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Archive for the ‘Eating’ Category

Joe Squared pizza

This August marks my third anniversary of living in Baltimore. After five years in New York, the streets of Mount Vernon seemed positively pastoral. In place of modernist skyscrapers and mobile phone ads plastered to ever-present scaffolding, there were green parks, fountains and the muted melody of a flute being played by an open window. Instead of elbowing through crowds, I started strolling, looking at gorgeous antique houses that anybody, even me, could afford.  I would even say I found my Happy Place, although not using the Happy Detector the tourism department concocted.

If we made a Happy Map of our neighborhood for eating and drinking purposes, it could consist of:

1. Howard’s of Mount Vernon offers inexpensive, thoughtfully prepared salads, sandwiches and a few dynamite dinner plates like fish n’ chips. Even the salad dressings are made from scratch and served up with a friendly smile from people who know us by name (naturally, they live nearby and visit the same dog parks). We could eat here every day, and for a while, until we got a/c, we basically did. We sat with a bottle of white wine (BYOB until their liquor license comes through) with the blind Fox and ate grilled ham and cheese and the Howard’s Salad–strawberries, feta, walnuts and local veggies–for less than $15. (more…)

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By the sunflowers

Midway through a muggy Maryland summer it dawned on me that under certain circumstances our dirty city could become a veritable Edan. Standing amidst 7-foot tall sunflowers, the wide leaves of squash plants, and tomato plants dripping with plump red fruit I realized Baltimore has untold natural resources in its rich soil, soaking rains and brow-beating summer sunshine.

While flies, bees and mosquitoes buzzed about my legs, I stood grinning at lavender, beets, peppers and purple blossoms. We had barely pulled a weed in months and the plot’s watering barrel was nearly empty.

Actually, I didn’t do much at all to make this tiny plot on Pratt Street blossom. The digging, hoeing, planting, and weeding was done by a dogged group of 10 kids ages 5 to 11: The Wolfe Street Academy Garden Club (Baltimore’s other untold resources: seriously great kids).

In March, the plot–maybe 11 feet by 20 feet in size –was covered in weeds, recovering from being flattened by months of snowfall. Broken bottles, cigarette butts, and rocks littered the plot. Where three row houses were bulldozed in the 1980s, glass still glittered through many layers of dirt.

The boys helped Marissa, a nursing student with a green thumb, to dig furrows to demarcate planting areas from walking areas, which we would later fill with mulch. Marissa discovered the idea to create furrows while gardening at East Baltimore’s Participation Park, which offers free classes on growing things. Later I learned from a man at Participation Park –gardening to a thumping reggae beat from his truck–how to sift rocks and debris out of soil using screens.
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Pouring on Confusion

Up against a looming $121 million budget gap, Baltimore’s City Council is  again considering a 4 cents levy on beverages. Beverages included in this tax are soda, water, alcohol and other beverages with less than 10% fruit juice. But this one is facing hefty opposition (er, no pun intended). The alternatives are an increase in property taxes, laying off police offers and closing city pools just as another humid, sizzling summer kicks off.

The Stop the Baltimore Beverage Tax web site bills itself as “a coalition of concerned citizens, businesses and community organizations that oppose placing a new tax on beverages on the backs of hardworking families.” What the site doesn’t say is that it is funded by the American Beverage Association, which has launched a fierce advocacy campaign to stop this from going through. (more…)

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Grilled Cheese & Co.At a meeting earlier this week I found myself staring enviously at my coworker’s American grilled cheese sandwich. There is something about the way yolk-orange cheese glooms between toast that brings to mind ski trips and happiness. It may be 86 degrees outside this afternoon, but I bet Grilled Cheese & Company in Catonsville is doing a brisk business. In fact, I believe I heard that Brian’s cousin is celebrating his anniversary there. Will he go for a Crabby Melt with Old Bay, or an upscale BLT with aged cheddar and diced tomatoes? Will she try a pressed sandwich with Whole Milk Mozzarella with hand pinched Italian sausage and marinara sauce?

Who, bar a lactose phobe, could shun a mascarpone  cheese and chocolate chip sweet?

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Footloose

Baltimore Sun's Breaking News picWhile this blog was sleeping, the thermometer rattled up from wintry lows to a sweltering 90 degree high, matching a mark set in 1929.

It’s drinking weather. Jesus has risen. It’s almost the end of the week. Take a cue from the dude in bare feet and cut loose already.

“Wristbanding” for the Beer, Bourbon & BBQ Festival begins tomorrow at 5:45 at the Timonium Fair Grounds. “Pitmasters” from Texas and North Carolina, bluegrass, cigar smoking, and whiskey drinking awaits revelers for tickets priced from $35 to 55. 40 bourbons will be on offer, from old standards like Jim Beam to 23-year old Pappy Van Winkle and 10 year-old Eagle Rare. You can drink your way through 60 beers (Although organizers include some suspect characters on the beer list, including Smirnoff Cranberry & Lime, Buffalo Bills Blueberry Oatmeal Stout, and 4 kinds of Woodchuck cider.)

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Get off My Kale, Snow

Think you’ve got it rough what with digging out your Hondas? Real Food Farm in Northeast Baltimore has 4 plastic “hoop” greenhouses with 6-8 feet of snow between them. Yet they continue to grow and harvest fresh vegetables. They are competing in the Pepsi Refresh Project. Vote to provide $50,000 of funding to support the delivery of fresh produce for urban dwellers living in a “food desert.”

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Blue Hill Feast

From the Examiner

Blue Hill Tavern in Better Weather - From the Examiner

Blue Hill Tavern is to Brewer’s Hill as 13.5 Wine Bar is to Hampden: “Too fancy” for their respective neighborhoods, home to beer brewers or flour millers spending days inside brick factories and nights at corner bars with neon signs. We doubt that the Nattie Boh-swilling grandmas are racing down the Avenue to belly up to 13.5’s modernist plastic bar stool and order $10 Nomade malbecs. Similarly, the grizzled German immigrant’s son who spend the 60s aging hops for National Bohemian Beer in Brewer’s Hill is not likely to be seen through the transparent cerulean curtains dining at the Blue Hill Tavern on Chateaubriand filet with bearnise sauce for $52.

Yet we would highly recommend it, especially if his yuppie Caton offspring come up to visit with platinum cards at the ready. We think the grandpas of Brewer’s Hill would find the New Old-Fashioned, blended with vanilla-infused bourbon, bitters, and muddle blackberries quite worthy of the historic neighborhood, which is now undergoing a development in which the National and Gunther breweries themselves will become shops and residences. (more…)

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