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

Advertisements

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!

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

Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon Weekend

I ran the DC Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon this past weekend. While this is my 5th year in a row running the race, I have never had to run it in weather this cold. At the starting line, the temperature was in the 20s. In March! I wore three shirts, two layers of pants, a hat and gloves on a day I normally wear a t-shirt and shorts. Marnay, my parents and my grandfather braved the cold to cheer me on at the start and then met me at the midway point in Woodley Park. There is a picture of me at the midway point that they took — if you look closely, you can see a layer of frost on my hat.

Paul running the DC Rock n Roll Half Marathon

I had been training for months and felt well prepared, but this was a tough day to run. Still, I felt proud of myself for sticking it out! I actually ended up with a PR (personal record), beating last years’ time by 3 minutes!

Pizzeria Vetri

It was so cold outside so we didn’t linger at the finish line at RFK. I brought snacks with me on the run, but they all froze! I had seen a sign at mile 12 that said “keep going, you’re only 1 mile from brunch!”, and MAN did that make me hungry. Once I got through the runner finish line area, we headed right for the metro and made our way to Pizzeria Vetri, one of our favorite pizza spots.

Pizzeria Vetri

We started with a rotolo, a Pizzeria Vetri invention, which looks like a savory cinnamon roll made of pizza dough. The dough is stuffed with ricotta and mortadella, rolled, baked in the pizza oven and topped with pistachio pesto. The use of pistachios really took us back to our time in Milan. Another item that reminded us of Milan is Pizzeria Vetri’s simple prosciutto cotto calzone, cooked up in their 650 degree wood-fired oven. We rounded things out with their incredibly light and crispy margherita pizza. Even though I was really hungry, we had plenty of leftovers.

Pizzeria Vetri rotolo

Pizzeria Vetri prosciutto cotto calzone

Pizzeria Vetri margherita pizza

Hill Prince

We continued the celebration on Sunday by checking out the brand new Hill Prince on H Street NE, from the group responsible for DGS and Whaley’s. The narrow space is a former horse stable and it is simply a modest bar with two to three communal tables in the back and one small table in the front by the windows. There’s no kitchen, so they serve snacks, mainly from local restaurants. All cocktails are $10 or less, which I have noticed becoming a trend in the DC area at places like Ten Tigers Parlour and Colada Shop.

Hill Prince

I enjoyed a well-made Americano, made sweet by swapping out Campari for Cappelletti, which is on the sweeter end of Italian bitter liquors. Meanwhile, Marnay had a classic Aviation, with gin, maraschino liquor, crème de cassis (instead of crème de violette) and lemon.

The star of the show at Hill Prince, though, was our bartender Tony. He was incredibly friendly and talkative and genuinely a nice guy. He even took us on a tour of the place, showing us the back patio where they plan on opening a second bar when it gets warm out. We usually don’t get this type of treatment at bars.

Hill Prince cocktails

The combination of well-made drinks, a cool atmosphere and incredible service makes it likely that we will become regulars at Hill Prince. In fact, we went back on Wednesday with a group of friends for happy hour.

Best Bite
Paul: Margherita pizza
Marnay: Rotolo

Places we visited
Pizzeria Vetri: 2221 14th Street, NW Washington, DC 2009
Hill Prince: 1337 H Street, NE Washington, DC 20002

Sauce Milan Food Tour

We just returned from an incredible vacation where we spent time in Iceland, Switzerland and Italy.  The highlight of the trip, though, was our food tour of Milan, Italy.   We learned about the food tours by reading Sauce Milan, a local food blog we found during our travel research.

Marnay and Paul in Milan, Italy

Our tour guide was Simone Muzza, a food writer for Zero magazine, which covers Milan and the surrounding region.  We met Simone at Pasticceria Panzera, a local café.  It is important to note that cafes in Italy are constantly changing throughout the day. They are like coffee shops in the morning, bars during lunch and the early evening and sometimes they offer dinner at night.  We ordered cappuccinos and pastries.  Since Italy is known for pistachios, I ordered a pistachio croissant (brioche in Italy) with pistachios from Sicily which was incredible!  We learned from Simone that you are supposed to dip your croissant in the cappuccino.  We also learned that no one in Italy drinks cappuccino after 11, which is why he had us meet him at 10:00.  The only people that drink cappuccino after 11 are tourists!

pistachio croissants at Pasticceria Panzera

Next up, we walked over to Eataly.  Marnay and I were both surprised that Simone would take us there since it is an international chain, after all.  Still, Simone explained to us that Milan does not have many supermarkets so Eataly is a way for residents to get fresh produce from local farms.  In turn, it is a way to support local farmers who are putting out great products.  He took us to the butcher area where we could take a look at which meats were local (a lot).  He also took us to the seafood section where we could take a look at the local fish…just kidding, there no local fish in Milan!  Milanese cuisine is full of meat and butter.  They didn’t even have olive oil until after World War II.  When we were walking around the wine section of Eataly looking at the wines of Lombardy and Piedmonte, Simone told us that “red wine is the only real wine.”  It was funny, but it was something that we paid attention to the rest of our time in Milan!

Walking through Eataly made us thirsty, so Simone took us along Corso Como for a midday aperitivo at Zaini.  Zaini is actually a chocolate shop, but a few years ago they decided to get in the cocktail game.  So, they hired one of the best barmen (another Italian term, thanks Simone) in Milan, Flavio Angiolille, to design a menu.  The highlight of our time at Zaini was the crustless open faced sandwiches, known as tramanzzini, that came with the drinks.  The toppings for the bread were: anchovies in olive oil, smoked salmon with cream cheese, tuna with red pepper flakes and gorgonzola with chocolate shavings.  My favorite was the anchovies, Marnay’s was the salmon.  They also gave us green olives, which were so fresh and flavorful.   It’s going to be hard to top them back home.  All of this food was included in the price of the drink!

cocktails at Zaini

We had eaten a lot, but we still had pizza and ice cream left on the tour!  Simone led us to a traditional Milanese pizzeria called Coccinella.  We were reviewing the huge pizza menu when Simone explained that he doesn’t like ordering buffalo mozzarella because there are a lot of cows in the Northern Italy but very few buffalo.  Since we normally gravitate towards buffalo mozzarella, it was an interesting perspective and something that we still think about.  We ordered a margherita with cow’s milk mozzarella and a Calabrese with spicy salami.  We also got a calzone, which in the traditional Milanese fashion comes only with tomato, mozzarella and prosciutto.  Simple but amazing.  Everything was also ridiculously inexpensive, something we greatly enjoyed about staying in Milan.

pizza at Coccinella

Last stop…gelato!  Artico Gelateria Tradizionale is one of the best gelaterias in Milan, according to Simone.  After trying it, we can see why.  The stars of the show were the salted pistachio and the milk chocolate.   Plus, all gelato orders came with a sugar wafer “biscuit”…perfect for scooping!

gelato at Artico Gelateria Tradizionale

The tour lasted over four overs and it involved lots of walking, which made it right up our alley.  We loved the places so much that we went back to almost all of them during the remainder of our time in Milan. In fact, we went to Pasticceria Panzera every morning to get cappuccinos and croissants!  And of course we got there before 11.

Simone was a great host and we recommend the Sauce Milan tour to anyone who goes to Milan. We hope to make it back there soon.

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

Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend

Thursday

On Thursday, we headed to one of our favorite bars in Silver Spring, Scion, for their Right Proper Tap Takeover.   The event was to celebrate Right Proper’s entry into the Montgomery County market, which is certainly a big deal.  The Shaw brewpub just opened up a much larger production brewery in Northeast DC.

The bartender at Scion, Matt, is extremely knowledgeable about beer and a good guy in general.  Scion has a huge beer list and I will usually ask his opinion on what to get.  The bar is a relaxed place, and the atmosphere was still relaxed even though there was a good crowd for the event.  Another thing that Scion has going for it is that it has one of the best patios in Silver Spring, on the large sidewalk fronting East-West Highway.  The food at Scion proper is good, but at the bar you can also order bao (Chinese steamed buns) from their sister restaurant, Nainai’s.  I think that Nainai’s may be one of the best restaurants in Silver Spring for both quality and value.

Friday

As you know, we are both huge foodies.  About three weeks ago, I (Paul) saw one of my favorite food writers mention on twitter that she was at The Classics.  I tweeted back and told her that we’ve lived in Silver Spring for two and a half years and had never even considered it…we’re not really into steaks and it didn’t seem like the kind of place we would like.  She strongly recommended it, though. She said that she and her husband, who is also a food critic, used to go there every Friday until they moved.

Because of her recommendation, we decided to include it in our #ultimatesilverspringweekend.  Boy, are we glad we did. The bartender is this friendly yet curmudgeonly man and he is absolutely perfect for the place. He’s an old fashioned bar tender….the service was amazing, but he also just let us do our thing and didn’t bother us unless we wanted his attention.  We ordered a New York Strip Steak, cooked to a perfect medium. As I mentioned earlier, we are not big steak eaters, but we devoured this.  It was just the right amount of food for two people to be full afterwards.

We were finished up dinner, getting ready to leave, when guess who walks in?  M. Carrie Allan, the Washington Post spirts columnist who I had tweeted at three weeks ago! I froze, starstruck.  She came and sat at the other end of the bar.  We had already gotten the check at this point but I told the bartender that we had a change of plans.  We ordered another drink and who walks in but Tim Carman, the Washington Post food writer who sometimes fills in for Tom Sietesma as head food critic! Alas, we did not get a chance to talk to them. But it just shows what an interesting and fun place Silver Spring is!

Saturday

On Saturdays, first thing upon waking up we like to walk across the street to Bump ‘n Grind.  We will normally get two drip coffees to go as well as two biscuits, which are made at La Mano in Takoma Park.   We then take the biscuits and make sandwiches with them at home.  Bump ‘n Grind has recently starting showing soccer games on a large projector screen, which has drawn crowds the last few times I was there.

Later in the afternoon, we went for a walk to focus on the parks of Silver Spring.  We actually went on part of my running route and it was nice to be able to appreciate the scenery instead of flying by.  First stop was the surprisingly large Woodside Park, just on the edge of downtown at the corner of Spring and Georgia.  Next, we made our way through the Woodside neighborhood to connect with the Sligo Creek Trail, an incredible resource to have so close.  We walked all the way to Kemp Mill, basically to the northern end of the trail.  Exhausted and hungry, we sat in the parking lot of a shopping center and ate food from CVS, the only thing open.  Kemp Mill has a large Orthodox Jewish population, so almost everything was closed on Saturday.

We took the 9 Ride on Bus back to downtown and got some delicious black bass from Whole Foods to cook for dinner.  Whole Foods is another great resource to have in walking distance.

Sunday

Sunday was our Pete’s New Haven Apizza day.  We ordered three personal pizzas to share so that we would have lots of leftovers for dinner on Monday.   We got the Staven, with pepperoni, hot sausage, roasted garlic, caramelized onions and hot cherry peppers, the Margherita and the Merritt Parkway (named after the highway in Connecticut), with prosciutto, Kalamata olives, caramelized onions, basil and olive oil.  Mmm, my mouth is watering right now just thinking about the Staven!  The Silver Spring food scene is embarrassment of riches.  We went to a lot of different restaurants on our Silver Spring weekend, but it would take a lot longer than a weekend to visit all of the good spots.

After we finished, we went home to drop off the pizza and then walked on the Sligo Creek Trail again, this time towards Takoma Park.  At Maple Ave, we started walking towards Philadelphia Ave and then hopped on the F4 Metrobus back to Silver Spring.  We got off at Veterans Plaza to pick up a few more things at Whole Foods.

We had a lot of fun on our Ultimate Silver Spring Weekend.  We learned  about some new things, like the Classics, but it also helped us appreciate the things we have nearby and that we may take for granted.   Silver Spring is an incredible place and we are happy to call it home!

Places we visited
Scion: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
The Classics: 8606 Colesville Rd, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Bump ‘n Grind: 1200 East-West Hwy, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Woodside Park: 8800 Georgia Avenue. Silver Spring, MD 20910
Whole Foods: 833 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910
Pete’s New Haven Style Pizza: 962 Wayne Ave, Silver Spring, MD 20910

Vin 909 Winecafe

On Sunday morning we got a Zipcar and took a day trip to Annapolis.  After a day full of walking and light eating, were hungry.  That is to say, there was no better place to be in Annapolis than Vin 909.  Now, you will have to wait outside before the 5:00pm opening—the restaurant does not take reservations.   Still, this is not a Rose’s Luxury type line either.  It is very reasonable and it’s no place to shy away from just because there may be a line.

We were one of the first people in line when we arrived at 4:40.  As a result, we were able to snag two of the four stools at the chef’s counter, facing the open kitchen.  (Interestingly, were seated next to two guys we had been sitting next to at the bar at Preserve a few minutes earlier).   Vin 909 has a concise menu and is known for its small plates.  In fact, there are no traditional entrée sized dishes on the menu.  The choices are salads, small plates and pizzas.  I am not sure that the tiny kitchen in this former Sears Craftsman home could handle much more than that.

We started with the local dayboat sea scallops from Cape May with hand ground polenta, pickled ramp puree and sea urchin sauce.  The seared scallops were some the best we have ever had, golden on the outside and soft on the inside.  The polenta was rich, made even richer by the sea urchin sauce.  We had the added benefit of watching our scallops prepared right in front of us.

Vin 909 makes “Eastport” style pizzas, named after the neighborhood of Annapolis where the restaurant is located.  This style of pizza is rectangular and extremely thin, with a nice char on the crust.  It’s more than enough for two people.   We ordered the “OMG”, which looked like the epitome of spring.  It had local Berkshire speck, asparagus, spring onion, cumin spiced olives, three types of cheeses and chive oil.  Despite seeming like an odd combination, all the ingredients went extremely well together.

Our busy server abandoned us for a while after we finished the pizza, but we were able to order our dessert from one of the runners who came for our plates.  There was a lot of teamwork on display among the staff members.  It seemed like they genuinely wanted the restaurant to succeed.

We finished up with a light and airy butterscotch pudding, served with homemade caramel cookies for scooping.  A sweet end to a delicious meal.

Best Bite
Marnay: the the “OMG” Pizza
Paul: the “OMG” Pizza

Address
Vin 909 Winecafe: 909 Bay Ridge Ave Annapolis, MD 21403

2Amys

We have been to many Neapolitan pizzerias in the regions–It’s easily one of our favorite foods.  In fact, this is the third one that we are writing about for this blog. In our opinion, 2Amys is the best all-around Neapolitan pizzeria in the DC area. Relaxed, friendly service, authentic , VPN-certified pizzas and an incredible selection of gourmet small plates.

2Amys is in Cathedral Heights, roughly between Tenleytown and Cleveland Park.  The easiest metro station to access it from is Tenleytown. The downstairs dining room gets pretty crowded, so we ate in the more subdued and smaller upstairs dining room. The wine list looked solid and the beer list was short but well-curated.  We abstained, as this was a late lunch for us and we were planning on drinking later with dinner. On the flip side is what makes 2Amys special; an extensive list of gourmet small plates.

We chose the salt cured sardines with bread and butter, prosciutto san Danielle and smoked salmon with goat cheese crostini. The salty sardines had no fishy taste at all and they went beautifully with the creamy butter and the crusty bread. The salmon was paired with very mild goat cheese on toast, the same bread as the sardines. The salmon was thicker than normal smoked salmon which gave it a nice chew.

The pizza was a quality Neapolitan pizza, although it was overshadowed by the small plates.  That is more a comment on how good the small plates are than a knock on the pizzas.  We ate the prosciutto with the pizza, at times together.  The prosciutto is not housemade, but it was among the better that we’ve had.

The server gave us absolutely no pressure to order a certain amount of dishes. I wish 2Amys was a little closer, because I have a feeling we will be back very soon!

Best Bite
Paul: Salt cured sardines with bread and butter
Marnay: Smoked salmon and goat cheese crostini

Address
2Amys: 3715 Macomb St NW, Washington, DC 20016
Closest Metro: Cleveland Park