Catholic Culinary Confessions

As you may know, I’ve been doing a monthly column for the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s Catholic Newspaper, called “Culinary Confessions.”  You may remember some of these posting exclusively for Grace Before Meals subscribers.  This has been an exciting opportunity to share  food and faith correlations from my own Archdiocese with all of you.

(The Basilica Shrine of Baltimore: last year's Easter decorations.)

(The Basilica Shrine of Baltimore: last year’s Easter decorations.)

At the end of this blast, you can read about my experience critiquing a hospital cafeteria.  You’ll find out why I would even choose to eat there in the first place!  You’ll also read about the spiritual lessons God provided for me after that experience.

(Mercy Hospital's Cafe: Chicken Marsala with potatoes and beans – all for about $6.00!)

(Mercy Hospital’s Cafe: Chicken Marsala with potatoes and beans – all for about $6.00!)

These Culinary Confessions give our movement the chance to make faith connections to culture, which show the world the relevancy of faith.  Faith, if practiced only in the confines of a church, synagogue, or mosque, demonstrates weakness, fear, or a lack of conviction.  As such, it renders faith mediocre and lukewarm.

In our modern world where people of faith are constantly being challenged to keep their mouths shut or their opinions to themselves, we need to realize that could weaken our convictions and beliefs.  Screaming, arguing, and proselytizing are not the answer, especially about controversial and challenging topics, but it is certainly important to make sure both sides are heard in a civil way.

(March for Life: Speaking Up for the Unborn Children.)

(March for Life: Speaking Up for the Unborn Children.)

Perhaps this week’s E-mail Blast will give everyone a gentle reminder to make sure each person at the table has a chance to speak up and share what they think honestly and respectfully.

(Students at the Bishop Verot High School after a School Assembly. I also spoke at Cardinal Moody HS. Both are GREAT places of learning and faith!)

(Students at the Bishop Verot High School after a School Assembly. I also spoke at Cardinal Moody HS.  Both are GREAT places of learning and faith!)

That’s what I hope people get out of these culinary confessions.  My objective is not to complain, which is destructive, but to critique in a constructive manner and share experiences from which we can draw possible lessons to the practice of our own faith.

Life certainly gives opportunities to make our faith real.  We need to talk about it without fear.  We need to be able to use our faith to help us make decisions and judgments in our lives.  This week, make your faith real!

(After a faithful and successful parish mission at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, Illinois, with great people who are making their faith real!)

(After a faithful and successful parish mission at Epiphany Catholic Church in Normal, Illinois, with great people who are making their faith real!)

Let us pray: Help us Lord never to be afraid to speak out against injustice, while speaking words of compassion to those who need it.  Help us to practice our faith in such a joyful and sincere way that others will be drawn to follow our example.  We ask this through Christ our Lord.  Amen!

Is there a restaurant review you’d like to share?  Let us know, and we’ll post it on our site!  Is there a topic you’d like to discuss for future E-Mail Blasts or for possible webisodes on YouTube?  Please post your comments, questions, and concerns.  We need to hear from you to keep our movement strong!

Click here for the Culinary Confessions for Mercy Medical Center’s Eatery.

A few other reminders:

Watch our show each week on EWTN’s Savoring our Faith.  It airs every Sunday at 8:30 p.m. EST.

Also, spaces are limited for the upcoming Virtuous Vacation and Culinary Retreat to Napa Valley.  Be sure to call and reserve your space today!

This week, I am at the Religious Education Congress in Anaheuim CA Thursday and Friday, speaking on how “Food Is Love” for teens and families. Afterwards, I have a Lenten parish mission at St. Mary’s Church in Hudson, OH until next Tuesday. For more information, go to our Events page on the website. Please pray for me and all attending that our hearts, minds and sould are open to all of God’s Graces, especially in this season of sacrifice.

(Join us at the table for one of the sumptuous wine-pairing experiences!)

(Join us at the table for one of the sumptuous wine-pairing experiences!)

CONNECT WITH US @

MINIFLIPPING...nuff said.Become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube!

SUBSCRIBE, LIKE, COMMENT & SHARE!

 

Posted in Culinary Confessions, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews, Reviews, Savoring Our Faith | 2 Comments »

“FLIPPING OUT” at Filipino Restaurants

By now you know I enjoy the challenge of using “poor man’s” food – which I believe is the tastiest type of food on the planet – and elevating it to a whole new level.  As a self-professed “fusion-style” cook, I’m not afraid to experiment – within reason, of course.  Different techniques can aid the home cook in creating beautiful-looking plates out of something that tastes both familiar and comforting, while at the same time special and celebratory.

(An Italian spaghetti, flavored with a brine and a hint of tomato sauce, topped with a fried "sardine" and sprinkled with shreds of a soft cow's milk cheese. Uniquely delicious and stunning presentation with a slice of calimansi lime.) 

(An Italian spaghetti, flavored with a brine and a hint of tomato sauce, topped with a fried “sardine” and sprinkled with shreds of a soft cow’s milk cheese.  Uniquely delicious and stunning presentation with a slice of calimansi lime.)

During my trip to the Philippines, I found two restaurants that were unique, bold, and, in a word, “wonderful!”  It was worth getting very excited – even “Flipping Out” – for these unique culinary destinations!

(Had to show this photo of poor kids having the time of their life on this grassy hill "sliding" board. No expensive video game equipment, just a little sprinkle of imagination and tons of fun!)

(Had to show this photo of poor kids having the time of their life on this grassy hill “sliding” board.  No expensive video game equipment, just a little sprinkle of imagination and tons of fun!)

The first restaurant was on the Island of Palawan.  This Island is remarkably pristine.  The Mayor of the city outlawed litter, based on the philosophy that personal dignity requires the effort to show it.  This island is home to underground rivers that have been voted the most impressive natural wonder of the world!

(A little explanation of the “Underground River” – a natural wonder of the world AND a miraculous place, if my sister can keep quiet in the cave! Click to watch exclusive video!)

(A little explanation of the “Underground River” – a natural wonder of the world AND a miraculous place, if my sister can keep quiet in the cave! Click to watch exclusive video!)

The mayor’s leadership, combined with the beautiful (and clean) surroundings, has makes Palawan a heavily visited tourist spot by naturalists, adventurists, and leisure vacationers.

(The mayor's no littering mandate stopped the diseased bearing mosquitoes, but not the thieving monkeys!)

(The mayor’s no littering mandate stopped the diseased bearing mosquitoes, but not the thieving monkeys! Click to view exclusive video.)

As such, this Island has many dining options for locals and tourists alike.  But I recommend Ka Lui’s. This restaurant offers smaller but satisfying plates of traditional flavors fused with European cooking techniques.

(Ka Lui's Jalapeno-filled baked fish on a base of luscious cream sauce!)

(Ka Lui’s Jalapeno-filled baked fish on a base of luscious cream sauce!)

Ka Lui is beautifully constructed in bamboo open-air island fashion.  It’s elegant, refreshing, and remarkably clean.  The unique ambiance is heightened by the fact that everyone – including the all-male wait staff – is barefoot and fancy free!

(Felt like beach dining with upscale flavors – and no sand!)

(Felt like beach dining with upscale flavors – and no sand!)

(My review and explanation of this fun restaurant with tasty food and fantastic ambiance. Click video to watch.)

(My review and explanation of this fun restaurant with tasty food and fantastic ambiance. Click video to watch.)

Manila’s humongous urban sprawl makes it a food haven on every busy and overpopulated corner.  However, in the Fort Global City of Manila celebrity Chef Bruce Lim offers traditional flavors in bold and exciting ways at his signature restaurant, The Chef’s Table.

I think Italians would be impressed, even if slightly confused, by a spaghetti dish topped with a Filipino fried fish.  Or how about a “carbonara” that has grilled chicken and banana heart fruit cream sauce!

(Chef Lim's Filipin-ized "carbonara" made with grilled chicken, banana heart, cream, and scallions. Delicious!) 

(Chef Lim’s Filipin-ized “carbonara” made with grilled chicken, banana heart, cream, and scallions.  Delicious!)

This restaurant offers a completely different way of eating Filipino food by serving individual plates, not “family style,” with a side of rice.  However, it’s become a popular spot for many locals seeking a European flare to break up the monotony that can happen with too much of any ethnic cuisine.

Filipino's don't drink too many martinis. But they would seriously enjoy this one (NCR – No One Can Run), especially since it has the sharp and robust taste of roasted garlic oil and chili heat!

(Filipino’s don’t drink too many martinis.  But they would seriously enjoy this one (NCR – No One Can Run), especially since it has the sharp and robust taste of roasted garlic oil and chili heat!)

Both of these restaurants highlight my personal style of cooking, characterized as “fusion.”  And  in both restaurants I was most edified to see families as the primary patrons.  So these restaurants not only highlight my style of cooking, but also the message of our movement.  Go ahead and be creative with your food and your family meals!

(Young culinary students who assisted me at the BergHOFF store and studio – to raise funds for the victims of the recent typhoon. They're now going to intern at top restaurants around the world!)

(Young culinary students who assisted me at the BergHOFF store and studio – to raise funds for the victims of the recent typhoon.  They’re now going to intern at top restaurants around the world!)

Let us Pray:

Lord, we know that You bless the poor with good things.  Help us, by this movement, to remember that being poor in this world means that we inherit the blessings and the kingdom of Heaven.  We thank You for the “simple” but delicious meals that bring comfort to our tables – especially since these “simple meals” bring our families together in love.  Bless our families and especially those that struggle to put food on the table, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

What is your favorite fusion-style of food?  Do you have a recipe you want to share?  Do you have a restaurant you think would characterize fusion foods.  Your comments help us think of ways to share the Faith through the medium of food.  Please post your comments here, and know that each posting comes with sincere thanks and heartfelt prayers for this movement!

NOW. . . check out the newest extension of the

Grace Before Meals movement:  MINIFLIPPING!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

This is for your families, especially if you have teens or young adults.  Fr. Leo and a crew of “mini-flippers” share a positive message in a dynamic way, challenging the status quo, and hopefully bringing out mini-conversions in the hearts and minds of the viewers.

To help us get this Good News out there, tell your kids to watch, to subscribe, to “like” it, and to leave comments and questions.  And then tell them to get all their friends to do the same!  It’s certainly worth “FLIPPING OUT ABOUT!”

Just click it already!

Check out our next video THIS FRIDAY:

FR.LEO TAKES ON THE PRESIDENT’S MANDATE ON CONTRACEPTION.

NO MORE MR. NICE PRIEST.

MINIFLIPPING...nuff said. Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!Become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

Posted in Audio, Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Miniflipping, Prayers, Restaurants, Restauraunt Reviews, Reviews, Video | No Comments »

Munchies and More in Minnesota

I love surprises, especially when it comes to great food finds in out of the way places!

("Mill Street Tavern" on a quaint American town main street. As part of their mission, they want every customer to feel at home. I like that!)

(“Mill Street Tavern” on a quaint American town main street.  As part of their mission, they want every customer to feel at home.  I like that!)

At a recent event in Cannon Falls, Minnesota, I encountered a few nice surprises.  The first had to do with the event itself.  My speaking engagements are generally initiated by parishioners who hear about Grace Before Meals on the radio, in the newspaper, or on TV.  Then they usually have to “convince” the pastor to sponsor the event.  And (if I do say so, myself) the pastors wind up very happy the parishioners suggested my name as a speaker or presenter.  In this case, the situation was the exact opposite.  This time Fr. Kythe, pastor of St. Pius V parish and St. Joseph parish in Cannon Falls, actually thought up the idea and had to convince his parishioners to come to the event, as he knew it would spiritually benefit them.  And as we’ve come to experience, the people were certainly fed – body, mind, and spirit.

(Fr. Kythe, Pastor, and one of his parishioners, Chef Brady – a recent culinary school graduate.)

(Fr. Kythe, Pastor, and one of his parishioners, Chef Brady – a recent culinary school graduate.)

The other surprises had to do with two great food finds just around the corner from the parish church.  The first was the Mill Street Tavern – a “pub-ish” type of restaurant with plenty of locals coming to dine on some of their hearty and flavorful foods.  The lunch crowd for a Saturday afternoon was rather impressive, filling up almost all of the tables in the narrow bar room dining hall.

I ordered the house special – a cowboy burger – topped with a fried onion ring, bacon strips, melted cheese, and barbecue sauce.  As a little bit of a “burger snob” I must say I was impressed with this messy, but delicious burger.  The burger’s meat to bun ration was proportionate, cooked to my order, and slathered with a sweet, savory, and slightly smoky sauce.  The chef may have been a little heavy-handed with the sauce for my taste, but it made for a great ketchup substitute for my crispy textured French Fries.

The rest of the menu offered enough variety that regular patrons would never be bored.  And if a well-cooked burger is indicative of the type of foods served at this restaurant, then Cannon Falls residents can be thankful for that touch of gourmet flare found at the Mill Street Tavern.

(One word to describe this: Mmmmm)

It was such a nice surprise to find good-tasting food in a “tavern” style restaurant, I only give them 3 out of 10 Hail Mary’s, which translates to 4 out of 5 stars for this restaurant!  The only penance I detected was a slightly messy men’s bathroom.  And also the lack of soft textures in the room (with an impressive exposed brick wall), made it a bit loud – especially since they also had the TV going in the bar area.  Other than that, this was a good find with friendly service in Cannon Falls, Minnesota!

I give this restaurant a “penance” of only 3 out of 10 Hail Mary’s (which is equivalent to 4 stars out of 5.)

penance penance penance

Across the street from the tavern, I found another gourmet surprise:  a local winery, Cannon River Winery.  I picked a perfect time to visit, because to my surprise the area wineries were putting on a wine tasting weekend.  This “winery walk” gave locals a chance to sip, sample, and savor some tasty blends.  One particular wine caught my attention and my taste buds:  St. Pepin.  Wait!  I just discovered another surprise in the faith and food connection!  St. Pepin would be very pleased with the product that bears his name.  This wine combines some balanced melon flavors with the crispness of a Sauvignon Blanc, along with hints of deep flavors from a Pinot Grigio.  I enjoyed the ash scent that contrasted with the citrus and herbal tastes so much that I bought a bottle and gave it as a gift to Fr. Kythe.  After all, it was his pastoral vision that brought me and the Grace Before Meals message to this quaint part of the world.

(The unassuming facade to the Cannon River Winery, but inside was a bustling crowd of wine and gourmet food enthusiasts!)

(The unassuming facade to the Cannon River Winery, but inside was a bustling crowd of wine and gourmet food enthusiasts!)

If you are ever in the area of Cannon Falls, you have two highly recommended spots for great food for the body:  The Mill Street Tavern and Cannon River Winery.  But the most impressive place is right around the corner – St. Pius V Church, where we celebrated goodness and feasted on foods that fed body, mind, and soul!

(A family that came to the Grace Before Meals presentation.)

(A family that came to the Grace Before Meals presentation.)

Let Us Pray:

Dear Lord, thank You for these wonderfully surprising food finds!  Thank You for the many ways that You graciously provide.  May our world be transformed with an improved experience of culture through good food and drink, so that strengthened with bodily strengths, we may have the vigor and virtue to nurture and feed those who hunger for the blessings, which we so often take for granted.  Through Christ our Lord.  Amen.

(Another satisfied taste-tester. That's my sauce all over his face!)

(Another satisfied taste-tester. That’s my sauce all over his face!)

Do you have a local winery or a great restaurant in your local area that you’d recommend?  Do you know anything about St. Pepin?  Do you have a restaurant close to your church that you would recommend to our subscribers?  Your comments and responses are not only helpful to our subscribers, but they also motivate us to continue spreading the word.  Post your comments and questions below.

Watch Grace Before Meals episodes on Youtube! Follow Fr. Leo on Twitter!become a Fan of Fr. Leo and Grace before Meals on Facebook!

Mount St. Mary's University: Proud Sponsor of Grace Before Meals

Posted in Events, Faithful Foodie, Grace Before Meals, Prayers, Restauraunt Reviews, Reviews | 4 Comments »

Posted August 24th, 2011 | Faithful Foodie, Restaurants, Reviews

“Under the Seal” Restaurant Review:

Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent

Le Moulin de Saint-Laurent, located on 754 chemin Royal, C.P. 16, Saint-Larent Ile d’Orleans G0A 3Z0, offers customers a rustic country French cuisine that will take diners back to romanticized simpler days filled when family dinner comforted body, mind and soul.  The décor is simple, but clean.  The classic look of the building, originally used for milling wheat, exposed the original rock, brick and stone floors.  Polished copper kettles and pots hanging from the ceiling accentuate the country rustic feel.  Dried flowers along the walls also graced the tables, covered in rich royal blue and white tablecloths.  The autumnal feel, complimented with a dignified and delicate ambiance, making it slightly romantic, but more comforting.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(The side of the restaurant’s scenic waterfall and outdoor dining area)

The guests, mostly couples and a few families, quietly ate well-plated and delicious looking food.  They seemed content, and even entertained with the classical guitarist and violinist offering sweet sounds.  A times, the volume made it difficult for conversations and the talented musicians received well deserved applause from the guests, which at times made it feel more like a dinner theatre rather than a restaurant with background music.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(A big pet peeve: to serve delicious bread but accompanied with tacky plastic containers of butter!)

The polite service, typical of the Quebecois, lagged at times.  I realize that most diners enjoy a leisure meal, but the inconsistent service made my group of diners a bit impatient, waiting for the bill after 3 hours of dining.  Most of the wait staff came across as professional, so it surprised me to have one staff members with multiple piercings, black nail polish, and who nervously rushed.

The menu offered a compact, but flavorful variety of country rustic French cuisine.  I understand the menu rotates weekly, giving diners a reason to come back and sample other creations.  The pre-fixed courses gave customers the best value of an appetizer, salad, entrée and dessert.  Gratefully, the stereotypical dishes such as French Onion Soup, Steak and Fries, or Quiche were not on the menu.  The menu sparked conversation and intrigue, offering escargot and calves brains (sweet breads) as appetizers.

(Quebec Parliament from my hotel view.)

(Le Moulin’s Sweat Breads)

I chose sweat breads as an appetizer, a creamy vegetable soup as a first plate, the lamb shank for my entrée, and a chocolate mousse to end the meal.    The sweet breads were delicious, especially with a cranberry red wine reduction.  However, these would have been better had they been breaded and fried rather than sautéed, simply because the only detectable texture was “creamy.”  However the reductions were luscious and smooth, and very workable with the wine we ordered – a Tollo Rosso from Italy.

The soup was very smooth and delicately elevated with toasted celery seeds. But, a dollop of crème fresh would certainly add something to this simple dish.

The dramatically plated lamb shank had fork tender meat, accompanied with a smooth potato puree and vegetable medley, including a seemingly out of place Bok Choi.  I expected parsnips or something less “asian”, but it simply added a brightness and levity to this typically heavy dish.  Instead of rosemary as a base herb, the chef used fresh oregano (and even the oregano flower) to compliment the sweetness of the meat.  The shank needed a bit more trimming, as the underneath fattiness became sloppy to eat and unpleasant on the plate.

(Lamb Shank)

(Lamb Shank)

The dessert plate of chocolate mouse combined an angel food and pear infused flan served as a base for the bell shaped semi sweet dark chocolate mousse. A meringue and a modern chocolate tuiles gave a modern whimsical quality to a relatively traditional meal.

(A busy plate of desserts. It seemed like the pastry chef was just showing off, and all to the smiles of the patrons!)

(A busy plate of desserts.  It seemed like the pastry chef was just showing off, and all to the smiles of the patrons!)

But then came the unreasonable 15 minute wait for the bill!

The meal was delicious, beautifully plated, balanced, flavorful, and classically French.  The pre-fixed menu options provided variety for a bargain high-end meal, even with a 15 % sales tax.

Overall: The service needed some attention and speed. Some of the food preparation needed a bit more textural variety.  The dining ambiance was definitely affected by the volume of the musicians, and the autumnal feel could “limit” the diner’s seasonal eating experience.  However, the food was delicious and the meal gave me a satisfying memory of my time in a country bistro in France. Which reminds me, I need to brush up on my French!

Another interesting Faithful Foodie connection:  St. Lawrence also happens to be the patron saint of chefs.  He was obviously interceding for this restaurant, because it was certainly “grace-filled”.

COST: $$$$

I give this restaurant a “penance” of only 3 out of 10 Hail Mary’s (which is equivalent to 4.5 stars out of 5.)

penance penance penance

(Great after dinner entertainment back in the Old City: Les Beaux Frers - acrobat and jugglers)

(Great after dinner entertainment back in the Old City:  Les Beaux Frers – acrobat and jugglers)

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Restaurants, Reviews | No Comments »

Posted February 16th, 2011 | Faithful Foodie, Past Emails, Restaurants, Reviews

Faithful Foodie Adventures is all about exciting opportunities that await us at various tables and food destinations across God’s beautiful world.  Some weeks I may offer a cooking class tip, a restaurant critique, or even some food ideas that hopefully expands faith and satisfy our culinary sensibilities.  If you have any food adventure ideas, please be sure to let us know.  E-mail me your ideas at assistant@gracebeforemeals.com.

An angel to welcome visitors

(An angel to welcome visitors)

This week’s food adventure brings you to Emmitsburg, Md.  That’s where I live, teach, and serve as a priest.  As the Chair of Pastoral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s University I am always reminded of how blessed I am to work and live here. Located in such a pastoral setting, the area is flooded with a great spirit of peace – not just from the good example of the seminarians and faith-filled college students, but also from the surroundings that are filled with other impressive Catholic History.  If you didn’t know, Emmitsburg, Md., is one of the stops for people who visit the Gettysburg Battlefield.  There are beautiful areas to hike nearby at Catoctin Mountain Park, which also contains the very secretive and high security grounds of Camp David.

(Seminarians hiking on Wolf Rock.)

(Seminarians hiking on Wolf Rock.)

Frederick County and the surrounding towns are also a wonderful place of spiritual pilgrimage.  It’s the home of the First American National Shrine dedicated to Our Lady of Lourdes.  Visitors make their way through landscaped prayer paths leading to a grotto replica of Lourdes, France; a pool of blessed water; devotional shrines; and a view that makes you want to say, “God is good!”

Only a few miles away is the shrine and burial place of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, the first American born Catholic Saint.  Her story, which you can learn about and experience in a short movie when you visit the museum, will truly inspire you.  As a dedicated wife, soon to be widow, mother, and convert from the Episcopalian faith, St. Elizabeth Ann Seton showed that saints are very real.  Her courage to start up an educational system was a prelude to the Catholic Education system in America.  It’s perfect for family day trips.

Pilgrim Seminarians praying at the Seton Shrine

(Pilgrim Seminarians praying at the Seton Shrine)


Admittedly, Emmitsburg, Md., isn’t known for any culinary excellence.  However, the Wikipedia article for “Emmitsburg, Maryland” actually makes mention of the cooking competition I won against Food Network’s Bobby Flay in his hit show Throwdown!.  Seriously?  Grace Before Meals is in Wikipedia twice – once for Bobby Flay and now for Emmitsburg!

If you come to Emmitsburg and find yourself a bit hungry, there are a couple places I’d recommend.  First is the Carriage House Inn – a local, rustic, but very quaint restaurant around the corner from the only traffic light, right in the center of town.  This restaurant features delicious American fare.  There are a small handful of other places to eat in the area.  A favorite breakfast place for seminarians is called the Palm House.  They always make their thick-cut bacon perfectly extra crispy, and their sweet potato pancakes are fluffy and naturally sweet!

For dinner, the seminarians usually make their way to either Gettysburg or Frederick, each about 20 minutes away.  In Frederick you’ll find plenty of variety, including one very high-end restaurant called Volt, where Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio wows locals along with food connoisseurs  from DC, Baltimore and beyond with his intensely unique and even scientific gastronomy.

(Bryan and I at the final episode screening party.)

(Bryan and I at the final episode screening party.)


But if you don’t want to spend a lot of money, not travel too far, and still have something more “exotic,” I would recommend a simply elegant Asian “bistro” called Simply Asia.  Before the restaurant came under new ownership I stayed away because the service was poor and unreliable, yet the décor (even for such a small town) was “quaint.”  Thank God the new owners got rid of the fish tank.  The water was never clean and the fishy water smell lingered.  The new owners made delightful changes in the ambiance, menu, and most importantly, their service!  Their food covers a variety of Asian preparations, from Thai to Japanese Teriyakis to traditional Chinese cuisine.

Simply Asia even has fresh sushi

(Simply Asia even has fresh sushi)

Some of my favorites:  Pork-stuffed Eggplant and their Curry Shrimp, served with a rich and complex flavored broth and all the traditional goodness that makes curry a soul-satisfying comfort food.

Emmitsburg. Md., and the surrounding towns will never be a food destination – but they have enough to satisfy people coming to hike, to explore the history, and most importantly, to pray.

Perhaps I may even host a public cooking class at the seminary during one of the summer breaks.  Wouldn’t that be a wonderful way to bring our Grace Before Meals family all together in a spirit of food, faith, and fun?

Small Chapel at Grotto of Lourdes.

(Small Chapel at Grotto of Lourdes.)


Come and visit this faithful foodie adventure and be filled in body, mind, and spirit!

Have you ever visited Emmitsburg or these restaurants?  Tell our subscribers what you think?  Are there other faithful foodie destinations you want to tell us about?  Would you be interested in coming to this peaceful part of the world for a culinary “retreat”?  Post your questions and comments!

Posted in Faithful Foodie, Past Emails, Restaurants, Reviews | 16 Comments »

Posted December 5th, 2010 | Restaurants, Reviews

If you’re in the downtown DC area and looking for a place to get some upscale “approachable Americana foods,” you can go to the Marriott Hotel at Metro Center.  Fire and Sage a perfect location, even though parking will cost you an arm and a leg, or at least a night’s stay at the hotel just to make the meal worth while.  The vibe reminded me of an ongoing happy hour for business dressed professionals, with modern decor, rustic Tuscan colored furniture and very suggestive-looking appointments.  The seminarians who dined with me felt the vibe as well.

img_1473

While they didn’t feel their chastity and modesty being compromised, it did feel like it could easily turn into a “bar” feel with a lot of wandering eyes.  In fact, a whole section of seating were bar stools at individual tables, which were completely occupied during the dinner rush hour.

Service left much to be desired.  Walking in dressed as a priest commanded just as much inquisitive looks as respect.  The table/booth provided enough privacy.  The table was somewhat cluttered with hard to use utensils, and I found a left over candy wrapper on my place mat, which the waiter didn’t pick up until after the bill was paid, even though I put it on the corner  of the table.  Waiting for the waiter to come by became a test of patience, and when he finally came, he didn’t seem helpful.

The food tasted good and looked delicious and the menu fit the restaurant’s motif.   The mussels provided a savory appetizer, with a broth infused with white wine, garlic and lemon to make the lips smack.  The crusty bread, combined with plump and soft mussels, gave a nice contrast of texture for a satisfying first coarse.

The main entrees, well plated, came hot and appealing.  Since no one ordered red meat or poultry, I can only evaluate the seafood preparations. The scallops, a Fire and Sage specialty, were perfectly cooked, but not perfectly clean.  I felt grit with almost every bite of these plump and savory scallops.  I wish they included a few more sprigs of the micro-greens because the richness of the cream sauce that oozed from the risotto needed something to lighten up this hearty dish.  The mushrooms offered a bit more firmness, which aided the textural experience of this satisfactory meal.

img_1475

The grilled grouper and the linguine pasta with seafood ordered by my dinner companions carried the same “typical” flavors – tasty, and “as expected” tastes, but with a touch more heaviness.

img_1478

Desserts provided some interesting combinations, including a “bag of donuts”, creating a whimsical finish to an overall a nice meal, reasonably priced (for a hotel restaurant in DC), within an atmosphere conducive to conversation and vibe.

On a scale from 1-10 Hail Mary’s, 1 being the best and 10 Hail Mary’s meaning there were that many “sins” that need a firmer “penance”, I would rate Fire and Sage with 4 Hail Mary’s, which roughly translates to 3 out of 5 stars/halos.  The service needed much improvement. No one came across as rude, only ambivalent and untimely; entry into the restaurant  required too many stairs or to  go through a hotel lobby, which is never any fun.  The utensils were useless and unmanageable.  Finally, the “vibe” would be more conducive to a business worker’s happy hour than a family friendly meal.

If you’re in a pinch and just looking for some standard American fare, give Fire and Sage a try.  While you won’t be disappointed, you won’t be wowed either.

Posted in Restaurants, Reviews | No Comments »