Monday, February 23, 2009

The Marinara Has Moved

I finally did it. I bought my own domain and tried WordPress. If you want to follow The House of Marinara, please update your link to

Look forward to seeing you on the other side.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Places I Like: Mary Angela's

I grew up in NY State and pizza in NY State equates to large slice of thin pizza that can be folded in half. So while I can appreciate other styles of pizza, my default will always be that NY style slice. For my money, that is no better replicated than at Mary Angela's in Carytown.

Mary Angela's is a typical 70's style pizza shop with the cramped booths, painted Italian murals on the wall, and Italian on the tv. Its location in carytown gives it a good dose of foot traffic, and it always seems to be crowded. That being said, I live close by and I frequent it through the perverbial take out. They have delivery, but most people say that it takes too long to get the pies and they are often too soggy by the time they arrive.

Truth is that I am very boring when I order from there. I always order the 18" x-large pie. This is key for slice folding (see ablove). As for toppings- pepperoni or sauage, sometimes onions. sometimes basil. The final product is a crispy-brown crust, gooey-salty cheese and perfection in the mouth.

It tastes amazing, the product is consistant and that is why I will continue to order from there.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Brock's Bar-B-Que: It has a buffet?

I have heard about Brock's BBQ for years. It's a bit hazy whether it was from radio advertising or actual people. So yesterday when I was driving down RT 10 in Chesterfield yesterday at lunchtime, I deceded I should stop by for a quick bite.

The first thing I noticed was the big neon BUFFET sign. I was in a bit of a hurry so I figured I'd try it and really a buffet tells me a lot about a restaurant. I ordered my sweet tea and headed up to the buffet. I piled up some minced pork and then went through the remainder of the buffet. I was in shock. I could be wrong but it felt like it was an advertisement for Sysco foods. We had fajitas with looked to be pre-cooked fajita style chicken. There was the preformed country-fried steak with the the runny country gravy. The salad bar seemed average. The veggies looked straight out of the freezer or can. There was the mixed veggies, spinach (or turnip greens), baked beans, etc. Maybe it was too late in the afternoon, but they just didn't look that appealing. 

I tried a few things and most everything was average at best. The exception was the minced pork bbq. That was actually very good. I believe it was NC style. There was a not a lot of reddish color in the meat that I ate, but there was a nice subtle smoke flavor. I then slathered the stuff with the vinegar based sauce. It was that perfect mix of sweet, spice, and vinegar. I ended up dousing the vegetables in the sauce because it was that good. 

I'm not sure how often I will go out of my way to go to Brock's, but I will definitly not be opposed to stopping there again. I just will make sure to stick with stuff ordered directly from the menu as opposed to risking the buffet. In my humble opinion, they would do much better with a much smaller buffet with a few dishes that are done very well. I do realize that I am not their average customer, and they have seemed to have done well enough without me.  

Friday, January 30, 2009

Places I Like: Mamma Zu'

In honor of WhineMeDineMe's post title old school eats, I have decided to start a series on the restuarants I love to frequest in Richmond.

So Mamma Zu'. Most of you have already formed your opinion on the matter. Overhyped. Rude. Grungy. Wonderful. And in many ways, everything I have heard about the place is correct. It's all about what is important to you. 

I personally am a fan of great food and consistency. And those are two qualities found at Mamma Zu'. The great food is rarely argued. Whether its the white pizza (we call it "crack"), eggplant parm, penne all'Amatriciana, penne with gorgonzola, orrechietti, spaghetti carbonara, soft shell crabs, sweet breads, broccoletti, ossobuco, or white beans, it all rocks. I love it. I crave it. The only time people are disappointed when they eat the food is when then settle for plain old stuff- sausage and marinara sauce. It's not that it tastes bad, it is that everyone else has amazing food around them. And then when you finish the amazing meal, you are obligated to order the best Tiramisu in VA. So yes, I love the food and I generally eat way too much.

Now, the consistency is also present at Mamma Zu’. Some argue that they are consistently rude and provide consistently poor service. Rudeness… I can see that. The service isn’t bad. It’s hurried and rushed, but it’s what I would expect in a place that is that busy. The rudeness is usually focused on the maître d’. I often wonder if he is one of the more infamous people in Richmond. He is tough, he is stubborn, and he instills fear in the hearts of those who want to eat. The thing is that he actually seems like a nice guy, but he has to run a tight ship to keep the restaurant humming. So the key to Mamma Zu' is knowing the rules. 
1) All members of the party must be present. Don't bother even asking if they aren't. 
2) Get on the list. Wait your turn. Don't ask again. You are on the list. Don’t worry. Relax. Resist the urge. Don’t do it.  
3) Reservations are kind of helpful but then it gets all confusing with "family style." Take the large groups to Edo's.
4) Try to get to Mamma Zu' by 6 PM or just resign yourself to a long wait.
Once you come to grip with the rules, you will have a much better experience because you can spend your time appreciating the food rather than trying to fight the man. 

One important note- they only take Amex, local checks and cash. 

Friday, January 23, 2009

When it can't be sunny on Philly

I am enamored with cheese steaks. Gooey cheese, soft rolls, mushy onions, crispy beef- heaven.

I do my best to grab at least one of the magnificent creations each time I pass through the City of Brotherly Love. Those times are few and far between so I have to find a way to make due. Yesterday, I came close to recreating the cheese steak. NOTE_ I am not so vain to think that I could actually compete with the likes of Tony Luke's, Pat's, Geno's or Jim's.

The Cheese- Cheese steaks are to be made with Provolone or Cheese Whiz. I tend to prefer the Whiz over the Provolone, but I could not find proper Cheese Whiz at Ukrops or the drug store. I had to settle for Kraft singles. They melt well but lacks in true meat penetration.

The Roll- Cheese steaks should be made with Amorosa rolls. They are made in Philly and very few other places, if any. The are soft, light and chewy. Fortunately we can find these gems in our neighborhood WaWa market. Make sure to warm them up in a low-temp oven.

The Onions- This is the easy part. I generally use yellow onions, but lastnight I mixed both yellow and red together with a bit of peanut oil in a non-stick pan over medium-low heat.

The Meat- I am not a fan of Steakums or really any other processed frozen meat. I went down the street to Belmont Butchery, where they gladly cut up some local, ethically raised beef in what they term "Japanese Style". All that really means is that they slice it up similar to lunch meat and therefore perfect for cheese steaks. I cooked the slices on a griddle, topped with a dash or two of seasoning salt. That's it.

I threw on some Heinz Ketchup and mayo (I was out of hot pepper relish). Great sandwich.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

More Perfect Grilled Cheese

I have had a few more wonderful recipes come in this week so I thought that I would post them.

Russell T. Cook- formerly of Millie's Fame
A simple straightforward grilled cheese I like requires a partial loaf of crusty baguette, olive oil, 1/2 clove of garlic, a few slices of comte or raclette and a broiler. I cut the bread, a little more than a 1/2" thick, on a severe bias. (to give you a good bread::crust ratio) Oil each side and rub with garlic clove. Toast one side in broiler until GBD. (golden brown delicious) Flip and toast other side half as long. Cover that side with cheese and continue to broil until gooey and bubbly. Sandwich the two pieces together and go to town.

Sometimes, when I feel like a fancy-pants, I'll add sliced apple and bacon.

Candace Nicholls- IT Recruiter
Start with 2 slices of a country-style white bread. Spread one slice generously with pesto, and the other with just a teeny bit of mayo. Add several slices of provolone or fontina cheese to the piece of bread spread with mayo(usually the former, the latter is harder to come by in New Kent County), and top with sliced Roma tomatoes (they taste better, often, and the smaller slices fit together better on the bread), then sprinkle with kosher salt and pepper. Top with the slice of bread spread with pesto, then dot the outside of the sandwich with butter (on both sides, but it’s usually easier to do the second side once it’s in the pan). I’ve been using the flat griddle plates of my waffle iron to cook this- it smashes it enough without smashing it TOO much- my Panini maker makes it too flat.

Billy Pillow- Graphic Designer
He suggested that I look at Welsh Rarebit recipes that use Guinness. 

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Perfect Grilled Cheese?

I am running a survey out there based on the perfect grilled cheese. This all started because of recipe and article I found in December's Saveur magazine. The recipe was a simple grilled cheese made out of sourdough bread, unsalted butter, and comte cheese. I cooked that sucker up and it was amazing. Then I realized there has to better combinations that I am missing. So here are some of the results I found on day 1. I hope to get another onslaught of responses so that I may post a follow-up.

Tanya at Belmont Butchery

If I'm eating a grilled cheese... ham and gruyere on brioche/or some soft egg bread... a skim coat of mayo on the bread, mayo down on the griddle, when brown pull off griddle. Top browned side of bread with grain mustard, good sweet ham, gruyere, top with bread - again browned side to food. Finish on a griddle, with a skim coat of mayo on the outside of the sandwich - cook until browned and cheese is melty.

Ben at Belmont Butchery

Grilled cheese shouldn't be gussied-up. It's american and it's simple. In fact, it should be a rule that you can't add any more than two toppings to it, anything beyond that is bullshit. SO, with that in mind...

  • white or wheat (personal preference white)
  • unsalted butter
  • 2 slices kraft american cheese
  • If I'm "Going Big" I'll add one slice of tomato and chopped jalapeno. If I'm drunk I'll sub the jalapeno for Texas Pete

Julia at River City Cellars

Mine is not so much the traditional, I prefer to call it the heart attack snack--it was my celebration for when I FINALLY got my cholesterol checked and found out it was absurdly low. I love genetics!

  • Take a cakey bread like challah and slice off a 1.5-2" chunk. slit the side open enough to stuff with salty ham or prosciutto. grate a meltable alpine cheese or combo (aged gruyere+appenzeller, or just comte) and stuff that in, too. 
  • heat a griddle or cast iron pan. add butter.
  • in a shallow bowl beat an egg, a pinch each of salt and white pepper and a bit of milk (or if you're really thumbing your nose at the gods, half and half) and coat the stuffed sammy like french toast. not so much it starts to fall apart but enough to soak in a bit.
  • fry that 6,000 calorie delight until golden on both sides and melted inside.
  • open a yummy white (Loire chenin or better yet, brut Champagne).
  • cancel all plans for the rest of the evening because in 22 minutes you will have face-planted into a carb coma.

Sarah at River City Cellars

Crusty bread, butter, Meadowcreek Farms- Grayson, pickles

I wish I could cook

For me, thick, spongy bread, lots of butter, basic Cheddar-esque singles, tomato and sometimes ham when I'm feeling kinky.

In vino veritas

sourdough bread brushed with REAL unsalted butter grilled with swiss and tomatoes. and smushed. for some reason, i have to smash it with a spatula

RVA Foodie

Butter, bread and cheese.

  • The bread should be thin sandwich style (white/wheat/whichever).
  • The butter should be unsalted (Karen says to put it on both sides of each piece of bread! but I think that might be overkill).
  • The cheese should include "american processed cheese food" and maybe one other variety from the fridge (but not too fancy).
  • The sandwich should be pan fried until golden, then flipped and pressed flat with a saucer so that there's a little circle in the middle of the bread. Both sides need to be crunchy and butter-logged.


  • sauteed thinly sliced onions and fresh homegrown tomatoes
  • sauteed apples and thinly sliced onions, and brie tween white bread
  • nabulsi cheese. it stands alone
  • fresh mozzarella, steamed greens lightly sauteed in garlic and butter or olive oil

Josh from Ch'ville

From the pan: butter, sweet potato bread, sharp honey mustard, fresh chopped basil, s & p, cheese blend (last time was chevre, sharp cheddar, havarti dill, smoked Gouda)

Carol from Cap1

Cooked in a frying pan, 2 pieces super thick white toast with butter, cream cheese and thickest velveeta slice ever with pepper sprinkled on top


Fresh basil pesto, tomato, mozzarella, dill havarti and prosciutto ham

Café Caturra

Sharp cheddar, provolone and vine ripe tomatoes grilled on panini bread