October, 29th 2013

The Posh Antrim 1844 Has a New Chef

Baltimore magazine

The lovely Carroll County hotel Antrim 1844, pictured above, announced this week that a new executive chef is in the kitchen, replacing longtime chef Michael Gettier. Chef Spencer Wolff sounds like just the toque for the job at the inn's award-winning Smokehouse Restaurant.

A graduate of Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, he has worked as the executive chef at The Hyatt Regency Schaumburg-Chicago and The Hamilton Hotel in D.C. among other restaurants. He focuses on contemporary American cuisine, according to a press release.

The multi-course, prix-fixe meal at Antrim has always been a treat. The restaurant, a perennial on our Best Resaurants list, welcomes diners in the main drawing room with hors d'oeuvres before escorting them to dining rooms for the main courses.

In the past, the staff presented guests with the night's menu signed by Gettier, the former chef. I'm not sure if Wolff will continue that nicety. But it got me to wondering about Michael Gettier.

Michael GettierHe carved quite a cooking niche in Baltimore—from the lauded Conservatory to his own French-influenced M. Gettier in Fells Point to buying the old Hersh's Orchard Inn in Towson before landing at Antrim.

I was able to catch up with him on Facebook. And all is well.

Gettier, pictured, and chef Travis Wright have joined forces to form a new company called Kerfuffle Foods in Baltimore. They make vegetarian entrees, side dishes, and some desserts for wholesale to chefs and catering companies.

"Quite a difference to the restaurant gig!" he said in a message.

Sounds like a happy ending or great new beginning. Good luck to chefs Wolff and Gettier in their endeavors. 

Photo courtesy of Kerfuffle Foods Facebook page.

October, 23rd 2013

Free Beer and Oyster Tasting Wednesday

Baltimore magazine

The Downtown Partnership kicks off its Maryland Crab & Oyster Celebration with a free event today, October 23, from 5:30-8:30 p.m. in Center Plaza at Charles and Fayette streets.

Festivities will feature free crab and oyster delicacies prepared by area restaurants, including Ryleigh's Oyster and Alewife. Shucked oysters will be available for 50 cents each.

Each guest (age 21 and older) will receive six tickets for beer samplings from Brewer's Art, Flying Dog Brewery, Fordham, Loose Cannon, Stella Artois, and Union Craft Brewing.

The first 400 attendees will also receive a free four-ounce tasting glass.

As part of the Maryland Crab & Oyster Celebration, participating restaurants will offer crab and oyster dishes on their menus from Oct. 25-Nov. 3. Check out Dine Downtown Baltimore's website for a complete list. 

October, 19th 2013

Miss Shirley's Founder Dies

Baltimore magazine

Eddie Dopkin, owner of three Miss Shirley's Cafes and a food truck, passed away on October 19. He was 61. He had battled a type of leukemia for years.

For a while, the popular restaurateur and benefactor was called the Mayor of Dopkinville when he operated several restaurants along West Cold Spring Lane in Roland Park. He and his son David ran The Crazy Man Restaurant Group.

Services will be held at 3 p.m. Monday at Sol Levinson in Pikesville. 

October, 17th 2013

Liberatore's to Open Two New Restaurants

Baltimore magazine

Liberatore's, which operates five Italian restaurants in the area, will unveil two new concepts in November—a wine bar in Timonium and a steakhouse/raw bar in Perry Hall.

The wine bar, to be called Liquid Lib's, adjoins the Liberatore's on Deereco Road in Timonium. It will feature state-of-the-art wine-dispensing machines, 300-400 types of wine, and 24 wines by the glass as well as tapas and pizza.

The small-plates menu will include empanadas, arancini, sushi, meatballs, fish tacos, and an antipasto selection of cured meats, cheeses, and olives. The 10-inch individual, brick-oven pizzas will be prepared at a pizza bar with seating.

Prices are expected to be under $12 a plate.

Owner John Liberatore said he got the idea from going to Liquid Assets, a popular wine bar in Ocean City. "It's good fun," he said, as he gave me a tour of the new addition today. "I love the concept."

Customers will also be able to select a bottle of wine at retail prices from shelves around the restaurant, either to be imbibed there for a $10 corkage fee or to be taken home. In addition to wine, the restaurant will serve craft beers on draft and beers by the bottle.

The surroundings will be impressive when complete. The wine barrels, pictured, will be turned into bar tables with stools, a communal table will be made from rough-hewn wood; and the main bar will be topped with a crystal-like slab of 1 ½-inch glass that will reflect colored LED lights underneath it.

A fireplace with sofas and big-screen TVs will also complement the spot.

In Perry Hall, the longtime restaurateurs took over the empty Manhattan Grill in Honeygo Village and are turning the space into a steakhouse and raw bar. It will be called Lib's Grill. "There isn't anything like it in the area," John said.

Liquid Lib's is scheduled to open November 25. Lib's Grill is expected to open around the same time.

The Liberatore family opened their first eponymous restaurant in Eldersburg 25 years ago. 

October, 15th 2013

Michael's Cafe Drops Bid for Federal Hill Spot

Baltimore magazine

Michael's Cafe announced today that it is dropping its plans to open a second restaurant in Federal Hill. "It is impossible for us to move forward" without the support of the community, said Steven Dellis, manager of the family's restaurant, in a press release.

The longtime, family-owned restaurant has been in Timonium since 1984. They were seeking to open a second location at the corner of S. Charles and West streets.

But community opposition deterred their plans. Neighbors were seeking changes to Michael's initial request. They wanted the 300-seat restaurant proposal to be scaled down to 150, a change in the ratio of liquor to food sales, and an increase in the number of parking spaces from seven to 50.

Michael's determined those changes would "alter the brand and image" of the restaurant, the release said. "We are a restaurant, not just a bar," it continued. "We are a restaurant whose sustainability is based on welcoming large events, including wedding parties and receptions."

The restaurant will continue to focus on its Baltimore County location, where it will open a renovated outdoor patio in the spring and celebrate 30 years of business in March. 

9:30 am Comment Count Tags: restaurants
October, 14th 2013

Harbor East-Area Restaurant Opens Tuesday

Baltimore magazine

By Degrees Cafe is celebrating its first day with a special deal. When it opens for lunch at 11 a.m. on Tuesday, it's offering the first 20 customers 15 percent off, according to its Facebook page.

The sleek-looking restaurant is housed in the refurbished Fallsway Spring building at 415 S. Central Ave., just north of Eastern Avenue. Omar Semidey, a former chef at Fleet Street Kitchen and Wine Market Bistro, has devised a New American menu for lunch and dinner.

Some of the items on their online menu include sandwiches like roasted turkey, $9.75; crispy fish, $10; and grilled cheese with dried apricots, $6.50; and "plates" like Cuban-style roasted pork, $17; pasta Bolognese, $13.50; and eggplant and tofu, $14.50.

Located near posh Harbor East, the restaurant is "shifting the culinary landscape by a few degrees to focus on what's important: well-prepared and honest food, great service, and reasonable prices," says its website.

By Degrees Cafe will be open Monday-Saturday for lunch and dinner. The phone number is 410-522-0478. 

October, 10th 2013

A First Look at Spike Gjerde's Shoo-Fly Diner

Baltimore magazine

Opie CrooksIt was the night before opening and all through the house all the staff was scurrying, even the chef. Shoo-Fly Diner, which officially opens to the public at 4 p.m. on Friday, is already in business, hosting a reception tonight before the re-opening of the nearby Senator Theatre.

Starting tomorrow, the new Belvedere Square restaurant will be open from 4 p.m.-1 a.m. seven days a week. There’s welcome valet service in the parking-challenged area. And just drop in. Reservations aren’t accepted at this time.

Owners Spike and Amy Gjerde have had quite a week. Besides opening their third restaurant, they were named one of Martha Stewart’s American Made Tastemakers for their farm-to-table ethos. The editors cited the couple for their commitment to staying local and for their in-house canning program, which will now be done at Shoo-Fly Diner.

I had a chance to walk through the multilevel space and pick up a menu today. As I got a glimpse of the refurbished rooms, Chef Opie Crooks, pictured above, was working with the crew in the open kitchen on the first downstairs level, which overlooks two horseshoe counters for diners.

Take a few more steps down, and you’ll find a carpeted children’s room with toys, games, and a pinball machine. Thank you, Spike and Amy!

Shoo-Fly DinerThe bar and booths, pictured top, are located on the entrance level. If you continue upstairs, there is a dining room with tablecloths, pictured. But it still has a laid-back vibe, suitable to the comfort-food menu.

Here’s a sample of the offerings:

Fried-chicken supper with braised greens, cornbread, and pepper gravy, $24.

Cast-iron catfish with cole slaw and malt mayo, $13.

Chesapeake crab roll, $16.

Shoo-Fly burger, $12.

Snacks like a pickle jar, $5; picnic eggs with bacon, $4; and a potato-cheese pierogi, $7.

Shakes and slushes to drink, $5-7. Don’t worry. There are adult beverages, too.

And “Kid Stuff” like griddled PB&J and mac ‘n’ cheese.

There’s no website yet, but you can find Shoo-Fly Diner at 501 E. Belvedere Ave. The phone number is 410-464-9222.

Many Baltimoreans, including me, remember when the building was Hess Shoes. Yes, the sliding board is still there. And, no, we can’t use it. But thanks for the memories.


October, 8th 2013

Shoo-Fly Diner Opens Friday in Belvedere Square

Baltimore magazine

With much anticipation, Baltimore diners will be able to visit Spike Gjerde's newest venture, Shoo-Fly Diner, on Friday. The Belvedere Square restaurant joins the chef/owner's other two popular restaurants: Woodberry Kitchen and Artifact Coffee.

The space, formerly occupied by Crush and Taste restaurants, will also be home to Spike's canning and preserving operations.

The name Shoo-Fly pays homage to the long-ago tenant Hess Shoes (play on words, get it?) and to Amy Gjerde's interpretation of the molasses-based Pennsylvania pie, according to Washingtonian magazine. Amy is Spike's wife and the other half of the dynamic restaurant duo.

The restaurant will serve diner food made with local and seasonal ingredients under the supervision of chef Patrick "Opie" Crooks, most recently of Roy's in Harbor East.

Menu items include sourdough pancakes with maple syrup; a Hangtown Fry with bacon, fried oyster, fried egg, and toast; and sandwiches like creamed chipped beef with toasted butter bread and air-cured beef gravy.

The diner will be open from 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Monday through Friday and from 9 a.m.-2 p.m. and 4 p.m.-1 a.m. Saturday and Sunday.

Shoo-Fly Diner is located at 501 E. Belvedere Ave. 

October, 8th 2013

Ryleigh's Oyster Hosts Its Annual Oysterfest

Baltimore magazine

The seventh annual Oysterfest, sponsored by Ryleigh's Oyster, returns to Federal Hill from October 9-13 with bushels of family-friendly fun.

Cross Street will close down on Saturday, October 12, and Sunday, October 13, to allow visitors to check out vendors, ranging from artists and watermen to restaurants and community organizations.

The event features buck-a-shuck oysters from as many as 20 oyster farms, live musical acts, and more. The pearl of the festivities is the dress-to-impress Moet Oyster Ball on Wednesday, October 9. Tickets are $65. Attendees will enjoy unlimited Moet Imperial Champagne, an open bar, hors d'oeuvres, and a raw bar with more than 15 varieties of the bivalves.

The crème de la crème of the briny bash is the third annual Baltimore Oyster Shucking Championship at 5 p.m. on Saturday at the Cross Street stage in front of Ryleigh's. Aficionados and amateurs alike can enter to win cash prizes and a paid sponsorship to the National Oyster Shucking Championship in St. Mary's County. Defending champion George "Hannibal" Hastings will shuck again to uphold his title since the competition's start in 2011. Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake will officiate at the ceremonies.

Proceeds raised throughout the celebrations will be donated to the Oyster Recovery Partnership and The Living Classrooms Foundation shipboard department, both local nonprofit organizations.

Whether you have a palate for oysters or not, come out for a taste of marine merriment.

—Danielle Moore 

October, 7th 2013

Dogwood's Chef/Owner Lands at New Restaurant

Baltimore magazine

The talented chef Galen Sampson, who operated The Dogwood in Hampden off and on for seven years, will be the chef at Farmstead Grill in Canton. The restaurant and a companion kiosk, Farmstead Shack, are set to open in spring 2014.

The 200-seat Farmstead Grill and the 30-seat carryout are part of The Shops at Canton Crossing, anchored by stores like Target and Michaels arts and crafts store and where Mission BBQ is opening today. Greektown's Samos is scheduled to open a branch there, too.

Farmstead Grill will be offering a locally sourced menu at affordable prices, according to a press release.

Sampson, who won rave reviews when he headed the kitchen at Harbor Court Hotel, spent recent months as an apprentice team leader on an 800-acre farm in Charlottesville, VA, working with farmers and learning how to utilize local produce more effectively.

His restaurant, The Dogwood, closed last March.

The new Canton restaurant is owned by Charles Nabit and Michael Klein of Mission-Driving Dining II, which opened Waterfront Kitchen in Fells Point two years ago.

This is great news. I'm really excited that Sampson will be cooking in Baltimore again.

Photo of The Shops at Canton Crossing

October, 3rd 2013

An Evolving Little Italy

Baltimore magazine

While several Little Italy restaurants have closed in recent years, others are taking root or making changes in this still vibrant community.

Germano's has changed its name to Germano's Piattini to reflect a more casual atmosphere and a menu of gourmet small plates by new executive chef Peter Perrone, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu Paris.

Dishes include a selection of cured meats, cheeses, olives, and vegetables as well as grilled mini pizzas and piattine (small plates) like porchetta, various pastas, branzino, and carpaccio.

In addition to wine, Germano's Piattini—billing itself as a contemporary Italian kitchen and bar—will also offer beers by the bottle and a rotating selection of craft brews.

Cyd Wolf, who owns the restaurant with her husband chef Germano Fabiani, says renovations are just about complete in a makeover of the restaurant that includes a "fabulous gastro pub." Cabaret performances will still continue.

Meanwhile, a South High Street neighbor, Caesar's Den, closed its doors last Sunday. Owners Tina and Guido DeFranco posted a heartfelt goodbye on Caesar's Facebook page, saying:

"We arrive at a time to say 'Arrivederci.' After almost 44 years of serving you our best variety of southern Italian food and Italian wine, we've made the decision to retire and celebrate the fruits of our labors."

In recent years, several neighborhood restaurants have closed, including Della Notte, Rocco's Capriccio, and Milan. But others, like Mug's Bistro and a new Caribbean restaurant in the old India Rasoi space, have opened to create new energy.

As Germano's says on its website: "The secret to longevity is the ability to adapt to a changing world and nobody does it better than the Italians." 

October, 2nd 2013

Party Like You're One-Year-Old

Baltimore magazine

"We're all growed up," says the Birroteca invite to its first birthday party. But the Hampden restaurant was hardly ever a baby. It hit the ground running when it opened last October and has been drawing a crowd ever since for its wood-fired pizza, pictured, and Italian dishes.

The celebration, from 6:30-10:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, will feature food and two drinks for each guest. Chef Chad Gauss of The Food Market will be on hand with Birroteca's chef Davide Rossi and chef/owner Robbin Haas.

There is also a VIP option that allows guests to have unlimited food and drinks and a chance to meet with several brewers from 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Tickets are $35 for regular admission (VIP, $100) and are available at Birroteca's website.

All proceeds will benefit the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. The cause is personal. Haas's wife has MS. Medical care was one of the reasons they came to Baltimore, he told me before the restaurant opened.

Haas already has another restaurant in the works, Nickel Taphouse, which is expected to open soon in Mt. Washington. 

September, 30th 2013

Meet Pabu's Sake Lady

Tiffany Dawn SotoIn time for International Sake Day on October 1, Pabu's master sake sommelier Tiffany Dawn Soto—one of only three women in the world to hold the title—talks about her career, how she promotes the rice wine, and what she thinks of Baltimore.

Soto will also be hosting sake classes at Pabu throughout October, including complementary mini sessions during happy hour on Thursdays. The restaurant, which has 105 sakes on hand, will feature a sake-influenced satori menu during the month and a special Kubota sake dinner on October 10. For a complete list, visit Pabu's website.

Soto, a Las Vegas native, moved to Baltimore almost two years ago to be the beverage manager at the Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East. "My husband happened to be going to law school here, and this opportunity came up," she says. "Now, we absolutely love Baltimore."

The 31-year-old sommelier is also the mother of two daughters, ages 11 and nine months, and is a big fan of the Ravens and O's.

Here's what else she told us:

Who first introduced you to sake?

There's a man named Eric Swanson, a sake supplier for a distributor in Las Vegas, and I requested a meeting with him. I was teaching wine classes, and I had students asking me about sake. I ended up speaking with him and went to Japan, where I studied at The Sake Institute and The Sake Research Institute. I wasn't trying to be a master, but then I just got to be one.

How would you describe sake to someone who has never tried it?

Everything you think you know about sake is false. It should be sold cold, it's not for shots, but it's for sipping, and it's only 15.5 percent alcohol, just like red wine. It has a very delicate taste. Around 18,000 different sakes are produced.

What is your favorite kind of sake?

I like Niigata sake. They are my favorite for sure.

How are you incorporating the taste of sake into a culture that's accustomed to beer and wine?

It hasn't been that hard actually. People who like alcohol actually just like alcohol. We have a lot of private sake classes. I have eight or nine before the end of the year.

What do you see as your greatest achievement as a master sake sommelier?

I have reached a point where I am comfortable teaching others. I feel more like I am ambassador for sake. I'm a cultural educator.

What has overseeing the beverage programs at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore taught you?

People used to talk about Baltimore as a beer town and that sake would never make it, but it's not what people think. I think Baltimore's undergoing a renaissance since there is so much cocktail innovation, sake innovation, and even wine innovation. This town might have been born a beer town, but it's more than that.

When you go home after a long day, what is your drink of choice?

I have the perfect cocktail, and, in my opinion, it's a mojito. It has to be done right. My husband and I happen to make very good mojitos.

—Suzanne Loudermilk and Danielle Moore 

September, 27th 2013

The Crab Bash Was a Smashing Success

crab bash chefsThere wasn’t a bad meal in the house. B&O American Brasserie’s fourth annual Crab Bash pitted 10 chefs (pictured) and their 10 delicious crab dishes against each other last night in a friendly competition benefiting the Pratt Contemporaries.

Hundreds of guests and a panel of judges, including me, sampled an array of food, including:

Spicy watermelon with lump crab and smoked avocado by B&O American Brasserie’s first chef E. Michael Reidt, who is now in Miami.

Savory saffron and cauliflower panna cotta with Maryland crab by chef Brian Lavin of Salt.

A deconstructed Maryland crab soup on a homemade cracker by the always inventive chef Bill Buszinski of Mr. Rain’s Fun House.

crab bash winnerBut, in the end, everyone was enthralled with the crab soup and sandwich (pictured) by chef/owner Chad Gauss of The Food Market. It received both the “People’s Choice” and “Best in Show” awards.

It was a great night spending time with judges Reagan Warfield of Mix 106.5’s morning show, WBAL meteorologist Ava Marie, and the Pratt Contemporaries’ Caitlin Nesseler.

The Baltimore Bartenders Guild also spiked the evening with creative cocktails.

Now, it’s time to focus on Monday’s Farm to Chef benefit at AVAM. Hope to see you there.



September, 26th 2013

A Cool Goodbye to "Breaking Bad"

The CharmeryTo commemorate the end of the AMC series Breaking Bad, The Charmery ice-cream shop in Hampden is debuting a flavor called The Heisenberg on Friday.

The ice cream, named after the alias used by the show's character Walter White, is a Tahitian vanilla base with crystal blue(berry) pieces. (Regular watchers will know that Walter made blue-crystal meth in his basement.)

The edible blue bits in the ice cream are actually blueberry mochi—a Japanese gummy candy made out of rice—which retains its chewy texture when frozen.

The Emmy-winning Breaking Bad ends its five-season run at 9 p.m. on Sunday. 

1:09 pm Comment Count Tags: ice cream, TV
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