Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Thai Restaurant, Baltimore, MD

Thai Restaurant
3316 Greenmount Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21218


For a Google Map, click here.

I love the name of this restaurant. It is simply called Thai Restaurant. It offers standard Thai fare at reasonable prices (Pad Thai, Yellow Curry, Red Curry, etc). The soup is particularly tasty. Most of the dishes at lunch cost around $8.00. The ingredients are fresh, and they will make the food hot or mild according to your wants. The bill for two was about $24.00 including tax and tip. Prices are higher in the evening although I have not been.

This restaurant offers good food, and I would recommend it for the occasional lunch if you are in the area.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Domaine de Baumard, Quarts de Chaumes, 2001

I love sweet wines, and some of my favorites come from the Loire Valley. Made with the Chenin Blanc grape, Domaine de Baumard Quarts de Chaumes (2001) is an outstanding example of just how wonderful these wines can be.

It is relatively dark in color for a relatively young wine. The taste combines honey, caramel, toffee, orange, and other exotic tropical fruits. Don't think of this as a sickly sweet wine because the intense fruit and sweetness is balanced by high acidity.

This wine would be the perfect companion to foie gras. Although $30.00 is quite a lot of money for a half bottle, compared to sweet wines of equivalent quality from Sauternes, Germany, or Niagara, the Domaine de Baumard Quarts de Chaumes is a relative bargain.

Although this wine definitely tasted more mature than I expected, there is no reason that this wine should not drink well for fifteen or more years.

Domaine de Fontsainte, Corbieres, 2003

I have a friend who rarely drinks Californian wine. Too many of them taste the same, he says. And they are too expensive. As if he was trying to prove his point, he pointed my nose in the direction of Paul's Wine and Liquors, an excellent wine shop in Washington DC, where a case (including tax) of Domaine de Fontsaite, 20003 was just $120.

This brambly wine (Carignan, Grenache, and Syrah) is definitely different. It is packed with black currant and raspberry fruit with the herb overtones that evoke the South of France. The wood gives it a cedar almost smoky flavor. The Wine Spectator gave this wine a score of 86, which means "Very Good."

Check out the wine maker's philosophy on their website. There are interesting comments about not being a technology-driven wine although they still aspire to being modern. Perhaps this is how they can truly take advantage of their terroir and microclimate to make a wine that stands out as being different from the rest.


5205 Wisconsin Ave NW, Washington, DC
(202) 537-1900

Saturday, May 27, 2006

House of India, Columbia, MD

House of India
9350 F2 Snowden River Parkway
Columbia, MD 21045

For a Google map, click here.

We have tried all the Indian restaurants in Columbia, and we have found this to be the best. It serves a good buffet on the weekends for about $8.00. They usually include Goat Curry, Chicken Tikka Masala, Tandoori Chicken, Palak Paneer, and a few other vegetable dishes. There is always a starter (pakora or something similar). Naan is brought to the table. There is also a salad and dessert.

For people who travel, this is by no means an outstanding Indian restaurant, but if you want to have an Indian lunch, and you are in Columbia, this restaurant is probably the best in the area.

House of India sells alcoholic drinks, including Indian beer.

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Babich, Hawkes Bay, Chardoonnay, 2004 New Zealand

Babich, Hawkes Bay, Chardoonnay, 2004 New Zealand (Unwooded)

For people, looking for the short version, go for it! It's great. For people, who also want reflections on Chardonnay, and a bit of a diatribe, read on.

All people who love wine have a few raw nerves. There are just things in the wine world that iritate us. For me, one of my hot buttons is a blind prejudice against Chardonnay.

I frequently hear people make a blanket pronouncement that they don't like Chardonnay very much -- sometimes they go so far as to say that they actually hate Chardonnay! When I hear that, I get a little bit cross because the assertion fails to recognize so many great wines that are made from this wonderful grape. Encouraging these folks to approach a Montrachet with an open mind is a rather expensive experiment, but it is worth reflecting a little what provoked the prejudice in the first place.

(Some Chardonnay bashers are not even aware that Chardonnay is the only grape used to make Chablis, Montrachet, Meursault, and Pouilly Fuisse. And, of course, it is the only white grape used to make Champagne.)

I am pretty certain that your average Chardonnay hater has only limited exposure to Chardonnay. Typically, they have tasted cheap generic Chardonnay in a pub or a restaurant where Chardonnay is one of the "house wines." Often, this drink, which is sometimes simply called "Chard," is served at the wrong temperature in a horrid glass. And this generic Chard often tastes of oak rather than wine, which might appeal to a woodpecker rather than a wine lover.

As I said the alternatives (Chablis, Montrachet, etc.) are often a bit expensive, but Babich Chardonnay (2004) from Hawkes Bay, New Zealand is a terrific opportunity to really taste the fruit at a reasonable price. This dry wine, which has had no exposure to oak whatsoever, has tastes of crisp apple, melon, and peaches, and it has a nice clean finish. It is very highly recommended.

The Wine Spectator gave this wine only 85 points, with the following comments:

“Tart, with intensity and vibrancy to green banana, green pear, lime peel and honeysuckle flavors that will show best with food. Drink now."
I agree with the "Drink now" bit! (If forced to score this wine, I would have given it 90. And there was no green banana there for me although the citrus bit is on target.)

If you are looking for oak and butter, though, stay away from this wine!

Like a lot of wines from New Zealand, this wine comes with a screwcap. For a Wikipedia article on screwcaps, click here.

I bought this wine at The Iron Bridge Wine Company in Maryland. It was one of their monthly specials in May, and was priced at $12.00 a bottle. (I usually buy a case of their monthly specials, and this gave me a 20% discount.)

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Parking at BWI

It is not often that things get better and cheaper, but this has actually happened with parking at Baltimore Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport. (I think BWI has the longest official name of any airport I know!)

For years, there was parking available very close to the terminals, but the price crept up to $30.00 a day, which seemed too high even when traveling on an expense account. The satellite lots were too far away and, after digging my car out of snow after a winter trip, I began to seek alternatives.

From the Columbia perspective, Columbia Cabs provide service that is only barely acceptable. Previous problems include arriving late, drivers who talk loudly on the cell phone while driving, and drivers who find their credit card facilities are not available despite assurances to the contrary when making the reservation.

Columbia Airport Shuttle has provided me with good service (click here fore a description) although I have used them only when I have traveled out of Dulles Airport (IAD).

But I have recently had two good parking experiences. The first was on a recent business trip to Boston. I was in a hurry, and it was a two-day business trip. I got an on-line coupon here, and was able to park in the hourly lots right next to the terminal for $15.00 a day. These spaces are also sheltered in case you are anticipating snow.

Another experience was a trip where I was paying for myself. I used Econopark Express. (A coupon from this site allows you to park for $5.75 per day; otherwise you pay $6.75.) As soon as I arrived, they told me the exact spot where I could park, and the bus was at that spot ready to whisk me off to the terminal. On the way back, I called their number from my mobile phone. A friendly driver was where I needed him within five minutes, and I was taken back to my car. To make matters even more pleasant, the bus had a cooler full of bottles of water to refresh the weary traveler. Good value and friendly service!

If you want to get to the Econopark lot, and you are traveling on I-195, make a right (Exit 1-B) and go south on Route 170 (Airport Loop). After about one mile, make a left. Follow the signs to the employee parking, and the Econopark lot is just to the right of the employee parking lot. Click here for their directions.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Hotel @ MIT

The bedcover is decorated with physics formulas!
The huge and very comfortable bed
Stylish bathroom!
The Hotel @ MIT seems to really understand that some travelers need to work!

Hotel @ MIT
20 Sidney Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

General Comments

This is a really nice stylish hotel with a modern hi-tech decor. The staff are really helpful, efficient, and welcoming. It creates an MIT theme very effectively. The bedcovers have physics formulas on them.

The Hotel @ MIT is a Doubletree so you get Hilton points and miles if you stay here.


  • Clever decor and use of the MIT theme
  • Really comfortable beds
  • Good bar and restaurant (See review of the Sidney Grille)
  • Internet connectivity (Ethernet and wireless) for free
  • Ability to send print jobs from the room to a printer at the front desk (free)
  • Nice pen! (How many hotels provide nice pens?)
  • Attractive stationery in the room -- MIT-themed cards with transparent envelopes.
  • Excellent work space in the room
  • Good public lounge
  • Good bath robes (dressing gowns)
  • Nice rosemary/mint Aveda shampoo and conditioner
  • Self-service business center with free facilities (photocopier, fax, computers, etc.)
  • The bedcovers -- you can solve formulas as you go to sleep!
  • Some "old fashioned" stuff that was inconsistent with the "hip," modern theme. (A clunky analog thermostat, old bath fixtures, old fashioned television.
  • No body wash -- a hotel of this class should offer liquid soap as well as the solid kind.
  • No mouthwash -- ditto!
  • No on-site pool (but you can use the MIT sports facilities for a fee.)

Stay here if you ever get the chance. It is a really special place.


$204 plus $11.63 State Tax, $8.16 city tax, and $5.61 city tax. A lot of taxes!

Sydney's Grille, Cambridge, MA (Revisited)

After my disappointing meal at the Royal Bengal, I went back to the Hotel @ MIT to have lunch at Sidney's Grille where I had this delicious plate of scallops. The brown bits are portobello mushrooms. I had a very good white bean and chorizo soup to start with.

For my other comments on this very good restaurant, click here.
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Royal Bengal, Cambridge. MA

Royal Bengal
313 Massachusetts, Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02139

This restaurant in the MIT area looked rather intriguing, and there were some good reviews of it. And, the buffet lunch was only $6.95. I went in, and helped myself to the appetizer of pakora and samosas. They were cold, dry, and greasy. So I decided I did not want the rest of the meal. I looked at the other dishes, but they really did not look very nice. I paid my bill and was not even asked if I had enjoyed my meal! A disappointment.

So I wound up going back to the Sidney Grille at Hotel @ MIT.

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Stata Center at MIT

The Stata Center at MIT is wonderful We were told that it was designed to reflect the social habits of baboons!

They do their social stuff on the ground -- the labs and so on are on the lower floors. When they want privacy, they climb. The offices are on the higher floors. Check out the center's website.
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Drinks at the Zephyr Room, Hyatt Hotel, Cambridge, MA

The Zephyr Room at the Hyatt Hotel is a nice place for drinks in the evening in Cambridge.

You can get draft beer ($5.00), some interesting wines, including Beringer Knights Valley ($12.00) by the glass, and all sorts of cocktails.

Also you can sit outside and watch the people doing rowing practice on the river. Posted by Picasa

View of Boston from Cambridge

 Posted by Picasa

Strangers in the Night

Whether it is a Hilton, an Embassy Suites or a Doubletree, there is a new kind of clock radio. It is pretty good and easy to set. It also has one touch tuning and a connection so that you can plug in your MP3 player.

But more than once, I have found that they have stirred me in the middle of the night.

If you are staying, make sure that someone has not set the clock. And, if you have that kind of sense of humor, set the clock for the next occupant!
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Wednesday, May 17, 2006

50 Hampshire Street
Cambridge, MA 02139
617 621 6991
FaxL 617 621 6992

For a Google map, click here.

This is a superb Portuguese restaurant. It serves mainly seafood in an authentic Portuguese style. I had a cataplana ($16.95), which is a dish consisting of mussels, shrimp, clams, onions, red pepper, prosciutto, and linguica sausage steamed and served in a copper dish (called a cataplana). It was served over jasmine rice. It was freshly cooked and simply delicious. I also appreciated the fact that the shrimps came with their heads on, which is hard to find in the United States.

Very good little black olives were put on the table to start with. They also provided olive oil with herbs and roasted garlic to dip the (passable) bread into. (The bread was not crusty enough. I sometimes wonder whether American restaurateurs fear that their customers will sue them if they break their teeth of crusty bread. Hence, the floppy dough!)

The wine was a dry Muscat from Joao Pires, and excellent value at $25.00.

Other dishes at this restaurant included Bacalhau de Cebolada (baked dry salt cod with caremelized onion and roasted peppers) ($15.95), Galinha a Verde (14.95) (Boneless breast of chicken cooked in Vinho Verde with artichokes and roasted peppers), and Caldeirado de Marisco ($24.95) (Seafood stew).

The service was attentive and friendly. I would definitely return to this highly recommended restaurant.

Sydney Grille, Hotel @ MIT, Cambridge, MA

Very rare tuna with fennel and roasted tomatoes
The Sydney Grille has an interesting, modern, hi tech design

Sydney Grille
Hotel @ MIT
20 Sidney Street
Cambridge, MA 02139

For a Google map, click here.

This is a nice stylish place for lunch. The food is well cooked, fairly imaginative, and the setting in this hotel with a hi-tech MIT theme is nice. I had Skillet Roasted Rare Tuna ($15.50), which was served with braised fennel, roasted tomato, and a good crisp salad with small olives. Other lunch dishes included Peppered Strip Steak ($13.00), Spiced Maine Scallops ($14.00), and Grilled Atlantic Salmon ($13.00). They also have salads, including a Maine Lobster Sandwich ($17.00). I had sparkling water with my lunch, but there is a good choice of beer on tap.

Recommended if you are in the area or staying in the hotel, but not worth crossing town to eat here.

Flight Report: Baltimore (BWI) to Philadelphia (PHL) on USAirways Express

Embraer 140/145 at BWI
Baltimore Airport (BWI) shortly after take off
Baltimore's Inner Harbor
A farm in Pennsylavania
Final approach into Philadelphia (PHL)

Flight US 3042 Operated by: Chautauqua
Baltimore (BWI) to Philadelphia (PHL)
Depart: May 17 2006 at 09:30 PM (local time)
Arrive: May 17 2006 at 10:20 PM (local time)

This was a pleasant and punctual flight on an Embraer 140/145. I sat in Seat 5A, which is nice -- a window and aisle seat as this plane has single seats on the left side and pairs on the right. Of course, no drinks, no food, no amenities, but a friendly flight attendant and a clean, modern regional jet.

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Indigo Landing, Alexandria, Virginia

Indigo Landing
1 Marina Drive

Phone: (703) 548-0001

Hours of Operation:
Monday - Thursday: 11:30AM - 10:00PM, Bar Menu until 11:00PM
Friday - Saturday: 11:30AM - 11:00PM, Bar Menu until 12:00AM
Sunday: Brunch 10:00AM - 3:00PM, Dinner 4:00PM - 9:00PM, Bar Menu until 10:00PM

For a map, click here.

Here is a reliable rule when choosing a restaurant. Buy a view or buy good food. Nobody offers both! There are countless restaurants with spectacular views of water and poor food served by surly staff. Now, if you would like to prove me wrong on this point, do exactly what Mr. and Mrs. P did tonight. Take me to Indigo Landing in Alexandria, Virginia. Actually, I still maintain that it is pretty useful rule, but, there are some exceptions. Indigo Landing really breaks the rule. It gave us more pleasure than we have had for a long time!

This new restaurant is on Daingerfield island just south of National Airport (DCA). It is on Daingerfield Island, which is a lovely park with spectacular views of Washington, and, if you like seeing planes coming and going, the setting is perfect. When we arrived, it was still light, and the sun set during dinner.

For readers, who want the view, but not the restaurant, the park is a terrific place to just watch the world go by. And there is also a fast food restaurant that sells food to people who do not want a "fancy dinner." (This would be a perfect restaurant for visitors to Washington, particularly people with a plane to catch since the airport is only about a mile away.)

The "fancy dinner," though, really is a very special experience. The cooking is modern "southern Low Country" with an emphasis on seafood. Although I was tempted by the confit of duck with foie gras and the hangar steak, I felt that I would best sample this restaurant's cooking if I stuck to seafood. Any prejudice that southern cooking is crude and unsubtle should be left at the door!

Our first course was a "tower" of seafood ($65.00), which looked so precarious when it arrived, we suggested that "Seafood Pisa" might be a suitable name for it. It was quite extraordinary. Although $65.00 sounds a lot for an appetizer, the tower left our party of four people wondering whether we would have any room for our main courses. It consists of chilled seafood on plates of ice. It includes crab claws, enormous shrimps, mussels, crab meat wrapped in smoked salmon and lettuce, lobster tails, clams, and oysters on the half shell. The oysters were absolutely perfect, and the three non-oyster eaters in our part all pronounced that they were perfect.

Then we had a baby Boston lettuces with a great dressing, mandarin oranges, and roasted pecan nuts. One of our party ordered the she-crab soup with sherry. It comes with a little roll of crab meat that you are supposed to swirl in the soup. The person in our party, who ordered it, thought it was just a little too rich, but I suspect a little bit of food fatigue after the dazzling seafood tower. I tasted it and it was perfect to my taste!

Then we had the main courses. I had a Fried Skate. The breadcumbs were light, and it was not at all greasy. Two of the others in the party had Grouper, and one of us had Rock Fish, which I tried (and liked very much). All the main courses were in the $21 to $25 range.

After the main course, we all had had more than enough to eat, but that did not stop two of us ordering the marvelous Raspberry Fool ($7.00). I had a Pecan Tart with Bourbon and Vanilla ice cream ($7.00). Indigo Landing also managed to produce a cup of coffee that conforms to my exacting standards! (For a diatribe on that issue, click here.)

Finally, the wine! There was an excellent wine list with a number of interesting and tempting offerings at very fair prices. They even offer Chateau Musar ($85), the unusual and wonderful wine from Lebanon! As our first wine, we had an excellent Chenin Blanc/Viognier blend from Pine Ridge ($29). This wine has very interesting tropical fruit tastes and was served cool but not too cold. Our second wine was an Alamos Viognier from Argentina, which was also very good indeed.

The service was nothing short of outstanding. Everyone was kind, attentive, and knowledgeable. And they knew how to avoid getting in the way. A friendly touch was to change the napkins as soon as we sat down to match our clothes.

This restaurant is highly recommended, and I will certainly return. Next time, I will bring my camera and notebook to provide a more detailed report.