Food & Drink

Friends & Farms Expands to Baltimore City: Roland Park and Little Italy new pick-up sites

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Courtesy Bmore Media – Friends and Farms last month launched two pickup sites in Baltimore, in Roland Park and Little Italy. The Columbia-based alternative food provider is starting with 30 customers at the new locations but expects to increase that number and to add additional pickup sites in the future.

“We knew there was a community in the city for us,”  says director of marketing Regina McCarthy, who conducted a marketing campaign with an emphasis on social media before the Baltimore launch.

Charm City Cook: A Visit to The Newly Re-Opened Chesapeake Restaurant

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The Chesapeake Restaurant, 1701 North Charles Street. Photo ourtesy Monumental City.
The Chesapeake Restaurant, 1701 N. Charles Street. Photo courtesy Monumental City.

The Chesapeake. You went there a million years ago. Or maybe it was your dad (like mine). Or maybe your grandparents used to talk about it. Or you just walked or drove by it for the last 20-plus years wondering what it used to be. Well, back in the day, it was quite the place to go. Think business lunches and anniversary dinners – which included things like steaks, seafood and old school cocktails. It opened in 1933 and sadly, closed in 1986.

Baltimore is a city that values its history, but also embraces new ideas, too: we’re of a mixed bag. The juxtaposition of old and new is quite evident at the Chesapeake. First, they kept the name. Some may say that’s the easy way out…or boring. I disagree. It’s so smart. When I visited for the opening this week, people were all around me saying to the managers, servers and bartenders, “My parents used to come here.” “My boss said he used to take clients here back in the day.” And on and on. And on. So, retaining the name, retains the nostalgia. And, boy, Baltimoreans are nostalgic. They’re even having Throwback Thursdays for those who want to experience the food and cocktails of the original menu. Smart, I’m telling you.

So, the vibe. Vibe is important, no? This place is relaxed, not trying too hard, but definitely putting a little effort in. Yes, they have industrial-esque hanging lights and Edison light bulbs mixed with a gorgeous, modern marble bar and simple bar stools…it all works. And as for that minimal chic decor, it’s not quite ‘done’ yet. Stay tuned for some finishing touches. From the Woodberry-esque uniforms (hello, checked shirts and dark, somewhat skinny jeans…) to the cocktail menu to the minimal chic decor, this place says now. But not in a “we are SO COOL” kind of way. The servers are friendly, helpful and present when needed. As a former waitress, I always struggled with the balance of checking in vs. leaving alone. You have to sort of size up your guests and figure out what they want. That’s not always easy. Our bartender got it just right. I also will point out that the bar stools are padded and pretty comfy. Again, smart. If you keep sitting, you keep eating and drinking! And, I do love having dinner at the bar. Big fan. AND, gals…they have hooks under the bar for your bag. SCORE! One more thing that would be smart (a’la The Food Market in Hampden) would be free valet parking. I had no trouble finding parking, but not everyone is interested in street parking and some won’t want to pay for the lot in the back. But providing valet is a whole other biz and I don’t really blame them for not going there.

The cocktail menu is tight. I like that…too many choices overwhelm me. On my first visit, I tried two cocktails – the Silent in the Morning (Panamanian white rum, lemon, local honey, orange, egg white) and the Mikey’s Rule (Maryland rye, Peychaud’s bitters, maple syrup, absinthe). I liked the latter much more. I thought the egg white of the former would have been more frothy, but maybe they are still working on their game. It’s early. My friend had the Tom Selleck – bitter orange liquor, sweet vermouth, Philadelphia gin and ginger – and it was excellent. I’d definitely recommend that one. One side note: My water glass was continuously filled as I sat and enjoyed our snacks. Little things like that…things that should (but often do not) happen, I notice and appreciate. Thank you, Del.

Chesapeake Silent in the Morning

Silent in the Morning

Chesapeake Mikey's Rule

Mikey’s Rule

Chesapeake Tom Selleck

Tom Selleck

Vino Veritas: The Sweet Life – Sweet Wines to Pair with Your Favorite Summer Desserts

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What pairs well with dessert?
What pairs well with dessert?

Someone once told me that the way to tell whether you’re right or left-brained was to open your Internet browser and see how many windows were open. This morning there are five open: two are unfinished projects I swear I’ll get to the next time I have a day I can focus all my attention on them, the other three variations on baked goods. I have a problem.

My house is always littered in the pre, post, or product carnage of a good baking session and summer is one of my favorite times to bake because, simply, the fruit. The berries, the cherries, the peaches…it’s already started. I bought a cherry pitter. But what to drink with all the treats? I know I’ll have lots of fruit desserts on my table this summer, so put on your Wine Adventure Pants: we’re going to wander into territory so many claim to hate, so many refuse to experience, and so few look for answers. Let’s pair some sweet things.

Berries

We’ve already had some pretty stellar strawberries and raspberries this year, and the rest of the berry clan is showing up with bells on. My favorite berry dessert is a blueberry crisp my family calls Nana’s Blueberry Pudding, which is the best sweet crumbly topping baked over the freshest New Jersey blueberries of the season. It tastes like summertime at the shore.

Believe it or not, and I’ll say this often, sparkling wine is one of the best accompaniments to desserts, period. Much of the hesitation towards having a dessert wine after dinner is the overindulgent thought of a cloyingly sweet dessert topped off with a cloyingly sweet glass of syrupy wine. One way to conquer that is to pair your sweet dessert, say that blueberry crumble, with something light, palate cleansing, and refreshing like a glass of Champagne or, less expensively, Cava.

Cava, Spain’s sparkling wine, is made using the same method as Champagne, but has far fewer regulations regarding location and grapes allowed in production. There is a huge variety of Cava ranging in style, color price, and quality, but a good one generally can cost you under $20. The toasty, yeasty aromas coupled with bright, fresh acid and ripe fruit undertones make for a killer complement to a buttery, rich crisp with sweet-tart berries, and those “scrubbing bubbles” wash the palate clean with each sip.

Cherries

Cherries are my most anticipated fruit of the season…something about the snap of the taught skin against the tender, finger-staining flesh, spitting out the seeds ceremoniously in a bowl, and reaching for another is right up there with reading on the beach, as far as summer activities go. For desserts, I try to keep the fruit as whole as possible to retain the natural concentrated flavor cherries already have. For that, there’s nothing like a good old-fashioned cherry pie.

Once again, you’d be perfectly pleased to pop another bottle of bubbly, this time maybe a bright, fresh Prosecco with some soft citrus and melon tones, but another option would be perfectly chilled Sauternes.

First a caveat: the last thing anybody wants to do is simplify Sauternes into a sidekick for cherry pie. It’s a “sweet” wine, yes, but it’s also a great wine, which means balance, substance, and a very careful production; there’s way more to sift through than just the sweetness. From a region in Bordeaux, Sauternes is some of the most sought after wine for collectors but is also one of the oldest wines ever to be built for age. But unlike many of its red counterparts, it’s drinkable at any age. The grapes are grown in a cool, damp climate, which means they start to grow a particular kind of fungus called “noble rot” or botrytis. It looks pretty gross: fuzzy, gray, wrinkles the grapes, but what happens is the water begins to evaporate and the sugars concentrate even more in the fruit. A very particular honey flavor accompanies grapes infected with noble rot, which is where that amazing flavor in Sauternes comes from. A little goes a long way, usually a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Semillon, and Muscadelle, layers of sweet honeyed peach and floral notes wrapped around arching acidity, sumptuous texture, rich but delicate all at once. It’s liquid gold.

Washington Post Tries, Fails to Explain Pit Beef

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Photo via Shiny Metal Tiger
Photo via Shiny Metal Tiger

Oh, Washington Post. At least you’re trying. After publishing a condescending article about Baltimore earlier this year, the WaPo is clearly trying to make it up to us with a fawning article about a beloved Baltimore delicacy:  pit beef. But once again, they kinda mess it up. (Fail #1:  They mention hons in the first paragraph.)

Charm City Cook: Skinny Dipping

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Okay, no, I have never actually skinny dipped. Sadly, I’m a rule follower. Youngest of six…my parents were so tired by the time I came around, I really could have been bad. But I wasn’t. Must’ve been that Catholic guilt.

The skinny dipping I’m writing about has to do with delicious oysters. The “Skinny Dipper” is a locally sourced oyster farmed by True Chesapeake Oyster Company down in St. Mary’s County on the St. Jerome Creek. This spot is idyllic to say the very least.

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They’ve been farming oysters there for about three years and finally, they are ready for the world…well, at least Baltimore for now. The farmer, Patrick Hudson, is a Baltimore native (#golocal), and as it turns out, a friend of a dear friend of mine (#smalltimore).

And they have a mascot. Honey, the retriever. She loves chewing on oyster shells.

honey the retriever

When they invited me down to Ryleigh’s Oyster for a tasting of True Chesapeake oysters, I jumped at the chance. Oysters are one of my most favorite, favorite things. We have some great oyster bars in town – Ryleigh’s and Thames Street Oyster House are two of the best. And many local restaurants serve oysters, of course. Earlier this spring I had some very good ones at PABU and Corner BYOB. And the Hon Bar serves them on Fridays at Happy Hour. I haven’t been to the Hon for oysters lately, but I used to love to see champion shucker George Hastings there serving them up when the Friday tradition first started. What a nice man!

Oh, and I asked about the whole thing about only eating oysters in months with the letter R in them. That goes back to the days before refrigeration and in the warmer months (May, June, July August) when it was a little sketch to eat oysters that had not been kept cold. So, rest assured, unless there is a widespread power outage, it’s perfectly okay to eat oysters every month of the year. Thanks, True Chesapeake guys, for teaching me something that allows me to eat oysters all the time.

At the tasting, the True Chesapeake guys suggested that I try their Skinny Dipper oyster sans sauce. Naked! I don’t think I’ve every eaten an oyster without cocktail sauce, hot sauce, mignonette sauce…or something. But I knew I was in good hands between Patrick and his True Chesapeake colleagues and Ryleigh’s chef Patrick Morrow all sitting around the table. And, for the first time, I totally slurped it. Slurped it! It was so, so good. A little sweet, a little salty and unbelievably fresh and bright. It didn’t need anything added. Not more salt, not a sauce, nothing. And we washed them down with a nice cold Heavy Seas Loose Cannon (deeelish.) After I tried them naked, I did add a little cocktail sauce just to see what the taste was like, and yes, it was good that way, too! And the day after the tasting, the Skinny Dipper oyster made its worldwide debut as the preferred oyster of the Preakness Stakes. Very exciting times for these guys!

Baltimore Culinary Stars Shine at James Beard House

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Eastern shore buffet plate of whole shrimp, Maryland fried drummy, crispy-skin rockfish. Photo by Jonathan Mount.
Eastern shore buffet plate of whole shrimp, Maryland fried drummy, crispy-skin rockfish. Photo by Jonathan Mount.

Courtesy Bmore Media – I stepped into the former home of the late cookbook author James Beard, where a number of folks were gathered in the foyer as well as the front anteroom. I spied the open kitchen in the New York brownstone, pausing to take photographs and watch the chefs hard at work.

What the Emmys are to television, the Oscars to the movies is what the James Beard Foundation Awardsare to the culinary industry. Snagging a nomination for the highly coveted award is a badge of honor.Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde and Charleston’sCindy Wolf were among the mid-Atlantic nominees this year while PABU, the Japanese restaurant in the Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore, was nominated one of the best new restaurants.

Spike Gjerde to Open Restaurant in Crush Space in Belvedere Square

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Spike Gjerde
Spike Gjerde

The owner of Woodberry Kitchen, Spike Gjerde, will open next month a “farmhouse diner” and canning operation at Belvedere Square in the space that used to house the restaurant Crush, Bmore Media reports.

Foreman Wolf to Open New Restaurant, This Time In Columbia

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Officials of The Howard Hughes Corporation, the management company of Columbia’s Lakefront, announced today that it has signed a 10-year lease agreement with Foreman Wolf Restaurant Group for a new restaurant on the ground floor of the Exhibit Building. The restaurant will occupy 6,943 square feet of the space formerly occupied by the Red Pearl restaurant. The restaurant concept will be announced at a later date.

“This is a huge opportunity for downtown Columbia,” said John E. DeWolf, Senior Vice President of Development for The Howard Hughes Corporation. “The addition of another quality restaurant will just add to the vibrancy we are creating on the lakefront and in downtown.”

The Chesapeake Reopens

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chesapeake-restaurant

The long, loooooong dormant Chesapeake restaurant at Charles and Lanvale finally reopened for dinner last night. The revived eatery boasts new owners, a new menu, and — so they claim — lower prices (but the burger’s $15, so they must be adjusting for inflation pretty hard.)

New Martick’s Restaurant and Speakeasy to Open in August

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It’s a good time to celebrate the Roaring 20s. Director Baz Luhrmann has remade “The Great Gatsby” movie. WC Harlan in Remington is one of Baltimore’s hottest bars. And now the former Martick’s Restaurant Francis is about to be remade into a modern-day speakeasy when it reopens in August.

Speakeasies were hidden bars where in-the-know customers could enjoy a cocktail during Prohibition. It will still be called Martick’s, in honor of the late Morris Martick, the restaurant’s long-time owner, but there won’t be a sign at the Mount Vernon restaurant — just like its predecessor. If the light is on, it’s open. If not, you’re out of luck, says co-owner Brooks Bennett. Another co-owner is Alex Martick, Morris Martick’s brother.

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