With these sparklers, you’ll bubble over with enthusiasm.
Sparkling wine is a vastly under-appreciated and under-consumed slice of the wine world. Most folks use it solely for special occasions and the holiday season, then forget about it.
Fortunately, it is the holiday season, so there are loads of opportunities to slurp down some bodacious bubbles. There will be times when you’ll simply need a good quality sparkling wine as an aperitif or for a group toast. There will also be moments when only Champagne will do. Here are some picks that cover all the bubbly bases.
A tiny shop specializes in authentic products.
It seems appropriate that pastore means shepherd in Italian. Meandering through Pastore’s Italian Delly & Grocery (8646 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson, 410-825-5316), one is guided through an array of authentic Italian fare. Precisely stacked shelves demonstrate the care that this 30-year-old salumeria (at this location) lavishes on its diminutive enterprise. Seldom seen bucatini (fat spaghetti) and large cans of Saporito plum tomatoes (great for making pizza) are among the myriad imported foods sold at the compact store.
A family candy-cane tradition continues.
Zoë Tsoukatos is carrying on the candy legacy of her Greek ancestors, who immigrated to Baltimore in the early 1900s and sold chocolate from a pushcart. Today, Zoë, 28, and her brothers, Pantelis, 31, and Petros, 21, are third-generation chocolatiers with stores in Frederick and Waynesboro, PA. Their father, George, is also involved in Zoë’s Chocolate Co. and continues to hand-roll candy canes from scratch. “It’s a family tradition,” Zoë says.
For Thanksgiving dessert, serve this modern-day bread pudding.
While deciding on holiday desserts, we thought of the delectable bread pudding at 13.5% Wine Bar in Hampden. We asked chef Sarah Acconcia for the recipe, and she happily shared it with us. “I like this recipe because it is a smooth-textured bread pudding without being too dense,” she says. “Sometimes, bread pudding can be too heavy, but this one has a nice balance between flavors and textures—especially with the crunchy brûléed sugar topping!”
Chocolate-Cinnamon Bread Pudding
This family-run Parkton restaurant is worth the drive.
You have to love a restaurant like Soup’R Natural (17114 York Road, Parkton, 443-491-3464) that features a freshly made version of the owners’ wedding-cake recipe for dessert. The moist one-layer carrot cake with rich cream-cheese frosting looks homemade, but that’s the point at this cute farmhouse-like building, where fresh and natural ingredients are the focus of the seasonal menu.
A local food tour visits area restaurants.
After taking a guided tour of Seattle’s Pike Place Market, Ridgely’s Delight resident and graphics designer Sharon Reuter had an epiphany. “Bing! The light bulb went on. I knew in my mind this was something I could do,” she says. The result? Charm City Chews, which launched in May.
It’s the Most Wonderful Wine of the Year
This month, the holiday season really gets into gear. Thanksgiving kicks off weeks of festivities, from religious celebrations and office parties to momentous family gatherings and lighthearted fetes with friends. One never knows when a celebration might erupt, and it certainly isn’t the time to be low on wine.
I’ve gathered six wines that cover all the bases, from sparkling to sweet. With these bottles on hand, you’ll be prepared for any occasion.
Harford County is a burgeoning exurb, better known for its family-friendly chain restaurants than its locally owned fine-dining venues. That’s why wandering into a polished gem like Pairings Bistro in Bel Air is like discovering gold in the New World.
Baltimore sizzles with prime-time restaurants devoted to beef.
No matter what the economy, we still like to have our steak and eat it, too. Maybe we’re channeling our inner Mad Men and need to indulge, or maybe there’s just nothing like a hunk of beef to soothe the belly. While most steakhouses adhere to a formulaic décor—you know, dark wood, leather booths, dim lighting—they carve out their own personalities with preparation, presentation, and service. So where’s the beef? We’ve been visiting local spots for several months, eating (and putting on) pounds of choice and prime cuts of steak along the way. Grab a fork and join us on our tour.
You don’t have to pay a fortune to get a darn tasty steak in this town.
Ale Mary’s, 1939 Fleet Street, 410-276-2044. The restaurant’s irreverence toward religious paraphernalia (a holy-water font doubles as a mint dish, for example) doesn’t transcend to the kitchen, which turns out inventive fare like crazy-good tater tots (the crabby tots, dappled with thick crab dip, are a favorite) and the incredible “Krispy Kreme” bread pudding. You’ll also find a steak deal: two fist-sized, black Angus USDA choice filet mignons with garlic mashed potatoes, fresh veggies (sautéed squash one night), and a giant Caesar salad for $22.95.
Big meat, big sides, big reds, big bills—despite a well-documented shortage of disposable dining dollars, Baltimoreans certainly haven’t lost their appetite for beef and fancy steakhouses.
“Steak is one of those staples that people want to have when they go out for a special occasion,” says Ted Bauer, owner of The Oregon Grille in Hunt Valley. “A lot of people don’t cook big steaks and chops at home. . . . When they go out, however, they want to eat steak.”
A new generation of brew enthusiasts reignite the city’s suds legacy.
“Beer is proof that God loves us and wants us to be happy,” reads a Ben Franklin quote stenciled in Gothic print above the long copper-top bar at Max’s Taphouse in Fells Point.
It’s 9 p.m. on a Saturday night, and God’s love is flowing fast and furious. It doesn’t hurt that the Ravens’ first exhibition game of the season plays on most of the bar’s screens—or that the resurgent Buck Showalter-led O’s play on the others. But, still, something is different.
Everything’s kosher at the pickle stand.
Sporting green T-shirts reading, “Go Green, Eat Pickles,” Jason Gallant, pictured, and his team smile and joke with market-goers on Sunday mornings at the Baltimore Farmers’ Market under the JFX. His stand
Hampden coffee shop perks up serious brews.
Jay Caragay takes the notion of coffee geekdom to an entirely new level. The daily menu at his Hampden shop, Spro Coffee (851 W. 36th St., 410-243-1262), lists five to eight varieties of beans, each brewed to order with one of seven methods—including the AeroPress, an immersion technique, and the Vac Pot, a two-chamber contraption that looks like it belongs in a science lab.
Johnny Rad’s pizzeria skates into Fells Point.
It’s no surprise that Rich Pugh, co-owner of Johnny Rad’s (2108 Eastern Ave., 443-759-6464), used to manage a skate shop. The pizzeria/tavern on the upper edge of Fells Point has skateboards on its walls, skate videos on TV, wheels acting as doorknobs, and a steady soundtrack of punk blaring from the speakers. But take a quick look at the menu, and you realize it’s all about the pizza. The restaurant offers 12 specialty pizzas, along with make-your-own options with toppings like bell peppers, prosciutto, and vegetarian meats.