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Cocktail Culture

The newly opened Bookmakers Cocktail Club, atmospheric by Federal Hill standards, combines the intimacy of a dimly lit speak-easy with an imaginative kitchen and bar.  The team is impressive, beginning with chef Chris Amendola, who came to Baltimore to take over the kitchen at Fleet Street Kitchen after working at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York—ground zero for the farm-to-table furor. Ryan Sparks, who worked at Of Love and Regret, Jack’s Bistro and most recently Rye (by the same team behind Bookmakers), is a cocktail techie, compressing ghost peppers into bitters or extracting tincture of nasturtium for cocktails. The kitchen and bar share herbs and seasonal fruits to create eclectic menus that cry out for pairings. The sublime Old Fashioned, made with 1792 Bourbon and an artisanal ice cube emitting orange essence, is calling. 31 E. Cross St. 443-438-4039, 

Celebrity Dish

Chef Bryan Voltaggio says Baltimore’s Aggio, in the rapidly redecorated Tatu space—charcoal walls, mod lighting, painted brick—can be taken a lot less seriously than Volt in Frederick, where Table 21 proffers a 21-course prix-fixe symphony of flavor and texture. The new restaurant located in Power Plant Live! has a high-back banquette they call the “Godfather’s Table,” where you can order whatever you want. “I encourage grazing,” says the chef. “That’s what Italian eating should be.” While influenced by Voltaggio’s heritage and crafted by chef de cuisine Dan Izzo (who’s worked at New York’s Lupa), the food here is a far cry from Little Italy red sauce. Dishes are infused with Voltaggio’s passion for all things Chesapeake. The $95 chef’s tasting (yup, but you don’t have to order it) offers a squid ink pasta with Maryland blue crab. The regular menu boasts creative fare like Berkshire pork with pistachio butter and peach mostarda. “I grew up coming to the harbor and love this area,” says the Top Chef contender, who also plans to open a contemporary diner, Family Meal, in the old Houlihan’s spot by year’s end. 614 Water St. 410-528-0200,

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