This is one of the biggest foodie weekends of the year everyone! This weekend, you can go to Taste of Bethesda, which is the best "Taste of" event in this area by far - better than Taste of DC, Georgetown, or Wheaton. This is mainly because of the mere number of restaurants that participate in the event.
On top of that, Saint Sophia Greek Orthodox Cathedral at the corner of 36th and Mass Ave is having their Annual Festival October 30th though October 2. Stop by and have some wonderful Greek food and desserts.
I don't think I'll be able to go to either, though, because right now Amy is starting to have contractions, and I'm wondering if we're going to make it through the night without having to head to the hospital...
Thanks to Stephanie, from CompletelyIrrelevant.com, for pointing out to me that today (9/27) is the day that restaurants in our area are participating in "Restaurants for Relief". I don't know where my head is lately. I'm way to busy getting my place ready for my new baby boy that's due any day now.
Go to this link, enter your zip code and find out which restuarants by you are participating. One of my favorites, Corduroy, is participating!
Just a heads up everyone...
Galileo Grill is open for lunch this week Wednesday and Thursday. Here's the menu.
Homemade Hot Dogs $3.50
Grilled Chicken Sandwich $5
Pork Shoulder Sandwich $5
Pork Sausage Sandwich $5
Pork Ribs $5
Pizza with Cheese and Broccoli Rabe $5
Soup of the Day $3
Sodas and Water $1
Sweet Ricotta Cannoli $2.50
Italian Country Bread $3
Add to your sandwich:
Broccoli Rabe $2
Other Sandwich Toppings:
Green Peppers and Onions
I finally stopped by Radius Pizza for a pie the other day. All I can say is that it was about time. I've been hearing about this place all over, between DCist, DR.com and eGullet. All of the feedback that people have been giving has been very positive, which is why I'm so surprised that I was as disappointed with the pizza as I was...
First, a plain cheese pizza is $17. That's too much for a plain pizza. That said, A large pizza is HUGE, measuring at about two and a half feet in diameter.
Second, the crust was just missing the right flavor and texture. It might have been that I had to wait till I drove home to eat it, but the crust had a very chewy texture to it. I ended up leaving most of the crust on my plate. The good thing about the crust was that it was the right thickness and when you picked up the slice, there was that ideal "floppyness" that you're supposed to get when you pick up a slice of NY-style pizza.
I did think that the cheese and sauce were pretty good and the pizza was topped with the right amounts of both, but it really didn't make up for the crust. I probably need to go and actually eat the pizza at the restaurant to see if it tastes any different.
Another thing I noticed is that the staff is very friendly and courtious. While I was waiting for my pizza, I sat at the bar for a short time and had a beer. The bartender was friendly as were the waitresses that passed by.
I eat at Chipotle at least once a week. A friend send me this link today that calculates the nutritional content of your favorite burrito at Chipotle. My favorite? A Chicken Burrito with rice, black beans, cheese, guacamole, and hot salsa which contains 1237 calories and 53 grams of fat.
About eight months ago, I went to Costa Del Sol for the first time -- or what I thought was Costa Del Sol. The place was in shambles -- the carpets were dirty and ceiling tiles were hanging from the ceiling, but the food was good. The pupusas were especially good (I've developed a very large appreciation for pupusas over the last couple years) and these were good enough to compete with those of Samantha's.
On my return trip a month later, the restaurant looked completely different. All ceiling tiles were securely in place and the carpet had been cleaned. Another detail I noticed was that the owners had decorated the walls and added a little ambiance. Tables were adorned with tablecloths, candles, and new handmade menus, giving it a nice, family-owned restaurant feel.
It turned out that the restaurant was under new ownership, but the kitchen staff still remained. I was happy to hear this, because in my prior trip, I really enjoyed the food. Bethesda really needs a Mexican/Savadoran place like this, amidst the mediocre burritos and fajitas at Rio Grande Cafe and Austin Grill, where people wait an hour in line -- for what, only God knows. Meanwhile, places like Las Margaritas stay empty. On my last visit, I saw the most occupied tables since I've been there -- five.
In my later trips to Las Margaritas, I branched out beyond the pupusas and tried their entrees, ordering masitas de puerco (my new yardstick for judging Salvadoran restaurants). It's tender pork with a tangy Salvadoran citrus sauce with fresh black beans and rice. It's a yummy, homey dish that's sure to please.
There are several tenderloin tip entrees on the menu as well, with the beef always tender and flavorful. And of course, don't miss the pupusas.
One thing to avoid is a beef taco salad which starts out good, but ends up being a little bland towards the end. Also, watch out for semi-stale tortilla chips. I haven't had a chance to try their standard Tex-Mex fare like burritos, chimichangas and enchiladas, but something tells me that it will be better than what you can get at a place like Rio Grande.
Service at Las Margaritas is always good (although there isn't usually a crowd to cause the waitstaff trouble), but the servers and hosts have always been very hospitable and friendly. Las Margaritas is cheap too. For the two of us, we usually get out for under $40 with a few beers.
So if you're in Bethesda catching a flick or you're just passing through, take a chance and walk a little further to Las Margaritas.
Las Margaritas Bar and Grill
4906 Fairmont Ave
Bethesda, MD 20814
Dress Code: Casual
Smoking: Not Allowed
Closest Metro: Bethesda
Parking: Street parking in Bethesda is a pain in the ass. No valet. If you're lucky you can find a spot on the street or in one of the lots.
Reservations: No need
Amy's Bathroom Rating: Charming and clean. Like a little powder room at somebody's house.
Back in August, Amy bought tickets for Roberto Donna's Stuffed Pasta Cooking Class at Laboratorio del Galileo as an anniversary gift for me. Ever since, I've been counting down the days, anticipating making brilliantly stuffed raviolis and moon-shaped pasta. Finally, after a month of anticipation, the day of the class came last Saturday and I was ready to cook.
We arrived a few fashionable minutes late and everyone was seated at a large table in the Laboratorio eating chocolate pastries and drinking sparkling water and French-pressed coffee. The cooking class started at 10:30 AM, and not long after I ate my first chocolate pastry, Roberto called everyone up to the cooking area and the class started.
There were basically four people there, including a waiter, assistant chef, assistant-to-the-assistant chef, and Roberto himself. All of the staff were scurrying around, fetching ingredients for Roberto and us while we were cooking. Every once in a while, one of Roberto's assistants would mess up and forget to get him something on time, and Roberto would start chewing them out in Italian.
At about 11:30 AM, the waiter started pouring us glasses of Chardonnay, and they were pouring glasses for Amy as well, which I didn't mind much. She would take a few sips and then pass the glass over to me to finish off. Cooking over open flames and alcohol -- what a wonderful combination!
The first thing we did was make the pasta. Well, let me correct myself and say that we watched Roberto make the pasta, but it was fun anyway. I never realized how easy making pasta is! Some flour, an egg or two, water, salt, olive oil and voila! Pasta dough. Oh, and when you see those sadists on the Food Network who like to put a pile of flour on the counter, crack some eggs in the middle and stir it with a fork to make the pasta dough, just think about how Roberto pulled out a Cuisinart, dumped all the ingredients in and hit the blend button. It came out just as good and it was done in less than a minute!
When it came time for us to actually cook, it was usually to make sauces or fill the pasta. We made some general red sauces with some plum tomatoes, salt, pepper, garlic, fresh basil, and crushed red pepper. It was very simple but while everyone was cooking it over the stove, the room smelled intoxicating.
There were five recipes in all. Three were variations on ravioli: a basic one filled with ricotta and topped with meat sauce; another made with unbleached flour and warm water and filled with grouper and mixed greens; and a half-mooned shaped one filled with pureed beets and ricotta and then topped with a butter poppy seed sauce. The last was the best ravioli by far in my opinion.
Another dish, which I definitely plan to make on my own, was a stuffed shell dish. The filling was fairly simple with parsley and fresh ricotta, parmesan and mozzarella cheeses. What made the dish more complex was that we stuffed the shells with the filling, placed them face down in the pan, and then topped each one with a slice of fresh mozzarella and half a cup of the sauce we'd made. Roberto's assistants then baked them for about 15 minutes until the cheese was melted and shells cooked all the way through.
The last but not-to-be-forgotten dish was the Timballo Di Cannelloni. I could spend a couple paragraphs talking about this dish, but instead, I'll just put a couple pictures here. This was the king of all dishes we made, but I'll never have the patience to make this on my own. It took literally the entire class to make this dish between the rolling and stuffing of the cannelloni and making the pasta and sauce.
As we created the Timballo in an assembly-line-esque manner, Roberto acted as the coach and shouting to us "Let's go people! Faster, faster. This Timballo isn't going to make itself!" At one point, I put too much filling on one of the cannelloni and Roberto shouted "NO NO NO! Too much filling!" I replied with a wimpering, "Sorry."
Once we were done cooking, we sat back down at the large table, and Roberto and his two assistants prepared all of our plates with the food we (or Roberto and his assistants) had cooked. With the lunch we had a red wine which I thought I spotted as the house Cabernet (even the house wine at Galileo is about $12 a glass), and the waiter was very generous. If you emptied your glass, he filled it. Between the Chardonnay we drank while we were cooking and the Cabernet with the food, I probably had five or six glasses.
I didn't hear any complaints from the people eating -- they all tasted wonderful and like we were eating at Galileo itself. The best by far was the Timballo di Cannelloni, which would make sense because it took the longest to make. We were even given dessert -- a chocolatey slice of tiramisu that hit the spot rather nicely after all the pasta.
At some point someone shouted the inevitable, "My compliments to the chef" to the waiter. I'm sure he's never heard that one before. :)
At $100 a person, I thought that the class was a complete bargain. You'd probably spend the same, if not more, for an equal amount of food and wine at Galileo, and you get to have fun and meet Roberto at the same time. I wish I'd actually gotten to make a little more of the food myself, but I have this feeling the class would've taken twice as long if everything was made by the people taking the class.
For more information on Chef Roberto Donna's Cooking Classes, go to his web site and you can see the full schedule of classes.