Izakaya 68 is an intimate modern Japanese cuisine experience

What a refreshing find! When you walk into Izakaya 68, you notice how chic it is, but that doesn’t take away from the lovely intimacy of the restaurant. It has a lot to do with the unique touches.

As you enter you see a beautiful Japanese cherry tree in all of its splendor. Also, each booth has a valance, which gives the vibe of having a private room, or maybe hosting your own little party.

Our waiter was so friendly and knowledgeable. He was great because he gave us suggestions and cautions about what to order. It’s good to have both so you understand if you really want what you think you want. For instance, he spoke about the fish flake seasoning that is applied in some of the dishes saying that it mostly appeals to people who are looking for a more authentic rendering of Japanese cuisine.

He gave us the flavor palette so we could think about whether it was an option we might want to explore.

Another fun aspect of my Izakaya 68 outing was experiencing the robotic arm of their staff. These robots were self-rolling carts that greeted you with the cutest digitally animated face. It brought your meal to the table, and all you had to do was take it off of the cart.

Wow! I’ve been talking so much about the experience that we haven’t really talked about the food. I kept it simple and ordered ramen. However, I have to say…this was my favorite iteration yet.

Why? I’ll tell you.

I’ve enjoyed ramen in other places, but most of the time it has been served in a clear broth. This one was creamy and had so many hints of flavor as I dug in more and more. In fact, at the bottom of the bowl I got a lively dose of heat from the spicy radish.

The ramen had a slice of pork belly— browned, tender, and with a bit of crisp on the edges. The presentation was lovely, especially the halved boiled egg. I just love an egg with noodles so they had me at “Hello.”

Izakaya 68 is a great place for a girls’ night out or a date night with the spouse. I am already scheming on the next time that I can make my way back to Hunt Valley, MD and order more from their extensive menu.

Until then, if you are in the area, check it out.

Photos from Izakaya 68 Facebook page.


Charcoal Deli is a favorite for pit beef and more…

Charcoal Deli has been making sandwiches since 1992. Located in Cockeysville, Maryland, the family-owned business is a walk-up venue, where you can go to the service window, put your order in, and wait for the staff to cook it up. Pit beef is a really big deal at Charcoal Deli. In fact, they have been voted Baltimore’s best! They’re proud of that fact. It’s on their outdoor sign.

They are known for their open pit sandwiches, including ham, beef, turkey, and chicken. But don’t sleep on their wings, they are definitely in the popularity contest.

Like a novice, my first visit was on Super Bowl Sunday. I know…not really the best day to expect in and out service. The line was pretty long, and the catering orders were being picked-up left and right.

Did I mention it was Super Bowl Sunday?

It didn’t deter me though. I settled in with the understanding that I was going to have to commit to a good 15-minute wait, or more…but again, rookie move on my part.

I ordered from their line of Namewiches. Nope, that’s not a mistake, that’s what they call this particular line of sandwiches. My namewich was called “The Travis,” which had Cajun ham, pit beef, and provolone cheese, served on a Kaiser Roll.

I chased it down with their skin-on, natural cut fries. I could really go there just for the fries.

I enjoyed my sandwich, and the serving was more than enough for me. However I did feel like I missed the opportunity to add a crucial condiment, which would have taken it to another level. I forgot to ask for horseradish. It would have been perfect; nonetheless, The Travis was tasty, fresh, and, overall, a good choice.

Something else you can’t help but notice. Charcoal Deli has a lot of regulars. As is the case with many family restaurants, they have made their mark in the community and people pretty much knew what to expect when they walk up to the service window. There’s comfort in those kinds of encounters.

There was friendly banter and very good customer service, which goes a long way.

During the warmer months (or maybe even the colder ones), customers can sit outside in the picnic table area. Charcoal Deli is a good place to sit and enjoy your grub, especially when your car is parked, and you have nothing to do but feast.

So I’m going to do that thing where I act like I didn’t see that “drink” didn’t have an “s” at the end of it.

What is your favorite drink?

-Sweet ice tea

-half and half (some people call it an Arnold Palmer)

-hot cocoa with Marshmallow or whipped cream (very important detail)

-Coke with grenadine

She exits the building.

With a name like Mothers Grille, it has to be good!

With a name like “Mothers” it has to be good, right? Well, the restaurant definitely gets my seal of approval. Not that it needs it…but every vote counts. Mothers Grille has been around in Maryland since 1997, which is not to be overlooked. It means longevity in the very up and down restaurant business.

Have you seen how restaurants pop up and within a few years, or even months, they are gone? However, Mothers Grille is a neighborhood joint that has continued to expand. The restaurant has three locations in Maryland including Federal Hill, Arnold and Timonium.

I pass by Mothers North Grille in Timonium almost every day because it’s right off I-83, a well used interstate in Maryland and Pennsylvania. The big red heart with the word “Mothers” is endearing. I mean, how could it not be? Most of us have a mother, love a mother, or are a mother. It relates.

I’ve been side-eyeing this place for a while, but in a good way. One thing I noticed in my travels back and forth was there are usually loads of cars in the parking lot. I’m taking this as a good sign because the restaurant probably has a faithful flock, or it’s highly recommended for its food.

Shrimp Po’ boy with sweet potato fries

In my case, I browsed the online menu and thought I might try this place someday. Then I heard someone talk about how they enjoyed going so it did not take much convincing to take a friend up on an offer to have dinner.

We went on a Saturday evening around 5 p.m. and it was already pretty packed. Nonetheless, we were seated quickly and the service was extremely prompt.

I started out with a mocktail. I don’t drink, but I love a good mocktail and the server recommended a drink from the Hurricane Janiece menu called the Category 0. This is a mocktail made with passionfruit syrup, orange, pineapple and lime juice. Delish!

I’ll admit. I was the problem. There was so much to choose from. The menu offerings ranged from an assortment of burgers and wings to crab cakes, Po’ boys, and Jambalaya. I settled on a Cubano Stack, which is a Dagwood style stacked pulled pork sandwich with Canadian bacon, Swiss cheese, dill pickles and garlic aioli served with homemade chips.

Top pic: Category 0 mocktail/Bottom pic: Cubano stacked sandwich with homemade chips

I was not disappointed. I could come back and make that choice again. I love the smorgasbord of contrasting flavors combining to create this cheesy, dilly, savory and sweet combo. From the Canadian bacon to the pulled pork and the dill pickle, I was feeling it. I was, and my sandwich was talking back to me like, “You know you like this!”

It was sassy!

Now the one thing, I could pass on was the homemade chips. I won’t speak against it, but it’s generally not my favorite, and that’s across the board. I don’t take away from it because I know that people love homemade chips…it’s just a matter of preference. I would probably get fries.

My friend ordered the Jazz Fest Shrimp Po’ boy and she was also more than pleased. Served on a sub roll, it had fried shrimp, lettuce, tomato, and Cajun remoulade.

It was big enough that she couldn’t eat it all, which she loves because that means she can warm it up and eat it again. She kept remarking about how fluffy her toasted sub roll was. That was a real thing to her…she was impressed with that so I’m just reporting the raves. Bread choice is important.

And as any good friend and taste tester would do, I mooched off of my friend’s plate to taste the golden fried, well-seasoned shrimp and the remoulade sauce, which had a bite of tanginess. It was all good. And the sweet potato fries were crinkle cut and had just the right combination of salty and sweet.

Like I said, I could see another run to Mothers Grille in the near future. I could become a normie. Maybe this is how they’ve managed to stay open for over 25 years.

Shah’s Halal Food

Here’s the thing…New York seems to always be ahead of the curve. It’s not their fault, it’s just built that way. I know from growing up in the city that multiculturalism was a fact of life before it was a “thing.” So, it’s not surprising that the restaurant I happened upon in my neighborhood—a chain originating in Long Island—was not only a refreshing change from the regular eat-in/carry-outs in the area, but it was also reasonably priced, super satisfying and so delicious.

First, I loved the ambience. It’s neat, and it has warm fiery red walls, which tell the story of the restaurant chain.

We’ll get back to that later. Let’s talk about the food.

I ordered Kofta over rice with all the fixings, including chickpeas, lettuce, a mix of cucumbers and tomatoes all drizzled with white sauce and hot sauce. Oh Mama!

I also ordered a cheesesteak sub for my mother. Yup, I had some of my mama’s sandwich, and it was just what you would want a cheesesteak to taste like.

The menu includes gyros, falafel, sandwiches, salads, wings and lamb, kofta, chicken or fish over rice, plus more.

The Shah’s Halal Food website says the restaurant was established in 2005. It started as a food cart in Richmond Hill, Queens on 121st and Liberty Avenue. The site goes on to say, “In 2016, we developed our first Long Island branch with the goal in mind of becoming, “the best Halal Food Restaurant in Long Island NY.”

Shah’s Halal Food now has about 36 locations including New York, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Maryland, New Jersey, Virginia and Delaware.

My location in Cockeysville, Maryland was warm and welcoming. I appreciated the knowledge of the menu, and how the staff helps to guide their customers, if they’re not as familiar with Middle Eastern cuisine.

Did I mention that I love the red walls? Find out more about Shah’s Halal food on their website.

Black-Eyed Peas and Hoghead Cheese: A Story of Food, Family and Freedom by author Glenda Armand and illustrator Steffi Walthall

Reading Age: 4-8 years Grade Level: Preschool – 3 Publisher: Crown Books for Young Readers Publication Date: September 6, 2022 A girl named Frances …

Black-Eyed Peas and Hoghead Cheese: A Story of Food, Family and Freedom by author Glenda Armand and illustrator Steffi Walthall

All Hail The Crab Queen

All hail the queen! Yes, I said it. The queen is deserving of her due. Felicia Covel Rami, owner of The Crab Queen, is doing something special with the restaurant’s seafood cuisine, and I am entirely here for it.

Covel Rami was formerly executive chef at a Baltimore favorite, Nick’s Fish House.

In a Baltimore Magazine article, she says that The Crab Queen was born out of the pandemic. Her business had a lot of events lined up, but like many small businesses at the time, they had to pivot. The pivot took shape by providing catering for small events for five or less people.

Small orders turned into rave reviews. The article states, “We got so much positive feedback from the crab boils—we almost couldn’t keep up with the demand for them. We wanted to continue to offer this food, so we looked for a brick-and-mortar.”

The Crab Queen, which is located in Randallstown, Maryland, offers traditional offerings like seafood boils, a snow crab platter, and a 12 oz. Queen crab cake.

The restaurant’s innovative offerings also include your choice of lobster or crab grilled cheese, both made with gruyere, provolone, cheddar, on grilled brioche; fried lobster tail drizzled with honey sriracha sauce; seafood pizza; crab stuffed salmon, and more.

Hungry yet?

You can’t do it justice by just talking about it so take the time to peruse their menu. The images are enough to solicit a commitment, even a vow, to make it to Randallstown for some good eating.

I couldn’t wait to experience the fried lobster tail. Of course, I wanted other things too, but I was fixated on the awesome images I was seeing on social media for weeks. I’ve had lobster before, but what I was seeing was so different.

I got the meal with two sides. I chose the gouda mac and cheese and kale with smoked turkey. The mac & cheese was buttery, creamy, poignant but not overpowering. The greens were just awesome. Think of that favorite Thanksgiving meal where the greens were just right…yup that one with the bits of smoked turkey in every bite. That’s what it tastes like.

On any given day, these sides would have been enough for me, but I was obsessed with trying the fried lobster. I would just stop on the Crab Queen’s page and social media just to get a gander. So this was my weeks-long lobster desire and foodie dream come true.


This was so incredibly good. Fried lobster Gouda mac & cheese and collards with smoked turkey. f#friedlobstertthecrabqueemdrestaurants ggoodfoodssoulfoodf#foodiesoftiktok

♬ Golden – Harry Styles
Multi Cultural Cooking Network, TikTok

My expectations were met most assuredly. The lobster was fried to a golden crisp, and the meat was tender, so perfect, and there was so much of it. To my chagrin, I didn’t even bother with the honey sriracha sauce until I was almost finished. The sauce is extremely well matched for the lobster.

All in all, I enjoyed my meal, and there are so many other items I want to try. Maybe it will be lobster/crab grilled cheese. You never know.

What I do know is that The Crab Queen is taking us seafood lovers on an exciting new tasty trip, and I, for one, am ready jump on board.

Julmust, a Scandinavian Christmas Soda

During the Christmas season Julmust is a holiday beverage that can be served or given as a gift. Learn more about it.

Multi Cultural Cooking Network

Scandinavians are no stranger to a drink that finds its popularity during the Christmas season—julmust.  The words “jul” and “must” are Swedish for “yule” and “juice.”It’s a Scandivanian Christmas soda that is mainly consumed in Sweden. Want an indicator of its popularity in the region? Julmust outsells Coca Cola during the Christmas season and accounts for 50-percent of all soft drink volume during the month of December.


The drink is also served during Easter. None of the ingredients are different, but it goes by a different name—påskmus.The word “påsk” translate to “Easter” in Swedish.

Must is an alternative to beer, and it was created by father and son team, Robert Roberts (father) and Harry Roberts (son). The drink is compared to root beer, but it has a much sweeter taste. It contains carbonated, sugar, water, and hop and malt extract, caramel colouring, citric acid…

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Countdown to Christmas with an Advent Calendar

According to Christianity.com writer and missionary, Kristi Walker, “An Advent calendar is a special calendar used to count down to December 25: The celebration of the Birth of Jesus. The Advent calendar tradition evidently dates back to the 1850s and typically includes 24 doors or boxes to open, one for every day in December leading up to Christmas Day.”

That’s fantastic information for context. The Christmas season is so full of meaning so it’s good to savor each day with respect and awe. Some calendars share scriptures or inspirational thoughts for each of the 24 boxes or doors.

I was recently gifted with an Advent calendar, and I must admit I had never had one or used one before. I received the secular variety. It had a winter theme, but I was happy with it. It really is the thought that counts, and at this age, (Nope, not telling!) I know what the season means. It’s just a thoughtful and fun idea, especially if your calendar gives you a new piece of candy every day.

That’s the kind I received. Yum! Yum!

In the states, you can find Advent Calendars in stores like Trader Joes, Walmart and Hallmark, but this is not just an American tradition. It’s a tradition that Christians enjoy all over the world in anticipation of celebrating the birth of Jesus! The first printed Advent Calendar was made in Germany.

Now, don’t think you have to buy a calendar at all; you can make one on your own. There are many varieties so take inspiration. But if you really want to know some of the best chocolate Advent calendars you can buy this year, see Town and Country Magazine’s article: The Best Chocolate Advent Calendars.

A Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade Story

We all have those things we want to do in life, but for some reason procrastination sets in and we don’t get them done. This story champions the little kid in us to get it done and create opportunities for your personal fulfillment even if it is just going to a parade.

Multi Cultural Cooking Network

I grew up in what I consider the greatest city in the world…New York City. There is nothing like celebrating the holidays in New York.  Before the Christmas tree lighting at Rockefeller Center or the extravagant holiday widow displays at retail stores, the Macy’s Day Parade kicks everything off.

I lived my entire life in New York and never went to the parade.  In asking my parents why they never took my sister and I my mother’s response was, “ I always wanted to take you and your sister, but by the time I turned around you all had grown up.”  As a child I was content in just sitting in front of the television, in my pajamas (in the warmth) watching the different floats go by; Woody Woodpecker, Snoopy, Smurfette (I just showed my age with that last one), and listening to the latest celebrity at the moment perform…

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