Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Food Numbers are Pretty

These are bringing me great joy today:


They are visual depictions of Google searches for the words "mango" and "ginger," coming to us courtesy of Google's partnership with Truth & Beauty. At the linked website, you can see similar data visualizations for a bunch of food-related words. For someone like me - someone who is equally taken with data and food - this is nothing short of magical.

Truth and beauty, indeed.

(I didn't discover this on my own. Thank you, Richard Gorelick, for sharing it on FB!)

Wednesday, November 02, 2016

43 Hours in Kentucky

Last year was a big one for us, since Cooper and I both turned 40, along with tons of our friends. This year, as it turns out,  has been nearly as big. Most recently, we helped our friend Jeff celebrate with a bang - a bourbon-tasting trip to Kentucky.

The crew included Jeff and his wife Christine, Alicia and Mike, Cooper and me and Kyle (Mary had to work, as did Bill).
Our tour guides very graciously took this photo for us.
As it turns out, Kentucky is a pretty easy trip from Baltimore. The flight from BWI to Louisville is just over an hour and, since it's a regular Southwest run, there are lots of choices and it's not very expensive.

After doing some research, Christine booked us at a cool bed and breakfast called Bourbon Manor, in Bardstown, a small town right in the thick of bourbon country. Mike,  Alicia, Jeff and Christine headed down on Thursday; Cooper and Kyle and I joined them Friday. And we all set off together on an epic adventure.

Friday: From Baltimore to Bardstown

Kyle & his bloody and Kyle with Cooper at the airport; Harrison-Smith pork rolls, Busch Light bottles
and live music at Old Talbott Tavern

Because I am a slightly crazy person when it comes to travel plans, Cooper and Kyle and I arrived at the airport on Friday with, oh, two hours to spare. We killed most of that time at Obrycki's, which really does have a nice house beer and a gorgeous bloody.

One short flight, plus a couple of Kyle's free Southwest drink coupons later, we landed in Kentucky, where Kyle picked up his hilariously red, enormous Ford F-150 rental and we got on the road.

Bardstown, where we were staying, is about 40 minutes from the airport, but we took a slight detour to Shelbyville, to stop by Walnut Grove Farm, where Kyle's uncle's lives.

It was our first time meeting his uncle and he was fantastic - funny and super welcoming. He hosts weddings on the farm and while we were there, he was getting ready for festivities taking place the next day. It's a gorgeous spot and so relaxing. (Especially relaxing during our visit, since he was plying us with beers.)

Back on the road, we made our way to Bourbon Manor, which was more charming than we could've guessed. Pretty, 19th century-inspired rooms, personable hosts, really, really good breakfasts - it had everything we could've asked for, including a bar, called The Bunghole, right on the premises. Also, ghosts. In Bardstown, everything is haunted.

For dinner, we headed into town, to Harrison-Smith House, where we had one of the best meals I've had all year. I feel like I say that a lot, but I mean it. The menu is short, focused and pig-heavy in a creative way. The drinks were solid, as was the wine list, and the sausage roll, which was kind of like a porky egg roll, was absolutely amazing.

Also, our waiter, Richard, was awesome. A total professional who read our table so well. Even with an average waiter, it would've been a memorable meal, but his excellent service pushed it over the top.

After dinner, we wandered over to the Old Talbott Tavern, where we were greeted by live music and $1.50 Busch Light bottles - a combination that Cooper finds hard to resist. We spent a couple hours dancing and drinking and generally having a blast, before going back to The Bunghole and closing it down with a few more drinks. If the weekend had ended right there, it still would've been a winner.

But it didn't.

Saturday: Bourbon and Beer

On Saturday morning, we were up and at 'em early...and some of us were moving a little slowly (Cooper). But we had things to do. Christine had hired a tour company, Kentucky Wine Tours, to take us on a tour of bourbon country.

Normally, one of our stops would've been Jim Beam, but as it turns out, the staff went on strike at midnight on Friday. So we didn't get to see that very big distillery, but we didn't miss it. Instead, we hit a couple other places: Maker's Mark, Limestone Branch, Heaven Hill (just for the gift shop) and Willett.

Our first stop was Maker's Mark, which is beautiful...and very busy. If you're going, try to get there just when it opens, otherwise, you risk waiting for a while for an open tour. (They run a lot of tours throughout the day...but they also get a lot of visitors.)

The grounds, the process, the barrels, the labels...plus the Chihuly ceiling and Cooper and Alicia enjoying some togetherness
Our tour guide at Maker's was young, but really good. He knew what he was talking about and he was funny and personable. It's a gorgeous place and though it's a big company, it didn't feel at all impersonal. We got to see the bourbon made and where it's packaged, labelled and dipped in wax. It's all right there.

The tour ended with a tasting and I have to be honest, bourbon at 10 am is rough when you're 40 and hungover. But you know what's not rough? The Dale Chihuly ceiling that leads into the Maker's gift shop. It's gorgeous.

Because it was Jeff's birthday, our tour guides gave him a gift: his own bottle of Maker's, which he got to dip in wax in the gift shop. It was pretty cool all around...though the part that was most entertaining for us was how totally unimpressed the wax-dipping lady looked by Jeff's antics.

Jeff, in a photo by Christine
After Maker's, our tour guides surprised us with a trip to Limestone Branch, which is the (legit) distillery that was on Moonshiners. While there, we tasted some really good moonshine (for real) and were given a tour by the most engaging, entertaining man ever. He was fantastic. So fun and so full of knowledge.

One of the things we learned is that a lot of the people who distill bourbon are related in one way or another. There are a whole lot of Beams down there and in many cases, the master distiller position at a company is passed down from father to son or daughter (mostly son). It's as much an art as it is a science to create bourbons that are both tasty and consistent and there's no replacing the value of apprenticing with your dad.

We also heard a lot more about the water quality than I was expecting. Comparing this trip to our whiskey adventures last summer in Ireland was interesting. Since there are strict laws regulating how bourbon is aged (new oak barrels, charred on the inside), there's more emphasis on the water and, in some places, the mash vs. the Irish emphasis on the barrel's history and the distilling process itself.

Limestone Branch is a small place, but full of great stories that go back for generations. If you have the chance, go there.

An old whiskey sign at Limestone Branch, view of their grounds, and an Ale 8 One with lunch
After Limestone Branch, we headed back to Maker's, for lunch at Toll Gate Cafe, a little spot on the Maker's campus that makes excellent sandwiches...and just so happens to be run by the brother of the owner of the Harrison-Smith House.

We then did a quick drive by Heaven Hill Distilling, which makes a couple big brands of bourbon, including Evan Williams and Elijah Craig. Our timing was off, so we didn't stay for a tour, but we did make the most of our time at their gift shop, which was more like a museum than a simple store.

As we drove between the distilleries, our guide, Gary, gave us some instruction on the finer points of the bourbon business. Pointing out the rickhouses - the places where the bourbon barrels are placed to age - he talked to us about construction and location and insurance.

That sounds boring, but it wasn't. The big structures, which are often painted black because they end up covered in black mold anyway, are built far from the distilleries themselves and far enough apart from one another that if there's a fire, they won't all go up in flames.

Because bourbon is so highly flammable, fires to happen, and they can very quickly take out a lot of product. And because of that, the aging bourbon is impossible to insure. So if you have a fire, you're stuck.

After Heaven Hill, we made our way to our final distillery of the day, Willett. This was a special request from Jeff, who loves the stuff and so does Kyle's dad. So, apparently, do a lot of bartenders.

The brand hasn't been around for a super long time, though the family behind it has been distilling for generations. And, as we discovered during our tour, given by a fun girl named Evelyn, the family has roots in Maryland. Though they've been in Kentucky for many generations, they were originally from Prince George's County.

Willett is cool overall, but the highlight is the still, which is a proprietary genie bottle shape
(which is also the shape of their bottles)

It was a fun tour and Cooper finally started to emerge from his hangover haze, just as Kyle started to slip into a bourbon-induced buzz that kept building for the rest of the night. It was...entertaining.

The tours were over and we were back at the B&B before 4...and then back off, having a drink at The Bunghole before heading to the Bardstown Craft Beer Fest. We walked from the inn - it wasn't too far - and strolled around town, ducking into a few shops before heading to the festival itself.

Once we got there, we were pleasantly surprised by a ton of craft beers, some not-so-craft beers (Carlsberg?), the Hogslop String Band, and a couple very good food trucks. Plus, a boatload of friendly people. AND there was square dancing at one point, which I did not participate in, but Mike, Alicia and Kyle did. Believe me when I say it was memorable. About 20 minutes too long, but memorable.
Tons of craft beers, Cooper at The Bunghole, the band, a kickass BBQ truck
While at the festival, we got to talking with a couple manning one of the food booths, a place selling chili. Turns out, the lady there is the mom of the people who own Toll Gate Cafe and Harrison Smith and she used to work at Limestone Branch and was the distiller behind some of our favorites there.

It's a small town.

But a really nice one.

After the festival, we headed back to the Old Talbott Inn for a couple more Busch Lights and a little more live music before finally throwing in the towel and calling for a cab to carry us back to the B&B. (One downside of Bardstown: no Uber.)

Sunday morning, we were up and out very early and we were back in Baltimore by 11. A quick trip, definitely, but one that was so much fun. I knew we'd have a good time - we always do - but I wasn't expecting to be so thoroughly charmed by the town, its people and its restaurants and bars.

I'd go back in a heartbeat.

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Out and About in September

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?

Tuesday, October 04, 2016

Chef Dali


How did I not know that Salvador Dali wrote a cookbook? And threw "lavish dinner parties" with his wife, Gala?

Well, I know now...and I also know what I want for Christmas. Taschen is publishing Dali's 1973 cookbook, Les Diners de Gala...and I want a copy. It sounds insane and fabulous and exactly like what you'd imagine Salvador Dali's cookbook + 1973 would, could and should be.

Buy it (for me) here.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Crabby

Clockwise from top right: Pool crabs from Conrad's; aftermath of crabs in Delaware; XLs from Seaside; Cail helping Erin put up her hair after her hands are messy, while my dad focuses on picking; Missy's birthday crabs at Higgins in OC; the claw meat salad I made, which wasn't as good as Clementine's, but was still pretty good

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

Blog Birthday Retrospective

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.
Happy blog birthday to ME! Today is the 11th anniversary of my first post here on Mango & Ginger.

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

Gifted


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!!

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