I continued my weekend of good eating with a nice breakfast at Mo’s Cafe in Eldersburg, Maryland. I’ve been there a few times, and I’ve gotten the Creamed Chipped Beef over Toast with a side of Home fries before, so I already knew that I would be getting some good food.
Eating this dish brings me back to my younger days. My dad would make us creamed chipped beef on toast every so often, and it was always good. I remember being at the grocery store with my mom and sisters and seeing those glass jars of chipped beef. So having a meal that brings back fond memories is always a positive for me.
The toast was really good. It was very light and almost fluffy. It wasn’t a dry, rough toast. It had a nice crunch to the outside, but in between there was a light texture with really good flavor. The chipped beef was really good. Not all chipped beef is the same. Some have more of a jerky like texture. This had more flavor to it and a softer texture. It was a more tender chipped beef than I’m used to, and I enjoyed it. The sauce had a nice consistency and was seasoned well. I could see the specks of pepper in there, but it wasn’t overwhelming. It actually provided a nice balance to the cream sauce. The home fries were also good. They had a nice texture and good flavor, but they were definitely the side dish.
This dish will fill you up, and it is worth it. The flavors stayed with me for a couple of hours, and I was still in a happy place with the satisfaction of eating this meal. Staying positive is always easy when you eat this well!
During my time out and about yesterday, I visited Sugar Bakers Cakes. I’ve been here quite a few times before, but it has been awhile, so I wanted to post about it.
Sugar Bakers Cakes won on an episode of Cake Hunters on Cooking Channel. They have some incredible cake designs and creations, but they do more than just wedding cakes and special event cakes.
I know that these aren’t the greatest pictures, but I do like how the reflection of the sign comes through on the glass.
I bought two different slices of cake. One slice of Smith Island Cake, and one slice of Chocolate Mousse Cake.
Smith Island Cake is the official Dessert of the state of Maryland. It is a multi-tiered cake whose history goes back more than 200 years. The one I purchased at Sugar Bakers Cakes is a yellow cake with fudge icing and peanut butter cups. This is a very sweet cake, but well worth it. The cake itself is moist and has a traditional yellow cake flavor to it. The icing is set chocolatey goodness, and those bits of peanut butter cups add a really nice layer of flavor to this cake. The portion of this cake is huge. When I was younger, I would have been able to eat this in one sitting, but now, it’s a two to three sitting dessert for me.
The other cake that I got was a Chocolate Mousse Cake. This is a four layer cake, so not another variety of the Smith Island cake. This is a Devil’s Food Cake with layers of Chocolate Mousse and surrounded with a buttercream icing. The cake itself is very good. Another moist cake, and a solid chocolate flavor. The chocolate mousse has a very light, delicate consistency, and a really good flavor. The icing on the cake is the buttercream icing (it’s okay to roll your eyes). The icing adds another layer of sweetness to the cake. It provides a nice balance to the chocolate layers (cake and mousse). My favorite of the two was the Smith Island Cake, but I would still be happy to eat more of this one as well.
When you eat as well as I did yesterday, it’s easy to stay in a positive frame of mind. Enjoy!
Today, I had lunch at Ssong’s Hotdog in The Mall in Columbia. I had passed by it on previous visits to the mall, but hadn’t actually stopped and ordered anything.
This isn’t located in the food court. It’s on the second floor, a little off the main track. Across from a Starbucks, so at least people will see it (there’s always people at a Starbucks). I decided to order the basic Ssong’s Hotdog. They had some other good options, but I figured that I may as well start with the basics.
They start by coating it in the batter.
Next, they dip it in panko bread crumbs. Then they fry it. Since they are making it fresh, it takes about 5 minutes. Once it’s done, you have the option to have it rolled in sugar (I was okay with that, since that is how they normally do it).
It looks great, and tasted even better. The batter really plumped up. The sugar added a nice flavor balance to the hot dog, batter coating, and bread crumbs. The seasoning is really nice, so these are some really flavorful bites. When first biting into this, I wasn’t sure what to expect. I thought the outer shell might be hard and crunchy, but it had a nice bite consistency. It was easy to bite through. There was a crunch from the bread crumbs, but then you got the soft fried batter, followed by the hot dog. The flavors worked really well together, as did the textures.
They had some non-traditional condiments to choose from, and I went with a Sweet Thai Chili sauce. That was another dimension of flavor that I really enjoyed. I would order this again.
I enjoy a corn dog every now and again, but it’s something that I rarely eat. I had more when I was in California, since Hot Dog on a Stick and Wienerschnitzel were always close by. But this takes it to a different level, and it is definitely worth it. I could see myself trying some of their other offerings, such as a rice cake hotdog or mozz-sausage hotdog. This was a great part of what has been a great day!
Today has been a good day so far, and it’s not quite over. I had a plan for some things that I wanted to do, and I accomplished them (for the most part).
Now that I have a new job, my day to day has changed. When I was a freelance consultant, I had work coming at me sporadically, so my work was not a 9-5 job. I could do some work early in the morning or late at night. This provided me with some great opportunities to go out and about and try a bunch of different places and experiences on any day of the week. Now that I’m working full time, I have to adjust. From 8-5 (or 7:30ish to 6:30ish) I’m focused throughout the day on my work and doing what I can to be successful for myself and my new employer. This means that during the week, I’m at my home office and only thinking about work. So the weekends give me an opportunity to branch out, as does traveling to the home office in Pittsburgh.
Last weekend was a bit rough. It was a three day weekend, but I was iced in on Saturday and wasn’t able to do as much as I would have liked. I did enjoy my Sunday and Monday, though. Last night, I decided to make a quick dash out of the house around 6PM. I don’t usually like going out after it’s dark, but I made an exception. I had 10 straight lunches and dinners that consisted of the baby back ribs that I made last weekend. They were great meals, but I needed something else. I went out and got myself a “salad” at Qdoba. Not the healthiest, but at least it was a change of pace. I also picked up some dessert from Big Belly Deli, so that was a win. I knew there was heavy rain in the forecast, which is why I wanted to go out quickly and get back before it started. We were expecting 1 1/2 – 2 inches of rain overnight, so I was glad to get home before the rain hit.
When I woke up this morning, there were a couple of things that I wanted to do. Part of this involved heading over the The Mall in Columbia. I wasn’t sure what I was going to have for breakfast, but I knew I wanted to get a coffee drink at Nordstrom’s Bar. I arrived at the mall area a little after 9:00AM, and I was hungry. I decided to stop at Corner Bakery. When I lived in California, one of my occasional guilty pleasures was the Cinnamon Creme Cake from there.
It has definitely been too long since I’ve enjoyed this. When I worked in Baltimore, I was in walking distance to a Corner Bakery. I always had breakfast before I went in to work, so I would only go there for lunch (which is also good). But the Cinnamon Creme Cake is fantastic. The coffee cake is moist, and the cinnamon swirl along with the crumb topping just round it out to make it something nice to eat every so often. Not every day or every week, but maybe once every month or so. It’s been close to 5 years since I last had this, and I still enjoy it. It brought back good memories of living in California and the times I would go there for a breakfast treat.
The Corner Bakery is not actually inside the mall, but is among some stores that are along the outside. So once I finished eating, I went into the mall. I got my coffee drink from Ebar, and tried an Italian Mocha Ice Storm. That was delicious, and something I would try again if they don’t have any specialty drinks (holidays are over, so no more peppermint). I went to Lolli and Pops and got some candies that I was looking for. I got a really nice massage. And I got a really good light lunch at Ssong’s Hotdog. I’ll write about this in a separate post.
Once I was done at the mall, I decided to head over to Sugar Baker’s Cakes in Catonsville. I ordered a couple of things from there, but won’t write about it until I’ve tried them both (probably later tonight or tomorrow). My final stop was at the Common Kitchen in Clarksville. I’ve written about a couple of places within the kitchen collective in the past. Today, I wanted to see if there was anything new, and there was. There is a West African food place (Foodricana) and a Paraguayan food place (Tasty Empanadas). Both looked good and sound good to me, so I know I’ll make my way back for a visit.
When I was driving back to my house, I decided to listen to my playlist (on random). That got me in an even better mood. There were a few songs that I started singing loudly to once they played, and I didn’t even know what to expect (random playlist of more than 1000 songs). Darling Cruel (Star Collector) – it’s been a long time since I heard that and I might have to write a blog about that group. Thirty Seconds to Mars (The Kill) – I replayed that song three times and was wrecking my vocal cords loudly singing along. Debby Boone (You Light Up My Life) – I’ve mentioned this one before – it was my first favorite song and I still enjoy it every time I hear it.
Overall, this has been a very good day. And it’s not even done yet. I’ve been able to get out and about, I’ve been able to eat some good food, and I’ve listened to (and sing along to) some great music. It’s easy to stay positive with a day like today!
This past Friday, I received an email from one of the grocery stores I frequent, Harris Teeter. There was a weekend only special: buy 1 rack of baby back ribs, get 2 free. That is a deal that is just too good to pass up. As soon as I finished work on Friday, I made my way to the grocery store. There were only three left when I got there, so I really lucked out. I would have considered waiting until Saturday morning, but we were expecting some snow and ice, so I figured I’d play it safe. It’s a good thing, too. We didn’t get too much snow, but we got a lot of rain, which turned to ice very quickly. My car was iced over, so I would not have been able to go anywhere.
I don’t remember exactly when I got this BBQ Pit Crock Pot, but I am glad that I did. I don’t believe they make these any more, which is a shame. I Haven’t used it since I moved back to Maryland 4 1/2 years ago, so it was long overdue for some usage.
I decided that I would be doing a dry rub for the ribs. I started by putting a mixture of apple juice and orange juice on the bottom of the pot. I then used some of my dry rub mix on the ribs.
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon paprika
1 teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon chili powder
2 teaspoons rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon turmeric power
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/2 teaspoon rosemary
1/4 teaspoon citric acid
I’ve used this before and it’s worked out quite well. There’s no salt in there, so this makes a good low sodium meal.
The slabs were a bit too big for the pit, so I had to trim them in order to get them all in the crock pot. I woke up early, so I was able to get this started on low heat right around 5:30 AM.
Although it was probably ready sooner, I didn’t touch it until 2:30 PM. I confirmed the temperature of the meat was at least 170, and it was good to go.
It took a little maneuvering to get them out of the pit, but they looked great to me.
They were nice and tender and had some really good flavor to them. I had some rice and some sauces for dipping, although I also liked eating them as they were.
I’m not always a fan of ribs, but I usually enjoy baby back ribs. They tend to have meat that is easier to get to and easier to bite through. These slabs were “extra meaty”, and it was true. I ended up eating more than I should have, but still have plenty of leftovers that will get me through the week. Now that I’m working from a home office full time during the week, these will provide a quick and easy meal when I need to take a short lunch break.
I’m glad that I was able to use my BBQ Pit Crock Pot again. It’s been too long since I last used it. I will probably use it once or twice a year, but it’s definitely worth having for weekends like this. Clean-up may be a bit rough, but the flavor and ease of cooking makes it worth it. Having my food taste even better than expected sure made it easy to stay positive!
Prior to my visit back to Pittsburgh, I had plotted out my return trip. I decided that I wanted to go a little off the normal path and looked for places to eat in West Virginia. My goal was to find a place that was on the way home, so my focus was on the Maryland and West Virginia border. While doing this, there was one place that stood out: Twistedoughs. Now, I am quite sure that there are many places to eat in West Virginia, and I would enjoy getting some recommendations sent my way.
The drive back was pretty nice. It was in the upper 50s and lower 60s most of the way. When I got into West Virginia, it was a nice, scenic route. I drove through farmland, suburban areas, and small towns. I saw some really nice houses and townhouses, as well as some that weren’t in the best shape. Most of my driving was on one lane or roads where the shoulder was for emergency stopping only, so I wasn’t able to get any pictures. Maybe I’ll find some scenic areas next time I’m in the area.
When I was driving down the road where Twistedoughs is located, I missed my stop. I was expecting a restaurant, but didn’t see one. I was able to turn around after driving another 1/2 mile or so (no areas to turn around), but when I made my way back, I saw the trailer.
If you are ever in the area and looking for Twistedoughs, it is next to the parking lot for The Market House, which is a shopping collective that’s open Friday through Sunday. So if you are going to Twistedoughs on one of those days, you should stop in at The Market House and have some fun while shopping and eating.
I left Pittsburgh early, so I didn’t really have anything to eat for breakfast. I was saving up for some biscuits and gravy. I was planning on ordering either the cinnamon rolls or the biscuits and gravy. When I got there, I decided it was a biscuits and gravy day. The order was huge. Big enough to share, but I managed to eat it all on my own.
The biscuits were really good. They were nice and flaky, very rich, and flavorful. The sausage gravy had some nice chunks of sausage and had perfect consistency. This was a really good batch of biscuits and gravy. I would even order the biscuits on their own, because they were really good.
I also bought a pretzel. They smelled good and I figured I could save it for later. When holding the bag, I could tell that they were nice and warm, so I did have a little bit after my meal, but I saved the rest for later. The pretzel was huge. And the flavor was outstanding. This is a pretzel that I would go back for, even if it takes more than an hour to get there and more than an hour back.
I consider myself lucky to be able to drive around to these places that aren’t always close to home. I wasn’t always as adventurous with food as I am now, so I have a great appreciation for the different flavors that I experience. Having a goal of going somewhere is one thing, but when the food turns out to be even better than expected, it just makes it easy to stay positive and keep a smile on my face!
Soon after the holidays were over, I was making my way back to Pittsburgh. There was snow in the forecast on the day I was leaving. It was not supposed to start until about 1PM where I live, and there was a slight dusting expected in Pittsburgh from 12PM – 1PM. So, I figured if I left around 9AM, I should miss the snow, except for a little when I got to Pittsburgh.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t think things all the way through. I was going to be driving through the mountains, and I didn’t factor in that detail. The snow started around 11AM in the mountains and continued until I was about 10 miles East of Pittsburgh. The higher elevation also brought some colder temperatures, so there were a couple of spots where it was a bit slick on the roads. But nothing too bad, or I wouldn’t be writing this.
My time in Pittsburgh was longer this trip. I was there for 4 1/2 days, so I was able to eat a lot more. Probably a lot more than I should have. I wasn’t able to get pictures of places I went with co-workers, but was still able to eat some good food and get some pictures.
When I first got to Pittsburgh, I decided to walk around town again. I walked through the Armstrong Tunnel. This was close to my hotel, and it ends up right by Duquesne University. The acoustics were great. During the stretch where I took this picture, there were no cars coming through the tunnel, but I could hear the cars that were driving above me. It was a nice experience.
During my walk, I made my way to Crazy Mocha, which is a local chain. I ordered their Mocha Frappe, and it was very good. Nice consistency and nice flavor, so it was a good treat to have while the temperatures were hovering in the low 30s.
When it came time to get dinner, I decided to take a walk along Carson Street. I had seen Tootie’s Famous Italian Beef the last time I was in town, and decided to stop in on this visit. I decided to go with the Beef Mac n’ Cheese. I watched as the sandwich was put together and thought the bread looked okay, the meat looked like it might be dry and the Mac n’ cheese looked okay. I brought it back with me to my hotel and didn’t have high expectations. But then, I bit into the sandwich. The bread had a nice crispness on the outside, and was very soft on the inside. The beef mixture was nice and juicy, and the Mac n’ Cheese was also really good. The combination of the flavors worked really well in the sandwich, but each individual component was good on its own. I was very happy with this meal, but even happier that they also had Grape Soda! It was a good start to my week.
The following day, a few of us went to Piper’s Pub. where we shared Scotch Eggs for an appetizer and I then had Bangers and Mash for lunch (really good). Needless to say, I wasn’t really hungry enough for dinner at the end of the day. There is always room for dessert, and I decided to go with a Chocolate Peanut Butter shake at the Fudge Farm. This milkshake was extremely good. They added melted milk and dark chocolate drizzle to the cup before pouring in the milkshake. This solidified once the cold milkshake made contact, and it broke apart nicely for some chocolate pieces. The shake was very thick. When I got to the end of the milkshake, there were a lot of chunks in the bottom of my drink. They looked like little mini buckeyes, which I was later able to confirm to be true. Delicious milk shake, and I’ll be going back there the next time I visit.
The next morning, I was ready for a long walk. I decided to make my way over to The Pretzel Shop. I got a sweet sausage and cheese Pretzel sandwich for breakfast. The pretzel had nice flavor and texture. The sausage was really good. This was a really good breakfast sandwich.
When it was time for dinner, I went with a recommendation of a co-worker and took a short walk from my hotel to Cilantro & Ajo, which is a Venezuelan Street Food restaurant. I asked the server for their recommendation, and they recommended that as a first timer, I should go with a Pabellon Arepas. This had shredded beef, black beans, plantain and queso fresco on a white corn meal patty. I’m not usually a fan of black beans, but they worked well here. There was a green sauce that came with this sandwich, and the green sauce was magic. I look forward to trying some of their other food when I’m back in town.
They had this soda, so I had to try it. It’s sort of a red cream soda, and I really enjoyed this.
I also got dessert from Cilantro & Ajo. I ordered a Tres Leches cake, and it was also very good. Super sweet, which I enjoy. The cake was not too soggy and not true dry. The icing added a nice flavor and consistency, and was a good way to round out the night’s food.
The next morning, I walked over to Just Good Donuts, which is inside the Pub Chip Shop (right next to Piper’s Pub). They had quite a few good looking options, but I decided to try the Yinz Cream Donut. The vanilla buttercream had nice flavor, the donut was perfect in terms of flavor and consistency. The chocolate glaze was outstanding. This was a really good donut and I wish that I had eaten more.
When it was time for my last night, I decided to try Hello Bistro. Although they have burgers, I went with a custom salad instead. You pick the ingredients, and then they chop it up for you (if you want) and toss in the salad dressing of your choice. This was a really good salad and I’m glad I tried it. They also have burgers which I’ve been told are really good, so I’ll have to try those next time.
A bonus for me was that they had a Boylan soda fountain, so I had some birch beer with my salad.
Since I had a salad for dinner, I figured it would be okay to have some Insomnia Cookies for dessert. I had the Deluxe Triple Chocolate Chunk and the Deluxe S’Mores cookies. They were both really good, but the Triple Chocolate Chunk was my favorite of the two.
I had a really nice visit in Pittsburgh. I met some good people, I ate some good food, and I got to do a lot of walking around. I am looking forward to my next time in town, and look forward to trying some new foods.
This past December, my family went on a Disney Cruise. It’s the third time we have gone on a Disney Cruise. This was a 4 night cruise embarking from Port Canaveral with a stop in Nassau and a stop in Castaway Cay (Disney’s island). The ship that we took was the Disney Dream.
Instead of doing a day by day recap of the cruise, I thought it would be better to talk about some of things we did, and then share photos of the food, the scenery, and some miscellaneous fun stuff.
If you have kids who enjoy Disney, or if you are a fan of Disney, this would be a great cruise for you to take. This is a kid friendly cruise, but it’s not just for kids. They have areas that are for adults (18 and older), as well as some nightclubs and lounges that are geared for those of drinking age. There are “Youth Clubs”, where you can drop of kids of various age groups for activities and fun, while you can do your own thing.
The cruise ship will rock from time to time, so keep that in mind if you have any issues with motion. It won’t be as bad as on a small boat, but it is still there.
There are plenty of things to do while at sea. You can watch movies or shows in one of the theaters. You can shop until you drop. You can ride the AquaDuck (not on all Cruise Ships). You can play video games or sports. You can have spa treatments. You can workout. You can eat as little or as much as you want.
I enjoy food and I enjoy scenery, so my focus for this post will be on those.
I’m going to start with the food. Instead of going into the details of every little morsel that I ate, I want to share some pictures of the food (with a few comments here and there). There are three main restaurants that were part of the cruise, and we had a dinner schedule. Not everyone goes to the dinners, but it is an option. There is also a buffet open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, as well as some snack and quick bite places. There are fancy restaurants at an additional cost, so if you want to dress up and have a more intimate dining experience, you can do that as well.
The first day, we had a good lunch. I ordered a Molten Chocolate cake with Hazelnut Gelato for dessert, and it was absolutely incredible.
My choice for dinner the first night was a Lamb Salad. Not too heavy, which was a good thing since I had already eaten more than my fair share of food.
When I sat down for dinner the second night, the napkin was folded to look like a Hawaiian shirt. I thought this was really neat and an added touch that provided a little more fun for the night.
I started the meal with a French Onion soup. The flavor of the broth was better than I could have expected and this was probably the best French Onion soup I’ve ever had.
When it was time for the main course, I went with duck (sorry Donald and Daisy). The duck breast was good, but the tender and juicy drumstick was the star of the meal.
Dessert was an Opera Gateau, which was a delicious finale to a great meal.
The next night was Christmas night. I went with a Horseradish Crusted Rib Roast. I don’t order steak a lot, but thought I should live a little with these meals. The steak was cooked perfectly and the bites of the edges with the meat, a little fat, and the horseradish were pure joy to my tastebuds.
I ordered the Yule Log for dessert and it was another delicious end to the day.
For the final dinner on the cruise, I decided to go with a Ginger-Teriyaki dusted Angus Beef Tenderloin. The flavor of the steak and the sauce were off the charts. The carrots were cooked to perfection. But the best part of this meal was the Wasabi Mashed Potatoes. It had the nice flavor of wasabi, without too much of the heat (which I would have been okay with). The combination of the wasabi, ginger-teriyaki, and bok choy made this a true feast for the palate (this was from Animator’s Palate).
The final dessert of my choosing was a Cookies ‘n Cream Sundae, which continued the streak of great desserts.
There was a coffee bar called Cove Cafe, which served espresso drinks (and alcohol). These drinks cost extra, but they were worth it. I ordered a frappe every day. The first picture is from the first morning on the ship. A delicious Peppermint Mocha Frappe with a cinnamon bun (no extra charge).
My parents and one of my sisters like hot coffee drinks, and the Cove Cafe added art to the foam, which was fun and different depending on the day and time of day.
My nieces shared a special sundae from Vanellope’s Sweets & Treats Shop (extra cost). The ice cream and gelato were really good, and they got to keep the “Go-Kart”.
I went back to Vanellope’s and ordered a Ginger Chocolate cupcake. There was a mild ginger flavor, but it was a very good and flavorful cupcake.
Another fun thing that Disney does has to do with housekeeping. When they get the room ready for night time, they have towel art creations. Here are the different ones we had each night.
The third one was special for Pirate Night. 🙂
There was some fantastic scenery as well. I enjoyed getting up early in the morning and going for walks around the deck (joggers are welcome there). We had a concierge room with a great view.
Picture from Deck 3. This was taken on the second night of the cruise.
Sometimes the scenery says it all.
This was taken on Castaway Cay, which was the stop on Christmas Day. I thought the position of the sun was perfect for this picture.
This is a view of Castaway Cay from the balcony of our state room.
We had some good rain on the last day at sea, but there was a moment where the sun broke through the clouds, and I was lucky enough to be in a position to take these pictures at that very moment.
If you made it this far, I hope you had fun reading through my non-sequential recap. If you have any questions or if you want to share your positive experiences, I would be happy to hear from you.