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Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Ashland Cafe, Cockeysville Part Deux

I read somewhere that the Ashland Cafe has wonderful Greek menu items, so I put my usual hankering for bison burgers aside and chose the lamb gyro platter. For about $10 it came with a greek salad, fries, pita bread and the usual gyro fixings (tomato, lettuce, onions) and tzatziki sauce. This was a DELICIOUS alternative to my burger. The gyro was perfectly seasoned

Ashland Cafe
10810 York Road
Cockeysville, MD 21030

Ashland Cafe on Urbanspoon

Caribou Coffee, Hunt Valley (and elsewhere)

I love going to Caribou Coffee during the wintertime because I feel like I'm in a warm log cabin on a mountain. But not only is the ambiance so inviting, the coffees are great too. My signature mocha latte costs $3.20 for a small. It also smells like hot chocolate rather than mocha. Overall, it's your regular chain coffee store-- but perhaps it will make you feel warm and toasty in the winter months to come.

Caribou Coffee
110 Shawan Rd, Cockeysville

Caribou Coffee on Urbanspoon

Friday, December 19, 2008

Weekend Trip: Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia

I LOVE Colonial Williamsburg, it makes me so happy being there. I like the magic of it all- pretending to be in another time and place. It’s the same sort of feeling I get when I’m at the World Showcase part of Epcot Center.

Christmas time in Colonial Williamsburg is also very special. All the houses are decorated with natural wreaths- and even have a competition for the best wreath. They have a Grand Illumination on the Sunday of the first full weekend of December. They have fireworks, a parade and caroling. They also place candles in the windows of the buildings. I’ve heard that it’s their most crowded time of the year and all the hotels are usually double the price and/or booked up. The second weekend after the Grand Illumination is still pretty busy, which is when we went. I wouldn’t have wanted it any busier because then it’s less fun. I enjoy going into all the different buildings to see the trades and re-enactments of daily life in Colonial times, and those buildings are small and can get crowded with only a couple of people. Also, at night time on Saturdays they still have a parade and caroling. I LOVED caroling and was bummed that we had to leave before it finished for our dinner reservations.

Which comes to the most important part. The food. I LOVE the food. The Raleigh bakery is usually my first stop when I get to the main street. I love the Queen’s cake which is a lemon pound cake with currants. I also love to walk around with some hot apple cider. Oh there’s something so wonderfully festive about being in Williamsburg during December.

One thing that any visitor should do is visit a tavern within the historical district. There are many yummy restaurants and cafés in Merchant Square, just out of the historical district in between there and William and Mary (which is GORGEOUS and makes me jealous for any student there), especially the Cheese Shop. However, going to the taverns is something special. The more upscale taverns are the Kings Arm Tavern, known for it’s meat dishes and Christiana Campbell’s tavern, known for its seafood. I’ve eaten at the Christiana Campbell tavern twice now and have NEVER been disappointed. The food is delicious, seafood or meat (I got their tenderloin which was excellent). They also serve mini sweet potato muffins as starters—how amazing is that! Please make reservations WELL in advance.

This is a WONDERFUL trip that takes about 3 hours. It’s great for families and for couples. I’m not going to lie, this isn’t a nightlife oriented place- so tire yourself out during the day so that you can get up early and enjoy more in historical Williamsburg as well as close by Jamestown and Yorktowne. Oh yes, and Williamsburg Winery is just around the corner J

Weekend Trip: New York City, New York

New York is so close to Baltimore, but sometimes it seems so much longer than a 3.5hour trip since there is usually always traffic, stops and the occasional wrong turn (not to mention the GPS gets foiled by all the tall buildings- so always bring a map if you’re driving). However, I still like to go every once in a while and so my husband surprised me with a weekend trip to the city for our 6 month anniversary of getting married (he is SUPER!).

I won’t bore you with the details of what we ate (hot dogs are one of them), but I must say, as much lure as there is surrounding New York City during Christmastime—it was INCREDIBLY crowded. All the places that you would want to see such as Rockefeller center and 5th avenue are so heavily packed with people that it quickly becomes sucky. Dan and I instead walked around Union Square, Soho and unfortunately a very crowded Chinatown as well.

However, we saw the 2008 Tony award winning play for best Musical- In the Heights. It was BRILLIANT! We BOTH loved every minute of it. I would totally recommend it. The next day we went to see the Metropolitan Museum of Art since we had never been there either. That was quite a treat, but we found ourselves sort of burnt out from the older pieces of art since we saw so many similar paintings in Europe a couple of months ago.

All in all, New York city is always a great weekend trip from Baltimore. It’s a great place to be tempted by food and love everything you eat. Be weary of places that guidebooks recommend—they are usually always overcrowded. But perhaps that’s just a theme of New York during the Holidays—CROWDS. Next time, we’ll be going in the spring or fall to be sure.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Mari Luna Mexican Grill, Pikesville

Yay! We finally went to Mari Luna!!! I've been really excited about trying this place ever since I got the recommendation from my favorite wine owners- Austin and James from Swirl Wine (see here). I love Mexican food and have been searching for a delicious place near me (no, Dan, Chili's does NOT count!!!!).

First of all, let me quickly point out that they have a new sister restaurant called Mari Luna Latin Grille right down the street from this place, so don't confuse them! The Mexican Grill is where we went!

I ordered the Barbacoa (lamb) taco ($3), a chicken gordita ($3.50), and a side of fried plantains ($3). My plate also came with sour cream, salsa, guacamole and lettuce. Everything was EXCELLENT. I LOVED the barbacoa taco. The way the lamb was cooked was succulent and moist. It was really perfect. The gordita was soooo yummy. It's a handmade corn tortilla stuffed with the meat so there were bits of corn in there too. The plantains were yummy as always, but they hardly got touched because I was so happy with my two entrees. I REALLY wished I had ordered the beef chalupa because it looked excellent. Next time. Definitely next time.

Next up was dessert. Oh sweet amazing desserts!!!! I ordered the Tres Leches Cake(A spanish sponge cake soaked in three types of milk) for $4, which came topped with bananas and whipped cream. HEAVENLY. Soooo heavenly. The cake was really moist and paired perfectly with the bananas. In fact, if there were no bananas, I probably wouldn't have loved it as much! Dan ordered the sopapilla (fried flour tortilla with caramel and powder sugar topping) which was really good, but too plain for my liking. The fried ice cream was good too, but again, not what I wanted. What I REALLY wanted was the Crispy Napolean ($6) which wasn't on the menu! Our waiter told us about it and it was incredible. It's a mix between flan and creme brulee with these crispy bits of sugar in between. OK, my description doesn't explain it well, but come on...let's think about this: Flan AND Creme Brulee. It was SO YUMMY LALALALALALALA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I need to come back here again. A lot. It was really yummy and reasonable!!!

p.s. They don't have a liqour license, so don't plan on getting margaritas like we were!!!!!

Mari Luna Mexican Grill on Urbanspoon

Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company, Part DEUX

I popped in here to get some coffee when I was hungry, and I happily remembered that they serve food! I ordered their Eastern Shore Chicken Salad which came on Foccacia bread. The chicken salad had walnuts and cranberries. The chicken salad was really yummy, but I would definitely switch the bread. The focaccia was thick so it was hard to eat, plus it made the sandwich very dry. Not that it wasn't a pleasant sandwich, it was actually really delicious and very satisfying. I usually don't like getting chicken salad with walnuts in it, because sometimes I can't tell whether I am eating a walnut or some gristle. Gross, I know. The sandwich was about $6ish.

I would definitely go there to eat again. But maybe it's because I love that place so much I don't mind staying longer.

Oh! You can purchase all sorts of items from their website-- give it a look!
9 W Aylesbury Rd
Timonium, MD 21093
(410) 561-1080

Baltimore Coffee and Tea Company, on Urbanspoon

Outback Steakhouse, Everywhere USA

What is it with me and Chains lately? I slightly hate myself for going to so many in such a short period of time. I have a huge list of restaurants in my Google Documents of places I want to go to and I end Unfortunately, there is a perfectly good reason to that-- most of the places listed are expensive. Oh day I'll finish my list.

OK. self loathing over....let me continue with the review.

I was still sickly when I went here so I decided to take it easy and chose the French Onion Soup and the Queensland Salad (Fresh chicken breast salad on a bed of mixed greens with Monterey Jack and Cheddar, diced egg, tomatoes and toasted almonds). It basically tasted like the crispy chicken salad from Friendly's that I used to love with all of my heart (until I realized that Friendly's is kind of gross). The French Onion soup was actually rich and flavorful. Probably not the best I've ever had, but from a Chain "Australian" restaurant...I was happy with it. The salad was good- you can't really go wrong with a salad like that, but I do have to say that all the ingredients were fresh. Probably not local though.

My choices in food probably don't reflect what most people come here for, but I still thought I should blog!

Outback Steakhouse
134 Shawan Rd
Hunt Valley MD 21031
(410) 527-1540

Outback Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Cheesecake Factory, Everywhere USA

Look, I don't mind eating at Cheesecake Factory, but I don't understand why this place is ALWAYS so crowded. There are a lot of good restaurants around these chains and yet for some reason people still resort to waiting for 2 hours at the Cheesecake table. I don't get it. When this particular Cheesecake Factory opened near me, I, like many other people, waited for hours to eat here. Why? The meals are the same everywhere and we know what we are going to get. What is the excitement? I have no idea....but I still was involved! Good marketing team over there!

So I've been here twice now since it's opened near me (and countless other times outside of that), so let me quickly tell you what I got.

First Visit:
The Factory Appetizer Favorites was an AWESOME way for a table to sample all the delicious appetizer items they have. I love appetizers a lot, so this was such a special treat. My favorite were definitely the tamale corn cakes; spinach and cheese dip; and summer rolls. After that, I was actually really stuffed even though we had five people splitting appetizers! I ordered the Fresh Fish Tacos which were good, and very healthful tasting (good after the appetizer!) I ended up not being able to eat a lot and took some home. Let me tell you-- they don't heat up well the second time around, so I would advise you to eat the whole dish. I then ordered (please don't ask me how I had room for this) the carrot cake, which was HUGE (again, i took most of it home) and was good, but still not as good as my favorite carrot cake EVER from Wegman's (their Ultimate Carrot Cake and their Ultimate Chocolate Cake are two of the best cakes you will ever eat in your life).

Second Visit:
I ordered the appetizer salad (which size is good enough for a normal portioned salad) for my dinner, the French Country Salad (Mixed Greens, Grilled Asparagus, Fresh Beets, Goat Cheese and Candied Pecans). Doesn't that sound delicious? It wasn't. Ok, ok, I'll be fair, it was.....Ok. They forgot the pecans so we had to specially ask for it, which was strike one. But also, the taste was just incredibly bland. I was expecting taste explosions in my mouth and it didn't happen. I was bummed. To treat myself, I decided to go for dessert, as I often do. I chose the carrot cake cheesecake which was yummy. I think I preferred the carrot cake cheesecake over the carrot cake.

Overall, I still don't get they hype over this place other than the huge selection of meals. But, you won't hear me complaining if we end up going here......

Cheesecake Factory, Towson Town Center,
825 Dulaney Valley Road,
Towson, MD 21204
(410) 337-7411

Cheesecake Factory on Urbanspoon

Chili's, Everywhere USA

This post is past due. I've been here a million and one times because it's Dan favorite restaurant. I've been trying to avoid posting on a place like Chili's because it's almost like blogging about Starbuck's-- it's the same everywhere, and everyone already has an opinion on it.

But as I said, I've been here so many times I might as well quickly write something. For starters, their Presidente Margaritas are delicious and at $6 are a great addition to a meal. You get a shaker (not to keep) and there are about 3 margaritas in that shaker. As I said, great addition. I like to get the fajitas so that I control what I put in my stomach (aka no green peppers), and because I actually like the steak they have. I've had their Guiltless Chicken Sandwich before and that's a good option if your husband drags you here and you still want to be healthy. One thing I've had that I would NOT recommend are their Chicken Tacos, surprisingly. They were WAY too soggy and just not appetizing overall. I was very surprised, especially with something as easy as Tacos. Also, I got them at lunch and I was disappointed that there was no lunch menu. They have one lunch feature- their bottomless chips, soups and salad choice...but other than that, no price changes for lunch. I don't appreciate that from a big chain like Chili's.

Oh well, that's my two cents.

Chili's Bar & Grill
9615 Deereco Road
Timonium, MD 21093

Chili's Grill & Bar on Urbanspoon

Fractured Prune, Towson

The Fractured Prune is literally right next to Pei Wei (My entry) so we skipped over there after our (terrible) meal. I ended up not ordering anything because I was strangely full enough, and I was excited to go back to my friend's house and eat all of her homemade saltine toffee candy anyway. However, Dan ordered the OC Sand (honey glaze, cinnamon sugar) and the French Toast (maple glaze, cinnamon sugar) so I knew that I would have a couple of bites :)

Both were extremely delicious, I must admit. I felt extremely unhealthy from eating only a couple of bites (somehow the Saltine toffee don't make me feel that way!), so I can't imagine ever getting more than one. It was superb with a nice cold glass of milk. Definitely a special treat! My friends really enjoy others with crazy toppings, especially the Reese Cup (peanut butter glaze, mini chocolate chips) but I am not a fan of the peanut butter/chocolate combination so it didn't appeal to me.

Fractured Prune on Urbanspoon

Bubba's Breakaway, Towson

We ordered from here one Game Night ago and I decided to get some hummus under the recommendation of a friend. For $5 a big tub of hummus came my way with some coldish pita bread. The hummus was not what I was hoping for. It was extremely runny and WAY too garlicky. I ended up eating most of Dan's fries (yummy) instead. I think I am spoiled by the Sabra brand of hummus. I think that has got to be the best hummus ever, and I really love hummus so I must know.
Do you guys know of any restaurant that has good hummus? I love getting it for an appetizer.

Bubba's Breakaway
905 York Rd
Towson, MD 21204
(410) 296-4080

Bubba's Breakaway on Urbanspoon

Pei Wei, Towson

Pei Wei is owned by P.F. Chang's, so I don't understand why I don't love it like I love P.F. This time around I ordered the Pad Thai because that's an easy dish to get right and because I love it so much. Well, not only did my order come out MUCH later than everyone else in my party but I didn't like it at all! I can't describe why, I just think it doesn't compare to the Pad Thai at Fuji San (in Cockeysville…I need to eat there soon so I can review them again). It didn't have that hint of sweetness that most Pad Thai's have. It was also too spicy and had random bits of tofu in my dish (even though I asked for chicken). Actually, a couple of people at the table had the random tofu slices in their meal. That's just plain weird and makes me feel kinda icky that either things don't get cleaned out well or everything is just a hodge podge in the kitchen. Dan did like my Pad Thai though, so I should mention that. However, he HATED his lo mein. He said that he thinks they forgot to add any sort of sauce , so it was just greasy noodles. I tried them and thought they were gross too. Basically, if you're going to fail at Pad Thai and Lo Mein…..that doesn’t bode well for the rest of the dishes.

Pei Wei Asian Diner
6302 York Rd
Baltimore, MD21212
(410) 435-3290

Pei Wei Asian Diner on Urbanspoon

Wegman's, Hunt Valley PART TWO

This entry almost hurts my heart to write because I love Wegman's so much. Unfortunately, this must be written.

I have tried something from here that I did not love.

I was sickly so I was in the mood for some soup. I also wanted to walk around and chose Wegman's as my destination for my soup and gander. I chose the quintessential "sick" soup- Chicken Noodle. Unfortunately what I ended up getting was more like Pepper Noodle Soup. I had one piece of chicken in the medium size container. It also had the most pepper I've ever known. Now, knowing that people turn to Chicken Noodle Soup as their Soup Savior when they are sick-- why would you laden it with pepper? It was too spicy to ingest. What a disappointment. I counted on you, Wegman's :o(

Wegman's, Hunt Valley Towne Centre
122 Shawan Rd, Cockeysville
(410) 773-3900

Monday, December 8, 2008

Boheme Cafe, Inner Harbor

I had a FABULOUS lunch friday from Boheme Café. I got a bowl size of their turkey chili for $5 and a fabulous looking almond Danish for $1 (pastries and cookies are half off because they want to sell out before the weekend). The chili was amazing! It's sweet and spicy and very meaty which makes me happy. My friend, Leah, very nicely gave me a chocolate chip walnut cookie they had and ate it in delight! The cookie was so soft and the chips were slightly melted. Oh it was just a perfect cookie. I really really love this place and will be sure to come back again. I've had a sandwich from there before that I really enjoyed. They have a lot of vegetarian options and are committed to the local food scene which I admire. They also serve fair trade coffee. Overall, this sounds like a café I wouldn't mind going to every once in a while for lunch. Be sure to check it out, but be aware- there is no indoor seating, so I hope you don't mind carrying it back to your desk!

Boheme Café
(410) 347-9898
400 E Pratt StBaltimore, MD21202

Boheme Café on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Baltimore Farmer's Market, Baltimore City

I went to visit the Baltimore Farmer's Market under the JFX on Sunday after Thanksgiving.  It was very rainy and cold and hardly anyone was there, so luckily for us parking was a breeze.  We also knew that a lot of the stands would have gone since it is pushing Winter-- but we were still tempted to see what was offered.  OK, fine, we were actually tempted by the amazing mini donuts and the crepe stand.  Let's first talk about the donut stand because those are THE BEST DONUTS EVER.  I love them so incredibly much.  A large bag is $4 and they may be one of the best uses of $4 in this city.  The dough is fresh and hot, and you can pour your own sugar on it.  Oh they just melt in your mouth.  The crepes were really delicious too-- you can make your own egg, cheese, meat combination but they are pretty hefty at $6 for one singular crepe.  If you get anything fancier, some may cost you $8-9.  I don't know about you, but when I go to the Farmer's Market, I expect things to be cheap...but I guess the prepared food isn't.  However, the produce IS!  I got a quart of turnips for $1!  We also got a bag of four huge Organic chocolate chip cookies that were great.  Basically, we went there to eat and we were so happy!  I would recommend going to the Farmer's markets any day.  Everyone there is so helpful and friendly!  And the food, both the prepared and produce kind are delicious.

Thanks, Baltimore!

Hightopps Backstage Grille, Timonium

Have I ever told you about how horrendous the food is at Hightopps? I haven't!?!?! Well shame on me because it's terrible. It's a darn shame too because I go here every Tuesday night for Charm City Trivia and it would be nice to order something delicious while I work my brain. Recently, I went there to watch the Ravens game and had a lot of fun but had terrible (shocker) nachos. Nachos! How can any place mess up nachos! ESPECIALLY a bar! I ordered the chicken nachos for about $12 which is pretty expensive for nachos, not to mention really crappy nachos. THe chicken was cooked too much and was excessively chewy, the nachos themselves were practically burnt to a crisp and the cheese wasn't gooey but a solid overcooked mess. It was terrible, but I ate it because I was hungry. My husband has ordered a chicken sandwich from here and received raw chicken, that same time he ordered wings which had a feather still attached. Totally gross. Basically, come here for a cool bar, but do NOT order any food. Seriously.

EDIT 8/10/09: Thanks to the commenters, it seems like Hightopps has changed chefs- so this review may be out of date.....but I still need to go there to check! Thank you again Jessica and my anonymous friend for giving me the scoop!!!! -- Nakiya

Hightopps Backstage Grille on Urbanspoon
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