Going organic for Earth Day
As Earth Day approaches on April 22, it's a good time to examine the state of organic winemaking. First, there is a difference between organic wine and wine made from organic grapes. Both must follow the rules of organic farming in the vineyard, but the former cannot have any sulfites added to the wine after fermentation. Since sulfites stabilize wine so that it can travel long distances without breaking down, "made with organic grapes" is becoming the overwhelming preference for winemakers who wish to work organically.
Mama Vida grows into a gourmet food business.
This Randallstown company started with two salsas—one hot, one mild—almost 25 years ago. Now, Mama Vida produces more than seven varieties of salsa plus gourmet marinara sauces, tapenades, soups, and other food products (for a list, go to mamavida.com). Owners Toto and Miki Mechali were immigrants (he's from Morocco; she's from Israel) who followed other family members to Baltimore and founded a food-packaging plant. The company is named after Toto's mother, but Miki's mother, a Holocaust survivor, was an inspiration, too.
Aida taps into kegs for a custom wine system.
The new location of Aida Bistro & Wine Bar (6741 Columbia Gateway Dr., Columbia, 410-953-0500) offers more than an enlarged space and the restaurant's delectable Italian entrees and homemade pastas. It now has a sleek arrangement of 20 silver taps for wine at the bar plus a display case holding five-gallon kegs. These kegs, containing wine mostly from Virginia, California, and Oregon, dispense the liquid through the taps, allowing patrons to order as little as three ounces at a time.
Off the Eaten Path
The Waterstone Bar & Grille—on West Madison Street as it makes its way from Mt. Vernon to Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard—was buzzing on a recent Friday. It's one of the more diverse after-work crowds we've seen in a while: a mix of med students and hospital techs (some in scrubs), doctors (both medical and the Ph.D. sort), government office workers, and even a suit or two. A nicely dressed couple in the dining room may well be heading to the Meyerhoff or the Hippodrome.
A local baker showcases her vegan creations in a cookbook.
Emily Mainquist of Hunt Valley is on a mission to share her vegan desserts with others. So, for a year and half, she has baked, refined, and tweaked more than 60 recipes for her first cookbook, Sweet Vegan: A Collection of All Vegan, Some Gluten-Free, and a Few Raw Desserts ($18.95). The results will be released on Earth Day, April 22, which is appropriate, Mainquist says. "Vegan is earth friendly. It's better for the environment." A portion of the book's proceeds will benefit Farm Sanctuary, a farm-animal protection group.
Bluegrass Tavern whets the appetite for bourbon.
Bourbon is so potently popular these days that on a recent visit to Bluegrass Tavern (1500 S. Hanover St., 410-244-5101), Baltimore's corn-based whisky watering hole, we were informed that a few menu selections were temporarily unavailable because "Kentucky's running low." Luckily, Bluegrass isn't. On a bone-chilling evening, forced hot air isn't enough to warm the skin and soul—that takes bourbon.
Comfy new cafe features several staff from bluehouse.
Anyone who was a fan of the now-closed cafe at bluehouse in Harbor East is in luck. Just a few blocks from Wyman Park, nine employees from the cafe opened Charmington's (2601 N. Howard St., 410-235-5004). Their goal is to serve good coffee (Fair Trade from Counter Culture Coffee) and local foods in a comfortable setting. Offerings include homemade soups ($3.50), like cream of spinach and carrot, and sandwiches ($3.50-8.95) from breakfast combos and PB&J to roast beef.
One sign that Regions has already acquired a following is that the only reservations available on a recent Saturday night were 5:15 and 8:45 p.m. We claimed the latter time but requested an earlier spot if one became available. The restaurant nicely followed up with several phone calls, eventually letting us know that we could be seated at 8.
Dining out can be daunting when you're going through chemo—or maybe not.
Who knew that reviewing Baltimore's restaurants over the past year and a half would happen during a challenging time in my life—and that our local chefs would help me get through it without even realizing it?
At-home supper clubs bring cooks together to prepare and share meals.
Renee Shuman-Powell is not one to judge a cookbook by its cover, or even by its mouth-watering photographs. What the Upper Fells Point home cook wants to know is how well the recipes work. Most importantly, is this a book she should add to the 75-plus cookbooks already in her collection? Fortunately, she has a supper club dedicated to helping her find out. The club, which Shuman-Powell founded in September 2008, gets together monthly to cook its way through a cookbook.
We rank the 67 top places to eat—but with a twist.
NOTE: This is our 2011 Best Restaurants feature. Our 2013 Best Restaurants list is here. Our 2012 list is here.
Orchard Market & Café
Orchard Market & Café in Towson is like an old friend who seems a little weary but still musters up the grace of her glory days. The service may be slow, the wait between courses toe-tappingly long, and the décor and columns dated, but the Persian food is as elegant and polished as ever.
Despite its name, Orchard Market is a restaurant. At one time, early in its 22-year history, it did have products for sale. Now, it’s all about the authentic food served in a peaceful setting of olive and mustard hues.
Cozy up to winter with these robust wines.
Just as Punxsutawney Phil pokes his head out of his burrow on Groundhog Day, Feb. 2, and usually scurries back to his nest for six more weeks of winter, so do we, too, tend to hunker down this month and enjoy the cozy comforts of hearth and home. To get you through the countdown to spring, I recommend three big, fat wines that will warm your spirit.
Grocer focuses on fresh, sustainable foods.
Being seasonal and sustainable is paramount at Milk & Honey Market, a new specialty food shop in Mt. Vernon (816 Cathedral St., 410-685-6455). From the street, vast windows offer a glimpse at wooden crates, pictured, holding apples from local farms alongside baskets of garlic and onions. Inside, you’ll find gourmet staples like dried pastas, olive oils, and canned tomatoes, as well as local eggs, meats, and, yes, milk and honey.
The owner serves up foods from her native country.
Towson has evolved into a United Nations of restaurants, so it’s no surprise that Havana Road Cuban Café (8 W. Pennsylvania Ave., 410-494-8222) decided to locate in a storefront there, serving its signature cuisine. From the moment we entered the door, we felt transported to the island country. The walls are mango-red and lime, and the furniture is a comfortable mishmash of rattan and wood.