Friday, October 13, 2017

Diversion to South Florida

One of the most asked questions at my 600th Triple D dinner was "What will be 601 ?"  I didn't know the answer to that and I had no Triple D trips planned with two vacations planned, neither had any Triple D places planned but then Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico.  My brother Tom, had planned a cruise for us after his Bar Association meeting in San Juan.  The plan was to fly from DC to San Juan a day prior to the cruise and then cruise the next day.  After the devastating storm hit everything changed.  Tom's meeting was moved from San Juan to Atlanta and the hotel contacted me and told me to cancel as they would not be open.  The cruise was still planning to go so I had to hastily change my travel plans.  I called the airline and had my plans changed to leave the Thursday prior to cruise and fly from DC to Fort Lauderdale and then on Saturday morning fly to San Juan,  This gave me an opportunity to get to the last 3 Miami area Triple D places I had yet to try.  The week before my trip I was watching the latest episode ad they did a new Miami area place, VERY COOL!, I could get to a fourth!

I arrived into Fort Lauderdale around 1p and after getting my bags and a car I headed off to my first stop at a place that was open separate hours for lunch and dinner.  "Blue Collar" is a small eatery on Biacayne Boulevard.  I was greeted at the door by the manager and given a table in the middle of the dining room, they also have several tables outside, but as it was upper 80s and humid, I stuck with inside.  Everything on the menu looked really good but the any veggie choices really interested me and I chose the veggie plate.  I chose 4 veggies, there were about 15 veggie choices on the menu.

Blue Collar in Miami

Blue Collar's open kitchen and seating area

I chose Sautéed Brussel Sprouts,  Beets topped with Goat Cheese, Spaghetti Squash, and Cheese Grits as my meal.  The plate came and the portions were larger than I thought.  I had never had beets cooked like this and they weren't as sweet as I have had in the past and that was good as these were delicious and the goat cheese really gave the beets a great taste.  The Sprouts were pretty good.  The Spaghetti Squash was really good, I have not had this dish in years and I have really missed out.  The Cheese Grits were awesome!  Creamy and thick, some of the best I have ever eaten.

My Blue Collar Veggie Meal

I told my server why I was there and asked if I could get my book signed and he took it back t the kitchen to get the Chef to sign it.  The server also told me that the chef had just been interviewed t be a part of Guy's other show, "Guy's Grocery Games".  After paying the bill, I was about to take off, when the server said to me, "What's the rush, the Chef want's you to try the Key Lime Pie".  As some of you may know, Key Lime is my favorite, so I think of myself as an amateur Key Lime expert.  This pie was the best I have ever had!  Tart, with really good Lime flavor and a not too sweet whipped cream topping that cut some of the tartness.  The graham cracker crust was excellent, too!  

Key Lime Pie compliments of the chef at Blue Collar

That was a pretty big meal and as I headed out I decided to head to the hotel to check in and try and get to the other places later.  I knew hat I'd be battling Miami's terrible traffic but I also wanted to enjoy all of the other places that Guy went to.

After a couple of hours rest I headed back into Miami to get to the last few places.  I left at the tail end of the evening rush hour so the traffic heading south into Miami was not as bad as the traffic heading north.  The next two places were really close to each other so I was able to park once and get to both of them.  The area has a lot of stores and restaurants with a huge parking garage, so parking wasn't the challenge, finding the places was!  After walking around the block a few times I finally found  "Sakaya Kitchen" an Asian storefront place with the huge menu written on the chalkboard walls as you enter the restaurant and it was pretty overwhelming, but the staff at the order desk were very helpful. They have both large, sharable plates and small plates so I decided to try one of their Bao Buns.

Sakaya Kitchen in Miami

Inside Sakaya Kitchen, the order area

I had ordered the Soft Shell Crab bun topped with a thin cucumber slice along with a spicy mayonnaise aioli.  The plate came with two slider size buns and it was unreal!  I could have eaten about 6 of these!  The bus were steamed and soft and the spicy aioli was not to spicy.  

My Sakaya Soft Shell Crab Bao Buns

After finishing and getting my book signed the server pointed to my next place which was across a grassy knoll and is actually the sister restaurant to Sakaya.  "Black Brick Chinese" was featured on Triple D just 6 days before my visit.  Black Brick is a sit down place, unlike Sakaya which is more counter service, but like Sakaya hey have both large and small plates.  I decided to try one item from their huge list of Dim Sum menu and one from their Dumpling menu.

Black Brick in Miami, Triple D's newest place

Black Bick's open kitchen

I chose the Shrimp and Scallop Dim Sum pockets and the Lamb Dumplings.  I was attended by numerous servers, they really work great together and even before I received my food they came by several times to make sure I was doing well.  The pockets came first and the three were served in a small steam pot.  They came with soy sauce and a spicy oil.  Shortly after the 4 dumplings arrived served in a say sauce and topped with sesame seeds.  

Shrimp and Scallop Dim Sum

Lamb Dumplings

The Dim Sum was really good, the shrimp scallop were mixed and were really tasty, the soy sauce and spicy oil were both really good and added to the flavor.  The dumplings were really good, a lamb meatball inside the dumpling ad the flavor was great, no extra sauce was needed!  The lamb was really spicy, I was surprised about that!  Before heading out toe of my servers and the chef  who I had seen on Triple D just a few days prior signed my book.  He really didn't understand what I was doing but smiled when he saw Guy's picture on the book!

I headed north out of Miami through Miami Beach  to North Miami to my last stop. "Ivan's Cookhouse" is in a strip mall with a large grocery store and numerous restaurants, you could almost miss it and that would be a shame.  I walked in and was warmly greeted by my server and given a small table.  The place is a bit dark and I needed my flashlight to read the menu, it sucks getting old!  Ivan's has a huge menu that focuses on Latin and Caribbean cuisine. 

Ivan's Cookhouse in North Miami

Ivan's Dining Room and Bar area

While looking over the menu I was presented with a small plate of freshly made plantain chips with a small hummus based dip, which was really good.  The chips were slightly salted and are preferable to potato chips, in my opinion.  I chose from the small plates side of the menu and decided on the Fish Fritters and the small beef kabobs.

Plantain Chips and hummus dip complimentary appetizer

Ivan's Fish Fritters

Ivan's Beef Kabobs

I made some good choices, the 3 fritters were large with some good fish flavor, crunchy deep fried shell and sift breading on the inside.  The three beef kabobs were delicious, marinated perfectly.  Both came with a small mixed green salad and a side of Siracha based sauce, which was a bit too spicy for my taste.  The sauce was really unneeded as both were perfectly spiced.   After finishing I was able to get the Chef to sign my book and he told me that he was getting ready to head out to Santa Rosa in the near future to be a contestant on "Guy's Grocery Games" and he was a winner on another Food Network show, "Chopped".  They have several pictures of Chef and Guy together as well as his Chopped appearance.  I left after a day of great food and meeting great people and as I headed for San Juan and the cruise my Triple D count was at 604!

Sunday, September 17, 2017


Having finally found The Smoking Swine food truck and getting to my 599th Triple D visit, I was ready to get to my 600th Triple D visit!  Guy visited a few places in DC that I had been saving so that I could do my 600th at one of them and invite friend to help me celebrate.

There was one place that I had really wanted to visit as soon as I saw their Triple D episode.  "The Carving Room Kitchen and Bar" is in NW Washington DC at the corner of 4th and Massachusetts Avenue and I sent an email asking if they would be interested in hosting a group of about 15 for my 600th on a Saturday night.  A few days later they responded and said that they would love to host my 600th visit.  As the day approached I had planned to drive into DC and park on the street near the restaurant but as the day approached there were reports of rallies or protests in the city so I decided to meet with some friends in the Tyson's area and take the Metro to the Judiciary Square Metro stop, which is only about a 4 or 5 minute walk to the restaurant.

The Carving Room is a medium sized restaurant with indoor and outdoor seating.  The owners Rachel and Oded set up a special table for us and put up balloons around the table and also had special gold balloon sped into the number 600, a really nice surprise.  They greeted us as we entered the restaurant and made all of us feel at home.

The entrance to The Carving Room on 4th Street in DC

The "Guy Ate Here" pan in the open kitchen area of the restaurant

I was so flattered that my friends came to help me celebrate this milestone visit.  Dave, Sue, Barry, Nancy, Trish, Stephanie, Amy are special friends that have become great friends that I see throughout the year and they are very special to me.  Phil is a friend that I haven't seen since high school and have been wanting to do a Triple D visit with.  One of my Triple D Facebook friends, whom I have never met in person before came from New Jersey to help celebrate, I was flattered that Sebastian and Karen came, this was Seb's 390th Triple D visit.

Sebastian and Karen came from New Jersey to help celebrate

The Carving Room specializes in all types of meats everything is made in house, On their episode they made their famous Cigar appetizers and also featured some of their cured meat sandwiches and fresh cut hamburgers.  All of us at the table decided to get a couple of orders of the Cigar appetizers, which are cigar shaped spring rolls stuffed with all types of the meats they cure on site.  Each order had six cigars, 2 stuffed with Chorizo with a salsa dipping sauce, 2 stuffed with Corned Beef with a Russian Dressing dipping sauce and 2 Classic that were filled with Moroccan ground beef with a Lemon Yogurt dipping sauce. All were delicious and the Chorizo had a nice spice bite.  

The Carving Room's Cigar Combination Appetizer

All of us then ordered from the restaurants huge choice of sandwiches with at least a dozen sides to choose from.  I chose the Roast Lamb on Ciabatta with Bacon-Cheese fries on the side and a pickeled veggie garnish.  Everyone tried something different and it all looked delicious! My sandwich was great!  It had pickled cucumbers, pickled onions and a lemon yogurt sauce, which didn't overpower the sandwich but enhanced it.  The huge portion of fries were excellent!  Everyone just raved about their meal.

My meal at The Carving Room

One of the other sandwiches

Another of the great sandwiches at The Carving Room

As we were finishing Oded and Rachel came over to see how we enjoyed everything and I got both of them along with our server Alicia to sign my Triple D book.   I was also able to get one of the other restaurant diners to take pictures of our group.

Amy, Stephanie and me

Sebastian and I

Our group, a special group!

From Left to right - Nancy, Trish, Stephanie, Phil, me, Amy, Barry, Sue, Karen and Sebastian

Just before we left Oded and Rachel presented me with a T-shirt from The Carving Room and a beautiful carving board labeled "Bill's 600th Triple D visit at The Carving Room Kitchen and Bar".
What a great surprise, it's a gift that I will always treasure!

The Carving Board given to me by The Carving Room Kitchen and Bar to commemorate my 600th Triple D visit

I love the board!

Me and Rachel and Oded, the owners of The Carving Room Kitchen and Bar

As I left I was just so happy with the warm and wonderful service that Rachel, Oded and the staff gave to me and my wonderful friends.  As we left I was asked by more than a few what number 601 will be? I don't know but there will be more!  This has been a wonderful journey, I have met so many great people, some of whom have become friends and also been able to reconnect with old friends along the way, all I can say is that I am truly blessed! 

Friday, September 8, 2017

One more before the big 600

I left Louisville with my count at 598 and I started to plan for my 600th Triple D visit but still had one left before I could complete the plans.  Guy had recently visited several places in the DC area and one in Baltimore that I had yet to get to.  One of the places is a food truck that services the Baltimore area and had been a bit elusive. I saw their schedule so I planned to try and find the elusive truck.

"The Smoking Swine" is one of the most popular and successful food trucks in the Baltimore area and they were planning to participate in a twice monthly event in the town of Odenton, Maryland called "Food Truck Thursday", sponsored by the Odenton Volunteer Fire Company.  About a dozen food trucks gather in the parking lot of the firehouse to create a huge outdoor restaurant .  There are all types of food options offered including Cajun, Italian, Vegan, sandwiches, crepes, seafood and of course Barbecue, which is what The Smoking Swine specializes in.  Not only were they participating but Famous Jimmy's Seafood, another Triple D restaurant had their food truck at the event.

I arrived shortly after the trucks opened which were parked in a big square with The Smoking Swine at the top of the square.  The Fire Company sold the beverages and had tables set up both outside and up inside their large meeting hall.

Food Truck Thursday in Odenton, Maryland

Sponsored by the Odenton Volunteer Fire Department

One of their trucks

I walked around the trucks and then headed directly to The Smoking Swine truck   I looked over their menu which was pretty big considering they work out of a relatively small space and I decided to try the Pulled Pork Sandwich and the Meaty Beans, pretty much a classic barbecue meal.  I immediately recognized the owner who was taking the orders.  I asked him to sign my book and he was excited to do so and thanked me for coming by.  By the time he finished signing my order was ready and I took it inside the hall to enjoy.

The Smoking Swine food truck, Baltimore's finest food truck
I love their symbol!

The sandwich was loaded with pork and topped with a slightly spicy home made barbecue sauce on a Martin's Potato roll, my favorite roll!.  The beans were a basic baked beans but had a lot of barbecue pork and beef meat chunks stirred it and was awesome!  I met some older ladies who have volunteered at the fire company for many years, they told me about all the events they host and were very proud of the company's annual Bull Roast and Crab Feast.  They told me that the huge hall would soon be full, Food Truck Thursday is very popular!  As they left to go get their dinner, Drew came by and we talked for a few minutes about his business and he seemed to take delight in the fact that his truck had been a bit elusive for me.  He then gave me one of his bumper stickers and told me that I would agree with the message.

The Smoking Swine meal - Pulled Pork Sandwich and Meaty Beans

Pulled Pork with Sauce n a Marin's Potto Roll

Very Meaty Beans

The Smoking Swine bumper sticker that explains exactly my search for this elusive truck

After finishing I knew hat I needed to try something else, with over a dozen trucks it was a "no brainer".  I decided to try a 5 ounce Crab Cake from "Jimmy's Famous Seafood" the other Triple D truck at the event.  I had visited Jimmy's restaurant a few years back but had never tried their Crab Cake, which many have raved about.  The Crab Cake was broiled and  came with a large portion of thick cut fries and some crackers to accompany the cake.  I loved that it was served in a  Jimmy's logo box.  I can understand how many have raved abut the Crab Cake, it was probably the best I have ever had!  There was little or no cake, it was loaded with lump and claw crab mea, sweet and delicious!  Baltimore is famous for their Crab Cakes and many are great, Guy has visited a number of places on Triple D but I think that I now have a new favorite Crab Cake!

Jimmy's Famous Seafood truck

The truck menu

Love their Logo Box

All Crab, Crab Cake!  The best!

As I headed out I remembered my time living in Odenton.  In 1985 I moved to Odenton and lived there for about a year while I was working for Piedmont Airlines at Baltimore Washington International Airport which is about 10 miles north of Odenton.

Since I was in the are I decided to head into Baltimore to visit the Horseshoe Casino just inside the city.  The casino is the home to Guy's Restaurant "Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen and Bar".   The place is on the first floor of the multi level casino and is open and airy.  I was seated by my server and the service throughout was very attentive.  The menu has items that any Guy fan would recognize with references to all things Guy.  They also have some items that are Baltimore centered.

Guy Fieri's Baltimore Kitchen and Bar

I was seated at a table in the corner of the restaurant and had a good view of the semi-open kitchen.  The décor is all Guy with a lot of items and nick knacks that are show related.  Each table was set with cloth napkins with the Guy skeleton logo.  I decided to try two items, the Crab Fondue and the Old Bay Chicken Wings, both Baltimore centered items.  The fondue came out with a huge portion of cheese fondue loaded with real shredded crabmeat and two large Pretzel rolls for dipping, they called them loaves and they almost right!  The 8 wings were dry rubbed with a butter Old Bay seasoning along with a Bleu Cheese Wasabi dipping sauce.  The fondue was delicious and every bite had a huge about of sweet Blue Crab meat.  The wings were unreal, I love the Old Bay seasoning and the dipping sauce had just a hint of the Wasabi making it a perfect dip for the wings.  

Guy's Open Kitchen

One of the hard working kitchen staff

Guy's Skelton logo on the cloth napkins

Guy's paper napkin

The menu

Crab Fondue

Old Bay Wings with Bleu Cheese Wasabi dipping sauce

As I headed out I passed Guy's second place in the food court area of the casino.  "Guy's Bar-B-Cue Joint'  a fast service place that features his brand of barbecue and sauces.  I was much too full to try anything, oh well I guess that means another visit!

I left Baltimore with my Triple D count at 599 and looking forward to getting to number 600!