a collection of random thoughts and ideas from me, her, and sometimes us
Category Archives: reviews
this is my mental note on places to eat. most of them are in howard county but i do venture out of the area to try some places. most recently when we were in towson last month we tried the S&J crab ranch, which was very tasty. if you have any suggestions or feedback let me know. generally, i stick with american or italian food. i’m not really a big fan of spicy food or rice/beans so that ends up cutting out most mexican or asian cuisines. i am sure i will blog about them after i try them as well.
so here’s the list:
hickory ridge grill
victoria’s gastro pub
2nd chance saloon
cafe de paris
venegas prime filet
the corner stable
that’s all i have for now. maybe this will help us not go to the same places all the time!
during this time of the year, movies are usually in a little bit of a lull. we are in the middle of awards season and january/february are well known to be not great movie months. you’ll see lots of re-screening of movies that are nominated for an oscar as well as random valentine’s day movies and a handful of others.
anyone who knows me well knows i am big movie fan and going to the theatre is something i enjoy doing on my days off from work. there are a whole list of pet peeves that i don’t like at the theatre, but that’s for another day. when i go, i make every attempt to get to a screening before noon. matinee prices are always much more affordable, so yesterday i found myself at an 11 am showing of Safe House. from the picture to the left, you know that the film stars denzel washington, but it also stars ryan reynolds. reynolds isn’t really known for his action roles although he has played several lately. everyone remembers him from van wilder and other comedies and romantic comedies but he’s been acting since the early ’90s if you didn’t know. everyone knows denzel. brendan gleeson also plays a nice supporting role in the movies as well.
anyway, with all that being said, i enjoyed this action packed movie. the premise is that a former CIA agent is being chased by bad guys and ends up going back to a US consulate even though he has sold US secrets to the enemy over the years. once he gets to the CIA safe house, the chase ensues as the same bad guys come after him. the CIA housekeeper, matt weston, who is a young inexperienced agent does his best to keep him safe and bring him in. the back drop of the movie is mostly in cape town, south africa, which made for several very exciting car chase scenes. the gritty city streets were busy and crowded with lots of cars and bystanders. it seemed like it was an every day occurance and many of them didn’t flinch and just went the other way. i can only assume it is something like that in that part of africa normally, but don’t know for sure. nonetheless, it made for a nice background scene for the film.
as the movie progresses, denzel’s character, tobin frost, makes weston question what he knows about the CIA and how the enemy found them to begin with. when frost escapes from weston, weston works to recover him even as CIA headquarters tells him to stand down. the movie ends with a few twists as you might guess and alot of bullets flying around. overall, as i said, i enjoyed the movie and would certainly watch it again. as for a rating, i would say a solid B to B+.
for the last couple of weeks, we’ve been trying to go to coal fire over off of 108. we have been several times and always enjoy it but the last few times we went over there, the wait was over 30 minutes so when we called last night and it was already 25 minutes at 615, we decided to pass. we had decided we were going to go to chicago uno and swing by LL Bean afterwards. bee’s coat got screwed up so she wanted to see if they would fix it. as we left the house, I suggested we try Luna Bella in the hickory ridge village center. we always see it when we go to that village center and hadn’t ever been so we figured now was the time.
the restaurant is a small and intimate italian place that serves brick oven pizza. it was voted as one of howard county’s best in 2011 for pizza and italian so I was excited to try their brick oven style. after waiting more than the estimated 25 minutes, we finally got seated. I figured it was worth waiting to spend money at a local small business instead of a chain place and the place and line were packed. I saw someone from work who decided to not wait as several others did as well. there were also plenty of people getting carry out.
we started with the fried mozzarella which was a nice size appetizer. it could easily be for 3 or 4, but we just split it for ourselves. haha. bee got the eggplant parmesan and she enjoyed it. I, on the other hand, went for the main attraction, pizza. I’m always one for a meat pizza and went with the Pizza Carne. a nice blend of pepperoni, sausage, salami, and canadian bacon. the crust was a little thicker than I expected for brick oven pizza but it was crispy and held all the toppings nicely. they offer their pizzas in 10 or 12 inch and have several prepaid options as well as the choose your own toppings. the gourmet options as they refer to them had a nice variety and also looked tasty. our friend, steve, pointed out that the pizza finito is also real good. meanwhile, the build your own toppings seemed endless. anyway, the pizza and toppings on the pizza carne worked wonders together and i ate the whole thing!
howchow did a post on luna bella a few years ago and had different thoughts on the crust but my experience was that it held up well.
we certainly enjoyed it and will be back to try the other pizzas and menu options. afterwards, we stumbled over to the meadows original frozen custard. it’s a franchised ice cream place but the proprietor of this one is a fantastic guy. we walked in at 810 and they were actually closed, but “since they were there, they were open.” the frozen custard is made fresh daily and they only make select flavors each day so you know it will be good. we ended up getting a cookies and cream ice cream sandwich, which we split since it was pretty large for just $4. well worth it. we’ve been several times and have their club card. if you are looking for a new ice cream place, check it out!
as you might have noticed if you follow my twitter feed, i attended orioles fanfest today with other loyal fans of this great franchise. since the last 14 years haven’t been the greatest, this annual event is one where friends turn out to see what the team has done in the offseason and where the brass thinks the team is going this year.
i arrived at the convention center right around 10 am when event opened for season ticket holders. unfortunately my buddy jason couldn’t attend this year since his wife gave birth to their first child a little over a week ago so i ventured downtown alone this year. fanfest is a nice combination of orioles player and personnel Q&A, autographs, giveaways, and other activities for kids. after arriving, i heading to the merchandise section. this is an area they have every year for new and game used items as well as a silent auction. i picked a up banner, shirt, hat, a couple programs and some flanny patches. they also have a lot of game worn jerseys out and if you aren’t the first person through the door or pick the lucky pile, you won’t get any of the stars. showalter and many of the other tops players are first to go. there were tons of jerseys from players in the minor league system or who were on the team. one guy was very excited about getting a justin duchscherer jersey although he never played an inning here. there were also game worn pants, helmets, hats, and used bats. i considered getting an autographed luke scott back but figured since he was gone, maybe not or $100.
from there i swung into the giveaways area. this was alot better run this year than last. last year the line wound through the middle of fanfest. early on they had brian matusz bobbleheads and orioles magazines featuring matt wieters. later i saw some camo floppy hats. i already had a few from the season. after that i wondered through the main area and listened to some of the panel sessions. after that and wondering around, i got in line for my autograph sessions. last year, when they signed JJ Hardy, i became a big fan of his. he’s my style of player and definitely one this team needs so i wanted to get his autograph. at that station was reimold, hardy, larry sheets, and rick dempsey. i asked rick when he was putting out his next CD. he wasn’t sure yet, LOL.
at the same time slot, i got another ticket to what was supposed to be kevin gregg, jim palmer, and adam jones. gregg had to back out last minute according to @birlandinsider. i asked palmer why he had written his name on the table and he explained to me that one was his signature in 1965 and the other was current. apparently the new one is better for the wrist. it wasn’t as crisp and easy to read so i guess that’s why. darren o’day, who i am not 100% sure who he is yet told me he liked my party hardy t-shirt. he was a recent addition to the team. jones was my final autograph. i had actually gotten his autograph a few years ago at a wendy’s when they were taking players out into the community so it was good to see him again. even talked to him about @baltimoretom per his request. haha.
after taking a spin around the event again, i headed out. i passed on the clubhouse tour this time since my foot was bothering me. it hurts if i stand on it for too long and has for a couple years now but the day was worth it. probably should get it looked at sometime soon. maybe before the next fanfest. hope everyone else that went had a great time too!
last week, bee and i went to to see mission impossible: ghost protocol. we ended up seeing it in IMAX at the AMC in Columbia. i always try to go to late morning or early afternoon movies to avoid large crowds so we found ourselves at the 12:30 showing. it was the first movie theatre visit for bee in at least 2 years and her first time ever at an IMAX showing. we both really enjoyed the movie although her feet didnt touch the floor while sitting all the way back in the chair. haha.
quick review: overall, it was a pretty good action movie and one of the better ones that i have seen lately. they worked in many of the things mission impossible has been known for over the years like face masks. if you are a fan of the series, like i am, you will be pleased with that part. tom cruise continued his role as ethan hunt and was good in this one as well. jeremy renner’s character, william brandt, was weaved into the plot line nicely and without making you question the prior movies or what he was doing there. the other member’s of ethan’s team worked out well and rounded out the story, as well as the bad guy. the story line and the bad guy’s attempt at destroying the world are something we can all see based on the world’s current events and wasn’t as far fetched as it could’ve been. i was a little worried about simon pegg, who played benji dunn, and was the goofy tech guy who couldn’t pass the field ops tests but eventually did after repeated tries. pegg is known more of his comedic value and although he did add a few good jokes every now and then, played the role in the movie well. one thing, i didn’t like was the intro into the movie. as the beginning credits rolled, you basically got to see small clips of the movie throughout intermingled with credits for the actors in the movie. it gave away a little too much of the movie in my opinion.
the movie in IMAX is the way to go if you have one near you and can afford it. we had some gift certificates that bee had gotten from work, so we paid the extra $10 for the IMAX viewing. the sound and the locations of the movie are really enhanced because of it, but i am sure it would look good in standard definition as well.
one hint for families or folks who don’t want to spend a lot on concessions, buy the kids pack. you’ll get a small soda, small popcorn, and fruit snacks for just $6.25 and if you use the bathroom before the start of the movie, you won’t have to get up part way through the film.
But not together. Last week my wife was out of town ruling the world and doing a great job at her job. Meanwhile, I was home making the bacon as we like to joke especially since she doesn’t eat bacon. Sometimes on my off Fridays I will catch an early movie and this past Friday, I caught Tower Heist. It stars Ben Stiller, Eddie Murphy, and a host of other characters. It’s a cross between a comedy and a heist movie. The basic premise is the same as the Bernie Madoff case. The Madoff like character doesn’t sell any of his assets and gets to say in his apartment on house arrest. Ben Stiller’s character and his co-workers break into the apartment and the movie continues from there. It was probably a B movie. Entertaining and some what light hearted but semi serious at other times.
Meanwhile after a week of dinners out, I continued my gluttony and caught dinner at a new pizza place for me called Pazani. It was suggested here on my blog and since we all know I love pizza, I went and checked it out. It’s off of Marshalee Dr. by Timbers of Troy Golf Course. The restaurant is a nice family friendly atmosphere and is like Trattoria da Enrico or many of the other local pizza places; however, they have a larger selection and a catering menu. The restaurant was a little smaller than I had expected from looking at the menu and there were about 5 or 6 other groups there, mostly with families, and they filled up the majority of the restaurant. Anyway, I got the small pizza with sausage… a standard for me. It was pretty tasty and had a nice crisp crust. It seemed a little greaser than some other places but it didn’t really sway me away from going back if I am in the area.
As a lone wolf that night, I enjoyed my pizza and caught a look at what others were eating. Many people had different varieties of pasta meals which also looked good and others of course had pizza. One group had the calamari which was a generous portion and others had the cheese steak and salads. The regular menu and the catering menu had a large selection so you could go often and get something different to eat there or for a party at your house. I will definitely go back again.
Also, thanks to @howchowblog for linking to my other pizza article earlier in the week.
This past (Labor Day) weekend was the Inaugural Baltimore Grand Prix. If you follow my tweets regularly, you would have seen my tweets on Friday about all the activities. (sorry it took me awhile to get this posted)
Not being a big race fan, I was going into this experience pretty much as a novice. Both a novice fan and a understanding. Having gotten free tickets for Friday from The Fan, I got to see the practice rounds that day. After the months of hype and prep, getting to the event at on day 1, I was underwhelmed (at first).
I got into Baltimore around 9:30 am and start walking around the venue.
I start walking down to the Budweiser party area 98 Rock still had their morning show going. Took some photos of the area and moved around the steel walkways into the main area. People were still setting up and come to find out, the race course wasn’t ready for racing, which was a real disappointment. The picture to the right was from around 11 am when they were still welding man hole covers shut. As well, they were still cleaning the course with the street sweeps up until at least 12:30 when they were supposed to have started. Practice was supposed to start around 8 or 9 and then got push to noon, and the was delayed to after 1:30 pm. After noon and the opening ceremonies, no updates were giving as far as time changes and I never heard anything as to the original delays when I got on site. Shortly before the street sweepers came by for the third time, workers will still securing the walls in place. One of the pieces of the metal wall even fell on one of the flag guys on the other side of the street.
As the ceremonies got under way, I was disappointed to not see either Mayor Rawlings Blake or Governor O’Malley. The Lt. Governor was on site and gave a few words on behalf of the Governor and State, but with the city being on the national and international stage, I was very surprised, to say the least, that they weren’t there. with all that being said, once racing started, no one was worried about how they got their and just enjoyed the race. the first lap there was a minor crash right at grandstand 6 where I was sitting. After the first practice race, I shifted locations and moved up closer to the convention center. After that, I walked up through the Paddocks and Camden Yards. From there I saw some of the Le Mans racing which was louder that the Indy races.
For a first race experience and that it was only practice it was all in all a neat experience. I would have liked to have been able to take some photos from the walkways, but we were quickly removed through those areas when we tried.
After the race, Bee and I hit the road and went down to the Outer Banks. There was debris and some minor damage, but it was alot less than expected! We enjoyed the rest of the Labor Day weekend with the sun, surf, and sand.
I posted a bunch of photos of my trip to the Grand Prix on my flickr page for you to check out. I tried to capture the essence of Baltimore in among this neat, inaugural event! And I even got to meet @juliemore to boot!
ps… remember when you say “grand prix,” you have to emphasis the “gra” portion of grand prix. it sounds more european that way. haha.
one last thing, i saw the UTZ girl and the pickle’s pub custom, LOL.
The other week we went to the Kings Contrivance Restaurant. We wanted to have a nice one year anniversary dinner, but didn’t want to drive downtown so we decided we would give it a shot.
I had heard lots of nice things about the restaurant and the food and it lived up to the words from others. We stayed away from the apps and salads, mostly because they all included things I wasn’t really interested in but I am sure they were good.
For dinner, my wife went with the Sea Scallops and although I didn’t try them she said they were fantastic. I, on the other hand, had the Beef Tenderloin Tips in a portabello mushroom sauce and a nice mashed potatoes. The beef tips were delicious and the sauce was rich and tasty, although I gave the mushroom pieces to her. They were large slices and I’m not a real big mushroom fan anyway.
For desert, we decided to get two and share. Although we had our wedding cake at home, I figured how many times do you celebrate your first wedding anniversary? Once! We got both a slice of chocolate cake and their Key Lime Pie. Both were rich and very yummy. The pie had a great tartness offset by the creamy texture of the filling. The chocolate cake was a thick double chocolate cake and was so tasty I even got some on my shirt. Haha.
All in all the night was great. We got a good, fine dining meal and didn’t have to drive downtown or put a tie on.
If you are looking for something similar for a special night, give it a try.
These are two completely different food reviews, but I decided to post them together.
If you are from Maryland and you don’t know about pit beef or don’t like it, it’s a shame. Oakey’s is a little pit beef and sandwich place in @EllicottCity and it’s definitely tasty. They do a good pit beef, probably not the best but it’s pretty good. You don’t get a lot of char on the meet, but you do get a nice juicy sandwich. It’s also a large sandwich. They also have pit ham, turkey, burgers, wings, etc. Lastly they also do a great hand cut french fry. Try some ranch dressing on them! @howchowblog did a review of a few years ago as well. Worth a visit if you are looking for a local pit beef place besides The Canopy. If you buy a shirt, Steve will give you $0.50 off your fries!
Salads… I enjoy a salad like most, but if there is one salad I can’t stand, it’s a spinach salad with walnuts, goat cheese, apples, and a raspberry vinegarette dressing. There are about 8 things wrong with this salad, but I tell you this because my buddy had us over for dinner and I got a text before that said, “do you like walnuts?” Well, I instantly knew they were serving this salad. Their’s had oranges and beets. I didn’t know it could get worse, but it did. Glad I refused to eat it. So to wrap up, if you invite me over for dinner, do not try and serve me this salad. Worst. Salad. Ever. In my humble opinion of course!