El Patrón brings Mexican to an elegant old Mt. Vernon rowhouse.
"We still get people coming in asking what happened to Tony Cheng's," sighs our server at the recently opened El Patrón (801 N. Charles Street, 410-244-8494), which does indeed occupy the digs of that former Szechuan favorite. But people should give El Patrón a chance, if only to enjoy a free basket full of the most addictive corn chips I think I have ever tasted. We couldn't decide what made them so good—they were a little lighter, a little sweeter than usual, and still hot from the fryer.
A new gelateria is a little bit crazy and a whole lot delicious.
Organic milk from grass-fed cows. Bronte pistachios flown in from the slopes of Italy's Mount Etna. Free-range chicken eggs used the day they're laid. It's safe to say Pitango Gelato is a wee bit obsessive about the ingredients in its frozen treats. At their Fells Point storefront, which opened earlier this summer (802 S. Broadway, 410-702-5828), each gelato is kept in its own lidded compartment to prevent flavors from mixing. And such flavors!
Safety is an admirable goal. It's what motivates us to inhabit cozy homes, to strap on our seatbelts, to step away from that grizzly bear. There's safety in numbers, of course. There's even a Safety Dance. For American wine producers, there is safety, too—in Napa Valley Cabernet Sauvignon, or Oregon Pinot Noir. (Heck, these days, Pinot Noir in and of itself is a vinous Fort Knox.)
The Crab Shanty stretches out across the street.
The Crab Shanty (3410 Plum Tree Drive, Ellicott City, 410-465-9660), that long-lived crabhouse on Route 40, has moved its adjoining carryout businesses to the lot across the street to make room for a coming curbside fast-food enterprise. Housed together, its Pig Pickers (barbecue) and Sea King (seafood) carryout stores share a shiny new space with a few tables scattered across its tiled floor; a couple of picnic tables outside offer extra space for lunchtime visitors.
I originally got drawn into following the Tour de France every July because of Lance Armstrong's string of victories, but I remain entranced by the event because of its drama, its sweep, and even its scenery. This year's Tour should be particularly enjoyable, as most of the usual dominating favorites are out of the running. I'm looking forward to following the early leader's progress, and whether he'll be able to hang on in the mountain stages. I'm looking forward to seeing which teams will put on the best show, regardless of standing.
A tiny carry-out cafe gives Federal Hill revelers a late-night option for food.
The awning of the Soho Eatery (1504 Light Street, 410-685-2989) puts two cheerfully smiling faces inside the O's of the cafe's name. And for such a tiny place (there are a couple tables, but it's really geared more toward carry-out), Soho gives customers a lot to smile about. There are the refreshing, icy, fruit smoothies. There's the crisply grilled teriyaki, pictured here, a step up from the bland, baked version found at so many local Asian restaurants.
"Excuse me? Ma'am? Excuse me?"
It's crunch time for wedding planners, judging by the invitations in my mailbox. I enjoy going to weddings, for they are events filled with love and happiness and (occasionally) good music. They are also a good excuse to carry my silver flask like some sort of rogue, just in case someone needs help with nerves. And I like checking out the flowers. Standard bouquets? Custom-matched to the dresses? Plastic? Focus on all that flowery delicacy long enough, and a certain thirst develops—but don't worry, I'm not about to recommend what goes with rubber chicken.
Illusions Magic Bar brings class and straightjackets to Federal Hill.
Father-and-son team Ken and Spencer Horsman partly opened Illusions Magic Bar & Lounge (1025 S. Charles Street, 410-727-5811) to give Spencer a venue in which to hone his magic act between tours. (The 21-year-old child of two circus clowns had already done Letterman by the time he was 8.) And sure enough, at 10 p.m., the winsome Spencer jumps on the bar to run through his good-humored patter and a couple of card routines, ending with his pièce de résistance: escaping from a straightjacket while hanging upside-down from the ceiling.
Mosaic brings its party indoors.
For the past three summers, outdoor lounge Mosaic has been a favorite oasis for sipping drinks and dancing under the stars. But with the opening of a sleek indoor lounge (4 Market Place, 410-262-8713), this Power Plant Live venue has become an ill-weather option. The tented outdoor area will still be available in warmer months, but it's obvious the establishment is now redefining itself as a more traditional nightclub.
Let the little lady sleep in for once—while you and the kids whip up breakfast in bed!
Few holidays provide us with as many warm fuzzies as Mother’s Day. After all, who better to honor than the lady who packed all those school lunches, wiped all those runny noses (even involuntarily, and on her sweater hems, no less), and listened to the same senseless knock-knock jokes over and over—and laughed every time?
Artifact Coffee is earning bravos for its breves.
As of press time, Woodberry Kitchen, the new Clipper Mill restaurant owned by Nelson Carey and Spike and Amy Gjerde, was slated to open in late May. But for now, we're reveling in its smaller side project: Artifact Coffee (2010 Clipper Park Road, 410-464-8000). The beans are both Fair Trade and organic; your cuppa joe is 100 percent freshly French pressed. Baked goods are from local stars Stone Mill Bakery, Rose's Cookies, and Patisserie Poupon. We are particularly fond of the Maple Breve, an intoxicating mix of espresso, pure maple syrup, and a dollop of dairy.
Perhaps because I am not a particularly large person myself, I've always enjoyed the deceptively dainty aspect of high tea. Sure, individually, each part of a tea can be adorably diminutive—the wee finger sandwiches, the delicate porcelain teacups, the bite-sized pastries—but taken as a whole, tea is for neither the faint of heart nor small of stomach.
Do you have a problem committing to self-improvement or resolutions at New Year's? I do. It's not a convenient time of year for such things. Residual holiday cheer (and stress), plus the long stretch of dreariness from January to April, doesn't exactly prime one's pump for renewal. But this time of year is lousy with renewal, and I'm in the mood to give myself a serious overhaul—not of my weight or sleeping habits, but of my wine preconceptions.
An Asian-themed chain spreads to Baltimore.
It's taken a while, but P.F. Chang's has finally come to Baltimore (600 E. Pratt Street, 410-649-2750), setting up residence in the Inner Harbor building that houses a Best Buy and new Filene's Basement. Before this, the nearest outpost of this quasi-Chinese chain was the one opened in Columbia in 2001. This one is a little smaller, and given a more intimate feel through the use of low lighting and extra soundproofing. Staff is friendly and upbeat, and the small, bright bar is a good stop for festive, candy-colored cocktails.