Belvedere Square

For the Love of Flowers: Bringing Dutch Floral Design to Baltimore

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The Dutch artist Vincent Van Gogh loved flowers. When his good buddy Paul Gauguin was coming to visit, Vincent quickly set about painting what is now his immortal Sunflowers,  as a decoration to spruce the place up for his guest. He understood flowers’ ability to give a space a bright and welcoming quality, and to let guests know you care. And to this day his floral paintings are some of his most celebrated works, for which he is remembered. But wait… Did Van Gogh have good table manners? Were his personal relationships enviable? Wasn’t there something about an ear? Unimportant. But the sunflowers? The irises? They endure. The lesson here? Bring flowers. The other lesson? Get help from the Dutch.

Paula Dobbe-Maher grew up in the Netherlands surrounded by flowers in her parents’ nursery. Since then, her travels and studies have taken her everywhere from law school in Amsterdam, to pastry chef training in Paris—a rather circuitous route to get to opening one’s own floral business in Baltimore. But we’re oh so glad she did.

Demi to Close, Crush to Remain Open

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Photo courtesy of the Demi website

Belvedere Square restaurant Demi will close in a few days, Richard Gorelick of the Baltimore Sun reports.  Tae Strain, the chef, is leaving and Saturday night will be the restaurant’s last night.  Demi will serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday.

“It has been amazing and I leave with no regrets at all,” says Strain.

Demi is housed on the basement floor of the restaurant Crush, where Strain also serves as executive chef.  Crush will remain open, but Strain will leave that post, too. Strain was named “best new chef ” by Baltimore magazine last year. No word on the reason for his sudden departure. (Calls to the restaurant were not returned.)

A few weeks ago, Crush was in the news for failing to pay its liquor license fee. It would be a real blow to Belvedere Square if Crush were to close, and something of a surprise too, since the food and service at the restaurant have vastly improved in recent months and it seems to be drawing crowds.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day Gift Guide: Beach Bag Bliss

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These $68 colorful canvas bags from The House Downtown in Belvedere Square are big enough to fit lots of pool toys and few towels, too, all while keeping mom looking stylish.

 

 

An In-the-Know Real Estate Pro Gives Us Her Restaurant Picks

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I have a secret weapon in Nicky Keelty. She’s a dear friend who knows more about Baltimore restaurants (and hotels, shops and salons) than anyone I know. Nicky can conjure up the perfect restaurant for any occasion on cue, and follow it up with an impsossible-to-get Saturday night reservation, all with one swift call. Nicky is connected.

Why is the mother of two on the inside track? It’s her job. As a Senior Vice President, Principal at Cassidy Turley, she leases space downtown. It’s her business to know what, where, when and why.

She’s so genuinely likable and fun, it’s easy to see why any restaurant would happily move her name to the top of the resevations list.

Home cook assessment: Do you consider Durkee onions and Campbell’s mushroom soup legitimate ingredients or cheating?
Cheating, you need to start from scratch. And how would you make those onion things or that soup? I just avoid those ingredients all together.

Saturday night with the husband: Where do you book? What do you order?

Ambassador. Patio table. Chicken tikka masala.
The Ambassador Dining Room

Hip to Be Belvedere Square?

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Ah, Belvedere Square, such a fickle mistress. It might be one of the only shopping destinations in the world where an edgy European florist can thrive but a Starbucks can’t. So many businesses have swung and missed: Simply Noted, Raw Sugar, Daedalus Books, Sweet Papaya, Taste, Bratt Decor all spring to mind. Remember when the Gap had its day?

Happily, it hasn’t been all been gloom and doom. Among the many closing signs have shone some success stories. (Have you noticed every photo shop in America has closed but Tech Lab?) In recent years, the most notable has been Belvedere Square market. if you need proof, head over there midday tomorrow and try to park. 

So what gives? What is the formula that makes the market tick and how do you expand upon it? Well, it might look something like this: hot dogs + art + expanded outdoor space + renovation + moonlight + loads of wine² = no vacancies. At least that’s what Nelson Carey, owner of the always hopping Grand Cru, is hoping for with the changes he is spearheading at Belvedere Square. Carey was just granted approval to extend his liquor license to cover Plywood, his new art galley/party space, and the entire 6,400 square-foot market.

Are we supposed to sip wine while shopping for organic radishes at two in the afternoon? (Appealing, I’ll admit, but clearly not for everyone.) The plan is to make a play for a dinner crowd with extended hours (till 9:00 or 10:00). In an effort to gussy up the market for the innumerable date nights ahead, a rehab’s in the works. Makeover includes doubling the outdoor seating space and expanding Ikan, Atwater’s and Neopol Savory Smokery. I’m envisioning wine, wander, buy some pastries for the morning, sashimi, wine, wander, look at some cool art, butternut squash soup, wander, wine, wine. I like it. 

Also coming to the the market in March: Mr. Carey’s Wurst, an eatery/shop devoted to primo hot dogs curated from New York to Chicago. This is just a great idea. I mean who the hell doesn’t love a good dog? Just check out the line at Haute Dog (no doubt an inspiration) on Falls Road and tell me this isn’t a home run (no pun). 

So count me in, but what about everyone else? Success will depend on the ability to attract a diverse crowd. The intellectual Canterburians, the groovy Govansians, the yuppie Homelanders, the artsy Hampdenites, the retired Roland Parkers, and the moneyed Guilfordians all need to be in attendance. A recent peek into Grand Cru showed me that Nelson Carey is a master at this art: They were all there! Adding to my faith is his contribution to the wild success of Woodberry Kitchen (he was an original partner). With him at the helm, I feel confident. As a matter of fact I might head over for some much needed, umm, radishes, right now.

Get Some Culture (in Belvedere Square)

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FroYo fans, rejoice. A new TCBY opened in Belvedere Square in April, one of only three in the area—the others, in Timonium and Columbia, were such a hike that I often opted for heavy premium ice cream. It’s actually not my first choice, for flavor or nutrition.

I grew up in the 80s eating frozen yogurt fanatically, during its first waffle-cone-bearing swirl of popularity (H.P. Hood originally introduced the stuff in England in the 1970s, tagging his concoction Frogurt). And have been frustrated in recent years by the lack of abundant yogurt options around Baltimore. Thank goodness, tart/minimal yogurt chains like Pinkberry, Red Mango, and Blush have driven “FroYo’s” demand, and beckoned numerous competitors. (Tart yogurt is a throwback to Hood’s original recipe; the flavor might take a minute to grow on you, but trust one dedicated yogurt aficionado: Yum.)

Anyway, if you dig frozen yogurt, there’s much to love about this new TCBY. The décor is space-age-retro adorable and the cups serve-yourself—rare for TBCY—which means you can dish a tiny or tremendous bowl of good-for-you dessert, any day of the week.

Best of all, TCBY, too, has caught this less sweet, fat-free “tart yogurt” fad creaming the country, and now offers its own similarly clean, minimal flavor they’ve labeled Classic Tart. TCBY’s stab at the recipe is a total success, I’m pleased to report. And at 90 calories per four ounces, the stuff is a smart snack, though still pretty sugary (17 grams), and it tastes as terrific as Pinkberry, if not a bit more silky + ice-cream-esque.

Other TCBY-traditional flavors, like White Chocolate Mousse and chocolate-and-vanilla-swirled, are always on handle, plus certain sugar-free and dairy-free options.

TCBY products contain at least seven types of live and active cultures, which can aid digestion and bolster one’s immune system. While I like the wholesome idea, I care less about the bacterial benefits than the cool deliciousness of the lightweight cream, and the fact that I can eat a great big cup for fewer calories and way less fat than ice cream.

Oh, if you’ve caught Classic Tart fever, be sure to try the fantastic frozen yogurt at Evergreen on Cold Spring, and at Mr. Yogato in Fells Point. It’ll nearly make you pucker—which means I highly recommend.

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