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Mussels in Baltimore

So, last night we ventured to the Corner. We got 2 orders of mussels-- one Marinière, and one, Curried. The sauces were great-- both were quite flavorful and complemented the mussels perfectly. However, while the mussels were large and plump, they lacked the melt-in-your-mouth texture we experienced while in Canada. Perhaps it's a bit like crabs-- you can order crabs in other localities, but nothing can compare to our city's varieties??? Surprisingly, the highlight of our meal was an appetizer-- tuna and salmon sashimi with a peanut "dust." That dish was amazingly tender and the flavors were fabulous. We enjoyed the mussels, but they're not the amazing mussels for which I've been searching (even though they also came with perfect fries). So, alas, I'm still craving stellar mussels, and wondering if it's possible to get them in Baltimore....

Jul 13, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

UPSCALE SEAFOOD IN BALTIMORE

Are you looking for an upscale atmosphere too? I love the Black Olive-- the fish is always stellar, and the grilled scallops are absolutely amazing and one of my favorite seafood dishes in the city-- but it's a fairly casual place (e.g., it's not uncommon to see lots of shirts and shorts there). If you're looking for a more upscale restaurant, I'd recommend-- don't laugh-- the Prime Rib. Despite its name, the seafood dishes (which include all types of fish as well as classic crab cakes) are fabulous. A recent favorite of mine is their blackened seabass, which is amazingly moist, tender, and flavorful. I also love the seafood at Tio Pepes. My 2 favorite appetizers there are seafood ones-- shrimp in garlic, and they also have a great "trio" which includes lump crab, shrimp, and smoked salmon served with avocado and several dipping sauces-- and their menu of fresh fish dishes is always a page long. I particularly love their swordfish or sea bass in riojana sauce. I hope this helps!

Jul 12, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Mussels in Baltimore

Thanks all for these great recs! I'll report back once I have the chance to do a thorough sampling :)

Jul 05, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Mussels in Baltimore

After having the most amazing mussels during a recent trip to Ontario, I am eager to find a local place with large, plump, delicious mussels. Any suggestions?

Jul 01, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Teenagers and where did you "dine?"

Mikes pizzeria was a favorite! Close seconds, though, were Steak & Egg (loved those hashbrowns), Hot Shoppes, Carvels, and HoJos (mainly for ice cream!).

Jun 21, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

One night out--Cunningham's or Oyster Bay Grille?

Oh no!!! Best wishes for a speedy recovery! You will have a great excuse now to splurge on lots of food when you're feeling better.

Jun 21, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

One night out--Cunningham's or Oyster Bay Grille?

I am looking forward to your report after your dining experience! I haven't had dinner at either-- just lunch at Cunningham's (in the cafe). I wasn't blown away-- I ordered the seared tuna wrap, which was ok. I liked the flavors of the dish, but the avocado was too hard and the tuna-- while perfectly seared-- was on the fatty side. My friend ordered the quinoa salad, which she also rated as just ok. She was a bit annoyed that it included a lot of onions, an ingredient she did not want, even though the description of the salad made no reference to them. However, since I really like its focus on seasonal, local ingredients, and know a few people who had amazing dinners there, I will likely return at some point for dinner to give it another shot.
As for Oyster Bay, I just looked its menu-- so many promising choices! I am always a little annoyed when restaurants don't post prices, but from the other replies, it doesn't sound too unreasonable. I will have to add that to my list of places to try as well.
Enjoy your night out!!!!

Jun 20, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Baltimore restaurant for both vegetarians and omnivores

And you point out another aspect of Mezze that I love-- the ability to have a leisurely dinner. We were there about 3 hours, ordering a few dishes at a time, and we did not feel rushed at all. I also prefer the 2nd floor. I love the room with the high ceiling when I'm with another couple or more people-- it's quieter and the tables are spaced more apart-- but prefer the smaller room to the left of the stairs for a more cozy, intimate meal. I do know a few people who prefer dining downstairs-- they love the energy around the bar (which I find distracting and loud).
One other point about Mezze's small plates-- they're all served with warm, delicious pita bread (which the servers are always happy to refill), which helps make meals there more filling than other tapas places.

Jun 10, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Baltimore restaurant for both vegetarians and omnivores

I was just at Mezze this past weekend-- it was excellent! We enjoyed delicious vegetarian (falafel, baba gaoush, cheese pie) and meat (roasted salmon, lamb meatballs, beef kebab, shrimp raki) dishes. I find it very affordable-- I think most vegetarian tapas were around $8, and the meat ones slightly more. The wine list also has many reasonable options. Our party of 4 ended up paying $175 (including tip) for 2 cocktails, 1 bottle of wine, the tapas above, and 3 desserts. We were stuffed at the end and tried such a great variety of delicious food!

Jun 10, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

lunch and dinner in Baltimore with 2 kids

It definitely depends on the kids. In terms of atmosphere, Black Olive is pretty casual, and it's definitely a place where you can fit in wearing jeans or a nicer outfit. It is a slower place meal, so your kids will have to love the dining experience. I have an 8 and 11 year old, and I think we first took them there about 2 years ago. It remains one of their favorite special occasion places.

Jun 04, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

lunch and dinner in Baltimore with 2 kids

A place I love for great, fresh seafood is the Black Olive. It's also fun for kids because you can go up and actually see the fresh, raw fish available that evening. It's also close to Fell's Point, which is a very fun neighborhood to walk around (cobblestone streets, lots of small, funky stores). There's a delicious gelato shop (Pitango Gelato) a block or so from the restaurant, so you may want to save room for dessert. Another restaurant my kids love is the Spanish restaurant, Tio Pepes-- it has been around for decades, and is considered a classic place here. I love their seafood dishes, and what's fun for kids is that they prepare a lot table side.
As for brunch, if you want to experience a vibrant part of our City, I'd urge you to go to the JFX farmer's market. So many delicious fresh and prepared foods. Your kids will love it! If you really want a sit-down place, you might want to check out the Papermoon diner. Its draw is its decor-- there are old toys, games, and pez dispensers everywhere-- great eye candy. Woodbury Kitchen is a good option for dinner and brunch, and definitely kid-friendly. If your goal is to eat great, local food, you can't go wrong there.

Jun 04, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

Have you tried Mezze and Indigma? They both have numerous, absolutely delicious vegetarian options.

Jun 02, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

40th Birthday Party in Baltimore - Venue Search

What about the Museum of Industry? I've been to a few events there-- one directly inside the museum and one in a tent on the water. It's a great venue, and you can bring in whatever you want.

Jun 02, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

New restaurant in Hampden - Le Garage

Last night, we had our first visit to Le Garage. Here's my report:
The space: Wow-- for anyone who was familiar with Dogwood, you might be shocked by how different it looks. I really liked what they did with the space, which seems much bigger than before. The tables are also spaced apart nicely, so although it was a bit loud (after all, it is in a basement), it wasn't terrible.
The service: It was great. We had a lot of questions about the menu, and our server was patient and helpful. The staff also did a great job of ensuring our water glasses were always filled (and those are neat glasses-- they resembles jars, but have a sleek, almost modern look).
The fries: Of course, we had to try the fries. After reading all the reviews posted here, I had no idea what to expect, with some raving and some describing them as Thrasher's like. Overall, I'd give them a very good. They were thicker than those I would rank as my local favorites (those served at Salt, Petit Louis, etc.), but much, much better than the often limpy Thrasher's variety. The fries were clearly very fresh, firm, and perfectly crisped-- but because they were a bit thick, they lacked the same crunch and texture of what I think of as "the best." As for sauces, our table tried the green goddess and the old bay ketchup. They were both good, but the old bay one looked and tasted like ketchup mixed with cocktail sauce, not old bay.
Other food: There were 5 of us, and 2 got the mussel frites and raved about that choice. The other 3 in our party (including me) shared a spring salad and 2 tartines, which were described on the menu as open-faced sandwiches. When we asked the waiter about them, he said they were more like bruschetta, which was a much better description. Basically, they were slices of French bread with toppings. We had one with brie and figs, which was good but not knock-your-socks-off good, and one with goat cheese, apples, and jalapenos. The jalapenos were so fiery that they completely overshadowed the flavor of the other elements—I knew the cheese and apples were there by looking, but only tasted the jalapeno. The salad was fine but didn’t meet its description—the menu mentioned carrots, and there were none, and said nothing about asparagus, and it had a couple limp pieces. For dessert, we all shared the salty caramel bread pudding. It was good, but lacked the gooeyness/richness that I think makes bread pudding such a luscious treat.
I do want to return and try other items on the menu (but I definitely will not be running back anytime soon). I think this place has great potential and there were some winning dishes, but it wasn’t the fabulous experience I was hoping for.

May 31, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

The trend you describe is interesting, and one other posters gripe about as well. My experience with restaurants has been more roller coaster like-- a great meal, followed by a so-so one, and then after hearing raves of others, trying it again and experiencing a fabulous meal, only to be disappointed once again further down the line... By the way, your critique of Birroteca resonates with my experience there. We ordered a pizza with eggplant, which was absolutely tasteless and in desperate need of seasoning!

May 28, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Best burger in Charm City?

I'm a fan of Alonso's-- great classic burger and freshly cut fries.

May 26, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

New restaurant in Hampden - Le Garage

Thanks for sharing! We have a reservation next weekend, so I'll report back soon too!

May 26, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Monday Lunch in Baltimore

If the weather is nice, the patio at Donna's (Cross Keys) would be lovely. Another option is Marie Louise Bistro, especially if you're game to end the meal with a luscious french pastry!

May 26, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

We should embark on the challenge of trying eggplant throughout Baltimore-- mmmm--- what a glorious "mission" to take on for the crew! One reason I love eating eggplant out is that I feel that I can never make it as well as seasoned chefs. Same with fries. By the way, the recipe you described sounds like the one I used to turn my kids onto eggplant. I also add parm cheese in with the bread crumbs and then bake them at a very high temp. Delicious!

May 21, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

Thank you all for your additional insights into La Garage. Ahh-- the simple pleasure that freshly-prepared frites can bring. I have to work in a way to get there sooner than later and rationalize adding a frite "snack" into my diet!

And FoiGras-- great memory as well about the eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, and I am always searching for places that cook it well. I think you were remembering a post I wrote about a melt-in-your-mouth eggplant appetizer at the Ambassador-- it is one of the most heavenly eggplant dishes I've had!

It's interesting what you write about hot foods. If it's the heat that's keeping you away from Indian food, I'd urge you to give it another chance. There are many, many dishes with no heat at all. What I love about Indian dishes are the complex array of spices involved, which makes Indian dishes uniquely rich and flavorful (but not necessarily spicy). And if you like meats, well-prepared tandori dishes (basically the Indian version of grilled) are amazing.

By the way, thanks for your compliments about my posts. I certainly can say the same about yours-- you're always insightful, honest, and detailed! And hey-- we can be food writers together-- I'll cover the ethnic scene and you can do the rest. Wouldn't that be a dream :)

May 20, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

Hi FoiGras,

I really appreciate your post. It's funny-- there have been questions I've been wanting to post in recent weeks, but since I haven't seen much activity here, I didn't. I am particularly eager to get folks' feedback on Le Garage in Hampden, so if anyone has been there, please share!!!

As for me, I have 2 recent experiences I can report on:

1) Indigma: I know not everyone on this board agrees, but I really love this fusion Indian place. We were there a couple Sat. nights ago, and it was another great experience. On Sat. night, they have a sittar player, which adds to the ambiance, and made it a particularly unique dinner! Since our last visit a few months back, they changed the menu so that you can also order small portions of most dishes (like tapas). I loved that option since we were able to choose so many more dishes than before. A particular highlight for me were the new "lamb croquettes"- which were delicious lamb and lentil patties with a soft, creamy texture and perfect seasonings. We also tried a new eggplant dish (the name escapes me, but it included potatoes and peppers) which was also amazing. My one complaint was that the Chicken 65, which is billed as being fiery/spicy, was not as spicy as I would have liked (my husband, though, thought it was perfect). We ended the meal with the Grand Gulab Jamun-- luscious little light "donuts" that melt in your mouth. Mmmmm.....
2) Villagio Cafe: This is the new Persian restaurant in Stoneleigh. We started with the baba ganoush and then shared a "family platter" that included chicken, beef, and lamb koobideh (ground lamb) kebabs. I should note that before we went, I had heard many people RAVE about how incredible it was, which I think set my expectations too high. I thought it was good, but nothing to rave about. The bana ganoush was good, but not as flavorful/spicy as it could have been. The warm pita it came with, though, was a highlight-- completely perfect! As for the platter, the lamb was the best-- tender, flavorful, and cooked perfectly. The chicken was also great- tender and seasoned well. The beef, though, was lacking-- the pieces were cut too thin, were chewy, and tasted pretty plain. And the rice was fine, but didn't live up to the menu's description as "fluffy basmati." I should add that the meal was incredibly affordable. But given all the buzz about the place, I thought it would be much better than average...

Hope to read about others' recent experiences! And thanks again FoiGras for motivating everyone to write!

May 19, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Close to University Medical Center with patient

Here's another idea-- take the water taxi over to Fell's Point and try the Thames Street Oyster House, where you can get a lobster roll and your husband a grilled sausage! I particularly crave their salad with fresh crab, shrimp, and scallops. And if you're a scallop lover, the grilled scallops at Black Olive are my favorites! Another place you may really enjoy is Heavy Seas Alehouse. It's a pub, but it has excellent, top quality food, and a really diverse menu. It changes somewhat regularly, based on what's fresh, but last time I was there, they had a few scallop dishes in addition to more common pub food-- burgers etc. Their sides are my weakness-- I LOVE their fries in particular, and many rave about their onion rings.

May 10, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Close to University Medical Center with patient

From your list, it sounds like you enjoy great seafood? If so, I'd urge you to reconsider Black Olive again-- it's really a fabulous place. They also have a second restaurant, The Olive Room, with a great outdoor deck. Another idea would be to take a cab north to the Baltimore Museum of Art. It would be a nice place to stroll around, and if the weather is nice, their restaurant (Gertrudes) has nice outdoor seating, which is surrounded by their sculpture garden. If you're willing to splurge, check out Ouzu Bay. It's greek, and everything I've had there has been stellar, but it's quite pricey. Let us know if there are certain types of food you're craving, as that will help us make more specific recommendations.

May 09, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Baltimore casual but good? Near Hotel Monaco or Ottobar?

Cazbar is VERY casual. I'd rank it as just ok-- definitely nothing special to experience. One good option that hasn't been mentioned yet is Biroteca, which is fairly close to the Ottobar. Excellent fresh pizzas and their grilled calamari appetizer is absolutely delicious-- it melts in your mouth. Also, they have a great drink menu and it's in a neat, renovated space. Enjoy your visit!!!!

May 08, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Santoni's Catering

Thanks FoiGras. The event will take place at a nonprofit. There will be about 150 there! I agree-- it would be a lot simpler to have it at a great restaurant, but unfortunately, the location is set. Hopefully someone will weigh in with a somewhat recent Santonis experience. Their food selections are great, and their prices are remarkably affordable...

Mar 21, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Santoni's Catering

Trying this again. Any thoughts???

Mar 17, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Santoni's Catering

Does anyone have a recent experience with Santoni's? We're looking for an excellent, yet affordable, caterer.

Mar 12, 2014
stephanieg in Washington DC & Baltimore

Great NY Pizza near Orpheum Theatre

Thanks everybody!!! We ended up trying Mariella. It was just what we were looking for. As a Baltimorean, I am most jealous of that delicious crust-- no one down here comes close to replicating the NY style. And my husband got to teach our boys how to fold together the crust to keep all the toppings/cheese on, which made him very happy. Thanks again!!!!

Feb 16, 2014
stephanieg in Manhattan

Great NY Pizza near Orpheum Theatre

Ha! The reason we're after great NY-style pizza is that we can't really get it here in Baltimore. Over the past few years, a lot of places have sprouted up in our area with great Naples-style pizza. My husband grew up in northern NJ and misses top-notch NY style, so he's really hoping this visit up to NYC will help satisfy that craving.

Feb 11, 2014
stephanieg in Manhattan

Great NY Pizza near Orpheum Theatre

Thanks for all these fabulous suggestions! Can you sit down at Joe's? Quick is ok, especially if the pizza is stellar, but we'll be on foot from Penn Station, so we'll definitely be ready to sit and relax!

Feb 09, 2014
stephanieg in Manhattan