Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Tidbits: Boys of Summer Edition

Ah, summer.  Filthy, shameful summer.  Seriously though, whether you work in some sort of educational profession or not, you usually feel down about it coming to an end.  And while this one was probably one of the hottest I can recall, fraught with more Grand Prix construction, it was not without its high points food wise.

Chiapparelli's, Little Italy, Baltimore

I headed here for Restaurant Week (yes, I really am taking that long to write this), and Chiapparelli's, a place my family had gone several times before, was one of the few places that did a prix fixe dinner for only $20 instead of $30.  True, with beer, tax and tip (yes I drank beer with Italian food, okay?  Sue me.  And it wasn't even Peroni) it came closer to $35 but imagine what it would have been otherwise.  I had a lovely salad and a minestrone soup that made me love minestrone again.  I had grown tired of it, but Chiapparelli's was a nice change.  The main course was the hearty, luscious shrimp nicola that I could just sit there and eat again and again if I had no bottom to my stomach.  A cannolo for dessert topped off a fine, relatively iinexpensive (before drinks, tax and tip) gut-busting Italian meal.

Toss, North Baltimore

I went with friends Eric & Alan for pizza at Toss, a newly opened upscale BYOB pizza place on York Road.  Long story short: cheap but good pizza and salad.  Each of us spent about $10 - 15.  The Greek salad is more than enough to fill you up before you get the pizza, which had a nice crispy crust underneath all that melted cheese.  We got the Toss Special, covered in mozzarella, ham, Italian sausage, caramelized onions, roasted red peppers - hoo, Lawdy, is it hot in here?

Sláinte Pub, Fells Point, Baltimore

I've written about Sláinte a few times, and visited many, but I do have to give a shout out about the Irish bibimbap.  You read that right.  It's a Celtic take on the Korean classic, swapping out Korean style beef for Irish corned beef.  Try it.  It's good.

Aladdin Kabob, Mt. Vernon, Baltimore

This is one of those places you constantly pass by and never bother to go into because it's neatly tucked away where you cannot find it.  Next to Mari Luna and across from the Meyerhoff, Aladdin Kabob (their sign is "Aladdin Kabob" but their website is spelled "Alladin Kabob", so please note) is a quite unassuming and, unfortunately, pretty sparsely populated Pakistani restaurant.  At least it was when I went in on the Friday night of Artscape weekend.  I didn't really see much of Artscape myself, but I did feel this place pulling men, and I left absolutely stuffed and with leftovers!  Better yet, I was stuffed with food that was delicious: samosas, their wonderful chapli kabob for only $7, not to mention the free bread (the biggest naan I have ever seen) and a chickpea side dish.  Your dollar will go a long way here.

Mission Inn, Riverside, CA

I didn't write anything about my recent trip to SoCal, but I have to note the beautiful, historic Mission Inn in Riverside.  I note it for a few reasons: it is on the California Register of Historic Places, it's absolutely gorgeous both inside and out - done in an eye-popping Mission style (hence the name), and in all the years I've lived in and (since moving back home) re-visited the Inland Empire - 15 years I've known about this place - I've never been in.  All that changed this month, as I decided to treat myself to a lunch that I knew was going to be a little pricier than I'm used to spending.

If you go to the Mission Inn to eat, note that there are several restaurants inside, including: Las Campanas (a Mexican restaurant), Bella Trattoria (an Italian restaurant), 54° at Duane's (a super upscale wine bar), the Presidential Lounge (ten US presidents have passed through the Mission Inn, including Ronald Reagan who honeymooned here with Nancy; this cocktail bar and lounge gives a nod to all of them), Duane's Prime Steaks & Seafood (steak, seafood, pricey), and Casey's Cupcakes, featured on that cupcake challenge TV show (Casey was a winner!)

I went for the Mission Inn Restaurant itself, and was pleasantly surprised when the waitress told me about their lunch buffet.  Surprised not only that such a nice place would have a buffet in the first place, but that it was all of $18 (less than I would have otherwise spent), with a nice selection (quality wise, and to some extent quantity, too).  When I was there, they served up (among other things) Korean short ribs, chicken, fish, and everything was delicious.  Usually chicken and fish can and should be avoided with aplomb at these buffets, but the Mission Inn knows better than that.  You get your money's worth.  And please get some of the dessert as well.  Their bread pudding is was the single best thing I ate the whole time I was out there.