Monday, March 31, 2014

Cinghiale, Baltimore, Maryland

Cinghiale receives an A+ on all counts.  I dined there recently while visiting Baltimore on a recommendation from a friend of a friend.  We arrived early and sat at the bar.  I enjoyed their Cinghiale signature drink composed of Aperol, orange juice and zest.  This was very refreshing and the Aperol balanced out the juice well, a tad bitter, a tad sweet and just right.  My other half enjoyed a Margarita before the house Pinot Noir at dinner and enjoyed both.  While sitting at the long and luxurious bar, we enjoyed watching the gentleman in charge of salumi and antipasti preparation hard at work.  That is where I first saw the house bread which I knew would occupy our table.  The salumi was shaved with such precision to a delicate width; the plates were a work of art.  

We were seated in a cozy corner in main dining room.  This section is away from the hustle and bustle of the bar area.  Had we had our preference, we probably would have chosen the dining room in the bar area, but being that this was our first visit, we did not know the table arrangement.  Along with the house bread (some sourdough and some thyme) I spied and olive oil, we started with the Ricotta and House Made Crispy Potato Chips.  This ricotta was wonderful and and also was a nice accompaniment to the bread.  We also had the Arugula Salad with Candied Lemon and Parmigiano.  A simple, light green salad is always the way to start a heavier Italian meal.

For the main course, I had the Butternut Squash Ravioli with Brown Butter Sage Sauce.  This was a restaurant week special previously that was so popular, according to our server, the chef added it to the regular menu.  I felt fortunate and this dish was so unique.  There was even a light cookie crumble atop the pasta.  The portion is fair, any more and the sweetness may become tiresome.  My partner selected the Lasagna Marchigiana and the Mortadella with Mostarda Cremona.  We took most of the Mortadella home but it gave him the side of sausage he needs with every Italian meal.  The Lasagna was a hit, and rich, so there were also leftovers. 

Last, but certainly not least, the dessert menu was present.  All of the selections sounded divine but I immediate chose the Caramel Semifreddo with Coffee Gelato and Hazelnuts.  I love semifreddo and do not see it that often.  Therefore, I must always have it and Cinghiale's version was met with top approval.  I left the Brûléed Bananas on the side for my partner since bananas repulse me but typically, they are on top of the dish.  We also ordered a bowl of Malted Dark Chocolate and Hazelnut gelato to share which was a good decision.  

Cinghiale is a restaurant but clearly, they specialize in service.  Our server knew their selections front, back and in between and helped us narrow down our choices.  She was also eager to provide a few recommendations for the rest of our sight-seeing weekend.  I love the decor the restaurant presents as well.  It reminded of of Balthazar in New York City, another favorite.  High ceilings, elegant wood and tile that balances out the look.  With a vibrant crowd, everything comes together perfectly.  


822 Lancaster St, Baltimore, MD 21202
(410) 547-8282

Saturday, March 1, 2014

The Point, Fells Point Baltimore MD

It was cold, the spot was crowded and they had brunch. Seemed like a good idea at the time. The staff was very nice but the brunch food was somewhat disappointing. We enjoyed the mac n cheese which has sun-dried tomatoes and the fried green tomato Benedict was okay but the egg skillet was disappointing. The margherita was mostly juice and the tap beer was warm. I wish I had ordered the grilled cheese but on the server's recommendation I chose the Benedict. They do have bottomless drinks for $10 on Saturday and Sunday and those seemed to be populate at other tables. It was definitely a younger crowd. I would definitely try another spot when in the area again.



The Point
1738 Thames Street 
Baltimore, MD 21231 

(410) 327-7264

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Jenna's Cafe- Virginia Beach, VA (Chic's Beach)


Back in the days when I lived in the Lunatic Fringe zip code (AKA Chic’s Beach)  I used to frequent Jenna’s pretty regularly. Jenna’s does a couple of things really, really well. They have the best, fresh out of the oven pita bread. Their hummus is extra special. It has a great taste and a nice smooth consistency. Their pita sandwiches are hearty and fresh. Two people could easily split one pita sandwich and be satisfied. Oh yeah, and pizzas. I am a firm believer that the crust makes or breaks a pizza. They make a great pie.

I haven’t been to Jenna’s in a  few years now, and I decided to pick up a lunch to-go order for myself and my mom. They were running a special on Saturday, two pita sandwiches and a Greek salad for $16.99. That’s a great deal! I got the turkey and cheese for my mom. They have a roasted red pepper pita with provolone and feta, but since I love their hummus I asked to sub that for the provolone. I was told there would be a couple dollar charge to do that, and I told them to go for it. The one person working the counter and serving all the tables told me that the kitchen wasn't that busy and the wait wouldn't be too long. This is what my mom calls “Famous Last words”. The guy who came in behind me also ordered the special and grabbed a table to dine in.
My view for 40 minutes

Now the wait begins. Jenna’s is not in any way fancy, which is fine. Considering the location I don’t think anyone really expects it to be. It has blue-gray walls, red chairs, with cheap, TJ Maxx looking art on the walls. Low overhead. About 15 minutes into my wait I see the server come out with a big Greek Salad. She serves it to the guy who came in after me. Several minutes later his table gets their sandwiches AND the couple who came in after him get their hummus platter. Hmmmm….. I ask the girl what’s up? Is my order ready to go? She has to check on that. More minutes pass, more food is coming out. Cooked food, like pizzas, gyros….The girl now tells me that my food was dropped on the floor and they had to start over. Okay, I am glad they don’t serve food off the floor, but why did that incident bump me to the back of the line? People have finished eating and are leaving as I sit and wait. I call my mom and tell her that I might be there in time for dinner. I am regretting that I paid for this food when I ordered, otherwise I would have simply left and gone to Taste Unlimited or some other spot along the way. After waiting 40 minutes I go up to the register and beg for my food. Now I get a sea of excuses “its all made from scratch” “it’s all freshly prepared” blah, blah, blah. What she failed to understand is that everyone else’s order which came in after mine, but was served before mine, was also “freshly prepared”. Patience is something I struggle with every day, and I was really biting back my usual spew of sarcastic venom when miraculously my order was ready. Choirs of angels began to sing Hallelujah as I bolted out of the door. Seriously, an apology and maybe a free cookie would have gone a long way at that point.

My poor mom had to listen to this rant, which she did as always, with infinite patience. As soon as I started eating, I got less and less ticked off because the food was so freaking good. The Greek salad is really nothing special. It is iceberg, a few slices of cucumber, 2-3 chunks of tomato, a couple of peppers and herbed feta. Their vinaigrette is interesting. It is slightly orange and has a host of mystery herbs and spices (maybe some paprika?). It adds some interest to an otherwise boring salad. You are given a full pita with the salad, and these are nice, thick, hearty pitas. The sandwiches were heavenly, and packed with ingredients which came oozing out of the sides with every bite. I got half of the pita eaten and had to throw in the towel because I was full.

Note to self: Next time, call in the order ahead…because there will be a next time.

Greek Salad, comes with a full pita. It had a decent amount of feta cheese, but it drifted to the bottom of the container.

My concoction, a marriage of the roasted red pepper and the hummus pitas 

Jenna's Cafe
2104 Pleasure House Road
VA Beach, VA 23455
Phone:(757) 460-0973

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