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, 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

Thursday, November 13, 2014

Federal Hill’s Banditos debuts their late night taco window

Starting tomorrow night, Friday, November 14th Banditos Tacos and Tequila will open their walk up taco window for late night munchies. The South Charles Street bar and restaurant  will open the taco window at 11 p.m. and keep it open to 2:30 a.m. for the late night bar crowd who want to put something good in their tummies before they call it a night.  For now, the Banditos Taco window will be open Friday and Saturday evenings with a rotating menu of two tacos each evening posted on their chalk board. 

There are tacos and then there are tacos. With the ever so talented Cyrus Keefer as executive chef one can enjoy a more taste tantalizing array of tacos from Banditos rotating taco window menu:

·         Street Steak with ranchero, tobacco onion, and cactus salsa
·         Meatball with chipotle romesco, smoked cashew salsa
·         Kunp Pao Mushroom with pickled peppers, grilled scallion and peanuts
·         Scramble Egg with chorizo sausage, salsa verde and questo fresco
·         Fish with apple jicama salsa, chili mayo and Thai basil
·         Chicken Tinga with salsa verde, lime crema and queso mixto
·         P.L.T. with pork belly, pico de gallo, lettuce, black garlic ranch
·         Korean BBQ Brisket with pickled cucumber, miso-mayo, and sesame
·         Angry Shrimp with smoked tomato relish, chorizo aioli, cilantro

This new selection of tacos are regularly available on their restaurant menu.

Also new at Banditos is brunch on the weekends from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.  If you don’t make the taco window late at night on the weekends then come in for Chef Keefer’s take on brunch with the likes of Chorizo Quesadilla, Mexi Waffle, Tortilla French Toast, Breakfast Nachos, Scramble Egg Taco, Poached Egg Tostada, Skirt Steak and Eggs or High-Noon Burrito with $4 optional sides like bacon, chorizo hash, pork belly and Spanish rice.

Stay up to date on bar and food specials via social media through Facebook: Twitter & Instagram @BanditosTNT  

Banditos – 1118 S. Charles Street – Baltimore, MD  (443) 835-1517  

Banditos on Urbanspoon

Monday, November 10, 2014

Get the low down on OrderUp: Restaurant deliveries to your table

Baum & Whiteman International Food and Restaurant Consultants recently posted their 11 Hottest food and Beverage Trends for 2015 and technology continues to be the trendsetter. Their report states, “Electronic wizardry once hummed quietly in the background ... but now we're immersed in "front-facing technology" or ‘guest-facing technology’: all sorts of devices and programs that interface directly with the consumer.”

Nowhere is it more evident of the growth than from Chris Jeffrey’s days at State College where he created a program for an on-line meal delivery service.  There have been numerous permutations of on-line ordering not only with Jeffrey and his partner Jason Kwicien, but they were the first to franchise theirs, OrderUp, to regional markets. OrderUp maintains the general day to day technology and customer service leaving the franchisee time to market and work with restaurants in their area. ’s national headquarters is located in Baltimore’s Canton neighborhood, a bigger market than they normally service but how could they ignore their home city. OrderUp is in 36 markets across the country from Arizona to West Virginia.  

Restaurants list their standard menus on OrderUp not daily specials although some restaurants will do a featured menu item.  There can be promotions kicking off a new neighborhood or a restaurant through OrderUp like a BOGO or get a sandwich for a penny –expanding  market share both for the restaurant and OrderUp.   A selling point is being able to get a meal from one of the leading restaurants in the city delivered to one’s home whose fees are no more than what one might have to pay for valet parking when dining in the restaurant.

What makes OrderUp different?  Initially the technology, carefully planned delivery zones. Also the restaurant selections go beyond the typical pizza and sandwich shops  to fine dining and every type of restaurant in between.  OrderUp’s carefully planned formulas for each restaurant’s timing on food preparation makes sure the food is picked up from the restaurant and delivered without any hindrance on quality. Once the order is completed by the restaurant, the customer can expect about a 10 minute delivery window. Obviously a Chick fil A order is completed much faster than a risotto from that independently owned Italian restaurant.

OrderUp takes full responsibility on the food that they deliver although a selection of restaurants deliver on their own and have order minimums. You also have the option to pick your order up at the restaurant.  OrderUp delivery restaurants have no minimum order, just a $3.99 delivery fee. OrderUp makes their money on a portion of the delivery fee and a percentage on the dollar volume sold at the restaurants. Drivers for OrderUp get a percentage of the delivery fee and their tips – they work as independent contractors.  A driver can expect to make up to $20 to $25 an hour. 
The consumer has assistance available connecting on line, through Twitter: @OrderUpHelp and e-mail. The OrderUp corporate staff is there to address any questions the consumer might have.

Since Baltimore is headquarters for OrderUp their  delivery areas are continually growing: Canton, Federal Hill, Ridgeley Delight, Mt. Vernon, Harbor East, Locust Point, Little Italy, Fells Point, Station North and all the way to Johns Hopkins Hospital to the east and University of Maryland Hospital on the west side.

There are numerous job opportunities at from being a driver or working as a remote customer service representative.  Restaurant owners looking to expand their market share check out the process at – Restaurant Owners.   Facebook  Twitter: @Orderup

Saturday, November 08, 2014

New organic, all natural products for your pantry

After attending the Natural Products Expo East there are culinary items that should make their way to your kitchen cupboards. I have had the opportunity to try numerous samples from the manufacturers.  Let me share my picks:

Taste of India – Butter Chicken Sauce which is gluten free has no artificial flavors or colors and the heat level is mild. Packaged in a self-standing pouch with a pour spout this Indian cooking sauce also known as Murgh Makhani was a hands down winner for me.  Along with sauce comes additional seasoning pouches that you can use as little or as much as you wish, I used them all.  When I prepared it as instructed with their suggested amount of cubed boneless chicken there was sufficient sauce to have handled more chicken.  They suggested it would feed four it fed two of us with a little left over. - I served it with brown rice.  A suggested addition at the ended was chopped cilantro and cream. It was one of the rare times I had heavy whipping cream so I added two tablespoons.  You can go to for further information but you won’t be able to purchase it there.  To purchase, go to where it is available in a 6 pack with an optional coupon plus shipping is ran me a little over $5 a pouch/meal.  Cooking time is about 10 minutes and prep, however long it takes you to cube boneless chicken.

There is always a preponderance of pasta sauces at any of the food shows and the Natural Products Expo had their share. A problem with the tomato based pasta sauces they have added sugar, and sometimes are too sweet.  With that in mind, my pick is Uncle Steve’sItalian Specialties which offers three sauces; marinara, tomato basil and arriabbiata. The three sauces have no sugar added along with being  gluten free, non-GMO, organic and Kosher certified.  You are able to buy on line in 3 pack.  This is a Steve Schirripa’s family recipe. You ask who is Steve Schirripa? He is most notable for his recurring role on HBO’s Sopranos.

Which Wich Black Bean Veggie Burger was outstanding that I tasted at the Natural Products Expo. I’m not one for veggie burgers at all and I was taken aback by how good it was. Which Wich is a chain of Texas Sandwich shops and they were looking for distributors to carry their black bean veggie burger. If you are lucky enough to have a Which Wich in your neighborhood you can enjoy the Black Bean Veggie Burger and hopefully we might see it in the near future in our specialty food store freezers.

Friday, November 07, 2014

Charlottetown Farm: Pam Miller and happy goats make extraordinary cheese

Here is an equation for success. Take one empty nest mom with time on her hands, a 4-H background, goats and a passion to brighten the tables of many with her goat cheese products – voila, you have Charlottetown Farm’s Pam Miller. She is a vivacious, down home, spunky,  charming gal who has taken working with goats milk and turned it into a viable, sustainable “buy local” product for our top farm-to-table restaurants with chevre cheese, feta cheese and the ash aged crotin.  You the consumer and many like you purchase her cheeses along with her confections of goats milk cheesecakes, truffles, cajeta (Mexican goat milk caramel sauce) and fudge at local farmers markets.

A chance meeting with Pam had me excited to come to Charlottetown Farm and interact with her pet goats. The milk producing goats; all 263, are at her partner’s dairy farm in Pennsylvania. What looked like a gray day in Northwest Baltimore was a bright blue sky with puffs of white clouds up I83 near the Pennsylvania line. The air was brisk on the autumn day as Pam took us (the husband and I) out into the field to meet her pet goats; these are goats that Pam will bring to the farmers market, fairs and other social engagements. Once inside the gates and out into the field the goats were over to us tout suite, in fact, they seemed fascinated by me and pinned me in from all sides. Later I deduced my popularity with the goats was probably my loose leaf paper as one of the goats took a big bite out of notes. “Goats don’t eat tin cans,” Pam said with a smile on her face, “their favorite food is what they can forage on the floor in the woods.” What the Charlottetown Farm goats eat on a regular basis is free range grass and hay along with supplemental grains; out in the field that day it seemed the fallen leaves were the meal du jour along with my notepaper.

Read the full story, watch the video and check out the slideshow HERE.

Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Expect a winter opening of Ristorante Firenze in historic Reisterstown

It has been over a year since Jesse Issa’s  Tonino’s  restaurant closed after a 25 year run located where Reisterstown Road ( route 140) veers off west to Westminister and Hanover Road begins on historic Reisterstown’s Main Street byway. Tonino’s was Mediterranean cuisine, lots of pastas and pizza – with a heavy slant to Italian American.  Two brothers,  Brian and Larry Leonardi have taken over the location and if all bodes well for them, plan to open Ristorante Firenze, an “authentic Italian” restaurant at 2 Hanover Road.

The upscale casual Ristorante Firenze will offer a diverse lunch and dinner menu based on the regional Italian cuisine of Florence.  They promise a stylish bar/lounge where one can sink into comfortable armchairs facing a fireplace and of course, wide-screen television sets, the accoutrement du jour for any bar along with craft cocktails, a premium wine list and beers both draft and bottled. 

Carrying on the Italian theme one can expect custom lighting from Murano, Italy – known for their glass work, the warm tones that reflect Tuscany along with natural materials.  The 3,000 square foot restaurant which will feature 100 seat dining is undergoing both interior and exterior renovations with interior design by Rita St. Clair Associates.  Rear parking and entrance to Ristorante Firenze are also getting the Italian facelift.

“Our research shows that the northwest Baltimore County and Carroll County regions remain underserved by restaurants that are adaptable to support diverse occasions including business meetings, casual meals and special celebrations,” said Brian Leonardi. “Ristorante Firenze has been designed to fill this niche with a family-operated Tuscan dining experience utilizing recipes handed down for generations and reflective of our Little Italy roots.”  Those roots go as far back as the brothers being bus boys, servers and cooks in their uncle’s restaurant; Velleggia’s, then their own Casa Di Pasta eateries in Belvedere Square and Columbia.

Ristorante Firenze – 2 Hanover Road – Reisterstown, MD – follow their progress as they ready for opening at  Twitter @EatFirenze  Facebook


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