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, April 23, 2008

Being Seen

From the moment I walked into Tark’s Grill I knew that this is the “spot” to be seen. It generates an air of the old boy network, a place where the men, not guys, go to talk deals and women lunch. The traditional menu is reflective of dishes we all know well with salutes to local seafood and aged beef.

You will find I often meet friends for lunch – a small freedom that comes with being self-employed. This experience did not differ; I met Maggie Moseley-Farley, sales representative for Style Magazine, for an enjoyable luncheon updating local restaurant news and family stories.

Before Maggie arrived I ran into Mark Hofmann, manager of Tark’s Grill and genuine nice guy. I’ve known Mark for a number of years from his early chef days at Due, where he taught a cooking class for my Epicurean Club of Maryland students to Henry’s Bistro out at four corners in Jarrettsville where he purchased spices from my then employer, Vanns Spices. He agreed that what I had heard about their bar getting crowded once offices shut down for the day was correct and also recommends reservations for the dining room.

Once Maggie arrives we are seated. The menu is pretty traditional, not too many items that you wouldn’t have seen on a menu 10 years ago. One of the exceptions is the Seared Rare Ahi Tuna appetizer ($10.95) we shared and it was YUMMY; the tuna topped refreshing cucumber spaghetti, crisp Asian noodles with an oriental flavored beurre blanc (butter sauce).

Maggie and I decided to share a shrimp salad sandwich ($13.25), (from an earlier post some of you already know I am a shrimp salad snob), and the recommended crab cake sandwich ($14.95). Maggie considers herself a “bread aficionado” and was in love with the roll on the crab cake sandwich. The shrimp salad oozed large steamed shrimp perfectly cooked in my estimation but lacked the Old Bay Seasoning I personally prefer. The requested rye bread for the shrimp salad didn’t quite hit the mark for Maggie and me.

Our waiter was attentive but not overbearing and definitely had the finesse of a fine dining server. When probed, he stated that he also works at Ruth Chris in Pikesville. He saw me photographing the appetizer and reminded me to snap a shot of our lunch entrees. There was only one minor service misstep and that was the lack of flatware with our dessert.

Dessert was the old-fashioned chocolate layer cake ($7.95) which was moist, not too sweet and plenty for two to share. The dessert menu was nothing new wave; apple pie, carrot cake, lemon tart, key lime pie, coconut pound cake, sugarless New York cheese cake, fruit sorbets and ice cream – the sugarless offering is a nice touch.

Before I forget, Mark did advise they will be making menu changes in the near future which you can review any time at their website at

For those of you who remember the old “Pimlico Hotel” located near the race track, Tark’s has that same feel of privilege and cache. Dining Dish says, “Want to be seen? If the answer is yes, then definitely make it to Tark’s Grill.”

Tark's Grill
2360 Joppa Road #116
Lutherville, MD 21093
Mon-Thur 11:30 a.m. to 11 p.m.
Fri-Sat 11:30 a.m. – 12 a.m.
Sun 10 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Tark's Grill in Lutherville

I'm a Day Late for Earth Day

NEW Farmer’s Market Coming to Baltimore

On Saturdays, starting June 14th through October 25th, we are welcoming FreshFarm Markets, responsible for many farmer’s markets including the one of the nation’s best at Dupont Circle as well as Annapolis, Silver Spring and St. Michaels. The new location will be 1000 Lancaster St. between South Exeter St. and Central Ave., on the Inner Harbor. The farmer/producers and partner organizations have not been announced. Keep your eye on Fresh Farm Markets

Sunday, April 20, 2008

I'm Hot, I'm Flushed and I'm Done

While the last of the three batches of Matzoh brittle I baked is chilling I thought I would dash up to the computer and get you the recipe.

It was Kitchenography’s and Black Coffee and a Donut’s blogs that mentioned the brittle and I was inspired to try it on my own. So I don’t know if I owe them a debt of gratitude or hold my expanded waistline and high sugar count against them. Black Coffee and a Donut linked to David Lebovitz’s webpage which is the recipe I used (Click Here). I took David’s suggestion and put some fine sea salt in the butter and brown sugar mixture and added ½ teaspoon of vanilla once it was off the stove. You will note the recipe on Kitchenography’s post was the recipe that inspired David Lebovitz’s recipe- it was by Marcy Goldman.

Matzoh brittle is a Passover treat, though it is enjoyable all year long. It is made with the unleavened bread, Matzoh. If you have never seen Matzoh, it looks like a big cracker. The brittle is covered with a caramel, baked, and then topped with chocolate. You have the option to add your own assortment of additional toppings like toasted nuts or dried fruit. Once topped, chill the brittle for 30 minutes and break into pieces. I topped mine with assortments of dried cherries and cranberries, slivered almonds, fleur de sel (French sea salt ), and coconut.

For many years my friend and former co-owner of Glasz Café, Nona Nielsen Parker, would make pounds upon pounds of this sweet treat. As a friend, I was privy to free samples. Nona now works for Ned Atwater at Atwater's at Belvedere Square and makes the matzoh brittle for his clientele. You can purchase the chocolate-caramel creation for $16.99 a pound at Atwater’s or Tenzo Artisan’s version at 1016 S. Charles Street where it is sold by the square of matzoh for $4.00. (The bakery is open on Saturdays – call in advance other days for pick up 410-302-6233.) And the final “or” is you can do like I did and make it yourself. Either way, purchasing or making it, you need taste it.

O K, now I’m cool, I’m lacking color and I’m taking a break. Ciao!

I Got an E-Mail

About 4 to 5 weeks ago I received an e-mail from the chief honcho from the Examiner in Colorado and he had been reading the Dining Dish Blog. He told me the was launching a new format and was wondering if I would blog for them. Well the new launched this week, a soft launch as they get the kinks out so I'm announcing it to my Dining Dish readers.

I am the Baltimore Dining Examiner, that is the title, not a blogger but an Examiner, is that branding to the nth degree? So I need each one of you to go read my stories, at least click on them a minimum of 1,000 times a day - you got the drill down- 1,000 times a day. And be sure to leave pithy comments as well.

You'll see the stories aren't just dining local, it is more rants, raves, reviews and reminiscences. I plan to talk cookbooks, products, restaurants, food uncooked or uneaten, pretty much what I write here. I will continue to write the Dining Dish Blog since I just printed 5,000 business cards with it's hyperlink -waste not, want....hmmmm, 1000 hits an hour.

Please feel free to send me press releases you think will be of interest at Want to learn more about me check me out at

As Style Magazine said of Dining Dish, it is like Lucille Ball was writing the blog and there are definitely times with all that is going on I feel like Lucy! Let me thank you here and now for reading Dining Dish. You know I do this because after being with my husband for 28 years he doesn't listen anymore so you get the benefit of all my trials, tribulations and triumphs and alliteration.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Dim Sum in Ellicott City at Asian Court

There is a new restaurant and probably the only place now serving Dim Sum in Baltimore (really Ellicott City) called Asian Court. The recommendation came a roundabout way from my sister who lives in California who corresponds with an old friend, Jeff Davis, who lives most of the time in Hong Kong and was recently in Baltimore and found this new gem.

When I advised Jeff that I had made it to Asian Court for Dim Sum for lunch this week he replied. “hope u can return there on the wkend for the dimsum specials, as it is quite worthwile 'n u will see a mix of almost 95% Asian there w/their families, 'n w/it a whole different feeling 'n atmosphere, not unlike the real thing found more often in Asia...and the food served reinforces same...” (quite obviously Jeff is a cryptologist as well – only joking).

Dim Sum to the Chinese is like hors d’ouevres to the French or appetizers to us. Their origins come from Chinese tea houses. The literal translation is “to touch your heart.”

Getting There

I had put out an all-points bulletin to my food buddies but scheduling has been a problem. I like traveling in numbers for food, it means I get to sample more dishes. It was decided we would go one weekend for the Dim Sum when it is served on the rolling carts. The Dim Sum is cooked to order during the weekdays from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. and on the Saturday, Sunday and holidays, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on the carts as stated above.

Well scheduling with everyone has been difficult and when another friend said she and her husband were available for lunch this week we went over to the west side of town to Asian Court in Ellicott City. It is in a strip mall just passed Home Depot heading west from where 29 intersects Route 40.

Let the Dining Begin

The restaurant wasn’t full but as Jeff Davis said above, the majority of the people in the restaurant were Asian – always a good sign. The dining room seemed divided with tables with tablecloths and some without. The restaurant is nicely appointed with a tank of beautifully colored fish between the sushi section and the bar. The entrance was marble.

Don’t let me lead you astray with the dim sum; this restaurant serves a broad selection of Chinese dishes from ones we have come to know and ones that Anthony Bourdain might eat like Sauteed Pigs Intestine with Sour Cabbage and Pigs Feet with Bean Curd Sauce. Asian Court has a broad Japanese menu along with some delicious sushi. Also there is a large vegetarian selection.

So my dining posse and I wanted to try a little of this and a little of that and we kicked it off with Char Siu Bao-$3.25 ( bun stuffed with barbecued pork – your choice steamed or fried), Fung Jeow $3.25 (chicken feet, deep fried, then marinated with oyster sauce and steamed), Fun Gor $3.25 (translucent dumplings that are filled with ground pork with peanuts) and finally Stuffed Eggplant 3.95 (purple eggplant stuffed with a shrimp paste, fried and topped with a sauce).

I grew up eating chicken feet in my mother’s chicken fricassee and she used them to make chicken soup so this wasn’t a stretch for me. They are messy, they have a lot of bones but if you are so inspired, do give them a try and ask for extra napkins.

Next on our adventure was some sushi and as you can see it arrived beautifully displayed. We ordered Maki Rolls: Salmon Skin Roll $4.50, Eel with Cucumber $4.95, Shrimp Tempura $4.95 and Spicy Tuna Roll for $4.50. I really liked their sushi and it was because of their rice, it was well seasoned. So many times I get sushi and the rice is tasteless and too sticky (that happens when it isn’t cooled down properly*).

My friend Patti ordered the luncheon portion of pepper steak $7.45 which came with spring rolls and white rice. It was nicely prepared; it wasn’t too salty as this dish tends to be.

During luncheon we were chatting with Mei-Lin Louie and her husband Sam, what a charming couple. They informed me that they own another restaurant in Silver Spring called Asian Bistro Café. Mei-Lin sent out coconut pudding, which is a rice and coconut milk concoction with a jiggle like Jello. Mei-Lin explained that Chinese desserts aren’t very sweet.

I really enjoyed this restaurant and I have many dishes I want to try above and beyond the Dim Sum so I will be back, probably many times. I’m intrigued with the soups and noodle dishes.

If you live in the area they have delivery for a $25.00 order or more and curbside pick up.

* Chef Nyghia Hoang told me that to properly cool sushi rice it must be done in a wooden bowl or box which can absorb some of the moisture as opposed to something plastic which keep the rice sitting in moisture. You will see fans blowing on the rice to help this process.

Asian Court
9180 Baltimore National Pike
Ellicott City, MD 21042
Open 7 days
Chinese – from all regions

Asian Court in Ellicott City

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Make Up Your Mind!

A recent study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition examined the short term effects of dark chocolate and cocoa in relationship to cardiovascular health for healthy older adults - its thumbs down for the boomers. It seems dark chocolate is boosting the heart rate

Prior research and stories hyped that dark chocolate was good for your heart health. Now you have to forget that delectable little piece of dark, rich chocolate that you had each night and empty your cupboard of the exotically sourced, artisan chocolates. Another blow to maturity!

Honestly, I don't have to eat the chocolate to get my pulse rate up, just mention chocolate and I'm panting.

Here is the link to the story. Point of interest, the article states that Hersey sponsored the Arte Johnson on Laugh In used to say "Veeery Interesting!!"

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

Food Memories from my Yout

My love affair with food didn't start at an early age. I only recall one food favorite as a child and that was and still is spaghetti in a red sauce, my mother's and then eventually my own concoctions - but that is another post.

Today I was trying to remember back to my childhood to any food memories. I know the story my mother talked about was that my sister and I were picky eaters. We were both very scrawny, tiny children and my mother being a good Jewish mother, felt guilty that we weren't robust looking. I think she felt her friends thought she was starving us.

She bribed both of us with $10 if we could gain 10 pounds in a year. Okay, it was a long time ago and that 10 spot is equivalent to $100 by today's standards. I recollect trying hard to gain but I just couldn't do it. I could win challenge today in about 3 days.

My mother's frustration was that there was little that I liked and my goodness if I said I liked something, I got it everyday for lunch....EVERYDAY...until I would throw a tantrum. The sliced turkey meat sandwiches on rye with a sprinkling of salt sticks in my mind. The lunch box would come home still in tack with the morning's packed sandwich. Oh, mother would be so aggravated and upset. It was my sister who told me to throw the sandwich away (she was the rocket genius between the two of us). I remember swapping a sandwich with another student, it was a meatloaf sandwich with ketchup on white was good, WELL, it wasn't sliced turkey.

Let me not forget breakfast every morning, of course it was the same thing every morning, a soft boiled egg and a glass of chocolate milk---talk about nausea to kick off your day. She probably did something else on the weekends. I know I had pancakes from time-to-time but it was those fast, so-called nutritious soft boil eggs every morning. To this day I can't watch Rocky Balboa swallow the raw eggs in Rocky and not have a feeling I'm going to toss.

Chocolate milk was the only way to get milk down me, I couldn't handle white milk and to this day I don't drink white milk. I do use it with cereal if there is sugar in it (sugar substitute at this age.)

Don't be shy, let me know about your personal recollections of food of your youth ( or as Joe Pesci said in My Cousin Vinny, "yout").

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Sotto Sopra's Lemon Basil Sorbetto

How do I describe this wonderful tart, sweet, savory delectable concoction...oops, I just did.

I was at an Opera Night at Sotto Sopra Restaurant and the lemon basil sorbetto was the intermezzo. It truly cleaned and refreshed the palate but I wanted more, more, more. (OMG I'm sounding like the Comcast Cable commercial.) Luckily I was working with their executive chef Bill Crouse, co-hosting a cooking class last month and one of the dishes he presented was the divine sorbetto.

When I had my dinner party a week ago I made the sorbetto. It came out perfect and I had more, more, more. I had made approximately a quart and had leftovers to munch on all week long.

If you have an ice cream maker you MUST make this recipe. Just click on the title of this post and it will take you to Sotto Sopra's blog and the recipe. If you are lucky enough to have some yuzu juice you might want to use some of that in place of the lemon juice. (you will need approximately 20 lemons to make the 2 cups of fresh lemon juice).

Sotto Sopra in Baltimore

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

What Are Your Favorite Restaurants?

I need your help! Please let me know your favorite restaurants both in Washington DC and suburban areas, Northern Virginia and in Baltimore. The high end, the quirky neighborhood restaurants, favorite ethnic restaurants, late night restaurants. I'm working on a project and my stomach and purse strings cannot attempt to sort out all the many selections...I'm leaving it up to you to let me know. Be sure to list the city and a line or two what you like about the restaurants.


Blog Widget by LinkWithin