Saturday, April 16, 2011


We stopped by Fairmore's place in DC a month ago. For lunch, he recommended sushi and barbecue. Fairmore is from Tennessee. There was no question where we were going.

A few minutes later, we were parked in a small lot and strolled into the Rockville location of Urban Bar-B-Que Company.

Bug and I made our way to the register still debating what to order. The sticker-plastered counter and walls with humorous and snarky anecdotes distracted us from making our meal choice. I had a craving for a salad, as well as BBQ chicken and brisket. Bug wanted to try the brisket and pulled pork platter.

It made my choice easier when Bug ordered the beef brisket platter ($8.99). Their barbecue chicken tortilla salad ($8.99) sounded perfect.

UBBQCo-BBQ Chicken Salad
Crisp and crunchy salad and a corner of corn bread

We were lucky to find a table as it was around 12:30 when we arrived. The place was packed, however many of the customers ordered their food to-go. The music and the clamor of the kitchen amplified the brisk atmosphere. I felt like I was moving in slow motion.

Ten minutes later, our names were called. Bug retrieved our order and wandered over to the condiment station to grab some barbecue sauce.

Moist and tender, the seasoned grilled chicken was delicious, and the salad was freshly made with lettuce, tomatoes, corn, egg, and bacon. The portion was quite large, so I could only finish a third of my bowl. Bug took one for the team and compliantly gobbled up the remainder without a word.

Fairmore was emphatic that we try their corn bread and sides -- macaroni and cheese, collard greens, barbecue ranch beans, cole slaw, potato salad, fries, corn on the cob, and mashed potatoes. There was no way I was leaving without trying their collard greens, barbecue ranch beans ($2.49 each), and corn bread ($1).

Gratifying greens

We loved the greens and beans. These were the best preparation of greens I had ever tasted; smoky and well seasoned without being an overcooked pile of salty mush. The barbecue ranch beans were tangy, spicy, sweet, peppery, and meaty. I could have easily eaten a vat of each.

I didn't get a chance to eat much of the corn bread. Bug and I shared a piece, but he ate most of it. The couple of bites I took were sweet, savory, and crumbly. Just don't try to whistle after a mouthful. This would go well with the barbecue beans.

Bounty of barbecue beans

While we were in line to order, Fairmore had pointed at the large wooden tap handle near the register and mentioned the root beer here was not to be missed, sweetened with Virginia honey (as advertised). I am a sucker for good root beer. Hell, I am a sucker for mediocre root beer. For $1.98, I made several trips to the draft spigot and guzzled the soda. It was a warm day, so the frothy drink hit the spot. Ahhh.

Famous Dave's has set the bar for beef brisket for me. The brisket at UBBQ had more textural definition and wasn't as smoky. I am not saying Famous Dave's brisket is a smoky beef pudding, nor am I saying UBBQ's brisket is tough! They are both good, but very different briskets. Bug enjoyed his brisket, which is all that mattered.

Beefy Bug meat

Fairmore ordered his usual, a pulled pork sandwich ($5.89), macaroni and cheese ($2.49), and corn bread ($1.00). I didn't want to be too weird by sticking my camera in his food, so I took only one picture. Of course, he merrily munched his meal.

Fairmore's fare

When I got home and looked at UBBQ's menu online, I was disappointed to find out that in our haste, I missed the Urban Legend -- chopped brisket, sausage slices, and ranch style beans layered over Fritos, with cheese and onions sprinkled on top.

It sounds like a wonderful train wreck (minus the onions) that screams, "Eat me!!" Guess I'll try it the next time we are in DC.

- Cassaendra

Urban Bar-B-Que Company
2007 Chapman Ave
Rockville, MD 20852
Tel: (240) 290-4UBQ (4827)

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Istanbul Revisited

Our first visit to Istanbul Grill was the restaurant's second evening open. We had a fabulous time with great food and good service.

As a result of a combination of reasons like being creatures of habit, indecisive, and frugal, we ordered the same dish -- the Dinner for Two ($39):
:: small mixed appetizer (two people)
:: mixed grill kebab entrée
:: two desserts

I was curious about a drink listed as "Ayran" ($1.50) and inquired with our spritely server. She described it as a savory yogurt drink. I must have appeared hesitant, as she quickly asked whether I would like to try a sample.

A minute later, she returned with a tumbler of a viscous white liquid. Slightly thicker than milk and a sourness similar to plain yogurt, this would have made a mundane drink. However, once the drink was swallowed, the salty flavor came through along with a palate cleansing dryness. I shared a sip with Bug, who nodded with approval.

Our server returned for our verdict. Bug nursed the remainder in the tumbler, while I enjoyed my goblet of ayran throughout the meal.

A few minutes later, our appetizer arrived.

IstanbulGrill Appetizer2

This time around, the rice in the dolma, stuffed grape leaves, had a better consistency but wasn't as sweet so it didn't have as unusual a flavor.

What a difference 6 months makes. The garlicky soslu patlican dip, similar to baba gannoush with its chunks of eggplant, tomatoes, and bell peppers mixed with minced onions, garlic, and parsley, did not make me slink away. I enjoyed it immensely, but diverted my time towards devouring the other offerings that I picked at on our previous trip because of their inclusion of raw onions or profuse amounts of garlic (coming from a raw onion and garlic hater).

IstanbulGrill AppetizerPlate
My plate

Ezme salad and kisir were in my sights tonight. The salad, made with parsley, tomatoes, onions, peppers, walnuts, and lemon olive oil, was refreshing after months of winter food.

Kisir, a salad of parsley, bulghur wheat, scallions, red and green peppers, olive oil, and lemon is similar to tabbouleh; as such, it was another refreshing dish due to its piquancy and texture.

IstanbulGrill Entree
Mixed grill

Our entrée arrived before we could finish our appetizer, so we rearranged our small table to accommodate the large platter of chicken and lamb shish kebab, döner, and adana over pilaf. This worked out rather conveniently, since we were able to enjoy part of the appetizer, which consisted largely of vegetables, together with the grilled meats and rice scooped onto the pitas. I am sure I ate my allotment of pitas for the month!

While the flavor of the rice remained delicious, it was overcooked on this visit. As a fanatic of their adana, ground lamb and beef seasoned with herbs, spices, and vegetables, grilled on skewers, and the availability of the appetizers, the disappointment of the pilaf was a memory as I left most of it for Bug, who felt similarly.

Adana, being mostly meat, doesn't feel quite as heavy to me as chopped skewered whole meat. A skewer of adana with rice pilaf and a plate of salad with lemon olive oil dressing would be a meal that I would love to eat many times a week!

As with our previous trip, we packed up at least a third of the entrée to take home, and picked out our dessert -- kadayif and kazandibi.

IstanbulGrill Dessert
Sugar and spice

Kadyif, shredded wheat with pistachios and honey, was sweet compared with the less assertive kazandibi, a thick pudding dusted with cinnamon. Both desserts were delectable, but our dessert palates, at least of late, have been leaning towards less sweet.

Our server was wonderful, and the food was, for the most part, excellent. Yet again, a fantastic experience overall. Our next trip won't come too soon.

- Cassaendra

Istanbul Grill
2505 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113-4610
Tel: (216) 298-4450

Wednesday, April 6, 2011


Bug and I recently paid a visit to Lilly, a handmade chocolate and spirits boutique in Tremont. Having recently absorbed the space next door, the store appears even more spacious with its open design and long, parallel slats of hardwood. I didn't tote my camera to the store so you'll have to check the beautiful space out for yourself.

Lilly Chocolates Box
Life is not

The new store smell fused with rich cocoa made for an intoxicating affair. For those who are interested in wine and beer pairings, each chocolate is described with a matching bottle.

There were many chocolates from which to choose. However, Bug was standing nearby with Akemi in his arms transmitting telepathic cheap-waves, so I selected six ($11).

Detailed descriptions of the chocolates are included in each box. The chocolates I selected are as follows:

Frou Frou: Sicilian blood orange juice, freeze dried passion fruit, white chocolate
Forty Winks: fresh lavender ganache, candied violets, dark chocolate
Cinnabunny: Vietnamese cinnamon, ground ginger, clover honey, dark chocolate

Bob: Drambuie spiked salted caramel, apple cider reduction, milk chocolate
Wild Thing: candied red onion jam, Nueskes smoked bacon, Left Hand imperial stout, milk and dark chocolate
Lime: fresh lime juice, clover honey, white chocolate

Lilly Chocolates
Top row: Frou Frou, Forty Winks, Cinnabunny
Bottom row: Bob, Wild Thing, Lime

Waves of blood orange and passion orange encapsulated in creamy white chocolate flooded my palate. Frou Frou was my favorite, followed by the citrus smooch of Lime.

The infusion of sweet onions and smoky bacon with chocolate would make most people swoon. I don't like onions, but I was intrigued. Expectedly last on my list was Wild Thing.

I also grabbed a cellophane bag of Azteka Bark ($7).

Lilly Azteka Bark
Bark with a great bite

Hearts imprinted on the bark give the impression of light-hearted innocence. Smoldering under the facade is the bitterness of dark chocolate with accents of cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves. Hawaiian black lava salt interjects with a salty crunch. As a parting thought, cayenne pepper and smoky ancho chiles linger for several seconds, allowing a moment of contemplation, then dissipates.

With the same serious, dark chocolate breath, I want to shout, while pointing to my mouth, "Frou Frou! In my mouth! Now!"

- Cassaendra

Lilly Handmade Chocolates
761 Starkweather Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 771-3333

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