Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Sicily, Italy

Recently, my parents, brother, grandparents, and I took a trip to Sicily, Italy - the birthplace of my great grandfather. The island is located at the southern most end of the main land which resembles a boot. Sicily is often called "the ball" because of its position at the tip of the boot.

We traveled by car through six provinces stopping to visit relatives and historical sites in Palermo, Agrigento, Siracusa, Caltanissetta and Taormina.

We learned that Sicily is one of the world's first "melting pots." As the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea and a strategic location for trade routes, it was a popular target of many conquests by powerful forces - Greek, Roman, Vandal, Byzantine, Islamic, Norman, Hohenstaufen, Catalan, Spaniard. The influences of these cultures are still evident today in the food and culture of Sicily.  

Here's a cheap and fast way to take a trip to this amazing island - follow Charles and I as we write a blog series highlighting Sicilian food and history.

Watch for our first post in the coming days.

Until then enjoy this great post my brother wrote about the trip on the Order Sons of Italy in America blog.
Click here to read 

And check out some of our travel photos below.

Warning! Photos may cause extreme hunger. Don't look on an empty stomach.

- Thomas

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Alexandra's American Fusion - Turf Valley Resort and Conference Center, Ellicott City, MD

Alexandra's American Fusion patio seating 

Indoor seating overlooks the manicured greens of two 18 hole golf courses 

How's that for a view? This is the spectacular vista you'll see if you dine on the outside patio at Alexandra's American Fusion restaurant that overlooks a 36 hole championship golf course.

Located in the Turf Valley conference and resort center, Alexandra's stunning views of the pristine golf course are easily seen from both the outside seating area and the inside seating sections via floor-to-ceiling windows.

Complimentary basket of warm focaccia bread accompanied
with seasoned olive oil dipping sauce  

To take advantage of the beautiful summer weather, Charles and I decided to eat on the patio. It's easily one of the most stunning dinning views in all of Howard County. If you are a golfer, you probably already know about Alexandra's. We heard players literally walk off the greens to eat.

Charles ordered off the regular menu, while I decided to try one of the Howard County Restaurant Week prix fixe dinner specials.

Classic Caesar
 I selected the Classic Caesar for my starter. Can we just take a second to admire the presentation of this elegantly displayed dish?
House Salad

My brother selected the House Salad as a side. Like the Classic Caesar, the presentation was off the hook! The vegetables were also extremely crisp and fresh. 

Maryland Crab Cakes 
The creamy parmesan dressing fully glazed all the crunchy romaine lettuce. The portion was so large it was almost falling off the plate. Really great for a hungry teenager like me.

For my main course, I ordered the Maryland Crab Cakes - two 5 oz crab cakes served with hand-cut fries, cole slaw, and home-made tartar sauce. This entree certainly didn't disappoint.

The crab cakes had a crispy coating and fork-tender crab meat. When in tandem with the home-made tartar sauce and seasoned fries it was brilliantly fresh. By themselves, the fries are leaning more on the sweet side. However, if you want to live on the wild side, I recommend dipping the fries in the tartar for an interesting kick.
12 oz Strip Steak with Farmer's Market vegetables 
Charles selected the 12 oz Strip steak with the Farmer's Market side - summer squash medley, grape tomatoes, pearl onions, and haricot verts. The steak was moist and juicy, succulent, and a good sized portion. The Farmer's Market side was bigger than Charles expected. Since he's a vegetable nut, he was really happy to see this oversized legumes portion that was very fresh and seasoned just right with hints of garlic salt.

Caramel Apple Bread Pudding
Although we were stuffed from our meal, we couldn't resist the Caramel Apple Bread Pudding as a conclusion to our three part meal. We are big caramel fans, so this kind of dessert was perfect for us. It was warm, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness?  Great way to end our meal. 

Charles, Alexandra's manager Steve Smith
and Thomas 

Alexandra's food and stunning scenery were a hole-in-one for us.

During Howard County Restaurant Week, diners at Alexandra's have two great menus to chose from - the prix fixe dinner or the regular menu.

Since the Restaurant Week menu has some terrific options at a special price it's a great way to try Alexandra's.

Restaurant Week specials are only available until August 3, so you have to hurry before the deal expires.

- Thomas

Click to add a blog post for Alexandra's Restaurant at Turf Valley on Zomato

Sunday, July 26, 2015

FREE Food Alert

For the 2015 season, the Baltimore Orioles have teamed up with Chick-fil-A to create 
"O's Day at Chick-fil-A Baltimore"

This promotion during the regular season allows Orioles fans on six select dates to  wear their Orioles team apparel or orange clothing to a participating Baltimore Chick-fil-A restaurant and receive a FREE original chicken sandwich

Tomorrow, July 27 between 11 a.m. and 8 p.m. is the third O's Day. The next is Monday, August 31 and the last one is September 28. 

Orioles fans may receive one sandwich per day on any of the six select promotion dates.  

- The 2 Dudes 
   Charles and Thomas

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Glory Days Grill - NEW! Ellicott City, Maryland

Glory Days Grill of Ellicott City is the restaurant chain's new flagship store - a 2.2 million dollar restaurant employing over 150 people and seating 352 inside and another 50 people in an outside area that has cornhole games and soon to be installed firepit. The company has 22 restaurant across Maryland, Virginia, Florida and West Virginia, and another one opening soon in Edgewater, MD.

The Ellicott City location has its grand opening on Monday, July 27 but one of the Managing Partners and part owner Justin Sweet gave us a sneak peak when he invited us to dinner during a pre-opening event.

Located next to the iconic Soft Stuff ice cream in the Forest Green Center, Glory Days Grill has the feel of a sports bar/restaurant but with a couple of very unique twists - big open spaces with natural light from floor to ceiling windows, electronic gadets (more on this later), multi-screen TV's sandwiched together to play one event or up to five different sports events.

Managing Partner Justin Sweet and Thomas 

As Justin Sweet personally showed us to our seats we passed two huge rooms containing multiple flat screen TV's and seating arrangements that can be made into one big open space with the help of a movable wall. Justin told us there is NO charge for room rentals which are ideal for parties, meetings or fantasy draft events. What's really cool is that each room has a private entrance (if you don't want to go through the restaurant) and its own climate control.

The main dining room is a very open area with several different seating options - bar, booths, tables, high tops  - and one seating area in the back that has floor-to-ceiling glass windows.

We sat in the back with my mom and grandmother. Marco was our server who told us all about the cool electronic gadgets.

First, the bar area and each table has a Sports Select box. This allows customers to select any of the 54 TV in the restaurant (each has a number) and connect to THAT TV's sound system. There's also a plug if you want to listen with headphones. Forgot your headphones? No problem, you can buy it for $1.99.

Second, don't worry if your electronic device is running out of juice. Just give it to your server or bartender who will charge it for you. You'll get a white round circle disc that will light up when your charging is complete. How cool is that!!!
Glory Days Slam Dunk Margarita

Now for the food and drinks. Our Grandma Alberta ordered the Glory Days Slam Dunk Margarita. She loved it from the first sip, "one of the best she has tasted."

Thomas ordered a Virgin Pina Colada. He said it had a strong coconut taste and a creamy texture. However, he also said that he wished he had a wider straw because it would have been easier to drink.

Fried Pickles 
Chicken wings are available with 10 different sauces. We choose the Glory sauce - a unique combination of smoky barbeque sauce, pure clover honey, and authentic buffalo style hot sauce.

At first, the sauce is sweet and savory, but then a spicy
Chicken Wings with Glory sauce

sensation hits you out of no where at the end. My brother said "it
blew my mind." The juicy and tender chicken wings lathered in
this incredible sauce were some of the best wings I've had in all the four
years I've been blogging.

We've never eaten fried pickles so we decided to try it. These sliced dill pickles are batter dipped and fried until golden brown served with a savory mustard-based dipping sauce. The sauce was killer good. Our waiter Marco suggested putting the fried pickles on a sandwich or burger. Oh, yeah, we're going to try that.

Our main courses 

My mom ordered the glory glazed salmon dinner which is one of the restaurant's signature dishes. This salmon was lathered with seasme-ginger glaze and usually served with fresh vegetables and mashed potatoes. However, my mom asked for loaded mashed potatoes (mashed potatoes with cheese and bacon). She absolutely loved the salmon for its tender texture and sweet glaze. I tried a little bit of the salmon and I'd personally recommend it to all my salmon lovers out there. The loaded mashed potatoes were homemade and looked delicious but could have used more seasoning.
Side Caesar Salad

Veggie Pizza 

I ordered the Veggie Pizza - Marinara, mozzarella, red and green peppers,
 red onions and broccoli. It was the best pizza I've had since my trip to Sicily last month (posts coming about Italy). My mom thought I was crazy for ordering a pizza at a grill but I had scoped
it out on the website earlier and it looked fantastic. The pizza: crisp 
vegetables on top of sweet marinara sauce and thick dough sprinkled 
with Italian seasonings. However it was the dough that made the pizza. 
Its soft as well as thick texture reminded me of this pizza I had back in
the Sicilian city of Siracusa where the chef let the dough rise 24 hours 
before serving it to the customers. 
Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich 

Thomas eating the Chicken Cheesesteak and onion rings
Our grandmother tried the Maryland Crab Cake Sandwich. She really enjoyed the sweetness of the crab meat paired with the light Old Bay seasonings and special sauce.  It's a nice size crab sandwich that she would order again.

Thomas ordered the Chicken Cheesesteak, thinly sliced grilled chicken with grilled onions, lettuce, tomato, mayo and melted cheese in a wrap. He added grilled mushrooms and peppers and onion rings instead of fries.

This wrap was tasty and jammed packed with food. In fact, the wrap was so packed that it spilled out when he bit into it. You may want to ask for extra napkins if you order this.

The oversized onion rings were crunchy on the outside with a moist, juicy onion on the inside.

Salted Vanilla Caramel Crunch Cake 
We ended the meal sharing a piece of Salted Vanilla Caramel Crunch Cake, layers of moist vanilla cake, caramel and creamy vanilla frosting with just a hint of salt. Yes, this cake was as awesome as it looks above. If you are a caramel fan like we are, you will LOVE this.

Before we left, we were introduced to Chef Tony Cochones, Glory Days food and beverage director. This guy knows food. He told us about his home garden and how he takes great pride in using seasonally fresh ingredients in his own cooking. He brings this philosophy and his passion for food to Glory Days, and it shows.

He also told us about the weekly dine in specials such as the $5.99 Classic Burgers on Mondays and
the.$9.99 Friday Fish Fry.
Chef Tony Cochones, Director of Food and Beverage 
Glory Days will be a huge hit in Howard County. You'll hear people talking about it. Definitely go and try it.

- Charles