Tag: food

This Week’s Challenge: Buying Local

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Better late than never, we always say – which is why we’re alerting you to this year’s Buy Local Challenge a few days late. Sorry! But whether you start on July 23 or July 26, the premise – and the principle – is still the same:  by committing to buy stuff from local farms, you help the local economy (yay, independent farmers!); the environment (yay, food that doesn’t arrive by airplane!); and your own body (yay, fresher foods with more nutrients!).

So, whether you sign the website’s pledge to eat one locally grown or harvested food each day this week, or whether you’re just on the lookout for info on local farms and helpful seasonal recipes, the Buy Local Challenge is a helpful resource. And since the BLC is set for the last full week in July each year, we can go ahead and set our calendars for next year so that we don’t miss a moment of it.

 

Restaurants on the Radar

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I suffer from something I like to call season envy. All winter long, I fantasize about the scent of Coppertone, and just as summer arrives, the thought of a cozy fire becomes appealing. Some people might just call this “general discontent,” but that is for my therapist to work out.

Anyway, it’s hot and muggy here in Baltimore (surprise!), and while most of you are enjoying all that summer offers, I am daydreaming about cooler months ahead: a chill in the air, the smell of burning leaves; I’m wearing new boots, bundling up, and heading out for dinner. Where, you ask? Well, the following yet-to-open restaurants are potential candidates.

Up first: Earth Wood & Fire whose website reads “coal fired pizza and cuisine coming to Baltimore this fall.” Simple enough. Located at the corner of Falls and Clarkview Roads (next to Falls Road Animal Hospital), this new spot looks like it’s going to be much more than a pizza parlor. Its party-vibe Facebook page tells of a buddy-story-turned-business-venture adventure. “Meet the men behind Earth Wood & Fire, Carter Mason, Mark Hofmann, Greg Gunning and John Toomey. They met over a decade ago, on Water St. at happy hour… Over the years they’ve shared a love of food, fun, and good pizza. The opening of Earth Wood & Fire is a dream come true for each of them!” (Can’t you just see them, totally buzzed, drawing out the logo on the back of a napkin?) Their vision appears to be coming along nicely: Mega money likely spent on construction, the new space looks huge! I predict a big bar scene mixed with a fun and lively restaurant space. A younger, more casual Tark’s? If the food delivers, this could be a real winner. 

Next, a stab at the family-friendly market. The Baltimore restaurant powerhouse team Tony Foreman and Cindy Wolf are at it again in Roland Park. They are opening their yet-to-be-named eatery in the space that was formerly the Roland Park Deli (around the corner and downstairs from their own Petit Louis). Here, Foreman and Wolf are getting back to their roots with an American menu and wine list. The press release describes the vision for the interior as “lively and bright with several windows and vaulted ceilings,” and “highlighting historic and architectural elements.” I picture a less beachy Coast at Shutter’s. As for “family restaurant” requirements, the layout certainly looks offspring-friendly, as does the promise of accessible pricing (lower than Petit Louis). There’s most certainly a gap in the local market for a well-done place that welcomes kids. Tony & Cindy seemed poised to capitalize on this. My daughter will have the penne pasta with butter, please! The owners expect the as-yet-unnamed restaurant won’t open until the end of the year.  

Does anyone know what is going on at the Valley Inn? We were all thrilled with the news that the venerable Teddy Bauer (of Oregon Grille and Mt. Washington Tavern fame and, oh yeah, he’s also famous for being an All-American lacrosse player) was taking over. Didn’t we all have visions of the faded lady rising like a phoenix from the ashes in his capable hands (or was that just me)? There was the much reported transfer and expansion of the liquor license to Mr. Bauer in December. Since then, witness a whole heap of…nothing. Just Ye Olde Valley Inn. No teams of drywall installers, no kitchen equipment deliveries, no patios being laid (a personal wish). Therefore, the rumors swirl. Are there zoning issues? Building issues? Problems negotiating final details with the original owners? We’ve heard all three. A call to the restaurant provided no answers just a nervous evasiveness. Despite all that, we heard today that the deal is set to close this week. But for now, we can still enjoy Veal Oscar under the glow of a five-watt bulb. Let’s pray that changes soon, although an expectation of a fall opening is really dreaming.

We would be remiss to leave out the three new restaurants slated for the Four Seasons Hotel. Michael Mina, a celebrity chef with restaurants in Las Vegas, L.A. and San Francisco, among other cities, will oversee the main restaurant, Wit and Wisdom, a contemporary tavern serving breakfast, lunch and dinner. Another restaurant, La Mill, a coffee shop, will serve breakfast and lunch. And Pabu, a dinner-only restaurant, will feature fine Japanese cuisine. 

Doesn’t piping hot miso hit the spot when you’re chilled to the bone? And wearing adorable toffee-shade knee-high boots. Let a sweating reporter daydream.

Do you have the inside skinny on any new restaurants opening this fall? Let us know in the comments.

Food Truck Fever

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Miss Shirley’s, the popular lunch and breakfast spot in Roland Park, the Inner Harbor and Annapolis, is jumping on the food truck bandwagon June 1. This comes as surprising news, given the latest dust-ups between local food trucks and city officials. But the foodies at Miss Shirley’s remain undaunted. “We decided to venture into having a food truck because we believe we have a unique concept and there is a strong following now in Baltimore of food trucks,” says Jen McIllwain, marketing manager for Miss Shirley’s. More power to ‘em. Bring those sweet potato fries to the masses! (BTW, become a fan of Miss Shirley’s on Facebook and get a coupon for free sweet potato fries!)

The food truck craze started in Los Angeles right after the recession hit when two enterprising, young, experienced chefs, newly unemployed, put their heads together to whip up their gourmet treats, pack them on trucks and serve to office workers during the day and club kids and bar patrons late at night, all at budget prices. Truck location was revealed each day on Twitter and Facebook.

The fad was a hit and soon took hold in New York, Portland, Washington, D.C. and others. Baltimore’s Kooper’s Chowhound Burger Wagon is in its second year. Gypsy Queens started late last year and Souper Freak in March, to name a few. 

It would be great if this national trend took hold in Baltimore, but we are entering into the fray in the aftermath of other cities and the progression goes something like this: Act I – Great chefs with little money take their show on the road and gain a following. Act II – Restaurants call foul with the lack of regulation and oversight of these upstarts and urge to have them stopped. Act III – Local legislators get involved and push-back on the truck scene, making it tough for the little guy to hang in there.  

We are already seeing the beginning of Act II with city officials barring trucks from parking within 300 feet of restaurants and more regulation. For its part, Miss Shirley’s is playing it smart by using private lots when traveling with goodies in the city and will also park its truck in the food truck-friendly county.

The city’s Street Vendors Board will try to resolve these issues when it meets on June 1. That’s the day Miss Shirley’s starts its truck engine. Maybe it should try to win the board over with some of those sweet potato fries.

 

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