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, May 29, 2015

Mason Dixon Master Chef competition is back for its 5th season

Ignore the cooking competitions on television when you can see chefs up close and personal, put to the test with ingredients and time restraints at the 5th annual Mason Dixon Master Chef tournament being hosted at the Inn at the Colonnade Baltimore.  Sixteen regional chefs cook, similar to March Madness bracketed competitions, starting Monday, June 15th and ending Sunday, August 16th with the last two chefs standing doing head-on culinary battle for the 2015 title.

A full schedule as well as chef bios are available at

2015 Mason Dixon Chef Competitors
Kiet Philavanh, Basta Pasta
Jonathan Hicks, Birroteca
Wilbur Cox, Jr., Bistro Rx
Cole Whaley, Café Rue
Alfio Celia, Carluccio’s
Andrew Maggitti, Chartwell Country Club
Lanydrek Christ Pandzou, Colony South Hotel
Dana Herbert, Desserts by Dana
Rick Koplau, Duke’s Grocery
Jirat Suphrom-In, My Thai
Melissa Fordham, Personal Chef Services
Jeff Keeney, The Point in Fells
Sean Praglowski, Power Plant Live!
Bill Kelley, Renditions Golf
Niko Negas, Roasthouse Pub
Greg Mason, The White Oak Tavern

Guests are invited to be part of the excitement; tickets for all 15 dates of this summer-long single-elimination chef competition are available for purchase at: Tickets for most matches are $25 for general admission and $45 for judging experience (including all taxes). In addition, the Mason Dixon Master Chef Tournament donates 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to their charity partner Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (

Competition Dates (5:30pm – 9:00pm):
June 15, 16, 22, 23, 29, 30
July 13, 14, 20, 21, 22, 27, 28
August 10, 11, 16

Event Timeline:
5:30 p.m. – Happy Hour with Complementary Hors d’oeuvres and Wine Tasting by Boordy Vineyards, plus Drink Specials
6:30 p.m. – Cold Prep Begins for the Competition
7:00 p.m. – Chef Competition
8:00 p.m. – Judging Begins, Complementary Dessert and Coffee Served

This multi-week event is a single-elimination tournament designed to showcase some of the area's finest executive chefs and restaurants. Guests attending this exciting event will be more than just spectators, as they enjoy the unique experience of witnessing two spectacular area chefs battle it out in the prep kitchen right on the main floor. Each evening, two chef teams go head-to-head to prepare an appetizer, entrée and dessert for each of three expert judges, as well as amuse bouche portions of their entrees for up to 30 audience member judges. Their creations are scored on creativity, presentation and taste, and only one chef advances to the next round. At the end of this tournament only one of the 16 competing chefs will emerge as THE Mason Dixon Master Chef! 10% of the net proceeds of each ticket sold directly to Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland. More information available at, on Twitter @MDMasterChef, and Facebook at Mason Dixon Master Chef.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Pane e Vino opens in Baltimore's Little Italy

As I am reviewing my snapshots and photos shared by fellow bloggers, Kathy and Neal Patterson of at a media gathering at Little Italy’s latest addition Pane e Vino --- I am salivating with sense memories of the appetizer sized and shareable dishes we tasted.  The giant buffalo/ricotta meatball with rustic garlic toast is possibly “the best” meatball I have ever tasted; tender, moist – the perfect balance of meat and filling.  Let me sing the praises of the sous vide calamari, broccoli rapini and tomatoes, sopping up the juices with the crusty bread. It was tough sharing it when I could easily have consumed the whole dish.   These were two amazing dishes out of numerous shareable and small plate offerings we enjoyed that evening.  The Piadina – grilled steak, stracchino, arugula, housemade harissa, pickled onions and the flatbread , more foccacia-like, porcini, prosciutto and Gorgonzola are shareable portions. No buffalo chicken wings at Pane e Vino, they offered chicken drumsticks instead with their harissa --- clever using the chicken legs --- everyone always goes for the drumettes on the wings. 

Watch the slideshow, read the full story HERE

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

Behind the scenes podcast from Women Chefs and Restaurateurs 2015 conference

Dining Dish, like my blog’s name, is the name of the podcasts I record for Baltimore Internet Radio and have been doing over the past five months.  With my hand-held recorder in tow at the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs Conference in New York City I was able to capture interviews with Dana Cowin, Editor-in-Chief of Food and Wine, Susan Ungaro, president of the James Beard Foundation, Meredith O’Malley, a manager for the Michelin starred Del Posto Restaurant whose Chef Mark Ladner just won the James Beard Award –Best Chef New York.

Founding member of Women Chefs and Restaurateurs, Lidia Bastianich – restaurateur, cookbook author, television personality and co-owner in the  Eatalys was the keynote speaker. With the recorder held up in the air I was able to capture her speech, even capturing other founder Anne Rosenzweig. Listen as outgoing president of WCR Chef Elizabeth Falkner introduces Lidia and the entire keynote speech.

The 22 year old Women Chefs and Restaurateurs organization supports chefs from restaurants, caterers, bakers, pastry, personal chefs to front-of-house managers, sommeliers, mixologist and more with a platform to share, mentor, learn and  offering amazing networking opportunities. I’ve been a member since my days as the marketing and public relations director for Vanns Spices and have continued as a member since starting my own business - 12 years. Whether beginning your culinary/hospitality journey or being established there are amazing scholarships and stagiaires available.

Any woman looking to enter or involved with the hospitality industry should seriously consider the Women Chefs and Restaurateurs organization. Coming in October is a mini conference in Calgary and April, 2016, the annual conference is in Los Angeles.

Women Chefs and Restaurateurs –   Facebook  Twitter & Instagram @wcrwomenchefs

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Meals on Wheels Annual culinary extravaganza: Carry on the Preakness party

On the hoofs of Preakness weekend, the party continues at the Grand Lodge Hunt Valley on Monday, May 18 from 5:30 to 9pm with Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland  Annual Culinary Extravaganza.

Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland’s first culinary fundraiser was in 1990.  Then known as “Taste the Best of Baltimore,” it consisted of a series of dinners in fine area restaurants, featuring some cooking demonstrations by participating chefs.  Their mission is to enable people to live independently at home through the provision of nutritious meals, personal contact and related services.

The first consolidated fundraiser was in 1993.  In 1995, the event became formally known as the “Culinary Extravaganza.”  The hallmark of the event, which continues to the present time, is the spotlight shone on participating chefs and the exquisite food they generously prepare for those in attendance.  The event has expanded over the years to now include Live and Silent Auctions, wine/food pairings, live music and entertainment. 

The list of participating hospitality purveyors will continue to grow, those participating:

·        Chef Expressions – Chef Jerry Edwards
·         La Scala – Chef Nino Germano
·         Parfections – Chef Kim Rigby
·         Saval Foods – Chef Patty Henley
·         Charm City Cakes – Chef Geof Manthorne
·         Dangerously Delicious Pies
·         Bountiful Experience - Sarah Mogol
·         Innovative Gourmet – Chef Barry Fleischmann
·         Sparrows Point County Club
·         Classic Catering – Chef Therese Harding
·         Flavor Cupcakery – Chef Shelley Stannard
·         Pierpoint Restaurant – Chef Nancy Longo
·         Baldwin’s Station – Chef Dustin Heflin
·         Clementine – Chef Winston Blick
·         Matsuri – Chef Bill Tien
·         La Tavola – Chef Carlo Vignotto
·         Silo.5% Wine Bar

The 2015 Culinary Extravaganza – Hats & Horses
Monday, May 18th 5:30-9pm
Grand Lodge Hunt Valley – 304 International Circle – Hunt Valley
 Tickets start at $150 each – Purchase Tickets

Monday, May 11, 2015

Virginia Wine Country: Perfect for a day trip or long weekend

New grapevines to be planted at Fabbioli Cellars
Did you know that in 1996, Virginia had 46 active wineries and today, there are over 275?  Back in 2009 Travel and Leisure Magazine’s  articleWine-Lover’s Guide: 5 Regions to Visit Now” chose Virginia, representing the United States.  Loudoun County, an hour and a half drive from Baltimore, has over 45 wineries, making it an ideal day trip from Baltimore.

Our day trip was three wineries, three wine tastings. Don’t worry, we weren’t driving, we had Bruce Schutte of Wine Pro Tours, a wine aficionado or as he calls himself a cork dork, picked us up courtesy of Virginia Wine.  Bruce enlightened us on the drive to Loudoun County of the history of Virginia wine from the settlers to today’s burgeoning winemakers’ numbers, making Virginia one of the top five states producing wine in the United States.

Tarara Tasting Room
Each winery was and is different from the next. On our recent trip, we  tasted wines and toured the terroir.  Each, totally different from the next, each with their own tasting rooms, grounds and offerings. You can make if a family friendly trip, two of the three wineries Corcoran Vineyards and Fabbioli Cellars welcome children and leashed pets, Tarara is definitely geared to adult visitors.

Check out the podcast, full story and slideshow HERE.

Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Preakness after parties - you're invited

Just because the Preakness is over at old Pimlico doesn’t mean the party is over.  Choose from two after parties, both for good causes and another excuse to justify what you paid for that Fab-U-Lous chapeau.

Choose your party with a purpose:
1)      SHADE 2015 -  Baltimore’s annual event to benefit YouthWorks Summer Jobs being presented by Philanthropik and hosted by HeidnSeek Entertainment. Each year, the SHADE event brings movers and shakers from all over the region together, under one roof to celebrate Maryland horse racing and give back to Baltimore's summer jobs program, Youthworks Baltimore  Starts at 8 PM

HOSTED BY - NY Times, Best Selling Author: 
Wes Moore - LOCATION - TBA on the day before at  ATTIRE - Preakness Chic  TICKETS 21+ 
*General ticket $35provides - Entry, Donation, Food, Entertainment & Cash Bar 

*VIP ticket $100 provides all of the above & open bar.

2)      The Winner’s Circle Wind Down – 2nd Annual After Preakness Party 2015 at Belvedere Square from 7 to 11 PM. Your hosts Scott & Dana Plank and Spike Gjerde.

Enjoy a Maryland Style Cookout with Preakness flair featuring James Beard Best Mid Atlantic Chef Spike Gjerde. Bartenders crafting local spirit cocktails and serving the area’s best beer – Grand Cru wines and cigars along with the jazz sounds of The Natty Beaux. 

Preakness Attire – Hats encouraged  Tickets $75 per person OR $200 per foursome.  All proceeds from ticket sales will go to The National Aquarium’s Sustainable Seafood Program in Baltimore

Purchase tickets on line or in person at Grand Cru Wine Bar or Shoo-Fly Dinner both located at Belvedere Square.

Tuesday, May 05, 2015

What Pikesville restaurants walked away with honors

April 30th was the 4th annual Taste of Pikesville which benefited Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland.  Over 320 people attended at the Double Tree by Hilton in Pikesville enjoying tastes from local restaurants, cooking instructors and home meal preparation.  Oysters from Nickel Taphouse, foie gras from North Oaks, coddies from Suburban House Restaurant to chili from Stone’s Cove there was plenty for everyone’s taste. 
Below are the judges favorites:

Best Taste – 1st Place: For the Love of Food, 2nd: Island Quizine, 3rd : Ruth’s Chris
Most Creative – 1st Gourmet Again, 2nd Simply Elegant, 3rd Stone’s Cove Kitbar
Best New Vendor – 1st Bagby Pizza Co., 2nd El Gran Pollo, 3rd Mezcal
Best Presentation – 1st North Oaks, 2nd Nickel Taphouse, 3rd Mari Luna
People’s Choice Awards: 1st Island Quizine, 2nd: Ruth’s Chris, 3rd Mari Luna


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