July, 31st 2013

Interview with Zack Mills

Baltimore magazine

Zack Mills assumed the role of executive chef of Wit & Wisdom in the Four Seasons on July 22. The 33 year-old Davidsonville native has been an executive sous chef with the Mina Group, overseeing the mid-Atlantic region in the past. 

Q: Did you always know you wanted to be a chef?
A: Yes. Cooking has been a part of my life since I was little. My family and my childhood inspired me to pursue cooking on a professional level.

Q: What was your first job in food?
A: I was 16. I worked for a catering company called Main Ingredient in Annapolis. 

Q: What do you see as your greatest culinary achievement so far?
A: Well, recently I had the pleasure of working with chef Michael Mina [of Wit & Wisdom]. I was able to learn from him and helped him to open a number of restaurants.

Q: How do you describe your style of cooking?
A: I would say my cooking is simple. Not overcomplicated, maybe four or five beautiful ingredients on a plate, and local.

Q: Where did you complete your training?
A: I studied at the French Culinary Institute in New York, but I would say Andrew Evans was my first true mentor. I also learned from Michael while I worked with him.

Q: Do you plan to introduce a new menu now, or in the coming months?
A: Yes and no. We recently made a format change to the menu, and I’m slowly putting new items on the menu here and there. There will be more of my new dishes in mid-September. 

Q: What dish are you most looking forward to?
A: The first dish to hit the menu is a chilled foi gras that has really nice summer flavors. Also, a pork belly roasted in the oven. It’s a sort of higher end barbeque.

Q: What are a few ingredients you can’t live without?
A: Bacon. Rice, I’m a huge rice guy. Eggs. I’m not a breakfast guy, but I love breakfast for dinner.

Q: After working all day in the kitchen, do you enjoy cooking at home?
A: Sometimes. I cook once or twice a week at home. I definitely cook on the days I’m off.

Q: When you’re not in your own restaurant, where do you like to eat?
A: I’m a mamma’s boy, so I love mamma’s home cooking. It’s nice to come home, and my family is local, so I’m able to do that. Right now my wife and I live in D.C., in Chinatown, so I also like to hang out around there. 

-Laurnie Wilson 

12:14 pm Comment Count Tags: chefs
July, 25th 2013

The Charmery Opens in Hampden

Baltimore magazine

The CreameryAre you looking to cool off and treat your sweet tooth? These hot summer days are a great excuse to visit The Charmery—a newly opened ice-cream shop on The Avenue in Hampden.

David Alima, who owns the shop with his wife, Laura, said that, since opening on Saturday, "the community has really been supportive."

The Creamery—boasting flavors like Old Bay caramel, Berger cookies and cream, toasted coconut (pictured), and Md. mud—is proud of its Baltimore roots. They strive to use only the freshest ingredients from local farms and producers.

In addition to ice cream, the friendly staff can also whip up a milkshake, root-beer float, handmade soda, or sundae to please any sugar-seeking palate. Ice-cream cakes are also available for special occasions.

Come winter, the shop will add hot chocolates with handmade marshmallows and whipped cream to their decadent menu. The ice cream, however, is available all year.

For a complete list of flavors and for more info, visit The Charmery's website.

— Laurnie Wilson 

July, 24th 2013

Summer Restaurant Week

Baltimore magazine

Does the summer heat have you avoiding your kitchen? Never fear, because Baltimore Restaurant Week begins this Friday, July 26, and will run through August 4. 

More than 80 restaurants are participating including B&O American Brasserie, Cinghiale, Fleet Street Kitchen, Silo .5% Wine Bar, Ten Ten (pictured), and Wine Market Bistro.

The restaurants will offer three course, prix-fixe menus for $30.13 and $20.13. Additionally, some restaurants will offer two-course lunch menus for $15.13.

Presented by the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore and Visit Baltimore, Restaurant Week is a bi-annual event that encourages diners to try some of the area’s top restaurants.

Reservations are strongly recommended and can be made on OpenTable or by calling the restaurants directly. 

For more information and a complete list of participating restaurants, click here.

And after you’ve digested the city’s summer specials, it will be time for Baltimore County Restaurant Week, August 9-25.

-Laurnie Wilson

July, 23rd 2013

Big Changes at Adam's Eve

Baltimore magazine

Adam's Eve in Canton will soon have a new name, a new chef, and a new menu. It already has a new owner.

David Tobash recently took over the restaurant, which opened in spring 2012 with chef Mark Littleton in charge. There was a leasing/ownership disagreement with the building's owner, leading to new restaurant ownership, Littleton said.

After Tobash took over the space, the talented chef decided to take his culinary skills elsewhere. He started his position as executive chef at The Grille at Peerce's Landing in Phoenix in north Baltimore County today.

Littleton, who has built a fan base over the years, will eventually put his stamp on Peerce's menu, he said. He's drawn accolades previously for his creative dishes at Annabel Lee's, Lulu's off Broadway, and Simon's Pub as well as at Adam's Eve.

Tobash has already been making adjustments to the Foster Avenue restaurant with more to come. A new name, chef, and menu are expected to be in place in September, said general manager Natalie diFrancesco.

"There will be a grand re-opening," she promised.

In the meantime, Adam's Eve is open for business. 

July, 22nd 2013

Bryan Voltaggio to Appear on Top Chef Masters

Baltimore magazine

Bryan Voltaggio will compete on season five of Bravo’s Top Chef Masters, airing at 10 p.m. on July 24. The Frederick native will vie against 12 other chefs for a chance to win $100,000 for his charity of choice, Share Our Strength (SOS).

Bryan, a James Beard Foundation Award finalist, is the first chef to compete on both Top Chef Masters and Top Chef, where he placed second in season six. His brother, Michael, took first place in the showdown between the siblings. 

Bryan is the executive chef/co-owner of Volt, Lunchbox, and Family Meal, all in Frederick, and Range in D.C.

He’s not the only Marylander on TV this summer. In June, Rodney Henry of Dangerously Delicious Pies became a finalist on Food Network’s Food Network Star. So far, he’s still in the running.

—Laurnie Wilson

July, 22nd 2013

SIP for Sirens at Kooper’s North

Baltimore magazine

What do you get when you combine good food with a good cause? SIP for Sirens—an event to honor those in law enforcement, hosted by Kooper’s North and the Law Enforcement Assistance Connection.

On July 28 from 3-7 p.m., Kooper’s North in the Mays Chapel area of Lutherville will host an afternoon of food and festivities.

A $25 ticket covers restaurant specialties like Kooper’s crab dip, pit-beef sandwiches, wings, and sliders, as well as oysters on the half shell, a carving station, and other light fare.

Also included in the price are three drink tickets and a complimentary toast, access to silent auctions, raffles, and giveaways. Live entertainment and games will round out the afternoon.

Tickets can be purchased at Kooper’s North or by emailing fellspointbars@gmail.com.

Additional donations will be given to local charities to support officers in the law-enforcement community as well as the families of law-enforcement officers killed in the line of duty.

—Laurnie Wilson

11:19 am Comment Count Tags: events, restaurants
July, 11th 2013

Top Chef Contestant Jesse Sandlin's New Restaurant

Baltimore magazine

Over the next few weeks, Vino Rosina will be transforming into Oliver Speck's Eats & Drinks with a focus on "comfort food and barbecue," says executive chef Jesse Sandlin.

"I just want to make good food," says Jesse. "I want people to come in and have fun."

The new restaurant already seems like fun when you find out it's named after Jesse's pet Juliana Pig, a type of mini pig.

Jesse and owner Jim Lancaster decided the Harbor East area was saturated with restaurants offering modern American bistro food, similar to what Vino Rosina was doing.

Hence, the change of concept at the space at 507 S. Exeter St. in the Bagby Building.

"We thought, 'Why compete?'" says Jesse, who appeared on season six of Bravo's Top Chef when the Voltaggio brothers took the top two spots. "Let's do something completely different."

The menu is still being tweaked but is likely to offer Southern-style foods like biscuits and hush puppies, brisket, pulled pork, and pork ribs. There will also be sandwiches, bar snacks, a burger, salads, and a vegetarian option, as well as seasonal daily specials.

Oliver Speck's is expected to open July 27 and will participate in Baltimore Restaurant Week (July 26-Aug. 4). Vino Rosina will close July 20.

Vino Rosina was one of the first restaurants to open in the refurbished Bagby Building, which now includes Ten Ten, Bagby Pizza Co., and Fleet Street Kitchen.

"We want to market the Bagby Building as a destination," Jesse says of the various food choices there. 

July, 9th 2013

What local waiter/waitress will get a $500 tip?

Baltimore magazine

Aaron Collins's will was pretty specific: "leave an awesome tip (and I don't mean 25%). I mean $500 on a f***ing pizza." When his family fulfilled his request in Lexington, KY, last year, the video went viral, and donations started pouring in from compassionate viewers.

Now, Aaron's brother Seth has vowed to use the $60,000 plus to give $500 tips to servers in all 50 states, according to eater.com. An itinerary is posted on a website dedicated to Aaron.

Maryland isn't listed yet, but if Seth lives up to his promise, it's only a matter of time. The family gives clues on their Facebook page Aaron's Last Wish, and often relies on recommendations from followers on what restaurant to visit.

A recent tip went to a waitress, pictured, in Indianapolis.

What a wonderful tribute to Aaron, a 30-year-old computer technician who died last summer. His family describes him on the website as "generous with the limited means he had."

His family is inspiring, too. 

July, 8th 2013

Dine like it’s 1812 at Silo.5%.

Baltimore magazine

Have you ever wondered what our forefathers ate? The staff at Silo.5% Wine Bar pondered the same thing, leading them to create a menu featuring dishes and drinks that represent typical food served during the War of 1812.

The War of 1812 has particular significance to Baltimoreans, as “The Star-Spangled Banner” was inspired by the war’s Battle of Baltimore.

Guests at Silo.5% can opt for a $33 prix-fixe menu or order a la carte. Options include a hearty Sherry-braised rabbit pie as well as venison steak. For dessert, an apple-wedge cobbler and rum-and-honey pecan pie are available.

To complement this historic meal, guests can raise a glass to our past with a period-appropriate drink like grog, fermented ginger beer, and Madiera.

This patriotic menu is available through July 13. Reservations can be made online or over the phone, 443-438-4044.

-Laurnie Wilson 

July, 1st 2013

Vino Rosina Closing

Baltimore magazine

After three years, Vino Rosina in the Harbor East area is closing. But that's not necessarily bad news.

A new restaurant will open in the Bagby Building space with a new concept and a new name, said owner Jim Lancaster, who also owns the Rosina Gourmet sandwich shops.

"We're going to do something outstanding," he said. "Nobody is doing anything like it."

There are new owners, investors, and management, said Jim, who will continue to be a primary owner. "Jesse [Sandlin] is the creative force behind the new concept."

The direction of the new place will be announced soon, he said.

Jesse, a former Top Chef contestant, opened Vino Rosina in spring 2010 and left a year later. She returned to the restaurant's kitchen late last year.

Jesse sent out an email this afternoon, announcing that Vino Rosina would close July 20.

Until then, Vino will be offering food and wine specials throughout the month to thank patrons, she wrote.

The new restaurant is expected to open by the end of July, Jim said.

It's a short-lived closure with a happy ending. 

July, 1st 2013

First Visit: The Chesapeake

Baltimore magazine

chesapeake charcuterieAfter much buzz, The Chesapeake, named after its once-popular predecessor, opened a couple of weeks ago in the landmark building at North Charles and Lanvale streets in the up-and-coming Station North District. I had a chance to check it out on Saturday.

Even this early in the game, the food and service were very good. We had a great charcuterie plate (pictured, left) with prosciutto, sopressata, salami, and a house-made chicken pâté; ricotta gnocchi; a selection of oysters from the raw bar, and more.

The modern American menu, described as farm-to-table, is about as au courant as they get, though we like the restaurant's idea of offering Throwback Thursdays when menu items and classic cocktails from the former Chesapeake are offered.

chesapeake snowballThe current dinner menu does have one oldie—a rendition of the old restaurant's "snowball" dessert. In this version (pictured), a two-layer coconut cake is lathered with chocolate ganache and toasted coconut and served with cocoa sorbet.

The main dining room (pictured, top), anchored by a gorgeous marble bar, is best described as rustic industrial with exposed beams, a seafaring mural (pictured, below), some brick, and bare high-top and banquette seating.

Over the weekend, the restaurant was also seating people in a darkened, more subdued dining room off the entranceway.

The white-tiled entrance is reminiscent of the old Chesapeake, which closed more than two decades ago. In its heyday, the restaurant was one of the most sought-after reservations in town. Think thick steaks and crab imperial.

chesapeake muralThe new owners—the Milk & Honey Market group—have created a more casual space. And in keeping with that spirit, the servers wear gray shirts and blue jeans.

We saw diners wearing shorts as well as more dressed-up folks. You'll feel quite comfortable eating here before or after going to a movie at the nearby Charles Theatre.

Eventually, the restaurant will serve lunch. There's also a coffee bar that will sell beverages in the future, a host told us.

The new Chesapeake is a work in progress that seems to have gotten off to a good start. 

June, 27th 2013

Mission BBQ Continues to Expand

Baltimore magazine

In the blink of an eye, the restaurant, which honors the military and local police officers and firemen, has grown from a single location in Glen Burnie in 2011 to plans to open 40 stores by 2018.

By the end of this year, Mission BBQ will open three new restaurants: California in St. Mary's County in July, Canton in October, and York, PA, after that.

It opened its Perry Hall store (pictured during its grand opening) in November 2012.

Mission BBQ offers a menu of delicious All-American barbecue, featuring brisket, pulled pork, sliced turkey, ribs, and more, and signature sauces such as Memphis Belle, St. Louis Red, Texas Twang, and even Maryland Bay-B-Que. Sides like mac-n-cheese and green beans and bacon are made from scratch.

Owners Steve Newton and Bill Kraus traveled around the country, sampling a variety of barbecue, to develop their menu. But the likable guys aren't done. They continue to visit venues known for great barbecue to incorporate into their lineup.

Another reason to visit the restaurant is its patriotic commitment. At noon each day, employees and diners pause, with hands over hearts, to listen to taped renditions of the National Anthem. It's a moving experience to behold.

At the magazine, we're excited that Mission BBQ will be one of the featured food vendors at our Best of Baltimore party on August 1. For tickets, visit our website.

We can say we knew them when. These guys are destined for national fame. 

June, 25th 2013

Fourth of July Restaurant Specials

Baltimore magazine

Dining around the Harbor is a great way to celebrate Independence Day. The following establishments promise a delicious meal in a celebratory atmosphere.

Enjoy dinner before the fireworks and receive a complimentary order of firecracker calamari with the purchase of an entree. Reservations are recommended. Call 410-659-0099.

Rusty Scupper
From 5:30-9:30 p.m., indulge in an all-you-can-eat buffet while enjoying the ambiance of the Topside Lounge and upper deck areas. The buffet includes jumbo lump crabs, steamed shrimp, hot dogs, hamburgers, fried chicken, barbeque ribs, Maryland crab soup, corn on the cob, salad and assorted desserts. There will also be drink specials, music, and giveaways. Tickets for the event are $89.95 for adults and $35 for children 10 and under. Reservations are required. Call 410-727-3678.

Guests uninterested in the crab feast can enjoy dinner in the main dining room. They will not, however, have access to the deck areas.

Wine Market Bistro
Savor a three-course prix-fixe menu with options that include a refreshing quinoa salad, seared arctic char, and cinnamon custard bread pudding. The cost for the prix-fix meal is $35. A limited a la carte menu will also be available. Call for reservations. 410-244-6166.

For more Fourth of July festivities, take a look at local bar specials, here. Even more tips for celebrating Independce Day in Baltimore are here.

-Laurnie Wilson 

June, 21st 2013

Friendly's on Merritt Blvd. hosts a Burger Bash

Baltimore magazine

The restaurant is staging a party on Sunday to celebrate its "Build Your Own Burger" contest with free mini burgers and a burger cook-off. Three contestants will be vying to win a $100 gift card to Friendly's and to have their creation featured on their local Friendly's menu.

They will be judged by a panel of judges, including DJ Rachel Logan of MIX 106.5; Kym Nelson, the deputy chief of staff for the city of Baltimore; and Patti Neumann, CEO/founder of CITYPeek.

The cooks, who were chosen during an online contest in May, will make their burgers for the judges, who will rate them on creativity, taste, and presentation.

The festivities are being held from 2-4 p.m at Friendly's at 1579 Merritt Blvd. The complimentary burgers will only be offered from 2-3 p.m.

The event also features a DJ, face painting, and balloon artists. 

June, 17th 2013

Birroteca Announces a New Chef

Baltimore magazine

Davide Rossi—a former chef at Sotto Sopra and Pazza Luna—is stepping into the kitchen as executive chef at the wildly popular Birroteca near Hampden. He fills the role after Cyrus Keefer's recent departure to Fork & Wrench in Canton.

Rossi, a native of Milan, Italy, has worked at top establishments in Italy, the Caribbean, and the United States. He met his wife Christa, a Baltimorean, while working at Sotto Sopra in Mt. Vernon.

You know how that works. Baltimoreans have deep roots. We eventually come back home.

After Sotto Sopra, the couple moved to Milan. They returned to the U.S. to open a seasonal restaurant in Maine, which has since closed, and returned to Maryland to operate Pazza Luna in Locust Point.

After selling that restaurant, Rossi worked as a consultant and helped to open The Mallet in Fallston.

Birroteca, which is known for its artisanal pizza (roasted Marvesta shrimp pizza, pictured) and Italian dishes, opened in a restored millhouse in 2012 under the ownership of Robbin Haas, who was named a top 10 chef in America by Food & Wine magazine. 

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