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February 28, 2011

Your weekend dining PLUS

dogAnyone make it out for Annapolis Restaurant Week? How about the  Rockfish Celebration, which  concludes tonight?

Who bought what at the American Craft Council show this weekend? Who took in the Monster Jam at the 1st Mariner Arena?

How about all of you Jersey Boys fans; where did you eat before the show? 

And how did you do on your Oscar pools? 

Sleeping Dog of the Week: Elvis Reamer-Gorelick

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 6:00 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Your Weekend Dining PLUS


Cats demand equal time!

bring it!

I thought the new Mari Luna downtown would be overly crowded, so we decided to hit up the Latin one in Pikesville Saturday night. I had a wonderful dinner of paella, with a ceviche starter. I was a little disappointed the conch chowder was no longer on the menu, but the entire meal was a delight. And so were the leftovers I had for dinner last night.

When I asked our very attentive and competent server about how the new downtown location was doing, he said that opening night was packed, but the weekend crowd was fairly sparse. I guess I should hit that one up soon before everyone else catches on.

On Annapolis restaurant week:
We went to Middleton's for lunch on Friday and it was a huge pain. The food was fine/good, but the service was awful. It took about 20 minutes before we could wrangle our waitress to take our order, then 20+ more minutes before the appetizers arrived. We were there so long (an hour and 45 minutes) that my husband had to leave before dessert arrived (he had ordered all three courses at the beginning, but the waitress apparently forgot. Maybe because it had been so long). In all, a pretty bad dining experience.

But, we also tried the John Barry Restaurant at the O'Callaghan Hotel and it was great. We called to make a reservation at 9 and they kept the kitchen open for us. The food is basically pub food (as you might expect), but it was all done well.

On the craft show: My friends and I thought there were a ton of vendors but very little variety. We did like the book purses and the "alternative crafts" area, though.

We visited the new Mari Luna Bistro on Friday evening, about 7pm. The restaurant was a little over half full at that time. We spoke for a moment with a friend who was on her way to Theater Project, who said her red sangria was fabulous. Our food was spot on delicious, generous portions plated with a stylish flair. The décor was bold and warm, Tuscan gold, dark red and turquoise, but lacking the tacky kitsch and hyper-color that is frequently found in Mexican Restaurants. The bar was rather under-stocked on Friday, and although our waiter was friendly he was lacking in self-confidence, particularly when we tried to figure out what our drinks options might be. My husband had the arroz con pollo, I had chicken enchiladas in a verde sauce, and our friend had beef enchiladas in mole. We all had generous pours of Woodford Reserve. The meal was well timed and we enjoyed our evening immensely.

This Sunday Sotto Sopra impressed as usual with the 6 course Opera Night menu. Cyrus Keefer was in the kitchen that evening. His chitara carbonara with braised smoked bacon, rutabaga cream, poached egg and fried brussel sprouts and the pan-seared clementines with watercress, candied chestnut crostini, aged Romano cheese, cinnamon vinaigrette were both standouts, but everything was enjoyable and interesting. I am going to be in Rome in a few days, and these dishes certainly set the tone for the visit.

We actually returned to Mari Luna Bistro tonight with another friend. We showed up around 6pm, and were the only patrons there. We decided to sit at the bar this time. It is better stocked than it was on Friday, and the bartender assured us that more variety is being delivered later this week. They are also putting together what sounds like a particularly good set of happy hour specials. A drink menu was in existence this time, and we were told that they are considering offering an extensive selection of tequilas in the near future. They had Dos Equis on draft, and we ordered a couple of rounds. We started with one of the guacamole options, which had roasted garlic and goat cheese. Even my husband, who typically despises all forms of avocado loved this version. It was served with what were probably the best warm corn tortillas I have had since leaving Texas. I had pork tacos, my friend had grilled steak tacos and my husband had chicken enchiladas in a red sauce. Everything was delicious again. Our tacos came in a fajita-like set-up, with the meat in a small skillet accompanied by dishes of rice, beans, lettuce, pico de gallo, guacamole and sour cream and more of those terrific corn tortillas. My husband’s enchiladas were fantastic, and he particularly enjoyed the touch of a soft fried egg on top. Dinner was once again well paced, and we enjoyed discussing the restaurant's plans with the bartender. When we left at 8pm we were still the only people there, which is tragic. On nights when the BSO is in session, they will likely have large crowds, but the folks in the neighborhood need to somehow become aware of Mari Luna's Mount Vernon presence. Here's hoping the happy hour specials and some advertising will help get the word out soon. We are looking forward to returning again soon…

friday night we met up with a bunch of friends for a HH celebration at red star. the restaurant had been called in advance and warned to expect a good amount of people (40+) and they assured that it would be ok.

it was ok for the first hour, but once everyone showed up and the only space they had for us was one of the middle communal tables it got out of hand quick. the server, who was doing her best, was obviously overwhelmed and had to start putting everyone on the same tab (understandable, but when people went to the bar because they didn't want to be on a tab with 30 other people the server was even more perturbed). This lead to an increased amount of tension between us as well as the server.

about two hours into the night, and many more dollars spent (food and drink), the hostess came up and slammed down 'reserved' placards on our table, and am told she sternly told some of us that there was a huge wait for a table (i personally saw no line), effectively giving us the message that they would rather us not be there. one of our customers took exception to the attitude portrayed by the hostess, and the manager quickly came over to try and iron things out.

after that episode the majority of our party decided to take our business elsewhere (dead end saloon next door). I spoke to the manager and she was actually quite nice and genuinely wanted to know what went wrong and how to make it better, and offered us all to email her for future gift certificates or whatever we would like. she told me that they had a private party upstairs and also the section we sat in wasn't the area they were planning on putting us in(farther in the back...not sure it would have mattered). While i appreciated her concern and wanting to make things right, i know that the people who planned the night are probably going to be less understanding since they did call ahead to ensure the large crowd would be able to be handled. unfortunate.

i will say i had a great heavy seas black cannon they had one a tap and a pretty good house salad with tuna on it.

Saturday we checked out porters for lunch and i was really pleasantly surprised with what came out of the kitchen. i've read a lot of salmon sandwiches on menus around baltimore, but this one came out on what looked to be fresh multigrain baguette, sprouts,k and other fresh goodies. It also was served with a nice fresh mixed greens salad with goat cheese and other "fixings". It was so fresh it almost made me forget about the baby in the other room that was blood curdling screaming the entire time we were there.

saturday night we checked out mari luna in mt. vernon and had a really good meal. we started out with the complimentary chips and salsa (super light chips with a really smoky fresh homemade salsa).

for starters my girlfriend had the salad, which was massive, while i went with some sort of spicy shredded pork with lentils (?) soup. It was served in this pretty large (bigger than a cup, smaller than a bowl) iron couldron, which was pretty cool, and MAN was it good.

for entrees my girlfriend went with a trio of tacos: red snapper, pork, and lamb shank. it was served all in little individual dishes on one large dish and she said it was really good (although the red snapper was a bit bland).

I went big with the braised lamb shank, which was served in some rich sauce that was fall off the bone and really tasty. both entrees were served with beans and rice, with the beans being a highlight: not super heavy, but with a good amount of flavor.

we ended up sharing a dessert of chocolate sponge cake with a chocolate mousse filling, which was pretty dry and underwhelming, the only bad part of our night.

i really hope they bring in a HH menu for their bar to get people in there, i imagine that patio in the summer/spring will be a great time. also good to have some semi-inexpensive mexican food in the 'hood.

sunday night i tried to dip into my new thomas keller french laundry cookbook and make homemade sweet potato agnolotti with a sage cream sauce, and ended up botching the pasta dough. so 4 hours of work later and nothing to show for it, it was salads and shaved brussels sprouts.

although i did rectify the situation last night and successfully pulled off the recipe with great results.


HH = happy hour

the more you know...


Just returned from a two week research cruise to Antarctica. Someone stole my bike. Nurtz! I guess I should have gone with ADT™ instead of the cheaper Shlomo Shield™.

Talk about fresh seafood. The most amazing fresh cold water seafood since I was in Iceland. I will probably never know half the name. All delicious. It wasn't a commercial cruise and the crew was all Argentine. It was here's your chow. But fresh fresh fish served simply is a dream. I did have meat once. I suspect it was penguin.

More later. I have to my Shlomo Shield agent Paddy O'Furniture.

Your Shlomo comment reminds me way too much of Charlie Sheen's Chaim Levine remark.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner blog.
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

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