About two years ago, I started seeing Kinderhook Snacks popping up at some of my favorite spots like The Wine Source, Atwater’s, Trohv, Grand Cru and more. I was intrigued…and one bite into one of their triple ginger cookies, I was done. Done. And the salted chocolate chip cookies. And the cheese stamps. And chocolate chili cookies. I had to meet the people who make this ridiculousness.
The Chesapeake. You went there a million years ago. Or maybe it was your dad (like mine). Or maybe your grandparents used to talk about it. Or you just walked or drove by it for the last 20-plus years wondering what it used to be. Well, back in the day, it was quite the place to go. Think business lunches and anniversary dinners – which included things like steaks, seafood and old school cocktails. It opened in 1933 and sadly, closed in 1986.
Baltimore is a city that values its history, but also embraces new ideas, too: we’re of a mixed bag. The juxtaposition of old and new is quite evident at the Chesapeake. First, they kept the name. Some may say that’s the easy way out…or boring. I disagree. It’s so smart. When I visited for the opening this week, people were all around me saying to the managers, servers and bartenders, “My parents used to come here.” “My boss said he used to take clients here back in the day.” And on and on. And on. So, retaining the name, retains the nostalgia. And, boy, Baltimoreans are nostalgic. They’re even having Throwback Thursdays for those who want to experience the food and cocktails of the original menu. Smart, I’m telling you.
So, the vibe. Vibe is important, no? This place is relaxed, not trying too hard, but definitely putting a little effort in. Yes, they have industrial-esque hanging lights and Edison light bulbs mixed with a gorgeous, modern marble bar and simple bar stools…it all works. And as for that minimal chic decor, it’s not quite ‘done’ yet. Stay tuned for some finishing touches. From the Woodberry-esque uniforms (hello, checked shirts and dark, somewhat skinny jeans…) to the cocktail menu to the minimal chic decor, this place says now. But not in a “we are SO COOL” kind of way. The servers are friendly, helpful and present when needed. As a former waitress, I always struggled with the balance of checking in vs. leaving alone. You have to sort of size up your guests and figure out what they want. That’s not always easy. Our bartender got it just right. I also will point out that the bar stools are padded and pretty comfy. Again, smart. If you keep sitting, you keep eating and drinking! And, I do love having dinner at the bar. Big fan. AND, gals…they have hooks under the bar for your bag. SCORE! One more thing that would be smart (a’la The Food Market in Hampden) would be free valet parking. I had no trouble finding parking, but not everyone is interested in street parking and some won’t want to pay for the lot in the back. But providing valet is a whole other biz and I don’t really blame them for not going there.
The cocktail menu is tight. I like that…too many choices overwhelm me. On my first visit, I tried two cocktails – the Silent in the Morning (Panamanian white rum, lemon, local honey, orange, egg white) and the Mikey’s Rule (Maryland rye, Peychaud’s bitters, maple syrup, absinthe). I liked the latter much more. I thought the egg white of the former would have been more frothy, but maybe they are still working on their game. It’s early. My friend had the Tom Selleck – bitter orange liquor, sweet vermouth, Philadelphia gin and ginger – and it was excellent. I’d definitely recommend that one. One side note: My water glass was continuously filled as I sat and enjoyed our snacks. Little things like that…things that should (but often do not) happen, I notice and appreciate. Thank you, Del.
Silent in the Morning
Spring. It gives you a feeling of hopefulness, no? Me, I’m hopeful for asparagus. And peas. And oh yeah, rhubarb! (And tulips, peonies, hydrangeas…)
This post is a super simple one: a few of my favorite spring recipes. If you make these once, they will be in the rotation. Promise.
That’s me. Taking it all in.
I’ve never been one for fancy restaurants. Don’t get me wrong, I love great food and service but I can do without the formality. I suppose I’m more of a Peter’s Inn or Corner BYOB kind of girl. So, this was my first time at Wit & Wisdom and I wondered…what would a girl from a tiny town with two traffic lights who now lives in the land of hipsters and pink flamingos identify with there? I figured that out pretty quickly when I visited for dinner a few weeks ago. It was pretty eye-opening actually.
Recently, when my friend Lisa had me over for dinner and said we were having Cooks Illustrated’s White Chicken Chili, I was excited. Lisa is a very good cook (and amazing baker!) and I knew it would be fantastic. And, it was SO GOOD. I cleaned the bowl and wanted more, but I was polite. Thankfully, Lisa sent me home with some leftovers and about two weeks later, I made some for myself. I turned down the ‘heat’ a little bit, but other than that, I followed the recipe.
I’ve written before about Cooks Illustrated. I have an online membership (just $35 per year) and I use it all the time. I used to be intimidated by the magazine, but then I just dove in and it’s amazing. I’ve learned about different cuts of meat, how to grill, the best knives and more. What I love best about cooking is that you can keep learning as you go – whether it’s about cooking techniques, tools or ingredients. Cook’s Illustrated and America’s Test Kitchen are excellent sources for all these things.
They always seemed a little too exotic for me. Too fancy pants. I didn’t grow up eating things like figs – we were more of a steak and potatoes kind of family. But the older and wiser (yep, I said wiser…) I get, the more I want to try new things. So, when I discovered fig paste, I was intrigued. It was on a cheese plate at The Wine Market with Manchego cheese, honey, toasted baguette slices with olive oil, sea salt and pepper. It was the best flavor combo, so simple and perfect! I was in love. Soon I was buying fresh figs at Trader Joe’s. I found a recipe for fig paste online and made a pint of the sweet and savory goodness, shared it with some friends and it was a hit, so I thought I had to make it again. But this time, I went a little crazy. I filled many, many jars…and this time, PRESERVED it! (Feeling so domestic, hon.)
I love really good pizza. Give me a crispy thin crust with delicious, flavorful toppings and I’m a happy girl. My hilarious friend Richie would call my kind of pizza “artsy.” You know…arugula, goat cheese, prosciutto, roasted garlic…that kind of stuff. Fancy pants.
Everyone’s so busy these days, so I think it’s perfectly fine to use pizza dough from the prepared food section at a store like Whole Foods or Trader Joe’s. Save yourself some time, hon. However, if you’d rather do the whole scratch thing (and save some money, too), it’s not hard at all. Here’s Ina Garten’s recipe. I’ve also made Pioneer Woman’s dough, too.
Whether you make the dough or not, the key to grilling pizza is to work super fast with a VERY hot grill. Be sure to have your crusts and toppings close by. Just put the crust on the grill, brush both sides with olive oil, grill both sides for a few seconds, add your toppings (I put the cheese on before the sauce like they do at John’s Pizzeria in NYC) and close the top (I turn the heat down a smidge) and grill for about 4-5 minutes. Easy as pizza pie.
What you choose to drink with your pizza depends on your own personal preference or mood and also different things go with different toppings. Check out my friend’s blog Scribbleskiff for some ideas (like pairing spicy, meaty toppings with an IPA…) The pairing combinations are almost endless! Lately, my fave combo is goat cheese, mozzarella and arugula pizza with a glass of Torrontes. And…now that I have the chickens out back, I sometimes top a pizza with a fried egg soon.
If you’d rather have a pro make your pizza, Baltimore has several great spots for delicious artisanal pizza. My favorite is Iggies in Mt. Vernon. I love, love, love the Cipolla pizza with onion confit, mozzarella, pancetta and ricotta. Also, the Funghi with mushroom ragu, leeks and mozzarella. Holy moly, it’s good. Oh, and p.s. Iggies is moving to Ruxton later this year. Good for folks in the county…sad for me.