Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Restaurant Review - Carpaccio in Annapolis, MD

For the second year in a row, we chose to celebrate our wedding anniversary with my dad and step-mom at Carpaccio in Annapolis, MD.  Carpaccio is one of their favorite restaurants; especially since my step-mom Monica has a special connection with the owner (they're both crazy Italians).  Carpaccio has a great location in Downtown Annapolis on a block with a lot of walking traffic, coffee shops, and hotels.  There is plenty of parking; both street and garage and a huge bonus is that it's right by the stop for the free trolley that will take you all over Annapolis.  It has a great outside area that is shared with another restaurant and a beautiful fountain.

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The interior of the restaurant is sophisticated with high-end decorations, an open view of the kitchen, and a large and fully stocked bar and yet the restaurant also has a comfortable feel to it.  This is one of those rare places where upon entering you know that you can both feel at home here and know that you're getting a quality, high-end meal that you couldn't ever get at home.  

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The wait staff is always incredibly friendly and knowledgeable.  On this occasion  our waiter even advised us on a dish he didn't recommend we tried as it wasn't one of his favorites.  That might not enamor him of the owner or chef, but it did of me for sure.  When deciding what to order, I asked him to choose my wine for me based on the entree I chose and he was knowledgeable in that aspect, picked me a great wine, and checked back to make sure I liked it.  He was very attentive and had such a lovely, friendly attitude; it made you want to come back regardless of the food.

Thankfully, the food made you want to come back even more.  The bread that you start with at the table is a mixture of different kinds, the best of which Monica calls their "pizza bread" as it's covered in a delicious red sauce.  The table started with carpaccio di manzo toscano (thinly sliced filet mignon, baby spinach, mixed mushrooms, shaved parmesan cheese, drizzle of white truffle oil) which was perfectly sliced, a beautiful presentation, and just the right amount of filling to really wet your appetite for the meal you're about to tuck into. For entrees, I ordered the risotto al funghi porcini (arborio rice slowly cooked in a mushroom broth with imported Italian Porcini mushrooms, drizzled with white truffle olive oil and topped with shaved parmesan cheese) and Mike ordered the polenta di mare (fresh prawns, deep sea scallops, jumbo lump crab cake meat, fancy capers, scampi sauce, resting on a crispy polenta).  My risotto was perfect; it was the perfect mix of creamy and al dente.  The mushrooms and truffle oil were decadent and just the perfect richness.  I took my leftovers home and finished it with steak for dinner and it was just as good the second time around and held up perfectly next to a piece of red meat.  Mike loved his polenta and his prawns and scallops were perfectly cooked.  

For dessert, I ordered the cannelloni which were delicious.  They were the perfect size for one person and were the exact right amount of sweet.  Often with cannelloni  you can get filling that is way too sweet and ruins the whole dish; these were perfect.  The only criticism of my dessert is that the shells were a little to hard to cut into and I ended up stabbing at my cannelloni like a sugar crazed caveman.  Mike ordered the flourless chocolate cake.  His cake was incredibly rich, but given in a tiny slice so as to not overwhelm.  He loved it and devoured the whole thing quickly.  Mike finished of his meal with a dessert liquor suggested by our waiter that Mike found surprisingly delicious.  

Walking away from a meal at Carpaccio, you feel full, satisfied, and happy.  We all left with smiles on our faces knowing we had just eaten quality food with just the right amount of decadence served by someone you now felt like was a friend.  

Here are some links to help you check out Carpaccio:

carpaccio Tuscan Kitchen on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 18, 2013

Estadio - Washington, DC

As I've talked about on here before, a couple of weekends ago my husband and I traveled to Washington, DC to celebrate our 2nd anniversary.  In past trips to DC, we've stayed close to the major tourist attractions and the things we love to do: walking the Mall, wandering the museums, and eating at any Jose Andres place we came across.  For this occasion though, we stayed at the Hotel Madera in Dupont Circle and instantly became enamored of its location.  If you are looking to visit DC and not do any of the touristy things, Dupont Circle and the surrounding neighborhoods of Logan Circle and the U Street Corridor will make you fall even more in love with this city…

…and can we talk about the food options?

We started the day by walking from our hotel to Estadio on 14th and Church near Logan Circle.  It was only about a mile away so the walk didn't take too long and the views on the way are gorgeous.  If you want to get there via the metro, it's not super close to any of the stations, you're going to end up having to walk, at the least, about 5 blocks from a station to get there which, in the grand scheme of things, isn't that far for a good meal in the city. 

Estadio in Spanish means stadium and when you walk in the restaurant and look up at the bar, you'll find vintage soccer games playing on all the television screens.  It's anything but a sports bar, however.  The decor, furniture, and ambiance make for a cozy, antique, Spanish feel, and if you aren't interested in watching the muted soccer games playing above the bar, you won't even notice them.  

The interior view from our table:  heavy wood tables and chairs with metal ornamentation, traditional chandeliers, and a view into the smoothly operating kitchen.

The menu at Estadio is tapas (small plates meant for sharing) and the prices are amazing. I was pretty blown away at how inexpensive everything was, especially after tasting the quality of the food.  We started with a pintxo—a small snack typically served at bars eaten off a toothpick—of chorizo, manchego cheese, and topped with a pistachio-crusted quince (a sweet fruit). 

The Pintxo

This pintxo was a perfect little bite of food and a great way to whet your appetite for the rest of the meal.  It had just the right blend of sweet and savory and was pretty cute to look at as well.  I enjoyed this as our appetizer much more than filling up on chips and salsa or some kind of bread.  After this, we couldn't wait for more!

Estadio has a huge drink list; it takes up the whole back side of their lunch menu.   Their bar is pretty large and takes up quite a bit of the restaurant, with room for people to sit on both sides.  The bartender is pretty cute too, which doesn't hurt!  We started out with each getting a Tecolate: a drink made from tequila, cava (a Spanish sparkling wine), rosemary, and grapefruit. 

The Tecolate

It was refreshing, bubbly, and had a unique flavor.  This is one of those dangerous drinks that taste so good, you could drink far too many of them.  I don't normally love the smell or taste of rosemary, but the amount in this cocktail was just perfect and really added to the distinctive flavor.

After our first cocktail and appetizer, we started our meal with a salad of baby arugula, peppers, hardboiled egg, and Boquerón (Spanish anchovy).

Our Salad

This salad was really tasty.  It was perfectly dressed, the Boquerón added just the right amount of salt, and I cannot wait to steal the idea of putting thinly sliced pickled red peppers on all of my salads.

Next, we had a sandwich with pork belly and pickled Shishito peppers.

The Pork Belly Sandwich

My husband found this sandwich a little dry, but I think it was the choice of bread; there was just a little too much bread in proportion to the rest of the dish.  The pork belly was nicely cooked and the sauce that we had was creamy, spicy, and had a lovely briny taste to it.

We finished up the entrees with a fish dish of bacalao (a dried and salted Cod) crudo, jalapeno, avocado, orange, and olive oil.  

The Bacalao

Not only was this a beautiful looking plate, it was delicious as well.  My husband remarked that it was the freshest thing he's ever eaten.  It was the perfect temperature, had just the right amount of olive oil, and the avocado, jalapeño, and citrus worked perfectly with the cold fish.  Be careful with the jalapenos though, they had a lot of seeds in them and if you got a big slice in your bite, your mouth suffered!

For our second cocktail, we ordered a gin and tonic with their house-made orange thyme tonic.

The Gin & Tonic

My husband had done some research about this restaurant before we came and found that they are known for this gin and tonic, and there's a reason…it’s DELICIOUS.  The look and unique taste of this cocktail really personifies the care that Estadio puts into making its dishes different and inexpensive yet of real quality.  I would come to this bar for happy hour every night for one of these…

…or two, or three.

For dessert, we started with the chocolate-chestnut cake with cinnamon crème Anglaise.

The Chocolate-Chestnut Cake

That picture above was taken after the waiter pored chocolate sauce over the cake table-side   Talk about decadent.  This dessert was incredibly chocolaty.  As decadent as it was, I was happily surprised about how light the cake on the bottom was, very fluffy. 

My husband rounded out his meal with a third cocktail, one of their slushitos or slushees.  He got one with pistachio, Manzanilla sherry, and gin.

The Pistachio Slushito

This was tasty but it was more like dessert in a glass, I couldn't drink more than one of these.  It was really interesting to have a pistachio-flavored drink though and, by blending water and sugar in with the pistachios, it had a rich, creamy texture and color. 
To finish off this amazing meal, we had a second dessert, the manchego cheesecake with quince jam and pistachio granola.

The Manchego Cheesecake

Now, I'm a cheesecake fanatic.  It is, by far, my favorite dessert in the world, and this was the best one I've ever had.  My husband and I gaped at each other across the table after we took our first bite of this dessert, in awe of the deliciousness that we just partook in.  It is seriously that good.  If you come for nothing else at this restaurant, get the cheesecake.  Really though, get two.

Overall, Estadio was an incredibly delicious, comfortable, and unique food experience.  As a tourist, it was easy to find and easy to travel to.  The setting is cozy and rustic, the wait staff is friendly and attentive, and most importantly, the food and drinks are good.  Come for cocktails, come for tapas, or just come for that amazing cheesecake, but definitely come to Estadio!  Here are some links to help you learn more about Estadio:


Estadio on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Komi - Washington, DC

Sitting down to write this restaurant review was daunting.  To begin with, there is no menu that I can use to give you the names of each course we tasted.  Secondly, Komi doesn't allow photography in their restaurant so I have no pictures of the food to show you.   Thirdly, what could I possibly say that hasn't already been said about this hugely popular restaurant?  What I can tell you is, it is completely worth the money and completely worth the hype.

Komi  is a modern Mediterranean restaurant that serves a pre-determined, multi-course meal.  The wait staff tells you that they are "just going to cook for you."  That and the incredibly small and simple layout of the restaurant makes you feel that you've just been invited into a chef's home for a meal of whatever they felt like making you that night.  This food is anything but home cooking, it is astounding, creative, and exciting.  The first course was an amuse bouche of steamed brioche, crème fraiche, and salmon roe.  It was beautiful, the flavors worked perfectly as one bite, and it set the entire mood of the meal.  That one bite was one of the best and most exciting bites of food I've ever had.  The steamed brioche was light and fluffy, the crème fraiche sweet and creamy, and the salmon roe exploded with the flavors of the sea as you bit into it.  I've heard chefs and critics talk about layers of flavors before, but I never really understood it until that bite of food.  After that, I was incredibly excited for the next 11 courses and was definitely not disappointed.  

Komi's menu changes and you will never know what you are getting until you are served the food.  So what I ate will probably not be what you eat there, but I can tell you that every single course was delicious and exciting.   The courses progress perfectly from light to heavy.  Some of the light dishes included the amuse bouche with which the meal started, their take on spanakopita, (which, due to its liquid center, they recommend you eat in one bite as well), and a lightly-seared bay scallop with just a touch of lemon—a simple dish done so well that it stands beside the more creative and robust courses flawlessly.  From there, the meal moves to more rich and flavorful dishes such as dates stuffed with mascarpone cheese served piping hot, foie gras two ways, a small pasta dish, and a large plate of goat with pita and various toppings.  The meal ends with the decadent chocolate desserts topped with just the right amount of salt to balance out the sweet.

Komi offers a wine pairing which they allowed my husband and I to split since neither of us wanted to try to drink 6 to 7 glasses of wine and beer along with our 12 course meal.  The wine pairing is done by their sommelier who serves each course to you before the food arrives and provides a brief explanation of what you will be drinking.  The pairing worked very well, everything complimented each other and we were enjoying the different types of wines we were getting to try.  Then, a couple of courses in, the waitress came by to clear our plates and glasses and put two very large round glasses, reminiscent of brandy snifters, in front of us for the next course and with a glint in her eyes said, "We're throwing you a curve-ball now."  The sommelier then came by and poured us a Belgian beer, which caught us both off guard.  The beer was paired with a rabbit mousse on a sourdough crostini, and it was one of the most mind blowing things I've ever experienced.  I wish I could think of a way to describe that not using the phrase mind blowing, but it really was. My husband and I sat there looking at each other, letting those tastes sit in our mouths and we were literally speechless.  It was that good.  We were still talking about that course the next day; it was so memorable.

Aside from the delicious food and perfect pairings, the service at Komi is impeccable.  Each course comes out to you in seamless timing, your table is constantly cleaned and re-set with new utensils, plates, and glasses, and your water glass is never let to become empty.  The staff seems generally excited about what they're serving you.  As they bend down to put the new plate on your table, they lean their head in to describe the dish to you in barely above a whisper.  Their eyes shine with excitement and their lips curl into devilish smiles.  Their attitude and enthusiasm conveys just how good each course is going to be and just how much they know you're going to love it.  

If you're planning to visit Komi on a trip to DC like we did, the location is very convenient, about two blocks from the nearest metro station.  We walked from where we were staying at Hotel Madera and it took us only about ten minutes which we didn’t mind since the walk is through tree-lined streets and past dreamy row houses.  When planning to eat there, you must make reservations one month in advance to the calendar date.  Also, make sure to tell them anything you're allergic to or don't like to eat so they can prepare for your meal properly.  My biggest piece of advice if you're planning a trip to Komi: come hungry.  In fact, come starving.  This is a lot of food and some of it is heavy food, you will need the room!  

The memory of my meal at Komi is already starting to fade like all big moments do; becoming a blur of sights, sounds, and tastes.  Eating at Komi is just that, eating, but it’s also an experience.  It's one of those times in your life that you can't explain to someone that wasn't there.  But you can remember the feeling, how big it was to you, and you can tell them, that made me love the act of eating; that made me excited about food.  That was something.

Here are some links to help you learn more about Komi:


Komi on Urbanspoon

Monday, May 13, 2013

Firefly Restaurant - Washington, DC

A couple of weekends ago, to celebrate our 2nd anniversary, my husband and I stayed in Dupont Circle at Hotel Madera.  When my husband sent me the link to the hotel after he made the reservations, I was excited to see that this was the hotel attached to Firefly.  If you follow any big DC bloggers like I do, you'll see them routinely check into Firefly on Twitter or Instagram for brunch, and I couldn't wait to see what all the fuss was about.  Firefly is located on New Hampshire Avenue in a trendy and busy area filled with hotels, gorgeous apartments, restaurants, and bars.  It's a couple blocks away from the Dupont Circle metro stop, and has street and garage parking nearby.  

The decor of Firefly is very creative.  It’s meant to make you feel as if you are in your backyard, surrounded by trees alight with fireflies.  There are few restaurants that I can think of with such a solid theme.  Generally a "theme" restaurant comes across as cheesy and low quality, but the decorations here are so well done and so creative that it makes you excited to come in and see what else is in store from this restaurant.  

My husband surrounded by some Firefly trees

We came for brunch and were pleasantly surprised to be told that, among other things, brunch includes $2 mimosas and Bloody Mary's.  For a restaurant with such an impressive bar, this was a pretty great deal.  Firefly's menu is seasonal, local, and a good mixture of the unique and classic.  You start your meal with a bread basket including various breakfast breads.  These were delicious and perfectly sized to only whet your appetite, not fill you up.

I ordered a Blood Mary and the kale-n-eggs that included a grilled polenta cake, braised kale, charred tomato vinaigrette, and a poached egg.  


I'm a big fan of savory breakfasts and this one really hit the mark.  My poached egg was cooked perfectly and the vinaigrette mixed with my egg yolk was just the right amount of sauce for the large polenta cake underneath everything.  My polenta was just cooked enough to be firm, but still retained the soft texture you want from polenta.  My only complaint with this dish was that the kale came in really large bunches and was too tough to cut up so you ended up shoving long lengths of kale into your mouth in a very unladylike fashion.

My husband ordered a mimosa and homemade almond granola with dry fruit and yogurt and a fruit bowl on the side.  

Yogurt & Granola with a side of fruit

He loved his yogurt and granola and was especially delighted at the dried figs included with the yogurt and fruit.  His fruit bowl was pretty to look at and was overflowing with fresh fruit.

The wait staff was very friendly and checked on us consistently throughout the meal.  After trying out Firefly for brunch, enjoying the quirky ambiance, cheerful staff, and delicious food, I definitely understand why so many of my DC blogger crushes are checking in here regularly.  For such a good price, we were really happy with the quality of food and drinks we received and we would love to come back for lunch, dinner, or drinks!  Here are some links to help you find out more about Firefly:


Firefly on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Solomons Pier - Solomons, MD

A few weekends ago, Mike and I found ourselves wandering around Solomons Island on a stormy Friday.  We decided duck into Solomons Pier for a couple of cocktails.  Luckily we did, because soon after we sat down, it started pouring rain all around us.  We were sat outside in their bar which is a room made almost entirely of windows that looks out on the water.  It was like sitting in a giant glass box while it was being sprayed down with water all around you. It was amazing.

But lets talk about the food, shall we?  Neither of us had ever been here before, but we chose it for the spectacular view; it really is amazing.

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Mike ordered a beer which for the life of me I cannot remember the name of (I wasn't claiming I was a food blogger back then so no notes were taken!) and I got what they called a skinny margarita.  Mike liked his beer of course and while my  margarita was tasty, there is no way that sucker was low calorie.  It tasted like sweat and sour mix and little else.  And it was STRONG.  You definitely get your money's worth there!  We got hungry (like we always do when we say we're just stopping somewhere for drinks) and ordered the drunken clams which are clams dipped in dark beer, garlic, parsley, and butter.  They came with the perfect bread that was just the right amount of crispy and soft and was amazing dipped in the bowl of clams.  I really enjoyed these and would eat them again in a heartbeat.  The herbs and beer was delicious, but didn't take away from the ocean taste you want in your clams.  

The service was good, especially since the poor waitress kept having to walk out in the pouring rain to come help people . She even managed to get us our clams without getting any water in them somehow.  I'll definitely come back to try the dinner and eat inside, but if you are wanting to enjoy some drinks and appetizers or to have a party, or just hang out with a large group, the outside bar is perfect.  It's very casual, the bartenders are fast, the wait staff is friendly, and of course, the view is gorgeous.

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Here are some links to check out Solomons Pier:


Stoney's Solomons Pier on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Guest Post - The Hamilton in DC by Political Style

Today, we have Laura from Political Style talking about one of her favorite places to eat in Washington DC, The Hamilton.  Thank you so much Laura!  Make sure you check out her blog here!

I'd just stopped off a nine hour flight from London to Washington DC, and after checking into my hotel I was after some food that I could actually taste.

As I walked up 14th Street, I spotted The Hamilton and knew that I would have to go in. The bar was absolutely packed, and we were quickly seated at a table in the next room.

Designed to capture "DC's creative renaissance and a food-savvy audience that draws influence from every corner of the planet," The Hamilton really is a destination restaurant. Complete with a sushi bar and contemporary charcuterie, the extensive menu really does have something to suit all tastes.

I chose the Atlantic Salmon Salad, a delicious mix of frisee, radicchio, arugula, pita crisps, bulghur wheat, feta, cucumber, tomato and lemon vinaigrette topped with a mouth-watering piece of chargrilled salmon. Our party shared some sweet potato fries which were the perfect indulgence.

The service at The Hamilton was fantastic, and the place really did have a buzzing atmosphere.

Fast forward to the day of our departure, and we were in need of a good meal ahead of our return flight. (Plane food is the worst!)

We found ourselves back at The Hamilton for lunch. It was if our new favourite place was calling out to us!

Pre-meal we indulged in some fantastic milkshakes. I opted for the peanut butter and chocolate which was divine. (If any of you have recipe ideas, please share!) I selected the chicken enchiladas and a small mac and cheese which certainly kept me satisfied well until we had landed back in London.

There is no doubt that The Hamilton is my favourite DC restaurant, with the great menu, fantastic service, inspiring decor and electric atmosphere making it a must-visit in the city. If you like Clyde's you will certainly love the company's newest venture!

To find out more about The Hamilton visit their website, or follow them onTwitter. Check out the menus here. The Hamilton also has a great live music programme.

The Hamilton is located at 600 14th Street NW, Washington DC, 20005. The nearest Metro stop is Metro Center. 

Google Images

Thursday, May 2, 2013

The Front Porch - Leonardtown, MD

Last weekend, we ventured over to Leonardtown for a 50's Festival which we realized once we got there was actually taking place two days later.  Whoops.  But, we were there so we figured we might as well eat.  We decided to try out The Front Porch.  We had gotten drinks at the bar here before, but never tried the food.  The location is a remodeled historic home with a beautiful wrap around porch.  If the weather is behaving, drinks and food out on the porch makes for a lovely day.

{image via}

This time, since it wasn't the best weather, we ate inside.  The interior is cute and kitschy with antiques decorating the walls.  My only complaint about the interior of this restaurant is that, as it is I'm sure with most historic buildings, it's a little grimy and seems like it could use a really deep cleaning.  The walls right next to our table were a little dirty which isn't entirely appetizing.

My view:  Mike and some decorations

Looking around the room

An aspect I love about this location is that it is a remodeled historic home which means the restaurant is broken up into rooms.  It allows for a more intimate setting and helps keep the noise level down on busier days.  The room we sat in had a fireplace, large windows, and about 5-6 tables.  It would have been really cozy and lovely on a cold winter night and would be perfect to rent out for a bridal shower or any kind of small event.

The service was good; really friendly and enthusiastic.  I think we got in there right as they were opening because our food came out really slowly.  Once the crowd started to get larger, it seemed like people were getting their food quicker than we did so it might have just been that they weren't ready for us when we showed up. 

The lunch menu is pretty simple and classic with many American favorites.  The specials were a little more unique than the rest of the offers and they were seasonal which is something I always really like.  I ordered the grilled chicken and avocado sandwich with a side salad that had raspberry vinaigrette on it and Mike ordered the chicken cobb salad without cheese and with honey mustard dressing on it.

We both enjoyed our meals and are freakishly excited to have found a local place that makes a good salad.  Both of our chicken was cooked perfectly and the sauce on my sandwich was delicious.  I loved that my side salad included feta cheese which you don't see very often in American restaurants.  As you can see in the picture, Mike's salad was very fresh and all his veggies were nicely chopped and were perfectly ripe. Our only complaint was that neither of us really liked our salad dressings.  His was more like a sauce; in fact I'm pretty sure it was the same sauce found on my sandwich.  Mine was far too sweet and didn't have enough oil in it.  

Overall, our meals were very satisfying, fresh, and nicely cooked.  I noticed on the lunch menu, that they do lunch boxes to go which, if we lived closer, is something I'd definitely be tempted to do since they have such good salad and sandwich options.  We're both interested to go back for dinner to check out the quality of their higher-end entrees and deserts. 

Here are some links to help you check out The Front Porch:


Front Porch on Urbanspoon