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, November 09, 2005

What a Week In Food

I'm still recouperating and doing follow up to the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference in Seattle. Early and late flights, FABULOUS food, the best company and a rainy town. There are lots of stories but little time to write.

Top off the WCR conference with Jose Andres' Tapas Cookbook launch at Jaleo in Arlington, Virginia last night. Food, wine, music and the who's who in food. Tomorrow night Tom and I are going to the silent opening of Oceanaire Seafood Restaurant. I will have to swim for a week to burn off all the calories.

Stay tuned for details on this week.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

This Week in Food!

Monday was a busy day. Jeff Spear picked me up and we went to the new, largest ever built Wegman's food store in Hunt Valley. Thinking there would be fewer people but no, it was Columbus day and people had off. It was a beautiful store to look at and I'm sure some of the items were wonderful if I could get near them.

I did have a shopping list in hand, knowing they have over 300 cheeses I knew I would get the Buffalo mozzarella for the special recipe for the evenings gathering. Off course, on that day they only had 299 Buffalo mozzarella so we did an artisan mozzarella. Went to pick up unsalted butter, Wegman's brand to save $$$ and guess what, like the Buffalo mozzarella it was extinct.

We decided to have lunch there and I got in line at the chicken and pizza line. I saw they had seafood pizza down the end of the line and ordered a slice of that with 3 chicken wings and a drink. When I picked it up the seafood was the processed Asian fish crab legs. The pizza was sweet from this concoction and I tossed the slice and ate my three little wing drummettes. I got flowers for $3.00, free potatoes and dozen extra large eggs - not a bad deal. It will be 3 or 4 weeks before I consider going back.

The Baltimore Women's Culinary Sorority met at my casa! As the hostess I got to choose the theme which was recipes from any Marcella Hazan cookbooks. Some had a book or two and some hit the library.

I really didn't monitor the dishes, what shows up is what we eat and it always seems to work out. I was especially pleased with a shrimp, artichoke and mozzarella dish - I would have never thought of this combination but it is a "company" do again dish. I also did a pasta with pancetta, chili flakes and plum tomatoes with bucatini which I made again for Thursday's night dinner. I did a salad of cabbage and avocado with a little red wine vinegar and olive oil.

The ladies did a lamb, stringbean and vinegar dish, a pasta with raisins, veal tonnato, baked fennel, and an apple custard cake...oooh ooh, a pate as well. I was so busy organizing the food from oven to table I can't tell you what was in the pate but I believe some olives.

Our next gathering will be at Maria's house for our holiday gathering. We do a $5.00 gift and a cookie exchange. I really hate baking cookies....baah humbug on me.

Thursday started very very very early. I was up at 3 a.m. to be out the door at 3:30 a.m. to pick up Steven A. Shaw, author of Turning the Tables and founder of in Washington D. C at 4:45 a.m. I had water and a buttered bagel waiting for him as he tried to function. He got in around 1 a.m. from a party thrown in his honor.
At that time I left there was little or no traffic and we were headed for Baltimore for an early morning TV appearance on WJZ TV. We had time to spare so I gave him the downtown tour which went fast and easy. To the studio where we had about 30 minutes to wait until he was on air. The segment done we were back in the car heading to DC. Not so lucky this time, accidents on wet roads caused the hour drive to be 2 hours and 15 minutes. I guess we got to know each other better than we thought. It was an entertaining ride, learned more about his efforts at With him safely back at his hotel I turned around and drove back to Baltimore - it took about an hour.
Friday had me going to Columbia, Maryland for a luncheon meeting. My name was brought up to be on the board for the Maryland Hospitality Education Foundation with Marshall Weston, Executive Vice President and Henry Pertman at Aida Bistro. We talked about what the Education foundation does in education from food safety to scholarships. I agreed to be on the board which is a three year term. The board meets 4 times a year. They seemed to be thrilled to have me bring a fresh out look to the board.
And a week ago Saturday I did a cooking demo at the Waverly Market in the pouring rain. I was under a tent and 8 people did come by. I did a steamed leak with fresh herb dressing that is a "do again" recipe. I have been invited back to do other demonstrations.
Okay that's a wrap......

Friday, October 07, 2005

New York, New York!!!

My only sibling lives in Palm Desert, California and visits New York City about 5 times a year where she has a 2nd residence. So in my economical struggles it is cheaper to take the day bus to New York for a visit than fly cross country.

I forced myself awake to catch the 6:30 a.m. bus, grabbed my Food & Wine, Urbanite, and a couple other mags for the bus ride. I played catch up on my reading and pretty much finished when the sister called to switch our plans to meet at the Marriot Marquis. I was to meet her at the apartment on CPS (Central Park South). The day was grey, a bit coolish - actually great for the trek. I got to her apartment in about 20 minutes.

There wasn't much planned for the day other than a lunch reservation at Naima at 531 W. 27th Street and a 3 p.m. appointment at YC Media, a Chelsea kind of afternoon. Sister's friend was in from California so we hooked up with Ronna and off we went to Canal Street where we visited every shop that had pocketbooks. Sister knows her stuff and knows who to talk to get the real knockoffs. After 2 hours and 4 purse purchases later and knock off Louis V pens we were on our way to lunch. I was starving.

We hopped a subway that let us off at 23rd street at 7th and hiked to the restaurant. We found that 27th doesn't go all the way through, there is a school and park so we were up to 28th and then down to 27th. Voila, Naima's. Nice, small - lunch prices were amazing considering the quality of the food. Sister got pasta with Cockles and I had a spinach salad with grill portabello and a bowl of pasta with fresh tomato sauce. Salad was $6.00 and pasta $7.00.

My appointment went well but it was short and it was 3:15 and the bus leaves at 6 p.m. I got the bus at 10th Street and got off at 45th Street where I meandered across towards Broadway. Aaah, a "Nails" sign. I inquired on the cost of a pedicure...$13.00 dollars, good price - time to kill. Not the best pedicure, the water was cold, she didn't turn on the jets, the flip flops they gave me started slide off and mushed the polish - call the Toe Truck! Well they cleaned up the mess, my toes are a nice fuschia and I killed an hour.

Still time to kill so I preceded on my quest for carry-out for dinner on the bus. I was heading down 9th to Cottage Noodle House when I stopped at the diner for an eclair to go-they were out. In New York, go 2 steps and there is another restaurant, actually a bakery and I acquired my desired dessert.

A couple more doors down to the Cottage Noodle house where I ordered a 1/4 of a duck, duck soup with rice noodles, and shrimp dumplings. I walked back to the Richard Rogers Theatre and sat on the steps and waited for the bus. It was a little after 5 p.m. Two girls came out of the theatre and one looked like the young thin gal on American Idol last year, the hip one with the auburn fro. Someone walked by and acknowledge that I was correct in my assumption.

So for 30 minutes I peopled watched. I was actually across from the Church of Scientology and thought about going over and asking if they had anything for post pardum depression.

Bus arrived - few passengers so I was able to spread out. The movie was Monster in Law, just enough to keep me occupied for a bit. I was at Pikesville Shopping Center by 9:30 p.m. and damn tired. I grabbed my leftover soup, my magazines and hustled home to sleep the day off.

Monday, October 03, 2005

Influences in How Americans Cook

Susan Spungen was the founding food editor and editorial director for food at Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia from its launch in 1991 until 2003. She wrote a bimonthly column called "Easy Entertaining" for the magazine until June 2004, and helped launch MSO's first all-food title, Everyday Food. She was coauthor of the best-selling Martha Stewart's Hors d'Oeuvres Handbook. Never in her early days working in restaurants did Susan Spungen even consider that she would hold an "influential position on how America cooks and entertains."

In her new cookbook, Recipes-a Collection for the Modern Cook, she outlines the basic skills that, once learned, make cooking a breeze. With 100 color photographs, making it a "wish book" for those of you who like to eat with your eyes.

There are two great opportunities to meet Susan in Baltimore on Sunday, November 20th at Atwaters at Belvedere Square and on Monday, November 21st at redDog Cafe in Silver Spring.

Read on for further details.

Joins us at COOKING MODERN -
Monday, November 21st at 6:30 p.m.
at the redDog Cafe on Grubb Road in
Silver Spring, MD to meet Susan
Spungen and taste a selection of her
dishes from her new cookbook being
prepared by Chef Janis McLean.

The menu for the evening is as follows:

Passed Hors d'Oeuvres

Risotto Cakes
Caramelized Onion and Bacon Tart
Mini-Mushroom and Taleggio Pizza
Endive and Orange Salad
Charles de Fere Rose NV

Seated Dinner

Roasted Squash Salad with Lentils and Goat Cheese
Morgan Sauvignon Blanc 2003
Monterey, CA

Pan-Seared Striped Bass
Polenta with Caramelized Corn
Cline Viognier 2004
Sonoma, Ca

Boeuf Bourguignon
Roasted Fillet of Beef with Mushroom Sauce
Calera Pinot Noir 2001
Central Coast, CA

Caramel Apple Tart

Individual - Dinner, Wine and RECIPES Cookbook $95.00

Couples - 2 Dinners with Wine and 1 Copy of RECIPES Cookbook $164.00

tax and gratuity are not included in pricing

To attend, please call Janis McLean at the redDog Cafe at

Cancellation policy: money will be refunded up to November 14th with notice. All reservations will be confirmed upon receipt of full payment.


For the Baltimore people come and meet Susan Spungen on Sunday, November 20th at Atwater's at Belvedere Square from 1 p.m. to 2:30 p.m. Chef Ned Atwater will have prepared a selection of Susan's soup recipes and will have first edition copies of RECIPES available on sale at a discount off the cover price of $34.95.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

I'm Officially a Chef

I'm officially a chef. That is what it says in print in the flier for the 10th annual Baltimore Book Festival. It said Chef Dara Bunjon, who knew! I've organized numerous cooking classes, attended La Varenne classes at the Greenbrier and took a 4 day course at the CIA in Hyde Park but have I truly earned that title.

I have never worked behind the line in a restaurant kitchen though years and years ago I was a short order cook at my parents patent drug and luncheonette and did the same at Read's Pharmacy while in high school to earn money for my drivers education class.

I was hired by Rebecca Katz and Mat Edelson to do the cooking segment from their cookbook "One Bite at a Time". A book fashioned for cancer patients that is pumped up on flavor - as Rebecca calls it "The Yum Factor". I presented a ginger carrot soup with a cashew cream topping. All went well, Mat was thrilled - the audience had questions and I knew the answers. Even an 11 year old wanted to have her picture taken with me.

There were moments of humor when two volunteers who came on stage to taste the soup were named Skip and Lou. I quipped "Skip to my Lou".

I told my story about salt being a conundrum or contradiction it sweetens, it draws moisture, removes bitter, makes water boil hotter, it adds moisture when brining - it is the only spice that has a place on our tongues - i.e. salt, sweet, sour, bitter.

Yesterday I worked for two authors doing the food prep for their demo's on the Ultimate Frozen Dessert Cookbook and the Peanut Butter Cookbook by Mark Scarborough and Michael Weinstein. I made lemon gelato for tastings and the fellows did two savory dishes from the peanut butter cookbook. Their next book is the Ultimate Cookbook. I asked, "is that a compendium of all your Ultimate themed books?" Mark replied, "no, it is all new recipes - 2,000 exactly" and rolled his eyes. I will need to start pumping iron just so I can lift the book.

Oooh, oooh-before I forget I was awarded a plate thanking for me for participating in the 10th annual Baltimore Book Festival. I was excited, thinking they spelled my name correctly in the paper....uh oh, the plate said Dana Bunjon.

Well that is it, no Five Dollar Sunday today. I'm too tired to cook, its a 25th anniversary of when hubby and I met so no sweating over the hot stove. Stay tuned in............... Chef Dara

Monday, September 19, 2005

Barter for Food

With starting a new business I was looking to see where I could save the outflow of cash and struck a deal with Cathy Rubin who does my electrolysis. She was planning a gathering for her husbands 50th birthday party so this seemed to work. My cooking services for her electrolysis.

First I was going to make a couple of dishes for a large party then her husband didn't want a big deal then 5 days before they decided to have some close friends over. Cathy and I talked a bit about the food. Her guests like to do a long cocktail hour so we figured on hors d'ouevres.

Lemongrass Chicken on Skewer
Spicy Shrimp - New Orleans Style (with bread for dipping)
Tomato & Olive Bruschetta
Crab Imperial Spread

We planned for a Caesar Salad, Asian Brined Turkey Breast, Poach Salmon with Dill Cucumber Sauce and Italian Brisket of Beef. Her friend was bringing a cheesecake though we did decide to do a Grand Marnier Chocolate Ganache dipping sauce for pineapple and strawberries.

With shopping, planning, prep, heating, serving and clean up it was about 17 hours of my time.

The Lemongrass chicken turned out awesome. I combined a couple recipes I saw, nuked the chicken for about 1 1/2 minutes and then on the stove top grill to caramelize the sugar that was in the marinade. I get the minced lemongrass at Lotte which made this easier to prepare.

Cathy's son is a finicky eater, has allergies, plus wants the food to be organic. Interestingly enough, he likes beef. He really enjoyed the brisket as well as his friend (they put a serious hurting on it) so the balance went in the fridge for her husband. He asked if I could teach his mother how to make the brisket.

I left the party before dessert went out. Other than a couple bruschetta all the hors d'ouevres and spreads went. I saw a guest dipping the chicken in the sauce from the shrimp. So the arrangement was a success all-the-way-around.

So as it stands now I have more services coming from Cathy, the Lemongrass Chicken is on my do again list and I'm eating regular.

Monday, September 05, 2005

Conquering Crab Cakes

Conquering Crab Cakes

I don't know how many times I have tried to make crab cakes and they have fallen apart in the pan. I have tried numerous recipes. Just last week one called for 1 1/2 cups of mayonnaise and melted butter for one pound of crabmeat. I refrigerated the mixture for an hour to help set up to no avail, they crumbled in the pan.

So tonight I used one tablespoon of mayonnaise, one egg, teaspoon of Dijon mustard, teaspoon of old bay, parsley, breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, splash of Worcestershire sauce and chopped red pepper. After forming the crab cakes I rolled them in additional breadcrumbs and put them in the fridge for an hour. At last a crab cake that didn't fall apart when sauteed. Success!

Saturday, September 03, 2005

All You Can Eat Shrimp

Yesterday I journeyed to Baltimore's Harborplace to watch "Old Bay" seasoning 4th annual peel and eat shrimp contest. Rather than incur the rising cost of gas and parking in downtown Baltimore I took the subway - something I haven't done in about 4 years. That is another story.

So tented under the noon day's sun were 8 contestants from all over the country, 7 men and 1 woman looking to gorge themselves on shrimp in the hopes of winning $10,000.00. Each contestant was given a bowl of shell on shrimp and as the bell sounded we got to witness the dexterity of how fast a shrimp can be peeled and consumed. Let me state these were not small shrimp they were 21-25 count per pound if they were identical to the samples giving out to the audience.

As they counted down the last seconds 10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1, contestants stuffed whatever they could in their mouths. Cheeks were ballooned like Louis Armstrong's cheeks when he plays his horn. Organizers vocalized that the contestants should take their time to chew the last of the shrimp before swallowing. One contestant in obvious distress from all the food laid down on the platform in what seemed an effort to equalize the shrimp throughout his body.

The contest organizers called for a woman, man and child to participate in a one minute contest and the young man one a prize package of branded items. By this time they had finished the tally and the winning total was 89 shrimp consumed in the 10 minute contest. (equal to about 4 pounds of shrimp).

There was some controversy prior to the national contest from the "competitive eaters association" when a professional competitive eater called foul.

So before I packed up my Old Bay samples and went into the pavilion to cool down for a bit I enjoyed some steamed shrimp. Of course the little cup with 2 shrimp each wasn't enough so I went back for more. I stopped feeling guilty when I saw one woman with a plastic Old Bay cup the size of a Big Gulp brimming with shrimp.

There is a lot of back story to Old Bay Seasoning and how it came about. One interesting story is that many years ago the Arcadians in their travels before arriving in New Orleans spent time on the Eastern Shore and possibly could have started the seasonings for crabs. It is also said that it was a general store owner at the docks who would take the last of each spice bins and mix it with the other leftovers and sold it off to the crabbers. There is probably truth in both.

If you haven't used Old Bay seasoning you should, it isn't just for shrimp and crabs...try it in a Frogmore Stew, corn on the cob or potato salad.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

I Should Be Working

I should be working, working on my public relations, marketing, media service company but I'm intrigued with blogging and I'm typing my first post or in food venacular, putting my fingers in the frosting.

A couple months ago I started the Dining Dish E-Newsletter and have found the information piling up that I want to write about so I thought blogging is the next best way to make the 'foodie' news more timely and available to my subscribers.

My goal is posting anything from local Baltimore & Washington DC food news to new cookbooks hitting the shelves. As I learn the capabilities of blogging the site will be expanded.

Grab a seat as a "child of the 60's" navigates the world of blogging.

May I direct you to two stories in the August 31,2005 Washington Post one from self exiled restaurateur David Hagedorn called On Cheapskates and Scams (POINT) and Phyllis Richman's Ex Critic: Hey! 'Rude' Diners are your Meal Ticket (COUNTER POINT). The conflict is a restaurateur who is burned out by all the shenanigans of the public who tend to abuse restaurants to the former food critic of the Washington Post taking the consumers view. Some where in the middle is the truth. I've waited a table or two in my day and more so, as an avid consumer of many restaurants from the 'quick bite' sandwich shop to the most formal restaurants in the country I see both sides.

You need to sign in at the Washington Post site but its worth the read and would love to hear your comments.


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