What Charmin Bears Love: Food|Dogs|Sephora

Our foodie instincts take over when we're out and about.

Rockville, Maryland: March 27

The Original Pancake House @ 12224 Rockville Pike

There are three locations for TOPH. The one I visited for a Sunday morning brunch was at the Rockville location. The other two locations are in Falls Church and Bethesda, MD. The wait was ridiculously long. We originally had 8 people. Some were late, some couldn’t make it after a weekend of hardcore partying. My only gripe was that patrons could only be seated til all guests arrived. Five of us ended up eating after an hour of waiting. In comparison to the other chain diners like IHOP or Denny’s, this diner itself was very small with a main dining area and a smaller back dining area. Make sure you’re here early or be prepared to wait with a sea of people.

Original Pancake House - Buttermilk Pancakes

Original Pancake House - Buttermilk Pancakes

These buttermilk pancakes were scrumptious. It was soft and fluffy. The maple syrup added a nice sweet touch to the pancakes. Skip the butter! I don’t think it’s necessary. Definitely a must try because it’s what the TOPH is known for. The menu offers other varieties from sweet to savory, from crepes to full dinner meals.

Original Pancake House - Eggs Benedict

Original Pancake House - Eggs Benedict

The eggs benedict was a disappointment. I’ve definitely had better. The hollandaise sauce was too thick and lacked any kind of flavor. I just ended up eating the eggs and Canadian ham. I thought the english muffin was mediocre. It wasn’t soft but more on the hard side (kinda like eating old bread). The hash browns on the other hand was wicked good because it was done right. Crunchy and soft with a nice texture. It’s a successful recipe for hash browns.

Would I come here again? Yes, to probably try the apple pancakes (as recommended by our waitress) and maybe the crepes since they were a specialty on the menu. However, I wouldn’t pass up the opportunity to try the other popular diners around the area.

– Charmin Bear J

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Gaithersburg, Maryland: March 26

Pho Nam Restaurant @ 15942 Shady Grove Rd

Saturday morning seemed ideal for a light lunch before we went to see the Cherry Blossoms in the Capitol. I’ve been to many pho places in my lifetime and sadly, Pho Nam didn’t make it to the top of the list. This place takes only cash (Bank of America is right next door) and you pay at the front.

Pho Nam - Sliced Beef and Meatballs Pho

Pho Nam - Sliced Beef and Meatballs Pho

Overall, the soup was mediocre. The portion size is on the smaller end for a bowl of pho. It costs 6 dollars! I’ve eaten bigger bowls of noodle soups for around 4-5 dollars. Their Vietnamese style coffee didn’t even fill to the top and it cost around 2 dollars. Service was horrendous. Water was not filled until we asked. The server wanted to skip me while everyone else at my table already ordered because there were people waiting at the door. Then he gave me the excuse – “Oh, there’s other people waiting.” Well, you know what, too bad! We waited for our turn to order as well. I ordered meatballs with sliced beef flanks. The sliced beef was hard in texture. Overcooked? because it wasn’t raw when it came out of the kitchen. So disappointed.

Unfortunately, I will not be returning because it’s not worth it for the price or service. There are other pho places around Rockville that I could check out next time.

– Charmin Bear J

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Washington D.C.: March 26

Captain White’s Seafood City @ 1100 Maine Ave SW

On our way to the Tidal Basin where the Cherry Blossoms grew, there were a large number of fresh seafood markets. The aroma of fresh seafood is intoxicating to some, but not me. Here, you can find a range from crayfish to clams, raw or cooked. After our surprise stumble upon this “seafood city” we waited in line to order fresh clams and oysters as well as chowders and gumbos.

Captain White - Fresh Clams and Oysters

Captain White - Fresh Clams and Oysters

Terry had half a dozen each of fresh oysters and clams, all shucked in front of you. I initially didn’t want to try any of the shellfish. The texture is very off-putting for me. But I thought, might as well try it :) For my first time, I had fresh oysters and clams. I still feel the same about the texture. The freshly-squeezed lemon juice and cocktail sauce did help mask the ocean smell.

Captain White - Seafood Gumbo

Captain White - Seafood Gumbo

Ordered a seafood gumbo since I didn’t want to spoil the night’s dinner. Broth was good. You can taste the seafood because they included fresh mussels, shrimps, and squid. I added the crackers for texture.

Paper Moon @ 1069 31st St NW (between N Canal St & Blues Aly)

I was looking to end my DC trip with a great Italian meal. Instead, I wasted money here at Paper Moon.

First of all, how does the name Paper Moon not confuse people? It is a very Asian-sounding name. Second, Yelp is pretty accurate with its rating system. Two and a half stars, but we still ended up going because there was no wait for dinner. I knew it was a bad idea. We were seated promptly. No one came to acknowledge our existence until we flagged someone down. We got our bread literally 5 minutes before our meals came. Sigh!

Paper Moon - Fried Ravioli

Paper Moon - Fried Ravioli

The fried meat raviolis were an appetizer. It tasted like it came out of a frozen bag. Hard on the outside, nothing substantial on the inside.

Paper Moon - Scallop Pasta

Paper Moon - Scallop Pasta

So, I thought the scallop pasta would of been better. Boy was I wrong. Again, the scallops were perfect bite sized pieces, that resembled frozen scallops out of a bag. Pasta sauce was bland and presentation also lacked any creativity. One word: FAILED.

Next time, I will do my research ahead of time and trust my instincts.

– Charmin Bear J

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Annandale, Virginia: March 25

Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill @ 7220 Columbia Pike Ste C

I remember my friends Connor and Josh bringing me here to Honey Pig on my first trip to DC/Metro area. I didn’t get a chance to take alot of pictures last time, but I knew that I had to return to this awesome place with a camera ready! This time around, we had like 12 people gathered. Beware of a long long wait time. We waited for a table for more than an hour. It’s a very popular Korean BBQ restaurant! I even contemplated buying a Honey Pig t-shirt as I waited. With a hungry belly and chopsticks ready, our meal was completed with bottles and bottles of soju. From the steamed eggs to the staple kimchi dish, there were so many side dishes (banchan) I couldn’t keep track! Service wasn’t too bad. They are probably use to catering to loud, crazy and drunk guests.

Honey Pig - Soondubu Jjigae

Honey Pig - Soondubu Jjigae

To my surprise, the Soondubu Jiigae was spicy! I love how it had alot of broth, vermicelli noodles, pork belly, kimchi, and tofu! We didn’t get to finish the soup, so that went out in a doggie bag.

Honey Pig - Marinated Beef

Honey Pig - Marinated Beef

Oh, the marinated kalbi, it’s the must order dish at any Korean BBQ joint. Beef was cut to a good size and marinade was good. You really can’t go wrong with a quality cut piece of meat and a grill in front of you.

Honey Pig - Spicy Pork Belly

Honey Pig - Spicy Pork Belly

What they are known for here is their marinated pork belly. Absolutely delicious! Not overly spicy or salty. Pork belly wasn’t too thin or too thick. The portion size and length of each strip was well above the amount I can normally eat. So it’s a great dish to share.

If I ever hit up DC again, I’m definitely going back to Honey Pig :)

– Charmin Bear J

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D.C. Cupcakes Quest

Georgetown Cupcakes @ 4834 Bethesda Avenue Bethesda, MD

With all this hype surrounding cupcakes – especially in DC, I knew I had to find out for myself how the cupcakes are. However, I am NOT willing to sacrifice 2-3 hours of my time, waiting for dinky little overpriced cupcakes from Georgetown Cupcakes. My friend Allison took me to their second location in Bethesda, Maryland instead. The store itself was small and very girly. Pinks, reds, white. Very clean. The variety of cupcakes on display was the main attraction for me. I was in awe to how pretty they were. We didn’t have to wait long, around 20 minutes and we were inside. Price-wise. Super expensive. $2.75 each | $15 half dozen | $29 dozen (I bought half a dozen. Crazy? Yes, I know!)

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

Georgetown Cupcakes

I’m using some of their descriptions on the website. It’s a beautiful website and it matches their brand. :)

Coconut
The vanilla cupcake had a vanilla cream cheese frosting capped with a cloud of shredded coconut. I love this cupcake! The frosting in general maybe really sweet for some, but I like the usage of coconut on the outside and inside. Coconut galore! I only wish the top was had toasted coconut instead.

Mint Chocolate Chip
This cupcake is made with Valrhona chocolate with a mint frosting topped with a chocolate crumbles. Valrhona is a french chocolate, similar in price range to Godiva. I had a lito bit of the frosting. Taste like mint, but I’m not a fan, but the cake itself was moist.

Peanut Butter and Chocolate
Their classic pb and chocolate cupcake also uses Valrhona chocolate and is baked with peanut butter chips. Topped with a peanut butter frosting and a chocolate ganache drizzle makes this a delicious treat to those who like the flavor combo pb and chocolate.

Vanilla
I believe if you can successfully make the classic vanilla cupcake, you’ve got something special! The classic madagascar bourbon vanilla cupcake has a vanilla cream cheese frosting on top with a pink fondant flower. I really liked this cupcake too. The cream cheese frosting had the perfect amount of sweetness and tartness.

Chocolate Ganache
This shiny ganached cupcake is to fight for! Soft, sweet and double chocolaty. It is a Valrhona chocolate cupcake with a thin layer of Callebaut chocolate ganache icing topped with a green fondant flower. Callebaut chocolate is made in Belgium, another expensive chocolate reserved for professional chocolatiers and consumers. No wonder why these cupcakes are expensive for its size :(

Red Velvet
Ah, saving the best for last. The classic red velvet cupcake here is absolutely a must-try. Super sweet! It has a vanilla cream cheese frosting topped with a red fondant heart. I remember eating this on my way home from a long night out.

When I went to see how long the wait time was for the original flagship store in Georgetown, the line wrapped around the block. Amazing what people are willing to do just for a small morsel of sweetness.

Baked and Wired @ 1052 Thomas Jefferson Street NW Washington, DC

Tucked away on a side street in Georgetown, one would never know that this place existed unless you saw people carrying bags or by word of mouth. Baked and Wired is a gem! I love how the place offers pastries, a lounge, specialty beverages, and a very relax vibe. No wonder why so many people lined up here. The price is even more expensive than Georgetown. I believe it was $3.25 each and they didn’t sell by the dozen. I still bought half a dozen to sample! I like to share :)

Baked and Wired

Baked and Wired

Baked and Wired - Hot Chocolate

Baked and Wired - Hot Chocolate

I actually had to pull out my charger since my phone died and they didn’t say anything as I stood there, sipping my delicious hot chocolate. Their whipped cream is made from scratch and had lito bits of chocolate bits sprinkled on top. It wasn’t too sweet or too bitter, perfect on a chilly afternoon.

Baked and Wired Cupcakes

Baked and Wired Cupcakes

Strawberry Cupcake
The bestseller there, so I had to get it! Vanilla cake with fresh strawberries folded in the batter finished with a swirl of pink buttercream. Absolutely understand why it was delicious. Cake was moist. Frosting was creamy. The best part was the fresh strawberries. My mouth is watering just thinking about this cupcake.

Mocha
Chocolate cake with a mocha buttercream. Very yummy as well. Can’t go wrong with double chocolates.

Carrot Cake
This moist carrot-flecked cake had an even balance of spices and crunchy pecans. No raisins. Their cream cheese frosting was sweet, tangy, and perfect for this cupcake. This was one of my favorites!

Coconut
The version here was not as delicious as Georgetown’s. It was a plain vanilla cupcake and vanilla buttercream topped with shredded coconut. Not enough coconut! It was overly sweet so I didn’t even eat alot of the frosting. Major disappointment here.

Red Velvet
A little chocolate, a little vanilla, and lots of deep red food coloring in the batter. This classic cupcake was topped with a heap of cream cheese frosting. This red velvet was moist and flavorful. A must try again!

Menage-a-trois
The name got my attention. I had to order this cupcake to see how good it was. This cupcake was one of my favorite! It is made with a chocolate cake with cream cheese icing and a raspberry filling. I love the raspberries addition to the cake, because it gave it a different texture and more moisture.

There was also another cupcake place I didn’t get to try. Sprinkles Cupcakes, the first cupcake bakery to be established in America. The line was at least an hour long. Next time when I visit DC, I’m going to Sprinkles first. Besides cupcakes, I went to DC to see the Cherry Blossoms Festival for the first time this year. I visited a week too soon because most of the buds were still white and not yet pink. However, it was still a beautiful sight, will all the cherry blossoms around the lake.

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival

Cherry Blossom Festival

– Charmin Bear J

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Washington D.C.: January 8-10

Blue Moon Cafe @ 1621 Aliceanna St. Baltimore, MD

My Mandarin “Fudao” or tutor from Bei Wai has been a visiting student at UC Berkeley for a year. Before she leaves America, she wanted to visit Washington DC. One of my friends, Connor had kindly offered his place for us to stay and to be the tour guide for the weekend. When we arrived in Baltimore on Friday morning, we had breakfast at the Blue Moon Cafe. This restaurant is famous for their Cap’n Crunch French Toast..need I say more? Whipped cream, fresh strawberries and blueberries are stacked on top of 2 thick pieces of mouth watering French toast.

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Cap'n Crunch French Toast

Whenever I head out for breakfast, I usually look for Eggs Benedict on the menu because I love poached eggs. Naturally, I ordered the Crab and Canadian Ham Eggs Benedict with side of home fries. The hollandaise sauce was creamy and the eggs were poached perfectly. I was disappointed in the side of home fries. It was overly fried and bland. Overall, we had a 15 minute wait time and we sat near the door. It kept opening and closing, letting in the cold winter chill along with it. Service was ok since our server could have been more attentive. For a small 10 table cafe, the servers looked busier than need be.

Crab and Canadian Ham Eggs Benedict

Crab and Canadian Ham Eggs Benedict

Honey Pig Gooldaegee Korean Grill @ 7220-C Columbia Pike Annandale, VA
For dinner, Connor drove us to the best Korean bbq he knew. The wait was about 45 minutes and well worth it. One of their more popular meat dish is the fresh pork belly, so we had to try it. We ordered a plate of beef short ribs and jap chae noodles as well. Once the meat started to grill, the aromas tickled our noses. Servers were fast and attentive as they came quickly with the standard appetizers and beer. With Korean bbq, I usually spread duenjiang paste (fermented soybean) over a grilled piece of meat and eat it with lettuce over rice. Simple yet so good with every bite. The pork belly was grilled to perfection as the servers took care of the grilling for us. It was so good, Connor wanted to order a second round. I’m just disappointed I didn’t take enough pictures of our meal!

Honey Pig BBQ

Honey Pig BBQ

La Tasca @ 722 7th Street NW Washington, DC
Located in Chinatown, La Tasca specialize in tapas. I was introduced to my first tapas dinner experience in DC and I’ve been hooked since! We ordered a sampling menu that came with eight different dishes. Pictures below are courtesy of Josh Seo since I didn’t have my camera.

Tapas #1: Pollo al Ajillo – Bone-in chicken roasted in a garlic sauce. Delicious. I called the chicken leg! Meat wasn’t dry at all.

Pollo al Ajillo

Pollo al Ajillo

Tapas #2: Chuletitas de Cordero – Grilled lamb chops in a peppercorn sauce. I’m not usually a big fan of lamb, but I had to try it since there was a creamy peppercorn sauce.

Chuletitas de Cordero

Chuletitas de Cordero

Tapas #3: Ensalada Manzana – Apple slices with tetilla cheese and quince. This dish was ok. To me, it’s just apples and cheese, nothing spectacular.

Ensalada Manzana

Ensalada Manzana

Tapas #4: Esparragos – Grilled fresh asparagus and sea salt. Yummy! It’s was grilled just right as the asparagus was still crunchy. Even though it was a simple dish, I would order it again since it was done right.

Esparragos

Esparragos

Tapas #5: Solomillo de Buey – Grilled beef tenderloin and blue cheese. I love beef of all cuts, but I hate the taste and smell of blue cheese. For the dish itself, it was a good match. The beef was not over cooked and was very tender.

Solomillo de Buey

Solomillo de Buey

Tapas #6: Patatas Bravas – Deep fried potatoes with a spicy sauce. This dish was bland. Spicy sauce was mild. Potatoes wasn’t even that flavorful. To me, this wasn’t anything amazing for my palette.

Patatas Bravas

Patatas Bravas

Tapas #7: Gambas al Ajillo Shrimp – Sautéed in olive oil and garlic. By far the most flavorful dish, probably because it was bathing in a skillet of olive oil :) I appreciate those who takes their time to de-vein and de-shell shrimps. It makes my dining experience that much better.

Gambas al Ajillo Shrimp

Gambas al Ajillo Shrimp

Tapas #8: Salmon a la Plancha – Grilled salmon, spinach and fried mussels. Presentation wasn’t so pretty. The spinach leaves hid the beautifully grilled salmon, but it was nonetheless tasty. The fried mussels added a different texture to the dish as well.

Salmon a la Plancha

Salmon a la Plancha

Overall, I would choose another tapas place to try next time. Their dishes were a hit or miss for the amount and price. Servers were not as attentive because we had to ask them to refill our water glasses. However, the restaurant’s decor was fitting for what they served.

– Charmin Bear J

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