Ray’s: the Steaks

A couple of weekends ago we ventured across state lines to Virginia to see family. It was a long(ish) drive but worth it because they bribed us with the promise of a good steal. And they delivered.

I had been to Ray’s: the Classics and to Ray’s Hell Burger, two of the three restaurants originally started by restaurateur Michael Landrum, but had never before ventured to Ray’s: the Steaks. When we arrived, our party of nine was seated at a large table in a private space off the dining room. It was a little warm in there, but otherwise was really nice to have a room to ourselves.

We started with a round of drinks and I shared a bottle of pink cava with my mom and cousin. We were afraid it would be too sweet, but it was perfectly crisp and bubbly. After the important stuff was taken care of, we moved onto salads.

I had the wedge salad because wedge salads are decadent and fantastic and usually all I want at a steak place. This one did not disappoint, it was huge and had a bit of a kick to it which gave it a little something extra. I ended up sharing with my mom because well, look at the size of it.

rays the steaks ny strip

Next it was time for the pièce de résistance, the meat! Most people at the table got the filet (which they said was fab), but I’m not much of a filet girl  and went for the NY Strip. I got the classic cut with none of the offered sauces or preparations (thought I was tempted by the brandy mushroom cream sauce). It. was. delicious. Perfectly cooked and obviously a really high quality cut of meat. Their meals come with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach for the table which is a nice touch since so many steakhouses charge for those a la carte. I ended up bringing home half my steak and the remaining sides and had more than enough food for another meal.

There are plenty of tasty steak places in Baltimore (hello Prime Rib my love), but if you find yourself in Arlington, Ray’s: the Steaks is highly recommended!

Advertisements

More Meat Please

Vegetarians beware – at Parts & Labor in Remington, they use all parts of the animals they serve which means even the bread is served with pig fat in lieu of traditional butter. Even I was a little squeamish about that one along with the fact that it is communal seating and that they don’t post their menu online, but my husband is a more adventurous eater than I am so I tried to get past all of that and go in with an open mind. I’m glad I did because the food was out of this world. The meat-focused menu is definitely unusual: it’s broken into small plates and salads, hearty plates, butcher’s cuts, sausages and sides. You are encouraged to order a bunch of different dishes and share which does get a little pricey but gave us the opportunity to try many different flavors.

We had a 7:30pm reservation and when we arrived we were seated at a long table with two adults and four children. I was super impressed with how will behaved the kids were and how they seemed perfectly content with steak and corn on the cob for dinner (it isn’t exactly what I would call a kid friendly menu). Adam and I started things off with a drink – I got a cocktail our server recommended with vodka, fernet, sage and honey and Adam got a pony of beer. They have a fantastic draft list and ordering the small 5 oz pony allowed Adam to try multiple options throughout our meal (he started with an Allagash Confluence for you beer aficionados).

part and labor cocktail

When it came time to order we opted to try a little bit of everything and got something from every menu category except for the hearty plates. The handful of hearty plates are a little more like what you would expect to see on a menu with a meat served with some accompaniments. The food also comes out sort of like tapas, they bring it over when it is ready. This contributed to the only little snafu of the evening when the steak we ordered never appeared and it was only after we inquired that we were told they had run out of it. No worries though, we chose another steak off the menu and it was delicious.

Without further ado, our meat feast:

part and labor charcuterie

Salthouse Plate – from the small plates section, we started with some charcuterie: finocchiona, basturma and coppa. They gave an explanation, but I really have no idea what we were eating other than they were delectable salted, cured meats. The finocchiona was the favorite of both of us, it was a harder, chewier salami and the flavor was fantastic.

Goat Sausage – we joked on the drive over than no way was I going to eat goat or any of the more unusual meats that might be offered. Well, I caved. The goat sausage was served with tomato peach relish and it was one of the best things I ate all night.

Grilled Summer Squash – thick cut zucchini and squash cooked with brown butter, honey and oregano. It was very good and had absolutely no meat which was a nice break from our animal-filled meal.

parts and labor cheeseburger

Raw Cheeseburger – exactly what it sounds like – steak tartare served on  tasty bread with all the traditional toppings you’d find on an actual hamburger. Or, at least the hipster version of those toppings: onions, dill pickles, egg yolk, tomato honey, mustard and fish pepper. This was definitely the most unusual dish we ate and one of the best. The flavors went really well together and the steak tartare taste still stood out – I was a little afraid the other things would overpower it but that wasn’t the case.

part and labor cheese burger and salad

Bibb Salad – we saw one of these salads get delivered to a neighboring table and knew we had to order one. Bibb lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, tomato, smoked ham, scallions and a buttermilk dressing. The salad was fantastic, the green beans were nice and crisp and the heirloom tomatoes were juicy and delicious. The smoked ham (because obviously, more meat) had a great flavor that went nicely with the dish.

Plate Steak – they offer four cuts of meat and we first ordered the flank. When we were told they were out of it we switched to the plate which is apparently the most similar. I had never heard of this cut of beef, but some googling tells me it’s also called skirt steak which I am more familiar with. It was cut into the strips and served with herb relish. It was also delicious, but a little chewy. At this point we were super full and had the last few bites packed up to bring home to our dog, Jack.

Parts & Labor

Location: 2600 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21218

Price: $30-50 a person, more if you really go to town like we did

Highlights: Meat, meat and more meat. They aren’t joking around. They know their meat and it is delicious!

You Had Me at Unlimited Pita

About three bites into our meals at Byblos Lebanese restaurant in Federal Hill, Abby looked up at me and said, “Don’t judge me, but I don’t think I’m going to have leftovers.”

Of course, leftovers are never expected when you’re having a post-workout co-blogger dinner, but it was my own fault for suggesting that we could either order two entrees (to have leftovers) or one entree plus apps. Either way, we didn’t stand a chance. The food at Byblos is just that good.

Byblos is one of those places I’d walked by dozens of times before deciding it was worth a shot. It’s a smallish BYOB spot nestled between other family-owned restaurants on Light Street, the eight or so tables hand-carved out of a tree trunk and a “No photographs” sign hanging below the artwork. When you walk in, you’re almost always greeted by the owner.

When Abby and I stopped in last week–a cooler of Summer Shandys over my shoulder, of course–we sat down and drooled over the menu’s assortment of Middle Eastern apps and entrees. I’d been there before and thought seriously about ordering an assortment of appetizers to scoop up with the table’s unlimited pita bread but ultimately took Abby’s lead and ordered a more sensible dinner.

I got the chicken shawarma combo platter (marinated chicken served with a deliciously seasoned side salad and hummus):

IMG_20150616_195528026

Abby got the moussaka combo platter (eggplant, chickpeas, tomato and onion, also served with salad and hummus):

photo 1

We barely talked as we devoured our plates. In the past, I’ve also ordered the beef shawarma, kebbeh (cracked wheat stuffed with ground beef, onion, pine nuts and spices) and mouhamarrah (wheat, crushed pine nuts and spices)–all amazing. I love that the restaurant is BYOB, taking a bit of the sting out of receiving the bill.

So, I guess what I’m saying is, you need to try this place. Bring me back some baklava.

Friday Five (best spots for Italian food in Baltimore)

pasta

Italian food is my absolute favorite. Is there anything more comforting and delicious than a bowl of fettuccine? Or arancini stuffed with gooey mozzarella and dipped in marinara? Or lasagna with a creamy béchamel? I think I am literally drooling right now just typing this. Luckily, Baltimore has a myriad of Italian restaurants (not just in Little Italy!) at varying levels of authenticity and price point. Today I’m going to share my five favorites:

1. Sotto Sopra 

Adam and I first went to Sotto Sopra during restaurant week where we each enjoyed three delectable courses. The grilled octopus salad and squid ink pasta were out of this world and on subsequent visits we confirmed that the duck and fish dishes are equally good. The crowd is a bit older, but the food is just so good and the service is formal without being stuffy. They also have opera night once a month with live performances in the restaurant!

Neighborhood: Mt. Vernon      Price: Entrees $25-$35

2. Birroteca 

A little bit off the beaten path in Hampden with it’s own parking lot (jackpot!), Birroteca is a fairly large, friendly restaurant with an appealing menu. I had the most fun sitting at the bar and ordering a few different appetizers/small plates before splitting a pizza, but they also have plenty of tables for larger groups. Tables are covered in butcher paper and pencils are provided for guests do doodle while they wait for their food. Framed table drawings cover the walls. The food feels a little less authentic Italian (read: pastas with duck liver, wild boar and rabbit), but most everything we’ve tried has been delicious. My faves are the Brussel sprouts, meatballs and the Duck Duck Goose pizza. They also have a decent variety of beers on tap.

Neighborhood: Hampden      Price: Entrees less than $20

3. Trinacria 

I have only been to the original market/deli, not the cafe that recently opened, but I’m hoping to check that out soon! Trinacria is THE place you want to hit up if you’re looking for cheap wine, huge/delicious/inexpensive sandwiches and olive oil, sauce, pasta and all of the makings for a homemade Italian feast. Adam first discovered this place when he was in law school and often walked over for one of their delicious sandwiches (my fave is the chicken parm, but they are quite literally all good – except be warned the tuna salad has olives) and now he frequently stops in to stock up on wine (think bottles for $5-7) and their frozen meals (thaw and pop in the oven for an easy week night dinner).

Neighborhood: Seton Hill       Price: $6 sandwiches!

4. Bottega 

botega

Bottega is a tiny little BYOB gem tucked into a fairly empty block near the Charles Theater. Reservations are required and hard to come by on the weekend so I suggest you make yours NOW. Their menu is frequently changing based on season and availability of fresh ingredients. If it’s available, definitely get the malfatti, spinach ricotta dumpling balls in sage butter sauce. Very rich and so good! It’s cozy and romantic and makes a great date night spot.

Neighborhood: Station North     Price: Entrees $25-30

5. Aldo’s

I’d be remiss if I didn’t include a restaurant in Baltimore’s lively Little Italy neighborhood. To me, Aldo’s is the cream of the crop and a great place to go when your parents are footing the bill. I’m all about the pasta and they have a fantastic bolognese and a fettuccine with tomato cream sauce and lobster tail – delizioso! And do yourself a favor, start with the shrimp bisque.

Neighborhood: Little Italy      Price:  Entrees $30-40

Hooking up with Heather for Friday Favorites! 

What’s your favorite spot for Italian food in Baltimore or where you live? What’s your favorite Italian dish?


					

Splurge-iversary

Even though we got married about seven weeks ago, Adam and I decided to celebrate one last dating anniversary Friday and went to dinner at Cinghiale to celebrate! Cinghiale is a Foreman Wolf restaurant, as is Charleston (IMO the ultimate splurge to end all splurges restaurant in Baltimore) and Petite Louis Bistro. We had heard mixed things about Cinghiale, but have had fantastic meals at the other two restaurants so we decided to try it out. It was a great spot for young(ish) people who want a little splurge, but don’t want to break the bank. We each got the four course prezzo fisso for $62 which allowed us to try a nice variety of dishes. We also aren’t huge drinkers and only had one cocktail or glass of wine each –> this isn’t for everyone, but it definitely helped keep our final bill more reasonable.

cheese antipasta

After we were seated and ordered our drinks, our waiter brought us a small sampling of cheese and crackers with what I think was a sort of tomato jam.  I used to be more into soft cheeses, but lately I’ve been digging the hard cheese and this one was delicious! For my first course, I started with the grilled calamari with crispy carrots. I felt like the portion was surprisingly large and very tasty! I did think it was a little heavy on the red pepper flakes which the dish didn’t really need.

grilled octopus

For my primi course I got the squid ink farfalle with lobster and for my main course I got the pork belly with poached egg. The lobster meat in the pasta was ample and delicious, but the pasta itself didn’t wow me and again, heavy on the red pepper flakes. The pork belly and poached egg (pictured below) were delicious and served with a small disk of crispy polenta. By this point I was very full, but still managed to eat most it. The curly green things you see are fiddlehead ferns which I had never heard of, but apparently Martha Stewart can tell you what to do with them and one website refers to them as the “succulent stalks of spring” and they were pretty tasty – sort of comparable to a more chewy asparagus.

pork belly

I’m kicking myself because I can’t remember what this dessert was called, but I think it had salted caramel ice cream and grilled bananas and it was very tasty!

dessert

All in all, we had a great time! The food was a little inconsistent but the service was outstanding and it felt like a special date night spot.

chianghiale collage

Cinghiale

Location: Harbor East, 822 Lancaster St, Baltimore, MD 21202

Highlights: The service, complimentary cheese, interesting menu, fantastic dessert and very tasty grilled calamari.