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Chase Away the Winter Blues in Bethesda

Lemon Almond Cake at Praline Bakery

Lemon Almond Cake at Praline Bakery

After the epic blizzard, Snowzilla, last weekend many Bethesda residents are experiencing cabin fever!  We found today that a delectable dessert like Lemon Almond Cake at Praline Bakery in Bethesda chased the blues away!

Sick of the melting snow everywhere?  There’s nothing like a sunny slice of heaven melting in your mouth to make your day a little brighter.  We highly recommend a slice…or maybe the whole cake!

 

Praline Bakery is located at 4611 Sangamore Rd, Bethesda, MD 20816 in The Shops at Sumner Place.

A Taste of Latin Fusion in Bethesda

If you are looking for a unique place to grab lunch in Bethesda you should check out Panas Gourmet Empanadas.  They have 14 different flavors of empanadas to choose from including a nice selection of vegetarian options.  These tasty pastries are served nice and hot along with a collection of sauces and plantain chips (which I couldn’t get enough of!).  We ordered the Parranda combo for two for $14. You can pick a selection of eight Empanadas along with four of their sauces and those irresistible chips all served on a fun wooden ‘boat’.

empanada tray

Parranda Combo

They have an afternoon happy hour with half price carafes of Sangria and cheap beer as well as live music on Thursday and Saturday nights from 6 PM – 9 PM.  The dining area’s comfy chairs seated at low tables allow you to really sink in and relax.

If you are looking for something sweet to finish of your meal a Jamundi looks delicious.  It’s a mix of fruit, syrup and condensed milk and looks irresistible!

Panas Gourmet Empanadasis located at 4731-A Elm St in Bethesda right near The Barking Dog.  If you are looking for a break from the monotony of sandwiches and bagels that fill your work week, stop in for a delectable treat.

cholados-jamundi

Jamundi – Photo from panasgourmet.com

Belly Up to the Chocolate Bar in Bethesda

Store front of the new Max Brenner Chocolate Bar

Store front of the new Max Brenner Chocolate Bar

Looking for a fun date night idea or a unique venue for a birthday party?  A new and original bar coming to Bethesda Row has the solution.  Unlike Max Brenner’s other restaurants in Philadelphia and New York, this new location has been dubbed a chocolate bar and will be serving just dessert all day long.  A little piece of heaven may have just arrived in our town!

The menu includes everything from cocktails topped with marshmallows to a chocolate chunks pizza.  The french fries come dusted in cocoa and they even have a chocolate syringe if you are in need of a quick fix.  As a chocoholic, I am intrigued!

Located at 7263 Woodmont Avenue it was originally planned to open in mid to late June, but has hit a few delays and as of early July we are still waiting..and drooling in anticipation.  We could see doors opening as early as next week. Open! Open! Open! Open!

POST SCRIPT: Max Brenner Bethesda is open as of July 31, 2013!  Check out pictures of some of their delectable treats on this recent article from the Washington Post: Max Brenner Chocolate Bar Opens….

Day 114: Monday Fun Day in Bethesda

Big Fat Hot Dogs at Bold Bite

OK so we know that Mondays can get you down, especially rainy, chilly Mondays like today.  So what better way to wash away the blues than to eat and drink yourself merry?!  Here are some great Monday deals you can check out in Bethesda:

BURGER MONDAY at PARKERS RESTAURANT – buy one and get one for 99 cents.  They have some good options on french fries too, including my personal favorite, sweet potato fries.

If burgers aren’t your thing, how about hot dogs? 

HAPPY HOUR from 2:30 – 5:30 PM at BOLD BITE DOGS & FRIES – buy one combo and get a naked dog for free!

Cafe Deluxe Bethesda - Elm St

If you want to skip the picnic fare and go right to the beverages, try 1/2 price wine on Mondays at CAFE DELUXE  or $4 GUINNESS plus 1/2 off oysters at RI-RA IRISH PUB.

No matter how you choose to cure the Monday blues, remember to share some food and fun with your friends – the best way to brighten any day.     ~Amy

Day 108: Spring Restaurant Week in Bethesda…Accessorize your Palate

It’s time again to enjoy the airy pleasures of an outdoor evening meal or an afternoon sandwich in the sun with friends.  Bethesda’s restaurant week is a great excuse to do so!  Restaurant Week is happening NOW, April 16th – 22nd, 2012 at participating restaurants including:

Bethesda's Restaurant Week, April 2012

Assaggi Mozzarella Bar

Cafe Deluxe

Jaleo

Le Pain Quotidien

 Lebanese Taverna

Redwood

Mon Ami Gabi

Vapiano

Raku

Tandoori Nights

Parker’s Classic American

Three course lunches are $15 and three-course dinners are $30.  Reservations are highly recommended, especially for dinner.

You can check out their menus for the week (makes my mouth water to read them!) and also sign up to win a $200 dining certificate at www.BethesdaRow.com.

Buen Provecho!     ~Amy

Day 100: Bethesda's Best Restaurant on Wheels!

One3Five Cuisine rolled into town in the parking lot of the Farm Women’s Co-operative Market  on Wisconsin Ave in December 2011.  Although it’s a food truck like any other, this restaurant on wheels is anything but ordinary!  The owner and chef, Steve Markam, was working the day Brian and I strolled up to the window curious about the menu and intrigued, yet tentative about what we would find.  We love food – ALL kinds of food – but typically “fast food” from a truck doesn’t yield gourmet delights. In this case however, we were so wrong!  Steve’s One3Five Cuisine knocked our socks off.  

Brian at the window of One3Five Cuisine

First we tried ONE soup: clam chowder.   Loaded with seriously large chunks of clam and a beautifully creamy sauce.  Highly recommended!

Then we tried THREE appetizers: Weber Veggies (fresh vegetables and big, fat mushrooms perfectly grilled on a Weber of course!), Corn and Black Bean Rice and Down Home Potato Salad.  To say these appetizers were good is really understating it.  The flavors were surprising and unique!   We were drooling!

Last, we selected two of the FIVE specialty sandwiches offered on the menu: Bahn Mi and Gaucho’s Delight.  The Bahn Mi is described on their website as: Paper-thin slices of marinated pork loin, pickled veggies (daikon radishes and carrots), cucumber spears, cilantro, scallions, red onion, and jalapeño on a Vietnamese style roll with a lime/garlic/ginger aioli and fish sauce.  I describe it in a word as “sensational!”  Without a doubt, I will order this again. 

Brian’s selected Gaucho’s Delight (marinated flank steak on a ciabatta roll with buttery potato and onion stick mixture, tomato and olive salsa, and arugula with a chimichurri sauce).  Forget Gaucho, it had Brian moaning with delight with each bite.  Enough said, eh?  For the full ONE3FIVE menu you can check out their website

The next best thing about the food was the price.  Our dinners were only $9.99 each – including soup, appetizer, sandwich and drink.   They are open from 11 AM – 7 PM, 6 days a week and offer catering and family sized serving options too.  I hope Bethesda supports this chef/entrepreneur with his fabulous food truck business because I want it to stick around for a long, long time.  I would like to get through the entire menu!    ~Amy

Day 21 – A Restaurant for all 'Seasons 52' Weeks a Year

Seasons 52 North Bethesda

I have found a new addiction – sampling the menu at Seasons 52 Fresh Grill in “North Bethesda” (otherwise known as the White Flint area of Rockville Pike).  I have now had the pleasure of visiting this restaurant scene on two occasions – once for lunch with a friend and last night, a celebratory dinner with my husband.

The thing I love MOST about Seasons 52 is that so far, all the food I have sampled has been truly fresh-tasting and absolutely delicious – not overcooked, over-buttered, over-sauced or over-heated like many places.  This food tastes fresh (the perfect crunch to their grilled vegetables for example) and looks like art.  Even better…EVERYTHING on the menu is 475 calories or less!  This is quite a contrast to other restaurant menus like CPK where many items top 1000 – 1500+ calories for one entrée.  The menu at Seasons 52 changes regularly as inspired by farm markets so that the freshest foods in-season are featured.  Plus, the restaurant offers a very nice wine list which for me is always a PLUS!

If you’re thinking about visiting, I definitely recommend making reservations at Seasons 52.  The place is growing in popularity.  We arrived early (around 5:30 PM) on Friday and it was already getting full.  By the time we left, it was standing-room-only as people waited for tables.

Friendly valet at Seasons 52

When you arrive, you are first greeted by the nice valet attendants who will park your car for free – a relaxing way to begin the dining experience.  Flashes of trying to park in the public garages in downtown Bethesda come to mind as a stark contrast!  The lobby area of the restaurant is warm and inviting with a nice, cozy fireplace and rich, dark wood walls.  On both occasions that I visited, I ended up sitting in the comfortable booths surrounding the nicely appointed bar.

This past Friday evening we were surprised and delighted by live piano music and vocals – just the right genre of music and at just the right volume so as not to overwhelm our conversation.  Made for a fun atmosphere.  Apparently, there is live music nightly.

Chilled Tiger Prawns

We began our meal by indulging in their Ripe Plum Tomato Signature Flatbreads and big, fat Tiger Prawns which we thoroughly enjoyed.  Our server also generously provided us with an opportunity to try three different wines so we could select our favorite for the evening, a sauvignon blanc called Mulderbosch from Western Cape of South Africa – which he had recommended to us actually.

Ripe Plum Tomato Flatbread

Soon, our mouth-watering dinner entrees were presented.  I ordered the Tiger Shrimp Penne Pasta (loved those shrimp) which came in a light citrus sauce with lots of grilled crunchy vegetables – delicious!

Penne Pasta with Tiger Prawns

Brian ordered the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignon with veggies and mushrooms that were to-die-for.  The filet was accented with a very unique bar-be-que sauce that was wicked good!  Brian ended up getting two little bowls of it (he may have indulged in 500 calories versus 475).

We finished the dinner with selections from their Mini Indulgences for dessert.  The meal was just right – very tasty and just the right amount of food so we didn’t end up with an uncomfortable food-baby feeling on the way home.

I must point out that the meal I enjoyed at lunch with my dear friend last week (the Maui Tuna Crunch Salad) really rocked my world too – and I can’t wait to have it again!  The presentation was a lot of fun – they deliver an empty plate and the salad comes in a big hurricane-style plastic container and then they “release” the salad slowly from its confinement to fall onto your plate in front of you.  Very nice.  I wanted to clap or something.

Maui Crunch Tuna Salad

While dining at Seasons 52 is not a cheap meal, it also wasn’t as pricey as we had expected so we were very happy to see when the bill arrived that it was a good $20 – $30 less than anticipated.  By Bethesda standards, it was downright affordable.

I may not have much in the coming weeks to say about other restaurants in the area because frankly, I’m kinda hooked on Seasons 52!  Lunch anyone?     ~Amy

Day 333: There's a new Chicken IN town – Nando's Peri-Peri

The Cockerel - symbol of faith, justice & good luck

As the cold days of winter soon head to Bethesda, keep in mind there is one place in town guaranteed to heat you up any time of year – the new Nando’s Peri-Peri on Bethesda Ave, the new chicken IN town!  Nando’s Peri-Peri has moved into the retail space previously occupied by Chicken Out Rotisserie.

Nando’s began in the late 1980’s in South Africa and has since expanded to over 35 countries around the globe.  There are over 500 restaurants in the Afro-Portuguese grilled-chicken chain that features the famous Peri-Peri sauce.

What exactly is Peri-Peri sauce?  This is really something that is better experienced than explained – but let me warn you it’s HOT!  Peri-Peri sauce gets its hot punch from the Bird’s Eye Chili.  All chilis owe their origin to Central and South America where the Spanish and the Portuguese first colonized.  The legend of Peri-Peri begins with the Portuguese travels to the southern tip of Africa in present day Mozambique.  Using the Bird’s Eye Chili (called Pilli Pilli by the Africans and pronounced Peri-Peri by the Portuguese) to season their meats, the popularity of Peri-Peri sauce and the flavorful taste grew.

When hot just isn't HOT enough!

Amy's Order

Our visit will be burned into our minds and tongues for some time to come.  I tried the Chicken Breast Sandwich with grilled pineapple for lunch served on a Portuguese roll with lettuce, tomato and mayonnaise.  You order your sandwich and then indicate how hot you want it.  Here’s where you need to be careful.  Your choices on the “Peri-ometer” are:

  • Extra Hot – described as “A real throat-scorcher.”  Their warning is “Spice savvy (or reckless bravado) required.”
  • HOT – described as “Eye-wateringly fiery. For serious chili fiends only.”
  • Medium – “Tolerable heat. Think typical summer day – without the rain.”
  • Lemon +Herb
  • Plain (for the kids)

I ordered it medium and was still drinking water to remove the heat by dinner.  Amy, being the more adventurous foody between us, went straight for an order of HOT Butternut Squash & Couscous Salad with oven-roasted chicken, red onion, olives and grilled corn.   She still isn’t sure whether it is a winner because the fire in her mouth overran the flavors!  “Wow! Next time, I’m going with the MEDIUM spice,” she lamented.

As if the chicken was not seasoned enough there are Peri-Peri sauces on the side that can be liberally added to any dish.  If it’s a hot spicy meal you’re after this is the place.

There is no shortage of humor throughout your dining experience at Nando’s Peri-Peri.  The guys in the back working the grill wear shirts that say, “Licensed to Grill” and “Hot Chick Lover.”  The salt and pepper shaker is shaped like an egg and the napkins are printed with,“Face it, you’re a messy eater”.

Nando’s is serious about one thing though – art!  They commission original works from South African artists and currently have a collection of over 3,000 pieces.  Their flare for the artistic even spills outside the restaurant to the exterior walls.  Anyone who drives down Bethesda Ave can’t help but notice.  The edgey and unique art that decorates the walls outside has been described in a previous blog.

Exterior Graffiti Art

I’ve also mentioned the really cool new Coca Cola Freestyle machine – what I call the iCoke machine with over 100 flavors available.  God forbid if the hi-tech machine ever breaks down because it’s the only way to cool the burn in this place!

Check OUT the new Chicken IN town (sometimes I make myself chuckle) and find out why this restaurant is one of the hottest food chains around – for real. ~ Brian

Day 247: The Perfect End to Summer: Bethesda Crab House

Bethesda Crab House

For the past 50-years, the Bethesda Crab House located at 4958 Bethesda Ave has been serving up the iconic and tasty Maryland steamed crabs to local patrons.  Although they are open 365 days a year, the hard and soft-shell crabs are at their peak in summertime!  The perfect way to end the hot days of summer is to indulge in this Maryland crab-picking tradition!

The atmosphere of the Bethesda Crab House is as casual as you can get, so don’t come in wearing your fancy duds.  Plus, this crab-eating business is a messy operation!  This is a shorts and T-shirt kind of place with a relaxed, beachy kind of feel.  You can sit inside or outside at their open air tables cooled by fans circulating overhead.  It is strongly recommended that you call ahead to order your crabs so they are ready for you and not sold out when you arrive.  We recommend you order the large or X-tra large crabs!  In addition to steamed crabs, we also thoroughly enjoy the jumbo spiced shrimp.  Huge and mouth-watering!

Today's Crabs!

Another tip for your visit that will maximize your enjoyment is to bring an experienced crab-eater with you to guide you through the process of how to properly “pick and eat” a Maryland Blue Crab.  If you don’t have a guide, it can be a very frustrating experience – kind of like trying to solve a Rubik’s Cube that contains your dinner!  But no matter what, be prepared to “work for food” when you pick apart a crab.  But remember, all that good work just makes the reward that much sweeter!  If you are thinking about going out for crabs and you don’t have an experienced crab-eating guide to accompany you, check out this YouTube video for instructions (don’t let the guts freak you out, it’s all good): http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kUW6_CTZd9U&feature=player_detailpage

Lastly, be sure you enjoy your crabs with some Old Bay Seasoning and a nice cold beer.  Your crab-eating experience will stay with you for some time – it’s rather unforgettable.  Heck, the smell of the seasonings will stay on your hands and under your nails for at least 24 hours!  Some lemon often helps to diminish the aroma.  The Bethesda Crab House is a wonderful and fun dinner experience that is truly a Maryland tradition.  Enjoy!  Let us know if you have any crab-eating stories or tips to share!   ~Amy & Brian

Day 92: Relax and Enjoy a Brick Oven Pizza

Red Tomato Cafe located at 4910 St. Elmo Ave in Bethesda is the place that comes to mind when I’m looking for a casual, relaxed and inviting atmosphere for lunch or dinner.  Although the food is good and the drink options are nice, the main reason I choose Red Tomato Cafe is for the perfectly cozy setting.  

I visit often with my daughter when we want to share a stress-free meal and catch up with each other.  I also spent an evening there with my book club friends.  We were looking for the perfect place to enjoy a quiet, relaxed dining experience while discussing our latest read.  Someone suggested Red Tomato Cafe.  Of course, we all agreed it was the perfect setting! 

Red Tomato Cafe, 4910 St. Elmo Ave

The cuisine is often referred to as Italian, but I believe it’s actually “Mediterranean.”  But no matter the origin, the restaurant offers delicious meals with a warm environment stoked by the brick oven.  Their pizzas have a thin, flaky crust baked to perfection.  My absolute favorite is the Margherita pizza topped with mozzarella cheese, a delicate and flavorful tomato sauce and basil leaves.  Frankly, I would like more basil leaves on the pizza but I’m usually so relaxed by the time I order, I forget to ask for them.  If you’re a basil lover like me, I recommend asking for some extra leaves if you think of it. 

As a cheese-aholic, I have also thoroughly enjoyed the Brie pizza that includes not only the brie (one of the best cheeses on the planet in my opinion) but grilled chicken, garlic (yum!), fresh tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  My mouth is watering right now just thinking about it.

The Heart of the Place - The Brick Oven!

My favorite meal combination includes a nice glass of wine – presently I am on a Sauvignon Blanc kick – with a side salad and a brick oven pizza.  My favorite salad is simply the Insalata Classica with mixed greens, shaved carrots and tomatoes tossed in a light & tasty lemon dressing.  Delicious!  There are plenty of pastas, paninis, appetizers and desserts (their most popular being the tirimisu) to tantalize your tastebuds, but frankly, I think the best reason to visit the Red Tomato Cafe is just to enjoy their warm, inviting atmosphere.  The place is adorned with tile-topped tables, red and orange muraled walls, terra-cotta floors and at the heart of it all, the big brick oven.  Check their website for daily specials which are posted at 10 AM.  Enjoy!   ~Amy