2 Amy’s / Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

2 Amys

We have been writing this blog long enough that we are starting to revisit some earlier restaurants. It’s always good to check in with an old favorite every now and then to see if they are still putting out quality dishes. This past weekend, we went to both 2 Amys and Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana.

2 Amys Paul

Our assessment of 2 Amys remains the same: the crazy good small plates steal the show from the good but not quite as amazing pizzas. The last time we went to 2 Amys it was winter, so this time the ever-changing small plates menu was full of spring produce. The radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt” was an example of a spring menu item, as ramps have a very short window. I tasted the butter on its own and got a hit of garlicky, oniony flavor from those ramps mellowed out by the creamy room-temperature butter. The ramp butter on housemade bread, topped with radish slices rolled in salt was one of my favorite dishes of the month and something we would happily order again. Another winner: Cantabrian anchovies, which are from the northern coast of Spain, on top of the same housemade bread with a dollop of butter.

2 Amys radishes with ramp butter and “sexy salt”

A surprise hit was a salad of orange-segments splayed out on a plate and simply topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives. The salt and pepper topping was an effective way to bring out the flavors of the oranges.

2 Amys salad of orange-segments topped with sliced red onions, olives and chives

After all these incredible small plates, the pizza was almost anti-climactic. We ordered the special of the day, which was tender squid, green tomato sauce, ramps, parsley and hot pepper. We could taste the hot pepper, for sure, and the squid would have been great on its own or as a small plate. But the (intentionally) floppy authentic Neapolitan crust could not hold the ingredients. It was a mess. And it could have used some salt.

2 Amys pizza

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana is in Gaithersburg, which is not that easy to access from Silver Spring if you don’t have a car. As a result, we decided to make a day out of it. We started with brunch at Peter Chang in Rockville and then biked to Downtown Crown in Gaithersburg. We walked around the mixed-use neighborhood and then sat outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer.

Marnay outside drinking refreshing local beers at Downtown Crown Wine and Beer

The last time we went to Inferno, it was late summer, and as such our favorite dishes involved sweet corn. This time, we made sure to hit anything involving asparagus, rhubarb or strawberries. A creamy orb of burrata sat on top of sweet and sour strawberry-rhubarb puree that tasted like sorbet and was a welcome start to a fantastic meal. Another hit was tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts. A large plate of this would make for a hearty vegetarian meal. Ember roasted beets, on the other hand, were a little too one-note (vinegar).

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana tender roasted asparagus with sauces of black truffle and egg yolk, topped with crunchy hazelnuts

The pie de resistance (get it?) was artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja, that spicy spreadable salami that is having its moment right now. The nduja came in big chunks and it brought some welcome heat and texture to the pizza. In general, whenever I think of artichokes, I think of the artichoke hearts in a jar sitting in a salty brine. These, on the other hand, brought freshness and lightness to the pizza. It didn’t hurt that the crust was able to hold the ingredients much better than our pizza from 2Amys.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana artichoke with San Marzano tomatoes, fior di latte mozzarella and nduja

Not only did we get dessert, we went all out and got one dessert each. A root beer float transported me back to childhood days at Sundae’s Sweet Shop in Branchburg, NJ. This time the float was upgraded with housemade vanilla soft-serve and Sprecher’s root beer, from Wisconsin. I did not think I was going to be able to finish even half of it, but it was just so good I inhaled the whole thing. We also couldn’t go to Inferno without getting the soft-serve special. On this day, it was wildflower-honey with a strawberry rhubarb topping.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana ice cream

We ate extremely well at both 2Amys and Inferno. While there were some very minor hiccups among the food, service was excellent at both and we would happily go back again and again.

Best Bite
2 Amys
Paul: Radishes and ramp butter
Marnay: Orange salad

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana
Paul: Artichoke pizza
Marnay: Soft-serve

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R. House

On a cold, windy Saturday we took the MARC train to Baltimore for a bit of an adventure. Unbeknownst to us, we went on the day of the Army-Navy football game. But unlike approximately 90% of the people on the train, we weren’t headed for the football stadium once we arrived in Baltimore. No, we were headed to R. House, a stadium for people who love good food.

R. House

R. House is a brand new food hall located in the Remington neighborhood, a rapidly changing neighborhood north of Penn Station and on the western edge of Charles Village and Johns Hopkins University. The building is a former car showroom, with large windows and garage doors for warmer weather. Inside, the layout is similar to a mall food court, with 11 stalls and a large amount of seating in the middle.

White Envelope

We knew that we wanted arepas, so we started out at White Envelope. White Envelope is named after the cornmeal pocket that serves as the vehicle for their many different filling combinations. The Vegano, which I ordered, come with a reddish-pink bun, made that color by the beets incorporated in the dough. It’s then filled with Venezuelan falafel, spicy butternut squash puree and purslane. The squash puree was the best part, as it added moisture and sweetness.

R. House White Envelope

Marnay tried El Cerdo Ilustrado, “The Literate Pig.” Folded inside of the cornmeal pocket was shredded roast pork leg with tomato, arugula and lime mayo. Marnay said that this arepa compared favorably to some of her favorite tacos. She also said that it would not be the same without the lime mayo, and I agree. While there are similarities between arepas and tacos, the thick cornmeal bun of arepas screams for some sort of moisture.

R. House White Envelope arepa

While we were seated on a long communal bench eating our arepas, something amazing happened. A server from R. Bar, R. House’s centrally located bar, gave us a drink menu and then took our order on an iPad. The roving server thing was the most groundbreaking part of R. House, for me. I could have easily had five glasses of the Apple Milk Punch, with brandy, apple cider, lime and cinnamon syrup. Meanwhile, Marnay’s gin-and Campari-based Lady Remington had a little too much Campari to be a balanced drink.

R. Bar cocktails

Arba

Still quite hungry, we checked out Arba, an Israeli/Palestinian street food stall. Arba means “four” in both Arabic and Hebrew. The Syrian Cheese, which is pan-seared halloumi, was our best bite at Arba and my favorite bite of the day. The pan-sear gave it a pleasant crisp and the cheese was buttery but mild.

R. House Arba

We also got crispy breaded eggplant, a good snack. Unfortunately, we had just had Peter Chang’s dry-fried eggplant the night before, and no we eggplant fries can compare to Peter Chang’s.

R. House Arba

BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s

BLK Sugar is a bakery from a local Baltimore artisan and Little Baby’s is an ice cream shop based in the Kensington neighborhood of Northeast Philadelphia, which has slowly been expanding outside of that city. Together, they joined forces at R. House to open BLK Sugar/Little Baby’s. Little Baby’s serves Philadelphia style ice cream, which does not contain eggs. Since we only had ice cream at this stall, we are not going to address BLK Sugar.

After all we had eaten, we still wanted something sweet, which is what drew us to Little Baby’s. Marnay got non-dairy Birch Beer, which tasted so much like a birch beer float, it was uncanny. I got Philadelphia style “plain”, which was a perfectly good vanilla ice cream.

Ground & Griddled

I returned to R. House on Tuesday morning so that I could have a breakfast experience. Ground & Griddled, which serves Stumptown coffee and casual breakfast fare, is the most photogenic stall at R. House, with its bright yellow exterior. The place is run by Dave Sherman, the proprietor of Café Cito in Hampden.

R. House Ground and Griddled

I went with a latte made with housemade nut milk and the Breakfast BLT. The Breakfast BLT, a culinary work of art, is the ideal breakfast to eat while hanging around R. House on a weekday morning. Two slices of ciabatta support the heft of a paprika fried egg, griddled tomatoes, arugula and garlic aioli. The yolk is runny, but not too runny because the ciabatta soaked up much of it. In fact, the sandwich kept its structural integrity quite well thanks to the ciabatta. By the time I got to the end of the sandwich, I only had a few bites of bread left, which tasted like garlic bread thanks to the aioli. There wasn’t any on the sandwich, but I tasted the vinegary heat of Tabasco, most likely because of the paprika.

R. House Ground and Griddled Breakfast BLT

I ate my breakfast at a long communal high-top table and watched the sights and sounds of R. House. I saw prep cooks getting ready for the lunch rush at Amano Taco. I saw the chef from White Envelope walk in the door and talk to Dave Sherman. If all goes well, this could be a launching pad for some of Baltimore’s next great chefs.

Best Bite
Paul: Breakfast BLT
Marnay: El Cerdo Ilustrado arepa

Address
R. House: 301 W 29th St, Baltimore, MD 21211

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

We were feeling adventurous on Sunday so we spent the day biking and walking around Rockville and Gaithersburg.  We used Bikeshare to go from the Rockville Metro to the Medical Center area then explored Downtown Crown.  Downtown Crown is an award-winning New Urbanist community in Gaithersburg, located near the Washingtonian town center.  All the biking and walking that we did got us hungry, so when 5:00pm rolled around we were ready to eat.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana is the new Neapolitan pizzeria from former Oval Room chef Tony Conte. Although he has a fine dining background, he opened the pizzeria so that he could be closer to his family in Gaithersburg. We chose to sit at the chef’s counter right in front of the Marra Forni oven.  Marra Forni ovens, which are made in Beltsville, MD, are internationally known as probably the best Neapolitan pizza ovens in the world.  The menu and kitchen are small, meaning that the restaurant has a short and simple list of small plates, pizzas and desserts.  It also means that the restaurant can focus on what it does well.  And Inferno does a lot well.

We have a format when we go to Neapolitan Pizzerias: one to two small plates and then one pizza.  It’s a format that we have stuck with almost everywhere, including some places reviewed on this blog.  Blown away by the pizza options at Inferno, however, we decided to do the once unthinkable: order one small plate and two pizzas.  The small plate we ordered was prosciutto Americano with melon caponata, slices of cantaloupe and an herb salad.  The herb salad in particular was fantastic and included peppery, flavorful arugula.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Prosciutto Americano with Melon Caponata

We were torn between three different pizzas and trying to decide which to get.  We were about to abandon the corn and shrimp sausage when our server stepped in and strongly suggested that we get it.  Boy, are we glad that we listened to her.   The shrimp sausage pizza came with corn, basil and smoked parmesan and was incredible.  It definitely seems like a pizza that would be best in the summer time, because of the fresh sweet corn.  The smoked parmesan had a ricotta-like taste and consistency.  As we were eating, I actually thought it was ricotta.  The shrimp sausage was a bit lighter than traditional pork sausage and the corn brought a pleasant sweetness to round things out.  I honestly cannot pick my favorite topping because they were all in perfect harmony.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Shrimp Sausage Pizza

Our second pizza was the DOC Margherita, with the traditional Neapolitan ingredients: buffalo mozzarella, San Marzano tomatoes and basil.  The char on the pizza from the Marra Forni over was out-of-this world.  For a traditional Neapolitan pizza like we had, you want a lot of char.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: DOC Margherita

We were certainly full from our two pizzas, but we could not leave Inferno without getting dessert from the soft-serve machine.  The soft-serve of the day was sweet corn with blueberry compote and crumbled cookies.  A sweet way to end an excellent meal.

Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: Sweet Corn Soft-Serve with Blueberry Compote

Best Bite
Paul and Marnay: Shrimp Sausage and Corn Pizza

Address
Inferno Pizzeria Napoletana: 12207 Darnestown Road, Darnestown MD 20878
Closest Metro: Shady Grove, then taxi or Uber

Ultimate Jersey Shore Weekend

Saturday

It seems like we travel somewhere at least every weekend during the summer.  It’s either to see family or to a wedding or, occasionally…for fun!  On Saturday morning, we took an Amtrak train to Philadelphia on our way to visit Marnay’s Mom in Margate, NJ.  Margate is on the same barrier island as Atlantic City, just two small towns to the south.

It takes about 2 hours to get to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. We grabbed a bite to eat in the station and then sat outside at The Porch at 30th ( @theporchat30th ) while we waited for our NJ Transit train.  The Porch at 30th is an urban oasis on the formerly barren sidewalk outside the train station.  It is a beautiful example of placemaking.  They transformed the sidewalk by adding swinging porch chairs, public art, things for little kids to climb and some impressive plants.   I would hang out there on my own even if we weren’t waiting for a train.

The Porch at 30th

When we arrived in Atlantic City, we met two college friends and went to Barrels of Margate, your standard Jersey Italian red sauce joint…the kind of place that we grew up with.

Barrels restaurant, Margate, New Jersey

Afterwards, we headed to the Ocean City boardwalk.  We walked almost the entire thing and made sure to get some famous frozen custard from Kohr Brothers.  The ice cream definitely made up for a so-so dinner.  We walked some more but at 11:00pm everything shuts down in Ocean City, so we knew it was time to head home.

Ocean City boardwalk

Sunday

We woke up and walked to get some bagels from Margate Hot Bagels and coffee from Wawa, which are right next to each other on Ventnor Avenue.  Ventnor Avenue is the “Main Street” of Margate, Ventor and Atlantic City.  I got a sesame bagel with nova and Marnay got an everything with an egg.

Margate Hot Bagels and coffee from Wawa

Fueled by our bagels, we took a 3 mile walk on the beach to Longport, the next town south.  I need to mention how incredible the weather was all weekend.  Low 70s with a sea breeze and not too much sun.  We could have stayed outside the entire day in this weather.

We decided to have lunch at Aversa’s, an Italian Deli on Ventnor Ave.  I got an Italian sub which had amazing housemade bread, but otherwise bland ingredients.  The others had meatballs and said that they were not great, either.

After relaxing, we headed for dinner at the Greenhouse, mainly a spot for pizza and drinking.  Greenhouse is next to the most famous attraction in Margate, Lucy the Elephant…a 65 foot tall elephant!  Lucy was built as a tourist attraction in the 1860s and as a way to generate interest in the area.  Today, she is a National Historic Landmark.

Lucy the Elephant

Margate is very narrow and has the ocean on the east and the bay on the west.  We got delicious ice cream from the Margate Dairy Bar and then walked over to the bay side to enjoy it.  We sat on the dock long after we had finished our ice cream and watched an incredible sunset, along with fireworks from the towns on the other side of the bay.  It was well after dark when we headed home to the apartment.

Monday

On Monday morning we headed home.  We made a quick trip to Wawa for some coffee on the way to the Atlantic City train station and then took NJ Transit to Philadelphia.  Once again, we had lunch on the swinging chairs at the Porch at 30th.  Then, we took Amtrak back to Union Station.  Miraculously, there was no track work on the Red Line and we got a metro to Silver Spring immediately.

NJ Transit: Atlantic City train station

The food on our Ultimate Jersey Shore Weekend was only OK.  But the scenery and the walks were certainly made it an ultimate weekend!  There’s no denying, however, that we were happy to be back in Silver Spring.

Places we visited
The Porch at 30th: 2955 Market St, Philadelphia, PA
Barrels of Margate: 8409 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Kohr Brothers: Wonderland Pier, Ocean City Boardwalk North End, Ocean City, NJ 08226
Margate Hot Bagels: 9414 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Wawa: 9300 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Aversa’s Bakery: 9309 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402
Ventura’s Greenhouse Restaurant: 106 S Benson Ave #106, Margate City, NJ
Margate Dairy Bar: 9510 Ventnor Ave, Margate City, NJ 08402

Bartlett Pear Inn

We stayed in Easton during my birthday weekend, our first trip to this part of the Eastern Shore. I let the restaurant know on the opentable reservation that this was my birthday dinner. When we walked in, the hostess sat us in this little private alcove by the window. Sitting on the table was a “Happy Birthday” envelope and inside was a note signed by every member of the staff! Even the chef! This gesture was only a sign of things to come.

The restaurant is in a historic house and it is very cozy. It really feels like you were invited to a dinner party at someone’s home. The place reminded us of the Kitchen at Rock Hall, a little further up the Eastern Shore, which unfortunately is no longer in existence.

The first thing that I noticed about our server was a jarring lack of polish. I thought about it for a while, and then I remember that this place is on the rural Eastern Shore. There is not exactly a large pool of experienced servers who have worked in a fine dining atmosphere.

We started with a half bottle of Sancerre Sauvignon Blanc from the Loire Valley. A good wine will complement an occasion, and this wine only made the night better. Before we ordered, we were served a house made baguette from the Inn baker, along with butter molded in the shape of a pear and sprinkled with coarse black pepper and salt.

We could not decide on our entrees, so we put in an order for the Duo of Tuna Tartare. Half of the dish was slices of raw tuna crusted in what tasted like Old Bay and then sprinkled with coarse salt. The Old-Bay-like crust was different, but I liked the familiar taste of the spice blend. The coarse salt could have been applied more evenly, however. I got a few bites with no salt.

The other half of the dish was a more traditional tartare, with small chunks of raw tuna in what tasted like a sesame oil marinade. Rounding out the dish were roasted beets in a very light cream sauce, raw almonds and a black and white sesame seed cracker.

All of the dishes at the restaurant are served in the modernist-style, with very small portions and beautiful arrangements. For Marnay’s entrée, she got Rhode Island Sea Scallops with beluga lentils, swiss chard and bacon lardons. The bacon made everything SO deliciously smoky and the large scallops were perfectly seared.

I got the seared duck breast with pickled walnuts, baby greens, pomegranate-quinoa and a cherry dark-chocolate jus. We shared our entrees, each eating about half and were happy with how they came out.

Afterwards, we decided that we had room for dessert. Marnay got a scoop of house made vanilla ice cream, while I opted for a pear liquor. Much to our surprise, the server came out with a chocolate soufflé and crème anglaise! Dessert was incredible and was our favorite part of the meal. The chocolate soufflé with crème anglaise poured in the center may have been my favorite dessert EVER. And the vanilla ice cream had such an intense yet balanced vanilla flavor that I am still thinking about it. Who would have thought, memorable vanilla ice cream!

I want to reserve the last part of this post to talk about how genuinely warm every member of the staff was at the Bartlett Pear Inn. This was a birthday meal that I will not soon forget, and I would go back in a heartbeat next year!

Address
Bartlett Pear Inn: 28 S Harrison St, Easton, MD 21601