Thursday, July 31, 2014

Celebrating our 3rd Birthday

This week marked our blog's 3rd birthday.

When we started the blog in the summer of 2011, I was 14 years old, a soon-to-be high school freshman and my brother Thomas was a 12-year-old middle school student.

Many things have changed since we began food blogging.  Now we're both in high school. In the Fall, I'll be a senior and Thomas a sophomore.

In 2011,  me (age 14) and Thomas (age 12)
attending our 1st Howard County Blogger Party

The biggest difference now is I can drive myself and Thomas to review restaurants. Thomas took the driver's education class this summer, so he'll be driving soon too.

To celebrate the blog's 3rd birthday, we wanted to do something meaningful.

We read a Day Resource Center Facebook post that stated they are in need of food for their pantry. From our summer jobs and birthday gifts, we pooled our money together and headed to the store.

We each purchased four super packs of the items on the Center's wish list - soups, pastas and fruits.

After loading the items in the car, we set off to deliver the gifts to the Day Resource Center in Jessup.

Although the directions were easy, we had a hard time finding the Center, so we called Grassroots Intervention Crisis Center for some assistance. They told us, the Center is only open 3 days a week. Unfortunately, today (Thursday) was not one of the open days, so no one would be available to receive our food.

Grassroots Crisis Center offered to store the food and deliver it to the Center when it opened again on Saturday.

Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center in Columbia 
When we arrived at Grassroots to deliver the pantry items, we met the nice staff person who talked to us on the phone. When we told her we are food bloggers, she introduced us to Ms. Dotty, the manager of the Grassroots cafeteria and pantry.  

Ms. Dotty told us that the Grassroots pantry is also low on food. She gave us a list of pantry items that are needed. 

Ms. Dotty's wish list

Paper products: napkins, paper plates and 12 oz coffee cups

Breakfast: sugar, coffee creamers, canned coffee, orange juice, breakfast cereal bars and family size cereal boxes, fruit juice (individual juice boxes or 2 qt bottles)

Lunch: canned tuna, mayo, catsup, mustard, relish, chips

Dinner: instant potatoes, salad dressing (ranch is popular)

Snacks: variety of chips and crackers, individually packaged sweet treats (i.e. 100 calorie packs) 

According to Howard County Plan to End Homelessness,  580 homeless children were identified in Howard County public schools during the 2010-2011 school year. As students ourselves, that really made us think about how we could help out more. 

We hope you will consider donating needed food to the Day Resource Center and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center. 

Click on the names to learn more about the Day Resource Center and Grassroots Crisis Intervention Center . 

Thank you for reading our blog!!! 

- Charles 

Follow Day Resource Center and Grassroots on Facebook 

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

National Chicken Wing Day - America's Best Wings & Seafood

It's National Chicken Wing Day. We celebrated at America's Best Wings and Seafood in Catonsville.

With 29 wing flavors, regular or boneless, we were hopeful we'd find least one flavor that we would like.

The store is very small with just a few seating options. But the service and the food made up for the lack of atmosphere.  

The lady taking our order, Lecretia Kelly, was extremely nice and so excited to help us. She suggested Old Bay and Garlic Parmesan Cheese - two flavors we probably would not have order ourselves. Ms. Kelly explained that we could order different flavors for every 5 piece wing we ordered.  So we took her suggestions and ordered both 5 pieces of the Old Bay and Garlic Parmesan Cheese wings plus 5 pieces of the traditional Honey BBQ for a total of 15 wings ($12.40).
Garlic and Parmesan Cheese
Old Bay and Honey BBQ 

It was mmmMMMmmmMMMmm tasty! 

We were surprised how much we liked the Old Bay flavor.  This flavor was more of a rub with just a hint of Old Bay, exactly like Ms. Kelly explained to us. It didn't overpower the chicken, it was just a tiny kick of spice. The chicken wing had a slight crunch on the outside but nice, tender meat on the inside. 

These wings were addicting to say the least
The Garlic Parmesan wings were interesting.  As Italian Americans who use lots of garlic and parmesan cheese in our cooking, we never thought about putting it on wings. But it works. And Ms. Kelly was right again - this rub flavor had a smooth, buttery taste with a zing of garlic and predominance of parmesan. It tasted similar to the Italian chicken cutlets we make but without the seasoned bread crumbs. Definitely a hit.

While traditional, we liked the sweetness of the Honey BBQ flavor wings. It is a good mix of honey and BBQ - neither one over powers the other. Although the sauce can get messy (to be expected with wings) it was never too wet or runny. The sauce stuck to the wings and to our fingers. However, nothing that a napkin couldn't solve. 

The three sided booths were cool!
We would definitely order wings from America's Best Wings and Seafood again. In fact, we'd consider ordering their wing platters in 50, 75 and 100 count pieces for a party.  We'd also like to try some of the other menu items such as the sub special - $6.99 with fries and drink or the fried seafood specials, 2 fried fish (Whiting, Lake Trout, Tilapia or Cat Fish) and shrimp for $9.99.

Happy Chicken Wing Day! Tell us about your chicken wing adventures.

- Charles

America's Best Wings and Seafood
830 N. Rolling Road, Catonsville, MD 21228
(410) 788-9464
In the H Mart shopping plaza - corner of Rolling Road and Rt. 40 

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