Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving!

Turkey and pumpkin pie, photo by Jean-Francois Riviere. Gorgeous.

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Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Brussels Sprouts Salad

I usually look forward to Thanksgiving, until I remember that I cook most of the food for the holiday. Mr Minx and I celebrate with our combined families at his brother's house. Brother-in-law makes the turkey and stuffing, and my brother usually contributes pies to the occasion. But all of the side dishes--cranberry sauce (no I won't buy canned), corn pudding, Brussels sprouts, green been casserole, mashed potatoes, sweet potato casserole--fall to hubby and me.

I usually spend the day before Thanksgiving in the kitchen, prepping everything. All we really have to do on Thanksgiving day is pop casseroles into the oven (or in the case of the corn pudding, the microwave). Except with the Brussels sprouts, which must be cooked a la minute. Typically, we separate the leaves from the sprouts, give them a rinse, steam them for a few minutes in the water that clings to the leaves after rinsing, season and serve. While it's fairly easy, it takes up a burner on the stove and even though they're cooked at the very last minute, the sprouts are cold by the time people get around to eating. Then I found a couple recipes for shaved raw Brussels sprouts salads and thought it could be the answer. It's not much more work on the day before, but on the day of, all I need to do is to remove the cover from the bowl and put it on the table.

It tastes pretty good too, although, like kale salad, raw Brussels sprouts give the jaws a workout.

Shaved Brussels Sprouts Salad
Adapted from a recipe found on The Kitchn

3/4 pound Brussels sprouts, the larger the better
1 small apple
4 teaspoons lemon juice, divided
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon champagne vinegar
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup roughly chopped toasted almonds
Shaved Parmesan cheese

Cut off the stem ends of the sprouts and remove the outer dark green leaves. Cut each sprout in half and remove the core. Slice the rest very thinly, putting slices in a large bowl. Alternately, you can slice them with the slicing or grating blade on your food processor, or with a mandoline.

Peel and core the apple and slice it very thinly. Toss with half the lemon juice.

Place the butter in a sauce pan and cook over medium heat until browned and nutty smelling. Pour it into a ramekin or bowl to stop the cooking.

In another bowl, whisk together the vinegar, remaining lemon juice, agave, and salt. Slowly add the browned butter while whisking to combine. Then add the vegetable oil, whisking until emulsified.

Toss the dressing with the shredded sprouts. Add the apples to the bowl and toss again. Add the nuts and toss yet again. Allow the salad to sit for half an hour or so.

Serve topped with shaved Parm.

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Bistro Lunch Box Food Truck

The food truck explosion continues! One that hit the streets for the first time this summer is Bistro Lunch Box. This truck offers a few fancier items that still fulfill those lunchtime cravings for cheesesteaks, burgers, and fries. For example, their cheesesteak features thinly sliced lamb, rather than beef, and their burgers are occasionally topped with their specialty meat of the day. On one occasion, it was brisket that had been slow cooked for 12 hours. That brisket was also available as a sandwich on its own, rolled in a burrito, and atop an order of fries. I tried the burrito, and found the meat to be melt-in-the-mouth tender and full of flavor.

There are several variations on the simple french fry, including a version topped with a cheese fondue. Bistro Lunch Box also serves fish, like a seared tuna wrap that was offered this summer, and salmon prepared different ways.

Lamb Cheesesteak
A visiting friend ordered the seared salmon salad, which came in a Chinese take-out-style box. The salmon was flavorful but maybe a tad overcooked; it was rescued by the creamy dressing and crisp salad greens.

Salmon Box
All in all, pretty good, high-quality, food.

Bistro Lunch Box

Bistro Lunch Box on Urbanspoon

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Friday, November 22, 2013

Avgolemono Soup

When I made that Greek-ish pasta dish the other day, I ended up with far too much for two people. That means leftovers, and while we do appreciate not having to cook on some random weeknight, I I am not particularly fond of eating rewarmed pasta that already has a sauce on it. After a few hours in the fridge, the pasta has sucked up whatever moisture there might have been in the dish to begin with, and if there's no extra sauce in a separate container, it's just too dry for me. But since this particular pasta dish had some lemon in it, and certainly a lot of other flavors that work harmoniously with lemon, I thought dumping the leftovers into some avgolemono soup might provide the necessary moisture.

Avgolemono (Greek for egg-lemon) can be a soup or a sauce, usually made with eggs and lemon juice, heated with stock until thick. It's pretty easy stuff, one just has to watch not to add too much hot broth to the eggs all at once so as not to curdle them. At that point though, it's egg drop soup and not necessarily a bad thing. There's usually some rice or orzo in a classic avgolemono soup, so if you don't have leftover pasta, then add about 1/3 cup of raw rice or orzo to the chicken stock and boil it for about 10-12 minutes, until the grain is done but not mushy, before adding the egg and lemon.

Avgolemono Soup

6 cups chicken stock
2 cups leftover Greek-ish pasta
4 eggs
1/3 cup lemon juice
salt and black pepper to taste

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer. While stock is simmering, warm the leftover pasta.

In a large bowl, beat eggs until frothy. Whisk in the lemon juice.

Slowly pour 2 cups of hot chicken stock into the eggs, whisking constantly. When combined, slowly add the egg mixture to the pot of simmering stock.

Immediately remove stock from heat. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Portion the warmed pasta into large serving bowls and ladle soup over top.

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Thursday, November 21, 2013

Soul Food Junkies

Soul Food Junkies (2012 Winner Best Documentary, American Black Film Festival) will be screened on Sunday, December 8, 2pm at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum in Little Italy/Jonestown.

The film looks at soul food, from its roots in West Africa to the American South, and its contribution to modern health crises in communities of color. The film also examines the socioeconomics of the modern American diet, and how the food industry profits from making calories cheap, with healthy options expensive and hard to find.

After the film, there will be a panel discussion with Michael J. Wilson, Director, Maryland Hunger Solutions, Naijah Wright, Restauranter, Land of Kush, and Denzel Mitchell, Founder and Farm Manager, Five Seeds Family Farm and Apiary.

Date and Time:
Sunday, December 8, 2:00 pm
Important Information:
Special Admission: $1. Part of Downtown Dollar Days.

Contact Information:
For more information call 443-263-1800

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Wednesday, November 20, 2013


The other day, Mr Minx and I attended a soft opening/friends and family preview at Cunningham's, the Bagby Group's newest restaurant. Located in Towson City Center (that building tucked into the wedge of land between York and Dulaney Valley Roads, just north of the traffic circle), Cunningham's brings a much-needed elegance to the area dining scene.

The decor is both dressed-up and relaxed, with pale walls, marble-topped room separators, and an open kitchen with nearby bar seating. I love the ceiling lighting, which resembles flowers, or in the case of the single large fixture at the back of the main room, a particularly fancy bundt cake. The bar area, too, is very attractive, with its back-lit marble bar top and near panoramic view of...well, Towson. But still, it's a fine place to have a drink and something to eat.

Pork belly and shrimp dumplings, salsa verde coulis, pickled radish
Pretzel-encrusted fried oysters, mustard fruits, cabbage, sauerkraut chowder
Hudson Valley duck breast, gold rice, squash and turnip salad, huckleberries, horseradish
Seared rockfish, autumn vegetable succotash, parsley root puree, Cunningham's
bacon, wax pepper coulis
Roasted Brussels sprouts, Caesar dressing
Roasted turnips, quince vinegar, thyme
The menu at Cunningham's, under the direction of Executive Chef Chris Allen and Bagby's corporate Executive Chef Chris Becker, features seasonal dishes, with much of the fresh produce, eggs, and pork provided by the Bagby Group's own Cunningham Farms.

Pumpkin cream cake: pumpkin chiffon, cheesecake, green apple sorbet
Almond cake, cranberry apple compote, mascarpone-fig swirl ice cream, almond nougatine
We sampled appetizers, entrees, side dishes, and desserts, and were excited by both the freshness and the creativity of every item. Pastry Chef Angie Lee's desserts were particularly enticing, and baker John Aversa's breads were simply outstanding. We look forward to being able to visit Cunningham's Café and Bakery (downstairs) to pick up a loaf or two to take home.

The restaurant opens Friday, November 22nd, and we're sure it will be a hit.

1 Olympic Pl
Towson, MD 21204

Cunningham's on Urbanspoon

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Monday, November 18, 2013

Greek-ish Pasta

Sometimes, when I get something stuck in my head, I just can't shake it. This is especially true of recipes. I'll come up with a combination of ingredients and obsess over it until I can get into the kitchen and create the dish.

Things don't always work out the way I plan.

My original concept for this dish involved ground lamb. I figured I could pick some up at Weis on our regular grocery day, but they didn't have any ground lamb in stock. I visited the local Giant, which has had ground lamb in the past, and found no lamb of any kind. Poo. I didn't want to drive all over town looking for one product, so I made a substitution. My dish was inspired by the flavors of Greece, and Greeks eat shrimp, which also goes well with feta and garlic and pasta and all the other good stuff I planned to use. So I bought a pound of shrimp.

Overall the dish was pretty good, but I still want to try it with ground lamb someday.

Greek Shrimp Pasta

1 pound medium shrimp, shelled and deveined, shells reserved
1 pound pasta of your choice
1 cup chopped onion
olive oil
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
pinch red pepper flakes
1 cucumber, halved, seeded, and sliced into crescent moons
2 tablespoons finely minced dill (divided use)
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled
1 cup plain Greek yogurt
salt and pepper to taste
extra virgin olive oil
chopped toasted walnuts
finely chopped mint
lemon juice

Heat a few teaspoons of oil in a saucepot. Add the shrimp shells and cook, stirring, until they turn pink. Add 2 cups of water. Bring to a simmer. Cook 10 minutes, pressing down on shells to extract flavor. Remove from heat and strain out the solids. Season with a pinch of salt. Refrigerate stock until ready to use.

Cook the pasta al dente in well-salted water, according to package directions. Drain, reserving a little of the pasta water for the sauce.

While the pasta is cooking, heat a large skillet over medium heat, add bit of olive oil, the onion, and a pinch of salt. Cook until onion is translucent. Stir in the garlic and the red pepper flakes. Add the cucumbers and cook for about three minutes. Stir in one tablespoon of the dill.

In a bowl, combine the remaining dill, feta cheese, and yogurt.

Add the shrimp to the skillet. Cook until just pink. Pour in about half a cup of the shrimp stock. Add the pasta and toss to coat, adding pasta water if the mixture seems dry. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with a bit of extra virgin olive oil.

Serve pasta in bowls with a dollop of the yogurt sauce. Garnish with chopped walnuts and mint and squeeze some fresh lemon juice on top.

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Friday, November 15, 2013

Flashback Friday

This post was originally published on November 8, 2011.
Pumpkin Butter

The other day, I had a dream about making pumpkin butter.

In the dream, I stood in front of my stove, stirring a pot filled with pumpkin purée, brown sugar, and spices. As the mixture bubbled, it perfumed the air with the delicious scent of Fall. And Thanksgiving.

When I awoke, craving pumpkin butter, I knew I had to make the dream come true. (Considering how hard that is to do with most dreams, I couldn't let this opportunity pass!)

I dumped a can of pumpkin into a saucepan, added some brown sugar and spices, and hoped for the best. Both in my dream and in real life, it was a simple and relatively quick process. Not to mention inexpensive. For a couple of bucks ($1.50 for a can of pumpkin, a few cents more for the bits of sugar and spice I already had on hand), I had a heaping pint of deliciousness that would probably cost between $5 - $8, had I bought the product ready-made at the store.

Pumpkin Butter

1 15oz can pumpkin puree
3/4 cup light brown sugar, packed
1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Mix all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then turn heat down to lowest setting. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Pour into a pint jar. Unless you want to go to the trouble of sterilizing/canning, do not store pumpkin butter unrefrigerated. Eat within two weeks.

Makes about a pint.

Note: if you want to make your own pumpkin purée with a fresh pumpkin, I won't stop you.

Spread thickly on your favorite bread, or eat straight from the jar with a spoon.

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Wednesday, November 13, 2013


Who would think that mashed-up chicken livers, butter, and seasonings would be so incredibly good? I suppose I would, since I ate deep-fried chicken livers as a kid (I ate anything).

I was feeling ambitious one Saturday morning so Mr Minx and I cranked out fennel marmalade, bread dough, preserved lemons (for a much later post), babaganoush, and chicken liver pâté. The marmalade I've made before, and you can find the recipe here. It was a nice sweet accompaniment to the pâté, but it still needed a bit of tart acid in the form of cornichons. (I love how spell-check wants "cornichons" to be "unicorns.") The bread, made with my favorite recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, was the perfect foil for the spread. And that pâté was made from Clementine owner/chef Winston Blick's recipe.

Want that recipe? Well, you'll have to wait until Baltimore Chef's Table comes out next year. It'll be in there, along with dozens of other terrific recipes from local Baltimore Metro-area chefs. We're so excited about this book - it's going to be great!
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Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Greenhouse Dinner Parties with Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy

This just in from Waterfront Kitchen - a series of Moet Hennessey tasting dinners. some featuring Domaine Chandon champagne! We've been to the BUGS Greenhouse, and think these dinners will be amazingly fun!

The BUGS Greenhouse is a picture-perfect setting for Waterfront Kitchen’s brand new Greenhouse Dinner Parties, an intimate series of tasting dinners hosted by Moët Hennessy. Each evening will feature tastings of LVMH’s renowned brands, from superb Newton Vineyard wines to festive Domaine Chandon bubbly, expertly paired with a four-course meal by Chef Jerry Pellegrino. Special guest speakers will talk about the wines. Seating is limited, so reserve your spot early.

Place BUGS Greenhouse
802 S. Caroline Street
Baltimore MD, 21231
Cost $150 per ticket
Reservations Call 443.681.5310 or email for
reservations. Seating is limited and by reservation only.

November 21 Newton Vineyard Large Format and Unfiltered Wine
Special guest: Newton Vineyard viticulturist Raymond Reyes

December 5 Holiday Bubbles, with Domaine Chandon étoile Rosé and étoile Brut
Special guest: Domaine Chandon brand ambassador Kristen Brott

February 6 Valentine’s Bubbles, with Domaine Chandon étoile Rosé and étoile Brut
Special guest: Domaine Chandon winemaker Tom Tiburzi

March 6 Sparking Spring Cocktails by Domaine Chandon
Special guest: Domaine Chandon senior wine ambassador Ellen Flora

April 3 Newton Vineyard Current Vintages and Unfiltered Wine
Special guest: Newton Vineyard regional ambassador Rebecca Robinson

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Monday, November 11, 2013

Savory Quickbread

I am a big fan of bread; it comes from my Dad. We prefer crusty artisan loaves sliced thickly and served with lashings of good butter, but really, any bread will do. Even cheap bread, toasted, has its place at the table. Homemade bread is the best, especially when it's still a bit warm, but yeast-leavened bread takes a bit of planning and patience. And that's where quickbreads come in.

Most quickbreads are sweet--banana bread, pumpkin bread, date-nut bread--but there's no rule that says it can't be savory and chock-full of tidbits like herbs and cheeses. And when I found a couple of savory quickbread recipes on Bakepedia, I thought I'd do my own riff, using ingredients I had on hand.

A savory quickbread is a great way to use up odd pieces of cheese that aren't big enough to use in another recipe. The same goes for random nuts and things like sun-dried tomatoes and the last bits of herbs from the garden. Cured meats and sausages are great, too; we had a partial bag of pepperoni in the fridge that needed a home. Put them all together in a fairly basic dough, bake, and voilà! Bread.

We ate our bread for dinner with a bowl of soup and an arugula salad. Also as breakfast, toasted with cream cheese. It was good. It was quick. It was quickbread.

Savory Quickbread

1 medium onion, chopped
1 tablespoon olive oil
pinch salt
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 3/4 cup flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
large pinch sugar
3 eggs
1/3 cup milk
1/3 cup olive oil
6 ounces grated cheese
1/2 cup chopped pepperoni

Cook onion over low heat in olive oil with a pinch of salt until golden brown, about half an hour. Remove from pan and allow to cool.

While onions are cooking, soak sun-dried tomatoes in enough boiling water to cover. When soft and pliable, drain them well and chop finely. If using oil-packed tomatoes, you can skip the soaking step and head directly to chopping.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease an 8" or 9" loaf pan with release spray (or butter).

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. In another bowl, whisk together the eggs, milk, and olive oil. Fold in the dry ingredients, along with the cooked onion, chopped tomato, cheese, and pepperoni, until just combined.

Spread batter in loaf pan and bake for 45-50 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for five minutes, then turn out onto a rack to cool completely.

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Friday, November 08, 2013


Minxeats has been nominated for a 2103 Mobbie Award! Click the icon on the top of the left sidebar and vote for us!

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Cookbook Review - Kitchen Pantry Cookbook

I love reviewing cookbooks, especially when they prove to be endlessly useful. Like this one, Erin Coopey's The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook: Make Your Own Condiments and Essentials. Every recipe in the book makes a pantry staple, from Dijon mustard to chicken stock to ketchup. With this book and some raw ingredients, one can make pretty much any condiment, even Thousand Island Dressing, that tastes as good or better than store-bought...and without high fructose corn syrup, preservatives, or other additives.

The book's intro emphasizes the importance of knowing where food comes from and how its grown. GMOs are everywhere, and especially in processed foods. Avoid them by buying the most basic items (like eggs for mayo), make sure as many of them are fresh as can be, and create your own pickles and vinaigrettes. Sure, home-made products won't last as long as store-bought, especially since the recipes in this book are for single-batch, eat in a couple weeks, un-preserved foods. But you'll feel better. And they'll probably taste better, too.

Sometimes Neal and I like a little French dressing on our salad. Yes, real French dressing is just vinaigrette and not neon orange glop, but neon orange glop tastes good. Especially when it's home-made. So I tried the French dressing recipe from The Kitchen Pantry Cookbook. And it was terrific - and terrifically easy to make. Just mix sugar and some spices, add ketchup, oil, and mayonnaise, and voila! A tasty dressing that's much less-expensive than pre-made stuff from the supermarket, and if you use home-made ketchup and mayonnaise, much healthier, too, as you know it won't have corn syrup and whatnot.

I made half a batch of the creamy French version, which ended up being almost two full cups. It was delicious on a simple salad of tomatoes and avocado.

I have a feeling I'll be getting a lot of use out of this book, especially as I like to make my own condiments anyway. Now I need to procure large quantities of mustard seed so I can make one or more of the mustard variants in the book (ballpark, Dijon, honey). Homemade mustard might just be a great gift, too, and Christmas is right around the corner....

* Any products in this post that are mentioned by name may have been provided to Minxeats by the manufacturer. However, all opinions belong to Minxeats.

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Wednesday, November 06, 2013

Celebrate with Liv2Eat

Chef Kevin Perry and Cecilia Benalcazar of Liv2Eat invite you to help them celebrate their restaurant's first anniversary. This weekend, November 7-11 (Thursday - Sunday), Liv2Eat is offering special entrees, a raffle, and a free glass of bubbly to patrons. They're great people with a great restaurant, so go raise a glass to the happy couple and their establisment.

Liv2Eat 1444 Light Street Federal Hill – Baltimore, MD Phone: 443-449-7129

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Grille 620

Mr Minx and I were invited to dinner at Grille 620, a new restaurant in the Ellicott City (Marriottsville) area. Located in the new Turf Valley Towne Square complex, a couple left turns off I-70 W exit 83, the restaurant was hopping on a Wednesday night, a sign that the area not only needed a nice restaurant, but that the residents have already embraced it.

Grille 620 is owned by Ali Sadeghi and Gaby Haddad--both veterans of Ruth's Chris--and former Baltimore Ravens linebacker Adalius Thomas. Running the kitchen is Sardinian chef Fabio Mura, whose menu is Modern American with some fusion-y bits. But not too many--mostly Asian touches here and there on familiar meat and seafood dishes.

Because we were a relatively large party that wanted to taste a bit of everything, we were presented with an appetizer sampler that included tuna tartare on wonton chips, grilled octopus with bean salad and lemon caper vinaigrette, and a pile of lump crabmeat with a little remoulade. We also received the chef's sampler of the day, a trio of Mediterranean dips including roasted garlic hummus, a finely diced Caprese salad, and Kalamata olive tapenade. Among the appetizers, the most flavorful were the tender octopus (that I couldn't stop eating) and the supremely fresh tuna tartare. We also sampled and enjoyed a selection of fresh oysters, including Blue Points, Malpeques, and some from the Chesapeake, served on the half shell with a tangy mignonette.

We each ordered an entree and did our best to sample both meat and seafood items. We ended up with a Creekstone Farms strip steak, stuffed chicken, lamb chops, diver scallops, crab cakes, and Thai bouillabaisse, plus side dishes of roasted asparagus, truffled mac and cheese, and three kinds of potato: Lyonnaise, steak fries, and baked. Mr Minx and I had the lamb chops and crab cakes and can attest that both were quite good.

The chops were cooked to medium, and came with a little pile of roasted brussels sprouts and a mint pesto-infused sauce. The broiled crab cakes were served with a tangy jicama and carrot slaw and a bit of creamy remoulade. While I like my crab cakes a little darker/crustier on the outside, the innards were the perfect ratio of meat to binder to breading: mostly meat, very slightly saucy, no detectable breading.

We also sampled seafood from the bouillabaisse that was ordered by a tablemate. The dish didn't really have anything Thai about it, nor was it particularly a bouillabaisse, since there wasn't nearly enough broth. What it was, however, was a pile of very fresh seafood including a chunk of mahi mahi and a humongous scallop, all cooked perfectly and most likely individually.

"Fresh" is the word at Grille 620. They have no freezer on premises, so all of their food is procured not all that long before being cooked; that freshness really showed with the seafood dishes.

Another diner seemed very  happy with his stuffed chicken.

The sides, particularly the potato dishes, were all successes. I'm not a huge potato eater, but I did enjoy the Lyonnaise-style new potatoes. The steak fries (below) were garnished with bacon, and also quite good.

We finished the meal with a trio of desserts, including a special strawberry shortcake, a dense bread pudding, and s'mores made with a rich chocolate ganache. My favorite was the bread pudding, which would make a fine dessert to share.

Overall, we were quite impressed with the food at Grille 620. The restaurant's atmosphere was somewhere between casual and upscale, and the food straddled the same line. One can get a Creekstone Farms burger at the bar, or something more elegant in the dining room. I definitely recommend trying the octopus, the oysters, and perhaps the enormous well-cooked scallops or the lamb chops. But the burgers sound pretty darn good, which means my next meal there is likely to be at the bar....

Grille 620
11099 Resort Road, Ellicott City

Grille620 on Urbanspoon

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