Food has always been my passion and somewhat of a hobby. I surround myself with people that love food and beverages just as much as I do. And even though I vowed to start eating better and saving money when I returned home, I should know myself better than that. The “Welcome Back” tour is in full swing, there’s a new guy in my life who loves food as much as I do, and anytime I get together to see friends, we always try to pick a new restaurant or bar to try. Needless to say I’ve been dining out quite a bit lately.I’m currently living in Annapolis, MD, and even though I live here, I don’t venture much into Annapolis outside of the towne centre where I live. Luckily there are some decent places to dine, one being Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant. Fairly new, maybe open a year or so, I checked this place out for the first time on Valentine’s Day with the new boo. In the past we’ve enjoyed Paladar or Gordon Biersch for some late night fun, but we decided to go classy and do some wine flights on this night instead.Even though the restaurant and bar were packed, 2 seats opened up at the bar when we arrived-it was meant to be. We each got a wine flight-1 white and 1 red-and shared them. Surprised at how large the pours were, these wine flights were around $12-14/each and it was more than enough for both of us. Not only were we surprised at the large pours, but also how decent the wines were. The reds would be better with food, but the whites were nice supping wines. The Pinot Gris won over my heart and the crisp Sauvignon Blanc won over his.
Later I visited again with my friend Diane for a much needed girls night out and Happy Hour. You can’t beat $5 glasses of wine, and a large happy hour food menu. We ended up chatting too long to get the Happy Hour prices on the food, but we were pleasantly surprised at how good the food was in general. The calamari was the largest I’ve ever seen, coated in a thick batter, fried, and covered in a sweet chili sauce. We also ordered the shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad with Parmesan and Marcona Almonds, and the Buffalo Mozzarella, Golden Beet, and Arugula bruschetta.
The salad was light, crunchy, and my favorite-I could have eaten 3 more of those, the Bruschetta was tangy, creamy, and flavorful, and the calamari was very good, but a little too heavy for me.
Ever since I’ve been home, I’ve been craving Asian food, especially Vietnamese. I never really fancied noodle soups before my trip, but now I can’t get enough of them. Luckily my craving has been taken care of by the THREE times I’ve visited Pho Real in Silver Spring in the last 2 weeks, one of the best Pho restaurants in the area, or so I’m told. There was one weekend where we went 2 days in a row…It’s just that good. I always get number 11 which is slices of eye round steak and well done flank steak. I’m not that adventurous when it comes to my meat, and this is exactly what I want every time. Each bowl is served with a plate of fresh basil, jalapeños, bean sprouts, and lime wedges. The broth has so much flavor and freshness that once you add the sweet soy sauce, spicy Sriracha, and the basil, jalapeños, bean sprouts, and limes, it’s the perfect combination of sweet and spicy and savory and salty-it’s Umami in your mouth and the most comforting soup in the world. Great for rainy days and definitely great for hangovers, trust me I would know. The soup and experience make me miss the flavors of Vietnam. I’m just happy to get my fix here.
But sometimes when you have Pho Real for lunch on Saturday, Iron Age Korean BBQ on Sat night, and Pho Real again on Sunday, you just want a pizza. So the male friend and I headed to Facci Wood Fire Pizza and Wine Bar in Laurel for an impromptu date night. Really it was just the two of us having dinner, but I’ll use any excuse for a date. And when you get quality time with your significant other at a restaurant, and drinks are involved…it’s a date to me.
Luckily we like to share and try everything, and we both enjoy sitting at the bar, which is definitely my style. However our eyes are always bigger than our stomach and we always over order. Still ok by me because we get to taste many dishes and take home a doggy bag. Although somehow that doggy bag ends up in his refrigerator-probably better for my waist line.
We ordered the Calamari Fritti, -do you see a trend here? Between Diane and the male friend I am pretty sure I’ve had my fair share of fried calamari this year and it’s only February. We try it everywhere to find the best. Sugar (Bar+Deck+Lounge) in Hong Kong still wins by far with its pillowy Salt and Szechuan Pepper squid with Worcestershire dipping sauce…but I digress..We also shared the Torre di Tono, which is a tower of seared yellowfin tuna, avocado, fresh cilantro, wood -fired peppers, and a lemon aioli dressing. This was really good on it’s own, but I loved it on top of the Old Bay Seasoned chips that were served to us earlier. And I sipped on an outstanding Rose from Calabria while he had a Pilsner.
And we settled on a white pizza, Salsiccia e Rapini, which was fresh mozzarella, Parmesan, smoked mozzarella, Italian fennel sausage, and broccoli rabe. This was really good, but oh so cheesy. I love anything with broccoli rabe and the bitter greens balanced out the smokiness and richness of the mozzarella well.
And as if that wasn’t enough…last week there was a day trip to Saint Michaels, MD with a quick stop in town at Eastern Shore Brewing Co. Great beers, super fun atmosphere, and the service is top notch. I can’t believe I had never been here before even though my parents have lived in Saint Michaels for almost 6 years now. If you plan to visit Saint Michael’s, be sure to check this spot out.And a Sunday Night dinner with friends at a new seafood restaurant called Hudson Coastal Raw Bar and Grille in Columbia , MD. Again-sharing fried calamari, fresh ceviche, the smoked salmon sandwich, and a pound of seasoned shrimp. The shrimp were plump and really juicy, and I loved the salmon sandwich with red onion and arugula. The atmosphere of the restaurant reminded me so much of Whaley’s Raw Bar in DC-really clean colors and decor and bright raw bar ocean type feel. The service was a bit slow, the drinks were just ok, but I’ll cut them some slack since the place did just open. It certainly has a lot of potential, and I’m sure it will be cranking by the summer. Either way, it’s fun to have some fresh new spots in that part of town.But even with all this eating out, I have been enjoying being back in the kitchen cooking up my usual Everything but the Kitchen Sink Veggie filled meals. Balancing nights out with nights in is always key.
I think after never having to cook for 3 months sparked my desire to get back in the kitchen again. Now, I just need to start cooking some delicious Asian inspired Meals! Food is about memories, feelings, and emotions, and all my food experiences are tied to great ones.