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Sundae at CPK, just $1. Good time….priceless!

SundaeLet’s face it a dollar bill just does not go very far these days.  But it does at the California Pizza Kitchen at Westfield Montgomery  (a.k.a. Montgomery Mall to the old timers in the area). Recently I took my boys out to dinner at this restaurant located near Nordstrom in the Mall and, after getting the usual kids fare (chicken tenders and pizza), we ordered the $1.00 sundae. It’s only a dollar if you order one of the kid’s entrees and it’s plenty big for my guys (ages 6 and 9). It was a hit. The hot fudge is old fashioned and really makes the dessert.  How do I know?  Much to the chagrin of the kids I have a routine when I want to sample of their food.  I grab the spoon and take a bite and then say in a deep voice, “safety check.”  After appearing to really analyze the bite taken I give the “o.k. it’s all clear and safe to eat.”  This is usually followed by groans and howls from the kids who complain bitterly about my food stealing on a false pretense.  Head over to CPK and don’t forget the “safety check!”

Day 245: Nordstrom Cafe

Nordstrom Cafe

One of my favorite restaurants is in Montgomery Mall, a.k.a. Westfield Montgomery.  That’s right.  With the plethora of restaurant choices available in our town I like to go to the Mall and eat.  Where?  Nordstrom Marketplace Cafe.

Tucked in the corner of the lower level near the woman’s shoe department is one of the best kept secrets to a great meal.  C’mon you say, “Can you really get decent food at a department store?”  You bet.  Tired of the “food court” thing? Check out what you could be having like Grilled Chicken & Strawberry Salad made with organic baby greens and spinach, chicken, goat cheese, strawberries, marinated red onions, candied pecans, and dark cherry balsamic vinaigrette for under 10 bucks.  Or how about one of Amy’s favorites the Shrimp & Asparagus Risotto made with carnaroli rice, roasted asparagus, petite tomatoes, wild shrimp, white wine, and parmesan cheese for $11 and change.  They have soups, salads, pizza, sandwiches and Panini, pasta, and “Cafe Specialties.”  I like the Grilled Skirt Steak Chimichurri made with grilled skirt steak, roasted asparagus, carrots and yukon gold potatoes, and a wonderful spicy cilantro lime vinaigrette.  The food here is really good!  They also have a decent healthy selection for the kids as well with fresh fruit and even “Buttered Noodles.”

The service here is really great too and they give you these awesome little chocolate covered mints at the end of your meal.  Remember to bring some cash to tip your server as it is not included in the price of the meal.  The decor here is casual but very comfortable with a larger than expected number of comfy booths to sit in.  It’s a classy place that reflects the whole Nordstrom atmosphere very well.  The sounds of the piano keys gently playing in the distance is not too bad either in terms of ambiance.

Photo courtesy of Blog FoodiePopJourney

The “Greenies” among us are pleased that the Cafe is committed to bringing you local, sustainable, natural and organic foods and environmentally friendly products as well like milk that’s free from BGH, cage free eggs, organic produce, organic iced tea, organic and fair trade coffee as well as products that are free from hydrogenated and partially-hydrogenated fats or oils.  They also are committed to reducing, reusing and recycling by using recyclable and biodegradable water bottles, compostable hot paper cups, napkins from paper made with 100% post-consumer waste, and carry out packaging made with 100% recycled paperboard.

The bottom-line is they care about the food, you and the environment here and the food is simply wonderful all at a reasonable price (certainly by Bethesda standards)! ~Brian

Day 111: Eat Mor Chikin!

Chick-fil-A

I’m a Chick fil-A fan.  First time I ever had Chick Fil-A was when I pulled into a restaurant off Interstate 270 near Frederick.  You can imagine my delight when Chick Fil-A came to Montgomery Mall.  A little background first.

Chick fil-A was founded by Truett Cathy (That’s a dude’s name.  Remember the movie Talledega Nights with Will Ferrell?  His character’s name was Ricky Bobby.  What is it with southern names?).  Like many entrepreneurs Truett had his setbacks before “success” came calling.  His first restaurant failed in 1946.  His second restaurant burned to the ground.  But he didn’t give up.   Nearly 15 years passed since the fire when he trademarked the name “Chick fil-A” (a play on words for chicken fillet) and founded the restaurant that bears that name in 1966.

Chick fil-A Chicken Sandwich

Truett is credited with inventing and introducing the chicken sandwich to the fast food industry.  He opened their first restaurant in a mall outside Atlanta, GA in 1967, one of the early pioneers of introducing restaurants into malls (by the way, Montgomery Mall, now Westfield Montgomery, was built in 1968).  Sticking to a mall strategy worked and Chick-fil-A became a huge success.  In 1982 they introduced chicken nuggets to the industry.  In 1986 Chick-fil-A took on the free-standing restaurant chains by building a stand-alone restaurant in Atlanta.  Today half the 1,400+ restaurants are free-standing (By the way McDonalds has about 14,000 in the U.S.).

Charsky and Hoof

In 1995 some marketing genius came up with the “Eat Mor Chikin” advertising campaign featuring renegade cows urging consumers to move stop looking for “where’s the beef” (remember the Wendy’s ads?) and to go for chicken.  $3 Billion in sales revenue last year and one can say Truett’s company is a big success.

Fresh-squeezed lemonade

I hate to admit it but I take my boys to the Montgomery Mall  at least once a week.  The kids love the nuggets and waffle fries.  I love the chicken sandwich (don’t forget to order lettuce and tomato).  We all like the “hand-spun Milkshakes.”  Now I know what you’re thinking,  “fast food is bad for you.”  Well not all of it is so bad.  They serve great fresh-squeezed lemonade made daily from Sunkist® lemons, water and sugar.  Nothing else and it’s delicious.  They also brew fresh iced tea each day for their teas (my personal preference is sweetened, Southern Style of course).  They have fresh-cut vegetables for their salads prepared right in the store, and fresh fruit for their fruit cups.  If you want to eat healthier here you can. My suggestion is to try the chargrilled chicken and fruit salad combination. They’ve also got a Chicken Ceasar Cool Wrap.  “Slices of grilled chicken breast nestled in a fresh mix of Romaine lettuce served with Parmesan cheese tightly rolled in multigrain flat bread. Served with Caesar dressing. Made fresh daily.”  They serve breakfast here too including breakfast buritos, yogurt parfait with granola, and of course chicken biscuits.   Reminds me of Bubba Gump’s shrimp options except you substitute the word chicken for all the shrimp preparations.

Someone once described our Summer season in the Washington, DC area this way, “Summer arrives two weeks after the start of spring…”  That just cracks me up but it’s so true here.  This spring/summer head over to Chick fil-A and quench that thirst by ordering an Arnold Palmer, the drink made famous by the champion golfer, –half lemonade and sweet tea.  I’m calling it “fast-refreshment” vs. fast-food.  That’s my blog and I’m chicken to it. ~Brian

Day 32: Mall Monkey Business

The NEW Westfield Montgomery Mall

The NEW Westfield Montgomery Mall

I can’t help it.  I like going to the mall.  I still call it Montgomery Mall and I know the owners want me to call it Westfield Montgomery. Branding Schmanding.  Montgomery Mall is located at 7101 Democracy Boulevard just off Interstate 270 and Democracy.  My favorite place to park is just outside the second level of Nordstrom (you have to weave your way through the garage to get there).  My partner Amy moved here from Seattle and likes to correct me when I say Nordstroms (there’s no S apparently…who knew?)  I always get a covered parking space two or three spaces from the walkway into the Men’s department which is pretty sweet.  They also have the cleanest bathrooms in the mall.  With two small boys in tow this can be critical information.

I like to take my sons to the mall for some fun.  We start with Chick-Fil-A in the eatery.  Did you know they invented the chicken sandwich? After chowing down some tasty waffle fries and delicious milkshakes topped with whipped cream we head for the play pit (a.k.a. germ pit) down near the entrance to Sears.  The kids love to run from the eatery down the long gleaming hallways and scare the living hell out of me with their shenangans on the escalators.  Why do all children want to walk up the down escalator? Once we get to the play pit they manage to run around at lighting speed, somehow narrowly missing other children traveling in near perfect ‘death-orbit.’  After the play pit we sometimes drop some serious change on the kiddie rides nearby.  I then load them into the double-decker Smarte Cartes they have there and we head off for the rest of the mall (don’t ask how much these carts are!).  We deftly avoid the Stepford wife-like Dead Sea salt lotion sales lady and make our way to the elevator.  No matter how many times I tell my seven year-old to wait for people to get off the elevator first he practically bowls over hapless passengers trying to get off the elevator cab.  The kids like the ride to the second floor.  Did I say I like going to the mall? We get off and make a bee-line for the Apple Store (more on that in a future blog on February 10).  The boys make themselves at home on an iMac while playing the Lego Batman game and I admire the latest gadgets from Apple.  Depending on the mood we may try to find the dude who tries to sell toys from one of the many Kiosks while flying a remote-controlled helicopter.

Nordstrom Piano

Then we head down to Nordstrom.    We hang-out there listening to one of the skilled piano players or checking out the really cool fish tank in the children’s shoe department.  Have you ever eaten in Nordstrom Marketplace Cafe? The food and service in the Cafe is really good.  My favorite is the Tuscan Salmon.  Whatever you do shield your eyes from the desserts….omg!

There are over 190 stores at Montgomery Mall so if you are headed there to really buy something (vs. keeping your hyperactive kids busy for a couple of hours) it’s hard not to find it.  My last purchase at the mall was from Shenk and Tittle Sporting Goods, a really nice and well stocked sporting goods store.  I purchased a Troy Polamalu official NFL jersey for Amy who is a die-hard Steelers fan.  She’ll be wearing her jersey on Sunday when the Steelers take on the Packers in the Superbowl.  Thanks Montgomery Mall. ~Brian