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.
Bite-sized burgers are sliding their way onto our menus.
So, we admit, sliders (or mini-hamburgers) have been around for a while. White Castle has had their legendary "Slyders" on the menu since it opened in 1921. But now the petite fare has gotten so big that it even has its own Best of Baltimore category this year. Also, restaurants are rolling out more trendy versions of the tiny creations. Canton's Annabel Lee Tavern offers lamb sliders. Salt in Butchers Hill has upscale foie gras and Kobe beef sliders. Favorite breakfast spot Miss Shirley's features lobster salad sliders.
Fifteen best crabhouses. (We found lots of blues to make us happy!)
By John Farlow, Anne Haddad, Joan Jacobson, Suzanne Loudermilk, Mary Maushard, Bianca Sienra
What could be more classic than a corner bar in Fells Point? You know the kind—a long bar in the front and a small dining room in the rear with a side entrance that might once have been for "ladies."
Todd Conner's fits the bill and goes a step farther. It's part of the new dining trend that offers not only traditional bar food but also sophisticated meals with fresh ingredients and interesting twists on old favorites.
The Shape of Wine To Come
Summer is the season for getting personal with Mother Nature. Unfortunately, there are plenty of places we like to go that our wine can't. Because it's packaged in glass, wine is often banned from boats in the harbor, picnic baskets at outdoor concerts, and poolside cookouts. But relief is at hand as alternative packaging for wine continues to gain momentum. Producers are trying out everything from aluminum to PET (polyethylene terephthalate) plastic, mostly to cut down on shipping costs. (And as the price of fuel rises, more folks are getting out of glass.)