Rye Street Tavern

I work in downtown Baltimore and wanted to have a fun daytime adventure before the end of 2018. So, before the holidays, Marnay met me for lunch at Andrew Carmellini’s Rye Street Tavern, in the Port Covington section of south Baltimore.

The restaurant, for now, is nearly all alone in Port Covington. The only exceptions are a few industrial buildings, an UnderArmour office and the restaurant’s sibling distillery, Sagamore Spirits. Down the line, though, this will be a large mixed-used area that will grow around the restaurant. As of now it is a destination spot with an incredible waterfront location. On nice days (such as the day we dined), the windows are opened for a cooling breeze.

Paul and Marnay Meyer standing outside Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Since the restaurant is isolated from residential areas, we were surprised to find it crowded on a workday. We went to the bar but had trouble finding two seats next to each other. We briefly had a feeling of helplessness until the wonderful bartender saw our plight and came out from behind the bar. She was able to play bar-patron Tetris and figured out a way for Marnay and I to sit next to each other. During the whole meal, in fact, she really went above and beyond!

The free cornbread to start the meal was a bit dry (but, hey, also free) but after that just about everything was fantastic. I opted for the $25 three-course prix-fixe, a good deal. The ember-roasted beets with sheep’s milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts tasted smoky like barbecue. Plus, the big chunks of sweet beets were so juicy they reminded me of watermelon, but with the texture of a root vegetable. The yogurt and the hazelnuts made it feel like a complete dish. Above all, the presentation was stunning.

Ember-roasted beets with sheep's milk yogurt and candied hazelnuts at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Marnay ordered the Southern-style fried chicken, Rye Street’s Tavern’s signature dish. It was perfectly seasoned, and we especially liked the housemade hot sauce, which the bartender encouraged us to use. It really only needed a little bit because it was well-seasoned already. The only disappointment was the honey-butter biscuit, which tasted like it had been drenched in melted butter.

Southern-style fried chicken with honey-butter biscuits at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

I came in with low expectations for the rock shrimp tacos—after all Rye Street Tavern is a modern-American restaurant. But the battered and fried shrimp topped with pickled jalapenos and a fiery guajillo chile paste and young cilantro were quite good. I would even consider getting them again!

Rock shrimp tacos at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

My prix fixe came with dessert, so we shared a slice of vanilla buttermilk pie. It was a tasty end to the meal. Throughout everything, our bartender did a fantastic job of taking care of all, as while still serving the other bar patrons. If I had gotten her name, I would have passed along a good word to the manager on the way out. On a nice day, it’s hard to top Rye Street Tavern’s waterfront setting as a place to grab a bite in Baltimore. I can definitely see us going back in the Spring when the weather is warmer.

Slice of vanilla buttermilk pie at Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington, Baltimore, Maryland

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Ember roasted beets

Address
Rye Street Tavern: 13 Rye Street Baltimore, MD 21230

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2018 Year in Review

2018 was a year of traveling. I felt like we were Eater roving food critic Bill Addison, we were in so many different places. It definitely shows in our 2018 blog posts – there are more posts from outside the DC-area than there are posts within the DC-area. Marnay and I asked each other questions about our favorites of 2018, here are our responses:

What was your favorite meal of 2018?

Paul – My favorite meal was the Taste of Zahav prix fixe menu – a lot of incredible food for an absolute steal of a price, $48 per person. This may be one of the best dining deals in the country.

Marnay – My favorite was lunch at Al Ameer, the Lebanese palace in Dearborn, Michigan. We headed there as soon as our plane landed in Detroit and while we ate way too much food, I still can’t stop thinking about the stuffed lamb.

Stuffed lamb at Al Ameer, Lebanese food in Dearborn, Michigan

What was your favorite bar of 2018?

Paul – Maxwell, the wine bar in Shaw, which recently celebrated its first anniversary, is a wine-lover’s dream. They don’t take themselves too seriously, either. It is equally great for wine-geeks as it is for casual drinkers. It’s also the perfect place to go if you want to learn more about wine.

Marnay – Brenner Pass, Richmond. I really enjoyed the bar at this modern Alpine restaurant in Scotts Addition. We shared a bottle of wine with dessert – a perfect combination! The vibe was cozy, despite the fact that the place was packed and our bartender was incredibly knowledgeable.

Bar at Brenner Pass in Richmond, Virginia

Which restaurant do you want to visit again in 2018?

Paul – Commander’s Palace, in New Orleans. It made for an incredible, old school Creole experience.

Marnay – We loved eating breakfast every morning at Time Market when we were staying in Tucson. Closer to home, we are definitely going to back to All Purpose Shaw and Kuya Ja’s (for some lechon belly) ASAP.

Commander’s Palace, old school Creole in New Orleans, Louisiana

What was your favorite food/restaurant-related experience?

Paul – I would consider going outside of one’s comfort zone as a food-related experience. So in that case, my favorite experience was our meals in El Paso. That area feels closer to Mexico than the U.S.

Marnay – We went to “Mexico in a Bottle” at the Mexican Cultural Institute, the old Mexican Embassy on 16th Street. For a modest fee, we got to sip on unlimited mezcal, meet local chefs and eat some delicious Mexican food. It was a dream come true!

Lunch in El Paso, Texas

Which restaurant surprised you the most?

Paul – Chai Pani in Decatur, GA, just outside of Atlanta. I had no idea how much I enjoyed Indian street food until we ate there.

Marnay – Momofuku CCDC. We had not been there in years, mainly because we were not super impressed the first time we went. But the menu has been totally revamped and that bronzed whole roasted chicken was delicious – and enough to feed an entire family!

Bronzed whole roasted chicken at Momofuku CCDC in Washington DC

What was your favorite meal in Silver Spring?

Paul – The medium-rare ribeye from Urban Butcher hit the spot for me. And it is consistent.

Marnay – The calzones at Pacci’s are insanely good right now. For years, we stuck to ordering Neopolitan pizzas and a salad. This year, inspired by our trip to Milan, we started ordering calzones at Pacci’s and we haven’t looked back.

Calzone and pizza at Pacci's in Silver Spring, Maryland

What was your favorite meal outside of the DC-area?

Paul – There were so many meals outside of the DC area, but my favorite all-around meal was at H&H Car Wash in El Paso.

Marnay – Mine was dinner at Park Place Cafe in Merchantville, NJ. We were treated like family and the sauce on our pasta was something I will never forget. So incredibly simple yet so good.

Eating breakfast at H&H Car Wash in El Paso, Texas

What is your favorite recipe to make at home?

Paul – Grilled lamb chops with cucumber salad. Tender, crusty, fatty, salt and cooling. Mmmmmm.

Marnay – I’m a big fan of cooking weekend at breakfast at home. Since we are not home on the weekends very often, it’s a special treat. One of our go-to’s is making homemade biscuits and topping them with a fried egg and side of bacon. We use Alton Brown’s biscuit recipe. Who wants to go out for brunch, anyway??

Paul and Marnay in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania

Here’s a list of our favorites. Go ahead and give them a try!

Zahav: 237 St. James Pl. Philadelphia, PA 19106
Al Ameer: 27346 Ford Rd Dearborn Heights, MI 48127
Maxwell: 1336 9th St, NW Washington, DC 20001
Brenner Pass: 3200 Rockbridge St #100 Richmond, VA 23230
Commander’s Palace: 1403 Washington Ave New Orleans, LA 70130
Time Market: 444 E. University Blvd Tucson, AZ 85705
All Purpose Shaw: 9th St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly: 5268-H Nicholson Ln Rockville, MD 20895
Chai Pani: 406 W. Ponce de Leon Ave Decatur, GA 30030
Momofuku CCDC: 1090 I St NW, Washington, DC 20001
Urban Butcher: 8226 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pacci’s: 8113 Georgia Ave Silver Spring, MD 20910

Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly

Kuya Ja’s is a Filipino counter service joint located in the White Flint area. The restaurant, which started out as a pop-up at the chef’s sister’s pastry shop, specializes in Filipino pork belly. It’s been on our radar since it was a pop-up, but once they got a permanent spot we knew we needed to head to Rockville and try it out.

Outside Kuya Ja’s restaurant in Rockville, MD

Kuya Ja’s had only been open two weeks when we visited. It’s located about 0.5 miles from the White Flint metro, inside a random and partially forgotten strip mall in an area otherwise teeming with new residential high-rises. We walked there from the metro but to give a sense of where it is: the entrance to the parking lot contains a grand sign for the White Flint Mall, which is currently a pile of rubble and has been for three years.

The place opens at 5pm and when we arrived at 4:58pm there were already people queuing outside. A word of advice: this restaurant is extremely popular and also tiny, so try to go during off hours. We had a few questions when it was our turn to order at the counter, but the staff was extremely friendly and patient.

Inside Kuya Ja’s restaurant in Rockville, MD

We ordered ½ pound of lechon belly and a crispy adobo chicken sandwich. As a bit of background, lechon belly is basically Filipino porchetta. The chef, whose nickname is Ja, hails from the island of Cebu which, according to the restaurant’s website, has the best lechon belly in the world.

The first thing you’ll notice about the lechon belly is that the skin is so thin and shiny from glaze it looks like glass. In fact, both Marnay and I were legitimately concerned that when we bit into it, it would be like biting into glass. Thankfully, our concerns were misplaced. Here’s another thing: Very often, the skin is the best part of meat since it gets the most flavoring, while the actual meat is a letdown. Let me tell you, that is NOT the case as Kuya Ja’s. Here, the skin is crispy and redolent of all types of umami flavors. Meanwhile, the meat is insanely tender and unctuous to the extreme. The meat is made even better by two condiments: one is a thick vinaigrette that taste a bit like soy while the other is a Filipino vinegar. Our favorite was the vinaigrette because of its balanced flavor.

Kuya Ja’s dinner: lechon belly and crispy adobo chicken sandwich

The crispy chicken, with an adobo glaze and crisp lettuce on a soft hamburger bun, is also a winner. The abobo glaze, with its soy sauce undertones, turns this from a good chicken sandwich to a great one. It doesn’t hit you over the head but it is lurking in the background of every bite.

The next day we came back around 8pm. While it was packed, we miraculously got a table just before our food came out. It was a good thing, since it was raining and therefore we were either getting a table or eating standing up. (Unlike most people who come here, we do not have cars). They did not have the ½ pound of lechon belly available, but that ended up being a good thing. Instead, the staff steered us towards the lechon belly combo, which comes with white rice and atsara, or pickled ginger papaya salad. As Marnay noted, the addition of the rice made it feel like more of a meal, with the added benefit of using the rice to scoop up the sauces.

Kuya Ja’s dinner: lechon belly combo with Ube Brazo for dessert

Kuya Ja’s also serves Filipino pastries from the chef’s sisters bakery, many of which contain ube halaya, a sweet paste made from purple yams. I would compare it to how red bean paste is used in Chinese and Japanese desserts. We tried the Ube Brazo, which tasted like a delightful cross between bread pudding and pound cake.

The fact that we liked Kuya Ja’s enough to go back two days in a row should tell you how we feel about this place. The incredible food, warm service and wallet-friendly prices are sure to keep us coming back again and again.

Best Bite
Paul: Lechon belly
Marnay: Crispy chicken

Address
Kuya Ja’s Lechon Belly: 5268-H Nicholson Lane Rockville, MD 20895
Closest Metro: White Flint

Cake for Dessert

As you are aware if you are a fan of the blog, Marnay and I enjoy eating out. But since we can’t eat out all the time, we follow a lot of chefs, restaurants and bloggers on social media. That way, we can stay up to date with what’s going on in the food scene.

One unmistakeable trend that I’ve seen recently is the rise of cake. Huge cakes that beget huge slices. I had never seen this much cake being served in restaurants. The question: Why? Why now?

Huge cake slices on Paul's instagram feed

I’ve seen huge cakes all over my Instagram lately. In fact, Marnay and I went to the café at Maketto and had a ginormous piece of (very tasty) carrot-walnut cake. We also were recently at Elle on a weekday morning and saw the prettiest cake we had ever seen in their pastry case. A perfectly smooth, symmetrical cake covered with purple and white icing and simply a few blackberries on top. It looked like cake perfection.

Elle blackberry cake in DC

I think that nostalgia is a factor in the great cake revival of 2018. Everyone has memories of eating birthday cake, or baking a cake with their parents. More regionally, you may have memories of Jersey diners and their display cases of innumerable types of cakes.

Pete Wells recently wrote a brilliant article in the New York Times about the proliferation of ice cream sundaes on dessert menus in New York, often as the only dessert. Restaurants claim that this is for nostalgia reasons, but Pete Wells astutely points out that the real reason is likely because anyone can make ice cream and this means that restaurants do not have to hire a pastry chef.

Cakes are also relatively straightforward restaurant desserts. Once the cake is made, it does not take much effort to slice it into individual portions. However, a lot of work goes into making a well-executed cake. How do you find the perfect balance between cake and icing? What is the right flavor combination? How can you blow people away?

I think that cakes have been undervalued for too long. Perhaps because people have eaten it at every birthday party since they were a child, and had so many bland, dried-out examples, that cake gets overlooked. It takes a lot of talent and effort to make these cakes. They can be visually stunning and taste great at the same time.

This is a trend that I hope continues…cakes are not just for birthdays anymore!

Rock n Roll Half Marathon Weekend 2018

Last Saturday, I ran in the Rock n’ Roll DC Half Marathon, my 6th year in a row running this race and my 8th half marathon in total. While I was running through the streets of DC, Marnay and my family hustled all over town to cheer me on. All the running was worth it, since it meant that we could enjoy a fun weekend of eating and celebrating.

Friday

On Friday night, my parents and grandfather came to town and met Marnay and I at Pacci’s in Silver Spring for our traditional dinner. For the last five years, we have eaten at Pacci’s on the night before the big race. Pacci’s is our local Neapolitan pizzeria, and it’s home to some of our favorite pies in the DC area. Eating a La Verace pizza, with buffalo mozzarella, parmesan, olive oil and fresh basil is a great way to energize for a long yet exciting weekend. The other thing we can’t miss at Pacci’s is the prosciutto con melone, a nice mix of salty prosciutto wrapped around sweet melon.

Pacci’s Neopolitan pizzeria in Silver Spring, MD

Saturday

Rise and shine! We woke up at 4:30am in order to gather our gear and prepare for race day. I had a simple breakfast of Eggos and peanut butter, which I eat before every long run. I try to eat and drink the same things before each long run during the training period, to get my body accustomed to it. Since the metro doesn’t open until 7:00am, we ventured out into the cold and took the 70 bus to a Dunkin Donuts in Petworth to hang out and stay warm. Once the metro opened, we took the Green Line to the start along Constitution Avenue.

Meyer family ready for the 2018 DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

Last year’s race was downright frigid, so I knew what type of cold weather I needed to wear for a half-marathon. This year’s race was not in the 20s at the start, more like the mid-30s. Despite the initial cold, the race was sunny and it eventually warmed up to the mid-40s. I’m not going to lie, the race was not easy, despite the fact that I’ve run it six times now. I still enjoyed it, though, and felt very accomplished when I crossed the finish line at RFK.

Paul Meyer running in the 2018 DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

One of the major reasons that I run this race every year, of course, is for brunch afterwards! This year, we stepped things up by having it at All Purpose. Although technically All Purpose calls their weekend midday meal “Lunch”, which I appreciate. I am not big on the sweet, heavy dishes that proliferate most brunch menus.

All Purpose brunch in DC

When I first looked at the lunch menu, alllll I wanted was PIZZA. However, Marnay smartly pointed out that since we had pizza the night before, we should mix things up. Boy, am I glad we did! I was absolutely obsessed with All Purpose’s crispy eggplant and mozzarella sandwich. It all starts with the housemade bread, hearty and substantial but not too crispy. Then comes garlicky aioli, melted fresh mozzarella, tomato sauce and the crispiest eggplant cutlet ever.

We weren’t done, though. Oh no. We also got the Buona pizza, with tomato, mozzarella, pepperoni, chili honey, basil and a sprinkle of grana Padano. The best part was the way the sweet honey played off of the spicy pepperoni. We rounded things out with crispy fried brussels sprouts and a roasted beet “Greek” salad. A great meal to celebrate a day full of excitement.

All Purpose Buona pizza

Sunday

Since we ran all over DC the day before, we were still plenty hungry for Sunday brunch. Since we were going to Brookland for a wine class this afternoon (stay tuned), Marnay and I ate at Brookland Pint. Brookland Pint, which is known for its great local beer selection and pub grub, is a place that we frequent for drinks but not always food.

I was happy to see a Diner Burger on the menu, which is part of a larger trend of restaurants serving thinner, more management burger patties. I really don’t want a ½ pound or ¾ pound burger—a nice thin patty will do, thank you. I was pleased with my burger at Brookland Pint, topped with bacon and an over easy egg. As I picked up the burger, the egg broke and spilled delicious yolk everywhere. Marnay was also happy with her scrambled eggs and potatoes.

Brookland Pint Diner Burger in DC

The real reason we were in Brookland that morning was to take a wine class at Wardman Wines, an excellent wine store. The class, which is held about once per month, is called “An Intro to Wine: How to Love Your Palate.” It takes an analytical approach to wine, and while it is judgement-free and good for beginners, it’s already great for people who know about wine but who could always learn more.

Wardman Wines wine class in Brookland

The weekend of the Rock n’ Roll Marathon is always one of my favorite of the year, and this year was no exception. While the race is hard work and takes months of preparation, there are plenty of great food experiences to look forward to!

Ultimate Annapolis Adventure

On a Saturday morning, Marnay and I had a wild, car-free adventure in Annapolis. We saw some cool sights, got lots of exercise and had some great food and drink.

Traditionally when we go to Annapolis, we rent a Zipcar and drive there and back. This unfortunately limits what we are able drink. This time, we came up with the genius idea to get from Silver Spring to Annapolis without driving. We took the F4 Metrobus from Silver Spring to New Carrollton and then took a Lyft the rest of the way to downtown Annapolis, all for considerably less than the price of a Zipcar.

Annapolis capital

We arrived in Annapolis around noon and had brunch at Metropolitan Kitchen, one of our go-to spots for a solid meal. Metropolitan Kitchen is more known for their great craft beer selection and their nightlife than their food, but it was nice to get some traditional brunch food to start our long day.

Metropolitan Kitchen brunch in Annapolis

I had recently been in Annapolis for work, so I played tour guide and showed Marnay around some of the historic buildings. The State House, for example, is where George Washington resigned his military commission and became a private citizen. The original handwritten copy of his speech is on display in a replica of a room where the speech occurred.

After some walking, we were ready for a pick-me-up so we headed to Ceremony Coffee Roastery, in a semi-industrial area on the western edge of downtown. Ceremony is one of the most respected coffee roasters in the region and this is their original spot. They now have multiple cafes in Baltimore and Annapolis. Because the location is off the beaten path, it feels like a calm space in the otherwise crowded downtown Annapolis. We sat outside on this unseasonably warm afternoon, drank some nitro cold brew and planned the rest of the day.

Ceremony Coffee Roastery in Annapolis

There’s another part of Annapolis that I consider to be our little secret and that is the Spa Creek Trail. It starts near Ceremony, winds its way along Spa Creek behind a school and then eventually ends in a neighborhood. Once we arrived in the neighborhood, we took a short detour to Amos Garrett Park, a secluded alcove with incredibly peaceful water views.

Amos Garrett Park water view in Annapolis

Hungry, we walked back into downtown and hit up Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls. I devoured a Connecticut Roll, with lots of butter and no mayo, while Marnay ate a surprisingly good hot dog.

Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls in Annapolis

Ready for a drink, we walked across Main Street to Dry 85, the premier bar in Annapolis. Dry 85 has an incredible whiskey program, right up there with the best bars in DC. Marnay and I bellied up to the bar and enjoyed some well-made Vieux Carres and Sazeracs, in preparation for our upcoming trip to New Orleans.

Dry 85 cocktails, Vieux Carres and Sazeracs

All of this fun was leading up to our 7pm dinner at Flamant, a brand new French-Belgian restaurant from chef Frederik De Pue located in West Annapolis that has been garnering ample attention from local food writers. Flamant immediately grabbed our attention with its magnificent outdoor fire pit, perfect for this cold winter night. Very similar to Vin 909, Flamant is in a historic Craftsman house. Unlike Vin 909, Flamant takes reservations, meaning we don’t have to wait in line at some unreasonably early hour.

Flamant Salmon Rillette

Our favorite part of dinner at Flamant was that all of our small plates; the Maryland Blue Crab Rolls, the Salmon Rillette and the Cauliflower Strudel tasted exactly like their main ingredients. This seems like an obvious thing, but I mean that the crab actually received top billing in the crab rolls and the salmon flavor in the rillete was intense and not overpowered by the crème fraiche. The Old Bay gin dip for the crab rolls was a particularly nice touch. We rounded everything out with a tender, buttery roasted chicken. We watched as the chef torched a thyme sprig nestled on top the chicken from a window inside the partially open kitchen. The chef and I shared a knowing glace as he torched it – our eyes expressing something along the lines of, “This is going to be really good.” Service was professional, which was impressive because it can be tough to get fine-dining quality servers this far from a major city. Flamant is definitely a winner.

Flamant Cauliflower Strudel

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Blue Crab Rolls

Places we visited
Metropolitan Kitchen & Lounge: 175 West Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Ceremony Coffee Roasters: Roastery: The Warehouse, 90 Russell Street #500 Annapolis, MD 21401
Amos Garrett Waterfront Park: 101 Spa View Avenue Annapolis, MD 21401
Mason’s Famous Lobster Rolls: 188 Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Dry 85: 193 B Main Street Annapolis, MD 21401
Flamant: 17 Annapolis Street Annapolis, MD 21401

2017 Year in Review

2017 has been a great year for us. We have been to many places, both near and far, and had so many delicious meals. Marnay and I asked each other questions about our favorites of 2017. We did not consult each other on the answers, we came up with them on our own. Any similarities are pure coincidence!

What was your favorite meal of 2017?

Paul – My favorite meal was our second visit to Tail Up Goat. The service was perfection, the wine was incredible and the food was superb.

Marnay – One of my favorite parts about dining out is the full experience – the decor of the restaurant, the friendliness of the staff, the level of detail the chef puts on the food they are preparing. All of these elements came together to perfection during our second trip to Tail Up Goat this past spring. The service was incredible, the food was delicious and we got some special treatment from the sommelier which is always a plus!

Tail Up Goat

What was your favorite bar of 2017?

Paul – I love everything about Clavel, the mezcal and taco restaurant in Baltimore. It is my happy place.

Marnay – Clavel. This bar made me fall in love with mezcal, especially when paired with some of their incredible cochinita pibil tacos.

Clavel mezcal in Baltimore

Which restaurant do you want to visit again in 2018?

Paul – Tail Up Goat. At this point, it’s my favorite all around restaurant.

Marnay – Woodberry Kitchen, in Baltimore. We haven’t been there in over a year, but I am excited to go back. We always have a great meal and I love that they only use local ingredients.

Woodberry Kitchen

What was your favorite food/restaurant-related experience?

Paul – My favorite food experience was eating tacos al pastor from the streetside counter at Antojitos la Chiapaneca in Tulum, Mexico. Can’t get any more authentic than that.

Marnay – We have been searching for the best tacos in the DC-area for years and have found some gems (Clavel, Taqueria Habanero). But we were fortunate enough to eat tacos in Mexico at a local spot in Tulum, and it was an out-of-this-world experience. Tacos will never be the same – until our next trip to Mexico!

Antojitos la Chiapaneca tacos

Which restaurant surprised you the most?

Paul – Q by Peter Chang. We really like Peter Chang Bistro in Rockville, but Q is noticeably more polished than Peter Chang, in all aspects.

Marnay – Q by Peter Chang. We’ve stopped by for their dim sum brunch at least 4 times over the past few months and I can’t get over how fresh and flavorful every dish is. I have never had a bite I didn’t like!

Q by Peter Chang dim sum

What was your favorite meal in Silver Spring?

Paul – My favorite meal in Silver Spring was at the casual noodle and dumpling shop NaiNai’s. Although we mainly use it for takeout, it was so much fun to actually sit down and drink a glass of wine with our bao and noodles.

Marnay – We are lucky to live in walking distance to some incredible and diverse restaurants. It’s hard to pick one favorite meal, but the meal I keep thinking about is the chicken buss-up-shut at Teddy’s Roti Shop, just over the DC border in Shepherd Park. But it’s so close it’s basically Silver Spring.

NaiNai's in Silver Spring, Maryland

What was your favorite meal outside of the DC-area?

Paul – Our meal at Metzger Bar & Butchery in Richmond back in February. We were introduced to their schnitzel, which is now one of our favorite restaurant dishes of all-time.

Marnay – There is something magical about eating a nice, long, relaxing lunch while on vacation in a new city. This year, that leisurely lunch took place at Maurice in Portland, Oregon. It’s hard to beat sipping on some wine while sitting at the counter watching the chef prepare some incredible French-Danish dishes right in front of you.

Tail Up Goat

What is your favorite recipe to make at home?

Paul – Avocado toast with cumin oil and a fried egg: this is one of our go-to dinners and it’s just so good! The creamy avocado, the spice from the cumin and the richness of the runny egg yolk.

Marnay – Spaghetti with bacon, capers and mint: it’s a great year-round dish and we always have plenty of leftovers for lunch the next day.

Spaghetti with bacon, capers and mint recipe

Here’s a list of our favorites. Go ahead and give them a try!

Clavel – 225 West 23rd Street Baltimore, MD 21211
Woodberry Kitchen – 2010 Clipper Park Road Baltimore, MD 21211
Tail Up Goat – 1827 Adams Mill Road, NW Washington, DC 20009
NaiNai’s Noodle and Dumpling Bar – 1200 East-West Highway Silver Spring, MD 20910
Teddys Roti Shop – 7304 Georgia Avenue, NW Washington, DC 20012
Metzger Bar & Butchery – 801 N 23rd Street Richmond, VA 23223
Maurice – 921 SW Oak Street Portland, OR 97205
Q by Peter Chang – 4500 East-West Highway, #100 Bethesda, MD 20814

Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard and Oregon Pinot Noir

This blog is mainly about restaurant reviews, but most nights you can find us cooking at home. We love to cook, and we love it even more if there is a bottle of wine involved! When we were in Oregon last month, we visited the Domaine Drouhin winery and took home a bottle of the 2014 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir. I was flipping through October’s Food and Wine magazine when I found the perfect dish to pair it with: Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard.

Food & Wine Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard recipe

Now, let’s step back. You may have heard that red wine and fish do not go together. Not so! Salmon is meaty and oily, so it can easily stand up to a medium-bodied red like pinot noir.

Before we started cooking, we had a glass (or two) of the wine. The wine has a ruby red appearance, with notes of vanilla, oak and baking spices. At 14.1% alcohol, it packs a punch, but is still well-balanced.

2014 Domaine Drouhin Dundee Hills Pinot Noir wine

The recipe we are presenting here serves four people. Since we were just making dinner for the two of us, we cut everything in half. The recipe is simple and can be broken down into three elements: making the vinaigrette, sautéing the chard and searing the salmon.

Vinaigrette:
Combine 2 tablespoons champagne vinegar, 2 tablespoons chopped tarragon, 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard and ¼ cup olive oil in a bowl and whisk away, then season with salt and pepper. The tarragon is important, since some of the most prominent flavors of the dish are going to be produced by the herb.

Marnay cooking Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard

Chard:
Chard stems are thick and similar to celery. After thoroughly washing the chard, tear the leaves, leaving only the stems. Put the leaves aside and then cut the stems into 2-inch pieces. Next, prepare your aromatics: mince 2 cloves of garlic and 1 large shallot. Since the chard stems are thick, you will want to sauté them first. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the chard stems with the shallot and garlic for 5 minutes. Once your kitchen smells like garlic and the stems are softened, add the chard and cook for another 3 minutes. The final step is to add half of your vinaigrette to the saucepan plus salt and pepper. That vinaigrette is going to bring big flavor!

Salmon:
Last up is the centerpiece of the dish, the crisp-skinned salmon. You will want about 5 to 6 ounce of salmon per person. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and heat it up over medium high heat. A non-stick pan is best for this so that there are no concerns about losing the skin. Once it’s hot, add the salmon skin-side down. Make sure you press down on the salmon! You need to do this so that all of the skin touches the pan and has a chance to get crispy. And you want crispy skin, right?!? After 3 minutes, flip the salmon and cook for another 3 minutes until just cooked through. If your salmon is on the thicker side, cook for another minute.

Paul cooking Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard

When it’s done, serve up the salmon with the chard and pour the rest of the vinaigrette over everything. You also could just pour the vinaigrette over the salmon, since the chard already received its vinaigrette. The earthy Oregon pinot noir pairs well with the salmon and does not overpower it with fruit. Pinot noirs from Oregon have more in common with the subtle pinot noirs from Burgundy, rather than the fruit bombs from Napa and Sonoma. There’s a time and place for the California pinot noir, it’s just not right now.

Homemade Crispy Salmon with Wilted Chard and Oregon Pinot Noir

If you aren’t able to find Domain Drouhin Pinot Noir, feel free to get another Williamette Valley Pinot Noir. If you can find one from the Dundee Hills subregion, even better. Doing a quick online search, I saw that this exact wine is available at Calvert Woodley, across from the Van Ness metro station, along with a few other Dundee Hills wines.

Now that you’ve finished cooking, all that’s left for you is to enjoy your meal and drink your wine. Cheers!

Looking for more recipe posts? Check out our Pinot Noir-Braised Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes recipe.

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

5 Best Pizzerias in the DMV

In our household, we like pizza. A lot. Part of this is due to the fact that we each grew up in pizza-crazy regions of the country (New Jersey and Philadelphia, respectively) and part has to do with the fact that pizza makes a relatively inexpensive night out. After living in the DC-area for the last five years, our taste in pizza has changed from New York style to Neapolitan, but when it comes down to it, a good pizza transcends styles.

Without further ado, here is our list of the top five pizzerias in the DMV. Note that it’s not in order, because they are all excellent!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno graces our list having the “chefiest” pizzas around, made by former Oval Room executive chef Tony Conte. You will do well with a classic margherita, but this is the place to load-up on top-notch toppings and well-thought out pizza-creations. One of our favorites was a summertime special – a shrimp sausage pizza with sweet corn, smoked parmesan and basil. Don’t forget to end your meal with soft serve ice cream!

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana soft serve ice cream

Frankly Pizza

Frankly Pizza is the place for pork. That’s because chef-owner Frank Linn makes his own bacon and sausage The crust is thicker than the other pizzerias on this list and the tomato sauce is a touch sweeter. It’s liberally applied, but not excessive. The Porky Marge is the best way to experience Frankly Pizza, with mozzarella, bacon, basil, tomato sauce and a light topping of romano cheese. The restaurant has a very small selection other than pizza, so you may want to try multiple pies while you are here, along with a housemade soda.

Frankly Pizza Porky Marge

Pizzeria Vetri

Our award for best crust goes to Philadelphia-import Pizzeria Vetri. The crispness and char are something to behold. We like to wash it down with a beer or wine, both on draft. Since the crispiness of the crust makes for a lighter pie, we have plenty of room to pair it with a rotolo, a cinnamon roll-looking creation filled with ricotta, mortadella and pistachio pesto.

Pizzeria Vetri neapolitan pizza

Pizzeria Vetri pistachio rotolo

Pizza CS

Pizza CS, in the Twinbrook section of Rockville, has taken the time to earn VPN-certification, making pizzas to the exacting standards of the international Neapolitan pizza organization. This is the place to go when you’re in the mood for an absolutely textbook Neapolitan pizza. Pizza CS is good for kids, since it’s a counter-order spot with plenty of space of kids to run around. Other than pizza, there are a few basic salads to choose from, so come to CS to get your pizza-fix. Plus, there’s foosball.

Pizza CS

Pizza CS

Pacci’s
Pacci’s is our neighborhood pizzeria and we feel fortunate that we have it in walking distance. The pies here are Neapolitan and margherita is your best bet if it’s your first visit. Our favorite, however, is the La Diavola, which really brings the heat. That traditional Neapolitan base is then topped with copious slices of spicy Neapolitan salami. If it’s nice out, ask to sit on their large outdoor patio. The experience is worth it.

Pacci’s La Diavola Pizza

I hope that you enjoyed our list! What are you favorite pizzerias? They don’t even have to be in the DMV – a great pizza is something worth traveling for!