Tag Archives: Baltimore

the missing piece

22 Dec

The girls and I, we have this…thing…that we do. At a typical Tuesday Night Dinner, there is so much chatter that is just so loud and all over the place, so many topics that need to be discussed, so many quotes that need remembering, that we take to the whiteboard.

We bought it years ago, and it’s come in handy more times than you would think. It’s true. By the end of the night it’s covered with quotes, crossed out discussions, doodles and drawings. And it usually stays that way until the next Tuesday Night Dinner, when I erase away the quotes so we can start anew when the girls walk in the door. But not before jotting down whatever is on the board on a piece of paper for remembering the good times at a later date.

For example, from one TND, I laugh my self silly at: “I think it sounds something like: ‘EngeMnnnnnMeh-Mehhh….” I laugh because I love my friends, and I laugh because I love our good times, and I laugh because I have no fucking clue what this quote was in reference to. But it was obviously funny at the time.

The whiteboard, when not in use for a TND, stays at my house, with the collection of various colored dry erase markers, and in a perfect world, I would remember to bring it with me whenever the five of us get together to record more hilarity that we won’t understand later.

But this isn’t a perfect world, so last week when we were tremendously busy stuffing our faces and embarrassing our waiter at Woodberry Kitchen, we had to make do with what we had, and I jotted down quotes and notes on the back of a pilfered specials menu Lindsay had tucked in her purse.

By the time we rolled ourselves out of the restaurant, that skinny piece of paper was filled, filled with memorable sayings (to us, anyway), most of which wavered on vulgar, a few that may have been prosecutable, and all of which were inappropriate.

We wished our waiter well, and thanked him profusely for putting up with us. He smiled and nodded, and I dare say he will never have another table quite like ours. Though hopefully he will get to know us a little better, and maybe even become part of our group, because I left a note on my receipt telling him that two of my friends thought he was cute, and wrote down their numbers.*

As we drove away from the restaurant, fat and happy, I informed my friends that I’d left their numbers on my receipt. They of course flipped out until I explained that yes, I may be an asshole for doing that, but hey, that’s what makes me fun. I think they may forgive me by our next Candles & Prayers outing, but in the meantime, I distracted them by reminiscing our notable quotables from the evening, and they sat back, content, letting a split second of silence come over the car. Until I broke it by staring intently inside my purse then asking:

“Umm, you guys? Who has the paper with all the quotes on it?”

And mayhem broke loose once again.

We debated calling the restaurant, to see if they’d mayhaps saved that piece of paper when they were clearing the table. We went through the pros and cons of our waiter reading what we’d written. I say he’ll be impressed and find us funny and witty. And therefore he will definitely call their numbers. The girls could do little more than cover their eyes and shake their heads.

But I still have faith. It’s been a week since our visit to Woodberry Kitchen, but I’m thinking that our waiter is just playing hard to get, and is pondering our witty and inappropriate quotes, trying to decide which one he really appreciates the most. I’m thinking that it will be the, “There is pork juice on my knee” quote that will really seal the deal for our waiter, will really show him how great these girls are, and how lucky he’d be to date them.

I’m expecting him to call one of the girls any day now.

Aaaannnny day now.

 

*No, I’m not kidding.**

**What? He was a cute guy. I would have left my own number, but I have a feeling The Swede would frown upon me doling out my number to other guys.

 

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candles & prayers: the eating

15 Dec

Once the choir has died down, and the carols have ended, and we’re able to get Scalzo (known in some parts as the Mayor of Loyola) to stop glad-handing and schmoozing with students and alumni and get her to put her coat on and actually out the chapel doors, it’s time to eat.

To be honest, it’s rarely ever not a time to eat, but on Candles & Prayers day, eating is a big part of the ritual. We start the day at Miss Shirley’s for a late breakfast/lunch.

Then there’s the hangout time at the student union on Loyola’s campus, while Scalzo rehearses with the rest of the choir. New this year! Starbucks on campus. Very exciting. There’s also crossword puzzle-doings while in the student union, which doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it certainly works up an appetite.

And then there’s the whole, ya know, reason for the season and all, what with the candles, the prayers, the songs, more prayers, a Christmas tree, presents for needy kids, more songs, some sing-a-longs, and then it’s over.

And then.

THEN.

It’s really time to eat.

Every year we pick a new restaurant to try. Last year it was Clementine. The year before it was Rocket to Venus. The year before that it was a wine and cheese reception on campus. And the very first year it was Papermoon Diner followed by drinks at The Belvedere Hotel’s 13th Floor.

But this year.

It was the fifth anniversary of our C&P excursions. So it had to be special, of course.

Which means that there’s no shame in making dinner reservations in August.

Which is what we did

For Woodberry Kitchen.

If you live in/near Baltimore and you like good food, you just fell out of your chair at that last sentence.

If you don’t live in/near Baltimore, and could give a crap about food, you probably have no clue why other people might have just fallen out of their chairs. Was there an earthquake or something in Baltimore? you might be asking.

No. Not unless you mean the earthquaking of my soul.

Okay, that doesn’t even make any sense.

Woodberry Kitchen is a restaurant in Baltimore. Kind of near the Hampden area. It’s been popular since the day it opened, a runaway success. Getting a reso there on short notice is fucking near impossible, especially if you have more than four people in your party.

Hence why we made our reservation back in August. We just wanted to be sure. (Also because last year we had a snafu with a certain restaurant that shan’t be named, that I’ve tried to go to a couple different times, but keep getting the shaft.)

You’d think, after stuffing ourselves on grits and pancakes and eggs and bacon and grilled cheese and whathaveyou at Miss Shirley’s, we wouldn’t even be hungry for dinner. But bear in mind, dear Interwebers, Miss Shirley’s was seven hours prior to dinner.

And that’s a long time for this crew to go between feedings.

Woodberry Kitchen was bustling and busy and just….swamped…the minute we walked in the door. We got drinks at the bar, then waited for our table to be ready, happy to wait, seeing as how we showed up 15 minutes before we were due, and our cocktails were so lovely. In actuality, we waited another 15 minutes past our reservation time, which normally would make me furious*, but which this time I barely noticed, and things were handled so smoothly that I would have even waited an extra 15 minutes after that.**

Crab pot. Pumpkin flat bread. Both arrived at the table almost immediately courtesy of the restaurant, along with another apology from the staff—manager included—for making us wait past our reservation. It was so well-presented, well-handled, and then turned out to be so delicious, we all knew at that point we were in for a treat that evening.

We ordered. Insane amounts of food—roasted pork shoulder, rockfish, spelt noodles, steak—and two bowls of popcorn. (Yes, they have popcorn on the menu. And it tastes like each kernel has been individually buttered and salted to the perfect amount.) (Great, now I want popcorn. AGAIN.) Our waiter was incredibly patient with our gaggle, even though we made him blush a couple of times with our bawdy tales and aptitude for yelling out incredibly appropriate things like, “It’s okay! We can have sex and I won’t hold you to it!” just as he approached the table to see if we need another round of drinks.***

(The answer was no, we didn’t.)

(But we ordered them anyway.)

My friend Linds and I ended up splitting an entrée. But before you go thinking that I’m one of those girls who’s all, “Oh, I’ll just have this half of a carrot and one grain of rice, gee, so delicious I’m full!” bear in mind that the entrée we split was a 22 ounce strip steak on half a garden of roasted vegetables.

A food runner elegantly presented us with the dish, plated in a thick crockery baking dish, a chunk of herbed butter (presumably) melting deliciously on top.

“This is Ramseys,” he told us. “He came to us earlier this week.”

The girls and I looked at each other, then at the food runner.

Oh my. He was serious. This steak’s name really is (was?) Ramseys. File away another string of love in my heart for Woodberry Kitchen.

Not the best picture, the lighting was for shit.

He took Ramseys away, explaining that they were going to slice it up in the back—easier for us to split that way—and it would come back out with the rest of the entrees. When our waiter later came back to check on how our entrees tasted, I replied, “You know, his name may have been Ramseys, but tonight his name is Delicious.”

Dessert is another story. Five girls, five different orders. Almost—but not quite—one of everything on the dessert menu. It was gluttonous. It was unnecessary.

It was wonderful.

I regret nothing.

I will never be the same again.

Candles & Prayers may never be the same again.

But if you’re going to do it up, do it up big.

Ramseys, I loved you. Every bite of you.

Amen and hallelujah.

 

*Listen: I worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years, and I can be pretty lenient when it comes to a lot of things, because you just never know what’s going on behind the scenes and in the back of the house. But typically one hard and fast rule I have is if I make a reservation at your restaurant, and I am not seated within five minutes of my arrival, I’m going to be PISSED. Why the fuck did I bother to make a reservation if you’re going to make me wait anyway? Unless Jesus Christ Himself is the reason for the delay, I don’t care. Just fix the seating issue and fix it fast.

**Okay, maybe not 15 minutes, seeing as how we were getting pretty hungry, but at least another 10.

***I read these things that I write and I realize that it’s astounding that—TRUTH—we have never been kicked out of a restaurant.

 

charm school

11 Oct

Some time ago (August? Maybe? Sometimes the days all run together for This Girl. Am delirious!) my sweet friend Panda invited me to come with her to the Best of Baltimore event. You all know my love for Baltimore, and Panda has played a huge part in fostering that love. Plus, there were going to be enormous amounts of free food. And swag bags. Needless to say, I gave myself a high five and said yes, I’d be there with bells on.  Or white pants. Whatever.

It was crowded, as events like this tend to be, and Panda and I quickly realized that we were among the few there who weren’t there to be seen or to network, we were there to motherfucking eat. We did not don our prettiest pink party dresses, we did not strap on our highest heels and totter around the Hippodrome, our eyes scanning the room for eligible bachelors, and we had not run home from work to straighten our hair and apply another coat of lip gloss before heading out. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) (You know I’m just bitter because I can’t wear lip gloss anymore.) If our eyes were scanning the room, it was to see where the next food booth was, and we wore flats for better stability while balancing our bags and cameras and not toppling over on someone while winding our way through the crowd. And for the record, it’s not like we’d dressed as schlubs, we both looked very nice, and I had, in fact, done my hair up all pretty earlier that morning. I did it all for you, Cover Girl free samples, all for you.


You’ve got to admire the girls who can go out there and totter around for 4 hours in heels and tight dresses at a food event. Admire them and find them a bit stupid on the one hand, but at least they have stamina and the drive to take risks.

Not that wearing heels is very risky.

Unless maybe beef tenderloin is involved.

Later in the night, as Panda and I were huddled by the bar, anxiously awaiting ice water (because hey, salty food, how are you today?) from the bartender, I wandered away from our conversation in mid-sentence and headed toward a small clutch of girls in pretty dresses and very lovely heels, because something was a bit off. I stared at one of the girls’ shoes intently before I stepped carefully up behind her and stuck the toe of my shoe at the base of her heel.

The other girls in the group eyeballed me oddly, and I managed to stammer out to the girl I was hovering behind, “I’m sorry, you seemed to have…speared a…a piece of beef tenderloin…with your heel.”

The girl turned around, confused, as I pressed the toe of my shoe on the meat. “I’m just…gonna get that for you,” I said. The girl lifted her heel slightly and I slid the piece of beef off her heel, brushing it away from the group with my foot. I nodded my head and looked away as the girl and her friends giggled nervously, slightly embarrassed.

I wanted to tell them that it happens to the best of us. But actually, spearing a piece of meat with a high heel is, quite surprisingly, not something I’ve ever done.

Give me time, though.

After we’d stuffed ourselves on multiple offerings, which for This Girl included not only tuna ceviche


but also an oyster,

Blurry, but that right there is proof!

and some very elegant-looking chocolate things


 


—Panda  and I were hanging out in the VIP lounge (because that’s how we roll) (riiiight) when Panda turned to me.

“That’s the mayor over there,” she said, pointing to a young woman, stylishly dressed, flanked by hangers-on.

“Really?” I asked.

“Yes,” Panda replied. “She smells a-may-zing.”

“Really?” I repeated.

“Yes.”

Who knew? Apparently Stephanie Rawlings-Blake wears a very distinct perfume, not overpowering, just distinct, and as such, you always know when she’s around. You’ll smell her before you see her.  In a good way.

We edged closer to the mayor, but unfortunately it wasn’t close enough to smell her. So we continued about our business, fighting for space in our stomachs to fit more food, weaving our way through the crowds and praying that we didn’t spill anything on anyone. (Or, okay, that’s at least what I was praying for.)

We’d wound our way to the top floor and started working our way back down, satisfied that we’d completed the offerings on each level, when we found ourselves heading down a staircase right behind the mayor and her bodyguards. As we got to the bottom, Panda, in front of me, suddenly called out, “Mayor!”

The mayor turned around. She looked at Panda expectantly.

“You smell awesome,” Panda said, her voice belying a hint of reverence, but dominated by matter-of-factness.

“Thanks,” the mayor said, nodding her head. “It’s all that showering I’ve been doing. It’s really working for me.” She smiled and turned around, heading back into the throngs of her Baltimoreans.


quoth the mcpolish: um, yes please

25 Aug

To continue on in my trying to make amends for my botched attempt at McPolish Restaurant Week (and I swear I’ll be trying this foray again soon. Or later. One of the two.) I’m going to finish up this train wreck with one of the best places I’ve hit up in Baltimore.

And when it comes to Baltimore, I’ve hit up quite a lot of best places.

Except Birches.

But that’s another story for another time. Just know that Jesus has made it clear He does not want me to go to Birches. The Lord is opposed to me dining at Birches. I don’t know why. I don’t know what I ever did to piss Him off.

You know what? I don’t want to talk about it.

Thankfully, Baltimore is rife with delicious eateries. When I started doing freelance nightlife writing back in the day up in Baltimore (ah, the good old days), it quickly became clear that Baltimore’s restaurant scene was superior to DC’s. I’m sorry, people, but that’s just the way it is. And I’ve been shouting that from the rooftops for the last five years.

So it really should come as no surprise to you that I think the Annabel Lee Tavern is another gem in Baltimore’s crown. A few months back I sat at the bar with Panda, Baltimore Betty, and the official Food Week Mascot at ALT. I’d only been in the place once before, and that was to interview the chef for a BMMX feature on Chefs You Should Know. He was a quiet guy, kind of confused as to why I was profiling him, but friendly enough, and without a lot of the ego you usually encounter in chefs. (I find this true of many Baltimore chefs, actually. With the exception of a couple that come to mind. Funnily enough, they are both chefs at restaurants in the Fed Hill neighborhood. I don’t know if that means anything or has any sort of relevance, but it just dawned on me and I thought I’d share.)

(What?)

Obviously, Annabel Lee Tavern has a Poe-theme, with Poe décor on the wall, Poe-themed cocktails, you get the idea. Baltimoreans love them some Edgar Allen, let me tell you. If you take nothing else away from a visit to Baltimore, know this: Edgar Allen Poe is buried there, and yes, The Wire really was filmed in Baltimore.*

We ordered rounds of drinks and picked out our wants and desires from the menu. It was crowded the night that we went, made more so by a pop-up rainstorm that sent the customers dining al fresco mad dashing into the bar area of a restaurant that’s not all that big to begin with. But, you know, shit happens. They were polite enough to try not to drip on us, and it didn’t bother our eating none, and the food was still delicious, so all was well.

Annabel Lee’s menu is eclectic and a bit odd-ball, but truly I would expect nothing less from any good restaurant in Baltimore. Chefs there are nothing if not daring, and for that, I applaud them. (Note—the menu changes relatively regularly. AWESOME.)

Multiple appetizers were had, drinks were consumed, but thankfully, no mistakes were made. (Besides maybe some very loud, obnoxious storytelling on our parts, but is that ever a mistake? If you are part of my dining group, no. If you are another patron in the restaurant, probably then yes.) We ordered brussel sprouts (yes, you read that correctly), some spicy sweet potato fries (which I’m happy to say have changed my opinion of sweet potato fries, but sadly I’m now very picky about the quality of my sweet potato fries. I cannot help it that my standards are high.), and buffalo mushrooms.

YES.


So even vegetarians can enjoy the wonder of eating things fried and buffaloized. Not that I’m a vegetarian or anything.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that.

Do you know vegetarians don’t eat bacon?

Huh.

Sad.

ANYWAY.

I followed those ‘shrooms et al with a burger that involved prosciutto and provolone and that I can’t tell you about further because I don’t want there to be a mad rush on Annabel Lee and then next time I go there I can’t get a seat to save my soul.

My dining partners had, in no particular order: a curried chicken salad sandwich, an open face turkey thing (I think), and orange roughy tacos, which I’m told were all delicious.

If you don’t believe me, then check it out for yourself. This is not a place you will walk away from squawking “NEVERMORE!” (heh) (I couldn’t resist, hellooooo).

*And OMFG, if you haven’t watched The Wire, you need to go do that right now or we…just…we just can’t be friends anymore. Why are you still reading this blog? GO WATCH THE WIRE. DID YOU NOT HEAR ME?

second date

3 Aug

Dear B&O,

I know this was only our second date and all, but I love you.

I truly do.

Remember when Panda and I sampled your cocktails? That was a deliciously good time.

We ate mini-crocks of macaroni and cheese! It was simply delicious. They’re not on the menu right now, but I suspect (re: hope) that they’ll come back with the cooler weather.

And flatbread! We mangia’d on what you called the market flatbread as well that trip. I was a little wary of the whole fried-egg-on-top thing, I’ll admit, but it turns out you knew of what you cooked, and the melding of the egg over the crispy, chewy bread with sea salt and parmesan cheese and spicy arugula and peas demanded the whole of my tongue’s tastebuds, and it’s entirely possible that I punched out Panda so I could eat the last slice while she lay unconscious on the floor.

Which brings me to my point.

You’ve changed, B&O.

You’ve changed your market flatbread.

<sobs>

I knew it was different when I saw “potato” in the ingredient listings on the menu last night, but everything else looked similar. I didn’t remember having potatoes on it the first time around, but I blamed a faulty memory, and barring that, decided that was okay, even if this was new, and different than before, that’s okay, right? New is good. Change is good. Invigoratingly delicious. Maybe a surprise new hit.

And you know, change is good. This new version of your market flatbread, with the sliced potatoes, is good. Really good. I ate the whole thing.

But it wasn’t great.

It didn’t make my salt-loving self sing praises and salivate long after the meal just thinking about when I could go back and have it again.

It didn’t wow me.

I’m glad I tried it, and if someone put it in front of me, I’d eat it. But I wouldn’t order it again.

Don’t worry, B&O, this by no means I will stop patronizing your saucy, debonair establishment.

It just means I’ll be trying something new next time we meet.

And new might be good. New might even be better. You just never know.

At the very least, we’ll always have Hobo Colas.

Love,

McPolish

photo friday: unplug

23 Jul

When I saw the theme for this week’s Photo Friday, I immediately got the shakes and went into convulsions.  I don’t really know how to unplug, I thought to myself. I like to tell myself that I do, and that sometimes I can, like when I sit down on the couch and get lost in a book and then I look up and poof! Six hours have gone by, it’s dark outside, and I had absolutely no idea that anyone or anything outside of me, the pages, and the typeface existed.

But those kinds of afternoons seem to be fewer and farther between lately, and unplugging is one of those mind-body-work-HFS-lay-off-the-everything things I need to work on. Balance has never been my strong point, physically or mentally.

So I thought long and hard about it, about what I really like to do to unplug, and you know what I thought about?

I thought about how I like to go to Baltimore.

It’s less than an hour’s drive to Charm City from DC, which I think a lot of people don’t realize. Or if they do realize it, they think, “Mmm…Baltimore. Dirty. Crime-y.” But when I think of Baltimore, I think, “Oooo! Exciting restaurant scene! Some of my favorite friends to see! Family dinners! A healthy dose of non-pretentiousness!”

I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it a million times again: discovering—and falling in love with—Baltimore was probably one of the biggest surprises when I moved out to DC. I didn’t know that I’d end up doing a ton of freelance work there that would take me exploring all over the city. I couldn’t have predicted that I’d be so charmed by its character both in its beauty and in its filth. I would never have guessed that Baltimore would help shape me so much into the person I am.

So going up for a night out in Baltimore, or driving up for a Sunday Family Dinner with my girls (even though only one of them lives in Baltimore, and the rest of us come up from DC), and seeing the skyline on the horizon as you pitch off of 95 and into the Inner Harbor….yeah.

That’s one of the ways I unplug.
Don’t forget to check out Calliope’s site to see how other Photo Fridayers unplug.

life can be sweet. or bacony.

27 Feb

Edith Piaf wasn’t there Thursday night in Baltimore, but a few of my pals were. Pazo has a new Thursday night special called “Cupcakes and Cocktails,” the menu of which includes a bacon and manchengo cupcake.

Yeah, you read that right.

I, however, went for the angel food cupcake that had crème anglaise and raspberry sorbet, because if there is anything I’m a sucker for, it’s angel food cake. And raspberry sorbet. And crème anglaise. The petite dessert was paired with the above drink, named La Vie En Rose, which was made with moscato, some lychee juice, rose water, and a delicate rose petal floating on top. It smelled as light and sweet as it tasted, and it was then that I realized that if I actually lived in Baltimore I would weigh approximately 5,697 pounds because oh, how I love their restaurant scene.