Hot Plate: Christmas cookies and ornaments at Silver Queen, pancakes at Gertrude’s, Santa everywhere and more

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Baltimore has never been more festive. This week, local restaurants are filled with holiday spirit, hosting pop-ups from Santa, introducing new cocktails, baking cookies and helping kids create crafts. Here’s a look at what’s on tap:

Openings and announcements
Zeke’s Café now offers beer, wine and specialty liquors (like the types that will pair well with coffee!).

The venerable Ambassador Dining Room has changed ownership. The Baltimore Business Journal reports that Gopal Bishwakarma, a former employee, purchased the business from Keir and Binda Singh, the brothers who have run the Indian restaurant since 1977.

The Singhs are staying busy, though. They recently renovated and reopened Peerce’s Plantation in Baltimore County.

Khepera’s Kitchen is taking a holiday break. They’ll be open through Dec. 21, then closed until Jan. 10.

Dylan’s Oyster Cellar celebrates its third anniversary with a party on Saturday night, from 10 p.m. to midnight. There will be tarot card readings, psychic fortune telling, champagne, buck-a-shuck oysters and more. Congratulations to a terrific addition to the local food scene.

Woodfire Kitchen has something fun happening this month. Every visit, each table has the opportunity to win a prize–something like 10 percent off the bill or free dinner for two. You’ll win something every time.

The Corner Pantry has announced a massive expansion. The terrific Lake Falls Village restaurant and catering company will almost double its space in the new year, adding a second counter, a private dining space and an expanded kitchen.

Ministry of Brewing has news: the Upper Fells restaurant, which looks gorgeous, should be open by Christmas. 

Creole Soul opens at R. House on Friday. It sounds like a great addition to an already fun place.

Trinacria’s Mt. Vernon location will reopen on Saturday! The grand reopening celebration kicks off at 9 p.m.

Market shopping
This time of year is a fun one for food shopping. One of the quickest ways to get into the spirit of the season is to head to a bustling market, someplace like Trinacria or DiPasquale’s, or one of the city’s bigger markets.

There are lots of shopping opportunities at the newly revamped Cross Street Market; for the next three weekends, the market will host a Holiday Market featuring goodies from a bunch of different local makers. Plus, of course, there are lots of great food options to take home or enjoy on-site.

Don’t forget about Northeast Market, either. Not only is it the kind of place where you can snag specialty items (like a pig’s heads!), it’s also home to many terrific vendors, including Rose’s Bakery–a good spot for many holiday desserts–and longtime seafood spot Shore’s Seafood. And don’t miss Gangham BBQ, the new stall from longtime vendor Mrs. Shin.

Broadway Market will be especially festive Saturday night during a holiday disco party featuring a DJ and drink and food specials all over the market.

Lexington Market–the granddaddy of all Baltimore markets–is celebrating small vendors with a Holiday Artisanal Market every Monday through Saturday until Dec. 20. Check out arts and crafts by local makers before heading to the food stalls to pick up lunch or dinner, or order your holiday meals.

Seeing Santa
Keeping an eye out for the big guy in red this week? Don’t worry, you’ll have plenty of opportunities to get up close and personal with him.

On Saturday, Santa will be at The Choptank from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. He’ll be available for photos. During that time, there will be Marines on-site collecting donations for Toys for Tots.

Plus, the restaurant will host the first-ever Fells Point Winter Cocktail Competition, featuring entries from The Horse You Came in On, The Point in Fells, Wicked Sisters (not technically in Fells, but who’s counting?), Alexander’s Tavern, The Admiral’s Cup, The Greene Turtle and Riptide.

Santa will be at The Manor Tavern for two breakfast events on Saturday, one at 10 a.m. and one at 12:30 p.m. In addition to photos and a buffet, kids will have the chance to get crafty with a fun kids’ craft table.

Nacho Mama’s in Towson hosts a Breakfast with Santa on Sunday morning, starting at 11 a.m. The event is ticketed and includes a breakfast buffet, a picture, an ornamental picture frame craft and one holiday cocktail for the grownups.

If Santa’s not your thing, but you still love a character brunch, how about an Elsa-style Snow Queen? The Point in Towson will host the frozen one on Saturday from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. This event also requires tickets, so don’t freeze on the reservation.

Book signings
Quick personal plug: I will pop-up at several spots around town this week, signing copies of my recently released book, “Lost Restaurants of Baltimore,” with my co-author, Suzanne Loudermilk.

We will be at the Fire Museum of Maryland on Saturday from 10 a.m.-1 p.m., at Eddie’s on Roland Ave. Saturday from 2-4 p.m. and at Eddie’s on N. Charles St. Wednesday from 5-7 p.m. Stop by and say hi if you’re in the area!

Pancake Party at Gertrude’s
On Saturday morning, Gertrude’s hosts its annual Celtic Solstice Pancake Party, including a $10 all-you-can-eat pancake bar–featuring a bunch of different pancake flavors and toppings–and $10 bottomless mimosas, Bloody Marys and cava.

Heritage pop-up at Bird in Hand
Heritage Smokehouse, the not-yet-open barbecue place from former Parts & Labor butcher George Marsh, continues its pop-up tour on Saturday, with a dinner at Bird in Hand.

The event, which requires tickets, sounds phenomenal: Spanish wines from the shop French Paradox paired with a variety of smoked meats plus veggies, sides and sauces. It’s definitely going to be a good one.

Winter Wine-derland
On Saturday, head to SEYA Crossfit & Wellness Center in Highlandtown for the first-ever Highlandtown Winter Wine-derland celebration, where you can taste more than 50 wines and celebrate the season in style. The event is sponsored by Snake Hill and Opici Family Distributing.

“Star Wars” brunch
This season is a big one for fans of “Star Wars,” and Outpost American Tavern is in on the fun. On Sunday, the Riverside restaurant will host a “Star Wars”-themed brunch, including special menu items and drinks celebrating all that’s great about the galaxy far, far away.

“Elf” at The Charmery
On Saturday and Sunday, The Charmery is hosting several full-sensory screenings of “Elf” at its Union Collective location. Full sensory means treats specially designed to match with specific movie scenes, themed punch, a popcorn bar and more.

Unfortunately, all the showings are sold out. However, you can email the shop to put your name on the wait list. You never know–you might get lucky!

Matcha seminar at Whitehall Mill
On Sunday, Wight Tea Company will host a matcha seminar at Whitehall Mill. You’ll learn about the popular beverage, find out how to make it at home, and have the opportunity to try several matcha drinks.

Great Jewish Bake Off 2019: Cookie Edition
On Sunday, Eddie’s teams up with the Jewish Museum of Maryland for a cook-off featuring the best cookies from amateur local bakers. Awards include categories for Most on Theme, Most Impressive and best Under 16 entry.

Cookies & Ornaments at Silver Queen Cafe
On Monday evening, Silver Queen Café will be full of holiday spirit during a fun, kid-friendly party featuring cookie decorating, hot chocolate and ornament-making stations.

Adults will have a good time, too, enjoying beer, winter sangria and “special additions” for hot chocolate.

The event is ticketed and there will be a buffet featuring salads, fries, fruit and a variety of SQC’s excellent pizzas.

Customer Appreciation Party at Lee’s Pint & Shell
On Wednesday, Lee’s Pint & Shell says thank you to its loyal customer base with a party benefiting BARCS. The event includes all-night happy hour, free oysters from 5-9 p.m. and one hour of open bar sometime between 7-10 p.m.

Christmas in Mexico…in Hampden
Thursday, The Charmery teams up with Clavel’s Chef Carlos Raba for its annual Christmas in Mexico event benefiting Guardian Baltimore.

On Thursday, The Charmery’s Hampden menu will include Adornos Navideños
con salsa de frambuesa y leche lechera: fried vanilla ice ream “ornaments” with raspberry sauce and a leche drizzle. Yum.

Seasonal sips
‘Tis the season to keep yourself warm with a tipple or two. Local spots have some fun seasonal spirits on the menu right now.

Alma Cocina Latina’s spirits flights will keep you warm all year long, but especially right now, when the air is chilly. The Venezuelan restaurant has 57 different rums, including some rare selections, and offers flights ranging from $15 to $30 most days (and available as part of the happy hour menu on Tuesdays). Alma offers flights built around Venezuelan rums, Brazilian rums (Cachaca), French-speaking Caribbean Island rums (Agricole) and Caribbean rums (Caribe). You’ll get an education with your order, as well!

Topside has a few new cocktails designed to keep you warm this winter, including the Chai Me a River, a rum, chai, amaro, falernum and bitters concoction, and the Amaretto Melt Down, which combines amaretto with bourbon, vanilla syrup, cardamom bitters, lemon and egg white.

Planning Ahead
Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:
Dec. 21: Winter Solstice Party at Rathskellar 
Dec. 23: Ugly Sweater Fondue Party at Coelum 
Dec. 31: Kiddie Ball-Drop at The Charmery 

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