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Roundz launches "After Dark" Dinner Series // Menu Monday

Jan 30, 2012 11:53PM ● By Anonymous
Roundz opened in the Johns Hopkins Shopping Plaza on the corner of Route 3 and Johns Hopkins Road in mid-November, serving ready-made dishes and gourmet foods in its cafe-like atmosphere. Not only do I know the talent that Chef Pope possesses, but this location also happens to be very close to my house, so when I was invited to the inaugural Roundz "After Dark" dinner this Saturday night, I jumped at the chance. 

There were approximately 15 diners at the evening event that my husband and I attended. There was a little perk, too: Because Roundz doesn't have a liquor license, we were able to bring our own bottles of wine that the waiters uncorked for us at no charge. We opted for a bottle of Cabernet Sauvignon because I was in the mood for a red wine. 

The meal started out with an amuse bouche, a diver scallop with truffle oil and fennel fronds (pictured above). This little morsel was beyond delicious -- the scallop was perfectly cooked with a buttery texture, and the truffle oil added something so special to it. It was a great start to the meal. 

The courses came out quickly as a violinist performed Broadway classics in the background. Because Roundz has an open kitchen, we watched as Chef Pope and his assistants prepared our meals behind the counter, giving us an insight into the preparation it takes to feed a gourmet meal to a larger group. 

After the amuse bouche, we forayed into the meal. Our first course, a soup trio, provided a variety of flavors and colors to explore. Right in the center of the plate was my favorite of the group, a truffle corn soup. (Perhaps I'm discovering a penchant for truffles that I didn't know I had?) On the left was a bright green Fresh Pea and Basil Soup that my husband enjoyed the most, and on the right a brightly colored Carrot Thyme Soup rounded things out. 

Our second course, a spicy duck salad with pomegranate vinaigrette, provided a light transition into the heavier dishes. I've always enjoyed duck, particularly the little crispy bits on the edges, and a creative presentation of stuffing the salad leaves into a circle of cucumber made it all the more enjoyable.

Next up was the fish course of Chilean Sea Bass over Gnocchi in a Parmesan Creme Sauce. Now, I need to do the responsible thing and say that the Monterey Bay Aquarium says to avoid Chilean Sea Bass due to illegal overfishing. However, I also have to admit to being politically incorrect and loving sea bass. I haven't had it in years, but this fatty white fish has such a fantastic taste and texture, particularly when paired with a creamy sauce like Chef Pope chose. Overall, this course was a real treat -- not one I'd indulge in often, but quite delicious, for sure. 

The meat course came as a smokey short rib next to Cioppino onions and parsnips. A fried onion ring held the medley of parsnips and onions, making for a creative presentation. The short rib was tender, and the meat fell apart easily.

By this time, we were full. However, we knew from the menus on our table that dessert was not a course we wanted to skip (though I would have been OK with only a couple bites!)

What can you say about a combination of chocolate, hazelnuts, and raspberries? The flavor profile reminded me of Nutella -- and that comparison is never a bad thing -- and the texture of the light chocolate mousse on top of a crunchier bottom layer made the dessert all the more interesting. Each dish came with two slices, but I could only finish one -- but it certainly wasn't for a lack of trying! 

Overall, Chef Pope really created a memorable meal and an enjoyable evening for us. If the photos or descriptions caught you fancy, you'll be happy to know that the cafe is holding a Valentine's Day dinner on February 10th. If it's not clear from this blog post, I don't think you'll regret attending the dinner.

Sadly, I can't eat five-course meals every day of the week (though I wish I could!) Here's our weekly round-up of what's gracing my dinner table this week:

Main Course:
White Chicken Chili
Notes: I plan to serve this recipe again next week at my Super Bowl party.

Main Course: Slow-cooker pot roast
Side Dish: Turnips and rutabaga
Notes: I have this waiting for me when I get home today, and I can't wait. Instead of my normal preparation, I added a can of light beer to the slow cooker on top of the chuck roast and then stuffed in pearl onions, turnips, and rutabaga. 

Main Course: Salmon 
Side Dish: Braised Swiss Chard

Main Course: Spaghetti Squash with ground turkey and marinara sauce
Side Dish: Steamed broccoli

I'll be at an alumni association meeting at Paladar Latin Kitchen, so I'll likely be indulging in a mojito and some guacamole!

Main Course:
I have country-style pork ribs to use up, so I plan to try a new recipe with them. My go-to dish is Pork Ribs in Tomato Sauce, but I think it's time to branch out. Any suggestions?