Food & Drink

Charm City Cook: Beer Camp! A Camp for Grown-Ups

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So, maybe you’ve been to camp. Sleep away camp, sports camp or science camp, perhaps. When I was a kid, I went to a bunch of lacrosse and field hockey camps…we ran from morning to night. This other kind of camp sounds much better: BEER CAMP. Not many people have been to beer camp – but my friend Jed Jenny went – and at Sierra Nevada Brewing Company, no less. Jed is the beer buyer at The Wine Source in Hampden, perhaps the best liquor store in the city. It was at the Wine Source that I first discovered the happiness in a bottle that is Bulleit bourbon (even met Tom Bulleit at a tasting there – what a true Southern gentleman he is!). After that crazy second storm of Snowmageddon/Snowpocalypse, my neighbor and I walked up to The Wine Source and one of the nice people there recommended the bottle of Bulleit. Good choice. Now, I’m hooked. Here are a few memories of Snowmageddon in the Hampdens.

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Happy city dog – off-leash for days thanks to the snow

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Hampden, my Hampden

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Fraziers…open, of course!

If you’ve ever been to The Wine Source, you’ve seen the wall of beer…and Jed has turned me on to many, many beers over the years. And like so many folks at The Wine Source, he started out as a stock person years ago and has worked his way up. That’s awesome. I’ve written about The Wine Source before – and what I said three years ago is still true today – they have an amazing staff who know you, remember what you tried last time and are incredibly helpful and really, really know their stuff. Adam and Caitlin, the cheesemongers there, are also pretty awesome. They got me hooked on Neal’s Yard Cheddar…so good.

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Jed and his colleagues at the store have strong relationships with many, many producers around the country – and are a huge proponent for the local craft brewing scene here in Baltimore. So, when Sierra Nevada’s distributor invited Jed to participate in their semi-annual beer camp program, of course he accepted. For someone like Jed who is so passionate about beer, heading out on this adventure would be kind of like me going to cooking camp at Stone Barns or something. You know, bet of the best. Artisans, innovators, visionaries…

Justin Timberlake Leaves $100 Tip at Phillips Seafood

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By now, I’ve totally forgiven Justin Timberlake for that whole N’Sync thing; his recent appearance in Baltimore seals the deal. After a meal of lobsters, snow crab legs, shrimp, clams, mussels, and vegetables at Phillips Seafood costing $300, JT left a $100 tip — and a thank you note emblazoned with his signature.

Paint While You Drink! Sip-and-Paint Studio to Open in Mt. Washington

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Courtesy Bmore Media – Baltimore residents will soon have a place to learn how to paint while sipping a glass of chardonnay once the Painted Palette paint-and-sip opens its new studio in Mt. Washington Village mid-September.

Co-owner Becca Hauser says she and her partner Brooke Snyder signed a lease for an 1,800-square-foot space near the Mt. Washington Tavern and Baltimore Clayworks.

Birroteca Owner Opening Nickel Taphouse in Mount Washington

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Courtesy Bmore Media – Less than a year after opening his popular artisan pizza joint Birroteca, Robbin Haas is ready to tackle his next restaurant venture in Mount Washington.

Charm City Cook: Get Happy, Hon!

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I had the pleasure of meeting up with some friends for happy hour a few weeks ago at Charleston. I’d only been there once and it was a million years ago, so I thought it was time to go back. I follow Chef Cindy Wolf on Instagram, which always reminds me of how committed she and business partner Tony Foreman are to using local, in-season ingredients. #golocal

Each Wednesday through August, Charleston offers a special weekly cocktail. They usually post it on Instagram that day and they’re always creative and delicious – sometimes I have to Google ingredients, which is kinda fun. Along with your cocktail ($10 or glass of champagne for $8) you receive a lovely little plate of hors d’oeuvres by Chef Wolf. We had squash blossoms, gazpacho and a mini crab and corn salad. While it’s not the cheapest happy hour special in town, it just might be the most civilized. Free valet parking, too. Weds 5:00-6:30pm in the bar.

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Over at PAZO, they have some fun summer specials, too. If the temperature is above 90 degrees (duh, this is B’more) the dealio is half-off whites, roses and bubbles. And weeknights 5:00-7:00pm in the bar and lounge they offer select cocktails and tapas for $5 each.

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                      Photo by Foreman Wolf

Be Disloyal and Support Baltimore’s High Quality Coffee Scene

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Loyalty cards and loyalty programs encourage customers to keep coming back to the same store in hopes of gaining perks or discounts or some other amorphous reward. But what do you do when you don’t want customers to return to the same places again and again — when, in contrast, you want them to find entirely new places to explore? Why, you give them a disloyalty card, of course!

Charm City Cook: My Favorite Restaurant. There, I said it.

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I use the phrase “one of my favorites” a lot. I don’t like to single anyone out…for fear of hurt feelings (maybe it’s the youngest of six and only girl thing?). I don’t like to ruffle feathers. I like happy. I guess I’m okay with being the diplomat. I like peace…my inner Quaker.

Meet the Charm City Cook- Amy Langrehr

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Patrick from One Straw Farm made this fantastic video of Amy.  Check her out as she talks about how she got started doing what she does so well!  And if you haven’t tasted her amazing Salted Caramel Brownies, head over to Ma Petite Shoe today, they’re amazing.

Vino Veritas: It’s About Value

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The author (not shown) with her husband (shown) enjoying good food and wines of good value in Italy earlier this summer.

There are plenty of bottles to brag about, lots of labels to plaster your conversation with and be annoyed by and have “Dear Diary” moments with. We’ve all heard folks boast about Cakebread and Veuve Clicquot and other famous bottles with a lot of name prestige, but they certainly have a hefty price tag attached. I love a treat bottle as much as anybody, but I really get excited to share are the best values I can find.

Often when we talk about value and wine, our first instinct is to assume it means cheap. It drove me nuts when people’s only goal in a wine store was to find the least expensive but most tolerable bottle on the shelves (common question: “Is this $6.99 bottle drinkable?”) without considering the value of the product relative to the purpose that it’s serving. “What’s the cheapest?” will lead you astray. The best question to ask may be “What wine in my price bracket will be the most worthwhile, that is, give the most worth, with my pizza/popcorn/movie night/fancy dinner/brunch/barbecue/etc.?”

There are no hard and fast rules about good value wines because that could mean so many things to different people. A “good value” Châteuneuf-du-Pape from the Rhone Valley in France is likely to still cost at least $40, but for the same money, you could get a top-of-the-line Argentinean Malbec. But if you’re looking for a braggable, “I-paid-minimally-for-this-killer-wine” kind of bottle, there are a few geographic locations where the odds are stacked more in your favor than from other places. Keep in mind these are general ideas, but hopefully they will steer you in the right direction.

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Pardon me, my bias is showing. I love Chilean wine. And a lot of that may come from the fact that it’s relatively short history made it more conquerable than other regions, but regardless, Chilean wine has a rusticity and charm that oozes the wild, rugged terrain it comes from. Dried herbs, subtle smoke, and ripe, dense fruit play in different proportions in many of Chilean reds, while whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc are dappled with tropical fruit, citrus, and flowers. It’s the wild frontier as far as the viticultural world is concerned and offers some of the best bang for the buck in the market. 

Charm City Cook: The Yard Bar & Grille – Delicious Eats and Self-Serve Beer, too!

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Until this summer, I had never been to The Yard Bar & Grille at the Marriott Inner Harbor at Camden Yards. I’d seen the hotel, of course, as I walked to an O’s game, but never ventured inside. And until last year, I’d never really even eaten at a hotel restaurant in Baltimore except at a wedding or other event. Well, not anymore. I had, literally, never even seen The Yard. It’s in a location that I just never really frequent and you also can’t see it from the street. But once you go into the hotel, there it is, calling you to enjoy seafood, local craft beers and more. Don’t you love it when you discover something great and it was right under your nose?

When I drove up to the entrance, I thought, oh, wow! Look across the street…the Bromo Seltzer Tower, one of Baltimore’s most iconic buildings. Of course, nerd that I am, parked the car and walked out to the street to get a shot of it. I just love that building, don’t you?

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The hotel has just undergone a huge renovation, which included the The Yard. The decor is warm, yet modern, with local flavor throughout thanks to walls with Baltimore images like the Domino sugar sign, Little Italy street lights and more. The exposed brick walls, pendant lights and rich dark wood floors made me think of a rehabbed city rowhouse. That nod to Baltimore gave me the heads up that more was to come…and the menu did not disappoint where that was concerned. Many local farms and food producers the restaurant uses are listed on the menu – Springfield FarmRoseda BeefStone Mill BakeryOne Straw FarmPrigel Family CreameryTrue Blue Maryland Crabs and more. As you can imagine, the menu featured lots of seafood, especially crab. Baltimoreans love their crab and tourists come here looking for it! Just last week, I was accosted on the street in Hampden by a tourist asking where to find the best steamed crabs…she was really serious and wrote things on her hand…I think she was drunk…but I digress. (p.s. Anyone want to open a crab house in Hampden?)

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