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.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Behind the Gulumki

Some might say they are behind the eight ball but I’m behind the gulumki. I should have written the review of Ze Mean Bean Café weeks ago. The fans of Ze Mean Bean Café, and there are many, enjoy their menu offerings which honor old world Slavic home-styled dishes (stuffed cabbage, borscht, periogies, goulash etc) to their contemporary crab cake served with spicy Polish honey vodka sauce over greens and asparagus or sea scallops with chorizo rum vinaigrette.

Ze Mean Bean's Borscht

The best place to start is at the beginning. My fellow food blogger, Jake Slagle of Unique Culinary Adventures wanted to interview me about my new gig writing for and what better way to do so then over food. Ze Mean Bean Café was Jake’s choice for lunch. I had never dined there because I ‘assumed’ (you all know what that word means) that it was a coffee house and I don’t do coffee (that is another story). In fact, Ze Mean Bean started off as a bakery/coffee house back in 1995. I direct you to Jake’s story and his take on our luncheon. I had to smile that anyone thought me worthy of an interview.

Getting Down on Gulumki

So let’s get to what matters, the food. I couldn’t pass up the borscht and it didn’t disappoint. The ruby red broth of the Russian borscht ($5) was perfect. It was rich with the natural sweetness of the root vegetables but not cloyingly sweet and the chicken that was used in making the broth was a nice light touch over the heavier flavors of a beef stock. It reminded me of my Lithuanian grandmother’s borscht. In our family, the borscht was served cold or at room temperature. While I enjoyed my borscht, Jake indulged in the spinach salad with the fruity Parmesan tuile ($8).

I moved on to the Holupki (Gulumki) Dinner ($10) that offered two plumb cabbage rolls stuffed with ground beef and rice in a light tomato sauce with potato cake and vegetable of the day. It was a fair value for the dollar, plenty of food. I prefer my stuffed cabbage with a little less rice than what was served but that goes back to what you grew up eating and your expectations. Jake just loved his crab cake, he felt the crabmeat tasted extremely fresh, from the Atlantic but in reality he knew it was too early in the season. You can order the crab cake as an appetizer or entrée and it is market price.

Sweet Finishes

Aaaah, desserts – we can’t forget something sweet to finish off the meal. Our lovely and attentive waitress informed us that the owner’s mother makes the desserts. There was a large selection that day (remember Ze Mean Bean started out as a dessert and coffee café). Let’s see if I can make heads or tails of my notes on our selection for that afternoon:

Chocolate Mousse Pie
Apple Dutch Cake
Apple Pie with Caramel Crunch & Nuts
Pineapple Banana Upside Down Cake
Chocolate Babka and woe was us…they were out of the bread pudding.

Jake said he would take a bite of whatever I ordered but he was watching his waistline. I lost my waistline about 15 years ago so it didn’t matter to me. I chose the Pineapple Banana Upside Down Cake and it was worth every single calorie. The cake was dense, moist, flavorful and not too sweet. How good was it? Well I gave up eating it half way through because I was just too full when Jake decided that one bite was not sufficient for him and preceded to help finish the dessert.

Ze Mean Bean isn’t all about Slavic food or homemade desserts there is entertainment, a wonderful wine list and they cater as well. I enjoyed the homey feel, the pleasant service and a menu with a diverse selection of old world and contemporary menu choices. It’s on my list for a return visit….do give it a try.

Polish Dining Footnotes:

1. The Polish Festival is this weekend at Patterson’s Park Pulaski Monument, Eastern Avenue at Linwood – enjoy entertainment, dancing and food. (May 30th, 31st & June 1st)

2. Wednesday, June 4th Sotto Sopra Restaurant is offering a 4-course Home Cooked Polish Dinner. Yes, Sotto Sopra is an Italian restaurant but the owner’s in-laws are in visiting from Poland and his mother-in-law and wife are preparing the special dinner. It is limited seating, it is communal and family style dining.

Ze Mean Bean Cafe on Urbanspoon
For more info:

Ze Mean Bean Café
Eastern European Café & Wine Bar
1739 Fleet Street (Fells Point)
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 675-5999

Beat the Inflation Heat: Every Tuesday their chef creates a three-course menu that is sure to tantalize your taste buds. This delectable menu is a steal at only $19.95 per person, and $29.95 with specially paired wines. Every Tuesday receive any bottle of wine from their list at half price with the purchase of two Chef Specialty entrees!

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Conflicting Advertising

Today on The Bay 100.7 I heard a commercial talking about saving our planet. The commerical said that enviromental dangers are caused by the raising of our meats (ie beef, pork & chicken)so we should go vegetarian. That ad ended and went immediately into an ad for a restaurant that features ribs.

Okay, I thought...strange. Then I heard it again and waited to see if the enviromental spot had a sponsor or name...NOTHING! and boom....back into the radio ad for the restaurant hyping ribs and beef.

Who the heck is their programming director?

Monday, May 26, 2008

What is Growing Faster Than Jack's Beanstalk?

Childhood Hunger!

Where do you start when you know children are going hungry in this city? Some statistics I gleaned showed that 29% of the hungry in Baltimore are children under 18. Another statistic that is shocking, 81% of the food insecure in the city are families with children. Nearly 185,000 children are facing hunger in Maryland. What do you say to a child who is hungry and there is no food?

Irony at Its Best – Eat Well and Help End Childhood Hunger

Mark your calendar for Monday, June 2 as Baltimore’s best chefs and restaurants cook to end childhood hunger at the American Visionary Art Museum from 6:00 to 9:30 p.m. for Share Our Strength’s (SOS), Baltimore’s Taste of the Nation which raises critical funds needed to support SOS’s efforts to end childhood hunger in Baltimore and across America.

The area charities that will benefit from this year’s event include Baltimore’s Garden Harvest, Maryland Committee for Children, and Advocates for Children and Youth.

More than 20 of the city’s finest restaurants will participate in this gastronomic event including (in no particular order):

Jack’s Bistro
Inn at Perry Cabin
Jordan’s Steakhouse
Sotto Sopra
Red Maple
Lebanese Taverna
The Capital Grille
Ixia Restaurant
Cabot Creamery
Lindt Chocolate
Kali’s Court
Roy’s Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine
Karma’s Cupcakes…and many others

Guests will enjoy the city’s finest foods paired with beverages by Finlandia Vodka, Herradura Tequila, Woodford Reserve Bourbon and Southern Comfort.

Tickets for Baltimore’s Taste of the Nation are $75 (100% tax deductible) and $125 for VIP admission (VIPs receive seating, champagne and surprise perks). Tickets can be purchased by calling 1-877-26-TASTE or visiting The evening will be fun, fulfilling and filling.

Show your local restaurateurs and chefs that you can support their childhood hunger relief fundraiser as they have consistently and without waiver, supported all our charities year-after-year, day-after-day.

More About Share Our Strength

SOS has been working with the culinary industry for 20 years to create engaging, pioneering programs like Taste of the Nation, Great American Bake Sale, Operation Frontline and A Tasteful Pursuit.

Generous support from presenting sponsor American Express, national sponsors SYSCO Corporation and Food Network, Brown-Forman, S.Pellegrino Sparkling Natural Mineral Water, the National Pork Board and OpenTable ensure that 100 percent of ticket proceeds go to Baltimore’s Taste of the Nation’s efforts to end childhood hunger.

Can We Fix Childhood Hunger?

Do I think childhood hunger is going to get better? I hope so, though I think it will get worse before it does. With utilities sky rocketing and gas prices growing faster than Jack’s beanstalk, families who were just getting by last year face the lack of food for their families. The children need your support….gather your friends and join us Monday, June 2nd at The Visionary Art Museum for Baltimore’s Taste of the Nation. I’ll be there; I’m the one with the camera.

Dining Dish

P. S. Unable to make the event but you have a great auction item, do reach out and let the organizers know (

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Top 10 'Inflation Busting' Dining Specials

Check out my Top 10 (really 11) restaurant "inflation busting” dining specials for every night of the week. You can go out to eat and eat well, cost effectively. Here is my list, if you know of other restaurant specials worthy of being up here, please share with all of us and post the restaurant and their special.

A number of these restaurants run additional specials during the week so do check out each of their websites.


Jack’s Bistro
3123 Elliott St
Baltimore, MD 21224

$12.00 Entrees at the bar
5 p.m. to 10 p.m.

822 Lancaster Street
Baltimore, MD 21202
410 547 8282

Sunday Supper at Cinghiale
$29 Per Person

Cinghiale will host Sunday evening suppers featuring a 3-course menu that will change weekly. There is only one seating time and one menu.

Cinghiale will open at 5:30 pm with a variety of antipasti presented at 6:00 pm. At 6:30, pasta will be served and a dessert or cheese course will follow.

The supper is casual and social. Come alone, or with your family and friends.


The Wine Market
921 East Fort Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21230

20% off all dinner entrees

Bill Bateman in Reisterstown
102 Chartley Dr.
Reisterstown, MD 21136

6 oz Strip Steak, Baked Potato and Salad Bar- $2.99 at the bar with the purchase of a beverage from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.


Gertrudes at the Baltimore Museum of Art
10 Art Museum Drive
Baltimore, Maryland 21218

Tuesdays with Gertie
$10 entrees – 9 choices
$12 entrees – 3 choices
5 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Helen’s Garden
2908 Odonnell St
Baltimore, MD 21224
(410) 276-2233

A three course wine dinner is available for only $29 which includes 3 tasting glasses of wine.

Pazza Luna Trattoria Italiana
1401 E. Clement Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

$15.00 Seafood Entrees starting at 5:30 p.m.


Sotto Sopra Restaurant
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
410 625 0534

Chefs 3 Course Tasting Menu - $30 per person
The menu with multiple selections changes monthly letting you sample the regular seasonal items on the dinner menu.

For the Early Bird from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m.- get a seat at their bar Monday through Thursday for their $10 pastas.

Don’t Know Tavern
1453 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21230

Steak Night - $12.95 for 12oz NY Strip w/ 2 sides


Mother's Federal Hill Grille
1113 S. Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland 21230

$10 on selected entrees from 5 p.m. to 11 p.m. Starting in June they will have Lobster Night on Wednesdays – pricing hasn’t been determined as yet but I bet it is a great deal well under $20. Stay in touch with them at Mother’s

Every Day

Pierpoint Restaurant & Catering
1822 Aliceanna Street
Baltimore, Md 21231
410.675. 2080

When you call Pierpoint Restaurant for a reservation mention you want the ‘19th anniversary promotion’ which is 19% off your dinner bill. Now remember, you need to mention it at the time of your reservation. Chef Longo wants to help offset your gas or BG & E bill. The promotion has been extended to the end of September.
Restaurateurs, if I missed mentioning your restaurant specials, I apologize, please email me the details and I will do post an additional list – send to

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Unbridled Cooking

I enjoy cooking for small intimate dinner gatherings and this past Sunday wasn’t any different as I put together an eclectic menu for friends. I start small, a simple 3 course dinner and BAM, it has grown, out of control cooking. (recipes below) Keeping it simple doesn’t seem to be in my realm of reality, I ended up with 6 courses…yup, count them.

Pot Stickers with a Yuzu Dipping Sauce
Tom Yum Soup (inspired by my dinner at Redfish)
Grilled Caesar Salad
Lemon Basil Sorbetto
Honey Truffle Marinated Chicken, Steamed Asparagus with Apricot Marmalade and Oven Roasted Potatoes
Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing with Fresh Strawberries

Guess what, I didn’t take any pictures at dinner - not a one but I have put together a couple post pictures. I’m going to write this in course order though food prep was much different.

Dara’s Dinner for 4

1st Course

Pot Stickers: This was a last minute decision to have a munch in the den with drinks before we sat down to dinner. I pulled the Pot Stickers from the freezer, sautéed them and then steamed them per the package instructions.

Yuzu Dipping Sauce: I used a tablespoon of yuzu juice (lime juice is a good substitute), 2 tablespoons of Asian fish sauce, 2 tablespoons of water, 1 teaspoon fresh grated ginger, 1 small garlic clove thinly sliced and 1 teaspoon of sugar to balance the acid of the yuzu juice. Mix and make adjustments to your taste buds.

2nd Course

Tom Yum Soup: I had homemade chicken broth(see below) and combined it with low sodium chicken broth (total 4 cups), diced shallots, sliced mushrooms, shredded carrots and the Instant Sour Shrimp Paste (tom yum) for the chili-sour flavor* (1 teaspoon). I peeled 8 shrimp and put the shells in a strainer that I put in the stock to cook a bit and add more flavor. I added the shrimp about 2 minutes before service so they wouldn’t be over cooked. I previously boiled off some egg noodles (I was out of rice noodles) which I added to the stock just after the shrimp.

* the instant sour shrimp paste is spicy and I suggest start with a regular teaspoon and let it blend well into the soup. Give it a taste and add a bit more until you reach the level of heat you want in the soup.

3rd Course

Grilled Caesar Salad: I had just gotten the new Food and Wine-June 08 and on page 160 they had Seared Romaine Spears with Caesar Dressing. I got Romaine hearts at the produce store on sale for 99 cents…yes, 99 cents. I cut the romaine heads in half lengthwise and brushed with Canola oil and grilled them until they had a slight char on both sides but were still crisp.

The dressing swapped out egg yolks with low fat mayonnaise, red wine vinegar, garlic cloves, lemon juice, Dijon mustard, Worcestershire sauce and Tabasco. I processed all the ingredients and slowly added Canola oil. I dressed the plate with the dressing and put the romaine spears on top, salt & pepper, shaved Parmesan-Reggiano cheese and chopped tomato.

4th Course

Lemon Basil Sorbetto: I wrote about this before, it is SOOO good and I had about 11 lemons leftover from a food styling job just the week before so I filled in to the 20 lemons needed. I zested all the lemons before I juiced them and froze them for future cooking endeavors. The recipe is from Executive Chef Bill Crouse at Sotto Sopra – RECIPE. This was my intermezzo.

5th Course

Honey Truffled Chicken: First I purchased two whole chickens and brought them home and broke them down into parts. I took the wing tips, the backs and gizzards and threw them in the pressure cooker with onions, carrots, celery, parsley stems and salt for a quick stock-used in the Tom Yum soup.

Marinade for the chicken:

4 ounces of honey
2 tablespoons chicken stock
2 tablespoons of truffle oil
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of fresh ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients for the chicken. Coat the chicken pieces well and marinate them overnight in the refrigerator. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the chicken about 45 minutes (test for doneness with an instant read thermometer.) As the oven preheats mix up the basting mixture. As the chicken cooks, baste it from time-to-time.

Basting mixture for the chicken:

3 tablespoons honey
1 tablespoon chicken stock
2 teaspoons of truffle oil
1 tablespoon of chopped fresh thyme
2 teaspoons of fresh ground black pepper
½ teaspoon of salt

Oven Roasted Potatoes: I chose to use the tiny red potatoes. Remember start your potatoes in cold water with lots of salt. (If what you are cooking grew below ground you start it in cold water and if it grew above ground you add it to boiling water). Once at a boil, I let them cook 5 minutes and drained. I tossed the potatoes in olive oil, salt, pepper, paprika, chopped parsley, garlic powder, and chopped shallots and put them on a cookie sheet in the oven with the chicken. Every time I basted the chicken, I gave the pan of potatoes a shake.

Asparagus: From the WomenHeart’s All Heart Family Cookbook, I used their recipe for steamed asparagus and slivered carrots topped with Apricot marmalade and grated ginger. This is a fabulous cookbook that doesn’t feel like a healthy cooking cookbook. There are many recipes I have fixed and many more I am going to make. It emphasizes heart healthy foods, 40 foods proven to promote heart health.

Ladies, don’t be fooled, heart disease kills more women than breast cancer. This is a cookbook that should be on your shelves – the food tastes great plus you learn how many choices you do have with heart healthy foods.


6th Course

Yellow Cake with Fudge Icing: This is an ongoing quest of mine to find a really moist, dense yellow cake. Where as this cake was delicious, denser and moist, it wasn’t what I’m seeking ~ so I still search for my holy grail of cakes. PLEASE, if you have a yellow cake recipe that is really dense and moist send it to me (

I tried the cake recipe from Restaurant Eve which was in the Washington Post-I did not make their icing. I searched the internet for a chocolate fudge icing recipe and was ready to make one that called for condensed milk. I knew I had a can in the cupboard only to find out it had a date on it from 1996. Needless to say, I chose another recipe – Caroline’s Chocolate Fudge Frosting that came out great (I added a pinch of salt to it and only used ½ cup of milk. I think salt brings out the chocolate flavor)

Heathens that we were, we polished off ½ the cake between 4 people. I probably should put a warning on this menu “Do Not Try This At Home~ It Can be Harmful to a Full Night’s Sleep and One’s Waistline.” I’m still eating cake and sorbetto; I sent the leftover chicken, asparagus and potatoes home with my guests.

Are you an unbridled cook? We can start a club and go insane cooking for each other...but what a way to go.

Local Wine Events

I have been a great supporter of Eric Orange's Local Wine Events, a website that promotes food and wine events all over the world. They have just come out with a widget (the ability to put their information on my site)that will be found on this blog promoting special events in the Baltimore Area. Check it out ~ it is in the right hand column.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Primal Grill Premieres and I Helped

Baltimore’s own hometown boy, cookbook author, TV personality, Steven Raichlen premieres his lastest TV series, Primal Grill this Saturday on MPT at 1:00 p.m. and I helped. Yup, Dining Dish was called in at the last minute when Raichlen’s assistant had health issue that kept her from working. The conversations started on Friday and Sunday afternoon I got the go a head to fly out the next day to Tubac, Arizona. I’ve worked with Steven in my past life at a local spice company as well as food styled for him when he did live performances at MPT.

I’ve not worked as a personal assistant before but advised Steven I would do my best. Everything was new; a new location, new production company, chefs who have never styled for TV and a willing, yet inexperienced personal assistant. Challenging to say the least I got through it without being fired and I’m living to write about it.

Please note the series was filmed outdoors, in a field with very live and vocal cows, mucho flies and other oh mys (javalinas and cow gifts). I was on set before dawn and left after sunset, I never saw my back patio of my room in the daylight until the last day of shooting when we wrapped early. By the time we got to day 10, I finally got the gig down. The staff and Steven were great and understanding. Steven was a gentleman even when others might have lost their cool, I so respect this man for all that he has accomplished. He’s written 25 cookbooks and is finishing his first novel and is traveling the world for background on his next cookbook.

I’ll stop my kvetching and tell you some behind the scenes stories. I mentioned the flies, they were horrendous. Camera’s rolling and there are flies all over the food so we would spray everything with bug spray…keep that in mind when Steven bites into the food at the end of the shot. Oh, the beauty shots, the finished products for that final shot. I would hear “Dara, there’s not enough salsa in the bowl we need more!!!!”….what. no more salsa—I would dump the salsa, roll up a paper towel and top it with the salsa…the bowl was full, beauty shot complete.

We were 20 miles north of the Mexican US border and at night I heard the helicopters search for the illegal immigrants sneaking across the border. Taking the airport limo back to Tucson we were stopped by border police checking out the van. When I was asked if I was an American citizen I was so tempted to say “si” but good sense took over my need to be funny.

What does a personal assistant do you ask? We needed extra long cinnamon sticks and we were no where near anywhere to find them. I reached out to an acquaintance in Tucson who owns Flavorbank Spices who had 18 inch cinnamon sticks. I coerced a waitress from the resort to drive 80 miles round trip to go pick them up for that day's shoot (only to have that recipe's filming postponed for the next 7 days).

I polished plates and bowls. Followed the recipes, caught errors, and noted changes. I would make sure everything for the recipes were on set as well as equipment and made sure it got cleared quickly after the filming. Worked on the beauty shots set up ( I had a lot of help from the one of the producers). Iron shirts when the PA’s PA disappeared (that is another story unto itself).

The set was not without its injuries. Injuries…ah burns, bloodied toe, smashed hand, head injury due to the boom being blown over in the wind and a sprained knee. Then there was the evening of the escaped cows that got out on the golf course and were corralled by chefs on golf carts.

If you love to grill this is the show to watch – please tune in on Saturday, May 17th at 1 p.m. –Maryland Public Broadcasting Channel 22 and 67 and if you look very closely at the credits and read really fast my name should be up there.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Eat and Drink Free Today - Thursday, May 15th

Today, Thursday, May 15th , must be the optimum marketing day for the food franchises – check out the freebies at McDonalds and Dunkin Donuts – for today only. Remember, your Dining Examiner is always looking out for you.

Mc Donalds if offering a free Southern Style Chicken Biscuit until 11 a.m. and Southern Style Chicken Sandwich starting after their breakfast hour until 7 p.m. at all McDonald Restaurants with the purchase of a medium or large drink. I called a McDonald’s to confirm and they said it is up to the operator of the McDonalds if they will participate. (local McDonald’s Locations and Phone Numbers)

Get a free iced coffee at Dunkin Donuts today only. (local Dunkin Donuts Locations and Phone Numbers).

Have a great, fulfilling day.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Morton's Recipe Contest

Okay readers and cooks alike I just got a press release from Morton's about a cooking contest that is pretty simple and the rewards is a trip to Chicago and dinner with one of the founders of, not at Charlie Trotters...but Mortons.

Here's the copy:


Winner Also Receives All-Expense Paid Trip for Two to Chicago and Dinner at the Original Morton’s Steakhouse with Morton’s Co-Founder Klaus Fritsch

To Submit a Recipe and View Complete Rules, visit Contest Entries Must Be Received by June 2, 2008.

(BALTIMORE, May 13, 2008) – Morton’s The Steakhouse, home of the “Best Steak Anywhere,” is searching for “The Best Recipe Anywhere” from its guests, aspiring chefs and anyone who shares Morton’s passion for preparing truly memorable meals with the best ingredients. The search for a winning recipe heats up this month with the first-ever Morton’s Guest Prime Recipe Contest. The best recipe will be selected for inclusion in Morton’s second cookbook, a sizzling sequel to Morton’s Steak Bible, which disclosed many of Morton’s mouthwatering recipes and grilling secrets for the first time. Guests of Morton’s and amateur chefs are eligible to enter the culinary contest, including people who have yet to experience the legendary food, service and hospitality of Morton’s, whose 79 steakhouses and 5,000 worldwide employees are celebrating the restaurant’s 30th anniversary this year.

The winning “guest” recipe will be featured in the second Morton’s cookbook, which Random House is scheduled to publish in late summer of 2009. The grand prize winner will also receive an all-expense paid trip for two to Chicago and enjoy a special dinner at the original Morton’s steakhouse on State and Rush Streets, which opened on December 21, 1978. The host of this special dinner will be Morton’s Steak Bible author Klaus Fritsch, who co-founded the legendary restaurant with Arnie Morton 30 years ago.

“The growth and success of Morton’s steakhouses over the past 30 years reflects our commitment to giving every guest a truly memorable dining experience, with great food, great service and legendary hospitality,” said Fritsch, who will lead the panel of culinary experts that will select the winner of Morton’s Guest Prime Recipe Contest. “Based on the positive response from Morton’s Steak Bible, we’re developing a sequel because our guests asked us to share more of the delicious recipes that have Morton’s flavor of the good life. The recipe contest will add an additional dash of fun, excitement, and another dimension to our new cookbook.”

The second Morton’s cookbook will include more of Morton’s renowned recipes for easy preparation at home, as well as Morton’s expert tips on fine wine and spirits.

To submit a recipe and view the complete rules for Morton’s Guest Prime Recipe Contest, visit Contest entries must be submitted by June 2, 2008. No purchase is required. A panel of experts selected by Morton’s will review creative recipes for beef, chicken or seafood entrees, appetizers, salads, sauces, marinades and dressings, soups, side dishes, desserts and even cocktails.

Friday, May 09, 2008

New Friends - Bold Flavors

One of my favorite dinners in Italy was at Il Latini in Florence where my friend and I dined at a communal table, interacting with people from all over the world. We exchanged stories, drank some vino and shared our passion for good food ~ it was a very memorable evening.

In today’s technological world are we losing the social skills to interact with friends, family and business colleagues? I know being locked up in my home office, day-after-day, glued to my computer I miss social interaction: the banter, the sharing of ideas and the camaraderie of others. Enter Baltimore Foodies, a club where people with a passion for food, dining and drink gather at Baltimore restaurants to enjoy the pleasures of the table and the companionship of others.


Last night I ventured to the dinner that Baltimore Foodies coordinated at Red Fish located at the corner of Hudson and Boston Streets in Canton. Baltimore Foodies founder, Lars Rusin, introduced me to some of the “foodies” at the bar. Everyone was social, many of the “foodies” knowing others from attending other Baltimore Foodies' events. The evening’s weather was pleasant so the broad European windows were opened in an accordion like fashion lending spaciousness to the narrow bar. The barkeep brought me my Mojito, a good mix of sour lime muddled with fresh mint with a blast of sweet, simple syrup – they get an A in Mojito (it would have gotten an A+ if they had a sugarcane shoot in the drink).

I loved the broad brush stroke demographics of those attending: singles and married, young and old, professionals to retirees, men and women---all passionate about what they eat and where they go to dine. On one side of me was a lovely couple, retired – he, a former accountant, across from me was an attorney who cooks most evenings, a gal in the advertising industry who doesn’t hesitate traipsing to unsafe areas of town at 4 a.m. for bulgogi, an anesthesiology nurse and an executive at the Baltimore Convention Center round out my dining posse.

Once seated at our communal table, the nurse and I, true foodies, agreed to share our dishes so we can taste more of the food. Between courses discussions on favorite places to eat with James Joyce being touted for the best hamburger and Bella’s in Little Italy for authentic Italian food. Kali’s Court, Brass Elephant, Sotto Sopra, and Iggies and Matthew’s for pizza – all favorites for different reasons.


If you like bold flavors than Red Fish is for you. There are some items on their Euro-Asian menu that are subdued but most lean heavily to Asian with some salutes to European. As you get to know me, I am all about flavors and the menu for the evening was one of the reasons why I chose to attend this Baltimore Foodies event.

The top toque at Red Fish is Executive Chef Arthur Francis Fuller, formerly of the Sky Lounge. This is a man not shy to flavor his food and if you like bland foods then I suggest you go elsewhere. This restaurant’s location has gone through a number of owners and permutations so if it’s been year since you’ve been do try it again.

The menu designed for the foodies event offered a choice on each course and I, the devoted blogger/reviewer, ate a portion on both selections – just for you!

Amuse Bouche
(amuse the mouth)

Razor Clams
This was a surprise treat, unexpected and my first razor clams. The flavors were bold.

First Course

Prawn Tom Yum Soup
Tom Yum Soup uses a chili paste and lime for a sour spicy flavor. Maybe the Tom Yum I’ve had before had been dumbed down for American tastes for I found this version quite spicy. I personally could have used a lighter ratio of chili paste to broth. If your sinuses are stuffed or you have a cold this is the soup to have.

Grilled Strip Steak Salad
The steak was well seasoned and grilled to medium for this salad. I loved the crunch of the lotus root. I would have preferred a bit more of the citrus nam-pla dressing.

Second Course

Crispy Red Mullet Roll
This crunchy, fried sushi-style roll was wonderful and I was sad that I agreed to share ~ I could have eaten more.

Pan Seared Scallops
This is a strong salute to Red Fish’s European flavors with dried Spanish chorizo sausage and creamy polenta. One of my dining companions said if they were at home they would have licked the plate.

Third Course

Sizzling Kalbi Beef Short Ribs
This Korean dish cuts the short ribs in a cross cut about ½ inch thick and then they are marinated and eventually grilled. The sugar in the marinade can burn and char which happened on a couple pieces.

Japanese Style Crab Cakes
No complaints here on the crab cakes and the sweet chili beurre blanc enhanced the entire dish. The bok choy and kimchee were nice accompaniments.

Strawberries in Balsamic Sabayon with Cracked Black Pepper and Vanilla Crème Anglaise
This is a winner and you can do a simple version of this at home – A dip of vanilla ice cream, sliced strawberries, drizzled Balsamic vinegar and fresh ground black pepper. You can change that up by replacing the Balsamic vinegar with Pernod. A real hit.

I found most of the dishes served on Red Fish’s menu, the exceptions were the razor clams and strawberry dessert.

Dining Dish says in her Arnold Schwarzenegger impression, “I’ll be back.” There are more dishes I want to try and others I want to enjoy again.

Baltimore Foodies
P O Box 1682
Baltimore, MD 21203

Red Fish
2350 Boston Street
Baltimore, MD
410 276 1926

Monday – Saturday
5 p.m. to 2 a.m.
Sushi (Friday & Saturday)
5 p.m. until late
11 a.m. to 2 a.m.
Sunday Brunch Specials

Red Fish on Urbanspoon

Saturday, May 03, 2008

$30 Three Course Chef's Tasting Menu

I would be remiss if I didn’t say that this blogger is feeling the financial pinch being felt by many others but that has not kept me from dining out. Case in point, Sotto Sopra’s 3-Course Chef’s Tasting Menu that is offered every Wednesday evening for $30. Each month the executive chef, Bill Crouse chooses items off their seasonal based menu to highlight. The choices offered are crafted that everyone can dine from vegetarian to carnivore.

The husband, as I will refer to him in this column, and good friend, Patti, joined me last Wednesday for this excursion to Sotto Sopra Restaurant, a restaurant known for their contemporary Italian food. I just love their venue which is housed in a turn-of-the century, Mt. Vernon town house that is home to fabulous artwork, large gilded-framed mirrors and drapes that emphasize the stylish décor. I’ve always found the energy at Sotto Sopra invigorating and this Wednesday evening was no different. There was a party going on in the back section around the bar, all the tables filled as we dined and guests were engaged in lively conversation.

Our waiter, Isaac, brought our grissini and focaccia to the table along with a plate of drizzled extra virgin olive oil topped with Reggiano Parmesan cheese and fresh ground black pepper. We all opted for the Insalata di Rucola for our appetizer and went different paths for the entrees. Everything was delicious, the portions generous considering the low prices and we left not a single morsel on our plates. Service was timely, pleasant, and informative. Below is the menu for our evening with photographs of our choices. Please remember I’m not Ansel Adams and don’t claim to be – hopefully my photographs do justice to the wonderful dishes we enjoyed that evening.

Here is the what we had and you can CLICK HERE for for May and upcoming menus.

Sotto Sopra Restaurant
3-Course Chef's Tasting Menu
Wednesday Nights April’s Menu

(choice of Appetizer)

Zuppa del Giorno
Soup of the Day

Insalata di Rucola
Baby arugula, crispy apple-wood smoked bacon, crumbled goat cheese, dried cherries and stone ground mustard vinaigrette

Cuore di Latuga
Boston lettuce served with Gorgonzola cheese, sliced Granny Smith apples & caramelized walnuts with maple balsamic vinaigrette
(choice of Entree)

Ravioli dell’ Amore
House-made spinach and ricotta stuffed ravioli sautéed in butter and sage served with a pesto cream sauce and sun-dried tomatoes

Pesce di Giorno
Fish of the Day
(we had salmon with fingerling potatoes)

Fettuccine al Mare
House-made fettuccine served with mussels, shrimp and calamari in a light tomato sauce

Piccatine di Vitello
Sautéed veal scaloppini, parsnip puree, roasted asparagus and tarragon butter

(choice of Dessert)

Ladyfingers dipped in espresso coffee with mascarpone & cocoa

Vanilla Crème Brulee
Custard topped with caramelized sugar

$30 per person

Does not include beverages, tax, or gratuity and other promotions and discounts are not applicable.

Reservations Suggested

For even greater savings you might want to arrive early and enjoy the restaurant’s Aperitivo Hour drink and food specials at the bar from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. Monday through Thursday. Also their flier said that on Friday night’s the drink specials are all night long at the bar.

Food for thought: You might want to sign up for Sotto Sopra’s E-Newsletter or subscribe to their blog for updates on special unadvertised events (dinners, cooking classes etc), recipes, and videos. (CLICK HERE)

Have you found any dining bargains? – Let me know.

Dining Dish says get out of the house, beat the inflations woes and enjoy a wonderful 3 course dinner for just $30. I strongly suggest reservations.

Sotto Sopra Restaurant
405 N. Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201
410 625 0534

open 7 days a week
Lunch: Monday through Saturdays
Dinner: served daily
Street parking and valet parking at night.

Sotto Sopra on Urbanspoon


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