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.

Friday, November 28, 2008

Stimulate your cooking desires!

Do you love to cook but there are few people around you that share your passion, who understand why you sit by the TV waiting for the next Top Chef episode and they can’t comprehend why reading a cookbook to you is like reading a great novel? If you answered yes, then maybe it is time you start a culinary dinner club.

Shrimp Ball Soup - Photo by Brian Carmen

How to start a culinary dinner club

Starting a culinary dining group is simple, it is fun and a great reason to show off recipes you know and ones you want to try. Start small, reach out to friends and co-workers who like to cook, maybe 3 other people – if you know more, then invite them as well.

- Rotate hosting the gatherings at different homes
- The host gets to choose the theme (i.e. ethnic, regional, seafood, cookbook or celeb chefs recipes, spa cuisine, vegetarian etc.)
- The host can coordinate what dishes are coming to the dinner or choose not to (I don’t coordinate it….it is more fun.)
- Choose how often you want to hold them every 4 weeks, every 6 weeks –you get the picture?
- Voila – you have a culinary dinner group!

Over the years, I have been part of two such groups and always enjoyed them immensely: not only for the food but for the friendships.

I recently reached out to an acquaintance who I knew was into cooking and suggested we start a group. She would invite about 4 to 6 friends and I the same.

Tuesday night was an inaugural dinner at my house with the new group. Choosing a couple days before Thanksgiving to host it wasn’t the best choice of days and we had a couple of cancellations at the last minute. All-in-all, there were 6 of us including two guests (since there was so much food). The theme I chose was “Anything but Turkey.” Our dinner ended up being eclectic, fun and tasty.

The dishes for the evening:

-Oysters in a champagne cream with spinach served in an artichoke heart
-Vietnamese spring rolls with nuoc mam dipping sauce
-Shrimp ball soup (recipe link) - see photo above
-Russian herring and potato salad
-Honey truffle thyme marinated chicken thighs
-White asparagus with lemon zest
-Apricot almond cake - I have a link to the Kerrygold cookbook but you have to click on dessert tab and then on the apricot almond cake- here is the (link)

A miracle fruit experiment to wrap up the evening

Early this summer I participated in an experiment with the magic berry, a taste altering fruit which contains miraculin. It alters your tongues perception of sour and bitter foods making them sweet. MiracleUK company from Great Britain sent me a complimentary pouch of the freeze-dried miracle fruit. After the culinary dinner posse had eaten we tried the experiment. I kept it simple, each was given some of the powder that they left on there tongue for a minute or so, then I gave them a slice of lemon to suck on and a taste of vinegar, both became sweet to them.

Let us know what your culinary groups do or any suggestions for people putting a group together.

For more info:

If you are a member of http://www.facebook/ check out my “Love to Cook” group.

Miracle Fruit: I have written about the miracle fruit in past posts in greater detail and here is the full story and also another one I posted on Gordon Ramsey’s reaction to the magic berry.

Purchase Miracle Fruit:

Monday, November 24, 2008

MadTV Brit and K-Fed Thanksgiving

A little Thanksgiving humor

What we eat for Thanksgiving

When the welcoming Wampanoags Indians brought turkey to our forefathers and started the Thanksgiving tradition could they possibly perceive the tradition of bringing family and friends together to share the bounty of the land and its economic stimulus.

What we spend on the food and drink during Thanksgiving week:

$46 million – Stuffing
$34 million – Cranberries (canned & fresh)
14 million bottles – Wine (red and white with red a bit more – favorites are Pinot Noir & Riesling)
19 million cans or $14 million in sweet potatoes and yams

Chump change!

Figures were compiled by

What do they call the night before Thanksgiving?

There is Thanksgiving and then Black Friday, the day after Thanksgiving, but what is the night before Thanksgiving called? In my single days (back in the Stone Age), it was a night to hit the hotspots, see friends who were back in town visiting, a night to be raucous and rambunctious. I was flashing back to this subject last week when I was at Ra Sushi because the vibe there is full of adrenaline, the food fun and the room allows for movement as opposed to the people-packed-like-sardine-filled neighborhood bars.

This was my second visit to Ra Sushi, my first was happy hour with the Media Mavens. The place was packed that evening and the Ra Sushi food kept flowing. Since I was there this past summer, Ra Sushi has kicked up their happy hour and it would be perfect for the yet unnamed night before Thanksgiving or any night from Monday through Saturday (yes, Saturday). Happy hour starts at 3 p.m. through 7 p.m. They are offering ½ off sushi, ½ off appetizers with $1 Hot Sake, $2 Budweiser, Bud Light and Miller Lite but you can get a Cosmo or Apple Martini for just $4.

Sake to me!

Let me not forget the sake, a rice wine. I got to enjoy a sake tasting with a selection of Ra’s new menu items.

-Hananomai Katana sake which is full bodied and dry with the new Shrimp Shumai and Spicy Octopus & Cucumber Salad

-Kizakura Nigori sake which is unfiltered offering a smooth, light and sweet taste. This was paired with the new beef tataki roll, the pictured mango lobster roll and the Kona Kampachi Nigiri.

-Kizakura Pure sake, a filtered sake that had a smooth, crisp slightly floral taste that paired with Ra’s very popular Apple Teriyaki Salmon

-Sho Chiku Bai Nigori sake another unfiltered sweet sake was an ideal pair for Ra Sushi’s Coconut Crème Brulee.

I remember the excitement of the night before Thanksgiving and hitting the bars with my gal pals, staying up to well, not even going to sleep, and on into Thanksgiving Day. Now I am just happy I am able to remember those days because this gal can barely make it past midnight and the husband would be a serious drag on me hooking up. (LOL)

I tend to digress, so back on subject….is there a name for the night before Thanksgiving?

For more info:
Ra Sushi
1390 Lancaster Street-Harbor East
Baltimore, MD 410 522 3200

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Inaugural Fever - for just $200,900

I just read in Nycci Nellis’s TheListAreYouOnIt – Buzz Section about a hotel package at the Mandarin Oriental in Washington DC that is a mere $200,900 (excludes taxes and gratuities) for January 17th through to the 21st. You’ll be dressed by Ralph Lauren for the inaugural, a private dinner at CityZen with Chef Eric Ziebold and sommelier Andrew Myers, a chauffer driven Maserati, daily spa treatments and obviously much more. If you want to know what is going on in the DC restaurant scene and more details of the Mandarin Oriental Inaugural package then sign up for TheListAreYouOnIt.

The Baltimore Scene

Want to know what is happening in the Baltimore restaurant scene check out for food, drink and shopping specials and the localist for events happening in Baltimore including food and drink.

The biq question is who will treat me to the Mandarin Oriental Inaugural package?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Simple chocolate and salt fix

It is simple, it is fast and it hits all the food buttons: sweet, salty, crunchy, rich – it’s a Nutella panini. If you have a little caramel sauce or banana then throw them between the two pieces of bread.

Nutella Panini Recipe:


Crusty bread with soft interior
*Nutella (chocolate hazelnut spread)
*Smoked or regular sea salt (Coarse grain where possible)

Sliced banana
Caramel sauce


1. Horizontally slice the bread so you have crust both on the top and bottom the way a hot dog roll is sliced.
2. Smear on generous portions of Nutella on both top and bottom pieces of bread
3. Sprinkle each side with sea salt and put the two pieces of bread together
4. Put in preheated panini machine or George Forman grill No machine, simple…heat a fry pan or griddle and coat with some oil, put the sandwich on that and put a heavy pan on top of that. Flip the sandwich top to bottom and put the weight pan on top.

*You’ll find Nutella in almost any grocery store…look for it near the jelly, jams and peanut butter and sea salt at most upscale food stores. In Baltimore, you can find an interesting selection of smoked sea salts at Neopol at Belvedere Square.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Rachel Ray comes to the Baltimore area

Meet the perky Ms Rachel Ray on December 13th when she comes to the Baltimore area to promote her new cookbook, Rachel Ray's Big Orange Book. Get your favorite foodie an autographed copy at Books-A-Million at Arundel Mills Mall as a holiday gift. This is a ticketed event.

About the Book

In the 10 years since she served up her first 30-minute meal—and thousands of delectable dinners later— Rachael Ray has learned just about all there is to know about getting a great tasting meal on the table in a hurry, whether it is one of her patented 30-minute miracles or something just a tad more involved for a special gathering. Rachael’s Big Orange Book is the ultimate resource for busy cooks.

Need kitchen inspiration? It’s all here and it’s all new—and bigger than ever!??Just one for dinner tonight? Forget the cold cereal. Rachael has a chapter of recipes that make dining on your own a thoroughly civilized occasion, with great meals that won’t leave you with a fridge full of leftovers.

Vegetarians on the guest list? No problem! Choose from dozens of meat-free meals that are every bit as satisfying as your tried-and-true standards and savory enough to please the carnivores in your crowd.

Observing a Kosher menu? Check out the selection of menus just for Kosher cooks, all ready in less than, you guessed it, 30 minutes. There's even a mother lode of burger recipes for fans of the bun—so many options you could make a different burger every day for a full month!??

DATE: Saturday, December 13
LOCATION: Books-a-Million
Arundel Mills Mall
7000 Arundel Mills Circle
Hanover, MD 21076
Ph: 443-755-0210
This is a ticketed event.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Eat pork on Thanksgiving

It is hard to believe but there are some of you out there who don't like turkey and dread Thanksgiving.

It is for you, the gobble-gobble phobics that I write this little note. Pork, the other white meat, is a great alternative and goes well with stuffing and sweet potatoes.

The 'Whole Hog'

Executive Chef Aharon Denrich of Mr. Charles Market in Owings Mills has created the 'Whole Hog' similar in concept to a Turducken (a semi boned turkey stuffed with duck and chicken ).

Chef Denrich starts his 'whole hog' with andouille sausage that is wrapped in a pork tenderloin seasoned with herbes de Provence that is wrapped in applewood smoked bacon and then wrapped with a bone-in pork loin that is finally wrapped in maple bacon. You can purchase by the slice (rib bone size) or purchase a whole roast.

Mr. Charles Market
12147 Park Heights Avenue (near Walnut)
Owings Mills, MD 21117
p 410.356.3844
f 410.363.914

P.S. Congrats to my friend, Chef Bill Crouse of Sotto Sopra Restaurant, who won the popular vote of the 300 guests attending the "pork" competition this past weekend. Click HERE for the entire story

Friday, November 14, 2008

NEW Middle Eastern Restaurant Opens

On Tuesday, Tahina’s opened their doors introducing a new Middle Eastern fast food restaurant concept in Owings Mills. The stylized concept has succinct offerings: falafel, beef or chicken wraps with multiple toppings from spicy goat cheese to the traditional tahini sauce. On the go, grab a snack of hummus with pita chips, falafels or enjoy their fries with the choice of 8 dipping sauces from spicy cucumber to the standard ketchup. They even offer black or green ice tea. This first Tahina’s is serving as a prototype for multiple units.

Tahina’s is just off Reisterstown Road on Owings Mills Boulevard, tucked into the Best Buy’s shopping center nestled between a Noodles Restaurant and Qdoba Mexican Grill near the Ravens headquarters.

I tried the beef, a marinated brisket, with numerous toppings. The beef was so tasty that the next time I think I’ll keep my toppings simpler and enjoy the flavor of the beef.

Yesterday I spoke with Jeff McCabe, one of the partners and he said since opening the doors on Tuesday, business has been very brisk with positive reponses from the customers. Check it out and let me know what you think.

For more info:
10450 Owings Mills Boulevard-Suite F
Owings Mills, Maryland 21117

(Photo - left to right) Simon Haddad, Jeff McCabe, JorySchunick, Morris Scherlis- Partners

Top 5 Gift Items for Foodies

Here is my list of great gift items for the foodies in your life. Please SHARE your foodie holiday gift ideas here…leave a note in the comments about your favorite kitchen tool, cookbook or cooking class. Tis the season to share.

1. Microplane $15

If there isn’t one in your home then this is a great gift for a foodie. You can find them at William Sonoma or any store carrying quality kitchen supplies. They run around $15..maybe less at some locations. The Microplane is a unique grater that makes a great stocking stuffer – all the chefs use them, it makes haste of zesting citrus, cheese, chocolate –FABO! No kitchen should be without one.

2. Food Magazines $15- $20

If the foodie in your life isn’t getting Bon Appetit, Gourmet or Food and Wine buy them a subscription. New recipes with color photographs every month –a foodie’s dream.

3. Gift Certificate for a Cooking Class From $10 to $425

Click HERE for my list of cooking classes available in the Baltimore regional area.

The classes are diverse from your home to in a restaurant kitchen ~ there is something for everyone. I personally prefer a hands-on class, working in a kitchen. Cooking is very Zen for me. I recommend Chef-for-the-Day at Sotto Sopra for a real restaurant experience and For the Love of Food with Chef Diane Bukatman – both offer hands-on training with a chef.

4. Restaurant Gift Certificates

5. Cookbooks

There are a trillion, well maybe thousands of cookbooks. Let me tell you about a couple of current releases so you won’t be duplicating what might already be on your cookbook shelf. I am listing the suggested retail price on all these books but I recommend you go on line to purchase at or . At Amazon, you can buy the books used and in excellent shape.

For the bakers:

The Birthday Cake Book by Dede Wilson $19.95
75 Recipes for candle-worthy occasion

The Modern Baker by Nick Malgieri $35.00
Time-savings techniques for breads, tarts, pies, cakes and cookies

For the cheese lover:

Cheese, Glorious Cheese! by Paula Lambert $26.95
More than 75 tempting recipes for cheese lovers everywhere

Cheese Hors d’Ouevres by Hallie Harron $12.95
50 Recipes for crispy canapés, delectable dips, marinated morsels and other tasty tidbits

For the lover of food and wine pairings:

Wine Mondays by Frank McClelland $24.95
Simple wine pairings with seasonal menus

Simple Italian:

Giada’s Kitchen by Giada de Laurentiis $32.50
New Italian Flavors

For holiday entertaining:

Great Bar Food at Home by Kate Heyhoe $17.95

The reference book each cook must have on their shelf:

The Science of Good Food by David Joachim and Andrew Schloss $37.95
The ultimate reference on how cooking works

Everyone wins on this book:

Yum! Tasty Recipes by Culinary Greats by Dara Bunjon and Jeffrey Spear $28.95
100 recipes from culinary greats (Steven Raichlen, Ming Tsai, Elizabeth Faulkner, Norman Van Aken, Jose Andres, Rick Bayless and many more)

Profits from the royalties of the sale of this book go to the National Kidney Foundation and if you purchase the book from the Restaurant Association of Maryland Education Foundation (click HERE) $15.00 is tax deductable and proceeds go towards culinary scholarships to students within our state. This was released last fall.

For the lover of a good food story:

Hometown Appetites by Kelly Alexander & Cynthia Harris $ 27.50
The story of Clementine Paddleford, the forgotten food writer who chronicled how America ate.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

How to get on Top Chef

Want to get on Top Chef? Dining Dish just learned that Chef Jill Snyder's audition tape was on YouTube and have it below for your perusal. Don't forget to watch her tomorrow night, Wednesday, November 12 at 10 p.m. on Bravo. Good luck Jill-"Win One For the Kipper" yeah, yeah..I know it really is the Gipper, I'm taking foodie license and changing it.

Who are my top chefs?

With the season premiere of Top Chef- Season 5 tomorrow night at 10 p.m. on Bravo, I think about two local women chefs who are participating in my favorite food reality show, Jill Snyder of Red Maple here in Baltimore and Carla Hall of Alchemy Caterers in Washington DC. I am excited to see these talented women strut their culinary ‘stuff’ and will be cheering them both on.

My Top Chefs

It was also terrific this past Sunday to see many other women chefs strut their culinary ‘stuff’ at a fundraiser, some of which will help subsidize a selection of the culinary scholarship and internships offered from the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs organization. The event at Willow Restaurant in Arlington, Virginia was to launch the WCR 2009 Calendar and Recipe Collection - Crowning Cuisine: More Than Sugar and Spice. Featuring some of the Washington DC area's finest female chefs, cooks and sommeliers, this extraordinary collection provides signature recipes, wine pairings and preparation tips from Nora Pouillon, Ris Lacoste, Jamie Leeds, Tracy O'Grady, Barbara Black and many more talented women of food. (watch video below)

I was busy volunteering in the kitchen that evening and shot a bit of video, my own reality program. If you look closely you will see Kate Jansen of Willow, Ris Lacoste of the soon-to-be Ris, Nora Pouillon of Restaurant Nora, Janis McLean of 15 Ria, Ann Yonkers and many other women chefs.

Calendars can also be purchased at these participating establishments in the Washington DC metro area or buy on line HERE:

15 ria, Addie's, Argia's, Arrowine, Bazin's on Church, Black's Bar & Kitchen, Black Market Bistro, BlackSalt, Buzz, CommonWealth Gastropub, Eatbar, Equinox, Great Falls Tea Garden at Cathy's Corner, Hank's Oyster Bar DC, Hank's Oyster Bar Old Town, Hollin Hall Pastry Shop, Hook, ici Urban Bistro, La Cuisine, L'Academie de Cuisine, Lansdowne Resort Restaurants, Mia's Pizzas, Moorenko's Ice Cream Cafés, Pizzeria Paradiso and Birreria Georgetown, Pizzeria Paradiso Dupont Circle, Restaurant Eve, Restaurant Nora, Red White & Bleu, Rock Creek Bethesda, Rock Creek at Mazza, Swiss Bakery and Pastry Shops, Tackle Box, Tallula, Teaism, The Majestic,Vermillion, Willow Restaurant.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

Behind the scenes of Hell’s Kitchen

What questions would you ask Season 3’s winner of Hell’s Kitchen, Rock Harper, if you could have lunch with him? That was the question put forth in Downtown Diane’s weekly Baltimore E-Newsletter. The person submitting the best questions and most compelling reason to have lunch with Chef Harper would enjoy dining with the reality TV star at Roy’s Restaurant in the East Harbor.

I already filmed Chef Michael Midgley and Chef Ilan Hall, both of Season 2 of Top Chef, on video discussing their audition process. I felt it was my responsibility to you, my readers, to send a convincing note to Downtown Diane so I could get Chef Rock on video for your review.

I captured the prize seat at the table, ate a wonderful lunch (menu and pictures below) and had an intense conversation with Chef Rock and his beautiful wife Tamara. Below are the my questions, Rock's answers and the promised video.

Q & A with Chef Rock

Q: What about reality TV were you unprepared for?

A: I thought it would me more TV-ish and wasn’t going to be as kitchen related. They kept it so true to what went on in the kitchen.

We weren’t manipulated with the exception of our down time when we were asked to remain focused and chatting about wanting to win the job and what it would mean to us. We were to avoid sports or arts discussions.

Q. The quality of the contestants seems very diverse. I got the feeling that some of the contestants were chosen for more amusement value as opposed to talent. What do you think?

A: Chef Ramsey asked that this year the chefs brought to the competition truly have a higher culinary skill level.

Q: If you could take back one moment on film, what would it be?

A: The scene on the show where I was snoring I could do without. I would like to edit out the couple of times where my temper flared, which is a natural occurrence in any restaurant kitchen.

Q: Do you think working in Hell’s Kitchen was a real portrayal of what actually happens in a restaurant kitchen?

A: In some ways yes, it showed the intensity of a real restaurant kitchen.

What wasn’t realistic is the seating of all the guests at once. In a real restaurant all the guests are not seated at once, all orders don’t come to the kitchen at once. In Hell’s Kitchen, 50 guests were seated per team. The first order ticket arrives and if anything on that ticket went wrong (undercooked, overcooked) we would have to throw out everything for that course at the table and start over. So the other orders would wait until we finished, we would run out of food, it created a trickle down effect of continuing errors and problems throughout service.

Q. Are you keen to watch the 2009 reality food show Chopping Block with Chef Marco Pierre White? Chef Ramsey worked for Chef White, who is known for throwing pots, pans and even breaking Chef Ramsey down to tears as told in Devil in the Kitchen. Have you ever thrown anything in the kitchen?

A. Yes, I’m looking forward to the show. The same production company that does Hell’s Kitchen will be working on Chopping Block. It will be on NBC. I must admit that I have thrown things in the kitchen, not often, rarely – but it happened.

Lunch at Roy’s

Chef/Partner Rey Eugenio of Roy’s gave everyone a tour of his kitchen, which is stadium-style, similar to Hell’s Kitchen. Grab a seat at the counter on Saturday night to really see how a real restaurant kitchen works. Chef Eugenio and Chef Harper were discussing the prejudices and obstacles that women chefs face in the kitchen. Both are proponents for women chefs, in fact, chef Rey employs 5 women in his kitchen. As a member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, I was thrilled to hear and know that they support women in the restaurant industry.

We had luncheon in one of Roy's private rooms. There were 13 of us and everyone enjoyed Chef Eugenio's delicious and generous buffet.

Buffet Menu

Pad Thai
Green Curry Beef
Grilled Atlantic Salmon
Korean BBQ Chicken
Grilled Romaine with Caesar Dressing
Roy’s Organic Blackened Tuna
Golden Lobster Pot Stickers
Lakanilau Roll with crab tempura and Kobe beef
Baby Back Ribs
Jasmine Rice

Dessert: Chocolate Molten Cake with Vanilla Ice Cream

Rey Eugenio, chef/partner
Bryson Keens, managing partner
Roy's Restaurant
720 B Aliceanna Street
Baltimore, MD 21202

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Lobster Alert! Lobster Alert!

This is a drive-by post, short and sweet. Super Fresh Markets have live lobsters, 1 to 1 ¼ lbs, for $6.99 a pound. The sale runs through Monday, November 3rd. I had them steam 2 lobsters and picked up one chilled for under $5. So lunch is lobster and movie.

I also found Mahogany clams, tiny like cherrystones – 50 for $6.99. I look for these each year -tiny, sweet and tender. I’ll steam most of them as a nosh but do clams casino for dinner along with spaghetti and meatballs.

It is a good food day in the Bunjon household.


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