The Dining Dish blog is Dara Bunjon's take on anything food, both national and in her hometown of Baltimore. Warning: this food blog can be harmful to your waistline.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Food Blogging 101 - Great Tastes Show

Bloggers in Photo (l to r) The Hungover Gourmet, Mango & Ginger, Kitchen Goddess, Unique Culinary Adventures, Coconut and Lime, Black Coffee and A Donut, Raspberry Eggplant, Baltimore Snacker and Pigtown-Pigout (not pictured Dining Dish -someone had to take the photo)

It was a joy to work with the city’s bloggers on this panel. Kit Pollard, Mango and Ginger created a lovely Power Point presentation and even with the technician we couldn't get it up on screen. I was concerned we were going to run out of time for questions and answers but each blogger introduced themselves succinctly and as that wrapped there was still 45 minutes.

Our audience was inquisitive, great questions and all the bloggers took their turns responding. All-in-all, it went very well. I couldn't linger, I was back up to the 5th floor to finish helping with the on-going cooking seminar by John Shields and get ready for Michael Midgley’s presentation (you can see earlier posts for that story and video).

The city’s preeminent food blogger, Dining@Large’s Elizabeth Large, could not be on the panel for the obvious reason that she is the restaurant reviewer at the Baltimore Sun. She was kind enough to forward materials to be read. She is quite insightful as to creating your blog and your blog community. For those of you not at Great Tastes Show here is Dining @Large – Elizabeth Large’s panel presentation.

Dear fellow food bloggers:

I thought the most helpful way I could contribute to this panel discussion is to put in my two cents about what we all want: How do I get more people reading my blog ?

Dining@Large has a huge advantage over a lot of food blogs because it’s connected to The Sun’s Web site. Although this is slowly changing, a majority of readers reach my blog by going through the paper’s home page. When a post is promoted, like Top Ten Tuesday, my readership doubles.

Still, there are some basic rules that apply to all blogs. Like other bloggers, I’ve found that the first way to increase readership is to post early and often. My 20-something daughter gave me a couple of other suggestions that have worked for me: Write short and post lots of pictures.

I think it’s also important to become part of a larger conversation. If you’re writing about food trends, create links to other, more established national blogs — and let them know you’ve done it by sending them an e-mail. Of course, you want to keep linking to other local food blogs and hope they’ll respond in kind. This may all be stuff all of you know already.

But what no one told me, and I wish I had realized earlier, was that to really increase page views you need to create a community of people who are commenting on your blog.

If you have readers talking to each other, you’ll have them checking back several times a day — and if they’re entertaining, you’ll have other readers who are shy about commenting checking back to see what they’re saying. Some of my readers have turned out to be more fun to read than I am in their posts, and they bring to Dining@Large a breadth of experience and knowledge it wouldn’t have if it were just me posting.

This suddenly took off for me at the beginning of this year; I’m not sure why. But it didn’t hurt that I’ve bent over backward to encourage people to be civil toward each other. I keep repeating that people don’t have to use their real names or give an e-mail. I awarded prizes for my 1,000th and 3,000th commenters. (After that, No. 5,000 came too quickly to single the poster out). I always give commenters recognition for discussion ideas, and I’ve even done Top Ten lists of the funniest comments (and the most awful zingers). I don’t censor (although I did have to close down the discussion on the foie gras protests when it got too acrimonious). Most important, I try hard not to get defensive about criticism.

If I were starting a food blog now and didn’t have the resources of The Sun behind me, I think I would shamelessly solicit every good friend and family member to post a provocative comment at least once a week for the first few weeks. I would be aggressive about asking them to e-mail their friends recommending they bookmark my blog and check it. I would do everything I could to get more people talking on my blog. Until Owl Meat Jerky, Regina, Dahlink, Hal Laurent, Eric, Rob from Cross Keys, Voodoo Pork and all the other contributors to
Dining@Large did, I didn’t realize that was the real fun of blogging.

Elizabeth Large

FYI - The blogger panel:

John Donahue
Baltimore Snacker

The Baltimore Snacker blog looks at several things. It started as a place for the author to discuss his experiences in the restaurants he ate at in and around Baltimore and in Maryland. It evolved into something bigger than he realized, now also looking at foods he eats on the road (as far as New York, Richmond and Southern California), recipes he's tried out (successfully or not), and usually food-related things that he finds interesting.

Xani & Erin Podolny
Black Coffee and a Donut

We are two sisters who love to cook, eat, and entertain, living and working in Charm City. Our blog chronicles our cooking and dining experiences in Baltimore and beyond. We created this blog to share pictures, recipes, restaurant reviews, funny stories, and culinary misadventures with our friends, family, and anyone online who shares our love and appreciation of good food and good coffee. Perk up and indulge at!

Rachel Rappaport
Coconut and Lime

Coconut & Lime started in 2004 as a place for Rachel Rappaport to share her original recipes with friends. Now as the number of her original recipes on the site has grown to over 600, so has her audience. Coconut & Lime has been the recipient of many awards, featured extensively online and in print and now draws several thousand visitors from all over the world each day.

Dara Bunjon
Dining Dish

Dining Dish documents her passion for all things culinary in the 2-year old blog. With a sense of humor, a passion for food and the travails of working in the food industry one gets an insider’s view. From working 10 days in an Arizona cow-filled field as BBQ USA Steven Raichlen films his next TV series- Primal Grill, publishing a recently discovered unpublished story by the late Barbara Tropp or a great meal at a local Baltimore restaurant – Dining Dish gives you an insiders view.

Andrea Farnum
Kitchen Goddess

Is there a party killer on the loose? Don’t call 911 – call The Kitchen Goddess. Chock-full of easy and dynamic entertaining tips, The Kitchen Goddess can commute an entertainment felony into a playful slap on the wrist in minutes. Combining years of party know-how and a take no prisoners attitude, soirees transform themselves from dull to dynamic when touched by The Goddess.

Kit Pollard
Mango & Ginger

Mango & Ginger is what happens when a liberal arts degree meets a food blog (but hopefully more entertaining – and funnier? – than most college classes). Sometimes, M&G is about the role of food in culture and food “philosophy”, sometimes it’s about what’s going on in the food world, and sometimes it’s about the restaurant down the street. Always, though, it’s about a love of food that borders on the obsessive.

Meg Fairfax Fielding

I've been eating for more than 40 years now. I've also been a caterer, lived with a chef and learned to cook in Louisiana. Given that background, I have a good sense of what works and what doesn't in a restaurant. Presentation, ambience and taste, while subjective, are all important parts of the dining experience. My blog brings readers the good, the bad and the scary!

Roopa Kalyanaraman
Raspberry Eggplant

Raspberry Eggplant is the creation of transplanted New Yorker Roopa Kalyanaraman. Her food blog features photographs of and original recipes for the vegetarian fare and sweet treats she creates in her tiny kitchen in Baltimore, with the hope of letting people know that vegetarian food (and desserts!) can be easy and delicious.

Dan Taylor
The Hungover Gourmet

The roots of The Hungover Gourmet stretch all the way back to the early 90s when it first appeared as a column in a drive-in movie fanzine. 15 years later editor Dan Taylor is still churning out pop culture-tinged commentary, restaurant reviews, travel journals, drink recipes and hangover cures. In addition to the blog Taylor publishes an annual print edition, a web site and is working on a book that will be published later this year.

Jake Slagle
Unique Culinary Adventures

Unique Culinary Adventures presents a perspective from Baltimore, Maryland relating what is new, unusual, undiscovered, overlooked or forgotten regarding food and drink.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Cake Love....I Got A Little Sugar From Warren Brown

More from the Great Tastes Show in Baltimore. Yup, that is me with the very tall and handsome, lawyer turned baker, Warren Brown. You've seen him on his Food Network show, Sugar Rush, and now we will see more of him as he officially opened his Baltimore bakery, Cake Love, at the Can Company in Canton yesterday.

We had some down time before his demo and we chatted. He has a cookbook coming out in April which was a great segue to show off my cookbook YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats co-compiled with Jeff Spear. I just happened to have a copy with me for the Baltimore Food Blogger panel later day. He couldn't believe that Jeff and I did the entire book in 4 months.

So to you Warren, here is the official greeting: Welcome to Bawlmer HON!

Season 2 Top Chef Contestant - Michael Midgley

Well Great Tastes Baltimore has come and gone, and I, and my team of crackerjack foodie friends took care of the food prep needs for "culinary" talent at the show with great aplomb. I always enjoy the back of the house camaraderie. So today I am avoiding client work, some down time to put together a couple of post from yesterday's happenings.

Chef Michael Midgley from season 2 of Top Chef was the chef who was always so animated and enjoying himself. A fun personality and one who didn't take himself too seriously. Yesterday's cooking demonstration Michael entertained the audience with simple recipes that any guy can do quickly. I will share one of his recipes below.

In the kitchen, we gals had Michael's ingredients ready but no Michael. I happened to be talking to the mother of one the Carver Center's ProStart High School culinary team I'm mentoring, only for her to mention that Michael was sitting in the back of the room. AAAh Haa! the delinquent chef was found. Michael came back to our little kitchen staging area. Nothing to fussy about what he was doing, just cut the bacon in half and we were good to go.

This summer I captured Ilan Hall the winner of Top Chef Season 2 on video discussing his audition process so I asked Michael the same question. Check out the video below.

Michael was good fun on stage, talking about the lack of sleep during the filming and the lack of food to eat but an abundance of drink. (which if you watched the show won't come as a surprise). He went on to explain that on the vending machine challenge he used all the money for the junk food but only used portions of it during the competition and ate the rest, but had he just bought what he needed he would have to return any change leftover.

So here is his one of his "manly simple food" recipes:

Bacon Crackers

1 box Club Crackers with Rounded Edges
2 Cups Shredded Parmesan Cheese
1 lb pkg Thin Bacon

Preheat oven to 375

Line a sheet pan with aluminum foil, parchment or silpat. Set the crackers out on the sheet pan and generously sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Cut the bacon slices in half and wrap a bacon slice over the cracker tucking the ends underneath. Bake until the bacon looks crispy (approximately 12-15 minutes).

Friday, February 22, 2008

Great Tastes Show Eve

Even though the weather was horrible I made it into the Tremont to get organized for the food styling for the three key talents: Warren Brown, John Shields and Michael Midgley. It is all in the details, for Christmas you want stockings hung just so and for food styling you want the equipment there and you want to think like the presenter and have things there they forgot to tell you they will need.

My dining room table is covered with spare equipment to take tomorrow. Warren Brown advised he was bringing everything he needs but I am assuming what he thinks is everything doesn't necessarily mean everything. He might be bringing his ingredients but not the bowls he'll need for the demonstration...or he might. He might need a candy thermometer and he might not.

Michael Midgley is the chef on season 2 of Top Chef who kept you wondering why he lasted to so long. In reading his recipe where he uses a WonTon wrapper he says to roll the item up like a phatty--I was laughing so hard. It was so in keeping with his TV persona. Hey, I'm a child of the 60's and a phatty meant a fat joint...too funny.

As much as I'm prepping for the food styling I'm not preparing for the food blogger panel - we'll see how that turns out. I have my opening joke down and that is it. It will be a long day and it might be one where when I get home that I have a heavy duty drink. As for you my readers, news and photos at 11.

Michael Midgley

Monday, February 18, 2008

Shrimp Salad Sandwich

I don't claim to be an expert on wines or any particular subject EXCEPT shrimp salad sandwiches. I have been in shrimp salad ecstasy since tasting Rocket to Venus's shrimp salad. They have taken on the former owner of the location, Showalter's recipe, and it is VERY good. It is a great value for the $12. You get some delicious seasoned fries (has a spice mix with cumin undertones) and enough shrimp to really make 3 sandwiches.

The first time I ordered it I wanted it "my way" - on rye bread with fries with gravy. I was informed the sandwich came on a roll and they didn't have gravy for their fries. I was in a bit of a huff, but one taste of the sandwich with the seasoned fries and I was converted. Let me not forget a good pickle spear to round out the flavor.Rocket To Venus in Baltimore

Now we Baltimoreans know that you steam shrimp in Old Bay Seasoning. The trick is not to over steam them. Once my shrimp are out of the pot and drained I put them on a sheet pan to cool down quickly. The trick is to let them chill a good while in their shells before preparing the salad. So I peel them and slice them length-wise like Rocket to Venus, blend with a little mayonaisse, diced celery, black pepper and some celery seed. Let it chill so the flavors meld.

Honorable mentions on Baltimore Shrimp Salad sandwiches:

Field's Pharmacy on Reisterstown Road in Pikesville and my latest discovery, Raffy's on Belair Road and Silver Spring Road for $9.99 with real good chips. Raffy's serves steamed shrimp and that is an indicator to me you will have a good shrimp salad sandwich. I used to get a decent shrimp salad sandwich at the Landsdowne Inn but I haven't been back there in 9 years.Raffy's in Baltimore

To those restaurants who insult me with canned baby shrimp, and buy frozen shelled cooked shrimp and add Old Bay to the mayonaisse --don't bother to make it if you can't do it correctly. Yes, I'm a Shrimp Salad Snob!

Let me know if I missed a place or two for great Shrimp Salad sandwiches and if any of you have Showalter's recipe I would be indeed grateful if you would share.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Plan & Cater Your Own Wedding

My friends from La Cuisines just sent me this note about two unique seminars they are offering for those brides and/or grooms who want to be more hands-on about their wedding, their wedding cakes, flowers and do their own catering.

I personally didn't go through any of this, I opted for the courthouse and took the dollars my parents were willing to spend as a down payment on a home. I'm a pratical kind of gal.

La Cusine is saying that with the down turn in the economy, young couples are looking at alternatives to the big expensive wedding. (Bad economy huh! - when I first bought my house the interest rate was 12 3/4% and that was considered good at the time. Enough history about me.)

So if you have a wedding in your future, check these seminars. Be sure to say hello to my friends at La Cuisine in Old Town Alexandria - a real cook's speciality store - CHECK IT OUT!

From La Cuisine:

In these economic times, expensive weddings are not as popular an option as they were a few short years ago. With the help of Jan Kish (, La Cuisine is offering these seminars to help people have more of a hand in preparing their own events, along with money-saving tips and ideas to help them create a beautiful, low cost (but more importantly, FUN) affairs.


La Cuisine is proud to be able to offer this extraordinary seminar for brides and aspiring hosts and hostesses with Jan Kish of La Petite Fleur. Ms. Kish is distinguished as a culinary artist and event planner and has the diverse skills needed to help brides create memorable weddings. Jan has been a guest on Good Morning America, and The Today Show, and has been featured in magazines too numerous to mention. In addition to being incredibly talented and creative, she has a warm and funny personality that will ensure a day of educational enjoyment. Spring is an especially lovely season here in the Washington DC area, and this would be the perfect time for you to treat yourself to a weekend getaway!

The first seminar will be held on Saturday, April 19th, 2008, and is titled Homespun Wedding or Special Occasion Cakes. In this class, Jan will delve into the "anatomy of a wedding cake", her objective being to elevate you from novice to semi-professional in six hours (and perhaps a wee bit more). She will take you from imagination, to design, to creation, while demonstrating how the techniques that you learn here can then be transferred to other celebration cakes.

The following cakes will be featured: The Classic French Croquembouche - France’s traditional wedding cake, but with a twist. This one is made for that next day brunch or the special holiday breakfast, yet is complete with spun sugar and decorative accents; A tiered pirouette wrapped wedding cake, decorated with fresh raspberries or gum paste tissue puffs and fresh flowers; A tiered, but separated Bundt cake covered with a fondant glaze and enhanced with a simple hand piped design and fresh flowers; Several decorated buttercream iced cakes displayed on a tree stand (this stand is quite versatile and may accommodate a variety of seasons); and the now popular "cupcake cascade". All of these cakes involve a different type of support structure inherent in their design. Jan will teach you about the intricacies of each as it relates to cake type, weather, display, and transport. A few helpful hints and secrets will get you on your way to creativity and sweet magic without the risk of an unwelcome crash on your special day. This class is perfect for those of you who want to create your own cakes, start a small cake business of your own, or for professionals who want some fresh and simple ideas to apply to an existing business.

For the first time, La Cuisine is holding these two classes off premises, so we can open it up to more participants. Instead, it will take place at A La Lucia Restaurant 315 Madison St., Alexandria, Va , where the gracious Michael Nayeri will also be hosting a special luncheon for us that is included in the price of the class. Class will begin at 10:00AM and last until 5:00PM, and the cost is $250.00. The price includes lunch, an organizational notebook, handouts and recipes, and a goodie bag full of useful items and coupons. The extra space allows us to offer thirty seats for this class, but sign up early, because they will sell out quickly.

*Note: La Cuisine is unable to issue refunds for class cancellations, but will always try our best to work you into a future class. Link to La Cuisine to purchase your tickets

April 20, 2008 - HOW TO CATER YOUR OWN WEDDING OR PRIVATE PARTY (and not lose your cool!)

La Cuisine is proud to be able to offer this extraordinary seminar for brides and aspiring hosts and hostesses with Jan Kish of La Petite Fleur. Ms. Kish is distinguished as a culinary artist and event planner and has the diverse skills needed to help brides create memorable weddings. Jan has been a guest on Good Morning America, and The Today Show, and has been featured in magazines too numerous to mention. In addition to being incredibly talented and creative, she has a warm and funny personality that will ensure a day of educational enjoyment. Spring is especially lovely in the Washington DC area, and this would be the perfect time for you to treat yourself to a weekend getaway.

This second class is even more action-packed than the first! (Jan encourages you to bring along a floor plan of the space in which you will host your event.) The objective of this class is to provide you with a comprehensive overview of all aspects of planning your event, with the focus being on fun rather than budget blowing and stress.

The class will begin at 10:00AM with coffee, beverages and introductions, and an open discussion of your priorities and goals. Jan will explore with you the many options available, present foods and recipes that would be most appropriate for various venues and styles, and the many different elements that make up a comfortable and memorable event. Realistic time lines and organization will be discussed with a handout listing equipment and services needed. You will be served a delicious lunch by our host at A La Lucia, Michael Nayeri, during which Jan will discuss the pros and cons of different kinds of service to fit an event (buffet vs. full service,etc.). After lunch, the all-important dessert discussion will ensue. Jan will present a wide array of choices, set up, what’s possible, and what’s not.

From 3:00PM until 5:00 PM we will be joined by our good friend and florist extraordinaire, Kevin Canfield, of K. Aubrey Flowers. He will be demonstrating the many decor choices available, from doing your own floral designs using flowers purchased in bulk, to utilizing seasonal items, or even things available in your own yard. Kevin’s creations are always full of imagination, and we’re sure you will be inspired by his ideas.

At 5:00PM, Jan will end the day with a sabering of Champagne, then make herself available to all class participants for in depth questions and discussion of your personal floor plans and traffic flow patterns.

La Cuisine has packed an enormous amount of invaluable information and demonstrations into this class to assure that you will all leave it with a wealth of new knowledge and the ability to save yourself a substantial amount of money and hair-pulling. The cost for this seminar is $350.00, and includes lunch, an organizational notebook (with local sources included), handouts, personal consultation time with Jan Kish, and a goodie bag full of useful items and coupons.

As with the Saturday class, we have 30 seats available for this one, just be sure to sign up early, as we are already fielding inquiries about sign-up. You can sign up on-line below.

All of us at La Cuisine are very excited about these two seminars! Stephanie will be flying out from Montana for the event, and both she and Nancy will be in attendance each day to answer questions and offer assistance. If you have any additional questions about either of these events, please contact Stephanie at

P.S. Jan strongly suggests that as homework, you view either version of Father of the Bride in the week leading up to the class!

*Note: We are unable to issue refunds for class cancellations, but will always try our best to work you into a future class. Visit the La Cuisine website to purchase your tickets.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Baltimore's Great Taste Convivium

Come all Ye Foodies!

It’s about food, it’s about drink, it’s about cooking, it’s about all things I love and that is the Great Taste Show. It is being held at the renovated Masonic Temple on Charles Street called the Tremont Grand on Saturday, February 23rd from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.

They have three key cooking demonstrations, the Food Network’s Warren Brown, PBS’s John Shield and Bravo’s Top Chef participant from season two – Michael Midgley..yeah you know him, the guy who wore the baseball cap backwards. I have Chef Michael Midgley’s list of ingredients and it calls for a 24 pack of Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer – aren’t you curious, I know I am?

Lots and lots to drink. If you don’t drink, get the designated driver ticket for $20 or if you wish to imbibe its $50 - you can’t do one cooking class for that. Wine seminars by Tony Foreman and Monyka Berrocosa and Hugh Sisson from Clipper City with a beer and cheese tasting. (you will be charged additional for these seminars)

The city’s leading Italian restaurants will be sampling their wares, Sotto Sopra, Osteria Cinghiale and Pazza Luna plus other Baltimore restaurants. This is a great way to perk up a dreary, miserable February weekend.
Don't miss the panel presentation from Baltimore City Bloggers – Food Blogging 101. Come meet 10 of the city’s food bloggers (including me):

Baltimore Snacker
Black Coffee and a Donut
Coconut & Lime
Dining Dish
Kitchen Goddess
Mango & Ginger
Raspberry Eggplant
The Hungover Gourmet
Unique Culinary Adventures

You might see me floating around the big demo stage – I, along with some of my foodie friends are styling and assisting the talent with their demos. I know you are saying “Kool Beans.”

I was behind the scenes last year as well. A friend snapped this picture of me on stage with Sara Moulton – it must have been from her cell phone considering the quality. I do like the distant, fuzzy images of myself – it is like Doris Day, who I believe used Vaseline or gauze on the camera lens.

Order your tickets ahead of time on line CLICK HERE – think Valentine’s Day Gift

Friday, February 08, 2008

My ProStart High School Culinary Team

Today was another run through for the students. They were ahead of their hour time limit and seem to be meshing better with each other. They are still getting down their plate presentation.

There isn't much time until March 5th - they still need more work. There was a huge improvement since last week. I hope to see more next week.

I'll tell you the menu after the competition.....don't want to give anything away.

I'm A Cookbook Junkie

Yes, you heard me correctly, a cookbook junkie - unfortunately Betty Ford didn't set up anything for us cookbook junkies at her clinic. I also have another uncontrollable need: plateware and platters....thank goodness I go to Ross for Less back in their housewares to feed my addiction. I also hit Ollie's Discount House where I discover some of my best cookbook finds(author/chefs Eric Ripert and Giuliano Bugialli).

Today, in the mail, was a copy A Fistful of Lentils by Jennifer Abadi along with my March issue of Bon Appetit. I would say I'm at about 200 cookbooks. That is mild, I met a women who had over 2000 cookbooks - she needs restraints.

Okay, to work tonight on Tenzo Artisan's electronic media kit, finish the Women Chef's PR & Marketing conference call notes or hunker down with A Fistful of Lentils? I think we all know the answer.

At a quick glance A Fistful of Lentils offers a nice family history, little story here-and-there on the recipes.

After dinner destination - the reading chair.

Thursday, February 07, 2008

What Wasn't at the Winter Fancy Food Show

Dede Wilson, contributing editor at Bon Appetit, cookbook author and TV personality, became my eyes and ears at the Winter International Fancy Food Show in San Diego when I couldn’t attend.

Here is what Dede had to say, “every year when I go to the Fancy Food Show it usually has one predominant focus; like salsas, energy drinks, organics, teas, pomegranate etc. This show it seems everyone from single ingredient to the more complex products are telling what is NOT in their product in big bold letters.” “NO GMO’s, NO GLUTEN, NO HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP ” she continues, “it seems no one wants to read the fine print anymore.”

Dede also felt there was a strong presence of “sports energy products – meal replacement bars ” looking to market into the mainstream markets. Since Dede hadn’t been to a west coast International Fancy Food Show she quipped, “possibly the sports energy products might be a west coast health focus rather than an emerging trend."

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

2nd Annual Mardi Gras Food Drive


Bug Boil w/ Mick the Pirate

Tuesday, Feb 5th
6pm until the bugs are gone!

1002 W 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211

Please come
eat, drink and donate can goods


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