Thursday, February 28, 2013

The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit 2013: Italian Gardens

The rules of The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit are simple.  Each category is worth 2 points (allowing for half points). The only pizza I'm considering is the basic slice of cheese. At the end of the year, the highest score wins the coveted Baltimore Bistros and Beer's Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit title. This week's entry is Italian GardensClick here to see how the last entrant fared.

Droop Factor - Sadly, the crust passing the droop test (folded with the tip standing at attention) is probably the best thing that Italian Gardens pizza had going for it. Droop factor is important, but when it's the best thing going for you it's not looking good.

Score - 1.5

Greaseification - After my first few bites I was thinking to myself that this pizza was kind of greasy for a simple slice of cheese. When Deana confirmed that it was a greasy without any prodding from me I knew it was time to ding them a point. It's not greasy to the point of a pizza foul, but it's definitely there.

Score - 1

Aroma - When I first moved to Baltimore 7 years ago I actually worked in the mall that Italian Gardens resides in. I was the most unknowledgeable garden department salesman in the history of Stebbins Anderson. If I sold you something and ruined your lawn back apologies. But what does that have to do with aroma? Not much, except for the fact that the smell permeated the inside and outside of the mall with delicious pizza at all hours of the day. Yesterday, when I walked in I was instantly reminded of that delicious smell.

Score - 1.5

Cheese - Italian Gardens is topped with  a fairly typical but tasty mozzarella. It's slightly salty and a little bit creamy. In other words, nothing to rave about but nothing to complain about either. Thus, the middle of the road score.

Score - 1

Sauce - This is where Italian Gardens pizza falls flat on its face. The sauce literally has no flavor. At first, I thought it was because I was tasting it straight out of the oven, but even as it cooled the flavor of the sauce never appeared. I don't know what the deal was but I was super disappointed.

Score - .5

Crust - The crust wasn't bad. There was good flavor with a slightly crunchy yet tender texture. As far as the three main components of a pizza are concerned (cheese, sauce, crust) the crust comes out the winner.

Score - 1

Overall Score - 6.5 out of 12

As I mentioned above, I used to work in the mall that Italian Gardens is located in so I was semi familiar with their stuff. I'm very surprised that I'm giving them as low of a score as I am. Prior to eating last night I didn't suspect that they were going to blow my mind, but I definitely wasn't expecting that they would put up the lowest score thus far in the Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit.

 I don't want to make it sound like this pizza is flat bad. It's not. I judged this pizza based solely on what came to my table. After eating the pizza as it came to me and taking notes I was able to spice it up a bit with some pepper flakes, oregano, and grated cheese. It tasted much better, but they shouldn't leave it to me to season their food in order to get some flavor going on. If I ever find myself in that mall again hungry I wouldn't be afraid to spend my money on a piece of pizza. But as far as the Great Pizza Pursuit is concerned, it looks like Italian Gardens just isn't going to have what it takes.

Italian Gardens on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

BBB Beer of the Week: New Albion Ale

I had never heard of New Albion Ale until about a week and half ago when I came across Beer Geek Nation's review. When I learned that this was one of the beers that started the craft beer movement 30 years ago I was automatically intrigued. Naturally, when I saw a bottle during one of my impromptu beer runs I had to pick it up. Whether or not you end up liking this beer it is great to taste this little piece of history just to get a feel for where things started and how it's all evolved since then.

Also of interest to me as a homebrewer, and one who is just about to transition into all-grain, is the fact that this beer is a "SMASH" beer. In other words, Single Malt and Single Hop. Obviously, I love craft beer but I find myself differing from the crowd who seem to veer towards the "more is more" side of things when it comes to beer flavor profiles. In beer and almost all things I tend to lean towards Leonardo Da Vinci who once said that "Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication". I love purity. Give me vanilla ice cream, black coffee, or a simple beer and you'll make me a happy man.

Appearance: New Albion Ale is a very attractive beer. Even in your shallow high school days you wouldn't be afraid to show up with this clear golden straw colored beauty.

Nose: Not incredibly in depth, but there is still enough of an aromatic presence that you know you're in for a good beer. It's a bit floral,  a little citrusy, and a smidgen fruity. There's nothing mind blowing here but I don't know who you're trying to kid if you can hold this beer to your nose and not want to take a sip.

Taste: Initially, I'm hit with sweet malt before it gives way to the grapefruit citrus hop flavors. The finish is nice and dry. Dry finishes can be a little off putting at times, but in this case it set me up to go back for sip after sip. Before I knew it I had this beer gone and I was looking for another. New Albion Ale is missing a little body, but really it's just great to taste one of craft beer's building blocks.

Style: APA
ABV: 6.0%
IBU: 30

Final Verdict: I quite liked New Albion Ale. No, it's not as well rounded and forward thinking as some of the beers we come across today, but this is an incredibly clean and drinkable Pale Ale. It's not perfect, but for someone my age it's kind of a privilege to be able to step back in time and see what people were coming up with 30 years ago when craft beer was just establishing itself. New Albion Ale is in stores now so if you come across a bottle or a 6 pack be sure to pick up this little piece of beer history.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bobby's Burger Palace

My transformation into a "foodie", if I even am one, probably began 15 or so years ago (aka known as half my life). The catalyst to that transformation was Bobby Flay. At that time, I didn't cook, couldn't cook, and had never heard of 60% of the ingredients he was using. But his food always looked so damn good and since I didn't live in NYC to visit his restaurants, watching his TV shows and pretending I was eating the screen was the best alternative. So, when I heard that they were putting a Bobby's Burger Palace in the area I was very amped about this. It wasn't one of his fancier restaurants, but it was backed by Bobby Flay and I was going to make one of 15 year old Doug's food dreams come true.

Before I even arrived I knew that I was going to order the hallowed CrunchBurger. After years of being teased by it on TV, I was so ready to sink my teeth into this beauty. was pretty good. It's better than almost any burger you're going to get from a chain restaurant, but I can guarantee you there are better burgers near you. Being that I'm speaking to Baltimore area readers, I know for a fact that there are better burgers to be had. If you don't believe me, try Hamilton Tavern or Alewife. But in regards to the burger in question, I give them high marks for at least allowing you to order the burger to a specific temperature instead of the arbitrary "no pink or some pink" BS that some places do. I ordered mine medium which allowed for extra juiciness. The chips that make this a CrunchBurger, while adding nice texture and contrast to the soft burger and roll, make it all a bit salty.

The highlight of the meal,surprisingly, was the french fries. But it wasn't just the french fries I liked as much as I loved the dipping sauce they serve with it. It reminded me of a spiced up (not heat) thousand island dressing minus the pickle flavor. If they served the sauce as a milkshake I think I'd be set. I loved that stuff. 

So, was 15 year old Doug satisfied with the trip to Bobby's Burger Palace? Yes, he was satisfied, but he wasn't doing back flips and crying burger grease tears of joy like he always expected he would be. If you're in the area and you're in the mood for a burger, you could do far worse than this place. But, if you're looking for one of the best burgers in the area I can point you in a few different directions.

Price: Surprisingly cheap
Recommendation: If you're a fan of Mr. Flay, you gotta try it.
What to Order: CrunchBurger and Fries. Do not pass on the fry sauce!

Bobby's Burger Palace on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

BBB Beer of the Week: O'hara's Irish Stout

Recently, I was reading an article about Irish beers. When I began to think about all of the Irish Beer I had experience with, I quickly realized it wasn't very much. That needed to change and so I made a trip to the beer store and picked up a few different options. Up first, O'hara's Irish Stout.

Appearance: O'hara's Irish Stout has the classic stout appearance. It pours a beautiful cavernous black topped by a 4 or 5 finger khaki colored bready looking head. It's classic, but if you're a fan of a good stout it's totally inviting.

Nose: Again, the aroma is classic stout, but sometimes that's all you're really looking for. There are big hints of roasted malt, a little dark chocolate, and maybe a tiny bit of oat in there.

Taste: O'hara's Irish Stout is a great alternative to Guinness. If you're looking for an Irish beer but you're tired of going to the default of Guinness this beer really represents itself well. And truth be told, it's quite a bit tastier than the king of Irish beers. Just like the nose, the roasted malt is the biggest player here, but it's extremely well balanced. This is a stout that is smooth from start to finish and one I can definitely see myself becoming close friends with.

Style: Stout
ABV: 4.3%
IBU: ?

Final Verdict: I really enjoyed this beer. It's smooth, but with a great roasted malt backbone. The flavors are classic and very well done. I was looking to expand my Irish beer horizons and I'm glad I started here. It definitely showed me that there are some great alternatives to the obvious. O'hara's Irish stout is fantastic.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Verde Pizza Napoletana

About two weeks ago I discussed the pizza at Verde Pizza Napoletana as part of The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit 2013. In short, the pizza was great. Today, I'll be discussing the restaurant and our visit as a whole.

As good as the pizza was Deana and I weren't overly thrilled with the rest our night. Despite making reservations, we waited well over 30 minutes before we were finally seated. I wasn't shocked that there was a bit of a wait to be seated given that it was the final weekend of Baltimore Restaurant Week, but 30 minutes is a bit extreme when you've reserved a table. And the worst part of that 30 minutes was being forced to squish into the front of the restaurant with everyone else who was waiting for a seat.

The building itself is very narrow with the tables very close to one another. I don't know if it was the fact that I had 84 people in my personal space during our wait, but the close proximity to the other tables was somewhat off putting. With that said, if you are lucky enough to be seated in the back half of the restaurant you have a view into the kitchen where you can see your pizza's being put together and cooked in the brick oven.

At the end of the night, after we had finished our appetizers and pizza, we had to wait quite a while for them to bring our dessert (we ordered it at the beginning of the night as part of the 3 course restaurant week thing). After 10 or 15 minutes of sitting around waiting our dessert was finally delivered.....and then we had to wait just as long to get our check. By the time we left there, it was no longer a guessing game as to why we had to wait 30 minutes for a table despite making reservations. The wait staff just wasn't efficient with their time. Yes, every single table was taken. Yes, it was restaurant week. But the restaurant is tiny and they had food runners. Why the waiter delays were what they were was beyond me.

Now, despite the tone of this review being negative there was a lot to like about Verde. If you read the review of the pizza alone, I spoke very highly of it. It was delicious. And the owner was more than friendly making two different appearances at our table to make sure our food came out tasting good. I appreciated that. For the pizza alone, I would go back to Verde Pizza Napoletana (and I highly recommend you try it yourself at least once). But given the long waits I'd have to endure and the somewhat awkward dining room layout, I don't know how often I see myself being a repeat customer.

Price: Middle of the Road
Recommendation: You have to visit this place at least once for the pie alone.
What to Order: Pizza Margherita

  Verde Pizza Napoletana on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Blue Crab

Wow! I really have a serious backlog of restaurant reviews to get through. I'm just now getting to some of the places we visited last summer when my family took a little vacation to Bethany Beach, Delaware.  Blue Crab is first on the list, and it's also first in our hearts. It's hard to get 6 adults all agreeing on a place for a dinner. But, agree we do, and I highly recommend you try Blue Crab out if you ever find yourself in the area.

Blue Crab is everything you want in a beach restaurant. The atmosphere is laid back, the staff is friendly, and the seafood is delicious. I'm pretty sure my sister started planning for this dinner 8 months in advance, and she is probably well into plans for the next visit considering how long I waited to write this review. It's safe to say that as long as they offer the blue crab saute on their menu Lauren will be ordering up this little bit of heaven. What makes it so good to her and the others that tasted the saute at our table was the simple way it was prepared. Jumbo lump crab meat, a little butter and old bay is all it took to make an awesome dish.

My brother and bro-in-law both ordered the Seafood Combo which consists of snow crab, mussels, clams, and shrimp. When I asked them how it tasted I got a fairly simple response. It was plentiful and tasted like the ocean. I can definitely vouch that it was plentiful as it took both of them a hell of a long time to put it all down. But, that's what beach eating is all about, right? Take your time, enjoy the food and surroundings, and leave with a full belly.

As for me, I went with the Fried Shrimp Dinner. Fried shrimp is probably about as basic as you can get when it comes to seafood, but this stuff is out of this world good. The shrimp are fried to perfection and the breading they use is excellent as well. It's light. It's crunchy. It doesn't get in the way of the shrimp.

Something else that we all love about the Blue Crab is their side dishes. A lot of times side dishes are often afterthoughts. Not here. The Mac & Cheese is creamy deliciousness. If you're vacationing with a 3 year old (like we were) or a 98 year old grandmother this Mac exists to please everyone. And the corn on the cob is fantastic. It's just like you'd make at home with whole cob boiled up and served in the husk.

No matter how much I write here, I'd never be able to convey just how much my family enjoys this place and I'm confident that you will too. So, this summer, if you're planning a trip to Delaware be sure to set aside a night to visit the Blue Crab. You'll love it.

Blue Crab on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Recipes That Don't Suck: Goulash

Ready for another Recipe That Doesn't Suck? Good, because I've got one for you. One thing you'll probably notice as I post more and more recipes is that I like doing most of my cooking in a pot. Cut stuff up, throw it in a pot, come back and stare at it every once in awhile....that's my kind of cooking. I also like cooking with beer as an ingredient and this recipe combines those two things.

The recipe I'm sharing with you today was derived from a Wolfgang Puck recipe. In the past, he has cooked for the Grammy's. Obviously, he doesn't really know what he is doing so I decided to change it up a little bit and add some of my own flare to the mix.

Dish: Goulash

Serves: 4

  • 2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
  • 4 or 5 medium sized onions (4 cups)
  • 1 TBS Sugar
  • Garlic (few cloves)
  • 1 TBS Cumin
  • 2 TBS Paprika
  • 1 TBS Marjoram (dry)
  • 1 teaspoon of Thyme (dry)
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 3 TBS Tomato Paste
  • 2 TBS Balsamic Vinegar
  • 2 Cups Chicken Stock
  • 1 Beer (Lager/Pilsner)
  • 2.5 lbs Stew Meat (big bite size)
  • 1 Carrot
  • 1 cup Mushrooms
  • Salt
  • Pepper
The changes I made to the recipe were pretty basic. The first thing I did was reduce the amount of chicken stock that was being called for by half and replaced it with a bottle of beer. This is more of a German/Austrian style Goulash and in that spirit I decided to go with a German beer. This time I chose Paulaner Original Munchner. It's a basic clean lager and I highly recommend that you stick to something in the Lager/Pilsner alley (doesn't have to be German). With that said, adding a Guinness in there, while it might be straying from the German theme, probably would taste pretty damn good. 

I also threw in some carrots and mushrooms just as a simple way to get some extra flavors and textures in there. That, and it's a really easy way to get a few extra vegetables into the system. 

Lastly, the original recipe called for caraway seeds. I don't find myself using them very often so I decided to pass on them and instead used cumin. It's up to you which way you go with that one, but I surely wasn't mad at the cumin. 

  • Add oil and caramelize the onions and sugar. This can take anywhere from 10-20 minutes. 
  • When caramelized, add garlic, cumin, paprika, marjoram, thyme, bay leave. Saute for a minute.
  • Add tomato paste. Stir it around real quickly and then deglaze with vinegar, chicken stock, and beer.
  • Add the meat, carrots, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, then simmer with lid off for 90 minutes to 2 hours (Note: If using mushrooms, wait until your last 45 minutes of cooking before adding.)

If you are a fan of stew, you're a fan of goulash. It's essentially a stew with a big tomato base. In this case, the vinegar adds a bit of a sour taste for a nice twist. Overall, I loved this recipe and I think you will too. There might only be a few more cold weekends so try it out. I can vouch that it doesn't suck. 

Monday, February 11, 2013

My Favorite Baltimore Bars: Pub Dog

As I was deciding how I wanted to start this post out, I realized that I could fit Pub Dog into 3 different types of blog categories. I could do my usual restaurant review. I could throw them into the mix for The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit 2013. Or, I could add them in to "My Favorite Baltimore Bars". Well, it's been ages since I last added someone into that list, so that's where I'm going with this one. 

Pub Dog has long been one my favorite Baltimore Bars, but for different reasons than those I usually look for in a bar. For me, this is a great place to take a date for a laid back night out. The building itself is very narrow with what I consider to be dim lighting so it always feels kind of intimate when you're in there. It's kinda like sitting in a badass basement with a server bringing you beer and pizza. 

If you're on a first date the double beers they serve up will help ease the pain of that awkward first date conversation (or lack thereof). And while this brewpub doesn't brew up anything that is going to set the craft beer world on fire most of their offerings are pretty good. My favorite is the the Thirsty Ale. If you're visiting with someone who enjoys fruity beers, their Blueberry Dog always seems to do the trick.

The pizza is damn good as well. They offer up 20+ variations and of the flavors I've tried I've always left a happy customer. Good sauce, tasty toppings, and great crust....I'll have me some of that. Best of all, the pizzas are small enough that ordering two separate pies allows you to get some variety into your pizza eating repertoire. The Hawaiian pictured above is usually my go to and then I like to mix it up with the second choice.

If you find yourself in need of a date night, but you don't wanna make a big ordeal out of going out, Pub Dog is a great place to have a conversation, drink some beers, and snack on some delicious pizza. Best of all, you get to do all of that at wallet friendly price.

  Pub Dog Pizza & Drafthouse on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 8, 2013

The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit 2013: Verde Pizza Napoletana

The rules of The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit are simple.  Each category is worth 2 points (allowing for half points). The only pizza I'm considering is the basic slice of cheese. At the end of the year, the highest score wins the coveted Baltimore Bistros and Beer's Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit title. This week's entry is Verde Pizza NapoletanaClick here to see how the last entrant fared

Droop Factor -  Verde pizza passes the droop test with ease. I should have made this clear in my earlier posts that the way I eat my pizza is always folded in half. It's the civilized thing to do, and if done this way, Verde's pizza shows rigor mortis what stiffness is all about (in a good way). 

Score = 2

Greaseifcation - The grease was minimal here (if it even exists at all). As you can see in the picture above, the fresh mozzarella was distributed with care, thus, reducing the risk of over greaseification.

Score = 2

Aroma - Verde's Margherita Pizza smells outstanding. You get a little bit of wood from the brick oven pizza,  herb from the basil, and the crust just smells wonderful and bready (how else is cooked dough supposed to smell).

Score = 1.5

Cheese - It's a fresh mozzarella. Do I need to say anything else? It's creamy, slightly salty, and it's placed on the pie in perfect amounts allowing the dough and sauce their time to shine.

Score = 1.5

Sauce - Verde has a great sauce if you like an authentic tomato forward sauce (and I do). But, the sauce here seems to get lost in the shuffle. That may be by design so that the other elements of the pie have an equal shot to light up the stage, but I was looking for the sauce to grab my attention just a touch more. In my opinion, the acidic tomato sauce could have used a bit more sweetness.

Score = 1

Crust - This, my friends, is what Verde pizza is all about. Good god, this crust is good. It's nice and crunchy on the outside from the brick oven, but it's still a bit chewy on the inside. And it only gets better as you eat. You're hit with a little smoke and the browned bits of bread are little bites of nirvana. Two is the highest score I give for a category, but this Crust far exceeds any rating I can give it and needs to be experienced to do justice.

Score = 2

Overall Score -  10 out of 12

It's still early in the game, but Verde has jumped out to an early lead in The Great Baltimore Pizza Pursuit. Regardless if there is a better pizza out there (and I'm going to have fun looking) this is definitely a Baltimore pizza you need to try. Go and get you some!

Thursday, February 7, 2013

BBB Beer of the Week: Sam Adams Holiday Porter

I feel like I write these beer reviews 24/7, and I feel like at least 3/4 of them are Sam Adams. I think it's safe to say, I don't need to buy the seasonal samplers anymore. ]I'm pretty well versed in their portfolio. With all that said, I've got a new beer review for you and it's one that I don't think I'd ever heard of until I found it in my sampler. Here is Sam Adams Holiday Porter. 

Appearance: Classic Porter Appearance here. Holiday Porter is a dark beer, but a little light can be seen creeping throw here and there. An decent head for a Porter invites itself to the party full of tiny little bubbles.

Nose: This beer smells very good. A mixture of chocolate, caramel, and dark fruits all mingle together. Based on smell along, I was looking very forward to the first sip.

Taste: Sam Adams Holiday Porter kind of let me down here. It smells great, but there is just something missing here. I'm used to Sam Adams being the king of the well rounded flavor profile, and while the chocolate, caramel, and dark fruit smells make their way into the taste, the final product just seems to be missing something on the back end.

ABV: 5.8%
IBU: 40

Final Verdict: I came by this one via the Sam Adams Winter Sampler. If they included the Holiday Porter in the 2013 mix again I wouldn't complain, but this isn't a beer I ever see myself purchasing on it's own merit in the future.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Recipes That Don't Suck: Chili

A few months back I posted my recipe for Sriracha Thai Chile Hot Wings. Since then, thanks to the power of the Internet and it's ability to snoop, I've found that quite a few people found their way to this blog via searches for Thai Hot Wings. Well, I like when people read what I write so I decided that I should add more recipes into the mix. So, without further adieu, welcome to Recipes That Don't Suck.

The first non-sucky recipe I'm sharing with you shall be none other than my almighty chili. I love chili. Over the years, I've messed with different recipes looking for things I like and adding my own twists to make them mine. This recipe in particular represents the straight forward spicy chili my tastebuds love so much with a little homage to the first chili recipe I ever used (my Grandma's).

Dish: Chili That Doesn't Suck

Serves: 4-6 Bowls depending on how big your bowls are. Mine are ginormous, so I usually get 4.5

  • 1 lb of Ground Beef
  • 1 Onion
  • Garlic (as much or as little as you'd like)
  • 6 - 8 Tomatoes
  • 1 Can of Campbell's Tomato Soup
  • 2-3 Jalapenos
  • 1 Can of Beans (Black, Kidney, Pinto. The choice is yours, but beans are NOT optional)
  • 3-4 Tablespoons of Chili Powder
  • 1 Tablespoon of Cumin
The thing to remember about this recipe is that it's completely up to your taste. If you like a lot of onion use a lot. If you like less, guess what, use less. As far as the tomatoes go, I wouldn't go less than 6 as the chili might end up becoming too thick. And if you go over 8 tomatoes you will probably end up with a chili that is a little too soupy. The key is to make the recipe your own. My special touch is the Cambell's Tomato Soup. You could easily just use a little tomato sauce or salsa instead, but the Tomato soup makes me think of my Grandma and the recipe she passed down to me a few years back. 

So, you're going to make this recipe yours, right? Well, I'm laying down the law on two very important items. First, Ground Turkey is not an acceptable substitute. It tastes and looks like the white dog crap that Will Ferrell licked in Step Brothers. If you want this to be a healthier meal (which I do as well), just buy lean ground beef and thank me later. Second, Beans are not optional. They taste good, add a nice texture, and my grandma and mom both used them in their recipes so you have to as well! So there! If you want to disagree with me, well, go and find the recipe for Chili That Sucks....cause this is Chili That Doesn't Suck.


  • Chop up all your vegetables. Onions and Tomatoes in big 1 inch chunks. Jalapenos in rings.

  • Brown Meat
  • Add all ingredients to the pot with the browned meat except for the beans. Stir to mix it together.
  • Pop the lid on and let simmer for 45 minutes to an hour.
  • Add Beans. Simmer for 30 minutes.
  • Eat and Rejoice
As you can see up above, the chili starts out looking VERY thick. The first time I made this I was worried it would end up a chunky chili. But fret not, my friends, for I come bearing gifts of delicious chili. Eventually, after all the simmering has done it's magic you'll have a chili that is flavorful, spicy, and best of all Doesn't Suck! Give it a try and let me know what you think!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Alchemy Modern American Eatery

During my Bahama Breeze dinner a couple of weeks ago we were discussing restaurants to visit and Alchemy got a strong recommendation. When I saw that they were participating in Restaurant Week I knew that it was an opportunity I shouldn't pass up. Since the beginning of this blog a few different Restaurant Weeks have come and gone with me missing out on all the fun for one reason or another. This year, I finally made it happen and was rewarded with one of the best meals I've had.

For those of you that haven't experienced a restaurant week, the basic premise is that you choose an appetizer, main course, and dessert usually for $30 (sometimes $20). The appetizers we choose on our trip to Alchemy were Crab Mac and Cheese and Mojito Mussels.

The Mac and Cheese was pretty damn big for an appetizer. One could easily get away with eating only that  for dinner if they weren't overly hungry. The mac and cheese was super creamy with plenty of crab throughout and a few pieces of grape tomato. The mac itself was delicious, but the tomatoes just seemed a bit out of place. I'm sure they were thrown in there as a way to cut through the rich cheese, but both Deana and myself found them to be unnecessary additions to an otherwise outstanding appetizer.

The Mojito Mussels were also a great way to start out dinner. Plump mussels flavored with a blood orange, basil, cilantro and garlic butter broth.....I was a happy man dipping my crusty bread into this uniquely flavored broth. I think the basil they used was Thai basil as there was a licorice flavor throughout the broth. If you love mussels there is a good chance this is a variation on the classic you haven't tasted before. It's well worth your consideration.

For dinner, we were both debating the same two dishes. Smart cookies that we are, we decided to order them both and share. Deana ended up with the Shortribs and I decided on a Chili spiced Pork Loin.

The Shortrib was awesome. The two most tender pieces of meat I've ever tasted in my life were served at Alchemy. The Shortrib took the grand prize. The meat was soft beyond words and served on top of a bed of diced sweet potatoes, black beans, pomegranate seeds and I think apple (possibly pear). The little bursts of tart pomegranate were a great counterbalance to the savory Shortrib. It reminded me of a great fall dish, but it worked perfectly on the cold snowy night of our visit.

My chili spiced pork loin was equally fantastic. The meat was tender and flavored with a delicious ancho chili rub. The rub came off a bit spicy at first, but as you spent some time with it the heat dissipated. The spice was offset with a delicious pecan butter and I'm pretty sure there was coffee somewhere in the spice rub. All of those flavors made for maybe the best bite of pork I've had in a Baltimore area restaurant. I also got to experience my first tamale. These being pumpkin tamales and me being a huge pumpkin fan we hit it off quite well. It reminded me of pumpkin cornbread and I only stopped at 2 tamales because that's all that came on the plate. I'm pretty sure I could have put a half dozen of those down.

For dessert we split a Death by Chocolate cake and Salted Caramel Ice Cream. Both were great, but Deana and I both agreed that the ice cream stole the show.

The ice cream was (surprise) very creamy with just a touch of caramel flavor coming through. But what made it so great (and addictive) was the addition of the salt. These aren't flavors you run into on a daily basis and we quite enjoyed them. It was a simple dessert, but it was satisfying all the same.

The Death by Chocolate cake was also good, but didn't quite live up to our expectations. Both of us were expecting a cake more on the sweeter side of things, but instead were hit with flavors of cayenne and a bit more of a muted chocolate flavor. The cake was tasty, don't get me wrong, it was just missing the extra bit of sweetness we were both expecting when we heard the phrase "Death by Chocolate".

Overall, our dinner at Alchemy was an A. There were flavors that everyone is familiar with combined with flavors you may not have thought of before. Together they made for a dinner that was fun, delicious, and extremely comforting. We can't wait to go back. And for those of you who'd like to try some of these dishes out for yourself, I believe Alchemy is extending their Baltimore Restaurant Week deals so be sure to check them out ASAP.

Price: On the pricey side, but if you get a Restaurant Week deal it's a great value.
Recommendation: Alchemy should be on your "to eat at" list.
What to Order: Chili Rubbed Pork Loin

Alchemy Modern American Eatery on Urbanspoon

Friday, February 1, 2013

Home Brew Hullabaloo

Looking for something to do February 22 at 8 PM? Well, you're not anymore. You have plans to attend one of the more unique events I think I've ever heard about. It's known as the Home Brew Hullabaloo and it sounds badass. The event is being presented by Those Who Dig and The EMP Collective. 

The Hullabaloo is going to have a homebrew competition with the winner determined by the event attendees. Whoever the crowd deems to be king of  homebrew land will receive a gift certificate to the Maryland Homebrew Store. The beer geek in me is excited about that alone.  But on top of the homebrew competition there is also going to be a few local Baltimore bands performing. Namely, Norm Sherman, Inca, and the Chris Pumphrey Sextet will be there. PLUS three burlesque  performances from Sticky Buns Burlesque members Paco Fish, Shortstaxx, and Ruby Rocafella. Sounds like a hell of a good time, no?

The event will be held at 307 West Baltimore Street 21201 and entry is a simple $10 suggested donation. If you're looking to enter one of your beers into the competition email for more information. If you're just looking to attend for a good time, swing by Facebook and let 'em know you plan on coming by.