I do love this city, but sometimes, I don’t mind leaving for the night.
Especially for chef Erik Bruner-Yang’s kick-ass ramen at Toki Underground. I am – like many in Charm City – new to somewhat new to ramen. But after the beauty that was Toki-fact at Artifact Coffee back in January (I happily stood in lines around the place…) I had to see the place that had inspired Spike to partner up on that delicious pop-up.
At the risk of sounding like a dork, I love food. And I love Baltimore. It’s my hometown. And my hometown is becoming a food town.
I’ve been writing this blog for a little over three years now. For the first bit of it, I mostly experimented with cooking projects, plowed through cookbooks, learned about ingredients, local farmers and food and beverage producers. I got my first flock of backyard chickens three years ago in an attempt to not only go local for eggs (for my burgeoning baking business and also just in order to eat delicious, fresh eggs) but also to “walk the walk” a bit more.
Then, over the last year or so, I’ve been going out to eat. A lot. Meeting chefs, understanding their approach to food, what makes them excited about their jobs. Working in a kitchen is a hard, often thankless, job. It seems glamorous, but most of the time, it’s not. You have to constantly stretch yourself, be creative, and for many chefs, often staying on top of the business side, too. It’s hard to do it all and remain excited and happy to go to work each day. But…so many of the chefs I’ve met have said that they love what they do so much, that it’s often not like work. They thrive on the hum, the pace, the people, the challenges. And many times, at the end of a busy night, you feel tired, but exhilarated. You did it.
So, when I meet them I just want to let them know they are appreciated. To me, there’s nothing better than having a great meal at a local restaurant and then getting the chance to talk with the chef about the food, how ho or she made it, what inspired him or her to make it. From the low brow to the fancy schmancy, I have learned to appreciate it all. It all matters.
Recently, I had the chance to sit down with Zack Mills, Executive Chef of Wit & Wisdom, one of the restaurants at The Four Seasons in Harbor East. A local Marylander, Chef Mills has created an amazing “Taste of Maryland” menu and I was very excited to be invited in to enjoy it. I was also happy to spend a little time with this talented and very unassuming guy. Chef Mills is from Davidsonville, Maryland and after attending the French Culinary Institute in NYC, worked and staged at various restaurants on the Maryland Eastern Shore and then in Washington, D.C., eventually landing at Bourbon Steak, a Michael Mina Group restaurant. He has also opened several Mina restaurants, including PABU here in Baltimore, The Handle Bar in Jackson Hole, Pub 1842 in Las Vegas. Chef Mills credits Mina Group veteran chefs Adam Sobel and Dave Varley with helping to refine his food. As well, he says that Chef Andrew Evans helped get him started and taught him so much early on.
There are so many food events in Baltimore in the next month or so I needed to make a list, so I thought I’d share it with you!
Disloyalty Pop-up Coffee Tasting
Saturday, September 28
Fells Point Farmers Market
7:30am – until they run out….
The Disloyalty Card program, which encourages visitors and locals alike to discover the city’s great cafés and coffee shops outside of their daily routines, launched in August. Pitango Gelato and Dooby’s Coffee will join LAMILL Coffee at the Fells Point Farmers Market to provide complimentary samples of their bestselling beverages and light fare along with information about the Disloyalty Card program. Get your card at the farmers market, go to all of the participating coffee shops and discover some of the city’s best coffee!
Farm to Chef
Monday, September 30
American Visionary Art Museum
$110 day of event
Farm to Chef is a local culinary competition that benefits Days of Taste. Thirty of the most talented Maryland chefs will be paired with thirty local farms to create innovative dishes for guests to enjoy. Plus delicious, creative cocktails presented by the Baltimore Bartenders Guild.
International Sake Day
Tuesday, October 1
PABU will kick off Sake Month with International Sake Day with the launch of a month-long Sake Happy Hour featuring complimentary abbreviated Sake 101 classes (see below for details) taught by Tiffany Soto, one of only three female master sake sommeliers in the world, and complimentary sake tastings. PABU will also highlight signature sake cocktails like the Cobra Kai and the Super X as well as offer special pricing on sake by the glass and bottle.
Birroteca’s 1st Birthday
Benefitting the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, Maryland Chapter
Thursday, October 3
6:30-10:30pm General Admission
VIP $100, General $35
I had the pleasure of meeting up with some friends for happy hour a few weeks ago at Charleston. I’d only been there once and it was a million years ago, so I thought it was time to go back. I follow Chef Cindy Wolf on Instagram, which always reminds me of how committed she and business partner Tony Foreman are to using local, in-season ingredients. #golocal
Each Wednesday through August, Charleston offers a special weekly cocktail. They usually post it on Instagram that day and they’re always creative and delicious – sometimes I have to Google ingredients, which is kinda fun. Along with your cocktail ($10 or glass of champagne for $8) you receive a lovely little plate of hors d’oeuvres by Chef Wolf. We had squash blossoms, gazpacho and a mini crab and corn salad. While it’s not the cheapest happy hour special in town, it just might be the most civilized. Free valet parking, too. Weds 5:00-6:30pm in the bar.
Over at PAZO, they have some fun summer specials, too. If the temperature is above 90 degrees (duh, this is B’more) the dealio is half-off whites, roses and bubbles. And weeknights 5:00-7:00pm in the bar and lounge they offer select cocktails and tapas for $5 each.
This Friday is National Macaroon Day (May 31, 2013). To honor the day, Food & Wine’s “People’s Best New Pastry Chef of 2012” and the Executive Pastry Chef of the Four Seasons Hotel …