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.

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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.

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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.

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Second Course:

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

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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.

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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!

Skólabrú, Reykjavík, Iceland

On the last night in Iceland we were in Reykjavík. We strolled down the ‘main’ street and looked at various menus to see what might be a fun place to eat. I had been wanting to try puffin so was also looking for a restaurant that offered that. We finally decided on Skólabrú.

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We opted to split a first course, which offered the bird I was looking for. Villibráðar tvenna: Léttretyktur lundi með geitaosti; kryddjurtum og ferskum berjum og gæsa carpaccio með rauðlauk á salati, trufflum of sítrónu sósu, or in English, Wild-duo: Lightly smoked puffin with goat cheese, herbs and fresh berries and wild goose carpaccio with red onions, herb salad and truffle-lemon dressing. ISK 2,500.

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The smoked puffin (the one on the left) was nice – in addition to the magnificent presentation! Very tender, mild unique taste. This is what’s great about traveling, enjoying different food. The goose was also amazing. Very different – a bit chewier. Very glad I got to try this.

For the 2nd course we went with Steinbítur með mango, chili og engifersóso, grænmeti og hrísgrjónum or Seawolf with mango, chili and ginger sauce, roasted vegetables and rice. ISK 4,200.

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Had never had Seawolf which is what tempted me about this. It was a bit sweet of a fish, had some ‘body’ to it and just great taste. Another one that would be nice to find at the store at home.

The wait staff was excellent and attentive so check this place out if you are in Reykjavík.

Prior to all this, had a great time seeing some points of interest while driving down to Reykjavík that day.

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Strondin Bistro & Bar, Vik, Iceland

Was in Vik for two nights and had the choice of pretty much two restaurants. Might as well cover the territory. So the 2nd night checked out Strondin Bistro & Bar.

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A good amount to pick from on the menu but soup was something I really wanted because by Day 3 of the trip I felt like we’d have about a week of rain. Lamb is not a meat I truly have a taste for but that was the only thing I could pick from because the other soup/stew was diary based. So I went for the:

Heimalöguð íslensk kjötsúpa – Homemade Iceland traditional meat soup with lamb and root vegetables. 2,300kr.

It was quite good. The taste in the lamb was very subtle. And the rest of the ingredients were potatoes, onions, carrots that were very nice. The warmth brought it all together.

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Also needed some veggies. Iceland does not have an abundance of these things. But this Strondin place had a Miðjarðarhafssalt: salat m/sólÞurrkuðum tómötum, ólifum, fetaosti, tomötum, agurku og paprika – Mediterranean: salad with sundried tomatoes, olives, feta cheese, cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, and bell peppers. 1,750 kr.

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That had to be one of the best salads I’ve ever had. Ignoring the lack of veggies the prior few days, the unique combo of sun-dried and ‘regular’ tomatoes in the salad and the dressing it had; SO good!

They also had some delicious bread with some kind of herbs in it to make all this even better, that was just brought to the table.

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Finally, was enjoying all this with a glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Maronde Pionero from Chile, 1,250 kr. Wine was pricey as usual, but at least since I live in the DC-area, it wasn’t total sticker-shock.

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What also makes a dinner amazing is the staff. A bit shout out to Antonio, Jan and Lammi. They provided great service, making this dinner even better. Thanks!! So, when you’re in Vik, check this place out.

Also, this yellow object started coming out in the sky when we walked out of the restaurant, it was tough to identify. But it provided us this scenery.

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Bistrot du Coin

Recently visited Bistrot du Coin in Washington, DC in the Dupont Circle area. They coin themselves as ‘The Original French Bistrot in Washington DC.’ The restaurant will turn 17 years old this year and offers a nice open space with high ceilings and opportunity to almost sit on Connecticut Ave when the front doors/walls are open on gorgeous days. They are open 7 days a week, 365 days a year.

We went on a Tuesday night, fairly early, 7ish. Was easy to get a table. By the time we left around 8:30pm, it was busy. The service was extremely slow. Took a long time to get simple things like water and drinks.

Looking over the menu, a decent selection of French food. What ended up coming to the table (along with some Stella Artois and Alsace wine).

Salade Niçoise façon Bistrot
Bonito tuna,hard boiled egg, Anchovy over mixed greens, Vegetables, black olives $17.95

While it was good, why do they have to used canned tuna? I would love some nicely grilled stuff.

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Moules Marinières
Steamed mussels in white wine with onions, shallots, garlic and parsley $13.95/$23.95

These were done nicely and the tasted delicious.

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Onglet à l’échalotte
Hanger Steak with French Fries served with compote of shallot, red wine sauce
(Chef recommends med-rare or rare) $25.95

Very traditional. Now it was ordered medium rare and came out pretty much bright pink in the middle. We did have to send it back because there is a difference between pan-searing it momentarily and letting it cook for a couple minutes. When it came back it out, apparently it was quite good.

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Overall, a decent dinner, but as commented initially, extremely slow service. Just getting refills on the water was challenging. So, glad I went, but not a restaurant I need to check out a lot, but also not one I would have a problem going back to.

Buck’s

Want to go fishing? Want to camping? Are you in DC? Just go to Buck’s. You might not actually get the true aforementioned, but you’ll get a great dinner.

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I had heard much about this place, located on Connecticut Ave., at the intersection of Nebraska Ave. in upper NW. Buck’s Fishing and Camping, here I come.

My friend and I checked it out in February and they had the Valentine’s theme going on, so the cocktail menu included sparkling rose. Bring it on! A perfect way to start off the evening.

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We opted for an appetizer to tide us over while we looked over the menu. It was a special that night, a white bean hummus with homemade chips.

Cowiche Canyon

When visiting Yakima Valley, had to find a place to enjoy dinner. Many locals suggested the same restaurant – Cowiche Canyon. Ok, I guess that’s where you go. Their tagline: ‘Craft cocktails & American classics are served with a modern twist at this industrial-chic hot spot.

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Arrived and fortunately were able to get a table easily. Had checked out the website before going and they weren’t on OpenTable… And why would one call to make a reservation these days, come on?

So we sat down and of course when in Yakima Valley wine is a priority. After looking over the options we decided to go for a bottle vs. glasses. Reason, if you don’t finish it they just put it in a paper bag and off you go. The vino we chose was the Syncline Subduction Red. It’s a blend of Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Cinsault, Carignan and Counoise. It was a good medium bodied wine, nice fruit notes, and some spice. Just very tasty.

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For dinner (I’d checked out the menu on their site before), I was leaning towards the halibut. Of course halibut is pricey. I also found out why from a friend – it’s fished ‘by hand’ – as in it’s not net-caught. The fisherman use these things called fishing rods, if you’ve ever heard of them. So, it’s all completely manual labor for catching halibut, so pure man hours for each and every piece of halibut we enjoy.

Looked at some of the other seafood and meats, and all looked tempting, but halibut is something I don’t usually cook at home or get frequently because of cost. So, the two of us ended up splitting the halibut and getting starters – a house salad and roasted asparagus as first round, along with the homemade bread. I assumed we would have bread brought to the table as on the menu it mentioned that their breads are handmade from scratch every morning. But, we had to order it instead.

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Service was slightly under par. Took us about 3 requests and 20 minutes to get water. We also ordered the salad and asparagus as first course. Those and the halibut came out quickly (before the water and the bread). We asked for the halibut to go back and be served as the main course. The server was a bit confused.

However, the food was delicious. The halibut was spicy, with the posole it was served on top of. The asparagus had chimichurri on it, which added a great flavor, but the ends that you should snap off were still on there, on several pieces. The salad was nice and simple and the bread was just deadly. Overall, however, the restaurant lived up to the recommendations it received.

El Chalan, DC

I quite enjoy Peruvian cuisine — they have great cocktails and seafood! Was headed to the Kennedy Center one night and found a place sort of near it to check out for that cuisine — El Chalan. It’s in the basement/lower level of a building and is fairly small, so it’s nice and comfortable.

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They had a good amount of options on the menu, which made it tough to decide. But, the first order of business was a pisco sour. So refreshing!

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For dinner, I ended up going with 2 smaller options —

Palta Con Palmito/ Slices of avocado and hearts of palm

Ceviche Mixto/ Fish,shrimp,and squid marinated in mixture of lemon juice and seasoning

My friend went for some stew —

Cabrito Norteno/ Goat stew cooked in beer, vinegar, onion, and spices, served w/ rice and beans

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The ceviche was delicious, I love when I can find it with squid. And the nice basic salad balanced it well.  My friend said the stew was just as it should be and good & hearty. I tried a bite as I’d never had goat. It was fine, nothing overly exciting me for, but glad I was able to try it. So, great food, would check this place out again.

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.

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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.

Pueblo Viejo

I love Mexican food! When I find a new place I can check out, I will. And what’s ironic is that I’m posting all these blogs about restaurants and I don’t eat out all that much. I cook the majority of my meals at home. I was away for awhile and I’m also catching up on a bunch of long-overdue blogs.

So, another place in Ft. Collins that I checked out was Pueblo Viejo.

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When they bring you the chips and salsa they also provide a unique bean dip. It’s made with pinto beans (not black beans). Nice to have something a bit different and just had some nice spices in it. Some guac was definitely ordered, too. Very good stuff!

Went for lunch and ordered some chicken tortilla soup. This stuff was amazing! They add tons of veggies to it — cauliflower, carrots and more. Not something very common and I loved it. It gives you a nice hearty meal. If you check this place out, definitely worth ordering.

El Pueblito

Dined at a new Mexican restaurant when I was in Ft. Collins last time — El Pueblito. They also have locations in Loveland & Greeley.

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They had some unique items on their menu that you don’t see in many places. We had to take advantage of them when ordering.

I decided to go with the FAJITAS DEL MAR — Octopus, shrimp and catfish, grilled with tomatoes, onions and bell green pepper , served with rice, beans, guacamole salad and your choice of tortillas.

The other at the table went with TACOS DE LENGUA — Corn tortillas or flour tortillas stuffed with grilled tongue, cilantro, and onions. Served with beans and tomatillo sauce on the side.

I love octopus and it was delicious on the fajita plate. The catfish, I wasn’t a fan of (I don’t know that I’d ever even had catfish). It was just super chewy and almost bland. I was also lucky enough to ask if it was served with cheese for my dairy issues and they mentioned they use butter. I thought that was interesting for a Mexican place. They said they would absolutely just use the oil because of my lactose issues.

You don’t often see beef tongue in restaurants, so this was a good find.

The gaucamole we had at the start was nothing to write home about and the margaritas were marginal, but it was cool having the unique main courses.