Zen, yo.

The other night, James and I decided to try the new(ish) Zen Asian Grill and Sushi in Burtonsville. James had been resisting for a while because they market themselves as a sushi joint. He doesn’t do raw.

I looked online, and it turns out they do some standard Chinese American dishes as well. Once future hubby knew he would be able to eat, he agreed to come.

The first thing you see when you walk in the door is a glittering waterfall. Love it. All at once I was whisked away to a mountain pagoda in some nondescript Asian locale.

We were greeted by a host of smiling faces, and quickly seated. The decor was absolutely amazing. Zen all the way. Open, yet warm and cozy. Whoever designed it was a genius. It didn’t feel like Burtonsville. It felt like Georgetown, or Dupont Circle, or Bethesda. It was like going downtown without the traffic.

The menu was fairly large, considering the size of the establishment, but everything looked as though it belonged. I was very hungry when I arrived, so I quickly picked two items off the very long sushi list. Baltimore roll and California roll. Ok, stop laughing at me. They had a lot of lovely looking, more “authentic” choices, but I wasn’t feeling very adventurous, and I was going to have to eat everything myself since James isn’t a sushi sharer. By the way, he ordered sweet and sour chicken along with chicken fried rice.

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. :)

Dinner was almost over when I remembered to take a picture. I was lost in the moment. 🙂

Extremely yummy. I mean it was delicious. I’ll have to go sample more of the menu to give you a more comprehensive review, but everything I tasted was delicious. The feel of this place is the real reason to go, however. It’s a great date location, if you’re interested.

The Cheese Log Ratings:
Food: 4.5 cheeses
Atmosphere: 5 cheeses
Service: 5 cheeses
Date-worthyness: 4.5 cheeses
Would I return: DEFINITELY! Can’t wait!!
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My Mom’s Hot Apple Cider

For years, my mom has always made the world’s greatest apple cider. I have the recipe myself now, and it has now become a fall tradition for me and James. I thought I’d be nice enough to share it with all of you. Happy Fall!

Ingredients:

1/2 gallon fresh apple cider

2 cups orange juice (no pulp it best)

1/4 cup honey

2 1/2inch cinnamon sticks (basically it’s 1 standard stick broken in half)

5 whole cloves

1 1/2 tablespoons butter

Directions: Combine all ingredients into a pot on the stove. Bring to a boil. Lower temperature and simmer for approximately 1 hour.

Cute Italian Restaurant in Maryland

Friday night I had dinner with my mom at Pepino’s in Burtonsville, MD. It’s a cute little family owned Italian restaurant tucked away in the corner of a sleepy shopping center. We’ve been going here ever since we moved into the area in 2002, as it’s not too far from the high school my sister and I went to. I think it finally deserves a blog post.

The most impressive thing about Pepino’s is the atmosphere. They really treat you like family. While waiting for a table, we had a lovely conversation with the owner, a very nice lady named Margaret. Another couple of people were also waiting and had no place to sit, so right away she said “Here, sit here and talk to my dad,” and sat them right down with her father. It was so sweet!

The food at Pepino’s is Delicious. While you’re waiting, they’ll bring you warm Italian bread. Olive oil and cheese is already on the table: no stinginess there! Pastas are priced around $9-12, with most of the entrée’s at $11-16: pretty comfortable, especially considering the generous portions. My mom had the eggplant parmigiana, which she was raving about. I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, so I went and got the veal parmigiana. Delicious. Cooked perfectly. Smothered in the most delectable homemade sauce you’ll ever get at a restaurant. Slightly on the tangy side. Perfect with the cheese on the table.

We were too stuffed to order dessert. I actually had enough left over for lunch the next day, but sadly I forgot to grab my doggie bag. I almost cried when I realized I forgot it.

Like I said, I’ve been there a million times before, and I’ll go a million times again. Great food, great atmosphere. Actually, not a bad Valentine’s day idea…

Pepinos Italian Kitchen on Urbanspoon

My Birthday Present

My birthday was this past week, and it was AWESOME. Seriously, I felt like a kid again. In the morning, James took me to the National Gallery of Art. I love that place. I actually minored in Art History. I’ve loved the NGA since I went there in Kindergarten and saw Renoir’s Girl with a Watering Can.

Renoir's Girl with a Watering Can

Afterwards, we picked up margaritas and Mexican take out for dinner. On our way home, we picked up marshmallows, chocolate bars, and graham crackers.

As soon as we got back to my house, James let me open my present. He gave me a mini hibachi grill!

5 inches of awesomeness

I was so excited! He got me fondue forks and fuel to complete the set. We roasted marshmallows in the living room and made s’mores. It was so much fun! If you don’t have a mini hibachi, get one. They’re amazing!

Foodie Goes to the Bowling Alley

It sounds like a horror story, right? Bowling alleys are notorious the world over for microwaved pizza and nachos. No one goes to a bowling alley for the food, right?

Wrong.

Yesterday was my fiancé’s birthday, so after work, I took him to 300. No, not the movie. The bowling alley. It’s more than a bowling alley though. It’s also an upscale restaurant with full bar. Don’t believe me? Check this out:

http://www.3hundred.com/

You walk in, and suddenly you’re thinking “Is this paradise?” We get our fingers fitted for a bowling ball. We get our shoe rentals. A waiter takes us to our lane.

It’s a Wednesday, so we don’t order anything off the extensive cocktail list, but they look delicious. The menu is your modern American, sort of like the Cheesecake Factory. With James being the birthday boy, we ordered a pizza, half cheese half sausage. And it was the kind of pizza you’d expect in an upscale place, no frozen garbage.

We bowled two games. As my finger was still injured from this past weekend’s holiday party, I opted for bumpers. Lame, I know. But I’m one of those people who can’t handle a gutter ball properly.

For dessert, we got James’s favorite: a Brownie Sundae. He’s a “less-is-more” kind of man when it comes to food. This time it came with a cute little candle on top. It was priceless. We’ll definitely be going back.