Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Red Stick Chicken arrives in Bethesda (Photos)

Popeyes launched a new menu item Monday, called Red Stick Chicken. The name comes from the ingredient the fried chicken tenders are marinated in - Tabasco sauce. The McIlhenny family has been  producing that sauce on Avery Island, Louisiana since 1868, and growing the cayenne peppers for it there, as well. It is from the growing process of those crops that the Red Stick name comes from.

In monitoring and harvesting the peppers, employees use a wooden stick painted the exact shade of red that the fruit must be to meet McIlhenny standards for ripeness. The baton rouge is known in English as "the Red Stick."

Tabasco flavor and heat is met by an equally-spicy Smok'n Pepper Ranch sauce, also new this week at Popeyes. The meal is completed with a serving of Popeyes' famous fries and Southern-style biscuit.

How hot is the Red Stick Chicken, and how does it taste? Watch my review to find out!

Parker's, Tara Thai clear out at Bethesda Row (Photos)

Two restaurants that just closed, Parker's and Tara Thai, have begun clearing out their Bethesda Avenue spaces. The Parker's sign was still lit as of last night, but the Tara Thai sign has been removed from the building's facade.

Both restaurants are expected to reopen elsewhere in Bethesda. Tara Thai has already secured a spot at Westfield Montgomery Mall. Parker's is playing it closer to the vest, and has not responded to an inquiry about its potential new location as of press time.

Urban Heights installs sign in Bethesda (Photos)

The permanent sign is up at Urban Heights, the new concept by Chef Robert Wiedmaier's RW Restaurant Group that is taking over the rooftop space vacated by Roof. That space takes up the top 2 levels of the Norfolk-Cordell II building at 7940 Norfolk Avenue.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Crews remove tower crane in Bethesda (Photos)

A crew continued tearing down the tower crane at 7770 Norfolk Avenue yesterday. Here are some pictures of the action:

Summer House gearing up for summer at Pike & Rose (Photos)

You've been invited to a dinner party at a millionaire's oceanfront summer home - although you'll be paying for your meal at the end of the evening. That's perhaps the best way to sum up dining at the hotspot Summer House Santa Monica. Located in Federal Realty's rapidly-expanding Pike & Rose development in Montgomery County's newly-dubbed Pike District, the restaurant is jam-packed. Is it North Bethesda? Is it Rockville? It doesn't matter, because once inside the revolving front door, you are in Santa Monica or the Hamptons.

View of the bar from the
dining room
Catch all the action in
the open kitchen

But as the tenacious winter gives way to spring, Summer House is planning to get more summery. Work is scheduled to begin today on the two outdoor dining areas, one on Grand Park Avenue, and one alongside the restaurant. The sidewalk cafe section will be similar to that of Lettuce Entertain You's sister restaurant, Mon Ami Gabi at Bethesda Row, while the second patio will be larger. Parts of the side walls, and garage doors on the front, will open during warmer temperatures, bringing more of the summer weather into Summer House, and the restaurant's hip atmosphere out to the streetscape.

I stopped by to check out Summer House for myself yesterday. The first thing you will notice when entering is the bakery, chock full of fresh-baked bread, cookies and brownies - and Mint Oreo Rice Krispies treats. Man cannot live on bread alone. You'll most likely be stopping there again before you leave.

Right now you need a refreshing beverage. There are quite a few summer-appropriate cocktails, and a good selection of wines - including one of my favorites, a Malbec by Alto las Hormigas. But I decided to go to the beer list, noticing that - alongside my standby Pabst Blue Ribbon - they had another classic American brew less often found on beer lists around here: Anchor Steam. I liked this California Common-style beer, which dates back to 1896 San Francisco. I'm giving it 4 stars out of 5 under my beer rating system.

Anchor Steam pours
with a massive head of foam
Next, I tried the Guacamole and Corn Tortilla Chips platter, which also includes some charred tomato salsa. The chips were fresh with good corn flavor, and well-paired with the two above-average dips. You'll be satisfied, as they deliver exactly what you expect.
Tortilla chips with
guacamole and charred
tomato salsa
My favorite appetizer was the Baked-to-Order Biscuits, which are just that - baked when you order them. Slightly sweeter than the Southern-style baking powder biscuit, they are heavenly with the included roasted poblano honey and soft herb butter. I recommend putting extra of both on as I did, as the melting butter on the fresh, hot biscuit made this a 5-star winner.
Baked-to-Order Biscuits
are a must-try
Then it was on to the main event.
Decisions, decisions
The Roasted Half Chicken provided a large portion of white meat chicken, some carved, and some still on the bone - including a drumstick. I found it not overly salted, with a crisp snap to the outer skin. The salsa verde gave it more of a summer flavor. A massive heap of french fries that provide what everyone loves in McDonald's-style fries (crisp outside, soft and warm inside, but with some skin on in this case) was next to the chicken. A side dish of Country Stuffing boasted massive, soft croutons and cherry tomatoes, the latter keeping the theme from sliding from summer to Thanksgiving. This is a classic dish, basic and perfectly-executed.
Roasted Half Chicken with
french fries, salsa verde and

Country Stuffing
Some other highlights - a well-cooked burger with more of those great fries, a Georges Bank swordfish, and a grass-fed Prime Skirt Steak with Point Reyes blue cheese were also winners.
Georges Bank Swordfish

Prime Skirt Steak

Classic Wood-grilled
Now when it comes to dessert, you have a selection of menu items - or, you can head out and pick your dessert from the bakery case (I told you you'd be back!).

The Trifecta Fudge Cake seems to be a popular choice, and with good reason. A dense fudge cake topped with a massive dollop of fancy whipped cream, its fudge filling and fudge sauce are rich enough to be a match for the cube of peanut butter fudge that joins it on the plate. Peanut butter sealed the deal for me, and again works with the summer theme, as the fudge reminds one of that sold on the boardwalk at Ocean City.
Trifecta Fudge Cake

Then again, you could go for the bacon-topped chocolate chip cookie. It is a real thing, and it's scrumptious.
Bacon-topped Chocolate
Chip Cookie
Overall, the service was outstanding. I'm looking forward to going back during the summer to check out the patio, and see what the summer menu and beer list will have to offer.

Summer House Santa Monica
11825 Grand Park Avenue

Burglary on Battery Lane, sex offense on Democracy Blvd. + more - Bethesda crime update

Here's a roundup of crimes reported across Bethesda on March 27, according to crime data:

Burglary. 4900 block Battery Lane.

Theft. 5400 block Wisconsin Avenue.

Burglary. Wisconsin Circle.

Vehicle burglary. 5200 block Pooks Hill Road.

Vehicle burglary. 6400 block Maiden Lane.

Vehicle burglary. 5700 block Gloster Road (Wood Acres).

Theft. 5700 block Brewer House Circle.

Theft. 10400 block Old Georgetown Road (Pike District).

Burglary. 6300 block Berkshire Drive.

Vehicle burglary. Westfield Montgomery Mall.

"Other sexual offense." 7100 block Democracy Boulevard.

Not Your Average Joe's posts Coming Soon signage in Bethesda (Photos)

The former Hamburger Hamlet now has Coming Soon signage announcing the arrival of Not Your Average Joe's this summer. Bethesda real estate firm Streetsense is currently transforming the interior of the legendary burger restaurant for the American cuisine chain. Not Your Average Joe's will be in the Georgetown Square shopping center at Old Georgetown Road and Democracy Boulevard.