Friday, February 8, 2008

Happy Birthday to Mom at Maple Lawn

by Special Guest Blogger BCD Mom

BCD Dad and I decided to celebrate my birthday at Ranazul (translation: blue frog), a tapas restaurant located in a newly developed area of town called Maple Lawn, about 10 minutes south of Columbia. I must say that we got a great parking place right in front of the restaurant, and BCD Dad did an expert job of parallel parking! The restaurant itself is very attractive, sort of South Beach/Art Deco decor, which reminded us of THEHotel in Las Vegas.

We got seated at a table for two, which was unfortunately a bit small. (We noticed that other diners with two in their party got larger tables, and we wished we had asked for a larger table. Next time!) Although we were not seated there, the bears mentioning that there was a large area in the restaurant with easy chairs which looked very comfy. The dinnerware was pretty, and was obviously specially made for the restaurant since it had the name Ranazul on it. We also liked the glassware - it was very unusual. The service was fine, which was a pleasant surprise since some of the write-ups I had read indicated that this was a problem. It was so good that one of the servers hung up my coat! It was a good meal, and we had a great time.

The menu had soups, salads, cold tapas, and main courses, but we opted to only order tapas. Ranazul had a very large wine list, and offered half-glasses. We were kind of sorry we didn't order any wine, but we ordered a few cocktails instead: a mojito for me, a Hendrick's martini for Dad. Then we went to town ordering food!

Mom's Mojito

Dad'd Hendrick's Martini

First, the waiter brought good crusty bread, with warm olive oil with garlic in it.

Then we ordered cold and hot taoas. The cold tapas included:

  • Salmon avocado sushi (actually it was sashimi)
  • Olives stuffed with pequita peppers and anchovies

The salmon was very good, and served with an excellend wakame (seaweed) salad and some tasty avocado, but this wasn't really a traditional tapa, and we fett you could get the same thing at a sushi bar. The olives were also great, but $5 for 4 olives was a little steep!

Hot tapas included:

  • Arepas with shrimp and crab
  • Foie gras
  • Patatas bravas

The arepas were terrific! The contrast of the crunchy corn cake with the seafood was great. The chef is obviously fond of butter, as the sauce on the seafood was extremely buttery and delicious. The foie gras also was extremely good (when isn't it??). It was very delicate and outstanding, and was served with a yummy buttery crouton. The potatoes, which were fried cubes, were served with two sauces: a spicy red sauce kind of like a salsa, and a flavored mayonnaise. Although the dish was not terribly exciting, it was still good (who doesn't love fried potatoes??).

But wait, we were not finished eating! We ordered a cheese plate, and we each had a glass of port to go with it. We took the waiter's recommendation on which port to order, which was kind of expensive at $12 a glass, but I must admit it was good. The cheese plate was unfortunately not at room temperature, but the cheeses themselves (a morbiere and a bleu) were good. The cheese plate was served with grapes, pears, and sweet baby figs, but Dad found the fruit disappointing.

Then we moved onto coffee and espresso, which was fine. I was sorry I was too full from the cheese plate to order dessert, but I plan to go back, and I will definitely try one of their great-sounding desserts!

All in all, it was a fun evening, and a good first birthday dinner for me. Why a first, you ask? Because we have not yet had our traditional joint Mom/Xani blowout birthday dinner which may be in Baltimore, or possibly NYC!

Happy (birthday) eating,

BCD Mom (aka Janice)

Note from the BCD Girls: Happy Birthday, Mom! We love you and we can't wait for the big birthday dinner extravaganza!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Baltimore Restaurant Week: Tabrizi's

by Erin

Last week was Baltimore Restaurant Week, and Xani and I were eager to take advantage of the excuse to dine out multiple times in one week at some of the best restaurants in our fair city.

Early in the week, I went to dinner at Tabrizi's with Xani and law school buddies Veronica and Kerry (you may remember them from when we went to the Helmand). Tabrizi's is a relatively new Greek/Mediterranean restaurant off of Key Highway and their Restaurant Week menu looked delicious, so we decided to try it out.

We ordered a bottle of Cotes du Rhone and settled into our table, which was located in the middle of the dining area.

We had a great server who was a good sport and put up with our antics with grace and style (including one instance where he was clearing our plates just as Xani was saying, "this is why I need a gun."). One of the reasons I love dining with this crew, aside from the sparkling conversation, is that everyone loves to SHARE. So, we discussed what we wanted to order and dove right in.

For our first course, we had:

  • Seared Ahi Tuna, encrusted with toasted sesame seeds, on streaks of aged soy-balsamic reduction and Wasabi cream. Served rare.
  • Sautéed Baby Octopus and Calamari, tossed with spicy chili garlic sauce, garnished with teardrop tomato relish and lemon zest
  • Fried Brie, with blackberry coulis and crunchy parsley
  • Moroccan Chicken Wings, tossed in pomegranate chili sauce, served with sour cream-Gorgonzola dip

Sesame-Crusted Tuna

Moroccan Chicken Wings

Fried Brie

Octopus and Calamari

Everything was great, but my favorites were probably the sauteed octopus and calamari and the chicken wings. The sauce on the calamari and octopus was sweet and spicy and really woke up the palate. Also, everything was cooked perfectly and nothing was tough or rubbery. The chicken wings were also awesome. They were really crispy and delicious with a sweet sauce on the outside, which went well with the gorgonzola cheese sauce on the side.

For our main course, we ordered:

  • Lamb Kebobs, Glazed with veal reduction served with basmati rice, fresh sauteed organic vegetables and pine nuts
  • Calves Liver, Pan fried with shallots, Chanterelle mushrooms, finished with creamy Dijon mustard reduction, served with fingerling potatoes and seasonal vegetables
  • Muscovy Duck Breast, In a thyme veal stock, accompanied by Chanterelle mushrooms and baby vegetables
  • Chicken Casablanca, Grilled sesame chicken kebobs with a Middle Eastern dry rub, served over basmati rice, vegetables, demi-glace and pine nuts

Chicken Casablanca

'Ze Duck'

Lamb Kebobs

Calves Liver

First, I must note that this was an insane amount of food! It's not often during Restaurant Week that restaurants are shelling out such huge portions, so it was a pleasant surprise. Favorites for this course include the duck and the liver. The duck was superb - perfectly cooked - and was served with delicious sauteed Chanterelle mushrooms. The liver was a pleasant surprise to see on the menu, and I was glad we tried it. It wasn't too livery, but the sauce was a little much (too creamy, I think).

For dessert, we tried all four of their desserts:

  • Creme Brulee
  • White and Dark Chocolate Mousse
  • Baklava
  • Assortment of Sorbets (mango, raspberry, lemon)

We of course also got coffee or coffee-related drinks. Xani got Turkish Coffee, Veronica got a cappuccino, Kerry got a latte, and I got good ol' regular coffee.

White Chocolate and Dark Chocolate Mousses (Mice?)

Trio of Sorbets

Baklava

Turkish Coffee for Xani - she loves those tiny cups and spoons!

Creme Brulee and EP's Coffee

The sorbets were so deliciously sweet and bright, they may have been my favorite. However, we were really surprised by the mousses (mice?) - the white chocolate mousse had a really subtle, lovely white chocolate flavor, and was really light and airy. The dark chocolate mousse, on the other hand, was not that sweet and had a strange texture. The baklava had good flavor but it was a little doughy from too much filo on the bottom. The creme brulee was fine but now I'm addicted to creme brulee cheesecake so the real thing just doesn't do it for me anymore!

While not every dish was a total hit, there were definitely enough dishes that would make me come back and give it another shot with their full menu at hand. I'm sure it's a really fun place to go during the summer since the dining room sits right on the Baltimore Harbor.

It was a great meal to kick off Restaurant Week! Stay tuned for a handful of other posts about our RW dining experiences...

Happy dining,

EP

ps. I just saw on their website that Tabrizi's has extended their RW menu for the entire month of February! So, if you are looking for a good meal at a decent price, check this place out.

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