Sunday, February 28, 2010

Mmmmmmmm.... bagels.....



In general, I think it's unfair fair to evaluate a restaurant during its first couple weeks of operation, since every place deserves a grace period to work out the kinks. That being said, I am still judging Goldberg's based on bagels I purchased within a half hour of the bagelry being open.

I have to use the bagels from Bethesda Bagels as the benchmark for any comparisons, as that's where I always go for my weekend bagels, despite its location being rather inconvenient. As previously stated many times on this blog, I find the current bagel offerings in and around downtown Silver Spring to be somewhat lacking. The main reason I am excited about the arrival of Goldberg's is that it has the potential to reduce my Sunday bagel commute from 30-40 minutes to under 10. So, how does Goldberg's stack up?

Goldberg's bagels are a little smaller than the ones at Bethesda Bagels, which isn't necessarily a bad thing, since the latter's bagels don't always fit in some toasters. They may be smaller, but they are also cheaper at 95¢ ea. vs. $1.10 at Bethesda. Bulk pricing is significantly better, as a baker's dozen at Goldberg's is just $9.95 vs. $12.99 at B.B.

My usual bagel flavor choice is "everything", so that's what my taste comparison is based on. First off, there is not quite as much "everything" flavoring on Golberg's offering, though whether this is a positive or a negative is really based on individual taste. With the extremely strong taste of Bethesda's everything, the seasonings linger on your palate hours after you've finished eating it. Goldberg's puts a good amount of seasoning on their version, and not just on the top side like some wannabe everything bagels do.

(One extremely persnickety complaint is that they don't by default segregate the everything bagels from other bagels when bagging your order. Why does this matter? Because after prolonged exposure to everything bagels, all other bagel flavors become everything bagels as well. Again, super nitpicky on my part, and I'm sure they'd do it if you asked, so just something to note for future visits.)

Overall, my bagel was quite good. It had the chewiness that properly-made (read: boiled) bagels should. It got nice and crispy when toasted. So, are their bagels as good as Bethesda's? I think this may require a few more visits to determine definitively. According to my wife, her everything bagel wasn't "as excellent as Bethesda's" but still really good, though again this assessment was made based on a single bagel.

Are their bagels good enough to abandon Bethesda Bagels (and the annoying drive to downtown Bethesda) for? Signs point to yes. I will definitely be back next weekend to get my bagel fix.

BONUS

Fascinating bagel trivia: For years, there was actually a bagel baker's union in New York City.

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Pink Paradise

Earlier this afternoon, I decided to swing by the newly-opened Joes' Record Paradise, which occupies the spot that for many years housed Silver Spring's Champion Billiards. Entering this building for the first time in many years brought flashbacks of my high school days of hanging out at Champs playing pool and Mortal Kombat.

As you enter the store, there's a smaller front room where they stock some videos, CDs and posters, while in the much larger back room are more CDs as well as the LPs and 45's in which Joe's specializes. The back room, which is quite pink, seems a lot more spacious when not dark, smoky and full of pool tables. There's an odd little enclosed area that used to be the pool hall snack bar which now serves as an office, though to me it seemed kind of like a guard station from which I was being observed.



There's tons of space in there, so Joe's has plenty of room for expansion. A note on the door states that it is still a "work in progress". (Regrettably, this was the note on the door I happened to read. More on that later.)

As you can see, they stock tons of LPs, though they did not have the one particular album I checked on - Appetite for Destruction. (Though they did have Chinese Democracy on vinyl...) Their Creedence selection was a bit small, as well, though they seemed to have plenty of albums of most other artists. (I did notice, however, that they were out of Mojo Nixon, so clearly their store could use some fixin'.)

For those of you whose LP collection specializes in hypocritical artists - you're in luck. Joe'e has conveniently collected these in a special category which includes Anita Bryant, among others.



Back to that unread note on the door I alluded to earlier. Turns out that the Joe's is not one of the businesses served by the parking lot directly adjacent to it. I learned this the hard way when I came out and my car was nowhere to be found. Turns out, it was in an impound lot a few blocks away. When I went back later to see if Joe's had put up a warning, they had, though it was mixed with a number of other notices and articles posted on their door. (Although this was not up earlier in the day, based on the photo here.) If Joe's wants to save its customers a lot of money and grief, they should be very sure that everyone is aware of this in the future. The towing company and the owners of those stores in the strip mall are probably going to make a bigger profit off Joe's customers today than the record store itself. It's my fault for not confirming it was ok to park there, but it didn't occur to me that I'd be towed in a matter of minutes.

I can see this being an ongoing problem otherwise, as there isn't really anywhere else to park nearby outside of a few metered street parking spaces. Hopefully this warning will save at least one of you the $114 I had to shell out. I coulda bought a lot of records with that money.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Huzzah! Goldberg's Bagels to Open Sunday

Goldberg's Bagels on Georgia Ave. is finally set to open for business this Sunday, or so I hear. I will be there bright and early with bells on. Please, please, let their bagels be good enough to replace Bethesda Bagels.

Oh, and as a follow up to my earlier post, I discovered that someone already had the giant bagel sign idea...

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Piney Branch and University Continues to be Epicenter of Silver Spring Crime

I'm not sure what else I can say about this, other than I hope they get what they deserve.

[An] 11-year-old female victim was walking near the intersection of Piney Branch Road and Carroll Avenue when she heard two individuals speaking to her in Spanish. The victim did not understand what they were saying as she does not speak Spanish and walked away from the two individuals. Shortly thereafter, the victim was in a park near Quebec Terrace when she was approached by the same two individuals who had spoken to her earlier. The two individuals took the victim to an apartment in the 8700 block of Carroll Avenue where they both raped her. After the assault, the victim immediately told her mother what had occurred and the police were notified. Based on the information provided, officers located the two suspects at the apartment where the assault occurred and took them into custody.
Some other heinous crime highlights from this area:

- Gang murder of 14-year-old on Ride-On bus
- Machete Rape
- Murder of convenience store clerk

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

While the recent spate of snowstorms may be over, Silver Spring is still dealing with the fallout in the form of giant piles of nasty, blackened, compressed snow. The roads are for the most part clear, but the same can definitely not be said for sidewalks. A lot of sidewalks and bus stops on major streets haven't been cleaned out particularly well (if at all) leading to a lot of pedestrians standing and walking in driving lanes of major thoroughfares. This morning I had to avoid a group walking against traffic in the merge lane at the 29 Beltway exit. This already dangerous situation was exacerbated last night when the rain further restricted drivers' ability to see pedestrians walking in front of their vehicles.

Hopefully the county hasn't decided to let the warmer weather shoulder the burden of snow removal, otherwise some of these piles could be there indefinitely. As of last week, at least, they were still doing a lot of work near me, including removing snow from my neighborhood with a Bobcat at 3AM Friday morning, (Pepco was out there with chainsaws removing rouge branches at about the same time the preceding morning.) Last Saturday I was even able to persuade the operator of a county front loader to relocate the six-foot snow mountain in front of my house to a more convenient spot across the street. He was tentative at first, stating that he wasn't sure if he was supposed to do that, but fortunately he was magnanimous/rebellious enough to do it anyway. Had he not, I imagine it could have been there until June.

While the streets may be clear, drivers still need to deal with the menace of potholes, which are pretty ugly on some of the bigger streets around here right now. At night they can be nearly impossible to see and I've experienced a few unpleasant bumps. Unfortunately, a lot of them aren't going to be filled in the immediate future.

At my house, the final tally of snow damage has yet to be accounted for. Some of my gutters on the shady side of the house are still sporting those cursed ice dams. My usual gutter cleaner emailed me with an offer to clean them out for $300/hr., but I decided to pass, resulting in at least one of my gutters pulling away from the roof. Occasionally, glacier-sized chunks of Death Ice will break off from these dams, shattering things beneath them, such as window well covers (and potentially, skulls.)

Also...

- The Silver Spring Fillmore has set a target opening date of September 2011, giving nearby residents over a year to sell their homes at a huge loss and flee before the entire neighborhood goes to hell in a handbasket. Conceptual plans for the Fillmore will be shown to the community tonight at 7 p.m. at Lee Plaza prior to officially being presented to the county on March 1st. There will be a no doubt eventful public hearing on the project this summer. Yeah, maybe the Lees and/or Live Nation got a sweetheart deal, but sometimes things needs to be done to break the gridlock that goes along with doing anything in this county. Skid Row really needs a makeover after all these years of neglect. If this was Virginia, they'd already be having shows.

- I continue to make my weekly pilgrimage to Bethesda for my bagels, as Golberg's Bagels disappointingly remains unopened. Also not open yet: Joe's Record Paradise. I'm hoping that work on these stores was simply delayed by the recent snowstorms and they will both be opened in the coming weeks.

- If you're hearing strange horns blaring downtown, they are meant as warnings that blasting is about to commence at the Silver Spring Transit Center construction site:

Five minutes before a blast occurs, a 30-second air horn. Five seconds before the blast occurs, three short horn tones. And within a minute of the blast itself, a 15-second all clear horn will blow to let you know the blast is completed.
- The Roger Miller Restaurant on Bonifant has recently closed after operating in that spot for many years. According to the SoCo Eats blog, it will be replaced by a Peruvian chicken place. A bit of trivia, in case you were curious: Roger Miller was a Cameroonian soccer player (or "footballer", if you will) who had the distinction of being the oldest player ever to score a goal in the World Cup. I somehow doubt he was earning royalties from the restaurant named in his honor.

- Desperate enough to wait in line for pancakes? You can do so today at the Tech Road IHOP, which will be giving away free pancakes until 10 PM this evening.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

A Visit to Velatis

Though it opened some time ago, for whatever reason until last week I had never made it into the Velatis Caramels store near the corner of Wayne and Georgia avenues.

When I first learned a few months back that a caramel store was opening in downtown Silver Spring, it was unexpected yet welcome news. Mostly I was just happy that that this long-abandoned building with trees growing inside of it finally had a tenant. It was shameful that this structure was allowed to sit and rot in the center of a "revitalized" Silver Spring for so damn long.





I also immediately wondered if a high-end store in that location could get enough walk-in business to succeed long term. It would seem, however, that they generate a lot of their business via mail-order, making them less vulnerable to the tastes/finances of the Silver Spring consumer. Perhaps the retail store in Silver Spring (where they moved production) was a means to increase visibility while supplementing their mail-order revenue with retail sales.

Anyways, with a few non-snow days off last week, I decided to finally venture into Velatis and sample their caramels. Even before I walked through the door, I got a big whiff of the pleasant aroma of baking confections. Inside, a majority of the floor space is dedicated to candy-making operation, with a small retail space at the front of the store. Velatis not only makes caramels, but also sells a variety of truffles, fudges and other sweets. I will sample those on future visits - this trip was strictly for caramels.

They sell perhaps ten or so flavors of caramels, including ones that are essentially little caramel and marshmallow sandwiches. You can purchase different sized boxes of caramels and can mix and match a variety of your preferred flavors.

The box of caramels pictured below set me back $17.99 plus tax, so as far as candies go they aren't cheap, but at the same time, a similarly-sized box of Godiva chocolate will probably cost about the same or more. It would certainly makes a nice gift. The only problem is that the tiny size of the caramels makes them too easy to eat a handful as if they were popcorn.



Admittedly, my experience with caramels does not extend far beyond the occasional pack of Rolos, so it's a bit hard for me to benchmark their quality, but I will say that their merchandise is indeed quite tasty. I definitely would recommend those with a sweet tooth giving Velatis a try.

Here's a few more photos from inside the store:

Caramels...





...and truffles.





(For whatever reason, I neglected to take photos of the fudge.)

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Scenes From the Snowpacalypse

I hope everyone is surviving the snowpacalypse (or snOMG, Snowmageddon, or my personal favorite, Alex Snowvechkin.) and still has power and heat in their homes. Fortunately I still have both, though apparently just a block away from me there are homes that are blacked out. The heavy snow is bringing down trees and large branches right and left, in many cases knocking out power lines.

Most streets that I have seen still look like crap. My street, which usually receives plenty of attention from county snowplows, has yet to be touched. For lack of anything better to do this morning, I shoveled out my car, though there's no way for me to drive it anywhere even if I had somewhere to go. Tomorrow will be a different story. If this ruins my Super Bowl plans (not to mention the Caps-Penguins game) I am going to be pissed.

Here's what Georgia Avenue looked like at about 10 PM last night as I was walking back from the Metro. The heavy stuff had only been coming down for a few hours at that point, so major streets like Colesville and Georgia were still navigable by regular cars, though it was still probably ill-advised to try it. Traffic was light enough for a soccer match to break out on Georgia just outside the Quarry House.



They already had the heavy equipment out at that point:



As of late this morning, 29 wasn't great - there were a few trucks and SUVs traveling on it, but not much other vehicular activity. Someone had gotten stuck and abandoned their car on the road. A tow truck was trying unsuccessfully to tow it up the hill but then gave up and ended up pushing it backwards down the street.





Just around the corner, a large branch had fallen due to the weight of the snow, blocking off Sligo Creek Parkway completely. A Ford Explorer from Holy Cross Hospital had gotten stuck and was abandoned in front of the roadblock.



Sligo Creek Parkway was passable at some points, but there were more cross-country skiers than automobiles traversing it.

Here's a shot of the DTSS sign at Colesville and Georiga submitted by Lelia C. I imagine not much is open downtown right now, though the Quarry House has vowed to keep their regular weekend hours. Might be a decent place to go to relieve your cabin fever if you live within walking distance. I believe the Giant Food remains open, though pickings are probably quite slim after the stores were ransacked over the past couple days.



So how does your neighborhood look? Got any photos to share? Email them to me or leave a comment with a link to your pics.

UPDATE: Here's a photoset of shots taken today in Downtown Silver Spring by Jeff K.



And a shot of a busy sledding hill at Seven Oaks Park:

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Silver Spring News 'N Notes

Another day, another snowfall. I can't believe that MoCo schools are closed over this. School administration is probably terrified of all the lawyer parents in Chevy Chase/Bethesda. Well, at least it made this morning's commute the easiest I've had in quite some time.

Anyway...

- I'm fully in favor of the planned church/residential/commercial development at Wayne and Bonifant, traffic concerns be damned.



I think this is a huge upgrade from what is exists there now, though some may not agree. The present configuration is a Frankensteinian amalgamation of churches, some of which do have a few interesting architectural elements but taken as a whole are a bit of an eyesore. On the other hand, the converted office building owned by the church another church on the opposite side of Bonifant St. is just ugly. I'm unclear as to how this structure fits in to the plan, if at all. If it happened to get torn down too, that'd be unfortunate...

More on this proposed development can be found at Thayeravenue.com, The Gazette and on DC Mud.

- The church's neighbor, the St. Michael the Archangel school, isn't closing, at least not yet.

- Sticking with the subject of the Wayne/Bonifant area, the county is now looking for a developer to construct residential units adjacent to the new library and across the street from the aforementioned First Baptist development. Presently this space is occupied by a hair salon, a garage, an abandoned house/office and an empty field.



Of course, as the deal involves the Montgomery County Government, there are about 3,000 restrictions, so we'll see how fast this one gets off the ground. Oh, and just wait until "The Community" gets involved...

- This sign in the window of Lizbeth’s Cafe on Georgia Avenue is disturbing. That chicken is far too enthusiastic about its cannibalism.

- The federal stimulus package is paying for a bunch of new traffic lights and crossing signals in downtown Silver Spring.