Friday, June 28, 2013

Mark and Lynn uncover hidden gem Seoul Food DC in Silver Spring, Maryland...

Lynn and I spend a few days in Silver Spring, MD recently and were mostly underwhelmed with the food offerings.  A lot of commercial stuff, (which is everywhere of course) but little in the way of creative or local food with a couple of notable exceptions one of which was Seoul Food DC. Seoul Food DC was actually contained in a small space within a gasoline station and had the energy of a "pop up" establishment.  Seoul Food DC offers Korean spins on everyday fare such as the Kimchi Omelet made with local, cage free eggs, sticky rice, salsa roja and caramelized kimchi with a choice of tofu or bacon (Lynn had hers with bacon).  Ana, one of the owners was operating the kitchen when we ordered and could not have been more charming or warm (her daughter was there, equally charming).  She chatted with us about her culinary background and invited us to taste a few samples (I had a great seaweed marinated tofu).  Despite the pop up quality of SF there is a sense that they run a serious, sophisticated operation with their tablet payment system and a groovy state of the art food truck which apparently goes into DC on a regular basis.   No doubt, Seoul Food DC will keep us interested in visiting the small DC suburb on a regular basis....

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Mark and Lynn dig An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails...

An Illustrated Guide to Cocktails is a charming book Lynn and I just recieved which should serve us well this summer as it contains many cocktail recipes that are fairly obscure such as The French 75 (main ingredients are gin and champagne); The Corpse Reviver #2 (made with gin, cointrea, Lilet Blanc and absinthe) and The Last Word (made with gin and Chartreuse among other things).  Author Orr Shtuhl gives a historical context to these drinks that is both fascninating and deepens the appreciation of these concoctions (a French 75 was named after a World War I era artilery rifle which packed a punch as well).  Artist Elizabeth Graeber's delightful illustrations only adds to the appeal of this book which we will likely try to work our way through to keep the surprisingly formidable Long Island heat at bay...


Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Mark and Lynn find Nick's Diner in Wilmington, NC to be Lyna nice place for Lunch

Lynn and her baby boy
Lynn and I ate  an early lunch at Nick's Diner on Front Street on our recent swing through the Port City.  The food was mostly typical diner fare with some variations here and there mainly on the vegan portion of their menu.  We were not in a particularly adventurous mood, however, so I had a steak salad which was good and Lynn had an vegetable omelet that was well crafted.   Our sweet  waitress let one of my glasses of wine be gratis since it was the end of the bottle and only about 3/4 of a glass which needless to say made me quite happy.  Otherwise, her style was crisp and attentive without the awkward over familiarity  that can be jarring in these situations in our experiences in the South.

The set design here is probably the most impressive aspect of the place.  Wilmington restaurant/bar/coffee shop interiors are packed with a lot of local art, much of it either bad or poorly curated (often both). Nick's is one of the few exceptions as the art here trends toward a comic book aesthetic with several over sized pieces that really work in this context and complement the cavernous interior. 
So, we enjoyed Nick's  fare and would certainly go there again.  The interiors are fun, our experience with the food was good, there seems to be a willingness on the part of the chef to experiment with the menu. Our service was efficient and the prices were reasonable. I am interested in some of their vegan dishes which I don't remember seeing in any other restaurants we visited this most recent time.  Typically we visit The Dixie Grill a couple of streets over for this kind of food but our most recent experience there a couple of weeks ago was underwhelming, bordering on bad with a sullen waitress with a vaguely European accent, no A/C and uninspired breakfast/brunch food. Nick's will likely be our alternative to TDG whenever we need a quick, inexpensive and basic breakfast or lunch.

M & L

Monday, June 17, 2013

Yankee kin Mark and Lynn mostly like Rx in Wilmington....with a couple of exceptions

Lynn and I are always a little surprised about how much my hometown of Wilmington is in a constant state of flux.   After a couple of years away, we recently visited, and, despite bracing ourselves for big changes in the Downtown landscape we couldn't help but be surprised by some of the truly seismic changes in the Wilmington dining spectrum (at least for us). The main two?  The demise of The Cafe Phoenix and Deluxe (The Cafe Phoenix, God bless them still have a website and a Facebook site that hasn't been updated since 2011).  These two stalwarts ushered in the notion of fine dining in Downtown Wilmington in the late 80's/early 90's just a few years after 70's era Downtown Wilmington's claim to fame was Triple X book stores, ladies of the night and rowdy servicemen coming down from Jacksonville for a night on the town.  These two establishments shared plenty of similar flaws over the years such as often iffy service,  diva-ish staff, poor management and a tedious tendency to value style over substance.  However, as mentioned before, both places helped introduce Wilmington to the idea of a superior dining experience with good wine lists, sophisticated ingredients and 80's/90's chic details such as sun dried tomatoes and olive oil with bread (remember this is the 1990 we are talking about.

Into this void of fine dining steps Rx on the site of the old Hall's Drugs (hence the Rx name).   We have to give the credit to the owners of Rx because if you had ever visited the old Hall's you would not think the place had potential to be a fine dining establishment.  In any event, Lynn and I had noticed the place during our long weekend in Wilmington and were intrigued by the promise of a mostly local menu, well put together cocktails and a new dining experience.  We tried to get in on a Saturday night but Rx was "slammed."  We returned slightly earlier the next night and waltzed in with no problem taking our place at the bar.  Lynn ordered a Gin and Tonic with Hendrick's and the South Carolina made Jack Rudy tonic which we had discovered, ironically enough,  at the Tuthilltown Distillery in upstate NY.    I had a Manhattan with Blanton's.  Lynn and I have not had a lot of luck ordering cocktails outside of Manhattan or Brooklyn but both drinks were confidentially made by our female bartender and were especially satisfying as (literal) tonic against the relentless Southeastern, North Carolina heat.  We did have one dish made with NC Scallops, Black River Zucchini, Sugar Snap Peas and pickled onion that was as good and sophisticated a seafood dish as we have had in a long time.

Potential minuses?  A couple.  Some of the entrees push the $30.00 limit and even some of the appetizers push a $20.00 limit. This high end price point is not something you see all that often even in our stomping grounds of Manhattan, Brooklyn & Long Island much less in the murky Castle Street outback of Downtown Wilmington.   Also, the decor and interiors are mostly a miss with local art that seems oddly out of place in what is supposed to be a chic outpost; in addition, we had to negotiate clumsy and awkward bar chairs that seem to have been salvaged from someone's rec room.   Also, both nights we visited Rx the same inebriated citizen stumbled in front of this establishment, one night crashing with a considerable thud on the sidewalk.   Both of us were so alarmed that we were in the process of calling 911 when the intoxicated native picked themselves up and went on their merry way as if nothing happened.   This poor individual obviously needs some help,  but, until help arrives this rather intoxicated "regular' will probably not be good for the Rx business.

Would these negatives block us from going back to Rx.  Not us! We are New Yorkers and are prepared for anything hinting of disaster- Hurricane Sandy; The Jets; The Mets; Mayor Bloomberg; Anthony Weiner; Rex Ryan our Southern kin and so on.  However, these issues might be more off-putting for the local gentry of New Hanover County  whose sensibilities are more delicate than the coarse hides of their Yankee kin Mark and Lynn....
M & L

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

The Goat and Compass in downtown is the dive bar par excellence...

One could probably make a good argument that Wilmington, North Carolina is the dive bar capital of the USA.  Exhibit A might very well be the Goat and Compass on North 4th Street.  The Goat and Compass has not been in Wilmington very long, although I can't say how long it has been around; for instance, it wasn't there when Lynn and I left the Port City in 2000.  The G & C can't compare in longevity to  say The Barbary Coast on Front Street which has the patina and archaeological layers of a 17th century tavern in Williamsburg.

The Goat and Compass, however, has packed a lot of physical character into it's relatively short history with its pounded and worn surfaces and lived in bar chairs.  The G&C is a great beer and shot place (don't order a mixed drink unless you are cool with getting a martini  in a plastic cup).  I pushed my luck and ordered a Cuba Libre which cooled the early summer heat of Wilmington (even in a plastic cup).  We went there on a couple of occasions in the first week of June.  We found that the place grew on us with its raffish charm,  blistering A/C, dorky 90's music and laid back bartenders.

The real appeal for us was the "cornhole" court in back of the bar which is a game of subtlety and finesse where the notion is to throw a canvas beanbag through a plywood apparatus often while negotiating the effects of the heat of the deep South and the effect of icy Cuba Libres and/or Gin and Tonics on motor skills.  Like many dive bars like the G&C the point is creating great memories which we did in our brief stay in June 2013.

M & L

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I (Mark) have written for The Christian Science Monitor, Clear Magazine, Picture Magazine, Film Score Monthly, Dan's Papers, Rue Morgue, In Flight USA and a lot more publications that I can't remember.... My wife Lynn was a model with the Ford Agency and her photography has been featured in most of the publications I have written for...


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