We have been going out like crazy lately and I've been terribly remiss about blogging about it. So here's a quick(?) recap of what we ate and did during September.
Parts & Labor for Burgers
In case you missed it, Dixon and I are collaborating on a series of articles for (cool) progeny. Each article highlights some of our favorite spots for a specific meal. First, we tackled mac and cheese. Next up was burgers.
One of the burgers on our list was the locally-raised monster at Parts & Labor in Remington. We used the article as an excuse for dinner at P&L - and it was as good as ever. The pre-dinner charcuterie was perfect, as it always is. Dixon's burger was ridiculous and Cooper's lamb was gorgeous. But I won the night with sausage-stuffed chicken over ratatouille. It was a simple but genius combination of summer and fall flavors. Everything about it was great.
CFF Passion for Food and Wine
There are so many worthwhile causes out there and I am continually impressed by how Baltimore's restaurant community steps up to support them. The community rallies especially hard for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - and rightly so.
The organization is one of the best I know - thin on bureaucracy (over 90% of funds raised go directly to research) and thick on results. There have been very real, significant strides in developing treatments for cystic fibrosis over the past several decades and CFF's fundraising efforts have fueled those developments.
But what does this have to do with what we ate in September? Early in the month, we were lucky enough to be invited to CFF's Passion for Food and Wine, an event that is so much fun and raises so much money. It's mind-boggling.
I've written about Passion here and here - but here's a quick overview: five years ago, a bunch of Baltimore chefs got together for an event to raise money for CFF. They wanted to do something unusual, so they decided instead of a standard "we fix bites and people mill around and visit our stations" cocktail event, they'd put together a multi-course, sit-down dinner - and they'd cook the dinner in front of the guests.
Each participating restaurant has its own table. Twelve guests sit around the table - shaped like a square-ish "U" - and watch the chef prepare the meal. This year, we were at the Colette table, where Chef Stefano Porcile absolutely crushed it. CRUSHED.
So much foie.
While this is happening, Sergio Vitale of Aldo's and Jerry Pellegrino of Schola hop up on a stage and auction off amazing experiences, like having Chef Cindy Wolf cook dinner for you and 12 of your friends. There's also a silent auction - this year we won some crystal from Smyth and a seafood tower and whiskey tasting at Loch Bar.
The event raises an unreal amount of money - hundreds of thousands of dollars, just in one night. And it is one of the most fun parties out there. I get a little emotional watching how committed everyone is to both the cause and the food. Everyone involved, from the CFF staff to the chefs to the other guests, is so dedicated and excited about the cause. "Passion" really is an apt name for the event.
Les Folies for Nan's 98th
In mid-September, my grandmother turned 98 and Dixon just happened to have the day off school.
My mom had also taken the day off work, so the four of us went to lunch at one of Nan's favorite restaurants, Les Folies in Annapolis.
Nan is a restaurant aficionado. I can't count how many times I have been out to lunch or dinner with her. Les Folies has long been one of her go-tos partly for convenience - it's on Riva Road, close to where she used to live - but mostly because their classic French food is consistently excellent.
Of course, what I ate wasn't classic, though the preparation was French, I suppose: sauteed softshell in a white wine and butter sauce. My mom had the same. Classic or no, it was fantastic.
Bookmakers with the Tribe
There are only a handful of William & Mary grads in the Baltimore area; most people end up in DC or New York or...somewhere else. And my college friends who do live in the area are scattered all over. As a result,we don't see each other much - if at all.
But one random Tuesday night last month, it just so happened that a friend from Austin would be visiting another friend in Columbia. Next thing we knew, we were having a little reunion at Bookmakers in Federal Hill, where the food is good and the drinks are amazing.
As is always the case when I do see W&M friends, it was super fun - and a great reminder that my college friends are crazy smart and interesting and they make the world a better place
Dining Out for Life at Silver Queen Cafe
Moveable Feast's annual restaurant-oriented fundraiser, Dining Out for Life, was September 15th. It's a good one - local restaurants donate a percentage of their take for the evening to the cause, which makes it easy to do a little bit of good.
This year, we went to Silver Queen Cafe in Hamilton, where we gorged on crab dip and pizza and pasta and fried chicken.
Silver Queen was packed, dinner was great, and we remembered that Hamilton is only about 10 minutes from where we live, so we should go there more often. It's good!
Jack's Bistro with Friends
Cooper and I have been to a lot of restaurants, but considering how quickly the food scene in Baltimore is growing, there's just no way we could possibly keep up with every place that's new.
But you'd think that, by now, we'd have been everywhere that's been around, and well-regarded, for at least a few years. But we haven't. We keep a short list of places we really need to go and, slowly but surely, we're checking them off.
We are not the only people who keep these lists. So when we coordinated schedules with our friends Rich and Lisa and their friends Doug and Kacey, we also coordinated our "places we haven't been" lists.
One of the places all of us needed to visit was Jack's Bistro in Canton. Everyone I know loves it and I've always felt a little embarrassed that I hadn't been. I was correct to feel that way. Jack's is fantastic and everyone should go.
It's tiny and pretty cramped, but in a charming way, and the food is really good and so are the drinks. I had pasta with pesto and duck that I loved so much - and everything on the menu looked excellent.
So that was one place we got to cross off our list. Of course, now we want to go back.
La Food Marketa for Tacos
In the five years that it's been open, Food Market in Hampden has established itself as one of the very best - and very most reliable - restaurants in Baltimore. It's not a surprise, then, that people were excited to hear that Chad Gauss, the chef/owner of Food Market, had plans to expand. And into the County, no less!
We visited La Food Marketa, Gauss's new south-of-the-border-influenced spot in Quarry Lake, about two weeks after it opened. It was a beautiful night and the restaurant was jammed. And it was good!
The menu is fun, with lots of flavor, and we liked everything we ate. But I really loved the drinks. The spicy, smoky pineapple margarita was absolutely killer. It might not be for everyone, but if, like me, spicy and smoky and pulpy drinks do it for you, you need to try this one.
Starlite Diner for Brunch
The second Shoo-Fly locked it's Belvedere Square doors in May of 2015, locals started speculating about what would take its place. Earlier this year, we got our answer: Starlite, a restaurant that promised to hew closer to the "diner" concept than Shoo-Fly did, while still being a little more upscale than your average roadside diner.
After an interior facelift - which looks great- and a few months to sort out the menu, etc., Starlite opened in late September. On its third day, I headed there for lunch with my friend Bert, who lives in San Diego but happened to be in town, just for a couple days.
As soon as we walked in, the host, manager and waitress all jumped to introduce themselves to us - and to let us know that since they just opened, we would be receiving 20% off our bill, as a thanks for our patience. Smart, I thought. Very smart.
Service did take a long time that day; the waitress explained that the kitchen remade my dish, crawfish benedict, because they weren't happy with the first iteration. I don't know what round one looked like, but I was happy with the plate that made it to the table:
Overall, we liked everything we ate and liked the staff, too. In the couple weeks since then, I've heard mixed reviews from friends who have been, though by and large, it seems that the negatives are things that will get sorted out as the staff - both front of house and kitchen - gains experience.
And I remain hopeful that the building has found a concept that will stick around for a while.
Farm to Chef Maryland
Toward the end of the month, Cooper and I had the opportunity to go to Farm to Chef Maryland, a big food event held at the B&O Railroad Museum, benefiting Days of Taste.
Days of Taste is a program run by the non-profit TasteWise Kids. The goal of Days of Taste is to encourage young kids to appreciate the benefits of fresh food. Since I have a young kid, I know exactly how lofty a goal that is - and also how important.
Before we got to the event, I already knew that the restaurant community loves it. It's setup as a competition; each participating restaurant is matched with a farm and a panel of judges decides who does the best job on a handful of categories. The restaurant uses ingredients from the farm to create a small bite or a cocktail. Local breweries and wineries are also in attendance, so there are a lot of drink options a lot of food options.
We tried a ton of good stuff. My favorites included a really nice, simple quesadilla from Nacho Mama's, delicious sausage from Hersh's, a super-interesting take on watermelon from Alma Cocina Latina and this apple and oyster concoction from Conrad's:
It was a good party, packed with fun food people and I was so busy talking that I hardly took any photos. The oyster was it for the food photos.
I did, however, also take this one to send to Dixon, after he texted me to complain that the chicken tikka masala I ordered for him was "weird" and "not like the other place." I chose not to take that opportunity to regale him with the wonders of veal parm TV dinners, which is what I ate on babysitter nights when I was a kid.
I swear. Kids today. (And that's Black Ankle Crumbling Rock in that glass. It is so good. So good.)
Modern Cook Shop Party
Farm to Chef was on a Monday and it kicked off a crazy busy week. On Tuesday, Amy and I headed down to Fells for a party at Modern Cook Shop, the new market-restaurant combo from the owners of Fork & Wrench.
I spent most of our time there trying to subtly scarf down as much charcuterie as possible. There were also oysters, gorgeous scallops and really excellent cocktails. So the food is good. But the space might even be better. I love the market-restaurant concept, especially since the "market" part of it isn't just an afterthought.
The shelves are stacked with rows of wine, olive oil, condiments and all kinds of useful items, many of which are made locally.
It makes for a space that's both good-looking and functional. I really liked it.
8 ball Meatball
After the Modern Cook Shop party, Amy and I ambled over to 8 Ball Meatball, the newish meatball shop and bar on Broadway. 8 Ball's concept: it's all about meatballs. You choose your meat, your sauce and any sides you'd like and next thing you know, you've got a plate of meatballs in front of you.
I took the bartender's advice, pairing the spicy pork meatball with a cream sauce and spinach. Everything was very nice (except my picture, which was awful). Best of all, it was seasoned properly. Just spicy enough, just enough salt.
The Ambassador for Dixon's 10th
At the very end of the month, Dixon turned 10. He's so old.
It took the three of us a long time to figure out where to eat for his birthday. Where do you go for a kid who's been everywhere, but still won't eat vegetables unless they are stuffed in ravioli or cooked down in some sort of sauce?
The answer, we decided, was the Ambassador. DRP loves Indian food - he would eat it every night if we let him.
Cooper and I hadn't been to the Ambassador for years, but it was just as stately as we remembered. Were we the youngest people in the place? Well, yes, but that doesn't bother me. Our service was lovely and my grilled shrimp was beautifully prepared.
And that was a wrap for September. So far in October, we've taken things slightly easier (though we did go to Clavel twice last week). I've even been cooking at home, occasionally. But with new places opening all the time - and our list of old places we haven't been still lurking - how easy can we take it?
Wednesday, October 12, 2016
Tuesday, October 04, 2016
How did I not know that Salvador Dali wrote a cookbook? And threw "lavish dinner parties" with his wife, Gala?
Buy it (for me) here.
Friday, September 16, 2016
Did you read Bill Addison's love letter to Maryland crabs, published on Eater yesterday? It's excellent - the kind of article that could only be written by a Maryland native - and really, maybe only by a Maryland native who has spent years away from his home state.
(Side note shoutout to City Paper writer/NASA engineer/all-around good guy Ryan Detter for killing it as Addison's co-pilot.)
The article dropped during what feels like the end, but is really the middle, of one of the best crab seasons of my adult life. The Bay is healthier, this year, than it has been in years, the crab yield is up and those crabs are good.
We got a semi-late start on crabs this year, since we were away for most of June. But once we got started, we didn't stop.
We had crabs from Conrad's at the pool. Crabs for Missy's birthday at Higgins North in Ocean City. Crabs from a spot in Ocean View at Jeff and Christine's house in Delaware. Winston's claw meat and fennel salad during an awesome dinner at Star Bright Farm (and my own version at home, a couple days later). And crabs from Seaside at my parent's house, with my whole family.
This, of course, doesn't even include all the crab cakes I've eaten in that time.
Every crab I've eaten this year has been really good, too. It's hard to pick a favorite batch, but if pressed,I'd give that award to the ones from Seaside. They were huge, heavy and just really great all around. Plus, we ate them on a Saturday afternoon on my parents' screened in porch, after sailing trip up and down the Severn and swimming at my parents' beach. Start to finish, that day was pretty close to perfect. (More wind would've made it better, but you can't change the weather. And we never have any wind when I'm on the boat.)
That's the thing about crabs. They're so social and for people from Maryland, eating crabs is so often infused with all sorts of blurry memories from childhood and adolescence.
I've seen a lot of people joke this year that when you're from Maryland, crab pictures on Instagram or Facebook get about as many likes as, say, pictures of newborn babies. It's funny because it's true. And to me, it totally makes sense.
I don't remember my first crab - I was very young - and we ate crabs all the time when I was a kid and a teenager, so my memories sort of blend together. But they are, overwhelmingly, good ones.
When you have all sorts of memories and they mesh together, all hazy but happy, isn't that the best? Yes, yes it is. Especially when they're covered in Old Bay.
(This is a long way of saying you should read that Eater article. It's good.)
Wednesday, September 07, 2016
|My mom made me this angel food cake for Mother's Day, but|
it's the cake I always had for my birthday as a kid. So it seems
fitting for today...even if it's the blog's birthday, not mine.
I will be celebrating this evening with dinner at Parts & Labor and I have spent a little time today reminiscing with myself about everything I've learned and all the opportunities I've had over the past decade-plus-one thanks to this blog.
In case you don't have time to go back and actually read the thousands of posts in the blog, here's a quick recap of some of the highlights of each year. Navel-gazing, yes. But it's my blog birthday - if I can't do this today, when can I do it?
2005: In the last few months of 2005, I wrote a lot. I posted crappy food pictures and basic recipes. Wrote about excursions I took (Paris! NYC!). And babbled about how food fits into our lives. It's two of those posts (one, two), both about fashion and food, that I love most from that year. They're so typical of how I was thinking about food back then. Back then, when I was only 29!! I was a baby!
2006: Less than a year into this blog, my posting fell way, way off. Because I was pregnant...and then because I had a little baby. But looking back, what I did write was pretty interesting (to me, anyway). I got into art and food and Harry Potter and food (way before the books were over!) and the importance of regionalism in food (a subject I've revisited often). Also, apparently 2006 is the year I learned that scrapple is a regional food. I thought that was just something I always knew! Apparently not!
2007: Blogging was light again in 2007, as I juggled work, tiny baby Dixon and a massive home renovation, including a brand new kitchen. But when I did write, I was all kinds of philosophical. This is the year I started getting interested in happiness research and began exploring how happiness relates to food. Nine years on, that's still one of my favorite subjects. It's also when I started getting bored with "foodie" culture, which is also, something that has persisted.
2008: In 2008, I made a commitment to myself to post every weekday. And I did. Sometimes more than once. I wrote a lot. Not always strictly about food - there was a lot of "other stuff I love" that year, mostly about art or design. I wrote a lot that year about pop culture and celebrity chef/TV chef culture (something I am not really interested in at all anymore), but it's also when I really started to think about the food scene here in Baltimore and I started casually reviewing restaurants (here on the blog). Also that year: I started drinking rose, I learned a ton about food and I made less money working than any other year since I started freelancing. I think those things are all related.
2009: In 2009, I was writing for Houzz, so a lot of my posts here ended up being about dining rooms and tables. That year, I also started writing for Deep Glamour, so I was looking at pretty much everything through the lens of glamour, which is really a very interesting way to view the world. But if I had to pick one theme for the blog that year, it would be parties. I wrote so much about parties and drinks and wine. Still, obviously, some of my favorite topics.
2010: Looking back, 2010 was a banner year. Parties, cocktails and decor remained top blog themes, with a splash of fashion thrown in. This was also the year I really started to get into vintage cookbooks, which I still love. Our friends hit a lot of major milestones (Kyle and Mary got married, Mike and Alicia's daughter Maggie was born, Alicia and Dixon collaborated on their first birthday cake, the entire Kelly family threw the first major throwdown.) We started to go to Dogwood wine dinners. It's also the year that I "met," via the old Elizabeth Large blog on the Sun website, the son of my parents' favorite waiter ever. Around that time, I started to really understand my family's food and restaurant culture. When I first started blogging, I didn't think we had one. I was wrong. Very wrong, in fact. We had/have a fairly strong culture, really, all built around the Chesapeake, restaurant dining and casual parties. And I'm pretty lucky for that.
2011: Two big - really big - things happened to our family in 2011. First, we got a smoker. That was a game-changer. And second, I got a phone call from Sam Sessa, asking me to write a "cheap eats" piece for the Sun's Weekend LIVE section. Then I got another call from him asking me to review a restaurant. Next thing you know, I spent the next four years - until last fall - reviewing. Again, big.
2012: My New Year's resolution in 2012 was, "More mascara, more parties." And wow, did I stick to that. I'm happy to report that I'm still in the habit of wearing mascara when I leave the house (it keeps me from looking like a corpse). But really, it was the party thing that I most successfully fulfilled. We had so many parties that year, I can't even count them all. And when we weren't having parties, I was experimenting with cocktails. I tested a lot of recipes that year, too. And I gave a talk about food and art at the BMA. Also, this is also when we probably reached Peak Southern Cuisine. But really, when I think back on 2012, I think of the parties. Man, that year was fun.
2013: My sister got married in 2013 and we, once again, went to or hosted a ton of parties. That year, we also had a fun wine-tasting trip to Keuka Lake, spent a weekend eating our way through Manhattan, and hosted one of my very favorite Pollard house dinners ever, celebrating Kyle and Mary's third wedding anniversary. I got to write a series about crabs for the Sun and, as a result, I spent a whole lot of time thinking about my personal culinary roots, continuing the train of thought that began in 2010. So we did a lot in 2013 and I was very busy. Maybe that's why the blog doesn't seem to have one overarching theme. I was constantly trying to play catch-up and trying to remember to record the stuff I was doing in my real life.
2014: In 2014, I semi-fixed the "forgetting to post it" problem from 2013, by writing a ton of summary posts rounding up stuff I'd done over the previous week or month. It was a solid year, including a short but killer trip to Paris, our tenth wedding anniversary, our first fundraising Fake St. Patrick's Day party, and an unbelievably wild Mock Thanksgiving party (our 12th). It's also the year I first learned about how Baltimore's chefs work together to raise money for the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation, and when I started to get really excited about the way the city's chefs work together and the tight community they've formed. Have I mentioned that I love this city and the food people in it? I really do.
2015: In 2015, Cooper and I turned 40. As did many of our friends. Which means the year was pretty much one long party - there were these fall/winter trips and parties and this party in the snow and this trip to Philly to see Swifty and an Alicia-themed Keuka trip I didn't even blog about and these August parties and this wine tasting excursion and, finally, after everything else, our massive Clementine-catered blowout at Church & Company followed by a good old-fashioned McGarvey's meet-up and bar crawl. It was intense, to say the least.
2016: I started out this year with a desire to shine a light on all the cool things happening in and around Baltimore. Unfortunately, too much regular work has thrown me off my posting schedule and focus. But I have had some great experiences, including a vacation-filled summer that started at Keuka Lake, then took us to Ireland, Scotland, to the Delaware beaches and back to Keuka. (Not that I've written much about any of that!) Even with the travel, my favorite post of this year was something close to home - a roundup of what I learned from the Sun series I wrote about international grocery stores. And the year isn't over yet, of course.
Whew. It's been a good run, so far. In the moment, I always feel so busy, but when I look back, it's clear that though my to-do list might be long, it's stacked with incredible parties, memorable meals and event after event that puts me in contact with some of the greatest people around.
This little trip down memory lane has been a great reminder that I have wonderful friends, both in and out of the food world, and that I am lucky, lucky, lucky to have the opportunity to write about food, especially at this time and in this awesome, dynamic city.
Thursday, August 25, 2016
Cooper mentioned to me this morning that I have been on the receiving end of a whole lot of gifts lately. He's right.
For starters, last week, Alicia brought over a bunch of vintage cookbooks she got from Mike's family. They're amazing:
A whole cookbook dedicated to deviled ham recipes? SIGN ME UP.
The Calvert Party Encyclopedia is also especially fabulous. It's mostly drink recipes, like the "One Exciting Night," which is a combo of gin, dry vermouth, sweet vermouth and OJ...and sounds like one hungover morning to me.
It also has suggestions for party themes, some games, and a small section dedicated to party food, including delicacies like Bologna Boats: "Place American cheese on slices of bologna. Heat in broiler until bologna curls. Serve with crackers." Then watch your friends never, ever come to your house again.
The copywrite date on that book is 1964. Amazing.
Cooper has also surprised me with a gift or two, including a Wicomico County Board of Education Christmas cookbook from 1981 and this little treat, which he picked up at an auction:
Isn't she adorable? (It is a she, too. There's a lady apron.)
These are my favorite kind of gifts: things that are totally cool and that completely align with my interests...and that were complete surprises.
Thanks, Alicia and Cooper!!
Wednesday, August 03, 2016
|Just a few of the oysters we ate in Ireland.|
I have been doing some reading and writing, though. So here are a few things you might enjoy:
It will come as no surprise to anyone who knows me that I very much enjoyed researching and writing this article tied to National Oyster Day. I spoke with some of Baltimore's best oyster people about how to get the most enjoyment out of eating oysters. It made me hungry.
Speaking of oysters, one of the things I learned from this article about Bloody Marys is that the drink's predecessor was, essentially, a supersized, warm oyster shooter. As much as I love oysters - and Bloodies - even just typing that makes my stomach turn. The article overall is fantastic, tracing the drink from those humble (blech) origins through the prep years, to the DIY bar years and, finally, ending up with today's how-many-ingredients-can-we-stick-on-a-skewer years.
I haven't been a huge bourbon drinking since college (largely because I was a huge bourbon drinker in college), but I can't resist stories about the history of the spirit. They're just so...American. Right now, I'm totally taken with what the crew behind Jefferson's Bourbon is doing with their "Fantastic Voyage." The bourbon was made this past January then barreled for 6 months. When that time was up, it was placed on a raft in Kentucky and shipped off down the Mississippi, bound for New Orleans.
As this Alcohol Professor article explains, the journey is designed to mimic the path bourbon barrels followed over a century ago. It'll be interesting to see how the travels impact the bourbon's flavor.
(As an aside, with a name like Jefferson's Bourbon, how couldn't I like this? When it comes to all things booze and food and college-related, TJ was the best. He made great choices.)
Friday, July 22, 2016
|What's more global than candy sushi made by my friends' kids?|
Over the past month or so, though, I've noticed a slight shift away from strictly American influences to a more global approach to cuisine.
I'm not talking about a largely American dish with, say, harissa worked into the mix. What's happening now is less subtle than that. It's not about fusion - it's about whole dishes drawn from specific cuisines. And multiple cuisines being represented on one menu.
At Gunther and Co., we ate duck lumpia and a Thai hot pot - both Asian dishes with specific flavor profiles, included on a menu that also had ravioli and a truly impressive selection of oysters.
Last night, at The Elephant - which is in its pre-opening week and is gorgeous - we saw wide bowls of ramen at one table and a lamb tagine for two at another.
If I was going to write a college paper about this trend, I'd posit that because we are living in such interesting times - times of global turmoil, if you want to be more dramatic about it - chefs are gravitating to more classic interpretations of dishes. Global is interesting, but the straightforward approach is familiar and comforting.
And if I was writing that paper, I'm sure I'd find a way to tie in the NY Post's recent article about the return of fine dining. Grown-up restaurants embracing a more serious approach to dining out - it also fits with the "in times of turmoil we seek stability" theory.
This theory was the backbone of about half of my art history papers on college. And, of course, food is the new art.
If I do say so myself.