Thursday, July 24, 2014

Baltimore Magazine - Best Food Blog

This is HUGE! 

Baltimore Magazine named us Best Food Blog in its "Best of Baltimore" August edition. 

We have been writing our blog for soon to be 3 years (our anniversary is July 29), and it is such an honor that we received this level of recognition. 

We want to thank everyone who has helped us along the way - 

Our readers for taking the time to follow us and write comments. 

Our big Italian American family for giving us the love of FOOD and being a part of our
 food adventures. 

Our friends and teachers for their encouragement and restaurant suggestions. 

And the blogging community who have been very generous with their time and support, especially HowChow BlogMacsmom, HoCo BlogsThe Bare Midriff , AngieKozSwims, LaCasaDeSweets, HocoRising and Richard Gorelick the Baltimore Sun restaurant critic

We look forward to eating and blogging many more meals and events. Stay tuned. 

- Charles and Thomas 

Monday, July 21, 2014

Vinnie's Mulberry Street - East Islip (Long Island), NY

This summer, my family visited my grandparents in Long Island and they insisted on bringing us to one of their favorite restaurants, Vinnie's Mulberry Street in East Islip, New York.

 My grandfather said, "Charles, we need to bring you to this restaurant. The food is terrific!"

                                 The dinning room interior has a modern but cozy feel that was evidenced by the glossy tables tops in the booths, sleek circular lighting fixtures and oversized, comfortable chairs. Very cool.

Each entree comes with a fresh, large salad

Shortly after we were seated, we received a basket of complimentary focaccia bread. The warm, melt in your mouth focaccia bread coupled with our entree salad could've been a meal by itself.

For an appetizer, our grandparents ordered Clams Casino (baked clams topped with pancetta and red peppers). They order this dish every time they come to the restaurant without disappointment. 

Our entrees came out hot, quick and each one was more than a generous amount of food.

My brother ordered the Chicken and Eggplant Marsala with penne pasta- chicken breasts topped with eggplant, roasted peppers, and melted mozzarella in a Marsala wine sauce. This twist on a traditional Chicken Marsala was clever. The only thing Thomas would change is to ask for more sauce and mushrooms.

Train Wreck Lasagna 
 My grandfather tried the Train Wreck Lasagna special. It looked like a deconstructed lasagna. Another interesting twist on a traditional favorite. This was one honking piece of lasagna- ample pasta intertwined with sweet sauce, gobs of seasoned ricotta cheese, grated cheese and spices. Let's just say grandpa went home with a doggy bag.  
Pan Seared Salmon with orzo pasta  
My mom and I were in the mood for seafood and ordered the Pan Seared Salmon. The sweet and creamy texture of the orzo pasta, infused with fresh chopped asparagus and grated romano cheese, was a great compliment to the saltiness of the tender salmon. 
Shrimp Scampi 
Dad ordered the Shrimp Scampi - jumbo gulf shrimp covered in seasoned bread crumbs atop a sea of penne pasta with scampi sauce.  He enjoyed the dish, especially the shrimp, but it was heavy on pasta. Next time he would ask for to add sauteed spinach or broccoli to the dish or as a side. 

Grandma's espresso 
7 Layer Chocolate Cake 

I'm not sure how any of us had any room for dessert but I'm glad we ordered it. True to the sizes of the other dishes, the 7 Layer Chocolate Cake was huge. Thankfully it was served with several forks to share. The cake was as good as it looks - fudge-like cream nestled between dense chocolate cake, topped with whipped cream and drizzled chocolate sauce. I'd come back just for the cake. 

For dessert, my grandma ordered an espresso while my parents ordered coffee. Thomas finished my mom's coffee, a New England Roast. He enjoyed it so much that he asked the owner about it, who described it as "robust not bitter." Thomas agreed. 
My bro and I with the owner in front of the pizzeria section of the restaurant

My grandfather was right.  Vinnie's Mulberry Street has terrific food.  The location is great too. For locals its conveniently situated in the middle of Long Island with its own parking lot.  For people traveling from NYC to the Hamptons, the restaurant sits on a major road, Montauk Highway (the East-West road that extends from Montauk to Amityville on the South Shore), which is approximately the half way mark between the two destinations. 

- Charles

Vinnie's Mulberry Street on Urbanspoon

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Red Parrot Asian Bistro- Turf Valley Towne Center, MD

My mom, brother, and I decided to try the Red Parrot Asian Bistro in Turf Valley Towne Square for dinner. The modern themed interior showcased awesome and funky light fixtures that made the restaurant appear way cool!

My bro and I

My mom ordered the Pad Thai Tofu. This dish was
based on rice noodles stir-fried with tofu and a variety of vegetables. My mom said the tofu was refreshing because it was lightly fried as opposed to deep fried. The seasonings were well balanced: fish sauce, garlic, and onion. There was also a generous amount of fresh bean sprouts and sprinkled peanuts. 

My brother ordered General Tso's Chicken. Even though the chicken was soft and tender like their Sesame Chicken, the sauce was very spicy (unlike the Sesame Chicken). He would've preferred a more mild sauce but that didn't stop him from eating the whole dish. I would recommend that you have a full glass of water/liquid near you at all times when consuming this dish.

White Rice

I ordered the Sesame ChickenTerrific presentation. The thick sesame sauce gave the
 chicken a sweet taste. However, the
texture of the chicken was too soft. I would've preferred
 the outside of the chicken to be more crispy. But the dish
was very tasty and I ate every last morsel of it.

Overall, I would say that this is the type of restaurant that you can go out with your friends to hang out because it's a hip place, everything is lit up and colorful, and the food is plentiful and flavorful. The only downside to the Red Parrot is that our food took a little longer to arrive than I would of liked.

- Charles

Red Parrot Asian Bistro
11105 Resort Rd. Ellicott City

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Nando's Peri Peri grand opening - Towson Square, MD

Nando's Peri Peri's newest restaurant (seats 136 people) location in Towson Square, MD, will have its grand opening tomorrow at 11:00 A.M. I've heard that they have an excellent Peri Peri chicken.

Nando's has been serving South African-Portuguese cuisine for about 27 years. Since the franchise began, it has expanded its horizons to 24 countries on 5 continents.

Some of their other Maryland locations are: Bethesda, Silver Spring, Gaithersburg, Annapolis, Waugh Chapel, and Arundel Mills. They will also be opening locations in Laurel and Baltimore's East Harbor soon.


Thursday, July 10, 2014

Buffalo Wild Wings Grill & Bar - Columbia, MD

I had lunch with my mom at Buffalo Wild Wings newest location in Columbia. Here's what I experienced walking in to the restaurant on Grand Opening day. 


With out a doubt, this was the warmest welcome I've ever received at a restaurant. 

The interior is so cool. There was literally a large screen TV everywhere I looked. I counted 23 TV screens spread out in all three seating areas. In addition, there are fun arcade games located in various corners throughout the restaurant. 

It's called Buffalo Wild Wings so we had to try the legendary wings. There are 22 different sauces and seasonings to choose from with our order of traditional bone-in or boneless wings. 
The waiter gave me some rad headgear!
The flavors ranged in intensity from "Smilin'" (Swee BBQ, Honey Mustard) to "Sizzlin'" (Jammin' Jalapeno, Asian Zing, Thai Curry) to "Screamin'" (Mango Habenero and Blazin')

We ordered a snack size (5 pieces) of traditional wings with sweet BBQ sauce. The flavor was sweet and savory but the chicken wasn't fall off the bone tender. We had to work to get the meat off the bones. I thought there was too much sauce on the wings. I expect eating wings to be messy but these were exceptionally wet. I was happy to find packages of moist hand wipes at the table.

We decided to wash down the wings with the signature Huckleberry lemonade. It was sweet and bursting with flavor. The berry flavors were definitely more pronounced than the lemonade, but we both liked it. Since we got free refills, we tried the Mango flavor too.  It was also good but we preferred the Huckleberry flavor. 
Huckleberry Lemonade 

Mango Lemonade 

For lunch, I ordered the Philly Cheesesteak with fries. This was a large sub packed with moist pieces of steak, sautéed onion and peppers and velvety cheese. The only problem was the seasoning was off. It didn't taste like a traditional cheesesteak with hints of garlic, salt and pepper - where the taste of the steak is king. There was a seasoning that I could not identify but just didn't care for.
Philly Cheesesteak

My mom ordered the Chicken Chop Salad - fresh greens topped with Honey BBQ sauce drizzled grilled chicken, blue cheese, dried cranberries, sugared walnuts, bacon with a light balsamic dressing. 

She liked the sweetness of the cranberries and sugared walnuts with the saltiness of the bacon and BBQ chicken. Unfortunately, the chicken breast was not tender - similar to the problem with the wings. The dressing was bland, so she didn't use it. 

I was really hopeful that the restaurant was going to be amazing - especially after being greeted at the door by so many happy and excited employees, but the food fell short for me. Since my first experience with Buffalo Wild Wings was on their opening day, I 'm going to try this restaurant again because the place has a really fun atmosphere.  

- Charles

Buffalo Wild Wings on Urbanspoon

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Chef Paolino Cafe: Ellicott City, MD

Chef Paolino Cafe had its soft opening last week
(in the former Serafino's restaurant space) and will have a big grand opening sometime after July 4, according to owner Paul DelFico, whose family is from Naples, Italy.

My mom, who grew up in Howard County, remembers this same restaurant when it was located in the old food court in The Mall in Columbia, next to the main water fountain. When the Mall closed the small food court, Paolino's relocated to Catonsville. The Ellicott City store marks its second location in the area.

Owner Paul DelFico


Paulino's has reconfigured the old Serofina's space adding more booths and tables and eliminating the bar seats and brick oven. Even the adjacent space that used to be a bar and private room is getting a facelift to make it more like a separate dinning area than a bar- "more family friendly" for group rentals that can seat 60 people,  said DelFico.

The first thing you see when you enter Paolino's is the impressive display of various pizzas, calzones, roll ups, bruschetta and garlic knots. This is where a nice staff member behind the cash register gave us a glossy new menu.

The menu had lunch specials - antipasti, pasta, chicken, veal, seafood. A chalk board had the pizza of the day special. Or we could order off the regular section that had more choices in each of those categories, in addition to salads, subs, deli sandwiches and soup.

Everything looked so good and we were really hungry, so we tried a bunch of items to share. We tasted slices of New York Style Pizza with mushroom topping and white pizza with sautéed spinach. This is about as close to New York pizza as it comes - thin, crispy crust with just the right amount of sauce or ricotta and toppings that do not overpower the bread. True to NY pizza, I could easily pick up the slice and fold it in half to eat it - without any cheese, sauce or toppings falling off. 

My mom LOVED the white pizza with spinach. She said it had a bunch of garlic and spices that added zest to both the spinach and crust.  

The greek salad (we added the chicken topping) was huge and chuck full of ice berg lettuce and vegetables such as cucumbers, green and cherry peppers, red onions, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, and shredded carrots. The Italian dressing was light and didn't over power the fresh vegetables. A basket of nicely seasoned, crunchy garlic bread accompanied the salad. 

We spilt a cheesesteak deluxe and eggplant parmigiana with our mom. Again, these were enormous portions. Each half of the sandwich could easily serve as one meal.  The cheesesteak was loaded with well seasoned beef, lettuce, tomato, hots, cheese, and onions. The hots were less spicy than I anticipated. It was actually a nice burst of flavor. This sub was so well put together that nothing came out of place or fell when I held the sub.
Eggplant Parmigiana 
The eggplant parm was heavy on the eggplant and light on sauce - the way I like it. Although the sandwich was good, it wasn't a standout like the cheesesteak which had more seasoning.  I think I'd like it better as an entree with pasta rather than a sub. 
Chicken Marsala 
My dad ordered the chicken marsala lunch special. This too was a generous portion of two large chicken cutlets sautéed in a marsala wine sauce with mushrooms a top a bed of pasta. The sauce was tasty but my dad would have liked more garlic in the sauce. 

When I saw Mussells Caprese on the menu- mussels with white wine, parley, lemon, garlic and olive oil - it had my name all over it. The presentation was pretty with all the mussels standing at attention sprinkled with chopped fresh parsley in a sea of well seasoned broth. Let's just say, there weren't any mussels left in my dish. I used the garlic bread from the salad and side order of garlic knots to soak up the delicious broth.

Mussels Caprese 
When we left we noticed a large stand with a sign "Authentic Italian Cookies from New York". Indeed, it was a huge selection of some of our favorite Italian cookies. Since we were stuffed, we didn't buy any this time, but we will definitely go back and try some another time.
Lastly, the menu advertises two weekly specials from 4 to 10 p.m.  Monday is Pasta Night -
buy one entree, get one pasta for $5. Tuesday is Pizza Night - Buy 1 pizza of your choice, get 2nd cheese pizza for $5 (limit to 6 pizzas).

- Thomas

Chef Paolino Cafe
3419 Plum Tree Drive
Ellicott City, Maryland
(410) 680-8087