Thursday, July 19, 2007

Farewell to Jenny (and Happy Birthday to Kim)!

Last weekend, we went to dinner at Pazo to bid Jenny farewell (she has since moved to LA-- miss you already Jenny!), and to celebrate Kim's birthday. Pazo is a fun, hip tapas place in the Harbor East area of Bmore, who's kitchen is run by Cindy Wolf, renowned Baltimore chef of Charleston Restaurant and Petit Louis Bistro. As with most tapas places, it's more fun to go with a big group (so as to try as many dishes as possible!), and that's exactly what we did with our party of 8.

We started out the evening with a few cocktails at the bar. Erin got a mojito which was quite delicious, and Xani got her latest favorite drink: extra-dirty Grey Goose martini. She's so hip (read: pretentious).

Once we sat down we took a look at the extensive menu. We decided to order the Grand Table for Six, and then bulk it up with a few of our favorite individual tapas and another main dish or so, plus a LOT of red wine.

The Grand Table included:

  • Mixed Olives
  • Calamari Fritti
  • Wood Roasted Red Pepper Bruschetta
  • Manchego & Manzana
  • Shrimp & Green Apple Pinchos
  • Jamon Iberico-aged Spanish Ham with Peaches
  • Romain Hearts salad with sweet peppers, reggiano, and vinaigrette
  • Ribeye with grilled spring onions and romescu
  • Grilled Sea Scallops with cherry tomatoes and a spicy "mojo picon"
  • Grilled Asparagus
  • Chocolate Cannoli

We added:

  • Empanadas with salsa verde
  • Pappa Frita
  • Pugliese (a "rustic bread of purgatory")
  • Pizza Bianca with pine nuts and yellow zucchini
  • Pescado a la Brasa (fish of the day, which was bronzini)

We also added our own desserts but we'll get to that in due time...

For the most part, everything we had was FANTASTIC. While there were a couple of things we could have done without (e.g., the romaine salad, the scallops which are not a BCD favorite, unless served raw), all the dishes were delicious and beautifully presented.

Olives with sea salt

Shrimp and Green Apple Pinchos

Manchego & Manzana

Asparagus and Bruschetta

Romaine Hearts Salad

Scallops with Mojo Picon

Bronzini fileted tableside

Xani's date...

We of course had our favorites of the evening. The calamari was perfectly cooked, tender and crunchy, and was served with lemon and aioli, and little rings of hot pepper mixed in. Also good was the very fist course, the ham-wrapped peaches - it was an interesting (and delicious) take on proscuitto e melone. The ribeye was also great - it was perfectly cooked (medium-rare) and served with a romescu, which had loads of yummy toasted sliced almonds. The asparagus were tender-crisp with a bit of a charred taste from the grill.

Calamari Fritti

Proscuitto and Peaches

Ribeye with Romescu and Spring Onions

Empty plate from the Ribeye...soooo good

Of course, everything WE ordered in addition to the Grand Table was awesome, especially the pappas fritas, which are just about the best fries EVER! Well, the best fancy fries ever. We could have a whole post about fries, actually... but these are a must-have if you are visiting Pazo!

Empanadas and Pappas Fritas

The pizza was delicious with a delicate crust and lots of cheese, topped with toasted pine nuts. The empanadas were crispy and spicy and very yummy.

Pizza Bianca

Here's where we should talk about the wine. Yeah. The thing with wine is, the more you drink, the more likely you are to totally forget what you were drinking! We had 4 bottles of red throughout the dinner. We mixed it up between some Italian and Spanish bottles. Pazo has a very good, very user-friendly wine list which you can study here if you are so inclined. UPDATE: Matt has a better memory than any of us and was able to recreate our wine menu by reviewing the wine list online! We had:

Round 1:

  • La Mancha, Campos Reales "Joven" (Tempranillo) Spain, 2005 (the softer red)
  • Nero d'Avola, Firriato "Chiaramonte" Sicily, Italy 2004 (the spicy one-- and the crowd favorite?)

    Round 2:
  • Rioja Arbanta (Tempranillo) Spain, 2005 (again a softer wine)
  • Monastrell, Diego Fernandez (M1) Valencia, Spain 2005 (described as having bacon and beef jerky notes-- actually quite tasty!).

Thanks Matt!

For dessert, we got cannoli which came with the Grand Table, and we also ordered some other desserts. Matt got the drunken cherry cake, Kim and Ben got an almond cake, and the two of us split the trio of ice creams: a lemon granita, a strawberry sorbet, and espresso ice cream. YUM. It was a great end to a fantastic meal!


Drunken Cherry Cake with Pistachio Ice Cream

Almond Cake

Trio of Ice Creams

It is so sad to think of Jenny being so far away, but this just gives us an excuse to visit her (and eat very well) in LA! In n Out Burger here we come!

Check out the rest of the photos in the album:


Happy Celebrating!

X & E

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Picnic on the Hill


"Xani finds out she gets to go to a picnic and goes totally insane"

by Xani

On Thursday nights in the summer, The American Visionary Arts Museum hosts Flicks on the Hill, where they show a movie on a big screen on the side of the building, located next to historic Federal Hill. People show up to watch with blankets, chairs, maybe a bottle of wine, and, of course, snacks. Last Thursday, after getting home from Bucks County, I decided to join EP and some other friends on the Hill to watch the classic film E.T. The Extraterrestrial. I still had a couple hours before the movie started at 9, so I thought I would "throw together" a few things to snack on while we watched. Or that's how it started, anyway. But then, something took hold of me, and I couldn't help myself. I went into full-blown cooking mode! I was just too excited at the idea of a nighttime picnic in the park. How awesome! Isn't this why I live in the city in the first place, to do cool stuff like this?! Not to mention the weather was perfect - after a few days of terrible humidity the storms had rolled through the day before and we were left with a dry, comfortable evening (for a change).

I started scouring my kitchen for ingredients, then running back to the laptop to google recipe ideas. Eventually I figured out I had everything I needed to make:

Um, yeah. What is wrong with me?? I went pretty overboard I guess. But it was fun, and I was excited about how creative I got with the few (still good) ingredients in my fridge.

The salad was pretty simple, just chop up the veggies (and feta) and mix with the rinsed chickpeas, add a little cumin and red pepper flakes along with the lemon, garlic and olive oil, and its pretty much done. I went a step further and decided to toast up some whole wheat pita broken into pieces, kind of like a fatoush salad, to give it some crunch. This turned out to be a REALLY good, refreshing summer salad. And yet another variation on chickpea salad which we all know I love.

The crostini started as a simple idea-- I had some fresh basil that was about to go bad, and some fresh mozzarella. But I didn't have a lot, and there were potentially going to be six people eating the food; GOD FORBID I not bring enough food, that would against the BCD creed of "Always cook enough food to feed an army." So, I had to figure out some more crostini toppings, obviously. I ended up sauteing up some chopped mushrooms in butter, garlic, parsley and a little onion, because I thought the mushroom saute would go well with the mozzarella as well as some fresh goat cheese I also had. And so, after toasting up some sliced french bread, voila-- mix 'n' match crostini.

This was shaping up into quite a meal. And really, what is a meal without dessert (well, and wine - I brought that too), especially a summer meal, eaten outdoors? The natural choice was ice cream, but I thought it would melt, even if I kept it in the little cooler I was planning on bringing. But while I was staring into the freezer, thinking about what I could bring instead of ice cream, I saw a package of frozen raspberries. Then, in the fridge I found some part-skim ricotta (cheese is obviously a theme in this meal!). I decided to macerate the berries in a little triple sec-- I hated to use frozen berries when now is the time to get great fresh ones, but they were all I had. And honestly, with a little booze and a sprinkle of sugar and lemon zest, they were very good! To the ricotta I added a spoonful of sour cream (to thin it out a bit and give it some tang), some vanilla and another sprinkle of sugar.

With all the food packed in their little individual tupperware containers (plus plates, cups, napkins, forks, spoons, knives, wine opener, bug spray, etc, etc- packing for a picnic is complicated!) it was time to head over to the movie. We met up with EP's friends Laurie and Paul, who had saved us great seats on the hill. The movie started and soon we were joined by my friends Greg and Jes. We poured the wine and broke out the food, and it was great! I was really happy with the way the dishes came out, and everyone seemed to enjoy the "snacks." (Bonus: ALL the food got eaten! Again we confirm the theory of always bringing too much!) I especially like the dessert, which I totally made up the recipe for; it tasted sort of like a deconstructed raspberry cheesecake. But not as good. Nothing is as good as real cheesecake. But still good.

I didn't take many pictures at the movie because I didn't want to disturb the other audience members with the flash, and it was too dark not to use it. Here are the few I did snap:

All packed up

I packed the pita chips separately and added them just before we ate

All the fixin's

Blurry pic of AVAM with cranes in the background

Good food, good friends, and a good movie (although I didn't remember E.T. having quite so many plot holes)-- it was a fun night and I hope to do it again sometime soon! If you live in Baltimore or nearby I highly recommend you make your own totally over-the-top picnic one Thursday night this summer. Maybe I will see you there!


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