Sunday, August 29, 2010

Baltimore: Obrycki's

For our final dinner together in Baltimore, my dad wanted Baltimore crabs. I'd looked up a few crab places and the place closest to Inner Harbor (where we'd hung out all afternoon taking pictures) was Obrycki's:

We didn't really understand street parking in Baltimore, so to play it safe we parked in a parking lot across from the restaurant. We paid $10 up front and got $5 back after we got our ticket validated. Sigh. Turns out street parking is completely okay, so if you ever make the trek out to Baltimore, take advantage of it and don't get sucked into the parking lot.

Anyway, we were lucky to get the sweetest server ever. She lined our table with butcher paper and laid out our utensils:

Eating crab at my house usually requires...teeth. So seeing the mallet got us quite excited and perhaps we were a little overzealous with it, but isn't that the point?

First came the cream of crab soup:

I think the server was a little surprised when we said we only wanted one bowl for the four of us. Besides the tiny clump of crab meat on top, there wasn't much crab meat in the soup. Despite that, the creaminess was delicious.

Our server explained to us how there are two sizes of hard shell blue crab to choose from: medium and large. A dozen medium crabs cost about $50 while a dozen large cost about $70.

We asked how big the large crabs were and our server motioned with her hands. Right when my dad commented on how that was comparable to crab sizes in SF, my sister asked whether the indicated size included the legs. Apparently it did. The shock on my dad's face was priceless.

Our server then asked if we wanted to start with three crabs each. The look on her face when we said we wanted three total just about made my day.

Unlike other more traditional crab places in Baltimore, Obrycki's crabs come with their own special peppery seasoning:

The crab flesh was tasty...but there wasn't much of it. The fun part was smashing at the tiny legs with the mallet.

To get a taste of everything Obrycki's has to offer, we ordered the broiled seafood combination:

It came with crab cake, crab imperial, broiled topped shrimp, flounder, sea scallops, green beans, and fries. I particularly enjoyed the flounder and sea scallops. The crab cake was pretty good too:

...but not as great as what we had at G&M the night before. It was a lot smaller and the exterior not as crunchy.

After a tearful family talk (in which the rest of my family cried and I took photos), my dad suggested we get some dessert. We were recommended to try the eclair supreme:

That had to be the worst eclair in the world! It was hard and just nasty. The best part of the entire dessert had to be either the ice cream and the fudge.

So if you want to go to Obrycki's, park on the street, order the large crabs, order the seafood combination only if you don't know what you like and want to try a bit of everything (otherwise $34 is a little expensive for that platter), and STAY AWAY from the eclair!

1727 E Pratt St
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 732-6399

Baltimore: Blue Moon Cafe

Friday was our day to explore Baltimore. When I told my family that I wanted to try Blue Moon Cafe for brunch, I felt I needed a reason to justify the trip besides the food supposedly being good. Luckily for me, it turns out that Blue Moon Cafe is located in Fells Point, a historic area in Baltimore (or so my sister says):

We got lucky. Our wait for a table of four was only 40 minutes. Parties of two were looking at an hour-long wait.

We took some pictures around the pier and before we knew it, it was our turn to be seated:

The interior was small, but cozy, and really quirky, with nice wooden tables and a tiny skeleton dangling from the ceiling.

We were all still recovering from the heavy dinner the night before, so we quickly agreed to split two dishes between the four of us.

The reason why I wanted to try Blue Moon Cafe in the first place was this:

The Captain Crunch French Toast. Just look at it. Three layers of gorgeousness. The crushed Captain Crunch cereal batter around the french toast was simply divine. After one bite I could understand why every table in the place sported at least one order of Captain Crunch French Toast.

To balance the sweet, we ordered the universal omelette:

The omelette was stuffed with just about everything an omelette could be stuffed with: ham, sausage, bacon, broccoli, mushrooms, tomatoes, onions, peppers, mozzarella, and cheddar. So delicious. The hash browns were also amazingly good.

The omelette came with a choice of toast or biscuit. We went with the toast:

The blueberry preserves was so tasty. Combined with butter on toast...perfection. But seeing homemade biscuits being carried out to other tables made me regret choosing toast. Those biscuits looked GOOD.

With just those two dishes, my entire family left Blue Moon Cafe feeling stuffed. Shameful, I know.

Blue Moon Cafe
1621 Aliceanna St
Baltimore, MD 21231
(410) 522-3940

Baltimore: G&M Restaurant

Thursday morning was spent helping my sister move into her dorm. Lunch was eaten on campus at a parent reception catered by the school. The afternoon was dedicated to hitting up Target for everything else my sister and our friend (who is also attending the same college) still needed to buy. It was no surprise to me that we'd all worked up quite an appetite by dinnertime.

Even before arriving in Baltimore, I knew that I couldn't leave without getting some crab cakes. When I mentioned that to the Enterprise man who rented us our van, he recommended G&M, where he said the crab cakes are "the size of baseballs":

First came the buns:

The buns were disappointing. They were nowhere as fluffy as they looked, but were in fact quite stale.

The onion rings, however, were fantastic:

Even better though, were the fried mushrooms:

The crust was crunchy, while the mushroom inside was amazingly juicy. I kept popping those suckers like crazy. (So was my mom.)

Since there were six of us altogether, we ordered three appetizers. Our server recommended the crab dip:

Sadly, we weren't all that impressed by the dip. There was quite a lot of crab in it, but it wasn't particularly flavorful.

Every entrée came with a salad:

I have nothing to say about salads. (Nothing positive at least.)

Despite being hungry, my family decided to share 3 entrees between the four of us. Experience has taught us that portions at restaurants tend to be bigger than we can manage and we wanted to avoid leftovers. After doing some reading on Yelp, we knew to stay away from the steaks and to try the pastas. My mom wanted to try their shrimp scampi:

She didn't like the heavy alcohol taste, which added a sourness to the pasta.

My sister and I share an a love for eggplant, so we picked the eggplant parmigiana:

Our entrée also came with regular pasta:

The star of the show was the crab cake. You can choose between the single ($17) and the double ($25) crab cake platter. Each comes with two sides. For the four of us, we figured the double would be most appropriate:

Enterprise man didn't lie....they were indeed the size of baseballs. I was skeptic at first, thinking that the crab cake would be dry. Nothing like that. HUGE chunks of crab were bound together by some kind of creamy deliciousness:

Including the sides and appetizers, there was so much food that we ended up not being able to finish most of it. In fact, we barely touched the eggplant parmigiana. My sister and our friend each went back to their dorms with a large box of leftovers.

G&M Restaurant
804 N Hammond Ferry Rd
Linthicum, MD 21090
(410) 636-1777

DC: Good Stuff Eatery

The weekend flew by in a blink of an eye and suddenly it was time to move my sister to JHU. We flew out of California on Tuesday and arrived in Baltimore in the early morning hours of Wednesday. After getting some shut-eye, we took a mini-trip within our Baltimore trip to Washington DC.

That made it the third time I've been to DC this year. Since my family had never been, I had to play tour guide. Well, sort of. Immediately upon arriving at the Mall, I started texting my DC friend to see what's good for lunch. I remembered him telling me about a burger place close to the Capitol building on my last visit. My friend came out to meet us at Good Stuff Eatery:

Former "Top Chef" contestant, Spike Mendelsohn, is the owner of Good Stuff Eatery. I've never been an avid "Top Chef" watcher, so I'd never heard of him. I'm not sure if it's due to his name or the food itself, but the place sure was crowded. Seems like it's a very popular place for people who work at the Capitol to stop by for lunch. Definitely a lot of suits in line.

My parents each got the Lunch Bag, which is a regular Farmhouse Cheeseburger with fries and a drink for $10.

My sister and I decided to share the Colletti's Smokehouse (around $7) because we weren't very hungry:

The burger consisted of applewood bacon, sharp Vermont cheddar, fried onion rings, and chipotle bbq sauce. A little on the small side for its price, but quite tasty in an old-fashioned greasy way.

On top of my parents' fries, we ordered some Village Fries:

The Village Fries comes topped with thyme, rosemary, and sea salt. I love the combination of thyme, rosemary, and potatoes, but after dipping the fries in the various flavored mayos provided, the taste of the herbs was unfortunately lost. So if you're the type who can't eat fries without some kind of dipping sauce, go with the regular fries. Oh, before I forget, the sea salt was fantastic.

There were a lot of mayos to choose from, but my favorites were the mango and the Old Bay:

My parents LOVED the mango mayo. My poor sister had to make multiple trips downstairs to get it refilled.

Overall, decent burgers, but rather expensive for the size. The Prez Obama burger is supposed to be really good. If I ever come back, I'll be giving that a try. But if I had a choice, I would go with Ray's Hell Burger.

Good Stuff Eatery
303 Pennsylvania Ave SE
Washington DC 20003
(252) 543-8222

South Bay: China Palace Restaurant

As a continuation of our eating spree leading up to my sister's departure for college, a very dear family friend took us out to China Palace Restaurant for lunch:

The cute thing about this place is that everyone gets a free pearl milk tea:

First is the dish I didn't touch. The chicken wings looked why too spicy for me:

We ordered some fried frog legs, but apparently they ran out, so we replaced it with some regular salt and pepper fish:

The fish was tender, the batter was crisp, everything a salt and pepper fried dish should be.

My mom loves their tofu in a bamboo steamer:

It goes very well with rice.

Just for my sister and I, they ordered some intestines in black bean sauce:

I got to pick a dish and on a bit of a dare, I selected the crocodile meat:

I don't think our family friends expected me tho choose the crocodile, but I had no problems chowing down on that stuff. There was nothing gamey or fishy about the meat, in fact, it tasted a lot like...chicken. How disappointing (for me) and relieving (for the rest of the table).

The server said we needed a veggie dish, so we got one...covered in meat:

The food at China Palace Restaurant is good and cheap, but not especially spectacular. Part of the fun is scanning through the list of dishes posted on the wall instead of looking through the menu. The free pearl milk tea is nice too. It's a good place to come if you don't feel like cooking and just want some decent Chinese grub.

China Palace Restaurant
688 Barber Ln
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 894-7060

Sunday, August 22, 2010

South Bay: Chavez Supermarket

While I was in Chicago, my sister kept teasing me with pictures of Mexican bread. Right before the end of the school year, my sister called me with devastating news: the Mexican bakery she'd been going to had closed down. Guh. Luckily, that phone call was followed by another a few weeks later to say that she'd found another bakery. When I returned from Taiwan, my sister brought me there as promised:

There was a huge selection of bread, but my sister immediately picked out her favorite custard empanadas:

The crust was a little hard for my tastes, but the custard filling was delicious.

I decided to give this one a try:

It was good, but not as good as my two favorite Mexican pastries (the pretzel with sugar crystals and this flaky layered bun). I was deeply saddened when I couldn't find either at Chavez Supermarket.

My very good friend from high school used to always bring me my favorite Mexican breads whenever she visited. For my birthday back in undergrad, she actually gave me a huge container filled with Mexican pretzels. The downside was that because I didn't know where to buy them, she would threaten to withhold Mexican bread from me whenever I didn't want to do something. I was hoping that Chavez Supermarket would help me escape from my friend's clutches, but it looks like I will have to keep looking. Dangit.

Chavez Supermarket
2327 McKee Rd
San Jose, CA 95116
(409) 929-5208

South Bay: Taqueria Las Vegas

Over the past year, I've been consistently craving one thing: carne asada fries. I was introduced to the magic of carne asada fries at Taqueria Las Vegas a few years back and ever since then, I've been hooked. Now that I'm going to school in Chicago, I can only wait until I come back to the Bay to satisfy my cravings:

Whenever we come to Taqueria Las Vegas, the first thing we get is a large cup of horchata:

My dad likes to call it "xi mi shui" or "rice washing water", but we usually just ignore him. We get so many refills that we actually feel guilty.

My mom is a big nacho fan:

My ahyi got a quesadilla:

The quesadilla is huge (as is just about everything at Taqueria Las Vegas), but I can't help but think back to the fabulous handmade quesadilla I got at the Maxwell Street Market in Chicago...

And here it is, the carne asada fries:

Essentially, it's just a layer of carne asada on a bed of steak fries, smothered in cheese, salsa, guacamole, and sour cream. Simple, but AMAZING. My friends tell me that "real" carne asada fries are found in Socal and are made with shoestring fries with far less toppings. Meh. These are real enough for me.

The key at Taqueria Las Vegas is to order everything to go. They give you more in the take out box than on the plates. Then you can sit and enjoy inside (or outside), refill your drink, refill your free chips and salsa, and pack away the leftovers (if you have any).

Love, love, love this place.

Taqueria Las Vegas
1417 N Milpitas Blvd
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 262-2415

South Bay: KTX Snack Bar

My friend emailed me about Beijing sour milk while I was still in Taiwan. When she said that she got it at a store near my house, I became even more curious to check it out. Turns out the store is newly opened (hence why I'd never heard of it):

I dragged my mom and my sister inside to find some Beijing sour milk. There were two flavors, regular and honey. Based on my friend's recommendation, we got the honey:

The actual sour milk was a lot like a liquid-y yogurt:

I'm just going to be honest and say that I wasn't all that impressed. First of all, I don't really like yogurt. Second, I couldn't taste the honey. Third, for the size of the cup, the price (a little over $2) was a bit on the high side. If you're curious, give it a try. If you like yogurt, give it a try. Otherwise....meh.

South Bay: Shanghai Delight

My paternal grandparents grew up in Shanghai, so whenever we go out to eat, they always want to get some Shanghai cuisine. To celebrate my sister going away to college, my grandfather suggested we eat here:

Can't start a meal without appetizers. My dad wanted the drunken chicken:

I think my dad makes better drunken chicken. This was a little on the bland side.

The smoked duck was quite scrumptious though:

As was the smoked fish:

My grandparents sometimes make this at home too:

In Chinese it's called kao fu and it's basically tofu skin, bamboo, and wood ear mushroom.

My sister really loves eggplant (as do I). The server recommended this fried eggplant dish:

Soooooo good...but the eggplant got a bit lost in all the fried goodness.

We also ordered a fish with wood ear mushroom:

The dish had alcohol in it, but was slightly sweet and very tasty. It went really well with rice.

My grandfather really likes honey walnut shrimp:

This will go against most of what I typically say, but I prefer my honey walnut shrimp un-fried. Honey walnut shrimp used to always come un-fried, but that all changed some ten years back. Nowadays it's rare to find un-fried honey walnut shrimp, at least in the Bay Area.

I love intestines, so this dish was perfect for me:

People who don't like intestines will probably be turned off by this dish. The intestine-y taste and smell was really, really strong. There were noodles on the bottom, but they didn't have much I just picked out the intestines. Yum.

We also ordered a pork wrapped in tofu skin:

Instead of white rice, we got veggie rice, which might be three times better than regular white rice:

The rice was super fragrant, but not so salty as to overpower the taste of the main dishes.

We ordered way too much for the six of us, but it was worth it to be able to try all that good food. Knowing my grandparents, we'll definitely be back.

Shanghai Delight
218 Barber Ct
Milpitas, CA 95035
(408) 434-6888
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