Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Nikki's Picks: Diamondback's Corned Beef, Portalli's Cioppino, And A Fight For Dessert

Irish Dip sandwich at Diamond Tavern
Nikki moved to Howard County two years ago from Northern Virginia.  Like me, she and her family remember that as the land of great restaurants -- and delivery.  They're slowly eating through the area, and they're happy with their new culinary universe.  In particular, they're becoming regulars at the Diamondback Tavern in Ellicott City for its food, service, prices and the kids menu where kids eat free on Tuesdays.

"It helps," she says, "that they've made the effort to learn our names, and start pouring my sangria when I walk in the door."

Nikki is helping to revive the HowChow "Trolling" posts.  Like Crunch Daddy last month, Nikki has offered up three paragraphs -- three places or dishes or experiences that she recommends.  This is a way  talk about places where we haven't eaten and talk about dishes that might not be my first choice.  You can find lots of great food in Howard County, and I'm open to suggestions if you'll email three paragraphs, a photo, and a disclosure if you're connected to any of the joints.  Click here for the rules.

But back to Nikki:

I'm not a food blogger, or any type of blogger, yet.  But I am an eater.  A picky one.  Unfortunately, being picky and being unable to tolerate the texture of certain foods (sushi...beans...) can be limiting.  That doesn't mean I don't have favorites.  I'll start with the Irish Dip sandwich at the Diamondback Tavern.  Tender and generous slabs of in-house corned beef on a buttered and grilled hoagie roll dolloped with grainy mustard, swiss cheese melted on top.  It's served with a small crock of french onion soup, an inspired au jus, for dipping.  I get it with their huge and crispy onion rings, instead of fries and I'm happy for days.  I'm sure a great beer would be the best drink to go along with this - but I'm a fan of their fragrant, spicy sangria - and drink it with whatever I order. 
Next, with the same owners, is the cioppino over linguini at Portalli's on Main Street in Ellicott City.  Portalli is very, very picky about their seafood and it is obvious with this plate.  Lump crab, tender scallops and perfectly done shrimp over velvety linguine - in a fancy white wine sauce.  It is rich and decadent, but still feels light. I haven't had it for almost a year (two kids and a budget keep us from 'fancy' food on a regular basis), and I still think about it.  I love that portions are small, letting us eat a multi-course meal and walk away feeling full but not stuffed.  It gives us a chance to try more of their menu when we go, and every item has been fantastic and fresh.  
Last, something sweet.  I am honestly torn between a fresh twisted donut at Bon Appetit bakery and the "coffee crazy" cupcake at Cooks 'n Cakes -- both on Rte 40 in Ellicott City.  The cupcake is devil's food with a cinnamon-espresso buttercream that has enough of a bitter coffee bite to make a grown-up treat.  The donut, when fresh and still a little warm, is amazing -- crispy crumbs on the outside, tender yeasty goodness on the inside.  Luckily, we live just minutes away because, after a few hours, they are still good, but not amazing.  The cupcake, on the other hand, stands up to the test of time, so I'll have to go with that one. 

No comments: