Sunday, April 28, 2013

Cuba de Ayer - Burtonsville

Looking for authentic Cuban food? Try Cuba de Ayer Restaurant in Burtonsville.

Both my grandfather and my Godfather have eaten here and thought it was worth a return trip. The latter is of Cuban descent and grew up in Miami.  So, he knows good Cuban food.

Cuba de Ayer is located in a busy strip shopping center that can be a little tricky to find on a street crowded with business and signs.  Here's a google map to help you find it. 

The restaurant's decor made me feel like I was dining in Cuba.  As soon as I opened the door, I was met by fast beat Cuban music. It was nice background music but not too loud to interfere with our conversation. In addition, Cuban pictures and art decorated the walls.

 For appetizers, my grandfather ordered two dishes for us to share.  The Sandwich Cubano and the Croquetas de Jamon
(left). The croquetas were crispy on the outside and field with a tasty ham and mashed potato mixture. Melt in your mouth delicious.  I knew I would love the Sandwich Cubano because it has some of my favorite foods combined- roast pork, baked ham, swiss cheese, mustard and thin sliced pickle all on a hot pressed baguette. I was not disappointed. Yum! 
Sandwich Cubano 

Many of the entrees come with plantains (banana like fruit) and black beans.  We had the choice of  either sweet plananos maduros (sweet plantains) or tostones (fried green plantains) and black beans on the side in a separate bowl or mixed in with the rice. We choose sweet plantains and a bowl of black beans on the side.

My mom's entree was masitas de puerco fritas (fried morsels of pork). This is one of her favorite dishes to order at Cuban restaurants, so she's had it many times. She thought the seasoned pork was moist on the inside and crispy on the outside. I tasted it too and agree. 

I ordered the arroz con pollo (yellow rice, sweet plantains, dark meat chicken served on the bone). This dish also comes in a white meat version. The chicken was crazy moist, fall off the bone tender - just how I like it. The seasoned yellow rice was also tender with a mild spicy taste to complement the chicken. The sweet plantains were soft and a bit sweet. I would have liked the plantains a little sweeter. 

My grandfather selected the Picadillo (Cuban style seasoned ground beef cooked with green olives, raisins, potatoes, and non-spicy spices).

This is one of my Grandfather's favorite Cuban dishes. His best friend growing up in New York was a Cuban boy who's mom was a fantastic cook. So, he's been eating variations of this dish for about 40 years. He thought this Picadillo was very tasty but needed a touch more seasoning. He agreed with me that the plantains could have been a bit sweeter. 

We were so full we didn't order dessert, but the menus had some items I'd like to try the next time we return  including flan and tres leches.

Note - We ate here for lunch on a Saturday.  The menu gives both lunch and dinner prices.  Our waiter didn't tell us that the lunch prices are only for the weekday.  So, it was a big surprise to find out when we got our bill. Ask your waiter before you order which prices apply. 

Cuba de Ayer is located at 15446 Old Columbia Pike in Burtonsville, Maryland 20866,  (301) 476-9622.

- Thomas 

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Saturday, April 20, 2013

Thomas makes news!

My brother Thomas in the news! 

Thomas's teachers Ms. Lavender and Madame Lanz are two of the coolest teachers at Thomas's middle school.  

When they found out Thomas and I were food bloggers, they thought it would be of interest to,  the Maryland on-line newspaper for middle school students.  

The newspaper liked the idea and asked Thomas to write about our blog.  Click here to read the story. 

Way to go Thomas! 

- Charles

hocofood @@@

Saturday, April 13, 2013

A Classic Italian Easter Dinner

Easter at Aunt Millie's house

This year on Easter, my family spent the holiday dinner with my relatives in New York. My Aunt Millie hosted the Easter dinner - something she has done for decades.

I come from a very large Italian American family so the meal was a blend of Italian American and American favorites. 

For many Italian Americans, it is a  tradition for the first course of a holiday or special occasion meal to be  pasta. 

 Aunt Mille cooked giant pans of 
manicotti -very large pasta tubes stuffed with rich ricotta and Italian cheeses - served in a homemade tomato sauce or "gravy" as Aunt Millie calls it. 
(Left) Then the second part  of the meal was served. Aunt Millie's meatballs, braciole and spare ribs were cooked in her homemade tomato sauce. Which made both the meat and the sauce unbelievable delicious. 

(Right) Gigantic pieces of broccoli served in a olive oil and garlic sauce. 

Stuffed mushrooms with seasoned bread crumbs, olive oil and parmigiano reggiano cheese. 

(Right) Chicken Parmesean was  tender, seasoned breaded chicken topped with melted mozzarella cheese in a thick tomato sauce. My brother Thomas and I couldn't get enough of this. This was our absolute favorite dish of the night. I'd give it 5 out of 5 stars.

Aunt Millie served both stuffed (above) and oil and garlic roasted artichokes. These always go fast.

The leg of lamb was full of luscious juicy tasting meat that was bombarded with different spices to give it a kick.

Roasted asparagus in oil and garlic sauce sprinkled with  fresh grated parmigiano cheese. 

There was even more food I didn't get pictures of like the succulent roast beef, creamy mashed potatoes, salad and warm semolina bread.  

And I'm really sorry I didn't get any pictures of the dessert table. Yes, an entire table filled with desserts like homemade Uncle Jack's tiramisu and apple tart, Cousin Karen's homemade cream puffs drizzled with chocolate and key lime pie cheese cake an assortment of more pies, cakes and Italian cookies. 

Let's just say I was too busy eating to take pictures. 

The dinner was a real celebration of our Italian heritage 

Brava Aunt Millie!!! 

- Charles 

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches

 When you're looking for a quick bite to eat  try Jimmy John's Gourmet Sandwiches.

The restaurant has a large variety of sandwiches with clever names such as the Vito, Billy Club, Ultimate Porker, Club LuLu, Beach Club and the Pepe.

My brother and I both ordered a Turkey Tom sub in addition to splitting a  bag of chips and a medium soda. The service was fast and friendly.

Then we nestled into one of the comfortable and roomy booths to eat.

  The Turkey Tom is an 8" gourmet sub that is loaded with fresh sliced turkey, mounds of lettuce, tomato, mayo, and cucumbers. This sub is definitely worth the price ($5.15).

Jimmy John's has their own brand of chips called Jimmy chips that come in an assortment of flavors. We decided to try their BBQ flavor, which is my favorite type.

Howard County has three Jimmy John locations - In Ellicott City: 9339 Baltimore National Pike, (410) 750-2010 and in Columbia: 6191 Old Dobbin Lane,  (410) 872-0010 & 8827 Centre Park Dr,
(410) 730-5511

Interesting fact -

 Jimmy John's bathroom held a funny surprise.  My brother noticed a series of signs in the men's bathroom like this one. That's not something we see everyday. However, it was quite entertaining.

By the way, we're not sure if there are signs in the women's bathroom, and we're not going to find out.

 hocofood @@@