Sunday, April 26, 2015

Orient Express - Super Speedy Yes Indeedy!

Orient House Express
5970 S.W. 18th St #E2A
Boca Raton, FL 33433
Phone: (561) 368-9999

Having the word "Express" in their name is not in the least bit indulgent. For our delivery was undoubtedly the fastest service we have EVER had! I had barely enough time to take the wine from the fridge and retrieve the chopsticks from the drawer when the doorbell rang. From phone call to digging in could not have been more than 20 minutes. (they also have online ordering if you are so inclined)

As it was our first time ordering from them (and food critics weren't watching) we opted for a few traditional takeout dishes: Kung Pao Chicken, Szechuan String Beans, General Tso's Tofu and  Hot/Sour Soup. The dishes arrived steaming hot, but alas, the food itself was pretty standard suburban Chinese fare. 

The Kung Pao, which should be spicy and peanutty, was in desperate need of a flavor boost. It had just the barest kick of heat and very little in the way of any depth of flavor. I had to grab some hoisin sauce and black vinegar from the fridge to elevate the dish.

Szechuan string beans were nice and spicy and to the chefs credit, cooked perfectly al dente. In addition, the sauce didn't rely on excessive sugar for flavor which is definitely a bonus. But again the flavor profile was lacking - beyond the blast of heat there just wasn't much else there. 

General Tso's Tofu - well, of course, that was delicious! If you can wrap your head around the notion that you are scarfing down an "entree" that is in reality a savory deep fried dessert then this is the dish for you! We gobbled up 5 Huge hunks of Tofu in a super-sweet sauce. We didn't give a hoot about the authenticity of this deep fried deliciousness - it tasted great. (Do we get to count it as healthy if we ordered tofu instead of Pork? don't answer.) 

Hot and Sour soup was meh. Again, a trip to the fridge was necessary to give it some oomph. Once I drizzled some much needed sesame oil and a spoonful of some garlicky sambal oelek it was actually pretty good.

We will order from them again when the lazy bones and the hankering for takeout hit us. The food once doctored was good enough and the service was exceptional. 

Yes, Please! The Cheese Course in Mizner Park

The Cheese Course
Mizner Park 
305 Plaza Real
Boca Raton, FL 33432

p. 561-395-4354

Not sure why we walked past this little spot so many times without stopping in for a bite. My mistake!

We frequently saw people sitting out at the tables having a glass of wine and a little cheese and assumed that it was just a cheese shop that sold wine. Well, it is a cheese shop. And they do sell wine. But they are much more than that entails.

 The menu is not extensive, consists of a variety of cheese platters, salads and sandwiches. But each item is crafted well. The sandwiches are large (find a friend to share) and the ingredients are fresh, flavorful and pair well together. I've tried three and they were all worth the carbs!

 Salads are also interesting and the dressings, which they will serve on the side without rolling their eyes - (in Boca, dressing on the side is de rigeur) are home made and zesty. Plus you can make substitutions to the ingredient list to suit whatever mood you are in. Don't like goat cheese? They'll suggest a similarly creamy blue for you. Don't like feta? They'll give you a nice salty crumbly cheese that still makes the salad work.

 The staff members will recommend appropriate wine or beer to complement your menu selection, and the prices are more than reasonable - especially for Boca!

Feeling uneducated about which cheese to order? Not to worry...not only will they help you pick out what you might like based on your preferences, they have samples out for you to try and they offer tastings and classes to educate your palate.

Sandwich and salad portions are generous. But be warned, the cheese platters tend more toward the delicate side than the slab of deliciousness you might expect. If you're sharing a standard platter and you're not dining with a vegan, it's almost a certainty that there will be a squabble over the last nibbles.

On Thursday evenings be sure to stop by for the "Siply Thursday" promtoion: $3 glasses of house wine and $9 bottles.  Curiously, they seem to have an employee turnover issue and we often have to inform the cashier of existence of the "Siply Thursday" promotion. They  seem oddly perplexed.

Confusion notwithstanding, it's a lovely and budget friendly way to spend happy hour with a few friends. Sampling a platter of interesting , unusual cheeses paired with the perfect beverage.

 Seating is available both inside and out. On a nice evening, it's nice to sit at the large communal picnic table and strike up a conversation with some other folks that have discovered the joy of this little shop.

Kapow - Almost Wowed

Kapow Noodle Bar
(561) 347-7322 ‎
Boca Raton, FL 33432
431 Plaza Real • Mizner Park

I tried, really I did. I've been four times. I've sampled at least 4 different dishes with each visit and have imbibed in a variety of beverages.

The food was definitely tasty - bold flavors and interesting combinations. Nothing was bad, nothing was terrible. But ... there was nothing phenomenal. Nothing that made me want to bring friends to try that one special dish.

Maybe it was just too fusion-y for me. There is definitely a blurring of the lines across ethnic cooking styles.  For me though, I guess I just prefer Chinese food to taste Chinese, Malay food to taste Malay and Korean to taste Korean. The food flavors here are robust, they just didn't seem authentic to me.

Table service was sometimes amazing and wasn't. On one occasion, my SO and I, both of us having left our youth far behind, were ignored for so long even after requesting assistance that we eventually gave up and dined elsewhere. 

BUT..on my last two visits it was clear that the quality of service had improved dramatically. In fact, just a few weeks ago my 20 something daughter and I had a multi-course happy hour there and were delighted with the level of attention we received.  Young male servers ensured that we had everything we could possibly need. Hmm.... I'm not saying that having a 20-something dining companion helped but...

Always Bring One of These To Ensure Excellent Service!

Of course I would absolutely go again if friends wanted to dine there. I enjoyed the food, I just wasn't Kapowed.

By the way - I do realize I'm in the minority here, but I do feel that I gave it a fair shot and I am expressing my personal opinion. Yours, obviously, may vary!

Wine Kitchen on the Creek

The Wine Kitchen on the Creek
50 Carroll Creek Linear ParkFrederickMD 21701(301) 663-6968

One of our regular go-to restaurants for both lunch and dinner. A perfect location right on the creek ; perfect for a glorious evening outdoors and for people watching!

 I'm going to break this down into two parts: Happy Hour and Regular Dining.

First Happy Hour. Fantastic bar food at a great price! These are not mini-servings with a mini-price. The dishes are all great. I don't think I've ever had one that I thought was meh. Particular favorites are the seasoned with gusto Steak Frites and the light and crispy calamari. For $6 , the steak could absolutely qualify for a light eater's dinner. The bar menu changes often, but I am always confident that whatever new delight they present will be something nobody else is doing and will be worth the calories. 

 Happy hour drinks - well, unless you order wine, there's not much of a selection. They offer one specialty cocktail for happy hour (changes daily), and if it's not your cup of tea, then your choices are limited. The other downside to happy hour is that you have to be inside the restaurant to participate. So, you have to choose between a really good value and the pleasures of sitting outside.

 Now - on to the regular menu. I give an overall 5* to the flavors of the food. With very few exceptions, I have found the offerings to be well thought out, often succulent, and frequently fresh and exciting. Where it is sometimes a bit lacking is in the portion size. 

The guacamole with chicharon appetizer is a prime example. For $5 you get a few chicahrones ( pork crackling) and maybe a quarter cup of guacamole. It tasted fine, but either it should have been a buck or they should have tripled the quantity of quac. That went firmly in the "never again" column.

 Ditto for the three tuna tacos - they were the itty bittiest little things I've ever seen qualify as a taco. Tasted good, but one bite and it was gone!

 The mixed nuts are a mixed bag. When the restaurant first opened, diners were rewarded with a decent size bowl teeming with warm, curried cashews. Now? Well, the nuts still arrive warm, but they lack the curry-ness of the old days and certainly the portion size has been cut back substantially.

 Now, some good stuff. The oysters. Raw oysters, shucked without destruction, and presented beautifully with a lovely mignonette. We have ordered these multiple times - and though the oyster selection changes based on seasonal availability, the freshness and briny goodness never disappoints. 

 Whether you prefer fish, fowl or four-legged, they do proteins particularly well. Scallops are seared with a golden crisp crust yet sweet and tender inside. The papaya salad on which they were served presented a nice spicy contrast to the delicate shellfish. It wasn't the best papaya salad that I've ever had, but it didn't overpower the seafood so it actually worked well. 

 I'm sorry to say that I can't report on any of the vegetarian options. I honestly do try to eat healthy most of the time, but at the Wine Kitchen, I just can't pass up on some of their amazing meat dishes. 

Oh and I almost forgot... the wine! Here you will find a well described selection of wines and a range of price points. You won't find the all-to-common Chateau Ste. Michelles or Beringers or Mondavis here. Rather they are wines that you may never seen before nor ever even heard of. 

 Fear not! You can order a flight of wines that will allow you to sample across a spectrum of flavors. You can have all red, all white, cheap white, cheap red, hearty wines, sparkling wines, mixed up wines, all-Spanish... well, you get the picture. There are plenty of flights to choose from if you don't want to pick just one glass. 

 ANd..part of the joy of ordering wines here are the descriptive cards that accompany your selection. Somebody (I hear it's the owner) has a good sense of humor and really excels at writing delightful tounge-in-cheek descriptions. They are a hoot! 

 I know that there have been some comments about the quantity of food on the plates. I agree that some (many of) the entree portions are small compared to typical restaurants these days. But..I think that the fact that I still prefer to spend my dining dollars at the Wine Kitchen attests to the quality and the value of the dining experience there.. And, in any case, I have never left hungry, and I have never left feeling like I didn't get good value for my money (except of course for those tiny tuna tacos and that darn puny dollop of guac).

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Diva Takes Flight....

Well, my friends - I haven't posted in quite a while. No excuses other than...I've moved to Florida! So... though I shall retain the self-annointed moniker of Dining Diva of Frederick... I am actually going to have to be the Dining Diva of Boca Raton. Which is a joke in a way, because I'm pretty darn sure that just about everybody in Boca is a Diva, and many of them dining ones at that.

 I'm in the midst of a culinary bar crawl through the happy hours of Mizner Park. Quite an adventure and a drain on the pocketbook if you don't pay attention. However - I have found the "Ladies Drink Free" evenings and the "Food Half-Off" venues. So rest assured that I will share these findings with you. 

And, in case you were wondering, I still plan on being discriminating in the food selection. Half off terrible food will still not make the grade. At any rate, I will fill you in as I continue to sample the goodies of South Florida... Snowbird heading south.......... flap flap flap

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Finger-Lickin' Darn Good Chicken - Sardi's in Frederick

Oh, my sweet, succulent, zesty bird – wherefore art thou? After years of nibbling on rotisserie chickensof every ilk :Boston Market, Kenny Rogers Roasters, Weis, Giant Eagle, Sams, Costco – and yes, even my trusty Ronco Showtime Rotisserie (which I DID order before midnight and was subsequently rewarded with 3 free , absolutely free, bags of chicken-leg elastic ties), I have finally discovered what could be my perfect poultry platter. Crisp-skin, intensely seasoned, Sardi's Peruvian Chicken: Pollo A La Brasa

If you were to drive “down-the-road”, you would have a plethora of Peruvian restaurants from which to select. Rockville Pike alone has a chicken shack in just about every one of their myriad strip-centers. But honestly, why tangle with the MC traffic unless of course you have a hankering for A&J’s Dim Sum or some spicy eggplant at Joe’s Noodle House?

No, my friends, you do not need to gird up your loins for the long haul to Rockville if you are craving some robust rotisserie chicken. You can gird up your loins and hit our very own Golden Mile for a quick trip to Sardi’s.

Sardi’s is located in a small strip center just off of 40 on McCain Drive, two doors down from Doc Geiser’s and directly across the street from Home Depot. And in case you’re wondering, yes, the outside ambience is very much indeed a good indicator of the general ambience you will find inside. Formica tables. Cafeteria Chairs. Bright lights. Spanish Language televisions broadcasting soap operas and soccer. Counter Service. Definitely not the destination for a romantic tete-a-tete with your paramour. But just right for eating family style and licking your fingers.

If you aren’t familiar with Peruvian Chicken, well, you sure are pretty darn late to the party and it’s high time you got acquainted. At Sardi’s, whole chickens are marinated and rubbed with a savory spice blend, skewered and then spit-roasted over a blistering charcoal fire. The spit roasting keeps the chicken moist all the way to the bone and has the capability of transforming the skin into a crackling salty explosion of flavor.

Usually the meat is juicy and moist and the skin is perfectly crispy. The ladies in my family, well, we’re chicken people. And when we get a really good piece of chicken, we are happy. But sometimes, we aren’t as happy as we would like to be. There have been some sad occasions brought on by dry white meat and flabby rubbery skin. I do not like dry meat. I do not like rubbery skin. The only good thing about rubbery skin is that I’m not tempted to eat it.

I’m not really sure what the cooking difference is between perfectly cooked birds and the flabby ones – my guess is that the perfect ones were extracted from the oven just as we ordered, and the less perfect birds sat waiting, lonely on the cutting block, waiting for a buyer.

But even if the chicken is a tad dry at times, do not panic, there is a cure. All you have to do is swirl the meat around in one of the three delicious salsas available for chicken dipping: Salsa Verde, a spicy blend of cilantro and aji peppers, Salsa Amarillo – kind of a spicy mustardy sauce, and an Aioli – a mild garlicky mayonnaise. With these sauces, you could probably make just about anything taste pretty good.

With many of the chicken platters, you get a choice of side dishes. In general, I was not a big fan of many of them. They have some kind of a vegetable medley that looks like someone opened up a bag of frozen diced vegetables and just steamed them. There are the ubiquitous rice and beans. And there’s some type of Peruvian corn with the most gigantic mutant kernels I have ever seen. Hot off the steam table they were bland and starchy.

There is, however, one real keeper of a side dish: the ultimate diet-buster, Deep Fried yuca. What could be better than taking heavy duty carbs and deep frying them? Keeping your hand out of the potato chip bag is nothing compared to trying to keep it from reaching for one more fresh-out-of-the-fryer spear.

There are plenty of other options on the menu other than chicken. Lomo Saltado, Souvlaki (the general manager is Greek), Churrasco de Pollo (chicken marinated in cilantro, peppers and onions), ceviches (very good, but not always available, and served with canchas – Peru’s version of a corn nut only fresher and tastier), and for the less adventurous in your group: Salchipapas (basically cut up hot dogs mixed up with French fries and served with catsup and mayo).

So if you’re beyond looking longingly into your loved ones eyes over gentle flickering candlelight, and instead have a hankering for some finger-lickin’ good chicken – you now know where to go. Sardi’s : Pollo A La Brasa

Sardis Chicken- Frederick50 N. McCain Drive, Frederick MD 21702
Tel: 301-620-7717

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Diva on a Diet

So, You may have noticed that I have been missing in action in 2010. At least, I hope you’ve noticed. Anyway, my lengthy absence can be fully attributed to my recognition in mid-January that my increasing girth necessitated a conversion from being the Dining Diva into a Dieting Diva. As it turns out, the change from Dining Diva to Dieting Diva was a direct result of too much Dining and not enough Dieting. Kind of ironic, don’t you think?

Though I may not have been a frequent visitor to many local restaurants in the last few months, I have nonetheless continued to consume a wide variety of, shall we say, interesting meals. Some have been interesting in a pleasantly good way, others – well, let’s just say the mishaps have made for some significant additions to the compost pile and some pretty happy canines in the Light House. One of whom may soon need to join ranks with me in our quest for sveltitude.

But, we shan’t dwell on the negative. Nope. Instead, for those of you who may have found yourselves in a similar weighty predicament, here a few delectables available at local restaurants that are both delicious and calorie friendly:


Ceviche: Thank goodness for Cacique, Mexicali Cantina, and La Flor de la Canela! This medley of fish, shrimp and scallops is enhanced with two of my favorite flavors: Lime and Cilantro. Light, refresting and good for you. Smack my hand if you catch me ordering the guac.

Gazpacho: I have spent more than a couple of afternoons with the hemp-wearing patrons of the Orchard. Smack my hand if you catch me ordering the veggie tempura

Ahi Tuna Sashimi: I know it’s a chain, but darn it Bonefish Grill has some mighty fine fish and pours a strong and briny dirty martini. Smack my hand if you see me reaching for the Bang-Bang shrimp.

Green Papaya Salad: Any Thai, and most Vietnamese restaurants make this salad – but in Frederick, Bangkok Thai kitchen does it very well! Smack my hand if you catch me ordering Drunken Noodles.

Zoë’s Chocolate: Oh, I don’t care - just go ahead and Smack me now –it’s worth it! This candy is so amazingly fabulous, I REFUSE to give it up entirely.

There are times, however, that I do actually stay home and cook. This is not nearly as much fun as it sounds. My biggest challenges have been increasing my tolerance for unexciting food and adopting a regimen of portion control. What the heck? THAT’s a portion??? .

I am now a fan of high fiber low fat flat breads from Costco. Fresh out of the bag, they can be used to wrap a variety of fillings. And everything you eat will taste like you wrapped it in a giant rubbery piece of high fiber low fat cardboard. My tolerance can only sink so low. Not one thing was enhanced by wrapping it with this flabby sheet.

But, if you take that same flabby sheet and bake it in the oven for a few minutes – it transforms into a great big giant cracker that can be topped like a tostada and covered with a multitude of toppings that will effectively kill the taste of the bread.

Now, that’s what I call cooking!

My favorite toppings :

Poblano Peppers and red peppers sautéed with Sliced Onions, sprinkled with reduced fat cheese and baked until the cheese melts. Top with a mountain of pico de gallo and cilantro. Squeeze lime over the top.

Mix up some Fat Free cottage cheese with some sugar free jelly. Spread the mixture over the top and put a plump blackberry right in the middle. Pretend this is a pastry.

Cook up some eggbeaters with mushrooms, onions and fresh herbs (I like tarragon, but basil is also good). Spread over the cracker, and top with one of those little 50 calorie containers of broccoli with cheese sauce that you can buy in the frozen food section of the grocery store. Somehow, eating all of this together minimizes the fake-butter, fake-cheese flavor of the broccoli.

If I’m feeling really virtuous and rested, I will actually cook. Here are a few things that I have made that managed to bypass the compost pile:

Grilled scallops with assorted grilled vegetables

Red Thai Vegetable Curry made with Light coconut milk

Fish Poached in a Sweet & Spicy Asian broth

Singapore Poh Pia

Hawaiian Ginger Chicken Stew

I must now sign off because I am weak with hunger. I hope to report back soon with more reviews that you can actually use…