Sunday, August 16, 2015

Pho Tan Vinh

Pho Tan Vinh
Colesville Rd. near Fenton St., Silver Spring
7/10 on my bangin' scale

Located approximately diagonal ("catty-corner") from the Fillmore, I'd say Pho Tan Vinh is a pretty good option to fill your stomach for cheap before heading to a concert. The best bet if you're looking for a lighter meal is the grilled chicken banh mi:

At $5 and change, the chicken banh mi has the deliciously concocted crispy bread, cilantro, cucumber, carrots, mayo, and jalapeno that I've grown to expect, along with a tasty surprise--pate. For a more filling plate, consider trying the Tan Vinh special, which is a deconstructed banh mi with four different meat toppings (pate, sausage, egg, and some type of bologna). These specials are a little confusing at first--how can you fit all the toppings onto the crusty roll? You have a few options: 1) fork and knife it all the way; 2) make a REALLY full sandwich (not actually possible to fit everything on there); or 3) slice up your bread and make several open-faced sandwiches. This is the way to go if you want to make your own ultimate banh mi (or if you're just pretty hungry).

I've been missing the plethora of Vietnamese options in Seattle. So far, Pho Tan Vinh is the place I go to fill that lonely spot in my stomach.

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Saturday, June 6, 2015

Sushi Jin: Sushi meets ancient Pompeii

Sushi Jin
Fenton St near Roeder Rd, Silver Spring
7/10 on my bangin' scale

Sushi Jin in Silver Spring has been on my must try list for a while now, but I've always been a little skeeved out by the slatted window coverings that prevent a small female like myself from seeing what I'm getting into. I'm glad I finally decided to try it out--inside was a small but bustling restaurant serving notable sushi.

On a Friday night, the restaurant was full. Tables at the front (2 person) and booths at the back (2-4 person) offer an intimate feel. We were seated at the crowded sushi bar, which offered an excellent view of three sushi chefs creating their works of edible art.

We started off with steamed shrimp shumai and miso soup, which were both warm and comforting, but otherwise unremarkable. For the main course, we ordered sushi from the a la carte menu. We tried several rolls and a few nigiri, each of which were fresh, well-seasoned, and often sweet. Particularly interesting was the Amazon Roll, a vegetarian roll featuring cucumber, radish, asparagus, and a few other veggies. This roll was completely refreshing, basically a salad wrapped in rice. 

Last, but certainly not least, came the impeccably-plated volcano roll ($12, pictured below).  When this dish came, I was like, OMFG THIS IS THE BEST. IMAGINE MY PLATE IS POMPEII IN 79 AD. I've certainly seen dragon rolls in the shape of dragons before, and a few other kitschy platings here and there, but never a FOOD SPLOSION. The volcano roll includes two shrimp tempura, two types of fish roe, a spicy/sweet mayo-based sauce, and crunchy toppings, which all melded together to make a crispy and sweet dish.

Sushi Jin's Volcano Roll

I won't divulge any more spoilers, but sitting at the sushi bar also gave me a great view of several other beautiful and/or hilarious concoctions.

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Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Urban Butcher: The people have spoken, and they love meat

Urban Butcher
Georgia Ave & Ripley St, Silver Spring
7.5/10 on my bangin' scale

Despite my enthusiasm for Silver Spring, I'm the first to admit that I was completely surprised to see a packed house at 7pm on a rainy Wednesday night in April. Surrounded by hanging cured meats, happy hour goers chatted (probably after a few $6 lavender margaritas) and diners oohed over pans of roasted chicken.  Apparently, people love meat.

To start, my party sampled a selection of meats and cheese, and Urban Butcher impressed us with presentation.  No more trying to remember which meat was which--the names of the meats were written onto to butcher board! So simple, much wow. Maybe this is a thing now, but I haven't seen it. We particularly enjoyed the spiciness of the chorizo, but would probably skip the spreadable pork 'Nduja next time.
Meat and cheese board - five selections.
For the main course, by far the best dish I sampled was the ox brisket ($24). Served with a potato puree, the meat was ridiculously tender. I also thoroughly enjoyed the hanger-cut steak frites ($24) and the butcher's burger and fries ($12). In these solid staples, the quality of the meat at Urban Butcher was the star. A misstep was the pork blade steak "Bulgogi" ($26). When I think of bulgogi, I'm looking for soft, juicy, sweet pieces of meat. The steak was overcooked to the point of being dry, and was served with three different sauces, none of which evoked bulgogi for me.

Ox brisket with potato puree ($24)

Pork blade steak ($26)

Urban Butcher recently reopened this winter after an electrical fire on its roof. I'm glad to see that herds of meat fans are coming to Silver Spring to support its reopening.

Urban Butcher on Urbanspoon

Thursday, May 7, 2015

Taste The World in Fenton Village

This past Sunday, Silver Spring held its annual "Taste the World" festival. At the festival, participants are given a "passport" with a map/list of restaurants to try, and visitors go to as many restaurants as they want to try $3-$5 food samples (and yes, the restaurants stamp your passport). It was a pretty fun way to try new restaurants.
Sligo Cafe (Sligo Ave & Fenton Street ish)

We started off the afternoon at Sligo Cafe, a recently opened American comfort food restau. Their sampling menu featured watermelon lemonade ($3), smoked chicken ($5), and pulled pork sandwich ($5). My entire party tried the pulled pork sandwich (how couldn't we!?!), and I am happy to report that the pork was moist, sweet, and (a must in my book) spicy.

I believe we were served by the owner of the restaurant, who was running around both amazed and overwhelmed, "It's great that so many people came out, but I wish I had more people working today!" Even with this lower-budget dish, I see a lot of potential for a great meal in the future. Sligo Cafe will be seeing me again soon.

Sligo Cafe's "Taste the World" pulled pork sandwich
The interior of Sligo Cafe
Roger Miller Restaurant (Bonifant & Fenton Street ish)

Next, we headed over to Roger Miller Restaurant, which was a great second choice because we got to enjoy the beautiful weather and a ginger beer (mmm) on one of the four or five tables on its front patio. Serving West African cuisine in an "all you can fit into the small to-go container" style ($5) also worked out great for us, because after hitting up this place, we were supremely full. We sampled jollof rice, chicken, groundnut stew, and some greens (can't remember name). I thoroughly enjoyed the rice and the chicken. The groundnut stew, which is kind of like a Thai peanut sauce, was a little bland for my liking. This place will definitely serve its purpose (and fill you up!) for takeout dinner or an outdoor lunch; don't plan on eating in the small dining room.

A small to-go container at Roger Miller Restaurant during the "Taste the World" festival

Fenton Cafe (Fenton Street between Bonifant and Thayer)

Ready for some dessert, we made a beeline for Fenton Cafe, which serves sweet and savory crepes. The cafe featured three of its crepes (sugar and butter, nutella, and a savory one that I don't remember b/c... dessert!) at a discounted price for the festival. At this place, diners order at the counter, and are served the crepes in the small seating area (~15 seats). I ordered a Nutella crepe. It was pretty large (yay), and didn't let me down too much. After becoming addicted to Nutella crepes in Paris, I can say it's fairly easy to let me down in the crepe category. My main beef with this crepe was that they served it with Hershey's syrup on top (ohnoezzz). It definitely makes the crepe looks nice, but also takes away from the Nutella flavor. I will ask them to leave it off next time I visit. Fenton Cafe is certainly a fun place to get a quick lunch or dessert.

Nutella crepe at Fenton Cafe

Sligo Cafe on Urbanspoon

Roger Miller Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Fenton Cafe on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Kenwood Cherry Blossoms

I was super impressed by the sheer number of cherry blossoms along the streets of Kenwood in Bethesda, MD. An extra plus is your fantasy/mind grapes about what you'd do if you owned one of the mansions behind all those blossoms. I would highly recommend taking a trip next season! Take a look:

Crowded on Brookside Dr.

Canopy of blossoms
Fewer crowds on Sunset

And now, the actual sunset.

Details: The main street everyone loves to walk on is Brookside Dr, which is probably most impressive because it has cherry trees on both sides of the street as well as on the green-space median. However, all the side streets in the area also boast the canopy of blossoms, so it's easy to find a street without tons of people getting in your way. If you drive, park outside of the neighborhood (NO PARKING is emblazoned throughout), possibly in the parking lot for the Giant at Brookside & Westbard.

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Backstreet Boys debut: enhancedCD material!!!

Today is Easter, so I took the morning to resurrect some of my fav CDs from my tween years. When I took out my Christina Aguilera CD (self-titled, 1999), I noted that her album cover listed fan websites such as,, and Oh no :( :( :( ... none of the sites are functional anymore!!! Christina didn't even take the time to buy those domain names--one goes to random house publishing.

Anyway, this made me look at some of my other CDs from the burgeoning interwebz era (late 90s). Most still had mail away fan clubs. Third Eye Blind's self-titled album (1997) referenced a non-functioning website: More interesting was Destiny's Child's (self-titled, 1998) "CD Extra" which claimed to have an "interactive musical experience!" Dare I risk effing up my computer with some old-ass .exe file? YES! Unfortunately, the CD-ROM is no longer compatible with my system requirements, but I got a screen grab of the text file setup page:
"CD EXTRA is a brand-new way of experiencing music..."
Determined to find something exciting, I happily placed the Backstreet Boys (self-titled, 1996) "enhancedCD" into my disk drive and... SUCCESS! Here is my journey through the technological enhancedness of BSB.

At this point, let me apologize for the crappy video I am posting here. The images are mostly unrecognizeable, but you can hear the (albeit bad quality) audio. In my humble opinion, I think this format is somehow fitting for this blog entry. Let me know if you absolutely need better quality, and I will consider your request.

After inserting the disk, you're prompted to type in your name so that a PERSONALIZED intro page of a letter addressed to **YOUR NAME HERE** with each of the boys' signatures pops up. Audio is this NEVER BEFORE RELEASED hello to fans! "You're watching us. Live. On this en-nnn-nnn-hanced Cdeeeeee."


Next, the menu page asks you if you want to enter BSB world, instructions, or copy down links to the BSB web pages. THE WEB. Remember when people called it the web? I'm going to take this time to let you down a little bit. Unfortunately, none of the videos for this CDrom thingy work. The old version of Quicktime would not load on my computer. SORRY!

Menu Page for BSB enhancedCD (above).

The "General Instructions" section has many gems. I've included the sections about AOL software (above) and why the album includes a track zero with multimedia information (below)!! Not sure why the record label thought we would care, but I'm guessing that the music people had no idea how to access the enhancedCD stuff, so they didn't look at the instructions.

Of course, I next clicked through to "Backstreet Boys World," and what a world it was. BSB is so international.
Menu page for  "Backstreet Boys' World" (above).

 BIO PAGE: The bio page has about three pages of information, several photos, and a BSB quiz, which gets you a video if you get all the answers correct (which I can't access due to the old version of Quicktime). The bio has some interesting facts I never knew about BSB:

"BSB had become one of Florida's hottest live acts. They played everything from a high school gymnasium, Grad Night at Sea World, to an opening slot for  Brandy."

The bio page also had a link to "Member Profiles," where you could click on a photo of each BSB member to get a brief factoid page about the BSB member and an audio file from him!!

AJ's Page:

Did you know that AJ would describe himself as "freaky, funky, romantic?" From the audio, you can hear that his nickname is "Bone?" Gross. This is why no one liked you, AJ.

Brian's Page:
Brian thinks he is "humorous and athletic" and also likes "Desert Island CDs" by Boyz II Men, Babyface, and Backstreet Boys. So glad he's listed his own band up there.

Howie D's Page:
Howie is "caring, respectful, and honest." Wow, what a sweet guy! His favorite color is purple and he loves his mom's home cooking.

Kevin's Page:
Kevin's audio is certainly the saddest: "Hey what's up? I'm the ... oldest member of the Backstreet Boys I'm Kevin." He says it like, yeah. This sucks. He apparently is "sincere" and "serious about his work," which is probably why he's so depressed to admit he is the oldest member of a boy group.


Nick's Page:
Nick's audio is trying to be all breathy and ... sexy? Ick. He likes "drawing comic books" and among his favorite "Desert Island CDs" is "Journey Greatest Hits."

 Unfortunately we missed out on all of the following videos (Quicktime compatibility issues).
I would definitely want to see "AJ's foot run over." Also potentially "Falling off the stage."
I guess this enhancedCD's got it goin' on. Feel free to let me know what parts were your favorites in the comments below.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

In support of Beyonce at the Grammys, let's answer a poll.

I'm rooting for Beyonce, but her new (ok... it's not that new) single 7/11 still has me guessing.

Which of the following was the inspiration for Beyonce's 7/11?