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  1. I wanted to like cute little cafe Clementine in Baltimore when my husband and I stopped in for breakfast last month, but it was so disappointing. I want to root for small mom-and-pops that open up cafes in struggling neighborhoods and want to be a cool scene, but this one was so sure of its cool it was out of smoked salmon, the waitress kept walking by with the coffee pot but not stopping to fill my cup until I flagged her down, and two other employees were just lounging around behind the counter, ignoring us. It wasn't busy -- it was a weekday and there were 2 other 4-top tables taken. One thing I cannot STAND is having to beg for coffee in the morning at a breakfast restaurant. Inexcusable. And the food was just mediocre-- bagels with smoked trout spread (OUT OF SMOKED SALMON??) and a potatoey egg dish I could have made better at home. One thing I loved -- cheesy onion grits. Did I just go on a bad day? What's the deal? And why do these types of places so often fall short of expectations?
  2. My husband and I did a similar trip last May, and we didn't have a bad meal the entire time. The best thing about eating in Rome is that there are tons of casual places where you can order wine or beer, a measure of pizza, a pasta, and maybe a salad, and sit outside at one of the tables on the cobblestone streets that wind around the old place and feel truly transported. As for Sorrento, may I suggest Mami Camilla's? It's a family-run bed and breakfast and a modest cooking school that makes dinner every night for guests and locals in a family-style setting with four courses. It turns out some of the freshest, simplest, authentic fare around, is heavily focused on what's in season in their own gardens. There's enough fresh fish and homemade pasta to make you swoon. Sorrento can be quite pricey and overrated because it's so touristy, but we stayed at this B&B for five days, using it as a home base to check out Naples, Positano, Pompeii, etc. We ended up eating there nearly every night because it was that good. We made friends with people from Sweden and Croatia as well as some on holiday from Rome. I remember it being pretty cheap for a four-course meal and located just a tad to the east of the center of town. An easy walk. Took the classes, too, and came home with a cookbook full of recipes I make frequently, including one for an appetizer of fried eggplant strips rolled around fresh mozzarella and basil, drizzled with tomato sauce. It never fails to thrill guests, and reminds me of our trip every time I make it. Here's the website: http://www.mamicamilla.com/ Have fun!
  3. I guess a key question might be, what kind of cake does your son like? It seems 30 servings lends itself to a more American sheet cake type of thing rather than a fancy European deal, especially when you have a kid helping. What about a dark chocolate sheet cake with coffee icing and edible gold button decorations? Elegant but pretty easy, and you can save the almond experiments for when you are feeling up to it.
  4. I will answer a question with another question or two: Do those of you who don't like being touched tell the offender that it bothers you? What is their reaction? Having been on both sides of the table, I have touched a customer or a waiter when I felt particularly pleased with something AND sensed via body language that it would be well received. Without both of these factors, it's a no-go for me. Often regular customers touch and hug their regular servers at a diner, but it would seem more gauche to do it at Citronelle. Unless you're a multi-millionaire and eat there often...
  5. I second the response on Penzey's in Rockville -- I found nigella seeds there the other day. There are tons of Indian markets in the College Park area but I am not familiar with any that have tons of fresh spices, unfortunately.
  6. We are blessed with so many options here! I recently tried the crabcakes at Mrs. Ks on Colesville Drive in Silver Spring and I highly recommend them -- heavy on the crab, no filler, and fried in honest-to-God butter, the way nature intended.
  7. dried porcinis, sushi-grade fish, a cheap mandoline, big bags of sushi rice, crazy fresh and cheap veggies like kolrabi, bok choy, even watermelon in summer.
  8. pair with bbg sauce, caraway seeds, fresh lemon. Cook in slow cooker 8 hours, VOILA.
  9. Ciao All, In gastromic preparation for our upcoming cooking trip in Italy next month, my husband and I have been selectively trying out some of the Italian restaurants nearby. Some fancy, some modest, there are some little charmers but there are many mediocre ones in DC. Our experience at a highly recommended place last night made me want to cry, and I thought I would throw it out to you guys for feedback and suggestions. Many of my Silver Spring friends have suggested Sergios Ristorante Italiano in the Hilton on Colesville Road. It sounded strange to me that a good restaurant would be in a chain hotel, but I'm willing to brave many things for a good meal, so off we went. The evening started out pleasantly enough. The waiter greeted my 3-year-old and I, singing in Italian, and showed us right to our table where we waited for my husband. We were served water but my son's glass had lipstick on it. Not a big deal, it was replaced right away when I brought it to their attention. My son happily and relatively quietly played with a few toys. My husband arrived 10 minutes later, about 6:50 pm, as a few other diners also started to arrive. There appeared to be two waiters and a busboy and about 5 tables at the time. We ordered quickly, knowing that when a kid is ready to go, everyone must go when you're at a white table kind of spot. We ordered one glass of wine, a special zucchini and mozzerella appetizer, two special raviolis of the day (mine shrimp, his veal and mushroom) and plain ziti with butter and cheese for the kid. Within 10 minutes, out came our appetizer, wine, and the pasta for the child, for which we were most grateful. Smiles all around, more singing, fresh ground pepper. I was beginning to like this place, despite it's odd basement of a hotel location. But then, the music stopped. After nearly an hour and several nervous glances at our table by our waiter who never came over to check on us or respond to my attempts to flag him down, we were served our lukewarm pastas on hot plates. If you've worked in a restaurant, you know what that means--they'd been sitting under the heat lamp. To be fair, during that hour, about 10 more tables showed up, mostly twos, a few fours and a six, but nothing that would have indicated a complete meltdown. Of course, by the time we got our food we were too busy shovelling it in while taking turns juggling the kid who was D-O-N-E to make a fuss. We just asked for our check. The bill came, my husband took my son out to the lobby, and I noticed they had charged us for two glasses of wine when we had one. Again, on another night, no big deal, but this was starting to tick me off. I got the waiter's attention, explained about the wine, and then said that we would have liked to stay longer but our food took so long that our son had to leave. He said nothing. Now, I'm not the type looking for free food or whatever every time I go out, but this guy didn't even apologize. He said absolutely NOTHING but took the second wine off the bill. I don't even know if the food was good I ate it so fast. Please tell me this is an isolated incident. And tell me some other Italian places you like around DC where the food and the service is good. I can recommend Mia's and Centro in Bethesda on both counts, but downtown DC? Haven't found one yet.
  10. Although we all complain, the Post and the Times-both Times-have the best food sections out there in terms of general newspapers. What they should do more of is use food as a basis for exploring more hard-hitting science and regulatory pieces. The articles dissecting confusing food labels, what does "sustainable" mean, school lunch quality, etc. are the ones that interest both food snobs and regular people who might just pick up the section on a whim.
  11. Are they ever, ever going to open in the expired Crisfield's space in downtown Silver Spring? I see the awning is up but that's about it.
  12. It's best to go after the other restaurants close, around 1am. A lot of D.C. chefs hang out there after work, so it's good for local celeb watching...
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