He's been a perfectionist, personally monitoring every aspect of his family-run restaurant for 20 years. So is Linwood Dame beginning to ease up? Don't count on it.
Wearing his trademark horn-rimmed glasses, chef's whites, and well-worn Dansko clogs, Linwood Dame stands in the corner of his open kitchen, puts a pinch of English sea salt over a watermelon-and-feta salad and simultaneously studies the row of lunch tickets to make sure the food is finding its way to the tables in a timely fashion.
"Was this tuna returned because the first piece was overcooked?" Dame grills a server as he garnishes a plate. "How long has this table been waiting?" he asks another server. "What do we have on pick up?" he shouts to a sous chef.
Sweet Léla’s Market Café
Sweet Léla’s leads a double life. It hides under the guise of a market café by day and then cleverly struts itself as a multi-course, tablecloth restaurant at night, at least on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays. And the manager, Vincenzo Diferrante, is so irresistibly charming that you’re won over long before the vegetable antipasti arrives on a pretty orange plate with thick slabs of fresh mozzarella, tender eggplant, black olives, and summer-licious tomatoes.
Dangerously Delicious Pies cooks up savory selections.
Rodney “The Pie Man” Henry has been busy. He recently renovated his Federal Hill store, Dangerously Delicious Pies, and then proceeded to gussy up a location in Hampden (3547 Chestnut Ave., 410-662-7437, dangerouspies.com), adding Savory House to the original name. The spruced-up restaurant—where Finnerteas used to be before its roof blew off during a storm a few summers ago—has a chic vibe with scarlet walls, lacquered tables, glistening wood floors, and wrought-iron chandeliers.
The word "McDonald's" evokes images of hard plastic booths, fluorescent lights, and outdated colors. Not exactly the kind of place you'd imagine armchairs and signed artwork. But that is just what franchise owners Barbara and Bob Houck have in mind for one of their four McDonald's. After 41 years, the 502 Reisterstown Road location has come face to face with a wrecking ball, and the Houcks are reimagining what a McDonald's can be.
Head to the fields, pick grapes, and watch wine being made.
The hills are alive with—well, lots of vines. Maryland now boasts 33 wineries that produce more than 240 different wines, according to the Maryland Wineries Association. And last year, more than 225,000 gallons of local vino were flowing through the state. It's enough to make you want to uncork another bottle.
Well-Schooled in Wine
Back-to-school sales are just about wrapped up as our collective pride and joys trundle off to another year of academic pursuits. A summer full of relations, vacations, stay-cations, and Play Stations has come to a close, and, now, there's an empty house. Whew! It's time to enjoy a little back-to-school shopping of our own, and what better way to usher in the beginning of a new school year than with the offerings of L'Ecole No. 41, Walla Walla, Washington's, attractive, high quality winery?
Sauté, a tavern-style restaurant near Patterson Park, serves oysters and calamari that are fried, pork loin that is slow-roasted, and pizzas and steak that are grilled. Very few items are actually sautéed, but that doesn't matter. Most are quite good.
Cultural diversity reaches new levels at York Garden.
When you drive by York Garden Restaurant and Bar (9726 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-666-5303), you can't help but do a double take. A big sign out front announces that there is Indian and Mexican cuisine being served at what was formerly Asiana Indian Cuisine. Whoa, this is taking fusion to a whole new level.
Once inside and settled in the hushed dining room with pink overtones, we asked our server why the restaurant had chosen to serve two seemingly divergent types of cuisines. She explained the owners were hoping to draw in more customers that way. Fair enough.
A Towson barista takes coffee to new level at the library.
Some of the best espresso in town can be found in an unlikely place: the Towson Library. The unassuming Spro Coffee stand doubles as a laboratory for its owner, culinary mad scientist Jay Caragay. The coffeemeister had been looking for a venue when the library space opened up in 2006. He's been brewing there ever since.
You know how some restaurants bring your bread with ice-cold butter that is impossible to spread? Jay Cohen, the owner and executive chef of three-year-old Mia Carolina in Glyndon, gets really annoyed by that. So at his restaurant, he makes sure the butter is warm enough to spread easily.
Chill Out With Summer Wines
It's a special kind of climatic hangover we endure this time of year in Maryland. And like "hangover," the official letter for August probably should be "H"—hazy, hot, and humid. But a refreshing beverage can be just the thing to take the edge off the suffocating heat.
New owners take over at Sanders' Corner.
For the first time in 50 years, a Sanders isn't on the premises at Sanders' Corner (2260 Cromwell Bridge Road, 410-825-5187), although the restaurant name will live on. Ron Sanders recently retired, and new owner John Naudain is seeking to leave his own imprint on the well-known Baltimore County spot. A new chef, Cindy Lee, is also in the kitchen for the changeover.
Legendary liqueur packs a wallop.
The pepperminty sweetness of the cloudy greenish concoction was the first sensation to hit my palate. Next came the burn of the 124-proof liquid snaking its way down my throat. As the hairs on the back of my neck stood to attention, I shifted on my bar stool at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, where I'd come to sample absinthe—newly legalized in the United States—and waited for the hallucinations to kick in. But visions of little green fairies sauntering through the streets of Harbor East never did materialize.
Local tomatoes crop up in summer salads.
Just in time for a bumper crop of tomatoes (the good ones we grow in our gardens; not the bad ones from other places!), Barbara Collurafici of The Gourmet Girls in Owings Mills shares a knockout salad that makes great use of these summertime babies.
Restaurant chefs get creative in the kitchen with craft brews.
Wine with dessert? Of course. Beer with dessert? What?
Actually, as craft beers take the country by storm, the seemingly odd matchup works quite well. Gourmets are finding that exquisite boutique chocolates and rich, gooey desserts mate perfectly well with dark, malty porters and pale, crisp ales.
Such creative pairings reflect a growing awareness of beer as an incredibly versatile drink with flavor complexities that rival—and, some would argue, surpass—those of wine.