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The Tasting Room, Chef Michael Tauraso on Market and Church Streets in Frederick


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As much as I love this city, last night confirmed for me that the Tasting Room is the only Frederick restaurant worth driving out of one's way. Yes, I still do think a few are worth stopping in for a decent meal if you're in the area, but the Tasting Room may mentally reincarnate 270 as an appreciated conduit instead of that shithole of a parking lot you're used to.

The in-laws visited "Siberia" and treated us to a wonderful meal at the lively and loud fishbowl on the corner of Market and Church Streets. Thank god they were treating, too, because prices have definitely jumped. I just checked the badly outdated online menu this morning and the rack of lamb the web site prices at $33 was an astounding $38 on last night's menu. Nothing else topped $33, but that's still a lot for Frederick. A lot.

We started our meal with drinks that confirmed why the bar is always packed. Besides my four-years-too-late-to-be-hip mojito, the hit was my wife's Pineapple Cosmopolitan that made me check the last frayed corner of my "Guy Card" at the table and order next. For appetizers my wife got a pasta and cauliflower soup with a pleasant broth and my father-in-law and I were to share an order of calamari in a tomato sauce. Why he wanted this, I don't know, because he hates red sauce unless his 97-year-old Italian mother makes it, but he took one bite and offered me the whole plate. It was quite good with very tender calamari and a bread-dipping-worthy sauce, but there was an unmistakable fishy aroma that I'm sure wouldn't be appetizing to some even though it didn't taste fishy.

Entrees included two orders of the special 14 oz. NY strip steak seared perfectly in butter on the outside and a dark-red medium-rare through the rest, a rockfish with rich risotto that was nice and flaky but only as flavorful as rockfish can be, and my M-I-L's crab cakes, which I didn't dare taste, but I've had them in the past and they're quite good but not huge. Service ended with the delivery of the two shared desserts: cr�me brule and the bread pudding, which is made by their sister bakery Proof a couple blocks away. Creamy and seemingly light on everything except calories, both dessert made me glad I'm not participating in the DR fit challenge.

Speaking of service, it wasn't good. Our server was very personable (I've had him before), but he showed us maybe 4 minutes of face time over a 2+ hour dinner. As my M-I-L said, we'd have been impatiently angry if we weren't drinking.

Definitely a pleasant overall experience since I didn't have to field the check. The in-laws are welcome to visit anytime.

Pax,
Brian

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Last night, I seem to have had much the same experience as Brian six months ago. Our server was pleasant, but we only saw her when there were orders to take or food to deliver. (Though the bussers kept plates cleared and water/soft drinks filled)

Our party of 6 had the "private" room in the back, which was thankfully quieter than the deafening main room. The drawback is that there's no circulation; two portable fans worked at that problem. It's also right next to the restrooms, which means we got a curious onlooker whenever a line developed.

My wife's order of LOBSTER CHOWDER (maine lobster, roasted corn, amontillado sherry) was definitely the winner of the night. Seemed to be about 1/3 heavy cream, 1/3 sherry, and 1/3 lobster. I would almost go back for this dish alone. I had the SAUTEED FRESH CALAMARI (san marzano tomatoes, garlic, crushed red pepper). Nice, nothing special. The plate looked huge, but once you looked closely, there was an enormous piece of soggy bread in the middle of the plate, and the calamari and sauce were poured over that. All of a sudden, there wasn't that much calamari there for $9, and I never noticed any spice from the peppers. Other apps at the table that I didn't taste include the Farmers Tomato Salad, and Caesar Salad. Reports seemed to indicate unripe tomatoes, a crime against humanity in August, and a very odd presentation of the Caesar salad (barely any dressing, tons of shredded cheese, a hardboiled egg in the middle of the plate, and a large stack of anchovies on the side.)

For mains, my wife had the DRY PACK SEA SCALLOPS (crisy artichokes, saffron, tomatoes, smoked bacon). The four scallops were huge, perfectly cooked, and delicious. I didn't notice much saffron, but the plate was swimming in an astringent sauce that didn't add to the dish, nor did it stick to the scallops, so at the end you had a plate full of sauce that didn't have much appeal for dipping the rather good bread from the basket in. I had the MILK-FED VEAL TENDERLOIN (oven roasted, parmesan/mushroom risotto, red wine sauce). The meat was cooked to the requested medium-rare, but they forgot to add the taste - pretty bland. The wine reduction helped, and the risotto was fine, though I didn't get much parmesan taste coming through. We also had a side of AU GRATIN POTATOES (gruyere cheese, parmesan, cream) which needed another minute under the broiler to get the crust on the top, but were otherwise very good (missing the note of parmesan, again). Other mains at the table included the Rib Pork Chop Milanese and the "Kobe Style" Berkshire Pork Loin, which, apart from the ridiculous name, sounded like it was very well liked by it's orderer.

For dessert, my wife had the Lemon Cheesecake, which had no taste of lemon whatsoever, and a soggy crust. I had the Chocolate Slab or whatever they call it, which was fine.

Total for 2 apps, 2 entrees, 1 side, 2 desserts, 1 soft drink, 1 coffee, and 1 glass of wine, before tax and tip, $105. I was hoping this experience would remind me of why I go to LE MANNEQUIN PIS in Olney: downtown DC food at suburb prices. Unfortunately, I got suburban food at DC prices. Unless I'm already in Frederick, and just going to have a bowl of that fabulous lobster chowder at the bar, I probably won't make the 30 minute drive again.

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My wife, son, and I had lunch at the Tasting Room about a month ago and were quite impressed. The appetizers were uniformly good, the country pate came with a fantastic rustic mustard that was to die for, the sauteed calimari was tender and served in a very tasty tomato sauce, and the salad that my wife had was perfectly dressed.For entrees my son had the power sandwich, a perfectly cooked filet on a potato roll. He asked for it rare and it came rare. I had the fish and chips. It was the finest fried fish I've had in a long time and the fries were fantastic as was the tartar sauce. My wife had the sauteed salmon in the chili orange sauce and said that she wished that every piece of salmon was so well prepared.For dessert I had the lemon Ricotta cheese cake, my son the mango cake, and my wife asked if she could have the triple espresso icecream alone instead of with the brownie. All were fantastic, but the ice cream was killer.Service was friendly, efficient, and not at all obtrusive. It is a pretty room and we had a nice table at the windows but shaded enough to be comfortable. Everything was beautifuly plated and presented.The only complaint I have was that the wine list, which was fairly extensive and well priced, if nothing spectacular, did not have any vintage dates on it. I can understand no vintage dates on a website, but not on the actual wine list. We did end up with a very nice Pinot Grigio for $30 that went very well with the meal on a hot day.We will definitely go again the next time we are in Frederick.

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The wife and I went to the Tasting Room a few Saturdays ago. It was a good thing that we made reservations as the place was packed. The service could've been better, but the food made up for it. I had the pork loin, described on the menu as "Kobe Style." I'm not exactly sure what in the hell "Kobe Style" is, but it was very good. On top of it was a spicy corn cake that was crispy on the outside and creamy in the center. The sauce that came with it balanced everything out nicely. My wife had the filet mignon. It was nice, no Ray's, but nice.

Aside from the somewhat spotty service, the only other negative thing that I could think of was that the bar was right behind us and it contributed significantly to the amped-up noise level. That being said, we'd go again, but probably at an earlier hour when things are a bit more subdued.

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One of the things that I like about myself is that I really have little desire to go to the same place more than once. The way that I look at it, there are SO many places out there to check out, I want to see what they have to offer before I head back to a place that I have already enjoyed/hated. At the same time, in certain situations, like when you are in Frederick for two weeks, it can be a BIG fault to have.

I put off going to The Tasting Room last week because I wanted to see what Frederick had to offer. But, after bad experiences at both Isabella's and That Cuban Place, I had to go to The Tasting Room on Monday night to see if there was, in fact, a good place to eat in Frederick. And, as everyone else has said on this board, this restaurant is simply the best in Frederick, hands down, it is not even close.

The space is cool, not too trendy, still comfortable. I love the Todd White pictures that adorn the wall, although I found it funny that neither the bartender or the manager/host had any clue who Todd White was. Hey, if he is the only artist that your restaurant displays, you may want to find out who the guy is. Anyway, the place is loud, even on a Monday night when it is 2/3 full, I can't imagine what it is like on a Friday or Saturday night, but since I was simply reading a book, no huge deal to me.

The food was solid. I won't say that it is excellent, but it is light years ahead of its competition here. The country pate was a good thing to starter and the oysters au gratin was another rich dish, in a different sort of way, that played out well. I skipped an entree and went straight to dessert, a very chocolatey brownie served with espresso ice cream, cocoa krispies and some chocolate sauce. It was a decadent dessert, exactly what I wanted, but difficult to eat in a martini glass. I had three glasses of wine, two reds and a dessert wine, all of them hit the spot. The three dishes and three glasses of wine ended up being $65 with tax and tip, well worth it for my first positive Frederick dining experience.

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A few snacks at The Tasting Room this weekend reminded me that I'd be here fairly often if I lived in Frederick. It's a lively atmosphere with decent food, and the wines by the glass are thoughtfully selected, well-poured in good stemware, and worth your attention.

The Bruschetta ($8) was not something I'd order again. Four large pieces, lazily served stacked on top of each other on a tiny plate, the grilled garlic Italian bread was slathered with eggplant, goat cheese, oven-cured tomatoes, and way, way too much balsamic reduction, making for an ugly experience, both on the palate (which tasted predominantly of balsamic), and on the hands if you're inclined to eat them without a knife and fork.

Fresh Sauteed Calamari ($11) was a good, hearty bowl of mostly white meat, slathered with a rustic tomato-wine sauce all over a garlicky bread, made soft by the stew-like components ladled on top. I would happily order this again, but next time I'll be more careful about front-loading my meal with bread (after the bread basket, and the bruschetta, this was the third bread-rich dish in a row).

A half portion of Baked Seafood Macaroni ($14.50) was my dish of the night, with tiny striated cubes of dried pasta (not sure of the cut) gloriously browned and mixed in with a meaningful amount of shrimp, scallop, lobster, and crab meat, the whole casserole bathed in just the right amount of bisque-like sherry cream. There was nothing fancy here, but this was a good rendition of a dish that's easy to ruin.

Cheers,

Rocks.

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The New York Times discovers Frederick. (Guess it's time to update this thread after 5.5 years!)

Interesting that The Tasting Room isn't mentioned in this article. Has it gone downhill? The Tasting Room specific thread doesn't have a review beyond Don's back in 2009.

I'm hoping to eat out in Frederick one night next week. I figured I'd head to Volt, but I'd be much more likely to do that if my timing weren't off by one week (finale of Top Chef Masters this week) and since I've been there, I'm thinking maybe best to explore something new. Tasting Room makes the short list, but I'm also thinking about Shab Row and Wine Kitchen. Thoughts? The Wine Kitchen thread also doesn't have anything recent relevant to the Frederick location.

I will be dining alone so a friendlier bar atmosphere might pull me one way or the other. Or if the weather cooperates, Volt patio is still on the list.

Eh, nevermind, I'm going to WK. I'm not feeling the fancier/spendier stuff this time. :P

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Nice piece Rochelle!

And I'm particularly curious about this: "Priced at $29, the duck breast lacked �lan in its seasoning...."

�lan sounds like a cross between a Russian Zil and a Lotus Elan. What is this rare and expensive ingredient? smile.gif

Cheers,

Rocks.

I hate these God damned black diamonds.

Does anyone remember what this post said? The link is broken.

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It's probably "elan" with an accent.  Mismatches in character sets ususally trace back to special characters.

I thought so too until I saw my joke; I don't think I would have used Zil in that situation. It had to be something infinitely more clever. :lol:

My guess (based on the way I think) is that it was supposed to be élan, but was a typo that said ´zlan (with the accent over the z).

Here's the article.  But it doesn't solve the mystery of the lan.

The ironic thing is that the Frederick News-Post article has a special-character translation problem also - look at the first sentence in the penultimate paragraph. That's why "lan" shows up as it does, too.

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Pretense or correctness? I vote the latter. Personally, I take the time to write José Andrés out of a gesture of respect for his name and the language.

I spent several hours on this little piece of pretense.

The errors in the link come from the use of "smart quotes," not the use of accents that don't appear in American English.  But the smart quotes indicate that you used a word processor to compose those posts, which, if not pretentious, is at least mildly weenieish.  ;)  As for the accents in Mr. Andres' name (see what I did there?), that shouldn't be a terribly big deal because he never gets any press.  :D

I am, of course, kidding in all of this.  We could try to run a converter, but I'm afraid it might massively screw things up.  Anyway, we are wildly off-topic.

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The errors in the link come from the use of "smart quotes," not the use of accents that don't appear in American English.  But the smart quotes indicate that you used a word processor to compose those posts, which, if not pretentious, is at least mildly weenieish.  ;)  As for the accents in Mr. Andres' name (see what I did there?), that shouldn't be a terribly big deal because he never gets any press.  :D

I am, of course, kidding in all of this.  We could try to run a converter, but I'm afraid it might massively screw things up.  Anyway, we are wildly off-topic.

Before the AutoSave feature, there was a very real danger of people losing their work if they hit the wrong button - it happened a *lot*!

I've never called José "Mr." and never will. I did call him hombre once and he laughed. :)

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My wife and I were running some errands in the Frederick area yesterday, and decided to have lunch at the Tasting Room.  We had heard some good things about it, but had never been there. A sign outside said that they had a three course lunch special for $18; we both tried that.

I started with the Cauliflower Soup, which was described as "roasted cauliflower, romano cheese, ditalini pasta, hot pepper flakes."   There was a little more pepper in it than I expected; it really had a zing to it.  But it was delicious.

For the second course I selected a chicken salad.  This dish was a salad of lettuce with pieces of cucumber, carrots, and bell peppers.   On top of the salad were five or six strips of chicken flavored with sesame oil and sesame seeds (among other things).   I thought this was very good.

For my third dish I had flourless chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream. I am not a big fan of flourless cake, but this had a nice chocolate flavor, and when eaten with a bit of the ice cream was a very nice desert.

Finally, I ordered a cup of coffee to go with the desert.  This was the only disappointment of the meal; it was lukewarm, at best. (I've had this happen several times at nice restaurants; I really don't understand why.  They have no trouble doing the work involved in a fancy meal, but can't get coffee hot?)

The total bill, including the coffee and tax, was about $40 for the two of us.  We had no complaints about the service.  A very nice lunch for a quite reasonable price.

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