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Monday, January 30, 2012

On the Prowl: Baltimore, MD - Part 2

In part one of this special, we talked about a variety of locations including some appetizers at TEN TEN, classic pub food at James Joyce, and fine deserts at the Patiserrrie Poupon. Today we're wrapping up the special by hitting up Baltimore's night life and checking out a few bars and dinner locations around town, starting with The Owl Bar.

The Owl Bar
Located in the historic Belvedere hotel, the Owl Bar is a bit of a local secret. Dating back to the prohibition era, the bar and hotel retains a lot of the classic 20s characteristics, making for a pretty fascinating spot to lounge and wander briefly. It doesn't hurt that the food isn't bad either, the seafood etoufee pictured on the right being an example. It seems a bit light at first, but the dish grows on you and fills you up by the end. A large pizza oven also pushes out some pretty delicious pies, including a crab dip topping that's pretty killer. The winner of the evening though was definitely the chicken pot pie; a deliciously flaky hot dish filled to the brim with rich vegetables and chicken. A massive and wonderful pile of comfort, and easily one of the most enjoyable things I tried all weekend in Baltimore. They also have a large list of beer on tap and some interesting mixed drinks to try out. If you want a place to get away from it all, and for fairly decent prices, this might be the place for you.

Owl Bar on Urbanspoon

Liquid Earth

Located in the trendy Fell's Point section of Baltimore, Liquid Earth is the vegetarian/vegan haven of the city, featuring a host of grainy, vegetable-ish stuff that I'm not a giant fan of, but still admire and admittedly looked sensational for what it was. I am a fan of their juices and drinks, however, such as the frui tea, a mix of green tea and fruit juice that really hit the spot and made for a nice midday drink to get you through the grind of the afternoon and early evening. It's tough to beat fresh fruit juice made right in front of you. With a giant list of drink options, you'll be hard-pressed to find something that doesn't suit your tastes here any time of the day.

Liquid Earth on Urbanspoon

The Brewer's Art
Both a restaurant and bar, The Brewer's Art is a local brewery in Baltimore pushing out some nice artisan beer alongside some pretty elegant eats. Save a few dollars from the restaurant side and have a look at their bar menu for some great small dishes like this seasonal gnocchi dish. Sauteed with pumpkin and greens, it was a quaint little dish that went well with their microbrews. The small plates list also included some other great looking options like roasted pork belly, chipotle mac and cheese, a sweet bread dish for more adventurous eaters, a devastatingly decadent looking croque-monsieur, and a satisfying plate of rosemary garlic fries to for anyone in need of a savory retreat from all the late night drinking. It's a bit of a tight space, but if you can find a spot to get in and relax, it's definitely a place you'll find yourself spending hours upon hours in with friends.

Brewer's Art on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Chew on This: "Dolsot Bibimbap" at Tasty Korean BBQ in Greenville, SC

Korean food, unlike Chinese, Japanese, Thai, and even Vietnamese cuisine is a genre of Asian eats that is generally unknown by most of the public. You might hear of Korean barbecue, or kim chi, but beyond that it is sometimes rare for people to know what they are doing going into a restaurant. My personal recommendation is going for the dolsot bibimbap (read exactly how it looks). Served in a sizzlingly hot stone bowl, it's basically a bowl of rice served with a variety of vegetables and some Korean barbecue meat. To eat, take a fork and mix everything together, allowing that beautiful fried egg on top to slather and do its magic, and then squirt a little of the bean paste handed to you on the side and mix one for time. With the sizzling hot stone bowl, you get this wonderful crispy, sweet rice mixed in with all the ingredients, making for an incredibly comforting bite. If that wasn't enough as is, the dish is served with "banchan," a series of traditional side dishes. The best here is the sweet, cold mashed potato and somewhat fearsome appearing, but satisfying bean noodles. The combination of the sweet, salty, fresh, and spicy side dishes with the bibimbap make for a rewarding lunch or dinner any time of the week. For those in Columbia, you can hit up either DJ House or O Bok for this traditional bite.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Greenville (NC) Eats: The Scullery

The Scullery is exactly the type of place that local businesses have been aiming for, but haven't quite succeeded as well as this new local spot has. Quality, locally produced food, well done and at affordable prices for any level of customer, from student to local politician. I could probably leave this review at that and send you out, but this is a food blog and there are lots of great eats to talk about here, starting with one of their many now infamous trademarks: the grilled cheese sandwich.

Always rotating, but always as equally sinister, their grilled cheese sandwiches are a must for newcomers to the Scullery. They do a nice job of incorporating local ingredients into some not-so-normal concoctions. We're not talking your mom's swiss and cheddar here; you'll find a wide variety of combinations at the Scullary that'll knock your socks off. Their daily specials are often a thing of beauty, their new recent one - the gorgonzola grilled cheese with fig preserves and caramelized onions - being a nice example. Paired with rotating soups, they make for a very classy and enjoyable lunch with a subtle adult twist. For a real wicked treat though, try their egg-in-a-hole, a dirty, totally guilty pleasure grilled cheese with golden yolk ready to explode in the center. My personal favorite way of eating this one is to cut it in half and use it to dip into the running egg gushing from the hole. A really sinful, but awesome bite worth visiting.

Besides the grilled cheese, the Scullery's also become relatively well-known now for their homemade ice cream, using both familiar and sometimes zany creations nicely fitted to the times. Take their trick-or-treat ice cream during the Halloween season for example; a variety of candy bars including 100 Grand and Twix chopped and crammed into their creamy vanilla ice cream. They've experimented with a lot of flavors since day one and always have something worth dishing out a couple bucks for. Don't be afraid to ask for a taste before ordering; there is a rare hit-and-miss here, but more often then not you'll find some pretty delicious ice cream to pass the afternoon with.

Another item that might be less famous, but well worth diving into are the bagels. Small, airy pieces of bread slathered in your choice of jam, cream cheese, butter or anything I'm sure they can whip up and bring to the table. These lightly toasted salt bombs are a steal at $3 and make for a great breakfast or light snack any time of the day. Even better are their occasional bagel meals, like the fantastic smoked salmon bagel with cream cheese, a sprig of greens and capers which unfortunately just went out of rotation for the new year. The combination of the homemade bagels and salty, creamy, sour notes of the components really made for a well-balanced and indulgent lunch. The Scullery also has a host of other creative and surprisingly healthy options as well to curb the madness, including a pretty tasty falafel that's seen several incarnations throughout the menu, currently being a snack and sandwich option.

With a constantly rotating menu of thoughtful and delicious eats, along with some indulgent ice cream and great, french-pressed fair trade coffee, the Scullery's become a really hip, yet comforting spot to be. My only gripe about the place is that it is almost impossible not to run a huge tab. You have to grab a cup of their french pressed coffee, and of course at bare minimum a bagel or grilled cheese. And then there's the ice cream. Sooner or later, you have a $10+ lunch tab, and for a typical college student this can be a dangerous thing. If you can manage a gameplan though, you should do just fine. The Scullery is one of downtown's finest places for lunch and quickly becoming the "it" spot through word of mouth and publicity. The owners are almost always in as well, welcoming anyone who comes through. A real mom and pop dive, but with a trendy, twitter generation feeling both in the food and vibe, the Scullery's definitely become one of my favorite places to eat, play, and chat. If you live in the Greenville area and haven't stopped by, it's time you made your way to the most exciting thing to happen to the city foodwise in a long time.

The Scullery on Urbanspoon

Monday, January 9, 2012

On the Prowl: Baltimore, MD - Part 1

I descended on Maryland this past week for a conference, giving me ample time to wine and dine around the streets of Baltimore. I honestly wasn't expecting much going into this trip; unlike it's neighbor D.C, Baltimore really hasn't gained a reputation as a place to be food-wise. Besides their infamous crab cake, I really didn't know what to expect of Charm City. Reality, however, had bigger, better ideas for this foodie.

A completely random walk around Inner Harbor brought me to TEN TEN, a new restaurant in the Baltimore area. Tucked behind a busy pizza place and down an alleyway, TEN TEN would almost be invisible if it weren't for a sign hanging out in front of the alley. Inside, however, revealed a clean, trendy restaurant serving classic bistro fare for relatively good prices. I decided to go for a couple small plates for lunch with the carrot soup and ricotta gnocchi on boursin cream with sauteed leeks. The soup was creamy and well done, but another element like homemade croutons or whatnot would have really set it over the edge and add much needed diversity for the huge bowl. The gnocchi was spot on though. A touch of lemon would have been nice, but not necessary. I would mostly definitely consider ordering it again. For a new restaurant, TEN TEN has a lot going for it I think. It's apparent that their technique is wonderful; if these small plates are any indication, this bistro will be a place to look out for as they continue to expand their menu and imaginations.

Ten Ten on Urbanspoon

James Joyce Irish Pub
Featuring everything you'd expect from an Irish pub, James Joyce is a lively place around the corner from the Waterfront Marriott and several other major hotels in the Baltimore inner harbor area. While I'm sure the fish and chips, shepherd's pie and whatnot are surefire choices from scoping out the tables around my own, it was the Guinness stew that caught my attention. Tender forks of beef in a rich beef broth piled atop mashed potatoes, it was a great dish to have on a cold Baltimore day. I like my stews a bit thicker, but it was certainly hearty enough to keep my spirits up for the rest of the day. A touch pricey, but satisfying if you are in the inner harbor area looking for a Guinness and some good pub food to wash it down.

James Joyce Irish Pub and on Urbanspoon

Patisserie Poupon
It may seem small and quaint on the outside, but Patisserie Poupon is actually a bustling French bakery tucked in the far reaches of Littly Italy. With an active kitchen of over half a dozen to a dozen bakers in the back, this patisserie seems to always be hard at work crafting high quality deserts for catering and storefront business. After pawing at the glass for far longer then I care to admit, I opted for a tart tatin, an upside-down caramel apple tart. Not too sweet, just a touch tart and surprisingly lite, it made for a really exquisite midday snack. If you are on the go, stop and order out a few of their macaroons. These sinister little cakes are only 85 cents a piece and are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Patisserie Poupon on Urbanspoon

In Part 2, we'll tackle the rest of my Baltimore trip, including a crabby etouffee, another cheesy gnocchi dish, and talk healthy with a taste of tea in the town's vegan bar.