Archive for the ‘Food/Beverage’ Category

Ok, I know, I know–why is a twenty-five-year-old man so concerned with College Park?

No, it’s not to scope out under-21’s and talk to them. I have OKCupid for that. Nor is it to speak on social media and, in turn, create memes out of my fellow Terps. They do that on their own. Since I live a literal hop, skip, and a jump away from UMD, I find myself in the area more often than I like to admit than not. I also still conduct a teeny bit of business in the area, therefore I’m invested in places where I can (cheaply) talk turkey. So, when I heard that a Denny’s was opening in the area, I was both cautious and enthusiastic. Growing up in Baltimore, the only Denny’s within a twelve-mile radius was this run-down spot near North Point Road that’s now a Sudsville laundromat near an almost deserted K-Mart.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger...but almost exactly the same. Think about it.

This area looks almost nothing like it did when I was younger…but almost exactly the same. Think about it. About five minutes from here resides the Gentleman’s Gold Club. It’s exactly what you think it is.

Suffice to say, I’d heard of it, knew what it was, but I’d never had it. But, I always wanted it. Like some slightly below average Holy Grail, I searched high and low for a Denny’s. Whenever I found one, there was always something a bit…better to do/eat. But, recently, I couldn’t avoid my cautious enthusiasm about the place any longer. So, after a long day at work, the family and I drove down Route One, past the Enclave, past the Taco Bell, to a little slice of Americana: the Denny’s of Greater College Park. While I didn’t expect five-star dining, what I got exceeded my lowest expectations in terms of “SMH.”

When we walked in, we were three of (including the staff) maybe twenty people in the restaurant. I chalked it up to finals, but it stuck out in my mind; the place just opened not too long ago. Ke$ha and Bruno Mars played from the sound system, so the idea of this being a slice of modern Americana was kept intact, albeit a bit glittered and puffed up. Our waiter, a young woman in her twenties, was pleasant but forgot the bare necessities (making sure your tables are properly equipped with silverware, keeping your menus accessible, keeping your order pad on your person, checking back on your customers, making sure your customers aren’t ready to torch the place because the service they’ve gotten has been below sub-par, etc). When we finally did get her to stop and get everything in order, she was quite apologetic for everything (that’s a plus to alleviate my negativity) and took our orders. I had the “Red White and Blue” French Toast. The family had kid-sized spaghetti and the Cheesesteak Omelet, respectively.

About forty minutes later (after a slew of “mishaps”), our food arrived. My “red white and blue” was replaced by butter pecan and cinnamon. My eggs were cold and my sausages were more mushy than my cats food. The omelet lacked, well, most of what it was supposed to have (you know, peppers, onions, taste–that sort of thing). And our beverages were…unique. We got flavored lemonades. The “mango lemonade” was some Minute Made that was (supposedly) squeezed fresh with a giant glob of mango syrup at the bottom. I stirred and I stirred, but they just don’t make water wet enough to dissolve the “mango” into the drink in any way. I’d understand if it’s puree; puree isn’t supposed to flat-out dissolve into things. But, it was literally half-a-cup full of syrup.

The only thing that came out remotely like expected was my kid’s spaghetti.

Upon paying my check, the cashier asked me how everything was.

“Uh, it was…cool…kind of different,” I hesitantly said, biting my tongue.

“Well, it wasn’t no Ruth’s Chris, was it,” the cashier cheekily asked me, sensing my disdain.

And in the back of my mind (and the front of it), I answered honestly.

“No. No, it wasn’t,” I retorted as I walked out, head-shaking family in tow.

Did I expect Ruth’s Chris? Heck no. But, I at least expected something better than what I got. Maybe it’s some post-open jitters that they’re still trying to work out. That’s entirely possible, just like Terrapin Turf before it (expect a part three of that series at some point, probably in the fall of ’14 with my old a**). Personally, I probably wouldn’t go back for a while, but if you’re in the mood to wait around and possibly get the wrong food, check it out.

At least the pancake puppies were divine. Even though by the time they brought us syrup, the puppies had gotten a bit cold.

Until next time, this is your (admittedly cynical) critic Speed on the Beat, the one who endures awkwardness and clusters so you don’t have to, signing off.

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At least it looked more promising than the first time.

For part one, click here.

To sum it up, my second trip to TT involved someone being thrown out and slow service with a highly anti-enthusiastic crowd. But, at least the gogo dancers had back this time. That’s a consolation, right? Anyone? No? Well, without further ado, here’s the long version.

IMG_20131020_004415I arrived around 11:45. I find getting to a place for “Zombie Time” (especially in a college town) allows you to see it for all its glory–or, in the case of The Barking Dog, lack thereof. Once inside, I saw the place was halfway crowded. A marked improvement over the grand opening night. However, it was still a bit discouraging, considering the “thousands” that apparently flocked to the spot over the past few weeks. Little did I know, the night would go down the tubes quicker than crowds began to disperse.

My first mistake? I decided to go to the non-island bar. People who remember Fe, you’ll remember this sort of thing didn’t really exist before the Big Switch. So, it was an interesting sight to see. In some ways, it was a gentle homage to Fe, since part of the bar was outside as well. But, nostalgia went out the window once The Wait began.

IMG_20131020_004834I’ve been to fully clothed strip clubs with better service. I went to the bar as soon as I got in and didn’t get a drink until 12:30. Literally, nothing I did worked. I was almost tempted to (with permission, of course) have a patron go topless to get the bartenders’ attention. But, I don’t think even that could’ve re-railed the train wreck of insanity. (Speed on the Beat Drinking Game: every time I say train wreck in this post, take a shot of 151. I’m sure you’ll have more fun than I did.)

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This is Dalivia. She works at the aforementioned Blowfish. She also makes drinks that kill people.

I began to think that it was because of, you know, me being a black male in a “club” which played techno remixes of “Problems” and “All Gold Everything.” But, alas, racism wasn’t the flavor of the night, just sub-par service and general douchery. By the time I received my drink, any buzz I’d accumulated from the Blowfish bar in Beltsville was long gone. As a sidenote, if you ever visit Blowfish between Monday and Wednesday, and some weekends, make sure Dalivia serves you. She gives some insanely potent drinks and isn’t all that bad on the eyes. But, I digress.

At 12:40, I was propositioned by a young man asking for a cigarette. He almost kissed me three times in 10 seconds. I’ve never wanted to punch a dude out more in my life. Not because he was (potentially) gay, because hate crimes are stupid and have no place in developed society. It was more that this guy  invaded my personal space like no other person has, made me feel incredibly uncomfortable, and tried to kiss me. Cooler heads prevailed and I avoided catching a case, and he walked away, eventually. I swear, I think it’s because I’m 5’7″-ish sometimes, that people think I’ll take what’s given. Nope. But, that’s another post for another time.

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Oh, I haven’t even gotten to the fun parts. At least five times an hour in TT, I saw someone get thrown out forcibly. Most of the people, well, they deserved it. There was one girl, who couldn’t have weighed over 110 pounds and wasn’t a complete train wreck, who suffered the same fate. I mean, bouncers that are ready to throw people out only two-plus weeks into the place’s existence rubs me some type of way. I mean, I know the last TT’s demise was predicated by a slew of bad behavior. Nevertheless, an almost authoritarian approach to kicking (possible) baddies out isn’t exactly the best option either–in my humble opinion. When I (somewhat) worked at Bentley’s as a (kind of) bouncer, there was the mindset of “hey, if they’ve had too much to drink, go to them and ask them to leave. If they don’t, bring in some other people to give that ‘fear in numbers’ vibe. If they still don’t, then you have a bit of authority to use reasonable force.” The people at TT weren’t really given those options and were tossed accordingly. Mind you, this is from an objective stance; I may have missed something, but I’m just telling you what I saw.

At 1:00AM, I decided all hope was lost, as I saw even the go-go dancers were headed out to get away from some of the randomness of the night. So, as I’ve done many times before, I made that potentially dangerous trek across Knox Road and then across Baltimore Avenue.

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As politically incorrect as she is, the girl isn’t completely dense with her (almost) equal-opportunity humor.

Waiting to get inside Cornerstone, I looked back over to Terrapin Turf. “This place can be amazing,” I thought. “But, its placement, and atmosphere may scare a lot of people away.” In College Park, most people go to Route One for cheap drinks, cheap thrills, and an atmosphere where they don’t feel segregated against for not being on the up-and-up. Ok, maybe “segregated” isn’t exactly the best word, but you get the idea.

TT is, in some ways, for the Rebecca Martinson’s (of “c-word punching soror letter” and BroBible fame) of College Park who want a DC vibe without DC prices. That is, when they’re not busy calling sorors c-words, offering up outlandish dating advice, and/or staying away from poor minorities. That’s not to say that TT itself isn’t to blame for its shortcomings thus far. The place is a train wreck of a pseudo-club at the moment, and half-hour drink waits, along with more tosses than Flacco when the Ravens are losing is ridiculous–new spot or not.

Okay folks, it’s been a while since I last posted a list of mind-blowing, unimaginable, and all out “wtf?” beers for your reading and viewing pleasure. My apologies, I have been on the hunt. These last five months I have been trying out as many new brews that my stomach and pockets can handle and thanks to my efforts I have compiled this list of ten awe-inspiring, jaw dropping, and sometimes questionable libations that share one thing in common: You Probably Never Heard of them. Take a gander and find out.

1. Saranac Black Forest: Bavarian Style Black Beer

Saranac Black ForestAlcohol by Volume: 5.5%

Availability: Year-Round

Smells Like: Berries, sugary maltiness.

Tastes Like: Sweet, caramel, berry, dark, malty, refreshing, easy-drinking, Delicious!

Side Note: This is a very drinkable beer. I highly recommend it for people who aren’t fans of hoppy/bitter or even traditional beers. if you like sweet beverages you will probably highly enjoy this one. This is definitely one of my top ten favorite brews.

Brewer’s Description: “Brewed to pay homage to our founder’s homeland, our German-Style Schwarzbier is brewed true to style with a deliciously sweet malty flavor.It may be dark in color but it’s not heavy on roasted flavor like most people expect in a dark beer.”
2. Dogfish Head World Wide Stout

DogfishHeadWorldWideStoutAlcohol by Volume: 15%-20%

Availability: Limited/Rare

Smells Like: Barley wine, cognac, intoxicating, full-bodied, complex.

Tastes Like: Dark, robust roasted flavor, but not overbearing. An amped up stout that will surely warm you up and make the world feel good after just one bottle.

Side Note: With such a high alcohol percentage, $10-$15/bottle retail price, and full-bodied flavor I really don’t recommend drinking more than one of these at a time. This is a great sipping beer, especially during cold months. Sipping is highly recommended.

Brewer’s Description: http://youtu.be/Jutjj50_AcE

3. Rogue VooDoo Donut Bacon Maple Ale

RogueVooDooDoughnutBaconMapleAleAlcohol by Volume: 5.6%

Availability: Year-Round

Smells Like: Smoked ham and maple syrup.

Tastes Like: Smoked ham flavoring, hints of maple syrup, but not quite as sweet as I expected. In the balance between sweet and savory, savory definitely prevails in this beer.

Side Note: Given the $19 price tag (D.C.) and its lackluster taste I would only recommend this for someone curious about the taste. But, to forewarn you, it really didn’t do anything for me. There’s nothing special about this beer and I honestly won’t be buying it again.

Brewer’s Description: “Rogue Ales has collided with Voodoo Doughnut to create Bacon Maple Ale! This unique artisan creation contains a baker’s dozen number of ingredients including bacon and maple syrup from one of Voodoo’s signature doughnuts.”

4. Brewhouse Rarities Green Tea Imperial Stout

BrewhouseRaritiesGreenTeaImperialStoutAlcohol by Volume: 10%

Availability: February Release (Limited)

Smells Like: Green Tea (Herbal)

Tastes Like: If green tea and black coffee (no sugar or cream) had a baby.

Side Note: 1st mistake: Buying this. 2nd mistake: Drinking this. This was just a bad decision on my part. When I got the feeling I wouldn’t like it beforehand, I should have just turned back around and went in the opposite direction. I actually enjoy green tea and stouts. But, putting the two together just doesn’t mix well in my book. It was okay as a once in a lifetime thing. But, I will never buy this one again. Sorry Flying Dog. This one just didn’t do it for me.

Brewer’s Description: “The combination of a cold green tea steep and a rich malt backbone creates a unique umami complexity. Rich dark chocolate and herbal accents greet the nose, giving way to a bittersweet chocolate base with roast earthiness and savory green tea flavors.”

5. Magic Hat “Pistil” Dandelion Ale

MagicHatPistilDandelionAle0Alcohol by Volume: 4.5%

Availability: January – March

Smells Like: Light, semi-floral.

Tastes Like: A unique floral + beer combo. Somewhat weird.

Side Note: I tasted this one months ago and I honestly don’t remember the taste too well. Sorry folks. While this was a unique brew. It wasn’t anything spectacular or even really worth trying. I’d suggest maybe buying one to see if you like it and then get a 6’er if you do. Also, this does not seem like a great beer for food pairing. So be cautious about doing that.

Brewer’s Description: “A refreshing, sun-inspired spring ale. A subtle floral spiciness from Apollo and Northern Brewer hops is balanced by earthy notes from dandelion leaves, while acidulated malts provide a smooth, slightly sour malt body.”

6. Old Dominion Brewing Company’s Cherry Blossom Lager

CherryBlossomLagerAlcohol by Volume: 5.2%

Availability: March (Spring Seasonal)

Smells Like: Carbonated Sweetness

Tastes Like: An average lager with a hint of cherry.

Side Note: Very small hint of cherry in the batch I drank. This wasn’t nearly as appealing as the Alice In Wonderland themed packaging made it look. It was very lackluster and disappointing. I thought I was in-store for a cherry experience and I felt like I was drinking any other run-of-the-mill draft lager. I wouldn’t waste my time or money on this again.

Brewer’s Description: “Cherry Blossom Lager is conditioned on a bed of 300 pounds of Michigan cherries for 48 hours prior to packaging.  Pale, Carafoam, Munich, and Vienna malts provide a crisp backbone, while the subtle addition of Perle and Tradition hops allows the fruit to transcend this delight.”

7. Dogfish Head: “Aprihop” Pale Ale brewed with Apricots

DogfishHeadAprihopAlcohol by Volume: 7%

Availability: March – May (Spring Seasonal)

Smells Like: Hoppy, yet Sweet Apricot goodness.

Tastes Like: Bitterness initially explodes on the palate but is quickly calmed by a refreshing hint of apricot sweetness.

Side Note: This is a pale ale brewed for the non-pale ale drinker. I highly enjoyed this beer. Although the bitterness is prevalent, the sweetness from the apricot helps balance it out and makes it quite a refreshing experience. I’d suggest this beer to any beer and non-beer drinker. Way to go Dogfish Head!

Brewer’s Description: “The flavor is rich with late hop notes, and its bitterness is tempered by just the right amount of malt sweetness and fruity undertones from the apricots” – See more at: http://www.dogfish.com/brews-spirits/the-brews/seasonal-brews/aprihop.htm#sthash.tVwtaM6R.dpuf

8. Flying Dog: Double Dog Double Pale Ale

FlyingDogDoubleDogPaleAleAlcohol by Volume: 11.5%

Availability: Limited Distribution

Smells Like: A Hopped Up Ale on steroids

Tastes Like: Super Bitter hoppiness. Not for the amateur pale ale drinker

Side Note: Its high alcohol content and bold flavor definitely shines through (or should i say blurs through?) after just one bottle of this stuff. If you are not a fan of bitter beers, I don’t suggest you purchase or taste this. You Will Not Like It! Although I’m not huge on hoppy bitterness, Flying Dog has done a good job with this one. I was actually able to drink and enjoy it.

Brewer’s Description: “This is a big beer that calls for equally big food. Flavor notes: Citrus hops with sweet malt and subtle alcohol burn (like a kiss on the cheek).”

9. Fox Barrel Orange Unfiltered Pear Cider

FoxBarrelUnfilteredPearCiderAlcohol by Volume: 6.5%

Availability: N/A

Smells Like: Pear juice.

Tastes Like: Sweet pear juice with a light fizz and a slight honey undertone.

Side Note: This is another one of those top ten favorite beers. I love this hard cider. It’s crazy smooth and surprisingly flavorful. Fox Barrel knows what they’re doing. I have enjoyed all of the hard cider offerings that I have tasted from them thus far.

Brewer’s Description: “Fermented With Natural Orange Peel & Coriander, Infused With Organic Honey. ”

10. Magic Hat Cucumber Hibiscus Ale aka HiCu

MagicHatHiCuAlcohol by Volume: 4.2%

Availability: April – July (Summer Seasonal)

Smells Like: Hibiscus

Tastes Like: Hibiscus and cucumber. Almost like eating a cucumber roll (sushi). Very peculiar and very much an acquired taste.

Side Note: This is definitely one of those strange brews you find yourself trying simply because it is sush a departure from the norm. It’s a very light beer that I could definitely see pairing well with sushi or maybe even a fresh green salad with grilled tuna. Although it has an airy feel, I couldn’t really sip this beer. I suggest eating something with this. I feel like it will help compliment the hibiscus and cucumber flavors.

Brewer’s Description: “Perfect form with a smooth, malty opening line followed by a crisp, citrusy hop-filled second stanza. The final piece of its poetic existence is a dash of cool cucumber combined with the slightest of hibiscus tangs.”

I have recently been receiving comments on my Bolthouse Farms post about the validity of Bolthouse Farms’ health factor in relation to its “Natural Ingredients” label and the lack of transparency from its manufacturer’s when said ingredients are inquired upon. So I thought it would be good to inform everyone on my current position on Bolthouse Farms’ products and the current state of the U.S. food industry as a whole.

As stated to a previous commenter, my Bolthouse Farms post was originally published on April 26 of 2011. Since then, Campbell Soup Company has purchased Bolthouse Farms and I have severely limited my drinking of their beverages. This is partly due to the fact that Campbell Soup Company has been rumored to be using Genetically Modified Organisms (also known as GMO’s) in their food and carrying the listing of “Natural Flavors” which they reportedly won’t divulge upon request. With that said I think we must not simply single out Bolthouse Farms. We must have the broader conversation and discuss the state of the U.S. food industry as a whole. I’m willing to bet that about 95% of products distributed by major food corporations in America have “Natural Flavors” listed in their ingredients and I guarantee just about all of those manufacturers will not specify what those ingredients are if you were to call and ask.krogerkrazy.com

So, the only surefire ways to know that what you are ingesting is healthy and safe from GMO’s, pesticides or other toxic chemicals is to either grow and cook your own vegetables, meats, et cetera (extreme) or the less time-consuming and expensive option of researching ingredients and only purchasing organic, Non-GMO labeled foods that keep their ingredients transparent for their consumers (practical). This is why I like to shop at Whole Foods Market or the green/organic section of my local grocery store. They carry an extended variety of healthy, properly labeled foods like the aforementioned.

But, just to be clear, while knowing exactly what is in my food is important to me, I do indulge in the culinary pleasures  of a honey bun or fast food from time-to-time. I’m not totally anal about every single thing I eat or drink. The point is to educate ourselves and find a balance that works for us individually. So, I definitely believe we should educate ourselves on the pro’s and con’s of what is in our food so that at the bare minimum we at least know what we are eating. However, whether we decide to continue eating the bad stuff even after knowing it is bad for us is really up to the individual.

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The sad aspect of technology is that large corporations now have the means to manipulate products and term it food or throw around health jargon to trick us into thinking that what we are buying is actually good for us. So, just to reiterate, I think the most we can do next to growing our own food is just being smart consumers willing to invest time into researching what we eat and knowing what is good food versus bad food. I have been trying to eat healthier and be more conscious of what I put in my body. But, I must admit, it is a challenge with how the food industry is set up today. Like many consumers, I too feel that the governments lack of transparency when it comes to ingredients in our food is where the biggest of health problems stem from. If the USDA and the FDA weren’t so relaxed on these issues and controlled by the monetary influences of large corporations, the U.S. food industry would be held accountable for their unhealthy and dangerous practices. But, as long as we have concerned citizens willing to educate and spread the word about GMO’s and detrimental chemicals in the food we can teach those who are ignorant of what they put into their body just what is in their Cola or their McDonald’s chicken McNuggets.

With all of that said, true change begins with a conversation and education and is followed by an action. So, to those who feel passionate enough to leave lengthy comments on posts and attempt to educate readers and writers alike, take action! Do more than just talk about it. Find a way to create real change in the world. Having the conversation is great. But, without action the impact isn’t nearly as large. Just a thought! And thank you to everyone who read and commented on the original Bolthouse Farms post. I highly appreciate it.

 All of the ingredients are in the picture below. These are enough ingredients for approximately two pitchers. Sidenote: Depending on how bubbly you want your sangria to be, you may want to add more ginger ale than what is pictured here. Also, these measurements are approximations and are dependent on the size and type of pitcher I used.TheePerfectSangriaIngredients

Extra materials you will need consist of a pitcher (I didn’t measure the size), a large spoon for mixing/stirring and a drinking glass.

STEPS

1. Slice the apples into eighths and then cut the eighths in half so that they can easily fit in the pitcher and later, your glass.

2. Pour 1/2 contents (750 ml) of Sutter Home Moscato, 1/2 contents (750 ml) of Bella Sera Pinot Grigio, 1/2 contents of Del Monte Sliced Peaches (including syrup/liquid), 1/2 contents of Ginger Ale bottle, 1/2 contents of sliced apple, and 1/2 contents of fresh berries into pitcher.

3. Use large spoon to mix contents of pitcher together and stir for approximately five minutes.

4. Chill pitcher in refrigerator until desirably cold.

5. Chill drinking glass in freezer for 30 minutes.

6. Pour contents of pitcher into chilled drinking glass and garnish with single eighth of strawberry, eighth of a peach, and a single blueberry. WARNING: Adding ice to this mix WILL dilute “Thee Perfect Sangria”. Don’t Do It!

7. Drink and enjoy!

8. Repeat steps 1-4 for second pitcher.

TheePerfectSangria(TheeArteest.wordpress.com)

2012-07-21-YO-Sushi-Union-Station-52After viewing Yo! Sushi’s television debut on Travel Channel’s Fast Foods Gone Global and discovering the chains first restaurant was coming to DC, I knew I had to try this place out upon its arrival. I recently visited the first Yo! Sushi in America located in none other than Union Station in the Nations Capital where I was greeted by a very modern decor and tapas like fare. So many things caught my eye I almost don’t know where to begin. I guess the first thing I noticed was…everything. It was almost like a sensory overload. There were brightly colored seats and wall panels, neon lights, a food conveyor belt (we’ll go into detail on that one later), wait staff dressed in Japanese-style garbs, and a color coded plate system like none other. The music was upbeat, the atmosphere was casual and the clientele was as diverse as the city of DC itself. This was an entirely new experience for me and I must admit I highly enjoyed it. I sat on a bar stool near the entrance of the restaurant. (Something I don’t normally do, but it wasn’t bad.) Although the restaurant was open and colorful, there was still a sense of privacy when speaking with my guest. I also noticed the manager attempted to optimize privacy by sporadically seating parties of two or more so no one would feel too crammed or uncomfortable. Bonus points for that one!

An added bonus to the bar seating areas is that they each have a personal water faucet, bottle of soy sauce and wasabi. The individual faucets definitely come in handy when you’ve realized you were overambitious with the spicy wasabi. My guest and I were greeted by our server for the evening. She explained the color coded plate system. (There is a varying cost associated with different colored plates.) Watching the food revolve around the food conveyor belt – a sort of automatic mini airport walkway for Japanese treats – in front of us only made us more hungry so after we placed an order for a couple of hot dishes we began grabbing the tastiest looking few off the belt and started to go to town on a variety of sushi and sashimi. Although the sushi was good. The most memorable dishes were the fried calamari and the chicken teriyaki. Pardon my American palette. The calamari was lightly battered and yet still crunchy. While the chicken teriyaki was hot and flavorful. (I am a sucker for anything teriyaki by the way, so my tastebuds may be a little bias.) They both went well with my Yuengling, which only costs $3.50 during their 4pm-7pm Happy Hour. (What a steal?!) The cordial wait staff combined with the delectable dishes, the vast variety of hot and cold food options, the inviting atmosphere and the great happy hour prices are what make the Yo! Sushi experience memorable and it is definitely an experience I shall have again. So if you’re ever in DC, go to Union Station and experience it for yourself. Check out this YouTube photo sequence below for a better look at the first Yo! Sushi in the United States.

 

If you live in the DC Metropolitan area, consider yourself a foodie and have not yet heard of Hot N Juicy Crawfish, you might want to rethink your self – proclaimed title. This place is a genuine seafood sensation. Until I visited, I had never tasted crawfish. I always thought they looked like little insects of the sea. Sorry for the creepy image. But, after dining at Hot n Juicy Crawfish, it definitely made me a fan of those little meaty crustaceans. But, surprisingly it isn’t the seafood that is the crown jewel of this dive resembling restaurant. It is their special combination of spices, seasonings and cooking methods that have allowed this place to expand to five locations throughout the United States, building a name for itself one major city at a time.

HotNJuicy1While there, I enjoyed one “experience” selection – one pound of crawfish, one pound of shrimp and one pound of Andouille sausage with two half corn cobs and two medium potatoes with Hot N Juicy Special seasoning and mild spice; one bag of mussels boiled in their mild Hot N Juicy Special Seasoning, and one bag of shrimp boiled in their mild Hot N Juicy Special seasoning. All of it was amazing. The seasoning is so good that it is almost hard to formulate words that express the level of flavorful excellence they have executed within every bag. The food was so good, it made Bud Light – a beer I am not a fan of – the perfect liquid companion for this culinary quest. The combination of spicy seafood and savory sausage with the bubbly Bud Light was hot and juicy and refreshing all at once. I couldn’t have asked for a better way to spend my Sunday. In between shucking shells into the tin bucket they give you and devouring morsels of shrimp and crawfish, I enjoyed great conversation and even better aromatics from the kitchen. All while unconsciously keeping my clothes clean thanks to the bibs our server gave us. The only downside to the Hot N Juicy Crawfish experience is that at some point you get full, but you still want to try everything else on the menu.

A few words of advice to the first timer: Be cautious of the spice level! Every level packs a punch. When only boiled with mussels, even the mild spice can cause watering from the eyes. I was glad I did not venture into spicier territory. I would have surely been overwhelmed. Needless to say, if you want a great dining experience with great food and cordial wait staff, Hot N Juicy Crawfish is the way to go. And if you attend on a Sunday afternoon, be sure to order two drinks at a time because the waiters can get pretty busy running around fulfilling every diner’s request. I’m curious about whether the other locations are just as good or better than the DC one. I guess I’ll just have to travel to Vegas, Florida, or California and find out for myself. In the meantime, check out a few other reviews of Hot N Juicy Crawfish here: Yelp!, FourSquare, TripAdvisor, and Zagat. AND check out their Unique Eats special below!

A couple of months ago I visited a restaurant my manager suggested called Adega Wine Cellars & Cafe. Although it is located in the heart of Downtown Silver Spring, Maryland, Adega is one of those off the beaten path spots that could easily be overlooked at first glance. And I must say I honestly prejudged it the first time I randomly walked by it a year or so ago. From the menu and the clientele it seemed like it would be “uppity” or bourgeois and not very casual attire friendly. But, after receiving a recent recommendation from my boss, I decided to stop by and try it out one evening after work. I ordered The Jerk Wrap which consisted of “grilled jerk chicken breast meat, romaine hearts, avocados, mangoes, roasted red peppers and mango vinaigrette wrapped in a chipotle tortilla.” [Source] When I say the wrap accompanied by potato chips, a dill pickle and a beer was one of the best eats I’ve had on a hot summer day, I am not embellishing. That was one of the best wraps I have ever eaten. And trust me – as a college student who frequented the campus diner quite often – I have had a lot of wraps. So on Father’s Day, after we left the movie theater, I decided to take my dad and sister to eat and have a few drinks at Adega.

Adega2Initially they were a bit apprehensive. It was a restaurant they never heard of, let alone visited before. So I totally understood. But, I told them to trust me and take a chance and they ended the evening pleasantly surprised. One of the beauties of Adega is that it is half beer and wine store and half restaurant. What this means is that if you want to pick up a cold “sixer” of Corona or another preferred brew of your choice after work and take it home, you can. Or, if you spend $10 or more on food there you can actually purchase that same six pack of beer and drink it in the restaurant with your meal. Obviously the cost benefit of the latter is significant when we’re talking about prices of single pints ranging anywhere from $3.50 to $8.00 at a given restaurant.

Needless to say, we purchased a variety six pack of Saranac’s Adirondack Trail Mix and a pint of Fox Barrel Orange Unfiltered Pear Cider to drink. My dad ordered the Calamari (“Fried calamari, breaded and seasoned with Adega’s own recipe. Served with chipotle mustard mayo.”) as a shareable appetizer and for our entrees my dad and I ordered the Smokin’ Turkey Reuben (Grilled Panini-style sandwich with oven-roasted turkey, havarti cheese, white wine-reduced sauerkraut, and Asian pear cranberry chutney on rustic bread) while my sister ordered The Big Jerk (Grilled Jerk chicken breast, fresh mango slices, caramelized red onions, green leaf lettuce, roasted bell peppers, and cumin pepper-mayo spread served on a French baguette).

Adega1All of the food turned out amazing. My turkey Reuben was like no other Reuben I had ever tasted before. The cheese, turkey, and saurkraut helped bring out the savory profile while the Asian pear cranberry chutney brought out the sweetness of the sandwich. All of that combined with the crunchy toasted bread and the pear cider to wash it all down created a great juxtaposition of flavors and textures. I would highly recommend Adega to anyone. Not simply for the delectable cuisine and the affordable drinks, but the service there is up to par and the servers seem very knowledgeable of the food and beverages they are serving. Adega does good food at an affordable price with an atmosphere that isn’t too stuffy or too open and I highly appreciate that experience. Check out their menu and I’m sure you’ll find something you’d like.

Beer Flight

Four 4 oz. beer sampler at Pizzeria Paradiso

First off let me say that there are a lot of great pizza places in the DC Metropolitan area. You’ve got The Original Ledo Restaurant in College Park, Maryland serving up great rectangular-shaped cheesy goodness. There’s Ella’s near Chinatown in DC baking up Neapolitan style deliciousness. Even franchise restaurants like Flippin’ Pizza and Vapiano do pizza justice (It’s all in the dough). But, just having great pizza does not equate to a great dining experience. Here’s where Pizzeria Paradiso Birreria has dominated the game. Pizzeria Paradiso has three locations in the DC Metropolitan area. I recently visited their Dupont Circle location at 2003 P Street NW, Washington DC and was pleasantly surprised. Upon arrival my date and I noticed just how busy the restaurant was. One sign that the place has great food is that even on a Monday there was a wait. Once the restaurant pager given to us by the host began to flash we were whisked away to our seats. During the short walk from the front door to our table, I noticed a busy bar to the right of the entrance and something quite rare, a bar without tv’s. This intrigued me because it made me think about all of the bar talk that probably started out of a necessity for engagement. To me this was somewhat refreshing. We were seated by a cordial hostess who brought us to our table and within a couple of minutes were pleasantly greeted by our server. Initially I was going to stay away from beer for the evening, but after viewing their extensive beer menu, I – being the beer connoisseur – had to try their four 4 ounce samplers for $12. I ordered a sampler of Anchor Porter , DC Brau Time & Place, Mikkeller It’s Alive, and De Dochter van de Korenaar L’Enfant Terrible to drink. The variety of brews and olives that were placed on the table upon our arrival pleased my palate and prepped me for the delectable entrée that would ensue.

"Di Mare" Pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso

“Di Mare” Pizza from Pizzeria Paradiso

For my entrée, I ordered an eight inch “Di Mare” pizza which consisted of Paradiso tomatoes, minced garlic, parsley, parmesan cheese and mussels to top it off. When I say this is one of the best pizzas I have ever tasted, I truly mean that from the bottom of my belly. The crust from the brick, oven-baked dough was so crispy and flavorful and the toppings – ohhh those toppings – just blended so well together. I mean it’s mussels on a pizza. What is not to love about that? The combination of the pizza, the beer sampler and the “Pane” – homemade bread and roasted elephant garlic appetizer – made for a memorable meal. The delicious food coupled with the cozy atmosphere and spectacular hospitality of the wait staff – who seemed to stay on top of things at our table the whole night  – made for a great dining experience and I will definitely be returning for dinner, if not for brunch next time. I highly recommend Pizzeria Paradiso to foodies and non-foodies alike and its Birreria to all of my drinking crowd. With great pizza, vast beer variety, inviting staff, cozy atmosphere and a convenient location, I have definitely found a dining gem in the district. For info on other great pizza places located around the DC Metro area check out About.com and WashingtonPost.com.

Shock Top - End Of  The World Midnight WheatAlcohol by Volume (ABV): 6%

Chalk it up to Shock Top to deliver a brew formidable for the apocalypse. I had the pleasure of tasting their “End of the World Midnight Wheat” last year when it was available at my favorite beer and wine store and that first sip sent my taste buds into a frenzy. This is definitely one of the strangest brews I have ever had. There were hints of chocolate and wheat and then this crazy chili spiced aftertaste that hit the palate within the final second before entering my throat. The pairing of chocolate malt, midnight wheat, chili, and spices tasted like the hybrid brew of a mad-man mixologist. Although some critics who have tasted this beer claim they couldn’t taste the chili, I definitely could. It was distinct and left a very peculiar bubbly and spicy feeling in my throat as if I just took a swig of a crazily concocted semi-sweet, spiced rum. But let’s get down to business. I know you’re all thinking, “Would you drink this beer again?” To answer that question honestly: I would. But, I could probably only drink this once a year and that is because “End of the World Midnight Wheat” isn’t really your everyday run-of-the-mill beer. Not to say that I am solely a fan of those either. I just can’t really think of any foods I could pair it with, nor can I see myself asking for a pint of this at my local bar during happy hour. This is more of a novelty beer, which is why I totally understand it being themed around a once in a lifetime event. I, like the theme of this beer, feel as though its arrival should only be on rare occasions. Now, that’s not a swing at the taste of this brew. I think Shock Top has taken a new approach at brewing a limited release beer with a unique taste and appeal. I just think it’s not something I would find myself craving very often. But, I do advise any open-minded beer enthusiast to try this beer at least once in the slight chance Shock Top Brewing Company decides to brew this again. With that said, to read a few other opinions on this brew check these out: DraftMagBeerAdvocate, and Coloradoan.com.