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Flavors of Summer Water: Lavender, Mint & Lemon

It’s hot again. We had this slight tease of 2 days of Fall-like weather earlier in the week, but we’re fully back in August’s armpit this weekend.

Drinking plain water can get boring, so this summer I’ve been experimenting with some infused water recipes. If you’re looking to shake up your drinking water, take one or both of these recipes for a whirl.

Want something summery but more adult? Check out my Pimm’s Cup recipe.

Lavender, Mint & Lemon Infused Water

Place a sliced lemon, a handful of lavender and a handful of mint leaves in a pitcher. If you’d like, smash it all with a muddler. Fill the pitcher with filtered water. Place in refrigerator and let sit overnight. Pour the water through a strainer into another pitcher. Serve with ice. (You can discard the solids, or give it another go with more water and another night in the fridge).

Slightly Sweet Lemon Mint Water

Put half of a sliced lemon and a few tablespoons of mint in a quart-sized measuring cup. Sprinkle a half tablespoon of white granulated sugar on top. Muddle until the sugar is wet (about 30 seconds to a minute). Pour filtered water on top to fill the measuring cup. Whisk well to make sure the sugar dissolves. Pour through a strainer into a pitcher, pushing down on the solids to extract more flavor. Discard solids.You can add lemon slices to the pitcher if you’d like. Serve with ice.

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A Pimms Cup in Frederick

We spent six days in the U.K. recently and it wasn’t until we were just about to go back home to Maryland that I realized we should have been drinking Pimms cups the entire time. It’s the ultimate British summer drink, and we had completely neglected it.

DSC_0654 Needless to say we had a major Pimms craving when we got back to Frederick.

After a little Internet searching we found that you can get a version of a Pimms cup in downtown Frederick. The Tasting Room has a Pimms Stawberry Smash, which sounds delightful with *you guessed it* strawberries (but also cucumber vodka).

We decided to go another route – we’d make our Pimms cups at home. We found Pimms #1 at Riverside Liquors for $19.99. Next up was figuring out the mix ins.

Recipes are all pretty similar for the Pimms cup, but one suggestion I decided to take was to use San Pellegrino Limonata, which sounded more interesting than lemonade or Sprite.

Here’s the recipe for our Pimms cup if you’d like to join us toasting this ridiculously hot and muggy summer we’ve been having this year.

Pimms Cup Recipe

Ingredients
Pimms #1
San Pellegrino Limonata
Orange
Lemon
Mint

Muddle 3-4 mint leaves in your glass. Add 2-3 orange slices and 1-2 lemon slices. Muddle. Add in 1 part Pimms #1 and 3 parts limonata (I used 1/4 cup Pimms and 3/4 cups limonata). Add ice and enjoy.DSC_0659

Have you found a Pimms cup anywhere else in Frederick?

Fast Casual Frederick: Two to Try in Downtown

If there’s one thing we could use more of in Downtown Frederick, it’s fast casual restaurants.

What’s fast casual? It’s higher quality food (than fast food), but without table service. There are a good amount of lunch choices Downtown, but most of them have table service. That means longer and more expensive lunches.

I wrote about Doner Bistro last year, which is a fast casual restaurant on Carroll Creek. Recently a new comer opened on East Patrick Street – Rex’s Downtown Grill.

Rex’s prides itself on burgers and wings, but it’s also got a variety of healthier options like chicken sandwiches and salads.

See? Great people watching opportunities in these bar seats.

See? Great people watching opportunities in these bar seats.

Located next to Little’s Furniture, the space was completely gutted and renovated. The decor is industrial chic with a lot of natural light. Don’t miss the upstairs seating, which has even more light and lots of tables. The bar that lines the Patrick Street windows at the front of the space offers prime people-watching opportunities (although, be warned, you’ll probably be watched by the folks on the outside as well).

Order at the counter and pick a table to wait for your food. We were there on a Saturday right after it had opened and our food took a long time, but that’s excusable. I had a burger, which was good, and sweet potato fries, which could have been crisper. My husband had bratwurst, which he said was good but not as good as Doner.

We really liked the space and atmosphere, so we’ll definitely go back again to try some more things on the menu.

The second fast casual to try in downtown Frederick is That Hummus Place. We had passed by the lime green building on South Market (between South Street and All Saints) many times, but never stopped to try it. Recently we had a craving for eggplant and headed there for lunch – I’m so glad we did.

It’s a completely vegetarian restaurant with a middle eastern flare.  We always get the hummus and eggplant pita sandwich, which can satisfy even the hungriest carnivores. The staff is friendly and the food is very fresh. I highly recommend it.

What are your favorite fast casual restaurants in downtown Frederick?

Italy’s Dirty Little (Dining) Secret

Listen up.

I’m going to tell you a dirty little secret about dining out in Italy.

Chances are you’re going to have an overpriced, uninspired and completely blah meal.

Sorry to break it to you. I’m basing this on the blah, uninspired meals I had the misfortune of experiencing in Venice, Siena and Cinque Terre.

This is what happens: Italian cuisine is supposed to be this fresh, rich, titillating experience. And it totally can be.

But all those great cities you’re exploring? Well, they’re filled with tourists like me and you. And all these absolutely mediocre restaurants pop up, churning out meals that taste almost as good as your airplane entree, and cost you an arm and a leg.

Yes. You can avoid these traps (e.g., stay away from restaurants with “we accept credit cards” signs and restaurants boasting that its menu is translated into 6 or more languages), but even these strategies aren’t always fool proof.

Our first night in Italy we had an awful meal and vowed to not let it happen again. (It did, but only one more time on our 2 week trip).

How did we find good food?

Well.

We ate at a place owned by an American.

An Italian American, but still.

Our hotelier in Florence told us about this new “food court” that had opened up just months ago that we should try. My first thought was Sbarro, but we showed up and it was Eataly.

As in Mario Batali’s Eataly.

2014-05-09 13.05.16As in it started in New York City Eataly.

Being brand new to Florence (and just the fact that Eataly’s concept rocks), the place was filled with locals. Not tourists. Good sign number 1.

Good sign number 2 was the chefs made food right in front of you with fresh ingredients right there (and not a microwave in sight!).

So we ate there. For lunch. For dinner. And lunch #2. Dinner #2.

And it was glorious.

We had margherita pizza. Pasta with seafood. A whole fish cooked in the skillet right in front of us. We ate like kings. Like Italian doges.

And we just gobbled up the irony.

New in Frederick: Lunch, Dinner, Dessert

It should come as no surprise that I love living in Frederick, MD. Recently quite a few new places have opened downtown, and I wanted to share just a few of them with you.

Doner Bistro
It seems like everything is closing on Carroll Creek (which bums me out) – Lunch Box is gone, Ben & Jerry’s packed up, and Five Guys has been closed for a while. In better creek news, however, a unique place called Doner Bistro recently took over the old Five Guys location. There are a few other franchises in the area (like one in Leesburg). Basically it’s a German place. But! Their specialty is actually Turkish. What? Well apparently in Germany, Turkish street food is widely popular. Doner Bistro brings you both Turkish (think kebab) and German (think bratwurst). The people who work there are so friendly and the food we tried was delicious (bratwurst and currywurst). We also enjoyed the Weihenstephaner Wheat Beer. It’s an order at the counter and wait for your food type of place, which is just the casual type lunch place my husband and I have been wanting for Downtown Frederick.

Pistarros
Taking over the former Shab Row Bistro location, this pizza restaurant is a welcomed addition to downtown. There were a few places where you could get pizza downtown before, but no one who was specializing in it. Enter Pistarros. The problem? It’s way too close to my home. I’ve ordered pizza to go a couple of times already and have been pleased with the Neapoletan-style pies. My second time there the tomato sauce could have used a bit more seasoning, but overall it’s got a lot of potential.

Pro tip: if it’s a beautiful day outside and the limited patio seating is taken or you’d rather not sit and have table service, order a pizza to go and picnic at the next door Third Street Park.

Cakes to Die For
The one definitely winning in the branding category is the newest bakery downtown – Cakes to Die For. And, yes, the branding includes skulls and crossbones (LOVE!). Specializing in cakes (hence the name) this shop also has cinnamon rolls, croissants, lemon bars (below), pies, etc. I’ve only tried the lemon bar but I’m excited to test out the other treats. The prices are super resonable and the space on Market Street is not only a prime location but it’s filled with natural light and has some trendy goth-chic decor. If she added an espresso machine and wifi I’d spend my telecommute mornings right there! (Hint, hint) (Nudge, nudge).

DSC_8869

Why I have reservations at Firestones for Frederick Restaurant Week

You may remember that last month I went on a preview of this week’s Frederick Restaurant Week. My group of journalists and bloggers went to and sampled the menus of three participating restaurants. By the end of the day, there was one clear winner.

fred restaurant week logoFirestone’s Culinary Tavern.

Let’s back up. Frederick Restaurant Week runs from today (March 3) to Sunday, March 9. The 18 participating restaurants offer a 2 course lunch for $15.14 or a 3 course dinner for $30.14.

Why Firestone’s? Out of all of the menus we tasted, Firestone’s was by far the most thoughtful. It was unique and varied. We tasted sushi grade tuna tempura roll, grilled hanger steak with pickled root vegetables and creamed leek and, for dessert, a lemon tart served with a side of chocolate almond crisps.

After the tasting, all six of us were gushing. The chef (Dave Rusk) came out and amid our chorus of praises he seemed to recede into himself, politely (but concisely) answering our questions. Humble or introverted. Either way he makes amazing food.

It helps that the restaurant is housed in a 100 year old building that began as a sporting goods store, then a pub, and has been Firestone’s since 1999. My favorite part is the mezzanine. And the two-story windows peering down on Market Street.

firestone's tavern

Forgive the poor photo quality. I only had my phone with me.

Some restaurants will feature a separate restaurant week menu, but Firestone’s has decided to keep its entire menu for the week. You can order anything off the menu and it will be within the restaurant week prices (there are several items that have a supplemental fee). You can see the menus here.

So, where will you be dining in Frederick this week? Should I make more reservations?

Picture + 100 Words: It’s Carnival Time

Mardi Gras is much more than Bourbon Street and flashing women and men. It’s always been a favorite time of year for me. Parades are a family affair that start at someone’s house near the route, gorging on great food, and then heading out to the median flailing your arms and screaming, “throw me something mister.” Living in Maryland means no Mardi Gras parades. But I can bake a mean King Cake. And I do it every year. At least twice. There still may be time for another king cake this year… Laissez les bon temps rouler!

An Ode to Strawberry Beer

Oh, strawberry beer,

How strange and unappetizing you must sound to those who never tasted you.

db19491cb43f11e2a46f22000a1de414_7

Nothing like a Belgian framboise,

That coats the mouth like sickly sweet syrup.

Light and crisp,

You, Abita Strawberry beer, are the ultimate summer beer.

With a hint of strawberry on the finish.

You were destined to greatness,

When Abita chose to create you from Ponchatoula strawberries.

Abita Strawberry Beer you are conquering America.

Sold in Maryland, D.C., New York, and Massachusetts.

You climbed up the states from South Louisiana.

Oh, strawberry beer,

You bring me back home.