored, but didn't seem homemade.  The salsa was yummy and fresh.

I ordered the Make Your Own Taco Platter and got one shrimp and one steak taco and it all came with rice and beans ($10).  The shrimp was very good and the toppings on each were good, as well.  The steak was very dry, though.  The rice and beans were pretty standard.  Our service was also extremely friendly (and spoke Spanish to my fluent friend, which I always like).  All in all, this is a good place for Mexican in the area, but I still haven't been wowed.

Mari Luna Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

And don't forget! You have until Friday at 5:00 to enter my giveaway!

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chick and Ruth's Delly and Rocco's Pizzeria, Annapolis

Annapolis is a perfect little day trip for those of us living in Baltimore.  It has a ton of charm, places to check out, and most importantly, places to chow down.  Our most recent trip to Annapolis was specifically to try out a restaurant, somewhere that G had been as a child and I had never been: Chick and Ruth's Delly.

Chick and Ruth's seems to be an institution in Annapolis.  Everyone knows  about them and their unique decor and menu.  Plus people around the country have seen the six pound (yes, six pound) milkshake challenge on Man vs. Food.  We were afraid that we would have a long wait for a Saturday afternoon lunch, but we were seated right away.  Diners are seated very close together, so I wouldn't go there if you needed to have any private conversations.  It's all part of the quirkiness. 

I ordered a REGULAR sized vanilla malt ($4.25) and a BLT ($4.25).  G ordered a chocolate chip malt and a 1/2 pound cheeseburger ($5.99).  We also split a side of fries ($2.35).  One of my favorite parts about eating here is that they bring you a tub of pickles to eat while you are waiting for your food.  I love pickles!  I can't help but think about all of the people I encountered during my waitressing days who would hate this, but it was really fun.  The malts were good, but they don't make their own ice cream.  Pretty standard in my opinion.  The food took a while to come out and I think they may have lost our order.  The sandwiches themselves were also pretty standard.  But I don't think people flock here because they are especially known for their food.  It's all about the experience.

Chick & Ruth's Delly on Urbanspoon

After our day out in Annapolis, we stopped on the way home for another of G's childhood favorites, Rocco's Pizzeria.  As I have mentioned before, G loves all pizza and apparently this is his favorite.  I liked their pizza, a lot, too for a standard, delivery quality slice.  We got cheese slices and I didn't have anything to complain about.  It's a standard strip-mall pizza joint, and they are worth checking out if you're in the area.

Rocco's Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 9, 2010

Joe Squared and Dominion Ice Cream, Charles Village

Oh, pizza.  I eat so much of you because you are my boyfriend's favorite food and because I am a very awesome girlfriend.  But unlike said boyfriend, who will eat any pizza and never has anything bad to say about it, I have standards and there are some pies that I love more than others.  Luckily, Baltimore has some fantastic pizza and I am always reading great recommendations for different establishments.  I really enjoy a nice thin crust, so I knew that I had to give Joe Squared a try.

I'm not going to lie.  Joe Squared has been on the "must try" list for a while now, but I had been intimidated by it.  Maybe it's the neighborhood or the reviews I read that said that a lot of the diners there are hipsters and it can be off-putting.  Maybe.  But the pizza beckoned, so we took the Circulator as far north as we could and walked the rest of the way to Joe Squared.  And I'm glad that we did.  It really wasn't scary at all.  The service was very attentive and friendly and the food was fantastic.  Yes, there were a lot of hipsters there, but they weren't rude and there were families, as well. 

To start, we got  the hot buffalo wings ($9).  These had a very unique flavor, sort of a sweet heat.  The after taste really got you with the sweetness of the sauce.  I liked them a lot, but I prefer a straightforward hot sauce.  G wasn't crazy about them because of the sweetness.  Then we split a 12" margarita pizza ($16), which was the perfect size for two hungry people.  The pizza here is coal-fired, which is different from anything I'd ever had before.  The crust, which is super thin, gets a really nice smoky taste to it.  The sauce and toppings were also delicious and fresh.  Everyone there seemed like regulars and like they really enjoyed the food.  It was definitely an experience worth repeating.

Joe Squared Pizza and Bar on Urbanspoon

Later in the same day, we also went over to Dominion Ice Cream.  What a treat!  Plus it's guilt-free because the ice cream there is made with vegetables and have a lot less calories than regular ice cream (I think I read that they have less than 90 cals per scoop!).  The owner tinkers with the flavors and adds spices so that some of the veggies' tastes stand out more than others.

I got sweet potato and tomato.  The sweet potato tasted like pumpkin pie and was really yummy!  The tomato tasted more like vanilla and I wished it had more veggie flavor!  G got spinach, which tasted similar to the tomato, and cucumber.  Cucumber was out favorite!  It was so refreshing and really tasted like cucumbers. 

Now if only all of my junk foods were that good for me...

Dominion Ice Cream on Urbanspoon

CSN Stores Giveaway!

I'm not sure if I've ever talked about how many kitchen accessories, gadgets, and appliances that I own, but it's quite a few and I love all of them!  I also love kitchen decor and making my kitchen a fun place to be!  I recently learned about CSN Stores, which has over 200 online stores where you can buy everything from appliances, to aprons, to dining room sets

I admit, I spent a while online at work (shh!) looking through all of the stuff that they have to offer, especially since I have been on the hunt for a good spice rack and other organizational aids.  It really is a one-stop shop over there!  And even better than all that?  I am giving away a one-time-use $50 gift certificate that you can use toward any purchase at any of their online stores! 

How to win!

1. Leave a comment here telling me what your best dining experience has been this summer.
2. For an extra entry, post on your blog about my giveaway with a link and post another comment letting me know that you did it!
3. For a THIRD entry, follow me on Twitter (cookeatread) and tweet about the giveaway with a link and post another comment.

You have until Friday 8/13 to enter!  Winner will be chosen randomly that evening and I will announce the winner then!

Thursday, August 5, 2010

Regi's American Bistro, Federal Hill

A while back, I asked everyone for suggestions on where to take my parents for dinner while they were visiting (and thanks, by the way!).  I got so many wonderful suggestions, but I knew that I wanted to try somewhere new to us and fairly close by, so we decided to take the Circulator into Federal Hill and try Regi's American Bistro.

There were so many reasons that I wanted to try Regi's.  It has great reviews.  The chef often does farmers' market reports for Dining@Large because they do so much farm to table cooking.  They have their own garden on their roof.  I pass by it every time that we're in Federal Hill.  Need I go on?  We made reservations, but the restaurant wasn't too busy when we first got there around 6:30.  By the time we left, they were crowded, though!  The restaurant itself is fairly small and very cute.  Typical of Federal Hill, it's in a renovated space that used to be a home, with cute decor and a nice view out onto Light Street.

We started out with AJ's tater tots, which are topped with brie and bacon.  YUM!  They were so delicious and amazingly simple.  The portion was small, and three of us were sharing, but we were glad to have saved room for our entrees.  I got a dinner special that consisted of cashew-crusted tilapia with a fruit topping, mashed potatoes, and veggies.  They really aren't kidding about the farm-to-table!  Everything was so fresh and good.  My mom even said that she normally doesn't like tilapia and she liked this.  G got the Eastern Shore pasta, which was huge and amazing.  It consisted of shrimp, crab, corn, and tomatoes in a delicious butter sauce on top of pasta.  This might have been the best out of all four entrees.  My mom got the Asian salmon, which was sesame encrusted and had a soy-ginger glaze and the same veggies that my entree had.  Also very yummy.  My dad got the meatloaf, which was the most flavorful that I have ever tasted, but a tiny bit grainy. 

I really can't wait to go back and try Regi's again.  They are truly a gem of Federal Hill. 

Regi's American Bistro on Urbanspoon