Wednesday, March 7, 2012

GM Brings DC Bloggers to Frederick Restaurant Week

by Samantha Grieder
Capital Cooking Contributor

If you weren't aware yet, Frederick Restaurant Week runs through Sunday, and there are more restaurants in the city than Bryan Voltaggio's VOLT. To help get DC dwellers out to Frederick, Chevrolet paired with the Tourism Council of Frederick County and the Downtown Frederick Partnership. Seven participating District bloggers were given different vehicles to drive--I have the Chevy Sonic--for one week. We met up in Frederick over the weekend and were able to try different foods from various restaurants in the area.

Special thanks to Chevy for the Sonic rental this week!

The first taste we had was of a pesto, tomato and mozzarella sandwich from Juliet's Italian Market. Fresh and flavorful, it was only a tiny bite of what to come.

Juliet's Italian Market & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Moxie Bakery and Cafe, a business which works to benefit foster children, offered the second bite. The Layered Chocolate Devils Food Cake with Cocoa Nibs had a creamy, light frosting in between the cake. The highlight was one layer of orange marmalade. There was enough rind to distribute orange flavor evenly, but not enough to overpower the original intent: it is a chocolate cake, after all.

Moxie Bakery & Cafe on Urbanspoon

Chocolate Devils Food Cake and Caprese Sandwich

The group then headed out to Firestone's Culinary Tavern along Market Street. The restaurant is small and unpretentious. Dark woods warm up the feel of the restaurant, which is filled with small tables (it's more of a date place than for large groups). Downstairs, guests will find a bar with the largest beer selection in Frederick County, and tables upstairs overlook the rest of the tavern. During Sunday brunch, diners can enjoy live music while they eat.

We were served a small plate of shrimp and grits. A thin slice of bison sausage served as a bed for the shrimp, adding more meaty texture. The largest surprise was the unassuming little roll on the side. It was so fluffy and buttery, my eyes got big when I bit into it. Wonderful!
 Firestone's on Urbanspoon

Shrimp and Grits

After Firestone's, the group walked over to Brewer's Alley, Frederick's first brewpub. Housed in a historic building that was formerly a government space and later, even an opera, the large space gives plenty of room for restaurant seating. For beer fans, the bar is large and filled with televisions for sports-watching.

Brewer's Alley's restaurant week menu is different from listings on the daily menu. As an appetizer, a Korean Chicken Spring Roll, complete with kimchi, in a tomato basil sauce. Crunchy on the outside, soft and spicy on the interior.
Brewer's Alley on Urbanspoon

Korean-style Spring Roll

The next course was a version of surf and turf: breaded and baked cod aside pork belly. The cod was flaky and soft, just as a white fish should be. The pork belly was cooked so well that no one would need a knife to cut through it. The top layer of fat had seeped through the flesh just so, the pieces pulled apart quite easily. The fillets of meat sat atop a thick pile of raw-garlic mashed potatoes. Fans of pork belly will be sure to be a fan of this meal.

Baked Cod, Pork Belly and Garlic Mashed Potatoes

Lastly, dessert was served. A flourless chocolate hazelnut layer cake was served, with a side of freshly whipped cream. The cake was surely more chocolate than hazelnut, but certainly a sweet finish to the end of Brewer's Alley.

After that stop, the group headed to the Frederick Visitor Center, where The Red Horse Restaurant met us. The Center is a converted cannery building that has now been restored and even includes a theater room.

The family-run Red Horse restaurant has a history that lasts over five decades serving steak and seafood. This restaurant week, they're serving up options for two or three courses, with different options on each. On the two-course menu, try the Flounder Florentine. A thin cut of flounder wrapped around a spinach and cheese mix. It's a light and tasty option for someone who is looking for a healthier meal. On the three-course menu, Pork Tenderloin with an herb rub. For a lean meat, the sauce that draped over it was juicy. Mushrooms gave a more meaty component and rosemary added an aromatic lift.

Red Horse Steakhouse on Urbanspoon

Flounder Florentine

Pork Loin with an Herb Rub

Lastly, the blogger group was lead to Shab Row Bistro, part restaurant, part bar, and part wine and beer shop. We aligned at the bar and became acquainted with Alex Strange, head bartender. The restaurant served a taste of their goat cheese ravioli with broccoli rabe. Savory pasta with a creamy interior, coated in a brown butter sauce. Not to be outdone, the broccoli rabe added a bright green, not-too-bitter element.

For a beverage pairing, Strange took time and care, as he does in all his drinks, to build a drink he dubbed "Honor Amongst Thieves." Vodka was the base, with Domaine de Canton, St. Germain elderflower liqueur, and a house-made spiced infusion to complete the drink. Add a thin slice of apple, and there you have it. With such a savory dish, the drink, sweet with a spicy undertone, served as a fabulous palate refresher.
Shab Row Bistro & Wine Bar on Urbanspoon

Honor Amongst Thieves

If you have been to The Columbia Room at The Passenger bar or Drink! in Boston, you'll know exactly how the operation works: hand picked ice cubes, house-made infusions, and control in preparing every drink. But at Shab Row Bistro, guests can more likely get a seat at the bar without a reservation.

SRB was the perfect end to a lovely afternoon.

Stay tuned for more on Frederick Restaurant Week and fun in the Chevy Sonic!

photos by Samantha Grieder

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