Hot Plate: Minnow Open and Charm City Cakes Open, Soft Shells at R. House, Wine Dinners All Over

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The Chuleton ribeye will be paired with two wines – a Tempranillo and a Pinot Noir – at La Cuchara’s American Basque Tour wine dinner on Thursday.

We’ve got a warm week ahead of us, Baltimore, and plenty of ways to enjoy it – from hot restaurant openings to wine dinners, new spring menus (softshells!) and a terrific food-friendly bluegrass festival. Here’s a look at what’s happening in and around Baltimore this week:

Openings & Announcements

A few months ago, the owners of La Cuchara announced plans to open a smaller, neighborhood-focused eatery in Riverside. The new restaurant, a seafood-oriented spot called Minnow, will be located in the 2 E. Wells apartment complex and – as long as all the finishing construction touches go as planned – it will open next week sometime.

La Cuchara isn’t the only popular restaurant with exciting expansion plans. Next month, the Foodshed team – the folks behind Woodberry Kitchen and Parts & Labor – will open Sandlot, an outdoor recreation and dining area at Harbor Point. The space will be big and fun, with food and beverage options served out of shipping containers and a vintage Airstream trailer. Opening day is planned for Memorial Day weekend.

The new Harbor East location of Charm City Cakes, owned by Food Network fave Duff Goldman, opened last Thursday. The shop will sell cakes, but also other sweet treats, like cupcakes, brownies and macarons.

Finally, some sad news for fans of beer and frites: Le Garage in Hampden is closing at the end of this week. The casual French restaurant will rebrand and reopen “at a later date” – but Saturday, April 29 is your last opportunity to get in on the old menu. Until then, the restaurant will have extended happy hour specials.

This Week in Wine

Sunday, head to Highlandtown to watch some of the best homemade winemakers in town compete with one another – and eat some great food – at the Highlandtown Wine Fest.

On Wednesday, head to Cinghiale in Harbor East for a Tuscan-inspired wine dinner. The wines of Montepulciano’s Tenuta Valdipiatta will be paired with three savory courses (there’s also dessert!), including dishes like pappardelle with beef oxtail ragu. Winemaker and Tenuta Valdipiatta owner Miriam Caporali will also be on hand for discussion.

La Cuchara will toast the Basque region on Thursday with a meal featuring the wines of Bodegas Itsasmendi and Bodegas Tierra Agricola Labastida and ciders from Sidreria Urbitarte. The drinks will be paired with pintxos, four courses and dessert by Chef Ben Lefenfeld; dishes include luxuries like baccalao scrambled eggs with uni and grilled baguette, and a Chuleton ribeye with charred spring onions.

Soft Shell Season

It’s prime time for soft shell crabs and R. House is getting in on the action in the pop-up space. Big Softy, a crab-themed pop-up from Craig Falk (also known as the owner of The Lunchbox Lady), will occupy the space from May 3 to May 14, serving up soft shell sandwiches plus a bunch of other crab dishes, like crab salad and crab pasta. There will be a new special every day for the pop-up’s entire run.

Bluegrass, Bites & Brews

This Saturday, the Charm City Bluegrass Festival makes its fifth appearance. The event, which takes place in Druid Hill Park, is mostly about the tunes, but it’s also a great place to eat and drink. Not only will there be food available from a bunch of local favorites, like The Local Oyster, Cardinal Tavern and BricknFire Pizza, both Union Craft Brewing and The Charmery are creating items designed specifically for the festival.

Union Craft has developed a beer called When I Say Charm, You Saison! and The Charmery’s flavor, Dust to Gold, is a combo of honey, Oreo dust and Golden Grahams created in honor of performer Cris Jacobs.

Cinematic Brunching

On Sunday, Pen & Quill will host a special movie-themed buffet brunch, dubbed Brunch Drunk Love. Brunch cocktails will include a “Clueless” Campari spritzer and a “Breakfast Club” crush.

Celebrate Spring

If you can’t hop on a plane this week, your next best bet is to head to Petit Louis on Sunday for the bistro’s annual April in Paris celebration. The festival of spring will be held outdoors and will  include a special brunch menu and lively music.

Springtime, as the earth starts to come alive, is prime foraging season. On Wednesday, May 3, Chesapeake Farm to Table will host a walk in the woods near Loch Raven Reservoir lead by ethnobotanist and clinical herbalist Hayden Stebbins. Learn about, and harvest, forageable plants, then head to Towson Tavern, where the kitchen team will prepare a multi-course  meal with the items harvested.

Also on Wednesday, Maggie’s Farm, which is now under new ownership, will open its patio and debut a brand new menu – drinks and food – for the new season. The evening will include live music and a raw bar courtesy of Conrad’s Seafood.

Drinks to Fight ALS

Starting Monday and lasting throughout May, The Milton Inn will offer a Goetze’s caramel apple martini benefiting Brigance Brigade, the non-profit organization, founded by former Raven O.J. Brigance and his wife Chandra, that helps fund ALS research.

Federal Hill Mashup

On Thursday, The Local Fry is joining forces with Sobo Café and Key Brewing for East Meets West Cross Street, a collaborative effort mixing Asian flavors with American comfort food. The menu includes dishes like a kimchi burger and Peking duck confit fries, plus plenty of Key Brewing beers.

Cinco de Mayo

Next Friday, May 5, is Cinco de Mayo, the annual celebration of all things Mexico. Restaurants and bars around the area have specials – including discounted sangria, margaritas and tacos at Points South Latin Kitchen and a long list of drink specials at Papi’s Tacos.

Planning Ahead

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

May 6: Heavy Seas Taco Festival

May 6: Charm City Wine Run

May 26: Sweet and Savory at Prigel Family Creamery

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