Q by Peter Chang: Dim Sum

For two straight weekends, we had dim sum brunch at Q by Peter Chang, the famous chef’s first foray into fine dining. If our first two visits are any indication, this is going to become one of our go-to restaurants.

It’s hard not to compare Peter Chang Bistro and Q. For one, the service at Q seems to be much more polished than Peter Chang Bistro, at least the Rockville location. For example, water cups and tea pots are promptly filled and servers are knowledgeable and patient. The space at Q is large but inviting, full of these gorgeous bright green chairs. Large tables are outfitted with a lazy susan, making it easier to share dishes among a group. When you are at Q, you can easily forget that you are in the ground floor of an office building.

Q by Peter Chang restaurant interior

We tried to vary what we got at each visit, but the pork shumai were just too good. Our server suggested that we dip the pork and shrimp dumplings into his favorite sauce, the off-menu spicy garlic sauce. What a combination! If you visit Q, make sure to request the spicy garlic sauce with the shumai.

Q by Peter Chang Dim Sum pork shumai dumplings with spicy garlic sauce

The shrimp rice rolls were a surprise hit. We imagined they would be something like spring rolls, but it was actually sheets of thick steamed rice noodle dough wrapped around plump shrimp in a light soy sauce.

One of our favorite noodle dishes that we partook in was the stir-fried rice noodles and beef. The beef was really flavorful, which points towards the quality and attention to the meat.

Q by Peter Chang Dim Sum shrimp rice rolls and stir-fried rice noodles and beef

You can find Peter Chang’s trademark heat in the pork-filled hot and numbing wonton, covered in a generous slathering of Szechuan pepper spiced sauce and drizzled with chile oil.

Q by Peter Chang Dim Sum pork-filled hot and numbing wonton

It’s easy to stuff yourself full of noodles and dumplings, but it would be a serious mistake to miss out on dessert. Marnay and I are going to have to agree to disagree about which was our favorite, but the sesame balls and the egg yolk bun are both fantastic. The former are filled with decadent red bean paste and the latter oozes custard from its flaky, biscuit-like exterior.

Q by Peter Chang Dim Sum dessert sesame balls and the egg yolk bun

Both of our dim sum meals were less than $50 total. We plan on returning for dinner which will most likely be more expensive, but if you want fine-dining quality food for cheap eats prices, dim sum brunch at Q is the place to be!

Best Bite
Paul: Egg yolk bun
Marnay: Pork Shumai

Address
Q by Peter Chang: 4500 East-West Highway #100 Bethesda, MD 20814
Closest metro: Bethesda

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Marta

We have been to many Italian restaurants in our lives, consuming many different varieties of pizzas. But I don’t think that we have ever been to one which focuses on Roman style pizza, that is, until we went to Marta in New York. When you take a laser-like focus on Roman pizza and Italian wine and combine it with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Group trademark hospitality, you get a winner.

Marta plate

Going in, we knew that we wanted a bottle of wine and we knew that we wanted to speak with the sommelier. Before we could ask, the sommelier came to us to see if we had any questions! I gave her a challenge: help us choose a bottle of white wine from either Fruili, in the northeastern corner of Italy bordering Slovenia, or Mt. Etna, in Sicily at the southern end of “The Boot”.

The sommelier gave us two options: a fruit forward wine from Friuli or a flinty, medium-bodied wine from Mt. Etna. We chose the 2015 Benati Etna Bianco, which complemented but did not overpower our food.

Joining us for dinner was Marnay’s sister, Cheray. We ordered two pizzas among the three of us as our main course, a suitable amount of food along with two other small bites. Both of our pizzas were on the simple side without an abundance of toppings so that we could get the true essence of the pizza. Roman pizza is very thin and has a cracker-like crust. The margherita was a textbook example of a crispy Roman pie. The ample basil leaves gave it a fresh, herbal vibe.

Marta roman pizza in New York

That aforementioned cracker-think crust couldn’t quite stand up to the housemade stracciatella in the stracciatella pizza, but it was delicious, maybe even better than the margherita. Structuaral issues aside, it was damn good.

good pizza

We took our time eating the pizza because we liked the first wine so much, we knew we wanted to order a second bottle. It took a while to flag down a sommelier, but she eventually came over and I gave her another challenge: we just had a bottle of wine from Siciliy, let’s travel as far away as possible to the other side of Italy. Let’s go to Valle d’Aosta, in the Italian Alps, bordering Switzerland and France. The sommelier steered us towards the 2015 Ottin Petite Arvine. She described it a big, bold, funky wine from a grape that had only recently been rediscovered in the region. All three of us absolutely loved the wine! When she came to check on us, the sommelier told us that she was personally excited that we ordered this bottle, since they rarely sell it. She said that it is one of her favorites. That made our night!

Marta 2015 Ottin Petite Arvine wine bottle in New York City

We rounded things out (because hey, we needed to eat something with this wine) with roasted carrots, cooked in the pizza oven, with pistachios, lemon and crispy sage. We also had an order of fried artichoke hearts, perfect finger food.

An extremely fun night thanks to the sommelier, the food and the company.

cheray

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Stracciatella pizza

Address
Marta: The Redbury Hotel, 29 E. 29th Street, New York, NY 10016

Chicago recap

During the long Columbus Day weekend, we took a train trip to Chicago! It was another overnight Amtrak trip, this time on Amtrak’s Capitol Limited.

Friday

Friday was a travel day. Our train left Union Station at 4:05pm with a scheduled arrival of 8:45am Saturday. The Capitol Limited starts in DC and then heads through Maryland, West Virginia, returns to western Maryland and then turns north through Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Finally, it takes a more direct route through northern Indiana before arriving in Chicago.

Paul sitting in the Capitol Limited train from Washington DC to Chicago

Our sleeping car was a little more modern than the Crescent, which we took to Greenville. The Capitol Limited is a double-decker train and our bedroom was on the top level, which made for some great views. We ate dinner in the dining car as we arrived in Martinsburg, WV. Even the food was better on the Capitol Limited. In particular, Marnay’s vegetarian pasta with soy chorizo was a hit.

Capitol Limited dining car

The Capitol Limited also has an observation car! It has huge floor to ceiling windows and seats which face outward. We watched the sunset there until we arrived in Cumberland, MD and then went back to our room. The last stop we saw before setting up our beds was Pittsburgh, at around 11:30pm. Time to call it a night! Unlike Greenville, we had the added bonus of getting a full night of sleep instead of waking up at 4:00am.

Saturday

Good Morning from Indiana! We woke up at 7:30am and pulled open the curtains to watch the farmland go by. It was so much fun to wake up on a train! We skipped the sit-down breakfast in the dining car and instead opted for the free coffee in the hallway of our sleeping car.

Capitol Limited Amtrak train stop in South Bend, IN

We arrived at Chicago Union Station around 9:15am and were ready to hit the ground running. We ran right to Firecakes Donuts, in fact! The donuts were delicious but not as good as Blue Star. It’s an unfair comparison but we had Blue Star so recently, we can’t help but make it.

donuts

We checked into our fantastic Airbnb, located just steps from the Logan Square L station. After resting and regrouping, we met our friend Rachel at Portillo’s, one of the most famous places for Chicago-style hot dogs. If you aren’t familiar with Chicago-style dogs, a true Chicago-dog has: all beef hot dog, yellow mustard, chopped raw onions, neon green relish, tomato slices, a dill pickle (spear), sport peppers and celery salt. In my opinion, the celery salt is what makes the hot dog so tasty.

hot dog

Our big plan for the afternoon was to take an architecture boat tour of the Chicago River, rightfully one of the most popular ways to see Chicago. One problem: it started to pour about 30 minutes before our boat was scheduled to leave! No worries, though, we found ponchos at Walgreens and were good to go! It was amazing to learn about the architecture and history of Chicago. The best views on the boat are from the top deck, but we took shelter from the rain on the indoor lower level for the first half of the 90-minute tour. During the second half the rain started to clear up and we made it to the top deck. We even saw a rainbow! There were so few people on the top deck that it was practically a private tour!

Chicago architecture boat tour skyline

For dinner, we had an Opentable gift card at the Publican, one of Chicago’s hottest restaurants. We enjoyed our time, but weren’t blown away. Best bite: the Iowa ham steak, smoked with hay and then flash fried.

Sunday

Sunday was biking and exploring day! We grabbed breakfast at Intelligentsia coffee and then walked through some tree-lined neighborhoods to pick up a Divvy bike, Chicago’s bikeshare system. The bikes are exactly the same as Capital bikeshare, so it didn’t take any getting used to.

Marnay biking on a Divvy bike in Chicago

We biked on the 606, a former elevated train line, now a biking and walking trail. It goes east-west from Logan Square to West Town. I would really classify it as more of a linear park than just a trail, as it was quite wide and there was lots of greenery and benches for hanging out.

The trail dropped us off under a freeway, so we walked through the Lincoln Park neighborhood and got lunch at Budlong Hot Chicken. I got “spicy” chicken and it was so hot I was tearing up! Marnay’s hot chicken tenders were also crazy hot! All and all, it was a delicious lunch and it gave us energy for the rest of the day.

Budlong Hot Chicken in the Lincoln Park neighborhood in Chicago

Post lunch, we made a beeline for North Avenue Beach and dipped our toes in Lake Michigan. The azure water was cold! It was like 80 degrees outside, though, so we didn’t mind. After drying off our feet, we walked along the Lakefront Trail and then biked back west into town, eventually taking the 74 bus back to our place.

Marnay and Paul on a pier in Lake Michigan in Chicago

Marnay found a place called Cruz Blanca, a Rick Bayliss creation that was a combination brewery and taqueria. It was a really cool concept: You order food at the counter, get your beer at the bar, seat yourself and they bring everything out to you. We got a particularly prime seat on the sidewalk patio. We shared an awesome Oaxacan-style taco plate with half chorizo, half carne asada, drank our beers and people-watched. I think this was one of our favorite memories of Chicago.

Cruz Blanca brewery and taqueria

We weren’t ready to call it a night, though. Instead, we headed back to Logan Square and to Lost Lake, a tiki bar. We love tiki bars!! Lost Lake had delicious tiki drinks and a very cool, laid back vibe. Despite being a well-known bar, it had the feeling of a neighborhood spot. Most important: Marnay’s drink came in a parrot glass!

Lost Lake tiki drinks in a parrot glass in Chicago

Lost Lake neon sign in Chicago

We had a nightcap of malort at Longman & Eagle. What is a malort? After Chicago-style dogs and deep dish pizza, it’s one of Chicago’s most famous culinary tradition. It’s an extremely bitter liquor made with wormwood. Ninety percent of all malort is consumed in Cook County, Illinois, which includes Chicago. We had never had it before and we felt that it was something we needed to try before leaving Chicago. It was BITTER, and I can’t say that it ever got less bitter or had a pleasant aftertaste. But it was a fun cultural experience!

Monday

Even though we were out late Sunday night, we woke up early so that we could appreciate our last few hours in Chicago. We got a small bite to eat at Intelligentsia and then took the L downtown.

One of the major tourist attractions that we had yet to do was Millennium Park and The Bean (aka Cloud Gate). It was very cool! Mainly, it was a nice day out and it was fun to get some walking in.

Millennium Park and The Bean (aka Cloud Gate) in Chicago

After walking for a while, we were hungry! Since we only had a few hours left in town, we decided to get another Chicago hot dog, this time from U.B. Dogs in the West Loop.

Besides the traditional Chicago-style dog described earlier, Chicago also has a traditional of Polish sausages, historically centered on Maxwell Street in what’s now University Village. I got a Polish sausage that was charred, placed on a poppy seed bun and topped with the traditional griddled onions, mustard and sport peppers. The flavor was just outrageous, easily one of my favorite bites of the trip.

U.B. Dogs Chicago-style hot dog and Polish sausage

After lunch, we took a stroll on the Riverwalk and then headed back to our Airbnb to relax for a bit before heading to the airport. What a trip!

Things we did and places we visited

Firecakes Donuts: 68 W. Hubbard Street Chicago, IL 60654

Portillo’s: 520 W. Taylor Street Chicago, IL 60607

Chicago Architecture Foundation Boat Tour

The Publican: 837 W. Fulton Market Chicago, IL 60607

Intelligentsia: Logan Square 2642 N. Milwaukee Avenue Chicago, IL 60647

The Budlong: 1008 W. Armitage Avenue Chicago, IL 60614

Cruz Blanca: 904 W. Randolph Street Chicago, IL 60607

Lost Lake: 3154 W. Diversey Avenue Chicago, IL 60647

Longman & Eagle: 2657 N. Kedzie Avenue Chicago, IL 60647

U.B. Dogs: 185 N. Franklin Street Chicago, IL 60606

Northwest Vacation Recap: Seattle

Welcome to our second post from our Northwest Adventure in Portland and Seattle. You can read our Portland recap here. We already posted a sneak-peak of our Seattle adventure with our review of JuneBaby, the fantastic Southern restaurant in Seattle’s Ravenna neighborhood. It wasn’t just JuneBaby that excelled, however. We ate well and had fun our entire time in Seattle.

Thursday

Our favorite activity in Seattle was walking up the giant hills! We got started right away, since the bus from King Street station dropped us off at the bottom of the Fremont neighborhood. Our Airbnb was at the top of the hill, so we had to walk with all our suitcases on what felt like a vertical sidewalk. I do not think we will ever forget the hills of Seattle!

On Thursday night, we stayed in Fremont and went to Revel, from acclaimed Seattle chef Rachel Yang. We sat on the outdoor patio and enjoyed our dumplings and noodles, particularly the handmade noodles with Dungeness crab. So good! Afterwards, we had a nightcap at Barrel Thief, a local bar with a great whiskey selection.

Revel handmade noodles with Dungeness crab

Friday

I think now would be a good time to mention that our Airbnb hosts raise hens in their backyard! We could see their pen from our kitchen window. When we woke up on Friday, we spent some time just watching the hens and all their funny, herky-jerky movements.

Seattle Airbnb hens

Friday was ferry day! When we think about Seattle, I think the thing we will remember most is taking the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island. The ferry ride was magical! The deep water and foggy skies felt very true to the Northwest. We started out standing near the front of the boat but it got really windy. We then made our way to the back and got some amazing views of Seattle as we drifted further and further away.

Marnay and Paul on the ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

The ferry from Seattle to Bainbridge Island

We did not spend too much time on Bainbridge Island but we did walk around the main street and explore the shops. The town was very quaint and had that maritime charm. Lunch was at Bruciato, a place on the main street that specializes in Neapolitan pizza. We would have been fine with just a solid lunch, but we were both extremely impressed with Bruciato. The plate of gorgeous local tomatoes with basil and a little bit of salt was excellent and our prosciutto cotto pizza hit the spot.

Bruciato prosciutto cotto pizza in Bainbridge Island

Friday night was when we had our dinner at JuneBaby. Afterwards, we walked around the Ravenna and Roosevelt neighborhoods for a while. Although we had plenty of Oregon wine during the trip, we hadn’t actually had any wine from Washington. We found a Whole Foods, picked up a bottle of Yakima Valley Riesling and some snacks and drank it back in the apartment!

Saturday

Our last full day of vacation. I made some coffee in the kitchen and took some time to watch the hens. They’re just so entertaining! We still hadn’t done any “touristy” activities in Seattle, so we got that out of the way by going to the Chihully Museum, home of the works from the famous glassmaking artist Dale Chihully.

Chihully Museum

Marnay and Paul at the Chihully Museum

The other ultimate touristy thing we did was go to Pike Place Market. We are really glad that we went, but the market was OVERWHELMING. We did get to witness the fish toss, at least. We walked up and down some more hills and then took the bus home for some much needed relaxation.

Pike Place Market famous fish toss

Prior to dinner, we walked around Fremont and finally got up close and personal with the famous Fremont Troll. It’s a sculpture of a troll located underneath the Fremont Bridge. This was just so quirky and unique.

Fremont Troll underneath the Fremont Bridge

For the last meal of our Northwest Adventure, we headed to Sitka and Spruce in the Capitol Hill neighborhood. Tom Sietsema has been recommending Sitka and Spruce for years, so we were excited to go. Its focus is on Northwestern cuisine, and it did not disappoint. Our best bites: West Coast oysters and local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce. Yum!

Sitka and Spruce West Coast oysters

Sitka and Spruce local Ling Cod in a tomato béarnaise sauce

We had an absolutely epic time in Portland and Seattle. I do not think we could have gone much longer, we just had so much fun and did so much! While we unfortunately had to leave Seattle on Sunday morning, we will always have our memories!