A while back I purchased a groupon for $35 at the Reserve in Federal Hill for only $15.  So I went there with a few friends a few weeks back for dinner.  I ordered the seafood risotto, which I thought was pretty good, but the risotto was a little underdone.  Also, the service at the restaurant was really slow for not being all that crowded.

We were there on a Wednesday, which is apparently “acoustic” karaoke night…whatever that means.  Luckily it wasn’t scheduled to start until 10pm, so we got out of there in time.  We headed to Vaccaro’s in Little Italy for dessert.  I ordered the baci ball ice cream sunday, but they were out of the baci ice cream so I substituted with nocciola.  I had no idea how huge the portion would be.  I could barely stomach it all, but I managed…and it was amazingly good.

I always get really excited about Restaurant Week because it’s an opportunity to check out restaurants that normally might not fit into my budget.  After checking out all the menus, I finally narrowed down the number of places I wanted to try to three.  First on the list was Brass Elephant in Mt. Vernon, which actually closed its doors not too long after Restaurant Week.  Another one bites the dust in this economy, I guess.  I’d heard good things about Brass Elephant, but my experience there was not that great.  For a Friday night, the restaurant was not crowded at all.  The service was also subpar.  Our server was slow, and she broke the cork when opening the wine bottle my friend ordered.  Not impressive.  To start, everyone got–I suppose it could have been considered an amuse bouche–of foie gras on a piece of crusty bread.  This was my first taste of foie gras, and I have to say I’m not a fan.  For my first course, I had the smoked rockfish with cold smoked salmon, which was garnished with whipped horseradish cream, pickled radish, and hearts of palm.  The salmon was okay, but the rockfish didn’t taste very fresh.  For my second course, I had a filo-wrapped cod with hazelnuts, sage polenta, and a parsley and sage pesto.  I remember enjoying that.  The fish was cooked well.  For dessert, I went with the creme brulee, because I feel like that’s something that a restaurant shouldn’t mess up.  It wasn’t really anything to write home about.

 

Courses shown counterclockwise from top left.

2009_08_07 - Brass Elephant

Another note about the poor service:  my friend, Stephanie had to leave dinner early and when she realized this, we tried to flag down our server to request that her dessert get packed up ahead of time so that she wouldn’t have to wait for it.  Our server was nowhere to be found for at least 10 minutes.  And then when she explained her situation, the server said she would pack up the dessert, but it came out at the same time as the rest of ours, so Steph had to wait around even though she was pressed for time.  Needless to say, Brass Elephant didn’t really meet my expectations.

 

The next restaurant I tried was Meli in Fell’s Point.  I really enjoyed dinner here.  Despite having reservations for 8:30 or 9pm for 8 people, we still ended up waiting quite awhile for our table, and this wasn’t the fault of the staff per se, as the party that was occupying our would-be table took longer than expected to get up and leave.  Our host said he would try to comp us something, but either he wasn’t able to, or he didn’t even bother to try.  That was okay, though, because the food was outstanding. I started with a lobster mac and cheese, followed by a duck dish that was really well prepared, and finished with some sort of mediterranean dessert whose name I can’t remember, let alone spell.  There was an option to pair the restaurant week menu with a wine flight.  I chose to do that, and each of the wines went very well with the courses.

2009_08_11 - Meli

 

Finally, the last visit for this go around was Jack’s Bistro in Canton.  Jack’s has a tiny dining room, with maybe 6 or 8 tables tops.  And of course we had a large group for this excursion.  We were lucky enough that they were able to seat us all together.  The appetizer that piqued my curiosity the most on their restaurant week menu was the chocolate macaroni and cheese.  Sounds potentially disgusting, but it worked out really well.  The second course was basically a big slab of beef with shoestring fries on the side.  The meat was cooked well, but it wasn’t super special; and I think it would have gone better with some sort of green vegetable on the side.  Then at least I could say I was making some attempt at being healthy.  And lastly the dessert.  omgoodness nom nom.  Deep-fried s’mores.  Yes, you read correctly.  They were so good, I had to include two pictures.  Unfortunately the ice cream in the middle melted rather quickly, but the whole thing was sinful.

2009_08_15 - Jack's Bistro

 

All in all, a successful restaurant week.  Can’t wait till the next one!

My after school babysitter until I was in the 4th or 5th grade was my Italian next door neighbor.  She’s an awesome cook, and always made yummy after-school treats for me.  One of my favorites was her fried-zucchini flowers.  She kept her own vegetable garden and during the summer, she’d send me home with plates of them.  Stuffed with mozzarella, breaded, and deep fried.  yummy =).  When I found out the Baltimore Farmer’s Market had zucchini flowers, I got really excited.  But apparently you have to get there early because they sell out fast.  My roommate, Ramzi is awesome and picked some up for me one Sunday morning.  I stuffed the flowers with mozzarella and basil, breaded them in a flour mixture with a little soda water, and deep fried them.  They weren’t exactly like my babysitter’s, but they still tasted pretty good.
Ramzi’s sister was in town for a couple weeks, and the first night she was here, he made a Lebanese stuffed squash dish.  Squash were from the farmer’s market, and they were stuffed with ground beef, rice, and tomatoes (if I remember correctly).
I took some zucchinis and made a chocolate zucchini cake, using a recipe (appropriately) from the food blog Chocolate and Zucchini.  It came out really dense and a bit dried out.  Perhaps there wasn’t enough moisture in the zucchini I used, and the recipe doesn’t call for eggs either.
The night before I headed off to Vegas for my college Pi Reunion, I had dinner and caught a movie with a few friends. We went to Pizzazz, Tuscan Grille, a new place that opened up where My Panini used to be. Part of the Pier V hotel, it over looks the water, but you mostly get a view of the aquarium if you choose to sit outside. Good people watching spot, I suppose.

Most of the entrees are under $15. I ordered the Charm City calzone, which was stuffed with crab meat, shrimp, ricotta, and mozzarella. It was pretty good, and very filling.

Service was so-so. Kind of slow, considering there were maybe only three other parties there besides us. It’s an alright option if you’re in the harbor area looking for food, but if you can stand to walk a little further, go to Harbor East or Little Italy.

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My friends and I have been anticipating the opening of this Potbelly for quite some time now. One of my friends passed by it last Tuesday after hours and saw a sign out front that said “We’ll open on Tuesday,” which was slightly ambiguous. Needless to say, we were disappointed when we tried going last Wednesday only to find out that by “Tuesday” they meant yesterday. Anyway, it’s open now, so that point is moot.

This Potbelly’s proximity to the University of Maryland Medical Center makes it a great lunch time spot. My friends and I went for it’s opening yesterday. Around 1pm the line was out the door, but the staff worked like a well-oiled machine to get everyone’s orders in and out quickly. You can also phone-in an order or order online ahead of time, which is great if you’re picking up a lot of sandwiches.

I ordered the original-sized Italian sandwich. For $4.50, you really can’t beat it. I also got a mocha-oreo shake. Let me just say, yum. The shakes are just the right size. I left very satisfied. I’ve actually never been to a Potbelly’s before, but I’m definitely a fan. I can see myself coming here for lunch quite often.

Look at the line!

My mocha-oreo milkshake with mini oreos on top. how cute!

Italian sandwich on multi-grain bread

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Thai Arroy is hands down my favorite Thai place in Baltimore. Located on Light Street in Federal Hill, it’s a small little restaurant that’s pretty much always filled during normal dining hours. I went on Sunday night with my friend Nick. We decided to sit outside since it was nice out, hence the dark pictures.

Started with some spring rolls…

…and papaya salad

I had the Mussa-Mun curry with shrimp. It wasn’t as spicy as I expected; perhaps next time I’ll request a little more heat.

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Last Sunday I was originally supposed to go home to celebrate Father’s day with my family. Unfortunately, due to a little excessive partying at a wedding reception the night before, I overslept until 10:30, so my parents decided to come up to see me instead, since they hadn’t yet seen my new apartment all set up. After touring my house and my lab, we headed out to Bonaparte in Fell’s Point for some lunch. They have a pretty good lunch special, where you can choose a quiche or sandwich, a dessert, and a drink all for $12.90. We played around with the idea of just getting two lunch specials and two entrees alone since we didn’t think we’d need that much dessert. But everything looked so appealing my dad said he wanted a dessert all to himself, so we ended up each getting our own lunch special.

I picked the salmon quiche, the chocolate triangle with coconut and raspberry filling, and a coffee. Everything was excellent!

Quiche…yum….

The desserts. Clockwise from top left: chocolate triangle (my choice), strawberry tart (my dad’s), flan (mom’s choice), chocolate-cherry cake (sister’s).

We cut each of our desserts in fourths so everyone could try everything. Afterwards we walked some of it off strolling around Fell’s. It was nice to spend an afternoon with my family in Baltimore. I think they sometimes forget there are actually some decent parts to the city.

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