You Had Me at Foie Gras

Bonjour Y’all!

This winter has been a tough one for the Hungry Women! We don’t much care for cold and snow so we have had to resort to food for our comfort. Surprise! Surprise! Last Friday evening we had a friend who was visiting from Hagerstown. On the spur of the moment, we decided to jump in Aida’s SUV and take our friend to Vin 909 in Annapolis. This is one of our favorite spots and we wanted a respite from the winter. We were not disappointed. First of all, this is one charming little  Eastport house…almost like going to Grandma’s.

There are no reservations, so you take your chances. We had some prosecco, our friend had a Southern Tier oatmeal stout (so good!) and we waited for about 20 minutes for a table. We settled in and began to read the menu. There are always seasonal items and new discoveries and we love to try anything with foie gras on it. So, when our server, Melissa, told us about the pizza special which had Hudson Valley foie gras, black garlic and prosciutto on it, a collective groan of approval was heard all over the restaurant. We exclaimed, “you had me at foie gras”! The thin crust pizzas are all exceptional. In particular, The Rockstar is always a winner. Again, the Hudson Valley foie gras, black summer truffles, black garlic, figs, fontina and taleggio cheeses make this pizza a delight! The mozzarella cheese is made fresh daily. The vegetables come from a farm on the Eastern shore called Groundworks Farm. Truly fresh ingredients make ALL the difference. This is evident in the salads served here. We had a fresh baby arugula, local goat chèvre, fried shallots and prosciutto with white balsamic vinaigrette salad that was excellent. This plate represents what was left of the salad:

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Our friend chose the special which was a delicate sturgeon fish served on top of a delectable hash which had many complex flavors. Aida, being the foodie that she is, identified coriander, much to everyone including our server’s amazement! If I am not mistaken, it was after that I saw Aida tearing up over how insane our food had been all evening! If licking the plate is a compliment, and you all know I am famous for such behavior, then Aida shedding a tear is an accolade of the highest order. The Hungry Women take all of this very seriously.

My son, Nate, also got in on the fun. He had the idea to take 2 of the pizzas and make a sandwich out of them. This is a creative bunch so we all thought that was an excellent idea.

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On to dessert. Let me say that the Chocolate pot de creme is to die for! I get it every time. We also had butterscotch pudding…..beautiful! My husband had a blood orange curd served in half of an orange that took me back to Italy! To top it off, we ordered a French press coffee that complimented our sweets.

Our server, Melissa, our new best food friend, graciously brought us a coconut gelato which we promptly dipped in our French press coffee. Because that was so tasty, we started dipping our other desserts in the coffee! Dipping and sopping, 2 very technical terms, are a huge part of any dining experience when you are with the Hungry Women.

Melissa ended up sitting with us and telling us her fave eateries in both DC and Baltimore. We have added her to our list of like minded “Hungry Women”. She gets us. She loves food and wine and fresh ingredients. Dining is a shared experience. Food creates friendships and memories. Vin 909 had us a foie gras.

Stay warm. New food adventures await us in the Spring.

Sherry

The Capital Grille – Baltimore -

Happy 2014!!

Man am I glad the Holidays are finally over. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Holidays season because to me, it is about being around people you love and usually in tandem with great food and wine (and usually followed with unwelcome extra pounds).

January usually follows for most folks with New Year resolutions that are in most cases about eating healthier, exercising more, losing weight, counting your calories, being nicer etc…

I have to admit, when I used to live overseas, being Vegetarian or Vegan was something I never heard of (no offense to all of my Vegan and Vegetarian friends). Whether it is for health reasons, or by choice, I do admire people that fit in that category. Speaking for myself, I know for a fact that I could never be in the V category. As a matter of fact, if my doctor called me up today after my yearly physical, and told me: Aida: as of today, you can no longer eat any kind of meat or you will die. My response would be: Off me NOW. This will just never happen as I love meat too much. It might sound offensive to some, knowing that I am truly an animal lover, but yeah, I love me some good steaks (and duck fat).

Which brings me to today’s topic. I usually do not blog about chain restaurants because there is usually nothing unique about it (it’s kind of an Oxymoron I know).

Many many years ago (and we are talking about maybe 9 to 10 years), my husband took me to Capital Grille downtown Baltimore (https://www.thecapitalgrille.com/pages/locations/?id=8023). I was introduced for the first time to a 22 ounces dry aged Delmonico Steak.

Let me start of by giving you a little background: I was born and raised in Lyon, France. Lyon is a city in East Central France, situated between Paris and Marseille. Lyon was historically known as an important area for the production of silk, but in modern times has developed a reputation as the capital of gastronomy in France. As a matter of fact, Paul Bocuse is a highly recognized French Chef based in Lyon who is famous for the high quality of his restaurants and his innovative approaches to cuisine (I have one of his recipe book that I shamelessly stole (with her knowledge) from my friend Linda). The reason why I am telling you all this is because you would think that, after being raised in that kind of environment, it is doubtful that a chain steak place could wow me: WRONG! A medium rare dry aged Delmonico Steak coming out of the Capital Grille kitchen is THE BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Now maybe, it was a one time thing. Maybe there is no way this steak can be that good all the time. Well wrong again. My husband and I have been going back there consistently over all these years (went there again last Saturday), and it is still by far, THE BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Here is something even more fascinating: How many of you know what is involved in the dry aging process of meat??Please read this link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beef_aging. I always wondered, wouldn’t the meat go bad after that many days???? well wrong, it is apparently all about the temperature, and I have had the great pleasure to see the process first hand this past Saturday at The Capital Grille.

During our dinner, we had the pleasure to have a nice talk with Jamie Heffron, who is the Manager of this fine establishment.

20140104_223218I told Jamie how amazed I was to have such an excellent meal every time I went there, and that I was fascinated by  the whole dry aging process.  About 2 weeks ago, Sherry showed me a video that she had recorded about Barefoot Contessa while she was on vacation to Napa Valley, and visited Tyler Florence, who shared with her his Porterhouse Steak recipe (dry aged of course) cooked in a 1200 degrees broiler and bathed in a bath of clarified butter, sage, thyme and garlic mixture. I shared what I saw that day with Jamie, and he proceeds to tell me, oh! we have a 1800 degrees broiler here, and a whole room with dry aged meat, would you like to see how we do it??? Helloooooooooooo? Have we met?? Are blueberries blue??? Do you tell Noah about a flood (I just learned that expression from my husband! been wanting to use it for a while :) ).

On my feet I was! Let’s go! Jamie introduced me to Matthew Jaffe, Executive Chef Partner there and was going to take Sean and I for a tour!!!!!!

20140104_222527Matthew explained to me how the dry aging process works, and took me to their 39 degrees meat room :). Now I must say, it kind of looks disgusting when you look at it that way, there is nothing appetizing about the way that meat looks, but let me say it again just in case you didn’t pick up on that: BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

Please allow me to share with you the pictures I took from that room:

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They have their personal butcher that comes in 5 days a week! Can you imagine owning a 1800 degrees broiler?????????????????? Man I would love to be able to cook just one time in their kitchen, which brings me to the next story: Sean sold my cooking abilities to them with such conviction that I might just be allowed to cook my famous prosciutto lamb for Jamie and Matthew to taste. Now wouldn’t that be freaking awesome, to be able to cook for the Manager and the Executive Chef of The Capital Grille??? Stay tuned on that…..I will let you all know if that ever happens.

Now, I had to introduce my partner in crime to this place, since it is after all, THE BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

I have been telling Sherry about it for a while now as she has never been there. I just simply told her that it was THE BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE and she knows that I am a food snob.

One night, I just kidnapped her and I took her there (she didn’t complain trust me).  We had a fantastic 2005 Margaux (Chateau D’Anglude), Lawrence was our server (he was great), and Sherry was introduced for the first time to the famous 22 ounces Dry Aged Delmonico:

20131226_185847Well there. She asked me if I would think that it would be inappropriate for her to have her way with the bone in such a fine establishment, I simply responded that I would personally be offended if she didn’t. The picture speaks for itself. Sherry my friend, I am proud of you!

So to summarize, I just wanted to make sure that you all got my point: BEST STEAK I EVER HAD IN MY ENTIRE LIFE.

BE HEALTHY, AND STAY HUNGRY!! (and go have a Delmonico!)

HAPPY NEW YEAR!

Aida.

Top 10 hungry women favorite foods for 2013!!!!

Drum roll please….

Announcing our top 10 food winners for 2013!
1-frites in duck fat and truffle oil. Grapes Winebar Annapolis (https://www.facebook.com/Grapeswinebarannapolis)

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2-Coq au Vin Les Folies in Annapolis (https://www.facebook.com/pages/Les-Folies/201131288817)

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3-Foie Gras Les Folies in Annapolis
4-Garde Manger Board (charcuterie, pate, grapes, dried apricots, cornichons) Grapes wine bar

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5-Duck Confit Petit Louis in Roland park  (https://www.facebook.com/petitlouisbistro)
6-Popcorn soup with grilled lobster Rose’s Luxury Washington DC (https://www.facebook.com/rosesluxury)

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7-Pickle brined fried chicken Rose’s Luxury
8-Chocolate pot de creme Vin 909 Annapolis (https://www.facebook.com/vin909)

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9-Tunisian pizza Aida’s kitchen, Pasadena, Md. (and no this is not a restaurant!).
10-Lamb with pistachio pesto Aida’s kitchen.

These dishes are in no particular order….all fabulous! We have been so fortunate to find such lovely local food.
Honorable mention also goes to Liquid Assets in Ocean City, Md.,  Woodberry Kitchens in Baltimore, Hawthorne Fine Pastries in Severna Park, Md.
Nothing makes the Hungry Women happier than exceptional food. We will be on a quest in 2014 to discover more incredible places to tell you about.
Merry Christmas and Happy new Year
Sherry

Locolat to Become Hans Pedr’ Kaffe – Oops she did it again!

Hello everyone!

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Remember her???? We already blogged about this amazing lady, Jessica Knudsen, owner of Hawthorne Fine Pastries in Severna Park. And yes, she has done it again!Jessica recently acquired Locolat which will soon be named Hans Pedr’ Kaffe.

Before I say anything, check this link out: http://www.zagat.com/b/washington-dc/locolat-to-become-hans-pedr-kaffe. Zagat already has their eyes on her!

At the beginning of this month, Sherry, Marty and myself decided to take a trip down DC to support our friend. We are all already a big fan of her bakery, I knew in advance that it was worth the trip down, besides, she already told us that every Thursday, she offers half price Mussels, it was a Thursday :).

Her shop is located right at the corner of Florida Avenue NW.

This is what the front of her Kaffe looks like: 20131205_174836IT LOOKS AMAZINGLY FRENCH!

We went inside to give our favorite Chef a big hug, she was busy decorating a cake (which looked amazing by the way). When she was done, she gave us all a big hug and gave us a tour of the place. See for yourself:

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I have to admit, my imagination started to run wild. I have recently become a huge fan of the TV show Breaking bad. For those who seen the show, you will understand my references here (for those who didn’t, Netflix it! best show ever). So here it is: you saw that chocolate machine thingy that runs all day? Well, I brought home that night chocolate truffles (every kind she had) for my husband, because he is a chocolate addict. That stuff was like crack for him and he couldn’t get enough. I promised him that I would make a trip down DC regularly to get him his fix . Then I started to wonder, if I bought a winnebago motorhome, and got that chocolate machine thingy in it, and convinced Jessica somehow to start “cooking” for me , and make little baggies of chocolate crack, I bet we’d make a fortune! I can guarantee you that there are a lot of “addicts” out there just like my husband. But then I thought, she probably won’t go for it, she already run 2 businesses as it is, working maybe 100 hours a week, so the conclusion is irrefutable: I need to clone this woman. (all of these wild thoughts happen in less that 2 minutes, amazing isn’t it??).

Back down to Planet Earth, we were starving. Jessica has been part of our Hungry Women adventures many times, so she knew exactly what Sherry and I would like, and voila! that’s what appeared on our table:

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Everything was amazing, the display the quality, the charcuterie, the cheeses, and the bread.

Marty got the 2lbs Mussels: 20131205_182936Equally as amazing! We were so full, but Jessica decided that we needed to try one of her savory waffle. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of that one because it was gone that quick. Just picture a waffle, with some kind of beef stew on top of it. Honestly, to me, it tasted like Boeuf Bourguignon on top of waffle. Who would have thought that such a combination would be blog worthy????????

Jessica told us that her busiest day is Sunday brunch. We have to go there for Brunch SOON and I cannot wait! (Victoria: I made you a promise and I will keep it, we shall go together :) ).

On another note, I don’t know what you guys do when you are bored, but personally, when I am bored and having nothing productive to do, I like puzzles, mindless games, reading…nothing really fancy.

When Jessica is bored, this is what she does:

20131205_18103220131205_1810471471157_616232805080438_1428848396_n(the last picture is home made marshmallows, if you have never tried homemade marshmallows, please do! you will never ever buy the crap in a bag again).

So I say it again, I need to find a way to clone this woman.

Take a trip down DC, perfect for the Holiday Season!

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Aida

Rose’s Luxury – Another unique place in DC

Last week, the hungry women were shopping for Halloween decoration preparing for a big party. And of course, in between errands, what do we talk about in the car?? FOOD and WINE!

We started fantasizing about duck fat and what kind of trouble could we get into …One idea was to make fried chicken with duck fat! Can you imagine? HOME. MADE. FRIED. CHICKEN. FRIED. IN. DUCK. FAT. We absolutely have to try it (Dear Lord: I promise I will go to the gym every day if I we eat this).

Then we started to wonder where in MD could we buy duck fat as the new mission was set.

We all agreed: JESSICA WOULD KNOW! (the same Jessica that owns this fabulous bakery in Severna Park we blogged about previously). So we texted her asking if she had any idea where we could get duck fat locally, She proceeds to tell us that she would have a 5lbs duck fat container dropped at her Bakery by Tuesday.

Well I’d be damned, that woman knows people… it almost sounded like we were doing something illegal.

I tell ya, all over the world, not just in the US, it is not about what you know; it is about who you know. Knowing someone who can deliver a bucket of duck fat within days is Numero UNO on my list at the present time! Now I have someone in my rolodex that can indulge me with duck fat for life (I even told her that I wouldn’t know what I would do without her, her answer was “you’d eat regular fat”, nah I pass, you are stuck with me Missy).

Side note: Did you ever notice that, in the English language, most disease finish with “itis”? appendicitis, arthritis, conjunctivitis, meningitis, etc..

I had to come up with something that describes our disease, been thinking about it for days, came up with some ideas, no of them clicked…Then I mentioned my issue to Jessica. It took her only a couple of hours to come up with this:  CANARDVINITIS!  (Why didn’t I think of that???).

Since we are addicted to canard and vino, Canardvinitis is simply perfect. All the hungry women suffers from it. There is no cure (except for a bucket of duck fat that supposedly can last you for a while, I will let you know…).

So while we were talking to Jessica, she mentioned that she was going to open a bottle of 1994 Saint Emilion and because we have ZERO shame in our game, we simply invited ourselves (Are you kidding me?  Under no circumstances you can put the words Saint and Emilion in the same sentence and expect me not to show up). On top of it, it was Sherry’s anniversary that day and we almost gave no choice to her poor husband. He was going to hang out with the Hungry Women in DC, on his anniversary (told you, zero shame).

We got to Jessica’s place, got molested by the wonderful doggies, drank the liquid velvet and went to Dinner. Jessica told us we needed to try this new place called “Rose’s Luxury” on Capitol Hill (http://rosesluxury.com/).

It was 6 of us, no reservations and we were the luckiest people in this entire restaurant: we got to sit front row of heaven’s kitchen, as if you were in front of the stage of your favorite rock band concert. See for yourself:

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Our setup was actually comical, since we were spread apart in one row; we kept getting up from our chair to try other people dishes. Just picture women going back and forth with a spoon in their hand…We are definitely a funny bunch.

We had Vietnamese Pate, herbs and garlic bread (LOVED IT) ; pork sausage, habanero  and lychee salad (LOVED IT TOO!), porcorn soup with grilled lobster, spaghetti with strawberry and ricotta (that was different, I didn’t care of that too much but our friend Sarah loved it!) and the pickled brined fried chicken and trimmings.

2 highlights:

Number one: The popcorn soup with grilled lobster. To all the ladies that were with me that night: please add your comments at the end of this blog because I am speechless on this one. BEST SOUP I EVER HAD. It was almost like eating my crème brulee but in a popcorn soup version of it.

20131012_200842 IMAG0130Notice the group picture? What am I doing? Eating this divine concoction and paying zero attention to the camera…

Number two: the Fried Chicken: I have been on a quest lately to find a place that have an excellent fried chicken (yeah, I am French and I love fried chicken, sue me!). My quest has ended, best fried chicken I have had so far (I almost asked the chef if he ever tried it with duck fat but I didn’t want him to know about it before we tried it ourselves).

I must admit, we were a little disappointed with the desserts as it was the least favorite part of the meal. We tried 3 different ones and we did not care for any of them.  I really hope that Rose’s Luxury reads our blog. I know a fabulous pastry Chef that might be willing to consult (hint hint, wink wink).

Overall, we all agreed, we will most definitely be back!

Leave it up to Jessica to find these unique places. Keep it up Woman!

Stay hungry!

 

Aida.

Grapes Wine Bar of Annapolis – Our new favorite spot..

Greetings fellow hungry women!

Grapes, an intimate wine bar, next to Wine Cellars of Annapolis, is without a doubt, my new favorite place to enjoy a glass of vino and excellent small plates. Recently, my partner in the pursuit of fine food, Aida (the French/Tunisian) and I, stopped by to have a bite to eat.

We ordered the Garde Manger Board which included pâté, assorted charcuterie and several cheeses. The Bufala Italian blue was fabulous! Along with that came a French goat cheese-Chabichou and an Italian pecorino noche. All excellent!

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As you all know, I am a recent foie gras convert, so I tend to order it whenever I see it on a menu.

This particular foie gras came with truffle oil and a berry and honey reduction. It was lovely! 2 orders please!

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However, the crown jewel of this entire food fest was the order of classic bistro frites in duck fat and truffle oil!!!!!! These crispy morsels have been the object of my desire and my dreams since that moment.

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How can anything be so satisfying? The answer is simple…..duck fat. I am convinced that you could fry an old shoe in this liquid gold and it would be a gourmet offering. I was so blown away by these frites that I can’t even remember what wine we had to drink. In fact, I am speechless. So, I will just stop while I am ahead. Go to Grapes. Eat, enjoy.

Sherry

Trattoria Alberto – Best Italian Kept Secret in Glen Burnie, MD

Bonjour Friends!

I have to say: I was hesitant in writing this post as I want to be selfish and keep this place all to myself!

I have heard about Trattoria Alberto through Victoria and Sherry, and they kept telling me how surprisingly good that place was. About 2 weeks ago, Sherry and I went there on a week day, around 5pm, we were the first ones there. When I parked in front of the restaurant, I looked at Sherry and said : ” are you sure that this is it??”. It is located in a small strip mall on Crain Highway, and the store front looks like nothing, it didn’t even look opened! Sherry was confident that I was going to quickly change my mind, she was right.

We only had a couple of appetizers and a nice bottle of wine, it was perfect,

Alberto, the owner and Executive Chef, is an absolute doll (and I just love the way he dresses, the shirt, the tie, dressed pants and tennis shoes!):

20130911_200157Last night, I decided to take my husband there, since he never heard of this place either.

He had the same reaction I did as soon as he parked: “Are you sure this is the place??” LOL, yeah, you wait my dear..

Alberto has a pretty good memory as he immediately recognize me and greeted me warmly (some of you might say, not hard to do, you don’t see this spiky hair that often!).

I adore Alberto! he sings when he speaks. He proceeds to start talking about his menu, and what he got fresh in the kitchen for tonight, with a wonderful Italian accent.

The waiter, Luis, is adorable too, very quite, but very attentive to everything you might need:

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Check out their full menu a thttp://www.trattoriaalberto.com/pasta_veal_homemade_desserts_baltimore.php.

We started out with the Calamari Alla Griglia, or grilled calamari. Sorry folks, no picture on that dish. It was gone before I even got to my phone.

I chose the Linguine Alla Puttanesca for my entree, my husband chose the Vitello Sorrentina. Alberto even added as a side dish for him a cannelloni filled with broccoli and cheese. ALL the pasta they serve are hand made in their kitchen.

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They also have a very good wine list. We actually had a carafe of their Italian house wine for the evening, Cabernet blend which was delicious.

Towards the end of the dinner, we started chatting with Alberto and we asked him how come this place wasn’t more busy, as good as it is. He told us that business has been slow, especially with the Casino being so close and that people prefers to go to the restaurants there.

WHAT IS WRONG WITH PEOPLE!!! What would you ever want to chose a chain restaurant over this gem!

Now, as much as I would like to keep this place all to myself, I am willing to share….Please go see Alberto, I promise you that this will be one of the best Italian experience you’ll get, especially in Glen Burnie!!!!

Stay hungry!!!

 

Aida.

Cinghiale – Rome in Baltimore!

Buongiorno Y’all!!

The Hungry Women had the great pleasure of dining at Cindy Wolf and Tony Foreman’s restaurant, Cinghiale, in Baltimore this week. (The name means “wild boar” in Italian, in case you were wondering.) My friends, Aida and Jessica and myself started off with bellinis al fresco. It was a nice evening so we sat outside and pretended we were in Rome at some very swank eatery.

We decided to go inside for dinner because the decor and opulence are just too hard to resist. This restaurant is simply gorgeous!

Side note: Take a look at the hallway that leads to the bathrooms, then inside the bathrooms:

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Having been fortunate enough to visit Italy twice in my life, I have to say that Cinghiale really feels like a fine hotel/restaurant in Rome. Let’s talk about food, shall we? Since all of the Hungry Women love cheese and wine, we decided to go with a selection of 3 cheeses. First, the la tur, a tangy blend of sheep, cow and goat’s milk…excellent! Second, we chose the canestrato from Campania…a firm sheep’s mild cheese with hints of hay and hazelnuts. Jessica paired that with some fresh peaches…loved that! The third cheese was a creamy Gorgonzola gran riserva…. My oh my! We chose a Rosso di Montalcino, Il Poggione to accompany the cheese course and also the Chef’s selection of assorted cured meats.

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By now, we were moving into the part of the meal where the oohing and aahing are in full swing. We have been waiting with bated breath for several months to order the grilled foie gras. I cannot express how much in love I am with this! Aida ordered the pan seared foie gras “saltimbocca” with crispy parmigiano. I have to say that hers was even better than mine.  Jessica had the big eye tuna with razor clams and sea urchin….fabulous!

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On to the primi course. I chose the risotto with chanterelles and parmigiano. I am pretty sure I saw God! (He looks a lot like Chef Marucci). We all agreed that this was a triumph! Jessica had the Yukon potato gnocchi with roasted tomatoes, peppers, arugula, zucchini and smoked ricotta…lovely. Aida ordered grilled duck with huckleberries, crispy polenta and chanterelles, That little corn cake really went nicely with the dish…delicious!

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The second bottle of wine was a 2000 Fontodi “case via” Syrah. Not to sound pretentious, but this lush, velvety, chewy wine was served with too much  of a chill. We all agreed to decant it and let it open up and come to a warmer temp. We asked the wine steward why it was being served so cold and he explained that the cellar is kept at 50-55 degrees. The Rosso di Montalcino was fine at the cooler temp but this Syrah definitely tasted better once we decanted and waited. We loved the bouquet….smoky, leathery, deep. On another note, their wine list is probably one of the most extensive list I have ever seen!

We were satiated but we HAD to try 2 desserts. We chose Gianduja Torta with hazelnuts, chocolate and salted caramel gelato. WE ADORE SALT AND CARAMEL!!! I have to tell you that the vanilla panna cotta with thyme roasted peaches and blueberry sorbetto was so light and creamy, I believe we heard angels singing. I was transported to the Sistine Chapel. This is food nirvana. Espressos followed……

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We had taken a trip to Italy with no jet lag, food coma notwithstanding. We can’t wait to return. Until then, we urge you to indulge in the sensuous dining experience that is Cinghiale. Buonasera.

As always, stay hungry!

Sherry, Aida and Jessica

Victoria’s Fancy Foods – Gourmet grocery shop fashioned after the shops of Paris.

Morning Y’all!

A lot of folks think that this blog is about restaurants, WRONG! it is about good food in general, whether it is in stores, my friends kitchens or my own, bakeries, or restaurants.

I moved in the Severna Park/Pasadena area a year ago. My husband and I used to live in Essex, MD.

One of the main reasons why we decided to move was because there is close to -nothing- in Essex when it comes to food. There are not a lot of choices of good restaurants, grocery stores, etc..

I love cooking, and I have been blessed to have been surrounded by friends that enjoy it as much as I do.

While grocery shopping is a burden for some, I personally LOVE grocery shopping because I see it as an adventure. I prefer grocery shopping than any other type of shopping, any day of the week. When I used to live in Essex, my choices in grocery store were: Mars, Shoppers, Geresbeck’s, and Aldi, and that was it. Guess what the closest store to my house was?? Aldi ! I went to that store -once- because I had to make an emergency run as I needed something for my dinner that night.  After I parked the car, I was on my way in and there was a bodyguard at the entrance that fiercely looked at me and made it clear that I needed to turn around. Yep, a giant disgusting cockroach was right in front of the entrance, staring at me, daring me to make a move. I have a phobia of bugs. Needless to say that I can’t tell you what the store look like inside. Off to Mars I went that day (could have been literal since I flew back to my car after the sight of that disgusting thing).

My friend Yvette who has been living in Severna Park for years had told me numerous times about this place she goes to called Victoria’s Fancy foods and that I needed to check it out at some point. Never really made it there since I wasn’t living close to that area.. Until I moved here…….

I checked Victoria’s website (http://victoriasfancyfoods.com/) and the front page  caught my attention immediately:

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“Local clean foods and fine crafted wine”…..then it says “Our gourmet grocery shop is fashioned after the shops of Paris with wooden floors and chalkboard signs.”

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!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (this was me jumping up and down, cartwheel and all..).

Then it says this: “We take pride in every item we offer to you.” I had to check it out and let me tell you that everything in that description does check out. Why didn’t I move in this area years ago???????????? Between all the restaurants I am discovering, Hawthorne Bakery and Victoria’s, I am not home sick anymore!

Please allow me to introduce you to this lovely lady, Victoria Stagmer, proud owner of this gourmet store:

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Victoria is another hard working, dedicated and passionate woman I have the honor to know. She takes customer service to an entire new level and she knows her stuff (and top of it all, she is a certified wine specialist :) ). She told me once that there is nothing in her store that she hasn’t tried. Remember this on her website:  “We take pride in every item we offer to you.”?

So let me recap, she offers gourmet food (from fresh pasta to olive oil, from crackers to jams, teas, coffee, spices, cheeses, bread….) and Wine from all over.

!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (yep, I did it again).

Let me take a second and talk about the bread. She gets frozen bread from a bakery in New Jersey (except for the sourdough which is authentic sourdough from LaBrea bakery in San Fransisco): olive bread, rosemary bread, whole grain (my personal favorite because it honestly taste like candy and it’s good for you!) regular bread (and I may be forgetting some). You take it home, you let it thaw for a bit, and stick it in the oven for 15 min at 380 degrees. Voila! fresh awesome bread coming straight out of the oven like you baked it (well you did). Slice it, add to that this wonderful Saint Angel Cheese she carries (that thing can’t just be triple creme, because triple means 3, I would guess a 100!) and top it with nice bottle of wine. That’s dinner for me right there.

She would also give me stuff to sample at home so that she can make a decision on whether she should carry it in her store or not. First of all, I feel very special that she values my opinion, second, I love trying new food! (Victoria: the truffle couscous is amazing!!!!! I tried it last night and it is phenomenal!! carry carry carry!).

I can’t tell you how many times I would call her up and ask her if she could bake a loaf of bread for me and that I would pick it up on my way home from work.  I double dog dare you to tell me that you can do that at any other store! She would also give me suggestions for wine pairing depending on what I am having for dinner. Talk about customer service!

Did I mention that I love that store? (and Victoria of course!).

Also, Victoria’s Fancy Foods has an opportunity to relocate into a larger space. She is obligated to her lease in the current location until February 2015 and actively looking for a business that would be interested in sub-letting this space. If you know of anyone, please have them get contact her!!!

Listen people! Go to her store, Follow her on Facebook, on Twitter, sign up for her newsletter, I am personally following this woman everywhere she goes! (sounds like stalking I know..).

So Get Fancy, Get local! and I can guarantee you that you would love that store as much as I do!

Stay hungry friends!

Aida.