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Friday, March 30, 2012

Bonjour French Bakery and Cafe, Mt. Washington

Bonjour French Bakery and Cafe in Mt. Washington is a special place.

Full size and fun size desserts! (pics from Bonjour's website)

It's a place to take out-of-town folks when you have time to sit and chat over a pastry and coffee.  It's a place you come with a friend to gab about life while sharing a small cake.  This is a place where you come to get a special breakfast.  AND on Thursday nights from 5-8PM, it's a place to get some crepes!  Check out their Facebook page for more information about their casual crepe night.

If I am just quickly stopping in, I'll grab an almond pastry to go.  What's not to love about a place that makes their croissants from scratch and fills it with a luxurious almond paste?  There have also been plenty of times when I come, sit down with a cup of coffee, and select one of their mouth-watering mini desserts.

As well as the delectable treats offered at the store, they also do catering for events.  Definitely check them out if you're interested in getting a Croquembouche for your wedding! 

 Croquembouche (pic taken from Bonjour's website)

One recent morning I decided to pop in for something savory.  I ordered a mocha latte ($3+) and a turkey and cheese croissant ($5) for breakfast.  This ended up being an expensive breakfast, yes, but wow was it a special one.

Yes, you are right, that IS a terrible picture of my breakfast

The mocha wasn't too sweet and since it was probably made with some type of French Roast bean, it was quite dark and smoky - I liked it a lot.  The warm (I asked for it to be heated) croissant sandwich was rich, buttery and flaky, and that was just the croissant!  I'm not sure what the cheese was, perhaps gruyere?  But it had gloriously melted over the turkey.  I have never been so full from a breakfast sandwich before!  I could tell that this croissant was made from scratch - it just seemed richer and, well, more calorie-ridden :)  It was great!

I can't say enough about this charming little cafe.  Oh wait, yes I can.

They make their own macarons.

Bonjour on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 23, 2012

Langermann's, Canton

Dan and I went to Langermann's one evening and what a lovely date night it turned out to be!  The Canton restaurant is in a large open space, with plenty of seating in the dining room and around its large bar.  They even have a nice fireplace which I had the fortune to sit by!  They have valet, but there is also a nearby parking garage and plenty of space in the surrounding parking lot - so suburbanites anxious about parallel parking (or is that just me?), do not fret!

Bread Basket of Dreams

First of all, let's talk about the bread basket filled with two large pieces of sweet cornbread and two buttery biscuits.  Way to know how to win over your diners, Langermann's :)  I knew I was in for a good meal after one bite of that sweet cornbread!

Low Country Louie

Thanks to a Facebook suggestion from Minx, I started off the evening with the Low Country Louie ($10.95) - lobster, crayfish, crabmeat, corn coblets all mixed with creole mayonnaise and served in a Martini glass.  What a lovely introduction to this restaurant!!!  There was no skimping on the seafood in this appetizer - it was full of large pieces of crab and lobster.  Though they had a light hand with the mayo sauce, you still need to like mayo to like this dish, but don't worry about it being spicy.  I thought it was a wonderfully refreshing appetizer, and one that would be welcome in the spring and summer months.

Seared Ahi Tuna

Dan ordered the Seared Ahi Tuna ($23.95) jerk seasoned tuna on top of julienned squash, roasted fingerling potatoes and served with a pineapple butter sauce.  He has never ordered seared tuna (served rare) before, but I think this entree alone has made him a convert!  He thought the fish paired excellently with the pineapple butter sauce (don't think of it as a curd, it's chunkier).

Shrimp and Grits

It seemed absolutely necessary for one of us to order the Charleston Shrimp and Grits ($19.95), which is what I always hear about and what our server said is their most popular dish Taken from the menu, it's comprised of shallots, tomatoes, andouillie sausage, buttery clam broth, stone mill grits and large pieces of shrimp gently placed on top of the bowl.  They do not play around with their grits.  These were the creamiest/butteriest grits I've ever had, so I was thankful for the salty tomato and clam broth surrounding the bowl.  I loved to get everything on my spoon for one big bite - a piece of shrimp, sausage, grits and broth.  Exquisite.  They do this dish well, no wonder they are so well known for it!

It may not seem like a large bowl, but by golly I could hardly finish the grits!  They were RICH.  I probably would just order an appetizer version of this (if they have it) next time, because it was very filling for me which was the reason why I so sadly had to skip out before dessert.  THIS WAS SO HARD FOR ME TO DO.  I wanted to try their apple pie because the table next to me ordered it and I'm pretty sure the pie was as big as my face.  I WANT TO EAT THAT PIE.

Someday, I will eat that pie.  I am going back, definitely.

They have a Cocktail Hour Mon-Fri from 5-8PM with $5 appetizers, select wines and martinis and beers.  They also have a Sunday Brunch that looks phenomenal for $15.95 for an entree and a drink (mimosa or orange juice) from 10AM-3PM.

Dan and I loved Langermann's - we both highly recommend it for a date, for a group gathering, for happy hour, for a business meeting - for whatever!  You will enjoy it!

Langermann's on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 16, 2012

Towson Town Center's Restaurants

I was invited* to Towson Town Center to take a "tour" of some of their major eateries: TGIF's, P.F. Chang's, Stoney River and The Cheesecake Factory.  Below are some of my thoughts on each place.

Also, Towson Town Center has been having some special events this month, including one on Saturday March 24th from 1-3PM: Cooking Demo and Wine-Pairing Seminar

  • Local food and wine expert, Laurie Forster "The Wine Coach," will host a cooking demonstration and wine-pairing seminar.
  • Seminars will be held at 1PM, 2PM and 3PM in the Level 1 Grand Court
  • Seminars will include table-side sampling (SAMPLES!!!!!), fun raffles, giveaways and retailer offers.
Follow Towson Town on Facebook to keep up with more events.

P.F. Chang's
(Check out my last review of P.F.Chang's from 2009 here)

At P.F.Chang's we were given some items from their Happy Hour menu to try.  Their Happy Hour is Mon-Fri, 3-6pm.  The prices I have included in this section are from that menu.

Chicken Lettuce Wraps 

I hadn't been to a PFC in a while, so I have to admit that I was excited about trying the Chicken Lettuce Wraps ($6) again.  They are still so good.  The chicken concoction mixed with mushrooms and water chestnuts are good alone, but even better when made into a wrap with crisp lettuce.  Yes, of course you can make this at home, but if you're at the mall shopping - this is definitely a nice appetizer to order while sitting at the bar.

Talking about the bar, we tried two specialty cocktails, an Asian Pear Mojito ($6) and a PFX ($6).  The mojito tasted very similar to the regular, but with a slight hint of the pear.  It was nice and crisp.  The PFX is flavored with passionfruit and hardly tasted like there was any alcohol in it, though I am assuming that is a good and bad thing :)  It is supposed to be modeled after the cosmo.  I liked both!

 Crab Wontons

Dan was fan of their Crab Wontons ($5), which are made with a cream cheesy crab filling and served with a plus sauce.  He remarked on how much crab there was in the wontons, and how well they went with the sauce.  If you feel like something fried, and are tired of the ubiquitous eggroll, these might be the thing for you! 

Stoney River

Stoney River also introduced us to some items from their Happy Hour, which takes place from 4-7pm everyday.  There are some seriously good deals:

This menu is solid, especially because it  lasts until 7pm!  It would be so easy to come here for dinner and make a good meal out of these offerings, not to mention with some nice cheap cocktails!  For a drink, ask the bartender to make you a Lemon Iced Tea Cocktail, which is made with Bacardi Limon, lime, sour mix and some iced tea.  If you like Arnold Palmers, this is the drink for you. If you like tea (me), this is for you (me).

We tried and LOVED the Jack Daniel Whiskey Shrimp ($6).  It was so good and SO buttery.  The sauce is made with Jack Daniel's (obv.) and mustard and oh my the little slices of baguettes were just loaded with butter and the sauce and a jumbo shrimp.  Yes please!

We also tried the mountain of Bleu Cheese Chips ($6), and it really was a mountain (though it's hard to tell from this picture). Though blue cheese is not my favorite kind of cheese, once melted it has a mild flavor to it, so I surprisingly didn't mind this at all.  If you love blue cheese, it would be right up your alley, especially because the chips were perfectly crisp and salted. It would be nice if they had other flavors for the non blue cheese lovers.

The Crunchy Ahu Tuna Roll ($7) was also quite tasty, especially when dipped in the accompanying soy ginger sauce.  Sesame seeds and breadcrumbs give the roll its crunchiness.

TGI Friday's

Guinness Stout Milkshake from TGIF (sample size)

There are two new drinks for St. Patrick's Day: the Irish Rita (made with whiskey, sour apple, midori and margarita mix) and the Guinness Stout Milkshake (Guinness with vanilla ice cream and chocolate syrup).  Their Irish Rita was way too sour for my liking, but the Guinness Milkshake was surprisingly tasty, and I don't even like Guinness!

All in all, I am simply not a fan of this place.  The dishes were dirty, the food tasted unhealthy and it's really just not my kind of atmosphere for a restaurant.

Cheesecake Factory
(Check out my review of the Cheesecake Factory in 2008 here)

I am not going to lie, I tried bites of about 12-15 different types of cheesecakes.  This sounds amazing, but after a while I got a bit sick.  THAT'S A LOT OF DAIRY, YOU GUYS!!!!

My personal favorite from the Cheesecake Factory is the Fresh Banana Cream Cheesecake, but of all the ones I tried from that day, I really enjoyed:
  • Vanilla Bean cheesecake (layers of vanilla bean cheesecake, vanilla mousse and whipped cream) 
    • I liked the simplicity of this, plus it felt light because of the mousse.
  • Godiva Chocolate cheesecake (Godiva chocolate cake + Godiva chocolate cheesecake + Chocolate mousse) 
    • The addition of cake and mousse in this cheesecake took away the usual heaviness from a chocolate cheesecake.  I loved the rich and dark taste of the chocolate.  
  • Dutch Caramel Apple Streusel Cheesecake, pictured (terribly) below (original cheesecake with a TON of baked apples and then topped with some delicious brown sugar walnut streusel topping)  
    • I loved this because it was so different.  It tasted more like an apple pie with a little layer of cheesecake.  There's a lot more filling than you would think, which is what really made this cheesecake stand out for me.

The problem is that to get a slice of cheesecake, you have to deal with the outrageous wait for a table because that place is packed ALL THE TIME.  What is up with that?

The mall is definitely not a place I visit very often, but it was fun to take a tour like this to see the food beyond the food court.  Overall, I loved Stoney River.  Their Happy Hour menu was fun, well-priced and enticing!  I would definitely go back there again! P.F. Chang's happy hour menu was also a great deal, and I especially liked their drinks.  There is no need for me to talk about the appeal of  The Cheesecake Factory, because it's already got that in spades.  TGI Fridays didn't do it for me at all, but you can't win them all!

Stoney River on Urbanspoon
P.F. Chang's China Bistro on Urbanspoon
The Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

* I was invited by Towson Town Center, but I was not asked to review, nor was I told what to write.  All opinions are my own (and Dan's!)

Thursday, March 15, 2012

Chili's, Outback, and Jamba Juice Coupons

Here are some coupons for some national restaurant chains:
  • Chili's
    • Get any 2 burgers, 2 large drafts and unlimited fries for $20 with this coupon.  Offer valid until 3/18/2012. 
  • Jamba Juice
    • Get a sixteen size Fruit and Veggie Smoothie or All Fruit Smoothie for only $2 with this coupon. Offer valid until 3/25/2012
  • Outback Steakhouse
    • Get $10 off your purchase of any two entrees when you Like Outback on Facebook.  You will have to fill out a brief form and select your local restaurant to get your coupon via email.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Teaism, Penn Quarter, Washington DC

My book club planned to meet at Teaism, a casual self-seating restaurant that has an Asian flare, in DC’s Penn Quarter one Sunday afternoon, which made me very excited about the prospect of having afternoon tea (we all know how much I love those!!!).

Everyday from 2:30-5:30pm, Teaism has the option of ordering the following afternoon teas:
Traditional Menu 20.00
Tea sandwiches, ginger scone, cookies, lime curd tartlets, chocolate truffles, and a pot of tea

Because I am a sucker for tea sandwiches and scones, I had to go with the traditional menu.  In fact, I ended up splitting it with a friend of mine, and we just ordered another pot of tea (I ordered a Keemun black tea, since I know I love that) since the menu only comes with one pot. Sharing was such a great idea since I felt very satiated from my half.

The best part of the menu was their ginger scone, hands down (get the recipe here). If you like ginger, you will love these sweet scones, especially with a little bit of the marmalade. 

I really enjoyed their cucumber sandwiches that were made with rice vinegar.  Their cookies (on the bottom tier) were OK, but I LOVED the mini tart.  

 The truffle tasted like a matcha white chocolate truffle that I was NOT a fan of.  I didn't like the fudgy consistency and I didn't like the super sweet taste either.  The fact that it was green didn't help :)

Some mores notes:
- This is not a traditional tea room, so don't expect unlimited tea or table service like normal.  In fact, don't expect many other people ordering the afternoon tea....
- They don't have descriptions of teas on their menu!  This always bothers me!  I don't know what "Now and Zen" is or "World Peace," for example.
- If you are ordering tea from the small selection on the menu, don't forget to look at the chalkboard around the register - there are more listed there.

Overall, though I enjoyed everything I ate, it really is just the wrong atmosphere for a two-tiered afternoon tea.  I am glad I tried it, but I think next time I would order a pot of tea, some ginger scones and something savory since all the other items that my friends chose looked really good.

Teaism on Urbanspoon

Friday, March 2, 2012

Supano's Steakhouse, Inner Harbor

The beautiful large wooden bar is the cornerstone of the restaurant

I was invited* to Supano's, a family-owned Italian restaurant and Steakhouse located on the cobblestoned Water Street in the Inner Harbor.  The restaurant pays homage to the Rat Pack, a theme that permeates the entire restaurant, from the art on the walls, to the music and the menu items.

Supano's won three awards in 2011(Best Baltimore Italian Restaurant from the U.S. Commerce Association; Best Baltimore Steakhouse from The Destination Guide and Award Winning Excellence in Customer Satisfaction from Talk of the Town), so it's quite surprising that not many locals have heard of the place, including myself!  It seems that it definitely is popular with tourists coming from the nearby hotels and from the hotel employees themselves, so says owner Terry Coffman.  Not surprisingly, he wants to get the word out to locals!

So let's get to the dinner review, starting with a couple of appetizers.  

Calamari ($11.95) - The large and crispy calamari were served with an ample amount of marinara sauce.  The breading was good, though the calamari itself was a bit chewy.  A good solid appetizer, though nothing special.

"Babycakes" Crabcakes ($13.95) - This appetizer comes with 2 2oz crabcakes, or "baby cakes." The babycakes were yummy, though a bit buttery, with a lot of jumbo meat and served with a tomato-y tartar sauce.  Overall they were tasty, but for the price, there should have been more, plus I felt like it was haphazardly plated.

We then each got a salad to try (not pictured).  I chose the House Salad with Balsamic Dressing ($9.95) and Dan ordered the Caesar salad ($9.95).  My house salad came with romaine lettuce, tomatoes, carrots, olives, pepperoncini, cucumbers and onions, and the creamy balsamic dressing was sweet yet tangy - a perfect combination all around.  I LOVED this salad and devoured it hungrily.  Dan's Caesar salad, on the other hand, was not a favorite of mine.  The dressing was a bit warm and there was too much olive oil or maybe too little garlic?   We weren't sure, but it didn't have the usual Caesar-y taste.

For our entrees, Dan and I decided to each try one of the restaurant's specialties.  He chose the massive 24oz Porterhouse ($44) and I chose the Meat Lasagna ($15.95) which was labeled as "Baltimore's Best" (though I was torn between that and the Eggplant Parmigiana which was labeled as "World's Best"). 

24oz Porterhouse

One thing that Supano's doesn't add to their menu is the fact that a lot of their beef is USDA Prime.  This is HUGE because it explains the exorbitant (or so it seems) pricing for their steaks.  Dan's Porterhouse was excellent, and he really enjoyed both the Filet Mignon side and the New York strip side (though my favorite was the Filet because it melted in my mouth like butta).  The menu didn't lie about it being 24oz, I mean it was larrrrrrge, but totally manageable :)  The seasoning was simple - salt, pepper and butter butter butter :)

 Meat Lasagna

My meat lasagna, made with thick and chewy pieces of homemade pasta, gloriously oozed cheese with every stab of the fork!  This is just a good old-fashioned lasagna, so get that Italian bread ready for dipping!!  I think it's important to note that I am not a fan of superfluously saying stuff like "Baltimore's Best" or "World's Best" on a menu (unless an item has actually won an award) because it instantly raises  expectations to the point where a diner will only ever be disappointed.  In this case, I expected the lasagna to blow me away, to attack my senses with magical Italian delights, and although I got a really tasty lasagna that was awesome and cheesy, I'm not sure I would call it Baltimore's Best.

Since the lasagna was a generous portion, I packed more than half away for my lunch the next day and proceeded to order dessert!  I HAD to order the profiteroles since that is one of my favorite desserts (OF ALL TIME) and we were told the Tiramisu is a house favorite.

Profiteroles (background) and Tiramisu (foreground)

The profiteroles were served in an unusual way.  For $7.95 you get three cream puffs that are nestled in dark chocolate mousse and white chocolate mousse on the bottom (though it tasted like whipped cream to me and not white chocolate).  This dessert was AMAZING, I loved the mousse so much and the cream puffs were little balls of heaven!  Although it seems like it would be a heavy dessert, it was quite airy and satisfying. YUM.

Dan, on the other hand, couldn't get enough of the tiramisu ($5.95), so it worked out perfectly for the both of us.  The tiramisu was incredibly rich, heavy on the cream with a slight amount of cake.  This is tiramisu for people who don't know they like tiramisu yet.  There wasn't a lot of coffee flavor, just cream cream and more cream!

Here are some other notes about the restaurant:
The downstairs bar in the "Man Cave"
  • Dan wasn't a fan of the huge screen that plays Frank Sinatra (and probably other Rat Packers) music videos, since it was a bit of a distraction.  I personally didn't mind it so much since I liked the music.
  • The bar is GORGEOUS.  We loved the lighting, the style, the wood.  This is the type of bar that you could sit at and order Old Fashioneds the entire night. 
  • The service was INCREDIBLE, and no, not just to me - but everyone.  The owner walked to every single table to see how they were doing.  
  • There's a "man cave" downstairs that's really neat.  They have a pool table, darts, shuffleboard, a large bar and plenty of seating with a ton of tv's.  I think this would be a great place to watch a game,or come for happy hour after work.
  • This restaurant is open until 1:30AM DAILY!!!!  That is INSANE!  You can order from the full restaurant menu, though it does explain why an Italian Steakhouse has quesadillas and buffalo wings on their main menu.  I wish they moved those items to a bar menu though, so it wouldn't cheapen the main dining menu.
  • They have karaoke Mon-Fri and live blues and jazz on Friday and Saturday night
Another view of the basement

Though there were a few issues with the food, I hope it isn't condescending to say that this restaurant has so much potential!  The location itself is superb, the feel of the restaurant and layout is gorgeous, and a lot of the dishes was very tasty!  I do think the prices are really high on some of the menu items, though.  If they are going to charge that much, perhaps the upstairs could be more of a formal dining area to make it more appealing, and then the awesome man cave could be less formal with the big screen of Frank Sinatra and the karaoke every night.

Supano's Steak House on Urbanspoon * This meal was complimentary, but all opinions and thoughts are my own!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Ra Sushi's Tropical Island-Inspired Cocktails

 Pineapple Express and Bikini Martini

Apart from maybe a gin and tonic, or at THE MOST a margarita, I never make cocktails at home.  I don't  have the ingredients on-hand (as much as I would LOVE to have a bottle of St. Germaine, just because) and in all honesty, I just can't be bothered.  So when I go out to a restaurant and find that they have a fun cocktail menu, I get excited!  I love trying things that I know I will never make for myself at home. 

The newest tropical island-inspired drinks from Ra Sushi are definitely my kind of cocktails (especially the Pineapple Express!).  For $8 each, these cocktails will be available from March 1st-April 30th, or you can make them at home following these recipes!

Pineapple Express
1.25 oz. Kai Young Coconut Shochu
.25 oz. St. Germain Elderflower Liqueur
3 oz. pineapple juice
.25 oz. lemon juice (2 lemons)
Splash of Prosecco
2 Pineapple wedges
Slice of lime

Preparation: Muddle pineapple with St. Germain in mixing tin. Add everything except soda, shake and strain into ice filled glass, top with Prosecco soda, garnish with a slice of pineapple and lime.

Bikini Martini
.75 oz. Kai Young Coconut Shochu
.75 oz. vanilla vodka
1.5 oz. pineapple juice
.5 oz. simple syrup
.25 oz. blue Curacao
Splash of lemon-lime soda
Pineapple wedge for garnish

Preparation: Pour all ingredients into mixing tin with ice. Shake and strain into chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a pineapple wedge and dash of blue Curacao.

RA Sushi
1390 Lancaster Street, Baltimore
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