Archive for the ‘signature dish’ Tag

Decieved by Appearances   Leave a comment


McCabes wasn’t the top choice for our first meal in Baltimore, but I’m glad that’s where we landed. The gray brick exterior looks like a fortress and the interior is dark. This is a case where looks are deceiving. We never expected the quality meal in what is essentially a tavern. The single server was well-versed on the menu and friendly.


Before arriving in Baltimore I knew I wanted a crab cake. It’s a signature dish in this historic city on the harbor. McCabes makes a mean cake: packed with lump crab, herbs, plenty of seasoning; I detected no trace of bread crumbs. Roumulade, a blend that includes mostly mayo, brown seed mustard and garlic, augmented the crab cake. It’s served with a choice of two sides from the eclectic list of eight. There’s an option for a two-crab-cake plate; one was plenty.

Our server said McCabes is known for crab cakes and burgers. My son ordered the burger with cheese and bacon. Cooked to perfection it’s served on a hefty brioche bun which held up well under the weight of the juicy patty. House-made fries were crispy on the outside and creamy inside.


When the made-in-house desserts were described, we couldn’t resist. I noticed this also was the case at other tables. We had pound cake with strawberries macerated in balsamic served with vanilla ice cream and whipped cream. It was a refreshing finish to the meal.

McCabes is high on my list for my return visit to Charm City.

Four-and-a-half Plates
3845 Falls Rd.
Baltimore, MD


Shuga’s Soup Revisited   Leave a comment


Although I try not to review a place more than once, lunch at Shuga’s inspired me to write again about its signature dish.

Shuga’s Restaurant is noisy! What’s more, it’s small to the point of being cramped, and in the winter, because it’s an old clapboard house, it’s cold. This is not the place for a romantic interlude or a business meeting. Despite these negatives, this is where to come for remarkable flavor combinations and lively, albeit loud, conversation.

The menu features a handful of what are called Boards but could easily be labeled tapas, sandwiches, salads and soups, including Shuga’s signature dish: Spicy Brazilian Coconut Shrimp Soup. It’s available by the bowl or cup, but unfortunately not by the tureen. Nonetheless, it’s a mouthful. That’s a good thing. It’s spicy thanks to a jalapeno kick, and the sweet, rich coconut milk base is evident in taste and thickness, but there’s more – more even than the plump, firm shrimp that sink to the bottom of the bowl. The addition of grated ginger and, although it takes a few sips to distinguish, creamy peanut butter elevate the soup from the exotic to the sublime.

When the food arrives at tables, the din doesn’t diminish. There’s never a lull even as the flavors transcend the animated setting of the modest house, but no one minds.

Shuga’s Restaurant
Four-and-a-half Plates
702 S. Cascade Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO

Cool at Spago   Leave a comment


Trust me, it’s not easy acting cool. I was tested twice in Spago when my eyes landed on Wolfgang Puck as we entered the dining room. Walking past him was one thing, but having him stop by our table to shake hands was more of a stretch. Although I wanted my picture taken with him, I worked on my nonchalance, and had a wonderful meal, albeit one sans photograph.

An early birthday lunch hosted by my mother was the occasion. This was my first visit, so I could not make any pre-renovation comparisons. The restaurant had been closed for several months. The new look is warm and modern. The menu is daunting in its variety – and price. The dining experience, from flavor profiles to service, from plating to ambiance, demonstrates Spago deserves its high praises.


We started with Agnolotti, small ravioli-like pasta filled with pea puree which tasted like spring and featured a light cream sauce and fresh peas. I ordered Lobster Salad, an ultra-Cobb featuring lobster tail, hard-boiled egg so finely diced it looked confetti, avocado, bacon, several varieties of cherry tomatoes, chives and a mix of lettuces; the parts were certainly equal to the sum.


Weiner Schnitzel, a signature dish, remains on the menu, and for good reason. It’s a large, thin cut of breaded bliss. Lemon-butter cold potato salad provided an additional burst of gusto.


Dessert further elevated the meal: Semifreddo, with fresh and dehydrated strawberries, Thai basil and shortbread, a balanced, refreshing sweet/savory combination. By meal’s end, being cool no longer mattered.

Five Plates
176 N. Canon Dr.
Beverly Hills, Calif

Building Better Burritos   Leave a comment

When food is good, I mean really good, it’s easy to overlook things like long lines, odd
hours, and even Styrofoam containers. Ordinarily, just one of those could off-putting,
but at El Taco Rey all three go hand-in-hand with made-to-order exceptional Mexican

Once the food arrives (in the environmentally-incorrect containers for dine-in or take-
out) all attention focuses on the flavors: green chili with a kick and tender bits of pork.
The signature dish is the Avocado Pork Burrito. This is spicy enough to wake up the
sinuses, but not so much that watering eyes drown the taste. The burrito is filled with
diced pork and the cool, smooth texture of avocado. This helps offset some of the heat
from the chili, which is a thick gravy smothering the burrito. The sauce has a tendency
to make the large flour tortilla a little gummy and hard to cut – this is not food to eat
with your hands. The plastic fork and knife require a lot of pressure to separate a bite
from the whole. Of course, once that’s achieved, it’s worth the effort.

The menu features traditional Mexican food from enchiladas to tamales, from tacos to
burritos. They may be ordered a la carte or as a combination plate served with rice and
beans, or beans and salad. This family-run business has been drawing diners to the
seven-table eatery (two other tables are available outside) since 1976. People stand in
line for a reason: the food is worth it.

El Taco Rey
Four Plates
330 W. Colorado Ave.
Colorado Springs, CO