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.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

I'm So Confused!

Wednesday for many years was the traditional day the supermarket food circulars came out, they came in the Wednesday paper, and the sales ran Wednesday to Tuesday of the following week. That is why the food section in newspapers were on Wednesdays. A couple of years ago Super Fresh, Giant and Shoppers started distributing their circulars on Sundays in the Sunday newspaper. Then Super Fresh switched to Saturdays. The meantime Safeway remained on a start date of Wednesday. Just this month Super Fresh and Giant are switching to a start date on Friday.

Was there some research that was recently generated to the supermarket industry that states that Friday is the optimum day to change sale items or is this a case of the indians following some loco chief? Can anyone answer why? Inquiring minds want to know or at least this foodie's inquiring mind wants to know.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

The People in the Know

A trip to New York City is always about the food - at least to me it is. My restaurant choices are always the center of my angst; I can only read so many reviews and sort through so many before I'm hungry and have to make a decision. With the 2006 International Summer Fancy Food Show on my calendar for July, I started in April contacting people I consider 'in the know' for their restaurant recommendations. Why do I consider them in the know? They live in the cement jungle known as New York City as well as being food professionals of high regard.

One thing my friends will tell you about me, I'm not shy but just the opposite: outgoing, loquacious, and willing to talk to a crowd - if they will listen. I sent e-mails and made phone calls. This past year afforded me an opportunity to work twice with the King of Cakes pastry instructor, James Beard Award-Winning cookbook author Nick Malgieri (A Bakers Tour). I styled food for Susan Spungen, author of the IACP Award-Winning RECIPES cookbook and former food editor for Martha Stewart Living. Susan was unavailable to dine but gave me a list of restaurants. Nick was able to meet for lunch at his favorite restaurant in Chinatown.

Susan's Suggestions

I wasn't looking to strip my savings account at restaurants like Per Se or Jean George - you get my drift. Susan contemplated my financial restrictions and offered up a plethora of choices. In her e-mail she wrote, "You might want to try Cookshop-it's casual but really good, and not too far from the Javits Center - 20th at 10th Avenue. A Voce is hot right now, and also Country, downstairs for breakfast, lunch, or dinner. Barbuto, in the village/meat market area is a favorite-on a nice night-it's open air. People love Fatty Crab, also in the meat market area, but I haven't been there. Gusto is nice for Italian food and a swanky atmosphere. You can eat dinner at the very comfortable bar without a reservation. Momofuko is great but know that it is a counter only - lunch or dinner - fantastic food."

I let my friend Judy make the choice from Susan's suggestions. We went to Cookshop and at 8:30 p.m. on a Sunday evening it was quite busy. The patrons had the feel of being locals versus tourist. The service was good, the menu diverse, and the food quite admirable.

Nam It Is!

Saturday evening's choice was Nam in Tribeca, chosen by my traveling partner for the day, Jeff Spear of Studio Spear . Jeff had dined there the year before and I trust his taste in food. Nam is a subdued restaurant, very minimalist in decor, and priced well for the pocketbook. The food offered fresh, clean flavors traditional with Vietnamese food. Being at a table with four food enthusiasts, we all tried each others food choices along with some awesome martinis.

Jeff and I had walked approximately 60 blocks earlier that day, through Union Square, Soho, Canal Street, and then back up the east side. The evening had me walking a mile to meet him and the owners of Texas Sassy Products. After dinner we walked from Nam in Tribeca up to Canal Street, Canal up to Little Italy through Mulberry Street, and through Soho to Broadway and Prince, where I raised the white flag and surrendered to fatigue. I kept telling myself, "You're burning calories," but finally Self said, "Calories, smalories - get off your feet!" I caught the next subway train up to Central Park South.

Lunch with Nick

Monday was my day off from the FFS, a day to meander the streets of New York, and most importantly have lunch with Nick Malgieri at the Great N.Y. Noodletown on the corner of the Bowery and Bayard Streets. My friend Judy and I arrived only minutes before Nick and were seated at the tiny table in the very back. When Nick arrived, he was greeted with great honor and directed to a nicer table where we joined him. We deferred to his knowledge of food selections on the menu. In a New York minute, he ordered a sampling plate (not on the menu) including poached chicken breast with ginger scallion sauce (very similar to Millionaire's Chicken), baby roast pig, and roast pork. He then ordered Singapore Mai Fun with Shrimp (spicy), Shrimp with Eggs, and Chinese Flowering Chives with Shredded Roast Duck. I asked Nick how he happened upon this place. Now understand my brain is working on only 4 Mb of RAM, so this is sketchy. The unofficial mayor of Chinatown, Eddie Schoenfeld, told Nick's journalist friend about Great NY Noodletown.

Nick travels the world, so talked about his recent trip to Australia and Thailand where he was a guest chef during a big culinary shindig. He talked, we ate, and we were plump little Buddhas after all that food. Nick had Thai food on his mind and we proceeded down Bayard where he purchased Asian produce, then into Udom Corporation, a Thai Grocery (81 A Bayard Street). The owner is quite friendly, the ultimate salesman, always upgrading and making suggestions. Nick probably has enough red curry paste to last a couple of lifetimes. As I perused the crowded shelves at Udom, I found white lime paste and for only $1.25 I bought it thinking it would be a fun item. Turns out it is used wrapped in betel leaves and chewed like tobacoo, and turns your mouth and teeth red. I have put it up for sale on e-bay.

Nick was weighed down with bags of groceries but managed to hail a cab although our afternoon food odyssey was far from over. My friend, Milena Perez at HarperCollins suggested we find Chinatown Ice Cream Factory on Bayard. Their regular flavors are what I would call exotic: durian, green tea, taro, and lychee. Check out all their flavors on their website, along with videos. I had a yummy lychee sorbet.

On the Bowery we strolled the aisles of at least four restaurant supply houses and then proceeded uptown to Bridge Kitchenware to their new location, 711 3rd Avenue (entrance on 45th). I was surprised at my restraint in not purchasing one thing for my kitchen, probably because it is so full at the moment not one more thing can fit.

Calle Ocho (8th Street)

This story is not complete. The last big dinner for the trip was at Calle Ocho, a touch of Little Havana on Columbus Avenue. This was Monday night, and the beginning of restaurant week. The bar and restaurant were packed. Suzanne Fass, an editor, joined my friend and I for a great meal in what seemed to be a cavernous room. As we arrived, my friend Jeff and his associate were just leaving. Jeff pointed out a dish with foie gras--he knows what I like. Unfortunately it came with three corn cakes, which I don't like. I opted for the restaurant week special of ceviche, rockfish in casserole, and dessert for $30.00 The ceviche was ethereal. This was the last meal of the trip worth mentioning. I grabbed dinner near where the day bus picked me up for the ride home. The word disgusting gives it praise! Maybe I'll send that comment in to Zagat.

If you are a true foodie, you always want to know where to go for a good meal. Dining Dish may not be the yellow brick road, but neither will it lead you astray.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Barbecue Shrimp from New Orleans Food

"Barbecue shrimp, one of the four or five best dishes in all of New Orleans cooking, is completely misnamed. They're neither grilled nor smoked, and there's no barbecue sauce"...Tom Fitzmorris author of NEW ORLEANS FOOD.

Fitzmorris suggests using large heads-on shrimp, since the fat in the shrimp heads makes most of the flavor. Resist the urge to add lots of herbs or garlic.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

3 pounds fresh Gulf shrimp with heads on, 16-20 count to the pound
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 newly-purchased 4-ounce can black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 sticks butter, softened
2 teaspoons paprika
1 loaf French bread

Rinse the shrimp and shake the excess water from them. Put them in a large skillet (or two) over medium heat, and pour the lemon juice, wine, Worcestershire, and garlic over it. Bring the pan to a light boil and cook, agitating the dish, until the shrimp turn pink.

Cover the shrimp with a thin but complete layer of black pepper. You must be bold with this. Trust me, it is almost impossible to use too much pepper in this dish. Continue to cook another couple of minutes, then sprinkle the paprika and salt over the pan.

Lower the heat to the minimum. Cut the butter into tablespoon-size pieces, and add three at a time to the pan, agitating the pan as the butter melts over the shrimp. When one batch is completely melted, add another until all the butter is used. Keep agitating the pan to make a creamy-looking, orange-hued sauce.

When all the butter is incorporated, serve the shrimp with lots of the sauce in bowls. Serve the hot French bread for dipping. Also plenty of napkins and perhaps bibs.

Recipe from NEW ORLEANS FOOD by Tom Fitzmorris
(Stewart, Tabori & Chang April 2006, $19.95/Trade paperback)

Monday, May 29, 2006

The Perfect Gift

by Chef Laurie Bell

Chocolate. It really is the perfect gift. Rich, velvety, indulgent chocolate. Who can resist? Throughout the holidays we all search for that just right gift, whether it's for a hostess, boss, neighbor or loved one. So this year, think of chocolate.

Memories from our childhood days of simple Hershey Bars, Milky Ways, Tootsie Rolls and hot fudge sundae sauce stay with us even as we have learned to savor the richer, darker chocolates available today. Chocolate, the word alone conjures up a multitude of emotions - longing, lust, desire, satisfaction and, yes, a bit of guilt. Why DO we love chocolate so much? Does it really matter why? We love it. And what better gift to give than one we love ourselves? Whether chocolate is a secret addiction for you or just a pleasurable treat, it is the perfect indulgent gift for someone to enjoy on their own or share as they wish.

I don't mean the standard box of assorted milk chocolates, though, good and traditional as that may be. I mean the upcoming, trendy, dark and single bean varietals that are now arriving on the market. Not only are they ultra delicious, they may be healthy for you, too. Let's explore a bit.

Recent studies claim a health benefit to eating chocolate. I know I sure feel better after eating it! Flavanols (a subclass of flavonoids which act as antioxidants in the body), are being researched by various companies including Hershey's and Mars, as well as some universities. And, as most of us know by now, dark chocolate has more of these "good for you" substances than milk chocolate. That makes sense, as dark chocolate has more cocoa mass than milk chocolate, less sugar and no milk solids. It's some of these dark chocolates I want to talk about here, specifically the single bean varietals.

Does it sound like I'm talking about wine when I say single varietals? The cacao tree grows in areas with various climate and soil conditions, most often within 20 degrees north and south of the equator (think rain forests). These variables, as with grapes, create distinct variations in the finished product. Historically, most chocolate companies blend their chocolates to achieve a consistency of product that the consumer rightfully expects.

But more and more, companies are marketing some of their chocolates by the specific bean and/or region from which they originate. The three major varieties of cacao beans are forastero, criollo and trinitario, which is a natural hybrid of the forastero and criollo bean and originated in Trinidad (hence its name). There are some other subspecies and variations that have been and continue to be developed around the world. Some examples that are specific to the bean and the region are from Guittard. They offer a criollo from Madagascar, a trinitario from Columbia, a trinitario called Ecuador Nacional and their Sur del Lago, a criollo/trinitario hybrid from western Venezuela, south of Lake Maricaibo (all available online). Of these, the Columbian is my favorite. It starts out on the tongue with a rich chocolate, but slightly fruity, taste, a bit like strawberry. But as its firm texture softens and turns silken on the tongue and slowly disappears, it leaves a subtle banana flavor that lingers. Fascinating and delicious!

The company Unique Origin sells a forastero from Ecuador and a criollo from Venezuela, available at Trader Joe's, World Market and some other locations. The differences in their aroma and taste are as distinct as a pinot noir is from a cabernet. I would be happy to indulge in either of them.

You can create some great gifts that include a variety of these types of chocolates, so the recipients can have their own special chocolate tasting.

If you are buying for a baker, however, there are a few new rules to heed when baking with these darker, higher percentage chocolates.

The % of cocoa mass in a chocolate will affect not only its sweetness, but also how it reacts in baking. As the % of cocoa mass rises, the amount of sugar decreases while the cocoa fat content increases. These proportions can alter a tried and true recipe traditionally made with a lower % chocolate. Alice Medrich, in her latest book Bittersweet, charts out how to adjust a recipe for these higher % chocolates. And local baking journalist Lisa Yockelson, in her just published book Chocolate Chocolate, suggests several chocolates to use to achieve specific results.

According to US-FDA guidelines, dark chocolate must have a minimum of 43% cocoa mass, semisweet or bittersweet must have a minimum of 35% cocoa mass. Beyond that, there are no other specific rules. That is why you will see some chocolates listed as semisweet at 64%, while others at only 58% might be listed as bittersweet. Generally, though, most chocolates (including many chocolate chips) listed as semisweet have a cocoa mass content of up to about 58%. Most chocolates with a higher percentage, usually up to about 72%, are listed as bittersweet. If the ingredient list lists cocoa mass, or chocolate, first, you know there is at least 50% chocolate in that brand. If sugar is listed first, there is less than 50% chocolate in that brand.

And I feel compelled to explain the term white chocolate. It is a bit of an oxymoron, but not really. You see, white chocolate is made from the cocoa butter, or fat, that is extracted from the cocoa mass, or cocoa liquor, that results from grinding the roasted cocoa bean. So it comes from the bean, but has only the fat and none of the dark, delicious chocolate. So it's white, not brown. And the product that remains from this extraction becomes cocoa powder! Understand now?

Okay, enough of the schooling. Let's talk about fun chocolate gift ideas. There are two particular chocolate websites I've found to be great resources for bulk, bar and gift selections: and (And I'm sure many of you know of several others.)

Once Upon a Bean Box contains samples of cocoa beans from start to finish: unroasted bean, roasted bean, nibs (the ground up kernels of the roasted bean), cocoa liquor, cocoa butter and finished eating chocolate. You can buy a collection of chocolate bits sold in caviar type tins. Or how about miniature chocolate coffee cups filled with coffee ganache, or mushroom shaped chocolates filled with almond crunch and caramel? YUM!!

As you do your chocolate gift shopping, be sure to buy some for yourself, too. That way, you'll be ready to heed this clever saying:

Put 'Eat Chocolate' at the top of your Today's TO DO list. That way you'll be sure to accomplish at least one item on the list!

Chocolate Trivia

Baker's Chocolate was named after Dr James Baker who manufactured chocolate in the late 1700's as a remedy to illnesses.

German's Sweet Chocolate was also named after a man, not the country.

The Baby Ruth candy bar was named after President Grover Cleveland's daughter, not the famous baseball player!

Theobroma cacao (chocolate's botanical name) translates to "food of the gods."

Laurie Bell is a chef, freelance writer, cooking instructor and a member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs and the American Institute of Wine and Food/Washington DC Chapter

Monday, May 01, 2006

Square Bagels, Blasphemy!

Being the cost-conscious foodie that I am, I gravitate to the coupon section of my Sunday paper and to my HORROR, Thomas' now has Square Bagel Bread. It has the traditional hole in the center and the top looks like a chewy bagel crust but that is the only hint to the original bagel.

Have you been crying out for a square bagel to make a sandwich? Is it so hard to put a square piece of lunch meat on a round bagel? I ask you who was this marketing genius to tamper with the history of bagels.

The controversy over where the first bagel originated is still debated but one thought is it was shaped like a stirrup and given to royalty for their success in conquering the Turks or some say earlier than that it was given to pregnant Jewish women as good luck and representing the circle of life. Circle of life...did you hear that Thomas' not square!

"All the flavor of a bagel, with the soft texture of bread". Who asked for soft texture? I'm a baby boomer and I can still chew a bagel, I still have my teeth. What demographic clamored for a square bagel...tell me? Square bagels, Blasphemy!

Sign the Petition to Save the Round Bagel at

Friday, April 21, 2006

Gallagher's Travels ~ Extra Virgin

by Mary E. Gallagher
National Television, Radio, Print and the Web

Longtime residents of south Arlington have for years watched the changing landscape of Shirlington Village with interest. After the initial renovation nearly 20 years ago, developers tried a retail/restaurant mix but it wasn't enough of a mix to satisfy visitors -- too few restaurants and uninteresting stores.

Some say the county was to blame for the slow start by refusing to acknowledge the hidden assets of this accessible location and ignoring the need for parking. This is the historical (and hysterical) way of Virginia government - ignore the cars and their need for roads and parking don't provide public transportation, and someday your troubles will be over. Well, a lot of some days have come and gone and the cars and people are multiplying like Easter bunnies, including in Shirlington.

At last things have settled, leaving a nice mix of price range and ethnic choices for before and after live and movie theater performances for snacks and anytime dining. The Curious Grape wine shop has an active schedule of tastings and seminars.

My tastes, interest in quality and desire for the elusive trained server seems to be on a more demanding scale than those who pack themselves in like sardines for abuse and noise at the Carlyle. At last I've been rewarded, and after a number of incantations at its prime corner location rises Extra Virgin, a restaurant featuring "Tuscan cuisine" with a modern flair.

Opening the restaurant in the summer of 2005 and experiencing a shaky few months from miscast personnel, owner Shary Thur and General Manager Tim Woody have now gathered an impressive team and regrouped the open kitchen with an outstanding executive chef, Rachid (Niko) Amroune.

Let me start with entering the restaurant. Tim Woody literally lives on-site, keeping a watchful eye on all details. The hostesses on my visits have been quite nice, alert, and have understood their purpose, though unfortunately following the popular hiring mode of only skinny young girls in black. How I long for the days of dining when mature sophisticated men and women like Ann at geranios or the longtime hostess at Loews L'Enfant Plaza wore stunning outfits, knew us all by name, and I didn't feel like an empty box being passed off to one child after another burdened with walkie-talkies, beepers, and floor plans.

As suggested by its name, olive oil is the (forgive us) "running" theme at Extra Virgin --not only in the cuisine, but in the decor as well. All space is enhanced by warm golden colors, moving water, and yards of luxuriously plush draperies flowing from the windows allowing one to observe the active pedestrian street scene yet shielded a bit from the day's realities. I loved the similar posh decor of now closed Ortanique in Washington, one of the most romantic restaurants ever. Luckily Extra Virgin offers a similar great escape. Press information says drizzles of olive oil are suggested throughout by the interior design, but I felt enveloped in gentle euro-style, sophisticated comfort with a sense of peace.

By now you've probably guessed that the total "experience," not just the food, is highly important to me. We can quickly forget the luxurious silken chocolate mousse if the server slams the dishes on the table. This is not to say the food at Extra Virgin is anything but superior. Owner Thur insists on the best and has worked diligently to correct early lapses. The staff is truly professional and knows the menu and every item on it.

Blowing out all the stops, I had the "tasting" menu, featuring whatever the chef feels creative about that evening while allowing for any allergies or peculiarities you might have. I don't eat "raw" and out of courtesy always inform the kitchen well in advance. The choice of that day's special ingredients inspires and allows Chef Niko poetic license. Extra Virgin charges a reasonable $65 for their five-course tasting experience. And it is a rare occasion that Niko doesn't send out an extra amuse-bouche or two. There is a generous full range wine list to accompany your choices.

We started with a little portion of scrambled eggs laced with truffles set in a riotous egg cup. On the same plate was a delicious smoked salmon flower and fresh herring. Then a delicious terrine of rabbit and onto ravioli stuffed with spinach and ricotta, saffron risotto with mussels and shrimp, tortellini filled with a lamb ragu, and roasted salmon. So far I was doing fine but starting to fade and we're not at the end! By the way, the end was a wonderful white chocolate raspberry cheesecake and very nice espresso.

Do you ever have the experience when you see the first course delivered on a tasting menu and hopefully it's just a bite or two, but you're thinking "will I have the famous Chinese takeout syndrome: hungry in three hours" Well, never fear; a few bites of no fewer than 10 items and probably exceeding 20 adds up to a lot of food!

Not up to the tasting menu? Try the hand-tossed brick-oven pizza that friends of mine rave about or house-made pastas including ravioli filled with veal ragu. Enjoy lunch to test out entrees like Scaloppini di Maiale--pork scaloppini with grilled herb polenta, braised pancetta, cabbage, and porcini mushroom sauce for only $13, or a radicchio salad with Bartlett bosc pear, imported Gorgonzola terrine and toasted walnuts. Add chicken or salmon for a small additional fee. Lunch prices run $7 to $15 and dinner $10-26. Reasonable enough for a nice dinner out or blow out all the stops with three or four courses.

Chef Niko likes to try various creations as specials and those that clients ask for over and over get added to the regular menu. Like a one-hit-wonder--as we used to call it in the country music business--chefs can never take these classics off the menu.

Chef Rachid 'Niko' Amroune, was born in Mount Pelier, France and always carried a passion for the culinary arts. A career as a chef inevitable, he attended the Oxford Culinary School in Oxford, England at age 19 and received an apprenticeship at the Ritz Carlton, Oxford. At 21, he moved to the United States, launching his stateside career. Unmentioned in this formal training resume is the years that every great chef spends learning to cut vegetables, cook rice and stocks plus perform the other mundane repetitive kitchen tasks under the masters. Then you go to school.

Almost immediately upon his arrival in the Washington area, Niko began working with the esteemed Roberto Donna at his 'award' winning restaurant, Galileo. After a few years in this highly regarded kitchen, he joined the culinary team at Teatro Goldoni with Fabrizio Aielli. Four years later, Chef Niko headed to the kitchen at Tosca, working with Cesare Lanfranconi. Now we are lucky to have him in Arlington at Extra Virgin.

Very young and handsome, Niko is a serious threat to the area's kitchen glitterati, creating great masterpieces--some with humor, some classic, and all incredibly good. His shy ready smile, good looks and willingness to chat with guests is a plus.

The bar area has a slightly "lighter" feel than the main dining room and features a full premium of drinks. Some of the banquettes in this area view the open kitchen, stop off before or after a movie, have a glass of wine and appetizer, or maybe skip straight to a couple of desserts!

When warm weather is here the sidewalks of Shirlington flower into a proliferation of outside dining where one can watch the parade going by as they watch you!

Stop in at Extra Virgin, say I sent you, and receive a free appetizer through June 15th, 2006. You’ll enjoy it, whatever the occasion.

Extra Virgin
4053 S. 28th Street - Shirlington Village
Arlington, VA 22206
(703) 998-8474 / (703) 931-8189 Fax
(703) 998-8474 or

Hours: M-Thur dining 11:00am-10:00pm Bar until 2:00am
F-S dining 11:00am-11:00pm Bar until 2:00am
Sunday Brunch 11:00am-3:00pm Dinner 5:00pm-10:00pm Bar until Midnight Happy Hour M-F 4:00pm-7:00pm
Live Music: Thur- Sat 8:00pm - 12 midnight Sundays 6:00pm - 10:00pm
Parking: Complimentary Valet Thursday, Friday and Saturday after 5pm, on street and ramps.

Sunday, April 16, 2006

Is There Such a Thing as Too Many Desserts?

The press release says, "Heralded as the year's most highly anticipated restaurant opening, owner Sirio Maccioni will once again welcome friends and guests at his renowned Le Cirque when the restaurant opens its doors on May 30, 2006 at its new home within the prestigious One Beacon Court in New York City." "Le Cirque has always been a place where the worlds of food, fashion, art and culture converge," said Maccioni, who has wined and dined high society in New York for nearly half a century."

With the advent of the reopening of this prestigious restaurant I must recount a very memorable dining experience at Le Cirque 2000 and if there were pictures, they would be posted here. Jacques Torres, the pastry chef at Le Cirque at that time and star of two public broadcasting series Dessert Circus had extended a tour of the pastry kitchen at Le Cirque when I had visited his TV set months earlier.

So with my Fancy Food Show posse of two women friends, we rode into Le Cirque for luncheon and the pastry kitchen tour. Jacques Torres' girlfriend Kris Kruid said once at the restaurant just walk back into the kitchen. We weren't comfortable with that so we announced we had an invitation and were escorted back past the enclosed kitchen table, the magazine photographer at work, passed the open kitchen stirring with chefs galore to the far hinterlands of the kitchen. Jacques, the handsome and charming Frenchman that he is gave us a wonderful welcome. This was a spotless, specially cooled room with everything a pastry chef would dream of having. We saw parts to desserts, like Lego toys that would be assembled later into great structures. Jacques suggested that we have our lunch and he would send a "Dee~Zert Saompling" (trying to get the French accent in there) to our table. Off we went to dine!

Luncheon was kicked off by a glass of Champagne. We started with appetizers and in-between the appetizer course and entree a complimentary lobster risotto from the chef was placed before us. Entrees came and went and everything was wonderful! We were quite full though dessert was on our mind.

One of my two companions suggested we order Jacques trademark Stove dessert. I suggested we wait and see what the "Dee~Zert Saompling" might be. As the same said companion was off powdering her nose, seven, count them seven full-sized assorted desserts were sent to our table. All breathtaking in their artistic glory and assembled yearning to reach the sky, their arrival to our table created a silence in the dining room ~ all eyes were focused on our circus of desserts.

Upon returning to the table, my companion looked like Lot's wife, she turned white as salt and frozen in her tracks at the vision of the seven confectionary creations overloading our table.

Today's trends with desserts and dining out, a dessert is ordered with 2 to 4 forks and everyone shares the dessert. The ratio had changed that afternoon, 2 1/3 desserts for each of us. Good foodies that we were we would just rotate the plates amongst us and sample everyone. We put a serious dent in all 7 desserts, something I don't think we are proud of but when would this ever happen again ~ we were living in the moment.

They cleared dessert plates from our table but why were they taking the centerpiece from the table? It seems we weren't finished. Jacques sent out his own centerpiece, on a mirrored base came a chocolate tree with confections hanging from it armatures and lining the base. It took about five minutes for us from staring at it to munching (only God knows where we got the room) as well as extracting the remaining delicacies from the tree into tissues and then into our purses.

The question I asked,"is there such a thing as too many desserts?" For that day, time and place the answer was "no, it was just the right amount!"
Le Cirque on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Summer Cooking Classes for Children

'Tis not the season but 'Tis the Time' to think about activities for your children during the summer. Chef Nancy Longo is again offering her popular "Summer Cooking Camp" for children between the ages of 11 and 17 to be held at Pierpoint Restaurant at 1822 Aliceanna Street in Baltimore.

Each class is $75.00 or $250.00 for the entire week per student. Along with the instruction, recipes, and aprons the students are supplied lunch, snacks, and beverages as well as food to take home.

Classes start at 9:30 a.m. and end 2:30 p.m.
Classes limited to 10 students each.

Week One

Tuesday, June 20, 2006 ~ Ice Creams and Desserts
Curriculum: Tarts, cakes and icing, cookies, and ice cream.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006 ~ Soups

Curriculum: Vegetable crab soup, cream soups, seafood bisque, stocks, gumbo, and roux making.

Thursday, June 22, 2006 ~ International Appetizers
Curriculum: Appetizers from Italy, Greece, Japan & Mexico.
(i.e. ~ tacos, tortillas, salsa, spinach and cheese pie, Italian flatbreads plus.)

Friday, June 23, 2006 ~ Asian Dim Sum
Curriculum: Dumpling making, egg rolls, spring rolls, sat├ęs, sushi (cooked), shrimp toast plus.

Week Two

Tuesday, June 27, 2006 ~ Breakfast Foods & Crepes
Curriculum: Muffins, waffles, crepes, blintzes, quiche, and frittatas along with biscuits and bananas Foster.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006 ~ Vegetarian
Curriculum: Creative vegetarian entrees and salads along with Indian and Asian dishes including working with tofu.

Thursday, June 29, 2006 ~ Chocolates
Curriculum: Molded chocolates, truffles, chocolate cake, ganache icing, and chocolate mousse.

Friday, June 30, 2006 ~ Pastas

Curriculum: Homemade pasta noodles, raviolis, sauces, tortellini, and lasagna.

Chef Jackets can be provided for $ 25.00 per chef to keep!
Black aprons can be provided for $ 10.00 per chef to keep!

Along with the successful Pierpoint Restaurant in Baltimore, Chef Longo's other achievements include an ACF bronze medal in the Cold Foods competition in 1986. She was a past board member of BICC. She won Honors with the National Dairy Council for the Best Ice Cream in 1992. In addition in 1992, she won second place in the National Pork Producers Council contest. In 1994, she was one of Restaurants and Institutions nominees for one of the "Best Restaurants in America". She and the restaurant have been given consistent high reviews since Pierpoint opened. In 1995, she was a guest of the James Beard House as well as TV Food Network's Ready, Set, Cook. And recently, she was also named as one of Maryland's 100 most successful Women by Warfield's Business Record

Registration & Information
Chef Nancy Longo, Pierpoint Restaurant, 1822 Aliceanna St., Baltimore, MD 21231
(p) 410-675-2080 (f) 410-563-3007 (e)


Each child must have permission from a parent to take the cooking classes and permission in writing to use a paring knife. Most classes are designed to use a food processor and are knife free.


A $50.00 deposit is required at registration to secure the students space in the class. The balances on the class fees are due 48 hours prior to the class by check or cash.

Cancellation Policy

Forty-eight (48) hours notice is needed for a full refund. Any cancellation less than 48 hours from the class start will receive a partial refund based on expenditures and is discretionary.

Classes tend to fill quickly ~ register now!

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Who is Dining Dish?

Dara Bunjon is a graduate of the La Varenne Cooking Classes at the Greenbrier and extended education courses at the Culinary Institute of America-Hyde Park. She has coordinated over 100 cooking classes in Baltimore's leading restaurant kitchens. Once a regular cooking demonstrator on WBAL-TV in Baltimore, you now will find Dara behind the scenes as a food stylist for chefs and cookbook authors, or planning special culinary events.

Known as Dining Dish to many in the Baltimore/DC area, Dara writes a free 'foodie' e-newsletter under the same name and maintains a food-related blog:

Her passion for food - its source, preparation, and consumption -keeps her hands in assorted aspects of the food industry. Bunjon started her culinary endeavors as president of the Epicurean Club of Maryland, moved on to charitable activities to end hunger, and recently opened her consulting business, Dara Does It ~ Creative Solutions for the Food Industry. A stint as Marketing and Public Relations Director for Vanns Spices also called upon her culinary knowledge for product development and sales.

Dara is a board member for the Maryland Hospitality Education Foundation and the American Institute of Wine and Food/Baltimore, MD, as well as a member of the national public relations committee for Women Chefs and Restaurateurs. She is a contributing writer for Foodservice Monthly and has written for Style Magazine, Mid-Atlantic Restaurant Digest, Urbanite, Fruit Growers, Baltimore Eats and assorted websites.

YUM - Tasty Recipes from Culinary Experts is co-authored by Dara and will be in all market
October, 2007.

Recent clients have been the International School of Protocol, Sun Moon & Stars Cafe, Canola Council of Canada, Pazza Luna Restaurant, Donna Shields, The Grapevine Cafe, The Rooster Cafe, Sotto Sopra, Amano Artisan Chocolate, Grape Events and

Rosebud Was Taken

From Cosell to Croissants

How did the producer of the Howard Cosell Show become a talented pastry chef, entrepreneur and retailer in New York City? My curiosity was piqued. The 'starter' of the story was Marion Rubin, who overheard my conversation at the gym about my food styling for cookbook authors. Marion asked, "Have you ever heard of The City Bakery in New York City?" My reply, "Yes," knowing in the back of my mind it had an excellent reputation. She replied, "My son Maury owns it."

Call it serendipity or call it coincidence, but Maury Rubin and Steven Raichlen, the BBQ guru on PBS and the Food Network, both attended Baltimore's Milford Mill High School. Raichlen used to hang out with Maury's older brother, Barry. Two great food talents from my alma mater (I don't think I count for the 3rd). My curiosity drove me further, and my writing instincts screamed, "This is a story to be told!"

Maury Rubin's interest in high school was sports; he was the sports editor for the school paper and went on to the University of Maryland's WMUC as the Sports Director doing play-by-plays. His passion ran deep, and he became a 'gofer' for all the sports programs when they came to Baltimore or Washington, DC. Rubin said, "It was the Baltimore Orioles that decided my future during the '79 World Series. ABC Television was in Baltimore more, and I kept getting additional work on Monday Night Baseball and the Wide World of Sports." Eventually, the sports raconteur Howard Cosell hired him to produce his show. Maury made the move to New York City and hasn't looked back since.

"It was challenging working seven days a week for five years, and then Cosell retired," Rubin expounded. It had been a hard five years, and it was time for a break. Maury moved to Paris and took a pastry course that changed his life's path. Maury was very close with his maternal grandfather who was a baker. Rubin reminisces, "He baked for, I believe, 53 years. Every Tuesday night, he and my uncle would come to our house and he would bring Danish from the bakery. My deciding to try my hand at baking when I did was very much with him in mind, and always has been."

A French federation of pastry chefs had designed a six-day course for Americans, and Maury dug in with both hands. With the first bit of pate brisee under his fingernails, a new passion evolved, and Maury was on the flour-covered path of a baker. Chef instructor Denis Ruffel arranged a stage at his friend's bakery, Patisserie Rouseau-Seurre, where Maury interned for six months and then completed an additional apprenticeship at La Maison du Chocolat. Rubin left Paris for New York in 1987, his goal to continue his apprenticeship for greater knowledge. Reality hit once back in the Big Apple: the pastry shops in New York weren't all that good. It was then he decided to open his own bakery.

Dara: "Is the La Maison du Chocolat at Rockefeller Center the same bakery you worked for in Paris?"

Maury: "Yes, and this is a particularly exalted business in the mindset of chocolate and pastry in France."

The King of Tarts

It took three years to turn his vision into a reality. In December, 1990, the doors opened at City Bakery. With his mind set on sustainability and organic ingredients, Chef Rubin opened the doors to City Bakery at 22 E. 17th at the northwest edge of Union Square known for its farmers Greenmarket.

Dara: "Maury, when you opened City Bakery in 1990, sustainable agriculture/using organic was in its infancy. What was your influence?"

Maury: "My girlfriend taught me about cultural politics. The farmers market (Greenmarket) really got my attention, and that became the basis of my learning of local farming/local food supplies/organics. You are right to say that organic was in its infancy; I used only organic flour from the day we opened (1990). Looking back, that was easily ahead of its time by about 10 years."

His minimalist tarts are legendary - simplistic but mind-lingering. Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic, author, and persnickety judge on Iron Chef America said, "If a baker at home or in commerce cannot make a better pastry than Maury, he or she should simply follow Maury's recipe or throw in the towel and find other work." (Buy Maury's pastry cookbook ~ book of tarts at and you won't have to throw in the towel.)

It was not just the tarts that sent City Bakery into the stratosphere; consider the pretzel croissants, homemade ice creams, hot chocolate with homemade marshmallows. Add the talented savory chef Ilene Rosen with her penchant for world cuisines, the largest salad bar in New York, and the lunch counter called Lucille, and the popularity continues to grow ... so much so, they moved to larger digs at 3 W. 18th Street, a couple of steps off 5th Avenue.

Solid C

"I was a solid C student in high school," Maury explained with a slight laugh in his voice. The solid C now stands for clever. Not only a talented baker, Rubin is a marketing genius! For over 13 years, he has organized City Bakery's Hot Chocolate Festival. During the month of February, the City Bakery offers a rotating menu of 25 flavors like ginger hot chocolate, dark darkest hot chocolate, sunken treasure hot chocolate, mango tea hot chocolate, etc. "Interesting," you say, "but clever?" Read on...

Dara: "I have a little bit of information on your Hot Chocolate Festival. Which was the best festival so far?"

Maury: "Last year was the biggest and best: we closed 18th Street down from 5th Avenue to 6th Avenue. We brought in 2 tons of snow from upstate NY, lined the street and set-up a portable ice-skating rink and outdoor grills for toasting marshmallows. The NYPD said that 15,000 came for the day.
In terms of marketing, I like to bring a lot of creative energy to our customers. (5,000 cups of hot chocolate served)

The City Bakery Hot Chocolate Festival has its own website where they sell the beautifully-designed festival posters, the calendar for February that reflects the hot chocolate flavor-of-the-day, hot chocolate news, essay contests, and more.

When Rubin wanted to promote his pies reminiscent of the ones you might find at the state fair, he transformed City Bakery to the City Bakery State Fair. He brought in picket fences, put straw on the floor, and had the staff in big ol'e country overalls and straw hats. Corn dogs and lemonade, games for the kids, and all you can eat down-home country food. If you were able to spit a watermelon seed 12 feet on to a small tart they anteed up 100 free tarts.

Dara: "You seem to be the true entrepreneur, the whole package - do you sleep?"

Maury: "First, I'll take that as a compliment. Many people have asked me through the years about the sleep question. Retail requires a lot. I like doing it a certain way; I'd say overall, it's an old-fashioned approach, like a mom and pop business where they live above the store. That is how I have grown City Bakery over the years. Answer to the actual sleep question: one day I won't do this anymore, and when that time comes, I plan on catching-up on my sleep."

"C" is for Coast

City Bakery has gone bi-coastal with a second City Bakery, 5,000 square feet, in Brentwood Country Mart, a small collection of shops and restaurants in a circa 1948 red barn building. Nestled between Westwood and Santa Monica in Los Angeles, the new City Bakery will flourish. Rubin's Barnum & Bailey, big show sensibilities and commitment to organic, farm-to-table will flourish in the land of starlets and glitter. The big question is how long does two tons of snow last in Los Angeles?

"G" is for Green

The hot gossip on the food blogs around Manhattan and just making the papers in New York is the new bakery in the East Village on 1st Avenue between 13th and 14th. It has no name and when you ask the staff the name they tell you there is no name. If you go the website,, the best you come up with is Birdbath, which is an e-mail address. It's a green bakery, a bakery that is environmentally good with sustainable, biodegradable, recycled, renewable surroundings. The bakery has walls of wheat, milk-based paint and cork floors. So it's a business, it's a statement, and it's the first green bakery (and hopefully not the last).

Dara: "Can you shed some light on your goals and the statements you are making with the green bakery?"

Maury: "Easy: I didn't want City Bakery's reputation to undermine the idea behind Birdbath. If people know it is City Bakery when they walk in the door, then their perception is already largely formed. I'm not the type of business person who cares to put a 'mission statement' over our front door, but Birdbath is in fact a business with a particularly narrow 'mission.' I want people thinking about the connection between food made with environmentally-virtuous items to the built environment made of the same."

Dara: "Why the secret code word 'Birdbath'? What ecological significance does that have over possibly a name like 'earthly delights'?"

Maury: "Birdbath' begins with the letter 'B' as in 'bakery', a word I like. It was conceived as a codeword, but it has clearly already taken hold with the public. Now, the best I can do is to let that be. And finally, Orson Wells beat me to 'Rosebud'."
©Dara Bunjon, Dining Dish 2006

Photograph of Maury Rubin by Chris Callas

Monday, March 13, 2006

Simply Shellfish Reception ~ Leslie Glover Pendleton

The Center Club ~IntraClub Gourmet and Dining Dish cordially invite you to a reception to meet author and former food editor for Gourmet Magazine, Leslie Glover Pendleton on Friday, April 21st at 6:00 p.m. Ms. Pendleton will talk about her experiences at Gourmet Magazine, her new cookbook ~ Simply Shellfish and why seafood offers easy, healthful, quick meal choices.

Hors d'Oeuvres
(a sampling of recipes from Simply Shellfish)

Shrimp Tempura with Ginger Dipping Sauce
Hot Crab and Artichoke Filo Tartlets
Miniature Center Club Crab Cakes with Ms. Pendleton's Orange Chive Mayonnaise
Chilled Lemon and Basil-Marinated Scallops
BLLTS (Bacon, Lobster, Lettuce, and Tomato Miniature Sandwiches


Red & White Wines
specifically chosen to compliment the seafood selection
Ice Tea

Cost Per Person ~ $50.00 plus tax and gratuity

First Edition Copies of Simply Shellfish will be sold at a discount.

For further information and credit card form please contact Dining Dish (aka Dara Bunjon) at 410.486.0339 and we can fax or email the reservation form to you.

The Center Club
100 Light Street
Baltimore, MD 21201

Free parking after 5 p.m.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris

The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris
Learn the Difference, Learn the Recipes and Learn How Parisians Dine

Greetings and Readings in the Hunt Valley Towne Center, in Hunt Valley, Maryland invites you to meet and greet, up-close and personal, former food critic, French food and culture authority, Daniel Young on Friday, February 17 from noon to 2 p.m. He is the author of Made in Marseille, The Rough Guide to New York City Restaurants, and The Paris Cafe Cookbook and has written about French food and culture for many publications, including Gourmet, Bon Appetit, Conde Nast Traveler, the New York Times, and others. Formerly the restaurant critic for the New York Daily News, he now lives in Paris, London, and his hometown, New York.

Daniel Young's latest cookbook, The Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris: Everyday Recipes from the Real Paris, picks up where The Paris Cafe Cookbook left off. This new volume expands the scope to include bistros, brasseries, and wine bars - the other institutions that together comprise the Paris of Parisians, the real Paris.

You can spend years in Paris and never hear the same answer twice to this cookbook's underlying question: what is the difference between a bistro, a brasserie, and a wine bar? In his third cookbook, acclaimed author and expert on all things French Daniel Young explains the nuances that distinguish one from another among the three categories, as he takes home cooks on a vibrant, spirited tour of Paris's best eateries.

Daniel explains that, as true Parisians know; a bistro is a small, informal restaurant serving a few simple, hearty dishes, while a brasserie is a larger, cafe-restaurant providing continuous service and rough-and-ready food. In a wine bar, expect to find a large selection of wines by the glass and light bites to go with them.

Follow Daniel Young as he leads a tour of this Paris of Parisians by way of its definitive eating spots. Young explores the distinctions among bistros, brasseries, and wine bars before leading you to 38 of his favorites, from landmark brasseries like Lipp and La Coupole to little-known gems like the bistro Clementine and the wine bar La Petite Syrah. He shares more than 100 of their recipes, all house specialties adapted here for use by North American home cooks.
As this array of delicious dishes and the book make clear, bistros, brasseries, and wine bars define what it means to be out and eat out in Paris - to dine simply yet very well. Theirs is the food that nourishes and sustains the Paris of Parisians - the real and everyday Paris - with local flavor, style, sophistication, personality, and attitude.

Daniel also introduces home cooks to many of his favorite spots (some are famous, others are his own best-keep secrets) and presents classic recipes from each, including Salmon Terrine with Leeks and Pesto, Cream of Carrot Soup with Cumin, Pan-Grilled Rib Steak with Bearnaise Sauce, and Warm Almond Cake with Caramel Cream. Bistros, brasseries, and wine bars, define what it means to be out and eat out in Paris, to dine simply and very well. Theirs is the food that nourishes and sustains the Paris of Parisians - the real and everyday Paris - with local flavor, style, sophistication, personality, and attitude.

If you are unable to meet Daniel personally than take advantage of Greetings and Readings Advanced Order and Autograph service, call 410-771-3022 and pre-order your autographed first edition copy of Bistros, Brasseries and Wine Bars of Paris.

For further information contact Greetings and Readings in Hunt Valley Maryland at 410.771.3022, , or visit their website at


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