Bartenders has suds, pizza ... and old-vine Carignan wine.
On first glance, Bartenders (2218 Boston Street, 410-534-2337) looks like any other Canton or Fells Point bar into which you might stumble: tin ceiling, plenty of TVs tuned to sports, and plenty of baseball-capped patrons downing their suds. But here and there, you'll see a couple leaning in close to each other and delicately touching thin-stemmed wine glasses. Bartenders has a surprisingly ambitious wine program— especially fun on Wednesday nights, when they feature four more unusual wines that aren't on their normal list.
The Grapevine Cafe
"Huh," says my friend Ben as we gaze around the Grapevine Cafe. Translation: "I do believe that the only people at this restaurant younger than ourselves are the wait staff."
"Yep," I say back. Still, at 34, I have reached an age where I take a certain level of comfort in feeling young by comparison, so I happily settle into the bar with my friends to wait for our table. It will take about 20 minutes; we're hitting the place just a couple weeks after a mostly positive review in the Sun, and they're still dealing with a new rush of business.
Made in Maryland
Perhaps the most alluring charm of European travel, at least from a wine perspective, is getting the chance to sample regional wines with regional fare. To wash down a hunk of Crottin de Chavignol with a delightfully crisp Sancerre, or a grilled steak dressed in lemon juice and olive oil with a fine Chianti, is to dip oneself in the sensual reflecting pool of a given region.
First-time restauranteurs divulge the joys and tribulations of owning their own establishments.
When Sam Curreri opened Sammy's Trattoria in Mount Vernon in June 2006, he thought he was well prepared to own his own restaurant. After all, he'd spent a dozen years as general manager at one of Baltimore's busiest restaurants, Chiapparelli's. Curreri figured he had seen it all.
Then his sprinkler system failed. And flooded the restaurant. The day he had a big political dinner booked.
"It almost flooded the whole dining room," Curreri recalls. "I kept calling it Venice and joking that I wanted to put a gondola in there."
For George Hastings, shucking oysters is all about creating pillows on the half shell and kissing the sea.
"Eating an oyster without a fork is kinda like kissing," says George Hastings. He's evaluating the denuded and glistening mollusk now lolling in the half shell he holds in his hand.
Now in its fifth decade and second generation, a Baltimore bakery is going strong.
It's a dessert lover's dream, a Fort Knox of foodstuffs. Stacked on racks inside a refrigerated corridor in a warehouse in Pikesville are hundreds upon hundreds of sweet slabs of cheesecake, each sealed inside an individually sized plastic container like Snow White in her glass coffin. Some slices are marbled with flamingo swirls of strawberry or smoky streaks of chocolate, while other unadorned pieces have the glowing, creamy complexion that only fresh eggs and real dairy ingredients can supply.
Another upscale grocer comes to Maryland.
The first thing that hits you at the new Fresh Market (2510 Quarry Lake Drive, 410-580-1930) is the music: Unlike your normal grocery store's soundtrack of Muzak or classic pop, the sound system here pipes in soothing classical pieces. Once you get over the aural shock, though, you'll see that the rest of the store matches that classy intro. Tiny compared to a Wegmans (or even a Whole Foods), Fresh Market nevertheless feels spacious because of the wide-open layout.
Fresh Fresh makes its giant crab cakes from scratch.
The owners of Fresh Fresh Seafood (507 York Road, Towson, 410-821-3474) are so proud of its namesake ingredient, it had to say it twice. They also display much of it at the counter on ice: gleaming gray clams, pearly scallops, and big, fat shrimp the size of your fist all greet you as you approach the cash register. Darlene and Ricky Parker—who moved their restaurant from its original Greenmount Avenue location seven years ago—are adamant about making everything from scratch.
Sara Engram and Katie Luber had a spicy idea.
Single-sized pouches of salt and pepper have been around for nearly as long as the Golden Arches, but you don't typically see pinches of ancho chil or cinnamon in a packet. Baltimore business partners Katie Luber and Sara Engram, best friends and cooking enthusiasts, thought that was a product waiting to happen.
Inside Baltimore's oldest and best-loved Spanish restaurant.
There is a pig in Tio Pepe's kitchen and it smells great. The pig has been gutted, slit belly to throat so that it can lie flat in the roasting pan. Its teeth are bared, its ears singed black and crispy at the tips. Its skin has reached a deep shade of bronze, but it is the meat inside that is the real treat—the rich odor of roast pork wafts up from the pan, which is coated in a layer of drippings mixed with water that will later be reduced into a sauce.
Below a popular Pennsylvania brewery lies a portal to another time.
"Bring on the pyg!" Hardly the cry you'd expect to hear over a candlelit dinner; nor would you expect wenches, wastrels, minstrels, and marauders. Yet you can't miss them when you feast in little Mount Joy, northwest of Lancaster and 75 miles from Baltimore. Bube's Brewery (102 N. Market Street, Mt. Joy, Pennsylvania, 717-653-2056), one historic building with three restaurants, hosts up to 60 feasts a year in the Catacombs, a stone-walled, partly natural cave 40 feet beneath the surface.
The Stone Mill Bakery’s new carryout business lets it quicken its pace.
We have good news for those of you who have endured the lunchtime lines at the Stone Mill Bakery in Greenspring Station: They've now opened a new, quick-service operation right next door called Stone Mill Gourmet 2 Go (10751 Falls Road, Lutherville, 410-821-1310). The place stands in stark contrast to the old bakery/sandwich shop—bright, modern, and open.
Two java mavens are proving that local coffeeshops can work—even in the country.
At nine in the morning on a Saturday in July, the cars are lining up in long rows outside an old gas station on York Road in Sparks. But the cars' owners are waiting for fuel of a different kind: coffee.The Filling Station, just north of the now-bustling Hunt Valley Towne Centre (the original location is on Falls Road at Shawan Road), has cornered the market on rural coffee sales and brought high-end espresso drinks to a community largely devoid of such luxuries, which are usually saved for those living "in town."
A couple of times in the last week, I've mentioned that I recently ate at an Indian restaurant in Towson, and the other person's eyes have lit up. "Cafe Spice?" they say. "Isn't it awesome?"
Well, yes, it kind of is. For one thing, there's the satisfaction of having found a secret gem: The place is hidden away in a basement below a 7-Eleven. The owners have done as much as they can to make the windowless, brick-lined room feel gracious, including the addition of an exuberantly decorated corner fountain guaranteed to mesmerize any children in your party.
Often when one reads wine descriptions, the food pairing suggestion is "delicious with grilled porterhouse" or "a natural with poached salmon." While there may be truth to such assertions, they are not, in the end, terribly helpful. I figure if a reader is engaged enough to be interested in the wine review to begin with, then he or she is already past the "big red goes with meat" phase of connoisseurship.