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Urban Winery: Taste, Learn, Create

7 Apr

Rachel and I have lived in Silver Spring for about three years now and arguably one of our favorite spots since we moved to the neighborhood is Urban Winery.  It’s the first-ever urban winery in the Washington metropolitan area and is also the closest from our nation’s capital.

Urban Winery

Founded by Georgia and Damon Callis, Urban Winery doesn’t actually have a vineyard but that allows them the freedom to produce wine with grapes sourced from all over the country. The opposite can be said about everything else found at Urban Winery – from to the meats to the local craft beers to even the wood Damon used to build the furniture is all sourced from Maryland. We highly recommend the Silver Spring White and the Winemaker’s Helpers, the latter named after the couple’s children.

Georgia and Damon Callis

Owners and founders Georgia and Damon Callis

The mantra of Urban Winery is “Taste, Learn, Create”.

Taste: The tasting room offers wine lovers an extensive list of wines that are produced in-house, in the state of Maryland, as well as national and international bottles.

Charcuterie Charcuterie Greek dolmades

Greek meatballsAtlantic smoked salmonSmall plates

Furthermore, they recently introduced a full mezze menu that also includes charcuterie and some delicious desserts (be sure to order the s’mores skillet!). And while one typically associates fondue with The Melting Pot, Urban Winery one-ups the chain with its own chocolate and cheese fondue offerings that will have you leaving Silver Spring very, very full.

Dessert fondue

Learn:  Urban Winery offers several classes in its barrel room as well as guided tours of their winery operations.  They host about two classes per month that include a trio of wine samples as well as small bite pairings.

Urban Winery

Create: Perhaps one of the most unique aspects of Urban Winery is that you can create your own private labeled case of wine! Divided into two sessions, aspiring winemakers will be able to bring home 24 to 30 bottles once the winemaking is complete. Whether it’s for a birthday party or a corporate function, Urban Winery gives guests the ability to bring home their own pinot or malbec, complete with customized labels!

Winemaking

The Urban Winery is the epitome of a locally owned business that not only produces some terrific wine but is also a warm and inviting space that is serving up some delicious food to boot. Considering how many times we’ve been based on past dates and happy hours, we can’t recommend it enough.

Urban Winery promo

Oh, and be sure to use the hashtag #TasteLearnCreate on your next visit – you’ll get 10% off your bill!

The Urban Winery Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Revisiting Fish Taco

24 Oct

Rachel and I have always been fans of Fish Taco, the fast-casual taqueria tucked away in Cabin John. They recently opened a location in Wildwood Shopping Center in Bethesda so we decided to check out their newest site with the whole family.

Elote

We kicked things off with the classic elote, or Mexican grilled corn. Topped with cotija cheese, guajillo chilies, and their signature sauce, it’s the quintessential starter.

Beef brisket mini tostadas

We also shared one of their special appetizers, beef brisket mini tostadas. The fried tortillas were stuffed with refried beans, pico de gallo, coleslaw, cotija, and crema. As you can tell by the description, they were indeed quite filling!

Blackened fish tacos

As for entrees, it was rather self-explanatory given the restaurant’s name. I opted for the blackened fish taco platter. Topped with chili lime sauce, cabbage, and pineapple-chile relish, it always tends to be my go-to dish.

Grilled fish tacos

Rachel got the grilled fish tacos which were topped with cabbage, mango pico, cotija, and chili lime sauce.

Autumn taco

We also had the opportunity to sneak preview their autumn taco which featured black bean puree, acorn squash, avocado, and pesto that was prepared with pumpkin seeds and cilantro. It’s a seasonal delight that’s even vegan-friendly.

Fish Taco is one of those places where we’ve never had a bad meal, and being kid-friendly is always a plus. And now that they’re even closer to us with their new location, it’s a given that we’ll be visiting more often.

Fish Taco is located at Wildwood Shopping Center in 10305 Old Georgetown Road in Bethesda, 7945 MacArthur Blvd in Cabin John, and 7015 Wisconsin Ave in downtown Bethesda.

Fish Taco Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Strong Fit Meals Offers Healthy Meal Delivery Alternative

11 Oct

Over the past year, we have seen the debut of several chef-prepared delivery services in an effort to simplify meal planning when time is limited. Given that both of us work and have two children, dinnertime tends to be stressful, so it’s great to see more options become available.

Strong Fit Meals offers diners a healthier alternative, aimed at those with an active lifestyle or looking to watch calories. The meals, which are made to order and prepared with fresh ingredients, are rather straightforward.

Strong Fit Meals

Their “clean menu” offers a rotating selection of entrees featuring a protein, vegetable and starch, such as blackened steak with mashed sweet potatoes and fresh veggies.

Chicken teriyaki and rice

 

Strong Fit Meals also offers a build your own menu “lean menu” where customers can pick and choose not only the kind of protein/veggie/starch, but also the portion size, too.

Grilled salmon with couscous

We had the opportunity to sample some of their offerings and really liked how the nutrition information was clearly presented on the packaging. The directions are rather simple: just microwave your freshly delivered meal and you’re done.

Roast Chicken

Strong Fit Meals delivers to D.C., Maryland, and Virginia

DMV Dining readers: Use code DMV10 to get 10% off your order!

Mezze Box Brings Fresh Mediterranean Meals to Your Door

11 Aug

As working parents with two young children, we’re always on the lookout for trying new ways to handle the logistics of having dinner ready between picking our kids up from daycare and getting them ready for bed in hopes of avoiding a late night meal after the dust has settled.

And while we’re fans of meal delivery services such as Blue Apron and Home Chef, those recipes are still time-consuming and involve a good amount of both prep and cleanup.

Enter Mezze Box; a local startup that offers freshly prepared Mediterranean meals to your doorstep. Founder Johnny Seikaly, originally from Lebanon, cooks traditional Mediterranean fare using recipes passed down from his family that are both hearty and healthy.

Mezze Box

 

Mezze Box offers a rotating weekly menu featuring four individually sized main dishes as well as a handful of sides. And if you’re dining for two or more, they also offer Mezze Boxes, which mix and match entrees and sides that can accommodate four to up to ten people.

Last week, we had the opportunity to try their okra stew, lentils & rice, and cauliflower. Prepared with whole ingredients, all of which were listed on the packaging, the food tasted incredibly fresh and was bursting with Mediterranean flavor.

Okra Stew

 

The best part is that Mezze Box delivers not only to D.C., but also Maryland and Virginia, and the delivery is free if your order is over $25. And while they exclusively deliver on Mondays, they will be introducing daily delivery starting August 22!

DMV Dining readers can get 10% off their entire order by using code “DMVDINING”

Pi Pizza Opens in Bethesda

9 Jun

While downtown Bethesda isn’t necessarily devoid of pizza joints, the St. Louis-based pizzeria Pi Pizza is famously known for its deep-dish cornmeal crust pizza and adds a Midwestern flair that helps it stand out from its nearby counterparts.  This is actually the second Pi in the Washington market as their D.C location, District of Pi, opened nearly three years ago in Penn Quarter.

In the space that formerly housed Pitzze and its previous incarnation, Haven, Pi Pizza looks to welcome Bethesda diners with their trademark deep-dish pizza as well as an array of toppings that includes prosciutto, sundried tomatoes, roasted chicken, and even daiya vegan cheese.

Thin-crust pizza

Since I was dining with my three year-old, I opted instead for the thin-crust style, as that was a bit more toddler-accessible as opposed to the deep-dish.  The crust was delightfully crispy and incorporated a sweet tomato sauce without being overly greasy.

Meatballs

Meanwhile, the biggest hit of the evening for my son was the meatballs.  Incorporating a pork and beef blend and topped with tomato sauce and Parmesan, my kid gobbled these up… and even asked for seconds!

Oven-blazed wings

And while the pizza is great, the oven-blazed wings are highly underrated. Prepared with a dry rub and baked in the oven (not fried!), the wings were accompanied with a yogurt cucumber dressing which was a nice, refreshing twist compared to your typical ranch dip.

Pi Pizza is a great addition to Bethesda, and with ample public parking in the back of the restaurant this looks to be a great destination for diners in search for a pie and a pint.

Sichuan Excellence at Peter Chang

11 Feb

Between the countless number of restaurants that have opened in the Washington metropolitan area, Peter Chang’s not one but two expansions to the region were slightly overlooked. Maybe it’s because he decided upon the suburban locales of Rockville and Arlington instead of Shaw or Petworth, but regardless if it’s located in the District or not, it’s worth the trip up the Pike for some fabulous Sichuan fare (and those in Virgina don’t have to go too far, either).

It’s fair enough to say that nearly all of the dishes we had at Peter Chang were something we have never experienced before. Take for instance the dry fried eggplant. They were essentially eggplant fries sans any trace of grease while the outside remained delightfully crispy. Topped with chilies and Sichuan pepper, this isn’t even the spiciest dish on the menu, but if you’re a fan of heat then the dry fried eggplant is a must-order.

Dry fried eggplant

The scallion bubble pancake is highly recommended just for presentation alone. The pair of piping-hot puffy pastries (say that three times fast) arrives to the table with a side of curry sauce that makes for a great starter.

Scallion bubble pancake

I don’t know what was more memorable about the bamboo flounder: the presentation or how it actually tasted. Just like the aforementioned dishes, this was unlike anything I have had before. Crispy strips of lightly fried flounder were beautifully arranged between pieces of bamboo and, just like the eggplant, were topped with cilantro, chilies and Sichuan peppercorns, adding a nice kick to an already amazing dish.

Bamboo Flounder

Grandma’s noodle was another favorite amongst the table.  Topped with chili power, scallion, garlic cilantro, soy sauce, and hot oil, this is yet another spicy dish but the al dente noodles helped neutralize some of the heat.

Grandma's noodle

The hot and numbing combination speaks for itself. A simmering bowl of flounder, shrimp, chicken, mixed vegetables, mushrooms, and sweet potato noodle situated in a spicy broth, with nearly one out of four bites involving a unique numbing sensation. If you’re sensitive to spice then this isn’t the dish for you, but if you’re an adventurous eater and crave heat then this is right up your alley. Just take a breather or three once the numbing takes over.

Hot and numbing combination

On the flipside, Chang’s seafood in a stone pot was a much milder option. Featuring jumbo shrimp, flounder, scallops, and mixed vegetables, the curry-based broth was a nice retreat from the hot and numbing combination but still a very enjoyable, generously portioned entrée.

Seafood in a stone pot

The grand finale was the tea-smoked duck, arguably my favorite entrée of the evening. Accompanied with a side of crispy onions, the perfectly cooked medium rare duck had a delightful smokiness to it that really impressed me. Had we not ordered a dish too many, I would have finished it on the spot (rest assured the leftovers didn’t last long).

Tea-smoked duck,

Overall, I couldn’t be happier about our dinner at Peter Chang. I’ve never eaten such a unique array of dishes in one sitting and was very impressed with each preparation. Our only downfall was ordering too many items between four people – we simply got too much food, as the portions are very generous. Needless to say I’m really looking forward to our next visit as this is a wonderful addition to Rockville.

Peter Chang Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

Galley Offers New Alternative to Stress-Free Dining

13 Aug

Between both of us working full-time jobs and having a toddler, we have tried to be creative over the last few years when it comes to dinnertime. The big question was if we could get dinner on the table before it’s time to get our son to bed. Otherwise Brett and I wouldn’t be able to sit down and have dinner till after 8:30 at night.

We did meal subscription services such as Blue Apron for some time, but we actually found it more complicated and time-consuming than dishes we would normally make. I also try to find some easy crock-pot meals or dishes that can be frozen in advance and then cooked that day. Sometimes, dinner is just veggie burgers and fries, or pasta and steamed vegetables — not that there’s anything wrong with that!

But there are times when you simply don’t wish to cook, but also don’t necessarily want to go out to dinner or bring in greasy takeout food. Enter Galley.

Shrimp tacos

A relatively new local company, Galley started earlier this year and offers a way to have restaurant-quality food delivered to your doorstep, made entirely with fresh and organic ingredients. You can sign up through the website and order directly there or via your Apple device. Just recently, Galley also began offering lunch service in certain areas of the District. Again, it’s an easy way to get locally-sourced meals without the hassle.

Shrimp diablo with watercress salad

Because Galley also recently expanded to the Bethesda area, we decided to give it a try. While not yet available in Silver Spring, I had the order delivered to my office or gym and then brought it home to heat up in the oven. The only tricky part is that the windows for delivery are not until the evening hours, so if we were to continue Galley we would likely need to wait until they expand their delivery zone to Silver Spring to do it on a regular basis.

Jamaican Escovitch

Another nice feature is that the cost for each meal includes tax and delivery, so what you see is what you get. The majority of meals cost $14 and some are even less than that. All meals are fairly balanced and include a protein and at least one side. Each entrée arrives packaged in cardboard containers that can be used when heating in the oven or microwave, and all have the same instructions of heating for 10 minutes in the oven at 325 degrees, or for a few minutes in the microwave.

Summer steak with watermelon salsa

Also, once your meal is on its way, you receive a text message as a heads up and an email that includes plating instructions, whether you’re serving to impress or simply want a quick meal for yourself.

Now on to the food: Over the last few weeks, we tried two steak dishes, a shrimp diablo, a pasta with spinach and ricotta, a fish dish, and shrimp tacos. Overall, they were very satisfying meals and plating them with the easy instructions made them feel more like eating at a restaurant as opposed to takeout. Some were definitely more hits than others, with the favorites being the steak dishes and shrimp tacos.

Spring pasta with seared steak

The only thing we should mention are that the portions were a little on the smaller side, so it’s something to keep in mind when ordering for two. A good way to keep portions under control, but don’t expect any leftovers.

Overall, Galley is a great new dining alternative in the Washington metropolitan area. We’re excited to see it expand further into the Maryland and Virginia suburbs so others can try it for themselves!

DMV Dining readers: get your first meal free when you sign up for Galley here

Not Your Average Joe's Opens in Bethesda

30 Jul

A few weeks ago we were invited to the soft opening of the second Maryland location of Not Your Average Joe’s in Bethesda off of Old Georgetown Road, the same address that once housed Hamburger Hamlet. As beloved as that restaurant was by locals, Not Your Average Joe’s is a substantial upgrade and then some.

The 7,000 square feet space can accommodate up to 200 diners inside as well as an additional 75 patrons out on the patio. The New England-based chain prides itself on its reasonably-priced, seasonally-inspired menu, but it’s even more accommodating to gluten-free diners with an entirely separate menu which is certainly a nice touch.

Bulleit Bourbon Lemonade and Joe's Margarita

Meanwhile the bar area makes for a great gathering spot by offering 20 drafts on tap, with nearly half of the lines dedicated to “Backyard Brews” that feature local breweries such as DC Brau, Flying Dog, and Devil’s Backbone. We started the evening off with a pair of refreshing summer cocktails – the Bulleit Bourbon Lemonade and Joe’s Margarita (the latter of which can be ordered “skinny” for those counting calories).

ahi tuna wontons

The two of us split the ahi tuna wontons as an appetizer. Topped with sesame-crusted tuna, pickled ginger, and wasabi aioli, diners have their preference of Japanese chili spiced crispy wontons or chilled cucumbers (we opted for the latter).

Vietnamese salmon

For my entrée I went with the Vietnamese salmon, which was served in a large bowl of rice noodles, peanuts, vegetables, and lime-infused chili broth.

Herb-crusted haddock

Rachel got the herb-crusted, pan-seared haddock that was accompanied with a parmesan-cauliflower mash, green beans, and tartar sauce.

Molten chocolate cake,

We concluded the evening with the classic molten chocolate cake, because who doesn’t love warm, gooey cake and vanilla ice cream?

Between the great location and accessible menu, Not Your Average Joe’s makes for a solid dining option whether you’re going out as a couple, family, or large party. And with a Silver Spring location on the horizon, the restaurant appears to have a winning formula.

A.G. Kitchen Opens in Silver Spring

23 Jul

While several New York chefs have imported their restaurants into our nation’s capital, chef Alex Garcia decided to open the second location of his popular A.G. Kitchen in downtown Silver Spring.

Chef Alex Garcia

The original, which is located the Upper West Side, offers an array of Latin American fare in a casual, colorful setting. The Maryland location continues that theme of vibrancy in the heart of Silver Spring with a menu full of “Nuevo Latino” cuisine.

AG 1940 Sparkling MojitoAG KitchenAG Kitchen

Rachel and I were invited to a preview event a few weeks ago and had the opportunity to sample some of Chef Garcia’s menu.

Seafood Ceviche

We started the evening off with a seafood ceviche that featured a medley of shrimp and lobster, blended with tomatoes mango and avocado.

Braised short ribs arepa

The braised short ribs arepa prominently showcased Garcia’s Cuban heritage with the traditional sweet yellow corn cake.

Seafood paella

The gorgeously arranged seafood paella was overflowing with crab laws, lobster, shrimp, clams, mussels, chicken, chorizo, rice, and last but not least, calamari salad.

Ultimate potato skin burger

Meanwhile, the “ultimate potato skin burger” fuses some American elements into the Cuban-inspired menu with a ribeye patty topped with crispy potato skin, cheddar, bacon, and crema.

Ultimate potato skin burger

The table even got to sample the full-size version of this behemoth as the smaller plate didn’t do it enough justice – there’s a reason why it’s listed under the menu as one of chef Garcia’s favorites amongst nearly a dozen burger offerings.

Chocolate empanadas and salted caramel milkshake

We concluded the evening with a trio of chocolate empanadas, complete with chocolate dipping sauce, as well as a miniature salted caramel milkshake. In fact, all of the milkshakes can be made boozy for an additional $5, because who doesn’t love boozy milkshakes?

ViewMaster

One of the most memorable if not creative moments of the night was reading the dessert menu off of a 3D View-Master. Certainly brought back memories of our childhood (P.S. we’re officially old now).

A.G. Kitchen not only offers another exciting option in the ever-expanding dining scene of downtown Silver Spring with its first NYC import, but also brings a lively atmosphere complemented by a colorful backdrop of Latin American fusion.

A.G. Kitchen is located on 931 Ellsworth Drive in downtown Silver Spring.

The Room at McGinty's: Fine Dining within an Irish Pub

1 Jul

One of the newer concepts we have observed in the Washington dining scene are restaurants within a restaurant. We’ve seen Bryan Voltaggio do it with Aggio inside Range, his behemoth Chevy Chase restaurant (he even opened a standalone Aggio up in Baltimore). And to a lesser degree, there are also tasting menu experiences like Nonna’s Kitchen within Alphonse and Fishnook at Fishnet, separating diners from the bustling activity in the main dining room to a secluded part of the restaurant for a more intimate experience.

Now Silver Spring gets in on the action with The Room at McGinty’s. Wait, McGinty’s Public House? You mean that Irish bar across the street from the Regal Cinemas? Yep.

Unbeknownst to this writer, executive chef Nico Amroune, who has been helming the kitchen at McGinty’s Public House since 2011, has previously worked with famed D.C. chef Roberto Donna at the original Galileo, as well as at Tosca, Teatro Goldoni, and M Café. And while he’s been cooking classic Irish dishes the past few years, the newly-opened Room at McGinty’s has given Chef Amroune an opportunity to let his talents really shine.

Ahi tuna tartar

Take for example the ahi tuna tartar. Prepared with avocado, spicy radish, poppy seeds, and a ginger marinade, this isn’t exactly pub fare. What it is, however, is a deliciously fresh, gorgeous preparation of raw fish in the upstairs of an Irish bar. (Don’t worry – the large, separate dining room isolates a lot of the noise from the Public House patrons).

Burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad,

The burrata of buffalo mozzarella salad, adorned with roasted beets, quinoa fritters, arugula, and a blueberry vincotto immediately wowed Rachel, who remarked on the freshness of the locally-sourced ingredients.

Spring lamb Provençal

As for our entrees, the spring lamb Provençal was simply outstanding. Perfectly cooked at medium-rare, the herb-crusted lamb was complemented with an olive-oil potato puree, a wonderful ratatouille, and then capped off with a savory mint lamb jus. I had to do a double-take while eating this in the upstairs of an Irish pub – I can see why this dish deserves its very own dining room!

Roast Icelandic cod

Not to be outdone was Rachel’s roast Icelandic cod. Prepared with English pea creama, heirloom cauliflower, zaatar, and pea tendrils, this dish was superbly executed.

Salted caramel panna cotta

For dessert, we decided to be adventurous and try both the salted caramel panna cotta and the strawberry rhubarb crisp.

Strawberry rhubarb crisp

Both proved to be excellent endings to what was an incredible meal. While The Room at McGinty’s has been only open a month, Chef Amroune is doing some amazing things in the kitchen. This is downtown cooking that just happens to take place in the upstairs of a pub in the ‘burbs.