Archive | November, 2010

Mussel Bar Introduces Happy Hour

29 Nov

Since Mussel Bar opened earlier this year, patrons have been clamoring for some sort of happy hour to be instated at Robert Wiedmaier’s casual Belgian establishment.

Mussel Bar Happy HourWell, after six months of operation, Mussel Bar has finally started offering happy hour.

Rachel walked by earlier today and noticed a blackboard outside of the restaurant detailing daily specials offered 4:30 to 6:30pm, Monday through Friday, which include:

  • $2.75 Brabo Pils (Mussel Bar’s house pilsner)
  • $5.50 Delirium Tremens
  • $2.75 Stella Artois bottles
  • $10 Tarts (flatbreads)

I am particularly excited about half-price Delirium Tremens. $5.50 is a hell of a deal, even more so in Montgomery County due to their arcane laws which force restaurateurs to inflate their alcohol prices.

The tart deal is also a nice discount as guests can save $5 from the menu price. They are rather delicious, too.

All and all, we are more than glad to see another happy hour option in Bethesda.

Table 21 at Volt: Fine Dining Taken to New Heights

24 Nov

Editor’s note: While this event took place last year, we wanted to repost it here for our new readers instead of having to point your browser elsewhere. Have a Happy Thanksgiving and we’ll see you back here on Monday, if not sooner!

Rachel’s 30th birthday was a few weeks ago, and since this was one of those milestone birthdays and all, I had to make sure that this would be a memorable one. You see, despite Rachel’s reluctance to admit that’s she’s 30 (which she thinks automatically labels her as “old”), she was still carded when she bought a movie ticket to Tropic Thunder last year. So, um, yeah.

Anyway, we had been meaning to go to Volt long before chef Bryan Voltaggio was slated to be a contestant on this season’s Top Chef, but it wasn’t until September that we had found out about the amazing 21 course menu served inside the kitchen. This sounded like quite the experience so when it came time to plan her birthday, I decided to make the reservation later that month in fear of it booking up because of Top Chef starting around the same time.

Flying Pig at Table 21Furthermore, I wanted to keep this dinner a surprise, and since Table 21 is a communal table that sits up to four people, I called up our friends Kim and Brian to see if they wanted to be my partners in crime for this instead of being paired up with some random patrons. They went with the plan since they also had an upcoming wedding anniversary to celebrate, plus they’re awesome. Our only problem was how we were going to surprise Rachel when Volt is situated all the way up in Frederick.

Well, leave it to Kim to create a fake invitation for an early holiday party her coworker was supposedly having up in Frederick the very same day of the reservation. Rachel amazingly bought it since Kim begged her go as her beau had work to do that evening. Kim had also said that they’d stop and grab a drink at Volt first so Rachel could take a peek at Mr. Voltaggio since she blatantly has a crush on him (dare I say even had a dream about him? But I digress).

Anyway, Rachel just made the MARC train up to Frederick while it took me nearly two hours to make the drive up to 270, but I was still able to arrive early enough and meet Brian before the two of them showed up. The surprised look of Rachel’s face seeing Brian and I standing at the bar had already made my night.

The hostess then took our coats and guided us past the dining room which created even more confusion for Rachel until we were ultimately seated at a table inside the kitchen that was literally within arm’s reach from where the chefs were working, including Mr. Bryan Voltaggio himself. Rachel could not stop gawking.

Dried prosciutto "chips"Potato dipBite of avocado filled with tuna tartar topped with wasabi foam

Course #1: Our first course was presented by the sommelier in what was described as a homemade cream soda made with Absolut vodka. It was actually dispensed via a seltzer bottle and then poured into a martini glass which provided a sneak preview of the creative innovations Volt would provide later that evening. It was like drinking an alcoholic Dr. Browns. I might have to start making a habit of adding vodka to my cream soda.

Course #2: Bryan himself came over to the table and introduced himself to everyone while describing the most amazing appetizer ever, his own rendition of chips and dip. We were then served dried prosciutto “chips” accompanied with a bowl of rich potato dip. We were only into our second course but this one stood out as one of my favorites because of how unique and delicious it was.

Course #3: Up next was a bite of avocado filled with tuna tartar topped with wasabi foam. It was very good but the portion could’ve been a little bigger, but maybe that’s because I love tuna.

Shitake with chili oil and pine nutsTrio of macaroonsClam chowder

Course #4: Shitake with chili oil and pine nuts. Now I’m not sure how they made this dish, but it was hands-down the most “scientific” of the courses served. Volt prides itself on molecular gastronomy, but it’s utterly jaw-dropping to see shitake mushrooms in liquid, spherical form. Just an amazing sight to behold and, of course, really tasty!

Course #5: Trio of macaroons. Just the presentation alone blew me away. Three macaroons each individually placed on three different spoons. The first was a take on Caesar salad, the second was guacamole, while the last was beets. Each time you placed one in your mouth it instantly melted followed by a rich flavor of the filling. You just don’t see this sort of thing in other restaurants

Course #6: Boneless chicken wing. Gotta love this story: Bryan asked us if we saw the episode of Top Chef when his brother concocted this dish. Turns out it was Bryan’s to begin with and he let Michael use it on the show! Anyway, it was of course incredible. Just the right amount of buffalo sauce flavor accompanied with bleu cheese crumbles that were frozen via liquid nitrogen. (Forgot to take a pic prior to consumption…)

Course #7: Clam chowder. Really rich, a little salty, but still very satisfying. I’m pretty sure that every ingredient besides the broth was in miniature cube form (including the clams).

61 Degree EggGoat cheese ravioli and butternut squashButter poached lobster with forbidden rice and coconut air

Course #8: Bryan came over and introduced this dish himself while shaving white truffles over the perfectly-cooked . It was accompanied with salsify and caviar and proved to be another excellent course. The eggs were provided by nearby Whitmore Farm as Mr. Voltaggio ensures that all of his items are locally produced and farm fresh at Volt.

Course #9: Goat cheese ravioli and butternut squash. Yes, this was the same ravioli that was featured last night on Top Chef, and let me tell you, it was downright incredible. Perfect flavor and texture. One of the top courses of the night.
Course #10: Butter poached lobster with forbidden rice and coconut air. Another dish that was hit out of the park. Just an incredibly delicious, rich piece of meat that was cooked to perfection. I’m not sure if I’ve ever ate forbidden rice prior to Table 21, but now I definitely want to buy some and cook it with some fish the next opportunity I get.

Seared halibut with risottoCrispy veal sweetbread with flavors of picataIberico pork trotters with a trio of beans

Course #11: Seared halibut with risotto. Another solid dish. It was a bittersweet moment because I was really enjoying the fish but soon realized we were halfway through our meal. The best was yet to come though.

Course #12: Crispy veal sweetbread with flavors of picata. Delicious.

Course #13: Iberico pork trotters with a trio of beans. I was looking forward to this dish since it sounded interesting, plus the serving was a generous portion (two pieces per plate). You could somewhat compare it to pulled pork that was then breaded and deep-fried. Rachel even gave me some of hers since she’s not a huge pork fan. Score.

Hudson Valley fois gras with vanilla briocheBraised Longnecker Farm RabbitQuail, accompanied with brussel sprouts

Course #14: Hudson Valley fois gras with vanilla brioche. Just incredible. We took our time spreading the fois gras over the homemade brioche just because we didn’t want this course to end. A favorite amongst all four of us.

Course #15: Braised Longnecker Farm Rabbit. Probably my absolute favorite dish of the night. The rabbit was incredibly succulent and the way Bryan infused the applewood smoked bacon into the meat was nearly breathtaking. I was really blown away by how good this dish tasted. Well done, chef.

Course #16: Quail, accompanied with brussel sprouts. I forgot to bring the menu with me while writing this up so unfortunately I cannot recall the other ingredients, but yet again, Bryan did not disappoint. The quail was very flavorful and proved to be another highlight of the protein courses thus served that evening.

Lamb with madras curryWagyu beef with potato puree and garlic chip transparencyCheese course featuring cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, accompanied with a tarragon crisp and gelato

Course #17: . Another home run. The lamb was perfectly cooked and meshed really well with the curry. Oh hell, it was probably the best lamb I’ve ever had.

Course #18: Wagyu beef with potato puree and garlic chip transparency. First off, the potatoes, just like the aforementioned lamb, were the best I ever ate. Words can’t describe how full of flavor they were. As for the beef, well, I wish I had seconds. I’m a huge steak fan so I was looking forward to this one the most as I had never had Wagyu before. Incredibly tender and perfectly executed. This was also the last entrée course which was kind of a relief because we were so full (yes, even me).

Course #19: Cheese course featuring cheese from Sweet Grass Dairy, accompanied with a tarragon crisp and gelato. I’m not a cheese buff by any stretch of the imagination but it was still an enjoyable course. The gelato added a pleasant sweetness to the cheese and served as a nice segue to the forthcoming desserts.

Dulce de Leche goat cheesecake with green apple sorbetThree flavors of white: coconut, vanilla, and lavenderChocolate peanut butter mouse

Course #20: Dulce de Leche goat cheesecake with green apple sorbet. Rachel was pretty much floored by how good this dessert was and always recalls it first when looking back on our Table 21 experience. It was that amazing. The white chocolate power surrounding the cheesecake was also a very nice touch and added even more flavor to an already outstanding course.

Course #21: Three flavors of white: coconut, vanilla, and lavender. Another memorable dessert that was both creative in its composition and presentation. It was comprised of coconut ice cream, vanilla pudding, and lavender power. Really different yet really satisfying.

Course #22: Chocolate peanut butter mouse. This was probably my favorite dessert of the night. You can never go wrong with the incredible combination of chocolate and peanut butter, especially when it’s prepared from a restaurant like Volt. Really rich and had a nice, crispy texture on the bottom.

Course #23: Mignardises – miniature homemade ice cream sandwiches. Volt can do wrong. It was sad to finish these bite-size desserts since it concluded what was perhaps the best meal I’ve ever had in my entire life.

MignardisesFrench Press CoffeeSouvenir menu and take-home muffin

When we headed out after spending nearly four hours (!) at Table 21, we saw Bryan at the bar talking to a few guests while the kitchen was shutting down for the evening. Rachel asked if he could sign her menu and, if possible, take a picture with us. He couldn’t have been a nicer guy about it.

I applaud both him and his staff for having such a unique restaurant in this area that not only provides great food and service, but also cares so much about supporting local businesses and the community. Would Volt work in DC? Definitely. But there’s a certain charm about the restaurant being situated in Frederick that simply cannot be replicated elsewhere. I can’t wait to go back up again.

Volt on Urbanspoon

Crumbs Arrives in DC

23 Nov

Well, it’s finally here. After much hype over the last few months, New York’s famous Crumbs cupcake shop has landed in DC. The first location in the DMV opened near Metro Center at 11th and F Street, and two more locations are expected soon in Clarendon and Union Station.

Crumbs Thanksgiving Gobble GobbleMy friends and I happened to be in the area last night for a pre-Thanksgiving happy hour at Vapiano, and decided to check out Crumbs to see if it lived up to the hype. I have tried a small cupcake from one of their New York shops in the past, and my friends have always raved about them, so we couldn’t resist and headed over there.

There were way too many to choose from, from simple flavors like Pumpkin and the Vanilla Gobble Gobble (Vanilla Cake with vanilla frosting) to more creative confections such as Cookie Dough and the “Squiggle”, a Hostess cupcake lookalike.

Some selections appeared extremely decadent, such as Peanut Butter Cup, Tiramisu, and Blackbottom Cheesecake. They also had massive “cupcakes”, dubbed The Colossal Crumb, which were literally the size of a whole cake, as well as seasonal collections for Thanksgiving, Hanukah, and Christmas.

Crumbs Four PackThe shop had an extensive drink list on their wall of hot and cold beverages, and last night they had a special where you could get a free small coffee with the purchase of a cupcake.

My friend purchased a four pack which we were all drooling over, while the three of us decided to split a Cookie Dough cupcake. I even brought home a Vanilla Gobble Gobble for Brett and me to share.

The cookie dough flavor was mainly in the icing, accompanied with vanilla cake and some chocolate filling. It was decent but didn’t necessarily blow me away. I was hesitant to bring home such a simple flavor considering the options offered, but as it turns out, simplicity goes a long way. When we cut into the huge cupcake, the vanilla cake was incredibly moist and went perfectly with the vanilla frosting and festive fall-colored sprinkles.

If I had to compare Crumbs to any local cupcake spot, I’d say their cupcakes most resembled those found at Baked and Wired, due to the sheer size and variety of flavors. These made Georgetown Cupcake’s product seem tiny by comparison, and were much more cake-like in consistency. Given the downtown location, we would most likely visit if we happen to be in the neighborhood, so it looks like we’ll be in the area a lot more in the coming weeks, err, days?

Crumbs Bake Shop on Urbanspoon

Bistro 27: Great Italian in Downtown Richmond

22 Nov

As some of you may have been aware, I had been training to run a half marathon since this summer, and decided to run the McDonald’s Half in Richmond, VA. None of us had been to Richmond before, so we picked Bistro 27 to eat at for our pre-race meal based on positive Yelp reviews, proximity to our hotel, and their Italian selections.

This was the second time Brett, Lisa, and I did a carbo-loading meal, so we knew what to look for – simple pasta dishes and great bread. This small restaurant on Broad Street, in the heart of the city, had a fairly substantial menu, with pasta being just a part of it.Fettuccine Di Mare

It’s funny because normally I look for the fish entrees and steer away from pasta, but this night was different. There were many options that looked appealing such as tuna or chicken, but in the spirit of preparing for race-day, we ultimately stuck with the pasta selections.

We started out with some warm, fresh bread that was served with an eggplant dip, and devoured the basket pretty quickly. The waiter was slightly quirky and exclaimed everything was “fantastic!”, so I guess we couldn’t go wrong.

I decided to order the Fettuccine Di Mare, which was housemade fettuccini prepared with shrimp, scallops, and mussels, in a slightly spicy tomato sauce. Lisa got linguini with chargrilled shrimp and scallops, and asked to substitute the pesto sauce for garlic and butter. Brett was indecisive what to get (as always) and decided to try the beef ravioli after asking for the waiter’s recommendation.

My dish was delicious and the pasta was perfectly cooked al dente. The sauce had a slight kick to it but wasn’t too spicy.Beef Ravioli

Brett really enjoyed his ravioli and was pleasantly surprised how good it tasted, since it was something he normally wouldn’t order. He appreciated how the pasta was prepared in-house and how the Fontina cheese didn’t overpower the savory flavor of the beef. Lisa liked hers as well, and of course Brett had a little of all of ours.

Overall, everyone was very happy with their dishes, and there were no complaints. I don’t think we were necessarily blown away, but it was perfect for what we were looking for in terms of convenience and affordability, and was great way to start our weekend in Virginia.

Bistro 27 on Urbanspoon

Omakase at Sushi Taro – An Unforgettable Evening

17 Nov

When Rachel turned 30 last year, I surprised her with a dinner at Table 21 at Volt up in Frederick. Little did we know how popular it would become once Bryan Voltaggio became a household name thanks of course to Top Chef.

It was an amazing culinary adventure, and even though DMV Dining did not exist at the time to document this extraordinary meal (though it was recorded over at my other blog – with four posts no less!), it heavily influenced the creation of this site.

It also started a new tradition of taking the significant other out to a new and exciting restaurant for their respective birthday. For example, Rachel surprised me with the tasting room at Restaurant Eve back in May.

So the question was, where do we go from here? I decided to keep it under wraps till the very end, but when we arrived at 17th and P last night, Rachel, who knew Komi was closed on Mondays, somehow had a feeling it would be Sushi Taro.

She didn’t know, however, that we would be dining at the private sushi counter in the back for omakase.

I decided on the sushi counter thanks in part to Tom Sietsma’s Fall Dining Guide. I also knew that this would be vastly different from anything that we have done in the past, and since Rachel loves sushi to begin with, it was practically a no-brainer.

ChopsticksFresh oysters and scallopsGinger Cocktail

When we arrived, we were warmly greeted and promptly seated in the curtained-off area of the restaurant. The counter seats up to six people, but because Monday isn’t necessarily Sushi Taro’s busiest day, we had the room all to ourselves. Well, we and the chef slash owner Nobu Yamazaki.

We started the evening off with some celebratory drinks, with Rachel ordering a ginger cocktail while I went with a Riesling. The chef then asked if we had any dietary restrictions to which we quickly said no. I think he appreciated that since the point of omakase is to let the chef’s creativity run wild. We’ve been adventurous in the past, but we had no idea what was to come.

Tofu with Sea UrchinCrab BallLobster Tail

Our first course was a tofu dish that apparently takes at least an hour to prepare each day according to the chef. It was topped with sea urchin as well as freshly made wasabi. The texture was unbelievable as it resembled a gelatin-like substance. I felt bad eating it as I didn’t want to disrupt its delicate construction and gorgeous presentation.

The next course was a lightly fried crab ball with mushroom in a mild chili sauce accompanied with what I believe was another ball made from tofu. The crab was delicious while the mushrooms were surprisingly rich in flavor despite their small appearance.

Cooking lobster on the stoneUp next was perhaps the coolest thing I’ve ever seen at a restaurant.

The chef grabs a fresh lobster tail and immediately takes his knife out, cutting out all the meat and placing it on two dishes. He then serves each of us a plate with an incredibly hot stone and tells us to then cook the lobster on top of it!

And we did just that. I took my chopsticks, picked up some of the rare lobster, placed it on the stone, and watched it sizzle right before my eyes.  While you could eat it rare, the chef recommended cooking it for at least a few seconds to bring out more of the flavor. Between the quality of the lobster itself and the interaction involved, the experience was second to none.

Seasonal AssortmentThe next course involved a sampling of ingredients in a gorgeous presentation.

We weren’t able to recall everything on the plate, but it involved monkfish liver (which tasted similar to traditional foie gras), marinated mackerel, and a chestnut. It also featured a small, lightly fried fish from the Japanese coast which the chef said was only in season two weeks of the year.

I’ve never devoured an entire fish before, including the head, but we did it without much reservation because it tasted so good.

Up next was the sashimi course, and let me tell you, we are just going to have to let the pictures speak for themselves as there were so many different cuts of fish and seafood we sampled.

Fried shrimp headFatty TunaSashimi

The quality alone was hands down the best we’ve ever had, particularly the fatty tuna, but the most memorable had to be the fried shrimp head. Yes, you read that right. We each ate a shrimp head.

Wagyu BeefAs if the night could not get any better, the chef prepared a decadent Wagyu beef dish right before our eyes.

He sliced the meat, quickly seared it, and presented it to us in a bowl with a ginger sauce that was simply out of this world. Neither of us has ever eaten Wagyu beef before, but we can completely understand why it is so appreciated.

The combination of the tender, fatty beef with the sauce was heavenly to say the least.

What came next, however, was something I’d never imagine being served, or eating for that matter.

Head of Red SnapperThe chef presented us with a large bowl that contained the head of an enormous red snapper. Nobu made it sound so simple, saying “Here we have the head of a red snapper. Enjoy.”

Rachel and I looked at each other in befuddlement, unsure of how to tackle eating an entire fish head. Little did I know my wife’s skill in culling meat from fish heads, because she was quite skilled in this department after a few minutes of observing.

According to the chef, the best meat is from the head of the fish. Well, he was right. Though it kind of creeped us out having to cast aside the mouth (with teeth!) to work our way around it, saying it was a unique entrée would be a complete understatement. What’s even more ironic is that I rarely order whole fish at restaurants, yet here I was, digging away inside this poor snapper’s head.

Of course, we weren’t done yet. The chef served us a hollowed-out brick with what he described were Japanese delicacies inside. One of the most impressive had to have been the squid served in its own ink. I don’t know what was more extraordinary, the flavors or the presentation. Both were breathtaking.

Japanese DelicaciesSquid in its own inkJapanese Delicacies

Just when we thought we had seen it all, the sushi course was slated to close out what was already a magnificent evening. The chef, who already demonstrated his excellent skills with the knife earlier in the night, began slicing thin layers of fresh ginger in order to cleanse our pallet between each serving.

He asked us what kind of sushi we wanted by presenting six boxes of fresh seafood, which ranged from scallops to yellowtail to even urchin. It was overwhelming to say the least.

Selection of fresh seafoodChef Nobu preparing the sushiSushi place-setting

The place setting for the sushi course consisted of a bowl of soy sauce that was accompanied by a miniature brush. This way, it allows guests to gently add an appropriate amount of sauce to each piece without overpowering the flavor of the fish.

Nobu also mentioned that, at the sushi counter, you are allowed to eat the sushi with your hands. Because of that, he provided each of us with a miniature “finger” napkin in order to cleanse our hands before the next serving.

We ultimately selected salmon, shrimp, mid-fatty tuna, and two different types of eel. It was amazing to watch Nobu meticulously construct each piece of sushi by hand, and we were even more taken aback by how fresh all the ingredients he used were.


The tuna was so mind-blowingly good it nearly made me want to cry. It pretty much speaks volumes that a chef is doing his job when he evokes that kind of emotion from his patrons.

Just when we thought we had wrapped things up, we still had to select dessert. In the spirit of omakase, we told the chef it was up to his discretion what to serve us, and once again, he knocked it out of the park.

Nobu presented us with two desserts, both featuring green tea as its star ingredient. One was a roll cake (with birthday candle) while the other was a custard with a caramel sauce found at the bottom of the bowl. Both were fantastic and reinforced how enjoyable, different, and special each of the innumerable courses were that night.

Green Tea CustardGreen Tea Roll Cake

The waitress then provided Rachel with a card wishing her a happy birthday, signed by the entire kitchen staff! Between the intimate service already provided by Nobu alone, this was really going the extra mile.

If you want to take one of the most incredible culinary journeys through Japan while never leaving DC, then I implore you to try Sushi Taro’s sushi counter. I don’t want to get all Anthony Bourdain-ish, but it simply is one of the places you must visit before you die. End of story.

Sushi Taro on Urbanspoon

Cava: Here, There, and Everywhere

12 Nov

Cava Grill Storefront in BethesdaWe have always heard great things about Cava Mezze restaurant, and it took us way too long to finally dine at their Gaithersburg location this past summer. After going once, we were immediately hooked, and only wished their restaurants were a little closer to us. Well, it may not be the full restaurant, but Cava Grill, an offshoot casual eatery, will be opening up on Bethesda Avenue come this December.

The difference between Cava Mezze and Cava Grill is that, instead of a full restaurant with table service and various Greek small plates, the Grill will be more of a fast-casual place. Diners can choose in an assembly line fashion what they want on their pita and souvlaki sandwiches, similar to a Chipotle model. We, for one, are very excited about this, especially since it will be another nice, inexpensive lunch option in the area.

Cava HarissaYou also don’t need to visit the Cava restaurants in order to enjoy their delicious and unique dips. It is somewhat well known that Cava is now selling their dips at area Whole Foods and Mom’s Organic Markets. They offer selections of traditional hummus, spicy hummus, eggplant and red pepper dip, and spicy harissa.

As we mentioned already, we’re big fans of the Bethesda Central Farm Market, and this past weekend we were fortunate enough to stop by on a day where Cava had a table out. Some of the other vendors said how excited they were since about this as it was the first time Cava had been back since last year.

Cava HarissaWe were able to sample the different dips and, after some debate, decided to bring home some harissa. What makes this dip different is the combination of stewed tomatoes with the red pepper flakes, olive oil and other spices. Before you know it a wave of spice hits your mouth after the first bite. The flavor combination is great, but we’re warning you now not to eat too much of it at a time, unless you can handle the heat of course. Next time, I say we get the roasted garlic hummus and skip the spice.

Cava Mezze also has plans to open a Clarendon location in the next few months, and is also scouting more Cava Grill locations in DC.

Sweet Bite Creamery: Decadent Frozen Desserts

10 Nov

Bethesda is no stranger to farmers markets. The Montgomery Farm Women’s Cooperative Market has had its permanent market since 1932, and Bethesda FreshFarm Market takes place every Saturday in the Woodmont Triangle area on Norfolk Avenue.

Last year, the Bethesda Central Farm Market set up shop in two locations; the parking lot on Elm Street behind Jaleo on Sundays from 9am to 1pm, and on Bethesda Lane from 3 to 7pm on Thursdays.

Sweet Bite CreameryIt offers the area an excellent farmers market with an even better selection of vendors to choose from, which come from all over the region. One vendor that really stood out amongst the crowd was Sweet Bite Creamery.

We’ve noticed Sweet Bite’s setup in the last few weeks, but given how popular their frozen treats have become, they have always ended up being sold out by the time we got there.

Because fall isn’t necessarily peak season for ice cream, DMV Dining finally had a chance to see what all the fuss was about.

The DC-based bakery features frozen ice cream sandwiches made with organic, local and all-natural ingredients. Sweet Bite offered a variety of sandwiches to choose from for $5 each, with flavors such as sweet potato marshmallow, baked apple snickerdoodle, and salted caramel brownie.

We ultimately opted for the molasses pumpkin and, well, the first bite was pretty much euphoric. It was that good.

The sandwich featured two deliciously moist ginger molasses cookies with rich pumpkin ice cream stuffed inside. The combination simply made it impossible to put down.  I guess that’s what happens when you unite two wonderful desserts into something even grander.

So long, Chipwich. It was nice knowing you and all, but Sweet Bite has totally won over my heart (and pallet). No hard feelings though, k?

Uptown Deli Open For Business

8 Nov

Bethesda has benefited from many new restaurants in 2010.  I will say that given the number of questions we have received about this place, one of the most anticipated restaurants to hit the Bethesda dining scene has to be Uptown Deli.

You may have seen a previous post a month or so back where we wrote about Uptown Deli, and gave a preview of its menu. As you could tell, we were closely following the signs of the deli’s opening, and every time we were near Norfolk Avenue, we would look in the windows to see the progress.

While the deli was originally slated to open its doors back in July, inspection delays with Montgomery County (unsurprisingly) held up the opening. Deli owner Howard Wasserman recently setup Twitter and Facebook pages, and would give updates from time to time on how close he was to finally opening up shop.

Last week, Wasserman wrote that he was training staff and testing out dishes, and sent out a message on Twitter that up to 20 people in the area were welcome to come by and try out some sandwiches. Within minutes, I had sent a direct message to @NYDeliBethesda and suddenly two co-workers and I had our lunch plans for Friday.

Jets and Mets

The Jets and the Mets

It wasn’t quite a run of the whole menu, but that didn’t matter. We were to pick a piece of paper from a basket with a sandwich written on it, and whatever we picked was what we got to try. His reasoning was that he couldn’t possibly start out making 20 Ruebens for everyone, since the staff had to learn to make everything on the menu.

We walked into the place and you could already tell Wasserman thought of every detail when creating the atmosphere for Uptown. There were some pictures on the wall for Canter’s and other famous delis, a display of black and white cookies, rugelach, and other treats, as well as a fridge stocked different flavors of Dr. Brown’s soda.

The menu is quite extensive, and consists of traditional favorites such as matzo ball soup, knishes, and bialys, to more unique items like the “Nish Nosh”: a deep fried knish cut in half and stuffed with pastrami and mustard. Tongue and chopped liver are on the menu as well, and your vegetarian friend can get the “What’s Up Doc”: roasted root vegetables and creamy havarti dill cheese on multigrain bread with alfalfa sprouts and a sweet onion sauce.


Half of a Fuggedaboutit

Karin randomly selected the “Porky’s Triple Decker”, consisting of honey ham, roasted turkey, crispy bacon, Swiss cheese, lettuce, tomato, and mayo on three slices of marble rye (Hey, we never said this was a Kosher deli!).  It was a huge sandwich and she said it was enough for dinner that night as well.

I selected next and wound up with the “Fuggedaboutit”, a piled-high sandwich with Italian capicola ham, Genoa salami, Lebanon bologna, and pepperoni, with provolone, lettuce, tomato, onions, hot peppers, and oil and vinegar on an Italian Hoagie roll. Now, I’m generally not a picky eater, but I don’t usually eat ham and pepperoni, so Aileen graciously traded my sandwich for hers.

And boy was I happy she did! I ended up with the “Jets and the Mets”, already a good sign since I grew up a Mets fan. According to the menu, the sandwich consisted of hot steamed corned beef and pastrami with deli mustard on twin onion rolls. When my sandwich came, the meat was on toasted rye bread instead, but it was still delicious and didn’t take away from the dish at all. The corned beef and pastrami was perfect and tasted exactly like what you would have at 2nd Avenue Deli, with just the right amount of seasoning on the pastrami. The meal also came with a half sour pickle and a side of coleslaw.

We all ordered our sandwiches to go since they were so big, and I had planned on bringing the second half of mine home for Brett. The only problem was that it was calling my name the rest of the day at work, and by late afternoon, I couldn’t resist any longer and simply had to finish it. Brett was disappointed, but lucky for him, Uptown Deli is now open as of this past Saturday, and now we can go there all the time.

Uptown Deli on Urbanspoon

Redwood: Beautiful Space, Underrated Happy Hour

5 Nov

A few of us who either work or live in Bethesda decided to meet up this past week in Bethesda for Happy Hour. While we love going to the usual spots like Black’s, McCormick and Schmick’s, or even Caddies, we decided to try something a little different, and headed to Redwood on Bethesda Lane.

I have been to Redwood a few times for lunch but not dinner, while this was Brett’s first visit all together. Redwood has begun to receive more positive reviews after they changed chefs and updated their menu. This is the type of place you would think would always be packed, given the prime location and beautiful layout and size. However, when we went this past Tuesday, the restaurant and bar were fairly empty inside.

Mini BurgersThat’s not to say we didn’t enjoy ourselves. The bartender/waiter we had was friendly and came back frequently to check in and see how we were doing. The girls had glasses of wine for $4 and the guys chose Fordham Light beer for $4 as well.

Eventually, we decided to get some bar snacks, and went for the fried oysters as well as an order of wood-oven flatbread with sea salt parmesan and olive oil. We also ordered several dips, which ranged from fresh ricotta to pesto to olive tapenade, each of which cost a dollar. With the waiter’s recommendation, we mixed together the pesto and ricotta on the flatbread, and it was an excellent flavor combination. If you enjoy kalamata olives, the tapenade had a strong flavor that meshed perfectly on the bread.

We decided we were still hungry, so we ordered two orders of the mini burgers, served with housemade chips. Each order came with two burgers, so each of us was able to enjoy one. While this is fairly common bar food, the burger served was of high quality, and we could tell that ordering a normal-sized burger here for lunch of dinner would be a treat as well.

As we ate and drank, we admired the decor of the place, especially the wood paneling by the bar that resembled actual redwood bark. It was hard to tell how real it was, but it was definitely a nice touch.

For all of you Top Chef lovers out there, a fun fact is that this restaurant was actually used for restaurant wars in the DC season. Unfortunately, we didn’t get to try the food then, but we certainly plan on going back soon either for dinner or another happy hour in the near future.

Redwood Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

Ledo Restaurant: Same Great Pizza in a New and Modern Home

3 Nov

While the dining scene in College Park is something left to be desired, Tommy Marco’s Ledo Restaurant is an institution not only amongst the college town, but across the entire DC metropolitan area. Why? The Original Ledo shares the honors with the likes of Pete’s Apizza, Two Amy’s, and Vace as some of the DMV’s best pizza.

Mind you, we’re only discussing the original Ledo restaurant and not the offshoot franchise that bears the same name as well as a similar pizza design. There is a substantial difference and it should be noted.

Anyway, forget what you know what “real” pizza is. If you’re from New York or New Jersey, you’re comparing apples to oranges when we’re talking about a traditional slice versus Ledo’s square pizza. Just because it doesn’t remind you of a cheese slice from that local pizzeria you grew up with doesn’t mean it’s not good. Trust me, as a native New Yorker (albeit upstate), I carried that very same mentality.

Ledo's signature pizzaI remember the first occasion I stepped inside their original location in Adelphi. You were transcended back in time with its red carpets, wood-paneled walls, and pool table lighting fixtures. The restaurant’s interior made you feel like you were in an old-fashioned Italian restaurant where time stood still. Oh, and the pizza was pretty good too.

When Ledo Restaurant announced that they would be leaving their Adelphi location for downtown College Park, it was bittersweet news. While they would be vacating the space they occupied since 1955, their location on Knox Road would make them more accessible to the College Park area, right off the main drag of Route One. More importantly, they would be using the same ovens.

The move also makes dinners before Maryland basketball games a lot easier, given how much closer the restaurant is to campus. And so we headed there before the Terrapins exhibition game on Monday night, on top of finally introducing Rachel to the Ledo phenomenon.

The new space, which occupies the retail level of the city’s new parking garage, is not only completely modern in regards to design but simply enormous. The mixture of wood and stone feels like you’re eating at a chic restaurant in Downtown DC, but low and behold, some of those old lighting fixtures were transplanted in the new space as they hung above some two-tops towards the back of the restaurant.

We still couldn’t believe a restaurant this nice, at least aesthetically, existed in College Park. For those familiar with the town, it’s not quite Charlottesville or Ann Arbor, but it’s certainly a step in the right direction in terms of offering a quality eatery in the downtown area.

Despite the place appearing very busy, we had no problems finding a booth and were promptly greeted by our waiter who had to be no older than 20. We started our dinner off by splitting a Caesar salad. It wasn’t the most amazing Caesar salad of my life, but I had no complaints. Besides, we ultimately knew the real reason we were here…

We decided to split a medium pizza, half mushroom and half pepperoni. It arrived served on its classic lunchroom-style plastic tray cut into square pieces. Each slice on the first half had a thick slice of pepperoni where you could faintly see oil bubbles collecting in the middle. Now we’re talking.

The other half was covered in mushrooms so much that you could barely see the cheese below. Rachel was certainly having a hard time avoiding the urge to pickup another square after already polishing off four or five. Then again, I’d say at least three squares are equivalent to a traditional slice of pizza in regards to size.

Overall, the combination of the thin, flaky crust, flavorful homemade sauce, and provolone cheese is why Ledo’s stands out not just for its unique combination of ingredients but because how good it all tastes together. I especially love the sauce as it is more on the sweeter side and has a thick consistency.

When we finished, our bill came out to $18 flat. Turns out the waiter had only charged us for one topping and completely omitted Rachel’s soda. He may have felt bad because the pizza took awhile to come, but that certainly wasn’t his fault. We gave him a generous tip for this oversight, intentional or not, and headed off to Comcast Center. We might have a new ritual on our hands, provided I work out twice as much during college basketball season.

Tommy Marcos's Ledo Restaurant on Urbanspoon