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Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Salvatore's (Ocean City, MD) - Onion Pizza & Maryland Crab Soup

Salvatore's on Urbanspoon

Morgan and my dining experience in the off-season ghost town of Ocean City, MD continued when we chose to go out for some local pizza. However, we were unwilling to spend our money at one of the tourist traps along the main strip, where the quality and portions most likely lacked in comparison to the price. Instead, we chose to drive around aimlessly, as we sometimes do, in search of a pizza place a little deeper inland. By doing so, we found ourselves ordering off the menu of a local Italian and seafood restaurant, known as Salvatore's (not to be confused with the local pizza chain).

Salvatore's is located on the corner of the Stephen Decatur Highway and Ocean Gateway (Rt. 50) in Ocean City, and has (as far as I know) only one location. The location is convenient for those staying at a hotel nearby on the beach (only a few miles away from the main strip), and quite easy to find. While the decorations of the outside (and inside, for that matter) are a tad gaudy, the dim lighting inside gives the quaint, little bar and dining area a somewhat romantic feel. As I stated before, Morgan and I were visiting Ocean City during the off-season; the area was practically deserted, and Salvatore's was completely empty, save for a bartender/waiter and someone I assumed was the owner. Despite this, Morgan and I were greeted with smiles and great, fast service.

I got a bowl of Maryland crab soup to start with. For those unfamiliar with this particular recipe, it is essentially vegetable soup with cooked crab meat added. Salvatore's crab soup is loaded with plenty of corn, red beans, green beans, potato, celery, carrots, and bits of onion.

The Maryland-style crab soup came out hot and fresh from the kitchen, and smelled delicious; I could see hearty vegetables and big pieces of crab meat floating in the steaming broth. However, despite the great, robust smell, I found the flavor of the soup somewhat watered-down. While it wasn't necessarily bad, the soup definitely wasn't as bold or flavorful as many of the other Maryland crab soups I've had; instead of complimenting each other, the flavors of the various vegetables, crab meat, and broth did not blend as well as I hoped they would. All in all, this dish wasn't terrible, but wasn't nearly as great as it could have been.

Score (out of 10): 6.5

For our main course, Morgan and I ordered a large pizza, half cheese for Morgan, half onion for myself. As such, I will only be reviewing the onion pizza.

Once again, I don't claim to be any sort of pizza expert, and will refer you to my good friend at The Rochester NY Pizza Blog for such expertise. That being said, I will try my best to give my impressions accurately and professionally. The pizza came out quickly (probably because we were the only ones in the restaurant), and was hot, fresh, and baked to perfection. The cheese wasn't saturated in grease, nor was it slathered on haphazardly, but was melty and light. The pizza wasn't drowning in sauce, which was also nice; the sauce itself wasn't overpowering, and the seasonings gave it that great, balanced, salty-sweet taste. The crust was incredible - light and crispy, easy to chew, and not too filling or bready; I did not expect to find such a great New York-style pizza crust in Ocean City, MD. The onions on my half were slightly-browned, crunchy, and added amazing texture and flavor to the pizza.

The pizza more than made up for the lackluster crab soup, and I highly recommend it to anyone else from New York seeking a taste of home away from home. The best part about Salvatore's was the cost: being a little farther away from the beach, Salvatore's provided large quantities of food for a more than reasonable price; Morgan and my bill was only around $15, all food and drinks included. For those looking for a more affordable meal than the standard by-the-beach fare, Salvatore's is more than close enough to be worth the drive. I'd be a little hesitant to try their seafood again, but finding a slice of New York pizza in the heart of Maryland was like heaven on earth.

Score (out of 10): 9

Location: 9935 Stephen Decatur Highway, Ocean City, MD 21842
Phone Number: (410) 213-7070
Website: N/A

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Old Mill Crab House (Ocean City, MD) - Crab Cake Sandwich

Old Mill Crab House on Urbanspoon

During our first whole night in Ocean City, MD, Morgan and I were unaware that almost every local restaurant was closed for the off-season. Upon realizing this, we spent about 30 minutes driving around the main strip in a desperate attempt to find a seafood buffet. After that search proved fruitless, we decided to take a chance and eat at the first random restaurant we saw open: the result was us stumbling into the Old Mill Crab House.

Apparently, the Old Mill is a small franchise, with only two active locations: the original is located in Delmar, DE, and the newer Ocean City restaurant. As such, the service maintains a hospitable and personal air, and the restaurant itself is well-lit and well-maintained. The menu is a bit limited, and the prices are a bit high (but expected; it IS in a tourist beach town, after all), but what is offered ends up being served fast, served hot, and served fresh. The Old Mill is sure to please those looking for fresh surf and turf, chicken, or even ribs. A kid-friendly menu is available for picky eaters, and a surprisingly extensive selection of alcohol is offered by the Old Mill for adults in the group. For those looking to loosen their belts a few notches, an endless "all-you-care-to-eat" special is available that includes clams, shrimp, crabs, corn on the cob, hush puppies, and more.

Since I'm currently on a budget, and was also craving a local crab cake, I went with the crab cake sandwich (relatively inexpensive), which was one of the Old Mill's famous lump crab cakes (either broiled or fried - I chose fried), topped with fresh lettuce and tomato (which I discarded; I'm not a fan of uncooked tomatoes), wedged into a fresh, fluffy hamburger bun. The sandwich also came with a choice of french fries or coleslaw - I ended up going with the fries, figuring they'd be more filling than the coleslaw. Sides of ketchup and tartar sauce rounded out the meal you'll see below.

The french fries that came with the meal were wonderful, and arrived at the table crispy, hot, and perfectly-salted. As for the crab cake...well...

I've eaten a lot (and I mean A LOT) of crab cakes in my life, and even I can't describe how amazing this crab cake sandwich was. Normally when I order a fried crab cake, I expect them to bread it or deep fry it in a vat of grease, which, while delicious, sometimes alters the flavor of the crab meat; however, the Old Mill surprised me by only lightly-battering the crab cake before frying it, which gave it a great crispy outside, without unnecessarily soaking the inside meat. The crab meat ended up being light, moist, and subtly sweet, just as it should be. The tartar sauce was delicious, providing a tang that matched and melded perfectly with the salty-sweet flavor of the crab meat. Lettuce added a great amount of crunchy texture to this otherwise incredible meal.

There are truly some great places to eat at out here in Ocean City, and I'm glad I can say that the Old Mill Crab House is one of them. This was a wonderful meal, and the best part was that Morgan and I stopped entirely at random. It just goes to show that not every part of a vacation needs to be planned out; sometimes the fun experiences come along completely by chance.

Score (out of 10): 9.5

Location: 12407 Coastal Highway, Ocean City, MD 21842
Phone Number: (410) 250-2722

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Famous Famiglia Pizzeria (Allentown, PA) - Cheese Pizza

Famous Famiglia Pizzeria on Urbanspoon

Hello out there in cyberspace! Let me start off by saying that currently Morgan and I are enjoying ourselves out in Ocean City, MD; as such, the next series of posts will be from this sunny city, its surrounding area, or from wherever on the road we decide to eat. I realize it's not quite "Rochester's Endless Buffet," but I thought it'd be a fun way to share my experiences while I'm out of town. Hope you all enjoy!

This post is from Monday, when Morgan and I decided to take a quick break at an Allentown, PA rest stop during the grueling 8 1/2 hour drive. The food selection there was pretty mediocre, so we settled on pizza from Famous Famiglia Pizzeria, figuring it would be filling and inexpensive. Turns out, we were right.

This particular location (Famous Famiglia Pizzeria is a national chain) is inside of the Allentown Travel Plaza on the Pennsylvania State Turnpike, right outside of (you guessed it) Allentown, PA, and can be accessed from both the northbound and southbound roads. The rest stop is clean, well-maintained, and offers a number of roadside snacks at fairly affordable prices. The Famous Famiglia Pizzeria in particular has friendly, efficient staff, and stretches your dollar out without sacrificing quality. Since rest stop food is notorious for being overpriced, I was expecting to shell out around, possibly over, $10 for two slices of cheese pizza, but in reality only spent about $7 and some change. Famous Famiglia also offered a limited assortment of pasta, salads, and calzones, but I figured that cheese pizza would give me the most bang for my buck, and would serve as a great example of the pizzeria's most basic offerings.

Now, I'm no pizza expert (I leave that to my good friend at The Rochester NY Pizza Blog), but I have to say that Famous Famiglia's cheese pizza was a more-than-adequate snack during the long trek to Ocean City. While a slice of cheese pizza from a Pennsylvania rest stop can only hope to imitate the amazing quality of a New York-style pie, the emulated recipe at Famous Famiglia in Allentown does a damn good job in that department. The mozzarella cheese was melted to perfection, browned a bit on the top, and wasn't simply a tarp serving to hold pools of grease; in fact, the whole slice was only slightly greasy, unlike many New York-style pizzas I've had in the past that were practically oily hand towels. The crust was thin, light, and crisp, but was fluffy enough to give the slice some real substance, and was incredibly fresh in flavor and texture. As for the sauce, Famous Famiglia has found a wonderful blend of sweet, roast tomato flavor and aromatic, Italian spices.

While a single slice proved to fill my stomach only so much, in terms of rest stop food, Famous Famiglia definitely provided some great quality and value. If you ever find yourself in the Allentown, PA area, or traveling along the Pennsylvania State Turnpike, I highly suggest giving Famous Famiglia Pizzeria a shot...especially if you're on a budget!

Score (out of 10): 8

Allentown Travel Plaza, Pennsylvania State Turnpike, Allentown, PA
Phone Number: (610) 366-3872

Thursday, April 1, 2010

California Rollin' - Miso Soup, Katana Roll, & BBT Roll

California Rollin on Urbanspoon

California Rollin' actually has two locations in the Greater Rochester area: the original location is in Village Gate, on North Goodman St. in Rochester, while the other location (known as California Rollin' 2) is in the old Ferry Terminal in Charlotte. California Rollin' serves up fresh, hand-rolled sushi, in both traditional and more unique, innovative forms. They further add to their menu with creative spins on other traditional Japanese recipes, and offer daily specials as well. This review is from a meal Morgan and I had at the original location, which has a distinct flair and atmosphere that is artsy, yet laid back.

On this particular outing, I started off with an appetizer of miso soup; for those unfamiliar with this traditional Japanese dish, it is fish broth with shiitake mushrooms (I ordered mine without these), scallions, chunks of tofu, miso paste (a soy-based paste), and wakame (a type of edible seaweed).

I didn't take a picture of my own miso soup, so I found a picture on the internet. Hope you don't mind!

For my main course, I went the unorthodox route by ordering two California Rollin' originals: the Katana Roll and the BBT Roll. The Katana Roll is a cooked maki roll (rolled sushi), featuring crab stick (imitation crab meat), seaweed salad, Japanese mayo, and "onion crunchies" (basically French fried onions). The BBT Roll is a tempura roll (deep-fried rolled sushi), made from pan-seared tuna, smothered in Dinosaur BBQ sauce.

BBT Rolls on the left and right. Katana Roll in the middle.

While miso soup might not sound appealing to many who read a description of its ingredients (and I've definitely had my fair share of crappy miso soup), I assure you that if you're a curious first-timer, California Rollin's recipe is the one to try. The soup's broth was not overpowering in fish or soy taste, and both the tofu and seaweed leaves absorbed the flavors of the broth and the scallions perfectly. I highly recommend this particular miso soup.

As for my sushi, I still can't decide whether I like the Katana Roll or the BBT Roll more. The BBT Roll may sound simple, but it has a great flavor: the seared tuna is a wonderfully light and familiar fish base, while the BBQ sauce adds some great bold and spicy flavor; the fact that this roll is tempura-fried adds some real crunch to the entire thing, providing some awesome texture.

The Katana Roll is an incredible whirlwind of flavors: the imitation crab meat is light and sweet, while the seaweed salad and "onion crunchies" combine into a great mixture of flavors and harder textures; the juxtaposition of the creamy Japanese mayo and the crunchier layers is damn near perfect.

All in all, California Rollin' is one of my favorite places to eat something a little different. While it runs a little expensive (at least for my wallet), I still think everyone in the area should give this place a try. Sushi is a unique enough dish as it is in Rochester, but California Rollin' manages to innovate beyond the realm of the ordinary. If you're a sushi beginner, I highly recommend trying the BBT Roll; for those with a craving for something with a plethora of interesting flavors, try the Katana Roll. Regardless of what you choose, California Rollin' is sure to not disappoint.

Score (out of 10): 9

Location: 274 North Goodman St., Rochester, NY 14607
Phone Number: (585) 271-8990
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