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.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

One Table - Two Views

Thanks to the great deal I got at Baltimore Dining Deals, I was able to purchase a $50 gift certificate for Bicycle Restaurant at half price. I sent an e-mail to the Baltimore Food Examiner, Juliette Goodwin, to see if she was up to the challenge of both of us writing a story about a dinner together at Bicycle. I informed her I had the first $50 of the meal and she was game. I love Juliette’s sense of humor and dry wit and knew the dinner would be entertaining. We agreed to post our stories at the same time so you can read both sides of the table.

To Bicycle, To Bicycle We Go

I’m a kind of start at the beginning of the story type of gal, very chronological in how I write.

Initially, our reservations were for 8:30 p.m. but Juliette’s husband was able to come home early to take charge of the twins. Those of you who have read Juliette’s postings know that she is a stay-at-home mother to fraternal twins that are on the precipice of the terrible twos. In real life she is an artist and writer. Juliette adjusted the reservations to 7:30 and she chose to dine on the patio enjoying one of the few, low humidity summer evenings in Baltimore.

I will state this; there was no lull in the conversation the whole evening, but then, I’m loquacious by nature. Juliette and I are pretty diverse in age, background etc.: she is a young modern whose parents were writers and I’m a modern senior whose parents were retailers. Her husband is an architect, handy around the house changing the environment and my husband is a flea market aficionado who takes 4 hour naps on weekends. We are from different worlds but our glue, our link together, is a passion for food.

The getting to know-you-better conversation started in the car: husband, family, background, so by the time I parked on Light Street we were heading into the serious food conversation.
The patio at Bicycle was quite lovely; I easily forgot I was in an urban setting.

Let the Ordering Begin

Our waitress approached and asked about beverages. I asked if they did fresh lemonade and if so, if they could muddle some fresh basil in the beverage. Our waitress, who also held the bartender’s position, informed me there was no fresh lemonade or basil though there was lemonade on tap. Since we were sitting next to the garden, I snitched a couple leaves of fresh mint and put it in my lemonade.

Juliette and I decided to go with two soups: Spicy Corn Soup with Crab with grilled corn salsa and chive/cilantro cream ($7) and Chilled Melon Soup with cream fraiche, almonds and chives ($5). We ordered two appetizers as well: Sautéed Shrimp with fava beans, chorizo, pearl onions and red pepper reduction ($13) and the Tuna and Avocado Tartare ($12). Our big plate choice was Duck Two-Ways with a rendered duck breast, spicy duck spring roll, kohlrabi two-ways, tamarind, Korean chili sauce ($24).

We were deep in conversation when we realized the waitress did not announce the specials and when questioned, she advised us there were none for that evening. Chat, chat, more chatting and voila, the first course of soup arrives. Being diligent food bloggers, we both pulled out our cameras and as consummate foodies had already agreed to share the food.

Juliette has a passion for summer tomatoes, and who can blame her. She has blogged extensively on their glory. This is called a set up. Watch the little snippet video of Juliette.

To Dine, Per Chance to Enjoy

The cool melon soup was a great contrast to the rich, spice-laden flavor of the corn soup with crab. I could have used more acidity in the melon soup, a bit more lemon and pinch of salt to heighten the flavor of the melon – we still cleaned both bowls.

I talked cooking, dining, food styling and Juliette talked children, finding a cheesecake that was dairy-free, her parents, work and food. I asked about the blueberry cake she posted recently and she responded it was a family recipe from her grandmother – no butter, one uses Crisco. I made it, in fact, snacking on it as I write. YUM! I added some lemon zest to the batter.

Aaah ha, the shrimp and tuna tartare arrived. My photo of the tuna tartare was blurry, so I hope Juliette’s story has a better picture. I have had the tuna tartare at Bicycle before when Barry Rumsey was chef, and I remember it as okay. I believe Chef Batey has put a bit more spice to the accoutrements and I liked it.

Both Juliette and I wanted to enjoy every last bit of the red pepper sauce with the shrimp appetizer when we realized there was no bread on the table. I’m not sure if they normally bring bread, bread sticks or flat bread to the table at Bicycle or if it was an oversight: although, it was a shame to waste the sauce and I, for sure, wasn’t going to lift the plate and lick it* – at least not in front of Juliette.

As the guests on the patio thinned out and the dark of a lovely evening set upon us, our waitress, delivered our Duck 2-ways. It was artfully split on two plates by the kitchen so we didn’t have to break it up at the table – scoring big points on service.

The duck was rendered of fat, served medium rare on the kohlrabi puree along with a duck eggroll. The tart tamarind flavor was a great counterpoint to the richness of the duck. A good dish should always carry through to the tongue’s sweet, salt, bitter and sour receptors along with a richness that coats the tongue and adds to the flavor lasting and varying textures - this dish did it all.

We passed on dessert; we were sated and glad to stretch our legs walking back to the car.

The conversation was continuing as I started driving Juliette home when alas, that emergency call from Juliette’s husband asking how soon will she be home, the children were acting out. At least she had a couple hours of down time to herself. I, on the other hand, was under no time restraints – the husband, as I call him, hits the sack around 8 p.m.

IMHO (In My Honest Opinion)

With tip, and we gave 20% before tax, the bill came approximately to $84.00 – two soups, two appetizers, one entrée and two beverages (non-alcoholic). Considering the value-quality ratio, I score Bicycle high and I recommend it to those who love bold flavors.

As for dining with Juliette, considering the conversation-quality ratio, I score her high on my dining companion list and recommend her for those who love lively conversation, dry wit and want to talk serious food.

* Licking the plate: Where as I have been tempted many times to get every last bit of deliciousness off a plate, I would never pick it up and lick it. The statement was literary license, emphasizing how much I enjoyed the sauce and a small attempt at humor. Let me quote John Merrick, “I am not an animal!” (Can you remember what movie that quote is from?)

For more info:
1444 Light St
Baltimore, MD 21230
(410) 234-1900
Bicycle on Urbanspoon
Baltimore Food Examiner - Dinner with Dara
Juliette Goodwin

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Nice review Dara! You are truly blessed at that!


Blog Widget by LinkWithin