If you can’t make it to the English countryside for the weekend, a visit to the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is just the ticket. That’s especially true this month, when the resplendent childhood home of American collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont opens its brilliant new exhibit, Costumes of Downton Abbey. Oh yes, Masterpiece mavens, you can spy Lady Sybil’s harem pants (God rest her soul), Lady Mary’s engagement dress (God rest Matthew’s soul) and Lady Edith’s wedding dress (don’t even get us started), along with 37 other glamorous get-ups paired with du Pont family duds and decorative items used during the same era. Note: Winterthur is home to one of the last of the original wild gardens, a style of horticultural design that was all the rage at the turn of the 20th century. Be sure to stop and smell the roses! Through Jan. 5, 2015, http://www.winterthur.org
Clustered around Falls and Clarkview roads in Baltimore County is a burgeoning little design district. Several shops, including The Kellogg Collection, Leesha Lee and A Fabric Place, already cater to the inner artists of DIY decorators. And now there’s a new kid on the block: Urban Threads. Moved from its former Ellicott City location, this bright little shop is as yummy as a cupcake—which is fitting, given its swirly meringue light fixtures that hover over colorful bundles of silks, linens and cottons. Elegant ready-made drapery panels line the walls, while dozens of decorative pillows, sheets, blankets and other accents furnish the beds. Savvy flipped over the fashion plate pillows by Ox Bow Decor, printed with vintage Parisian shoes, and the luxe velvet scarves made from duvet remnants in every color under the sun. 1407 Clarkview Road, Bare Hills. http://www.urbanthreadshome.com
Photography by David Stuck
Moments after Laura Cohen pries the lid off a white plastic bucket labeled “Ale Pale,” a bright, herbal aroma begins to fill her dining room.
The group of 10 women standing nearby crane their necks to peek at the murky liquid inside, and offer a chorus of “Oooh!” Lady Brew Baltimore, the city’s first female homebrewing club, is about to bottle its first batch of gruit, a medieval ale made with herbs and spices instead of hops.
“I think it’s going to be really intense,” says Cohen. She would know. Since founding Lady Brew in February 2012, she has helped make more than a dozen beers, from a chocolate lavender porter to a spicy peach pilsner.
Cohen and the other members of Lady Brew are part of a growing number of women who, in the past couple years, have been elbowing their way into the boys’ club of craft beer. Last year, Sacramento resident Annie Johnson became the first woman since 1983 to win Homebrewer of the Year in the American Homebrewers Associations national competition. Hop Bombshells in Salt Lake City and other all-female clubs are bubbling up across the country. And Barley’s Angels, a social craft beer club for women founded in January 2011, now has almost 100 chapters around the globe—including one in Fulton, Md.
“People think beer is just for men, and that’s not the case,” says Lauren Smith, who opened the Maryland chapter in May 2013.
On the last Thursday of the month, more than a dozen women pay $10 to sample six brands of craft beer at I.M. Wine in Fulton, where Smith is the manager. They tried wheat beers last October, and stouts in December.
“Sometimes people just taste Bud Light and are like, ‘Oh, I don’t like beer,’” says Smith, 26. “It helps people realize there are other beers than that.”
Cohen became interested in home brewing four years ago, after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a master’s in community arts. She liked the way brewing brought together chemistry and creativity, and the seemingly limitless possibilities. Why make a traditional ale or lager when she could add whatever flavors she wanted? Ingredients that make a tasty soup or dessert often work in beer, too, she found.
“I thought, ‘You know what would be great together? Chocolate and cherry,’” she says. ‘“I’m going to make a chocolate cherry porter. Boom.’”
Not long after, a few of Cohen’s girlfriends also started brewing, and as the number grew to include people she didn’t know, Cohen decided to make it an official group.
Lady Brew, which meets every other month to brew and bottle, is as much about beer as it is about socializing and meeting like-minded women. At the gruit bottling, which took place on a Sunday afternoon in mid-January at Cohen’s house in Mayfield, members drank tea and coffee, and shared their own home brews. Cohen, a natural-born teacher who by day directs the community art department at Baltimore Clayworks, goes over each step of bottling with the group.
When Erin Mellenthin moved to Baltimore from Wisconsin in June 2012, she wanted to meet new people, and learn how to make her own beer. In Lady Brew, she found both.
“Lady Brew is a small piece of what Baltimore is—a lot of folks trying to create communities, whether through brewing or activism or biking,” said Mellenthin, a 24-year-old who lives in Better Waverly. “It’s a wonderful way to meet people and understand Baltimore.”
While Lady Brew isn’t exclusively female, its members take pride in creating a women-friendly space—and offense when other beer events don’t. In December, they took a stand against the name and imagery of local homebrew competition Barley Legal. They voiced their opinions to the event’s organizers, who agreed to disagree.
“It’s not like we go looking for things to fight,” says Cohen, 28. “But it’s important when this stuff comes up not to be silent.”
Joining Lady Brew costs $20 and includes membership to the Maryland Free State Homebrewers Guild and 10 percent off at local homebrew stores Nepenthe and Maryland Homebrew. Members also receive a copy of “Lady Brew Baltimore Homebrew Quick Guide,” a book Cohen wrote and illustrated.
Lady Brew meets twice for each beer, usually on a Sunday at Nepenthe or one of the members’ houses. The first session is for brewing—usually a five-gallon batch. Members bring ingredients they want to use, clean and sanitize the equipment, boil the ingredients, let the mixture cool, add yeast and let it ferment for seven to 10 days. Then they meet again to bottle the beer, usually forming an assembly line to sanitize, fill, cap and label the individual bottles.
Members, who are mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s, chip in $10 to take home a six-pack. The group is also planning more events in the community, hopefully starting with a monthly Lady Brew night at Liam Flynn’s Ale House in Station North.
After bottling their first five gallons of gruit, named “Phlebotanist,” Cohen and the other members pour the final pint into a tumbler and take a sip.
“You can really taste the juniper berry and the coriander coming through,” Cohen says. “It’s amazing.”
Lady Brew Baltimore’s next brewing session is March 2 at 2 p.m., with a bottling on March 16 at 2 p.m. Membership costs $20, and a six-pack of the beer is $10. Go to http://www.ladybrewbaltimore.com
The Maryland chapter of Barley’s Angels meets on the final Thursday of each month at I.M. Wine, 8180 Maple Lawn Blvd. in Fulton. Tastings are $10 each, or a yearly membership is $25. Call 240-456-0330 or go to http://www.barleysangels.org
With the wildly popular Birroteca barely a year old, Robbin Haas opened the buzzy Nickel Taphouse in Mount Washington last November. Two restaurants booming in formerly troubled spots may anoint Haas with a reputation for a Midas touch. “The truth is,” says Haas, who has owned and operated restaurants from Florida golf resorts to Guatemala to the Eastern Shore, “I build restaurants that I want to go to.” Nickel, inspired by gin mills in Haas’ hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., features Beef on Weck—thin-sliced steak on a plump caraway-studded Kummelweck roll. But there are no chicken wings to be had. “I don’t want to be that place,” says Haas. “No wings, no nachos. We’re not a bar food restaurant.”
Décor. Haas commissioned local artist Robert Merrill to design Parisian-inspired decals for the windows, with such inviting messages as “Ladies Welcome,” “Open Sundays” and “Fresh Mussels.” The 140-year-old front door with a beveled glass window, and wood for the bar came from salvage outlets, and Haas purchased the beadboard booths that line one wall from a defunct Hooters—painting over the orange with a cool slate and adding brown Naugahyde cushions. An iron rack suspended above the bar holds 120 flickering votive candles, and the deer antler chandelier coordinates nicely with the bison horn door handles—and toilet paper holder in the bathroom.
Drinks. Nickel has 32 (mostly mid-Atlantic) craft beers on tap, with the brews constantly changing. “We buy one keg at a time, and when one pops we put another one in,” says Haas. There’s also a 50-bottle wine list with only a handful over $40, and 18 wines by the glass. Bar manager Danny Onaga designs cocktails with small batch spirits and housemade fixings. “You won’t find maraschino cherries behind the bar,” says Haas. Nor will you find Seagram’s or Absolut, for that matter, though there is Buffalo Trace Bourbon infused with bacon fat, used in one of Nickel’s special Boozy Shakes along with candied bacon, vanilla ice cream from Prigel Family Creamery and ground walnuts.
Food. Along with its signature Beef on Weck, Nickel offers healthy salads, plates (for two) of whole bronzini, chicken and dumplings and brisket with mashed potatoes. There’s also a sinfully juicy Roseda burger—“everyone who uses that beef has an amazing burger,” Haas demurs—along with a nightly selection of oysters (on a recent Saturday night, the place shucked more than 600) and, yes, mussels.
Service. Haas’ restaurant philosophy is more about the Golden Rule than a Midas touch. “To me, service is key in a restaurant,” he says. “In our job description I list the tools you need each day: an apron, five pens, a wine opener and a smile. It’s called the hospitality business because you’re supposed to be hospitable. You’re supposed to make people happy.”
Location, Location, Location. The 2,000-square-foot space has seen at least four tenants in nearly the same number of years. But if Haas can keep up the vibe—as he seems to be doing with Birroteca—there’s no reason to think Nickel won’t be a keeper. As for the other tavern around the corner? “The more the merrier,” he says.
Final Verdict. For some, Nickel might be a bit out of the way, but it’s worth remembering when you’re in the mood for filling victuals and affordable drinks. Not to mention smiling staff and Boozy Shakes.
Photography by Tim Lee
It must have been kismet. When the new homeowners of this waterfront Annapolis townhouse were looking to move from the Eastern Shore to the capital city several years ago, they asked a woman if there were any homes for sale in her community. At the time there weren’t, she responded, adding that she and her husband had recently bought their house but that they came on the market very infrequently.
Fast forward a few years and the couple renewed their home search efforts. A friend mentioned she thought she knew of a great place for sale and, you guessed it: It was the home of the woman they had spoken to earlier.
The couple not only happily bought the house, but the entire contents as well, from the custom-designed furniture to the previous owners’ extensive collection of art and sculpture.
“Buying a turnkey home has really been a joy,” say the new homeowners. “It’s like going on vacation and never leaving.”
The 2,400-square-foot Severn River townhouse was painstakingly renovated by the previous owners, who called on Florida-based interior designer and space planner H. Allen Holmes to adapt the 35-year-old townhouse to a maintenance- and clutter-free lifestyle, but one that also was welcoming to their many friends and family.
Not only was the house completely gutted architecturally, but the homeowners also started with a clean slate when it came to the furnishings, which reflect a more modern aesthetic, one that the new homeowners appreciate as well.
To make the house meet his clients’ needs, Holmes—who worked with Annapolis architect Scarlett Breeding and custom residential contractors Lynbrook of Annapolis—reconfigured the interior space, combining four bedrooms into two and creating two spa-like bathrooms and spacious his and her closets.
To keep clutter under control, Holmes thought of the house as if it were a boat and created a central core that keeps everyday appliances and tableware out of sight. When the cabinet doors are open, they slide back into the core, maintaining the sleek lines of the kitchen/dining area but keeping the amount of workspace intact as well.
“Allen really thought outside the box here,” says the new lady of the house. “Everyone who comes to our home says the same thing: ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it.’”
Holmes also used materials that would enhance the design sensibility and feeling of space and light, from the striking stainless steel and glass staircase to translucent movable glass panels (used instead of blinds) and an Israeli agate dining table that sits atop acrylic sheets for a floating effect.
“There are custom details throughout the house,” says Holmes—such as the living room TV that rises out of the floor at the touch of a remote so that it does not compete with the view of the harbor or “argue with the art.”
The reconfigured floor plan, which offers more generous wall space, is ideal for the eclectic art collection, which is now enjoyed by the new homeowners, and includes works by such artists as American abstract painter Brian Rutenberg, artist and illustrator Roxie Munro and American impressionist painter Marilyn Bendell.
Holmes didn’t know at the time that two sets of homeowners would enjoy the results of his work. But he’s happy his attention to detail has been so appreciated.
“Every aspect of this house is unique,” says Holmes. “It’s an art piece in itself.”
Architect: Scarlett Breeding of Alt Breeding Schwarz Architects, 410-268-1213. http://www.absarchitects.com.
Builder: Ray Gauthier of Lynbrook of Annapolis, 410-295-3313. http://www.lynbrookofannapolis.com.
Designer: H. Allen Holmes of H. Allen Holmes, 772-245-8586. http://www.hallenholmesinc.com.
Loyalty is such a rare virtue nowadays, don’t you think? We live in a world of throw-away clothing and nanosecond attention spans. How civilized, then, to be recognized for your dedication once in a while. Poppy and Stella thinks so. Now the Fells Point shoe mecca is doing more than enticing you with its footwear, apparel, accessories and cosmetics, it’s rewarding you as well. For every $200 you spend, you get a $20 voucher to spend on future purchases. Savvy thinks that’s worth sticking around for. 728 S. Broadway, Fells Point. http://www.poppyandstella.com
Theater buffs rejoice! Time is on your side with the Kennedy Center’s three-week-long World Stages International Theater Festival 2014. Curated by Alicia Adams, the veritable smorgasbord of performing arts showcases nearly 250 artists from 20 countries in 13 productions—nine of which are U.S. premieres. Highlights include a video installation with multiple interpretations of Ophelia’s mad scene in “Hamlet,” an installation of puppets by Rosa Magalhães of the Pequeno Teatro of Brazil, an exhibition of costume sketches for Broadway’s “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “The Wiz” and the premiere of “Green Snake,” a play by the National Theater of China. Also on the agenda are discussions with participating directors and playwrights, staged readings and behind-the-scenes tours. March 10-30, http://www.kennedy-center.org
Remember the friendly skies? Remember Delta is ready when you are? Remember up, up and away? That was TWA and if you’re old enough to remember TWA you may remember the pleasures of travel. Well, those days are gone the way of the Pan Am Clipper.
Had a round-trip Delta flight from BWI to Salt Lake City recently. On neither flight did my seat recline. Flight attendants shrugged. Said it was my proximity to an exit row, although the seats next to me reclined. (I’m not an aeronautical engineer, but I think the seat was broken.) They say that reclining seats on airplanes may be unheard of in another year—at least in coach, but then everything is really coach now more or less. Flying Greyhound.
There’s nothing to eat now either. Snacks, perhaps snackettes is a better word, are distributed with a flintiness that would have warmed a workhouse warder in Charles Dickens’ London.
But the worst part was getting on and off the plane. Our plane was at the gate long before the scheduled takeoff. But still we left late. Why? Any frequent flier could tell you. It’s the staggering amount of carry-on luggage. The airlines created this problem. When carriers began charging fees to check bags, Mr. and Mrs. America—looking like Jerry Lewis in “The Bellboy”—began dragging things on planes, stopping just short of live poultry.
And there’s security. Folks blame 9/11, but that’s not the problem. There’s no consistency from airport to airport. You might be strip-searched in Chicago, but they simply wave you through in Denver. A small carry-on passes through the X-ray machine in Baltimore no problem but the next day in Boston the same satchel results in my being pulled out of line. The charge: possession of Tom’s Toothpaste. They confiscated Tom. Took him down to Guantanamo. I’m lucky that I didn’t go with him.
Meanwhile, back in the no-longer friendly skies, the seats get smaller and more spartan. A recent New York Times headline “On Jammed Jets, Sardines Turn on One
Another” seems to capture the esprit du voyage. They say by 2017 passengers won’t actually be sitting on domestic flights of less than two hours but will be strapped together in a standing position like some sort of weird amusement park ride. OK, I made that up, but someone’s going to try it.
So where does this leave us? At the gate actually. Planes take off later and later. It now takes 30 to 40 minutes to board an aircraft today—more than twice what it was in the 1970s. I did not make that up.
Blame the “nachos factor. ” Travelers will carry anything on to a plane. I selected the ubiquitous nacho because there’s nothing more difficult to carry than a container of nachos slathered with an industrial solvent that resembles cheese. Face it, our problems have less to do with 9/11 than with
7-Eleven, so to speak.
And airlines not only charge too much to check bags but they fail to enforce the carry-on rule. This cripples boarding. (Travel tip: If you can’t lift a suitcase over your head, IT’S TOO HEAVY.)
The on-time performance rate of airlines would take off if only they would enforce the carry-on rules. Purses, lap- tops and briefcases are one thing, but anvils masquerading as suitcases are another. My solution: check all luggage.
There is NO WAY that you could not board planes more quickly and efficiently if you banned most carry-on items. There are legitimate reasons flights are late—bad weather, maintenance issues, pilot drunk. But those are occasional glitches. The nacho factor is a constant.
“What about convenience?” I hear some dim bulb ask.
How inconvenient would it be to check your luggage and leave the Slurpee behind? Security would be faster. Less to examine! And a more powerful screening process might be used to examine the checked luggage. And
with the money saved, airlines could hire more baggage handlers. Maybe even put in fewer seats to allow reclining?
Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier (and BWI’s, too), should try this. I’m a huge fan. They changed the face of flying. They’ve made mistakes. Got mixed up with AirTran and altered their frequent flier program, which really ticked me off. But I still love them. This advice is my gift to them. Free. If it works, perhaps I can recline?
If there’s one thing Charm City has in spades, it’s creative types. But with so many, Savvy gets breathless trying to keep up. How convenient, then, that oodles of them now gather at Bmore Flea organized by local epicureans Patrick and Lonnie (shhhh—they still have to keep their day jobs). You might find handmade soy candles by Charm City Wax, prints by Flat Rat Press, tiny trees by Ishida Bonsai or wacky, irreverent tees by Sharp Shirter. You can even slurp an oyster and sip a Natty Boh or Bloody Mary while you’re shopping. Can’t do that at the mall. Saturday, March 8, St. John’s Church, 2640 St. Paul St. After that, it’s held outdoors every Saturday at Penn Station plaza through the fall. http://www.facebook.com/bmoreflea
When Kevin Spacey’s limo pulls up at night to a big, pleasantly shabby house in scene 4, episode 12 of the Emmy Award-winning “House of Cards”—that’s our house in Roland Park. Its five minutes of fame was the culmination of months of visits and four days of filming in October 2012, by a crew of 30 cast members and stagehands—much to the delight of most, but not all, of our neighbors on St. John’s Road. Here’s how it happened.
The doorbell rang in August, just as we were talking about getting a new roof.
A young, easygoing guy named Eric introduced himself as a location scout for a new Netflix series that was filming in Baltimore. Would we be interested in letting our house be used as a location?
My husband, Dan, whose office is just off the entrance hall, and who never looks up for visitors, looked up. Not one to be overly impressed by celebrity, or even the possibility of celebrity, he listened and chatted with more than his usual animation, holding off on asking the question that those who know him well could see was uppermost in his mind. “Would it pay for a roof?”
Eric was invited in to look around. He walked through the main rooms—complimentary but noncommittal—and said they were checking out other houses in the neighborhood as well. He would be in touch. Our hopes sunk.
A few days later, he called to see if he could bring over some more people to see the house. A set designer and a producer showed up and admired the “sightlines.” Soon after, cameramen and an art director came, noting that the wide hallways would accommodate the large cameras.
Our hopes rose again. Finally the director arrived to give the green light—and Dan lit up.
Note to film and TV buffs: Allen Coulter of “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sex and the City” and “Sopranos” fame directed episodes 12 and 13. Executive producer David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Fight Club”) directed the others.
Weeks passed while the cast and crew filmed at other Baltimore locations, including the nearby Baltimore Country Club. By the end of September, things were heating up here. Set designers came and went, explaining the look they were trying to get and what changes they would need to make in the house. The color palette for the show, they told us, was neutral. So out went the rugs, the red sofa, the curtains and the upholstered chairs. The walls were painted, and there was a lot of discussion about removing some distinctive wallpaper in the front hall. (In the end, it stayed.)
In “our” scene, Frank Underwood (Spacey) takes a night flight to the Midwest to visit the home of a character loosely modeled on Warren Buffett. Raymond Tusk, the Buffet character, lives in a rambling, unpretentious, shingle-style house that suits his down-to-earth personality. The script describes him as “the modest billionaire.” Just like us! He lives there with his 60-something wife, a pet cockatoo and lots of brown furniture that’s seen better days. Even our kitchen, last updated in 2001, was too modern—and so they installed new blinds (with better light control) and added net curtains on top. Our countertops were replaced by butcher block, and all of our light fixtures were removed.
Days before filming started, we were told that they would be filming in our bedroom. Kevin Spacey in our bed! Would we mind leaving the house to spend three nights at the new Four Seasons Hotel downtown? Um, sure, that would be OK with us—even with the teenage son, who would have his own room overlooking the harbor to compensate for “the horrible inconvenience” of having to do homework in a different room.
While we packed our bags, Eric started working the street, talking to the neighbors about what to expect. Politely, he apologized in advance for the giant trucks that would be lining narrow St. John’s Road, and for the dazzlingly bright lights that would be shining on our house during night filming. He invited everyone to eat from the food truck, a gesture that went a surprisingly long way to keeping everyone happy.
St. John’s moment of fame had begun.
The first morning, five giant tractor- trailers rolled down our dead-end street, taking up its entire length, with one or two more parked on Roland Avenue. Swarms of crew members arrived with microphones and walkie-talkies, bringing scripts, makeup and props for the day. A black Escalade (preferred vehicle of movie stars) pulled up with Kevin and his dog, a black Lab mix, in the back. People started to gather outside the house to watch dozens of extras, handlers and crew coming in and out, smoking and chatting about the action going on inside.
The crew had warned us that we would probably never get to meet Kevin Spacey, because when in character for a role, “Kevin is completely focused” and “doesn’t even talk to us.” But one afternoon, still in costume, the man himself wandered out of the house and chatted at length to neighbors, kids and local dog-walkers standing outside.
He talked about dogs, about our house, about his role as Frank Underwood the manipulative senator from South Carolina, and about his time in London, where he has long been artistic director at the Old Vic theater. The next night he made another appearance, greeting us all—charming, witty and self-deprecating as you could wish a movie star to be. No photos were allowed sadly, because HBO/Netflix owns any photograph of him in costume and makeup as Frank Underwood.
There were a few complaints. A tree branch was damaged by a truck. Getting in and out of our dead-end street was time-consuming and neighbors had to park blocks away. Sorry guys.
For us, however, it was all good.
In the end, we got the house back better than before (they left the blinds). And we are proud owners of an 8-by-10-inch glossy signed by our friend, Keven Spacey, along with some fun memories and part (but not all) of a new roof. Something to remember next time a location scout knocks on your door!
Always up for a new challenge, the wildly versatile James Franco will join our favorite actor du jour Chris O’Dowd (you’ve probably seen him in “Bridesmaids” but check out “Friends with Kids”) in the first Broadway production of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men in 40 years. The revival is directed by Tony Award winner Anna D. Shapiro, and also stars “Gossip Girl’s” Leighton Meester whom, well, we’re giving the benefit of the doubt. In case you don’t remember honors English, “Of Mice and Men” is the story of George (Franco) and Lennie (O’Dowd)—two migrant workers during the Great Depression who develop an unlikely but deep friendship. Previews begin March 19. Make haste! http://www.ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com
It may have similarities to Liquid Assets in Ocean City, Md., but Liquid Lib’s, the newest member of the Liberatore’s clan, has an urban flair and seems to be attracting folks from inside and outside the Beltway. Tucked behind the mothership in an office building on Deereco Road in Lutherville, the wine shop with benefits lends itself to suburban meetups and is worth the trek. General manager Nick Angelini, whose resume includes stints at Kali’s Court and Da Mimmo’s, has stocked the place with wines of varied price points, for takeaway or consumption on-site with a $10 corkage. (This minimal markup means, say, a Napa Cabernet from Silver Oak, a customer favorite, priced well over $200 on many wine lists, can be had for $135 here.) If you’re undecided, sample from about 60 wines available by the glass, or from the selection of wines in the Cruvinet, an automated wine dispenser operated by the swipe of a pre-purchased card. Liquid Lib’s also offers solids; deviled eggs with scallop crudo or crunches of bacon, mussels, meatballs and salads are served on small plates, most under $10. The wine you choose might influence where you drink it: there’s a glass bar, lit from beneath with colored lights for a quick quaff of pre-movie Chardonnay, high-top tables made from reclaimed barrels where you’ll want to share a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with friends and comfy loveseats around a fireplace—perfect for a sparkly splurge. Go ahead, lib a little. 9515 Deereco Road, Lutherville, 410-561-3300, http://www.liberatores.com
Spencer Compton splits his time between Red Emma’s bookstore and café.
What should a suburban mom like me wear to Red Emma’s? Steve Madden combat boots? Nerd glasses and a babushka? As I head to the left-wing co-op bookstore’s hyped new Station North location, I fear a repeat of my first visit when it was still located in Mount Vernon. Maybe I’m paranoid, but when I stepped into that dark, cramped space to kill some time, I felt like the word bourgeoisie was tattooed on my forehead.
Upon entering Red Emma’s sleek new headquarters at 30 W. North Ave., where Cyclops Books used to be, I start to relax a bit. With its sky-high ceilings, cool gray walls and enormous picture windows, the redone Emma’s is five times the original in size and at least 10 times more attractive. It’s easy to feel anonymous and comfy here.
Founded in 2004 by a handful of social justice and labor organizers and anarchist/activist bookworms, the 100-percent worker- owned organization opened doors here in October, having plotted their ambitious move since 2008. Back then, when many indie bookstores were languishing, Red Emma’s—named for Russian-born feminist/anarchist/ Jewish atheist Emma Goldman—found themselves selling stronger than ever. They also found it nearly impossible to seat everyone who wanted a spot at the store’s numerous politically relevant readings and lectures.
Just recently, more than 100 folks showed to hear Craig Steven Wilder, chair of MIT’s history department, talk about his new book, “Ebony and Ivy: Race, Slavery, and the Troubled History of America’s Universities.” Obviously, this store pulls a smart crowd. Glancing around, I notice half a dozen middle- aged intellectuals who don’t dye their hair.
Casey McKeel, Kate Khatib and Lanie Thomas serve up some transparently traded coffee and vegan muffins from their new kitchen.
Before I have a chance to become intimidated by their lack of dye or the diehard book selection—“Pedagogy of the Oppressed” by Paulo Freire catches my eye as I hunt my bag for my Coach wallet—one of the 16 owner/ workers, Casey McKeel, 27, greets me politely. She hands me a complimentary cup of Maya Vinic roast, a flavor she picked up in Mexico to include in her Thread Coffee line, a brand she partners with Red Emma’s café.
The brew’s delicious. And the fact that Casey’s business model operates under “transparent trade” guidelines (think free-trade-on-speed) helps me wash down my liberal guilt with an audible ahhhhhhh.
A tasty improvement: the bookstore now features its own vegan restaurant with breakfast, soup and sandwich recipes whipped up by co-owner Melanie Thomas, 37, formerly exec chef at critical darling Great Sage in Clarksville. (The tofurkey melt and vegan grilled cheese sound satisfying on this brisk day, but I’m on duty.)
While McKeel shares a bit about her political philosophies, I’m struck by her great bangs and super-stylish jewelry. I wonder if she finds me tragically unhip, but maybe that’s just the paranoia/guilt
complex/intimidation factor talking?
She describes herself as an anarchist, and it occurs to me that even anarchists can wear eyeliner. Good for her. When she tells me that Red Emma’s is her primary source of employment, as it is for several of her
fellow co-owners, most of them in their 20s and 30s, I do wonder how she can afford her awesome baubles and asymmetrical shag—not that I have the nerve to ask.
All co-owners earn $11/hour, per their philosophical agreement, from the chef to the book buyer to the barista. Perhaps McKeel barters coffee for cuts? (Some of the construction labor that rebuilt the space was donated.)
“The idea of a co-op is nothing new,” McKeel reminds me. She joined forces with Emma’s in 2013. “It’s starting to grow in popularity as so many people are having to work multiple jobs. You might as well be working for yourself as well as somebody else.”
“Do you ever get bored?” I blurt, looking around at the shelves of 7,000 extremely important texts.
“No, there’s always so much to do,” she says. “That’s where it’s different being an owner. You just made a million drinks—now there’s a break, so how about we come up with a new way to talk about our coffee? Every stride you make is a reflection of you.”
“Almost everybody’s got something else they do on the side,” adds founding member Kate Khatib, 36, an earnest woman with beautiful brown eyes, who joins us at the table. “I teach part-time at MICA; some work at farmers’ markets; some teach; some are union organizers. It has been this way since the beginning.”
But one of Emma’s goals, she adds, is to create a prosperous, co-owned and operated business that can sustain its workers on a full-time basis.
“Does this seem like, well, a very realistic venture long-term?”
“I don’t know what that means,” she tells me for the third time in our brief exchange, and I feel like I’m back in philosophy 101. (Khatib holds a Ph.D. in intellectual history from Hopkins.)
“People can make it…on $11 an hour?” I ask.
Khatib acknowledges the plan may not be achievable in the end, but she quit her full-time editing job in 2013 because she wants to work at Emma’s more—and she’s committed to the vision (if not the “venture”).
“Baltimore City has a living wage of 11 bucks an hour,” Khatib says. “Whether it’s sustainable…I think it’s really hard to say whether I or anybody else will stay at Emma’s for the next 10 years, but I want it to be a possibility.”
I take a break to head to the restroom, where I have to smile over a sign above the sink—“Workers Must Wash Hands”—that has been doctored to read “Proletariat Must Wash Hands.”
I wonder, as I eyeball myself in the mirror, “Could I ever go back to my Russian communist roots and hack working here, if I really, really believed in it?”
Out in the stacks, I meet Spencer Compton, 26, who works no outside gigs (but does front a post-punk band called Et Al.) and splits his Emma’s time between the café and bookstore. Compton says the store embraces “the anarchist concept of an egalitarian workplace and the whole idea that there’s no boss or management.”
Bingo. No boss. My face lights up when he talks. Maybe I’m an anarchist in part?
Certain things appeal to me about this no-manager ethos. (I’ve been told I have a problem with authority.) Since Red Emma’s is a worker collective, everything is decided by consensus. Oh, and to join up, each member must put down a $1,000 ownership share—or, as most choose, agree to have a small amount deducted from their weekly paychecks over the first year of their employment. If they leave, that money is theirs to take with them.
I fork over $2 for a to-die-for vegan berry muffin and continue to peruse the titles on the shelves. It’s neat to see that Cullen Nawalkowsky, 37, the chief book buyer—a slim, smiling redhead with heavy spectacles and a bushy beard—stocks all sorts of things anybody might like to read. The selections by Foucault and Studs Terkel and Angela Davis are paired with cookbooks and quirky kids books and Dover Thrift lit classics priced retro-low. (In the children’s section, a beautiful illustrated copy of “Wind in the Willows” shares a shelf with “My Two Grannies.”)
As I chew and review more titles, Nawalkowsky, who’s the friendliest crew member I’ve met, seems happy to chat. I ask him if he sees Red Emma’s as part of a growing trend or just a lark. (You can ask this guy anything—he’s naturally funny, and probably he’s the one who sneaked in and changed the bathroom sign.)
He tells me there are some good models for success out there. For example, the gluten-free flour used in the muffin I’m eating comes from a worker-owned company called Bob’s Red Mill, and Twin Oaks Community Foods supplies the café’s tofu. Meanwhile, the University of Baltimore Community Development Clinic has assigned Red Emma’s two student lawyers to study the national worker cooperative trend up close and provide legal advice whenever the collective needs it.
Besides, he explains, the store is getting great traffic since they relocated. Their social media following has multiplied exponentially. Kids from MICA and Hopkins are making regular stops at all points Station North. People are attending classes in the attached Free School classroom, where Nawalkowsky himself leads a regular critical reading group. But, according to Khatib, folks from the community are welcome to come in and teach classes about just about anything there. (So far, no crazies to make them regret that policy.)
I try to imagine Nawalkowsky in 10 years, still trim, still bearded—still here? Perhaps. He, too, has scrapped his full-time DJ and party promoter gig for the lit life. It occurs to me that a card-carrying Baltimore DJ might be accustomed to getting by on a little less. Maybe that’s one reason he’s so svelte.
When Nawalkowsky pulls out his iPhone and offers to show me his sales figures since the store’s move, I feel like a total capitalist pig: “Yes, please! That would explain a lot.”
I’m impressed to note that book sales, which account for about one-third of the store’s profit margin, have risen from $1,000/week on average in 2012 to $4,000/week since October 2013, the month of the collective’s grand reopening.
“Sometimes it’s $1,000 a day,” he says. “No week has been less than $3,000.”
We agree, Nawalkowsky and I, that Ursula K. Le Guin is a phenomenal writer—he’s got a selection of her sci-fi—and I now think I can ask something nosier.
“Cullen, will you order books for people?” I ask. “I mean, say, if I wanted the new Barbara Kingsolver from you?”
“Of course,” he says. “I wonder if I have that.”
“But would you order any books for anyone who came in?” I ask.
“Sure, we want to be a space that functions as a café and bookstore regardless of your political orientation,” he tells me. “That said, we might not order the complete works of Glenn Beck. We also want to provide a home for the marginalized—we’re going to prioritize that. For Glenn Beck, I might say, ‘Go to Amazon.’”
The folks who live in Hanover’s Arundel Mills seem to be a little bit happier since Vivo Trattoria Italian Kitchen and Wine Bar opened its doors in December. The Italian tavern at The Hotel at Arundel Preserve has a menu to please just about every palate, with comfort food versions of pasta, flatbreads and such traditional preparations as veal piccata and chicken parmigiana. There’s also a highly accessible wine list with plenty of options in the $30 to $50 range.
The interior is a fury of textures, with faux stone walls with lettered signs announcing trattoria, pizza and vino. Wood blinds compete with long draperies and there are at least four styles of light fixtures—as if multiple designers were at work independently. If something about the place says chain, that’s just where it’s headed.
Vivo is a prototype for additional projects, says George Korten, of the Long Island-based George Martin restaurant group, which also owns Grillfire across the lobby. Grillfire has locations in Merrick and Rockville Centre, Long Island, and the group also owns Strip Steak and GM Burger Bar. “We’d like to take Vivo someplace else if there’s a market for it,” Korten says. “Maryland seems underserved.” 7793-B Arundel Mills Blvd., Hanover,
Game for Mah Jongg
Some of us remember our moms and grandmothers playing, some of us play ourselves, but even true mah jongg mavens may be less than fluent in the game’s history, which is as colorful as the decorative tiles used to play the game. Popularized in America during the Roaring Twenties, the game originated in China where some say it dates back to the age of Confucius. So why does the game have such a loyal American following?
“Mah jongg is a visual universe unto itself, governed by dragons, directional winds and cocktails. It was—and still is—social media with a heavy dose of style and history,” says Abbott Miller, exhibition designer for Project Mah Jongg, opening at the Jewish Museum of Maryland on March 30.
Look for original works by fashion icon Isaac Mizrahi and renowned illustrators Christoph Niemann and Bruce McCall, along with vintage advertisements, Chinoiserie and all kinds of mah jongg-themed tchotchkes. Bonus: The gallery will be outfitted with a table where visitors can play and schmooze with friends—and for any mah jongg novices, the JMM will even offer lessons. Through June 29, http://www.jewishmuseummd.org
Bad to the Bard
Stretch out your silly bone before heading to Centerstage for Gavin Witt’s production of Twelfth Night. One of Shakespeare’s most popular plays, this 17th-century romcom makes for the most delightful kind of escape. The action begins when Viola, the play’s heroine, is shipwrecked on the lovely island of Illyria. Confusion and hilarity ensue and love triangles, partying and cross-dressing are the orders of the day. March 5–April 6. Tickets, $19-$39. http://www.centerstage.org
Tipsy Travel Adventures
Get your Belvedere cocktails and Advil ready. The one and only funny gal and self-proclaimed hot mess Chelsea Handler is bringing her Uganda Be Kidding Me Live tour to D.C., promoting her new book of the same name, which hits shelves March 4. While drunken escapades, one-night stands and outrageous pranks are always on the “Chelsea Lately” host’s set list, you also can expect her to discuss her most absurd travel stories and questionable travel guide etiquette. Definitely worth the drive. March 5 at DAR Constitution Hall. Tickets, $63-$73. http://www.ticketmaster.com
Modern art fans can get their fix at the BMA’s German Expressionism: A Revolutionary Spirit exhibit, which features more than 35 paintings, prints, sculpture, watercolors and drawings that showcase the revolutionary art movement of Germany’s early 20th century. Artwork from the two most prominent Expressionist artist groups, Die Brücke (The Bridge) and Der Blaue Reiter (The Blue Rider), includes creations by Ernst Ludwig Kirchner, Wassily Kandinsky, Franz Marc and Max Beckmann. Through Sept. 14. 443-573-1700, http://www.artbma.org
The Joffrey Ballet Company will feed the souls of dance lovers, Broadway babies and fashionistas alike when they perform this month in Baltimore. Presenting a different repertoire on each of the two nights they’re in town, selections will feature choreography by dance icons Jerome Robbins and Twyla Tharp, music by Frank Sinatra and Sergei Rachmaninoff and costumes by Oscar de la Renta. How can you go wrong? March 4-5 at The Lyric. Tickets: $15-$65. 410-900-1150, http://www.lyricoperahouse.com
If you’re looking for something a little more au courant, head to the BMA’s annual Baker Artist Awards exhibit featuring exquisitely temporary forms by sculptor Jonathan Latiano, images of discarded objects and ideas by photographer Lynne Parks and a video of cellist Dariusz Skoraczewski. Latiano’s presentation will involve creating a pod of extinct baiji dolphins that surfaces out of driftwood and cascades above the audience before changing back to its natural form. Just go with it. Through April 6. 443-573-1700, http://www.artbma.org
Madea won’t be featured in entertainment mastermind Tyler Perry’s new stage play, Hell Hath No Fury Like a Woman Scorned, but don’t fret. If you’re a fan of his work, you’ll be sure to love this story about a woman and a man who meet on the Internet and begin a crazy, drama-filled relationship, chockfull of soapy storylines and betrayals. And yes, there will be power ballads. March 20-23 at The Lyric. Tickets, $52. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com
A Cappella Ella Ella
Listen up, lyrical gangsters. NBC’s recently revived hit TV show “The Sing-Off” is going on a live tour, and will feature notable groups Home Free, The Filharmonic and VoicePlay. If you have no idea what any of these groups are, check out Home Free’s version of Florida Georgia Line’s “Cruise.” You’ll be an instant fan. The Sing-Off Live Tour hits Baltimore Soundstage for an all-ages show on March 2. Tickets, $35. 877-987-6487, http://www.ticket fly.com
A quartet comprised of two violin players, a viola player and a violoncello player isn’t anything new, but Austria’s Minetti Quartett is bringing a fresh spin to live classical music. Die Presse describes Minetti as “top musicians who are [infusing] music from the classic and romantic with energy for the new millennium.” Hear them perform pieces by Beethoven and Mendelssohn on March 8 at Hodson Hall Auditorium at Johns Hopkins University. Free. 410-516-7164, http://www.shriverconcerts.org
This is Thriller
Experience essence of Michael Jackson in Cirque du Soleil’s Michael Jackson THE IMMORTAL World Tour, coming to Baltimore Arena. Through dance, acrobatics, dazzling visuals and set pieces and, of course, music by the late King of Pop, the cast of 63 performers is sure to bring the spirit of Michael Jackson to life. March 18-19 at Baltimore Arena. Tickets, $50-$175. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Relive that time you donned a perm, a leisure suit or a low-cut Halston dress with neck medallions and danced like there was no tomorrow. The hits from “Saturday Night Fever” will abound during Stayin’ Alive: One Night of the Bee Gees, a live performance tribute to one of the best-selling musical acts of all time, presented by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. We just wish Justin Timberlake and Jimmy Fallon were hosting. March 28-30 at the Meyerhoff. Tickets $34-$70. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
Mike Doughty is a lot of things. He’s a singer, songwriter, poet, playwright, photographer and, hey, even “Most Improved Camper” at West Point Youth Camp in 1982. Previously the lead singer of the beloved ’90s band Soul Coughing (“Super Bon Bon,” anyone?), Doughty has gone on to build a solid solo career, including a recent cover album that paid tribute to the likes of John Denver, Cheap Trick and Stephen Sondheim. This time, he’s letting his fans get into the act for one of his inventive “Question Jar Shows” where you can put requests (and even wacky personal questions) into a literal glass jar that’s—you guessed it—half full. March 22 at Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis. Tickets, $25. 410-268-4545, http://www.ramsheadon stage.com
We dare you to name just one thing that makes artist Wayne White’s work so special. Imposs-ible! Hailing from Chattanooga, Tenn., White has done everything from designing “Pee-wee’s Playhouse” to working as an illustrator for The New York Times and The Village Voice, to art directing music videos for the Smashing Pumpkins and Peter Gabriel. He even created a 22-foot puppet with a likeness to country singer George Jones. Lately, though, White has turned his talents to fine art—gaining a following with his oversized, three-dimensional word paintings with messages ranging from “Beauty is Embarrassing” to “[Expletive] Cubism.” (You can imagine what he said.) He’ll share his multi-faceted creative journey as part of the recently reopened Contemporary’s inaugural speaker series, CoHosts, on March 27. Free. 410-756-0397, http://www.contemporary.org
Show tunes, profanity and the LDS movement…oh my! Experience what Entertainment Weekly dubbed “the funniest musical of all time,” when The Book of Mormon, embarking on its second U.S. tour, comes to the Hippodrome. From the creators of “South Park”, the musical tells the story of two young Mormon missionaries sent to share the Scriptures with the people of a remote Ugandan village. Spoiler alert: hijinks ensue. The show went on to win nine Tony Awards, including Best Musical. Through March 9 at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets, $40-$150. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster .com
Who says you’re too old for some old-fashioned storytelling? Gather around for the Stoop Storytelling Series, where seven real-life Baltimoreans get seven minutes to share true and personal stories around a common theme. This month’s topic speaks for itself: “Mistakes were made: Stories about big snafus, big boo-boos and big, bad deeds.” And, note: three audience members also get the chance to give their own impromptu three-minute stories. Are you in? March 31, 8 p.m. at Centerstage. Tickets, $18. 410-332- 0033, http://www.stoopstorytelling.com
A group of disheveled Shakespearean players perform an English countryside tour of “King Lear” when Sir, one of the last great actors of his generation, forgets his first line during his 227th performance as the titular character. This is the premise for the 1980 West End and Broadway hit The Dresser, which revolves around Sir’s acting crisis and his dedicated dresser, Norman, who tries to keep the veteran actor’s life together. Norman’s backstage efforts may seem a little similar to the story of Lear and his Fool. Feb. 26- March 23 at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $38-$60. 410-752-2208, http://www.everymantheatre.org.
Gimme an OMG!
Remember when “Bring It On” was, like, everybody’s favorite high school cult classic? Oh wait, it still is. And now, you can see the bitchy cheerleading team rivalries unfold live and in the flesh in Bring It On: The Musical, loosely based on the 2000 film that starred Kirsten Dunst. The Tony-nominated musical will involve the routines, stunts and drama from the film, as well as original musical numbers. March 29 at the Strathmore. Tickets, $39-$81. 301-581-5100, http://www.strathmore.org
Photo by David Stuck
Coach Falcon and trainees in his colorful Falls Road studio.
When Three different friends pitched us a story on Believer’s Fitness Boot Camp—one going so far as to call coach Howard Falcon an “undiscovered wonder”—we immediately laced up our Nikes for a trial class with the personal trainer, sports nutritionist and kickboxing instructor in his colorful, no-frills studio in Mount Washington. Despite barely being able to move after a brutal series of cardio/strength intervals (burpees, anyone?) we mostly remember having fun for the full hour of power. “You want to laugh through the pain,” says Falcon, who uses humor to motivate clients—coming up with fun nicknames (we worked out with “Brooklyn” and “South Jersey”) and developing a sense of camaraderie. Falcon’s “we are family” philosophy also extends to children with special needs. He offers Pilates for kids with autism to help them release stress and increase independence. $125 per month. 6302 Falls Road, 410-818-3656, http://www.believersfitnessbootcamp.com
The nuegados at Mi Comalito are straight from El Salvador: six patties of queso dura (hard white cheese) and yucca, deep fried and resting in a pool of sweet syrup made from boiled sugar cane, with a pleasantly burnt flavor reminiscent of low grade maple syrup. Late last year, owner/chef Wilson Gutierrez, a native of El Salvador, leased a tiny spot in Charles Village—an area he found devoid of Central American food—painted the walls bright yellow and red and started making recipes he had learned in his home country. Gutierrez also prepares food from Mexico and Honduras, fresh and inexpensive, accompanied by soft, chewy handmade corn tortillas. Rivaling anything we’ve tried in the Upper Fells/Patterson Park area known as Little Mexico, we enjoyed Plato Típico Salvadoreño, shrimp and chicken in a tomato-tinged cream sauce with thin slices of steak, rice and salad, and the Mariscada seafood soup bursting with lobster, shrimp and clams. BYOB. 2101 N. Charles St., 410-837-6033.
Photographed by Don Struke
In the garden of Amy and Jim Matis, the wall’s the thing. When this couple and their daughter moved to the 1938 Virginia Tidewater house in Pinehurst, an elegant, walled garden was already there. “A walled garden is something Jim had dreamed of since childhood,” says his wife, who works side by side with him both at home in their well-tended, sophisticated garden and in the civil engineering firm, Matis Warfield, Inc.
Built to include historic salmon bricks from Crisfield, the house is patterned after “Makepeace,” a 17th-century estate in Somerset County. So is the hardscape of the formal gardens established on the quarter- acre lot when the couple moved in as second owners in 1999. Brick paths and patios, parterre gardens and brick walls define both interior and exterior space.
“Cozy ” is how Amy describes the feeling the walls give their garden.
And, indeed, these formal, historic-looking structures do create cozy garden rooms. Two sets of walls define the spaces. Four walls enclose the back garden, and the walls of the garage, house and family room
addition together create two courtyards within the walled garden.
Just off the kitchen is an intimate plant-filled dining area with a brick floor, ivy-covered walls and a solid wood gate that leads to a courtyard driveway. Pots of herbs, annuals, stone architectural artifacts and sculpture, as well as candlestick collections, shelves filled with vintage wine bottles and pyramidal boxwoods give geometry, artistry and warmth to an area used regularly for lunch and dinner.
Down brick steps to the wide lawn in the garden, a perennial border flanks the north wall. “We use tall plants so the dogs won’t run into it,” says Amy as two smooth-coat collies romp and play hide-and-seek. Plants include hummingbird-attracting monarda, original hybrid tea roses and phlox, clematis and native black-eyed Susans. “I used to keep to a pink and purple palette, but now some yellow has crept in,” she says. She also tried delphiniums, tough in Baltimore heat and doubly difficult around heat-absorbing brick walls.
A line of four square gardens, each defined by trim, dog-friendly Hoogendorn Japanese holly hedges, stretches across the west wall, lined with a sculpted Leyland cypress hedge as a green backdrop and punctuated by a neighbor’s overhanging maroon Japanese maple. A Chippendale teak bench and Victorian fountain stand at center to continue the formal geometry.
Where a massive yew bush succumbed to winter blizzards on the south end, a variegated ‘Hakuro-Nishiki’ Japanese willow lights up against a hemlock hedge backdrop. And after disease claimed original billowing English boxwoods on the south terrace, the couple expanded the patio and low walls to the garden. A pair of espaliered apple trees and a tightly clipped, tall euonymus hedge on the walls of the house now hug seated guests.“Every year brings opportunity,” Amy Matis says, a true gardener embracing change.
The other morning, as we hurried to get out the door for school, I attempted to brush the morass that is my fourth- grader’s hair. Ethan tensed and bristled in that way that only 9-year-old boys can. He rolled his eyes dramatically.
“Why do I need to brush my hair?” he asked, aggrieved.
“Because you need to look nice for school,” I answered straightforwardly.
“But I thought it doesn’t matter what you look like on the outside. You always say it only matters what you look like on the inside,” he complained.
Well, touché, my boy. Touché.
I paused for a moment to think how best to explain the distinction. But secretly I was thrilled to know that he had absorbed the lesson we’ve been so pointed in conveying about the insignificance of external appearance.
That’s because Ethan has always been unusually small. He was born a little bit early, weighing just shy of 6 pounds, due to a somewhat mysterious condition called IUGR, or intrauterine growth restriction. Getting him to grow during his first few years was torturous. I held my breath at every weigh-in and familiarized myself with every weight gain trick in the book. One handout from his doctor’s office read like some sort of diet parody. “Never eat vegetables plain!” it warns ominously. “Add butter, margarine, cream sauce, hollandaise, cheese sauce, salad dressings, sour cream and mayonnaise.” (Not all at once, I hope.)
“Plain crackers should have cream cheese, cheese spread, peanut butter, jelly or margarine to increase calories,” it goes on. It recommends canned fruit in heavy syrup over fresh. And my personal favorite, “Choose meats breaded, fried and sauteed in oil or butter.” (Well, who wouldn’t?) There’s also a recipe for a chocolate peanut butter milkshake that has—I kid you not—1,070 calories a cup. And that’s seen as a good thing.
But I was unprepared to learn that having a small child carries an unspoken stigma in Momville. On the parenting message board I used to frequent, it was standard practice to return from well visits and post your baby’s “stats.” And though few might admit it out loud, ironically, in a culture where thinness is obsessively prized by adults, when it comes to babies, bigger is most definitely seen as better. “Isabella is in the 95th percentile for weight AGAIN,” a mother would crow. Those damned percentiles felt like scores, as if a baby in the 90th percentile for weight was somehow being given a higher grade than one in the 30th. The mothers of babies who were “only” in the 50th percentile or less often posted nervously about what could be wrong with their children. It was hard not to feel defensive, or make self-mocking jokes about our featherweights. My son finally hit 20 pounds at his two-year well check. “Is there such a thing as a 20-pound 2-year old?” I asked the pediatrician, only half kidding.
I know where this comes from, of course. In the beginning, when they bring so little else to the table, our babies’ size can feel like the only tangible, measurable manifestation of the quality of our parenting. Those who grow big and, well, fat, are clearly doing fine, their plump bodies a physical emblem that all is well. And those like Ethan? Their charts are stamped with the gloomy “failure to thrive” label, with all the implications therein.
I watched with great interest, as both a mother and a journalist who’s written about science and health, as the doctors walked the fine line between “He’s just small” and “There’s something amiss.” We tried desperately not to intervene unless it was truly warranted. But one test led to another and another. Poor little—literally!—Ethan was poked and prodded and schlepped to myriad doctors, one all the way in Philadelphia. At 14 months, after an endoscopy suggested he might have a rare form of food allergy, Ethan was put on a so-called “elemental” diet. For two months, he wasn’t allowed to eat or drink anything—nothing—but a foul smelling prescription formula. We propped him in his high chair that Thanksgiving with books and toys, hoping he might not notice the feast he couldn’t take part in.
For one horrific week I have mostly blocked out of my memory, he had a feeding tube in his nose. Until a doctor at Hopkins, one of the most respected pediatric allergists in the country, stopped the madness. He was certain Ethan had been misdiagnosed. “There are only so many ways you can torture an essentially healthy child,” the doctor told us in his measured, reassuring tones. “Let him eat.”
So in our case, it was all a bad dream. Though doctors still monitor his growth carefully, Ethan is perfectly healthy. He doesn’t have food allergies. He’s not growth hormone deficient. He’s just very small and thin. Like lots of kids. Like lots of adults. It’s nothing for us to be ashamed of. Or apologize for. Or feel the need to explain defensively to random strangers who ask about it. (“Oh my!” said a well-meaning mother at the pool, eyeing my two boys, who are almost exactly three years apart but very close in size. “You sure had them close together, didn’t you?” Well, no. I didn’t, actually. Not at all.)
There’s nothing wrong with Ethan. The vessel my amazing, precious son came in is just…small. Not bad. Or diminished. Or lesser. He’s anything but failing to thrive in the things that matter.
Saccharine aphorisms are hardly my strong suit, but there is one I repeat over and over, like a mantra. When it comes to Ethan, I always say, we like to focus on the things about him that are big: his heart and his brain.
I’m so relieved to know that despite all the noise of daily living, the multiple lessons we try to impart about everything from morality to dental health to playing fair, that he really has gotten the message that his size doesn’t matter. Although I’m not going to back down on its corollary: He still needs to brush his hair.
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared inThe New York Times, People, Slate and,USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
A burning philosophical question has been plaguing Savvy: why should food trucks and fashion trucks have all the fun? Enter Side Dish. Originally started on a whim by Lauren Wilson and Carin Lazarus to sell Lazarus’ grandmother’s vintage jewelry, the mobile shop sells baubles old and new when it pops up in different neighborhoods. Proud to highlight local artisans such as metalworker Tracey Beale, Side Dish keeps its prices affordable, from under $25 to $150. “If you’re buying a neon bangle this year that you won’t wear next, you don’t want to spend a fortune,” says Wilson. Savvy advice. http://www.sidedishmobile.com
RUNWAY TO REAL LIFE. We’ve heard the phrase many times. But fashion trends are far more reaching than your favorite boutique. Couture details are popping up everywhere, including well-appointed interiors and gardens. This season we are loving…RHAPSODY IN BLUE, a dreamy indigo world with sumptuous fabrics and classic lines. ART INSPIRED pieces that take their cues from paint strokes, graphic design and historical art movements. GLOBAL CHIC finds that take us on a journey to market from Morocco to Istanbul to Greece. And MIXED MEDIA where glass flirts with gold and wood bonds with bronze.
Brian Boston opened the Highland Inn with retirement on his mind. Not that the energetic chef, who has operated the Milton Inn for 16 years, plans to hang up his knives. Rather, he wanted a place to call his own. Boston put $4 million into purchasing the farm and renovating the 120-year-old farmhouse top to bottom. And he’s got big plans for the place. The four-acre property, he says, “is all usable space,” with a pond and patio, and he’s already booking up with weddings and other special events.While Boston will stick with what he does best—fine dining—the Highland Inn has a less formal approach than his previous endeavors (his first job as a chef was at the Brass Elephant). The low country menu features shrimp and grits and braised short ribs, along with craft beers and cocktails, and a 150-bottle wine list. Boston hired Mark Davis (formerly of Baltimore’s Ten Ten) as executive chef and will continue to run the kitchen up in Sparks himself. “I just renewed the lease,” he says. “I have another 25 years at the Milton Inn.” 12857 Highland Road, Highland, 443-276-3202, http://www.highlandinnrestaurant.com
Before my recent trip to London, more than one person expressed mild horror that a food lover such as myself would have to endure all of that so-called “bad British food” while on holiday. These well-meaning souls need not have worried about me. Sure, the cuisine of England has not always enjoyed a stellar reputation, but the fact is, traditional British cooking in modern London is nothing short of extraordinary.
I particularly love the concept of the traditional Sunday lunch. Think of it as a leisurely, less fussy holiday meal, typically featuring a roast meat, a Yorkshire pudding and several vegetable sides. It’s the very best kind of comfort food. The Sunday lunch I’ve created here is colorful, filling and comes together easily, leaving you plenty of time to relax and enjoy the mini-feast.
Because the spatchcocked chicken is flattened, it cooks evenly and fairly quickly, resulting in a very crispy skin and super-juicy meat. The carrots and parsnips can be cooked at the same time as the chicken, and while everything is in the oven, that quintessentially British dish, minted mushy peas, can be whipped up on the stovetop. Meanwhile, the beet and watercress salad can be composed ahead of time, and served either before or after the main course.
I can’t think of a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon than feasting on this impressive-yet-simple and flavorful English-inspired meal.
PARTY WITH STYLE ON OSCAR NIGHT:
Join editor-in-chief Jessica Bizik for a live Tweet-up during the Academy Awards! Follow us @stylemagazine to dish on dresses, drama and more…
Hello, handsome! (Sorry, George. This time we mean Oscar.) As consummate cinephiles who call the Academy Awards our favorite night of the year, we’re dedicating this drink to Tinseltown’s most eligible bachelor—the sleek, statuesque Golden Boy himself. Year after year, Oscar is as handsome and captivating as ever…without a single dose of Bro-tox. Of course, we can’t leave Mr. Clooney completely out in space, so we’ve incorporated the screen idol’s very own Casamigos Blanco Tequila into this refined cocktail, perfect for any red carpet affair or a night at home watching classics from the Criterion Collection.
1 1⁄2 ounces Casamigos Blanco Tequila
1⁄2 ounce St. Germain liqueur
1⁄2 ounce Yellow Chartreuse liqueur
Juice from medium Clementine
Juice from 1⁄8 medium lemon
Combine all ingredients into a mixing glass packed with ice. Stir gently for 15 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail couple and garnish with a slice of Clementine rind.
By Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East and founder of Tend for a Cause.
Photo courtesy of Lululemon
Esther Collinetti, REV co-owner and Lululemon Ambassador.
For years we’ve happily subjected ourselves to tough-love trainer Esther Collinetti’s self-proclaimed “aggressive coaching style” (think: equal parts profanity and positive reinforcement) at the top gyms around town. Now she’s branching out—with friend and fellow fitness fanatic Rick Zambrano—to open Rev Cycle Studio at McHenry Row. Similar to uber-trendy Soul Cycle in NYC, Rev is a Spinning-focused facility that aims to give both expert and novice cyclists a total body workout, both on and off the bike. We love Rev60 Zen, an intense 40-minute ride followed by 20 minutes of yoga. Scared? Don’t be. “You are in complete control of your resistance. You’re the master of your own workout,” says Collinetti, who offers an equally friendly fee structure, $10 to $18 per class. “We want you to come in and pay as you sweat,” she says. “We’re not worried; we know you’ll come back.”
A DRUNKEN MONKEY BITTEN BY A SCORPION. That’s how the ancient Buddhists described a restless mind. And that was long before email, traffic jams and FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) syndrome. These days, everybody’s stressed. Hyper-stressed. Too damn stressed. And, we hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s probably killing you. Study after study shows that stress increases your risk of everything from heart attack and stroke to obesity and infertility. (Sorry, are we stressing you out right now?) So what’s an overworked, under appreciated, drunken monkey supposed to do? Revoke your membership in the Fight or Flight Club—and start meditating, pronto. (We even teach you how, page 47!) Plus, try one of the funky, new relaxation treatments we tested out around town. Upgrade: the hangover feels a lot like Enlightenment.
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If rave reviews and a resume that boasts stints at Le Bec-Fin and the Rittenhouse Tavern don’t make you want to drive the 90 minutes to try out Laurel, a hot new French American restaurant, then perhaps chef/ owner Nick Elmi’s status as a finalist on the 11th season of Bravo’s “Top Chef” will seal the deal. An intimate (24-seat) BYOB, Laurel incorporates sophistication, elegance and fine French dining with locally sourced food and friendly service. New to Philly’s popular “Restaurant Row” in East Passyunk (by the famed Italian Market) the sweet little spot features a four-course meal concept that begins with starters like torn New Jersey scallops with Jonagold apple, sea lettuce and razor clam and culminates with decadent desserts like caramelized white chocolate pudding with shortbread, plum and almond for dessert. The appetizers and entrees in between? Marvelous, mon cher. 1617 East Passyunk Ave., http://www.restaurantlaurel.com
The latest jewel in the Bagby Restaurant Group’s collection, the semi-precious Cunningham’s, opened just before holiday mayhem set in. This was good timing for the restful spot in Towson City Center. The easy menu and drinks can be a pick-me up or wind-me-down, even as the Nordstrom and Macy’s bags languish at the coat check.
Owned by Sinclair Broadcasting magnate David Smith, Cunningham’s hits a sweet spot with several elements that characterize other Bagby properties (a la Fleet Street Kitchen and TEN TEN) including a local ethos, a chef who trained on a working farm and fresh interior design by Jane Smith, who also happens to be David’s wife. The ladies who lunch are just as likely to be wearing power pantsuits as cashmere ponchos, and the evening scene ranges from after-work quaffers to date night.
Classically modern. Jane Smith is a self-trained designer who has managed to unite the restaurant group’s properties while infusing each with its own personality. Here, tall bar chairs and a swooping Alice- in-Wonderland-scaled banquette in the dining room are upholstered in a peacock blue art nouveau-meets-modern fabric, while dining chairs are clad in mist gray velvet—buttoned up the back like a little girl’s party dress.
Husband David joined slabs of wood from the couple’s farm to make the long communal counter that faces the cook line beneath a curtain of glittering crystal. Most striking are the oversized light fixtures in the dining room, billowing pale orange fabric lit from within like fragile Chinese lantern flowers.
Pasta perfect. Chef Chris Allen grew up in rural Pennsylvania and fondly remembers pork and sauerkraut dinners at his grandmother’s house. While there are no immediate plans for kraut on Cunningham’s menu, there’s a pork belly with shrimp dumplings, an apt
example of Allen’s new American hybrid style.
Allen honed his farm-to-table cred while living next door to the chickens and pigs at the Glasbern Inn in Fogelsville, Pa. Allen has a particular passion for cooking pasta. He uses fresh noodles from the powerful Arcobaleno extruder that can spew up to 10 pounds an hour for Cunningham’s house-made offerings.
Thrill of the grill. An impressive line of cooks—busy shucking oysters, plating pasta and arranging displays of charcuterie in the open kitchen—is visible from several angles. At one end is a wood-fired grill where a dry-aged tomahawk bone-in rib-eye (weighing in at more than 2 pounds) might be sizzling alongside a maitake mush- room “steak” charred at its frilled edges, or a Maine lobster. A selection of flatbreads topped with meatballs, creamed spinach or pickled shallots are baked in the nearby brick oven.
Baker’s dozen. In the bakery below the restaurant, John Aversa cranks out loaves for all the Bagby properties. Aversa, whose credentials include stints at Patisserie Poupon, Atwater’s and most recently The Breadery in Catonsville, brings an artisan’s touch to his baguettes, boules and loaves, which will also be available at Cunningham’s Bakery and Café, scheduled to open early this year. The casual spot will serve sandwiches and breakfast goods, caffeinated by Ceremony Coffee Roasters in Annapolis.
Curated Cuvée. Bagby beverage manager Tim Riley’s “triple threat” approach means equal attention to cocktails, wine and beer. Cunningham’s beer is mostly local with Stillwater, Union and Brewer’s Art on tap. Cocktails range from the Brooklynite—a rum-based drink adapted from an early 1960s Trader Vic’s concoction—to Cap and Bells, named after a W.B. Yeats poem in a nod to its Irish whiskey base. Riley is especially proud of Cunningham Cuvée, a Grenache-Syrah blend he created last year at a vineyard in France.
“We were a stone’s throw from Chateauneuf-du-Pape,” he says. “The wine has the deep, dark flavor from 100-year-old Rhone vines.” The wine will be available at all Bagby Group restaurants, but Riley says he first envisioned it with
Cunningham’s wood-grilled cuisine.
Bottom line. Pretty as a storybook with an adventurous menu to match. 1 Olympic Place, Towson. 410-339-7730, http://www.cunninghams towson.com
No one would ever call Savvy an urban hipster. Yet that doesn’t mean she can’t appreciate cutting-edge fashion. So she was entranced when she stepped into a graffiti-walled shop in Mount Vernon and met its charming owner, Daniel Davis who opened For Rent Shoes to be “a destination.” And you’ll be buying, not renting (the name’s an inside joke). Whether it’s Sperry Top-Siders hand-painted with the Maryland flag from Davis’s own line, Alexander McQueen-esque club shoes by Manikin or wild silver-mirrored shoes by Nat-2, you’ll be the only one for miles around sporting these looks. Davis has an exclusivity contract with his suppliers. Some of the shoes you won’t even find in the Big Apple. Accessories, T-shirts and art exhibits round out the offerings in a store that’s also a performance space. 515 Cathedral Street, 443-873-9928, http://www.forrentshoes.com
Scoozi (a variant on the Italian word for “excuse me”) in the Radisson Cross Keys hopes to beckon both hotel guests and neighborhood folks in search of a casual meal. An exhibition kitchen thrust into the dining room, with a communal dining table nearby, lends an informal air to the place. “When you have company at your house everyone ends up in the kitchen,” says Donna McCulloch, food and beverage manager. Open for breakfast, lunch and dinner, Scoozi features a brick pizza oven that cranks out thin crust pies, plus pastas, salads, entrees, sandwiches and burgers. Don’t miss the decadent desserts, including a flourless chocolate s’mores cake, ricotta cheesecake with lemon curd and a root beer float made with Taharka Brothers ice cream. And if you fall in love with a piece of art on the wall? “We’ll call over a consultant from the Merritt and Renaissance Fine Arts Gallery to discuss it with you,” says McCulloch. 5100 Falls Road, 410-435-0101.
Photograph by David Stuck
STYLE: How did you get picked for Man Caves?
RABIL: The producer Matthew Stafford has kids who play lacrosse—they love it. One day they were running around at a family function pretending to be me. So Matt was like, ‘Who is this Paul Rabil kid?’ He looked me up online and called my agent to see if I’d be game.
So you’re basically a superhero to small children?
[Laughs] No, it’s all about what you’re into. I did the same thing when I was little, running around pretending Michael Jordan. I did the buzzer, the countdown, the trick shot—all in my back yard.
What’s your favorite part of the Man Cave design?
The bar. The marble is beautiful—and it’s great for entertaining. There’s a door that comes off its hinges to become a ping pong table. And I can just push a button and a Pioneer turntable comes right out of the bar so I can DJ.
What kind of music do you listen to before a big game?
I used to come out in football mode, listening to upbeat, aggressive-style music. But as I’ve gotten more sophisticated as an offensive player, I realized that I need to be more calm and relaxed like a quarterback. Sometimes I’ll just kick back and listen to Beethoven.
Can you dance?
Yes! Well, actually, it’s probably one of those things everyone thinks they’re good at but aren’t—like golf.
Any chance you’ll pull a “Jacoby Jones” and do Dancing with the Stars?
We’ve talked about it. But the timing has to be right. There’s a fine line between growing the sport in the public sphere and continuing to excel as a player. The pro game is what I continue to value the most. So I’m focused on my work in on the field.
Then I guess the next big dance for you will be your wedding in January. Tell me something about your fiancée Kelly [Berger].
She plays lacrosse for the U.S. women’s national team. She’s extremely responsible, loving and very family oriented. Things I always looked for in a girl.
Does she like the Man Cave?
She does. It’s funny, the ladies all love the AstroTurf wallpaper. I would have thought it was too gnarly of a texture. But they love it.
So are you truly lacrosse’s sexiest man alive, as The New York Times suggested?
I guess I try to express a different style. Lacrosse used to be associated with pink polo shirts, khakis, white tennis shoes and shaggy hair. I’ve got long hair but I like more of a professional, eclectic look. It’s a tough thing with opportunity. You have to seize it, but it can always be looked at as seeking the limelight. To me, the most important thing is growing the sport.
What do you love most about lacrosse?
What really hooked me was the personality and lifestyle of the game. It’s got the power of a team sport, the contact of football and the speed of soccer. But the individuality is unmatched. There’s no other sport where you get to have your own stick, lace your own pocket and dye your own head. It’s just a special kind of ownership that captures young kids and encourages them to be unique. That’s why some of us never put the stick down.
Read “The Business of Lacrosse” featuring Paul Rabil. >>
I vividly remember the day a fellow classmate at Old Bethpage Grade School on Long Island paid me what felt like the ultimate compliment: She told me my mother was pretty.
I have no idea what about the peculiar elementary school economy made having someone compliment your mother so valuable, but it thrilled my second-grader’s ears nonetheless. Perhaps it was the idea that when you’re a girl, your mother is a projection of your future self, a nod to who you might one day be. My mom was older than most of my friends’ moms. She was strict and old-fashioned, with a sense of style probably forged as a high school student in the 1940s, not as a hippie in the ’60s, when most of my friends’ parents had come of age. I was elated that somebody thought she was cool and, by extension, that maybe I was, too.
I am now the very same age that my mother was when I was in second grade. And just like her, I am easily a decade older than many of the parents of my kids’ friends. Maybe it’s not surprising, then, that in the weeks leading up to my recent 45th birthday—the one that appears to have inspired Facebook to start showing me ads for Metamucil in my feed—I found myself in the throes of a crisis of confidence: Am I a cool-looking mom?
It’s not that my boys care in the slightest. They barely bat an eye whether I’m dressed to the nines for a black-tie event or wearing yoga pants and Ugg knockoffs to take them to school. As for their own fashion sense, they are still in that blissful place where they dutifully put on whatever I hand them to wear each morning without so much as a word. (Except that my 6-year-old inexplicably refuses to wear jeans, but that’s a whole other story.)
But truth be told, I was starting to rely on the yoga pants and Uggs uniform just a little too much. Between being a stay-at-home mom for several years and then working part-time from home, I hadn’t regularly seen the inside of an office for at least 10 years. I’d lost all sense of what people were wearing any more, except for what I saw on the soccer sidelines and at Hebrew school pickup. I could name scores of Pokemon characters and sing the Phineas and Ferb theme song, but had let my subscription to InStyle lapse.
It is one of the oldest clichés in the book, but parenting is an exquisitely other-focused endeavor. It is far too easy, especially as a stay-at-home mom, to lose yourself in the shuffle, to focus so intently on making sure the kids are taken care of that you just do whatever’s quick and expedient for yourself with the scraps of time and energy left behind. In the early days, I walked around in a sleep-deprived haze, my clothes often quite literally sacrificed on the altar of new motherhood, with its messy stew of bodily fluids.
These days, getting two elementary schoolers out the door on time every morning, with the Pigpen-like blizzard of lunchboxes, gloves, field trip permission slips and violin cases, often takes just about everything I’ve got. Makeup? Hahahahaha. Hair done in some fashion other than twisted up and secured into a clip? Not if it means not having time to make coffee, buster. Sometimes I actually eat their leftovers for breakfast. I know. I know.
Granted, I have friends who appear not to have let motherhood cramp their style at all; friends who still look entirely put together at the grocery store and Ultimate Play Zone. And it’s not like I was ever a super fashionista before I had my kids. But I got by. And then in one sudden, horrific instant last fall, it dawned on me how far I’d inadvertently let things slide into momhagdom. It was like those anxiety dreams where you suddenly find yourself naked on stage, giving a speech to a packed lecture hall.
So I decided to do something about it.
My 45th birthday gift from my husband was an overhaul of my sorely neglected wardrobe. At the suggestion of my super stylish friend Beth, I made an appointment with the personal stylist at Nordstrom. (It’s free! And there’s no obligation to buy a thing.)
I spent a gloriously self-indulgent morning with a lovely, effortlessly chic stylist named Stacey Jones, who gently helped me try to rediscover my sartorial confidence. It was mostly fun, if at times a little overwhelming, in large part because it involved spending a lot of time looking at myself half naked in a dressing room mirror. (Note to self: Gym!). I ended up buying several cool pieces, including my very first pair of riding boots and a trendy (but non-intimidatingly so) color-block sweater. And Stacey firmly insisted, despite my protests to the contrary, that I really could wear skinny jeans after all, so I might just love her forever.
I know they’re just clothes, but as the new year turns our thoughts to renewal and rebooting, I can’t help but think that it really helps you to feel better when you look better. Years ago, I helped TV personality Carson Kressley write his first book, a men’s fashion manual called Off the Cuff. And
Carson says that it’s OK to care about how you look without feeling like you’re being superficial. That when you look pulled together and feel good about what you’re wearing—regardless of whether you bought it at Saks or Target—it can often be the first step in empowering yourself.
Of course, there’s always the kids to keep you in line. Emboldened by my burgeoning transformation, I asked my boys a question at my birthday dinner.
“So do you think Mommy looks 45?” I asked. I was fishing. I can’t lie.
Six-year-old Alec sized me up. “I think you look younger,” he said brightly. “Like maybe 43.”
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
Photograph by Christopher goodney
In Paul Rabil’s large, tanned hands, the half-pint glass of beer might as well be the queen of England’s teacup.
Shortly after 6 on a Tuesday evening, the poster-boy of professional lacrosse grabs a bar stool at The Wharf Rat in Fells Point, not far from his Canton home. He tells the man tending bar he likes lighter beers, and then gets served a Barking Squirrel, which he sips approvingly. His hair, brown and shoulder-length, is still damp from the shower he took after his workout. His left foot pushes down on the floor to sturdy the muscular 6-foot-3, 220-pound frame on the stool. On top of Rabil’s head sits a fitted, flat-brimmed, blue baseball cap, innocuous enough except for what’s emblazoned on the front—the logo of energy drink manufacturer and part-time daredevil impresario Red Bull, which has been his corporate sponsor for more than three years.
It’s not just Red Bull that has put money into the 28-year-old midfielder from Gaithersburg. Rabil has endorsement deals with EFX, makers of athletic wristbands, and funky Nooka watches. He has an eponymous line of apparel and on-the-field lacrosse gear, including lacrosse handles and heads (the lacrosse stick, for we non-laxers) with the Warrior brand, owned by deep-pocketed New Balance. Bill Belichick, the sullen-faced New England Patriots coach, has been photographed wearing a T-shirt from Rabil’s Warrior line. (We hear he’s a fan.)
Widely regarded as the finest player in the sport, Rabil plays in both pro leagues—the outdoor Major League Lacrosse (for the Boston Cannons) and the indoor National Lacrosse League (for the Philadelphia Wings). He was the top pick in the 2008 MLL collegiate draft and earns an annual salary of $65,000—in a sport where the average income for pro players is about 20 grand a year. (The old adage about not quitting your day job holds true in professional lacrosse; Rabil plays alongside stockbrokers, sales reps and other guys with typical nine-to-five jobs.)
But Rabil’s life—and net worth—are about to skyrocket. By the end of 2013, Rabil was sponsored by about a half-dozen companies, according to Ira Rainess, his Baltimore-based advisor, who has also repped Cal Ripken Jr. and Ray Lewis. And over the next several years, these sponsorship deals will net him a couple million dollars, making Paul Rabil the first professional lacrosse player to earn seven figures.
While Rabil’s forthcoming financial milestone is decidedly a product of his own likeability and success—including two NCAA lacrosse championships with Johns Hopkins University, a gold medal with Team USA in the world lacrosse championships in 2010, and a 2011 MLL championship in with the Boston Cannons—he’s gotten a boost from the sport’s surging popularity.
Lax is the fastest-growing sport in the last 10 years, according Baltimore-based US Lacrosse, the sport’s national governing body. More than 720,000 players at the under-15, high school, collegiate and professional levels play the game, compared to roughly the 250,000 counted in 2001, the inaugural season of Major League Lacrosse. Long confined to New England and the mid-Atlantic states, the sport is now spreading to the South, the Midwest and West, with clinics popping up in Louisiana, Utah, Colorado and California.
“Over the last 30 years, it has become a very, very cool game,” says Michael French, co-owner of the Philadelphia Wings, one of the nine teams in the indoor National Lacrosse League founded in 1987. “We’ll go and play against the Mammoth in Colorado and they’ll have 18,000 people at the game. It’s no longer a sport of the Northeast.”
Those attendance figures have marketing and product development teams spinning at some of the biggest brands around the county.
“Their research is telling them to get into the game now,” says Rainess, who himself played lacrosse at Pikesville High School. Just one gem of a statistic: A recent Sports and Fitness Industry Association survey found that 43 percent of lacrosse players come from households with annual incomes higher than $100,000.
“It’s a market where there’s plenty of disposable income to buy products—and lacrosse fans are very enthusiastic about the game,” Rainess continues. “In the next two or three years, you’re going to see a lot of companies investing in this sport.”
Note to Under Armour: put your chips in now before some other apparel company or shoe brand ends up owning the sport at the professional level.
Interestingly, Paul Rabil—a middle-class kid whose mom is a Catholic school art teacher and dad is a sales rep for a printing company in Washington, D.C.—was more excited about soccer and basketball up until he hit high school. He didn’t even touch a lacrosse stick before sixth grade, when a neighbor invited him to play.
“It’s an extremely technical sport, so I was behind,” Rabil says. “I was always sort of ahead athletically, with my size, but I struggled with it, and wanted to quit, because I was so far along in basketball and soccer.”
Instead of quitting, he doubled down and went to DeMatha High School to play lacrosse exclusively.
“I was the biggest lacrosse rat you could imagine,” he says. “For me, it was all part of growing up. As a kid, you look for ways to express yourself—and there’s nothing more comfortable than doing so on a field for me.”
During the season, Rabil practices twice a week and he lifts weights and shoots around every day. Over the summer he hosts lacrosse camps where he coaches 50 high school-age, offensive players he hand-selects.
Off the field, Rabil also works to grow the sport he loves by bringing it to the next generation. Through the foundation that bears his name, for instance, Rabil, in conjunction with Warrior, bought all the lacrosse gear and equipment for the Baltimore Lab School—and he personally provided coaching and consulting—to help develop the school’s first lacrosse team.
“Within a year they had men’s and women’s varsity programs with full schedules,” says Rabil, who has a strong affinity for helping kids with learning differences. Rabil has auditory processing disorder and his little sister, now in the fashion business in Boca Raton, has dyslexia and attended the Lab School of Washington, where he offers an annual scholarship. “We’re also working with the Jemicy School now to help redesign their uniforms and strengthen their lacrosse program. They really welcomed me with open arms,” he says.
Rabil’s passion for his sport—and his desire to pass it on—are palpable, but the athlete is in nearly equal measure a business strategist. Described by Rainess as a “very intellectual and professional” guy, the political science major who graduated from Hopkins with a 3.5 GPA and a minor in entrepreneurship meets with his advisor every single week on the top floor of a downtown Baltimore office building. There they talk over the possibility of Rabil endorsing different products that companies send in, and manage current sponsorship deals together. Before the deal with Warrior was etched in stone and the Rabil Collection officially rolled out, the two of them spent 18 months poring over the particulars, with Rabil using much of that time to test out the on-the-field gear.
“I really take pride in the entrepreneurial spirit and being a part of what my sponsors are doing,” Rabil says. “I don’t just want to wear a logo, I want to help grow and build brands.”
Of course, in many ways, Rabil is the brand.
“We’re looking to build up a Paul Rabil experience, or platform,” says Erin Kane, who heads up an internal team entirely dedicated to the Brand of Rabil at New York City-based marketing agency Octagon, where he signed a few months ago.
“Warrior is trying to replicate what Michael Jordan did with Nike,” says Howe Burch, executive vice president and managing director of TBC advertising agency in Fells Point, who has also spent time in the sports marketing departments of Fila and Reebok. “They’ve built a collection around Rabil, and hopefully that collection will endure long after he stops playing.”
Big shoes to fill indeed, but the man behind the lacrosse helmet—a man whose biceps are louder than the decibel level of his voice in a crowded bar—doesn’t get caught up in thinking of himself professional lacrosse’s prime-time player, even if The New York Times once crowned him the guy who will make lacrosse sexy to a national audience.
“That’s one of those things I don’t really think about,” Rabil says. “I get pegged on it occasionally, and I’m cool with it, but I really, truly do believe that lacrosse as a sport will one day be a mainstream game, and the growth will be unbelievable.”
Indeed, as more players like Rabil sign endorsement deals and present a version of lacrosse divorced from the perception of the college-age, beer-guzzling “lax bro,” Rainess predicts other companies will take the pro game seriously and gravitate to it.
“The growth of this sport is not going to stop,” says MLL commissioner David Gross. “It’s been growing at a 10 percent clip for the past decade. And once people get exposed to it, they get hooked.”
Read STYLE’s Q&A with Paul Rabil here. >>
Highlandtown Gallery is the brainchild of interior designer Felicia Zannino-Baker, who grew up in the venerable ‘hood and has been promoting local artists all her life. In this airy space, recently renovated from 2011 earthquake ruin, Savvy swooned over steampunk art by Maury Dickson, metal collages by Ed Gross, intricate ink drawings by Debbie Lynn Zwiebach, whimsical brushstrokes by Maria Cavacos and even jewelry. (The coffee and pastries didn’t hurt, either.) Plus, we’re in love with Valentine—swoon—the owner’s nephew who helps run the space. Exhibitions rotate bimonthly. Open Thursdays through Saturdays. 248 S. Conkling St., 410-327-7035, http://www.magnoliadesignsllc.com/HG
Photography by david stuck
Wholesale manager, A People United
St. Paul’s School for Girls class of 1998
A People United is known to Mount Vernon shoppers for its tempting storefront, but more than 80 percent of its business is wholesale. Kimberli Lagree-Simmons oversees the distribution of its Baltimore-designed clothing collections to high-end reps. A People United is a socially responsible business; the clothing designs are made in Nepal by workers earning a living wage. A portion of sales supports the Nepalese Santi School where A People United provides scholarships and helps steer educational policy reform and teacher training.
For Lagree-Simmons, who’s been a model, fashion show producer and TV host, her job brings together her passions for humanitarianism, diversity and design.
She began at St. Paul’s when she was just 9 years old. Her public school recommended that her mother expand her daughter’s academic opportunities by sending her to private school, which she did through the Baltimore Educational Scholastic Trust (BEST). She earned an additional full scholarship, was the first middle schooler chosen for the high school dance team, and was active in student government. She co-coordinated the first statewide diversity conference with the National Association of Independent Schools.
“Because St. Paul’s embraced diversity, I learned to walk into situations with an open mind—which opens you up to so many opportunities you might otherwise miss,” she says. “That was the most important thing I learned there that I hold with me today.”
Kathleen Cusack Lyon
Kathleen Cusack Lyon
Co-owner, The Senator and The Charles Theaters
Friends School class of 1997
When Kathleen Cusack Lyon looks back on her time at The Friends School, what she remembers most was that the school instilled the ideas of tolerance, love and understanding at a time when most kids are only interested in what they’re doing on Saturday night.
“They taught us about living simply and to change the world,” she says. “It was a very outward-looking philosophy that very much asked ‘what are you going to do to make the world better?’ which is really neat to hear as a teenager when you’re at the peak of your self-absorption.”
Lyon went on to a career as a lawyer, but left to join her father, who owned The Charles, in the movie theater business. Shortly after she quit her day job, The Senator went to auction. After acquiring the iconic theater, the co-owners spent four years navigating the oft-muddy waters of historic restoration. The landmark opened in October 2013 and now features three new theaters, which should ensure its stability well into the future.
Though any business can feel exhausting at times (“people think we sit around waxing eloquent about movies all day, but it’s really more about popcorn and paperwork”), Lyon says she still works hard to live by some of the principles she learned at Friends—mainly to listen to others and treat them fairly. “I can’t be everyone’s friend, but I feel I’ve succeeded if people see a decision I make as reasonable if it’s not popular.”
Founder & CEO, Intaba, Inc.
Boys’ Latin class of 1988
Murdock Henderson’s life story sounds like that of an over-achiever scholar athlete. Henderson transferred to Boys’ Latin from public school at the encouragement of his lacrosse coach and saw the BL team to a championship title. He graduated magna cum laude from his M.S., M.A. and doctoral degrees. While riding his bike from San Francisco to Washington, D.C., to celebrate his 40th birthday, he decided to start a nonprofit.
What makes Henderson’s story unique is that he’s been deaf since birth.
Henderson explains that he communicated with spoken English at Boys’ Latin. “I’m a longtime survivor and able to adapt in different situations,” he explains. “It was definitely a challenge to communicate and there were some cultural barriers to overcome. [But] I think that’s led me to where I am.”
Today Henderson is an adjunct associate professor at Gallaudet University and active father of two, but his heart is in Intaba, a nonprofit he began after a trip to South Africa in 2007 showed him the substandard opportunities available to deaf children in the developing world. Intaba raises funds and partners with local organizations in countries including China and Guyana to help those who are deaf or hard of hearing to overcome barriers and improve their quality of life.
On that solo bike ride, Henderson realized attention-grabbing sporting events were a great way to raise money. Hence, this summer he will be paddling the Amazon River—more than 3,000 miles—in hopes of raising $1 million for the cause. He doesn’t see his deafness as an issue and even quips that “most people would be scared of what they’re hearing in the Amazon!” Yet his hope is “to spread the word that people with disabilities can overcome anything.”
Gilman class of 1994
When Judah Adashi premiered his composition “Inner City” at the Walters Art Museum last November (a piece commissioned by the museum) his first-grade teacher from Gilman School was in attendance. He also keeps up with his old history teacher, whom he credits with piquing his interest in social justice and civil rights issues, and fondly recalls his high school music teacher.
Adashi teaches at the Peabody Conservatory, but his primary passion is composing classical chamber music. His compositions have been performed throughout the U.S., Canada and Europe. He describes “Inner City” as “a love song to Baltimore” that blends classical music with recordings of sounds collected around the city. Although he knows Gilman’s reputation is for academics and athletics, he found it a nurturing environment for an artsy kid.
“It was an incredibly formative time in terms of what I do now and who I am personally and professionally,” he states. He directed and sang with the student a capella group and did musical direction and played piano for theater productions including his most memorable, a performance of “West Side Story” his junior year.
“In high school, music became something communal, something I shared with other people,” he says, “and that’s really what I do now.”
Founder and CEO, My Sister’s Circle
Maryvale class of 1989
Heather Harvison gets to impact young women every day. Through My Sister’s Circle, the nonprofit Harvison founded in 2000, she matches at-risk young girls in Baltimore City middle schools with mentors who help them navigate the difficult years of adolescence. The organization also provides enrichment opportunities such as summer camp and college and career counseling. In many ways, Harvison is honoring the lessons she says she learned at Maryvale.
“Maryvale did teach the gospel of social justice,” she says. “I always say I was given so much love and support and guidance through Maryvale and my family, that I, in turn, want to pay that forward and offer that opportunity—those resources and that network of connections—to my girls.”
Harvison, who describes her young self as “on the shy side,” says she grew in Maryvale’s close-knit environment where young women were encouraged to be leaders. She was the lead in a school play and worked on the student newspaper. She excelled in her public speaking class where students were made to put money into a jar if they uttered “Um” or “like.”
Harvison started My Sister’s Circle when some volunteer work exposed her to the need for young, urban girls to have positive role models,. To date, 130 girls have benefited from My Sister’s Circle programs and a new affiliate recently opened in Dallas. One of the first participants just graduated from Temple University and is entering Teach For America.
Melissa North Grant
Melissa North Grant
Marine Biologist, University of Maryland Center for Environmental Sciences (UMCES) Horn Point Oyster Hatchery
Garrison Forest School class of 1997
Melissa North Grant does not have a glamorous job. It’s often cold and wet. There’s frequently mud. But as a researcher at UMCES’ Horn Point Oyster Hatchery she’s helping to correct the Chesapeake Bay ecosystem by restoring the native oyster population. Oysters are a keystone species that act as essential filters for the bay’s water. Oyster reefs are also an important habitat for fish and other animals. In the 2013 season, the hatchery deployed 1.2 billion spat—that’s baby oysters—into the bay.
Grant unequivocally credits her career success and her passion for learning to her high school education. “Garrison really taught me how to be a scholar,” she says. “We learned how to think critically, to be independent, out-of-the-box thinkers.”
Even in her research today, she pushes herself to look beyond standard answers to deeper meanings. A strong sense of community, the encouragement that comes from being in a family-like environment and the reality that her school was invested in her both emotionally and academically were powerful motivators for Grant later in life.
Erika Feller, M.D.
Erika Feller, M.D.
Medical director of heart transplant and ventricular assist devices at the University of Maryland Medical Center
St. Timothy’s class of 1985
When Erika Feller joined the University of Maryland Medical
Center’s transplant team in 2004, the program was in its infancy, conducting perhaps five transplants a year. The program has since flourished; Feller sees more than 50 patients a week, the program does up to 20 transplants a year and people come from all over the East Coast to obtain ventricular assistance devices.
Feller cultivated an interest in acute cardiac care while training at Temple University, but her understanding of leadership, self-motivation and the hard work required to make it to the top of her field were established during her time as a boarder at St. Timothy’s.
Because it was a boarding school “you really had to have grit because you had to do things on your own,” Feller recalls. “You didn’t have your mom or dad kicking you out of bed to go get breakfast. You had to be a self-starter.”
Although it wasn’t explicit, she says St. Tim’s instilled a sense of purpose in graduates as well.
“They kind of say that you’ve been given a huge opportunity in life to do something and you better do it, because that’s why we’re here—to give back and be productive in our lives,” she says. “If it’s something that’s important to society, great. If it’s something that’s important to just a few people, that’s great, too. Whatever it is, just do it with gusto and pass your knowledge on.”
“We were expected to succeed, without question,” says Grant, “and when someone believes in you like that, it really drives you.”
“Being the first woman speaker and breaking the marble ceiling is pretty important. Now it’s time to move on.”
’58 Institute of Notre Dame
Jason Odell Williams Emmy-nominated writer and producer of “Brain Games,” a documentary series for the National Geographic Channel.
Peacemaker. International Conflict Specialist Works to establish health care, support democratic governments and facilitate elections in post-conflict nations.
’82 Oldfields School
Mary Renner Beech
Chief marketing officer at Kate Spade
’90 Roland Park Country School
Gen·ius. The world’s greatest living theoretical physicist.
’68 Park School of Baltimore
Emmy-nominated set designer.
’85 Garrison Forest
Baltimore Orioles Pitcher
‘07 St. Paul’s School for Boys
Richelle Parham, chief marketing officer, eBay, ’86 Bryn Mawr.
Jason Winer, producer and director for “Modern Family” and “New Girl,” ’90 Friends School.
Natalie Standiford, author of “The Secret Tree” named one of the best books of 2012 by The New York Times, ‘79 Friends School.
Patricia M.C. Brown, president Johns Hopkins Healthcare, LLC, ‘78 Maryvale Prep.
Justin Boston, professional race car driver, ’08 Boys’ Latin.
Kerry Kavanaugh, reporter, WBAL-TV, ‘96 Maryvale Prep.
Eric Papenfuse, indie bookstore owner turned mayor of Harrisburg, Pa., ’89 Boys’ Latin.
Alan Wiggins, currently debuting on Broadway in “The Lion King”, ’01 St. Paul’s School for Boys.
Guy McKhann, neurosurgeon featured in the ABC documentary series “NY Med,” ‘80 St. Paul’s School for Boys.
Sara Kennedy, epidemiologist and co-founder Hope for West Africa, ’03 St. Paul’s School for Girls.
James Piper Bond, CEO, Living Classrooms, ‘77 Gilman.
Tony Foreman, restaurateur, ‘83 Gilman.
Emilie Kirkland MacFarlane, vice president, controller, Lilly Pulitzer, ’96 St. Paul’s School for Girls.
Rachel Magruder Allen, deputy director, Smithsonian American Art Museum, ’68 Roland Park Country School.
Ben Queen, wrote screenplay for PIXAR’s “Cars II,” ’92 McDonogh.
Amitabh Desai, director of foreign policy for the Clinton Foundation. ’94 McDonogh.
Lea Gilmore, blues singer and human rights activist, ’83 Mercy High School.
Bridget Ward Horner, VP-IT, Constellation Energy Nuclear Group, ’81 Institute of Notre Dame.
Kimberly Dozier, AP journalist who survived a bombing in Iraq, ’84 St. Timothy’s.
Nancy Longo, owner, Pierpoint Restaurant, chef of the Baltimore Ravens, ’80 Institute of Notre Dame.
Mandy Cabot, CEO and co-founder of Dansko, ’72 Garrison Forest.
Beth Botsford, Olympic gold medalist for swimming, ’99 Garrison Forest.
Jeffrey Nattans, executive vice president, Legg Mason. ’85 Calvert Hall.
Judith Palfrey, director, Global Pediatrics Program, Boston Children’s Hospital, ‘63 The Bryn Mawr School.
Randy Greer, cinematographer, ‘79 Jemicy School.
Mario Armstrong, Emmy Award-winning TV host and digital lifestyle expert, ’88 Calvert Hall.
Long before the world had mixologists, there were herbologists. During the Middle Ages, apothecaries were the source of tinctures and herbal elixirs that provided relief from ailments and anxieties. This delicious, detoxifying concoction may be enjoyed as a cocktail over ice—or, omitting the bourbon, served warm in equal parts organic green tea for relief from winter’s chill or a cold.
1 inch piece fresh ginger (peeled and finely sliced)
Juice from half a medium lime
4 sprigs fresh mint
1 pinch cayenne pepper
1 teaspoon of organic honey (or agave nectar)
4 oz filtered or bottled water
2 oz Lexington Bourbon
Add finely sliced ginger, lime juice, mint, pepper, honey (or agave) and bourbon in a glass and muddle vigorously. Fill glass with fresh ice, top with filtered water and stir well before enjoying.
Never let it be said that Savvy is a slouch in the elocution department. Though V Fashion Towson/My Town Art Gallery may be a mouthful, Savvy is up to the task. So is Valerie Lambros Heneberry, who named the Ruxton spot to showcase her husband’s work—and her penchant for jewelry and accessories. Hubby is Patrick Reid O’Brien, famous for his dreamy, evocative works that put Savvy in mind of pointillist Maxfield Parrish. Look for wristlets and scarves by Spartina, 18K gold necklaces with Tahitian pearls by Catherine Canino and adorable travel boxes by PurseN. 1515 La Belle Ave., Ruxton, 443-928-0038
Photo by David Stuck
We thought we were being clever. In preparation for Valentine’s Day, we sent two of our favorite people—Erica Reid Harrison, lead cake designer at La Cakerie, and her hubby John Harrison, a senior web manager—for a touchy-feely Partner Yoga session with local guru Sid McNairy of Sid Yoga Center in Towson (with an additional studio now open in Federal Hill). We figured they’s come out of the studio spouting adorably different Mars-vs.-Venus style interpretations of their experience. Turns out, they did us one better. Both had nearly identical (and very poignant) responses to the workshop, which consisted of face-to-face meditation, mirror poses and partner stretching. Either that means Erica and John are made for each other—or Sid is as good as his many loyal fans attest. (We think it’s probably both.) $125, private session. http://www.sidyoga.com
I always have a hard time touching my toes. But today, with Erica’s help, it was so much easier. She instinctively knew when to push and when to pull back. I guess that’s a pretty good analogy for our relationship. Like this morning. I was the one who got out of bed early to feed the cats and make a cup of coffee to stick under her nose. Tomorrow, she’ll do it. One of the most interesting parts of the exercise for me was the seated meditation when we were facing each other. It reminded me of this performance artist Marina Abramovic. During her MOMA retrospective, she asked people to come in and just sit across the table from her while they stared into each other’s eyes. In like five minutes, half of the participants burst into tears. Today was kind of like that for us, but not as sad. I could certainly see some sadness in Erica, but then I’d see love, and then anxiety and then love again. When you really take time to look at another human being, that’s a powerful thing.
John and I lead very athletic lives, but separately. I’m into running, he’s into long-distance cycling. Occasionally we’ll join the other, but we don’t really bond during those experiences. Today was totally different and not at all like I imagined. I figured it would be all about stretching, but I was surprised to find there was so much more to it. Yes, we achieved things together physically, but it was because Sid taught us to use nonverbal communication to cue into what the other person needs—to connect our hearts and use the actual warmth we generated to help each other. It’s funny, John always tells me that we can be in the same room together without speaking. And he’s right! Sometimes it’s nice just to breathe the same air. I think we will take some of the skills home—maybe even take time to stretch and relax together without the TV or the rush of making dinner. Relationships are all about learning to speak effectively and listen well. Now we can do it without even saying a word.
OK, so Savvy is lazy. Sometimes she can’t be bothered to go to a brick-and-mortar store when she can shop in her PJs. How convenient that Boheme Blue is ready to satisfy her whims. Local gal pals Rachel Gill and Nicole Sweeney created the Internet shop after they had children. They still wanted to exercise their fashion muscles— and their cheekiness—but on a budget. Thus, their collection of sexy tees, fringed shawls, sequined jackets and chunky sweaters suitable for all ages. Savvy has her eye on the Agate Leather Wrap Bracelet for $48, while STYLE’s editor-in-chief says she must have the “I Wish I Was an Olsen Twin” T-shirt. http://www.bohemeblue.com
My first car was a 1969 Buick LeSabre—metallic blue. It looked like a state police cruiser. Gas was 53 cents a gallon then, and Richard Nixon was still in the White House. It was 1974. My LeSabre was the sort of car that old ladies drove other old ladies to church in on Sundays. I was mortified. It was not the car I wanted. My friends were driving Saabs and Volvos and Jeeps—vehicles in which one could assuredly meet worldly women (not old ladies) and have other adventures. But my father, who was the underwriter of this purchase, was a practical man, and we had mechanics that worked for the family business. The mechanics, who were named Leo and Bunny (not sure why), pronounced that Buick LeSabre a good car. They were right.
I never met any worldly women while driving that car, but I did meet a high-spirited divorced nurse—an older woman who drove a Volkswagen Beetle. We rode around in her car. I did have a few adventures. Once, after an evening’s merriment, I drove my LeSabre off the road into a field and fell asleep. I distinctly recall the children of the farmer who owned said field waking me the following morning, excited to find me in the pasture. No harm was done, and the farmer (a more worldly fellow than I would have expected to find in Penobscot County, Maine) pulled my car out of his field with his tractor and sent me on my way with a bad hangover and a lesson learned.
The first car is every American’s birthright. It’s one of the Four Freedoms. No? It’s the Fifth Freedom. Mobility. Everyone has a good first car story. And all first car stories are, upon reflection, bad first car stories. Forget baseball and apple pie. Nothing is more American than buying that first car—and the troubles that often come with it. What you’re actually buying is someone else’s last car, or, as Leo and Bunny would call it, “somebody else’s problems.” Who among us does not have somewhere in the back lot of their memory a Rambler or a Cutlass or a Dodge Dart of highly dubious provenance in which they took to the highways searching for adventure?
My next car was a VW Rabbit—an eggshell blue hatchback. My father shook his head, but I was off the payroll and it was my decision. Leo and Bunny pronounced my Rabbit NOT a good car. They were right. But as Dr. Franklin told us, experience keeps a dear school but a fool will learn in no other.
The car changed American life. It certainly changed mine—and I’m sure it changed yours, too. With a car one can go places and do things (like meet divorced older nurses and have adventures).
Baltimore is most assuredly a town that was changed by the car. I suppose many of Baltimore’s woes might be blamed on Henry Ford. Before the car became common, folks walked or rode the streetcar or the trolley. And they shopped near where they lived, and they lived in the city. The glades and glyns of Glyndon and the garths and glens of Glen Burnie were a far country once upon a time. We tend not to remember that. The suburban sprawl that surrounds Baltimore, sucking the life out of the city, has a lot to do with the car (and race, but we’ll save that for another time)
Of course, these days the real adventure starts at the car dealership. No two buyers ever pay the same price for a car. The sticker price is meaningless. You can study Consumer Reports like a biblical scholar, but to what avail? Up is down on the showroom floor. I bought a car recently after wild and protracted negotiations with at least a half-dozen dealerships. It was exhausting.
In the end, I did what most American men would do. I bought the car my wife wanted. I don’t know if my late father or Leo or Bunny would pronounce it a good car. But I do know that I won’t be meeting any worldly women in it.
If you’re desperately seeking an affordable, romantic getaway with your sweetheart, consider an overnight at the Antrim 1844 Country House Hotel in nearby Taneytown, Md. General manager John Vonnes describes Antrim’s winter special ($119 per person, per night) as “the best pricing of the year.” Available through March 31 (except for Valentine’s Day weekend, sorry lovers), the package includes dinner at the inn’s elegant and Smokehouse restaurant. Chef Spencer Wolff, who took over the kitchen last August, has lightened up the menu—both literally and figuratively—with such whimsical and colorful presentations as deconstructed Niçoise salad (a tower of ahi tuna, haricots verts and Yukon gold potato, topped by a farm egg) or a vibrant sea bass on a bed of black forbidden rice with a swirl of bright yellow curry sauce. A romantic meal, says Wolff, who comes most recently from The Hamilton in D.C., “can be about eating with your eyes.” Many of the Antrim’s rooms have wood-burning fireplaces, and the winter package also includes afternoon tea and hors d’oeuvres and a full country breakfast. Good morning, sunshine. 30 Trevanion Road, Taneytown, 410-756-6812. http://www.antrim1844.com
Few men are hands-on when it comes to interior design. You can’t blame them. The process has so many moving parts, and there are football games to watch and steaks to be grilled. Sure, weighing in on wall colors and artwork can be intriguing. But pulling together fabrics to dress a room? Adjusting architectural elements to add interest to a room with no windows? As designer Elizabeth Reich of Jenkins Baer Associates explains, “The design process is a puzzle, and most people need help putting the pieces together. What I’ve learned from the men I’ve worked for is they need a little coaxing to take the proverbial man cave to the level of personal style and comfort they want.”
Reich designed a bachelor pad in a new Baltimore County condominium complex for a 40-something professional grant reviewer. He rented a place for years “that had no style at all,” he relates, with the disclaimer, “I had no exposure to interior design and not much interest, either.” He knew he needed to buy and install an investment-worthy home, but aside from “something comfortable with a young, modern feel,” he wasn’t sure of what he truly desired. He had purchased a top-floor condo during construction and, in the drywall stage, found Reich through a friend-in-common. She came to take a look, promptly dubbed the project “the bachelor pad” and assembled a presentation that blew him away.
Reich says. “The softness, warmth and masculine colors of a Manhattan condo featured in Architectural Digest caught his attention. The mood just grabbed him. He called me not even a day later to say I had the job.”
Reich started by learning his habits and interests. “Listening to music and reading were high priorities,” she says. “And he’s tall, so I knew extra-long sofas were important for stretching out.” He told her he wanted a desk in a study and he’d already chosen his kitchen cabinets. The next steps were her own. “I have a process that starts with allotting the space and affixing the architectural details to dress each room up or down,” she says. “Then, I find the appropriate furnishings. I finish by choosing the wall colors.”
Her suggestions brought out a sensibility that surprised even this design naïf. He went for the unusual artwork and chandeliers, furnishings with a rustic-meets industrial look, and even the paint finish for a sexy powder room inspired by a box made of bone that Reich loves. Did our bachelor know all the parts would work? Hardly. But he was game, and in the end, made a happy discovery. The few pieces of his own he brought fit right in.
Java-obsessed Phil Han’s first business venture was a pop-up coffee stand at his family’s Korean church in Hanover, Md. “My thought was, if I can convince an older generation of Koreans to like this coffee, maybe we can convince others,” says the Gilman and Babson College graduate who opened Dooby’s Coffee in Mount Vernon in August.
The name is derived from Han’s childhood nickname—his mother called him deukgobbi (the Korean word for croaking toad) because he cried so much as a baby. The menu, like the interior, is minimal: soups, sandwiches and a handful of South Korean-influenced dishes, and for dinner, small plates and the occasional entrée (like a bone-in rib-eye) are available along with wine, beer and cocktails. Of course there are Counter Culture coffee drinks and baked goods by Katie Boyts. “This will be the only place in town you can get a Fruity Pebble marshmallow cookie,” Han notes.
He and Chef Paul Lee (who cooked at Daikaya in D.C.) also came up with the Cambodian chicken salad, which Han calls “a destination chicken salad.” The idea, he says “was to create a memorable flavor profile that’s almost mildly offensive,” thanks to Thai red chili peppers and a dash of fish sauce in the mix. It’s served on homemade sourdough, which Han points out, “has a rockin’ flavor.” Dooby’s Coffee, 802 N. Charles St., 410-702-5144. http://www.doobyscoffee.com.
I’m not what you would call a laid-back sort of person. My husband calls me a hurricane; my massage therapist says I have “tight tuchas syndrome.” I just say I’m a nervous wreck. For the past several years, I’ve given a lot of thought to meditation—and even tried it a few times. But every time I sit down to meditate, my mind wanders to the deadline I’m missing, the bagel with melted Muenster cheese I’d like to be eating or that backroom sale at Loehmann’s. I can’t help but think that my attempts at meditation are a waste of precious time.
Still, it’s hard to dismiss the mounds of scientific data proving that stress is a major health hazard with a direct link to strokes, heart attacks, depression, anxiety, insomnia, digestive disorders and infertility—and that meditation can significantly reduce stress. With data such as this, choosing not to meditate seems downright self-destructive.
So, I decided to give it another shot, asking Steve Haddad— instructor at Charm City Yoga and president of Sangha Solutions, a mindfulness based consulting firm for non-profits—to set me up with a daily mediation practice to, quite literally, help save my life.
Haddad practices Vipassana or “insight” meditation, a 2,500-year-old Buddhist mind training that increases awareness, compassion and helps us to live in the moment. It also discourages reverting to deeply entrenched, often self-defeating patterns of thinking and behavior.
“You can be mindful doing anything—washing dishes, sitting in traffic, bring it into your world,” says Haddad, who recommends that beginners start home practice by setting a designated time at least three times a week for about 15 minutes. Gradually work up to 30 or more minutes daily. For best results, combine home practice with community practice so you can get a little guidance and support. (Note: Vipassana is challenging, even uncomfortable at times, and requires dedication.) While enlightenment may be years away, you should notice a difference after 21 days of committed practice. And who knows, your blood pressure might just go down, too. http://www.charmcityyoga.com
Here’s how to meditate Vipassana-style:
• Find a comfortable seat, and sit cross-legged, or with legs splayed out in front or tucked behind you. Sitting on a chair is fine—or just sit against a wall. It’s important to sit up straight so there is a clear
passage for the breath.
• You may wish to make a resolution before each practice session. Doing so will help strengthen your determination. You can use your own words, but the spirit of the aspiration should be something like this: “By this practice of insight meditation may I reach the end of suffering. May others also benefit from this wholesome action.”
• Close your eyes, or if you prefer keep them open, casting a soft gaze at a non-moving space in front of you.
• Scan the body, noticing any areas of tension or discomfort, and try to relax them.
• Start by focusing on your abdomen. Breathe normally but pay attention to the sensation of the breath going in and out of your body. To help you to focus, silently tell yourself, “I’m breathing in; I’m breathing out,” or “rising; falling.” You can put your hands on your abdomen if it helps you to focus.
• So you might think now’s the time for you to start chanting “ommmm” or to picture yourself relaxing on a tropical beach. (That’s so transcendental, baby.) These aren’t part of the Vipassana practice. Instead, just keep focusing on your breath.
• Expect that after about two seconds, you will get distracted. Note the distraction, but don’t criticize yourself.
• Do inquire about the distraction. Is it a thought, a feeling, an anxiety? Silently label it for yourself with a simple word, like “thought” and let it go.
• Ditto if you encounter an external distraction, like a door shutting. Don’t think too much about it. Simply label it “sound” and let it go. (Note: In a 15- or 20-minute session, Haddad estimates one will get distracted 40 or 50 times. That’s OK. Just keep returning to the breath.)
• Once your session is complete, open your eyes (if they were shut) and slowly rise, making a commitment to practice mindfulness throughout the day.
Hot yoga, power yoga, acro yoga, yogalates, even hula hoop yoga…with Western takes on Downward Dog everywhere you look, it’s easy to forget where, when and why the ancient practice originated. Yoga: The Art of Transformation, a new exhibition at the Arthur M. Sackler Gallery at the Smithsonian, explores yoga’s transformative powers with visual art and ephemera from the second century CE to the mid-20th century. The exhibition includes 133 objects including stone, bronze and marble sculptures, paintings, illustrated manuscripts, a scroll, photographs, films, books and printed materials, posters and postcards and examines yogic philosophy and its role in the Jain, Buddhist, and Sufi and Hindu traditions. One word: Namaste. Through Jan. 26, 2014. http://www.asia.si.edu.
No trip to the Big Apple is complete without a stop in the borough of Brooklyn, a bastion of all things arty and au courant. Take the subway to Eastern Parkway, or get off at Grand Army Plaza to explore the vibrant neighborhood of Park Slope. It’s a short walk from there to the 560,000-square-foot Beaux-Arts building that houses the Brooklyn Museum. You’ll feel right at home, since the museum’s director is none other than Arnold L. Lehman, former director of the BMA. Now showing: The Fashion World of Jean Paul Gaultier: From the Sidewalk to the Catwalk. This is the only East Coast venue for the multi-media exhibition which includes 140 haute couture and prêt-à-porter ensembles as well as sketches, costumes, film excerpts and fashion photography dating back to the designer’s earliest days when he designed clothes for his muse, ‘Nana the teddy bear’ to today. Gaultier’s avant-garde designs are more than beautiful, they challenge societal norms about gender politics and aesthetics. Through Feb. 23, brooklyn http://www.museum.org. —Simone ellin
It’s extraordinary how powerful viewing a single object can be. Like the shackles, worn by an actual slave, on display in the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History & Culture’s new exhibition, “The Kinsey Collection: Shared Treasures of Bernard and Shirley Kinsey—Where Art and History Intersect.” Also on display: an early copy of the Emancipation Proclamation, the historic document most of us believe spelled an end to slavery. While technically true, the exhibition shows how laws such as the Black Codes and Jim Crow put into effect after the Civil War continued to restrict the lives of African-Americans until the civil rights movement of the 1960s. Don’t miss this incomparable collection of manuscripts, artifacts and rare art, collected by Bernard and Shirley Kinsey, a couple who have spent their 40 years of marriage collecting items that, yes, shed light on a tragic history—but also celebrate the resiliency, courage and remarkable levels of achievement reached by a group of people confronted with seemingly insurmountable obstacles. Through March 2. General admission, $6-$8. 443-263-1800, http://www.rflewismuseum.org —Simone Ellin
The Amazing Johnny Eck, one of Baltimore’s most famous personalities, was born in 1911 without legs. Known as “the half-man” in the film Freaks (1932) and “the most remarkable man alive” by Robert Ripley, Eck lived life as a sideshow performer, artist, photographer, gymnast and more. An exhibit of Eck’s screen paintings (created with his twin brother), family photographs, personal objects and memorabilia is on display at MICA, telling the story of this fascinating man. Through March 16 at Decker Gallery. Free. 410-669-9200, http://www.mica.edu
Prepare all your senses for the Hippodrome’s most colorful performance. The multi-talented and Grammy-nominated Blue Man Group comes to the stage for a show that transcends all barriers, culture, age and language. The painted men take entertainment to the next level with a hybrid of music, comedy and special effects. Jan. 10-12. Tickets, $35-$95. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Glimpse into artist Henri Matisse’s quiet personal life with more than 50 images of his daughter Marguerite, including sculptures, paintings and drawings. Matisse completed the portraits when he struggled with his artistic vision and was striving for acclaim. The one-of-a-kind works in Matisse’s Marguerite: Model Daughter offer an insight into the deep connection between the father and daughter for more than 45 years. The exhibit includes never-before-seen items from private collections and other museums. Through Jan. 19 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. 443-573-1701, http://www.artbma.org
MR. CARTER TOUR
He’s sold more than 50 million albums, is worth $500 million, has three of his albums on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Albums of All- Time list—and, of course, has been married to Queen Bey for five years. If you missed Jay Z last summer in Baltimore, hop down to the
Verizon Center on Jan. 16 for the Magna Carta World Tour. We’ve got 99 problems, but this concert ain’t one. Tickets, $32-$150. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Share some laughs (and maybe a few tears) as the silent films of the 1920s come roaring back to life in Chaplin’s Back, a live performance with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. Celebrating 100 years since Charlie’s first film appearance, the BSO, conducted by Marin Alsop, will perform some of
Chaplin’s most beautiful movie scores and screen two classic gems, “The Kid” and “The Idle Class.” Jan. 30-31 at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $29-$65. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
Just say oui to Boeing-Boeing, the most performed French play throughout the world (according to “The Guinness Book of WorldRecords”). In this sexy ‘60s comedy, playboy Bernard juggles three (count ‘em, three!) fiancées—all of whom are flight attendants. Through finagling flight schedules, he manages to keep them all separate…until the airlines change their timetables and complete pandemonium and comedy ensue. Jan. 10-Feb. 9 at the Fells Point Corner Theatre. Tickets, $15-$20. 410-276-7837, http://www.fpct.org.
Your kids will squeal (and sing) in delight when Nick Jr.’s Kiki, Shout, Marina and Twist rock out at Baltimore Arena for The Fresh Beat Band’s tour. Our suggestion: bring a good attitude—and some Dramamine. (Their hit song is called “Spin Around!”) Jan. 18. Tickets, $26-$43. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Whether you’re a wrestling fan or just a John Cena fan (we know you’re out there, ladies!), this WWE Monday Night Raw won’t disappoint. There’s sure to be plenty of big musclemen, tattoos, grunting and sweat. In addition to Cena, Randy Orton, Daniel Bryan and other WWE stars will be wrestling it out for the title—but sorry, gents, no Stacy Keibler in this ring. Jan. 6 at the Baltimore Arena. Tickets, $20-$95. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Bad luck plagues the Magrath sisters in the Pulitzer Prize-winning play, Crimes of the Heart. Meg comes crawling home to Mississippi after a failed music career, lightning strikes Lenny’s horse, no one remembers her birthday, and Babe shoots her husband because she doesn’t like his looks. Surprisingly, this heart-warming play will leave you laughing and uplifted. Jan. 8-Feb. 2 at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $32-$60. 410-752-2208, http://www.everymantheater.org
Bring tissues. War Horse follows young Albert through his journey to reclaim his cherished Joey after the horse was torn away and sold to the Calvary in World War I. Albert’s quest to bring Joey home after three years of battle-ridden separation will move you—and be remembered as one of the most emotional performances in Hippodrome history. Feb. 4-9. Tickets, $30-$90. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
OUR KINDA PARTY
Tip your cowboy hat to Jason Aldean when he brings his 2014 Night Train Tour to Baltimore Arena on Feb 1. Aldean’s history-making headline stop at Fenway Park sold out in just seven minutes—and, this time, he’s bringing two other country heavyweights along for the ride. “Cruise” with Florida Georgia Line and rock out with the “Redneck Crazy” Tyler Farr until the 19-time ACM, CMA and Billboard award winner hits the stage—and drives his big green tractor right into your heart. Tickets, $26-$52. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
LIVE LONG AND PROSPER
The BSO goes where no symphony has gone before in this Sci-Fi Spectacular with host George Takei. Prepare your inner trekkie for the final frontier featuring selections from “Star Trek,” “E.T.,“ “Somewhere in Time” and “Star Wars.” Jack Everly, the conductor for the eccentric affair, previously conducted the National Symphony Orchestra in the National Memorial Day Concert and A Capitol Fourth. Feb. 20-23 at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $29-$94. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
When Hollywood comes to a small Irish town, the locals line up in hopes of being cast as extras. But the best part of the joyful Stones in His Pockets by Marie Jones is that two actors play more than a dozen townsfolk, whose dreams lead them (and the audience) to a delightful surprise. Jan. 15-Feb. 23 at Center Stage. Tickets, $10-$59. 410-332-0033, http://www.centerstage.org
When the creators of “South Park” took their comedic talents to Broadway, the result was nine Tony awards for the 2011 smash hit Book of Mormon. Coming to the Hippodrome with cast members from other hit Broadway shows and even TV’s “Gossip Girl,” the hysterical musical follows Elder Kevin Price, a suave missionary-in-the-making, who is paired with the nerdy, overweight Elder Arnold Cunningham on their first mission to Uganda. It’s hysterical and even heartwarming. Feb. 25-March 9 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $30-$150. 800-653-8000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Weird science meets the Food Network as Alton Brown, celeb chef and television personality, brings his quirky Edible Inevitable Tour to Baltimore. This 90-minute multi-media show features food experimentation, standup comedy and music. Be warned, if you are asked to assist with a project on stage, be sure to put on the lab coat! Feb. 22 at the Lyric. Tickets, $45-$150. 410-900-1150, http://www.lyricopera ouse .com
So you think you’re a tough mudder? On Feb. 15, don your favorite skivvies and run a mile for the Children’s Tumor Found-ation in Cupid’s Undie Run. Sure, you’ll be freezing your you-know-whats off, but it’s for a great cause. Plus, depending on how much money you raise, you’ll earn—not a medal, but a pair of official “I’m with Cupid” undies or even a plush, red embroidered bathrobe. Just think how warm you’ll be at the after party. Luckie’s Tavern at Power Plant Live! Registration, $35-$50 http://www.cupidsundierun.com/city/baltimore
It always bothers me when perfectly innocent foods such as chocolate, butter or bacon are demonized and described as “sinful” or “decadent.” After all, eating real food is nothing to feel guilty about. I’ll take a proper grass-fed steak over a processed soy burger any day, thanks.
That said, everything is best when taken in moderation and, around this time of year, many of us have consumed more than our fair share of rich, calorie-heavy meals. That doesn’t mean bland has to become your new buzzword. The following four dishes are hearty, rich and satisfying—and pack just as much of a flavor wallop as their more calorie-dense counterparts.
Slow roasting the tomatoes for the white bean dish brings out their gorgeous sweetness. (Hence my name for them: “tomato candy.”) This is a filling meal on its own, or serve with a lean protein such as white fish or pork tenderloin.
The Ethiopian lentils are smoky, spicy and oh-so-very good for you. For a complete meal, serve with a braised winter green. Meanwhile, in the spicy chicken soup, the light coconut milk keeps the calorie count down, while the chicken breasts stay super moist thanks to the fact that they’re poached right in the broth.
Finally, the Israeli couscous “risotto” is a lighter spin on the traditional buttery version of the dish. And if you think you don’t like Brussels sprouts, this dish might just change your mind.
The new Glyndon Grill, says owner John Barrett, “is all about the basics.” And the man behind the ever popular Barrett’s Grill, should know. The new restaurant—though a bit more casual than its big sister in Hunt Valley—appropriates about 20 percent of its menu from Barrett’s original namesake restaurant and the kitchen is helmed by Barrett’s former sous chef Ryan Worthington. Menu favorites include a lobster and shrimp roll, the tuna poke made with sushi-grade tuna on wonton chips with wasabi cream, and the popular French dip, thin-sliced prime rib with gruyere on a baguette. The interior is simple, a rustic-industrial vibe created by exposed ductwork and dark African mahogany tables, with black and white photos that document the region’s history. The private dining Sagamore room features images of the nearby Sagamore Farm. “Glyndon is a tight-knit community,” says
Barrett. “Old-time Glyndon has a lot of character, with the old post office and iconic buildings. We thought it would be great
to bring casual dining to the neighborhood.” 4844 Butler Road, Glyndon, 443-881-4183. http://www.glyndongrill.com
In her last year of college, Nutreatious CEO Dana Sicko was beginning the clinical rotations required for her bachelor’s degree as a registered dietician when an older man recovering from a heart attack ordered her out of his hospital room. By golly, he snorted, if he wanted to eat bacon and eggs each morning for the rest of his life, he darn well would and dismissed her nutritional services as “another way for the insurance companies to make money.” Sicko—and the heart-healthy diet she had written for him (sans bacon and eggs)—quickly left the room.
She laughs as she recounts the story. But the loud and clear message stuck: People do not want to be told what to eat. “I love bacon and eggs, too,” agrees Sicko. “I would hate to be told I couldn’t have them.”
Departing from the RD track where, in essence, telling people what they can’t eat if they want to become or remain healthy is the mainstay of the job, Sicko went on to graduate with a degree in nutritional science from the University of New Hampshire, where she was already cooking up the idea of a business like Nutreatious. “I would be sitting on the bus, coming home from intermural lacrosse games and conjure ways to make cookies and other treats healthier.” Hence the provenance of the company’s name.
After graduating in 2010 and working as a nutritional consultant for FX Studios in Cockeysville, she would tinker around in her kitchen late at night and bring in her offerings for the studio’s clients. “I somehow had to make a healthy blueberry muffin taste like a real blueberry muffin,” she says. She obviously paid attention in chemistry class, replacing coconut milk for fats, agave nectars for sugars, whole wheat or gluten-free wheat to get the proteins down for the perfect light and fluffy muffin. “It took a few years to get these muffins just right,” says Sicko, but her boss was immediately impressed, asking her to expand beyond her treat menu and begin cooking three meals a day for one of the studio’s clients.
Around that time, Baltimore native Harry Kassap returned home from living and working in Las Vegas where, as he puts it, he “gained weight and lost hair” and hadn’t exercised in 25 years. Walking around with extra pounds and high blood pressure, Kassap’s doctor told him to start exercising and eating right and handed him Sicko’s business card.
“I knew the right foods to eat, of course, but I was going for the Doritos over fruit any day,” recalls Kassap who took his doctor’s advice and called Sicko the next day. Impressed with Sicko’s professionalism, Kassap, handed over his credit card and told her, “I want you to cook every meal, using the freshest and best food for me.”
Once filled with junk food, Kassap’s kitchen is now stocked with fruits, dried fruits, water, herbal teas, high fiber cereals and low-fat organic milk. “I actually eat quinoa now, and I love it,” admits Kassap used to life off of processed meat. “Thanks to Dana, I still eat meat but now it’s organic grass-fed beef in her amazing Asian stir-fry dish.”
Each client begins with a personal consultation. “Everyone has a relationship with food,” says Sicko, “and it’s my job to understand what that is.” Some of her clients want to lose weight, some want to eat healthier and others have little time to cook. All have likes and dislikes. Sicko’s mission is to work within those likes and dislikes to create a healthy menu.
Under Armour founder Kevin Plank and his wife, DJ, simply wanted to start eating healthier, so they hired Sicko to map out a 12-week meal plan. “She cooked five meals a week plus healthy snacks for us,” says DJ. But Sicko did more. She contacted Plank’s secretary to discuss healthy lunch choices in his company’s cafeteria. She made kid-friendly fruit kabobs and vegan Rice Krispies treats the kids couldn’t resist. She tweaked her blackened fish taco recipe to please each member of the family—spicing it up for the adults; toning it down for the kids. It’s been over two years, and Sicko is still cooking weekly for the busy family. “She’s like a member of our family,” says DJ.
After a client’s initial consultation, Sicko, who now has two chefs working with her, creates a menu specific to each client’s needs. She sends a menu for the week via email, generates a grocery list upon approval, then shops and orders foods from Whole Foods and other specialty shops. “I am that serious shopper you see, two hands on the cart—no time for lulling around the aisles.”
After shopping, she and her chefs head to the clients’ homes to commence the week’s meal preparations. They cook the food—usually six to eight different mix and match dishes loaded with fruits and vegetables, affix labels to each container with reheating instructions, arrange them by meal and day in the refrigerator, and clean up. “The clients don’t even know we were there until they open the refrigerator,” says Sicko.
Recipe development is a big part of Sicko’s job. “I am a mad scientist with recipe reconstruction,” she admits. She has several families where one child eats gluten-free, another is lactose intolerant, the mom is a vegetarian and the dad wants meat. So she makes one big meal they can all come together around. “Everyone likes the vegetarian lasagna!” she says.
Looking back, Sicko realizes she was probably destined to one day work with food. “When I was 6, my parents gave me an Easy-Bake Oven for Christmas—and I attacked that thing, she says.
“My mom literally had to issue time restrictions on how much I could use it.”
In addition to her personal chef services, which start at $350 per visit plus the cost of food, Sicko recently added catering to Nutreatious’ menu of offerings. The organization-obsessed culinary wiz also offers “pantry transformations” and other kitchen design services, which included a recent trip to Utah to help one of her client’s set up shop in her new vacation home.
“I opened 30 boxes of appliances, pot and pans, and utensils,” she says. “It was unbelievable! I was in heaven.”
It is 3:15 a.m. as we make our way in dark silence to the chapel, a half-mile walk from the retreat house. The beam from our flashlight reflects on a blanket of frost glistening like fairy dust over the fields. Overhead, a nearly full moon and thousands of stars strewn across a navy blue sky provide extra wattage. The entire solar system appears cosmically aligned for this one glorious moment. I am exhausted and exhilarated. It is cold. No, it is freezing. But we do not utter one word; we are in the middle of The Great Silence when speaking is reserved for emergencies. All we hear is the exhalation of our breaths and the sound of pure, unadulterated peace.
I had toyed with the idea of retreating at Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville, Va., for many years. But when my incoming emails ratcheted up to a thousand and I realized I was starting to twitch when my iPad was out of sight, I finally got the message. It was time to unplug and go off the grid.
Even though this trip is about embracing silence, I don’t want to go solo. “Do we have to wear long hooded robes tied with a rope?” asks my friend Day lightheartedly after she agrees to come along.
As a talker, I had some misgivings. Even when I’m home alone, political pundits yak in the background. My husband was a doubting Thomas. He said I couldn’t stay tight-lipped for more than 20 minutes; that I’d be expelled for giggling. A friend suggested I pack a roll of duct tape, just in case. And my sisters howled at the image of me sans room service, Frette linens or my nightly glass of Cabernet.
But I had faith.
Nestled between the Shenandoah River and Blue Ridge Mountains, the abbey was founded in 1950 on a 1200-acre working farm. At its peak, 60 Cistercian Trappist monks lived in the historic 18th-century buildings; today there are 10—both young and old, monks-in-training and some who’ve lived here their whole lives. To make ends meet, they lease the farmland as pasture for beef cattle and sell fruitcake, creamed honey and chocolates.
My “cozy” (read: spartan) room and private bath have green cinder block walls. Furnishings are basic—a single bed, chair, built-in desk, floor lamp, nightstand. That’s it. There are no keys. No dead bolts. No safety chains. Doors lock from the inside only. My first instinct is to lock my wallet in the car, but—hold on—this is why I am here, to feel nurtured and safe.
The monks conduct seven daily services. Six are open to the public including Vigils, Lauds, Vespers and Compline. We attend them all. The monks chant, pray, recite passages from the Old
Testament or celebrate the Mass. We never sing or recite a prayer. We remain silent.
The only time we see all retreatants is at meals. A few nod or smile as we pass by. With others, I feel invisible. Initially, sitting at a communal U-shaped table with 15 silent men and women feels odd. After the second or third meal, I acclimate. I enjoy being in my own thoughts instead of engaging in idle chatter.
This is not a place for fussy eaters. Breakfast consists of dry cereals or toast with the monk’s flavored honey. Lunch is a tray of unidentified fish filets, a bowl of potatoes and carrots. While
I don’t usually eat red meat, Shepherd’s Pie is served at dinner. I clean my plate.
To pass the hours between services, Day journals and I spend time reading. Each time I catch a glimpse of my iPad tucked in my suitcase I feel like an alcoholic eyeing a bottle of bourbon. Just once I succumb to temptation. After skimming several meaningless emails I am overcome by guilt, I never reach for it again.
I thought our days might drag, but I discover that Mother Nature is better than any app. The emotional rush of our middle-of-the-night walks to church with stops to stargaze make me think of a quote I found in the library, “the quieter I become, the more I hear.”
Now that I’m home, I’m still no saint when it comes to my iPad obsession. But I am tuning out of mindless background noise and tuning into myself. I am speaking less; listening more. I’ve learned an important truth. Silence really is golden. Suggested donation, $75 to $150 per night. http://www.virginiatrappists.org.
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Either you will believe what I’m about to tell you, or you won’t. When I first was invited to try the new energy healing treatments at The Spa at the Four Seasons Baltimore, I figured it would be a chance to chill out in a beautiful space—and, hopefully, experience a few funny moments—like, say, discovering that my spirit animal is a cougar or a wombat.
To say that I was unprepared, spiritually or emotionally, for this journey is an understatement.
On day one I meet Hitomi, a seemingly ageless Japanese woman and the granddaughter of a Buddhist monk, for a Reconnective Healing session designed to relax me with “a bandwidth of powerful healing frequencies.” I lie on the table, clothed under a blanket while Hitomi holds her hands a few inches above my face, traveling down to hover over my abdomen and legs, and sometimes raising her hands up high, as if she were pulling fresh saltwater taffy out of my body.
True confession: For the first half of the session, I’m basically having a panic attack. My heart is beating out of my chest—probably because I’m not used to silence in my life. (I even sleep with a fan for the white noise.) Worse: I can’t stop thinking of “bad” things, like profanity and porn. This may sound crazy, but when put in situations where I’m supposed to be pure, my brain rebels and goes to the dark side.
“Oh my God!” I worry to myself. “What if this poor woman is psychic and can read my mind?” I start silently repeating the phrase “love and light”—laughing inside, because I think I stole it from Teresa on the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.”
Eventually, I calm down and focus on the warmth from Hitomi’s hands. At one point, it almost feels like she’s covering me in an electric force field a la “Star Wars.” But I still feel exhausted—heavy and dark, like a stone.
Then, in an instant, everything changes. My ears pop, and I see a flash of white light inside my eyelids. I feel a whooshing sensation like a gentle vacuum on either side of my head, and my heartbeat returns to normal. I swear, it almost feels like an exorcism.
“You fought me for a long time,” says Hitomi, explaining that, at first, some people are too on guard to let her work her magic as an energy “catalyst,” but eventually she always gets in. I leave feeling light, happy, energized and productive for the rest of the day.
Two nights later, my Reiki session with Terry gets more personal.
“You know those healers on TV who lay their hands on people and push them down to the ground?” she asks. I nod my head. “This will be kind of like that, but without all the drama.”
Terry claps and rubs her hands, then starts gently holding and massaging different parts of my body.
About 10 minutes into the session, she stops and says, “I’m sorry, but I have to ask you a question. I’m getting a sense of some past trauma—as if something was torn from you, like in a divorce or a car accident, and I don’t feel comfortable moving forward unless we address it.”
I’m floored, a little sad and strangely relieved. I’ve been carrying around the weight of my dad’s tragic death for nearly 20 years—something Terry says she feels on two energetic levels. The first is like an outer shell that’s entirely open, like a wound, which means that I feel everything around me, both good and bad. But my inner core craves safety.
“Just know that I’m holding a space of protection for you,” says Terry, as she helps to soothe me and talk through some strategies for moving forward after the session. That includes checking out a tapping modality called Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT) on YouTube for daily stress relief and finding a place where I feel completely safe—even if that’s just sitting in my car with the doors locked listening to music. (She suggests “Stronger” by Kelly Clarkson, and we both laugh.)
“I sense that you’re a smart cookie who tends to analyze rather than process the big stuff that happens in your life,” Terry adds, summarizing me in a nutshell. “But I think you’re going to have to feel your way out of this one.”
I commit to do the heavy emotional lifting—and Terry promises to be there to support me (and my energy) during the transition from fractured soul to whole.
“So what do you think my spirit animal would have been anyway?” I ask, smiling through a few tears. “Maybe a porcupine or a turtle—something with a hard outer shell?”
“I think a bird is better,” Terry replies, touching my arm warmly. “It’s time to set yourself free.” Reconnective Healing, $140. Reiki, $65-$100. http://www.fourseasons.com/baltimore/spa
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“We’re building the muscle that’s not being built.”
If that sounds like a mantra, you’re not far off. Though she doesn’t call it that, Anjali Sunita repeats the phrase often enough that it sure feels like one.
Dressed in a loose, gray-and-white striped sweater over cotton palazzo pants, the 32-year-old yoga instructor sits barefoot and cross-legged. With huge expressive eyes, delicate cheekbones and fluttering hands, she’s a slim little sparrow perched on a chair.
Anjali is leading our group of four women through a class called “Out-Loud Meditation: Find Your Voice & Speak Your Honest Truth.”
Silly me, I thought yoga was involved.
So I came dressed appropriately. Turns out that’s not necessary. For there is no movement in this class, at least not of the Downward-Facing Dog variety. We all sit in a circle
Anjali has been teaching yoga at the Baltimore Yoga Village, which she founded in 2007, after years of training at ashrams in Canada and India. Earnest about her endeavors to “create a sense of greater peace and ease for individuals and communities,” she nonetheless laughs easily and puts her bumbling charges—us—at ease. This workshop is all about, as Anjali calls it, “transformation.” Through a series of speaking exercises, we’re supposed to open up about our feelings and learn to talk freely, calmly and with authenticity.
Yes, it’s kind of therapy lite.
Anjali says she began conducting this class, after learning it from a man named Taber Shadburne in California, because she noticed that while many of her students would leave yoga sessions relaxed and at ease, they reported that the feeling didn’t last once they got home. The stress from real-life demands would make those floaty feelings of well-being evaporate like the vague memory of a dream.
The first exercise is called “Sometimes I Pretend.” You turn to the person next to you and begin your sentence with that phrase. Linda says, “Sometimes I pretend that I’m not annoyed when I really am.” The next woman says, “Thank you.” Then it’s her turn.
Jane says, “Sometimes I pretend I’m not hurt when my artwork is criticized.” I say, “Thank you,” and it’s my turn. My mind’s a blank. Actually, I’m naughty and can’t help thinking of a “Seinfeld” episode where George visits a shaman, but I can’t say that. So I turn to my left and reiterate Linda’s sentiment using different words. Paula, a wife and mother of two, says, “Thank you” and “Sometimes I pretend I’m happy when I’m not.”
This round-robin continues for a while, until Anjali starts us on another exercise, “Naming and Noticing.” We pair off, and stand facing each other. Here we have to describe physical sensations. “My cheeks feel hot.” “My neck is stiff.” “I have a headache.” Then we have to stand closer to each other (oh, no, another Seinfeld reference—the close talker!).
Paula is visibly uncomfortable. “We’re in each other’s space!” she says. Anjali encourages her to close her eyes and concentrate on her body. “Be in the present,” she counsels.
The third exercise is all about emotions. “No thoughts,” we’re admonished. This brings up the verbal stumbling familiar to anyone who’s gone through therapy: certain statements are considered thoughts, not feelings. Saying “I feel angry” is allowed; saying “that idiot ruined my roof and I’m going to make him pay” isn’t.
The fourth exercise combines physical sensations with emotional words, and the two don’t have to match. For example: “I feel the soft sweater on my skin” combined with “I feel excited.”
The point of all this? To get participants to take risks, says Anjali, to “dwell in uncomfortable feelings and let them pass.” But always, to acknowledge them, something she says women especially have a hard time doing.
“Women will often say ‘I’m sad’ when really what they mean is ‘I’m angry.’” she remarks, and the four of us immediately nod.
Though I continue to worry more about potential Seinfeldian eruptions than I do about my emotions, I have to admit this tantric talking does bring out a bit of intimacy in the circle. There’s a sense of calm and safety in the room. And I can see the power in achieving peace by effectively using your voice. (Note: Anjali also offers workshops that include singing.)
After hugging Anjali goodbye, the women file out into the night, pronouncing the experience “intriguing,” “worth thinking about” and “energizing.” Though I have a feeling Paula is going home to give hubby what-for. $30 per person, http://www.baltimoreyogavillage.com
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horrified. That’s the only word to describe my initial reaction to the idea of flotation therapy. Floating in a saltwater sensory deprivation tank did not sound peaceful fun to me. I’m the kind of gal who rarely has her nails done because I can’t stand the thought of sitting there literally watching paint dry. Seriously, I’ve got shit to do. Then there’s my very active imagination. I can honestly convince myself that somehow a shark has been released into a swimming pool and jump out in a panic. In fact, the last time I took a bath was 18 years ago, when I was hugely pregnant with my daughter. Problem was, I made the bath too hot and the baby started kicking furiously and I thought, “I’m boiling the baby!” Relaxing? I think not.
My mother forbade me from this assignment unless there was some sort of escape hatch or panic button. I read accounts of a scientist accidentally being left to float for hours…hours! And the video on the website—meant to promote all the awesome effects of flotation therapy—was a super-trippy lecture by Joe Rogan. Yes, Joe Rogan, the host of “Fear Factor” is the industry spokesman!
I considered drinking heavily before my appointment.
When I arrive at Hope Floats in Bethesda, much to my delight, it isn’t the creepy basement of some old hippie’s house. In fact, it’s lovely—plank wood floors, soothing blue walls and Pottery Barn beach house furniture. Kimberly Boone and Lynette D’Arco, two beautiful blondes in their mid-40s, greet me and spend time making me feel comfy.
Both are very open about being recovering addicts. Kim explains that some people suffering from depression and anxiety turn to drugs and alcohol for relief—and she stumbled upon flotation therapy when seeking a non-medical path to peace. Turns out, flotation therapy is also used by professional athletes—not just for muscle recovery but for intense visualization. It’s being studied as a therapy for patients with POTS and children with ADD. And a group of new moms suffering from postpartum depression are finding help at Hope Floats.
In the tank, I’m told, one experiences a different level of consciousness. With no sights or sounds to distract, the mind is set free. Plus, since the water is the same temperature as your body, you almost forget it’s there and feel completely unrestricted by the physical world. But my first stop is the infrared sauna—designed to help me sweat out toxins and open my pores so I can better absorb the magnesium (known for its ability to calm the nervous system) once I’m in the water.
After 30 minutes I shower and meet Kim, who shows me how to get into the “float capsule” (a fiberglass tank about 4 feet high filled half-way with warm water and 800 pounds of Epsom Salts) and close the door. That was a relief. I had been worried that I would have to walk into the tank naked, in front of a stranger, who would shut me in from the outside.
The first 10 to 15 minutes of floatation therapy are supposed to be the worst. To help get me through the adjustment period, Kim pipes music into the tank. I float on my back with my eyes closed. I feel my hands touch my hips and worry that the sensation will distract me, but I remember that in a yoga class, I had been taught to rest with my palms facing up during Savasana. So I turn my hands over and they gently float away from my body.
Then it happens. The calming chimes and chanting on the soundtrack transition to…a whale song. I swear, the water vibrates! OMG OMG OMG. But I breathe my way through it, clear my mind of to-do lists, and eventually settle into a deep state of relaxation for the rest of my 60 minute float.
“You’re glowing,” Lynette observes when I come out to the main area, feeling a bit woozy as if I had napped. “You’ll feel it in an hour or two. You’ll see the world with a greater acuity.”
Lynette urges me to come back for a “free second float”—something they offer to everyone, as the first session is more about calming your fears and the second is when the real benefits kick in. Maybe I will. I did feel great all day—happy, more relaxed. Was it the float? Hell if I know. But I can tell you one thing for sure: nobody bothers Mommy in the flotation tank. 60-minute float with 30-minute sauna, $100. http://www.hopefloatsusa.com
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Photographed by David Stuck
Event stylist and graphic designer Jennifer Walter, of Fold Invites, invited Baltimore STYLE into her lovely Baltimore County home for the holidays. Check out her delightful array of decorations—and get a few tips for decking your own halls this season. (Hint: it’s all about pops of color and personal details.)
Photography by David Stuck
The Give Corps team in their Charles Village office in Miller’s Court, an urban oasis for teachers and nonprofits.
What do you get when you mix cutting-edge technology, time-tested business strategy and a passionate desire to change the world? Enter Give Corps, a Charles Village-based start-up dedicated to turning Millennials and other folks with not-so-deep pockets into philanthropists.
Founded by Jamie McDonald, a former managing director and co-head of private equity coverage at Deutsche Bank Alex. Brown for 16 years, Give Corps represents McDonald’s long-awaited opportunity to use her business acumen to impact the community in a profound way.
“It’s the culmination of all my life experiences—a way to bring together my previous career with my entrepreneurial spirit and live my passion,” she says.
After leaving Deutsche Bank in 2008, McDonald served as capital campaign chair for one of her favorite nonprofits, The Center for Urban Families. During the campaign, she became convinced of the Internet’s power as a tool for philanthropy and community engagement, especially for young adults.
“We all saw what happened in the 2008 presidential campaign. Not only did the Obama camp engage large numbers of young people online, but they also got people of modest means to donate. These people gave because they wanted to be part of a movement,” she says.
Give Corps utilizes a “give to get” model to entice young, socially conscious citizens to contribute to causes such as homelessness, hunger, education, health care, animal rights and the environment. Donors can make one-time gifts, purchase a “givecard” for a friend or create a Giving Account where they pledge to donate a certain amount—as low as $3 a month—to their cause(s) of choice.
To date, more than 225 nonprofits have benefited from the generosity of more than 7,000 Baltimoreans, who have made 11,000 donations serving more than 50,000 of our neighbors in need.
The site provides immediate gratification for donors who can see, for example, that their $15 donation to a children’s literacy organization will pay for craft supplies for a month or that a $35 donation provides an environmental organization enough trash bags to remove up to 2,500 pounds of trash from a local stream.
“The beauty of the website’s technology is that it provides a personalized experience that values donors of all levels,” says new CEO Vince Talbert, who was a founder of Bill Me Later and most recently a V.P. with eBay/PayPal. “The giver feels special, can see the impact of their gift and can connect with other givers and their community.”
As an added incentive, each time users make a donation, they get to select a reward in the form of a special offer or discount from one of Give Corps’ merchant partners, such as South Moon Under, Taharka Brothers and Charm City Run.
“It’s a perk for donors—and also a way for us to help drive traffic to civic-minded businesses,” says Peter Jackson, vice president of merchant and nonprofit relationships who serves as the “face” of Give Corps around Charm City. His primary role is to extend the brand beyond cyberspace by hosting networking happy hours, fundraising marathons and other events that encourage the Give Corps community to connect in real life.
That can help maximize results for organizations such as Moveable Feast, a Baltimore nonprofit that provides meals and other services to homebound people living with HIV/AIDS. Give Corps fundraisers who participated in the charity’s annual Ride for the Feast bike ride raised almost $50,000—in addition to more than $15,000 that was raised through smaller projects online.
“I love helping the nonprofits maximize their impact,” says Jackson. “It’s great to be part of a rapidly changing company that’s involved with doing good in Baltimore. Especially now, I feel like there’s a lot of energy bubbling up. The city has problems but there are lots of creative solutions.”
“The idea that you don’t have to be rich to be a philanthropist really resonates with people and with our organization,” adds Ted Blankenship, Moveable Feast’s director of development, who describes Give Corps as a low-cost, low-effort way to raise awareness and funds from Generation Y donors. “Give Corps has allowed us to market ourselves to a population we might otherwise not have been able to reach. Our investment has been hugely successful.”
Yes, Give Corps is a for-profit company—something McDonald equates to the likes of Starbucks and TOMS Shoes which also have socially conscious business models.
“When I thought of how to change the world, I wanted to hire the best people who shared my passion,” says McDonald. “I wanted to give equity to employees so they could share in the good things that happen for our company—and I wanted them to stick around. Often times, when you work for a nonprofit, you have to keep leaving one job for another because that’s the only way you can increase your salary.”
Give Corps earns profits by charging organizations 4 percent of donations collected through the site. The company’s newest revenue generator is Give Corps Pro, a turnkey software program that helps organizations create customized fundraising portals. It’s proving especially popular with colleges hoping to engage recent graduates.
“We have 12 software clients—six colleges and six other types of nonprofits,” says McDonald. “We’re really flying now.”
Speaking of flying, the Give Corps staff is feverishly working to prepare for Giving Tuesday on Dec. 3—the Tuesday following Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
“Our goal is to make Baltimore the givingest city per capita in America,” says McDonald, whose business will serve as a convening marketing partner for the national event. “We’re hoping to raise $5 million dollars in a single day. It’s ambitious, but I have a good feeling.
I have my rose-colored glasses on.”
Photographed by Nemo Niemann at The 13th Floor in the Historic Belvedere
LUCK be a… knock-out statement with a media mix of textures. Cashmere intarsia-knit boyfriend sweater by Autumn Cashmere, at Nordstrom, Towson, and The Red Garter, Pikesville. Faux-fur bomber jacket at Octavia, Cross Keys Village. Leather jeans and iridescent clutch bag, both by Halston Heritage, at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Studded leather fingerless gloves by Michael Kors, at Nordstrom. Vintage rhinestone paste earrings at Bijoux Inspired Jewels, Green Spring Station.
LUCK be a… dose of modern color blocking, set off by rich neutrals. Wool and silk blend coat by Etro, and black iridescent slim pants by True Royal, both at Ruth Shaw, Cross Keys. Detachable crystal fox cuffs by Debbie Swartz for Mano Swartz Furs, Green Spring Station. Gold-plated, button-drop earrings by Robert Lee Morris at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Hammered gold ring at L’Apparenza, Mt. Washington. Velvet box bag, from The Cromwell Blake Vintage Collection, at Love Me Two Times, Wyndhurst Station.
LUCK be a… menswear look done HER way! Metallic jacquard-print tuxedo jacket by Diane von Furstenberg at Urban Chic, Harbor East, and Nordstrom, Towson. Stretch wool tuxedo pants by Vince at L’Apparenza, Mount Washington. Patent-leather oxfords by Enzo Angiolini at Nordstrom, Towson. Gold metal French cuff bracelet at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys.
LUCK be a… one-of-a-kind vintage treasure that you won’t see on anyone else. Circa 1970 iridescent silk-brocade maxi dress, from The Cromwell Blake Collection, at Love Me Two Times, Wyndhurst Station. Cashmere opera-length, fingerless gloves at Jill Andrews Gowns, Hampden. Bold gold cuff from Jones & Jones. Aubergine suede booties by Dolce Vita, at Nordstrom. Detachable, multicolor fur neck-piece by Debbie Swartz, at Mano Swartz Furs, at Green Spring Station.
LUCK be a… tailored knit suit as cozy as your favorite PJs. Textured boucle, cotton-blend seamed blazer and matching sweatpants by Rag & Bone, at Nordstrom, Towson. Bug-print resin cuffs at Octavia, Cross Keys. Cat collar at Dogma, Mount Washington.
*As luck would have it, this gorgeous, sweet kitty called Rosie is currently up for adoption at the Maryland SPCA.
LUCK be a… luxe coat that makes an artistic statement. Lightweight wool-boucle coat with cashmere embroidered detail designed by Ella Pritsker of Ella Moda Custom Couture, Timonium. Embossed leather belt at Ruth Shaw. Embellished gold cuffs and gold-plated drop earrings, both at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Over- the-knee leather boots by Stuart Weitzman at Matava Shoes, Green Spring Station. Alligator skin handbag, from the Cromwell Blake Vintage Collection, at Vogue Revisited, Roland Park.
The Art of Fashion: Abstract “live event painting” by fine artist Patricia Bennett, http://www.patriciabennettstudio.com.
LUCK be a… new take on the classic LBD. Fit-and-flare, neoprene shift dress with a godet paneled skirt and back lacing detail by Tracy Reese at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Cerulean blue cashmere-blend blazer by Akris, at Nordstrom, Towson. Pewter hoop earrings and “bones” cuff, both by Martha Rotten, at Paradiso, Hampden.
Beauty Buzz: For a festive berry-stained pout, try No Worries’ Lipstick Gloss in “Mula,” exclusively at No Worries Salon & Cosmetics, Towson.
See and Be Chic: All dressed up but nowhere to go? Follow the fashion crowd to The 13th Floor at The Belvedere, where the festive menu and chic ambience set the scene for an unforgettable view of Charm City. All profits from every 13th Floor-customized bottle of champagne goes to benefit pediatric oncology at Johns Hopkins.
Digital Imaging: Nemo Niemann. Model: Caroline Reddy/Fenton Moon Media, NYC. Cat: Rosie/MD SPCA. Hair & Makeup: Karen Panoch/Wilhelmina Creative, Miami. Fashion & Set Styling Assistant: Victoria Adinolfi. Photo Assistant: Tom Snyder. Photo crew food catered by the 13th Floor. Special thanks to: Averil Christens-Barry at Truffles Catering & Belvedere Restaurant Group; cat handler Kate Creamer from the MD SPCA, and live event artist Patricia Bennett.
In less than an hour’s drive, you could be gazing at some of the most iconic paintings of all time at the Phillips Collection (aka America’s original museum of modern art, founded in 1921). Van Gogh Repetitions is the Phillips’ first-ever exhibition dedicated to the ear-slicing master’s work, including landscapes and portraits borrowed from the world’s most renowned Van Gogh collections, including the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the Musée d’Orsay in Paris and more. The 35-piece exhibit includes several examples of the Post-Impressionist’s “repetitions,” a term coined by the artist to describe his process of creating multiple versions of his own works, along with those of other artists such as Gauguin, Daumier, and Rembrandt. Van Gogh once said of his work, “One must spoil as many canvases as one succeeds.” Of course, today, we consider them all masterpieces. Through Jan. 26, 2014, http://www.phillipscollection.org.
Photography by Justin Tsucalas
B—A Bolton Hill Bistro, Bolton Hill
Training: Studied at L’Academie de Cuisine. Worked with chef Bob Kincead at Colvin Run Tavern.
Favorite holiday food: Anything that goes with a big glass of Bordeaux.
“Step one: pour nice glass of red. Take your time. Plan accordingly. Don’t stress out, it’s just cooking. Guests always love what you make.”
Red Wine Braised Beef Short Ribs with Country Jalapeno Cheddar Grits
Yields 10-15 appetizer portions
10 pounds bone-in beef short ribs
1⁄4 cup garlic, chopped
6 stalks celery, chopped
3 large carrots, chopped
1 bottle red wine (preferably cabernet sauvignon)
6-10 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 tablespoon dry
1 large onion, diced
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 quarts veal stock or beef broth
For the ribs:
Add salt and pepper to flour to season. Then season all ribs and with salt and pepper being careful to season all sides. Then dredge seasoned ribs in seasoned flour.
Heat skillet over medium to high heat. Add enough oil to topcoat bottom of hot skillet and sear all sides of ribs until brown (add more oil, if needed, during searing process). In Dutch oven or large pot with lid cook thyme, celery, garlic, carrot and onion until they soften and begin to release liquid. Arrange ribs on top of vegetables. Combine wine and stock and pour over ribs.
Place in Dutch oven at 235 degrees for 10-12 hours. (Alternatively, recipe can be cooked in a Crock-Pot on low temperature for 6-8 hours.)
Let cool to room temperature and carefully remove ribs (they will be fragile).
(Note: Can be frozen until needed. Let thaw in refrigerator. Reheat in oven at 350 degrees with beef stock.)
For the grits:
Milk (amount as directed on box of grits)
Cheddar cheese (to taste)
Jalapeno, chopped (to taste)
Butter (to taste)
Follow directions on box using half water and half milk. Cook until desired consistency. Finish with chopped jalapenos, cheddar cheese and butter to taste.
Towson Tavern, Towson
Training: Honors student at Baltimore International College. Studied abroad in Ireland.
Favorite holiday food: Classic—turkey, spiral cut ham, creamed corn, creamed spinach.
“This salad is a twist on a classic. I add apricots for sweetness and crisp-fry the shiitake to add a little crunch in every bite.”
Warm Spinach Salad
Yields 1 salad
4 ounces fresh baby spinach
2 ounces apricot/bacon vinaigrette
1 ounce red onion, slivered
1 hard-boiled egg, diced
1 ounce Crispy Fried Shiitake Mushroom
For the vinaigrette:
6 slices applewood-smoked bacon, diced
1 shallot, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 ounces brown sugar
½ cup dried apricots, roughly chopped
¾ cup orange juice
1 ounce balsamic vinegar
1 ounce whole grain mustard
½ cup olive oil
½ teaspoon salt
Place the bacon in a cold stockpot and cook on medium-high heat. Once the bacon has just started to crisp, add the shallots and garlic. Sauté for 1 minute. Add the brown sugar and apricots, and then stir for 1 minute. Add the rest of the ingredients and sauté for an additional 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and place into a blender or food processor. Blend until it becomes a smooth purée.
For the mushrooms:
2 cups vegetable oil
1 ounce shiitake mushrooms, sliced
Salt and pepper
Place vegetable oil into a medium stockpot and heat on medium-high heat. Julienne the shiitake mushroom caps and place into the hot oil. Let cook until they begin to shrink and become crispy. Once crisp remove from the hot oil and toss with a small amount of salt and pepper.
For assembling the salad: In a large mixing bowl toss the spinach with the warm dressing and place into a salad bowl. Top the salad with the slivered red onion, hardboiled egg and finish with the crispy fried shiitake mushroom and serve.
Sascha’s 527 Cafe, Mount Vernon
Training: Self-taught with inspiration from her mother—a world traveler who wouldn’t hesitate to march into a kitchen in Portugal and learn what the chef was doing.
Favorite holiday food: Magret de canard. The French ducks are leaner than ours. Everything in France is skinnier—like the women. The ducks follow suit.
“Treat your guests to something people don’t often eat—something rich and delicious, like duck.”
Duck Breast with Cherry and Port Wine Sauce
8 boneless duck breasts
½ cup dried cherries
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 small shallots, minced
2 tablespoons fresh ginger, chopped
1 cup of port wine
2cups fresh (or frozen) black cherries
Zest of 1 orange
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Score the skin of the duck breast in diamond fashion. Try not to score down to the breast meat.
Heat port wine over low heat until warm. Add ½ cup dried cherries and allow to steep.
Season duck breast liberally with salt and pepper on both sides.
In a large skillet over medium heat place the duck breasts skin side down. Sear the breasts until the skin is golden brown and crispy, about 20 minutes. Flip and sear the other side for 2 minutes. Place the seared duck breasts in a baking dish skin side up and put them in oven. (Can be done in advance. Before serving, remove duck from refrigerator and bring to room temperature.)
Bake in oven for 8 to 10 minutes for medium to medium rare. Remove, tent with foil and allow to rest 5 minutes.
Pour off most of the duck fat. (Hint: reserve duck fat for other dishes.) Place some of the duck fat into a skillet, over medium heat. Add shallots and ginger and sauté until translucent. Pour in port, orange juice and the stock, picking up any bits from the sauté pan. Add orange zest and fresh cherries to pan. Bring to a boil and simmer until sauce reduces. Smash some of the fresh cherries to thicken. Add dried cherries.
Slice duck breast on diagonal and nap with sauce.
Training: Dishwasher (”and it was not cool”). Then McCafferty’s in Baltimore.
Favorite holiday food: Food is sentimental. It reminds me of my my mother and grandmother—the good feelings of my formative years. My family were hunters and watermen and would always have wild game like venison, goose and duck.
“This recipe is Maryland. It represents the Bay. It’s home to me. The kale is a nod to our Southern roots. And the sweet potatoes are sweet. It’s the holidays!”
Oyster, Sweet Potato and Kale Gratin with Rye Whiskey
1 pint shucked oysters, reserve liquor
3 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons flour
1⁄2 cup whole milk
1⁄2 cup heavy cream
1⁄4 cup rye whiskey
Salt and pepper
1 1⁄2 cups sweet potato, cubed and cooked
1 cup kale, julienned and blanched
2 pinches fresh grated nutmeg
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons green onion, chopped
2 cups potato roll crumbs, toasted
Begin by sautéing onion and garlic in butter over medium heat until onions are translucent. Add flour and stir often until flour smells nutty and is light brown in color. Next, add whiskey, cream, milk and oyster liquor. Stir until thick and season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper. (Don’t hesitate to be generous with the black pepper. It brings out great flavors in the rye.)
Gently fold in the sweet potatoes and kale and chill the whole mix for a couple of hours.
Remove from refrigerator and spoon mixture into a 3-quart gratin dish or a couple of pie plates. Nestle the oysters in the cream (the more the merrier) and top with potato breadcrumbs. Bake in a 400-degree oven for about 12 minutes.
Remove from oven and top with green onions and parsley.
Victoria Gastro Pub, Columbia
Training: Baltimore International College. Working internship in Ireland. Graduated with Le Grande Diplome from London’s
Le Cordon Bleu.
Favorite holiday foods: Fall and winter ingredients: pears, apples, figs, pumpkins, root vegetables, beets, cabbage and Brussels sprouts.
“Keep it simple! Don’t over-design the menu, which creates unnecessary stress.”
Brussels Sprouts with Pancetta and Cider
1 pound Brussels sprouts
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 ounces shallots
4 ounces pancetta, diced
4 ounces chicken stock
4 ounces apple cider
1 tablespoon butter, cold
Partially cook the Brussels sprouts in a large pot of boiling salted water, about 4 minutes. Drain.
Meanwhile, heat the oil in a heavy large sauté pan over medium heat. Add the pancetta and sauté until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Add the shallots and sauté until lightly golden, about 2 minutes. Add the Brussels sprouts to the same pan and sauté until the vegetables begin to brown, about 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cider. Simmer until the Brussels sprouts have a light glaze, about 3 minutes. Whisk in butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Sotto Sopra, Mount Vernon
Training: French Culinary Institute in New York
Favorite holiday food: My grandmother makes the best whoppie pies. If we didn’t have them at Christmas, my whole family would be upset. We’d throw the turkey out the window.
“Make your desserts ahead of time. Some chefs swear they taste better the next day.”
Frozen Eggnog with Cinnamon Cream Filled Gingerbread Cookies
For the gingerbread cookies
(Yields about 8-10 cookies)
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
¼ cup molasses syrup
5 cups all-purpose flour, unsifted
¼ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
¼ teaspoon white pepper
Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and set the oven racks in the middle. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy (about 3 minutes). Next add in the molasses and vanilla.
Combine all the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. Add into the butter/syrup mixture in two batches, mixing only long enough to incorporate the flour.
Roll out on a floured surface, cut into desired gingerbread shape and place onto cookie sheet. Bake at 325 degrees until the edges are lightly golden brown, about 10-12 minutes. Set aside to cool as you are making the filling.
For the cinnamon cream filling:
1 pound (4 sticks) unsalted butter
2 cups powdered sugar
1 egg white
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
¼ cup spiced rum
In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and powdered sugar. Next add in the egg white. Then add in the remaining ingredients and beat until all are incorporated. Sandwich using the cooled gingerbread cookies.
For eggnog ice cream:
2½ cups whole milk
1½ cups heavy cream
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup egg yolks
1⁄3 cup ground nutmeg
½ cup dark rum
Using a large metal or plastic bowl, fill half way with ice and water. Set aside for later.
In a sauce pot, bring to a boil the milk, cream, rum and nutmeg. In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar. Once the liquid is to a boil, pour
1 cup into the egg yolk/sugar mixture. Whisk quickly to prevent the yolks from scrambling. Return liquid to the pot with the remaining cream/milk and cook for
1 minute, while whisking constantly.
Remove from the heat and immediately place into a container. Set the container in larger bowl with water and ice. Let cool for 1-2 hours. Process in an ice cream machine.
Place the eggnog ice cream in a blender and add a little milk. Blend together until the consistency of a thick milkshake is achieved. Pour into a glass and set the sandwiched cookies next to the glass. Enjoy!
Ryan Travers and Josh Bosstick
Of Love & Regret, Canton
Training: Bosstick’s dad owned a liquor store. Josh trained at Grano Emporio and Wine Market Bistro. Travers and his wife owned a small beer bar in Brunswick, Maine.
Favorite holiday spirit: This dynamic bar-tending duo concocts all their craft cocktail recipes together—and both say scotch is their go-to holiday drink.
“This is like a holiday dinner in a drink—using scotch as the backbone with cardamom and cinnamon flavors. Topped off with the crème brûlee as dessert.”
Fireside Chats with Charles MacLean
Makes 1 cocktail
1½ ounces Glenrothes Select Reserve
1½ ounces Velvet Falernum
¾ ounce Cardamaro
¾ ounce Becherovka
Shaken over rocks with egg white until foamy. Use bar spoon to layer froth on top. Lightly torch froth with crème brûlee torch to caramelize. Top with freshly shaved cinnamon.
It’s no secret that Savvy is a vintage hound as well as a relentless Baltimore booster, so how could she resist a shop that combines retro chic with local business support? Viva is an online retailer and pop-up shop that has the rage for all things “Mad Men” covered. Emerald green bombshell dress? Check. Floral-embroidered pin-up sweater? Check. Vintage-inspired coffee-table books? Check. And, of course, polka dots, stripes and leopard prints galore. Though Savvy blanches at the acres of ink that festoon modern-day gals, she knows that others beg to differ, so she would be remiss if she didn’t mention the tattoo-inspired clothing and home goods as well. (Those go over particularly well when the shop pops up at Charm City Roller Girls bouts). Did we mention they serve sizes 2 to 4X? http://www.vivacharmcity.com
Champagne is synonymous with the holidays, from cheerful gatherings with family and friends to bubbly toasts at midnight on New Years Eve. This drink is a delightful, low sugar interpretation of the classic French 75. Fresh pressed or organic pear juice adds color, texture and charm (given the cocktail’s title) while Dorothy Parker gin is the perfect botanical spirit for the season.
1 oz organic or fresh pressed pear juice
1 oz Dorothy Parker gin
3 oz Brut Champagne
Juice from 1/4 small lemon
Thinly sliced ripe pear
Combine gin, pear juice and lemon juice in a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a chilled champagne flute. Fill flute with champagne. Garnish with a twist of lemon and pear slice.
By Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East and founder of Tend for a Cause.
Forget the North Pole, foodies. Your holiday present will arrive courtesy of the East Pole, a sensational new restaurant on the Upper East Side of Manhattan. Coming right on the heels of a successful three-year run at the hip Fat Radish (on the Lower East side), chef Nicholas Wilber is now serving his fresh produce-driven fare to the posh set who come to the sleek, minimalist space to enjoy his famous Scotch egg, grilled cheese with pickles and other creative comfort foods. Even if you opt for the far-too-sensible steamed-veggie Macro Plate, consider sharing the “adult” ice cream sundae scattered with Pimm’s-soaked cherries for dessert. Let’s face it: after battling the crowds (and Christmas elves) at Bloomies, you deserve a sugar buzz before hopping on the Bolt bus to to Bawlmer. http://www.theeastpolenyc. com. —S.E.
As if Savvy didn’t have enough temptations in Harbor East, along comes a new place to put the Old Curiosity Shop by Charles Dickens to shame. Interior decorator Katie DeStefano’s Curiosity is a feast for the senses—all of them. From the breathtaking gold-leaf celestial maps by Christopher Wilcox to the food products by Bellocq Tea Atelier to the porcelain flower diffusers by Giardino di Fiori to the colorful enamel Gecko bracelets by Fornash (an O-List pick), it’s impossible not to find something you like. And with prices ranging from five bucks to $5,000, there’s a gift for everyone on your list. Savvy is particularly taken with the handstitched tea towels from Catstudio’s Geography Collection, silk-screened with maps from around the world; little beauties that satisfy both her frivolous and practical sides. 1000 Lancaster, entrance on S. Exeter, 410-727-6262, http://www.curiosityforthehome.com
The other day I was meandering through a department store when a purse caught my eye. I picked it up, slung it over my shoulder and then caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.
I recoiled in horror: It was an old lady’s bag.
I all but flung it back onto the shelf as if an errant spider had landed on my arm.
So this is how it happens, I thought. Not with a bang, but with a whimper, one innocent purse purchase at a time. Next thing you know my candy dishes will start spontaneously filling with Caramel Nips and my pockets with crumpled Kleenex. I’ll start buying “slacks” and insisting on wrapping up the contents of restaurant bread baskets to take home from my early bird dinners.
I have just celebrated my 45th birthday. I am, by any reasonable definition, solidly, inescapably middle-aged. I have all of the trappings of a full-fledged grown-up: I own a home. I pay taxes. I (mostly) remember to floss and get a yearly mammogram. I was just written a prescription for progressive lenses and have come to terms with the fact that I will never win a Nobel Prize or an Olympic medal. I realized not long ago that I am no longer a contemporary of the contestants on shows like American Idol, but rather of their parents, those, those—middle-aged people!—who hover in the wings. And so it goes. Whimpers, not bangs.
And yet, despite the fact that I find gray strands on my head with alarming regularity, my overwhelming response to all of this is a feeling of indignant incredulity. THIS CAN’T REALLY BE HAPPENING! I’M STILL JUST A KID!
I know exactly when it started. I was in my late 20s, still single and living in an apartment in D.C.’s Dupont Circle. A dear friend and her new husband had just bought their first home together, a gleaming, sturdy Colonial in a tree-filled Howard County suburb. They had grown-up furniture and a spare bedroom and a lawn mower. They invited me over for dinner one night not long after they moved in and as we sat in the kitchen, lingering over post-dinner coffee, I burst out laughing.
“What’s so funny?” my friends asked.
“I keep waiting for the parents to come home,” I confessed.
As the last of five children, being young has always been a central part of my identity. “So you’re the baby!” people would say knowingly when they met me. Being the youngest had weight. It meant something about my place in and view of the world. But it also meant that I spent my childhood with my nose pressed against the metaphorical glass, impatiently watching as my four older brothers got to navigate the sophisticated life waters ahead. The eldest was bar mitzvahed when I was still in diapers; he left for college just before I started second grade.
I came to believe that only age conferred privilege and credibility. I longed to be older, to cast off my youth like an albatross. I wanted to hurry through and get to the next thing, the next phase, the next milestone, just as I had watched my brothers before me. I couldn’t wait to finally arrive and be handed the keys to the kingdom of adulthood. But like a dog perpetually chasing its tail, it never seemed to dawn on me that I would never, ever catch up to them, and if I didn’t take the time to enjoy things while they were happening, that I’d miss out.
I was also the child of older parents. Their 1940s high school yearbooks seemed as quaintly old-fashioned to me as if they’d been born in Colonial times. Their taste in music never evolved much past the Big Band era. But that somehow only solidified their Grownup ™ status to me. They’d been around. They knew the ropes.
Even now that I’m a parent myself, I still can’t shake that impostor feeling, still can’t wait to legitimately arrive. Where? I’m not sure. But surely my kids can’t really think I’m a grown-up? I still have no idea how to change a tire or what the Federal Reserve does, exactly. The workings of the boiler
remain a total mystery, and I’m fuzzy at best on my world history.
And yet, there’s my 1980s high school yearbook. It may not be in black and white, but it looks unmistakably, almost comically dated. The ’80s station I often listen to in the car plays songs that are just as old as Tommy Dorsey’s were when I was in elementary school. My pre-Internet childhood seems as unimaginable to my kids as my parents’ pre-television ones did to me. I have no clue what kinds of clothes teenage girls think are cool anymore. More whimpers. No bangs. It just kind of…happens.
But then my 9-year-old looks up from his book and asks, “Mom, what does ‘mum’s the word’ mean?” and I know I can answer with total confidence. I know how to drive a car and order books online. I can make dinner magically appear on the table and clean clothes emerge from the tangle in the hamper. I’ve been around. I know the ropes.
Not long ago, my 6-year-old was home sick. I mopped his feverish brow and rubbed his back. And then something came out of my mouth that I remembered my own mother saying to me. They were the words that always made me feel better, because grown-ups always knew what to do.
“Don’t worry. Mama’s going to take care of you,” I heard myself murmuring reassuringly.
I saw the way my son relaxed in response. He doesn’t need to know that I sometimes feel like I’m making it up as I go along. I realized that my mother probably did, too, and her mother before her. And maybe that’s the most grown-up realization of all.
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
Bottega is modeled on a place Adrien Aeschliman managed in the Mugello Valley in Tuscany that he describes as “a workman’s lunch trattoria.” Though “it was an ugly restaurant,” he says, people drove from Florence and Bologna to eat there. “I took the name and I’m trying to copy what they had.”
Aeschliman moved with his family to Europe when he was 7, and he’s lived in France, Italy, Switzerland and England, returning to the U.S. to attend college (“I went to six”), finishing up at Queens College in New York City. Along the way, he worked at plenty of restaurants, though none in the fine dining category.
Aeschliman’s rustic boutique BYOB in Station North manages to feel upscale but organic—the kind of place where you can linger with friends for a two-hour dinner without feeling rushed. (That’s saying something for a 16-seat hot spot.)
Describing the restaurant as Tuscan influenced “is a way to avoid saying we’re seasonal and farm-to-table,” explains Aeschliman. “Tuscany has four seasons and the food traditions follow them.”
A Day in the Life. Aeschliman recruited brother-in-law Sandy Smith, who interned at Woodberry Kitchen, as his chef, but he still does a lot of the cooking. “In the mornings, I’m in the back trying to figure out what the menu is,” he says. “We make ragus about once a week and we’re closed Monday and Tuesday so that’s when we do most of the sauces.”
Food Turn-ons. Pasta specials change every few days and have included ravioli with butternut squash and butter sage sauce, and pappardelle with boar ragu and juniper berries. There’s a smoked goose and scarlet frill appetizer on mustard greens dressed with preserved cherry mostarda. Another crowd-pleaser is malfatti —which means “badly made”—essentially ravioli filling without the pasta.
Adventurous Eats. “I’ve spent a lot of time deboning rabbits lately,” adds Aeschliman, who says most people who order rabbit at Bottega are eating it for the first time. “I stuffed them with sage and ham, tied them and roasted them off.”
Décor. Much of the interior materials come from a barn and cottage in Harpers Ferry. Aeschliman found the condemned property on Craigslist and got to it before the local fire department could incinerate it as a drill. The bentwood chairs are a mix of original turnof- the-century Thonet café chairs and reproductions rescued from a “cheesy old lounge in Detroit.”
Drinks & Dessert. “I’m not looking to get a liquor license,” says Aeschliman, who grew up drinking only water and wine. He’s in the process of courting a pastry chef, but has made a salted caramel chocolate pie borrowed from the Williamsburg, Brooklyn restaurant Marlow and Sons. “I used to live right above them,” he says. “We’d go down and get pie every night.” 1729 Maryland Ave., 443-708-5709, http://www.bottega1729.com
Before opening By Degrees Café, a decidedly not-too-schmancy 47-seat eatery in a renovated industrial space between Harbor East and Little Italy, Omar Semidey (who has been schooled by some of the country’s top chefs) did his homework. “We took a look at the market to see what other restaurants in the neighborhood were doing,” he says. “But then we changed it—only by a few degrees.” Get it? This subtle shift in the culinary landscape translates into a pared-down, reasonably priced menu of “simple foods with a twist,” according to the chef/owner, who has also worked at The Wine Market and Fleet Street Kitchen. For example, Semidey’s butternut squash soup has a touch of curry and his BLT is made with apple-wood smoked bacon, fresh greens, cherry tomatoes and tarragon aioli on a baguette. Naturally, the lunchbox specials have already become popular with the Legg Mason and Laureate set. For those sometimes-necessary “liquid lunches” (or dinners), there’s a small but well-edited beer and wine list, too. No dress code, no reservations—and free parking. (A welcome treat downtown.) 415 S. Central Ave, http://www.bydegreescafe.com
Pies get a lot of love around the holidays, and rightly so. But as far as I’m concerned, when it comes to a quick and easy dish that’s heavy on the “wow” factor, a good tart can’t be beat. Plus, because it doesn’t have a pasty topping like pie, you can eat twice as much. (At least that’s what I tell myself.)
The Ember Day tart is based on a medieval recipe for a fast-day meatless tart of cheese, onions and parsley. It’s quite rich—and I promise you won’t feel as if you’re fasting after you’ve had a slice! Don’t skimp on the saffron; that’s what makes this dish truly special.
For the leek and potato tart, I took inspiration from the British dish of creamed leeks and added a touch of tarragon. Potatoes and leeks are a classic combination, and they work beautifully here on the crunchy, buttery puff pastry crust.
The Afghan-style pumpkin tartlet with yogurt dressing is my homage to the kaddo borwani at The Helmand. The sweet pumpkin and the tangy, garlicky yogurt play well together—and it’s a fun pumpkin presentation that you don’t normally see at the typical Western holiday table.
Finally, the sweet and spicy pear torte isn’t technically a tart at all, as it’s more cake-y and made with nut flour, but why split hairs? After all, a pear tart by any other name would taste as sweet.
Unpretentious. That’s what the owners of Tavern on the Hill, who prefer to be known by their first names—Steve and Lee—had in mind when they opened their new bar/restaurant in Mount Vernon. “This neighborhood is kind of fancy and we wanted a place that was more laid back. Everyone feels comfortable here,” says Steve.
Chef Tim Engle’s menu includes basic tavern fare like the Three’s Company—an overstuffed sandwich with corned beef, turkey and roast beef—along with eight kinds of hot dogs, beautiful burgers and entrees ranging from barbecued brisket with veggies and roasted potatoes to N.Y. strip steak with blue cheese cream sauce. Bonus: they also serve breakfast all day.
Looking exclusively to imbibe? Ask award-winning bartender Jeff Levy for your Whiskey Loyalty Program punch card to keep tabs on your consumption. The 11th whiskey is on the house! 900 Cathedral St., 410-230-5400, http://www.tavernonthehillmtvernon.com
The old song says “It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas” but in our consumer culture, it was beginning to look a lot like Christmas before Labor Day. So by the time the bleak midwinter rolls around, one might’ve had just about all the tidings of comfort and joy they can stand.
The pop psychology holds that Christmas is a “stressful” time. (Perhaps you need a hug?) And it’s not merely Mall Mom Goes Commando Over Last Tickle Me Elmo Doll. Or the cherished seasonal custom of dueling religious symbols—the crèche versus the menorah—like festive fisticuffs. Or the dreadful Christmas movies. (If there’s a hell, its denizens are watching “Home Alone 4” on a loop.) The season is inescapable.
I once went to have an MRI at Christmastime. When the nurses put the headphones on me, there was some sort of malfunction. I listened to Jose Feliciano’s “Feliz Navidad” for 40 minutes. This does not bring out the good will in men.
These days, my family is trying to reduce the stress of the season. We still put up a Christmas tree, but I am under court order never to buy anything for my wife or daughter. (I’ve made some mistakes.) So now, my crowning achievement is not sending Christmas cards.
My wife’s handwriting is illegible. Most of the cards she would send (always late) would be returned as undeliverable. (Little problem with the address book, too.) So now we send cards on a triage basis. Guilt cards. If someone sends us a card, we send one back. No question about it, we’re getting fewer Christmas cards. And we’re sending fewer, too.
The Internet and the price of stamps sounded the death knell for season’s greetings. A first-class stamp is now 46 cents. A Christmas card costs maybe $2. Well, as they say, do the math. You can get quite a nice bottle of Glenmorangie for the price of a couple of dozen cards and have yourself a merry little Christmas, too.
Last year it was nigh impossible to even buy a Christmas stamp. At the little post office I go to the clerks just shrugged. The old people I heard asking for Christmas stamps seemed genuinely crestfallen. Eventually, the Christmas stamps appeared—in April! (Isn’t that in “Ernest Saves Christmas”?)
During the yuletide gay, most of the cards I now get are form letters from wise men—stockbrokers, lawyers and insurance agents. They speak to the real meaning of the holiday understood by Jacob Marley and Ebenezer Scrooge. Money. These men do not, as the bumper sticker puts it, “Keep the Christ in Christmas.” They NEVER use the word Christmas on anything. Season’s Greetings! Happy Holidays!
But we do still get the occasional unctuous Christmas letter, which surely will survive the demise of the Christmas card. Hell, it may survive Christianity. That’s simply because the Christmas letter is not about Christmas but about the sender of the letter. It’s a chance to boast, brag and bray. Many are illustrated now, too.
People you see every day rarely send Christmas letters—largely because such missives are tissues of half-truths (all the children are geniuses), wild embellishments, (exotic foreign travel), outright lies (“we bought Nantucket”), falsehoods (son early decision at Yale but going to Sweet Pea State, it’s a family tradition) and fabrications (inventive explanations as to why someone lost or changed jobs).
I can’t wait for these letters to arrive every year. I sit before a roaring fire and read every word, every lie and every fabrication and falsehood. They speak to the real meaning of the season today.
As a person with no more religion than my old cat, I would point out to the theology scholars following along at home that this holiday is supposed to be a celebration of the birth of Jesus Christ not Matty Mattel—or your old college roommate’s 14th grandchild (a violin prodigy, you know). But I still love these letters. To me, they’re a lot like the story of Christmas itself.
God bless us everyone.
Although his former flames may wish he remained silenced, John Mayer’s fans are thrilled that he’s fully recovered from throat surgeries and headed back to the Baltimore to promote his newest album, Paradise Valley—which, by the way, features a duet with on/off/on girlfriend and fellow musical heavyweight (yes, it hurts us a little to use that phrase) Katy Perry. As much as we like to mock Mayer for his “douchebaggery” (a noun we made up exclusively for the roguishly handsome singer/songwriter), the guy can write a song. And as every dude-in-a-band we’ve ever dated loves to remind us, “He’s one of the greatest guitar players of our generation, you know?” Yes, we know. We’ll be crying in the front row when Mayer sings “Shadow Days” on Dec. 14 at Baltimore Arena. Bring us a tissue—or a 32-ounce beer, won’t you? Tickets, $45-$75. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Join the brainy madmen of MythBusters for a debaucherous evening of debunking as show co-hosts Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage share behind-the-scenes scoop, roll mind-blowing footage and bring fans onstage for live experiments. Don’t miss the chance to channel your inner Dr. Strangelove on Dec. 13 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $40-$125. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Like beehive hairdos, steamed crabs and John Waters, painted screens scream Baltimore. Although the art form originated in Victorian England, for the past 100 years painted screens have adorned Charm City’s beloved rowhouses—and nobody knows (and loves) them better than Elaine Eff. Join the curator, filmmaker, folklorist and author for a discussion of her new book “The Painted Screens of Baltimore: An Urban Folk Art Revealed” at the Ivy Bookshop on Dec. 18, 8:30 p.m. 6080 Falls Road, http://www.theivybookshop.com.
TEN HUNKS OF CHRISTMAS
We’re Under the Influence of Straight No Chaser, 10 adorable men who decided to go pro after forming an a cappella group at Indiana University back in 1996. The Warblers from “Glee” have nothing on these guys, whose new album boasts guest performances by Cee Lo Green, Jason Mraz and the great Paul McCartney among others. Dec. 12 at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $49-$139. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com —P.W.
Who says you can’t teach an old dog, new tricks? The legendary Harlem Globetrotters return to Baltimore Arena for two shows on their “Fans Rule” Tour—incorporating special fan-chosen rules into the act. Watch for the Hot Hand Jersey, Two Ball Basketball and a fantastic Trick Shot Challenge that will have you cheering in your seat. Dec. 28 at Baltimore Arena. Tickets, $15-$117. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com —P.W.
SUGAR PLUM PERFECTION
Unleash your tiny dancer when The Nutcracker comes to the Lyric for four performances featuring 120 students from Baltimore School for the Arts. The ballet showcases the BSO conducted by maestro Andrew Grams (a 1995 BSA alum) and a backdrop designed by current MICA students. Dec. 20-22 at
the Lyric. Tickets, $30-$60. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org —P.W.
We’d bet our tiara that Queen Elizabeth didn’t make Kate Middleton sleep on a stack of mattresses atop a tiny pea to prove she was worthy of royalty. But Prince Erik’s mystery girl has to do just that—and other hilarious tasks in Pumpkin Theatre’s enchanting production of The Princess & The Pea. Dec. 14-22. Tickets $14-$16. http://www.pumpkintheatre.com —Meredith Jacobs
THE ART OF GIVING
Creative types won’t want to miss Maryland Art Place’s first-ever Under $500 Art Sale on Dec. 13. Mingle with local artists, enjoy drinks and hors d’oeuvres and listen to holiday choral groups while you shop for curated treasures likely worth far more than their sticker price. Tickets, $40-$50. http://www.mdartplace.org —M.J.
Soulful Symphony adds sleigh bells and African drums to its 75-piece symphony orchestra’s holiday musical production, including a rarely heard adaption of Duke Ellington’s “Nutcracker Suite” featuring two dancers from the acclaimed Dance Theatre of Harlem. Dec. 14 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $25-$250. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com —P.W.
Although Evil Hate Monkey has been kidnapped (literally, he’s performing with a bunch of Aussie boylesque stars during an 8-week run in Hamburg, Germany), Trixie Little is still ready to play—at the Creative Alliance, that is. Whether you’re a long-time fan or a virgin attendee, you’re certain to be amazed, astounded and aroused by the 9th annual Holiday Spectac-u-thon. This year, Baltimore’s own Trixie will be joined by emcee Murray Hill and the French horn trio Tres Horny in an outrageous showcase of trapeze, striptease, acrobatics and physical comedy. Merry Christmas! Dec. 19-21. Tickets, $20-$25. http://www.creativealliance.org —S.E.
The all-new stage adaptation of the classic 1954 movie White Christmas arrives in Baltimore with extra Irving Berlin songs, gorgeous sets and a talented cast who can tap-dance their hearts out. Dec. 3-8 at the Hippodrome. 410-547-SEAT, http://www.ticketmaster.com —P.W.
The consequences of war and the enormity of the military’s reach are felt through quiet moments away from combat in An-My Lê’s powerful color and black-and-white images in her Front Room exhibit at the BMA. Though the artist is a Vietnam War refugee who was airlifted out of Saigon in 1975 at age 15, she neither celebrates nor condemns the subjects of her work, but invites viewers to come to their own conclusions. Through Feb. 23. http://www.artbma.org. —J.B.
THREE UNWISE MEN
Playwright Lyle Kessler’s powerful and darkly humorous tale of the role of family, love, nurturing and the lack thereof comes to Fells Point Corner Theatre in Orphans—described by Entertainment Weekly as “a vibrant exploration of masculinity.” The play follows the bungled kidnapping of a mysterious businessman, which leads to explosive ramifications for a violent petty thief, his emotionally fragile brother and their supposed victim. Through Dec. 8. Tickets, $15-$20. http://www.fpct.org —M.J.
Not since Mike Myers starred on “SNL” have Sprockets been so much fun. Hop over to Port Discovery’s Holiday Springs & Sprockets exhibit, featuring large-scale, mechanical sculptures created from recycled materials by renowned artist Steve Gerberich. We’re talking eight life-sized flying reindeer lifted by motor-driven exercise bicycles, a candy cane assembly plant driven by an early 20th-century vertical drill press, and a fully automated cookie workshop. Finally, a place where you can encourage your kids to push a button and see what happens. Through Jan. 26. http://www.portdiscovery.org —J.B.
Call it “contorting to the Christmas classics” as aerialists, jugglers and strongmen do their thing to the accompaniment of favorite holiday songs performed by the BSO. Fans of all ages are certain to flip for Cirque Musica’s Holiday Cirque—a daring exhibition of beauty, talent and strength. Dec. 11-15 at the Meyerhoff. Tickets, $19-$84. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org —M.J.
Here at STYLE, we’re snobby about country. (No red Solo cups, thank you.) That’s why we love the versatile Country Devils. This local ensemble is quite a sight to see live, where their infectious energy can turn any venue into a bona fide hoedown.
In the studio, the band’s songwriting shines brightly—punctuated by Mike Beresh’s gorgeous lyrics, which effortlessly weave humor with heartbreak. On their new release The Quick and the Don’t Get Any, the band’s instrumentation of guitar, banjo, mandolin, upright bass, pedal steel guitar and harmonica gel perfectly to create a rootsy/rock soundscape that has become our go-to record for fall road trips.
Standout tracks include “Lenny and Honey” (about Lenny Bruce and his wife, Honey Harlow, who hailed from Baltimore) and the twangy, trumpet-infused “County Employee” about a gal who “ain’t got no babies/she got lots of friends.” But the album’s highest achievement comes from “Beatlemania vs Gun Control”—a rare political turn for the band, which will leave you feeling haunted even as you hum along.
DOWNLOAD THIS: If you’re a fan of Whiskeytown, Old 97‘s and Wilco—or keep vintage copies of No Depression on your bedside table. —Jessica Bizik and Marc Shapiro
WOB is with us. Opening its doors in mid-October, McHenry Row’s new World of Beer offers barstoolexplorers 50 rotating taps, one cask and more than 500 bottle choices, backed up by solid pub fare and a compact wine list for the hopless among us.
Settling in at the long, L-shaped dark wood bar or a nearby hightop, you’ll find a Red Bull-infused staff happy to pour you samples—and almost as knowledgeable about the extensive offerings as they think they are. With a large sheltered patio, a pocket stage for live music and plentiful but silent flat-screens, WOB draws an eclectic crowd on weeknights before shifting into “broverdrive” for the weekend.
Being WOB and not NOB (Nation, natch), the draft options run more toward international standard bearers than exotic domestics, but the draft lineup changes daily and will undoubtedly evolve over time. For now, though, there’s no Boh in WOB. It’s a new world in Locust Point. 1724 Whetstone Way, 410-752-2337, http://www.wobusa.com
Forget a White Christmas, Savvy dreams of easy, results guaranteed holiday shopping. And nobody does it better than the fun-time gals at With Gratitude, a perfectly edited little gift shop in Stoneleigh. Ladies, stop in to fill out your wish list (and check it twice), then send in your significant other for “Chug & Charge” (Dec. 10 from 4-8 p.m.) to pick up the loot—and enjoy a few brews with a bunch of other affable blokes. Just brilliant. 6907 York Road, 410-377-6100, http://www.shopwithgratitude.com
What’s better than watching “I Love Lucy” reruns on TV Land? I Love Lucy Live on Stage, natch. Take a trip down memory lane with this behind-the-scenes Broadway comedy where you’ll become a member of the Desilu Playhouse studio audience during the filming of two of the most memorable episodes from the sitcom’s 1952 season. The robust cast includes strong performances by leads playing the Ricardos and the Mertzes (who steal the show, by the way), an affable announcer and even a seven-piece band that backs up “Ricky” at the Tropicana Nightclub. It’s time to Babalu, baby! Dec. 26-29 at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, Merriam Theater. Tickets, $25-$75. http://www.kimmelcenter.org. —S.E.
The passing of the late lamented Joanna Gray Shoes left a sad spot in The Shops at Stevenson Village. Until the charming Liza Byrd moved in. Clothes for women, children and men, along with jewelry and home accessories fill this bright little boutique. The Camilla Shirt in earthy paisley channels the Swinging ‘60s, while the Jasmine Party Dresses in black or gold are pure 21stcentury sparkle. You can even get matching mother-daughter frocks based on American Girl dolls. (Yes, that includes an outfit for the doll.) For the gents, there are brilliantly patterned ties—something Savvy thinks fashion-shy men could use more of. The Shops in Stevenson Village, 410-215-2525, http://www.lizabyrd.com
Convinced that Little Italy is the perfect place to spark a cultural and culinary renaissance, Cyd Wolf, her (authentically Tuscan!) husband/executive chef Germano Fabiani and their new artistic director Donald Kennedy are setting the neighborhood aflame with their “new” restaurant in the space formerly known as Germano’s Trattoria.
Now dubbed Germano’s Piattini (small plates) the contemporary Italian kitchen and bar is serving up little dishes with big flavor. Think Tartufo (truffle) Pizza, Carciofi Fritti (long stem artichokes fried in prosecco batter) and Polpo in Tre Modi (octopus three ways). Wolf notes that the menu includes many gluten-free, vegan and vegetarian offerings—and the facility is entirely nut-free. Well, except for some of the entertainers—ranging from jazz, opera and bluegrass musicians to Broadway and theater performers—who bring their creative talents to the adjoining cabaret. Also entertaining: the pasta-making demonstrations, where students of all ages can eat what they make for lunch. 300 S. High St, 410-752-4515, http://www.germanospiattini.com
When contractor Dave Tobash decided to open The Chasseur, it wasn’t so much the food that inspired him—but fixing an eyesore. “I wanted to turn something ugly into something beautiful,” says the Canton resident, who never cared for the design of Adam’s Eve, the Foster Avenue spot he purchased and refurbished last summer.
Fiancée Natalie diFrancesco, however, has food service in her blood. “I was conceived in a restaurant!” she says with a laugh, noting that she grew up waitressing in her family’s Italian restaurant in Frederick. “I had just one condition before we opened,” she says. “I told Dave, ‘We have to get Mike!’”
That’s bartender Mike Zabora, a familiar (bearded) face in Canton and Fells Point, who comes with a happy legion of regulars who’ve followed him from One Eyed Mike’s to Hummers—and now to The Chasseur. The restaurant is named after the most successful merchant ship during the War of 1812 (aka The Pride of Baltimore).
“My ancestors were longshoremen and carpenters—and our whole crew here has working-class roots. ” says Zabora, flashing his custom Maryland Flag tattoo. “We want to honor people who work hard for a living.”
1. The Menu: The Chasseur is charting the right course with a well-edited mix of apps (think: tuna tartare tacos and sloppy Joe sliders) paired with cholesterol-be-damned entrees, such as buttermilk fried chicken and sour beef and dumplings. Fancy something fancier? The pan-roasted Atlantic salmon with spinach, farro risotto and maple-tomato gastrique is slap-somebody-worthy.
2. The Chef: Sean Praglowski, formerly of Blue Hill Tavern, prides himself on using the finest, freshest ingredients to create The Chasseur’s signature comfort food dishes. “I like to keep it playful, with familiar meals that have been made in kitchens for years, but add my own twist.”
3. The Perks: Being neighborhood-centric is key to owner Tobash’s goal of becoming “the kind of place locals will come three or four times a week.” Wednesday is Stoop Night, where the crew delivers treats (like watermelon-feta-prosciutto skewers) to their Canton neighbors. Also popular with the locals: the Sunday Night Supper menu, featuring specially priced, family-style fare—perfect for roommates, double dates and couples with kids.
4. The Drinks: Thematically named craft cocktails range from sweet to spicy, including the Canon Fuse made with Three Olives mango vodka, tequila, fresh lime, orange juice, sriracha and sliced jalapeno.
5. The Scene: From the custom Vespas parked outside to the indie-darling soundtrack featuring Arcade Fire and the XX, The Chasseur is cool enough to stroke your “I’m a sophisticated city dweller” ego, but “corner bar” enough so you’ll feel comfortable wearing a suit or scrubs. Bonus: the square bar encourages fraternization. Hipsters and prepsters sharing plates? Yep, we’ve seen it. 3328 Foster Avenue, 410-327-6984 http://www.thechausseur.com.
Family meal traditions are wonderful things, but I think it’s fun to mix it up every now and then. After all, even the most delicious Thanksgiving turkey recipe can get a bit boring year after year. I’m not suggesting you abandon your beloved bird altogether, but why not be a bit adventurous this holiday?
I first had wild boar in Krakow, Poland, and instantly fell in love with its rich, nutty flavor—a cross between roast beef and pork. Here I’ve paired this hearty game meat with a fruity port wine jus. And for an incredible leftover meal, make a simple wild boar ragù: Shred the remaining boar meat and add it, along with canned tomatoes, back into the remaining jus and simmer on low for hours. Serve over pappardelle pasta. Rabbit isn’t a common protein on American tables, and that’s a shame. It’s plentiful, affordable and, when cooked correctly, buttery, moist and tender. Try it with my rich sage and pork stuffing and a classic mustard sauce.
The Guinea hen legs, slowly poached in butter, are herby, slightly salty mouthfuls of rich dark meat, and go perfectly with the tart cranberry cherry gastrique.
And finally, something for vegetarians. All too often, our herbivorous friends and family members get stuck eating a series of side dishes at holiday meals, but not so if you serve this sweet potato, caramelized onion and raclette galette—essentially a free-form tart. You also can serve a wedge as a great side for any rich game meat.
Not quite ready to abandon the Thanksgiving turkey altogether? Try one or more of these dishes alongside it this year.
Why should your mani-pedi be rushed and take place in a little corner off to the side, as if it were an afterthought? Or, if it’s the main attraction, why should it be in a space swirling with headache-inducing fumes? Jasmine Simms thinks it shouldn’t. That’s why she opened Scrub Nail Boutique. Exclusively devoted to manicures and pedicures, Scrub is an airy, elegant, luxurious salon on the second floor of a classic rowhouse in Fells Point. It features gel polish only—no acrylics—and is 100 percent fume-free. Whether you want a classic pale neutral or more Goth deep navy, Scrub can set you up—and give your legs a rubdown with fancy organic masks and exfoliants. Complimentary tea, coffee, water and Diet Coke (there have to be some concessions to the real world!) add to the air of relaxation. And they have memberships available to ensure you keep your nails and tootsies in tiptop shape. 722 S. Broadway, Fells Point, http://www.scrubnailboutique.com
Be cool, it’s time to dab on some Sex Panther and tune up the jazz flute because the Channel 4 Evening News Team is back in “Anchorman: The Exhibit,” opening Nov. 14 at the Newseum. In partnership with Paramount Pictures, the exhibit features props, costumes and footage from the 2004 smash comedy. Pose for photos at the KVWN-TV anchor desk and film your own “Anchorman”-themed TV spot at one of the “Be a TV Reporter” stations. (Just don’t drink any scotchy scotch scotch before your segment.) You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the history of news teams (both fictional and real) just in time for the release of “Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues,” in December. Through Aug. 31, 2014 http://www.newseum.org
Insider’s Tip: After exploring the 250,000-square-foot interactive news museum, head up the street to Mike Isabella’s Graffiato restaurant (graffiatodc.com) for the most amazing charred octopus this side of San Diego.
Volunteers for The 6th Branch (T6B) are creating an urban farm in Oliver, a neighborhood once considered one of Baltimore’s toughest.
Once upon a time, in a place called Oliver, a band of urban warriors came together and brought hope to a neighborhood that others had left for dead. Organized by a group of veterans from the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan called The 6th Branch (T6B), in cooperation with local residents and partner organizations, they dedicated themselves to revitalizing one of the toughest neighborhoods in the country.
Oliver first made national news in 2002, when the Dawson family of Oliver, were murdered by area drug dealers who firebombed their home in retaliation for their efforts to alert police to drug dealing in the neighborhood. Later, the East Baltimore neighborhood gained further notoriety when it was portrayed as the poverty-stricken, crime-ridden open-air drug market on the HBO series “The Wire.”
In 2010, veterans Rich Blake, Dennis Robinson and Gregory Lamberson founded T6B, a nonprofit where vets like themselves could use the organizational and leadership skills they learned in the military to solve domestic problems.
“We wanted to prove we could make aggressive change by using the skills we had developed in the service,” Blake explains. “I don’t need people to thank me for my service. I don’t want a bunch of money or tickets to the baseball game. The best way to honor veterans is to take advantage of their skills.”
After a few false starts, T6B got up to speed in spring 2011 when Blake, a Pat Tillman Scholar, received a call from the Tillman Foundation asking him and Robinson, also a Tillman Scholar, for help with a community service day. The Tillman Foundation helped T6B assemble 200 volunteers to carry out a tough mission: a major cleanup in Oliver. By the end of the day, volunteers had removed 5 tons of garbage, painted a mural, weeded, mulched and landscaped. In addition, T6B had formed a partnership with Earl Johnson, a community activist and part-owner of Come Home Baltimore, a local green-building company in Oliver. The two organizations vowed to continue their work in the neighborhood—and Operation Oliver was born.
Although Blake now lives in Seattle where he works as an Army psychologist, he continues to be involved with T6B. Currently he serves as its board chair, while staff and volunteers in Baltimore carry out and build on the work he and the co-founders began.
Marine Dave Landymore, T6B’s executive director, has picked up where Blake and the other vets left off. A formidable leader, Landymore has the quiet confidence and warm demeanor that motivates others for any challenge.
T6B Executive Director Dave Landymore (right) and volunteers compost.
“We consider everything in the neighborhood within our scope,” says Landymore, who lives in Hampden but plans to move to Oliver soon. “Military vets have already chosen to serve—and when they are discharged that drive doesn’t go away. We can’t remedy every social malady in Oliver, but we roll up our sleeves and do as much as we can.”
Two years after T6B first spearheaded revitalization efforts, the neighborhood is no longer the Oliver of “The Wire.” Yes, there are some boarded-up homes, but many of the brick rowhouses are nicely renovated. Although there are empty lots where homes once stood, they are neatly mowed and garbage-free. Attractive signs advertising new “green” homes for sale are posted, and a large mural on North Bond Street reads “Root for Tomorrow.”
Perhaps most significantly, violent crime has decreased dramatically in Oliver over the past two years. “Since we’ve come to the neighborhood the city has taken more of an interest in what’s happening in Oliver,” says Jeremy Johnson, a veteran who handles public relations for T6B. “They have worked to reduce the amount of drug traffic. In the first year alone, we saw violent crime dropping. Crimes like petty theft increased but violent crime went down. You take what you can get. In the first six months of this year, there has been only one homicide in Oliver.”
Sunday at the Farm Stand
A recent Sunday afternoon finds Landymore and a large group of volunteers near the corner of North Bond and Hoffman streets gearing up for one of the organization’s most impactful programs, the weekly Oliver Farm Stand. Soon, a long line of residents will cue up in front of the stand to collect a weekly supply of fruits and vegetables. Some folks are already in line, while others picnic on blankets or sit on lawn chairs socializing. Children are everywhere.
The stand’s purpose is to provide free fresh produce to members of the community living in a so-called food desert, where healthy foods are harder to access. The food is delivered to Oliver courtesy
of T6B’s partner organization, Gather Baltimore, led by urban farmer and part-time teacher, Arthur Morgan. Gather Baltimore is a volunteer-based program that collects vegetables, fruit and bread that would otherwise be thrown away from local retail stores and farmers markets for distribution to meal programs, faith communities and others in need.
One of Oliver’s youngest residents quenches his thirst with some fresh watermelon.
“The fact that people are throwing out beautiful food while others are going hungry is one of the great absurdities of modern life,” says Andreas “Spilly” Spiliadis, who lives in nearby Arcadia where he farms the nearly quarter-acre he owns. Spiliadis, who plans to run for mayor of Baltimore in the next election, says that if he’s elected, he will confront the issue of hunger in Baltimore. “Food and food oppression is one of the least talked about and most important issues today.”
At about 1 p.m., Arthur Morgan’s truck arrives, and volunteers get to work. Some help Morgan, easily recognizable by his long white beard, to unload the large bins full of lettuce, kale, collard greens, red peppers, squash, zucchini, eggplant, cantaloupe and watermelon. Others pack grocery bags full of the fruit and veggies.
“On a slow week about 250 families take advantage of the food stand,” says Landymore. “On a busy week, it’s more like 500.”
While some people tend the farm stand, others mulch, plant and compost in the 20,000-square-foot lot behind it. Eventually, Operation Oliver volunteers plan to fill the entire lot with fresh produce farmed by members of the community. According to Noah Smock, a T6B board member who serves as its director of development, the farm should be ready for planting by late fall—and by March it will be fully functional.
Arthur Allen, 55, a longtime Oliver resident, has been helping out at the farm stand for several weeks. He believes the stand is teaching kids and young adults the importance of good nutrition.
“People have gotten away from vegetables. Older people like my parents—they’re 70 and 80—know about the importance of eating vegetables,” he says. “My father had a garden. Especially in the black culture, youngsters tend to eat junk food. Most of them don’t even realize peanuts and potatoes come from the ground.”
At a recent day of service, volunteers led by Briony Evans Hynson and Vincent Purcell take a break, while volunteers paint a balance beam made from a tree trunk for Oliver’s Bethel Street Playscape.
Afghanistan veteran and T6B board member Nick Culbertson and his wife, Kim, are hoping to reverse that trend with a grant-funded project that provides onsite nutrition education for Oliver residents. Every Sunday, while residents pick up their weekly produce, the Culbertsons and their “assistant” (7-year-old Oliver resident Ariana Mondowney) set up shop nearby. At their booth, residents can receive nutritional information and recipes, watch cooking demonstrations by local chefs and get new ideas for preparing some of the more unusual vegetables being distributed.
“We noticed people wouldn’t take the things they didn’t know what to do with,” says Nick. “So we thought it would be useful to show them.”
Kim, a chemistry teacher in the Johns Hopkins Center for Talented Youth and Dulaney High School, plans to put together a book of the recipes they’ve been collecting from their work in Oliver. “We want to name the recipes after the people in the neighborhood,” she says.
A Joyful Word
Jacquilene Anderson, 52, has always prided herself on being a good neighbor. She has been volunteering with Operation Oliver since the beginning. Nowadays, she works at the farm stand—calling numbers, like at a deli counter, so the food can be given out on a first-come, first-served basis.
“Most of the time, I associate with the elderly, give them a joyful word, ask if they need something from the store. They give me words of wisdom—and recipes,” says Anderson, who admits she was once a part of the crime that almost destroyed Oliver. “Way back when, I was on drugs. I used and sold, but that’s the past. God turned me around and I’m much better.”
Anderson has noticed improvements in the neighborhood, too. “Now there are police on the corners and people are less fearful,” she says, adding that she likes to share her cautionary tale with younger residents whom she hopes will choose the right life path.
That includes Jessica Carter, 21, who regularly volunteers with Operation Oliver. “I help spread the word about the farm stand to young friends like me who don’t have enough [resources] to buy healthy food,” says Carter.
It’s hard to imagine this tiny, soft-spoken woman dressed in a tank top and psychedelic pants running around the neighborhood with gun-toting drug dealers. But dealing was a former way of life for the single mom of a 3-year-old daughter. She attributes her new outlook to community service—and particularly to Earl Johnson, who runs the neighborhood’s mentoring program.
Johnson, 32, who moved to Oliver with his wife in 2010, says the area is full of twenty-somethings who have lost their way. Formerly a T6B board member, Johnson is still active with the group. Unintimidated by the drug dealers, Johnson has been known to sit outside with his laptop signing up youngsters for volunteer jobs.
“Thanks to Earl, now I can help change things by helping others,” says Carter. “It’s much better than spending my life in Central Booking.”
A Safe Space for Oliver’s Kids
Once known as Murder Alley, Oliver’s Bethel Street Playscape has become a place for neighborhood children to do what comes naturally.
Pioneered by Briony Evans Hynson, 32, when she was a fellow for MICA’s Social Design Master’s Program, the project began with a simple experiment.
Hynson put up a single tire swing and a tetherball set in a vacant lot just to see what would happen. What she learned?
If you build it, they will come.
“A $20 investment transformed this place from destitute to hopeful,” says the 6-foot redhead, now deputy director at Baltimore’s Neighborhood Design Center.
When she first started her work on the subsequent playscape, Hynson says she’s certain local residents wondered, “Who is that crazy lady out here every day?” But gradually, neighborhood kids and their parents started coming by to help.
“On one of our first volunteer days, we were building bike ramps. Within five minutes, kids were out here telling us, ‘Do it this way, not that way,’” she says. “On another day in early spring, I saw about 40 people out here—and it wasn’t even a sunny day. That’s when I realized it was a success.”
In February, the Bethel Street Playscape inherited a large jungle gym shaped like a dinosaur that became available when the city decommissioned one of its playgrounds. With the help of Baltimore’s
Department of Parks and Recreation and volunteers from Operation Oliver, the dinosaur was installed on the property, which is still a work in progress. The playscape also has blackboards and climbing structures made of electrical wire spools salvaged from recycling facilities.
Last year, Dave Landymore was walking through the playground and discovered a note taped to a piece of plywood that was stuck in the ground. It said: Come and join our football team. We be out every day. Come at 3 to 6:30. We are the Baltimore Lightning on Oliver and Bethel. You will see our field goal.
In response, Hynson and the volunteers put in yard-lines on the sidewalks so the kids could play football. And now, volunteers from Stevenson University travel downtown to coach the kids every Friday afternoon.
What Brings Them to Oliver
At 63, Lynn Heneson jokes she’s “far and away the oldest member of T6B. I’m older than s__t,” she tells fellow volunteer Pam Gladden, as the two women share a laugh. That doesn’t stop Heneson, a
retired speechwriter for the Department of Health and Human Services, from traveling almost an hour from her home in D.C. to help Operation Oliver with some of its most strenuous tasks. A native
Baltimorean, Heneson says she “doesn’t have the same feeling for D.C.” that she has for Baltimore—even though she has lived there for 30 years.
“Oliver was the ancestral neighborhood for my family. I have deep roots here,” she says. “There’s just this friendliness in Baltimore that isn’t in D.C. I’ve met great people and I feel like I’m doing something to help.”
Stephanie Region, T6B’s director of engagement, says Operation Oliver helps residents to see there is hope for the neighborhood. “They already have strength. Everyone knows each other and there is longevity in the neighborhood. People here have cared for their own streets and kept up their homes,” says the civilian volunteer who heard about T6B through Black is the New Green, a social media-based, environmentally focused organization she founded in 2010. “If you make things nicer, people want to keep it that way.”
Still, Region admits that when T6B first began work in the neighborhood there was a certain amount of distrust from the residents. She believes the organization has been successful because it hasn’t imposed its agenda on the people of Oliver. “It’s about showing people we care about them, but not telling them what they need. Even though I’m not a resident, I spend time in the community and really get to know them.”
Kelvin Holliday, 48, who works for the Department of Justice, moved to Oliver three years ago. A native Baltimorean, Holliday knew the neighborhood’s reputation. “Years ago, this neighborhood was notorious for its murder rate. I used to duck coming through here when I was a kid.” Yet Holliday felt convinced that Oliver was heading toward a renaissance. Since moving in he’s seen positive changes. “I see people taking ownership and having pride. When the farm stand started, people were so happy and excited. It’s rewarding to give blessings to others.”
Benefits for Vets and Volunteers
Perhaps it’s no surprise that Operation Oliver also makes a significant impact on the men and women who volunteer here.
After being discharged from the U.S. Navy because he admitted he was gay, Jeremy Johnson, figured his connection with the military was over. “A few months after I was kicked out, I dumped my
uniforms,” he says. “It was like an acknowledgment that I’d never wear them again. For 10 years, I was taught to take great care of my uniforms and there I was throwing them away.”
Although Johnson was no longer allowed to serve, he was discharged honorably, and able to return to school at Community College of Baltimore County with funding from the military. When a friend invited him to attend a conference for millennial vets in Los Angeles, he was less than enthusiastic. But since he needed service learning credits for a class, he decided to attend. It was there he met
T6B co-founder Dennis Robinson—who, along with other T6B members, eventually persuaded him to join their efforts.
“Even though my military career was over, that didn’t change the fact that I was a vet,” explains Johnson. “I’m not sure exactly when or how it came up that I was gay, but no one seemed to care. Being part of T6B helped me reconcile my vet identity.” (So much so that Johnson became the nation’s first serviceman to re-enlist after the repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.)
“Had I not hooked up with a group of people who gave me a positive outlook on the military, I wouldn’t have been as quick to re-enlist,” says Johnson. “It really helped me to get over my bitterness.”
Pat Young, 30, a lifelong Catonsville resident, found his way to Operation Oliver through the Veterans Art Program, another T6B partner organization. Now T6B’s director of strategic partnerships (and a 2014 Democratic candidate for the Maryland House of Delegates), the Marine who served two tours in Iraq admits that transitioning to civilian life was hard—but community service can help.
“When you’re in the military, you have a sense of purpose and worth. Afterward, there’s a sense that something is missing,” says Young, who also founded a veterans’ advocacy group at Towson University. “I believe my work at Towson and T6B has kept me away from depression.”
Civilian board member John Schratwieser, an arts lobbyist, learned about T6B on a fateful day. He met Jeremy Johnson and Pat Young at a performance of “The Telling Project,” a compilation of stories about vets, and returned home to learn that his cousin who had served in the Air Force for 25 years had taken his own life.
“He definitely had post-traumatic stress symptoms,” says Schratwieser, who took his cousin’s suicide as an impetus to get involved with T6B—a decision he credits for helping him develop a strong connection to Baltimore in the first year after relocating here. “What I think is so spectacular about this program are these vets,” says Schratwieser. “Not being one of them, I am continually trying to match their level of commitment to the community. The concept of the sixth branch of military service speaks volumes about the potential of these individuals—and the city we live in.”
Meaghan & Shane Carpenter
Meaghan & Shane Carpenter
[ Hex ferments ]
“She won me over with food,” says Shane Carpenter, photographer-turned-food alchemist, as he fondly remembers a certain goulash his wife, Meaghan, made when they were students at MICA.
“I have a strong German background,” explains Meaghan with a laugh. Which may explain the kraut.
The Carpenters have built their business, HEX Ferments, around fermented food—sauerkraut, kimchi and kombucha tea. Meaghan first learned about this ancient means of accessing beneficial probiotics and nutrients while working as a vegan salad chef as an undergrad.
Digestive issues compelled her to begin fermenting foods herself.
“There’s a whole range of bacteria our bodies need to have better immune function, metabolism, digestive and brain function,” Meaghan explains. “Topping a hamburger with a fermented food, such as sauerkraut, helps your body digest food and make nutrients more bio-available.”
The Carpenters mix cabbage with high mineral salt that causes the vegetable to break down—allowing various bacteria to proliferate and die until just the right flavor and texture is achieved. Not a job for the impatient, the fermentation process can take weeks or even months.
Afterward, the couple layers local seasonal vegetables to the cabbage base—transforming it into creative concoctions, such as garlic kraut with Brandywine tomatoes—which will soon be sold in their first retail space in Belvedere Square Market. Other fermented favorites include pickled okra and ginger soda—all great to consume during cold and flu season.
“We see ourselves as good witches leaning over bubbling pots of fermenting vegetables and kombucha teas,” explains Meaghan, who says the hex symbol connotes protective powers in Pennsylvania Dutch folklore.
“We bottle up all that goodness and give it to people—and it’s the most amazing, magical thing.”
Marie Stratton & Katie Horn
Marie Stratton & Katie Horn
[ Kinderhook Snacks ]
Thanks to more than $13,000 raised in a Kickstarter campaign, Marie Stratton and Katie Horn have a new commercial kitchen in a carriage house near WYPR for their Kinderhook Snacks company. Which means they no longer have to pull all-nighters, baking in rented kitchens after all the restaurants in town close down.
“There are plenty of funny stories when you’re completely delirious,” says Stratton. “Like when we’re packaging and falling asleep—putting the stickers on upside down or on the bottom.”
If everything goes according to plan, the two will soon be working full time making coconut honey macaroons, salted chocolate chip cookies, Parmesan bacon crackers, black pepper shortbread, ginger cookies and candied walnuts.
“We’re on that trajectory,” says Horn of their grand plan. “The business is making money at this point and we have a plan to grow. We will be launching mail order this month, so people can make a one-time purchase or buy a subscription plan. It’s like a CSA or snack-of-the-month club.”
The environmentally minded duo composts out of their kitchen, recycles as much as possible (including delivering in boxes the ingredients came in) and sources locally from Vann Spices, the Herb and Farm Alliance and local egg providers whenever possible.
“As a small company, we have a lot of flexibility to be purposeful in the ingredients we choose,” explains Horn, who says they’ll remain committed to sustainability—and fun—even as the company grows.
“We were just reminiscing about the time when making a hundred bags of snacks was a big deal—and now we’re averaging 500 each week,” says Stratton.
“People always laugh when we tell them we have a snack company,” adds Horn. “It’s just a fun thing. Everybody loves to snack.”
[ Mobtown Meat Snacks ]
Two winters ago, Evan Siple bought a dehydrator on a whim. “I didn’t want to dehydrate fruit, so I thought I’d try jerky,” he explains. When friends told him it was so good they’d buy it, Siple thought: What the hell? Jerky is a multibillion-dollar industry!
“It’s tied in part to the Paleo diet,” Siple says of the snack’s recent rise in popularity. But we’re not talking about gas station jerky here. Instead, think locally sourced, farm-raised beef from Monkton flavored with Old Bay, chili lime, teriyaki, curry, Jamaican jerk and black pepper crust. In other words, this jerky tastes like sirloin steak.
Siple calls on his biology degree from St. Mary’s College and experiences in labs from Johns Hopkins to the Carnegie Institute (where he studied muscle regeneration) to make his jerky healthier using natural sources like pineapple juice to tenderize, cure, flavor and change the color of the meat. “People have been doing this for eons, but it satisfies the scientist in my brain,” he says, noting that all his jerky is low-fat, low-sodium and has a long shelf life. “It’s protein on the go.”
Working out of Ostrowski’s sausage kitchen in Fells Point, he cuts all the meat by hand and has upgraded to an industrial-sized dehydrator that turns 125 pounds of meat into 63 pounds of jerky—several of which end up traveling to Europe when his “PhD friends” visit their homelands. “If only I had a smuggler,” he notes wistfully.
Siple’s sense of humor extends to his business’ website, where you can find custom T-shirts dedicated to Baltimore’s best mustaches (hello, Frank Zappa!) and gift cards with cheeky salutations like “Happy Bar Mitzvah—have some meat.”
Jinji & Guy Fraser
Jinji & Guy Fraser
[ Pure Chocolate by Jjinji ]
What if we told you there was a food that’s delicious, reduces cholesterol, makes your skin glow—and revs your sex drive? Now, what if we said that food was chocolate? That’s the premise behind Pure Chocolate by Jinji, the small batch producer and beauty brand founded by holistic health coach Jinji Fraser.
“True raw cacao contains more antioxidants than green tea, red wine and blueberries combined,” says Fraser, who adds beauty-boosting “super” ingredients such as raspberry, figs and Brazil nuts to make her unique chocolate bark. “Brazil nuts offer the highest source of selenium in nature—great for hair growth.”
Pure Chocolate’s founder discovered these sweet facts by attending workshops on raw chocolate and even took a trip to South America to see a real cacao pod and to ensure the chocolate she sells is produced in a humane and environmentally friendly way.
“It was remarkable,” she says of the natural process, which includes roasting the pods in the sun for a week to maintain health benefits. Unlike mainstream chocolatiers, Fraser sweetens her product with coconut and lucuma rather than refined sugar.
Fraser’s father Guy, retired from his career managing military construction projects, is her business partner. In addition to handling logistics, the elder Fraser serves as chief taste-tester.
“I can eat chocolate from morning until night,” he says. (Which means his daughter needs to keep a tight control of inventory.) Dad’s favorite flavors? Milk and Honey Café, made with espresso beans, and Beam, made with lavender, honey, ginger and walnut.
“It may look like traditional chocolate, but it has a taste you can appreciate as being from hand rather than machine,” he says. “People can actually taste the caring.”
[ Haute Mess Kitchen ]
Kristin Zissel still isn’t sure why she accepted the challenge to create a six-course tasting menu for 16 guests at “a cute little wine store” in her Cedarcroft neighborhood. A self-proclaimed “frequent flyer” at the shop, she would sometimes share her homemade food with the owners, which is why they turned to her when their caterer for a special event fell through. “It was obstacle-course cooking,” says the marketing gal turned accidental caterer. “Sear lamb chops at home; heat them in a stranger’s apartment above the shop; repeat.”
Zissel soon found herself fielding more offers including a wedding, but catering didn’t jibe with the new mom’s lifestyle. “I love food, but I don’t want restaurant hours—or restaurant stress,” she says.
When reviewing her favorite recipes, she kept coming back to the one her husband loves the most—her barbecue sauce. “I don’t even think I was making ribs correctly. They weren’t smoked, didn’t hit a grill. But it was the bourbon-based sauce everyone seemed to love.”
So she decided to sell it. Since May, Zissel’s Haute Mess Kitchen has sold more than 1,000 jars of her Bourbon Bath whiskey barbecue sauce and dry rubs (Steak Candy, Off the Hook Island and Chicken Scratch).
Zissel believes her products gives wannabe chefs who frequent specialty stores and farmers markets an easy way to kick up their meals a notch (or two).
“You don’t go to the trouble of buying grass-fed beef to dump artificial preservatives on it,” she says, noting that working in small batches allows her to use premium bourbon in her sauce. “If it was mass produced, I’d have to downgrade or switch to extract.”
You can find Zissel’s products on the Haute Mess website, along with local boutiques Su Casa and Milk and Honey, and at the Towson Farmers Market in season.
[ Woot! Granola ]
Whenever Gail Fishman texts her daughter Sasha asking about her day, it’s always a good sign if she replies “Woot!”
“It’s a big gaming phrase used by young people to mean good or happy,” says Fishman. (According to Urban Dictionary, “woot!” is the abbreviation of “wow, loot!” said by players of Dungeons and Dragons.) “And since Sasha was the one who encouraged me to make my granola, it seemed like the perfect name for the business.”
Fishman played with the recipes for several months to achieve one that was healthy and delicious. She increased nuts, seeds and dried fruits, decreased grain, added oodles of crystallized ginger and decreased sweeteners and oils. Without the usual “batter” of oil, sugar and oat flour, her granola is more of a mix—best eaten with a spoon or, better yet, by the handful.
The former museum exhibition developer, who has worked for the Smithsonian, the Holocaust Museum and the Contemporary in Baltimore, first began serving her granola to party guests in her Guilford home, along with a glass of wine and plate of cheese. People would ask for batches here and there. But things really took off when she delivered a bag of Woot! to her friend, Irena Stein, owner of Baltimore’s Azafran and Alkimia cafes.
“She said she had never tasted anything like it,” says Fishman, adding that Stein offered to test-sell the granola in her restaurants—and taught her professional kitchen practices. “Pretty soon, people started emailing me asking for more.”
Woot! also has become a fan favorite at the Union Graze farmers market in Hampden and an ecommerce site is in the works.
Meanwhile, granola continues to be a family affair. Everyone chops, Sasha, 18, designed the logo and Leah, 16, is a natural at sales. Architect husband, Jonathan, helps with packaging. “He puts the labels on perfectly,” Fishman says with a smile.
Angie and James Hale
Angie and James Hale
[ Hale’s Homemade ]
Call it a “Laverne and Shirley” moment, but when Angie and James Hale donned hairnets to watch the first batch of their Hale’s Homemade salsa roll off the line at their new co-packer in Randallstown, the only word that came to mind was “awesome,” said in unison.
This is the next step in the life of a small-batch producer. Once the product becomes too in-demand to be made completely by hand, the recipe is given to a company with capacity to make larger quantities.
“We’re not talking Tostitos, 17,000-jars-per-minute-type quantities,” says James. Rather each batch of “Hale Yeah it’s Mild!” and “Holy Hale it’s Hot!” salsas are mixed in 300 gallon kettles, bottled into 1,700 jars, packed into 150 cases and then stored in the Hales’ basement. On the weekends the couple packs up their minivan and delivers to local stores, which—big announcement—now includes Whole Foods.
The couple, who started crafting their own salsa for home-cooked Mexican dinners, believe it’s the consistency of the ingredients in their otherwise fairly simple recipe that makes their salsa muy bueno.
“Our tomatoes go through a fine grind,” says James. “With every ingredient ground to the same size, the full impact of the flavors is tasted in each bite.”
“A lot of salsas are on the smoky side,” adds Angie. “Ours is purely tomatoes, onions, cilantro, lime juice, jalapeños, hot sauce.”
Up next: a super-hot formula called “Hotter than Hale”—and raising their 6-month-old daughter, Hannah Marie, who already has a onesie with the company logo.
Says proud mom Angie: “She’s employee of the month!”
[ Charm City Cook ]
Growing up in rural Baltimore County, the only girl in a family of five boys, Amy Langrehr literally had to grab for food. “As a kid, food wasn’t something I thought about,” says the alumni director at Friends School of Baltimore. “You just ate because you had to have dinner.”
Her 40th birthday trip to a friend’s home in Paris changed all that. During a drive to Burgundy, they stopped for a rustic French country lunch and her friend’s husband took photos of the food. (This was
before Instagram, mind you.) Eating, drinking and photographing her way through France left Langrehr with a hunger for more.
Today she lives her life in a sustainable way—buying local produce and even raising chickens in her backyard downtown. In this way, she is also carrying on the traditions of her grandparents.
“My grandmother was a cook who just made things up as she went along,” says Langrehr, whose grandparents ran Country Home in Harford County. “Homeless people would come off the train tracks and would work at my grandparents’ farm and stay overnight. Everything my grandmother made—buttermilk, cheese and butchered meats, anything they ate—they raised on the farm.”
The first recipe Langrehr created completely from scratch turned into her signature product: Charm City Cook salted caramel brownies available at Ma Petite Shoe in Hampden. “They will also be on the menu at Paulie Gee’s pizza when it opens later this winter” she says.
Or just visit Langrehr’s food blog and e-commerce site, where you can find her brownies (“Only available in twos, because they’re too good to eat just one,” she says) with jams and salted caramel sauce coming soon.
The little spit of Chestnut just around the corner from The Avenue in Hampden is blossoming, with the new child-ren’s store Mono Azul (Blue Monkey) now in the mix. Named after a resort in Costa Rica, where owner Dominique Croke often travels, the little shop is stocked with both new and consignment children’s clothing for ages newborn through 10. Why people spend gobs of money on clothes that the wee ones grow out of in five minutes will always be a mystery to Savvy. Especially when they can come here and get adorable red snowsuits with leopard print by Rothschild for $35 (sold for lots more on Rue La La), denim jeans by DKNY and items by Baby Gap and The Chidren’s Place. Don’t miss the darling little handmade sheep soaps and sparkly nail polish, which should keep your daughter occupied while your son is riding the blinking, talking green triceratops just inside the door. 3528 Chestnut Ave, Hampden, http://www.monoazulboutique.com
If you’re anything like me you spent many Sunday evenings this summer rooting for Rodney Henry, founder of Dangerously Delicious Pies, as he fought his way to the finale of “The Next Food Network Star.” While his (brilliant) idea for a TV pilot—turning world-famous restaurants’ top dishes into a pie—didn’t get picked up, I decided to accept his challenge…with a twist. This is my version of Henry’s top-selling, Berger cookie-infused “Baltimore Bomb” pie, presented cocktail style.
2 oz Chopin Dorda Double Chocolate liqueur
1⁄2 oz RumChata Cream Liqueur
2 oz half and half
2 drops of organic Almond Extract
A Berger cookie
Mix all ingredients in a cocktail shaker half filled with ice and shake vigorously for 20-30 seconds. Strain into a chilled cocktail or martini glass and garnish with half a Berger cookie.
—Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres in Harbor East, and founder of Tend for a Cause.
One sip and you’ll know: Ransom’s WhipperSnapper Oregon Spirit Whiskey is definitely not your father’s Old Grand-Dad. Aged in French pinot noir barrels, distilled not just from corn but also from proximately plentiful northwestern barley, and created using techniques borrowed from the worlds of bourbon, Scotch, Irish whiskey and corenwyn (a Dutch spirit), it’s just one example of the brave, new always-American spirits enlivening Whiskey Wednesdays at Johnny’s in Roland Park.
This biweekly boozebration offers four half-ounce sampling pours, along with two substantial appetizers and a presentation by a rotating cast of “spirits specialists” borrowed from Johnny’s sister stores Bin 604 and Bin 201.
Grab a banquette or bar stool, prime your palate with the apps and take all the time you like to chat with the presenter when he personally delivers your whiskeys. Looking around the warmly appointed
basement bar and dining area, you’ll see a surprising diversity of tasters, including plenty of women and more than a few Hampden hipsters making the reverse commute up Roland Avenue. Whatever their politics, they clearly concur that when it comes to whiskey, American exceptionalism is alive and well. Cost: $25. 4800 Roland Ave., 410-773-0777, http://www.johnnys downstairs.com
When one successful boutique is good, how can two not be better? That’s how Savvy sees the women’s clothing and accessories boîte Brightside, which has launched a satellite store from the mother ship in Federal Hill into the orbit of Fells Point. Offerings are just as cheeky as ever, with tattoo-inspired prints by the L.A.-based UNIF (fancy a Day of the Dead sweater?) and a leather-blocked dress by Lucca Couture, along with more traditionally feminine attire such as floral miniskirts by MinkPink and dresses by BB Dakota. Though the shop definitely boasts a younger vibe, Savvy isn’t too old to appreciate the so-called “offensive” T-shirts, which have been selling like hotcakes. (Sorry, hon, language too naughty to reprint here.) Bonus: everything is under $100. 732 S. Broadway, Fells Point, http://www.brightsidebaltimore.com
Don’t worry. Be happy—drumming with Beatwell’s Jordan Goodman.
HE’S GOT THE BEAT.
Ever since he was a little (drummer) boy, Jordan Goodman knew that drumming made him feel fantastic. But it wasn’t until grad school that the professional drummer with a master’s degree in clinical psychology discovered the science behind his natural high. “Group drumming alters biology at the genetic and cellular levels,” says the certified health rhythms facilitator. Translation: drumming decreases stress and improves functioning of the immune system.
Goodman has seen this firsthand in his work with populations as diverse as emotionally disturbed kids, schizophrenic adults, college students, seniors and preschoolers. He has seen drumming work better than talk therapy and even medication to calm angry teens—and create unity among disgruntled professionals in the workplace.
Tell that to your accounting department!
What’s more, Goodman says, “Effects are immediate and it’s a cost-effective, non-invasive alternative to conventional interventions.”
That’s why he created Beatwell, a therapeutic and educational drumming practice in Owings Mills. To get into the act, schedule an individual or group session with Goodman at his private home
studio, where he also trains others to facilitate drum circles and will soon be licensed to provide psychotherapy. Or invite him to your next company retreat or your own home. Oh, you can just take regular-old drum lessons, too. Prices starting at $50 per hour. 443-803-2588, http://www.beat-well.com
If you’re looking to sweat (to the oldies or otherwise), try Cardio-Fit Drumming at Universal Fitness in Overlea. Classes combine “drumming” on a fitness ball with aerobic and muscle-building movements like squats, jumps and dance steps. “You know when you see a band? It’s always the drummer who sweats the most,” says Patrick Leonard. Cost: $5 per class. 6809 Belair Road, 410-668-6060, overlea
Kitchen trends come and go, but the best ones have a practical edge that endures. In late fall, when the approaching holidays present the best reason in the calendar for renovating, kitchen design gets a little sharper. We’ve combed the region for a few new kitchens that infuse utilitarian ideas with fresh style. Each responds to its owner’s dream of having a special place to cook and spend family time. We think they have staying power.
Before hurricane damage forced Annapolis architect Wayne Good to remodel his cottage on St. George Island in St. Mary’s County, he was a passionate cook with a secret ambition to have a restaurant-grade kitchen. He met the challenge of building it inside a corner of the 750-square-foot house by combining high-tech culinary industry materials and original wood the local waterman
recycled to build the place 100 years ago.
His first step: think outside the kitchen triangle of range, fridge, sink. “I wanted a big cooking area so I got the fridge and oven out of the way in a separate pantry,” he says. The real work takes place at a six-burner cooktop against a wall spanned by an 11-foot-long copper hood and backsplash. Stainless steel open shelving topped with stainless prep surfacing flanks the cooktop. “I have an antique Italian copper and tin skillet that inspired the mix of metals,” says Good.
A 3-foot-long stainless steel sink and backsplash hanging off the adjacent wall incorporates a dishwasher drawer and connects to an espresso center with lower shelves holding all Good’s basic clear glassware and white dishes. The recess for a drainboard beside the sink is deep enough to wash oysters and vegetables. The center dining table is an antique drafting table that Good topped with a slab of Carrara marble and rigged to raise higher for use in prep, baking and candy making.
Size: 157 square feet
Building materials: Original heart pine flooring. New board-and-batten walls; Smith & Orwig, 410-275-2339.
Countertops, sink and shelving: Custom-fabricated stainless steel, http://www.custommetalsofvirginia.com
Copper hood: Fabricated by Smith & Orwig.
Storage: Open shelving “to see and use everything,” says Good. “With cabinets, you forget what you own.”
Lighting: Bare 75-watt light bulbs plus LED built-ins for under the copper hood; over-sink wall mounts, restoration http://www.hardware.com
Island: Antique cast-iron drafting table with new 500 pound Carrara marble top. Eames wire chairs, http://www.hermanmiller.com
Cooktop and griddle: Viking, http://www.vikingrange.com
Trish Houck of Kitchen Concepts helped a Guilford couple renovate this 1920s-era kitchen based on their wish to have a sofa in the room. “Comfort was really important,” says the wife and mother of two, whose input on every design choice resulted in a totally personalized space for her family.
Architect Laura Thomas’ family room addition paved the way by integrating kitchen and gathering functions into a single room—drawing inspiration from an ’80s concept of the kitchen as the living room in which you cook.
“After Johnny Grey designed the unfitted kitchen for Smallbone in the U.K., furniture-like cabinets became a mainstay of kitchen design in the States,” says Houck, who came in after Thomas to add both function and style. “Appliances disappeared behind panels, and kitchens became a place to spend much more than mealtimes.”
This kitchen takes Smallbone’s prototype in a new direction. Instead of mixing cabinet colors and styles for a look that grew over time, its woodwork is streamlined and painted a single, soothing color to unify the big room.
The wife who knew she’d tire of a trendy look wanted a simple backdrop with clean-lined mouldings, a subtle interplay of tones and no over-island pendant lighting obscuring the family room view. “Our kitchen is such a lively place, I needed the serenity of simplicity,” she says. “Gray is great because I can change the look with the accent colors of different linens, flowers and holiday decorations. It always feels fresh.”
Size: 600 square feet, including family room
Flooring: Travertine stone with thin grout line for a museum-floor look.
Cabinet color: Houck’s stock color, “Weimaraner,” to match the floor tile.
Cabinet style: Flat-panel with beaded inset, popular in the 1920s butler’s pantry.
Countertops and backsplash: Statuary marble and white subway tile.
Island: Curved for ease of conversation. “Onda” kitchen stools from Design within Reach, http://www.dwr.com
Lighting: In place of pendants, Leucos “Ony” low-voltage down lights with Murano glass trim, http://www.leucosusa.com
Range: Six-burner, http://www.subzero-wolf.com
Designer: Trish Houck, Kitchen Concepts, http://www.trishhouckkitchens.com
Designer Lauren Hurlbrink has a cardinal rule when it comes to her clients’ kitchens: Don’t be afraid to remodel to keep pace with a growing family. She used the same philosophy when upgrading the galley kitchen of her own 1913 Ruxton home 10 years ago when her three children were all under the age of 6. And she revamped it this year because the fridge couldn’t handle the demands of their now-teenage appetites. Instead of indulging in a grand makeover, she retained the kitchen’s sound working layout and concentrated on getting a new look with some cost-saving changes.
“I started by gutting the island to add two refrigerator drawers and an icemaker,” she says. “The slab of granite I found for the new countertop is an eye-catching room focus.” She economized by retaining the perimeter’s Corian countertops and developing a new gray-and-yellow color palette. Gray, “the new neutral,” is a foil for the “positive” yellow she introduced as a lacquered finish on the breakfast room walls. She extended this yellow punctuation to the back walls of cabinets and new chair upholstery.
Hurlbrink saved on cabinet replacement by changing out door styles and hardware. She replaced brushed nickel plumbing fixtures with livelier chrome and brought in more chrome sparkle with new over-island lanterns and a drum-shade chandelier in the breakfast room. Finally, she discovered a round breakfast table was a better fit than her rectangular model to accommodate their odd number of five family members.
Size: 330 square feet; breakfast room, 187 square feet
Flooring: No rugs underfoot; original bare wood for a streamlined look that’s easy-care.
Paint colors: Breakfast room walls, “Van Gogh Yellow” (2070), Fine Paints of Europe. Kitchen walls, “Stonington Gray” (hc-170), Benjamin Moore. Island, “Benjamin Moore Gray” (2121-10).
New cabinet door fronts: Mix of Shaker flat-panel on island and glass neo-classical mullions on opposite cabinets.
Countertops: Corian “Platinum” http://www.corian.com
Backsplash: Silver Cloud granite, Universal Marble & Granite Inc., http://www.umgrocks.net
Lighting: Recessed at perimeter, chrome chandelier with drum shade; over-island lanterns from http://www.circalighting.com
Cooktop: Six-burner Thermador
Designer: Lauren Hurlbrink, http://www.laurenhurlbrink.com
Salvador Dalí once claimed “I don’t do drugs. I am drugs.” Whether the surrealist master used hallucinogenic drugs remains a debate for the ages, but you’re guaranteed to get a cultural contact high when viewing The Surrealists: Works from the Collection at the Philadelphia Museum of Art. This profound gathering of 40 of the most celebrated Surrealist artists—also including Joan Miró, Man Ray and Max Ernst among others—explores the movement’s place in history through paintings, sculptures, photographs, drawings and prints, plus examples of the many art and literary publications central to the surrealist exchange. Come get lost in the hyper-real, oft-disturbing, fantastical images central to the most cohesive and long-lasting—yet equally idiosyncratic and varied—art movement of the 20th-century. Nov. 3-March 2. http://www.philamuseum.org
Bigmouth Strikes Again
Like a “light that never goes out” Johnny Marr’s perennial sex appeal and legendary guitar playing shine as bright as ever. While sometimes overshadowed by the brooding, mononymous Morrissey (lead singers always do that) Marr actually founded The Smiths when he was just an 18-year-old lad from Manchester—and he was the impetus behind synthesizing his reclusive friend’s poetic lyrics with his own guitar-driven riffs into one of the finest pop songwriting collaborations of the 20th century. In the decades since the Smiths broke up, Marr has enjoyed a successful career playing with other bands—from the Pretenders to Modest Mouse—and he recently partnered with composer Hans Zimmer on the “Inception” film soundtrack. Last year, NME magazine awarded Marr with its Godlike Genius Award. (We’re not worthy!)
This month, he stops by Rams Head Live! to support his new (ridiculously brilliant) solo album, “The Messenger.” We’re so there. Sunday, Nov. 17. Tickets, $25, http://www.ramsheadlive.com
Oh What a Night
Step aside, One Direction! “Jersey Boys” is coming back to Baltimore. The Tony and Grammy award-winning musical tells the story of America’s original boy band, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons—
a group of blue-collar boys from the wrong side of the tracks who became one of the biggest pop sensations of all time. They wrote their own ditties, invented their own sounds and sold 175 million records worldwide—all before hitting the big three-oh. Nov. 12-24 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $25-$110, http://www.ticketmaster.com
John Logan’s 2009 Tony Award-winning play about 1960s abstract expressionist Mark Rothko will have you pondering heavy topics like human relationships, the creative process and artistic integrity, as it places you in the mind and studio of the renowned painter. Does selling art have to mean selling out? That question is at the heart of Red, directed by Donald Hicken and starring Bruce Randolph Nelson, two men whose names are synonymous with theater in Baltimore. Nov. 6-Dec. 8 at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $32-$60, http://www.everymantheatre. org —Simone Ellin
La Lumière Fantastique: Brittany Shines in Baltimore features work by 65 talented (and lucky!) MICA artists created during and after their residencies in beautiful Brittany, France. Paintings and photographs displayed in the gallery are hung floor-to-ceiling in French salon style, an installation practice that originated in late 17th-century Paris. Ooh la la! Nov. 9–Dec. 1 at the Graduate Studio Center: Sheila & Richard Riggs and Leidy galleries, 131 W. North Ave. http://www.mica.edu —S.E.
Baltimore’s newest performing arts festival is back for year two—and promises to be bigger and better than ever. The now five-day Charm City Fringe Festival brings together some of the city’s most talented actors, directors, dancers, burlesque and performance artists for a week of local arts on steroids. Based in the city’s Station North Arts & Entertainment District (which gets cooler by the minute), this year’s expanded program includes “Please Don’t Beat Me Up” a one-man show by comedian and storyteller Adam Ruben of The Food Network’s “The Food Detectives” and NPR’s “All Things Considered.” Also on the program: “The Tramp’s New World” by Rob Jansen, “T Minus 5” by Playwrights Group of Baltimore and “The Sound of Smoke” by Nicholas Horan. Though each play is unique, all three share a common theme—the end of the world as we know it. Nov. 6-10. http://www.charmcityfringe.com —S.E.
Even one of the ugliest wars in American history can’t stop the holiday spirit from coming to life in Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Paula Vogel’s acclaimed musical, A Civil War Christmas. Theater-goers (especially history buffs and Abe Lincoln fans) seeking something meatier than the typical Christmas schlock won’t be disappointed by this moving depiction of a war-torn nation striving to find peace and good will despite the death and hardship that surrounds them. Nov. 19- Dec. 22 at Centerstage. Tickets, $19-$59. http://www.centerstage.org —P.W.
It’s hard to believe many of Zelda’s fans are now 30-something parents who fight with their kids about playing too many video games. But audiences of all ages will delight in the eagerly awaited The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Second Quest—the sequel to last year’s sold-out performance by the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. The multimedia presentation combines symphonically arranged music from the iconic game franchise with video projections from the actual Nintendo game. Attendees are encouraged to dress up like their favorite Hyrule characters for the one-night-only show at the Meyerhoff. Thursday, Nov. 21. Tickets, $33-$103, http://www.bsomusic.org —S.E.
ART OF NATURE
Fine artist and cabinetmaker J Michael Chandler, who last exhibited in Baltimore in 2008, will be back in town with a treasure-trove of new artwork. Known for his masterful landscapes and his affinity for the natural world, Chandler’s most recent work reflects an evolving interest in more abstract paintings and built mixed-media works. Musician Brian Eno (of Roxy Music) is a collaborator and a fan! Opening reception, Nov. 9 at Bismark & Wilson Gallery in Fells Point, with showings by appointment only through Jan. 31. 1760 Bank St. 410-675-8959. http://www.jmichaelchandler.com. —S.E.
WHAT A CROCK!
The new exhibition at the
Walters will take you back—and we mean way back—to ancient Egypt and the Greco-Roman period. Egypt’s Mysterious Book of the Faiyum provides museum visitors a rare opportunity (the first in 150 years) to view large portions of this gorgeously illustrated manuscript together in one exhibition. “Egypt’s Mysterious Book” is displayed along with statues, jewelry and ritual objects that tell the tale of Sobek, the crocodile god who brings sun to the Faiyum. Through Jan. 6. Tickets, $6-$10. http://www.thewalters.org —P.W.
You think your neighbors are crazy? You ain’t seen (or heard) nothin’ yet. Join Concert Artists of Baltimore for the family-friendly musical dramatization, Beethoven Lives Upstairs. Based on a children’s book by Barbara Nichol, the show tells the story of a young Viennese boy named Christoph who is trying to make sense of his eccentric, but musically gifted new neighbor—a deaf man named Ludwig. Definitely an octave up from the usual kids’ fare. Sunday Nov. 17 at The Gordon Center for Performing Arts. Tickets, $20, http://www.cabalto.org —S.E.
If you like your fruitcake with extra nuts, put Elf the Musical on your “nice” list this holiday season. Based on the beloved flick starring Will Ferrell, the stage adaptation adds a zippy score, goofy dance numbers and some savvy new jokes that will keep adults engaged while the kiddos guffaw over the general goofballery of it all. We love the introduction of the far more curmudgeon-y Santa Claus, who complains in the opening number (“Happy All the Time”), When they sing until they’re blueish, Santa wishes he were Jewish. Need a visual? On Broadway, the Old St. Nick was played by Wayne Knight—that’s Newman of “Seinfeld” fame. Nov. 22-24 at the Lyric. Tickets, $49-$69. http://www.ticketmaster.com —J.B.
Based on a book by George Furth, with music and lyrics by the one and only Stephen Sondheim, Company was nominated for a record-breaking 14 Tony Awards when it premiered on Broadway in 1970—and won six of them. Instead of a linear plot, the first “concept” musical comprises a series of vignettes about five not-so-happy (read: normal) couples, but the stories and songs still resonate today. What better place to see this groundbreaking musical than Baltimore’s Vaga-bond Players, America’s oldest continuous little theater? Through Nov. 17. Tickets, $10-$22. http://www.vagabondplayers.org —S.E.
It wouldn’t be the holidays without this annual favorite. Benefiting Kennedy Krieger Institute, the Festival of Trees is a three-day winter wonderland featuring fairyland forests, ginger- bread towns and toy train gardens—paired with a full schedule of family-friendly entertainment, including megastars Milkshake. Don’t miss the nice assortment of gift vendors where you can shop for a cause. Nov. 29-Dec. 1 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. Tickets, $7-$13. http://www.festivaloftrees. http://www.kennedykrieger.org —S.E.
Whether you believe in the Loch Ness monster or not, Black Box: Gerard Byrne will entertain and fascinate you. Through photographs, film and video, the Dublin-born artist explores the ways in which human beings choose to see what they want to see. Through Feb. 16 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Free with admission. http://www.artbma.org —S.E.
MUM’S THE WORD
Maryland Science Center is the last stop on the North American tour for Mummies of the World: Beyond King Tut, an awesomely eerie exhibition including never-before-seen mummies and artifacts from Asia, South America, Europe, Oceania and yes, ancient Egypt. You’ll meet mummies (former people!) like the 6,500-year-old Detmold Child from Peru; the Orlovits, a family of mummies from 18th- century Hungary; and Baron von Holtz, a 17th-century nobleman from Germany. If that’s not cool enough, Marc Corwin, president of the company that created the exhibition, is a Baltimore guy who used to be a rock promoter in town. Through Jan. 20. Tickets, $20-$26. http://www.mdsci.org —P.W.
There’s a fine line between a has-been and a classic—and we dare say the Gin Blossoms fall in the latter category. We can fondly remember blasting “Found Out About You” in the car, as we chased down real-life “New Miserable Experience(s)” in the mid-90s. Can’t wait to relive those angst-ridden days when the Arizona foursome hits Rams Head On Stage in Annapolis on Nov. 19. Two shows, 6 p.m. and 9 p.m. Tickets, $45. http://www.ramsheadonstage.com —J.B.
At long last, Towson’s fine winers and diners have something to celebrate. Ever since Vin closed its doors several years ago, locals looking for an upscale culinary experience in the ‘hood had few options. Enter Oyster Bay Grille at Towson Circle. Owned by longtime Baltimore restaurateurs—brothers Nick and John Daskalakis and Spyros Stavrakas—the tavern-style fare includes flavorful, localized appetizers and seafood specialties (think: Maryland crab beignets with tomato bacon jam, arugula and pickled fennel), along with meaty masterpieces (the espresso crusted filet is delish). A beautiful new raw bar serves at least three oyster varietals daily—not to mention 20 perfectly chilled wines poured from the largest Cruvinet wine system in Maryland. For adventurous carnivores, try the roasted marrow bone with sweet potato apple hash and sweet and sour apple cider reduction. “We are one of only a handful of restaurants in town with a marrow offering. It’s my favorite dish on the menu,” says chef Chris Vocci. 1 E. Joppa Road, Towson, 443-275-7026, http://www.oysterbaygrille.com
Savvy has long lamented the loss of the dear-departed American Dime Museum, repository of all things weird, wonderful and sometimes downright creepy. So imagine her delight to discover a kind of reincarnation in Hampden. Called Bazaar (love the play on words), this little shop of homey horrors is like a 19th-century gentleman’s curio cabinet. Greg Hatem says that he and co-owner Brian Henry take pride in offering items that are not only odd but also educational. Take the Lucite Specimens, for example: embedded in them are colorful insects, a frog’s heart, a fiddler crab—even a four-leaf clover. Or the Lantern Fly Shadow Box with a Pyrops Pyrorhyncha inside. The bleached Springbok Skulls will surely remind people of Georgia O’Keeffe’s paintings of the American Southwest. And the sequined Voodoo Flag will bring bling to any décor. 3534 Chestnut Ave, Hampden, http://www.bazaarbaltimore.com
A couple of months into her new venture as head chef and chief Ball-jar-washer of the new Oliver Speck’s Eats and Drinks in Harbor East, Jesse Sandlin is feeling pretty good. “We’ve been getting busier and busier,” she says. The barbecue restaurant, named after Sandlin’s pet Juliana pig, opened in midsummer after the former “Top Chef” contestant shuttered Vino Rosina (her previous restaurant in the same space) for just a couple of weeks. While the décor hasn’t changed much—crowd-friendly communal tables have replaced room dividers, opening up the main dining area—the menu has burst an artery.
The predecessor’s fussy small plates have burgeoned into platters of pulled pork, smoked ribs and bison pastrami; plus, the requisite sides, from mashed ‘taters to country grits.
Sandlin and bar manager Alec Franklin also have brought the cocktail menu up to snuff. The chef put some apple cider in the kitchen smoker to create a smoky ice cube for their autumn Bulleit-Proof Apples cocktail made with Bulleit Rye and fresh lemon juice.
Look for prix fixe Sunday suppers throughout the winter. 507 S. Exeter St., 410-528-8600. http://www.oliverspecks.com
Sweet Caroline’s—the latest farm-to-table, American-with-a-twist bistro and tavern—came to Baltimore by way of Ocean City. Ashley Fowler and husband John “Jay” Ferrari, former owners of the Bamboo Restaurant and Tiki Bar on the boardwalk, moved to Locust Point to take over the sweet little spot previously known as Pazza Luna. While the vibe is family friendly and relaxed, on the right night, you can catch a full fish presentation that rivals some of the finest restaurants in town. Creative casual fare includes a to-die-for crab guacamole, pineapple mango pork and a few seasonal delights such as flavorful chili and a salad topped with pumpkin brittle—plus burgers and paninis for lunch and a Sunday brunch menu. Libations range from the signature Black Jack Martini, made with Jack Daniel’s and blackberry puree, and to Love the Game pinot noir, created by Dana Hoiles, wife of former O’s catcher Chris Hoiles. During the baseball season, don’t be surprised to run into a few professional sluggers in the house. (“Manny is obsessed with our sliders,” says Fowler.) 1401 E. Clement St., 410-244-1401
My own children aside, I am—how shall we say?—not so good with the care of living things.
Take plants, for instance. I’ve always been genuinely mystified by the way some people can tease something beautiful and alive out of nothing more than a mound of dirt. I’ve never had any such luck making anything in the garden thrive. Houseplants begin to wither the moment they cross my threshold.
And while it is a nearly radioactive confession at a time when books about the life-changing, soul-enhancing power of dog ownership regularly top the best-seller list, I’ll just go ahead and say it:
I’ve never been much of an animal person.
We had cats growing up and I liked them fine, despite being slightly traumatized by a bad scratching when I was 6 or 7. Sure, I had the requisite Weekly Reader posters of painfully cute baskets full of kittens festooning the walls of my childhood bedroom. And yes, I cried buckets when our last cat, Figaro, met an untimely end from feline leukemia.
But whatever that thing is that makes animals really resonate with certain people, that really touches them somewhere deep, deep inside? Yeah. I’ve never had that. At all.
I have such a paralyzing fish phobia that I’ve lived in Baltimore for 12 years and have never once stepped foot inside the National Aquarium. That magical thing that supposedly draws little girls to horses? Never happened to me. I never wanted to take home the class gerbil or rescue a bird with a broken wing. Never cried over the treatment of seals.
And dogs? I’ve always been more wary of them than anything, in large part because my father had been bitten by a neighborhood stray as a little boy, forcing him to endure a series of painful rabies shots. Wherever we went as a family, dogs were always dutifully whisked away in deference to my father’s apprehension. Seeing your otherwise unflappable dad be so obviously rattled has a way of staying with you.
One of my childhood best friends had a ferocious sheepdog that couldn’t be around anyone unfamiliar. I remember watching from a safe distance as her father would struggle to put him in the basement whenever I came over to play. He would bark furiously and writhe like a bucking racehorse being forced into the starting gate. Why would you choose to have such a thing in your house? ON PURPOSE? I wondered.
And then there were my brother Eric’s two cats, Bruno and Ivan. To say they were eccentric wouldn’t quite be doing them justice. I distinctly remember the few times I was left alone in his tiny New York City apartment with them. It’s not that I was afraid of them because, well, I’m an adult human being and they were two…cats. But it always made me uneasy to be with them. In retrospect, I think that was because I didn’t quite know what to expect, didn’t instinctively know the parameters. Are they allowed to jump on the windowsill like that or is that dangerous? Are they allowed to eat plant leaves? Why was Bruno making that noise? Is that normal? Am I supposed to be doing something? What if they get out? And so on and so on.
In one of those paradigm-changing life epiphanies, it recently dawned on me: it was that very feeling—that left-alone-with-erratic-cats feeling—that I found so difficult about the baby stage with my children. I never quite felt like I had a clear sense of the parameters. They would do things—in Alec’s case, quite literally eat plant leaves—and I would perpetually be on edge. Is that supposed to happen? Is that bad? Did I just scar them for life? Hungry? Tired? Sick? Cold? Diaper?
However trying it was, that phase is now mercifully long behind us. My boys are 6 and 9, happily ensconced in elementary school. The parameters have become much clearer. They tell me when they’re hungry and excuse themselves when they need to use the bathroom. They don’t eat plant leaves any more that I know of. They can actually play unsupervised for hours. So why do I bring all this up now?
Because, naturally, they want a dog. Oh no, but they reeeeeeeaaally want a dog, you see. They neeeeed a dog.
And here I sit, squarely on the line between “That is really just beyond my comfort zone” and “This is one of those times I should put aside what I want for the good of my children.” (Noted for the record: I stifled my substantial discomfort and took care of two carnival goldfish for three whole days before they met their untimely ends.)
As much as my boys swear on a stack of Bibles they will take care of said dog, who are we kidding? I know full well it will be me out there walking Fido in blizzards and rainstorms, adding vet appointments and Petco missions onto the comically overloaded plates I already spin.
I know, I know, the dog will change me. I’ll fall in love. My Grinchy, dog-resisting heart will grow three sizes. It will be the best thing we’ve ever done for our family. But I’m not ashamed to say I’m scared. Scared that just when I’ve finally gotten a semblance of control back over the chaos of life with two small kids, it will be wrested away again, this time by a baby with four legs and fur.
And so our putative dog beckons, like a mythical challenge. Will I force myself to master a new set of unfamiliar parameters and embrace life as a dog person? I’ve countered with the offer of a cat. I’m hoping we can meet in the middle.
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
My parents disapproved of new things. Why would we need new things? What’s wrong with old things? That was their mantra. This was especially true in the matter of foodstuffs. Dining. Cooking. Eating. Experimentation in the kitchen was not tolerated. It was a kind of culinary heresy, an unnatural act, unwholesome, the sort of thing spoken of in Leviticus.
This rule applied to restaurants as well. We never went anywhere new. Why take a chance? The same tepid steak- houses and genteel, shabby comfort food emporiums were permanent in rotation. Nothing new. Ever.
I vexed them for long years by attempting to bring new dining ideas into their lives. Indian food. Bad idea. Kung Pao chicken. Very bad idea. Pad Thai. Very, very bad idea. My mother would have had to be put in a restraining jacket to get her into an Indian restaurant. My parents resisted conversion. They had seen arugula but believed this to be some sort of gardening prank. My parents thought arugula was a scalp disorder and pesto was insect repellent. Like “Pest-O.” Their home remained a shrine to iceberg lettuce all the days of their lives.
Now my grown daughter bedevils me with new ideas. And I am my parents. She lives in New York City, but she makes errands of mercy to Baltimore. And when she returns home it is to proselytize about healthy foods I might not know about, so that I might live forever. That’s how kale entered my life.
My parents would not have approved of kale. What’s wrong with spinach? Kale looks like a weed. It reminds me of the venerable New Yorker cartoon where the reluctant child diner says “I say it’s spinach, and I say the hell with it.” That’s me.
I have now been given to understand that kale is the healthiest food one can eat. It cures cancer (that’s the great standard of American quackery) and eliminates erectile dysfunction, cellulite, baldness and the heartbreak of psoriasis. It lowers cholesterol, promotes regularity—and allows the consumer to see in the dark and leap tall buildings in a single bound. Last time my daughter was here she was pushing a kale drink. She called me from the juice bar in Belvedere Square to see if I might fancy a kale shake. Not in this life, thank you. Kale does nothing for me. And I was cheered to read in The New York Times that the French as a nation resist it, too. Vive la France!
I hadn’t really come to terms with kale when quinoa arrived. The Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has officially declared 2013 “The International Year of the Quinoa.” Betcha didn’t know that? Well, get with the program, pilgrim. Eternal life awaits you. (When’s the International Year of the Bacon Cheeseburger?)
Quinoa is a grain from South America that looks like the stuff we fed the bunny that came to stay with us during summer vacation when my daughter was in kindergarten.
Some folks call quinoa “the super food.” These are folks who are really, really hungry, I think. The word quinoa is pre-Colombian and it means “the stuff we fed the bunny that came to stay with us during summer vacation.” It’s shorter in that language.
Apparently quinoa was the food that made the Incan Empire the Incan Empire, the largest pre-Colombian empire! Who knew? Alas, it was not enough to fend off the conquistadors. Francisco Pizarro was a red meat eater, I believe. But that’s another story, as they say.
Naturally, Americans have missed the boat on quinoa and kale. We could become the world’s greatest quinoa and kale producing nation. But we lag behind now. Scientists say we are producing only enough quinoa to feed 170 hipsters in Portland, Ore. That just won’t do. We are totally dependent on foreign quinoa! Surprised? The quinoa producing nations are toying with us. They can set the price of quinoa and we have to pay. It’s as simple as that. (And that’s why everything costs so much at Whole Foods!)
My daughter keeps assuring me that kale and quinoa are “among the world’s healthiest foods.” Says who? Folks who sell kale and quinoa. What do I look like an Inca?
What could be more delicious than James Bond’s Daniel Craig starring with his real-life wife, actress Rachel Weisz in Harold Pinter’s juicy masterpiece Betrayal?
Directed by 10-time Tony Award-winner Mike Nichols (who also won an Oscar for “The Graduate”), “Betrayal” tells the tale of a marriage unfolding as the wife’s long- time affair with her husband’s best friend comes to light. Rafe Spall—you may recognize him as the writer/narrator in the film adaptation of “Life of Pi”—plays the other man in this bizarre love triangle. At the Ethel Barrymore Theatre, through Jan. 5. betrayal http://www.broadway.com
Following “Betrayal’s” run, the Barrymore Theatre will be home to the powerful revival of A Raisin in the Sun starring Denzel Washington, Diahann Carroll and Broadway superstar Anika Noni Rose. The extraordinarily talented Washington will step into the role first performed by Sir Sidney Poitier as Carroll graces the Broadway stage for the first time in more than 30 years. March 8 through June 15, http://www.broadway.com
Photographs by David Stuck
“The idea” says Marianne Kresevich, “is to push all the air to the edges.” Her fingers—nails blunt and unfussy—press into the pizza dough on the cool marble counter. The tiny air bubbles comply, traveling in the direction of her gentle massage or simply giving up with a slight exhale. Kresevich continues her prodding until the diameter is 12 inches (yes, size matters here), dresses the pie with a scoop of tomato sauce, soft fresh cheese and flat basil leaves, and slides it into the 800-plus-degree wood-fired oven. Once the pizza is cooked—90 seconds later—the rim will be puffed with hollow air bubbles and the bottom will be leopard-spotted with black char marks from the hot oven floor.
The dough, about 260 grams per ball, was made with special flour from Italy. The tomatoes are macerated San Marzanos (also imported) and the cheese is blobs of creamy mozzarella made that afternoon in the restaurant.
The sleek scene at Verde, where they recently added brunch offerings to their menu.
Kresevich and her husband and business partner, Ed Bosco, opened Verde (http://www.verdepizza.com) in Canton a little over a year ago, but only after doing their homework. The couple—he a former commodities trader, she a software consultant who still works on projects for Fortune 500 companies—has set about to create an authentic Neapolitan pie, one that lives up to standards set by the Vera Pizza Napolitana (VPN), an association founded in 1984 to enforce strict guidelines for the real deal.
The Caputo double-zero flour, the special tomatoes, the fresh mozzarella—even the counter surface, which must be natural stone—along with the size, the heat and the cook time are all set down by the VPN. The Verde owners, who apprenticed with Roberto Caporuscio, owner of the famed Keste in Manhattan, take these mandates very seriously.
The result, unsurprisingly, is iconic. It’s the pizza from “Eat, Pray, Love,” when Julia Roberts orders a pie oozing goopy mozzarella and bright tomatoes that seem to throb atop the wafer-thin crust. If Verde had been around when I saw that movie, I would have made a beeline here to mimic her gluttony—as I’m sure plenty of folks did to Pizzeria da Michele in Naples, the spot Elizabeth Gilbert described in the book that became the movie.
Verde and a handful of other newish joints notwithstanding, Baltimore is a pizza greenhorn. We don’t have a hometown style like New York, Chicago or New Haven. But in the past few years—eight to be exact—the pizza here has gotten decidedly more sexy. It’s more sophisticated, dressed in imported attire, or authentic homespuns, and yes, it’s quite a bit thinner.
Matthew’s crab pie: backfin crabmeat, a blend of hand-grated mozzarella and imported reggianito cheeses topped with caramelized onions and Old Bay seasoning.
For years, what Baltimore knew about pizza, beyond delivery chains, was cornered by Matthew’s (http://www.matthewspizza.com), which opened in 1943 and until recently claimed pretty much all the accolades and “best of” awards available here. The pizzeria’s customers included not only its Highlandtown neighbors, but well-heeled adventurers from the north, who chewed on the thick, airy crust before or after performances at the Creative Alliance across the street.
In the early years, says Chris Maler, who purchased Matthew’s from a family friend 18 years ago, Matthew’s didn’t even call itself pizza. “It was tomato pie,” he says. “It was crust with tomato sauce. If people wanted cheese, they’d grate some on top.”
The Matthew’s crust is a variation on deep dish, crispy on the outside and airy inside—perhaps owing to the “minuscule” amount of lard (according to Maler) in the recipe. The cheese is a thick blanket of grated mozzarella, and at least one of Matthew’s most popular pies has no tomatoes.
The crab pie, loaded with lump crab-meat slathered in cheese, was developed by a friend of Maler’s, Bill Hughes, who now owns Barracudas in Locust Point. Hughes was a chef at Pimlico and was in the middle of overseeing food for the Preakness throngs when Maler called for advice. “I told him I’m trying to make crab pizza,” Maler recounts. “He tells me, ‘I don’t have time for this,’ and then he says, ‘take your white pizza, put crab on it and throw a little Old Bay on top.’ It took him 10 seconds to come up with it.”
The flag pizza at Joe Squared: crushed tomato, roasted garlic cream and pesto sauce—split in thirds.
Thinning down: Joe Squared and Iggies
In 2005, Joe Edwardson opened a pizza place on the unlikely corner of Maryland and North avenues. His pies created a bit of a sensation in Baltimore—a town that, while already on its way to food-fetishdom, still mostly experienced pizza as a stack of cardboard boxes at kids’ birthday parties. The crusts at Joe Squared (http://www.joesquared.com) are thin, almost crackly and pies have innovative toppings like eggs—their yolks still jiggling—Granny Smith apples and herbs that chef/owner Edwardson grows on the roof. Plus they are square. The vibe, however, is not—with a cool (rotating) assortment of local art on the walls and live bands playing nightly.
The corn flour-based, gluten-free pizza at Iggies.
At about the same time, a storefront on Calvert Street in Mount Vernon strung twinkle lights on the trees outside, graciously placed water bowls for dogs on the sidewalk and started serving up small, thin-crusted pizza with such add-ons as delicately sliced sopressata, duck confit and pistachio pesto. These elegant pies—created assembly line-style in the airy, no-frills, BYOB Iggies (http://www.iggiespizza.com) —quickly became a favorite in the neighborhood and among patrons of nearby Centerstage.
Both restaurants use the special Caputo double-zero flour specified by the Neapolitan gurus, but in other ways they diverge from the VPN standards. Joe Squared uses a mix of provolone and mozzarella cheese—Ohio-style, Edwardson calls it. And the dough is pressed through a “dough sheeter,” two silicone rollers that the restaurant also uses for pasta. “We used to use it to crush sugarcane for mojitos,” Edwardson says. “But someone got their hand stuck in there so we stopped.”
Two years after opening, Joe’s invested in a coal oven, and became the first restaurant in Baltimore to sell pies baked on a 900-degree floor fired by anthracite coal—a uniquely American approach that dates to early Italian immigrants’ response to the crippling price of wood. The crust crackles and splits in the heat, which leaves blackened spots on the bottom and brittle charred edges.
Iggies is more conscientious of the Neapolitan style, using San Marzano tomatoes, housemade mozzarella and a variety of toppings—both seasonal and far-flung. The restaurant even uses distilled water, says Peter Wood, who runs the place with his wife, owner Lisa Heckman. “We don’t like the inconsistencies in the city water,” he explains. “After a big rain-storm, the dough isn’t as smooth.” He pauses. “Yes, it’s geeky.”
Pizzas are cooked in a gas oven with a ceramic interior at about 700 degrees; it takes about three minutes to achieve the crisp Iggies crust.
Harbor Feast: Bagby and Chazz
Blake Smith opened Bagby Pizza (http://www.bagbypizza.com) in Harbor East after doing some market research. “About 98 percent of America eats pizza on a regular basis,” Smith says. “It’s the best option for getting people to come through the door [of a new restaurant]. I figured, let’s do pizza and do it well.” Smith visited a few pizza spots around Maryland and, he says, “found that most of the places I went to that were mob scenes were offering thin crust.”
He and Kyle Gillies a local chef who had cooked a bit for Smith’s father, David, owner of Sinclair Broadcasting, as well as in a few local restaurants (he has since moved to Los Angeles), opened a smallish place in the former furniture factory in 2009. Bagby puts out a thin-crust pie made with Neapolitan-style, double-zero flour and baked in a gas-fired brick oven between 550 and 600 degrees. Bagby dough, like Joe Squared’s is sent through rollers before being formed into pies, and the resulting crust is more crackly around the edges than the puffy Neapolitan. The seasoned sauce is made in-house from California tomatoes, and like the Bagby Group’s other restaurants, the pizza place relies heavily on the Smiths’ farm in the county for fresh produce.
Bagby Pizza had barely carved its niche as the only thin-crust pizza in the newly chic neighborhood when movie star Chazz Palminteri thundered into a space the size of Columbus Circle station just a block down the street, promising an experience reminiscent of his own Bronx upbringing. The restaurant’s name, after all, is Chazz: A Bronx Original (http://www.chazzbronxoriginal.com).
While the coal-fired oven at Chazz promises something authentic, chef-partner Sergio Vitale is hesitant to lay claim to a New York pie. Chazz’s “Bronx” pizza, he says, is a contrivance—designed to trigger memory more than adhere to a definition.
He calls Chazz pizza a hybrid, thin-crusted but not limp in the center. The slices are foldable and can be eaten with one hand—a characteristic often associated with New York pizza. The cheese is burrata mozzarella, made with cream, and there’s a thin layer of unadulterated tomato sauce. Pizza, says Vitale, “is highly subjective,” and even New Yorkers may not agree on the definition of their hometown pie (see sidebar). Even so, he says, “When you ask a New Yorker what their favorite pie is, invariably it will be from a coal-fired joint.”
If one of the shared ingredients of really good pizza is the high-gluten flour, it’s easy to see why making a really good gluten-free pizza can be a challenge. Peter Wood doesn’t even try. The gluten-free offering at Iggies is made with corn flour and water, flattened into a pie that doesn’t rise—more tortilla or cornmeal cracker than pizza.
Sergio Vitale at Chazz wanted to have a gluten-free option for the beautiful people who stroll Harbor East, but didn’t want any fuss—or the cross-contamination that can come with mixing gluten-free dough from scratch in a wheat-flour-dusted kitchen. So Chazz uses pre-made dough with a kind of slimy texture on the tongue and not much flavor (sorry, Sergio).
Verde purchases expensive bags of gluten-free Caputo flour called Fiore Glut (an 11-pound bucket of the stuff costs about $70 on Amazon) made from rice, corn, soy, potato flour and sugar. Other pizzerias don’t want to spend the money—especially with a process that requires a two- to three-day rise—when it’s hard to anticipate how many gluten-free pies will be sold. For my palate, Verde’s gluten-free option is the only pie that would satisfy a craving for real pizza. They also serve gluten-free beer and flourless cake—which has brought at least one customer to actual tears. “She kept saying, ‘I can’t believe I can have a pizza and beer with my boyfriend,’” says owner Marianne Kresevich.
Pizza Town: Birroteca, Hersh’s, Earth Wood and Fire
Recently, a friend, who relies on me to keep her apprised of the go-to restaurants of the moment, suggested dinner on a Friday night. “If you’re OK with pizza,” I told her. I was researching this story on a tight deadline and every carb counted. She hesitated. “Why would anyone want to use up a good weekend night on the town by eating pizza?” she wanted to know. Had she never been to Birroteca (http://www.bmorebirrocteca.com)? I wondered.
When Robbin Haas put the rustic wooden sign outside of the old stone building on Clipper Road, he listed pizza and beer. The crowded gravel parking lot makes the place, stuck in the midst of light industrial buildings and construction sites, look more roadhouse than restaurant, but inside is a whole ’nother story. For one thing, the place is packed. For another, pizza, while not an afterthought, represents only about a third of the restaurant’s food sales—a supporting player on the menu of what Haas calls “rustic Italian cooking.”
Even so, Birroteca’s pies, cooked in an electric 700-plus-degree oven and brought to the table (or your stool at the bar) atop an elevated pizza stand, are thin-crusted and topped with a variety of enticing ingredients. The most popular is duck confit with fig jam and a goose egg, charmingly called the “duck, duck, goose.” While it’s made with the ubiquitous Caputo double-zero flour, the dough would raise eyebrows among VPN judges; ingredients also include honey and white wine, for a slightly caramelized, crunchy crust.
Hersh’s uovo pizza: housemade mozzarella, garlic, olives, red onion and egg.
Hersh’s Pizza and Drinks (http://www.hershspizza. com) is another obvious pizza-on-the-town option. The spot, in the South Baltimore neighborhood known as Riverside, was opened by Josh and Stephanie Hershkovitz in 2012. The industrious sibling business partners adhere to the Neapolitan standards with the correct oven and cook time, the proper flour, San Marzano tomatoes and housemade mozzarella. And there’s more. “We make just about everything here,” says Stephanie.
The restaurant makes its own pasta and cheese, tomato sauce, sausage and much of the bread. The “Drinks” part includes such hipster concoctions as fig-infused bourbon, cucumber-infused vodka and grenadine made on-site with fresh pomegranates. The place is crowded with the 20- and 30-something urbanites who populate the outer fringes of Federal Hill as well as folks from farther out, who arrive harried from circling the block in search of parking. Some of Hersh’s customers may be seeking the vera pizza, but probably not everyone.
Earth Wood & Fire
As Baltimore has become more accustomed to these artisanal pies, it only makes sense that the thin-crust style would expand to more suburban settings. Earth Wood & Fire’s (http://www.earthwoodfire.com) niche seems to fall somewhere between the goopy stuff of chains and that favored by geeky VPN adherents.
Mark Hofmann, head chef and co-owner, had a 3-ton coal oven shipped from Bellingham, Wash., to make “the first coal-fired pizza in Baltimore County,” he says. Hofman makes the dough from unbleached high-gluten General Mills All Trumps flour with scientific precision.
The restaurant has a bar with windows overlooking Falls Road and Princeton Sports across the way—and the airy space, with simple tables and booths along the wall, is well designed for families or groups heading home after a sports practice or game. Hofman, former general manager of Tark’s Grill, started the place with a couple of buddies from the financial world. Their goal is to expand to become a chain; stay tuned for location numero due (keep your eye on Bel Air).
Verde is also a prototype for a chain, according to its owners. Kresevich and Bosco purchased the building on South Montford and put plenty of time and money into it. The floors are glistening penny tiles, the booths and tables made from reclaimed wood—some from an old church the couple rehabbed in Chicago. The dovetailed concrete panels that clad the booths, stained a soft grass green, were made by an artist whose work Kresevich admired at a yoga studio. Everything here is conscientiously selected, from the menu of Italian beer and wines to the imported serrated pizza knives.
The two moved to Baltimore with their young daughter five years ago. Kresevich had been here on an assignment with Laureate Education and liked what she saw. “I could see the revival of the city going on,” she says. “We saw it happen in Chicago, but Chicago was already there.” Baltimore reminded Kresevich of her native Seattle, still in the nascent stages of a revival when she left in the 1980s. Baltimore, the two decided, still had a ways to go in its renaissance. And in its pizza.
FOLD IT LIKE BECKHAM >>
I’m not sure fold-ability was the key quality for a New York pizza before comedian Jon Stewart famously chided Donald Trump for eating a slice with a knife and fork. (The offending incident happened when the billionaire was showing Sarah Palin around Manhattan.)
To me, New York pizza is the greasy slices from the place on Broadway around the corner from my upper West Side apartment. Cut from a pie the size of a wagon wheel, the slice, my 7-year-old niece sagely observed, was big enough to use as a blanket for my then-infant daughter. In our retelling of the story, though, we actually did use the slice to swaddle the baby.
New York pizza is highly subjective. To older natives of the city, it’s thin-crust and coal-fired from classic places like John’s, Lombardi’s and Patsy’s. To younger transplants, it’s the ubiquitous slice, ordered up at any one of the dozens of Ray’s Original storefronts, sprinkled liberally with oregano, red pepper flakes and garlic powder and eaten while strolling down the street. This is where the folding properties become essential.
Kelly Beckham will soon come out of hiding as the Pizza Blogger to open Paulie Gee’s. He’s managed to enlist the famous Greenpoint, Brooklyn joint of the same name as a partner in bringing their version of Neapolitan pizza to Hampden.
Beckham has studied pizza far and wide and has his favorites—in Baltimore, one is Johnny Rad’s (http://www.johnnyrads.com) —just north of Fells Point, where we met for this story), but he’s open-minded. Even bad pizza, he says, “is like bad sex: it’s still kinda good.”
Beckham, who travels to pizza places with a stopwatch to check cooking times, helped me to wrap my head—though not my now-teenage daughter—around all the pizza styles out there.
New York style
“New York is arguably the most ambiguous style,” says Beckham. It may be that, like the city itself, it’s different for everyone. I’ve noticed that anyone who has lived in New York, for any length of time, believes passionately that their take on the city is the only one possible. Even so, most would agree that New York pizza has thin (yet stiff) foldable crust, seasoned tomato sauce and a layer of mozzarella cheese that extends to the edges of the slice. Most grab-and-go New York pizzas are cooked on a gas-deck oven, says Beckham. These pies cook in 10 to 12 minutes—a long time compared to the standards of coal-baked and Neapolitan pies.
While most people equate the Windy City with deep-dish pie, there’s also a style with a crackery crust, says Beckham. “It’s usually cut into squares and called a tavern or party style pizza.” Contrary to popular belief, the deep-dish style doesn’t have a thick crust, just high edges. Chicago-style deep dish can be found at Pizzeria Uno in the Inner Harbor and at Barfly’s in Locust Point.
Thick-crusted Matthew’s pizza is more Greek than Chicago, says Beckham. Its crust is thick, but airy, and it cooks for more than 30 minutes.
Ideal characteristics of Neapolitan pies are laid down by the Vera Pizza Napolitan (VPN). Crusts are made with fine-ground, high-gluten double zero flour topped with sauce made with San Marzano tomatoes with a touch of salt, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Baltimore’s Neapolitan outfits include Verde, Hersh’s and the soon-to-open Paulie Gee’s (expected to arrive in Hampden this winter).
Pillowy crusts and often rectangular shape characterize the pies named for this southern Italian province, according to Beckham.
Roman-style pizza shares some characteristics with New York pizza, says Beckham. It has a thin crust, crispier than the Neapolitan, and is usually cooked in a wood-fired oven for six to eight minutes. The pizza at Birroteca, he says, resembles the Roman.
Beckham holds up a slice of Johnny Rad’s pie. It shares characteristics with our established definition of New York pie—mainly, it’s foldable. It’s layered with simple tomato sauce and fresh mozzarella, along with slices of fatty, salty sopressata. Skateboards and skater memorabilia hang on the walls of the place, and the large windows on Eastern Avenue have been opened wide on this warm autumn day. We can hear the pings from vintage arcade games being played in the back of the restaurant as we sip Union Craft Brewery Co. Duckpin Pale Ale from cans. Yup, this is Baltimore.
Served hot or cold.
The essentials of Autumn are so well summarized in this cocktail, from the crispy snap of the ginger beer to the fullness of body in the unfiltered apple juice. I enjoy serving it over ice—especially on those evenings when Indian summer sneaks up on us in Baltimore. But it’s also wonderful served warm straight out of a crockpot. Tailgate, anyone? We’ve provided recipes for both preparations below.
Maryland Apple Orchard
2oz Bulleit bourbon
2oz Martinelli’s unfiltered apple juice
4oz Saranac ginger beer
In a Collins glass half full with ice, combine Bulleit bourbon and apple juice then stir gently. Add ginger beer and garnish with a fresh apple slice and fresh grated cinnamon or cinnamon stick to taste.
Maryland Apple Orchard
(crockpot build, makes twelve 8-ounce servings)
One 750ml Bulleit bourbon
28 oz Martinelli’s unfiltered apple juice
Four 12oz bottles Saranac ginger beer
Combine apple juice and ginger beer in crock pot with three medium thinly sliced Gala or Ginger Gold Maryland apples. Heat on the lowest simmer setting for 2 hours, do not allow to boil. Just before serving turn on high for 10 minutes and add Bulleit bourbon. Serve in a small mug with fresh grated cinnamon or cinnamon stick to taste.
YOUR MIXOLOGIST: Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres in Harbor East, and founder of Tend for a Cause—an organization that raises money for local charities through creative cocktail parties and arts events.