Thursday, March 29, 2012

Original Fish and Chips

Just like about every other couple in America, Deana and I find ourselves in need of a Wal Mart run every 2 or 3 weeks to stock up on the necessities of life. More and more frequently we find ourselves choosing the Wal Mart location on Carroll Island because the crowds aren't quite as bad as the others nearby. After trying Original Fish and Chips (located right across the street from the Wal Mart) last week my guess is that this Wal Mart has become our default from here on out.
Original Fish and Chips is a small take out establishment (they did have two small outdoor picnic tables), that I've been meaning to try ever since I moved to this side of Baltimore County. Heading in I wasn't quite sure what to expect because I don't eat fish but it turned out not to be a problem. The manager asked me what I like and when I mentioned shrimp he promptly pointed out all of the different options I had.

Not knowing that I was going to be served shrimp the size of of my hand, I ordered the 5 fried shrimp platter. I'm a pretty big eater and would probably opt for the 3 shrimp platter next time the shrimp are so big. Not only were they huge but they tasted very fresh and were fried just right. They obviously knew what they were doing when it came to frying the seafood and that made it all the more disappointing when I tried the chips. They were ample size but not crunchy enough to be considered chips. However, they more than made up for it with some excellent hush puppies. The puppies had a bright yellow inside and were nice and sweet with a tasty onion flavor in the background. I'm not sure if you can order a side of hush puppies, but if it's possible I think passing on the chips for more hush puppies is the way to go.

For the fish lovers out there, fret not, for my girlfriend tried the fish and loved it. She is a woman of few words but she mentioned at least 3 times throughout the meal that the fish was "great" and that she would visit again to try the fish any time. If it was so good she spoke up that often you can take it to the bank. The fish must be good!

Original Fish and Chips might be a little out of the way for some of you, but it's definitely worth the drive. The prices are rock bottom cheap, the portions are huge, and they know how to fry some seafood. If find yourself looking for a good piece of fried fish make Middle River your destination.

Price: Cheap
Recommendation: Visit ASAP
What to order: Fish and Hush Puppies or Shrimp

Original Fish and Chips on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, March 28, 2012


A few weeks ago when I was visiting some family my brother introduced me to the Untappd App. The way he explained it to me was that it was basically facebook for beer.

And that's really what it is. If you're out trying a new beer all you have to do is "check in" to the beer and let people know what you think about it in 140 characters or less. You also have the ability to rate your beer from one to five bottle caps and post a picture of your beer. But the best part of the app is the ability to check into the location of the place you're drinking. You could be out drinking a great beer that is rare and hard to find. Load it on to Untappd and when your friends login they can see what and where you were drinking and try the beer for themselves.

Another fun little feature of the app that keeps you logging in are the badges you get for reaching different milestones. For example, a badge is awarded when you've checked into 5 individual beers from 5 separate countries.

Untappd can be added on an Iphone or Android making it super convenient to update while you're still out and about. If you aren't into playing on your phone while you're out or if you don't have a smart phone there is always the option of simply logging in to their website and participating.

Anybody that comes across post can feel free to add me as a friend. I'd love to see what everyone is drinking around town. Search for D Smiley and you will find me. Happy Drinking!

Monday, March 26, 2012

Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival 2012

After years of finding creative ways not to make it to the Beer, Bourbon and BBQ Fest, I finally found myself in the kingdom of booze and swine this past weekend. To put it succinctly, it was one hell of a good time.

I was a little worried as I headed over to the state fairgrounds. The weather was overcast and rainy and I was expecting the event to be held underneath the grandstands of the horse track like the Oktoberfest was held in this past fall. Fortunately, the event was held inside one of the buildings that holds cows and whatnot during the fair. Seems like an even trade....dairy cows for dead pigs and bourbon fueled visitors.
The dead pigs were tasting delicious. I decided to try out Kloby's Smokehouse pulled pork and potato salad. What a winner! The pork was extremely tender and had an awesome bark on the outside that was full of smoky flavor. It was good enough to eat just like that, but being the condiment crackhead I am, I couldn't leave well enough alone and doused it with their Carolina BBQ sauce. It was AWESOME. It had that vinegary and tangy flavor of you expect from Carolina BBQ. My only regret was not pouring more on my sandwich. The potato salad was equally spectacular. I was worried it would be over dressed mayo soup or just nasty in some way due to them having to make everything in bulk, but it was really tasty. When I dream of potato salad (which is frequent) this is the kind of potato salad I dream of. The whole meal was so good (the Carolina BBQ in particular) that I plan on making a special trip to Kloby's in Laurel at some point this summer.

The bourbon offerings were plentiful. There were a ton I've never heard of (I'm not much of a liquor drinker) and a lot of the usual suspects like Makers Mark, Jack Daniels, and Jim Beam. Due to the fact that I have no idea how to pace myself when it comes to drinking bourbon, I decided to take it easy and limited myself to only 2 bourbons. My girlfriend wanted to try the Firefly Sweet Tea Bourbon and so we did. It was what the french call yucky. Actually, it was more confusing than anything. The initial hit was sweet tea and you're thinking "hey, this is good". But then you swallow and you're left with a very strong alcohol/bourbon burn in your throat. I wasn't digging the juxtaposition.

The only other bourbon I tried was Makers Mark 46. That was actually very good and something I could actually see myself sipping on the rocks or mixed with coke. They say this isn't a taste you have to "acquire" and I believe them. My girlfriend, Deana, who is no fan of liquor even enjoyed this one.

Speaking of Makers Mark, they had someone there who would "wax" your sampling glass. I thought that was extremely cool but I missed out on getting my glass waxed. I thought they were going to do be doing it throughout the day not realizing they had a limited amount of wax. Oh year!

But now to my favorite part of the event. Beer. I went in with the expectation that this was going to be limited to all local beers like the Oktoberfest that I mentioned earlier was. No, they had EVERYTHING there and then some. Below is everything I tried, with the standouts in bold and italics.

  • Oskar Blues Mamas Lil Yella Pils
  • Shiner Bock Dortmunder
  • Sam Adams Summer Lager
  • The Raven
  • Tommy Knocker Maple Nut Brown
  • 16 Mile Responders
  • Lancaster Amish 4 Grain
  • Dogfish Head Aprihop
  • Old Dominion Oak Barrel Stout
  • Ommegang Belgian Pale Ale
  • Chick Beer
  • Stoudts Pils
  • Sprecher Maibock
  • Yards Pale Ale
  • Spaten Franziskaner (this was the winner by far)
  • Duclaw Euphoria
  • Harpoon Summer Beer
  • Moosehead Lite Lime
  • Leinenkugel Summer Shandy
If you've never made it to the Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ fest make it a priority next year. It's a great time. 2012 isn't all that old yet, but this was probably the highlight of the year so far for me. Without a doubt I will be returning next year and the year after.....

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Weekend Fun: Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival

For those of you looking for something fun to do this weekend, check the Beer, Bourbon, and BBQ Festival out. There are a couple different sessions spread out between Friday and Saturday. I've been meaning to go for years now and I'm finally going to attend this Saturday. The website says there will be 60 beers, 40 bourbons, and plenty of BBQ. And if those three things alone don't excite you there will be some musical entertainment. Sounds like a pretty good time to me.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Ryan's Daughter - Irish Pub and Restaurant

I'm not even going to wait to reveal how I feel about this place. Ryan's Daughter is by far my favorite Irish Pub in the Baltimore area. Once upon a time, I lived in the Towson area and I would visit this place almost bi-weekly. Sadly, it's been almost two years since I've found myself inside their friendly confines, but after revisiting this awesome Irish Pub over the weekend I promise to never let that long of a hiatus between visits take place again.

Everything about Ryan's Daughter is awesome. They have authentic Irish Pub decor. Authentic Irish food like Shepherd Pies,Boxtys, Bangers and Mash, and Fish & Chips are scattered throughout the menu. Something like 12 beers can be found on tap and that's in addition to the 20 craft beers and 10 imports they carry in bottle. Beer snobs like myself will be thrilled to find that they serve their draft beers in the appropriate glassware. And if you're a whisky drinker they have a serious variety of both Scottish and Irish varieties available. I think the single best thing about their menu is the fact that they take the time to list out each and every beer and whisky that they carry. There is nothing more annoying than walking into a pub you know carries a large variety of libations only to end up picking something at random because you could only remember one of the 450 beers the wait staff rambled off at warp speed.

Unfortunatly, I don't have any pictures of my visit, but for very good reason. As I mentioned earlier, I haven't been to Ryan's Daughter in nearly two years. That means I haven't had a chance to taste the best Rueben sandwich I've ever had and I was a little out of sorts due to all the excitement and anticipation. Add to the fact that they served our order up in record time the throught of taking a picture completely slipped my mind.

The Reuben is a perfect mix of corned beef, sauerkraut, swiss cheese, remoulade sauce, and rye bread. For me, the remoulade sauce is what it's all about. The best way I can explain the taste is to compare it to a "fresh" thousand island dressing. There is no relish in the sauce, but instead there is a celery flavor. I truly cannot get enough of that stuff. Not only does it taste great on the Reuben, but it makes a great dipping sauce for their chips which are also out of this world. My history with chips is a medicore one at best. Usually, chips equals giant soggy french fries. Ryan's Daughter's chips are CRUNCHY  on the outside with a capital C and full of creamy potato on the inside.

If you're not a fan of corned beef or sauerkraut on your sandwiches they have you covered. Try the Rachael which is every bit as good as the Reuben and is also served with the life altering  remoulade. My girlfriend ordered the Rachael and left crowning Ryan's Daughter Rachael as the Queen of all Rachael's.

Needless to say, I'm a huge fan of this restaurant and I think you'll be too. Give this place a try and then come back and let me know what you think.

Price: Average
Recommendation: Visit Ryan's Daughter tomorrow....and then don't wait 2 years before your next visit.
What to order: Ruebon with Chips. Kilkenny to wash it down. 

Ryan's Daughter Irish Pub and on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Basta Pasta

This past weekend I decided to take a chance on a restaurant I've been driving by almost since the day I moved to Baltimore (nearly 7 years ago). Basta Pasta has intrigued me for ages, but because it's located in what I'd classify as the middle of nowhere (you might call it Fallston), I've never quite managed to make a visit. I'm very happy I found the motivation to make the drive this past Friday because Basta Pasta was one of my favorite restaurant experiences in recent memory.

The first thing you'll notice when you walk into the restaurant is how homey Basta Pasta feels. The dining room isn't tiny, but it's not overly big either. It's kind of like the third bowl of porridge....just right! Really bringing the home vibe to the forefront is a large fireplace in the center of the back wall. Throw in some classic Frank Sinatra music and the mood is set for a great night at an Italian restaurant.

Anytime I visit an Italian restaurant for the first time, I know what I'm ordering before I even open the menu. I've been a Chicken Parmigiana aficionado since way back. There is no easier way to gauge the quality of the restaurant than to try out the dish I know best.

Happily, and possibly still a bit full from the dinner I had 4 days ago, I can say that Basta Pasta serves up a mean variation of Chicken Parm. You're served 3 pieces of perfectly breaded chicken, smothered in mozzarella and a covered delicious marinara sauce. You will really love the marinara. I'm used to getting more of a "salsa" type of marinara with bits and pieces of tomato found throughout, but this sauce is very smooth and gravyesque. Fettuccine is served on the side along with a bowl of salad and bread sticks. There is no question you will leave with a full stomach and a full to-go bag. The portions are huge and that's fine by me as my leftovers made for an awesome lunch the following day. Also, I'm happy to report that the pasta was cooked al dente!

My girlfriend decided to try the Chicken Piccata. I've never been a huge fan of Piccata because it always seems like the sauce is super liquidy. That's not necessarily a bad thing, and a maybe a product of being a wine based sauce, it just never appealed to me. This was different. You can tell from the picture how thick the sauce was and for the first time I found a Piccata I was interested in trying more than just a bite or two. The capers they included in the sauce added some nice salty bites here and there and my girlfriend was thrilled that they cut up fresh mushrooms for the sauce instead of adding the little rubber canned things you sometimes find.

Basta Pasta may be a bit of a drive, but it's well worth it. I imagine driving through the country roads during the summer while the sun is setting is a beautiful thing. One night when you feel like taking it easy and want to enjoy the country scenery you'll find Basta Pasta as the perfect place to end your trek outside of the fast paced city.

Price: Upper end of Average
Recommendation: Put this on your "to-visit" list
What to order: Chicken Parmigiana

Basta Pasta on Urbanspoon