Lunch at Ciao Bella

236 S HIGH ST, BALTIMORE, MD 21202 – 410-685-7733
A friend took us to lunch at the wonderful Ciao Bella restaurant in the Italian section of Baltimore. We were there during the week and sadly the restaurant was not that busy. Hopefully it was because many people were away for the holidays. It had nothing to do with the food, everything was really good. The restaurant is not big, maybe 20 tables in all. Noise was not a factor because we were the only ones in our section. The white table clothes gave it that familiar upscale Italian restaurant feel. Our waitress was friendly and attentive without being intrusive.
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We began with some shrimp and stuffed mushroom appetizers. Both were wonderful  For my main course I enjoyed the lasagna swimming in a rich tomato meat sauce. The sauce was every so sweet and just the right amount of meat. The portion was just the right size, filling but not so much we had to drag a doggie bag around until we got to the car.
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My wife had the Orange Roughy on a bed of risotto and raved about it.
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Our host Elizabeth enjoyed a seafood pasta she described as very good. I tasted a scallop and found it cooked perfectly.
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No dessert with lunch. We were off to Vaccaro’s down the street for pastry.

Cafe Torino

388 WATERLOO ST., WARRENTON, VA 20186 – 540-347-2713

This is a small family owned Italian restaurant and bakery open Friday, Saturday, and Sundays. The waitress was nice and took good care of us even though she was alone and waiting on about 8 tables. It is a small place so reservations are recommended. The fresh bread tasted like it was just out of the oven. I had a nice tortellini with prosciutto and ham in a cream sauce. My dish had more prosciutto than ham with the cream sauce at just the right consistency. My wife had wonderful lasagna with a strong meat sauce full of flavor.

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Cafe Indigo – Sperryville

A drive in the county on a beautiful day with great friends brought us to the small town of Sperryville and Cafe Indigo at the base of the Blue Ridge Mountains. The cafe is located within River District Arts, a converted 1930s era apple packing facility housing a collection of galleries and art studios. Some great photos of the restaurant can be found on professional photographer Kristen Finn’s blog.

Cafe Indigo is a large, light, and airy space with a small bar and seating for about 50. The cafe is managed by the Thornton River Group, owners of the Thornton River Grill also in Sperryville. The management embraces the farm to table philosophy found at many great Virginia restaurants. The menu is determined by what is available from local farmers and changes often. The staff was professional and friendly and more than willing to put up with all my questions.

I ordered the BBQ Beef Burrito with rice, beans, and cheese. The burrito was delicious and heated perfectly, allowing me to eat it right after it arrived. I have been in some restaurants where a burrito is served so hot you have to stare at it for 5 minutes before you can even touch it. I was able to detect the hint of barbeque flavor but I would have preferred the flavor stronger. I know it can be easy to overdo it but I think someone who orders a BBQ Burrito is looking for that barbeque taste. Served with home-made pickles, it is one of the best burritos I have tasted.

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Two members of our party opted for the Cubano sandwich. Made with a spicy olive mixture in place of the traditional pickle it was another great sandwich. I am not a pickle person so I order my Cubano sandwiches without the pickle. I enjoyed the olive taste much better than a sandwich missing the pickle.

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The meal was relatively inexpensive given the quality of the food. The Cubano was the priciest item on the lunch menu at $12. The cafe is open for Friday night dinner, Saturday lunch and dinner, and Sunday brunch. Located about 25 miles southwest of Warrenton on Rt. 211 it makes a great weekend destination. In addition to viewing the art galleries and studios, Copper Fox Antiques and the Copper Fox Distillery are also on the property.

Volcano Hot Stone Grill

We had a delightful dinner with friends at the new Volcano Hot Stone Grill in Gainesville. We started dinner with salads and meatball soup. The soup was rich and creamy with tasty meatballs.

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My main course was the Blueberry Chicken. It was cooked perfectly with just a hint of blueberry. The menu describes the dish as:

Panko and blueberry flour dusted chicken breast filled with a red wine mascarpone cheese. Pan seared, with a whole grain mustard beurre blanc served with mesclun greens, heirloom tomatoes and parsnips with a chardonnay vinaigrette.

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Dessert was a wonderful Chocolet S’mores made with milk chocolate, graham cracker crumbs and mini marshmallows. 

Our waitress Tammy was very knowledgable and attentive. The decor is modern with a high noise level. The hot stone grill concept is unique and entertaining. Several meat dishes are brought to the table seared on one side and cooking on a lava brick heated to over 500 degrees.

The entrees are moderatly priced. Two entrees, soups, teas and desserts came to just over $80 with tip. We are looking forward to going back soon.

Late Night at IHOP

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IHOP Gainesville, VA

Let me say that by late night I mean 2130 hours. Late for us to be out eating on a week night.

I ordered the Pot Roast sandwich. It came with fries and was hot off the grill. Nothing fancy just solid good food. It is made with pot roast, caramelized onions, and cheese. I took what it came with for cheese which turned out to be American. I didn’t taste the onions that much but I didn’t miss them much anyway.

The fries seemed a little different this time. It seemed like they may have been dusted with salt, pepper, and a spice. They were probably the best I have had at IHOP. That is not saying much since I usually only order breakfast items here. I went with water to drink so nothing to report there other than it was cold thankfully.

They gave me the military discount of 10% since I am a disabled veteran. The whole thing cost us $14.91 for my wife’s dinner included. Not bad for grabbing something late.

Service was adequate.

Getting Hungry

Maybe I am different than most people but when I get hungry I tend to think more about where I have eaten than what I should eat. I think about the great meals we have had at places like The Inn at Little Washington, The Ashby Inn, and The Goodstone Inn. The wonderful food and beautiful dinning room at The Manor House Restaurant and great fun and food at Apartment 2g. Now I’m really hungry. I have to make a PB&J.