Monday, August 18, 2014

Healthy School Lunch ideas - Whole Foods Market, Columbia

Whole Foods Market Columbia, Md bag

It's almost here... 

... the August 20 grand opening of the new Whole Foods Market, located in the iconic, Frank Gehry designed building (former Rouse Company headquarters), overlooking Lake Kittamaqundi and across from the The Mall,  in downtown Columbia. 

Today, we got a sneak peak of the store from Ms. Malloy of Whole Foods.  

It's hard to find words to describe how awesome this store is.  We knew we'd love it, but it's even better than we envisioned. 

Ms. Malloy introduced us to a Whole Foods Healthy Foods Specialist who we worked with to create two great school lunches - a turkey & hummus wrap and a peanut & chocolate butter with fresh strawberries sandwich - just in time for the start of school.  

Whole Foods ROCKS! 

 - Charles and Thomas 

Check out our video.

Monday, August 4, 2014

DiPasquale's Italian Marketplace - Baltimore, MD

100 years ago, Luigi DiPasquale Sr. opened an Italian corner grocery store in Batlimore's Highlandtown neighborhood.


Over the years, DiPasquale's has blossomed into an Italian market and eatery. Today, the family owned and operated store still offers the same high quality Italian items that locals love. Like many others, my grandparents have been customers for years, but some people come from far away to stock up on Italian goodies.

In fact, DiPasquale's is known nationally. It's been featured not once but TWICE on the Food Network  Guy Fieri's show (click here for video) and on Lidia's Italy in America show (see minute 14). Both celebrities were blown away by the authentic Italian food. It's impressive when two cooking legends come for a visit.

We couldn't wait to visit DiPasquale's.  From the outside, the building doesn't look like it could house a famous Italian Marketplace with such a big reputation.  However, you'll be surprised how big it actually is inside.

When I walked in, my eyes almost popped out of my head. Everywhere I looked there were mouthwatering authentic Italian items - seemingly endless varieties of olives, fresh mozzarella, imported cheese, stunning homemade prepared food and hanging cured meats at the deli counter.

In refrigerated and freezer cases there were an assortment of fresh pasta, pasta sauces, cookies, cakes and cannoli. On the grocery shelves there were dried pastas in all shapes and sizes, imported Italian goods....really anything and everything Italian is in this store.

 Looking at the food made me crazy hungry, but it was the aroma
 of the freshly baked bread that really made my mouth water.

Sicilian rice ball with meat and fresh mozzarella center 

My family headed to the deli counter where we ordered our food for lunch.

Roasted red and yellow peppers 

Cubanella sandwich


For appetizers, we ordered an Arancini and a side of yellow and red roasted peppers. The Sicilian rice ball was incredible. How could something so simple taste so good!
We ate the peppers -  melt in your mouth, garlicky roasted goodness - using the homemade bread to soaking up all the delicious juices.

I ordered the Cubanella sandwich. Mamma mia was it good! Ham, prosciutto, sautéed onions, lettuce, tomato, hots, and dijion mustard were the framework of this sandwich. The blend of sweet sautéed onions, well seasoned, moist pork with the crunchy bread was heaven in my mouth.  I was only sad that this sandwich was a daily special when it should be a staple on the everyday menu - it's that good.

Eggplant Lasagna
My grandma ordered the Chicken Parmigiana sandwich.  A seasoned breaded chicken cutlet covered with marinara sauce and melted provolone cheese. A classic that didn't disappoint.

My grandpa ordered a dish of Gnocchi with marinara sauce - one of the daily specials. The thick, but delicate and soft pasta paired with a sweet tomato sauce was delicious.

My mom is a huge eggplant fan. So, it was no surprise she ordered the eggplant lasagna. She was in heaven - couldn't get enough of the thinly sliced layers of eggplant melded together to form a dense but fork tender mile high lasagna. Oh, yeah, she wants to come just for this dish.
Large Meatball Sub 

Charles's needed a forklift to eat his large meatball sub. This is not just a big sub, it is the BIGGEST sub we have ever seen. The picture doesn't do it justice. It could literially feed a small village. He lost count on how many tender meatballs with sweet tomato sauce and melted cheese were stuffed into a ginormous half loaf of bread. Charles ate this sandwich with a fork.  Even his mouth was too small for the mighty meatball sub. In the end, Charles took home half of the sub - and that was after a few of us had a taste.

For dessert, we all split the Panettone Bread Pudding. Panettone is a classic Italian style sweet bread that is eaten all year long but most popular at Christmastime.  I liked this twist on traditional bread pudding.  Served cold, with a generous portion of whipped cream on top of it, I loved it. In fact, I think I ate more than my share of it.

I wish this restaurant was in my neighborhood because I would go there all the time. But regardless of how long it takes me to get to the Highlandtown store, DiPasquale's is worth the drive.

Bravo DiPasquale's!!!!!  Cent'anni (Italian saying for wishing you another 100 years)

- Thomas

Di Pasquale's Italian Marketplace on Urbanspoon

Friday, August 1, 2014

Soft Stuff is back - Ellicott City

For 30 years, Soft Stuff ice cream treats have been a tradition on Route 40 in Ellicott City, Maryland. The original Soft Stuff located next to the Double T Diner, was demolished recently along with the Forest Diner and Motel to build a brand new shopping center.

The plan was for Soft Stuff to re-open in the new shopping center bigger than before but with the same great ice cream and spirit of the original. 

The much anticipated re-opening may take place as early as TODAY,  according to the Soft Stuff Facebook page. 

We had the privilege of meeting the co-owner Micheal Weal who gave us a sneak peak and taste of Soft Stuff earlier this week.
Soft Stuff co-owner Micheal Weal 

 Soft Stuff's new home is an awesome space decorated in beach colors including a mural depicting an ocean boardwalk scene. Mr. Weal said the art represents Rehoboth Beach, where the inspiration for the store originated.

The store is located at the end of one of the new large, brick buildings that sits on the former site of the ice cream stand and motel.

Besides the obvious change in venue, the new Soft Stuff's corner lot and spacious store now allows for indoor and outside seating.

Outdoor seating 

What hasn't changed is the fabulous good old fashion ice cream that Soft Stuff is known for.

Mr. Weal told us what makes Soft Stuff different from some other ice cream vendors is that Soft Stuff uses the highest quality 10% butterfat milk.  This lowers the quantities of air in the ice cream to create a creamier and richer taste.
Cool Mint 
Cappuccino Mocha 

We tried cappuccino mocha, butter pecan and caramel flavors.

They were unbelievable - creamy, rich texture bursting with flavor.

Soft Stuff has an arsenal of ice cream flavors to choose from including the old favorites and many new ones - vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, mocha cappuccino, butter pecan, cotton candy, caramel, cool mint, and banana ripple to name a few. 

There is also a no fat, no added sugar yogurt option in vanilla and chocolate flavors.

Owner Michael Weal says that butter pecan and classic cherry are his favorite. Stay tuned for more new flavors coming soon.

Welcome back Soft Stuff!  It's been too long.

- Thomas

Soft Stuff on Urbanspoon