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May 31, 2008

Dinner at Dusk

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This sign appeared recently in front of the Guilford sign on N. Calvert Street, but I never got around to seeing what it was about till now.

It turns out that tomorrow night's event will be the ninth annual Dinner at Dusk in Sherwood Gardens, but it's the first year I've heard about it.

You probably thought Guilford residents were snobs and would want to keep the riffraff out. Not so. The idea is you bring the food, they supply the live music and atmosphere for $10. Here's the link.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:20 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Lettuce shop

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OK, maybe it's a little early for terrible puns. But I found some great head lettuces at the Martin Farm's truck at the Waverly Farmers Market this morning. Just from its looks, it makes you realize how much better very fresh, local lettuce is than what you get in the supermarket.

Of course, looks can be deceptive. Witness the local strawberries you all were complaining about last week.
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:06 AM | | Comments (17)
        

A pizza place I didn't know about

Anybody heard of the following pizza place? I didn't think there was a restaurant in this area that would get this much praise and wasn't new that I didn't know anything about. And speaking of two-cuisine restaurants, an Italian restaurant owned by a Thai gentleman?

Here's Jay J.'s recommendation: ... 

"We would like to suggest [a restaurant] that we feel merits a review. If you have already reviewed it, we don't remember it.
 

"It is the NY Pizza Company that is located at 10995 Owings Mills Blvd. in Owings Mills, Maryland. It offers a good variety of Italian entrees in addition to numerous different pizzas. The homemade marinara sauce is prepared each morning by the owner, a Thai gentleman. He has told us that he was given the recipe by a former owner of an Italian restaurant whose land was taken over by the City of Baltimore for new development. He said that it takes 4 hours to prepare and that he does so before his staff comes to work. Part of his staff is his teenage sons. who are being taught the restaurant business from the bottom up.

"The physical facility is extremely clean and attractive. The booths have higher than usual dividers that assure privacy. There are  also tables for larger parties and those who don't care about a booth. The kitchen and the cooking staff are in full view of the customers, which he has told us is deliberate as he wants all to know that it and they are clean.

"The menu is a little different in that it offers a picture of each entrée. If customers (such as my wife and I) would like a change to the entrée as printed, the owner is more than willing to do so.

"He, by the way, presented every customer a piece of homemade coconut cake on the evening before Mother's Day.

"After re-reading that which I have written, I feel as though I need to state that we are not in any way related to the owner or his family. We just feel that it's a nice place to have a good, fairly priced meal and the owner could use more business."
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:14 AM | | Comments (19)
        

May 30, 2008

Starbucks can recycle for free if it wants to

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Natalie has been doing some research for us, inspired by my post about a Starbucks in the city not recycling because businesses have to pay to have their cans and bottles picked up.

She called the city and found out that they are welcome to recycle every two weeks along with residents -- for free.

As she puts it:

I recognize that once every two weeks isn’t enough to take care of all the recyclables the restaurants have.  But even if they just started with cans and/or bottles, that would be a huge improvement.

Thanks for doing the legwork, Natalie. 

(Amy Davis/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:19 PM | | Comments (12)
        

A sad market story

SadVacancy

 

If you're going to the Waverly Farmers Market tomorrow, keep an eye out for the table pictured. I wasn't there last weekend, but Marty Katz took the photo and sent it to me.

Walter Bedford, who's been a vendor at the market for 27 years, won't be back. Here's what Marty e-mailed me when I asked what he sold:

I think he was general produce but was not on my radar, or vegdar. But market boss Marc and customers were upset and manned a sign-a-card table. Marc was explaining the sudden call from the guy saying doc said no more exertion.


(Photo by Marty Katz) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:20 AM | | Comments (3)
        

The mysterious airline chicken breast

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Deskmate Scott was asking me about airline chicken breasts, which he's seen recently on the menus of several Baltimore restaurants, including the new Clementine in Hamilton and Lucy's (formerly Maggie Moore's). Is it a trend?

Well, we all know the definition of trend is three. When I Googled airline chicken breast, the menu of Hull Street Blues popped up. ... 

Not only that, earlier this week I ate at Saute in Canton, and the cut was used in a daily special. How close to a trend are we getting here, folks? (If you can call something trendy that's been around since the '60s.)

Here's as official a description of an airline chicken breast as I could find for you. It's from Richard Lobb of the National Chicken Council. In his e-mail to me he said:

It is a boneless breast portion with the first wing segment (the "drummette") attached. There is a rather detailed official description I could fax to you although I do not have it electronically. Please send me your fax number if you want to see that.  I also have a very recent book on "Culinary Arts" which says, "If the drummette is left on, chop off the end knuckle and push back the meat for a finished presentation."

This is also referred to as a "hotel cut" (especially by hotel chefs, obviously)...

I told him we probably didn't need a more detailed official description.

I wish I had a photo for you, but none of the ones I could find on Google images looked like anything.

There seem to be several explanations for the name.One is that part of the wing was left on the boneless breast to make the serving look bigger when airlines used to serve free meals on flights. (Yes, children, once upon a time you didn't have to buy $5 snack boxes to eat on an airplane.) 

Another is that the cut looks like it's about to take flight off the plate. This only works if you picture it as a whole breast with two drumettes attached. (I spell it with one "m," by the way. To each his own.)

(Photo of Clementine by Andre F. Chung) 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:53 AM | | Comments (19)
        

May 29, 2008

Beef fat again already

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Just when I was feeling so depressed, this mystery product came in an e-mail from Owl Meat to cheer us all up. It even has visuals. Pictured to the left is one of the fabulous prizes if you guess right, a pony named Snickers. Below is a photo of Owl Meat's breakfast cereal. Remember the rules. No Googling of ingredients. Cheating ruins the fun for everybody. ...

 

(Photo courtesy of FreeFoto.com) 

Producto Jueves del Misterio

(Mystery Product Thursday)

I was craving some autolyzed yeast extract this morning, so I had a forkful of this with my Quisp cereal.  Mmmmmm .... what could this be?  They might serve it in restaurants (but they might tell you the guanylate is homemade).

INGREDIENTS:  Modified Wheat Starch, Maltodextrin, Salt, Enriched Wheat Flour (Niacin, Reduced Iron, Thiamine Mononitrate, Riboflavin, And Folic Acid), Dextrose, Whey Solids, Monosodium Glutamate (Flavor Enhancer), Hydrolyzed Corn Gluten, Soy Protein, And Wheat Gluten, Modified Corn Starch, Buttermilk Solids, Nonfat Dry Milk, Caramel Color, Onion, Autolyzed Yeast Extract, Natural Flavors, Thiamine Hydrochloride, Tartaric Acid, Disodium Insinuate And Disodium Guanylate (Flavor Enhancers), Black Pepper, Beef Fat, Extractives Of Beef, Malic Acid, And Sulfiting Agents.

Today's prize is a butterscotch candy I found in my jeans jacket pocket, a hand-embroidered pillow that I stuffed with dryer lint, or a Shetland pony named Snickers.

quisp

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:36 PM | | Comments (143)
        

The Spam Index

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I'm feeling so depressed. There is just something about learning that sales of Spam are on the rise that's more upsetting than any other economic news I've heard yet.

To add insult to injury, the price of Spam is up 7 percent from last year. 

Thanks to Business Blogger Jay for sending me this link to the story. My multimedia editors don't like me directing you to another paper, so please come back when you finish reading the story and comment here.  

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:39 AM | | Comments (34)
        

Free ice cream!!!

SylvanBeachUpdate.jpgJust mention Dining@Large next Sunday when you attend the Sylvan Beach block party that kicks off its new ice cream brand, and you'll get free ice cream.

The press release says this:

The Sylvan Beach Foundation is proud to launch our new brand: the Taharka Brothers Ice Cream Company.  The ice cream is still the same super premium ice cream that has been served at Sylvan Beach in the past, but we believe the new brand better captures our social mission. 

Not exactly sure what that means, but it sounded good, so I skipped straight to the free ice cream part.

The party is from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., with live music and giveaways, at the Mount Washington Mill location.

Patrick McArdle, who sent the e-mail, concluded by saying, "If people mention that they heard about the party on Dining@Large, the ice cream is free! (OK, even if you forget to mention D@L, it's still free.)" ...

This summer Sylvan will be selling its new ice cream from street carts at two locations: on Greene Street across from the University of Maryland Hospital and on Wolfe Street on the Johns Hopkins Hospital campus.  The company hopes to get more places for carts soon.

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:27 AM | | Comments (2)
        

May 28, 2008

Nasu Blanca is closing

nasublancaend.jpgI'm sad to hear that Nasu Blanca, an interesting restaurant in Locust Point offering Spanish and Japanese food, is serving its last meal this Friday night. Chef/owner David Sherman blames it on the economy.

"We are going out with style," he said in an e-mail to me.  "My staff and I are offering an eight-course tasting menu with wine and sake pairings.  I hope everyone continues to eat well."

When I called to confirm his e-mail just now, I asked him what the price will be. He said $120 per person, $180 with the wine and sake pairings.

Sherman included this information in his e-mail: "Outstanding gift cards...will be honored with cash back or wine worth equal value.  Please inform people to call me, David Sherman, at 410-962-9890; and I will personally make arrangements."

(Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer) 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:57 PM | | Comments (21)
        

Before you get offended...

The exchange between Rev' Ed and Isabel yesterday inspired me to do a separate post reminding folks that what seems to be an exchange may not be. It's my fault for not being able to publish comments in a timely fashion.

What happens is that I come into work in the morning or back from lunch or an interview, and I have 20 comments that I publish all at once. So even though it looks as if Isabel was commenting on Rev' Ed's post, she really wasn't. It was published at the same time hers was.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:17 PM | | Comments (6)
Categories: Commenting
        

Crab Week is coming! Crab Week is coming!

CWComing.jpgAre you as excited about Crab Week as I am? I know you are.

For those readers who don't know what I'm talking about (which means you haven't been checking in often enough), Crab Week starts this Sunday, June 1. There will be many thrilling events, but not to worry. If you don't like crabs, I will be posting other stuff too.

I'm going to list the events now, but I don't want you to discuss the topics specifically until Crab Week, except for suggestions for next Tuesday's Top Ten or for other crab-related entries you'd like to see included. I know it's hard, but please try not to jump the gun here. 

Anyway, here's the lineup so far: ... 

1) Our Top Ten Tuesday will be, no surprise, crab houses. Please start suggesting your favorite places to pick hard shells below.

2) A highlight, perhaps the highlight, of the week will be Amanda's video on West Coast crabs. I've seen it, and it's spectacular, although I have to give it an R rating for violence.

3) I haven't seen her other video yet, on making crab enchiladas; but I'm sure it will run a close second, although perhaps without the action of the first video.

4) We will approach the Dreaded Crab Cake Question once again, but this time we will eliminate all the usual suspects (G & M, Faidley's, Koco's Pub, etc.) and get people to tell us about unlikely spots to get great crab cakes.

5) Soft shell crabs: everything you want to know about them and what restaurants prepare them the best.

6) Maryland crab soup or cream of crab? Discuss. (Only not yet.)

7) We will talk about why crab imperial has gone out of favor on restaurant menus.

8)  We will discuss what warped mind came up with the concept of fried hard crabs.

9) People will let us know where we can get hard shells to take home and eat on our back porch, and discuss the merits and disadvantages of buying crabs out of the back of a truck.

10) We will have Film Critic Extaordinaire Michael Sragow's insightful review of the classic Attack of the Crab Monsters.

11) We'll talk about why crab houses steam their crabs differently from Eastern Shore watermen, and also why the experts pick crab differently from the way most of us do. That will lead to a discussion of the proper way to get the most out of your crab eating experience. 

12) Perhaps Owl Meat can be prevailed upon to come up with a crab-related Mystery Product

13) Not to mention an appropriate Shallow Thought by Multimedia Editor Etc. John.

14)  And last but certainly not least, I will present Mr. Old Fart's T-shirt design in honor of Crab Week. I haven't gone so far as to have 100,000 of them made up to sell for $19.95 on this blog, but I'm thinking about it.

 

(Todd Holden/Special to the Sun)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:35 AM | | Comments (31)
        

Shallow Thought Wednesday

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Multimedia Editor and Resident Cheeseburger, Wings and Gas Station Food Expert John Lindner continually surprises me. First of all, he's convinced he had cholera last week when he missed his deadline. I find that unlikely. My guess is too much gas station sushi, as you know.

In any case, in this week's edition of Shallow Thought Wednesday, he dips into the paranormal: ... 

In an eerie twist on the mystery of socks disappearing in the dryer, a spoon recently materialized in our flatware drawer. No one brought it in. No one knows whence it came. It just showed up.

Careful examination revealed that it’s no mere spoon. It is a spoon with a past, a history revealed by the name engraved on its handle: Fred Harvey.

Turns out, Harvey was a foodie of no meager renown. More on him here.

How the "hell" his spoon got into our drawer remains a curiosity. One conjecture has it that our house is connected however tenuously to the rail business via which Harvey made a fortune. It’s a 1918 farmhouse believed by some to have been a "Sears house" conveyed to the area by train.

Add to that the fact that our house is haunted by a glassware poltergeist and you can see that the spoon’s appearance is most likely the work of paranormal kitchen agents.

Some Wednesday, I shall work up the courage to discuss the glassware poltergeist. The little bastard breaks rims off glassware. Uncanny accurate breaks, always about three quarters of an inch from the rim down.

If you possess any information on dealing with phenomena like this, please contact me immediately, as we’ve had numerous self-styled experts lead us down twisted paths to heartbreak in the hopes of purging our grounds of the destructive imp.

 

(Photo courtesy of Bonnie Lindner) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:29 AM | | Comments (23)
        

May 27, 2008

Why restaurants don't take reservations

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I wasn't surprised that yesterday's Monday Morning Quarterbacking swerved off into a discussion of the merits of BYOB restaurants and whether a corkage fee is fair. I was surprised that there wasn't more conversation about restaurants that have a no reservations policy when Mr. Old Fart brought the subject up.

I don't think anyone can argue that from a customer's point of view, there is no advantage to a restaurant that has a no reservations policy. If I'm wrong, please correct me. But I don't even really get it from a restaurant's point of view. Wouldn't it help to know in advance how many people are going to be eating there on any given night and to space them out appropriately?

Maybe it's usually when a place is new and hot that it can afford to have a no reservations policy. Even Salt eventually decided to start taking reservations.

 

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:15 PM | | Comments (24)
        

The next Dining@Large blogging party

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Good lord. What is this bartender making? What a weird color it is. I'm assuming it's some strange variation on the martini because of the shape of the glass. Anyway, this post is supposed to be about the next Dining@Large blogging party. This will be happy hour at the Owl Bar in the Belvedere on this Thursday, May 29, at 5:30 p.m.

I gather the choice of location is in honor of Owl Meat's return.

(2002 photo of the Owl Bar by Andre F. Chung/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:32 AM | | Comments (42)
        

Top Ten Places to Eat on the Water

TabrizisWater.jpgA lot of people won't be satisfied with this list because it doesn't have any Harborplace restaurants on it, and that's where their out-of-town visitors want to go. But I decided not to include any national chains, so that limited me.

If you want a great view of the water, you may have to settle for some good but not great food. My list took into account the view first, then the food.

Mark asked me to include whether smoking was allowed outside, which seemed to me to be a reasonable request except that I ended up making up this list yesterday, and I just didn't have the energy to also call every restaurant to ask. But if anyone knows, please post below.

Here's my list: ...

* Baldwin's Station in Sykesville is in a restored 19th century railroad station, but the tables outside overlook the Patapsco River. The food is New American and pretty good, and it's a fun day trip if you aren't venturing very far these days.

* Bonaparte Breads (903 S. Ann St.) in Fells Point. I'm glad Matt Hudock reminded me of this authentic French bakery that also serves lunch and brunch. This is the bargain version of great food and a view of the water.

* Carrol's Creek Cafe in Eastport. Whether you eat indoors or out, the view is great, the menu includes must-have Maryland seafood dishes like crab cakes and rockfish filet, and you're not far from downtown Annapolis.

* Charleston in Harbor East. When the weather is nice, there are three or four tables set formally with flowers outside the open doors of the Palm Room under the awnings. The full menu is available. A couple of tables just inside the doors also have a water view.

* Jesse Wong's Hong Kong (10215 Wincopin Circle) in Columbia. Best known for its Chinese dim sum, which can be ordered off the menu on weekdays. On weekends, the traditional dim sum cart is used.

* Nick's Fish House on the Middle Branch recreates an old-fashioned seafood restaurant with two decks and a rooftop overlooking the marina. It's one of the best bets in Baltimore for eating on the water. Thanks to Carol in Hampden for reminding me of this.

Severn Inn in Annapolis. When I ate there it had just opened, and the food was a bit uneven; but we had excellent crab cakes, whole trout and risotto. You can't improve on the view, either looking out the floor-to-ceiling windows or sitting on the multi-level deck.

* Sushi Sono in Columbia. The waterfront is Lake Kittamaqundi, but that counts doesn't it? This serene Japanese restaurant was given Zagat's No. 1 rating for food by readers in the Baltimore area.

* Tabrizi's in South Baltimore gets my vote if you have to eat in the harbor area. Inside or out, there's a water view at every table. Tuesday through Thursday you can have a three-course dinner and a glass of wine for $35.

* Sherwood's Landing is known for its award-winning food under Chef Mark Salter, an impressive wine list, service to die for, and a wonderful waterfront view. It's also very, very expensive. (This is the dining room of the Inn at Perry Cabin.)

(Photo of Tabrizi's by Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer)

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:18 AM | | Comments (57)
        

May 26, 2008

Happy Memorial Day -- Huh?

I should be remembering the casualties of war today, and I'm thinking about what to have for dinner. Is there any holiday we don't celebrate with food? I mean, even Good Friday has hot cross buns. OK, maybe not Martin Luther King's birthday, but that's a relatively new holiday. It's just a matter of time.

I'm sitting here trying to decide whether potato salad counts as a green vegetable with grilled hamburgers and corn on the cob. We aren't having people over or anything. It's Memorial Day so we have to have Memorial Day food.

More people than ever wished me "Happy Memorial Day" this weekend. (I actually had to look up just now what casualties were first being memorialized. I thought it was World War II. It was the Union soldiers in the Civil War.)

Maybe we ought to just admit Memorial Day has turned into a celebration of the first weekend of summer so we can get on with deciding ice cream or watermelon for dessert.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:25 PM | | Comments (44)
        

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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Many of you reading this will probably never bother to eat at Catonsville Gourmet, the restaurant I reviewed yesterday, because it doesn't offer anything you can't get closer to home.

But I was impressed by how the owners figured out what folks in the area needed and how well they provide it with their new venture. I was also impressed by how prepared they were for the crowds of people who responded.

Think of every really successful restaurant you know in Baltimore: Tio Pepe, the Helmand, etc. If you go when they are very busy, it adds to the pleasure rather than making you feel as if you are having to wait or being ignored because of the other customers.

I don't know what makes a restaurant an instant success. Some languish unnoticed for weeks and months. Some are slammed from the beginning and then turn off customers because they weren't prepared.  

Anyway, feel free to post below about my review, the Catonsville Gourmet if you've eaten there, or How to Succeed in the Restaurant Business Without Really Trying. 

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:33 AM | | Comments (23)
Categories: Monday Morning Quarterbacking
        

May 25, 2008

Our Pre-Memorial Day brunch

ArdeoExterior.jpgThe family was off to Washington today to visit my 93-year-old mother-in-law. I was excited because she decided she wanted to go to Ardeo, a stylish contemporary American restaurant, rather than her usual choice, Clyde's, for brunch.

It was nice because, as you can see from the photo, the front windows open up so it's almost like sitting outdoors only without being directly in the sun. Almost every seat in the front half of the restaurant gets a lovely breeze. 

But it's an odd brunch menu. I won't go into the boring details, but there are a lot of ingredients that many people would have to ask the waiter to explain (such as yuzu gelee and pomegranate-saba reduction), which is more OK at dinner than at brunch.

And then there are items like a Belgian waffle with spiced pumpkin butter, maple syrup and...

...home fries? I substituted bacon for the home fries and my daughter (what a good girl) substituted fruit. I wonder if anyone has the home fries. By the way, spiced pumpkin butter with maple syrup on a waffle isn't a good idea.

The basket on the table was filled with miniature blueberry muffins, corn muffins and shortcake biscuits. I had one of each.

My husband had the nerve to ask what was for dinner on the way home.

Another way you can tell when a restaurant is too trendy for its own good: When you order a cup of tea and the wooden tea box (groan) contains only one black tea out of six choices, and that's Earl Grey with bergamot and blue malva flowers. 

ArdeoBar.jpg

 

 

 

 (Exterior photo by me, interior by Gailor Large) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:05 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Next Sunday's review

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For the next couple of Sundays I'm going to look at some moderately priced alternatives to chains in my reviews in the Arts & Life Today section. 

My first one is Stone Mill Bakery in Green Spring Station. It now offers dinner from 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every evening. 

This comes at a good time for two reasons. One, the economy. All entrees are $14.95, which includes salad and bread.

Two, it's summer, and Stone Mill has a great patio.

This would be a good place to post any suggestions you have for places that aren't chains that have very reasonably priced dinners that aren't bar food. Or even a particular dish, even if the rest of the menu isn't a bargain.

 

(Amy Davis/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:36 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Review Preview
        

May 24, 2008

Bumper Sticker of the Day

"Jeter drinks wine coolers."

Discuss.

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:16 PM | | Comments (28)
        

What is it about breakfast foods?

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In an earlier post I wrote about the new Granny's, an all-day breakfast place in Owings Mills. (It does other food as well, mostly American comfort dishes with a southern accent.) When I heard about it, I was struck with the similarities to Miss Shirley's in Roland Park.

Both seem to be hugely successful. And I think the same is true of that breakfast chain that moved into the area, First Watch.

And yet I'm one of the few people I know that likes -- no, needs -- to eat breakfast every day at breakfast time. Even my daughter says she isn't hungry when she wakes up. ... 

 

I'm not that interested in breakfast foods the rest of the day, but everyone else in the universe seems to be. The three restaurants I've mentioned are smart because they offer what diners do but in a nicer atmosphere.

Why is breakfast food so appealing the rest of the day? is it just because it's all the bad-but-oh-so-good foods like animal fats, high cholesterol proteins, carbs and sweets?

I don't get it. I don't even really get the appeal of brunch.

 

(Photo of Granny's chicken and waffles by Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:31 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Guess the mystery product (notice I'm not saying food)

Owl Meat (when I look at that name I always wonder if it means owls or mice) has graciously sent me a game to start off the Memorial Day weekend festivities. As faithful readers know, when we play Guess the Mystery Product, THERE IS NO PRIZE. DO NOT GOOGLE THE INGREDIENTS, FOLKS. THAT TAKES THE FUN OUT OF THE GAME.

Owl Meat's comment was "the beef fat is intriguing." You know me. I always think beef fat is intriguing.

Here we go: .. 

Enriched Bleached Wheat Flour [Flour, Reduced Iron, B Vitamins (Niacin, Thiamine Mononitrate (B1), Riboflavin (B2), Folic Acid)], Sugar, Water, Corn Syrup, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Partially Hydrogenated Vegetable and/or Animal Shortening (Contains One or More of: Soybean, Cottonseed or Canola Oil, Beef Fat), Whole Eggs, Dextrose. Contains 2% or Less of: Modified Corn Starch, Glucose, Leavenings (Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate, Baking Soda, Monocalcium Phosphate), Sweet Dairy Whey, Soy Protein Isolate, Calcium and Sodium Caseinate, Salt, Mono and Diglycerides, Polysorbate 60, Soy Lecithin, Cornstarch, Corn Flour, Corn Dextrin, Cellulose Gum, Sodium Stearyl Lactylate, Natural and Artificial Flavors, Sorbic Acid (to Retain Freshness), FD&C Yellow 5, Red 40.
 
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:02 AM | | Comments (62)
        

May 23, 2008

How to fix any technical problem with the blog

Just in case you don't think we have a crack IT staff here on the premises of The Sun, let me share with you the response I got from a certain multimedia editor when the rail (that's the technical term for the right half of my blog's page, I learned yesterday) disappeared, and I sent out an hysterical e-mail to everyone who could possibly help: ...

Wave some bleached chicken bones (thigh bones work best) over your monitor while chanting "I love my software, I love my software, I love my software....."

Why do I think they don't take me seriously anymore? 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:10 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Who can eat the hottest food and where can they find it?

hothothot.jpgGabe has just asked for our help, so get out your chili pepper rating system and let's get going:

I hope you can help me out with a little competition I am trying to organize for my friends. We recently got entangled in an argument about who could eat the hottest food. After much debate we agreed to a "Heat Off", a friendly competition to settle the issue and award bragging rights to the winner.

I am wondering if you could leverage your blog, which I enjoy reading often, and your faithful readers to open a topic and put together a list of the hottest food items this city has to offer. I've been thinking about it and it would be awesome if we could represent the spectrum of hot food around the world, starting in the American South-west, then Mexico and making our way towards Northern Africa, then the Middle East, passing through India and ending somewhere in South East Asia.

(Kim Hairston/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:43 AM | | Comments (21)
        

Eating for less: home or away?

RibEyeSteak.jpgDahlink has just challenged Robert of Cross Keys' assertion that families can eat cheaper at a chain than at home, or something like that. I'm not going to go back and try to find the original post because then I'll have to copy it here and that will mess up the coding etc. etc. and then maybe half my blog's main page will disappear again.

But I kind of get what he means. It started me thinking: When do I or my family tend to eat out? It's when I need a treat and don't feel like fixing dinner. If I decide No, I must cook dinner at home. I go somewhere like Eddie's and buy ready-to-saute crab cakes for three or a nice little rib eye and maybe asparagus or an avocado or other things that seem, well, like a treat to make up for having to cook. Then I'm appalled when I get to the checkout counter and realize how much I've spent.

But if we go out... 

...just not having to cook is treat enough. I look at the menu and think, Ugh. Everything is so expensive. I'm perfectly happy to have a glass of wine, some bread and a nice little salad, soup or vegetarian pasta. My husband and daughter do the same thing (my daughter probably would just have water) because they prefer to eat that way anyway. We might easily end up spending less than I would at the gourmet supermarket, and no dishes.

 

(Photo by Bonnie Trafelet/Chicago Tribune/MCT)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:11 AM | | Comments (18)
        

Introducing our new restaurant critic

One of the best things about having my own blog is that sometimes I get to break real news. Of course, it has to be restaurant-related, but still.

Karen Nitkin, who has been our LIVE reviewer for the past five years, is leaving to have more time with her family. (That's probably her polite way of saying she's had enough bar food and other cheap eats and can't take it any more.) She's been great to work with -- I'm the one that coordinates the restaurants we go to, although I'm not her editor -- and the only reason I'm not despondent is that...

...Richard Gorelick of the City Paper will be taking over for her.

I don't know Richard, but I've always enjoyed reading his reviews even when our experiences at the same restaurant were very different. Also he wrote me a handwritten note congratulating me when my 30th anniversary story appeared in the paper, which so floored me that I was predisposed to like him before I even knew he was going to be a co-reviewer.

I'm looking forward to seeing what he does with the column. I wrote the LIVE column for awhile along with the Sunday review, so I know that week in and week out, it's a lot harder to pull off than it seems.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:40 AM | | Comments (27)
        

May 22, 2008

I can't find the search function

I totally didn't get what you guys meant about the formatting of the page being messed up because OMG said "this post," and I had just finished fixing up the coding of the post, which had my comment on the side of the photo and the quote from Piano Rob under the photo before I fixed it.

It's only taken me 12 hours to get what you meant, when I went to use the search function. (Actually I did find it at the bottom of the page.) I don't think closing Opera is going to fix this puppy. I shall turn it over to our crack IT guys in India. Or perhaps Pakistan. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:57 PM | | Comments (13)
        

Curbside dining

MothersFederalHill.jpgMidnight Sun Sam and I were just discussing whether Mother's Federal Hill Grille is the only non-chain restaurant in the Baltimore area to have curbside pickup. Heck, I can't even think of any chain restaurants that have curbside pickup -- although I think maybe Outback does, so that probably means its sibling restaurants do.

That this is so appealing shows how low I've sunk. Not only do I not want to cook for my family, I don't even want to get out of the car to pick up dinner for them. I don't even want to drive as far out of my way as Mother's to pick up dinner, for that matter. Why isn't there a curbside pickup restaurant about a block away from The Sun on my way home?

One of The Powers That Be here told me he sometimes double parks in front of Sammy's Trattoria and picks up lasagna to take home. I have to admire that. With my luck, I would double park, pick up my lasagna, and come out to find my car had been towed. 

 

(2003 photo -- best I could do -- of Mother's Federal Hill Grille by Nanine Hartzenbusch/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:35 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Yes, I taste everything

IsOneMe.jpgPiano Rob asked a question this morning that deserves a separate entry. I may have touched on this before, but if so it's been awhile. Here's what he said:

SusanWNAJ brought up an interesting point: "You could then tell them that you got a part-time job as a restaurant reviewer and it's important that you try all the foods."

This may have been discussed elsewhere on D@L over the past year, or even in a feature story. How do you go about writing about all of the dishes during a restaurant visit? Do you sample from everyone's plate or rely on their own opinions? Just wondering. Thanks! ...

 

I never rely on anyone's opinions but my own. If they want to tell me, I'll listen, but mostly my companions know that all they have to do is order what I tell them to. This is harder than it sounds sometimes when you're craving a salad for a first course and I make you order the crispy sweetbreads with apples, raisin spoon bread, a Sauternes sauce and bacon oil. (Yes, this is an actual appetizer on Meli's menu.)

I do sample from everyone's plate. I try to do it as discreetly as possible, but I never write about anything I haven't tasted.

The reason I don't ask what my guests think is that some readers tend to agree with me, and others find my reviews useful because they almost always disagree with me. But at least I'm consistent. The one exception is that if one of us loves something and another hates it, I might mention that (making it clear which side I'm on) to show that it's a controversial dish.

 

(Photo of Cynthia's in Severna Park by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:43 AM | | Comments (20)
        

Restaurants and the economy, part trois

Dogblogger John and Midnight Sun Sam's story on restaurants and the economy appears in today's paper. I know you'll have something to say about it. This internet thing is really cool, as my younger brother said about a year ago when he got his first computer. Don't you love how interactive it is?
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:14 AM | | Comments (9)
        

Next Tuesday's Top Ten: On the Waterfront

SamsontheWaterfront.jpg

 

As you know, Next Tuesday is the first Tuesday of the summer because Memorial Day is the start of summer. I'm not going to say "unofficial," because that's a weasel word. We all know it's the start of summer. I say when it's OK to wear white shoes, it's officially summer and forget solstices.

Anyway, in case you don't remember, Donny B. suggested best places to eat on the waterfront. I've got to get started on it if I don't want to be sitting at my computer all day next Monday when I should be grilling hamburgers or whatever.

Please post suggestions below, but stay away from crab houses because that's the Top Ten for Crab Week (June 3).

Sigh. That reminds me that one of my all-time favorite waterfront dining places was Gabler's crab shack on the Bush River near Aberdeen, but it's long gone. It had a sink in the dining room where you washed your hands after picking crabs.

 

(Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:13 AM | | Comments (14)
        

May 21, 2008

Restaurants and the economy, part deux

HalfPricedBurger.jpgA couple of features reporters are working on a story about how local restaurateurs are dealing with the current economy. Are they passing rising costs onto consumers? Shrinking portions? Cutting back on specials? Charging for bread? Sending their kids to Towson instead of Harvard? (Just kidding about that last one.) Or are they adopting a wait-and-see attitude and hoping this, too, shall pass?

I'm hoping the reporters will start by reading one of my all-time favorite posts, Restaurants and the Economy. Not because of what I said, but because of the fabulous comments in response. 

Still, there's some kind of story there, so my editors would like me to ask you if you've noticed any changes at places you eat regularly that could be because of the economy. It would point the reporters in the right direction. And if you're willing to talk on the record for the story, that would be even better. Just e-mail me as soon as possible, and I'll pass your contact info along.

(Photo of half-price burger night at P.J. Pub by Amy Davis/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:07 PM | | Comments (30)
        

Shallow Thought Wednesday

IWishIHadOrderedIt.jpgLearn something new every day. Each week I poke fun at Mr. Lindner as our Resident Cheeseburger and Wings Expert; and when I read his story today I learn that he's

...not devoid of culinary cred. As a one-time food editor, I've tasted greatness from the hands of Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Anne Willan and other foodie dignitaries.

Anyway, Mr. Lindner has now roused himself from his pastoral torpor to submit the following. It's particularly dear to my heart because faithful readers will remember that I suffer from a terminal case of food envy. ...

I feel shame. First I miss a shallow thought. (I had them, but neglected to share.) Now today I’m late and Mr. Pork’s submitted a wonderful pasta rant – sort of the Big Brown of Wednesday reader submissions.

Curiously, the way I feel about this set of circumstances is the same way I feel when I’m out-ordered at a restaurant. I remain outwardly cheery, but inside smoldering envy, self-loathing, larceny -- and the aforementioned shame -- fill my heart.

All of which reminds me of a most effective out-order prevention technique: If you suspect you are about to be out-ordered, order the same meal your rival orders. It has multiple effects:

1. Deflects out-ordering gambits.

2.  Frustrates the rival.

3. If the choice was a poor one, you’re no worse off than your rival and can blame him for tempting you to order the dish in the first place.

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:50 AM | | Comments (9)
        

13 ways of looking at a plate of pasta

So far no shallow thoughts have appeared in my inbox, so I'm going to have to assume that Multimedia Editor and Resident Cheeseburger and Wings Expert John Lindner is still digesting his gas station food and sleeping in this morning. Not to despair. Voodoo Pork has been obsessing about pasta, and has decided to share his observations with us: ...

 

Pasta Obsessions

1) Ever see someone break spaghetti in half before boiling? Why? It makes it impossible to get a good twirl on.

2) People who order spaghetti or linguini and cut it up into tiny pieces. Grrrr....

3) Using a spoon to twirl long pasta. Lame. See #10.

4) People who grab some spaghetti onto their fork and then use their knife to wrap the rest around their fork to create an unholy mess.

5) Angel hair (capellini) - it rarely comes out right in restaurants. It should be served in small fresh portions not a big lump.

6) Some people call every type of pasta "macaroni." Is this a local thing? I know some people who grew up in Little Italy do that.

7) I met Italian-Americans in Chicago who call all sauces gravy. As in, "Do you want some gravy on your macaronl?"

8) Pizza Hut pasta delivered looks disgusting, like pasta dog food.

9) If you ever want to lose weight, eat whole wheat pasta. It's heavy and tastes like cardboard, so your portion size will drop dramatically.

10) Twirling pasta is easy if you use the right technique. Grab a small number of strands (3). Separate from the rest of the pack. Push against the side of the dish and twirl. Occasionally start over. If you do it right you will never get danglers more than the width of the fork.

11) Someone once told me that the proper way to eat spaghetti was to swallow it whole without chewing. Anybody?

12) Say when: Fresh grated cheese on everything Italian in Baltimore! Argggghhhh. Same for pepper. I would prefer that the chef make the dish, not me and the waitron. People act like it's some jackpot of excess that they won.

13) As a poor student, this was my most frequent pasta dish: generic mac n' cheese from a box, with water and olive oil instead of milk and butter and sometimes sliced hotdogs. And ketchup or hot sauce. I didn't want you to think I was a snob.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:41 AM | | Comments (27)
        

May 20, 2008

Dinner on the go ha ha

GasStation.JPGTomorrow is the day we've all been waiting for, boys and girls. Multimedia Editor and Shallow Thinker John Lindner's story on filling station fare is appearing in this Wednesday's Taste section.

Just looking at the photos from his story in our archives to find one to go with this entry made me feel kind of queasy. I've picked a fairly benign one because it's almost dinner time.

I'm trying to think what will be the most un-gas station food I could possibly fix for my family. It's not really the weather for salade nicoise or vichyssoise. Maybe shrimp, asparagus, fresh peas, red peppers and heavy cream over pasta?

 

(Jed Kirschbaum/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:46 PM | | Comments (32)
        

Two-cuisine restaurants

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A new restaurant called York Garden has opened where Pacific Rim used to be in Cockeysville. I bring this up not as a bit of restaurant news (for that, see tomorrow's Table Talk column in the Taste section), but to point out that it serves Indian and Mexican food.

No, it's not a fusion restaurant. You just have to say, Huh? And scratch your head.

It reminds me of Nasu Blanca in Locust Point, which serves Japanese and Spanish dishes. Again, not fusion. At least there the owner/chef does it simply because those are the two cuisines he likes best. I gathered with York Garden it was more of an economic decision.

If I can only come up with one more example, I'll have -- ta-da -- a trend. The two-cuisine restaurant trend.  

(Photo of Nasu Blanca by Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:07 PM | | Comments (36)
        

Top Ten Bistros

JacksB.jpgThree years ago I wrote a story about bistros for the food section, pointing out that our fine French restaurants were dying out, while French bistros seemed to be proliferating.

The concept has gotten even trendier, if possible, since then. These days the word seems to be used for any new restaurant that wants to imply it's casual, fun and serves alcohol.

I didn't think people felt as strongly about bistros as they do about, say, diners or chains until I got a message from someone on my home phone urging me to include Liberatore's Bistro on my list. THIS IS NOT A GOOD THING. First of all, calling me at home with a recommendation for a Top Ten restaurant is an automatic disqualification of said restaurant. Liberatore's wouldn't have been on my list anyway. Not because it's not good, but because I haven't eaten there. 

Two others that are new and I haven't eaten at: Ciao Pizza Bistro Italiano at Quarry Lake and Carpaccio Italian Bistro in Annapolis. Feel free to put in your two cents if you know anything about either.

Then there are those restaurants that seem bistro-ish to me even if they don't label themselves as such. I included one in my list.

Here they are: ... 

* Aida Bistro & Wine Bar in Columbia. Proof that you can have a bistro in a suburban shopping center. The food is Italian and homey, with an imaginative flair.

* Artful Gourmet Bistro in Owings Mills (9433 Common Brook Road # 103, 410-356-2606). Unpretentious, good food. Italian, American and Spanish, with a little French thrown in for good measure.

* b Bistro in Bolton Hill. One of my favorites, but on the upscale end of the bistro scale. Good food and a very pleasant outdoor eating space on a not-too-busy street.

* Bicycle Bistro in Federal Hill. It's stretching the definition of bistro to include the Bicycle here, but the food is so good it's hard to leave it out. And the restaurant has labeled itself as a bistro.

* Jack's Bistro in Canton. Wildly imaginative bistro fare, which includes cassoulet but also a Red Curry Rubbed Hanger Steak Noodle Bowl.

* Luca's Cafe in Locust Point. The only one on my list without "bistro" in the name, but I've been there recently enough to feel confident in my recommendation. It's definitely a bistro in spirit if not in name.

* Meli Patisserie & Bistro in Fells Point. This is almost more a restaurant and lounge than a bistro, but prices are in the right range, and you can get casual food and drink there.

* Petit Louis Bistro in Roland Park. As close as you'll come to an authentic French bistro experience in Baltimore.

* Regi's American Bistro in Federal Hill. Its slogan is as good a definition of an American bistro as any: "You will feel as comfortable ordering a burger...as...pecan-crusted Idaho rainbow trout in tart lemon butter."

* Timothy Dean Bistro in Fells Point. This one was tough, because I had an excellent meal there, but not very recently. I've been hearing mixed things, including that it might be close to closing. Still, Dean is a fine chef, so if I'm going only on what I know personally, I would include it in any list of top bistros.

 

(Colby Ware/Special to the Sun)
 

 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:07 AM | | Comments (38)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

May 19, 2008

Not the end of the bag story

reusablebgs.jpgI'm still getting e-mails about my reusable bag story Sunday. No, not ones saying you stupid tree hugger or, conversely, what a wonderful story; but e-mails that have actual information in them, my favorite kind.

Here's a sampling.

From Alice K.:

At the very end of your article they mentioned asking for a rebate when you brought your own bag but the store said they never heard of that.  I normally shop at Super Fresh and recently (maybe 2 months ago) I noticed that I got $.02 cents for bag I used.  Then I shopped at Giant and they gave $.03 cents for each bag.  About 3 weeks ago, I noticed that it went up to $.05 cents at Giant.  I asked them when that started and they told me it was raised that week.

When I first purchased my bags many months ago, I frequently forgot to take them into the store with me but since the rebates started, I bring them in every time.  I am not sure why the stores have not been advertising this perk because I know I am not the only one who appreciates it. 

Anyway, I thought I would bring the readers up to speed on the rebate issue.

From Ruth Alan:

Your story is featured today on oddtodd.com...daily stuff...daily good news! 

From Mr. Old Fart: ...

BottleCarrier.jpgRelative to your article on reusable bags, enclosed is a picture of something I got while in Germany many years ago. It is the beverage equivalent of reusable bags. As you can see it was made to hold six one liter bottles (2 liter soda bottles did not exist back then) and allow them to be carried home without clanking or breaking. I haven't seen anything like it here, but it is still useful.

From Dennis in Howard County:

I wanted to share with you something we face in Harford County. My wife and I use our own bags at the store and recycle our paper, plastic, etc. In Harford County private contractors pick up both your trash and recyclables. The major contractor, and ours, in Harford County, is Harford Sanitation. They require your recyclables to be in blue or clear plastic bags??

We inquired if we could just put them in a separate container (like a blue trash can designated for recyclables) but they said no, they must be in plastic bags.

Do other counties face this problem?  It appears this helps to defeat the purpose of carrying your own bags into the grocery store since we have to obtain plastic bags in order to set out our recyclables.

I thought I would share this information with you in hopes that you may have a solution or other information.

From Molly K.:

Whole Foods Market has been encouraging customers to bring their own bags (BYOB) for quite some time. We give customers 5 cents for each bag brought to the store to be used for their groceries. It doesn't matter if the bag is from another store. On Earth Day last month, Whole Foods Markets gave away thousands of reusable fabric bags to encourage customers to BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag).

We in the Mt Washington store were excited to have had, and sold out of, an exclusively designed reusable bag for Whole Foods Market by Lauren Bush, to benefit the FEED organization and UN World Food Program. Each bag purchased provides 100 nutritious school meals for hungry children in Rwanda. Made from 100% organic cotton and sustainable burlap they retail for $29.99. We should be getting more of them soon.

(Bag photo by Kim Hairston/Sun photographer; bottle carrier photo courtesy of Mr. Old Fart)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:53 PM | | Comments (5)
        

Birches for sale?

Speaking of news, check out this listing on craigslist. I just called the restaurant, but it doesn't open until 5 p.m.

Thanks to Bill S. for pointing it out to me.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:57 PM | | Comments (14)
        

Wine Market chef leaving and other news

DinnerDoor

I don't think of Dining@Large as a restaurant news blog, but lately the news has been coming so thick and fast I feel I ought to make note of some of the things I've learned.

Christian DeLutis, chef at the Wine Market in Locust Point, has left for Ireland. His sous chef, Jason Lear, a Baltimore native and a CIA graduate, has taken over the kitchen.

In response to a Midnight Sun post, reader Dick Berwanger e-mailed Sam that Aloha Tokyo in Locust Point has applied for a new liquor license to open a restaurant in the spot where Cobbers was at 1218-20 N. Charles St.

And wait, there's more: ... 

mypanini.jpgDid you know that Stone Mill Bakery in Green Spring Station is now open for dinner 5 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. every night?

The photo above is of Dinner at Your Door. Midnight Sun Sam tells me its stall at the Cross Street Market has been abandoned for at least a week.

Germano's in Little Italy now has a Thursday evening cabaret, featuring performers from theater, popular song, jazz, classical music and opera. 

Tabrizi's is offering a fixed-price menu with a glass of wine for $35 Tuesday through Thursday. The selection, says owner/chef Michael Tabrizi, is eclectic with normal portions. 

I got this nice e-mail this weekend from owner Nelson Carey:

I read your blog on restaurant gift certificates.  In the interest of being a good neighbor, Grand Cru will happily honor ant outstanding Taste gift certificates, tax & tip not included.

Did I mention that Salt now takes reservations?

Subway recently opened a Kosher Subway in Baltimore at 700 Reistertown Road. It’s the fourth Kosher Subway in the country.

Awhile back Andy S. let me know that My Panini has opened in the Pier V Hotel restaurant space where the Peacock Cafe was. Now Sam has sent me a photo.

Oh yes, I did hear from Mel Carter. His new restaurant will serve contemporary American cuisine; will fall into the "polished casual" category, although he doesn't like the term; and the decor will be "pretty modern" with a chef's table.

"It will be a special occasion restaurant where it doesn't have to be a special occasion to go," he says.

His best friend and fellow CIA graduate Brett Lockard will be his executive chef.

Bad news for your daughter's sweet 16 party, Mr. Stravrakis. Your operating partner is predicting a late summer-early fall opening.

(Photos by Sam Sessa)


 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:30 PM | | Comments (17)
        

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

MeliMMQ.jpg

If you missed it yesterday, check out my review of the new Meli in Fells Point. When I interviewed Damon Hersh, executive chef of Kali's Court, he said that  it completed the Kali's Restaurant Group's trio of three very different places: high end (Kali's), mid-priced (Mezze) and very casual (Meli).

I was expecting something quite different, especially because Meli calls itself a "patisserie and bistro," with patisserie coming first. Hersh even described it as Fells Point's answer to Little Italy's Vaccaro's, a place to stop for coffee and a sweet.

If anything, to me Mezze seems to be more casual, a tapas bar where you can get just a nibble with drinks if you don't want a lot of food. That's harder to do at Meli. ...
 

I'm sure they wouldn't turn you away if all you wanted was dessert. But it's just more restaurant than I expected.  If Kali's Court had a casual menu, I would expect it to be the same as Meli's, even down to the orchid on one of the plates. (Not my favorite garnish.)

If you've been there, I'd be interested to hear if you agree.

Suddenly a lot's going on in Fells Point. The new seafood restaurant Riptide by the Bay has opened on Thames, and Fin will be opening in the Admiral Fell Inn sometime soon. Still haven't heard any more about Miss Irene's.

Updates welcome. 

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:31 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Monday Morning Quarterbacking
        

May 18, 2008

More on the market

MarketAsparagus.jpg

 

Not one person posted about the Waverly Market yesterday, which was disappointing, because I'm sure it was packed. However, I didn't think to check my work e-mail until this morning. Sure enough, Good Eater Marty came through. The asparagus photo was entitled "Plenty." Didn't somebody say something about a picture being worth some number of words once?

The tomato photo subject line was "Waiting for July 4," which refers to the fact that we both independently discovered Cindy's Fourth of July variety of tomatoes. I would tell you the name of her farm, but then I would have to kill you to keep it a secret.

By the way, it's not too late to tell us about today's market under the viaduct. Please post below. ...
 


MarketTomatoes.jpg
 
(Photos by Marty Katz)
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:06 AM | | Comments (35)
        

The rest of the bag story

Baggu-fuschia.jpgMy reusable shopping bag story appeared in the Arts & Life Today section today. It had a bit of a rocky road because I was working on it when I got sick, and then it got bumped for more time-sensitive stories, so I'm glad to finally see it in print. I was particularly pleased that the last sentence, where I thank you for your help, didn't get cut. I meant it, but I didn't know if it would get past various editors and copy editors.

In fact, without you I would still be using my Whole Foods bags only when I shop at Whole Foods. As you remember from previous posts, I was shy about bringing bags with another store's logo on it into a supermarket not totally committed to being "green." What cured me, besides your scorn, was that one day Giant ran out of paper bags. (I could always justify them as not being plastic and also useful for paper recycling.) I went back to the car and got my Whole Food bags. The Giant security guard didn't bar the door, so after that it was no big deal.

I also found a cure for leaving the reusable bags in the trunk when I go shopping, which I was doing regularly. I now have a new rule that no matter what, if I leave them in the car I have to go back for them. After once getting out of a long checkout line to fetch my bags out of the car, I haven't forgotten again. 

One perk of being a reporter with a blog, I just realized, is that even if your story gets cut, you can always publish the rest of it on the Internet. Ha ha. Take that, Ms. We Don't Have Enough Space or Mr. This Doesn't Go With the Rest of the Story Even if It's Interesting or even Mrs. You Will Lose Your Readers if We Don't Cut This Really Boring Section.

So here's the rest of the story: 

For some, shopping with reusable bags isn’t a new thing. Bruce Van Wely, 54, of Butchers Hill got in the habit when he lived overseas and bought food daily.

He never got back in the habit of filling up the back of a station wagon with groceries once a week, he says. “We’ve got three or four Trader Joe’s bags, a Safeway bag, a Home Depot bag, and a few others. We’ve shipped Trader Joe and Ikea bags to friends in lesser privileged parts of the country.”

Interestingly, Van Wely’s whole neighborhood is getting into the reusable bag act. Butchers Hill is determined to be a leader in the “green” neighborhood movement, says the association’s president, Barry Glassman. “We just ordered 500 reusable grocery bags made with recycled materials. They even have our logo. We’re going to initially sell them at our May monthly meeting at our cost of about $1.50.”

But like many other people, Van Wely isn’t willing to completely give up the paper and plastic bags he often gets from a shopping trip. The paper bags are useful for recycling paper; the plastic can be used for lining wastebaskets.

“I’m on both sides of the subject,” he says.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:25 AM | | Comments (13)
        

Next Sunday's review

CatonsvilleGourmet1.jpg

 

Next Sunday I review the Catonsville Gourmet Market & Fine Foods. One of the partners has been in the wholesale seafood business for years, which explains the market part. But the restaurant has been so successful in its first weeks that I wouldn't be surprised if the retail cases disappear to make room for more tables.

Read my review of the Catonsville Gourmet in next Sunday's Arts & Life Today section. 

 

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:05 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Review Preview
        

May 17, 2008

Do sprouts belong in a salad?

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Last night our dinner conversation quickly devolved into a discussion of whether sprouts were a low-class vegetable or a high-class vegetable. Did they, in other words, belong in the rather pricey salad I had brought home for dinner?

The general consensus was not.

I myself usually avoid sprouts without thinking about them except in powerhouse sandwiches, where they not only belong but really bring something to the table. But in a salad...

If you dwell on them you realize they are a little like having a hair in your throat.

I know that alfalfa sprouts, which were the ones on our salad, are packed with nutrition:They are low in saturated fat, sodium, and cholesterol, and high in fiber, vitamin C, vitamin K, riboflavin, folate, magnesium, phosphorus, zinc, copper, manganese, protein, vitamin A, thiamin, pantothenic acid, calcium and iron.

But they don't have any redeeming virtues, the way -- say -- a mango, which is very healthful, does. A mango is a food of the gods, while sprouts...I defy anyone to make a case for alfalfa sprouts other than that they are good for you. 

 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:19 PM | | Comments (26)
        

The strawberry festival

SFBakeSale.jpg

 

I didn't get to the market in time to buy strawberries, so I stopped by the First English Lutheran's Strawberry Festival. Eastern Shore strawberries were going for the market price of $5.

There was a bake sale as well, with these charming strawberry iced cookies. They didn't seem to be selling very well considering the festival was going to end in half an hour. I felt like telling them the secret to successful bake sales -- gee, they would have really appreciated that. I learned it in my daughter's toddler co-op. ...

We all love the idea of bake sales that sell interesting homemade goodies like mocha cake with caramel icing. But what the autocratic ruler of our co-op insisted on was that everyone bake either chocolate chip cookies or brownies and package them in threes. She believed those two sweets were the only ones that were guaranteed sellers. It used to drive me crazy because it was so boring, but she was absolutely right. We never had a crumb left over.

Also they were selling strawberry shortcake at the festival. I like the proportion of whipped cream to strawberries. And I think the sprinkles are an interesting innovation.

SFStrawberries.jpg

SFShortcake.jpg

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:29 PM | | Comments (3)
        

No market this morning

mktsign.jpg

 

It looks like I won't be getting to the Waverly Farmers Market early this morning, so I'm hoping some of you who do go will post something below about what you found there today. If you make it sound enticing enough, I may brave the crowds and go toward the end of the morning. (For those of you who don't know, it closes at noon.)

Rosebud, I know at least you will have been there at 7 a.m.

 

(Photo courtesy of the market Web site) 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:09 AM | | Comments (1)
        

May 16, 2008

Success!!!

SragowSan.jpg
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:14 PM | | Comments (11)
        

Clearing off my virtual desk for the weekend

I'm sitting here waiting for Mel Carter to call me back. What I know about Mel Carter could be written on the head of a pin, but I got his name through a process that started with my checking the Baltimore City liquor board hearings scheduled for next Thursday.

There I learned that Demetrios Stravrakis had applied for a new Class B beer, wine, and liquor restaurant license. To get one of those babies you have to pony up $500,000 in capital investment, have a minimum of 75 seats, and have 51 percent of your sales be food. ...

The location of the new restaurant is 938-40 S. Conkling St. and it doesn't have a name yet. Stravakis referred me to his operating partner, Mel Carter for the details; but he did tell me it will open in early to mid-summer.

"It has to be open by early September. I promised my daughter she could have her sweet 16 party there," he said.

* Next week I'm going to find out more about Granny's in Owings Mills (in the Boulevard Corporate Center, 10995 Owings Mills Blvd.). Henry K. Miller says it's new and good.

Basically, down home cooking like "grandma used to make." Well, not mine; she was from Russia. Lots of good breakfast food served all the time, i.e., omelets, waffles, pancakes (yummy, corn bread pancakes with pecan syrup) creamed chipped beef on home made biscuits, home made corned beef hash, etc. 

He also gave me the following tip. I hope they put "she loved tips" on my gravestone.

While I'm giving out tips...Micho's has a prime rib special on Wednesday nights. Sixteen oz. prime rib with baked potato for $16.95. Terrific value. 

* Zagat's local editor Marty Katz had a lot of good intel for me, including the fact that Riptide by the Bay opens this weekend, tonight for drinks, Monday for food. It's at 1718 Thames, 410-732-3474. He describes it as "serious seafood, real kitchen." Thanks, Marty.

* And then, of course, there's the e-mail from Stephen Weingard that I open and it starts (no greeting):

You owe us a dinner. I relied on you and tried Abacrombie. And it was four of us, so please send cash (you're no longer reliable) of $130.  Only a $130 you say?  You'll see why. What a mistake. Did we go to the same restaurant?  None of the food you spoke so glowingly about was available to us, except the bread and duck. Allow me to elaborate: 

As if anything was going to stop him.

You see why it's so much fun to be a restaurant critic? 

 

 

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:33 PM | | Comments (6)
        

The Dizzy Issie's mystery

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The time has come to post something about Dizzy Issie's in Remington. Somebody asked me a few days ago if it was closed for good. I asked ex-deskmate Steve Kiehl, who's a fan. Steve did a little reporting for me, but found out only that sometimes the owner just closes up shop and goes on vacation without warning.

Then I saw today from Midnight Sun Sam's post that the place is still closed.

And I just got this e-mail from Karen in Baltimore: ...

I searched the Sun website as well as your blog and couldn't find an answer to my question.  I considered posting at the blog but I was a bit intimidated, as I am not sure what the "rules" are about posting random questions.  So I thought I would go right to the source...
 
Last night I went to Dizzy Issie's for dinner and found the place closed, with a handwritten sign on the door.  "Will reopen."  No date or reason for the closure.  The sign further said "check back for date" or something like that, with "leave a message below."  A few people have left notes such as "we miss you" and "we're hungry."
 
Any idea why they are closed and when they'll reopen?  Maybe you could mention it in your column or on the blog?  

I wrote back and urged her to post any random questions she felt like here. Like we ever stick to a topic anyway. A few minutes later I got this reply:

AHA!  As I was getting back in the car, I *think* I saw Elaine, the owner, crossing the street.  Perhaps she is vacationing in Hampden.

As soon as I can come up with a snappy username, I'll join in the blog. 

So while you're posting your theories on whether Dizzy Issie's is closed or not, you might also help Karen in Baltimore out with a snappy user name. I actually kind of like "Karen in Baltimore." It makes me feel like an advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist.

 

(Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer) 


 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:00 PM | | Comments (17)
        

The Watertable Eat in Season Challenge menu

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Next week is the beginning of the Eat in Season Challenge that local locavores (that sounds weird) have made to restaurants.

Some pretty good ones have taken them up on it, starting with Watertable. For more details, check out my previous post.

I'm going to publish the menus of the dinners every week while the event is going on. Here's the first one, which starts May 19 and runs through the week. Reservations are a good idea.

I'm also going to include the info on the local purveyors, even though it sounds like their ad person wrote it. Why not give them a plug? 

Watertable is located on the fifth floor of the Renaissance Harborplace Hotel at 202 E. Pratt St. The phone number for reservations is 410-685-8439.

The menu: ... 

House-made Marvesta shrimp ravioli with browned South Mountain Creamery butter sauce

Marvesta Gourmet Shrimp are naturally raised in Maryland and are delivered fresh to premium restaurants and consumers. Marvesta shrimp are a healthy and environmentally safe alternative to shrimp imports.

Grilled Springfield Farms chicken over wilted spinach salad with M&M Meats’ bacon

Springfield Farm has been in David Smith's family since the 1600s. Three generations work and live on this beautiful, natural farm just north of Baltimore.

M&M Meats is located in Manchester, Md.They sell wholesale only to the grocery and restaurant trades.

Phyllo-baked Firefly Farm goat cheese with strawberry sauce 

Firefly Farm produces award-winning artisan cheeses in western Maryland's Allegheny plateau. You can purchase their products on-line through the Web site.

The price for the first locavore dinner at Watertable is $36.

 

(Photo courtesy of Watertable's Web site) 

    



 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 8:44 AM | | Comments (11)
        

May 15, 2008

Foie gras OK in Chicago again

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Chicago has overturned the two-year ban on foie gras, which the mayor called the silliest ordinance the city council had ever passed. Susan kindly e-mailed me this link to the story.

I'm not trying to stir up the whole controversy again. We've discussed it ad nauseam. I just thought it was an interesting end to the saga. 

 

(Chef Didier Durand, of Cyrano's Bistrot & Wine Bar, holds his pet duck/AP photo) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:58 PM | | Comments (27)
        

Unattended children will be sold

Editor Kate's daughter has posted on the mommy blog.
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:41 PM | | Comments (27)
        

A tale of two Chinese restaurants

PX00009_9.jpgLast night Gailor and I ate in our second restaurant that serves traditional Chinese American food in as many days.

We almost never eat in Chinese restaurants because there aren't any close to us. In this case, I was watching her play a tennis match northwest of the city and the following night one near Green Spring Station. It was late both nights -- after 8 p.m. -- and she wasn't dressed (how shall I put this delicately?) for anything approaching civilized dining. ...

 

Anyway, Tuesday night we ended up at Jumbo Seafood, a family-run operation in a strip mall in Pikesville. News tidbit alert: This very traditional Chinese place opened a sushi bar a week or so ago.

What's weird is if you Google the name, there is a chain of Chinese restaurants called Jumbo Seafood -- in Singapore.

I'm not going to do a review of the food for you here. I'll simply say the prices were great. (Except for the chef's specials, nothing was over $15.)

Of course, I forgot my camera. I would have photographed the storefront window, which consists of a blown-up and mounted review by Elizabeth Large that appeared in the Sun Magazine, when we still had a magazine. It's probably older than Gailor.

The people are super nice, and the pancakes that came with the moo shu vegetables were as delicate as tissue paper.

The next night we were at Joey Chiu's Greenspring Inn. We had just as good a time, the people were just as nice; but it was much more expensive, and frankly, the food wasn't as good. If you're craving beef with broccoli and moo shu vegetables and wonton soup -- that kind of Chinese food -- head straight for Jumbo Seafood.

 

(Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:08 PM | | Comments (13)
        

So what is a bistro anyway?

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I know I promised to do bistros for next Tuesday's Top Ten (thanks for the suggestion, greedygirl), and I'm not backing down. But I think Robert the Single One makes a good point about definitions. Bistros are so trendy the word is popping up in some rather odd places, such as P.F. Chang's China Bistro. If we don't reach some consensus on what the list should consist of, THEN I'm backing down.

Here's what I said in a story I wrote on bistros three years ago:

Don't worry about the distinction between a bistro and a brasserie. Even the food professionals are vague. Both are small, informal and involve alcoholic beverages as well as food. In the United States, the terms are meaningless except to suggest that these are high-energy, casual places where you can have good food and fun.

My biggest concern is that I can't come up with ten of them, unless I can include P.F. Chang's. JUST KIDDING. JUST KIDDING. 

 

(Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:44 AM | | Comments (24)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

May 14, 2008

The Clean Crab Award

CleanCrabs.jpgMidnight Sun Sam is working on a story about the Baltimore City Health Department's proposed Clean Crab Award. I won't give you the details here, but the idea is sort of like California's restaurant grading system for cleanliness, only with crabs.

I personally think the crab part seems kind of gimmicky, but I like the idea of knowing instantly what places passed inspection. Anyway, read the story tomorrow for the full report. I'll just say that one of the questions you can comment on if you e-mail the health department before July 1 is whether the awards should be called Clean Crab or Informed Crab or "are there better alternative names?"

I really hate to sic you guys on those poor folks, but, well, go at it.

Meanwhile, Sam needs help. ... 

Here's the e-mail I got from him:

I'm looking for foodies who would be able to comment on the Dept. of Health's new proposal to issue restaurants awards based on cleanliness and listing nutritional information for some of the items on their menus. 

If you're interested in talking to him for the story, e-mail Sam at Sam.Sessa@baltsun.com. Tell him Elizabeth sent you. 

Pierre, by the way, will not be chosen to comment. 

(Photo of crab sculptures that have nothing to do with the Clean Crab Awards by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:35 PM | | Comments (19)
        

A worrisome development

Bad news. Multimedia Editor and Resident Cheeseburger and Wings Expert John Lindner seems to have disappeared. I've checked my e-mail eagerly every couple of hours, but I haven't heard from him this week.

That means there is no Shallow Thought Wednesday -- although conceivably he could be away thinking Deep Thoughts, and being back at The Sun tomorrow will bring him to his senses and lower his I.Q. a few dozen points.

Or he may have died an untimely death from eating too much gas station sushi.

Anyway, I know you're disappointed, so I'm going to share his response when I forwarded an e-mail from someone complaining in an even-more-snobby-than-usual way about my reviewing chains.

Here's what John sent me back: ...

What a goof.
 
Like he's subsisting on nuts and berries, eschewing shoes, buying hand-stitched pants from a Guatemalan immigrant working out of his basement, and milking his own damn goats.
 
I may break a rule and get a T-shirt with "I (heart shape) Behemoths" written across the tum area.
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:42 AM | | Comments (62)
        

Buyer beware: restaurant gift certificates

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You may have missed Deb Patterson's comment yesterday under an entry on unused gift certificates I posted last October that didn't get any response at the time. Here's what she said:

Yes, I too was the victim of holding a gift certificate for a closed restaurant - in this case, Taste. I did email their site requesting a partial refund or at least a few bottles of wine from their leftover supply; however, I did not received a bounce back message or a reply. Taste owners certainly must have had an idea that they were closing in Mar/Apr 08 when they sold my boyfriend's daughter the $100 certificate late in December. Shame on them - and I hope no one makes the same mistake again if the owners resurface.

I wonder if there are any restaurants in the area (or in the Baltimore vicinity)that would accept my $100 certificate at less than face value. We always order at a least a bottle of wine and after dinner drinks so the margin would be there.

I doubt if there's much chance of that, but it reminds me to tell you again: When you get your restaurant gift certificates, boys and girls, use them right away. Which reminds me: e, did you get yours for being the 10,000th commenter, and did you use it yet? If so, where did you go and how was it? Keep us posted, so to speak.

 

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:04 AM | | Comments (32)
        

May 13, 2008

Is Film Critic Mike stalling?

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I'm sorry to report yet another glitch in the ongoing Attack of the Crab Monsters saga. Film Critic Mike, as you may remember, decided to order the movie from Amazon.com. To save The Sun money (and also to get 19 other films we aren't interested in), he bought the Cult Classics 20 Movie Pack for $8.49, one of the choices listed when you search for Attack of the Crab Monsters on Amazon.

Surprise. When it came, he found Attack wasn't one of the 20.

Didn't you wonder, Mike, why Attack by itself cost $11.95, but the Movie Pack was only $8.49?

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:34 PM | | Comments (7)
        

Restaurant inspections map expanded

Just in case you haven't noticed, BaltimoreSun.com's map of health department violations now includes Howard County restaurants. The only surprise I noticed was the Elkridge Furnace Inn. (I mean, who cares if Party! Party! Party! had a "housekeeping" violation? Come to my house if you want to see a housekeeping violation.)

Of course, by Baltimore city standards, the Elkridge Furnace Inn's violations were tame:

(12B) Cleanliness; storage; use, (13B) Screens; control means, (16A) Walls; floors; ceilings; windows; doors - clean; repair; construction, (16C) Lighting; ventilation. Inspected on: Dec 28, 2007

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:04 PM | | Comments (5)
        

Memories of Louie's the Bookstore Cafe and a recipe

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I got the best e-mail (from someone who wanted to remain anonymous) when we did a Top Ten on Locations We Miss Terribly. In it, I said I still regretted not getting the recipe for the Chestertown Chicken at Louie's the Bookstore Cafe in Mount Vernon.

Anyway, somehow the e-mail got lost in the hundreds I've put aside for future posts because they're so good. I just came upon it today. It contained this vignette as well as the recipe. I'm going to reprint it in its entirety: ... 

"After some searching to locate the old cookbook into which I’d shoved this recipe I finally found the old Chestertown Chicken secrets from Louie’s.  But to get it you’re going to have to read the long and not very exciting back story.

"I worked there long ago and there was a time they tried to do weekday breakfasts.  I got stuck on those shifts (Monday mornings, no less) and they were horrible.  The manager would show up only to go back to sleep in the upstairs office, leaving the lone server to prep produce, coffee, receive the bread order, and set up tables & stations.  Busy office workers would come in and expect to get out quickly.  But one latte order and you would be in the weeds, steaming the milk while an impatient line formed.

"By mid-morning the main chef would show up and generally get annoyed that a lowly server needed access to his kitchen.  I wore him down in his less cranky moments and he opened up the big binder of recipes for me to copy my favorites.  Some of the recipes were his and god only knows where the rest of them came from.  Recipes, like people, had a way of just falling into Louie’s and seeming as if they’d always been there.  Nobody who worked there sweat too many details and, to me that benign neglect was no small part of the café’s charm.

"For me, what started as a desperation job (the only thing college really taught me was how to make cocktail party chatter and wait tables to pay the rent), became a much richer experience than I ever imagined.  I’m constantly amazed by how old Louie’s friends have come back into my life over the years. 

"So here’s the recipe for the secret marinade.  I hope you’re good with ratios because this is enough to fill a bathtub.  The cooking instructions were never given, but basically it was pan seared then finished off in the oven.  While this was given to me, I feel a little guilty about sharing it.  So please don’t let anyone know where you got it. 

"5 ½ cups of chili powder

1½ cups of ginger

2 ½ cups of curry powder

10 quarts of lemon juice

2 ½ cups of garlic

5 cups of onion

1 ¾  gallons of 10 percent olive oil (I often use mostly grape seed oil or something that can withstand the higher temperatures of the skillet)

Combine all the ingredients and mix oil in slowly. "

Photo of Jimmy Rouse, owner of Louie's, 1997, by Kenneth K. Lam/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:12 PM | | Comments (20)
        

Top Ten Uncommon Ethnic Eateries

CarlyleClub1.jpgWe've done Top Ten Thai and Top Ten Irish; this list is to give a nod to the ethnic restaurants that we don't have many examples of in the Baltimore area.

I liked the expression "ethnic eateries" because of the alliteration, but when you look at the list you'll see that most of these aren't the holes in the wall that "eateries" suggests. 

Many of you serious restaurant goers have already been to all of these, I'm sure. It would be fun if some of you who don't know these places would visit each of them -- a sort global tour of Baltimore restaurants. And then, of course, let us know what you think.

Here's the list: ... 

* Babalu Grill (Cuban). Try the dishes that are from owner Steve de Castro's family recipes like the arroz con pollo with saffron rice, sweet peas and roasted peppers.

* Baltimore Pho (Vietnamese). In the interest of geographical diversity, I want to also mention An Loi and Pho Dat Thanh in Columbia, both good. But I went to Baltimore Pho more recently and really liked it.                                                                        

* Carlyle Club (Lebanese). As you can see from the photo, it's a bit dressier than some of the other places on this list, and a very nice setting for dishes like green lentil soup with Swiss chard and lamb seared with lemon and herbs.

* Dukem (Ethiopian). A branch of the well-regarded restaurant in DC. Of course, you'll have a selection of stews and other dishes on the bread/plate called injera. Let your server be your guide if you're indecisive.

* El Trovador (Salvadoran). It's confusing because the Web site bills this as a Mexican restaurant, but you'll find plenty of authentic Salvadoran dishes on the menu. It got a "Best Bite" recently from Happy Eater Rob.

* Helmand (Afghan). Just because everyone knows about the Helmand and it appears often on these lists, doesn't mean it can be omitted when you're talking about Uncommon Ethic Eateries. Where else are you going to get aushak and sabzy challow?

* La Cazuela, 1718 Eastern Ave., Upper Fells Point, 410-522-9485. A fresh, cheerful little restaurant that serves Ecuadorean home cooking. A typical dish is churrasco, a delicious but paper-thin piece of steak flanked by two fried eggs, rice, crisp fries, tomatoes and avocado.

* Nam Kang, 2126 Maryland Ave. 410-685-6237 (Korean) For decades Baltimoreans have gone here for traditional dishes like  bulgogi and bibimbap. A specialty is hot pots. Nam Kang is also good to know about because it's open until 4 a.m. Yes, that's not a typo.

* Orchard Market & Cafe (Persian). It's hard to find, but worth the trouble, with dishes like duck fesenjune and dried plum lamb. The menu is divided into "innovative" and classic Persian dishes. Both are good. BYOB.

* Ze Mean Bean (Eastern European). The Bean is a funky combination of New American cuisine and homey Slavic dishes like potato dumplings with kielbasa. And you can't beat the Thursday Slavic night special: borscht and a pierogi or holupki (cabbage rolls) dinner for $9.95.

 

(Andre F. Chung/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:07 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

May 12, 2008

Of pizzas and restaurants banning children

Why does she do it? Editor Kate knows how territorial I am. First she steals Multimedia Editor Etc. John and his filling station fare story, and now she's writing about pizzas on her mommy blog. Doesn't she know I'm the only one who gets to write about pizza?

I feel another post on children in restaurants coming on. How about this? Carey H kindly sent me a link to a story about a restaurant that has banned children under six. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:23 PM | | Comments (41)
        

A new farmers market coming downtown

StrawberryPots.jpgI stopped at the farmers market under the viaduct yesterday, where I bought some excellent strawberries from Hills Forest Fruit Farm in Baltimore County.

The woman selling them and I got to talking about strawberries, and she showed me (camera phone envy alert!) her LG with a photo of a giant strawberry next to a quarter. I can't understand why people want big strawberries, I say the smaller the better, but it sure was a beautiful picture.

Anyway, in other market news, Andy kindly e-mailed to tell me that the Baltimore Farmers Market is no longer going to be the only farmers market downtown.  He recently got this from Harbor East Property Management: ...

  

We are very pleased to announce that FRESHFARM Markets, a non-profit organization that builds and strengthens the local food movement in the Chesapeake Bay region, will be setting up their first Baltimore City market right in Harbor East. Each Saturday from 9am-1pm, June 14 – October 25, the 1000 block of Lancaster Street will feature 10-12 local farmers selling local, fresh, seasonal foods. The street will be closed each Saturday from 7am – 2pm. There will be a street sweep each Saturday afternoon following the breakdown of the market.

Note the hours, from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. as opposed to the Waverly Market's 7 a.m. to noon. Wise. I can't see Harbor East residents partying Friday night and then getting up at the crack of dawn Saturday morning to buy heirloom tomatoes.

(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:29 PM | | Comments (26)
        

Monday Morning Quarterbacking


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If you missed my review of the Brass Elephant yesterday, here's the link. It's a beautiful restaurant in an era when, now that I think about it, beauty doesn't count for as much as it used to (at least in restaurant decor). Do you think that's true? It's the high-energy restaurants that seem to be packed.

Even the Tusk Lounge upstairs was very busy the night we ate there. Of course, that's partly a function of what it costs to eat there as opposed to the main dining room. ...


The other thing that I didn't really have room to discuss in my review is that the Brass Elephant is now very expensive. I haven't been there in a while, but I don't remember feeling that way before. It seems odd to me in this economy to position yourself as an expense account and special occasion restaurant, but maybe it's like what Damon Hersh, executive chef at Kali's Court in Fells Point, said to me in an interview for a Q & A (paraphrasing here). There's always going to be a certain number of people who aren't really affected when the economy goes down the tank, and they like to be surrounded by other wealthy people. The rest of us eat at home more when money is tight.



(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:53 AM | | Comments (5)
Categories: Monday Morning Quarterbacking
        

May 11, 2008

Breakfast on our back porch

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How would you feel if you were sitting out on your little back deck where you enjoy a nice breakfast on a spring morning, and you looked up and saw this in the cedar tree directly above your head?

My photo doesn't convey the scale of the thing, or its ominous quality. It's clearly a nest, and it looks to be about two feet across. For some reason I keep thinking of giant wasps, but I guess maybe a vulture or a large owl is more likely.

I don't think I'll be eating outside anymore. Too nerve wracking. My husband says squirrels have large nests. I say not this large.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:33 PM | | Comments (26)
        

Next Sunday's review

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You may have a preconceived notion of what a patisserie and bistro named "honey" would be like. I know I did.

Meli, which means "honey" in Greek, is the Kali's Restaurant Group's third place. It's nothing like I imagined it. For one thing, it's much more of a restaurant and night spot than I expected. I'll be writing about our meal there next Sunday in the Arts & Life Today section. We can talk about it Monday.

 

 

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:34 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Review Preview
        

The incredible shrinking everything

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Before the conversation on sneaky downsizing goes much further, I thought I better make it a separate entry. Where I really mind it is in cans of things, because I like cooking from mid-century cookbooks sometimes, when sizes were different. It can really affect a recipe, and it's hard to make the right adjustment.

Just to bring you up to date, here's the discussion so far: ...

Has anyone noticed that all ice creams are shrinking? What used to be a half-gallon box is now 1 3/4 quarts, or sometimes even 1 1/2. Of course, the price didn't shrink at all ...

Posted by: WildBillFan | May 10, 2008 6:01 PM

WildBillFan -- I made the same point about ice cream sizes two weeks ago, as per this post (scroll down to my comment at April 29, 2008 6:38 AM).

Posted by: hmpstd | May 11, 2008 7:06 AM

The incredible shrinking food size affects more than just ice cream. I expect some of them are scaling back the size and keeping the price the same hoping that not too many people will notice rather than raising the price and having everyone notice.

Posted by: Rosebud | May 11, 2008 7:39 AM

I am so happy that I am not the only person who is unhappy with the shrinking ice cream carton. I was in the grocery store this week and noticed how much the 'half gallon' carton had shrunk. Now intellectually I had processed the change a long time ago, but the visual processing had not quite kicked in. There in the case was a Turkey Hill special edition carton sitting strangely alone on the half-filled shelf. It was so tiny that I stopped to really look. Well, it was 48 ounces. This is a difference not to be sniffed at. Coupled with the 3.69 per gallon cost of gasoline and it is just too much for a mere mortal such as I. I am going back to bed to await my Mothers Day breakfast. But since the two chefs are still asleep, maybe I will make my own.

Posted by: Regina | May 11, 2008 7:44 AM

As I put the groceries away Friday, I realized that the Hellman's mayo was now only 30 oz instead of 32. Luckily, it was a BOGO or I would have been more upset.

Posted by: bra1nchild | May 11, 2008 8:25 AM


Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:11 AM | | Comments (58)
        

May 10, 2008

Gailor riffs on supermarket food...

...which is pretty surprising when you think about the state of her refrigerator in Los Angeles. I didn't realize she knew food came from a supermarket. I was sure she thought it either a) was purchased from a restaurant or b)  appeared magically in our kitchen for me to cook.

Anyway, she pointed out that Pepperidge Farm's Hearty Wheat Crackers had become Harvest Wheat Crackers since our last box. ... 

Then she started to imagine the marketing geniuses who came up with the idea that "Hearty" somehow sounded like they would make you fat, while "Harvest" conveyed that they were all-natural, one-with-earth and filled with old-fashioned goodness.

As far as we can figure out, that's the only change. 

Then she started to wonder about Amy's organic and vegetarian soups, which magically appeared on store shelves -- it feels kind of recently. They've become a staple in our cupboard now that my daughter is home.

One minute, so Gailor fantasized, Amy was making soup in her kitchen; the next, she had a billion-dollar company.

I had a feeling maybe it wasn't that dramatic. I got online and found out that Amy actually isn't the cook, but the daughter, and the company is 21 years old. It started the year Amy was born.

So happy Mother's Day, Amy's mom.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:45 PM | | Comments (17)
        

Adventures in shopping

LocalStrawberries.jpgI got to the Waverly Market in time to get Eastern Shore strawberries from the one vendor who was selling them. (All the others I asked about were from Virginia, California or North Carolina.) If the box, which cost $5, looks a little skimpy, it's because I've already been at them.

Then I headed for the Giant, which would normally not be newsworthy except that a woman was, exciting news, handing out free samples of Bagel-fuls. (No, I didn't have one. A bit early for me. Of course, any time would be a bit early for me.)

I reached for my camera so I could show I'm not making this up, but there was about as much chance that I had my camera with me as that I had remembered to take my shopping list. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:58 AM | | Comments (9)
        

Death row last meals and okra

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Oh, good. It's raining again. Isn't that a pleasant surprise.

I've been thinking a lot about death the last couple of days, what with the great weather and all, so Owl Meat's latest contribution to the blog, the URL to a Web site that lists actual death row last meals fit right in.

At least, I suppose it's actual death row last meals. You couldn't make this stuff up:

four fried pork chops, collard greens with boiled okra and "boiling meat", fried corn, fried fatback, fried green tomatoes, cornbread, lemonade, one pint of strawberry ice cream and three glazed donuts (John Washington Hightower, Georgia, June 26, 2007)

The only bright spot...
 

...was how often okra shows up. This was my favorite. I think this might be my last meal:

fried okra, four buns with lots of butter, lots of salt and two slices of banana bread (Robert Charles Comer, Arizona, May 23, 2007)

I'm a big fan of okra. It has moderate food value: a lot of vitamin C, a little bit of calcium, iron and vitamin A. A good amount of fiber. Very few calories (31 per serving).

I want all of you to give it a second chance.

My favorite way to introduce it to people is the way you feed unfamiliar food to children: You disguise it. Wait until summer and then lightly saute some scallions and thin strips of green pepper. When soft add a peeled, seeded and chopped tomato; a lot of fresh, local corn cut off the cob; and okra sliced on the diagonal. Cover and let steam until just done. Add a nice pat of butter, salt and freshly ground pepper before serving.

(Photo courtesy of Seasoned Pioneers)





       
 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:59 AM | | Comments (31)
        

May 9, 2008

And the winner is...

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I've tentatively decided on Top Ten Uncommon Ethnic Eateries, with Top Ten Bistros a close second and open for discussion to use the following week, and Top Ten Places for Waterfront Dining (suggested by commenter extraordinaire Donny B) to be held for warmer weather, say the week after that.

If I remember.

I decided on ethnic eateries because I can list some restaurants that haven't appeared on too many lists before, because it's a topic that's been suggested before and I ignored it, and because the alliteration is awesome. Just kidding about that last one.

(Colby Ware/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:21 PM | | Comments (32)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

Chefs who give locavorism a bad name

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Actually, I'm not sure you can give locavorism a bad name because it already has a bad name. However, the locavores I know are reasonable folks, who feel if you crave pineapple, buy a pineapple; but if spinach is in season, buy it from your local farmer rather than a California conglomerate.

Then a story like this comes along: ... 

Celeb chef Gordon Ramsay thinks out-of-season produce ought to be outlawed in restaurants, the BBC reports. He's already spoken to the Prime Minister about fining restaurants who have anything but seasonal fruits and vegetables on their menus.  

Needless to say, this annoyed Duncan Green of Oxfam, who is quoted as saying he was sure "the million farmers in east Africa who rely on exporting their goods to scrape a living would see Gordon Ramsay's assertions as a recipe for disaster." 

(Stephane de Sakutin/AFP/Getty Images)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:51 PM | | Comments (15)
        

Next Tuesday's Top Ten

Unknown.JPGEvery Friday I get a nagging little e-mail from Editor Tim entitled "It's promo time." This reminds me I haven't come up with a Top Ten Tuesday topic yet. (I shouldn't complain. I like it whenever the blog gets promoted in the paper.)

Anyway, I'm not inspired this week so I'm open to suggestions, but someone wrote to me recently asking me for restaurants open Monday. There are a surprising number, she said, that aren't.

I might do Monday restaurants on Tuesday if the list is of interest to you. To narrow it down a bit, they would have to be a certain type: not a special occasion place but an after-work kind of restaurant.

What do you think? And don't just say too boring; come up with another suggestion. Owl Meat, you may only post under this entry before midnight. ...

 

Just as I finished writing the above, I got an e-mail from Laurie looking for a place to celebrate getting her masters (congratulations, Laurie). She was hoping we'd done a Top Ten Restaurants for Celebrations, but I don't think we have. How about that for a topic?

 

(Chiaki Kawajiri/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:18 PM | | Comments (16)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

More on restaurant bathrooms

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I know we've discussed it before, but there is definitely a trend happening here. Restaurant bathrooms are better or at least more interesting than they used to be. I know this because I never noticed restaurant bathrooms except the time the hot water handle came off in my hand in the Roy's ladies room a month after the place opened. ...

BathingBeauty.jpgNow Meli has opened with a sink and mirror in common for the men's and ladies'  rooms. What's the advantage of that, I wonder, beyond the coolness factor? Some savings in plumbing?

And then there's the Catonsville Gourmet's ladies room, pictured above. Besides the flowers and the two kinds of hand lotion and whatever comes out of that weird black thing on the wall to the left in the mirror (I would say soap, but the soap dispenser is on the sink), there are two chairs, barely peeking up at the bottom of the mirror, that seem to be upholstered in some sort of faux velvet or suede. In case you want to lounge around in the ladies room before you join your party again.

It's actually a very nice room, and I hope they don't mind my poking a little fun at it. It's more elegant than the restaurant decor itself.

While I'm posting photos, I couldn't resist uploading the sign from across the street. Now this is a full-service caterers: food and checks cashed.

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(Photos by me) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:10 AM | | Comments (19)
        

May 8, 2008

A devastating development in the crab campaign

A horrible development has just -- er -- developed in our Write Mike campaign to get film critic Mike Sragow to give us a review of "Attack of the Crab Monsters" for Crab Week. No, I'm not talking about my daughter's traitorous comment appointing herself captain of Team Sragow AND promising T-shirts. (This close to Mother's Day, too.) That's a separate issue.

Sragow, who has so far gotten a grand total of five e-mails (and I believe one of them was from Midnight Sun Sam, which I'm not sure counts), told Editor Tim about the campaign and the review, and now Editor Tim wants him to write a column about "Attack" and review it for next week. ...

I must have looked like Mike had stabbed me in the heart when he told me this, because he mumbled something about writing about Narnia instead.

The good news, if there is any, is that he had the "Attack" DVD overnighted to himself from Amazon, so I can take it off the top of my Netflix queue. 

I hate to be scooped by my own newspaper. 

By the way, Mike said, and I quote, "Your blog people are a literate bunch."

I'll have to read those e-mails. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:36 PM | | Comments (22)
        

Moms eat free

DontKnow.jpgHere's a novel Mother's Day idea. Don't Know Tavern is serving brunch and dinner on Mother's Day, and moms eat free. That is, of course, if someone else buys a brunch item or entree. I'm assuming it will have to be of equal or lesser value, but I haven't heard back from owner Jason Zink yet about that and my other question: What kind of ID do you have to have?

If any other restaurant owners or PR people read this and want a little publicity for their Mother's Day specials, just post below. 

(Photo courtesy of Jessica Novak)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:29 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Where I'm not going for Mother's Day

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My daughter, Gailor, asked me what I was doing Sunday morning, and I told her I already had an event scheduled.

It's my own fault; I forgot it was Mother's Day. Somehow it's not a holiday I can take seriously.

Also I don't see how it morphed into a holiday where you take your mother out to brunch; this is a later development. I gave my mother cards and flowers, and little gifts, but food was never part of the equation.

Anyway, Gailor had decided that the place to take me on Mother's Day was Brightons, the Intercontinental Harbor Court Hotel's pretty dining room. ...

 

So she called and found out that there were still brunch reservations available at both seatings, but she got the person to admit it would be a madhouse. Gailor is good at weaseling information out of people (what a career in investigative journalism she could have had).

She came up with a much better solution, which I pass on to you since I won't be going: She was hoping to take me to breakfast at Brightons. It will be quieter, and I would have preferred an a la carte menu to the prix fixe brunch, which is $45 a person. I can't eat enough to make that kind of money worth it.

I thought I ought to call Brightons to check this info before I posted it. I did and was told breakfast in Brightons will be ending early Sunday because of the brunch, so the hours will be 7 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. If that's too early for you and your mom, breakfast will continue to be served in the nearby (and also handsome) Explorers Lounge. 

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:20 AM | | Comments (8)
        

May 7, 2008

Write Mike

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OK, boys and girls, one of the highlights of our Crab Week is threatened, and only you can do something about it.

As you may remember, I had high hopes of getting  The Sun's film critic, Michael Sragow, to review that classic film "Attack of the Crab Monsters" for us.

Mike is a gentleman, so he didn't laugh in my face when I suggested it. However, he has been dragging his feet a bit. Not quite saying no, but not promising anything either.

Now I've made the ultimate sacrifice: I've put "Attack" at the top of my Netflix queue, and when it arrives I'm going to hand it to him. He won't be able to say he can't get hold of it.

But I'm worried that he won't watch it, and meanwhile I won't be getting any more movies until he does. What I need you to do is e-mail Mike and tell him how much you really, really want to read his review of "Attack of the Crab Monsters." Ask him to discuss it as a cult favorite, as an iconic film dealing with some of the important issues of its day, as a cultural artifact that has many parallels to today's perilous times. Also point out there are semi-naked girls in it.

Mike's e-mail is michael.sragow@baltsun.com.

Maybe you better not tell him I sent you.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:34 PM | | Comments (20)
        

Beach eats

 

LaLaLand.jpg

 

Off topic, but are there any places I shouldn't miss while I'm visiting Rehoboth Beach next weekend?

Posted by: Stacy | May 7, 2008 9:03 AM

 

I'm glad you asked, Stacy. Rehoboth is one of my favorite restaurant towns in this area, by which I mean a reasonable drive away. Unfortunately I haven't been there in a couple of years, so my info is almost certainly outdated; but this will at least get you started. I'm hoping readers will tell us where I've gone wrong.  ...

 

The following is part of a story I did for our 2006 beach guide. Of course, the entree prices, if nothing else, must be way out of date:

Rehoboth Beach is a great restaurant town. There are too many places to list here, but here's a run-down of what's new or almost new this summer:

*Aqua Grill (57 Baltimore Ave., 302-226-9001) has gotten a face lift under new ownership. Enjoy its light grill menu on the patio. The signature dish is a bacon bleu burger. Entrees: $7-$13.

*Claws Crab House, (167 Rehoboth Ave., 302-226-1729) is scheduled to open this summer as downtown Rehoboth's only crab house.

*Confucius (57 Wilmington Ave., 302-227-3848) is where many locals go for seafood. It offers excellent Chinese cuisine. Entrees: $17-$38.  

*Summer House (228 Rehoboth Ave., 302-227-3895) reopens with a new owner and new concept: fine dining food in a casual atmosphere. Entrees: $15-$25.

*Yesterdays (517 N. Boardwalk, 302-226-5444), under new management, now has a beer and wine license and is expanding its dinner offerings of steak and seafood. Entrees: $12-$20.    

In 2002 The Sun sent me to Rehoboth to do a story on its restaurants. Some of these may no longer be in existence, but if they are, they are well worth visiting. 

* Back Porch Cafe, 302-227-3674, 59 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Innovative American.

* Blue Moon, 302-227-6515, 35 Baltimore Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Casual, upscale, eclectic.    

* Celsius, 302-227-5767, 50-C Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. French Mediterranean.    

* Chez La Mer, 302-227-6494, Second Street at Wilmington Avenue, Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Classic French.

* Eden, 302-227-3330, 122 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Eclectic American with Asian accents.

* Espuma, 302-227-4199, 28 Wilmington Ave. and First Street, Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Mediterranean.

* Fusion, 302-226-1940, 50 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Fusion cuisine. What else?   

* La La Land, 302-227-3887, 22 Wilmington Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Eclectic.    

* Red Square, 302-226-7782, 162 Rehoboth Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. Russian food and caviar bar.    

* Zebra, 302-226-1160, 32 Lake Ave., Rehoboth Beach, Del. 19971. New Italian.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 11:19 AM | | Comments (28)
Categories: Beach Eats
        

Shallow Thought Wednesday

Multimedia Editor and Resident Cheeseburger and Wing Expert John Lindner has sent me a Shallow Thought that's a bit shorter than usual. That's because he's been a busy man making videos to go with the filling station fare story he's writing for the food editor, not me. (I'm not bitter, oh no.) He told me it was his wife's birthday this weekend, and she got to spend it dining at WaWa, the Bel Air Chevron, and, of course, the ever popular Royal Farms, to name a few highlights. 

I asked what he did to make up for that, buy her diamond earrings? Something about as expensive, he told me: a DeWalt DW920 heavy duty cordless electric screwdriver/drill with a FireStorm bit accessory pack. This is not a joke.

As an added bonus, he attached an Arlen Ness chrome console plate to her 1997 Harley Davidson Road King.

"Sort of jewelry for her motorcycle," is how John described it.

Bonnie, you are one lucky woman.

Anyway, here's John's Shallow Thought: ... 

"I had Haagen Dazs Creme Brulee ice cream for BREAKFAST on MONDAY.

"Nyah nyah.

"Top that!"

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:16 AM | | Comments (33)
        

May 6, 2008

Dog-friendly restaurants

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I got this e-mail from Laura today:

I was wondering, have you ever done a Top Ten "Dog Friendly" restaurants?  I know places like Iggies are dog friendly.  Not sure how much the health dept likes that, so I'm not sure if it's something that should be advertised/promoted or not, but I'd love to know about any other restaurants in the area that allow dogs, even if it's simply outside seating. <

I was pretty sure about inside restaurants, but not so sure about the outdoor eating area, so I picked up the phone and called the Baltimore City Health Department. ...

I ended up talking to Bernard Bochenek, who is the director of environmental health. He confirmed what I suspected, that the only dogs allowed inside a restaurant are service animals, such as a seeing-eye dog. As for outside eating areas, "As long as they are controlled and not getting in the way of other customers or the food, they are allowed."

That still doesn't help Laura. If anyone has had good luck taking his or her dog out to lunch or dinner, please post below.

The photo is of Duke, who was banned from One-Eyed Mike's a couple of years ago. I found a story by Tricia Bishop in our archives about the issues raised. In it she reported:

While Parisians are known for taking their dogs everywhere - restaurants too - Baltimore is no Paris, and health professionals says there are some good reasons for prohibiting pets.

"There's always the issue of [fleas], feces, urine, shedding hair, that kind of thing and how would you control that," said Laura Hungerford, a professor of epidemiology and doctor of veterinary medicine at the University of Maryland School of Medicine. Prohibiting animals is done "not because pets carry disease, but just because it's gross."    

Most animal prohibition laws were written years ago with rats and other disease carriers in mind, rather than family pets, which today are part of more than 60 percent of households. Hungerford said the risk of getting sick from an animal is minimal, much smaller than catching something from another human, and that the main reason for banning dogs and the like has to do with behavioral issues and physical safety concerns.

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:24 PM | | Comments (47)
        

Shoot the piano player

PX00073_9.jpgLynn sent me the following e-mail on a subject I know nothing about, but would like to learn more: background music in restaurants. I'm sort of on the fence about the whole thing. If it's a really serious restaurant, it always strikes me as odd to have any music playing, I'm not sure why.

If it's a really loud restaurant anyway, background music just makes everyone talk louder to be heard over it, and you can't hear it anyway.

But if it's the right music for the right restaurant, it's great.

Here's her e-mail: ... 

I was wondering if you knew how restaurants pick the background music in their dining areas?  We went to Junior's Wine Bar in Federal Hill for dinner on Saturday night and the background soundtrack was really distracting and seemingly out of character.  Not wanting to offend anyone who enjoys Air Supply and REO Speedwagon, but I could think of many other types of music that would blend nicely into the background and the atmosphere.  Is it because REO Speedwagon comes at a cheaper price than jazz music or something along those lines?  If nothing else, commenting on the choice of music resulted in some amusing dinner conversation.

 

(Elizabeth Malby/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:41 AM | | Comments (27)
        

Top Ten Places to Take Tourists (That Aren't Tourist Traps)

CostasInn.jpgThis topic reminds me of how I met Marty Katz, the local editor for the Zagat Survey. I was doing a story on Tim and Nina Zagat, who were here promoting their restaurant guide. Marty told me he had interviewed for the job several years ago by taking the Zagats to Charleston, the Greek restaurant Samos, and Kelly's for steamed crabs.

I met them at Cafe Hon in Hampden for breakfast, then we rode in a town car to Faidley's for a mid-morning snack, and I abandoned them at Iggies, where they were having a press lunch.

All those restaurants, clearly, are good places to take tourists, although Cafe Hon is starting to sell so much Hon stuff it's beginning to feel a little bit like a tourist trap. 

For the purpose of this exercise, I'm going to assume your friends are visiting for a week. That gives us plenty of time for day trips to Annapolis and Ellicott City: ... 

1) Saturday: Your guests arrive. They want to experience Old Baltimore, so you decide to make the trip to Dundalk and the Costas Inn, where they can get steamed crabs and crab cakes.

2) Sunday: You want to avoid the Inner Harbor. You take them to lunch at Mama's on the Half Shell in Canton and then let them explore Harborplace on their own.

3) Sunday night: They want to take you out to a nice (read "expensive") restaurant. You're in the downtown area anyway, so you decide on the Black Olive in Fells Point.

4) Monday: They've seen Hairspray and know about Hampden. You want to show them how little they know. You choose Dogwood for dinner, demonstrating that Baltimore, too, has locavore-friendly restaurants.

5) Tuesday: Nobody's up for a big meal, and they want to see more of Old Baltimore, so you take them to Duda's Tavern in Fells Point for classic Baltimore pub grub.

6) Wednesday: Because you have things to do, you send them to Historic Ellicott City for a day of shopping and exploring on their own. You suggest Tersiguel's, the French restaurant, for a change-of-pace dinner.

7) Thursday: You want to show them the New Baltimore, but they are still craving seafood. You take them to the Blue Sea Grill near Power Plant Live. They can order crab cakes while you get something more exotic.

8) Friday: You manage to get them off their crab cake kick long enough to agree to the Bicycle in Federal Hill, a "global bistro." They are delighted to find a sauteed crab cake with sweet corn emulsion on the menu.

9) Saturday: You plan a day trip to Annapolis, ending with dinner at O'Learys Seafood in Eastport.

10) Sunday: One last meal before they go. They realize they haven't been to Little Italy yet, and insist on seeing Baltimore's most famous neighborhood, next to Hampden, before they leave. You take them to the newly renovated La Scala.

(2003 photo of Costas Inn by Gene Sweeney Jr./Sun photographer)


 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:15 AM | | Comments (37)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

May 5, 2008

Continue reading this entry

Someone awhile back complained in a comment about my using the "continue reading" function so often with my posts instead of just writing one long entry that appears in toto on the main page, as many bloggers do. I answered him briefly under his comment, but I think it deserves more explanation. ...

The main reason is that I don't want people to read this as a linear blog.  If you don't visit several times a day (God forbid, but I suppose some of you actually have a life), I want you to be able to scroll quickly through the posts you've missed to see if something catches your eye.

I also feel strongly that comments are often as important as my original entry, or more so. Getting readers to click on "continue reading" also brings up the comments; and if the first one is lively, you may just keep going. For instance, imagine missing the discussion under the post Restaurants and the Economy. It was far more entertaining and informative than my original entry.

And while I'm talking about this not being a linear blog, I hope you'll remember the search function to the right on the main page. It can be funky, but it's also helpful if you want to read past entries on, say, my road trip adventures. The Categories are helpful as well, as long as I remember to assign the entries to categories, which is by no means a given.

Finally, don't forget the archives if you're a new visitor or if you've missed a week because of vacation. It's interesting to go back to the beginning if only to see how shy posters were at first, and how some people went nuts over the Top Ten lists because others contribute or they thought I took kickbacks.

Either they finally get it, or they've just given up and gone away.

 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 2:56 PM | | Comments (19)
        

Dishes for Cinco de Mayo


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Buenos dias. It's time for you to help make up our list of favorite dishes at local Mexican restaurants in honor of Cinco de Mayo. Because most of the Latino places in this area are cheap eats, our LIVE reviewer, Karen Nitkin, tends to cover them, so I don't have much to contribute. Does a great margarita count?

Here's what I said about my favorite dish at Blue Agave when I reviewed it a couple of years ago: ... 

 

The assortment from the grill has a couple of different and wonderful sausages, bits of tender grilled skirt steak in a fiery chile sauce, and grilled quail with a complex mole sauce. Its meat melts off its little bones. Warm tortillas and salsas come with the platter.

Can we come up with nine more? 

(Jed Kirschbaum/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:57 AM | | Comments (9)
        

Monday Morning Quarterbacking

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Each week I like to give you a chance to tell us about your experience at the restaurant I reviewed the day before, in this case, Luca's Cafe in Locust Point.

I've noticed this works better if it's not a new place. But that's all right. If you want to talk about the Locust Point restaurant scene, or what you had for breakfast this morning, that's fine, too. 

(Monica Lopossay/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:42 AM | | Comments (10)
Categories: Monday Morning Quarterbacking
        

May 4, 2008

Next Sunday's review

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Next week I revisit the Brass Elephant in Mount Vernon. It's been given new life with a new chef, Andrew Maggitti, and a new cuisine. The menu is now Italian once again.

To see what I think of the changes, please read my review next Sunday in the Arts & Life Today section. And if you've eaten there since Chef Maggitti came on board, let us know what you think by posting below.


(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:27 PM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Review Preview
        

Spenser food

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For my drive to and from Berlin, Md. last week, I stopped at the library and grabbed the first thing I saw, the latest Robert B. Parker audiobook starring Spenser. For those of you who don't know this series, he's the wise-cracking, almost superhuman private eye with one name who is surrounded by a cadre of lovable bad guys and cops who all worship him and his girlfriend Susan and help him out on his cases for no reason I've ever been able to figure out. (Sample dialogue: His friend Hawk offers to shoot the bad guy for him, and Spenser says, "No, I have to get  even." Hawk replies, "Nothing says even like two to the head.")

Besides all his other great qualities, Spenser is a gourmet cook, although the books never make a big deal about it. He just casually tosses off meals for himself and Susan. I wish he would come to my house. In this one... 

 

...He boils whole wheat linguine and tosses it with zucchini he's sauteed in olive oil with breadcrumbs. (I have to add that he and Susan also share a meal of sweet and sour pork at P. F. Chang's in the book.)

Anyway, that's an unusual meal for a hard-boiled PI to be cooking. I decided this morning to see what Spenser was eating in the first book of the series, the Godwulf Manuscript, which was published in 1973. Don't say I never do any serious reporting for this blog.

What a difference. He makes a meal for himself (this was before he met Susan) of hash and eggs, then in a later chapter a Spanish omelet. Then for a girl:

"I put on a pot of rice to cook and got four boneless chicken breasts out of the meat keeper. I cooked them with wine and butter and cream and mushrooms. While they cooked I tossed a salad and made a dressing with lime juice and mint, olive oil, honey and wine vinegar. There were two bottles of Rhine wine in the refrigerator for which I'd originally had other plans, but I could buy some more tomorrow."

I guess he wasn't worrying about his cholesterol back then. The only problem with this exercise is that by going back I was reminded once again how formulaic this series has become after dozens of novels, and how energetic and fun the early Spenser books were. 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 1:05 PM | | Comments (10)
        

Opening Day

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When I got to the Baltimore Farmers Market under the JFX viaduct this morning, I found I'd misled Bill, and therefore you in my post last night. It looks like only local produce is for sale, and most important, there were no strawberries. (I had assumed there would be because on my Eastern Shore trip last week they were for sale all along the highway. Of course, I didn't stop because I figured I could get them at the market.) ...

I had forgotten how much more this market has than my beloved Waverly Market, like Hickory Chance beef. I haven't tried it; maybe next week.

And, of course, there's the ever popular Kettle Korn.

As jwiv famously said last August, Yay, Kettle Korn. 

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(Photos by me) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:22 AM | | Comments (17)
        

May 3, 2008

You gotta shop around

Is everyone excited that tomorrow is the opening of the farmers market under the viaduct? I am. Here's Elizabeth's Timely Tip for you: It may say that it opens at 8 a.m., but if you wait till then to go, all the good stuff will be gone. (OK, maybe not this time of year.) Anyway, here's some helpful info. The Islanders Steel Band will playing in honor of opening day.

I'm going to link to my Sunday Farmers Market video, which I originally put together with "Shop Around" as the background music; but the copyright issues made our multimedia editors nervous, so I had to find some royalty-free music. The weird thing is that now when it finishes playing it morphs into a flower mart video, not originally part of it. I've sent a HELP message to Multimedia Editor Etc. John.

I got this e-mail from Bill about the Sunday market recently, and here's my reply as well: ...

I have read the blog posts about the upcoming markets, but I was wondering, what we should expect to see there this early in the season? What can we expect to see locally grown? What is in season at this time? If the produce is not local, where did it originate? What is going to be the big trend this season? I know you have an affinity for the Waverly market, but what are your thoughts on the JFX one? I see too many question marks in this email. I will throw in the towel.
 

The JFX one is the same only bigger and better. It just isn't open yet. That's why I give Waverly so much love, it's the only one open all year round, and I've shopped there in a snowstorm. I usually go to both in the summer. Right now you'll get asparagus, strawberries, greens, lettuces, broccoli, herbs, lots of flowers. Plus the nonproduce stuff like local milk and baked goods. The vendors are allowed to go to Jessup to buy stuff they don't grow to sell until June, I think. I buy stuff like bananas from them sometimes because I figure it helps keep them in business in the off season. EL
 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:54 PM | | Comments (2)
        

Chef's tasting menus wanted

Someone on Serious Eats has asked for good places to try a chef's tasting menu in the Baltimore/DC area. They've already tried Charleston. I suggested Corks, Ixia and Sotto Sopra and said I would post a query here. Anybody know of any others?
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 9:24 AM | | Comments (15)
        

The Eat in Season Challenge

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Faithful readers of this blog know that when it comes to locavores, I love the concept and hate the word. It's sounds vaguely unpleasant, like tourists who devour local people. But that's just me. Like I say, I love the concept, and I love the fact that Slow Food Baltimore has convinced a number of restaurants to prepare a whole menu based entirely on ingredients that are locally sourced, in season or traditionally preserved. ...

 

I'm sure the group would like to get more restaurants involved, but right now there are eight. Each one is given one week a month. The line up is Watertable, May 19-26; Brass Elephant, June 17-22, Joe Squared Pizza, July 18-24; Donna's, Aug. 9-16; Gertrude's at the BMA, Sept. 16-21 (with apologies to pete); Chameleon Cafe, Oct. 11-18; Tapas Teatro, Nov. 8-15; and One World Cafe Dec. 8-15.

What I'd like to do is post a reminder before each week, and then hope some of you try it out and post a mini-review. I'll try to find out what's on each menu closer to the actual week.

I heard from Federal Hill Jim recently that he'd had a good locally sourced meal at Watertable, so maybe he could give us a preview from his experience. 

(Photo courtesy of Slow Food Baltimore Web site) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 7:06 AM | | Comments (11)
        

May 2, 2008

The end of a thrilling day

DisneylandWell, this was a thrilling day, wasn't it, boys and girls? If Owl Meat and Voodoo Pork did not exist it would be necessary to invent them. They add, shall we say, a certain manic energy to the blog.

I asked Multimedia Editor Etc. John, who is wise beyond his shallow thoughts, if he thought they were the same person. He said,

I firmly believe they are entirely distinct people.
It bothers me very little that they may occupy the same body.

Wow. That's like a deep thought.  

But now let's get down to the business at hand, which is Top Ten Tuesday, Mother's Day and Cinco de Mayo, not necessarily in that order: ...

I think I've missed the boat this year on where to take your mother on Mother's Day, unless I did a post on Places That Still Have Reservations Available for Mother's Day, which sounds like I forgot Mother's Day. Which I did. So anyone who knows (as in a restaurant owner or PR person), please post below.

Monday will be the day you tell us your favorite Mexican dishes at local restaurants because it's Cinco de Mayo.

For Top Ten, the tourist thing seems right. It's a question I get a lot this time of year so I can make my life easier send them the link to the list.

Top Ten Places to Take Tourists (That Aren't Tourist Traps) is a tricky one. In real life, all visitors want to go to the Inner Harbor while you don't want to take them.

I know you don't want to spend a lot of time in the car, but I should include a Howard County restaurant so pete doesn't have a cow. Maybe you'd want to take your friends on a day trip to Historic Ellicott City? (Hard to figure out why a tourist would go to Columbia.)

We all know that the New York Times travel section has sent tourists to the Helmand, and faithful readers know what I think about that. (Nothing against the Helmand.) I think we can do better.

 

(Barbara Haddock Taylor/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:05 PM | | Comments (25)
        

Virtual postcard from Sardinia

Sardinia.jpg

 

My deskmate, Scott Calvert, has abandoned me this week because he got a cheap ticket to London. From there he went to Sardinia. (Back next week.)

I asked him to send me details of any good meals he had so I could post them on the blog. Here we go. Eat your heart out. I am. ...
 

Buongiorna, Elisabeta!
 
How do you say "gluttony" in Italian? For me the answer might well be Sardegna, the local spelling of Sardinia. This island is pure magic. Cliffs plunge into the aquamarine sea. Little towns cling to hilltops, the balconied houses painted in soft pastels and covered by red tile roofs. Vast water-carved grottos blow the mind with their million-year-old stalactites hanging like limestone icicles. And of course...there is all the delicious food that's made simply using fresh ingredients.
 
My Lonely Planet guidebook had me worried at first. It said the traditional Sardinian menu "reads like the Rocky Horror Show of the food world to the antiseptic modern palate." Why? Because of items like donkey sausage, tripe sandwiches and horse carpaccio. But I found the reality to be a lot easier to swallow and far less weird than that. Sure, I saw horse sirloin on one menu, but for me the bigger challenge was choosing among all the things that sounded stomach-growling good.
 
Here the basic dichotomy is between seafood and meat, with all manner of pasta playing a strong supporting role. Although this is an island, many parts of Sardinia apparently began to fish only relatively recently. The older culinary tradition is meat, and that principally means suckling pig roasted over a spit. To experience both properly, I splurged at two restaurants, a top-rated seafood place in the walled city of Alghero, and a carnivore's delight at the base of mountains near the island's east coast.
 
First stop: Al Tuguri in Alghero. That was Saturday night. I chose the fisherman's tasting menu and had plenty to taste. The feast started with a bunch of tapas-like offerings, including sea urchin mousse, octopus carpaccio set in a tomato slice and small plates of tuna, squid-like cuttlefish and a sea bass concoction with almonds. Before long a cuttlefish and prawn salad appeared, then more sea bass, some red mullet and a linguine dish with skate. I wasn't done yet. Next came a plate of mussels marinated in ginger and placed on a bed of perfectly firm penne.
 
Last night, I went for an all-turf eating excursion. My host was Su Gologone restaurant, which describes its location as "in the cool Supramonte countryside, wrapped in the ancient quietness of vineyards and olive groves where the air smells of myrtle and rosemary." I can't argue with that and couldn't improve on it, either. I started with ravioli and meatballs, and instead of bread there was a fresh-baked item that resembled tortilla chips. As I enjoyed my appetizer, I gazed at the century-old fireplace in which my entree had been cooking. Next to the fire several pigs on spits stood vertically, occasionally turned by the guy manning the fire. Before long the waitress brought me my "meat on a spit" entree -- two big pieces of pork roast, a slice of veal roast and a couple pieces of pork sausage. The roasts were super tender and the sausage packed with spicy flavor. The local red wine made it all taste better. Even with salad and a potato and string bean dish, I somehow made it over to the dessert station for chocolate mousse and tiramisu.
 
Like I said, gluttonous.
 
Here's a picture of the fireplace at Su Gologone.
 
(Photo by Scott Calvert) 
Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:44 AM | | Comments (7)
        

Next Tuesday's Top Ten

MysteryPlate.jpgThe time has come, boys and girls, to find a Top Ten Tuesday topic for next week.

While I was looking through the archives for something else, I came upon the following post and its comments from last June. I thought it might amuse you.

Either the suggestions weren't practical or we've done them already, but they should get you started. Note how few comments were posted; it's hard to remember when folks felt a little shy. (I wonder which Robert it was.)

As long as we're being nostalgic, I thought I'd revive the mystery picture game for this post only. Guess the mystery food and its restaurant. I won't say if someone gets it right for awhile to give others a chance to guess. ...

 

Just today some excellent Top Ten topics were posted:

* Most overrated

* Places good for breaking up (this may be my favorite yet; obviously a steak house would be dangerous)

* Best ribs

* Restaurants you'd like to exist that don't

* Top ten signs that you have a bad waiter

* Top ten signs that your meal will not be good

* Top ten signs that you are a bad customer

* Top ten nightly or weekly specials
 

Thanks to Vinnie, Jessica and Umberto.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 6:34 AM | | Comments (50)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays
        

May 1, 2008

Quote of the Day

People are so angry in general, I don't know why... maybe it's all the caffeine. Mimosas: They're not just for weekends any more.

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 3:44 PM | | Comments (1)
        

Neighborhood pride

ClementineChacuterie.jpg

I'm having neighborhood anxiety. I know that a lot is happening restaurant-wise right now on Harford Road. I reported it in yesterday's Table Talk. People in the neighborhood seem to appreciate the publicity; they just don't agree on what the neighborhood is.

I called it Lauraville, but so far I've heard from Marcia, who appreciated the Lauraville recognition but was sorry I left out Koco's Pub (this was a bad oversight on my part; I remembered it after my column went to press) and Zeke's coffee.

Lisa sent me the news about Clementine's opening on Tuesday, not knowing I was going to feature it in Table Talk the next day. But she put it in Greater Lauraville.

Finally Ellen and Jim... 


...corrected me after Table Talk ran, pointing out that all the restaurants I mentioned are in Hamilton.

So far I haven't been able to locate an "official" Hamilton. There is a Hamilton Hills mentioned here, but the graphics editor I consulted tells me that you have to go by the map at the bottom of the page, which is drawn from census data. It refers to the area above Lauraville as Harford Echodale/Perring Parkway.

Now that I think about it, who determines neighborhoods, anyway? The U. S. Census Bureau? South Baltimore is the one that confuses me most. Federal Hill seems to be claiming more and more territory every day.

One good thing is that people in  Lauraville/Greater Lauraville/Harford Echodale/Perring Parkway/Hamilton/Hamilton Hills are a good-natured bunch. No one got angry at me the way the Fells Point folks do when I express amazement at children's menus in the taverns.

To show my gratitude, I'll post another photo of Clementine, this time of the owner's charcuterie. 

(Andre F. Chung/Sun photographer) 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 12:50 PM | | Comments (32)
        

The last Starbucks post (for awhile)

Just to clear things up if it wasn't obvious, I'm a tea drinker, not a coffee drinker. Yesterday morning's post was a little joke. I would rather put battery acid in my stomach at that hour of the morning.

I do like lattes, but that's because I like hot coffee-flavored milk. The only problem with lattes is that they usually have too much espresso in them.

In our house, no one was allowed to speak to my mother until she'd had her first cup of coffee. You could speak to my father before his first cup of coffee, but why would you want to? That's when I learned that coffee is more dangerous than crack cocaine. ...

I do like a cup of coffee now and then after dinner in a good restaurant, but that's because there's a better chance it will be rich and smooth and not too strong. Cream and no sugar, please. If I never had another cup of coffee, I'm not sure I'd miss it. 

All this is to say I've never drunk a cup of Starbucks coffee so I'm not qualified to say whether it's good, bad or indifferent. What interests me is the intense dislike some folks feel toward the chain.

OK, I get the dislike; some people don't like Norah Jones.

But it's the moral outrage that puzzles me. As mega-chains go, Starbucks seems fairly benign. I personally have no facts to back either side up, or any stake in the matter as a non-coffee drinker, but that's never stopped me from jumping right into a discussion.

On the one hand, we have Dr. Erlenmeyer Cantaloupe's link to a Slate.com article suggesting that a Starbucks moving in can actually help independently owned coffeehouses. On the other, we have bra1nchild's personal experience. I'm guessing in some cases it hurts and some it doesn't. (The newish Starbucks on St. Paul St. near 32nd seems to have killed off XandO but not affected the Donna's that's even closer to it.)

But again, the moral outrage escapes me. From what people who don't like Starbucks say, the chain sells a not-very-good cup of coffee and charges outrageous prices for it. That I get. But in that case, why not just shrug and congratulate yourself for not being so stupid as to buy into the hype?

Starbucks isn't like the mega-chains that undercut the competition by selling the same wares cheaper, which they can do because of the underpaid workers in China and the employees without proper benefits here. From what you say, it sells a worse product for more money. If Starbucks knocks off the competition, shouldn't you blame the consumers who are supposedly dumb enough to like bad, expensive coffee?

I mean, its employees are treated well, aren't they? And it prides itself on being socially conscious (except, of course, for not recycling in Baltimore city).

I mind the homogenization of everything, but that's not moral outrage. I haven't noticed any shortage of independently owned coffeehouses if you prefer them. In fact, more and more of them seem to be opening up all the time, as well as more and more Starbucks.

Why all the fuss? 

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 5:14 AM | | Comments (36)
        
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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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