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.

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Bryan Voltaggio’s Family Meal opens Friday, January 2nd

We wrote about this just before the holidays that Chef Voltaggio was close to opening his Family Meal restaurant at the Harbor at the end of Pier 4 in the old Houlihan’s space.  It seems they are ahead of schedule and opening their doors for lunch and dinner on Friday, January 2nd. Come Monday add breakfast to their mix – they will be open 7 days a week.

As stated in their press release, “Offering re-invented classic American diner fare, the first location of the Family Meal concept opened in Frederick, MD. The 6,000 square-foot Baltimore restaurant, with additional outdoor dining space, will serve Family Meal classics such as Hoecakes with Pimento Cheese, Maple Bacon Jam, Pickle Relish; Shrimp & Grits; and Fried Chicken, as well as regionally-influenced dishes like Lobster Risotto with English Peas, Maitake Mushrooms, Parmesan; and a Soft Shell Crab Sandwich with John Cope’s Corn, Tomato, Old Bay, and Bacon.”

“This restaurant is all about family,” says Chef Voltaggio. “My wife, kids and I eat together at Family Meal in Frederick, MD all the time, and I’m thrilled to bring a concept that’s so personal to me to the families of Baltimore. Adults will love our unique approach to classics that they may have grown up with, and kids go crazy for items on our ‘Happy Campers’ section.”

Family Meal, reiterates what is important, families dining together, sharing the day-to-day joys and conquest along with a great meal.  

This is the second restaurant in Baltimore by Chef Bryan Voltaggio, the other is Aggio at 614 Water Street - around the corner from Power Plant Live.

Family Meal – 621 E. Pratt Street – Baltimore, MD

Giada De Laurentiis and husband call it quits

The Food Network star of Giada at Home, cookbook author, chef  Giada De Laurentiis has been separated from her husband of 11 years since July.  In a statement on her Facebook page De Laurentiis commented that her husband, Todd and her have decided to end their marriage

It was approximately 16 hours ago when Ms De Laurentiis posted on her Facebook timeline.
“After an amicable separation since July, Todd and I have decided to end our marriage. Although our decision to separate comes with a great deal of sadness, our focus on the future and overwhelming desire for our family's happiness has given us the strength to move forward on separate, yet always connected paths. Todd and I share a beautiful daughter and a lifetime of great memories that we both treasure more than anything. We are so thankful for our friends and family, and really appreciate the support in this time of change”

Her most recent endeavor is her first restaurant, Giada at the Cromwell Las Vegas Boutique Hotel and Casino part of the Caesars Entertainment Corporation.  The Rome, Italy native, Giada, is the granddaughter of film producer Dino De Laurentiis and daughter of actress Veronica De Laurentiis.  Ms De Laurentiis studied at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.

Duff Goldman launches new television series Duff Till Dawn

Duff Till Dawn, a new cake competition show, from the Food Network will premiere Thursday, January 29th at 10:30easterm/9:30central. It will feature two professional cake decorators along with their assistants going for the win and bragging rights. The host of the Duff Till Dawn, none other than the Food Network’s pastry boy wonder, Duff Goldman of the successful Ace of Cakes series and owner of Charm City Cakes – Baltimore and Charm CityCakes West  – Los Angeles.  

The underground after hours competitions go to the wee hours at Duff’s bakery as competitors battle it out with their most creative, tastiest over the top decorating skills.  

"The one-of-a-kind Duff Goldman is the master of dazzling and astonishing cakes," said Bob Tuschman, General Manager and Senior Vice President Programming, Food Network. "In Duff Till Dawn, he tests the bakers on these same talents and abilities, as well as their ability to pull all-nighters."

Competitors must amaze rotating judges Haylie Duff (Real Girl's Kitchen), Elena Fox (Ace of Cakes), Carrie Keagan (Television Personality), Geof Manthorne (Ace of Cakes), Catherine McCord (Guy's Grocery Games), Alysia Reiner (Actress), Kelis Rogers (Musician and Host of Holiday Feast with Kelis), Aarti Sequeiria (Aarti Party), Kevin Smith (Writer/Director) and Sherry Yard (Cutthroat Kitchen) with the boldest, tastiest and most impressive cakes for the chance to win bragging rights and the coveted golden whisk.

The Food Network reports that this is a six-episode series, each episode is themed from dream ships, outer space, magical fairy cakes and medieval manors. 

After graduating from the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, with degrees in history and philosophy, Duff Goldman went on to study at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone in St. Helena, California. He worked at several acclaimed culinary destinations, including French Laundry, Vail Cascade Hotel and Todd English's Olives before returning to Baltimore in 2000 to become a personal chef. In March 2002, he opened Charm City Cakes, and it soon became a household name on the hit Food Network show Ace of Cakes, which aired for 10 seasons.

Tune in for a sneak peek on Sunday, Jan. 25 at 11|10c before the series premiere on Thursday, Jan. 29 at 10:30|9:30c.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Sweepstakes, contests and bling - lures to fill restaurant seats

It was only a few years ago that restaurants started to reward customers for holiday Contest, sweepstakes and giveaways used to fill restaurant seats during the holiday purchases with gift certificates or gift cards. Lebanese Taverna, Germano’s  and La Tasca used this incentive of  a $20 gift card for every $100 gift card purchased online. Book a holiday party of $2500 and get a $150 gift certificate etc. Capital Grille offers a set of authentic Capital Grille steak knives, a 10% bonus gift card and no shipping charge when you purchase $500 or more gift cards.

So why should New Year’s Eve be any different.  Ten Ten American Bistro has a sweepstakes on going if you submit your email address you have an opportunity for a chance to win a table for two on December 31st. (must be 21 or over to enter).  

Read the full story on sweepstakes, contest and bling HERE.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Dishing on the Baltimore restaurant scene: Family Meal, Bagby Pizza, Ryleigh’s Oyster and more

Verde fig and prosciutto pizza

A recent visit to Washington DC for a private party hosted by, a precursor to their Rising Star Gala, was held at Chef Bryan Voltaggio’s Range restaurant.  Chef Voltaggio, definitely qualifies as a ‘star chef’ with his Top Chef creds, his award winning Volt Restaurant in Frederick, Range and Aggio in DC, and another Italian themed Aggio restaurant located on the land locked side of the Power Plant Live in downtown Baltimore.  Chef Bryan Voltaggio had a quiet moment to chat before all the guests arrived.

The hot topic for our discussion is his newest restaurant in Baltimore, Family Meal, and the concept is re-invented classic American diner fare with a nod to local specialties, traditional comfort food and the merging of immigrant cultural flavor profiles. This time Voltaggio has his newest restaurant on the harbor side of Power Plant Live in the former Houlihan’s space at the end of Pier 4.  One can expect to find Shrimp & Grits and Fried Chicken or a Soft Shell Crab Sandwich. Come the warmer months enjoy al fresco dining at Family Meal with a nice view of the harbor.

Family meal is close to opening, still waiting on final permits and inspection but I would guess Family Meal will be open mid-January or possibly sooner. 

The Bagby Pizza Company, the first in the restaurant concepts from the Bagby Restaurant Group that brings you Ten Ten American Bistro, Fleet Street Kitchen, Cunningham’s and Cunningham’s Café and Bakery announced back in November that they were going to be expanding their fast-casual version of its Harbor East Bagby Pizza Company restaurant. Hot off the press release, the first Bagby Pizza expansion will take place at the Festival at Woodholme Shopping Center in Pikesville moments off the the Beltway’s Reisterstown Road exit towards Owings Mills.   

Get all the complete story HERE on the restaurant happenings in Baltimore. 

Friday, December 19, 2014

What to get the wine enthusiast for a holiday gift?

Whether you are a holiday gift procrastinator, the conscientious gift giver finding the ideal gift for friend or family or blinded by all the choices – look no further for that special gift for the person who loves wines, enjoys tasting numerous selections.  It is time for the 3rd Annual Winter Wine at the B & O Railroad Museum being sponsored by the Maryland Wineries on January 8, 2015 from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.  It will feature samplings from over 30 premier wines from top Maryland wineries, including sparkling, red, white and dessert wines. Tickets are $65.00 for the “All Aboard Roundhouse Tasting” and $80.00 for the “Vintage Vidal Pre-Reception + Roundhouse Tasting” and are available by logging onto or by calling 410-252-WINE.  

Winter Wine at the B&O Railroad Museum will also feature stationary and passed hors d’oeuvres and live music throughout the evening.  Attendees will enjoy meeting winery owners and winemakers who will be on hand to talk about their varietals, blends and vintages. In addition, Al Spoler, Host of WYPR’s “Cellar Notes”, will serve as Guest Curator and will help in selecting the wines for the event.

New to the event will be a Vintage Vidal Pre-Reception from 6-7pm to VIP ticketholders where they will have the opportunity to get to know Maryland’s White grape; the Vidal Blanc.  In an intimate setting, guests will have the opportunity to explore the grape’s several diverse styles including Sparkling, Dry, Off-Dry, Sweet and Ice Wine. 

“As Maryland wine continues to diversify and as the industry grows, we believe this event will surely showcase all that the state has to offer.  And, we are thrilled to team up with the historic B&O Railroad Museum, a new venue for us,  as we know it will provide a unique place where attendees can savor wine while enjoying the beautiful surroundings,” said Kevin Atticks, Executive Director for Maryland Wineries Association.

Thursday, December 18, 2014

Feast of the Seven Fishes on Christmas Eve at Baltimore Italian restaurants

The Feast which initially was a partial fast on Christmas eve (La Vigilia) during which no meat should be served has expanded into the Feast of the Seven Fishes or more. As Mario Batali chef and expert on Italian cuisine explains, “But in true Italian style, this proscription has morphed into something very unfastlike indeed: course after course of luxurious seafood dishes, often as many as 7, 10, or even 13.” “No one's quite sure of the significance of the number," says Batali. "Some families do seven for the sacraments. Some do ten for the stations of the cross. And some even do 13 for the 12 apostles plus Jesus."

Over recent years, our local Italian restaurants have embraced the tradition of the Feast of the Seven Fishes, all offering the meal in different courses, different dishes and different pricing. Find the 5 local Italian Restaurants and their menus listed below.  Each restaurant has their own hours, menus and pricing.  The feast is Christmas eve at all locations with an added day on Tuesday, December 23rd at AIDA Bistro. 

Get the full list of restaurants and their Feast of Seven Fishes offerings and slideshow HERE.

Monday, December 15, 2014

The Plantbar is open in Belvedere Square Market

This is the time of year where most people throw calorie counting and a healthy lifestyle to the wind.  Cookies galore from friends and family, that extra glass of eggnog, potato latkes fried in schmaltz – oh my!  It is perfect timing that the Plantbar powered by Zia’s opened in Belvedere Square Market.  It is a place to take a break from the crazy food and drink from the holidays and days thereafter.

Plantbar specialties include made-to-order and create your own juices, superfood smoothies, wellness shots, elixirs and acai power bowls. In addition, customers can purchase wellness add-ons such as gogi powder, sprouted rice protein powder, hemp seeds and bee pollen and more. The Plantbar produce stand will provide fresh fruits and vegetables, locally sourced, whenever possible. “We are excited to continue to nourish our community with truly healthy food,” said Daniela Troia, owner.

In March 2005, Troia opened Zia’s Café and Juice Bar in Towson, which offers healthy food including options from Paleo enthusiasts to vegans, vegetarians and raw foodists. Shortly after opening their doors, local businesses took an interest in Daniela’s creations and began requesting her products in their markets. 

Since then, the Zia’s wholesale line has taken off, expanding out of Maryland, in Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New York. Zia’s wholesale product line includes savory and sweet raw foods that are made fresh from local organic produce and packaged the morning of delivery. That same healthy lifestyle philosophy will continue at the Plantbar.

Plantbar is more than a juice bar, it’s a wellness hub.” said Troia. Plantbar will partner with local wellness mentors including nutritionists, health coaches and holistic health counselors, to name a few, and offer wellness workshops and cooking demonstrations.  In addition, Plantbar will offer cold-pressed juice cleanse packages.

Whether detoxting from too much holiday celebrating or day-to-day healthy living the Plantbar is now open in Belvedere Square Market  Mon-Thur 8am to 8pm, Fri & Sat 8am to 10pm and Sun 10am to 5pm.

Plantbar – Belvedere Square Market – 529 E. Belvedere Avenue, Baltimore, MD  21212 443 449-7137  Facebook Twitter @plant_bar Instagram @plantbar_at_belvedere

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Kentucky Fried Chicken’s social media promotion feeds the hungry

Kentucky Fried Chicken ( @KFC ) has partnered with Feeding America on a social media promotion that for every tweet, Instagram snap or Facebook shared will donate 50 cents to Feeding America (equals to 5 meals).  KFC will donate up to $100,000 to Feeding America.

There is no money out of your pocket, just a moment or two of your time.  How You Can Help: Supporting KFC’s #FillUpForGood Campaign is easy. All consumers need to do to help KFC reach its goal, is post or repost a picture of a KFC $5 Fill-Ups™ meal (no purchase necessary) on social media (Twitter, Instagram or Facebook) with the hashtag #FillUpForGood before January 31, 2015. 

You can do this, I’ve made it easy by doing the screen capture in this story, so save my image and be sure to post with it to social media using #fillupforgood  

Facebook: Share the KFC $5Fill Up photo above with this text:  KFC’s #FillUpForGood campaign feeds 5 hungry people thru Feeding America if you include this photo and #FillUpForGood  hashtag in each share. 

Twitter:  Attach the KFC $5Fill Up photo.  Please retweet photo & hastag #FillUpForGood will provide 5 meals through @Feeding America

Instagram: Attach the KFC $5Fill Up photo & the hastag #FillUpForGood will provide 5 meals through @Feeding America

Feeding America works directly with major manufacturers, retailers, and other partners across the country to secure safe, healthy food that would otherwise go to waste. For every 50 cents received, the Feeding America network of food banks can help provide 5 meals through food pantries and meal programs across America.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Maryland seafood for the holidays: Crab Country Gourmet

My sister and her husband are landlocked in Rancho Mirage, California where she will tell you there isn’t an ounce of decent seafood to be found.  Being a Baltimorean, she knows the bounty of the Chesapeake Bay; oysters, rockfish (striped bass) and crabs.  The best gift I can get her for the holidays is fresh seafood from our native waters and the new Crab Country Gourmet fits the bill with their fresh crab cakes, crab soup and crab dip that can be shipped overnight  to anywhere in the contiguous United States.

In an effort to get the word out about their new products, the Knorr Brothers, Tom and John, owners of the Red Roost restaurant located on Maryland’s Eastern Shore sent a selection of all three items for me to taste test.  The products come fresh, never frozen and to be consumed within 24 hours of receipt or one can freeze them but fresh is always best.  

Read the full story and check out the slideshow HERE.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Hospitality industry Holiday Bash from Horseshoe Casino interviews

This past Monday, December 6th  I had the opportunity to attend Baltimore's annual holiday bash featuring 20 food participants from restaurants to caterers. With microphone in hand I got to chat with the folks from Banditos, Brio, CityPeek, Chiparelli's, Johnny Sanchez and more.

Kick back, relax - grab a nosh and drink and enjoy the off the cuff interviews at Baltimore Internet Radio

Uber and Amazon take a piece of the restaurant meal delivery pie

Over the past decade or slightly more, there have been different configurations of businesses that use technology to create a delivery and take out program for restaurant food. As technology has progressed, new applications for the consumer to order meals delivered from their local restaurants are appearing. Bloomberg reported, “Burger King Worldwide Inc. (BKW) offers a delivery service with a $10 minimum order in some U.S. cities.” Taco Bell has embraced technology to boost sales with their Order-Ahead app.

Restaurant Hospitality reports that mega giant Amazon is testing out its restaurant delivery program in Seattle, simply called Amazon Local’s takeout and delivery program.  They have the technology and the consumer base, what they don’t do is deliver.  Amazon is a middleman, who takes orders and payments, charging the restaurateur a fee on each order placed. Amazon is not doing the delivery, the restaurant is.  Why would a restaurant tie in with Amazon? What do they put on the plate? They offer qualified, good customers who regularly spend over 80% more money online than regular Internet consumers.

Uber, the ride share company is testing out their program in Los Angeles; Beverly Hills, West Hollywood and Westside Los Angeles.  The program, uberFresh, delivers in about 10 minutes by only offering one thing daily from each of the participating restaurants with curbside delivery.  One meal option per restaurant daily, keeps preparation and quality to its optimum. 

The pie that we call restaurant meal delivery is being split into more financial pieces. Established companies like or could be sharing a piece of their “delivery” pie.

Monday, December 08, 2014

Baltimore restaurants open on Xmas Day

Looking for a Christmas breakfast, brunch or dinner here in Baltimore and wondering what is open on Christmas Day?  Your best bets can be hotels with dining rooms like Apropoe located in the Marriott Waterfront, Diamond Tavern in the Hilton or Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons Hotel that is offering up a Christmas Day Brunch Buffet from 8 a.m. to 11 a.m. or their Christmas Dinner from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. with a prefix three course dinner. 

A great place for a meal any day of the week is Sotto Sopra Restaurant and they are open from noon to 10 p.m. Christmas Day offering up their authentic Italian cuisine with a Maryland slant. Always beautifully decorated, their window display won first place on the Charles Street window decorating contest.   
If you can grab a seat at the ever so popular Blue Moon Café for breakfast, they are open Xmas Day from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m.   Sweet 27 Bar and Restaurant in Charles Village caterers to those with special dietary needs gluten-free, dairy free and soy free diets and they are open from 11 p.m. through 8:30 p.m.
With a 365/24/7 schedule, think the Horseshoe Casino where the restaurants Johnny Sanchez, Guy Fieri’s Baltimore Kitchen and Grill, Jack Binion’s Steak along with the restaurants in their Baltimore Marketplace will be open. Check with each restaurant but most open at 11 a.m. except Jack Binion’s. 

Learn about more restaurants open for the holiday and check out the slideshow HERE.

Friday, December 05, 2014

Restaurant Association of Maryland gift certificates good at 450 restaurants

That’s right; you can buy a gift certificate for 10, 25 or 50 dollar denominations that can be redeemed at over 450 Maryland restaurants – a restaurant for everyone’s culinary fancy.  The Restaurant Association of Maryland in partnership with Columbia Bank has released its current list of participating restaurants in the Dine Out, Maryland! Gift Certificate program.  

Dine Out, Maryland! Gift Certificates can be ordered online at, over the phone or at the RAM office in Columbia. Single gift certificates can be mailed directly to the recipient with a customized message, while companies can purchase bundles to be delivered to their office. Shipping is FREE on all orders.

Restaurants of all shapes, sizes and cuisines are participating  the likes of Cantler’s Riverside Inn in Anne Arundel County, Gertrude’s in Baltimore City, The Milton Inn in Baltimore County, Ledo’s Pizza in Calvert County, Baldwin Station in Carroll County, Port House Grill in Cecil County, Captain John’s Crab House in Charles County, The High Spot Gastropub in Dorchester County, Brewer’s Alley in Frederick County, Liberatore’s Ristorante & Catering in Harford County, Grille 620 in Howard County, Dogfish Head Alehouse in Montgomery County, The Walrus Oyster & Ale House in Prince George’s County, Rams Head Shore House in Queen Anne’s County, Lenny’s Restaurant in St. Mary’s County,  Applebee’s in Talbot County,  Buffalo Wild Wings in Washington County, Market Street Inn in Wicomico County or de Lazy Lizard in Worchester County

“Why give your employees, friends and family members a gift certificate to one restaurant when you can give them the choice of over four hundred fifty?” said Marshall Weston, RAM President & CEO. “Dine Out, Maryland! Gift Certificates are an easy and convenient way to give a great gift while also supporting local businesses here in Maryland.”

The restaurant list is ever evolving with new additions for Dine Out, Maryland.  Buy one or buy in bulk for your holiday gift giving.

Restaurant Association of Maryland – 6301 Hillside Court – Columbia MD (410) 290-6800 Twitter @RestaurantsinMD  Facebook

Thursday, December 04, 2014

Holiday cookie exchanges

For a number of years I used to make fudge for the holidays, not cookies. The problem with that was I would eat half the fudge before I got to give it out as gifts. That is not to say that I don’t eat the biscotti that I’ve been baking since the 90’s when the recipes were published in Gourmet Magazine, just not as much as the fudge.

When I switched from fudge to biscotti I went with a chocolate ginger almond recipe by the late great chef Barbara Tropp and a pistachio cranberry biscotti.  Both recipes are moistened only with eggs and vanilla, there is no additional fat (butter or oil). I use parchment paper on my sheet pans which eliminates me from buttering the pan. Currently, I just make the cranberry pistachio biscotti, it is easier now that I can find the shelled pistachios at Trader Joes. Initially, I would shell the pistachio, what a job that was. There are folks who wait each year for the pistachio cranberry biscotti, especially my neighbor, Mike,who gets his own cache along with what I give the family. Maria Springer, a great baker herself, waxes poetic about the time I gifted her with a large Mason Jar full of biscotti. The holiday season is a time of sharing so go to the recipe links above and try something new.  

Cookie exchange – mix the assortment

Gather your friends together who bake for the holidays and set up a cookie exchange/swap.  There are numerous ways to do it depending on the number of people participating.  Our culinary group would make 3 dozen cookies, put them out on the table and walk around in circles picking one of each until we ran out. Here is more information on creating your own cookie swap.

Here in Baltimore,  the Oreste Pandola Learning Center Book Club is having their third annual cookie exchange in Little Italy at St. Leo’s Church Hall on Saturday, December 13th from 1 to 4 p.m. Attendees should bring six dozen homemade cookies to exchange; place a dozen each in five separate plastic bags and one dozen to share there. A donation of $5 is requested. Please RSVP to Jenny 410-828-1822 or Carmella 410-991-9255.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

A five course tasting of Chef Michael Mina’s classics at Wit and Wisdom

Visiting James Beard award-winning Chef Michael Mina comes to Baltimore this Sunday, December 7th and Monday, December 8th to Wit & Wisdom Tavern for a  tasting of a selection of his classic dishes. Chef Mina will work with Wit & Wisdom’s Executive Chef Zack Mills and Executive Pastry Chef Dyan Ng to create this limited time 5 course tasting menu.

A Taste of Michael Mina Classics Menu

Caviar Parfait
Smoked Salmon, Potato Cake, Whipped Crème Fraîche

Tartare of Ahi Tuna
Asian Pear, Toasted Pine Nuts, Habanero Sesame Oil

Maine Lobster Pot Pie (Serves Two)
Brandied Truffle Cream, Wild Mushrooms, Baby Vegetables

Prime Steak Rossini
Hudson Valley Foie Gras, Spinach, Red Wine Jus

Apple Tarte Tatin
Maple Crème Anglaise, Maple Sugar Ice Cream
Root Beer Float
Sassafras Ice Cream, Warm Chocolate Chip Cookies

                                 Guests: $95 per person plus tax and gratuity. A special discount is being offered to hospitality workers, 30% off for a cost of $66.50 per person plus tax and gratuity.  Optional wine pairing $49, plus tax and gratuity.

Reservations required 410.223.1464 or by visiting

Michael Mina’s story is one of two decades of influence, passion and achievement. With accolades including James Beard Foundation “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage” inductee in 2013, Gayot Restaurateur of the Year 2011, Food Arts Silver Spoon Award winner May 2011, Bon Appétit Chef of the Year 2005, San Francisco Magazine Chef of the Year 2005, as well as the International Food and Beverage Forum’s Restaurateur of the Year 2005, Michael continues to dazzle the culinary world with bold dining concepts that have contributed to San Francisco’s reputation as a world-class epicurean destination and made him an integral part of the dining scene across the country.

Wit & Wisdom, A Tavern by Michael Mina – Four Seasons Hotel – 200 International Drive – Baltimore

All in dining at Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino

The Russell Street cathedral to gambling, Horseshoe Casino, now open close to four months offers up new dining choices for locals and visitors alike.  Choices range from their Baltimore Marketplace food court with local vendors from marshmallow treats from The Mallow Bar, corn beef sandwiches from Lenny’s Deli, crab cakes from Tarks at the ‘Shoe, Heavy Seas burgers and Italian, Piezetta.  My recent trip to Baltimore’s Horseshoe Casino was focused on the restaurants and doing a dine-around, a course and cocktail at each restaurant. 

As part of a small group of food writers, we made three stops; Johnny Sanchez, a high end Taqueria, the first in what will be a series of Johnny Sánchez restaurants reflective of the celebrity chefs Aarón Sánchez and John Besh, Guy Fieri’s Baltimore Kitchen & Bar and Jack Binion’s Steak, named after the founder of the original Horseshoe Casino. 

Read the full restaurant reviews and view the extensive slideshow HERE.

Monday, December 01, 2014

Set your compass for the Boathouse Canton

The former Bay Café spot in Canton opened its doors back in the spring 2014 after a 1.1 million investment to become the Boathouse Canton – a waterfront grille.  When I first visited back in April, the BoatHouse was getting its sea legs, just starting, opening their doors at Tindeco Wharf, finding their chef, formulating lunch, dinner, happy hours etc.  Well the Boathouse has come a long way since that time. The warmer months found their outdoor spaces complete: the event tent, the pavilion bar, the arbors and the terrace were jammed packed. Folks enjoyed the entire atmosphere and even bringing their dogs at the BH Grille.  

Even though it is winter, the view from the main building is still outstanding, colorful sunsets still fill the main building and party rooms.  Enjoy the happy hour Monday through Friday from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. with a buck a shuck oyster, crab nachos or pulled pork sliders with Natty Boh drafts at $2.50 to $2 off draft wines by the glass. Read the full story and enjoy the slideshow HERE

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Thanksgiving Rhyme to "All About that Bass"

Just think the song, It's All About That Bass and put in these lyrics. My ode to Thanksgiving or at least a verse or two.

Because you know I'm all about that bird,
'Bout that bird,, no trouble
I'm all 'bout that bird, 'bout that bird, no trouble
I'm all 'bout that bird, 'bout that bird, no trouble
I'm all 'bout that bird, 'bout that bird

Yeah it's pretty clear, I love Turkey too.
But I can brine it, brine it like I'm supposed to do
'Cause I got that cooking cooking that all the boys chase
All the right food on all the right plates
I see Bon Appetit’s turkey working that Photoshop
We know that bird ain't real
Come on now, make it stop
If you got turkey turkey just roast  'em up
'Cause every inch of your table is perfect

Lyrics by Dara B... who definitely has bird!


I will be busy shopping and cooking the next couple of days - so consider Dining Dish on VA CA!

Monday, November 24, 2014

Thanksgiving tips for your holiday table

Dining Dish's second radio broadcast is short and sweet - just a hair over five minutes crammed packed with holiday table ideas and more. Listen to Show 2 - Dining Dish

Bonefish Grill: Open for brunch on Black Friday

If you are out your door early a.m. on Black Friday for holiday gift saving deals you will need sustenance just about late morning. Bonefish Grill is open for brunch on Black Friday, November 28th as well as Saturday and Sunday starting at 10 a.m. through to 3 p.m. or 4 p.m. depending on the location.  Whether Black Friday or not, Bonefish Grill serves brunch on Sundays making it an ideal stop off point during your holiday shopping or special family celebration get together.

With a gift card in hand, the husband and I set off to partake of the brunch offerings at Bonefish Grill.  The brunch menu in general has a lot of your favorite Bonefish Grill appetizers and desserts from Bang Bang Shrimp to house made Key Lime Pie.  The real brunch items are featured under the categories of omelets, brunch favorites, eggs Benedict and brunch cocktails and libations.  If you enjoy your mimosas, Bellinis and sangrias you can order the endless bubbles brunch for 19.90 with entrée  or your favorite brunch cocktails per glass. 

Read the full story and enjoy the slideshow HERE.
Bonefish Grill on Urbanspoon

Small plates, big flavors at the historic Milton Inn in Sparks, Maryland

The Milton Inn has always been a special occasion restaurant with beautifully decorated rooms, linen tablecloths and that added plus of being in a visually stunning historic stone building circa 1740. The executive chef and owner, Brian Boston and I go back quite a ways, back to his days as an executive chef at Pier 500 where he hosted members of my Epicurean Club in his kitchen for a cooking class.  If he wasn’t growing a beard for Movember that is streaked with grey, you would think he is younger than he is. Chef Boston has won numerous awards and recognition for his culinary expertise over the thirty years plus in the Baltimore food scene.

Recently, Chef Boston invited the media out to a preview of the Milton Inn’s new “small plates” menu being served in Hearth Room and C. 1740 Lounge daily both for lunch (Monday thru Friday)and dinner with the exception of Saturday. This is not like 10 small plate offerings there are 26 small plate offerings, diversity – something for everyone. Most small plates are priced at $12 a piece with supplemental charges on a handful of dishes like the Pan Seared Foie Gras or the Venison Short Loin.  The menu offers up suggested wine pairings with each dish with an up charge of $4 per 2 ounce pour or a 4 ounce pour for $7.  

Read the full story and enjoy the slideshow HERE.
Milton Inn on Urbanspoon

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Maryland Crab Cakes and Pappas Restaurants are synonymous

Pappas Restaurant Crab Cake Platter
With the opening of the third Pappas Restaurant in North Baltimore County, Cockeysville, in the Cranbrook Shopping Center their crab cake empire grows.  What started with a small restaurant in 1972 now serves their patrons fours ways: the restaurants, carryout, catering and shipping of their award winning crab cakes and other seafood. 

Of course they have numerous other culinary selections, many with crab meat, like Chicken Chesapeake to Stuffed Shrimp with Crab Imperial. It is not to say that the carnivores won’t enjoy their 100% certified Angus beef: Filet Mignon, New York Strip or Rib Eye or their selection of ½ pound Burgers.  

Going with that fast casual concept of build your own, at Pappas one can create your own pasta dish: your choice of  pasta,  sauce preference and then pick your protein; shrimp, scallops, crab meat, chicken, meatballs etc.  

Check out the slideshow and read the full story HERE.
Pappas Restaurant & Sports Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 17, 2014

B & O American Brasserie's new chef and fall menu

B & O American Brasserie welcomes Michael Ransom as their new executive chef. Ransom, a Michigan native worked in restaurants since his high school days, holding numerous kitchen jobs. From the Italian restaurant where he started to his tournant cook position at a Detroit oyster and seafood house he was forever the student.  

After numerous years in restaurant kitchens the enthusiastic Ransom enrolled in Chicago’s prestigious Kendall Culinary Academy where he got to work at numerous award winning restaurants. A move to San Francisco and the four starred Prospect Restaurant led to becoming executive chef at Bar Adagio and Henry’s in Berkeley.

Chef Ransom is a win for B & O American Brasserie who in the past years have sifted through numerous executive chefs some good and some adequate. After being indulged by Chef Ransom at a media dinner and tasting many winning dishes he is easily the best of the chefs who have been before, but then again, that is a personal opinion. 

Brendan Dorr, who I always talk about with admiration, is one of if not Baltimore’s leading mixologist and working with Chef Ransom  putting together a new fall cocktail menu that compliments the fall dishes.  My favorite cocktail of Brendan’s is his Queen Bee: Belvedere, Yuzu, St. Elder & Honey Syrup – a winning recipe at the 2008 Cocktail World Cup Regional Finals. The husband stayed traditional with his drink, a  bourbon.

B & O Brasserie was hopping the night we were there both at the bar and in the dining room. Chef Ransom sent out spiced nuts and warmed olives from their “Snack” offerings. We did not order off the menu but allowed the chef to send dishes he wanted us to taste. From the “Share” section of the menu we tasted Red Eye Riblettes – coffee brined, bourbon bbq with a fall fruit kimchee and the Pastrami Cured Salmon with beet pickle, cured orange, dill raita and rye crisp. If you like gravlax and cured salmon, order the Pastrami Cured Salmon but don’t plan on sharing it…it was so, so good – you will want it all to yourself. Let me not forget the Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Brussel petals, sage-brown butter and pumpkin seeds.

Check out the slideshow and the full story HERE.
B&O American Brasserie on Urbanspoon

Britain’s Saucy Fish Co. lays anchor at Giant Foods

Are you the type that order fish when you go out to eat but rarely cook it at home? A great number of folks are hesitant on home preparation of fish; concerned if their fish is the freshest it can be, where the fish was sourced and a general lack of knowledge of how to prepare fish.  Britain’s Saucy Fish Co., based in Grimsby the UK’s fishing capital has very cleverly combined fish fillets and chef driven sauces for a flavorful, easy to prepare fish entrée.

The Saucy Fish Co is a founding member of the Sustainable Seafood Coalition which brings together retailers and brands to agree common responsible fish buying and labeling approach.  They are very clear about where their fish is sourced - for example their salmon is from Norway or Scotland. The Saucy Fish Co.’s web page explains that all their farmed fish is sourced from farms that have been certified to an independent standard and checked by our own rigorous criteria.

The Saucy Fish Co. sent me samples of the four items that Giant Foods based out of Landover, Maryland has on their shelves - check out the slideshow and full story HERE.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Dining Dish Radio Program kicks off.

This past summer I did a radio interview on Baltimore Internet Radio with founder Dave Custy. We had great fun, told fun stories and connected on wanting to put a voice to the food community both here in Baltimore and with a national slant. Recently I ran into Dave and Janice Kaufmann, his partner in crime, at a media event.  Dave said I want to talk to you about doing a food-centric program. After a meeting and a lesson at home how to record a program I was on my way. The next step is learning how to record interviews from my home via Skype which will make for better programming. Interviews will be both local and on a national platform with the likes of cookbook authors, chefs, food producers etc.

My thoughts are doing two kinds of shows, one based on the food news in Baltimore and another based on national food news. Baltimore Internet Radio covers all things Baltimore, national and international.

Have mercy on me for this first program, I promise to become better and have more voices on the program tha other than my own. As we get rolling there will be advertising opportunities.  As they say, Rome wasn't built in a day, so give Dining Dish time as we learn to craw and grow.

Listen to the first  Dining Dish program on Baltimore Internet Radio  HERE.  

Lunch With: Audrey Slade, a woman for all seasons

Meeting so many folks in my line of work, every once in a while there is just someone who stands out, someone with a natural charisma and one such personage is Audrey Slade, the Director of Public Relations at the Baltimore’s Four Seasons Hotel.  We had interacted in a professional sense since the Four Seasons Hotel opened in Baltimore but it was at an Instagram gathering that we got to chat on a more personal level.  Audrey is a woman of substance; with numerous connections we share in Washington DC, I wanted to get to know her better.  Lunch was proposed and finally marked on our calendars  to meet at the Four Seasons preeminent restaurant, Wit & Wisdom Tavern, a Michael Mina restaurant.

Being a bit early, I walked around the bar and lounge area.  I've been before but not in daylight and it was nice to really take in the space.  There is a selection of social seating areas with couches and large armchairs.  Spying what seemed an insane amount of fresh citrus lined up at the bar, the bartender informed me that they easily go through that in an evening, especially since all their juices are freshly squeezed. 

The modelesque Audrey arrives, stunning and with a beautiful smile.  She is tall but not insanely tall but my late father would have called her high pockets.  Audrey explained she had modeled in her school days but just wasn’t animated enough and her preferences lied elsewhere. “If I wasn’t in public relations I would like to be a teacher – I love learning” states Audrey. She says she is reading Thrive: The Third Metric to Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-Being, Wisdom and Wonder by Arianna Huffington.

Dara: If you could have lunch with anyone living or dead?
Audrey: Nelson Mandela. I would like to talk about leadership. 

Audrey started her public relations career at the Ritz Carlton Tyson’s Corner as the diplomatic and business coordinator and then moved on to the public relations position at the Ritz Carlton in Georgetown.  She is a welcomed addition to the Baltimore region, spreading the Four Seasons good words with aplomb.  

Dara: What is the best dish that you cook?
Audrey: Steak tartare, but then again I’m not cooking that.  She side notes roasted chicken but doesn’t want to be held accountable for chicken that is great – too much stress.

Dara: What food could disappear and not be missed?
Audrey: Two things, mashed potatoes and gravy. I like other potato preparations; I like sauces and dips – just not mashed potatoes and no gravy.

Audrey took the banquette side of the table, both of us having a view of the harbor on a very sunny day.  Wit & Wisdom has an ala carte lunch menu along with an express 45 minute - two course lunch for $19.95 - Monday through Friday from 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.  On the weekends, one can choose from their brunch menu. 

Dara: What has been your epic culinary fail?
Audrey:  I tend to get engaged with my company when entertaining and lose track of time and what is in the oven. There was a pizza that was burned beyond  being able to be consumed.

Dara:  What has been your most memorable meal?
Audrey:  With my family, in New York at Le Bernardin for my mom’s birthday.  It was a special, over the top dining experience paired with a great group of people – engaging.  There was even ‘table envy’ as our group was heightening the experience, laughing on purpose – other diners were envious.

Dara: Iron Chef, Top Chef, Master Chef, Next Food Network Star, Chopped?
Audrey: Top Chef

We were into some serious conversation but etched out time to order.  Both Audrey and I chose one of the new fall items, the Chesapeake oyster stew with salsify, tarragon oil and potato. Our main course choices went two different paths, Audrey with the blackened salmon cake salad and me with the grilled shrimp salad with fennel, orange and Habanero vinaigrette.   You can check out the snapshots on the slideshow.

Dara: What is the oldest item in your refrigerator?
Audrey: Salad dressing and Worcestershire sauce.

Dara: Guilty culinary pleasure?
Audrey:  Foie gras and a great steak – I’m a carnivore, also a nice piece of carrot cake.

Dara: Truffle oil?
Audrey: Always

Dara: If you were to meet Julia Child at the pearly gates what would be the conversation. 
Audrey:  I would ask her to help teach me the basics of cooking.

In between courses, Audrey turned the table on me, by probing and asking me the same questions I asked her.  It only seemed apropos considering her thirst for learning. We wanted to linger a bit so we went with dessert, cookies and milk, warm chocolate chip cookies were the perfect finish.

Wit & Wisdom Tavern – Four Seasons Hotel, 200 International Drive, Baltimore, MD 21202 410.576.5800  Twitter & Instagram @witwisdomtavern

Wit & Wisdom on Urbanspoon


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