Kickin’ Up Route 66

After Vegas, we headed down to the Grand Canyon. Um, wow.

GCGrand Canyon

Yep, we went there. We stuck around til the sun went down, and saw one of the most beautiful night skies on the planet. Sadly, I’m not skilled enough in photography to have captured it, but this is the idea:

stars

We didn’t see a whole lot of wildlife on this trip, but one thing we did see was…. Elk. One one of the heavily populated walkways at the Grand Canyon, a big ol’ Elk was just hanging out, people-watching. At night as we drove through the Coconino National Forest en route to Flagstaff, we had to slow down twice for Elk crossing the road.

Flagstaff was FREEZING. Seriously, between the cold and the reindeer I could have sworn we were at the North Pole.

For breakfast, we decided to warm up at Brandy’s, a wonderful local restaurant and bakery that was featured on Guy Fieri’s Diners, Drive-Ins, and Dives. What a place! Just a small hole in the wall place with great people and absolutely delicious food. The best pancake of my life. And the best pumpkin spice latte I’ve ever had. I ordered a chipotle scrambler (eggs, chipotle, cheddar, and a tortilla). James had eggs and a pancake. Oh. my. gosh. I would almost move to Flagstaff just to be close to this place.


Brandy's
Brandy's insidePumpkin Spice LatteChorizo Scrambler
OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

 

And with our stomachs full, we hopped in our car and headed for the Pacific!

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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!!

Olney’s Mexican Escape

Last night, my mom and I went to Sol Azteca in Olney, MD. While the restaurant is not new, the shopping center was newly renovated and we had never noticed the place before.

We were greeted with white table cloths and dim lighting, something that added a little feeling of formality that is not commonly found in Mexican restaurants. People don’t usually picture white table cloths when they’re in the mood for tacos, enchiladas, carne asada and guacamole. Still, it was nice.

The chips and salsa were perfect.  The salsa was fresh and simple, the best I’ve ever had in a restaurant. I could have eated ten more servings of it.

The menu was impressive. Not only did they have a wide selection of Mexican favorites (priced generally between $11-14), but also a list of “House Specialties” that were primarily Peruvian and Seafood selections ($15-20). There were so many options, I’ll have to go back to get a better idea of what to recommend to people.

We ordered chicken enchiladas, vegetable fajitas, and a cheese chile relleno. All were delicious. The chicken enchiladas were made with corn tortillas, which though not my favorite, are more authentic than the flour variety for enchiladas. My mom really enjoyed her vegetable fajitas, though she did say that the vegetables could have been cut a tad smaller to make it easier to eat. The cheese chile relleno was fabulous. In case you’ve never had one, “chile relleno” means “stuffed chile”. It’s a big green poblano pepper that has been stuffed (usually with cheese and meat), fried in a batter, and smothered in more cheese. Of course, any vehicle for cheese and ranchero sauce is welcome to me.

For dessert, we had the flan: perfectly smooth, creamy texture coupled with a sweet cinnamon flavor. It came to us decorated on a plate decorated with raspberry sauce squiggles, which added the perfect fruity tang to the mix. A+

For 2 entrées, an extra side (that was the size of a meal in itself), and dessert, we got out of there for $35. Pretty sweet in this part of Maryland. The portions were so huge we both had lunch for the next day as well.

Sol Azteca was a great Mexican escape after a long day at work, with an awesome selection of entrees with generous portions. While not the best Mexican I’ve ever had (El Azteca in Clarksville is my favorite), it was very enjoyable, and I’ll certainly be going back. A-

Sol Azteca on Urbanspoon

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

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.