Wednesday, April 29, 2009

First foray into Robert Oliver Seafood

After every BSO performance, Joe and I marvel at the colorful water in the glass bar of Robert Oliver Seafood on Cathedral St. It never looks like anyone's in there, so we're curious but not compelled to peek in.

But we did on Saturday. We stepped in the front door and entered one of the few Manhattan-like settings I've found in Baltimore. Super chic and sleek. Gorgeous.

The interior color scheme is all neutral browns with black furniture for contrast. Design lines are straight and clean. A baby grand piano is perched sweetly at the top of the short steps up to the formal dining room, which is adjacent to a lounge area with stuffed chairs and knee-high tables.

The bar itself is completely out of sight from the dining room, so the rainbow of effervescent water doesn't clash with the decor. We headed to the bar for a post-show cocktail and were joined by a couple musicians straight off the BSO stage, including a cellist we'd been eyeing all night directly in front of our row.

The bar has a sloping wall of glass that peers into an outdoor courtyard in warmer weather. We parked ourselves on two bar stools and ordered drinks and calamari. The menu is pretty pricey, so we walked away with a pretty hefty bill given our light order. But the scene was cool and it was new to us, so we'll be back to try the dinner menu.

Note to self - they put that pretty baby grand to use each Thursday, Friday and Saturday night.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Spring Fling in Annapolis

My mom, dad, and sister came to Baltimore today to join me for Annapolis' Spring Fling off of State Circle. It was pretty steamy today, so we opted for a 90-minute cruise on a double-decker boat up the Severn River so that we could be outside with a constant breeze from the water.

The $20 boat ride came with food and drink bar on the first floor and then an audio tour of the scenery up the Severn River. Our family had been chatting with Captain Dean Scarborough before we left shore, and it came up that I work in PR. Guess he spotted my natural gift for bullshitting, so when the audio cd petered out on us 10 minutes into the tour, he asked if I'd be up for reading the script for the rest of the cruise. He promised me a beer for my troubles.

You mean I get to be a ham AND get free drinks? Where do I sign?

Long story short, I became an unofficial member of the Annapolitan II and taught the guests and myself about neighborhoods like Sherwood Forest with its mandatory green or brown painted houses and Epping Forest with its sprawling mansions built on a former golf course. Those homes along the river are just incredible. Everyone was out on their boats today, and the whole scene was bliss.

Once back on land, the four of us (Joe was on call) inquired about the wait time at Pusser's - an Annapolis "must" on nice days. Three to four HOURS for an outdoor table. Riiiiight. So on to Buddy's Crabs and Ribs, which was fine.

My girlfriend Kelly and hubby Devin met up with us downtown, and it wasn't until then that we realized we weren't close to the actual Spring Fling event at all. Whoopsie. So we strolled a few blocks over and found tented vendors, live music and foodies. A precious new street in Annapolis that I'd never been down!

After we parted ways with them, we took a stroll to "the Yard," the Naval Academy campus. My goodness, is that place gorgeous. Especially on a spring day today when the green grass and flowering trees were the only color against the otherwise gray stone buildings. We walked down the row with captain homes and turned right towards the domed chapel, which dad had been eyeing since our cruise earlier. The chapel doors were locked, but we got a narrow peek inside. Enormous and beautiful.

The whole day was wonderful, and Annapolis was buzzing with energy and people eager to break in their new shorts and sandals. My feet are aching from all the walking, but every step was worth it.

Paolo's at Reston Town Center

Friday night we had dinner with my best friend Ashley and her boyfriend, Frank. It was the first day of what was to be a gorgeous weekend, so our only recruitment was that they find a place outside for us to eat. So we met at Paolo's in Reston, which has lots of outdoor tables that were in direct sunlight.

I felt bad for our servers who all seemed to be getting reaccustomed to outdoor service as they dodged trees and each other to maneuver between the close tables. I had this great martini called Damn The Weather, and Joe and I shared the calamari, tortellin rose appetizer, caprese salad and cucumber carpaccio.

The cucumber carpaccio was screaming summertime to me, so I had to have it. It was so light and fresh. A layer of shaved cucumber was stacked with fennel, oranges, radishes, leeks and ricotta cheese with olive oil. I'm keeping this in mind for my summer recipe interpretations.

The Town Center has completely exploded recently with new, hopping restaurants and a new wine bar that we tried to weasel our way into. They stuck to their guns and told us to come back next week when they open. The Tasting Room looks like an awesome, chic bar with what are sure to be a wide selection of wines for every price range and taste. It will fill up fast, so we'll see how desperate I am to elbow my way to the front of a crowded bar.

Friday, April 24, 2009

REAL customer service

Last night Joe and I had 8:00 tickets to the BSO, and our goal was to squeeze in dinner with ambiance, if possible, in 45 minutes. We blew into Abacrombie across from the Meyerhoff at 7:15 with no reservation, expecting to be stressed to the last second before our show started.


We told the hostess about our 8:00 commitment, and the rest was cake. We were seated immediately, and water and bread appeared in seconds. Our rockstar server from our visit in the FALL swooped down to our table and said, "Welcome back, guys!" We were floored that he remembered us and seemed so genuinely excited at our return.

We frequent lots of spots in Baltimore, and some often enough where we'd expect staff might naturally recognize us. However, this server had such a keen eye for his customers that he filed us away for months. Bonus, he was rocking lavendar patent leather shoes.

The amuse bouche was a chilled tomato soup served in a thumbnail glass. Immaculate. Praised it up and down so they'll make it a menu item.

He had our salads and grilled artichoke out to us within 3 minutes of ordering. Prosecco was on the table as soon as we said the word. The staff quietly dropped off the bill shortly after the entrees arrived so that we wouldn't be waiting on them to get us anything.

The pastry chef sent out two chocolate truffles covered in Chinese five spices for dessert. Melted in our mouths. We were done with our meal in 30 minutes, leaving us 10 minutes to slowly sip our bubbly before walking across the street at 8:00. Time to breathe.

For the smoothness and appreciation for our time restraint, we will definitely return to Abacrombie soon. Kudos to a seamless staff who make you want to brag about them.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Spring in Baltimore - by Gavin

I had to post this beautiful video of the Mt. Vernon neighborhood in Baltimore. My Twitter friend, Gavin, put this together over the weekend when the weather was gorgeous.

Brings out all kinds of Baltimore pride in me, which I'm finally starting to realize I have. Only took five years :)

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Bluegrass at Boordy

Joe and I took advantage of the gorgeous weather on Sunday and trekked up to Boordy Vineyards for Red, Whites and Bluegrass. Each weekend in April, Boordy hosted a different bluegrass band, and a $12 admission gets you in to the vineyard with unlimited tastings.

Our mission was more or less just to lay on a blanket in the sunshine and soak up good music, but we're not ones to pass up wine. Boordy has a large array of wines, including the basic reds and whites and then the "Just For Fun" wines, which tend to be infused with other fruits like apples and melons.

Boordy is one of the most popular vineyards in Maryland, but I'm sure that's based on the setting of the vineyard and the special events they feature each year. The wine is Maryland wine. Enough said. We asked for two glasses of the 2007 Landmark Reserve Chardonnay and found out it was only $1.75 more for the whole bottle. Twist our arms.

We took our bottle back to our blanket on the hillside and talked and talked for the rest of the afternoon. The band was Jackass Flats from Richmond, VA. The four-man band had a good sound and moved lots of people to dance on the stone terrace. Very festive atmosphere. It did get crowded around 2:30 when a tour bus of people showed up and lined up at the tasting bar. That's when we hightailed it with the bottle!

Joe and I have spent the past several weekends apart for various family reasons and crazy schedules, so it was wonderful to resume our Sunday night dinner together. We made homemade carrot pasta dough and rolled it out into ravioli stuffed with baked eggplant and parmesan cheese. I made a mushroom and red wine sauce to serve over the top, and a fresh salad of chopped beets, red peppers, tomatoes, mozzarella chunks and cilantro as a side.

It was good to be back!