Tag Archives: Restaurant- misc.

The Tasting Room

The Tasting Room (101 North market Street)- I go there several times a year and I have to say that the food that I have had has always been uniformly very good with occasional bursts of excellence.   They serve what I would call contemporary American Cuisine.  I also love the fact that the menu changes from season to season.  (It changes faster than their website which at the time that I write this still has their Fall 2007 menu on it).  This time I had the shrimp with linguine and spring vegetables.  It made a nice light, springtime lunch.  It was ostensibly dressed with white truffle oil, but I couldn’t taste the truffles.  I tend to gravitate towards the pasta because it  is always cooked perfectly;  I know al dente means different things to different people but they hit my al dente spot.  I also tried some of my companion’s Sicilian tuna steak which was superb.  Had a great crust on the outside and moist and perfectly cooked on the inside.  Much better than my linguine!

As the name implies they have a good wine selection.  The shoot for coverage rather than depth, and the list has a little bit of everything so its fairly easy to find something you like.  Their wine list is around 100 bottles.  They also have a bunch of wines by the glass.  I had a nice Sancerre which went well with the shrimp.

It’s a fun space and different from most other Frederick restaurants.  It’s located in a beautiful old building with very modern decor.   Specials are written on chalkboards and there are etched glass panels with pendant lighting which creates an interesting juxtaposition between the old architecture and the modern decor.  Occasionally with all the windows you feel as if you are in a fishbowl, and the tables are quite close together so its not a place for an intimate dinner.   Again ( A Fred pet peeve I know) but I always wonder why restaurants feel the need to keep a TV going.   It always seems to cheapen the atmosphere in a nice restaurant.  On the plus side the service is always formally impeccable and a cut above most other restaurants in Frederick.

All in all the Tasting Room is one of the premiere fine dining restaurants in Frederick.  This comes at a price however.  The tab with tip for two lunches, two glasses of wine and one dessert (a delicious creme brulee by the way) was $68.  This generally puts it in the special occasion category for me.  You don’t have to get  a meal though.  They have a nice bar where you can get a glass of wine (or two) or one of their specialty cocktails and take in the scene.  Their mojito looked good and I intend to go back and try one soon.


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Caballo Viejo

After hearing some good things about Caballo Viejo I finally got a chance to try this restaurant.  First of all you have to understand that cuisine is primarily Venezuelan.  Not that this is in any way bad, just that if you go in there looking for a typical tex-mex experience you will not get what you want.   Located in the 7th Street shopping center it’s a small restaurant- you order at the counter and there is some seating around the perimeter but not a lot.  They also have some tables set up outside.  We ate at the restaurant, but based on my observations it seemed about evenly split between take out and eat in.  The people there were terrifically friendly and enthusiastic about their food- they seemed genuinely delighted you were there.


 The specialty of the house is Pollo a la Criolla- rotisserie chicken marinated in herbs and spices.  You can get the chicken by the whole, half or quarter bird, all white, all dark or both.   The guy at the counter couldn’t tell me where the birds came from.  However, the chicken was excellent.  Crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. With that we also had the cilantro-citrus rice on the side (decent, but nothing special) and tequenos.  These were listed as a “classic Venezuelan hors d’oeuvre” and consisted of fried cheese sticks with a wheat dough crust.  Interesting and pretty good, especially when dipped in the ranch-like dressing they came with.  The chicken is definitely worth the trip.


For something a little different you should try an Arepas.  These are thick, grilled corn cakes that they split and stuff with a number of fillings.  Options range from grilled vegetables, shredded chicken and beef, chorizo, black beans and cheese.  Even though they listed only a few combinations, since they make the Arepas up on the spot I see no reason why you couldn’t create your own combination.   We tried two of the arepas, and they were both good.  I was especially impressed with how the well they grilled the vegetables:  they were crisp and flavorful. The black beans by themselves were a little dull (overall I was surprised by how unspicy the food was), but mixed with the cheese and the veggies were delicious.   The arepas were very filling with the thick corn cakes and represent a lot of food for the money.  I have never had these before, so I had no basis upon which to compare them, but they were enjoyed and Mrs. Fred who has lived in South America said they struck her as very authentic.


For dessert we had tres leches (three milks).  Initially I was disappointed to see that they were bought (made by a company in Arlington if I recall correctly) but my disappointment was completely washed away after the first bite.  An absolutely. delicious parfait consisting of cake soaked in evaporated, condensed and whole milk with whipped cream on the top.  Very sweet.  Three of us split one and were quite happy.


Finally a word about guacamole. Generally I have always thought that I do not like guacamole.  I usually just avoid it.  I am rapidly coming to the conclusion that it’s just because I haven’t had really had good guacamole.  The guacamole at Caballo Viejo was phenomenal.  We got a basket of chips (both of us thought that the chips were a little on the stale side unfortunately) and I ended up having to fight Mrs. F for the guacamole.  It was that good.  I loved it.  I’d go back there just to eat it.


Also offered, but not tried (we were way too full to eat another bite) salads and various burrito combinations, fried yucca and tajada (fried plantain slices)


Booze:   Alas they have no liquor license and Fred wept a little tear inside.  As a consolation they had 8 or nine fresh juices they squeezed on the spot.  We had the passion-fruit juice and it was really terrific (a lot of fresh juice for $2.95 as well).  Still I could have used a nice cold cerveza.


To sum up:  This is not haute cuisine.  What it is is good food, quickly produced and reasonably priced.  There are lots of healthy options as well.  Why anyone would frequent a McDonalds or its ilk when you have this is beyond me.  If you want to try something a little different from the ordinary this place is worth visiting.  Try it and let me know.




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Wine Dinner- June 4th

Frederick Wine House and the Valley Grill at Hollow Creek Golf Club are having a wine dinner on June 4th from 7 to 10 p.m.  You can check out the menu here.  It certainly looks good on paper.  The cost is $85 per person which includes tax and gratuity doesn’t seem outrageous for what you are getting.  The wines look interesting- all Italian (yay!). I was also excited to see that they are having vinsanto  with the desert course.  This  traditional Tuscan dessert wine  made from Trebbiano and Malvasia grapes is generally hard to find and I’ve never seen it in any Frederick area wine store.  I wonder if this means that the FWH carries it?  I’d love to get my hands on some.  I have an Uncle (1st generation Italian-American) who loved a glass after dinner and have fond memories of him introducing me to the stuff.


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Nilgiris Indian Sizzler

There are three Indian lunch buffets in Frederick that I am aware of:  Clay Oven, Bombay Grill and Nilgiris.  I now have a new Indian Lunch buffet favorite.  Its the curiously named Nilgiris Indian Sizzler.  ( Nilgiris I understand- its a mountain range in southern India, but Indian Sizzler?  Is it supposed to be the Indian equivalent of the Sizzler Steakhouse?  Thank goodness its not!)  Honestly don’t worry about it because the food is excellent.  It is located at 5732 Buckeystown Pike in Frederick- that’s the same shopping center where the Common Market is.  When we arrived for lunch   it was almost full but we managed to snag a table.   The place was nicely decorated and had a decent ambiance for a restaurant in a shopping center.  My only negative was the big flat screen TV blaring Bollywood videos over the bar.  Too loud, distracting and unnecessary.  On the plus side they had nice place settings with really nice plates/bowls.  Sevice was fine:- water glasses refilled promtly and empty plates cleared.

Food:  We decided to take advantage of the lunch buffet.  They had a small, sad, salad bar (the weakest part of the whole buffet by far) a nice selection of condiments all of which were good except the pickled lemon, which was so sour and astringent I can’t see what would be complimented by putting that on it.  Next they had two kinds of rice which were followed by six vegetarian dishes.  After that was the chicken rice and three other meat dishes.  I tried to sample as much as possible, but it was too much food.  Everything I tried was uniformly good.  The highlights that stick out in my mind were the alu gobi( which was quite spicy), the vegetable korma and a mushroom mutter curry.  I also thought the goat curry, which was in a brown sauce, was very tender and nicely spiced.  Its not everyday you see goat on the menu.  All in all the dishes were a nice mixture of spicy and not so spicy.  The Naan was brought to your table and was hot and delicious.  It was neat that you could see the cook through a window making it in the tandoori oven.  Dessert was gulab jamun (deep fried cheese balls soaked in syrup) which were a really good way to end the meal.

Booze:  They had Budweiser, Miller Lite and Sam Adams on draft.  Their wine list had random selection of about a dozen each of reds and whites.  Other than Gewurztraminer I’ve never had much success in pairing wine with Indian food.  They did have a Gewurz on the list but I opted for a Taj Mahal beer.  This is a crisp Indian lager that goes well.  They sell it for $8 a bottle, but it is a 22 ounce bottle so its worth splitting with a friend.

The meal was a great value.  After we were done I asked my friend how much he though the buffet would be.  (He had no idea).  He estimated $12-14.  He was really surprised when I told him that it was only $8.95.  In my opinion this represents an excellent value for the quantity and quality of food.  I’ll be back.

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Downtown Restaurants coming (Volt) and going (Venutis)

Coming: There’s a new restaurant preparing to open in downtown Frederick called Volt after the Chef/Owner Bryan Voltaggio.  From their website:

Award-winning chef, Bryan Voltaggio recently left his duties as executive chef of Charlie Palmer Steak in Washington, DC to prepare for the opening of  VOLT, a restaurant and lounge located in downtown Frederick, MD. Voltaggio, with business partner, Hilda Staples will oversee the renovation and restoration of a Victorian brownstone mansion at 228 N. Market Street where the restaurant is set to open in June

That is one of the most interesting buildings in downtown Frederick.  It has a really cool walled garden.  I wonder if they will have an outside terrace area?  There is a lot of buzz surrounding this and it is definitely high on my list of places to review.  He has an interesting blog here.

Going:  Venutis is going, going, gone.  Saw someone scraping parts of the sign off the building the other day.  Can’t say I am surprised.  It was really good many years ago when it opened, but it has been circling the drain for quite some time, although honestly I haven’t been in there 18-24 months.  Word is an Irish pub is opening there.  A second location  by people who already run one in Baltimore. Here is their website.    Some of the appetizers listed are sushi, salsa and samosas!?!  Sounds about as Irish as sobriety. However, their location in Baltimore was named “Best Irish Pub” by Baltimore magazine in the August 2007 issue.  Three Irish pubs in Frederick?  We’ll see.  



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Bombay Grill redux

Went back to the Bombay Grill for lunch again.  The food was great.  Much better than my January impressions.  Has a really nice saag paneer as one of the dishes.  Only two complaints:  they bring the naan to your table like they used to do (instead of having it on the buffet as they have been doing recently) but despite our requests, they didn’t bring it fast enough for my prodigious naan appetite.  Secondly,  I  was so darn stuffed after I left there that I was useless for the rest of the afternoon.  Bombay Grill will remain in the regular lunch rotation.  It’s about $10 for the lunch buffet so while its not a screaming value, its not a bad deal either.

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Bombay Grill Revisited

As a follow up to my January 16th post I had lunch there yesterday with some friends.  As mentioned I haven’t been there is quite some time.  They still had the lunch buffet.  In fact they’ve expanded it with two more items.  Besides the usual basmati rice, two meat dishes, four vegetable dishes and a dessert item they also had a vegetable biryani and a tray of naan.  I really liked being able to load up on the naan instead of having to wait for it to be brought to the table.   However, I and my two companions all felt that the food was a step below what it had been.   The dishes were bland and uninspired.   Since the dishes rotate it may have been an off day.  Based on the past excellent food I have had there I will certainly give them the benefit of the doubt and will not finalize my judgement until I’ve been there a few more times, but I was certainly disappointed yesterday.  The naan however, remains excellent!


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