Thursday, July 17, 2008

Moving Day=Pizza and Beer, Right? Oh, We Don't Roll Like That...

by Erin and Xani

They have arrived!!

As some of you may know, last week, the BCD parents moved from our childhood home in Columbia, MD to Taylors Island, MD, located on the Eastern Shore about 25 minutes from Cambridge. The move was traumatic and certainly a pain in the ass, but the new house is SICK (that's a good thing, Mom) so it's totally worth it.

As soon as the weekend hit, we hopped in the car and made the almost-2 hour drive out to the new house to help unpack and built lots and lots of Ikea furniture. As a reward for our hard work and not messing up the Ikea furniture too badly (e.g., "um, why do we have an extra one of these screws??"), the BCD parents took us out to dinner at Bistro Poplar.
Bistro Poplar is a classic French bistro in the heart of historic Cambridge, MD, and Mom and Dad heard about it from one of their new neighbors, or the builder, or somebody. That's how living in a small town works, apparently. Everyone likes to talk to one another! Weird!

First of all, Bistro Poplar is an adorable place. It's small (reservations strongly recommended) but with high ceilings and cheery colors all around. The bar along the back wall looks like a great place to stop in for a drink. But of course, we were there for more than just drinks!

We sat down and were greeted by our server Dana, who proved to be a wonderful guide through both the food and the wine. Before we even took a look at the menu, we of course started with a round of cocktails (all that furniture building builds a powerful thirst!). Dad got a Hendrick's extra-dry martini with a twist and olives on the side (sheesh), Xani got an extra-dirty Grey Goose martini, Mom got a Cosmopolitan (ironic for a lady who's just moved to the boondocks), and EP ordered a Tom Collins. The Tom Collins was pretty strong and Dana noticed that EP wasn't drinking her drink very fast, so she brought her some extra club soda to take some of the edge off - very attentive service.

Then we made our selections for our first and second courses. As you will see, we had some pretty eclectic choices (big shocker there), and Dana suggested several excellent white wines for us to enjoy throughout the evening.

For our first course, we ordered the Fried Green Tomatoes with Crab Hash and Beurre Monté, Lamb Tongue and Frisée with Fingerling Potatoes and Warm Mustard Vinaigrette, Sauteed Sweetbreads with Swiss Chard and Bacon Sauce, and the special of the day, Escargots.

As per our tradition, we love to try everything so we eat approximately 1/4 of the dish (if you can hold yourself back), and then pass to the person on the right. I'm sure we look pretty strange but that's how we do!

Anyway, almost everything we had was absolutely fantastic. The fried green tomatoes had a wonderful cornmeal crust and the crab hash was deliciously creamy with bits of fried up potatoes. Yum! The sweetbreads were also quite tasty, with a crisp exterior and that "chicken nugget-ness" that a certain winner of Top Chef once mentioned, plus the swiss chard and bacon sauce were wonderful compliments. And hello, bacon sauce?? Need we say more?

Fried Green Tomatoes


The escargots were also absolutely delicious and were served removed from their shells with a super-garlicky butter sauce, and the best part was that each one had a little puff pastry hat! The pastry added a little bit of crunch to the bite, and we all agreed that we had never seen escargots served that way (or nearly as cute!). The plate came with 6 little snails, and we each had one, and then we played rock-paper-scissors to determine who would get the other two. That's how good they were.

Escargots! With hats!

The only disappointment was the lamb tongue salad. The lamb tongue was in a sausage form, and it must have had a very delicate, mild flavor because it was pretty much overpowered by the flavor of the mustard vinaigrette, unfortunately. Ah well, 3/4 ain't bad!

Lamb Tongue Frisee Salad

Next came our main dishes. We ordered Boudin Blanc with Prunes and Pomme Purée, Bison with Lyonnaise Potatoes and Red Wine Jus, Gnocchi Parisienne with Local Vegetables, and Grouper with Summer Squash and Lime Beurre Monté.

The Boudin Blanc was one of our favorite dishes. It was a white sausage made from chicken and pork, seasoned very well, and served with wonderful whipped up potatoes and sweet prunes, which cut through all the rich heaviness of the sausage and potatoes. This was a very unique dish that neither of us had had before, and it was really well-balanced and hearty.

Next, we loved the gnocchi, which were not traditional Italian-style gnocchi, but rather they were little potato balls that had been pan-fried a bit to get a bit of a crust on one side, and they were served with tiny yellow pear-shaped tomatoes, grown locally we presume. The gnocchi wereperfectly light and not gummy at all, and seasoned with lots of herbs, including a few deep fried sage leaves. Fantastic!

The bison had great flavor and was perfectly cooked, though as a lean meat it was not overly tender and there was some gristle to work around. The "lyonnaise potatoes" were a mixture of potatoes and fennel, and it was a really delicious, very well-seasoned side dish that may have outshone the headliner.

Last we had the grouper, which was, like the lamb tongue salad, kind of bland and not that exciting. Still, the other dishes were quite good, and we were so enamored with them we didn't mind passing the grouper around the table.

Finally, it was time for dessert! We ordered three different desserts: Profiteroles with Chocolate Sauce, Berry Tart with a Chocolate Almond Crust, and Cheesecake with Fresh Berries and a Pistachio Graham Crust. Xani and Dad ordered espressos; Erin and Mom ordered coffees. Dad also ordered some Calvados to finish of the meal.

Coffee and yes, more booze

The profiteroles were made with traditional pâte à choux dough, which creates great big holes from air pockets when it is baked, and then the profiteroles (or cream puffs) are filled with pastry cream or in our case, ice cream! Dana did a table side presentation where she drizzled the bittersweet chocolate sauce all over them - it was hard to sit still.

Chocolate drizzle action shot

The berry tart was light and the berry and chocolate flavors worked perfectly together. The cheesecake was also a great hit and we were very pleased with everything in the dessert course.

Berry Tart


It was a wonderful meal to welcome the BCD parents to the shore, and I'm sure we'll come back to Bistro Poplar again soon. They have a late-night dining menu that looks pretty great, and they are open until 11, which is BIG TIME out there!

Congrats on the new house, Mom and Dad! We'll be visiting often!

E & X

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

A New Wednesday Night Tradition?

by Xani

Man, we are really working our way through the list these days! Last week I was able to have dinner with a friend over at The Kitchen at Peter's Inn, in Fells Point. I've been meaning to get there forever but it just never happened until last Wednesday, which also happens to be their half-priced wine night! Hooray!

After a couple of frosty cocktails at the bar (frosty is key in these days of 90+ temperatures, humidity and daily thunderstorms, especially when your house that you JUST BOUGHT has non-functioning air conditioning!!) we snagged a table in the tiny dining room, which was filling up fast. The waiter brought over a whole carafe of ice water with a chunk of watermelon floating in it-- lovely! (Little known fact: in addition to cold alcoholic drinks, water can be refreshing on a hot day, as well. Who knew?)

That's watermelon in there...

Peter's changes its menus weekly and posts that week's offerings on its website, so we arrived with an dining plan in mind. Roasted beets and chickpea fritters plus an order of garlic bread to start, then for the mains, shrimp with cheesy grits and the duck leg confit, served over black lentils, with an adorable fried quail egg perched on top!

Beets and Chickpea fritters

Garlicky goodness

The starters were excellent: slightly sweet, earthy, cold beets paired with crispy fried falafels and a tangy yogurt sauce (well, pretty sure it was yogurt, but we definitely had a short discussion over whether it had a slight mayonnaise taste? sour cream? maybe it was greek yogurt? Screw it, let's drink some more wine.) The garlic bread was, as promised, off the chain. And this is coming from a garlic bread snob. It was really garlicky, buttery and crunchy. It didn't quite beat BCD Dad's version, but I'm pretty sure he puts crack in his.

Duck Leg Confit and the WORST picture I have ever taken.

Did I mention its dark at Peter's? Good for atmosphere, not so much for photography

Where's the head?

The mains were also quite tasty. The duck leg confit had really great, crispy duck skin, although the meat itself was slightly dry. The lentils were very good, and the fried quail egg was a nice touch-- I wanted to save it until the end, it was that cute! The shrimp and grits was the real winner though-- perfectly cooked LARGE shrimps over reeeeaaalllly cheesy grits with excellent texture. If I had to change one thing I would ask for them to leave the shrimp heads ON! Seriously people, shrimp heads are delicious. I think I'm going to start a whole shrimp head movement, and be recognized for the genius I am.

For dessert we enjoyed.... more cocktails. Hey, it's HOT out! It was a lively scene at Peter's, even though it was getting late, so after lingering for a while we finally gave up our table and headed out into the night. Now I've gotten into the habit of checking the menu online to see what tasty offerings are available... this week's trio of tartares (1. beef tartare 2.beet and jicama tartare 3.tuna tartare) is calling my name-- and whaddya know, it's Wednesday again!


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