Hot Plate: Hygge Mood at Prime Corner, Johnny’s gets festive, Chanukah at Gunther & more

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It’s the happiest time of the year. With everything from holiday cocktails to Chanukah latkes, this week offers a variety of ways to kick off Baltimore’s holiday season with good food and drink. Here’s a look at what’s coming up in and around town:

Openings and announcements

A new wine bar (with food!) opened in the old Bottega space last week. Le Comptoir du Vin’s menu and atmosphere are inspired by France and the spot looks like an excellent addition to the neighborhood.

Fans of Korean food have both good and bad news to absorb this week.

The good: The 40 West Shopping Center in Catonsville is getting a brand new retail/restaurant concept next month: be•se•to. The name is a combination of Beijing, Seoul and Tokyo; be•se•to will offer food and items and services from all three cities, functioning like an Asian-oriented department store. The operation will include four restaurant concepts: a traditional Korean restaurant, separate Korean-style Chinese and Japanese restaurants and a dessert shop.

The bad: Bonchon’s Canton location has closed. Fortunately, other locations of the Korean fried chicken restaurant, including a couple in Howard County, remain open.

Holiday spirit

Just in time for the holiday season, Johnny’s has transformed into a Christmas bar for the month of December. In addition to many festive decorations, the bar will offer a bunch of seasonal drink and sweets specials, like brown sugar hot buttered rum and fun Christmas cookies.

Sotto Sopra is also in the holiday mood. The Mt. Vernon restaurant’s musical evenings are always a hit, but the holiday season event is especially popular. On Sunday, the eatery will offer a four-course dinner to be enjoyed while a team of talented singers perform holiday carols.

The holiday season has truly begun when the lights on the Washington Monument start to shine. The annual Monument Lighting celebration takes place on Thursday, Dec. 6. In addition to fireworks, music and lots of sparkle, there will also be a ton of food. A wide variety of local favorites will be on site with treats, from The Urban Oyster to Magdalena.

John Shields book signing

You know what would make a nice holiday gift for a local (or not so local) food lover? A signed copy of John Shields’ new book, “The New Chesapeake Kitchen.

The Gertrude’s owner will be at the Johns Hopkins Barnes & Noble at 3 p.m. on Saturday to sign copies and give a talk about the current health of the Chesapeake Bay.

Cozy Saturday

Have you heard of hygge? It’s a Danish concept that doesn’t have a strict translation in English, but roughly translates to feeling cozy alone or with friends. It’s an ideal cold weather vibe and it’s super trendy right now.

On Saturday, Prime Corner in Hampden is getting in on the action with Hygge Mood, an event featuring food from Filipino pop-up Calasag, cocktails from R. Bar and “special appearances” from a variety of vendors, including Jinji Chocolate, Sacré Sucré and B. Willow.

Vegan MacFest

For our plant-based foodies: This Saturday, R. House is hosting some of the city’s top vegan mac and “cheese” makers for Vegan MacFest. There will be cooking demos, a panel discussion, giveaways and lots of vegan varieties of the American food staple (with free samples!), plus desserts and other dishes.

Boozy Monday

Hoping to start the week on the right foot? On Monday, Dec. 3, you’ll have your choice between a couple excellent events.

Ryleigh’s Oyster Hunt Valley partners with Sagamore Spirit for a Distiller’s Dinner featuring five courses, each paired with a Sagamore whiskey cocktail.

Also on Monday, Vida Taco Bar in Harbor Point hosts a fundraiser for No Kid Hungry. The event, which is an “industry night” with guest bartenders and custom cocktails featuring Ilegal Mezcal, will have a special menu and drink deals for people within the restaurant industry. There will be a $5 cover at the door, which will be donated directly to No Kid Hungry.

Wonka at The Charmery

On Tuesday, Dec. 4, see the original Willy Wonka movie in its full glory, with a “full sensory experience” at The Charmery Ice Cream Factory (in Union Collective). During the screening, there will be tastes of ice cream to complement the action on the screen. Ever wondered what snozzberries taste like? You just might find out.

Hanukkah at Gunther

On Tuesday, Gunther & Co. kicks off the third night of Chanukah with a special dinner. The meal includes the owner’s special, potato latkes, and other classics like chicken liver, matzoh ball soup and braised brisket, with chocolate babka and jam-filled doughnuts for dessert.

Classes this week

This week offers a couple chances to learn new things for the kitchen and behind the bar.

On Monday, Dec. 3, learn how to make a pair of holiday cocktails at Johnny’s‘ last cocktail class of the year. And On Tuesday, Dec. 4, Azumi hosts its final installment of Sushi 101 for 2018.

Made in Baltimore happy hour

Whiskey and pork rinds might not be a traditional pairing, but they sound pretty good together. Made in Baltimore will test that premise on Friday, Dec. 7, with a happy hour event featuring locally made Ray’s Pork Rinds paired with samples of Sagamore Spirit whiskey.

R. House turns two

Happy birthday to R. House, which celebrates its second anniversary with a big party on Friday, Dec. 7. The Remington food hall will go all out with karaoke, a scavenger hunt, face painting, a birthday bar and two-for-one specials throughout the hall.

The party starts at 6 p.m. and is family friendly until 9 p.m.; plan accordingly.

Planning Ahead

Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:

Dec. 11: Rodney Strong wine dinner at Gunther & Co. 

Dec. 12: Reyka Vodka dinner at The Elephant 

Jan. 11-12: Krautfest at Gertrude’s

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