I Am the Walrus

Well, actually, I just went to a restaurant called The Walrus. National Harbor, MD.

img_1179.jpg

First great/fun/cool thing about them – they have wine on tap. This perhaps used to be looked upon as an odd thing, but it’s great. Makes the wine last longer, it won’t go bad, and keeps it at the right temp. Cheers to that! I opted for the Rose (non-Moscato, of course). Nice and dry, light berry taste and perfect temp. And during happy hour, $2 off per glass.

img_1180.jpg

After looking over the menu, food-wise I went with the Butternut Squash Soup – Fresh Maryland lump crab, local butternut squash, chives and JO Spiced pepitas.  Very nice size for the dish, perfect thickness. It cooled down quickly, but nonetheless, with the crab it was even more delicious!
img_1184.jpg
Wanted more veggies and a soup/salad theme, so opted for the Roasted Beet Salad –
Roasted golden beets, goat cheese, baby greens, candied pecans, honey balsamic vinaigrette with sautéed shrimp. Good flavor and it came with both thinly sliced beets and cubed beets. The shrimp were also very nicely cooked.
img_1185
Liked the place and the service at the bar was pretty good. The initial bartender we had was perfect, then the amount of staff in the bar dropped so it was harder to get service, but it was not the end of the world. Check this place out if you’re at National Harbor.

Olney Ale House

After after an adventurous morning at the Sandy Spring Adventure Park (just outside DC), my friend and I needed to refuel. Note: if you’re looking for climbing, zipline, and more, check this place out! We found a restaurant a couple miles away that was just perfect — the Olney Ale House, in Olney, MD. It has quite the history.

img_0565

It was a nice day outside so we were able to sit on their large deck and enjoy the weather. They have quite a selection of brew and good menu. My friend and I both decided on the same thing, the Ginger Shrimp Salad   .   .   .   $14.50
Grilled marinated shrimp, field greens, pineapple, mange, toasted sesame seeds, cilantro.

This salad was amazing. So bright, so fresh, and so many flavors. That whole thing was devoured. I enjoyed it with a hard cider, too. Great way to refuel after the morning and enjoy the gorgeous day.

img_0566.jpg

Black Market

Black Market can mean many things. Well, the most recent place I tested the name was at Jeff Black’s version of it in Garrett Park, MD, Black Market Bistro.

img_0572

The last time I visited the place was probably 12 years ago and that was for brunch. Wow, it’s changed – it’s gotten much more popular and the menu is different.

Went on a Wednesday night and it was a solid 30 minute wait at around 7:45pm. Once we sat down, it didn’t take too long to decide what to get because we’d had a chance to glance at the menu while waiting. I will say, I ordered a heck of a lot of seafood!

So for the first course, the food that came to the table included:

Marinated Warm Grilled Squid Salad | $14 | Over Arugula in a Red Wine Vinaigrette with Kalamata Olives, Chili Flakes, Feta Cheese, Red Onions, Pine Nuts & Lemon Zest

First — the feta was genuine feta, so I could eat it. Everything other than the lettuce was hot-warm (which was perfect), and the squid was perfectly cooked. Heaven! I had to not eat it all because of the 2nd course.

img_0595

Cornmeal Crusted Oysters | $13 | House Made Tartar Sauce

The plate was demolished, or the food on the plate was. Apparently perfect — crusted and cooked to perfection, with quite a tasty tartar sauce.

img_0573.jpg

 

Second Course:

Swordfish special of the night. Can’t remember the entire description, but solid steaks, lettuce, nice vinaigrette, and delicious!

img_0600

New Orleans Style Barbeque Shrimp | $27 | Sweet Corn & Scallion Grits, Wilted Swiss Chard & Toasted Baguette

Bring on the grit drool and mouth watering shrimp is what I determined/heard from across the table.

img_0598

 

I took home a good amount of leftovers because both courses were big. The service was a bit slow and it was hard to get the waiter at some points, and then at others he was always there. But, as mentioned, it was a busy night.

A couple good wines were enjoyed, but forgot to take note of those. I think the food was the highlight of the night.

Check it out if you’re in the area. It’s definitely a hidden gem. Even if you know the area, you might have to pull out your phone to get you there from Strathmore Ave.

Cheers!

Mark’s Kitchen

A new (to me), local place I visited recently is Mark’s Kitchen in Takoma Park, MD (right near the Metro). They are a great neighborhood place with a menu that contains every type of food you could want. As they say —

Welcome to Mark’s Kitchen, a small neighborhood restaurant with an amazingly big menu full of so many choices that everyone can easily find something that will make them happy. Mark’s Kitchen is a very friendly place—it’s vegetarian-friendly, vegan-friendly, carnivore-friendly, kid-friendly, traditional family-friendly, alternative family-friendly and everyone else-friendly. A full meal or a light meal, a complete breakfast—most of which is available all day long—fresh juices, craft beers, wines, wonderful milkshakes, great ice cream desserts. That’s Mark’s Kitchen, a Takoma Park institution since 1990.

img_8024

It took me a long time to read through the menu and decide on what I wanted. Do I go for a basic sandwich, do I get some breakfast for lunch or do I go crazy? Well, I decided to go for a unique salad, because they had some great sounding Asian cuisine. And, my friend went pretty basic.

My choice was the Seaweed Salad —  wakame, hijiki & kombu seaweed, avocado, cucumber & sliced lemon on a bed of mixed seaweed w/ our own no-fat, no-oil lemon ginger salad dressing or our spicy sweet & sour chojang sauce.

My friend opted for the Smoked Salmon Club Sandwich — smoked salmon, cream cheese, dill havarti cheese, veggie bacon, red onion, capers, lettuce, & tomato.

That salad was amazing! I had never had so many different seaweeds. What’s funny is that I don’t really care for seaweed when it’s the crisp stuff that wraps sushi (rolls), but when it’s finer/chopped/in salad form, it’s so good! There was some great dressing or marinade to it and the avocados, bring ’em on!

My friend said the sandwich was quite good, just what a club should be.

We were there at lunch time — service was a bit slow. It was tough to get our water filled and the glasses at the table weren’t huge, so that was the one downside.

Will definitely check Mark’s Kitchen out again.

Flor de Luna

I don’t love trying out new restaurants right after they open all that often. But when it’s a family-owned restaurant that serves Latin-American cuisine, I’m there. It’s also great when it’s very close to where I live.

So, my friend and I checked out Flor de Luna in North Bethesda/Rockville, MD recently. If you know that area, it’s 1/2 block from Whole Foods. So, we called to make a reservation and we could only get in at 6:30pm (I think vs 6:00). Basically I say that because they made it sound like they were packed and it was empty in there (and it wasn’t getting busier). I think there were 2 other tables filled.

img_7787

The menu said that Happy Hour went until 7 so we ordered some margaritas and mentioned that it was great that HH was on Sundays. He said, well, oh no, it’s not on weekends. We mentioned that nowhere did it mention that, either on the menu, signs, or website. He just sort of shook his head. Not good advertising and way to mention things. The waiter also said with all this they don’t serve margaritas on Sundays because as of right now the bartender isn’t there (just opened) so they can’t make the drink. He said he could try, we mentioned we would really appreciate that, happy hour price didn’t matter.

Note, when it did eventually come, service was slow, it was an awesome margarita! Nice work non-bartender!

We started looking over the menu, this was while enjoying a very unique opaque dip (no picture). It looked like a cheese dip but I was guaranteed there was no cheese/dairy in it. It was just so emulsified, but it was all good.

While skimming the menu we noticed several mistakes for the new venue…lots of typos, such as a staple for this type of restaurant, you could get ‘guacamole deep.’

Moving on, it was a cold night and I decided to get the Seafood Soup — Fish, mussels, squid, shrimp, and scallops in fish broth. I was about $16 or so, and was sure hoping it was going to have a good amount of seafood in it. That was an understatement when I got the bowl. This picture does it no justice at all. So much good stuff in here. Absolutely amazing.

img_7789

My friend opted for the Carne Asada — New York stake (*another typo, I copied and pasted) served with rice, beans, guacamole, and pico de gallo. My friend quite enjoyed it, all tasted very good.

img_7788

During the meal, the owner of the restaurant came out to meet us, very nice. I unfortunately can’t remember where she is originally from but it was great to see who cooked our delicious food. We eventually finished everything and asked for our check. Our waiter delivered it and did make the margaritas the happy hour price as he mentioned they should be based on what was advertised/mentioned. Thanks and nice work for ‘saving’ yourself.

Very nice dinner and will definitely go back and try several other choices from the menu. I also hope their business starts to pick up. I think I went in the first week or two from when they opened so it’s very likely this will be the case.

7 Locks Brewing

Microbreweries are growing and growing.  One of the latest is in Rockville, MD (just outside of DC), 7 Locks Brewing.

7LB-logo1(logo source: 7locksbrewing.com)

They have a nice spread of beer on tap, which can of course always change.

image

When I checked it out, my friend and I split of flight of 6 (4 oz each), which is only $8.  We also did this because they were sponsoring a 5K that we had to run not to long after we were going to enjoy the brew.  All were nice to try, not all were my (personal) favorites.

The brewery is great because they have lots of events, from runs to concerts to yoga, and more, all including beer.  Can’t go wrong with that.

 

Gettin’ crabby

Maryland, Labor Day weekend, unofficial end of summer, an important thing to do was eat crabs.  A friend has crab traps right at her place so had to go join right where the action was taking place.

IMG_3766[1]

IMG_3770[1]

The dog has way to much fun and snagged one right on the lip.

IMG_3775[1]

With six traps we had an entire bushel by the time we collected everything.

IMG_3776[1]

Damage done.  Such a great feast.

From CO to MD

I visited the breweries in Colorado then went less than a hour north of Washington, DC to check about another great beer producer’s house of heaven.  This time it was Flying Dog.  Now, did you know they started in Colorado and moved to Maryland to grow/expand/make people around here even happier?  Oh, ok, maybe that last part wasn’t the true strategy but I don’t hear any complaints.

FlyingDog 001

So when considering checking out the Flying Dog Brewery, pull out next year’s calendar.  They have a several month wait list/lead booking time.  I lucked out because I was going alone and was able to snag a spot from a cancellation.  So, if you want to go that route, contact them a day or so before you’d be interested in checking it out.  They only do tours Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays.

You get there, get carded, get your nice bracelet.

FlyingDog 033

Pay $5 and get a great glass that you keep (this is jumping ahead as it has delicious fluid in it).  Then the tour begins.

FlyingDog 032

You get the scoop on the entire history, from the founder, the owner, the random tidbits, the alcohol, drugs, prison time, name, etc.  Neat stuff.  The hallway depicts all of this.  There are more paintings that the camera didn’t quite pick up.

FlyingDog 037

FlyingDog 036

You continue into the beer processing area and learn about all steps of the brewing process, from when water and hops might initially collide, how they determine each brew (what goes into each one), when/how long it’s in vats, how the bottling process works and the final ‘boxing’/putting it in cases or kegging so we can enjoy it.

FlyingDog 002

FlyingDog 014

FlyingDog 011

FlyingDog 015FlyingDog 016

 

FlyingDog 020

FlyingDog 018FlyingDog 025

FlyingDog 029

When the tour was done, we headed to the bar where we could pick whatever we wanted.  For $5, we got 5 samples.  Big samples.  I had the staple, Raging Bitch.  Went with the White Wheat.  I tried the rarities — Orchard Ale.  Then some of the seasonals, which were hit or miss.  There were love/hates in the tour group as we discussed them.  The seasonals I tried were this beer and wine funky thing (can’t remember the name) — interesting.  One glass would be all I’d want and then the awesome Dogtoberfest Marzen.

FlyingDog 030

FlyingDog 031

Great place, great tour, great beer.  Check it out when you’re in the area.

New Corks in MD

Sunday morning, local farmers market.  You have the fun of trying and buying all the delicious produce…especially this time of year with apples and pears!!!  At the one in the Bethesda, every so often there will be a local vintner making an appearance.  I happened to stumble (yeah, yeah, I know what you’re thinking) upon one last time I was there….it was 10am…I wish they had bubbly, then maybe stumble could have been what crossed your mind!

Anyway, the new winery is Big Cork Vineyards and they are in Frederick, MD.

IMG_1579

They were offering four varietals, all white.  Not bad for MD.  The reds will be available this fall.  And, what was great to hear is that the winery will be open for tastings in Spring 2014.  Look forward to checking it out.

IMG_1577

Fly Away With More MD Wines

And the fun continued with more Maryland wines.  This time I was fortunate to have them be only a block away with a tasting at Vino Volo (that’s where part of the title came from).  The mostly airport-known wine chain is expanding and Bethesda, MD (suburb of Washington, DC) was the first town to be fortunate enough to not require a boarding pass, standing in endless lines (unless they are super packed), taking your shoes off, putting your bags in plastic bins, having everything scanned and walking through the security gates.  So much better — you just get to enjoy wine right away!  You don’t drink away the pain.  You enjoy it just to enjoy it.

Every week they have a tasting, from well known vintners (tears were rolling down my cheeks in a good way when Silver Oak was there…) to medium size ones to local ones that are working to make a name for themselves.  After visiting MD wineries last weekend, I was able to taste wines from another one that is less than an hour north of here — Sugarloaf Mountain Vineyard.  They sampled four varietals and all of them blew me away, white and red.

The first one sampled was the Pinot Grigio.  Had some nice fruity notes — pineapple, grapefruit.

IMG_1413

Next was a Viognier — crisp, sharp.  I can’t put a finger on the flavor, I just liked overall how powerful, yet subtle, it was for a white.  Another sip, please.IMG_1414

Now, on to the big business, reds!  That is my favorite color.  I didn’t know there was good reason for this when I was under 21.  The first was a blend…AMAZING.  Yes, bring me my wine!  This was the best wine of the night…Comus.  Five varietals packed a huge punch to give amazing flavors and tastes that surround your nose and mouth with endless wine happiness.

At this point as I write this, the great Tim McGraw song “Fly Away” comes into my mind because of how good wine is, those non-country lovers, just fly away with Vino Volo, and all of us, just love our wine!  Go pour yourself a glass if you don’t have one, or at least picture yourself with one.  Ok, back to grapes…

IMG_1416IMG_1417

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Last but not least was one of my least favorite varietals that I will say, is totally growing on me.  Good things come with age, right?  Both wine and intelligence, perhaps?  Anyway, it was a Cab(ernet Sauvignon).  Very deep and complex.  The couple next to me was torn between this and the prior as to which was their favorite, but opted for the Cab.  Many people were split.  But as mentioned, when I find a Cab I enjoy, I love it and I could have had much more of this, so I was thrilled, Cab and MD?  Dang!!!

IMG_1418

So to wrap up, Maryland, you are setting a name for yourself!  Two weekends in a row, I am beyond impressed.  I am not a national reviewer or commentator but I haven’t normally been a fan of this area.  This is not a political comment in any way, shape of form, but I might start leaning a bit right…geographically, when I drink my wine.