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.
The times they are a-changin'. For years, we listed the best restaurants alphabetically. Then, two years ago, we decided to go out on a limb and rank the top 50. Now, we're mixing it up again. We divided the restaurants into categories and rated them within their specific divisions. It made sense. We'd be comparing apples to apples, not pitting, say, Charleston against The Helmand or Woodberry Kitchen against Aldo's. Those restaurants (and the other 63 on our list) are certainly among the best, but they are very different.
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.
Share a gift of love—and food—this year.
Want to really impress your sweetheart? Give a gift for Valentine's Day—or any occasion—and give back to the community as well. Benevolent Baskets, a Baltimore online gift-basket enterprise, helps needy women build self-esteem and confidence. "It's very rewarding for them," says Rhonda English, a residential supervisor at My Sister's Place Lodge, a Catholic Charities facility that houses formerly homeless women.
Cuppings dip into the nuances of roasts and blends.
First, you inhale the fragrance. Then, you sip the liquid for brightness and body. No, it’s not a wine tasting. It’s a coffee cupping—one of the latest food trends to hit the Baltimore area. At a recent cupping, Allie Caran, a barista at Woodberry Kitchen, led a group of mostly novices through the intricacies of sampling various kinds of coffee. But this was no gulp and run. Participants sampled the brew at various stages—from sniffing the grounds to “breaking the crust” to slurping the coffee with spoons.
How Alfie Himmelrich went from a family chemical business to owning Stone Mill Bakery.
It’s dinnertime at Stone Mill Bakery in Lutherville, and owner Alfie Himmelrich is working the room, doling out granola cookies at every table, schmoozing with customers, and filling a vat with the cafe’s signature nonfat vegetable soup.
When a customer requests shrimp chopped salad, Himmelrich apologizes. “Sorry, we’re all out for tonight,” he says. But several seconds later, he has a change of heart. “You know what, I’ll make it for you,” he says.
Many diners have raved to us about Fallston’s Basta Pasta, which specializes in Italian fare and seafood—even Mickey Cucchiella of 98 Rock, a man about town who enjoys a good meal out.
But before we could make it to the Harford County outpost to see what all the fuss was about, Basta Pasta owners Mike Sakellis and Yianni Livaditis opened a branch in Timonium. Since the new place was closer, we headed there.
With these sparklers, you’ll bubble over with enthusiasm.
Sparkling wine is a vastly under-appreciated and under-consumed slice of the wine world. Most folks use it solely for special occasions and the holiday season, then forget about it.
Fortunately, it is the holiday season, so there are loads of opportunities to slurp down some bodacious bubbles. There will be times when you’ll simply need a good quality sparkling wine as an aperitif or for a group toast. There will also be moments when only Champagne will do. Here are some picks that cover all the bubbly bases.
A tiny shop specializes in authentic products.
It seems appropriate that pastore means shepherd in Italian. Meandering through Pastore’s Italian Delly & Grocery (8646 Loch Raven Blvd., Towson, 410-825-5316), one is guided through an array of authentic Italian fare. Precisely stacked shelves demonstrate the care that this 30-year-old salumeria (at this location) lavishes on its diminutive enterprise. Seldom seen bucatini (fat spaghetti) and large cans of Saporito plum tomatoes (great for making pizza) are among the myriad imported foods sold at the compact store.
A family candy-cane tradition continues.
Zoë Tsoukatos is carrying on the candy legacy of her Greek ancestors, who immigrated to Baltimore in the early 1900s and sold chocolate from a pushcart. Today, Zoë, 28, and her brothers, Pantelis, 31, and Petros, 21, are third-generation chocolatiers with stores in Frederick and Waynesboro, PA. Their father, George, is also involved in Zoë’s Chocolate Co. and continues to hand-roll candy canes from scratch. “It’s a family tradition,” Zoë says.
For Thanksgiving dessert, serve this modern-day bread pudding.
While deciding on holiday desserts, we thought of the delectable bread pudding at 13.5% Wine Bar in Hampden. We asked chef Sarah Acconcia for the recipe, and she happily shared it with us. “I like this recipe because it is a smooth-textured bread pudding without being too dense,” she says. “Sometimes, bread pudding can be too heavy, but this one has a nice balance between flavors and textures—especially with the crunchy brûléed sugar topping!”
Chocolate-Cinnamon Bread Pudding