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, July 31, 2008

Restaurateur Calls on a Missed Reservation

A friend of mine sent me an email about an incident with a restaurateur. I don't have all the facts, but here is the scenario and my response. I would like to hear from you as well.

"I have a question about restaurant etiquette. What is your opinion about a restaurateur calling a customer and leaving a message which rudely reamed them out for missing a reservation. Though not an emergency, it was also not intentional to ignore the reservation. How offensive should an owner/manager be permitted before a line is crossed? What do you think?"

I have mixed emotions about the missed reservation. If you were a no show without a phone call, shame on you! If you called to cancel your reservation, even last minute, you showed the restaurant a courtesy with an opportunity to fill the spot (though it still could be lost revenue if they turned others away and didn't fill the open spot). Also, was your reservation for a large party 6 or more? - harder to fill-more revenue lost. No shows and reservation cancellations are part of the mix for any restaurateur and there should be a plan B in place (i.e. Brasserie Tatin called me yesterday to confirm that evening's reservation)

I don't know all the details surrounding the missed reservation to say who is right and who is wrong. I know if you had a scheduled meeting with someone and they didn't show, didn't call (why not, with the proliferation of cell phones) - would you be upset? Now, whether the restaurateur should have called - my feelings, his energies would be better spent calling future reservations so this didn't happen to them again. I understand the restaurateurs frustration, times are tough out there for them and some are feeling the pressure more than others - it is an emotional time.

The question remains - should the restaurateur have called their home about the missed reservation? I throw this out to my readers to respond.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

A Quiet Opening for Lauraville House

This past Friday, Lauraville House Restaurant and Bar quietly opened in the former Jimmy O’Donnell’s location at 4538 Harford Road. Owner, Louise Cabrera is working with Chef Bonnie Klado, known locally for her food at Jerry O’Donnell’s.

A limited menu is being offered during this quiet opening but will be in full swing in two weeks at their grand opening.

Klado says the food will be upscale bar food: cooked-to-order, fresh-versus-frozen, and no steam tables. The menu will offer steaks, ribs, pastas, and a large selection of shellfish. Lauraville House's mantra is fresh, good food for the neighborhood to enjoy.

For more info:
Lauraville House
4538 Harford Road
Baltimore, MD
(call for hours of operation)

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Where To Dine After Restaurant Week Is Over

Donna's Café in Charles Village will take Slow Food Baltimore's Eat in Season Challenge from August 9th throught 16th chefs Andy Thomas and Brian Price will showcase fresh seasonal ingredients from local farms and farmers' markets.

Their Special Eat in Season Challenge Menu Includes

* Tomato consommé with local goat cheese
* Homemade fresh mozzarella and tomatoes with basil and olive oil
* White corn flan
* Maryland crab salad with cantaloupe and fresh mint
* Soft-shell crabs with farmers market succotash
* Sweet and sour fairy tale eggplants
* Springfield Farms pork tenderloin with peach chutney
* Roasted capon with lemon verbena and fingerling potatoes

Donna’s Café in Charles Village is located at 3101 St. Paul Street. It features an open kitchen and outdoor seating and is the fourth restaurant to meet the popular Eat in Season Challenge. Their regular menu will be available during the Challenge week.

The Challenge is an initiative of Slow Food Baltimore. It invites area establishments to serve -- during one week of the month -- a special three-course menu each night with the primary ingredients in each course to be locally sourced, and either currently in season, or traditionally preserved. The metro-wide campaign encourages chefs to be innovative; to create food that otherwise may not be featured or showcased. The Challenge also teaches people about the powerful benefits of eating seasonally.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Got to and click on "Eat in Season"

Monday, July 28, 2008

No Pie In The Sky, It's In Hampden

With the nickname of Big Bad Rod you would expect Rodney Henry to be an unsavory type of fellow; however, he’s real savory since he quietly opened the doors to Dangerously Delicious’s Savory House. At the Savory House, Rod introduces his new line of savory pies partnering them with his nationally renown selection of sweet pies.

Pie Man Rod, a rockabilly* performer, is throwing a grand opening starting Friday, August 1st and through Sunday, August 3rd. Being the rocker that he is, there will be lots of music, with a special Hank Williams Brunch on Sunday, August 3rd, featuring the Pie Man.

Savory House
3547 Chestnut Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21211
Open Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner
The menu is updated weekly-check the website

*Rockabilly: A bit country and a bit rock and roll but definitely NOT like Donnie and Marie.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Stomp Over to Great Grapes and Become Uncorked!

Great Grapes

Come celebrate the taste of over 300 unique, diverse and flavorful wines from all around the world! This International festival will allow you to sample the essences of the best grapes while expanding your tongue's tastes. A full palette awaits your arrival! While mastering the art of wine tasting, be sure to attend the wine seminars, Gourmet Live! cooking demonstrations & shop amongst the unique artists! Don't turn down this invitation. You are guaranteed to leave the festival as our newest wine connoisseur!

* Have a fun day without having to drive all the way to the shore
* Children under 12 are free
* Unlimited samples of wine
* Live music
* Craft and Food Exhibitors
* Cooking Demonstrations – come see me on Sunday at 1 p.m. when I do a cooking demonstration of recipes from my co-compiled cookbook, YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats. I know, shameless self-promotion.

If you like the fruits of the vine, music, crafts and fair food….do come, bring a blanket and kick back and enjoy the fun.

WHAT: Great Grapes
WHERE: Annapolis Fair Grounds
WHEN: Saturday, July 26th & Sunday, July 27th- NOON to 6 p.m.


An acquaintance of mine sent me a very cre8tive invitation to a party on 8-8-08. I have removed their names and contact information for the obvious reasons. Hope you find it as cleaver as I did.











Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Average Dinner in Baltimore Cost $34.23*

The 2009 Zagat Restaurant Survey for Baltimore and Washington DC makes its grand entrance today. The Zagat Survey is celebrating its 29th year reporting on the shared dining experiences of consumers like you. What started in 1979 as a hobby involving 200 of the Tim and Nina Zagat’s friends and associates has come a long way. Today they have over 325,000 surveyors worldwide.

You’ve seen the burgundy and white Zagat Rating signs displayed in restaurant windows or walls that let you know how they were rated for their food, décor and service. The Zagat Ratings aren’t limited to just restaurants; their surveys cover airlines, bars, club, entertaining, golf, hotels, lounges, movies, music, resorts, shopping, spas, theaters and tourist attractions.

Average Price of Dinner

In correlating the surveys for cities nationwide, the Zagats are able to come up with a national average for dinner. Based on their surveys, the national average for dinner* is $33.86 with Washington DC being $35.13 and Baltimore $34.23.

*The survey asks you to estimate the cost of a dinner with one drink (if you had one) and tip per person. It is broad stroked and leaves me with the question what constitutes a dinner: an appetizer and/or salad, entrée, and dessert or just an entrée and a drink ~ that requirement is not clearly defined.

Before dining at any restaurant may I recommend checking the restaurant’s website to check out their menu and pricing. Keep in mind that on many restaurant''s sites the menus aren’t updated often; however, it is a good overview.

Dining Dish Survey

This is the Dining Dish Survey, though I doubt that Tim and Nina Zagat have anything to worry about, let’s see what you say. So, in conclusion, what constitutes a dinner out for you? Is it one course, two courses or three? Do you dine out with a budget in mind? Have your dining habits changed in the past 6 months? Speak up!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

AGA, Me and Recipes

It was my first, you can remember your first, you know it was awkward, a lot of fumbling around but the deed got done. As a recently ordained AGA stove demonstrator, I lost my AGA cherry yesterday when I did my first cooking demonstration on the Rolls Royce of stoves at the Appliance Source in Easton.

What is unique to the AGA stoves is they are centrally heated and the stove cooks with radiant heat, there are no heat controls or electronic knobs – it is always on and ready to go. You might remember seeing the stove on the Two Fat Ladies television show. It's at the top of my wish list.

A picture is worth a thousand words – check out the video.

Scallion Cilantro Pancakes

I’m writing about my adventure because I adapted two yummy savory pancake recipes that I want to share with you, one being a scallion cilantro pancake that I adapted to an approximate 2 inch pancake to hold thin slices of teriyaki steak. I didn’t make the dipping sauce and I substituted chopped cilantro instead of the small cilantro leaves and sliced scallions instead of the 1 ½ inch pieces of scallions. I like the pancake as a foil to the teriyaki steak - RECIPE

As for making teriyaki steak, so simple, get a jar of Kikkoman’s Teriyaki sauce and marinate your steak.

Mustard Dill Pancakes with Smoked Salmon

Again, I made smaller versions of the pancakes, 2 inch rounds to hold the smoked salmon. The pancakes were full of flavor and the mustard seeds (readily available in the McCormick display – the glass bottle priced out better than the little plastic jar) added a nice crunch. I added some dill to the sour cream topping and didn’t used the caviar. These pancakes look like they would freeze well. Feel free to substitute crème fraiche for the sour cream. - RECIPE

Saturday, July 12, 2008

My Summer Drink

This is my drink of choice this summer. The recipe is to taste, so if its too tart add more sugar or sugar substitute, add more lemon juice if it isn't citrusy enough. Try it - You'll like it.

Basil Lemonade

2 to 3 Lemons, juiced
4 Cups Water
¼ to ½ cup Fresh basil leaves
Sugar substitute or simple syrup

Add the lemon juice, water, and basil leaves to a blender/food processor. Strain the liquid to get rid of the processed basil leaves. Sweeten with sugar substitute or simple syrup to taste. Pour over ice. Enjoy.

Feel free to add a shot of vodka to this for a more adult refresher.

This was inspired by Sotto Sopra's Lemon Basil Sorbetto.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Temporary Closing of VIN for Remodeling

Dining Dish received an e-mail that VIN Restaurant in Towson is temporarily closing August 3rd due to the Towson Circle III development. Note that starting July 18th through August 2nd there will be unique nightly specials and heavily discounted bottles of wine.

Here is the text from their e-mail:

VIN To Close Temporarily For Remodeling

VIN, the critically acclaimed and popular restaurant and outdoor lounge, will temporarily close on August 3rd and remodel in anticipation of the construction of the exciting Towson Circle III development directly adjacent to VIN. The planning of Towson Circle III has been carefully coordinated to integrate seamlessly with the original Towson Circle project and VIN itself. It is the hope of VIN management that the construction staging will allow the restaurant to re-open before the completion of Towson Circle III construction.

Due to the extended downtime of the facility during this period, Executive Chef Chris Paternotte will be leaving to explore other opportunities. His stewardship of VIN resulted in not only a successful business, but a truly special culinary experience, and we highly look forward to his next endeavor.

We are also proud to announce a spectacular finish to VIN "Part One" from Friday July 18th through Saturday August 2nd. The VIN team will be preparing truly unique and exciting nightly specials, classic VIN favorites, and offering an incredible opportunity for our guests to enjoy a wide selection of bottles of wine at half price. Portions will be oversized to tie everyone over until our next phase can launch!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Miracle Fruit and Gordon Ramsey

It looks like the Baltimore Bloggers beat Gordon Ramsey to tasting the Miracle Berry. Here is a funny video from Graham Norton show where he and Hell's Kitchen, Chef Gordon Ramsey taste the miracle berry.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

SCORE! 1/2 Price Restaurant Dining Certificates and a Restaurant Week Reminder

Yup, I just picked up dining certificates for The Bicycle Restaurant, The Milton Inn and Three for ½ price at
Baltimore Dining Deals . It seems every Friday morning they put the gift certificates on sale at 9 a.m. Obviously not too many people know about this site or some of the certificates wouldn’t be left over today. I’m thrilled to have gotten certificates for these restaurants: great chefs and great food at all three locations.

There is a $3.00 surcharge for mailing the certificates but still - $50 certificate for $28.00, what a deal. Certificates are good for 6 months and have few restrictions.

Other Dining Bargains: Restaurant Week – Baltimore City and Howard County

Make your reservations now while there is still a selection !!!!

While I’m posting, don’t miss out on Baltimore’s Restaurant Week starting Saturday, July 26th and ending Sunday, August 3rd. Great deals at the city’s finest restaurants offering a 3 course luncheon for $20.08 and dinner for $30.08 (the eight cents represents the year i.e. 2008).

Start dining early at the first ever Howard County Restaurant Week starting Monday, July 21st and ending Sunday, August 3rd. Don’t miss restaurants like Aida Bistro, Jordan’s Steakhouse, Iron Bridge Wine Company, Café de Paris, Tersiguel’s French Country Restaurant, Alexandra’s and many more.

If you hear of any other dining bargains please share.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Green Bananas

A picture speaks louder than words. I have never seen an entire display of bananas that were all green, so green, that I thought Kermit was hiding amongst them. Nere one had the blush of yellow. I pulled out the trusty Kodak to capture this moment, just so I could share.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Baltimore Chefs and Wine Experience - Come See Me

WHEN: Sunday, July 13th ~ noon to 6 p.m.

WHERE: Tremont Grand
225 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Enjoy food samples from Baltimore’s finest restaurants and culinary specialists such as Ciao Bella Ristorante, The Classic Catering People, Ixia Restaurant, LaTasca, Lebanese Taverna, Lucy's Irish Pub & Restaurant, Sotta Sopra, Pisce's, Red Maple, Vin, Water for Chocolate Catering LLC, A. Kirchmayr Chocolatier, Cabot Creamery Cooperative, Cake Love, Charles Street Gourmet, *Dara Bunjon (COME SEE ME), Lindt Chocolate, and Piacci Cheese.

Taste delicious and rare wines from regions across the world and speak to winemakers. Select wines will be available for sale on site.

Attend cooking demonstrations and wine seminars. Participating chefs include *Martha Hall Foose (Viking), Warren Brown (CakeLove), Jerry Edwards (Chef’s Expressions), Benjamin Erjavec (Oceanaire), Michaele Weissman (Food Journalist), Michael Costa (Pazo), Will Koch (Tremont), Fabio Mura (Blue Sea Grill), and Kevin Miller (Ixia).

Wine experts include Ted Allen (TV Personality and Cookbook Author), Monyka Berrocosa, Sharon Charny, CBP, CTC (Regional Director, National Accounts, Charmer Sunbelt Group), Jerry Edwards (Chef’s Expressions), Jerry Pellegrino (Corks), Laurie Forster (The Wine Coach®), Tim Hanni MW (Napa Seasoning Company), and Paul Lukacs (Wine Columnist, The Washington Times & Wine Review Online; Wine Editor, Saveur Magazine).

Visit to purchase your tickets. General Admission Tickets are just $55 and include access to all wine seminars and chefs demonstrations, and food and wine tastings.

* I'll be there sampling recipes from my co-compiled cookbook YUM! Tasty Recipes from Culinary Greats. The book will be for sale through Barnes & Noble and profits from the royalties will go to the National Kidney Foundation via Microplane.

Don't miss Martha Hall Foose's cooking demonstration and picking up a copy of her new cookbook: Screen Doors and Sweet Tea - Recipes and Tales from a Southern Cook. The first thing I did was read all her stories about her home, the Mississippi Delta. I enjoyed her Southern sensibilities and humor.

Edible Enlightenment Part 2

In Edible Enlightenment Part 1, I delivered to you my story of Pho, a Vietnamese soup, and its flavor profile, history, and how with the addition of the traditional accoutrements you can season to your palate.

In today’s Edible Enlightenment Part 2, I will review a selection of local Pho restaurants. These Pho restaurants are on the west side of town with one exception on York Road. I apologize to any Pho restaurant I might have overlooked – please leave a comment if I missed any other locations.

Baltimore Pho

I’ve been in a number of Pho restaurants and I must say that Baltimore Pho is the fine dining of Pho and Vietnamese food in the city. Across from the Hollins Street Market, in the old Mencken’s Cultured Pearl location, Baltimore Pho is carving a niche for itself as upscale Vietnamese dining. It embraces Baltimore’s seafood connection - hence the name Baltimore Pho.

It was mid May when I tried Baltimore Pho Restaurant and Bar. My dinner reservations were early enough to enjoy their happy hour drink specials and Vietnamese noshes at the exposed brick bar. I had a yummy Lychee Mojito for $6.00 – a great combination of the sweet, tart flavors that I love.

A good deal of thought was put into the look and feel of the place: bamboo mats, upscale red chopsticks, and logo-emblazoned triangle shaped dishes. My companion and I kicked off the meal with the Vietnamese Rice Paper Rolls with 2 dipping sauces and Green Papaya Salad. I have been spoiled by my friends’, the Hoangs, rendition of rice paper rolls (they called them summer rolls) which is my gauge for all others. The Hoang’s version was lighter on the fresh herbs.

Now down to the nitty-gritty, the Pho. Baltimore Pho has a more American pleasing palate selection of well done beef, rare beef, beef meat ball, combination of meats, Baltimore seafood, and a vegetarian version with tofu. The flank tendon or tripe renditions available at the more traditional Pho restaurants were not available. I got the well-done beef version, the broth was subtle and a tinge sweeter than I’m used to but it was a tasty bowl of soup. I was surprised to see culantro (no not cilantro) on the condiment plate. The pricing is significantly higher than the traditional Pho restaurants which are usually around $6 a bowl. If memory serves me, Tuesday night is Neighborhood Night at Baltimore Pho, offering a heavy Pho discount. You will need to show your license to prove you live in the neighborhood.
Baltimore Pho on Urbanspoon

Pho #1

One might assume the number one after this restaurant name is implying that it is the best Pho you can consume, does that make Pho #75 in Virginia the seventy fifth. In researching my Pho article I discovered that many of these restaurants add the number of the year that they opened ( i.e. 1975 or 2001).

Not as high end as Baltimore Pho, Pho # 1 is still a step above the cafeteria-feel Pho restaurants like An Loi in Columbia. The menu offers a large selection of Vietnamese dishes and fresh fruit drinks.

You have a large selection of meats and combination of meats to go in your Pho. The small bowl is sufficient for any grown adult to fill themselves. The broth is bolder and more assertive and it is a flavor I like. They aren’t as fancy with the accoutrements, and each table has assorted hot sauces and hoisin set up like we American’s have ketchup and mustard on the tables.

I’ve had other dishes other than the Pho and they were okay, it is truly the Pho that I go back for time-and-again.
Pho #1 on Urbanspoon

An Loi and Pho Dat Thanh

The few things I can write about An Loi is that it is in an out-of-the-way strip mall that took me forever to find and it is as basic as it comes. I haven’t eaten there in years and I heard owners have changed so I can’t give you a review. I remember the Pho being tasty.An Loi on Urbanspoon

Pho Dat Thanh is also in Columbia, more upscale in ambience, a tad above Pho#1 but not as fancy as Baltimore Pho. I have eaten there a number of times and find the soups to be where they shine. Try the Pho and I highly recommend the duck noodle soup.Pho Dat Thanh Cafe on Urbanspoon

I have discovered some new places while researching this story and will make sojourns to taste their Pho and will update you periodically.

I’m going to list as many of the Pho restaurants that I can find, if I have missed one let me know. May I suggest you call the restaurants for their days of operation and hours.

An Loi
7104 Minstrel Way Columbia
(410) 381-3188

Baltimore Pho
1116 Hollins Street
(410) 752 4746

Miss Saigon
111-5 Crain Hgwy
Glen Burnie
(410) 761-8721

Pho #1
5764 Baltimore National Pike (Westview Mall)
(410) 719-7500

Pho Dat Thanh
9400 Snowden River Parkway
(410) 381-3839

Pho Huong Moi
6901 Security Blvd #3042 (Seoul Plaza)
(410) 944-8625

Pho Nam
6477 Baltimore National Pike
(410) 455-6000

Saigon Remembered
5857 York Road Baltimore
(410) 435-1200

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

The Best BBQ Ribs Recipe

Yes, I know “best” is subjective when it comes to food but First Timer Ribs are the best ribs I’ve ever made and eaten. The recipe is from the king of barbecuing, Steven Raichlen (a Bawlmer Boy). If you can get your hands on some baby back ribs and you like to be king of your barbecue domain then this recipe will bring you praise beyond belief. Take the opportunity to get high on the food praise, enjoy the ribs' fireworks of oohs and aahs, but most of all, relish these delicious ribs. Make extra.

I use the standard, always reliable, Weber Charcoal Kettle Grill and follow every nuance of Steven’s instructions. In fact, I would love an invite if you are making them. Here is the link to the recipe.

I’ve made this recipe at least 5 times so I consider myself an authority on their preparation. If you have any questions- jot me an e-mail at


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