Photographed by Justin Tsucalas
Forty-year-old Kathleen spent roughly $20,000 to freeze and bank her ovarian eggs. Doing so gave her relief, she says. “It’s no longer 100 percent sure that having kids is not going to happen.”
KATHLEEN WORKS 12-hour shifts as a physician assistant in a Baltimore hospital emergency room. She’s 40 and single. And she’s always wanted to have her own children.
After a bad breakup a few years ago, Kathleen talked to her gynecologist about her desire to have a baby—and her fears that it wouldn’t happen. He later told her about a newly improved fertility technology called oocyte vitrification that involves flash-freezing ovarian eggs. The process has been around for about five years, but in October, the American Society for Reproductive Medicine lifted the “experimental” label from the technology because of success rates in live births using frozen eggs. The method is now becoming more mainstream and increasingly available, giving women another fertility option.
“My gynecologist really keeps on top of things, and he told me they had made great strides,” says Kathleen. “He said it really would be worth it now.”
Still, she was hesitant. “You don’t think you’d be in such a place in life,” she says. “But life doesn’t always turn out the way it’s supposed to. I haven’t found that perfect guy.”
Then, in June 2012, soon after Kathleen’s 40th birthday, one of her friends who’d recently undergone in vitro fertilization (IVF) urged her to begin the egg-freezing process sooner rather than later. (Currently, most clinics won’t freeze eggs for women over age 41). So Kathleen made an appointment with Shady Grove Fertility Center’s branch at Greater Baltimore Medical Center.
During the course of about two weeks, she gave herself rounds of hormone injections to spark the production of multiple ovarian eggs, and went in for blood work and ultrasounds. Then a friend gave her the trigger injection to finalize the eggs’ maturation and, roughly 35 hours later, the eggs were removed by a doctor using a fine needle inserted into the ovaries while Kathleen was under general anesthesia.
One of the most challenging steps, says Kathleen, was the hormone withdrawal. “When I went off the hormones the week after [egg extraction], it was brutal,” she says. “I was weepy and crying all the time.”
Kathleen spent nearly $20,000 for the evaluation and two cycles of egg retrieval and medication—and she put most of it on a credit card. She decided to freeze the second round of eggs, for a total of 26, to increase her pregnancy odds. (Doctors recommend banking at least 13 to 15 eggs. A single cycle and related costs might run $10,000, with financing options.) Her health insurance did not cover the procedures. And, when she goes through IVF to have the eggs transferred, that could cost another $12,000 per cycle, though insurance would likely cover some of that cost.
Kathleen has kept her situation private (she asked that only her first name be used in this article), mostly to avoid other people’s judgment. As for the high cost, she says, “I’ll just have to buckle down and pick up some overtime. It’s just about making sacrifices. Even though I don’t have kids yet, I’m already starting to invest in them.”
Just having the eggs banked has given her hope, and maybe time to find a life partner. “There’s a little bit of a sense of relief,” she says. “It’s no longer 100 percent sure that having kids is not going to happen.”
AS OF YET, no one has tracked how many women like Kathleen are freezing their ovarian eggs, though experts estimate there are about 1,500 egg retrieval and freezing cycles annually nationwide.
Currently, doctors recommend banking eggs prior to age 38, with optimal years between 32 and 36—a spread that will likely become the technology’s target population, since younger eggs are more viable. Yet because the vitrification technology is so new, a current wave of women freezing eggs are, like Kathleen, at the cusp of 40 and racing to beat another deadline: the plummeting genetic health of ovarian eggs for women in their 40s. (The likelihood of pregnancy, via IVF, for a woman at age 40 hovers around 20 to 25 percent, with the same clinical outcome for frozen eggs as fresh ones, experts say. Freezing her eggs likely locks in those odds for Kathleen, even if she has a baby when she’s older.)
Shady Grove, where Kathleen froze her eggs, is one of several major fertility centers that offer egg freezing nationwide. One of Kathleen’s doctors at Shady Grove was Dr. Ricardo Yazigi, a reproductive endocrinologist who has followed the technology’s progression and says it’s come a long way. “Human eggs did not used to freeze very well. There was a problem with ice crystals forming in [slow-freezing] methods and the rates of pregnancy were very low,” he says.
The new freezing method, done after water is extracted from the egg, prevents ice formations and yields much higher success rates. “What we are doing is freezing time,” Yazigi says. “Women can freeze their eggs in their early 30s, and then come in, up to their late 40s, and have a child of their own.”
Yet the social experiment of delaying motherhood via egg freezing has sparked a flurry of news stories that question whether women will start putting motherhood on ice: purchasing costly fertility preservation plans, while pursuing high-powered careers or avoiding marriage altogether.
The prospect of younger 20-something women and older post-40 women freezing their eggs has drawn special criticism. Some say fertility doctors might be creating false—and expensive—hope, since there are no guarantees. Others argue that women will become complacent, relying on frozen eggs and difficult IVF procedures instead of trying to conceive naturally before their mid-30s, when it’s more likely.
The ASRM doesn’t yet support freezing eggs solely to delay pregnancy, citing a lack of data on efficacy, cost-effectiveness and health or emotional risks. “This raises a whole set of issues whether women electively deferring their childbearing is reasonable,” noted Dr. Samantha Pfeifer, ASRM practice committee chair, in a recent National Public Radio interview. “When extracting eggs from a young woman at 25, what is the likelihood that she will use those eggs in the future?”
Also, while fertilized embryos can be frozen for many years, it’s not yet clear how long frozen ovarian eggs remain viable. Storage fees can range from $100 to $1,000 annually. “We don’t know the long-term implications,” notes Yazigi of Shady Grove, where storage fees are $360 a year. “We are being reasonably cautious and not becoming too alarmed by information we don’t have.”
Most fertility doctors, at Shady Grove and elsewhere, do not encourage college-age women to freeze their eggs. Yet the baby-making landscape is constantly shifting. Age-related infertility has gone from a social phenomenon to a medical issue: About 1 in 5 women in the United States have their first child after age 35, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. By some estimates, infertility is now faced by more than 6 million Americans.
Given this, some say gynecologists and physicians need to discuss fertility planning with their patients before they face difficulties. Sarah Elizabeth Richards, the author of “Motherhood, Rescheduled,” a new book about egg freezing, says it should be standard for doctors to provide information, such as a pamphlet, to women by their early 30s.“There’s a fine line between doctors’ ‘mentioning’ and ‘suggesting’ the procedure” to patients, Richards noted in a recent editorial in The New York Times about egg freezing. “But this is an option they [women] should be hearing about from their OB-GYNs.”
WHEN BRIGITTE ADAMS started looking at egg freezing two years ago, a Google search turned up just a few hits on Wikipedia and clinic websites. So, after spending $15,000 to freeze 11 eggs at age 39, she founded http://www.Eggsurance.com, a guide to the egg-freezing process that now draws 2,500 unique visits a month—a number that’s growing as more women learn about the technology.
“These women are early adopters,” Adams says of those who have frozen eggs. “Information is mostly spreading by word of mouth. In many ways, the issue of fertility preservation is linked to the struggle many college-educated women now face: The career-family time crunch. Those who enter the sciences, law or even the humanities might find themselves in their 30s and still postdoctoral fellows, or otherwise not yet established in their field.
“There has been a generational shift with education, family building and career building,” notes Adams, who works as a marketing consultant in Los Angeles. “For our parents’ generation, these things were done earlier. But now women are in school much longer. There are more women graduate students than male grad students.
“And, with the current economy, people are staying in jobs longer, or they worry about taking time off for children. So this pushes things out.”
Adams thinks egg freezing could be a real game-changer: accomplishing for women’s fertility “what the birth control pill did for the sexual revolution. I’m seeing a lot of successful women in-the-know who think ‘I’ve got to do something proactive. I might miss this window.’ So they are taking advantage of what’s out there.”
So far, fertility experts estimate there have been only about 8,000 births worldwide utilizing frozen ovarian eggs. Still, some say egg freezing is on a track to become mainstream—especially in combination with IVF.
“Vitrification has had a phenomenal impact on IVF therapy in general, whether egg or embryo,” says Dr. Michael Tucker, scientific director of Georgia Reproductive Specialists in Atlanta, director of IVF at Shady Grove and a consultant to several fertility clinics. “We really might see vitrification become the norm in IVF.”
Egg freezing offers flexibility in certain IVF cycles, says Tucker, including those related to male infertility. They also can be used to help meet the demand for donor eggs. And for some couples with religious or moral concerns, it’s preferable to freeze ovarian eggs, instead of banking large numbers of vital embryos. (A woman’s body naturally discards unfertilized eggs monthly, while some consider fertilized embryos the earliest forms of life.) Donor Egg Bank USA now links clinics such as Shady Grove, California’s Reproductive Partners Medical Group and the Florida Fertility Institute. The bank currently offers frozen donor eggs, much like sperm banks would offer frozen sperm.
There is more research to be done into the long-term effects of egg freezing, including whether children born from such eggs could have developmental delays or other health issues. But those in the field are hopeful.
Says Dr. Yazigi: “Life is getting fairer in the fertility field.”
Carolyn Goerig Lee froze her ovarian eggs when she was 39. Two years later, Lee underwent in vitro fertilization (IVF) using her frozen eggs. On March 27 of this year, she gave birth to twins, a boy and a girl.
CAROLYN GOERIG LEE, of Northern Virginia, did not plan to marry in her late 30s, but that’s when she found her husband.
Very soon after the wedding, she got pregnant. “We had a honeymoon pregnancy,” says Lee, a nurse. “But then I miscarried. After that, we decided to freeze my eggs.”
Another pregnancy led to another miscarriage. At 41, she and her husband underwent IVF using the eggs she had frozen at age 39. Of the three eggs that implanted, two developed: one boy, one girl.
The couple painted the babies’ room sky blue and adorned the walls with vintage images of birds and bees.
“It all seems kind of magical,” says Lee. “I was picked up and put in a home with a nursery. It’s like a miracle.”
On March 27, after eight hours of labor, Lee gave birth to Clara Elizabeth Young and Michael David Jin.
Perhaps the most revolutionary thing about Cuban Revolution is its location. The neighborhood just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, known as Middle East, hasn’t seen a new sit-down restaurant open seemingly since the Bay of Pigs. Hopkins staffers, neighborhood denizens and visitors to the hospital hungry for somewhere—anywhere!—to grab breakfast, lunch or dinner have flocked to the restaurant since its February opening. As Hopkins rebuilds the area, other restaurants are slated to arrive, including a Teavolve next door.
This Cuban Revolution joins two others in Providence, R.I., and another in Durham, N.C. Owners Ed and Mary Morabito started the chain, they say, mainly because they missed the Cuban food they had known while living in Tampa Bay.
The restaurant plays up the “revolutionary” theme big time, with colorful paintings of provocateurs, from Malcolm X to Angela Davis and Che Guevara, natch. The menu features items with cutesy names, like End the Embargo kabobs, Bay of Pigs empanadas and G’Ma Khrushchev’s Shrimp Gumbo. It’s not all in good fun for every diner, however: The Morabitos say they’ve received bomb threats from unhappy Cuban Americans who believe the restaurant glorifies Fidel Castro. “Mostly Cubans from Miami,” says Mary.
As they do at their other restaurants, the Morabitos hope to host live music here—and maybe salsa dancing. But for now, it’s mainly a lunch crowd, relieved that there’s a new option in the neighborhood.
1. Atmosphere: The vibe is clean and corporate, with exposed piping, floor-to-ceiling windows and a couple of big-screen TVs over the bar. Another bank of TVs above the open kitchen broadcasts newsreels from the 1950s and ’60s.
2. Drink: Specials are offered daily, including $5 mojitos on Saturdays. You also can order sangria by the liter, Cuban espressos, handmade tropical sodas and even egg creams.
3. Eat: You could make a meal among the 24 appetizer-sized plates. Most are fried, however. Fans of non-greasy food might want to pay attention to the Havana deluxe crabcakes, spiked with corn, peppadews and served with mango aioli—one of the more unusual crab cake offerings in town.
Entrées range from traditional ropa vieja to sea scallops served with sofrito. The Cuban sandwich is offered Italian-style with a slice of salami in addition to the traditional ham, pickles and mustard on Cuban toast. “The salami was from the Italian immigrants who lived and worked next to the Cubans in Tampa,” notes Mary Morabito.
4. The chef: Morabito has overseen both the front-of-house and kitchen since its opening and says there are no plans to hire a chef.
5. Finishing touches: Flan is the traditional Cuban treat, but the restaurant also offers tropical milkshakes in flavors like guava, passion fruit and mango.
Bottom line: Che Guevara, meet Johns Hopkins. 443-708-5189, http://www.thecubanrevolution.com —JOE SUGARMAN
What do you get when you combine years of fashion retail know-how with a midlife desire for change, indefatigable ingenuity and a vibrant sense of fun and adventure? Why, the Little White Fashion Truck, of course. Shelley Sarmiento’s brilliant little roving shop on wheels has been taking the Baltimore area by storm. Usually parked three times a week at a roadside shopping center on Baltimore-Annapolis Boulevard in Severna Park, the clothes- and accessories-filled truck also has made stops in Towson, Crofton, Edgewater and if you’re lucky, a street corner near you! You find out where it’s going to be and when by checking the LWFT Facebook site. Sarmiento, a former owner of White House Black Market and instructor at the Fashion Institute of Technology in New York, has well-honed skills for determining what the ladies like. Judging by the crowds at her truck stops, she’s hit the jackpot. Color is all the rage now, and the LWFT has plenty of it: flirty chiffon tops in floral prints by Renee and dresses and separates by her own labels, Wild Child and Truck Culture, with a Stevie Nicks flair. “It’s a sisterhood,” says Sarmiento, “and what happens in the truck stays in the truck.” http://www.facebook.com/LittleWhiteFashionTruck
Some big openings on Broadway this season: Kinky Boots is based on the true story of a British shoe factory saved by a savvy drag queen who persuades its young owner to start producing fetish footwear instead of dress shoes. (Sure, why not?) The show has a book by Harvey Fierstein and a score by ’80s pop diva Cyndi Lauper. http://www.kinkybootsthemusical.com. ... The divine Bette Midler is back on Broadway for the first time in nearly 40 years in I’ll Eat You Last: A Chat with Sue Mengers, a one-woman show about one of Hollywood’s greatest agents. Mengers, who died in 2011, represented dozens of stars, including Cher, Bob Fosse, Gene Hackman and Barbra Streisand, whom she reportedly reassured during the Manson family murders: “Don’t worry, honey, stars aren’t being murdered. Only featured players.” illeatyoulast.com. ... Matilda The Musical, based on the Roald Dahl children’s classic, was a huge hit on London’s West End and it looks like it could destined for the same success on these shores: The New York Times called it “the most satisfying and subversive musical ever to come out of Britain.” matildathemusical.com.
When our daughter was young we were eager to encourage her to read. Actually, desperate might be a better word. I favored childhood classics that were read to me in my youth: “Treasure Island,” “Heidi,” “The Jungle Book” and “Black Beauty.” But, to my great dismay, none appealed to our daughter.
I was so eager to encourage reading that I told her I’d buy her any book she wanted. And so it was that in a gift shop in Yellowstone National Park my 13-year-old daughter found the volume that would change her life, a book that ought to be read aloud at her wedding.
The book is not “Little House on the Prairie,” “Little Women” or “Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm.” It’s “Death in Yellowstone: Accidents and Foolhardiness in the First National Park” by Lee H. Whittlesey.
Molly is 26 now, lives in Washington, D.C., has a good job and reads widely—all thanks to the life-changing prose of Lee H. Whittlesey. But “Death in Yellowstone” ain’t for the faint of heart, pilgrim. The book jacket features a suitable scene of a Yellowstone hot springs with steam rising—over which is superimposed a headstone!
Under that jacket are 300 pages of heavily documented, well-sourced and footnoted mayhem and mauling, chronicling collisions of man and beast (with man typically on the losing side). “Death in Yellowstone” makes zombies and vampires look like kittens at play. Molly could not put it down. She read aloud to us as we drove around Wyoming, Idaho and Montana. Death on every page! Family fun!
Whittlesey was no mere sensationalist. He was a veteran guide, park ranger and historical archivist at Yellowstone National Park. And his book is a blow-by-blow (literally) accounting of hair-raising and horrifying things that happen to hapless tourists in the wild.
His style resembles that of a government report and an autopsy. No frills. Just the facts—though Brother Whittlesey does have a tendency to scold folks who do stupid things in nature.
Some died from bison goring or were eaten (literally) by a bear. Others experienced writhing ends that came from ingesting poisonous plants. Drunks who, in the wee hours, decided a dip in a boiling hot springs was just the ticket learned that it was not. Poached like an egg! Whittlesey also reports on death by freezing, death by avalanche, falling rocks, falling trees, fire, flood and lightning. Pestilence, too! “Death in Yellowstone” may fairly be said to have it all.
One of our favorite accounts was the demise of one Alain Jean-Jacques Dumont, 21, of Toulouse, France. Monsieur Dumont wanted a souvenir of his visit to the Wild West and thought it advisable to engage in a closeup photo-op with a bison bull. Visitors are cautioned NEVER to do this. Signs all over Yellowstone warn, “Many visitors have been gored by buffalo,” and explain that the seemingly docile beast is capable of running 30 mph (three times faster than a man) and can weigh 2,000 pounds.
As the signs say, “These animals may appear tame but are wild, unpredictable and dangerous.” But Monsieur Dumont had to see for himself.
As Whittlesey reports, “Alain Dumont had his camera up and must have seen the charge through its viewfinder. He turned abruptly to his left and the bison’s horn caught him in the right kidney, ripping him open with a vengeance.
Dumont sustained a torn colon, a punctured stomach, a severely damaged spleen and four broken ribs.” And then the conclusion: “The spleen infection was probably what killed him.” Whittlesey had us with that sentence. Prose so clean that Hemingway would have approved.
Our daughter swooned to every gory and horrifying detail. And we swooned, too. She was reading a book of real prose! Sure, there was lots of blood, lots of guts. But there was also rock solid practical advice on every page. Life advice, like DON’T FEED THE BEARS. If it were up to me, I would see to it that every American child had a copy on his or her nightstand.
We had a magical family vacation in the Wild West and have cherished this volume in our home ever since. It is what we have in lieu of a family Bible, and we are forever grateful to Mr. Whittlesey for making our daughter a voracious reader.
This fresh, lighter-bodied twist on a traditional mint julep is perfect for Derby days—or for sipping on your porch with friends. The Knob Creek Rye blends particularly well with effervescent drinks, and the sorbet gives a sweet, smooth finish. Serve it up in a punch bowl for entertaining or just in a single glass.
1½ ounces Knob Creek Rye Whiskey
2 ounces soda water
1 heaping tablespoon mint sorbet
Sprig of fresh mint
In a rocks glass, combine rye and soda water over ice. Add the tablespoon of mint sorbet on top and garnish with fresh mint.
Your mixologist: Ginny Lawhorn, Landmark Theatres bartender and founder, Tend for a Cause
I don’t have children, but I have heard rumors that many of them don’t actually like to eat green vegetables. Cooked spinach: I get it. Lima beans? Maybe. But surely this can’t include fresh peas? I cannot remember a time when I didn’t love those little bite-sized bits of sweet green candy, particularly when slathered in butter and salt. My mom was no great cook, but when it came to fresh peas, she really didn’t need to be.
I have admittedly fiddled with their natural goodness a bit in the following recipes, but their essential “pea nature” still shines through. And while these dishes work best with fresh peas, frozen will certainly do in a pinch.
The pea, radish and mint salad is the ultimate cooling warm weather dish: Serve as a side with a protein or alone with some crusty bread for a light summer supper.
The pea, yogurt and tarragon soup tastes creamy and filling, yet thanks to the use of Greek yogurt rather than cream, it’s waistline-friendly. The pea and arugula pesto is pure simplicity to throw together, while the addition of toasted almonds and lemon zest imparts a pleasing depth and brightness. It’s great smeared on a baguette, served with a grilled chicken breast or, my favorite way, tossed with some orecchiette or penne rigate for a quick weeknight meal.
Finally, the scallion and pea pancakes, inspired by Korean scallion pancakes, include a pinch of Korean hot pepper for kick, and are accompanied with a tamari sesame dipping sauce. Try these for a weekend brunch or serve with rice and kimchi for a fun and easy dinner.
There are a few things as inherently American as baseball, apple pie and, well, moonshine. The stuff of documentaries from Appalachia, Depression-era legends and the subject of a popular Discovery Channel show, moonshine is still illegally produced in the United States, but it can be sold in liquor stores with the proper licenses. Now Baltimore has its own bar/restaurant specializing in “white lightning,” Moonshine Tavern. “Moonshining is pure Americana, and we took that and combined it with New Orleans, Southern comfort and the bayou and that’s how our concept came to light,” says co-owner Shanna Cooper. The bar features more than 30 brands and flavors of moonshine, ranging from straight corn whiskey to Ole Smokey Apple Pie. All can be mixed in specialized cocktails. The Cajun-inspired menu runs from a seafood-of-the-day étouffée to beef cheeks sous vide wrapped in savoy cabbage. For major hooch lovers, the tavern offers a moonshine program where customers can buy their own mason jar that will be stowed at the bar for $100. Each subsequent jar runs $75. The best part about this place? No overalls required. 2300 Boston St., 410-327-6455, http://www.bmoreshine.com —Diana Luehe
Though there are a few fine men’s clothing stores in the Baltimore area, there’s always room for another one, especially when it’s as tasteful and serene as Loafers & Laces. Combining an old world feel with modern style, this little shop of shoes, shirts and accessories is pure pleasure. Where else are you going to find classic Alden oxfords and loafers, handmade in New England, or Martin Dingman leathergoods from the Ozarks? Or boots and brogues by Loake and Wolverine? There are also sumptuous cashmere sweaters and chic linen jackets. But Savvy is a sucker for the charming Natty Boh cuff links and the sexy Persol sunglasses. And she’s positively crazy for the idea that a man can get a belt custom measured here. Now that’s service. 612 S. Exeter St., Harbor East, 410-244-5344
Dishcrawl is like a pub crawl ... only less drunk. The concept, which began in San Francisco and has since spread to dozens of cities nationwide (Canada too!), is simple: pay $45 to register, park your car and eat your way through four restaurants in a single featured neighborhood. The first Baltimore Dishcrawl was in Canton in April and future crawls are planned in Hampden, Charles Village and any ’hood that has enough restaurants reachable on foot. Come to think of it, after the fourth restaurant, it’s probably more of a roll than a crawl. http://www.dishcrawl.com/baltimore. —L.W.
Wouldn’t it be great to shop a farmers market stocked with all kinds of locally produced foods any day of the week? You can at Relay Foods, an online grocery store that sources products within 200 miles of its headquarters in Charlottesville, Va. The company works with more than 200 small vendors in the area, and arranges for home delivery or pick-up in the Baltimore area. Customers can purchase everything from fresh homemade tortillas and taco shells from Washington, D.C.’s Moctec Mexican foods or Trickling Springs Milk out of Southern Pennsylvania, which is “the best milk in the United States,” according to Relay’s senior vice president of marketing, Caesar Layton. “Relay’s goal is to build a permanent and sustainable market for local suppliers and to give customers easy access to local and healthy food,” he says. “It’s really very simple.” The groceries are delivered to your home in temperature-controlled coolers or can be picked up from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturdays in front of Baltimore Clayworks in Mount Washington or on Sundays near Wyman Park in Hampden. By year’s end, Relay plans to have at least 15 more pickup spots. http://www.relayfoods.com, 202-618-6048. —D.L.
When the sun sets in many Asian cities, the night markets open. These open-air agoras are filled with vendors offering food and merchandise, as street performers entertain shoppers. Since 2010, Philadelphia has thrown its own version of the night market, with food trucks and dozens of restaurants setting up stalls in various neighborhoods throughout the city. Bands play, buskers entertain and everyone leaves with a full belly. You’ll have four opportunities to visit a night market this season. Check thefoodtrust.org/night-market for times and locations.
Also, June is your last chance to check out Come See About Me: The Mary Wilson Supremes Collection at the African American Museum in Philadelphia. The exhibit features more than 30 of the singing group’s glamorous gowns as well as historic videos, photographs and Supremes memorabilia. Through June 30, http://www.aampmuseum.org.
Banish those blah black and gray sweats! At the new Under Armour Brand House you can step into hot pink, jungle green, seawater turquoise and every other hue you can think of—sometimes all combined. Savvy is still lusting after the glamorous See Me Through Jacket, laser-cut in a feminine diamond pattern and elegant enough to go to the symphony. (Maybe when hubby visits to replenish his workout clothes he can get her one.) Don’t miss the neighborhood-proud T-shirts, emblazoned with everything from the mustachioed Mr. Boh to Phillips crabs to rowhouses. 700 S. President St., 410-528-5304
The name Sofi comes from … my dog who at that time was paralyzed and had a cart to get around. That never slowed her down or depressed her, and she rolled through life with joy and exuberance.
My favorite crepe is … the Bananarama (peanut butter, banana, honey and granola)
The biggest celebrity to eat one of my crepes was … Kevin Bacon.
Ted Kennedy was … a fantastic person. But to be honest I was raised with an Irish Catholic grandmother with a picture of the pope and John Kennedy in the living room.
One of my jobs in Ted Kennedy’s office was to … update his personal address book. I had to call all these celebrities like Peter Lawford and Burt Lancaster and make sure the phone numbers were correct.
The person I look up to the most is … Joe Wear, the president of the first company I ever worked for 34 years ago. He exemplifies honorability and class in every way.
Cooking on The Pride of Baltimore II taught me … that dry socks are more important than money.
To be a successful cook on a boat you have to ... learn how to use your leftovers. You use fresh food first, then the frozen food, then the canned food—then you’re out of food. You have to learn how to provision.
My dream for my business is … to see a Sofi’s Crepes in Paris.
The greatest advice anybody has ever given me is … never give up.
The greatest advice I could give is … never give up.
The key to being an entrepreneur is to … think outside the box.
The most unique crepe anybody ever ordered was … about eight years ago a 10-year-old boy ordered a ham-and-chocolate crepe. He was ahead of his time!
The key to a good crepe is … fresh batter. And the ingredients have to be spread to the end so you get a little bit of filling in every bite.
For my next business venture I would like to … what next business venture? I’ve got 10 more years, then I’ll retire somewhere super fun!
Happy birthday Edvard Munch! Norway’s most famous painter, who gave us “Geschrei” aka “The Scream,” would have been 150 this year. The National Gallery of Art is throwing him a party of sorts, with an exhibition of more than 20 of his most famous works, including the aforementioned masterpiece. Through July 28. Also on display at the NGA is Diaghilev and the Ballets Russes, 1909-1929: When Art Danced with Music, 130 original costumes, set designs, paintings, sculptures, prints and drawings, photographs and posters from the most innovative dance company of the 20th century. Through Sept. 2. http://www.nga.gov.
Outside the Beltway, The Homestead in Hot Springs, Va., has partnered with Canyon Ranch to develop a new spa at the historic property. The Canyon Ranch SpaClub will be the first in the mid-Atlantic for the luxe pampering emporium. In addition to 28 treatment rooms, mineral baths and a “reflexology walk,” the facility includes a family spa where kids from 5 to 13 can de-stress with a little yoga, get a “stars facial” or a “pink bubbles pedicure.” http://www.thehomestead.com.
Cheeky branding at Pop Physique in Mount Vernon.
BABY GOT BACK. Whether you’re rocking a flat fanny or carrying a little extra junk in the trunk, Pop Physique is our new favorite destination for taming an uncooperative derriere. Lovingly referred to as “Butt School” by devotees, the signature Pop Sculpt routine is an exhaustive 60 minutes of barre work, Pilates and light weights choreographed to indie and electronic tunes. More than half the workout focuses on the abs, thighs and glutes—and every class is different, so your brain (and bum) can’t predict what torture is coming next. “I think there’s a little ballerina in most women,” says owner Kim Quinn, whose daughter-in-law (a professional ballet dancer) developed the method in Los Angeles. “So even though the classes are tough, working out at the barre feels playful and inspirational.” Single class, $20. New member special, $100 for 30 days of unlimited classes. 339 N. Charles St., 410-468-0767, http://www.popphysique.com
POOL SHARK. Being stable is overrated—at least when it comes to core workouts. So shake up your yoga and Pilates practice with Floyo, an aqua fusion class taught in the schmancy saltwater pools at MAC Harbor East. In lieu of mats, students perform exercises atop a 10-foot stand-up paddleboard (or SUP), which makes every move more powerful—and more precarious. “Of course, that’s part of the fun,” says instructor Jessie Benson of Ultimate Watersports, which partners with MAC on the program. Tuesdays and Thursdays, 8 p.m. Four-week sessions offered year-round. $140-$160. 655 S. President St., 410-625-5000, http://www.macwellness.com, http://www.ultimatewatersports.com
GARDEN VARIETY. Breathe a little Zen into your workweek with Yoga in the Sculpture Garden, 90 minutes of movement and meditation en plein air at the Baltimore Museum of Art. “Museums are the perfect place for yoga, because they evoke concentration and contemplation,” says instructor Brianna Bedigian, owner of Quiet Winds in Mount Vernon, who also happens to have a bachelor’s degree in art history. Bedigian partnered with BMA curators to create the program which centers on a different masterwork each week. Participants range from age 20 to 70 and all levels are welcome. Thursdays at 6 p.m. Four-week session starts June 6. $75-$90. 10 Art Museum Drive, 443-573-1832, http://www.artbma.org
Photographed by Cade Martin
LADIES FIRST: Stretch jersey knit sheath dress and perforated leather jacket, both by Escada, at Nordstrom. Nude patent leather open-toe pumps, by Beverly Feldman, at The Little Shoebox, Ruxton. Leather and rhodium cuff by Lisa Freede, at Alice Jane, Mount Washington. 24-karat hammered gold vermeil hoop earrings, by Herve Van Der Straeten, at Ruth Shaw Inc., Cross Keys. ON JACK O’MALLEY: Spiky pleather backpack, by MadPax, at Wee Chic Boutique, Green Spring Station. Politically correct accessory: Winnie the dog.
SWEEPING STATEMENTS: Layered silk charmeuse ball gown and silk organza bolero jacket with basket weave collar, custom designed by Ella Pritsker Couture, Timonium, http://www.ellapritsker.com.
TEA TIME: Blush floral Guipure lace A-line dress, by Valentino. Silk crepe peak-shoulder jacket with peplum, by Alexander McQueen. Metallic leather sandals, by Oscar de la Renta. All at Saks Jandel, Chevy Chase. Vintage art deco earrings, at Love Me Two Times, Wyndhurst Station. Leather flower cuff by Ted Rossi, at Alice Jane, Mount Washington. Stockings by Wolford at The Red Garter, Pikesville. Metallic leather sandals, by Oscar de la Renta, at Saks Jandel, Chevy Chase. Leather snake-print clutch by Rafe, at The Little Shoebox, Ruxton.
PLAYMATE: Vintage hand-printed cotton broadcloth caftan, from The Cromwell Blake Collection, exclusively at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. 24-karat hammered gold vermeil earrings and cuff, by Herve Van Der Straeten, at Ruth Shaw Inc., Cross Keys. Ankle-strap platform sandals, by Vince Camuto, exclusively at Nordstrom.
TABLE TOP: Vintage floral-print kimono caftan, from The Cromwell Blake Collection, at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Studded leather cuff, at Alice Jane, Mount Washington. Embellished chandelier earrings, by Deepa Gurnani, at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Kitten-heel python-print pumps (on table), by Delman, at The Little Shoebox, Ruxton.
LOW-KEY GLAMOUR: Cashmere sweater and striped silk-taffeta pleated ball skirt, custom designed by Jill Andrews, at Jill Andrews Gowns, Hampden. Embellished statement necklace, by Deepa Gurnani, at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Vintage gold bracelet, at Bijoux Inspired Jewels, Green Spring Station.
KITCHEN CLATTER: Tweed print, patent leather suit, by Paule Ka, at Saks Jandel, Chevy Chase. Silver hoop earrings and cuff bracelet, by Avant Garde, at Jones & Jones, Cross Keys. Lace stockings, at Panache, Green Spring Station. Patent leather platform pumps, by Enzo Angiolini, at Nordstrom. William O’Malley wears a pink button-down shirt by Polo Ralph Lauren, at Macy’s.
Hair and makeup: Dean Krapf for Lluminaire Salon, Towson. Fashion production and styling: Suzin Boddiford. Fashion assistance: Ella Pritsker and Blake Boddiford. Digital imaging: Cade Martin and Kirsten Wyss. A very special thanks to Katie O’Malley for her gracious hospitality.
READ THE INTERVIEW WITH KATIE O’MALLEY >>
People will tell you Nando’s Peri-Peri serves delicious Peruvian-style chicken. Not so. It serves delicious Portuguese-Mozambican-style chicken that is marinated in a magical spice known as African bird’s eye chili—or peri-peri. Founded in Johannesburg in 1987, Nando’s has expanded across Africa and Europe, arriving in D.C. in 2008. Offerings range from appetizers like mixed olives and peri-peri nuts to chicken platters and wings to intriguing salads, including one with chicken livers and feta. Sides go beyond chips (aka fries) to butternut squash and grilled corn and Portuguese vegetables. Desserts include dulce de leche cheesecake and bottomless frozen yogurt to cool your burning mouth. Located near the University of Maryland, Baltimore and the Hippodrome and Everyman theaters, Nando’s is a great addition to the burgeoning genre of restaurants offering quick, tasty meals that are decidedly not fast food. 421 W. Baltimore St., 443-681-3675, http://www.nandosperiperi.com. —Laura Wexler
Nashville makes me want to sing. Granted, my vocal skills are best heard in a car and with radio accompaniment. But in Music City, melody really is omnipresent, from the notes that tumble out of Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, a classic honky-tonk on Broadway, Nashville’s main drag, to the vintage tunes tinkling from the Ernest Tubb Record Shop across the street. Even the pedestrian signals at the Nashville crosswalks play songs instead of the customary chirp (country near the visitor’s center, classical near the Symphony Hall, natch). It’s a little surreal, a little enchanting and I figure that if you’re not part of the population who walks around with a song in your head (and I am), you soon will be.
Even a short, 48-hour trip to Nashville, like mine, allows a fair amount of sightseeing, especially if you stick to the city’s compact downtown. Unfortunately, I do not run into any living, breathing music stars during my stay, but my encounters with their legacies begin immediately with a visit to the Country Music Hall of Fame, the bass clef-shaped building in the heart of downtown. Even if you don’t follow Taylor Swift’s love life or only know Blake Shelton from “The Voice,” the CMHOF is still a cool place to visit.
Hatch Show Print’s presses have been running since 1879.
If country music tells the story of the lives of ordinary folks, this museum illustrates the lives of the storytellers. It also underscores the particular personal connection fans have to this genre. I smile as a man taking a photo of Elvis’ gold piano reminds his wife that “Uncle Jim died when Elvis Presley died.” Later, I gape at the handwritten lyrics to Kris Kristofferson’s “Help Me Make It Through the Night” and at Gram Parsons’ psychedelic Nudie suit, not so much for the appliqued marijuana leaves and naked ladies as for the minuscule size of Parsons’ hips; I know I couldn’t fit into those trousers. And I stare in awe at a wall of concert posters in primary colors—for Bill Monroe, Eddy Arnold, Charley Pride—created by Hatch Show Print, a kissing cousin to Baltimore’s Globe Posters.
Historic Ryman Hall Auditorium, aka The Mother Church of Country Music, still hosts concerts—and tourist snapshots.
Since 1879, Hatch has been turning out gorgeous, vibrant letter press posters, and I join a small group that watches a demonstration of the process—the arrangement of wood blocks in the press, the application of ink onto the rollers, and the cranking of the paper through the press—all done one at a time by hand. Hatch can design wedding invitations or baby announcements, but concert posters (many for the nearby Ryman Auditorium) are what keep music fans coming in the door looking for souvenirs. What limited edition extra posters aren’t scooped up the day after a big concert remain for sale in large bins, as do some reproduced vintage designs. I grab a repro ad for the Baltimore Elite Giants, a professional team in the historic Negro League, for my baseball-loving husband and a poster for an indie band whose tagline, “Wash away the pain with AM gold and country goodness” speaks to me. Then I walk a few blocks to the Ryman.
The moment you see the Ryman stage, you recognize why it is called The Mother Church of Country Music. Years after it began life as the Union Gospel Tabernacle, the Ryman retains its ruby and royal blue stained glass and pew seating that curves around the stage as if embracing it. Tourists can pose for photos on the historic stage, but I prefer to sit and imagine the performers who have graced the stage, from the Metropolitan Opera to Will Rogers to Houdini, not to mention the prolific membership of the Grand Ole Opry that performed and was broadcast from here from 1943-1974. The Ryman still hosts concerts, and I curse my timing because the thought of seeing Dwight Yoakam perform on this little stage makes me shiver.
The next day, I soak up the art deco atmosphere of the Frist Center for the Visual Arts. A stunning renovation of a city post office (a branch of which still operates in the building’s lower level), the lobby is a tour de force of marble and aluminum grillwork that sparkles in the afternoon sunlight. The museum boasts no permanent collection, instead hosting rotating exhibits. Like T.J. Maxx, it’s never the same visit twice.
The Gaylord Opryland Resort features nine acres of indoor gardens and glitz.
That evening, I drive out of Nashville to the Grand Ole Opry House adjacent to the Disney-like sprawl of the Gaylord Opryland Resort and Convention Center. I have my doubts that I will enjoy this newer slice of old Nashville, home of the Opry since 1974, but once Whispering Bill Anderson ambles onstage delivering old-fashioned sweetness and a song, I’m hooked. Like the old-time radio show it is, a commercial is read aloud, then Del McCoury and his bluegrass band take the stage. My toe taps, and I find, once again, that I am singing.
Places to Stay
You can walk to just about any downtown attraction from the Hilton Nashville Downtown, an all-suites hotel. Rooms from $200/night. 615-620-1000, nashvillehilton.com. The 1501 Linden Manor Bed and Breakfast is a cozy, three-room Victorian B&B near Music Row with big breakfasts. Rates: $125-$195/night. 800-226-0317, nashville-bed-breakfast.com. The Hermitage Hotel, the city’s grand dame, dates to 1910, and has an opulent lobby, plenty of porters and A-plus service. Rooms from $259/night. 615-244-3121, http://www.thehermitagehotel.com
Grab a bite
Just 32 seats frame the U-shaped kitchen at The Catbird Seat, Nashville’s hottest restaurant. The seven-course tasting menu—the only option—runs $100/person. 615-810-8200, http://www.thecatbirdseatrestaurant.com. Lockeland Table was nominated for James Beard Best New Restaurant honors and offers gourmet wood-fired pizzas and Southern comfort food. 615-228-4864, lockelandtable.com. Newcomer Silo dubs its food “farm to fork, elevated Southern cuisine.” That translates to chicken-fried local rabbit, pot likker greens and cast-iron skillet jalapeño cornbread. 615-750-2912, http://www.silotn.com
“Never in my 50 years,” says Katie O’Malley when asked if she’s ever participated in the elaborate undertaking that is a fashion shoot for a glossy magazine. On this Sunday morning in March, a small army—a photographer, several assistants and several stylists led by Baltimore Style fashion editor Suzin Boddiford—have invaded Government House, injecting a riot of 21st-century color and pattern into the 1870 Georgian manse. Luckily, the noise doesn’t wake 10-year-old Jack, who’s snoozing away upstairs, convinced to get out of bed and pose for photos only when his sister Tara tells him Ray Rice is downstairs. (He isn’t.)
Though O’Malley, a Baltimore City District Court judge, was hesitant when first invited to be Style’s fashion model, she’s now game for the adventure. Sitting in the makeup chair, the mother of four (Grace, 22; Tara, 21; William, 15; and Jack, 10) seems happy for the chance to relax and do nothing for a few hours—a rare thing in her hectic life.
STYLE: Did you have any idea that putting on makeup could take so long?
O’MALLEY: No! The only person who has ever done my makeup is Tara. And on weekday mornings I only have about 45 minutes total to get out the door. I just do foundation, eyeliner and lipstick and then I’m running out.
For the early morning commute up to Baltimore? I leave at 6:45 a.m. and get William to school by 7:45 a.m. I listen to WRNR on the way ... and usually William and I have a fight about the temperature in the car or how my seat is too far back. After I drop him off at high school, I get Starbucks and take it to my parents in Homeland so we can visit for an hour before I have to be at the courthouse.
What is your father [former state Attorney General J. Joseph Curran Jr.] up to these days? My dad is working full time for the Injured Workers Insurance Fund in Towson. My mom is an artist and she’s got a great studio in their house.
What’s your workday like? My jurisdiction is civil disputes that are $30,000 and under, and criminal misdemeanors. I also do bail review for felonies and preliminary hearings. Right now I’m in drug treatment court, so I’m structuring drug treatment programs for nonviolent offenders. The last thing you need to do is put addicts in prison—you want to tailor treatment to their individual needs.
We hear you’re a spin fanatic during your lunch hour. Three out of the five days I take a spin class, but I also do body pump and kickboxing.
Are you home in time for dinner most nights? William and I get home about 6. If Martin and I are not involved in an evening event, we eat downstairs in the kitchen where the state troopers [the security staff] eat. We try to all eat together, but Jack has sports and William has a part-time job, so we have to be flexible. The house has three different chefs and they’re all good. I’m a vegetarian, though I do eat seafood. I generally try not to eat a lot!
Do you miss cooking your own meals? It’s a little intimidating to cook here because the stove and ovens are so large. So I microwave. I say, ‘Look, kids, mommy’s cooking!’
Does Government House feel like home? Over the six years we’ve been here it definitely feels more like home. We have some of our own furniture in the private wing, which has a living room, dining room, office and family room. I have my mother’s paintings hung up there. I’ve definitely gotten used to the space, but at first I was always getting lost!
I see the trampoline out in the yard. Does it get a lot of use? It did yesterday. I had written a letter to Noah, the boy in Howard County whose mother asked people on Facebook to write and support her son, who was being bullied and threatened suicide. Fortunately, his mother had a great idea. Anyway, I invited him to come, and we spent the afternoon together yesterday. I think the kids were on the trampoline for four hours!
Bullying is an issue that’s near and dear to you. Yes. And I’m trying to reach out to not just victims but kids that can be what we call ‘upstanders’ and speak out against bullying. When I talk at schools, that’s the message I give. The White House has an anti-bullying conference every year—it’s wonderful. This year they invited me to speak.
I understand you’re part of a truancy court program, too. Every Thursday morning before court starts, I go to Margaret Brent
Elementary Middle School [in Charles Village] and sit down with students, guidance counselors, the principal and parents to talk about why a student isn’t coming to school. Some of the reasons are related to bullying. Every week it’s some of the same kids. Some of the stories are really sad, but you do get to build a rapport with the kids.
What sort of traveling have you done as a first lady? I like traveling, but I’m glad I don’t have to do it often. I have kids so I’d rather be home. I did accompany Martin on a trip to India, where I met with lawyers and judges, similar to the four trips I’ve made to Russia as part of the Russian American Rule of Law Consortium. I really enjoyed hearing lawyers and judges in Russia talk about their work. But now with the strained relations in Russia, we’re not going to be able to go back.
When you moved here, was it strange at first having security people with you at all times? I’m not real security nutty. Sometimes I drive myself places. And if I’m just walking downtown to do an errand or go for a walk at the Naval Academy, I go by myself. But the security team is great. Jack is a huge Ravens fan and he was tormenting one of the troopers who was not a Ravens fan. For a joke, they tied him up in the trooper office and put a sock in his mouth.
You ask the troopers not to call you first lady, right? We had a dog named Lady, and so I feel a little like a dog when people call me that! During the first term, I asked them to call me Katie but they wouldn’t, though one agreed to call me Judge. When Martin got elected for a second term, I said, ‘Please call me Katie. And if you don’t, I’m going to charge you a quarter each time you say, ‘first lady.’”
Maybe they’re not used to such a down-to-earth gal in Government House. I hear you’re a great bargain shopper. I am a bargain shopper. My daughters shop quality. I buy my makeup at CVS and they buy theirs at Nordstrom. I go to Old Navy and buy yoga pants while they go to Lululemon. But if I’m going to make a big fashion purchase I definitely want their opinion.
Have you always loved fashion? Yes. I had a great kimono-style black Yves Saint Laurent coat that my mother bought me. I wish I still had it. I wore Diane von Furstenberg dresses—they were my favorite. Now that they’re back, I’ll go online and buy them on sale. I have three.
Forgive me if this is prying, but what do you wear under your black judge’s gown? I usually just wear simple black pants and a shirt—very rarely a suit. There’s some freedom in that, especially since I have so little time in the morning.
Do you have to dress more conservatively as a first lady than you used to? I’ve never been a racy dresser. Having daughters helps me. If I walk downstairs and look ridiculous, they won’t let me go out.
What have you worn on your visits to the White House? For my first visit after the Obamas were elected, I wore a long navy blue gown from Loehmann’s. It was $40. I wore vintage earrings from my mother, which Arnold Schwarzenegger complimented me on.
How often have you visited? A couple of times. They have a nice St. Patrick’s Day party that Martin’s band played last year. This year, my mother-in-law and Grace went to the party. I don’t want Michelle [Obama] to think I’m copying her bangs!
I understand you were seated next to her husband at the last Governors’ Dinner. I got my table number and went to find my seat and then I looked at the place card next to me and it said, The President. I had been hoping for the vice president. He’s so nice and so easy to talk to. I was like, ‘Oh!’ I tried to be cool and roll with it. But apparently I looked like I was having a heart attack because this year they’re going to warn the people seated next to the president in advance!
Can you imagine yourself in the White House in four years? I don’t know where I see myself in four years. I’m so focused on the present—there’s hardly time to breathe. I’ve always been supportive of Martin’s professional choices. So, we shall have to see what the future holds.
SEE THE FASHION SHOOT WITH KATIE O’MALLEY >>
Photographs by Erik Kvalsvik
The words “gated community” and “townhouse” do not immediately conjure up visions of an elegant, horticulturally diverse garden. Yet that is just what Bartie and Charlie Cole have created at their Baltimore County home.
It was a no-brainer that after they downsized from their Green Spring Valley estate, the couple would create another garden masterpiece. Bartie Cole is renowned in horticultural circles, active for decades at Ladew Topiary Gardens and in the Horticultural Society of Maryland. Her previous garden was one of the area’s most toured by national and regional plant enthusiasts. Because of what she has managed to create in just three years, her new, small garden is already on the tour circuit.
Cole’s gardening canvas has shrunk from seven acres of large garden rooms to barely one-third of an acre around a spacious, 5,500-square-foot townhouse. “I don’t feel the pressure. I can really enjoy the garden now,” she says. “And we see it from every room.”
Her concept, although reduced, is still that of contiguous garden rooms as well as a large, second-level back porch filled with containers that change three times a year for seasonal color.
While some statuary, urns, birdbaths, containers and tuteurs moved with her from her previous house, Cole started fresh with the plantings. And while the palette includes her trademark pinks, blues and whites, “hotter” hues increase as gardens move around the house to a back woodland area.
After the garden was first planted, disaster struck: the sewage system malfunctioned and much of it had to be replanted. Like all good gardeners, Cole saw this as an opportunity. In replanting, she added an island of roses, bulbs and perennials, which she placed around an unusual Higan cherry tree that blooms in spring and fall.
Since planting it, Cole and designer Kathy Beam have already edited the yard, with some original plants thinned and relocated. And it is so dense that “weeds do not have a chance,” says Cole, who spends time every day maintaining the routine she established long ago: deadheading, watering, fertilizing.
Her advice to other gardeners contemplating downsizing: “Plant so you keep up your enjoyment, so it is not overwhelming, but just enough to keep your hands in it.”
Downsize Your Garden
1. Make a list of all the containers and statuary you can’t live without. Dispose of everything else.
2. Choose smaller shrub cultivars and selections.
3. Limit high-impact annuals to your favorite containers and stage these to be multi-functional, such as on a deck or outside patio.
4. The size of your garden doesn’t matter. The diversity does.
5. Plan for four seasons of interest.
6. Design keeping the interior views of the garden in mind.
7. Plant only what you truly love.
—Bartie Cole and Kathy Beam
My son Ethan came home from third grade not long ago bursting with excitement about a new development at school: he had been matched with a pen pal.
Hugo is a 9-year-old boy who lives in the south of France. He likes dogs and Legos and dreams of one day “owning a large yacht.” He sent a photo of himself, a handsome blond in a well-made button-down shirt, standing stiffly against a classroom wall. Ethan wrote his new friend’s name—HUGO—on the picture and taped it up over his desk.
I wish I could have bottled my son’s enthusiasm for a class trip to the post office— the post office!—to mail off the first batch of letters to Hugo and his classmates. You’d think he was actually sipping champagne and nibbling brie on an Air France flight to Nice. Oh, to be 8.
I was secretly thrilled about Hugo’s arrival on the scene, and not just because my son was so happy. What I felt, quite honestly, was something akin to relief. I was reassured that for all his easy access to iPads and YouTube, his familiarity with GPS and the fact that he only watches television On Demand, Ethan could still be genuinely excited by such decidedly low-tech things as a letter and a trip to the post office.
I’m not a Luddite by any stretch. I heartily embrace the power of new technology and use it enthusiastically. Every time I speak the words “Call Mom” while driving— and it works!—I feel as though I’m living in a real-life episode of “The Jetsons.” And while nothing makes you sound quite like a cranky old person than any variation of a “kids these days” rant, I will confess to being uneasy that the sheer breadth of information (literally) at our kids’ fingertips, coursing through their world at such blinding speed, threatens to render them different from us in some fundamental way—one that goes far deeper than their lack of Dorothy Hamill haircuts and crocheted ponchos. I worry that living in an era of instant, effortless information may be robbing our kids of something essential, something we learned growing up in a world whose secrets unfolded so much more slowly and laboriously, one World Book Encyclopedia entry and pen pal letter at a time.
Long before cellphones and the Internet, my own third grade classroom on Long Island had an unassuming shoebox filled with index cards listing free things students could “write away for”: recipes, travel brochures, free samples and the like. It’s a concept so charmingly antiquated it makes me feel as though I grew up in the Mesozoic era.
And like all card-carrying elementary schoolers in the 1970s, we, too, had pen pals. In November 1978, I received the first of many letters pockmarked with Korean stamps and enclosed in an Airmail envelope with a telltale blue and red border. “Dear my new friend,” Jin-Hwan wrote by way of introduction in his impeccable handwriting, “I was very glad to receive your address and name from my friend. … I want a pen pal long time.” Subsequent letters began “Dear Mendelsohn,” “Dear Junnifer,” “Dear my penfriend,” and finally, hilariously, “Hey, girl.”
In his letters, Jin-Hwan told me that his favorite food was kimchi and that he wore a uniform to school. He liked collecting stamps and matchbooks and once won first place in a speech competition. He confessed that “All Americans look alike,” tried to teach me a few simple phrases in Korean and asked earnestly if I wanted to be a “professional woman.” One of my simple queries—“Do you like living in Korea?”—unwittingly insulted Jin-Hwan’s nationalistic pride. “I want to emphasize that Korea is not to be looked down upon,” he wrote. “My country is more beautiful and better than your country.”
Over time, Jin-Hwan became increasingly enamored of the Mormon missionaries who had arrived in his town, frequently proclaiming his newfound belief that the Book of Molmon [sic] was the “one true of the God” and peppering me with persistent questions about whether Mormonism might be a good fit for me. Perhaps that’s why I stopped writing to him after receiving one final letter with an endearing postscript: “Don’t forget me and my country Korea,” Jin-Hwan wrote. “I just love you, girl.”
I still remember how exciting it was to see one of Jin-Hwan’s letters waiting for me when I came home from school. And as I read them now, more than 30 years later, what strikes me most is the incredible sense of anticipation they betray, even in broken English. “I sent you a letter after a long time,” he pleaded in one. “What was the reason for you don’t send me a letter? I wanted your letter for a long time.”
It’s precisely that anticipation I want Ethan to experience: the nervous excitement of waiting for a response and imagining the possibilities it might contain. I want him to know what it’s like to have to wait to get an answer to his questions, so that he has time to brew a million more before his curiosity is sated.
The truth is there’s probably not much Hugo will reveal about life in France that I couldn’t find out in 10 seconds on my iPhone. I could probably take Ethan to Google maps and walk him, virtually, through Hugo’s neighborhood. I could order books about France from Amazon and have them delivered instantly to my iPad. I could have the two of them FaceTime.
But I’m perfectly happy to have Hugo remain just a little mysterious for now, happy that for once my son has to put some effort into getting information. Because ultimately, it’s not just about life in France that I want this experience to teach him.
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared in The New York Times, People, Slate and USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
You just never know where the next superfood is lurking. Terra-cotta chia pets (“the pottery that grows!”) have been around for more than 30 years. But recently chia has gone from a silly novelty gift to an “it” health food.
I was resistant at first. On paper, chia seeds (about $10 per pound) just look like a pricier take on flaxseeds ($2 per pound). Both are rich in omega-3 fats and fiber, nutrients that may reduce the risk of heart disease, Alzheimer’s and other things that go bump in the night. Since I already had some flax in the cupboard I didn’t feel compelled to jump on the chia bandwagon.
On a recent trip to New York, however, I stopped into Le Pain Quotidien and selected a chia muffin from the bakery case. Despite its healthful earnestness, the muffin was surprisingly yummy, with the chia seeds providing an appealing poppy seed-like crunch. Later that week, I came across a packet of chia seeds next to the flaxseeds at Trader Joe’s and tossed it into my cart. My flaxseeds have been gathering dust ever since.
For one thing, chia is a lot more user friendly. To get the nutritional benefits from flaxseeds, you have to grind them. But once ground, the fats in the seeds quickly go rancid. And ground flax isn’t that appetizing—it has a texture like sawdust and, depending on age, can taste faintly fishy.
Chia, on the other hand, is virtually flavorless. And the seeds don’t need to be ground—or even chewed—in order to deliver their nutritional payload. Each serving provides an entire day’s allowance of omega-3s and more than a third of your daily fiber requirement.
In or on baked goods, the seeds add a pleasant crunch. But the real fun begins when you add chia to liquids, where the seeds form a texture reminiscent of tapioca pudding.
A creamy “pudding” has now replaced my morning smoothie. (Mix ½ cup unsweetened almond milk, 2 tablespoons chia seeds, 1 teaspoon maple syrup, ¼ cup blueberries and/or ½ sliced banana in a glass and refrigerate overnight.) A jewel-toned concoction made with a ½ cup of pomegranate juice, 3 tablespoons of chia and ¼ cup of sliced strawberries is my new, guilt-free dessert (allow 2 hours to gel).
These seeds are too much fun (and too good for you) to squander by growing green “beards” on clay figurines!
Monica Reinagel is a Baltimore-based licensed nutritionist and creator of the award-winning Nutrition Diva podcast. Find her on Facebook or Twitter @nutritiondiva.
Photograph by Christopher Myers
In some ways, Manny Machado is just a normal 20-year-old guy. He loves Jay-Z, can wolf down multiple Philly cheesesteaks in one sitting and will volunteer to kick your butt in any video game—especially NBA2K.
He may not always call when he says he’s going to, but he texts to apologize afterward. (We know that firsthand.) He loves his mom and lives with his girlfriend. (Sorry, ladies, he’s taken by a smart pre-med student whose big brother happens to be a Major League Baseball player, too.)
But Machado is not your normal 20-year-old. In only the second game of his professional career, the then-19-year-old third baseman became the youngest Oriole to ever hit two home runs in a game, earning the midseason call-up immediate street cred with fans (and two celebratory pies in the face from teammates).
These days, Machado, who grew up in a Dominican-American home in Miami, can be seen driving around town in a black Porsche—something he doesn’t like to brag about. Ditto his accomplishments on the field. But by any measure, the rookie had an extraordinary season, finishing with a respectable .262 batting average, belting seven home runs and showing signs of defensive flash even as he changed positions from shortstop to third base. Most importantly, his energy seemed to fuel a resurgent Orioles team and a fan base hungry for success.
By the time he hit a 14th-inning single in a nail-biting September game to clinch the Orioles’ first winning season since 1997, Baltimore was officially in love. In January, Style spoke with Machado over the phone from his home in Miami.
> So what was your world like growing up?
I grew up in the inner city of Miami. We lived in this little townhouse and when I look back on those days, I have so many memories I’ll take with me forever. That’s my heart, my hometown.
> Was it an easy life or a hard life?
My mom was a single mother. She raised me on her own with my grandma, my aunt and my uncle. So I’m not going to say it wasn’t tough. But it wasn’t as hard as it would have been with only one [grown-up]. Still, my mom had to work two jobs, so sometimes Saturdays would be the only day I’d get to see her. And I ended up going to a lot of my games with my uncle instead. But I loved that, too. I loved it to death. So it was all good.
> Is your mom just over the moon for you now?
Yeah, she watches all my games. Even when we’re in Oakland three hours behind, she’ll stay up late to watch. She’s so proud, she doesn’t want to miss a moment.
> Do you have any brothers and sisters?
Yes, an older sister. Yasmine. She’s turning 30 this year.
> It’s good to have a big sister, isn’t it?
Oh, man. It was great. Even though my sister was a lot older, she always let me hang out with her and the group she grew up with. It was a great opportunity to spend time with an older crowd—and I think I got to mature a little faster than other kids my age.
> What’s the best lesson you learned back then?
Just the value of family, you know? Family are your real friends. Your lifetime friends. We’ll always stick together.
> Was it always baseball for you?
Always. I played a little basketball, too. But, really, baseball is just my thing. It was my little kid’s fantasy to play in the World Series.
> I’ve heard you admired Alex Rodriguez when you were growing up. Did you pick your jersey number 13—the same as his?
No. I actually used the number 3 for Alex back in the day [in the minor leagues]. And my number was 10 when I was a little kid. I just showed up and my uniform was waiting for me in my locker. When I saw it I said, ‘OK, not bad. This is a good start.’
> Was it scary when you first started playing in the majors?
At first it was a little shocking to be on the same field with these guys I used to watch play. For example, just having [Jim] Thome as my teammate. I saw him play in 1997 against the Marlins in the World Series. Realizing I was in the same dugout as him, that was a pretty extraordinary moment for me. It was like, ‘Welcome to the big leagues.’
> Did you get a warm welcome from the rest of the team?
Absolutely. I’d say the closest friend I had was Robert Andino, but he unfortunately went to Seattle this year. He took me around and showed me the ropes. I went to the field with him every day on the road. I miss that guy.
> So who’s your wingman now?
The whole team really takes care of me. We have a lot of young guys who came up through the minor league system—and we have a great connection. It’s awesome to see where we’ve been and where we are now. We have a great bond.
> How about the veterans?
They’re all incredible. One of my favorite memories from spring training was the first time Jonesy [Adam Jones] invited me over to his house for dinner.
> He’s a foodie, right?
Yep, he actually cooked the meal for me. Made these amazing steaks with broccoli. So good! Jonesy’s a great guy—and a great leader.
> Do you eat healthy?
Sometimes. But I’m a junk food guy. I love New York style pizza. Love it, love it, love it. And I can house a lot of Philly cheesesteaks.
> So I hear there’s a little hazing that goes on with the rookies.
[Big sigh.] Yes … I had to wear a tulip. Wait, no, what’s it called? A tutu! They made me wear a tutu in public with this cutoff T-shirt and a sparkly headband with a feather sticking out of it. I had to wear it walking out of the stadium, on the bus and then on the entire plane ride to California.
> I’ve seen pictures. You looked kind of like a flapper.
It was super embarrassing.
> So do you consider yourself shy or outgoing?
Oh … shy, shy, shy.
> Do you ever get intimidated at the plate?
Not usually. It’s just something I’ve always done, hitting the ball. I try to keep it simple when I’m up there.
> What about off the field. Do you like getting recognized?
Most of the time I do. It’s pretty surreal. It’s something I always dreamed about when I was a little kid. Playing in the big leagues. Walking down the street and having people know who you are. I see it as a great accomplishment for myself. And it helps me feel connected to the fans. It’s a privilege.
> Are you aware of the crowd when you’re playing?
Totally. Sometimes you kind of learn how to tune out the noise if you need to stay focused on the game. But you can always feel the energy. You hear people in the background. It’s gotten really loud in Baltimore lately. I love it.
> So it really makes a difference when we’re out there screaming your name?
Oh, definitely. (Laughs)
> I had a friend describe the night you hit your two home runs. He said, ‘Out of nowhere, this new kid shows up and starts hitting it out of the park. And you could feel this change in Baltimore. It’s like we believed again.’ Did you know you did that?
Wow. No. Not like that. I knew I brought a great vibe, not only to the fans, but also to the team. And the team treated me so well in return. It paid off great for us. We made it to the playoffs and the fans came out to support us. There wasn’t an empty seat in the house, which I thought was the most unbelievable thing. Especially from what I’ve heard from players like Markakis and Jonesy who’ve been around for a while. They said it wasn’t the same the last couple years when we weren’t doing to so well. But this year, under Buck [Showalter] managing, we turned this Baltimore pride around.
> Seriously. For three straight months, you guys made Baltimore happy. People were literally calling out sick from work just to come watch you play. No way. Really?
That makes me feel awesome. I can’t wait to tell that to the guys!
> Let’s talk about that unbelievable game against Tampa Bay, when you faked a throw to first base and caught Rich Thompson in a rundown between third and home. People lost their minds over that play. Do you really have time to strategize in that moment or is it more instinct?
Pure instinct. Your mind is working so fast. I got a glimpse at first base and realized I probably wasn’t going to get that out. And for some reason, I don’t know where it came from, I was just like, ‘Let me pump fake and see what happens.’ It’s the type of thing you practice a hundred times during spring training and you won’t do it in 10 years.
> So are you pretty much like ‘I’m the man!’ after a play like that?
To be honest, not really. My heart was pounding so hard. And I was up next to bat, which was crazy. There was just so much going on, it didn’t really sink in until later.
> You’re being humble, so brag on somebody else for a minute. Who do you think is amazing?
Buck. I think he’s the best manager in the league right now. Such a positive influence on our team. He keeps us loose—still focused on the main goal, but always joking around on the field. Just to play for him, having him write my name in the lineup every day, that’s a huge honor for me.
> So, I’m sure you’re aware by now that girls love you.
Well … (laughs) … I have noticed a couple of signs out there. Like one time over the summer, a girl held up a sign that said ‘Call Me Maybe’ and it had her phone number on it. That was one of the best, craziest ones.
> But all of this is irrelevant because you have a beautiful girlfriend named Yainee, who’s hopefully heading to medical school soon. What attracted you to her?
Her sense of humor. It’s something that not so many girls out there have. We were friends for like a year before we started dating, so we get along great.
> Did you guys meet through her brother?
[Yonder Alonso, first baseman for the San Diego Padres]? We did. I’ve known Yonder since my senior year when I got drafted. We started working out together in the same gym and he kind of took me under his wing and helped me through my first year as a pro player. We still hang out all the time.
> And this season you guys will face off against each other for the first time.
It’s going to be awesome. All of our family and friends and fans are going to be there—and they’ll finally be able to watch us play against each other. They’ll want both of us to do well.
> Everyone thinks pro athletes are so cool. Tell me something dorky about yourself.
Nooo. I don’t have anything dorky. Or if I do, I try to keep it on the down low.
> Nothing? Really? Can you dance?
Me? Dance? No way. I mean, I guess I can a little bit. But let’s just say, I’m not a fan.
> Yainee told me you play Pandora and sing in the shower.
Aw, man. Then I guess I have to admit it. But that doesn’t mean it sounds good.
> If I plugged into your iPod right now, what would I hear?
A lot of Jay-Z.
> Got any tattoos?
Yep, I have a few. I have two stars on my hands, a portrait of my grandfather and a lion.
> Why the lion?
I just love them, they’re my favorite animal. The king of the jungle. To me, it kind of symbolizes being a man.
> Did you buy anything exciting with your signing bonus?
No, just kept it basic. Got myself a little car.
> What kind and color?
A Porsche. Black.
> Nice. But you seem a little reluctant to admit that.
Maybe a bit. I also got to buy my mom a house, which made me really happy. She worked so hard for us when I was little. So I enjoy going over there to spend time with her when I’m home.
> Any big plans for your 21st birthday?
You know, I’ve been so busy. I haven’t really planned anything. But it’s in July, during the season, so it should be fun.
> So what would you be if you weren’t a pro baseball player?
I honestly don’t know. It’s something I’ve thought about before, but I still haven’t come up with a good answer. I think baseball is what I was born to do. It’s a God-given talent, this thing I have. So I don’t spend much time questioning it. I just want to show I’m grateful for it.
> Have an amazing season and keep the magic going.
I promise, I will.
THIS OR THAT?
with Manny Machado
Xbox or PlayStation?
Lobster rolls or crabcakes?
Neither, cause I’m allergic to shellfish.
‘Bull Durham’ or ‘Field of Dreams’?
Android or iPhone?
‘South Beach or South Baltimore?
Gotta stick to my home town, sorry about that one.
Ray Rice or Ray Lewis?
Too tough! But I’ll go with Lewis.
Kobe or LeBron?
LeBron, all day.
Jeans or sweatpants?
Hmmm. Basically a tie, but jeans.
Dogs or cats?
Spider-Man or Batman?
Jessica Biel or Jessica Alba?
Damn! Let me ask my home crew here. (Calls out to friends in the background.) OK, they all say Alba.
Ketchup, mustard or relish?
Whichever one has the most wins (on the Jumbotron at Camden Yards).
Jimmy Fallon or Jimmy Kimmel?
‘Twilight’ or ‘Hunger Games’?
Low and away or up and in?
Up and in
Shortstop or third base?
Oh, man. That is really hard. I’ll say third base. Gotta love my job.
Travel is so expensive these days. What’s a poor gal with wanderlust to do? Well, she could do worse than wander into a Turkish bazaar or Moroccan kasbah right on The Avenue. Caravanserai has just opened in the heart of Hampden, bearing fruits of the finely tuned eye of owner Ruth Turner, who’s spent the past 30 years traveling the globe and making deals with fair-trade vendors from Indonesia to Guatemala to Tibet. Savvy can see using those painted sheesham (Indian rosewood) nesting tables in every room of the house, or perhaps she can spend a leisurely day reclining on a plump Thai cushion or West African hassock while wearing a hand-embroidered pashmina and Tibetan turquoise necklace. Sigh. So many choices. 1113 W. 36th St., 443-691-5290, http://www.facebook.com/madeinheavenUSA
About every two months, Chef Michel Tersiguel posts two words—“Family Night!”—on Tersiguel’s Facebook page and waits for the crowds to descend upon his venerable Ellicott City restaurant. Guests pay $35 at the door for a three-course meal and wine then head to communal tables where they elect a “table captain” to retrieve the platters of food from the kitchen. “The captains get to see a working kitchen,” says Chef Michel. “It’s the good, bad and the ugly. Sometimes I yell at them to make it real!” At the most recent Family Night, 85 guests dined on house-made focaccia with various toppings, grilled sirloin with green beans and cauliflower puree and chocolate bread pudding. “Ours is a special occasion restaurant, so this is a different way for people to experience Tersiguel’s,” says the chef. “They come to party.” The next Family Night is March 1. When making a reservation, specify it’s for the family dinner. 8293 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-465-4004, http://www.tersiguels.com
Drinking beer is good. But so is watching it get made. Here are some nearby places where you can observe the art and science of brewing firsthand then engage in the all-important quality control testing. Bottoms up!
> On the free tour of Dogfish Head brewery in Milton, Del., you can get up close and personal with the brewing and bottling operation. This is a great choice for beer geeks—the tour guides might as well have Ph.D.’s in brewing. Each tour ends in the tasting room, where participants get four free samples. Tours offered Tuesday through Saturday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.. Reserve in advance at 888-8Dogfish or http://www.dogfish.com.
> When you tour Flying Dog in Frederick, you learn the brewery’s colorful history (which involves Hunter S. Thompson, an ascent of K2 and some illicit substances) and taste beer at various stages in the brewing process (a little nip of wort, anyone?). Tours offered Thursdays and Fridays at 4 and 6:30 p.m., and Saturdays at noon and 2:30 p.m. Two-hour tour costs $5 and includes five samples and a commemorative glass. Reserve in advance at 301-694-7899 or http://www.flyingdogales.com.
> The free tour at Evolution Craft Brewing Co. in Salisbury only lasts about 15 minutes, which means there’s time for a burger, charcuterie platter or shepherd’s pie—and a few beers—in the attached Public House, located in a former ice plant. Tours offered Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. 443-260-2337, http://www.evolutioncraftbrewing.com.
> On the free, self-guided tour of Tröegs Brewery in Hershey, Pa., visitors make their way through the “Scratch Beer” brewhouse (where brewers experiment with new ingredients and brewing processes), the fermentation/filtration hall, the quality lab and the barrel aging room. Guided tours cost $5 and include a free glass and samples. See troegs.com or call 717-534-1297 for a schedule.
> Locally, Union Craft Brewery offers free tours and tastings on Saturdays at 1:30, 2:30 and 3:30 p.m. 410-467-0290 or http://www.unioncraftbrewing.com. And Heavy Seas Brewery offers the chance to touch and smell ingredients on its free tours offered most Saturdays. (It’s $5 for a souvenir glass and five free samples.) Reserve at 410-247-7822 or http://www.hsbeer.com.
Visitors to Carey Jacobs’ home often tell her, “Your house is very un-Baltimore.”
At first, Jacobs, who was raised in Hanover, Pa., wasn’t sure what they meant. But since starting her interior design firm in 2008, she’s identified some common traits of traditional Baltimore homes: a color scheme that features deep reds and golds (except for a room that might be pink and green). Oriental rugs. Antique silver on an antique buffet. Dark furniture. Formal rooms.
In that sense, Jacobs’ visitors are right: her house is very un-Baltimore. Instead of red and yellow, the palette is fresh white with pops of color and pattern. A huge wooden gear mold from a mill hangs on the wall, along with a pair of framed aprons she picked up in an antiques store. There’s no dining room. But there is a fire pole.
The house was built in 1801 as a four-room farmhouse, and before Jacobs and her husband, Alex, a “serial entrepreneur” who owns Copper- mine Fieldhouse in Bare Hills, bought it in 2000, it had already been expanded twice. The couple and their 8-year-old twins lived in the home for seven years while Jacobs planned another major addition, expanding the home’s 2,400 square feet to roughly 6,000. In 2007, they moved out for a year and she began creating what she calls her design laboratory.
The heart of the home is the open kitchen/dining area, an airy and expansive space anchored by a wood-burning fireplace, one of three in the house. “I wanted a messed-up look for the fireplace,” says Jacobs, explaining that the reclaimed brick comes from a Federal Hill rowhouse. “I wanted to make sure this was an imperfect house so the addition wouldn’t scream ‘addition.’”
Like all the rooms in the house, the kitchen/dining area features chic, comfortable furniture. “There are no ‘don’t touch’ areas,” says Jacobs, who says her clients tend to be people with families wanting aesthetically pleasing homes that are practical for life with children.
During the renovation, Jacobs had hoped to preserve the home’s original staircase but, she says, “We couldn’t get it to work out so we decided to have a fire pole instead.
It’s a hit whenever the kids have friends over.”
That sense of playfulness is evident throughout the home in various found objects that have been repurposed—an antique wooden toy truck on the kitchen island, for example, now holds fruit, and in her son’s room, where a swing hangs from a wooden beam.
The play meshes with pops of color and pattern in the home’s various wallcoverings, which range from teal flocked wallpaper in a powder room to 1960s butterfly wallpaper in Jacobs’ daughter’s bathroom. Jacobs’ parents have owned York Wallcoverings since 1980, and she developed her design sense working there.
She studied communications in college and never planned to become a interior designer. But after people saw her house they started asking for her help designing spaces that reflect their personal taste as much as hers does. “One client said to me, ‘I can’t have the Baltimore house.’” Jacobs knew just what she meant.
What we really like about Elad Barmatz’s new Middle Eastern restaurant, Easta la Vista (besides its Arnold Schwarzenegger catchphrase-inspired name), is that it’s nearly impossible to leave hungry. Diners choose one main entrée from an ever-changing list of kosher Middle Eastern specialties—falafel, stuffed peppers, shawarma—and then stroll along a buffet to select from a smorgasbord of house-made sides and salads. The only rule when it comes to portions on the plate is, “If it fits, it goes,” says Barmatz, an Israeli emigrant, whose father, Eyal, does the cooking. “The Middle East is known for hospitality, so the food you get on your platter is like your mom made it for you—and your mom doesn’t have portion control,” he notes. “I want to prove a point that you can cook fresh food and it can be affordable.” With most entrees hovering just over $12, mom would approve of that, too. 1330 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville, 410-484-1174
Like many well-meaning parents-to-be, before my children were born I compiled a long list of parenting no-nos. Using the TV as a babysitter topped the list. Then reality set in. By the time my oldest child was a year old, I was doing what I had to do to survive. I did not have “easy” babies. They watched a lot of TV.
In the 15 years since my daughter first OD’d on “Barney,” the questions have changed. It’s now not enough to manage your children’s TV viewing—you have to manage their “screen time” and their “media diet.” There are screens everywhere—on smartphones, on iPods, on hand-held game consoles and iPads, not to mention computers and TVs—and your children are looking at them for an average of 7½ hours a day.
Yes, you heard right. A 2010 study from the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 8- to 18-year-olds use entertainment media for an average of seven hours and 38 minutes each day—more than 53 hours a week. And because so much of the time they are “media multitasking” (using more than one medium at a time), they actually pack in 10 hours and 45 minutes worth of media content on a daily basis on average. According to the study, there’s been a huge increase in children’s and teens’ media use in the past five years, largely driven by mobile devices. Two-thirds of 8- to 18-year-olds have cellphones, and three-quarters have iPods or MP3 players.
You may be surprised—as I was—that only about three in 10 children and teens have any rules regulating their use of media devices, according to the Kaiser study. But when they do, their media use goes down by about three hours daily.
We’ve tried a variety of media rules in our house—on average, we initiate a new plan at the beginning of each school year. We’ve tried no screen time during the week, and two hours max on the weekends; we’ve tried an hour during the week, but only after homework is done. We’ve experimented with egg timers to monitor the kids’ time on the computer. I’ve also done my best to fill up my kids’ afternoons and evenings with family and extracurricular activities, so they simply couldn’t find the hours to be in front of their screens. But, inevitably, my husband and I make an exception to the rules at some point, and the whole plan disintegrates.
Not all families find it so difficult to manage their kids’ media diets. “We’ve had [the same] rule about screen time since the kids were little,” says Susan Shaw, mother to Ryan, 15, a student at Boys’ Latin, and Emma, 13, and Kiki, 12, who attend Roland Park Country School. Shaw, who lives with her family in Roland Park, says that before the kids entered middle school, there was no screen time during the week. That changed when the kids got older, because they began needing computers to do their schoolwork, but none of the kids have Facebook accounts and the two oldest got cellphones in middle school. Occasionally, they will watch a TV show together during the week but mostly keep TV to the weekends.
Shaw says she felt strongly about instilling in her children a love of reading and also a love of the outdoors. At this point, Shaw says her children do spend a lot of time outside, which has made limiting screen time easier, but she says the jury is still out when it comes to reading: she has one great reader and two not-so-great ones. But overall, she says, “there hasn’t been a lot of conflict. These are our family rules—our values. Over the years, [the kids have] realized we have the final say on this. I don’t know if my way is the right way. This is what works for our family now, and that’s always a work in progress. If only there were a magic formula.”
Laura Mason and her husband, Michael Kwass, have similar guidelines for their children, Max, 14, and Isabel, 11. When Max and Isabel were 6 or 7, they were permitted to use computers for a half-hour on weekdays and up to an hour on weekend days. The kids rarely watched TV when they were younger, and no one in the family watches “commercial TV,” says Mason, a senior lecturer in the history and film and media studies departments at Johns Hopkins. “It’s either PBS, videos, on-demand or Netflix. That way we’re saved from commercials” and from gender stereotypes that Mason believes are rampant in network TV.
When it comes to computer use, Mason says that Max, who is in middle school, has about three to four hours of screen time per day. An hour of that time is spent on entertainment with Facebook, games, movies or TV—and the rest is for studying. Mason says the family has talks about the dangers of visiting “just any website. They understand that if they do that, they might see something they don’t want to see when they’re only 14,” she says.
Neither child has a cellphone but Mason says they allowed Max to get a Facebook account when the family moved to Baltimore two years ago because they felt it would help the Park School student to make friends. Isabel was permitted an email account, so she could keep in touch with old friends. She doesn’t have a Facebook page and won’t for a few years yet.
According to Dr. Dina Borzekowski, associate professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, parents need to consider the developmental age of their child when setting guidelines. For children under 2, Borzekowski cites the American Pediatric Association’s recommendations—no exposure to media whatsoever. “We know that kids who interact with people will do better on outcomes than children who only interact with media. We’re starting to see people having trouble holding a conversation,” she says.
For slightly older children, she advises parents to have concrete rules. But when it comes to teens, she says, parents need to take their kids’ needs into account. “Facebook and other types of social media can have both positive and negative effects,” she says. “Developing meaningful social interactions is an important task of adolescence. If the connections are being fostered online, then teens need access. Keeping a teen away from online media would be like keeping them away from school dances or sporting events. It is important to attend, even from the sidelines and bleachers.”
Though many people—teachers, psychologists, parent groups—take it as a given that unlimited screen time for children and teens is not a good thing, some disagree. Danny Mydlack, a founder of the Arts & Ideas Sudbury School in northeast Baltimore, a professor of electronic media at Towson University and a father of two, believes that children have the ability to self-regulate their use of media. “My 8-year-old daughter, Franny, will say, ‘This is an inappropriate site.’ She doesn’t want to be there,” he says. “My 10-year-old son, Louis, is really careful about violent content. He knows it gives him nightmares.”
Mydlack, who says his children spend four to six hours a day online, also points out that the computer offers children a creative, intellectually and socially stimulating world. “My son spends enormous amounts of time on the computer. If people heard he was spending all those hours playing the piano, they’d be swooning. To my son, the computer is just as rich,” he says. “It’s not the computer, that box that we see—it’s a network of amazing people. He has friends who come over to the house, and he has online friends from all over the world that he Skypes with.”
Louis’ and Franny’s mother, Caroline Chavasse, also a co-founder of Arts & Ideas Sudbury School, believes the expertise and passion her son has developed for the computer has gradually allowed him to try new things offline. “Seeing my son immerse himself in YouTube, video games and flash animation, I wondered how this would play out. But I was able to trust him because I could see what he was getting out of it. It was not a one-way ticket to being lost in the computer,” she says. “Gradually, on his own motivation, he began to turn off the computer and join in a game of football—something way outside his comfort zone. I think that because he built confidence on the computer, he found the strength and the self-awareness to do it.”
Given the fact that my 13-year-old son transferred to Arts & Ideas this year, I sure hope Chavasse and Mydlack are on the right track. In part because of the Sudbury philosophy, but also because the old ways just weren’t working. This year I let up on my attempts to control my son’s and daughter’s media diets. While my son spends a great deal of time on Facebook, where he keeps in touch with friends from camp, other schools and various interest groups, he now spends most of his time teaching himself to play the electric bass, often recording himself on the computer or collaborating remotely with other musicians in different cities. He also uses his computer for creative writing and digital artwork.
My daughter is one of those multimedia taskers mentioned in the Kaiser Foundation study. At any given time, she may be writing a paper, chatting on Facebook, listening to her iPod and texting her friends. She’s a great student, an actress and a singer, who loves school and works really hard. It’s funny, but after all those hours spent trying to get my kids offline, I’m not so sure their out-of-control media habits have done them any harm.
Dr. Stuart Varon, a child and adolescent psychiatrist in private practice and assistant professor of psychiatry at Johns Hopkins Medical School, believes there is no “cookie cutter” formula that works for everyone. Instead, he advises that parents take a balanced approach to managing their children’s media diets. “Is the child functioning in the areas in which he needs to function? Is the child using media in a way that might suggest a mental health problem? Let’s say the child is spending more and more time alone in his room on the computer. Is that a symptom that something’s wrong?” he asks. “Or maybe a child can’t wake up for school in the morning. The parents may want to look at what’s keeping him up. I just had a kid in the office who was having that problem. It turned out he was up gaming all night.”
Varon recommends that parents set guidelines for technology use before they give devices to their children, and points out that a shopping trip for a cell or smart-phone presents a terrific opportunity for a teachable moment. “When you’re shopping for the phone and the plan, educate your children about economics. Let them know that texting costs money, and that it’s possible to spend money using the phone without even realizing they’re doing it.”
Parents should also educate themselves about media. “I don’t think it’s OK to say, ‘I’m computer illiterate,’” says Varon. “You have to understand what your kids are doing. Let’s say your child is really into computer games. Sometimes I’ll ask the parent, ‘Have you ever played the game with your son?’ It could be a good way of connecting with your child and living in his world.”
The other day, I took Varon’s advice. I sat down with my kids and watched a couple of episodes of “Arrested Development,” a TV show they’d been constantly referencing and reciting lines and jokes from. As is often the case when they talk about the latest technological phenomenon, I felt both left out and concerned about their level of involvement with TV, the Internet and social media. So I watched the show with them. And it was really funny—just as sharp, quirky and brilliant as they’d been saying. And while we watched, I thought about what great kids I have—whether they’re plugged in or not.
Photography by Justin Tsucalas
Wit & Wisdom, and owner of the female-only bartending service, http://www.bartendHER.com
Signature drink: The Vicar of Winkfield (Hangar One spiced pear vodka, agave nectar, lime, St-Germain, fresh-grated cinnamon)
I’m the only female bartender at Wit & Wisdom, and sometimes people will choose to order with a man first. They want to test your knowledge, and you have to show that you’re skilled. But that’s OK cause I can go with the best of them. Yeah, I can talk whiskey with you.
I started BartendHER two years ago. I have 12 bartenders who work for me, and we do all sorts of private parties and events. People like female bartenders because it’s a look—a certain sex appeal that people associate with bartending. People like a pretty face and a nice personality, and that goes a long way at events.
I worked the D.C. club scene before Wit. That’s totally different, it’s speed bartending—people want their shots and beers, not too many mixed drinks. But you meet a lot of people working at clubs.
People always ask me, ‘How do you deal with not having your nights and a social life?’ But I feel like I’m in the social scene—and I’m making money at it. It’s the best of both worlds. —J.S.
Landmark Theatre, Harbor East
Signature drink: The Liberator (created for “Lincoln”). Pig’s Nose Scotch Whiskey, Yellow Chartreuse, yuzu juice and ginger ale with candied ginger and fresh lime
When I won my first bartending award in Baltimore, some people made a fuss—saying things like, ‘But she bartends in a movie theater.’ To me, that’s the best part of my job. I love the culture of film and the culture of craft cocktails. They’re both escapism.
I’ve served everyone from Renée Zellweger to Derek Jeter at the Landmark, but 90 percent of my guests are couples. I have a few gender-related pet peeves, like women who feel the need to ask permission to get a drink or the ones who hold up the line saying, ‘My husband will be back to pay for this in a minute.’
One gentleman actually used my Valentine’s Day menu to ditch his girlfriend. He ordered her The Break-Up Martini and said, ‘This is happening. Right now.’ Based on her behavior at the bar, she deserved it.
Since most of the men I serve are on dates, I generally don’t have any issues with male patrons. But I’d be fibbing if I didn’t say there are a few guys out there who consider me their imaginary movie geek girlfriend. —J.B.
Signature drink: Grapefruit crush
I’ve been bartending since I was 23. I was thrown into the bar at Michael’s Pub in Columbia when a bartender didn’t show. All the regulars told me how to make their drinks and told me to overpour. They were very happy.
I’m blond so I’m automatically assumed to be incapable. Some men are like, ‘Sweetie, why didn’t you go to college?’ There’s a general, ‘Why are you doing this with your life?’ I have a college education. I’ve been a personal trainer, an art director, seven different careers. I’ve learned that I don’t have a mind where I can sit behind a desk. With bartending, there’s always something to do. I love the thrill of the rush, the constant motion.
I meet all kinds of people and have great conversations. I think women tell me more emotional stuff. My best advice is: ‘If he’s not calling you, don’t text him.’ —L.W.
Signature drink: Manhattan
I’m a third-generation bartender. My grandmother was the first bartender at Long John’s on 29th Street in the 1940s. I know my grandfather didn’t like it. My mother bartended at Long John’s when she was 19 in the 1970s and then at Dizzy’s, which was called Buckley’s back then. I’ve been here 10 years. I was an at-home mom before I started, and I was really shy at first. But to be a bartender, you’ve got to be strong and a little outspoken. You’ve got to control your bar.
Yes, I’ve had to throw people out. But being a woman, I get treated with respect. I handle things differently than a guy bartender would. I’ll get guys to calm down and leave on their own. With a guy bartender, that testosterone gets going.
We get all kinds in here—from punk rock kids to CEOs. We used to have this S&M couple that would come in and she would dominate him right in the bar. It flipped me out. One time they came in full leather and she had him on a leash. She asked me, ‘Is there anything you want him to do?’ I said, ‘No, I’ll just get you a beer.’ Back then it was pretty dead, and they were my only two customers.
[The owner] Elaine and I would eat pizza and watch ‘American Idol.’ Things have changed a lot at The Dizz. —J.S.
Blue Hill Tavern
Signature drink: une Baby
(grapefruit-infused vodka, agave nectar, lime juice and lime soda)
I grew up around bar people. My parents are Irish and my aunts and uncles owned a couple of bars in Cape Cod. I love the social aspect of bartending, and I enjoy talking to people.
I think as a female bartender, people are more open with you. It’s almost a maternal thing. Men feel like they can open up. Sometimes we’ll get some old school customers in here, and they’ll only want a guy to get their drinks. But I feel like, c’mon, it’s 2013. I’ve got a great attitude and a smile, anybody could get used to that. [Bar owners] sometimes wonder about the physical part, too. Can I lift a keg? Absolutely.
I do get hit on quite a lot. I used to be married and wore a wedding ring, which was a great way to handle it. I continued to wear it even after I wasn’t married, but my hands would get wet and it would fall off all the time—and that was the end of that. —J.S.
Fleet Street Kitchen
Signature drink: The McNulty
I can make double the amount of money bartending than waitressing. I think the reason is I remember regulars’ names, their children and parents’ names, what they like to drink, their birthdays and anniversaries. People are shocked I can do it, but I can. Even if I’m not working, I’ll still text a regular to say, ‘I know you have a special day coming up.’
I always tell people who want to be a bartender that it’s 90 percent personality and being able to get along with people, and 10 percent making drinks. People can get the same Ketel One anywhere. You want them to spend their money with you.
When I worked at a nightclub, guys would throw drinks at me when I refused to serve them 15 shots at once. Or they would try to come behind the bar and pour their own drinks. Other than the occasional unruly customer, nothing bad has happened at Fleet Street Kitchen. And I’m home by 12:30 a.m. and in bed! —L.W.
Heaven knows Savvy has more than enough jewelry. But girls like girlie things. So how can she resist when they beckon from a store as pretty as a jewel box? And when they’re from a new line unlike any she’s ever seen? Jewelry stalwart Bijoux in Green Spring Station is the only Baltimore store carrying the crushed-gemstone creations of New York-based designer David Urso. The sensuous curved earrings of crushed black tourmaline, in a 4-inch twisted teardrop shape, had Savvy at hello. There are the ancient-looking, almost Byzantine, crushed ruby and red coral discs, not to mention the one-of-a-kind silver pyrite necklace with moonstone, amethyst, aquamarine and hematite, fit for an Amazon queen. Bijoux also carries the work of local designers, such as colorful diachroic glass by Patty Minkowski and Indian-inspired baubles by Suchi Krishnaswamy. Owner Renee Wilson doesn’t turn up her nose at costume jewelry either, with vintage stunners by Coro, Weiss, Nettie Rosenstein and Miriam Haskell, and modern designs by La Parisienne. 10749 Falls Road, 410-823-5545, http://www.bijouxjewels.com
Savvy’s used to prowling the highways and e-buyways of the 21st century—she knows she’s not the only one who appreciates designer duds, vintage goods and bargain prices. But she doesn’t expect to find them all in one place. And she doesn’t necessarily expect the glamour quotient to be high. Enter b’more Betty in Federal Hill. The first thing Savvy noticed in Camille Edwards’ fab little boîte was the spectacular sparkler of a chandelier, illuminating an array of women’s clothing by Dior, Escada, Valentino, Gucci, Prada, Trina Turk and Oscar de la Renta. Bags and accessories by Louis Vuitton and Marc Jacobs don’t go amiss here either. (Sorry, darlings, but Savvy already snatched up the sexy purple leopard platform pumps, and for only 18 bucks.) A Chicago native who loves Charm City, Edwards buys and sells new and used clothing, and also offers classes in jewelry design. 1316 Light St., 443-869-6379, http://www.bmorebetty.com
Here’s a quick foodie history lesson for you: The concept of the modern-day brunch was first mentioned in an 1895 magazine essay, aptly titled “Brunch, A Plea,” by British author Guy Beringer.
Beringer, a fellow who apparently did his fair share of Saturday night carousing, asks: “Instead of England’s early Sunday dinner, a post-church ordeal of heavy meats and savory pies, why not a new meal, served around noon, that starts with tea or coffee, marmalade and other breakfast fixtures before moving along to the heavier fare?” Brunch, Beringer rightly asserts, makes people happy. “It puts you in a good temper, it makes you satisfied with yourself and your fellow beings, it sweeps away the worries and cobwebs of the week.”
Indeed, what’s not to love about a lazy Sunday afternoon meal consisting of sweet and savory foods accompanied by alcoholic beverages? The following recipes work together as a brunch feast, or on their own as a hearty weekend breakfast or lunch.
Chilaquiles are a traditional Mexican breakfast of fried corn tortillas, herbs and a green or red sauce, sometimes incorporating meat and/or eggs. My spicy version includes pulled chicken, smoky chipotle chiles in adobo and a runny fried egg. It’s the ultimate hangover food.
Stratas are layered casseroles of bread, eggs and cheese, and typically use sourdough or white bread in their construction. Here, in my salmon, dill and goat cheese strata, I use pumpernickel bread for extra depth of flavor. The dark bread also makes for a more colorful presentation.
And for those with a sweet tooth, the fragrant lavender, cardamom and hazelnut scones are made for dunking into tea, or slathering with butter and lemon curd.
But it wouldn’t be brunch without a bit of booze. The Bloody Bunny is a vitamin A-packed play on the Bloody Mary featuring carrot juice, vodka, fresh ginger and blood orange bitters. I believe Mr. Beringer would be pleased.
Maryland may soon have table games at its casinos, but showgirls, miniature Eiffel Towers and erupting volcanoes are a long way away. In the meantime, there’s a new way to reach the glitz of Las Vegas. Spirit Airlines starts daily flights to Sin City from BWI on April 25. Flights depart Baltimore at 7:30 p.m. and leave Vegas at 11:47 p.m., meaning you could squeeze a lot of fun into a little more than 24 hours. Even better, also on April 25, Spirit commences seasonal direct flights to notoriously difficult to reach Myrtle Beach. Good news for gamblers and beach bums alike. http://www.spiritairlines.com
My father says he can remember tasting his first potato chip. Think about it: his first potato chip. The revelation shouldn’t take me by surprise considering the way my family waxes nostalgic about everything from my busia’s raisin bread to Suburban brand Almond Smash soda to neighborhood bakeries and long-shuttered restaurants. Still, I was taken aback. His. First. Potato. Chip.
The chip was made by Utz, of course, says Dad—as if there were no other options (and perhaps there weren’t in the 1940s). My father and uncle were kids, around 10 and 11, and spending the summer with their sisters and mother “down the country” picking beans, an annual event for many Polish families in East and South Baltimore. The location changed every summer—Hydes, Havre de Grace or Delta, Pa.—but this year they were in New Windsor or Westminster. Dad and Uncle Cas scrounged up a few pennies, went down to the local grocer who supplied goods for the bean pickers and spent 3 cents on a bag of Utz potato chips. Dad remembers experiencing what we’ve come to cherish in a chip: a translucent bite of salty-crunchy, followed by the pure potato. From that day on, he was hooked.
Utz chips were a special treat for my mother, too. My grandmother would buy a gold canister of chips for Christmas at the Lexington Market stall or a hand-scooped bag from the ladies who ran the small grocery next to the post office on Holabird Avenue in Dundalk. Even my Midwestern husband treasures potato chips and recalls a story similar to my father’s (albeit the baby boomer version) where he and one of his many brothers would collect bottles, cash them in for the deposit and walk to the grocery store that served his town of 714 to buy a bag of potato chips, a rare indulgence for a kid with 11 siblings. These days, only Utz will do for Kevin. “They’re thin, with just the right amount of salt,” he says.
Growing up, there was always a bag of Utz in our house, brought home from my father’s pharmacy. But their familiarity bred junk food boredom. I would have rather had a french fry over a chip any day.
As I’ve matured, I’ve been won over by the simplicity of the chip (possibly this is my husband’s influence). It is potato at its most basic—enhanced, but not overwhelmed, by its dip in the fryer, its dusting of salt. And I won’t argue with the generations of Baltimoreans who have adopted Utz as their hometown chip despite its origins across the border in Hanover, Pa. An Utz chip is one fresh slice of fried potato. No wonder the Natty Boh boy of the Smyth Jewelers billboard campaign is so besotted with the little Utz girl. I’d court her, too, if it meant unlimited access to chips.
Instead, I decide to make the short drive to Hanover to tour the Utz factory. From Hanover’s town center, I see the vintage Utz sign glowing red in the gray sky. The sign turns out to be for the factory outlet where you can buy anything from chocolate-covered potato chips, an addictive mix of sweet and salty, to pretzels shaped like Cinderella’s tiara. The factory lies across the highway, an amalgam of tan brick and smoked glass standing solid among the comings and goings of 18-wheelers. For a good mile, says a man in the outlet parking lot, you can smell potatoes cooking.
I enter the door marked Utz Factory Tours and climb a staircase to the second floor. A small display of old tins and dull silver-colored peeling and frying equipment appears almost hidden under the staircase, and I’m greeted by a disembodied recorded voice telling me that Utz distributes nationally from its nine facilities across the country and is the No. 1 regional brand of snack food in each of its markets (as well as the No. 1 chip in Baltimore). The voice instructs me to enter a set of double doors to begin the self-guided tour.
At first, I’m disappointed. I enter a large empty room with a few photos and paraphernalia and not a single human in sight. Thanks to a video playing in a darkened room, I learn that Utz was founded by Bill and Salie Utz, who started their business from home in 1921 after investing $300 in a peeler, slicer and fryer. Salie made 50 pounds of chips in an hour, and Bill sold them door to door.
When the video switches over to a segment from the History Channel’s “Modern Marvels,” I find out a plethora of cocktail conversation facts—that this part of Pennsylvania is known as “the potato chip belt,” that Snowden potatoes, a low moisture variety, are used to make most chips, that big potatoes are used for big bags of chips and small tubers for small bags (natch), and that it takes 4 pounds of potatoes to make 1 pound of chips.
Utz produces approximately 45 kinds of potato chips that vary in texture, flavor and the amount of fat (for dieters who can’t give up their chips). Plus, the company regularly comes up with new flavors (like the sweet and savory Maui barbecue chip)—many through consumer suggestions via Facebook and phone calls.
Through another set of doors, a long hallway with glass windows looks over the factory floor. I watch as a conveyor high above shakes potatoes down a chute where they spin in a centrifuge and emerge skinned. They travel up and down on belts structured like gentle roller coasters, spinning and shaking and bouncing like pinballs before being sprayed with water and sliced into pale discs. The slices move along the belt, finally tumbling off the edge into hot oil. They emerge oil-slicked and golden. I want to reach out and take a nibble.
Despite the modern machinery and technology, there’s a distinct human element. After cooking, the chips are sorted and then packed into bags by women in hairnets, who flick irregular chips into receptacles like dealing a pack of cards (the chips will later be collected and sold to a company that converts them to animal feed). Occasionally, the folks on the factory floor look up and nod or smile.
I leave the tour area, helping myself to the small bag of chips proffered to each visitor, and as I drive home, I pass Utz truck after Utz truck on the winding route. I think about the folks on the assembly line charged with the mission of making perfect chips. I think of Ken, my father’s Utz deliveryman of 15 years whom I never met, but Dad says was like family to the people who worked at the drugstore. I think about the simple joys my parents and husband got and still get from potato chips.
When my husband arrives home later that evening, I present him with a bag of Original Utz chips, fresh from the factory. He takes a chip and smiles. Then he takes another, reveling in the simple pleasure of potato, salt and oil.
Homemade Potato Chips
4 Russet potatoes
oil for frying (peanut, canola or even lard)
Slice potatoes very thinly on a mandoline. Rinse in cold water and blot dry with paper towels. Heat oil to 350 degrees in a large skillet or deep fryer. Plunge chips into hot oil and remove as soon as they begin to brown and curl. Drain on paper towels. Season with salt. Serve immediately. Yield: One bowl of chips to feed 2 to 4 people.
People often refer to older houses, such as my circa 1900 barn, as money pits. But the real money pit is not the house. One actually lives in the house. A modern kitchen is a fine convenience. Ditto bathrooms. Improvements are necessary and, as every realtor shouts from the mountaintop, a smart investment.
The real money pit is the garden, the Mariana Trench of ruin for many of us. I do not dare tally up the amount of money poured into this bottomless pit via Green Fields, White Flower Farm, A.M. Leonard (tools for the horticultural industry since 1885) and Van Bourgondien (Dutch bulbs and perennials since 1893). It would embarrass me. And that’s merely the top of the ticket. I have not even touched on the horror of horrors: the water bill.
We are not alone in our misfortune. Others suffer, too. From Glen Burnie to Glyndon men and women (and even some unwilling children) of all faiths and colors and creeds and socio-economic backgrounds are pouring money into the wasteland that is their garden. Citizens in humble rowhouses and the squirearchy in baronial splendor on five tiny acres in the vale of tallyho are afflicted.
My wife is a slave to gardening. She plants. She moves said plants. They die. She replaces them. This may come from her early exposure to the fabled classic “Onward and Upward in the Garden,” the columns of Katherine S. White (Mrs. E.B.White) from The New Yorker. “Das Kapital” or “Mein Kampf” could not have changed a life more.
My wife likes to get down in the dirt on all fours. After an afternoon gardening, she looks as if she has been rolling around in the mud. I call her Pig-Pen after the child in the old Peanuts comic strip.
She does not find that endearing.
From March until November, she is in the garden. And she occasionally makes off-season forays there, too. I am her only helpmate, an unwilling gardener, and a grouchy conscript. So, over the years she has engaged various landscape service providers. Once, 10 young gentlemen from Mexico (because you can’t get a backhoe in our backyard) moved a hill. On another occasion she hired a high-end landscape designer, a rather formidable woman who told her officiously that she could not be helped. That went down well.
In the days of my youth, I was one of Lord Baden-Powell’s lads. I was a Boy Scout. And one of the surest signs of spring hereabouts is when the Scouts begin selling the crack cocaine of gardening: mulch. Mulch is a powerfully addictive substance for the would-be gardener. One toke and you are damned.
You put mulch down and it looks good for maybe 72 hours and then it disappears. And so you put more mulch down. I think of mulching as if I were literally scattering five- and 10-dollar bills in my yard. Just the same, I always buy 50 bags from the Scouts for old times’ sake. Be Prepared.
One thing that will occur to the gardening profligate or libertine is that the cost of the planting has nothing to do with its health or longevity. We have spent mad sums on exotic flora only to have them wither and die, sometimes within minutes of being planted. Perhaps they are unsuited to the Land of Pleasant Living?
On the other hand, a $19.99 hydrangea, the sort you see in the Giant next to the 50-pound bags of pork rinds, wandered in here one Mother’s Day 15 years ago and got tucked into the yard next to our garage. It is now the size of a Dodge Durango. It requires no attention. It could withstand nuclear attack. It has the shelf life of plutonium and it is insect-proof, too.
And that brings me to what the great nature boy Henry David Thoreau called “our insect foes in this adversity.” Most of those with green thumbs are surprised to find that the sage of Walden loathed insects. Mosquitoes were his particular targets. He was tramping through the deep woods before insect repellant was invented. He hated bugs.
My late father-in-law was in agreement with Thoreau. He maintained a cache of toxic chemicals at his gentleman’s farm on My Lady’s Manor that would have brought Greenpeace down on him today. His favorites were malathion and paraquat and he had jugs of the stuff. I am not even sure if you can buy the sort of thing he once stockpiled. But I can tell you one thing, aphids rode wide of his place. Those little sapsuckers knew my father-in-law was not a man to fool with.
I’m not a monster. I don’t want to defoliate the Amazon rain forest or clear-cut the Giant Redwoods. (I did threaten to pave our garden once, but I’d had a lot of coffee to drink.) But I do not wish to have a relationship with flora.
Yet I have a tender spot for crocuses. I always plant some in the fall. It takes five minutes. My wife despises them. They upset her color scheme. She has tried to prevent me from doing this. To no avail! I plant my secret garden along a bank, and the strong, late winter sun brings out the blooms. Jan. 25 was the first sighting last year!
Those sturdy, cheerful crocuses are the promise of a new season (and yes, of gardening, alas). I am always happy to see them. They remind me that the winter is slipping away and that hope springs eternal.
I’d already told about 10 people in Baltimore that my husband and I were planning a visit to Staunton, Va., when a friend of mine who is from Virginia whispered in my ear, “You don’t say the ‘u.’”
The fact that no one had corrected me until then is evidence that STAN-ton is a hidden jewel to most of us north of D.C.—even though it’s just three hours from Baltimore. I only knew about it because a few years back we pulled off I-81, drove into Staunton’s beautiful downtown and had lunch at The Beverley Restaurant, a down-home cafe that serves scrapple and slices of lemon meringue pie two
stories high. I vowed then and there to come back.
So this winter my husband and I returned to Staunton for a full weekend. And because it’s a town for strolling, the first thing we did was park our car at our hotel, The Stonewall Jackson Hotel and Conference Center, a 1924 Colonial Revival that was renovated in 2005, and hit the historic streets.
From the Stonewall, it’s a two-minute hop down to Staunton’s main street, Beverley, where we while away the next few hours browsing in a range of antique shops—everything from the Staunton
Antiques Center, with 30 booths displaying vintage furniture, clothing and jewelry, to Worthington Hardware Co., stuffed with the oddest of odds and ends.
Beautifully restored 19th-century buildings line Beverley—it was recently named one of “America’s Greatest Main Streets” by Travel + Leisure magazine, and Staunton itself (pop. 23,000) was dubbed one of the “20 Best Small Towns in America” by Smithsonian magazine. There are no chain stores, which certainly makes things interesting (with the exception of a store called The Golden Tub, whose tantalizing name belies its mundane offerings of bath towels and robes).
After lunch at Darjeeling Cafe, a combination wine bar and tea room where the waitress tries to tempt us with deep fried Oreos for dessert by saying, “They’re vegan,” I look at my watch and realize we have to hurry if we want to tour the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library and Museum.
But we don’t want to hurry. So, with apologies to our 28th president, we get our history on the street. We stop to gaze at several shiny aluminum stand-up basses in the window of music store Fretwell Bass, and learn that ALCOA produced 500 of them in the 1930s—and the store owns four. Down the block, we discover the Camera Heritage Museum, which tells the history of photography through its collection of more than 2,000 cameras.
But our best discovery is the 1911 auto barn owned by antique and classic car broker Bruce Elder. It’s not a museum per se, but Elder opens his showroom to the public on Fridays and Saturdays, which means you can feast your eyes upon the 60 vehicles—all swoops and curves—and learn interesting tidbits, like the fact that the 1940 Buick Limited Touring Sedan was the largest and most expensive Buick offered that year. (It’s on sale for $40,000 currently.)
On that side of town, we venture into the tasting room for Ox-Eye Vineyards, which is located in a former scale house where horse-drawn wagons were weighed. We buy a bottle of Lemberger made in Ox-Eye’s winery eight miles outside of Staunton and head back to the Stonewall Jackson to rest up.
Later that night we settle into a booth at Zynodoa, a farm-to-table restaurant where we love the gumbo and the homemade biscuits—and the prodigious use of pork belly, a favorite of Zynodoa’s chef James Harris, who formerly worked at the Inn at Little Washington.
We linger at dinner until the very last minute then scurry over to the 12-year-old American Shakespeare Center to see “The Duchess of Malfi” at Blackfriars Playhouse, the world’s only re-creation of Shakespeare’s famed indoor theater. As we enter, a crew of actors is onstage playing guitars and singing a Sting song. When the song ends, they put down their instruments and start talking. Since there is no stage lighting—in keeping with the tradition of Shakespeare’s time, the house lights stay on through the performance—it’s a second or two before I realize the play has begun. Quickly I get involved in the intrigue, double-crossing and multiple murders in Webster’s famed tale, which has more bloodshed than a Tarantino movie. (I know this because “Django Unchained” is playing in one of Staunton’s two historic downtown movie theaters, where we see it the next day.)
Watching a play in this new light (literally) is a unique experience, worth the trip to Staunton just on its own. Three different shows run at the Blackfriars each weekend, so you could plan a great theater getaway (and, in fact, the Stonewall Jackson offers a Shakespeare package).
That’s what I think we’ll do the next time we return to Staunton. That, and visit the new microbrewery that’s opening this spring. And, yes, pay a visit to Mr. Wilson’s home and library.
When My Thai was displaced due to a fire in 2010, we wondered if the Mount Vernon restaurant would ever return. Well, it’s back but in a very different form and a different place. Located in the spot formerly occupied by Lemongrass, My Thai’s new Harbor East home is far larger and sophisticated than its previous incarnation. The front bar area is like a low-key Bangkok nightclub with its techno music soundtrack, moody lighting and post-industrial exposed pipes. Diners can watch cooks prepare food at the open “grill bar,” which features a separate menu of more interesting sounding dishes than those on the regular menu: flash-fried chicken livers with baby bok choy; grilled beef tongue with spicy mango salad; a noodle bowl with roasted duck and Chinese broccoli. For lunch, we recommend sitting in the brighter-lit second dining room with its long blond-wood communal tables. Either way, it’s good to see the return of an old friend. Open for lunch and dinner daily. 1300 Bank St., 410-327-0023, http://www.mythaibaltimore.com
If you can’t get enough outsider art at Baltimore’s Visionary Art Museum, head to the Philadelphia Museum of Art and check out “Great and Mighty Things”: Outsider Art from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Collection, March 3-June 9. The exhibit includes more than 200 works by untrained artists produced as far back as 1930. Also on display, “The Art of Golf,” March 16-July 7, an exhibition proving that golf inspires more than just frustration in the rough. 215-763-8100, http://www.philamuseum.org
Imagine Savvy’s surprise to find an established Baltimore florist in a brand new spot, tucked away on a tiny street in her very own neighborhood. Local Color Flowers (LoCoFlo) has moved into its fourth location in five years, and this time, says owner Ellen Frost, it’s for keeps. The Charles Village building, all on one floor, is big enough for deft designer hands and hulking delivery trucks, and it’s all powered by wind. LoCoFlo uses only flowers grown by farmers within a 100-mile radius, so not only is it helping the local economy, it’s providing seasonal punch to its flower arrangements. For March, flowering branches of cherry, pussywillow, dogwood, quince and witch hazel make beautiful bouquets, as do more traditional tulips, ranunculus, snapdragons, daffodils and calla lilies. Don’t forget elegant little bundles of fresh herbs such as rosemary and lavender. Also offered are floral design classes and “Wine and Design” nights. But don’t just pop in; service is by appointment only. 3100 Brentwood Ave., 410-262-1494, http://www.locoflo.com
After all the hard work (and celebrating!) that goes into the oh-so-glamorous Black & White Party at Enoch Pratt Library, our friends at The Pratt Contemporaries settle in for a long winter’s nap—and, of course, some great reads. Check out the titles these bookworms are reading (or re-reading) this season. And watch out for smart, chic events hosted by STYLE and Pratt Contemporaries this spring and summer. (Hint: Follow us both on Facebook for exclusive invites, including Happy Hour at the 13th Floor on March 20.)
Day Job: Annual Fund Director, Enoch Pratt Free Library
Role with Pratt Contemps: Staff Liaison
What I’m Reading: “Let’s Pretend this Never Happened (A Mostly True Memoir)” by Jenny Lawson (The Bloggess)
Why I Love It: This book had me at “For fans of Tina Fey and David Sedaris” on my Goodreads. I unapologetically love a light read—and this is the best kind. It makes you laugh out loud, hit the person next to you, say “Ok, you have to hear this one” and starting reading aloud. It is witty, irreverent and hilarious. After all, as the author shares on the book flap, “she is considered one of the funniest writers of our generation by at least three or four people.”
Day Job: Director of Communications, Enoch Pratt Free Library
Role with Pratt Contemps: Staff liaison
What I’m Reading: “The Middlesteins” by Jami Attenberg
Why I Love It: It’s a fun epic read about family and our obsession with food. Most of us can relate to the highs and lows, hopes and heartbreaks of this family. Despite some serious topics it has a sly humor to it. I can see why it was one of the best books of 2012—and everyone loved chatting with the author when she visited the Pratt Library on March 9. Dig in, you’ll like it!
Day Job: Head of Private Equity at Brown Advisory
Role with Pratt Contemps: Co-Chair
What I’m Reading: “The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates” by Wes Moore
Why I Love It: This insightful and inspirational memoir tells the story of two kids growing up in the same neighborhood in Baltimore. Both are named Wes Moore. Beyond that, the two seem totally different—one becomes a Rhodes Scholar, while the other ends up convicted of murder. But once you look closer, the two aren’t as different as they appear. Everyone should pick up a copy, but especially if you live in Baltimore. The book takes place in our own backyard! And more importantly, it makes you think about what we can do to make a difference.
Day Job: Attorney at Ober, Kaler, Grimes & Shriver
Role with Pratt Contemps: Board member
What I’m Reading: “Love in the Time of Cholera” by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
Why I Love It: I picked up this book for the second time since college—and fell in love all over again. The story follows Florentino Ariza (a hopeless romantic whose “heart has more rooms than a whore house”) and the long and winding road that leads him to the love of his life, Fermina Daza. It’s an unconventional romance where love letters arrive coated in bird droppings, the scent of cyanide indicates “the fate of unrequited love” and two lovers, wrinkling with age and bending with time, finally sail away into the sunset with a “yellow cholera flag flying jubilantly from the mainmast.” Gabriel Garcia Marquez is an incredible storyteller with a wicked sense of humor—and it was just as amazing (if not more so) the second time around.
Kate Rawson Powell
Day Job: Health Care Policy Editor and Analyst
Role with Pratt Contemporaries: Co-founder and current Chair
What I’m Reading: “The One and Only Ivan” by Katherine Applegate
Why I Love It: How could you not love this first-person narrative told from the perspective of an aging silverback gorilla named Ivan who is the main attraction at the Exit 8 Big Top Mall and Video Arcade. Ivan is pretty happy with his caged life until he meets a young elephant named Ruby, who inspires him to plot their escape. This is technically a children’s book; it just won the Newbery Medal for 2013. But don’t let that small detail stop you—adults also will be transformed by Ivan’s story. Read it. Soon. Preferably today!
Day Job: Commercial Banking Relationship Manager
Role with Pratt Contemps: Board Member
What I’m Reading: “The Age of Turbulence” by Alan Greenspan
Why I Love It: The Age of Turbulence is a memoir by the former Chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank. I find it incredibly interesting to hear the thoughts of people who have shaped the history of the country. I also enjoy hearing from Washington insiders who can describe the dynamics in the administrations that they serve. The Age of Turbulence does both and in a way that kept me intrigued—from both a personal and professional perspective—from cover to cover.
SO TELL US: What are YOU reading? Share your suggested books in the Comments Section below!
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If you think you’re an early riser, consider the schedule of Jason Hisley. The former winner of the Food Network’s “Cupcake Wars” begins his day at 2 a.m. baking at a rented commercial bakery space in Baltimore. By 6 a.m., after finishing with deliveries, Hisley hoofs it over to La Cakerie, the Towson bakery he owns with business partner Adam Klein. There, Hisley meets and greets customers who visit the bakery for a variety of fresh-baked items, including red velvet cupcakes, maple bacon doughnuts, pretzel dogs and homemade soups in bread bowls. The bakery also offers cookie kits complete with their own cookie cutter, as well as custom cakes. “Downtown Towson has not had a bakery in a long time,” says Klein. “Our customers say, ‘Wow we’ve been waiting for a place like you.’” Eat-in and takeout available. 49 W. Chesapeake Ave, Towson, 443-275-4050, http://www.lacakerie.com
In all her years of shopping, Savvy admits she had never ventured into Pikesville’s Renaissance Fine Arts before. But recently, the gallery has taken wing in a location a little closer to home. A separate, pop-up shop just appeared in the Village of Cross Keys, and a more splendid, airy space you won’t find: 4,500 square feet in the location formerly anchored by Gore Dean furnishings. The Cross Keys location gives you a taste of what’s available in Pikesville, including edgy abstracts and traditional florals. Whether it’s sculpture by Larry Schueckler, landscapes by Eric Abrecht and Dennis Sheehan, still lifes by Alice Pritchard and Vitali Miagkov or original works by Picasso, Warhol and Motherwell, you can find it all here. Open through February only. Village of Cross Keys, 410-484-8900
I give $35 to the woman at the front desk and she hands me a shirt and shorts in convict orange and a key on a wristband with a number printed on it. “Don’t lose this key,” she says sternly. “It’s how we keep track of you.”
I take the key and nod. Then I stand there, waiting for more instructions. I’ve driven 90 miles from Baltimore to this strip mall in Centreville, Va., to experience the nation’s largest Korean spa, and I have no idea what to do. Finally another patron takes pity on me. “Down the hall is the women’s locker room,” she says.
In the locker room an attendant points to the locker with my number on it and I stow my bags. Since I’m not sure what to do next, I take off my clothes and put on my regulation orange shirt and shorts. I’m just shutting my locker when I notice that all the women going through the door into the water area are naked. So I take off the orange shirt and shorts and follow them.
What awaits on the other side is a cross between a Turkish bath, a Japanese onsen and a YMCA. There’s water—hot water, cold water, still water, moving water—and female flesh—old flesh, young flesh, hairy flesh and hairless flesh—everywhere. I approach a woman who looks friendly, explain that I’m a Spa World virgin and ask her to be my spirit guide. She leads me into the steam room, which smells wonderfully of chamomile. We luxuriate in the heat and moisture for about three minutes before she says, “You ready?”
I follow her to a miniature pool marked 64 degrees where I walk in, gasp and flee back to the steam room.
Twice more we do that before she deposits me in front of the centerpiece of the water area, the Bade Pool, with its nine different hydrotherapy massaging stations. One targets your feet. One the lower back. One the neck. The water comes out hard, like someone beating on you, but for your own good. I read on one of the many posted signs that the Bade Pool combines the healing properties of water and acupressure, relieving muscle tension as well as boosting the immune system. Some of my fellow bathers are in the pool for the long haul. But after five minutes at each station, I’m pruned up and ready for a new adventure.
Which I find at the corner of the water area, when I lie on a metal slab and subject myself to an exfoliation treatment from a middle-aged Korean woman wearing a bra and panty set. My spirit guide had warned me that several times she’d left Spa World with welts after being exfoliated a bit too … vigorously. So when I lie down, I utter two words: “Gentle. Please.”
My exfoliator nods, puts on her mitts and gets to work scrubbing my legs. It’s a funny feeling—ticklish and uncomfortable at the same time—but also weirdly satisfying. Does it hurt? No. Is it relaxing? No. My exfoliator’s mission is not to pamper. It’s to rid my body of its outer layer(s) of skin. She attacks her work—i.e., me—with militaristic dedication. Dead. Skin. Must. Go. When I open my eyes, I see little gray worms of skin raining down onto the floor. Every once in a while, my exfoliator dumps a bowl of warm water on me. Then she grunts “turn over” and starts scrubbing again.
After a half-hour, I’m released to rinse off the remaining gray worms in the shower. My skin is so smooth it doesn’t seem like my own. It feels foreign, like this place.
Now it’s time for the orange shirt and shorts. I put them on and walk out of the women’s locker room, past the men’s locker room and water area, down a hallway and into a huge open area. At about 50,000 square feet, Spa World is half the size of your average Walmart. There’s a restaurant, a nail salon, a massage area, men’s and women’s sleeping rooms (the spa is open 24 hours) and, at the heart of it, this vast open room covered with mats where men and women (all in orange pajamas) doze, read the paper, chat, play board games.
Bordering the open area are seven poultice rooms, which are freestanding chambers each constructed with a different element—amethyst, red clay, wood, onyx, salt—whose healing properties are said to aid in everything from preventing cancer and “female disorders” to “removing interior odor and molds” to eliminating migraines.
Walking into the amethyst room, I’m struck not only by the heat—the poultice room temperatures average about 150 degrees—but also by the beauty. The walls and ceilings are inlaid with glittering stones in beautiful mosaic designs. In contrast to the clinical impersonality of the spa itself, these chambers are miniature works of art.
But I’m so warm already from my stint in the water area—and my skinning—that I can tolerate each room for only a few minutes. (If I had it to do over again, I would have visited the poultice rooms before the water area. But, who knew?) My last stop is the ice room, where it’s a delightful 40 degrees. I stay for 10 minutes, sealing up my pores in preparation to leave Spa World and return to the real world.
As I drive back up I-95, I conclude that if I’d had more guidance, my experience at Spa World would not only have been interesting, it would have been relaxing. So, here’s your guidance. Now, go.
Does The Prime Rib’s move into suburbia (and a casino, no less) mean the death knell for leopard skin carpet and baby grand pianos? Not so, says owner Buzz Beler. “You’ll find the same great food, the same great service, the same look,” says Beler, with just a few additions. Those include a private dining room, a 2,500-square-foot patio with a view of the woods for post-dinner brandy and cigars and an 8-foot, glass-enclosed humidor through which diners can see the casino floor. Of course, the biggest change from its downtown Baltimore location is the parking: 5,000 spaces in the casino parking garage with free valet for restaurant customers. Try finding that many spots on Calvert Street. Dinner daily. 7002 Arundel Mills Blvd., 443-445-2970, http://www.marylandlivecasino.com/dining/the-prime-rib
Our house phone number is one digit different from a pizza place and one other digit removed from a doctor’s office. Drunks call late at night wanting pizza. Sometimes I take their orders, telling them that tonight, just tonight, the pizza’s free! And we’re giving away beer! And it’ll be right over! On a few occasions I’ve dispensed medical advice.
Alas, most often when the house phone rings someone is trying to sell me something I do not need. So I rarely pick up. But this night the phone rings and rings and for some odd reason I answer it.
My brother in Maine has had a stroke.
I have two brothers. Both younger. Irish triplets. Born within a few years of each other. We are not close and our late father would tell you we have spent our entire lives arguing or one-upping each other. But we remain fiercely loyal in some weird tribal way. We do not hug, but we do not let each other down.
My brother is all alone. He is not married. He moved home to Maine after years of living in New York City. He lives on an island. Alone. He has no one else.
Centuries of Irish-Catholic guilt and remorse kick in. I can distinctly hear my long- dead mother who shortly before she died made me promise that I would look after my brother.
I get on the next plane, fly to Portland, then rent a car and drive 60 miles to the state capital of Augusta, one of Maine’s grimmest ex-mill towns. The main drag into town from the interstate is a gauntlet of the worst America has to offer. The storefronts in the old business district are mostly empty. The people wandering the streets appear to be meth addicts. It’s swell to be home! (I am actually from an even grimmer mill town about 20 miles upriver.)
Tourists think Maine is some sort of country-of-the-pointed-firs rockbound coast theme park. Vacationland! That’s the state’s annoying nickname. But most of Maine consists of abandoned mill towns, trailer parks and houses that have not been painted in forever. The old joke was that if people could buy bus tickets with food stamps whole counties would be evacuated.
Leave it to my brother to have a stroke while on a business trip in Augusta. Why not have a stroke in Portland? Portland is a very hip town. Brother lives nearby in Casco Bay. Better hospital! Excellent restaurants! Good coffee bars!
I am anxious driving up from the coast across the rolling fields of all the little towns that I know so well. Many thoughts race through my head about things said and done, or things not said and done. Thoughts about my long-dead parents. I pass the first newspaper that I worked at, now defunct. I feel old.
I figure a bowl of good fish chowder at the Wild Oats bakery in Brunswick will not hurt. I have an oatmeal cookie, too, to keep my strength up.
I arrive at the Augusta hospital just after noon. It looks like a hospital in a Stephen King horror film. Terrible hospital smells. Weird greenish lighting. Every TV blaring. Walking down the corridor, I hear shouting. Voices in confusion. More shouting. Is this a Code Blue? Has the crash cart been summoned? Are these my brother’s final moments? Maybe I shouldn’t have stopped for that bowl of chowder.
No, my brother is actually screaming at the nurses. His coffee is cold.
I know instantly that he will live.
All tragedy becomes comedy and sometimes I suppose it works the other way, too. As I tell my other brother, there’s good news and bad news. What’s the good news, he asks? The good news is that our brother has had a stroke but it’s very mild and he’ll live.
And the bad news? Our brother has had a stroke but it’s very mild and he’ll live.
Both of my brothers think that’s hilarious. But that’s because we can hear our mother tell that joke. And no woman ever cast a colder eye on life and on death than she. We are our Mother’s boys. She is gone but we keep the home fires burning.
In truth, we did not have good role models for being brothers. My father and his brother were a brother act that was better than Cain and Abel. They were business partners for 40 years. But at the end of their lives they spoke only through their lawyers.
I want very much to be my brother’s keeper. And the staff at the hospital wants that very much, too. They want to get rid of him. So I take him back to the island. Actually, he insists on driving his own car because when you’ve been hospitalized with a stroke you do just what you feel like doing.
After a couple days of brotherly love, I return to Baltimore. Two days after I get home, I call to check up on him. Something I say ticks him off and he slams down the phone. He’s obviously made a full recovery.
Whoever said that all men should live as brothers never had a brother.
Who’s Alice? Who’s Jane? Who knows? The names just sound good together, says Melissa Becker, owner of boutique Alice Jane, and that’s good enough for Savvy. Located in an unlikely spot on the second floor of a brick building at the corner of Falls and Clarkview roads in Mt. Washington, Alice Jane is like a glamorous studio apartment—but one owned by your best friend, so you feel comfortable wandering about, touching everything and putting up your feet. It’s simultaneously bohemian and elegant, meaning you could splurge on Coralia Leets drusy earrings for $415 and Sydney Evan gold charm bracelets for $600 or pick up a Mono & Me look-alike for 30 bucks. Leather and like-leather jackets share shelf space with Vkoo cashmere sweaters, Ramy Brook silk blouses and Theodora & Callum scarves. Kara Ross handbags of exotic skins for $700 are displayed alongside feminine vegan bags by Stephanie Johnson and Street Level for $21 to $80. Housewares aren’t neglected either, with chic throws, pillows and picture frames also available. But Savvy’s money is on the plush “Pleece” by Design House Stockholm: convertible shawls/scarves in luscious pleated fleece. 1407 Clarkview Road, Suite 500, 410-296-2233
After a magnitude 7.0 earthquake ravaged Haiti in January 2010, killing more than 200,000 people, Alec Ross had his mind on one thing: texting.
As the senior adviser for innovation under Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Ross led the State Department team that came up with the 90999 code that people could send a text to and automatically add $10 to their cellphone bills as donations to the American Red Cross relief effort in Haiti. In two weeks, more than $40 million was raised through the cellphone campaign.
This is 21st-century statesmanship, and Ross is one of its key players.
While working at the U.S. State Department carries with it an air of distinction and gravitas, the role of senior adviser for innovation, a position created specifically for Ross in 2009, is hardly some exercise in pinkies-up, tea-sipping diplomacy. Or, as Ross calls it: “White guys with white shirts and red ties talking to other white guys with white shirts and red ties. Over a mahogany table. With a flag flying in the background.”
Granted, Ross, 41, spends nearly three-quarters of his time abroad—he had just spent a week in Lebanon and the West Bank when we met in mid-December—and has racked up 939,000 airline miles during almost three years. But his position is a hybrid of diplomacy and technology. It’s Ross on his BlackBerry tweeting foreign policy messages to his more than 370,000 followers. It’s devising technologies that keep Syrian activists safe from Bashar al-Assad’s ruthless grip. It’s setting up tech camps in African countries, taking “hipster CEOs” and “rock star American techies” and having them work on projects to identify sources of clean water. Or it’s paying Afghani police forces quickly through mobile phone banking so they won’t be forced to fight for the Taliban in order to feed their families.
Ross grew up in Charleston, W.Va., studied history at Northwestern University and moved to Baltimore in 1994 as a Teach for America fellow. For two years, he taught social studies and language arts at Booker T. Washington Middle School; his wife, Felicity, was part of the same cohort, teaching math in the classroom across the hall. Whereas Felicity remained a teacher for 10 more years, Ross took what he saw in the classroom and co-founded One Economy, a D.C.-based nonprofit that works to provide those at the lower end of the economic spectrum access to digital tools essential for success in the 21st century.
“We were witnessing the changing nature of the economy in cities like Baltimore because of globalization,” says Ross. “I got into technology because the kids that I taught at Booker T ... I knew wouldn’t be able to get jobs at Sparrows Point or at a factory or at the port.”
One Economy’s efforts include getting broadband Internet access installed in affordable housing units, providing community technology education and training youths in software programming, media production and a slew of other new economy skills.
“He likes to go out into the field and find out answers,” says Jared Cohen, who served as Ross’ counterpart at the State Department before leaving in 2010 to head up Google Ideas. “There are very few instances where he would generate traditional ideas.”
The penchant for unconventionality served Ross well at One Economy, where his strategy for getting in touch with hotshot CEOs was to come up with 15 variations of their names in an email address then message them all. It also proved useful when he volunteered for Barack Obama’s first presidential campaign, where he was selected to help craft media and technology policy. And it caught the eye of Hillary Clinton’s campaign team, which, once she was named secretary of state, eventually pulled Ross into the State Department, and out of One Economy.
“[We] used to refer to him as a pit bull,” says David Saunier, president and co-founder of One Economy. “He aggressively pursues everything he wants to have happen.”
“I’ve been called a pit bull more than once,” Ross says. “I’m not gonna let anything stop me, but I’m also dog loyal.”
When asked how he and the big dog, Secretary Clinton, communicate, Ross politely says he can’t comment on her texting habits. But he does admit that when he first started out as the senior adviser, he had to fight the urge to engage his detractors on Twitter. “At first when I would read these messages, I would want to respond—it really pissed me off—but then I came to understand these were people with just too much time on their hands,” he says.
People who aren’t worth any time when your days involve booking flights to refugee camps in the Congo, meeting with Clinton about making Internet freedom a global human rights agenda and crossing a Hamas procession walking through the streets of Hebron in the West Bank to speak to students at Palestine Polytechnic University.
As for Ross’ plan once Clinton steps down as Secretary of State, he says he may remain in government and continue to promote an innovation agenda within the State Department.
According to Cohen, two types of people live inside the Beltway: those who are concerned about their job titles and those who take jobs because they want to solve problems. Ross is the
latter—the job doesn’t matter, as long as he’s doing something that he defines as a “global challenge.”
And, anyway, he doesn’t live inside the Beltway-—he lives in Guilford with his wife and their three children, including 5-year-old son Sawyer, a zealous Ray Rice fan. Since leaving teaching,
Felicity now does education consulting and serves as the chess coach for her children’s school. “Part of what appeals to me about Baltimore is it’s a real city with real people,” says Ross.
“Nobody’s looking over your shoulder to see if there’s somebody more important around. It’s not my goal necessarily to move to New York or Washington.”
For now, Ross is sure of only one thing: “Whenever I do leave government … I imagine that it could be hard for me to be doing work that isn’t on the front page of the newspaper.”
Winter is the season for comfort foods. The cold, dark nights demand warm, soothing and sustaining meals—hearty stews, hot soups and bubbling casseroles. For most of us, the particular foods that give comfort hearken back to childhood and reflect the culture or area in which we grew up.
But rather than stick exclusively to the traditions of my own somewhat one-dimensional culinary upbringing—tuna noodle casserole, instant mashed potatoes, frozen chicken potpie—I like to experiment with the iconic flavors of other cultures and countries. These four dishes are inspired by the cuisines of Morocco, India, Iceland and Great Britain, respectively.
The tagine—both the name of a North African clay cooking vessel and the dishes that are cooked in it—is essentially a chicken stew, kicked up with an aromatic spice blend, tangy preserved lemons and olives. It cooks low and slow, resulting in meltingly tender meat. (If you don’t have a tagine, don’t fret: a Dutch oven will do just as well.)
The Indian-style triple pumpkin curry is the perfect dish for vegetarians or a Meatless Monday feast. It’s filling, spicy and, thanks to the chickpeas, it packs a protein punch. A drizzle of nutty pumpkin seed oil and crunchy toasted pumpkin seeds give the dish depth and textural variety.
The shellfish soup was inspired by a recent trip to Reykjavik, Iceland, where locals regularly warm up with a piping hot bowl of lobster soup. Finally, the steak cottage pie is my version of the classic British dish. Rather than minced beef, I use chunks of meat, and add parsnip to the mash for an unexpected pop of sweetness.
In flavor, these dishes are all very different from one another, but they have one thing in common: They are guaranteed to warm your soul on a cold winter’s night.
Savvy is in awe of people who can make beautiful things with their hands, so naturally she’s enchanted every time she walks into Hampden’s Studio C. Proprietor Constance Scott is known for her jewelry and belt buckles made out of vintage tin lids. But she also has a way with silver, using antique buttons as molds for another line of jewelry. She complements these lovelies with jackets, jeans, purses, sweaters and sundries. Savvy has her eye on the colorful felt scarves that look like actual vines, with exuberant 3-D trumpet blossoms scattered throughout. And she’ll positively wrestle you for those decorative Florentine trays from Two’s Company. 822 W. 36th St., 410-444-7979
When did pickles become sexy? When did every self-respecting hipster spend weekend afternoons making jam? And at what point did kale become the new arugula and start showing up in salads at farm-to-table restaurants, fetching $6 a half-pound at local farmers markets and introducing the public to a vocabulary that sounds like names of racing thoroughbreds—Lacinato, Red Russian, Nero? Pity, traditional curly kale, a mere 99 cents a pound at the grocery store and the market. It’s now the poor kale cousin from across the tracks.
It’s hard to pinpoint what makes kale the next new thing. Is it a reaction to the bad-for-you bacon craze? An extension of the decade-long comfort food trend? Or is it just the next in a long line of new leafy greens of the moment? Following on the heels of the aforementioned arugula, which was the new spinach, which was the new romaine, which was the new iceberg, which is now showing up again in thick wedges doused in blue cheese dressing.
I’ll admit I don’t recall eating kale at home (chalk that one up to my father who thought he didn’t like it), though my mother remembers her mother serving kale blanched and sautéed in bacon grease. And while I probably ate kale at barbecue joints where it was served up under the more generic heading of “greens,” kale first consciously passed my lips only five or six years ago at the house of a friend who says he was inspired to chop and sauté the greens with onions and garlic after tasting it at another friend’s table. Soon after that meal, I found myself fingering the sturdy greens at the market, marveling at how much a pound of the leaves really was in volume, and taking the pillow-size bag home to, yes, chop and sauté it. Large amounts of kale started showing up in my sister’s CSA portion, too. And on the Sunday I took the plunge and served kale to both of my parents, my father discovered that it was close enough to spinach to be palatable. Guess who now has it on their table semi-regularly?
Perhaps this is how all food fads start. Someone notices a new (or often “ethnic”) ingredient or dish—or rediscovers an old one—and the arc begins. The trend peaks when every restaurant and foodie table serves kale chips and ends when Nabisco bags them and Applebee’s offers them as starters, ushering the food into the mainstream, where it either takes hold (Buenos dias, tortilla chips and salsa!) or fades out again (Arrivederci, pesto!). Beverages are hardly immune to this either. All those malbec drinkers used to sip pinot noir and, before that, merlot.
Some food fads are boosted by a celebrity connection positive or negative, like the jelly beans and broccoli made popular (or notorious) by two of our former presidents. Still others result from trendy diets. Would cauliflower have made such a remarkable comeback if steamed and mashed it hadn’t been the perfect substitute for mashed potatoes (themselves a recent fad in all their garlic or horseradish-imbued creaminess) for Atkins Diet subscribers?
Food trends also mirror our national mood, and I can’t help but wonder if the last 10 years of the comfort food craze isn’t the result of post-9/11 grief and the adjustment to a new economy. Even if we could afford to eat caviar, somehow macaroni and cheese, meatloaf and hamburgers, however gourmet, feel more appropriate. We’ve even scaled down our desserts to reflect shrinking bank accounts and expanding waistlines (see cupcakes).
Then there are food trends that seem a remarkable reflection of economics and celebrity, values and consumerism. Consider Jell-O, a textbook case of creative marketing. Although gelatin first became popular in the 19th century (prompting a rage for molded jellies and the fluted tins in which they were made), Jell-O’s 20th-century popularity was boosted first by Jell-O cookbooks (precursors to the famous 1970s “Joy of Jell-O”) and ads in women’s magazines—and later, by its remarkable rise as a status symbol. You had to have a refrigerator to make Jell-O, and well into the 20th century, in some working communities, both urban and rural, reliable refrigeration was not a given. So the church lady who brought Jell-O to Bible study was not only telling everyone she was aware of and could afford a new, trendy and store-bought product, but that she had the means to make it as well.
In a sense, this is not so different from the gourmet, Julia Child-inspired dinners chronicled by Betty Fussell in her memoir “My Kitchen Wars,” where the beef stroganoff and chicken kiev made by Ivy League wives were a mark of worldliness, economic wherewithal, skill and leisure time—in a word, class.
Yet there are also the modest foods—“poor people foods,” we called it in my family, with respect to our working roots —that somehow achieve the nadir of chic. What most folks know as polenta, we called cornmeal mush, a dish I first ate courtesy of my grandparents, neither one of them the least bit Italian. It makes the best breakfast ever sliced, dipped in flour, fried in butter and drizzled with maple syrup.
It’s tempting to try to predict what the next food trend will be. Will we build on the charcuterie movement and fall in love with liver and onions? Will tiny hand pies ride the coattails of cupcakes? Will Polish food become the new Mexican? It’s tough to say. All I know is that kale’s popularity bodes well for other vegetables and fruits normally seen as difficult. Brussels sprouts, rhubarb and grapefruit have had their day. Can okra and kohlrabi be far behind?
A not particularly healthy but very delicious way to eat kale
1 pound kale (any variety), rinsed thoroughly and trimmed
6 slices of bacon
1 onion, chopped
Pepper, to taste
Bring a large pot of water to boil and blanch kale for 2 minutes. Drain kale and chop coarsely.
In a skillet large enough to hold the kale, fry the bacon until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet leaving rendered bacon fat behind. Saute chopped onion in bacon fat until brown. Add kale and saute until it is crisp tender. Season with black pepper or even red pepper flakes, if you want a little punch.
Yield: 6 servings.
1. Open Love
The secret gifts of an open marriage.
I am home alone working when my phone rings. My wife, A, is in Spain. She tells me she is having a wonderful time at her conference and wishes I could have stayed with her instead of returning home to work. Then she says she met a handsome Spanish man. Could she spend the night with him?
I ask his name. I ask if she trusts him and feels safe. Then I tell her yes, have fun. And make sure to come home to me.
Another time in another place, I am at a festival out of town with a woman with whom I had been flirting over texts and email. I call A and ask, Can I spend the night? A tells me to have fun—and to come home to her.
For the past three years, this ritual has been part of our secret, wonderful, open marriage. It’s a gift, this thing.
From the start, we had rules, all of which stemmed from one guiding desire: to take care of each other and each other’s feelings. We make sure the other person is safe. We answer any question the other one asks. We don’t reveal marital secrets to our lovers. We don’t complain to our lovers about our spouses.
We tell each other “I love you” often. We always say we are coming home to the other, even though there is never a doubt. I love that part of the ritual.
There is a word that many people don’t know: compersion. It means feeling a sense of happiness when someone you love is happy. I feel this when my wife finds a lover. It is the opposite of jealousy.
Not that there isn’t jealousy sometimes. A always starts off a bit jealous if one of my lovers is younger than we are. But we accept that jealousy exists the same way we accept that attraction exists.
For all the reasons you expect, not many people know about our open marriage, and I kind of like it that way. When I do tell people, the most common reaction is a question: “Then why be married at all?”
I am married because I love the way A can read a children’s book and cry. I love the way she and I cook together. I love the sound of her voice. I love how she squeals in delight at animated movies. I am married because my life is better with A in it.
I have so much love in my life. I get to flirt with wonderful potential consequences. I get to feel nervous energy when a new relationship is starting, and I get to feel wonderful heartbreak when it ends. I get to feel jittery anticipation before a date and the sensation of a first kiss.
I am happier and more in love with my wife—and life, itself—than I ever expected. My marriage is 15 years strong and the envy of many of my friends. If they only knew how good it actually is.
2. Viola Love
Nothing comes between Baltimore Symphony Orchestra violist Karin Brown and her instrument.
“I bought my viola about four years ago. It’s an Italian instrument, made in Rome, about 1750. It’s made out of poplar and spruce from the workshop of Julius Caesar Gigli. It’s very possible he worked on it or oversaw it. If it had been authenticated that he made it, it would have been way out of my price range—like $350,000. I still paid six figures for it.
It was sort of love at first sight. It had been in [J&A Beare’s shop in New York], and I played it for a while, but I wasn’t sure it was exactly right, so I returned it, but I kept thinking about it. Six months later, I contacted the shop and they still had it. I felt like it was waiting for me.
When you look for an instrument, you try to discover how it communicates with you, how you can coax different characters and sounds out. That’s a relationship you nurture and cultivate for years. Four years later, I’m still discovering more nooks and crannies and possibilities. With any great instrument, it’s going to have that potential—just like any great relationship. You’re kind of married to it almost. It’s like this extra appendage. Sometimes I’ll be driving somewhere and look in the back seat and if it’s not there, I’ll start freaking out and then remember, “Oh, yeah, I’m not going to rehearsal, I’m going to the grocery store.’”
—As told to Joe Sugarman
3. Dog Love
By Marion Winik
A guy I was dating last fall and I had an occasional ritual of getting together for tea after we dropped our respective kids at school. One Monday morning, I breezed in with my dog, stuck a container of homemade beef stew in his refrigerator and settled down on the couch. My extremely sociable miniature dachshund, Beau, climbed into his lap.
After a minute or two of chitchat, he said, “I have something serious I need to tell you,” then informed me that he was going to get back together with an old girlfriend. I was so blindsided by this news, I went blank. I didn’t know what to say or do.
But Beau did. He rocketed from the couch, marched to the door, and looked back at me as if to say, You coming? My brand-new ex-boyfriend and I couldn’t help laughing. Meanwhile, I took the dog’s cue, got up, and followed him out the door.
Oh honey, don’t be sad, Beau told me in the car, assuming his customary position in my lap, paws hooked over my arm, nose out the driver’s window. Three’s a crowd.
Half the people in the world will understand exactly how I feel, half will think I’m a sick woman, but I can hardly say how much I love this dog. Through the hellish years at the end of my marriage, along the bumpy road that followed, after every weird date or bad-news phone call or really, any time at all, he has been my constant comfort, my velvety hot water bottle, my methodical and dedicated kisser, my watchful baby.
I knew before I watched the “NOVA” documentary on oxytocin release during dog-petting that he had magic power to soothe me. He is my Zoloft and my Ativan, my gin and my tonic, too.
Have I mentioned his glowing coffee-bean eyes, his expressive tan brows, his long, delicate muzzle, his big paws on his short legs, his proud chest nearly grazing the floor? What could be more endearing than his long black tail, held high as he bounds lopsidedly through grass as tall as he is, floppy ears flapping?
“You love the dog more than me,” my daughter used to say, and I would say, “Well. Not more.”
But a dog and a person can love each other in a way two people can’t, absolute and wordless. Like the documentary said, we are made for each other.
4. Ice Cream Love
By Kathy Hudson
Beloved ice cream, I could not survive without you. Neither could my family. My entire clan is crazy for you and your entire clan: gelato, sorbet, Italian ice, soft-serve, frozen custard and frozen yogurt.
I love your new and exotic flavors—burnt sugar, pumpkin, paw paw (!)—as well as my old standby, coffee chip.
You were there in the freezer all through childhood. Well past midnight, our father clicked downstairs in leather slippers for a bowl of Sealtest chocolate marsh-mallow or Delvale coffee.
On car trips, we left at dawn and by 9 a.m. we were ordering mocha chip at Howard Johnson’s. In Manhattan, we’d head straight to Schrafft’s to savor peppermint or coffee ice cream. In Italy, my sister and I tore each morning to the gelateria for a perfect breakfast.
Ice cream, you forged my relationship with my husband. When he and I started dining together, we’d go for dessert at Howard Johnson’s and Friendly’s. I’d have coffee ice cream with hot fudge (no whipped cream or cherry); he’d have vanilla ice cream with the works.
Now, at every Valentine dinner my husband and I return to our cherished sundaes. Who cares if the caffeine keeps me awake? Ice cream, I’m yours.
5. First Love
By Jessica Blau
The name of the camp was Santa Barbara Youth Theater. And what I quickly discovered was that summer camps are always about sex. Everyone wanted to talk about sex, or touch each other, or spy through the cracks in the dressing room doors. There was a pungency to camp that didn’t exist in school. Maybe it was the arts, the way creative forces flush desire to the surface of your skin. At 10 years old, covered with freckles and doughy flesh, I was primed to fall in love.
Twelve-year-old Dean could tap dance so well that his upper body looked like it was hanging around waiting for a bus while his legs and feet did triple time. His singing voice projected so loudly, he didn’t need a mic. Of course he could do a British accent—he could even do a Scottish one, although only our voice coach could tell which was which. I watched him continuously as if he were a live television show that I couldn’t, and didn’t want to, turn off.
The last week of camp, I inched my way into the cluster of kids surrounding Dean in the F and G rows of the theater. The directors were working on stage with Fagin, practicing the pick-a-pocket song.
Dean’s pals were trying to outdo each other with stories that revolved around the costume designer’s protruding nipples (she was a French woman who wore sheer shirts without a bra) and re-creations of the fart scene from the movie “Blazing Saddles.” When Lionel proclaimed in a dramatic whisper, “I know for a fact that Tammy Rondo has a giant, gnarly bush down there,” Dean laughed so hard that I could see into his mouth, past his protruding eyeteeth, down that enormous pink throat that had sung just about every solo assigned that summer. The foggy, shapeless thoughts I’d been having about Dean, swooped, circled and condensed into an oatmealy lump that sat in the pit of my stomach. I was irrefutably in love.
The final day of camp, as I walked with Dean’s group across a nearby field during lunch, the wind blew back my wispy hair. “You look pretty like that,” Dean said, and I trembled like a toy poodle when he picked up my hand and held it for just a few seconds. Later, nestled beside the thick, red curtain in the dusty wings, Dean kissed me. On the lips. Once. It felt like an electric fire had exploded in my head.
I told my six best friends everything about Youth Theater and my boyfriend, Dean. All six signed up the following summer. And that first day back, while we sat around the piano warming up our voices, my heart expanded like a helium balloon as I watched Dean across the room. Kathy, my pal, sidled up to him. She had been instructed to tell Dean I had returned and was ready to resume our passionate affair. This is the conversation as it was reported to me:
“Who’s Jessica Blau?”
6. Fan Love
Think you love the Ravens? These “super fans” cheer on the team every week in rain, snow—and sequins.
(left to right):
Bird Man – Greg Hudnet
Sports Steve – Steve LaPlanche
Capt. Dee-Fense – Wes Henson
Purple Dame – Cindy Pierce
Poetic Justice – Rick Bowlus
Fired-Up – Chip Riley
Dee-Ciple – Brian Donley
7. Wine Love
Restaurateur Tony Foreman has sampled many vintages over the years, but has fallen in love with only a few.
“Every year, there’s a group of us that goes down to Bern’s Steak House in Tampa, Fla., which has a lot of curious things in its wine cellar. During a visit in 2009, we pulled a 1920 Bordeaux from the estate Chateau Dufort-Vivens. It had been making mediocre wines for the last 80 years, but I knew historically it had a good reputation prior to 1920. We pulled the cork and once decanted in the glass it just had an incredible color—a super pale garnet with a dusty rose shimmer. From the first scent, I could tell it was alive. As I drank, I had this image of a 1920s film star with fine features coming down a staircase. She was in her 80s now, but still dressed fabulously and the light was on her face and you could still see the beauty of her youth. It was unbelievably delicate and exciting and entirely sensual. But within 20 minutes, after the air had mingled with it, it was gone—like a puff of wind. I felt like we got the last beautiful breath of that wine. I was entirely romanced by the experience. It was a lot like seeing a ghost.”
—As told to Joe Sugarman
8. Band Love
Terry Sapp, 42, is the emergency coordinator for Baltimore County Health and Human Services—and the world’s most dedicated Twisted Sister fan.
“It was the summer of 1983. I was 13. MTV was just starting and they had a promotional trailer that featured Twisted Sister. It was barely five seconds long. But I saw it and I was instantly enraptured.
I started watching MTV for hours each day hoping to see Twisted Sister. When I saw the video of “We’re Not Going to Take It,” it was a sense of exhilaration, almost a giddiness. I loved the message of self-expression and being true to yourself no matter what other people think. I loved that they looked so shocking, so horrible, that they horrified everyone.
I had been experiencing a lot of bullying at school and when I came home each afternoon, I put on the headphones and the music took away the angst and pain. It was almost like a drug.
During my darkest days, Twisted Sister’s music got me through.
It was horrifying to my parents. They were praying that this phase would end soon. Little did they know.
In 1986 I wrote to the band and they wrote me back and sent me backstage passes to the concert at the Capital Centre. My mother reluctantly agreed to go as a chaperone. She was petrified being surrounded by all these heavy metal fans. But she said for the first time she felt like an outsider, and she realized it must be what it was like to be me. That concert changed our relationship forever.
I was a senior, 17 years old, when the band broke up in 1987. I remember the disillusionment, the jadedness, the thought that I’d never love again.
I waited loyal and devoted for 16 years. In 2003 Twisted Sister decided to do a reunion tour. One of the first shows was at Six Flags in New Jersey. They came onstage wearing their original costumes from the 1985 Stay Hungry tour and they sounded just as good, if not better. I felt 14 all over again.
After that I went to every concert I could. I’d get there hours early and endure incredible heat and cold just to be in the front row. After each concert I wrote down as much as I could remember and posted it on their website forum as “The Armadillo Road Report: The Official UN-Official Concert Review.” After attending two shows in South America, it was in Greece in 2011 that I became the official Twisted Sister road reporter. Dee Snider pointed me out in front of thousands of fans and dedicated “The Price” to me.
I wept the whole way through the song.
Last summer I spent a month on tour with Twisted in Europe as an honorary part of their road crew. They became my new family, my Twisted family. I know the reunion tour will end at some point. It will be equally as heartbreaking as it was the first time, but my love for them is eternal.
I’ll never put a woman’s name on my arm. But I got a Twisted Sister tattoo. This was my proclamation that it wasn’t a phase. I will never outgrow it. After 30 years, 10 countries, 30 cities and counting, I consider it the longest relationship I’ve ever had. This love will never die.”
—As told to Laura Wexler
9. Baltimore Love
By Laura Lippman
I was middle-aged when I began cheating on the love of my life. I wasn’t dissatisfied or restless. I wasn’t looking to change. I am uncommonly gifted at doing the same thing, day-in, day-out. It has been suggested that my fondness for routine is pathological, or possibly a form of self-medication. And when my spouse offers that diagnosis, I remind him that it’s good to have a wife who’s good at monogamy.
I loved Baltimore and could not imagine loving—or living—anywhere else. Certainly, I saw the charm in other places. If, four years ago, fate had popped up and said “London”—or New York, or Seattle, or Portland, or San Francisco, or Chicago—I would have been intrigued, perhaps even a little giddy. (Note: Not a warm city in the bunch.)
Instead, fate said New Orleans. And I said: “Hmmmmmmm.”
Of course, I liked New Orleans. I had been there a lot, for the usual reasons (Mardi Gras, Jazz Fest, fun) and not-so-usual reasons (the Republican National Convention of 1988). But it’s not the kind of place that a stodgy middle-aged lady imagines herself living. I have little talent for hedonism and—between us—I think the cuisine is a tad over-rated. Wonderful but narrow. Also, it has to be said: Utz beats Zapps. Although, to be fair, I confess I’m comparing the fresh Utz chips from Cross Street Market to the bagged Zapps at Louis Armstrong International Airport. Plus, Utz owns Zapps now. To which I would add: Yes, Utz owns Zapps.
New Orleans and Baltimore should be sister cities because they’re alike, yet not. My memory tells me that the New Orleans exteriors for the film “And Justice For All”—or was it “The Seduction of Joe Tynan”—were faked with some grillwork on Baltimore’s Broadway, but that’s not what I’m talking about. No, Charm City and the Crescent City have a sibling energy, with all that entails. The grind and the beauty. The good son and the prodigal. Baltimore and New Orleans could be Etta and Claribel Cone. Or even the Collyer Brothers. Symbiotic enablers, entombed in their passion for their own past.
New Orleans is very good at a few things that Baltimore would do well to emulate. Parades, celebration in general, music, support for the arts. But New Orleans would do well to look to Baltimore’s work ethic, which is much more pronounced. Which is to say—it exists. I wish they would stop competing in the arena of homicide, but so it goes.
I now love both. Which means the only thing I’ve accomplished is a state of perpetual homesickness. I am writing this in New Orleans, where I woke up this morning wishing I could have breakfast at Spoons or even the new Johnny’s, both of which fix poached eggs and bacon to my somewhat high-maintenance specifications. But if I were in Baltimore, I would be longing for lunch at Coquette’s, where the chef is from the Eastern Shore and the menu sometimes includes a superb soft-shell crab.
In the parlance of our day: It’s complicated.
10. Blankie Love
It’s worn and tattered, but Charlotte Subelsky, 4, can’t do without it.
“I like to suck my thumb with Blankie and I like to hug him and make holes in him. I love when Grandma mends him, but not the part where I suck my thumb.
I like to throw him up in the air and I like to take him for walks.
I’m afraid when he takes a bath because when he gets out he doesn’t smell regular.
Blankie dreams about princesses. He talks to me and I talk to him.
Blankie is 41⁄2 years old, like me. He was born in the same hospital as me. Blankie has a brother at Grandma’s house, but I like Big Blankie better.
I hold him under the covers when I sleep. I’m not supposed to hit people with him.
Blankie likes to lie in a warm spot. He likes to have a blanket over him.
Blankie is my best friend.”
—As told to Laura Wexler, her mother
11. Red Love
Jean Brune, headmistress of Roland Park Country School, has a very colorful obsession.
“I’ve always loved red. I’m a Roland Parker [class of 1960]. The school colors are red and white. Maybe being a Roland Parker did it.
At first I didn’t wear red every day, just for games, and when I was representing Roland Park. I had a watch with a red face, so I always had on a little red. One day a student saw me and said, ‘Mrs. Brune, no red? You represent the spirit of Roland Park in red.’ Since then I have consciously made sure I wear red every day. That was 2005. It is seldom, if ever, that I come in here without red.
The shade is Roland Park red, red-red, not the maroon of Boys’ Latin and not the red of Friends.
At home I have deep-red Oriental rugs. The library is painted red. The candles on the mantel are sort of cranberry. I have red towels. My toaster oven is red. And, I have red pajamas.
My previous car was a red Subaru Outback. When I went for a new one, the salesperson said, ‘They don’t come in red now, but the Forester does.’ So I have a 2007 Forester. Can you imagine me driving around here in something not red?”
—As told to Kathy Hudson
12. House Love
By Ron Tanner
I fell in love with my house at first sight, the way an animal lover might fall in love with a sweet stray dog. The house— a three-story brick Queen Anne rowhouse built in 1897—had been abused and abandoned and was condemned property when I purchased it “as is” in the winter of 2000. My “love” for the house, at that point, was more for its former glory. It was so far gone, having been abused by the fraternity that had owned it for a decade, I wasn’t sure that it would ever be so grand again. And this made the house an object of pity, if not regret.
Still, even in its ruined state, the Queen Anne remained a beautiful structure, built of robust materials and of an impressive scale, with high ceilings and huge windows. As I worked to restore it, I loved standing in its welcoming space and watching the morning light glow across the yellow pine floors. The more I mended its wounds over the past 12 years, the more I felt it grow stronger and more beautiful, and I felt we forged a partnership of sorts.
That’s the thing about a house I can love: it responds to the care I give it and so I feel invested in the right ways— my work matters. A house that cannot return such love, a house that was poorly built and can’t be mended, would break my heart. Love for a house must be, in this way, reciprocal. During the East Coast’s recent earthquake, I was on the third floor of the Queen Anne and, together, we swayed with the earth’s bucking. When it was over, I made an inspection of my house and was gratified and grateful that, though plaster cracked here and there, the Queen Anne stood strong. A house worth every hour of care I have given it.
Of course, a house this large and old makes great demands, as any valued relationship must. I cannot ignore the Queen Anne’s many needs, whether it’s a roof repair or a leaky faucet. Small slights add up, reminding me that love is a matter of respect—which is all about listening and paying attention. And so, every day I pay attention, listening to the floorboards murmuring beneath my weight, the wind whistling against the tower windows, the ticking radiators announcing their delivery. And I am reassured that I belong with this house and this house belongs with me.
13. Wall Love
A few years back, local artist Michael Owen developed a mural design in which four hands spell out the word “love.” From that sprung the Baltimore Love Project, an organization that works to build and unite communities across Baltimore. “The project is far bigger than the artwork,” says executive director Scott Burkholder.
2 murals were painted in 2009
16 Baltimore Love Project murals dot the city currently
20 feet high and 45 feet wide is the average mural size
15 to 25 hours are required to complete each painting
$6,000 is the average cost
4 more murals will be painted, bringing the total to 20
1 to 2 miles will be the distance between each when the project is complete
14. How to Write a Love Song
The last album Baltimore-based band Red Sammy released was called “A Cheaper Kind of Love Song,” which featured eight songs all dealing with love. We figured the band’s singer/songwriter Adam Trice would be the perfect candidate to share a few tips of the trade.
• Don’t be overly sentimental. (Hallmark greeting cards don’t work for interesting love songs.)
• Don’t enter the process saying, ‘I’m going to write a love song.’ Just write a song.
• Use unlikely metaphors. ‘Love is a liquor store on fire.’ Keep things conceptual.
• Remember that longing is part of the human condition.
• Don’t make it too personal; it’ll sound forced.
• It’s better to write about the girl who got away rather than the girl you’ve got.
• Crazy people and situations fuel great love songs (think Kathy Bates in the movie ‘Misery’).
• Music is key to the success of a love song, but only after the words are right.
• Love songs involve pain, repair and continued maintenance.
• Let your wife think that some of the prettiest songs are about her. Otherwise, you’ll be sleeping on the couch.
Red Sammy’s next album, “These Poems with Kerosene,” is scheduled to drop on Valentine’s Day. http://www.Redsammy.com
15. Friend Love
In 1953, Jay Pritchard saw Michael Marlow jumping in a mud puddle in his backyard in Towson and ran to join him. They were 5 years old at the time, and they’ve been best friends ever since.
Marlow: Our parents would let us out after breakfast and we didn’t come home until dinner. We played cowboys and Indians, army, baseball. We’d walk the railroad tracks to Towson and steal cigarettes and go smoke in the woods.
Pritchard: It was a Tom Sawyer/Huck Finn existence. We would go arm in arm down the neighborhood streets singing, ‘The Old Gray Mare.’
Marlow: One day I was playing football by myself and he started to interfere. I got mad and he got mad. It ended up being this wrestling match. After 10 seconds Jay was sitting on top of me with my arm behind my back. He had me. We stayed in that position for an hour because I wouldn’t give up. Then our mothers called us for dinner.
Pritchard: I think we only ever had that one fight. We mostly ganged up on other kids in the neighborhood.
Marlow: When we were 20 years old, we rode around the country in a Ford Fairlane for a couple weeks.
Pritchard: One night we didn’t have a place to stay so we pulled off in a field and slept in the car. We woke up the next morning and about 50 yards away was a cliff with a 100-foot drop-off. We got pretty lucky.
Marlow: He’s known me longest in life. He’s linked to my whole past.
Pritchard: We’ve never lived in the same town as adults, but we’ve always kept in touch.
Marlow: When he was diagnosed with cancer in 2011, we started saying ‘I love you’ more often. He knows I love him. I know he loves me.
—As told to Laura Wexler
What do you love?
• Berger cookies and milk, Katie O’Malley, first lady of Maryland
• P.G. Wodehouse, Patricia Bennett, painter
• Plain Utz salty potato chips, Emilie Blaze, owner The Little Shoebox
• Boobs, Anne O’Brien, executive director, Tyanna Foundation
• Red bean and cheese pupusas, Bonnie Weissberg, hospice social worker
• Blokus, Betsy Royall, casting director, CSA
• Artichokes, Barbara Dale, cartoonist
• Fox-hunting, Nemo Niemann, fashion photographer
• (Husband delivered) coffee in bed, Jamie McDonald, co-founder, GiveCorps
• Dad’s brand oatmeal cookies, Hugh Sisson, owner, Heavy Seas Beer
• Scrimshaw, Dr. Morton F. Goldberg, former director, Wilmer Eye Institute
• Steak tartare, Madison Smartt Bell, author
• Michael McDonald, Charisse Nichols-Stephenson, private dining manager, Pazo
• Wrens’ song in spring, Eleanor Oster, artist/floral designer
• My Boston terrier, Scooter, Gary Vikan, director, Walters Art Museum
• Fleece socks, Bev Wright, investigator
• James Bond movies, Stephanie Bradshaw, creative director/designer
• Reading obituaries, Kathleen Haser, acting president, Jesuit Volunteer Corps
• The Wizard of Oz, Linda McFaul, manager, Ropewalk Tavern
• Margaritas on the beach at sunset, Sue Caldwell, owner, Lovelyarns
• The Poe Room at the Pratt, Phoebe Stein Davis, executive director, Maryland Humanities Council
• Lovely Lane United Methodist Church, Diane Y. Macklin, storyteller
• Independently owned businesses, Hathaway Ferebee, executive
• Grandparenthood, John Schmick, headmaster, Gilman School
• Ensō, Elizabeth Spires, poet
• Nicolas Feuillatte Champagne, Dr. Carla Hayden, CEO, Enoch Pratt Free Library
• An evening at the Charles Theater, Dr. Peter Agre, professor and director, Johns Hopkins Malaria Research Institute, 2003 Nobel Prize in Chemistry
• Rehoboth Beach, Cathy Bennett, director, Michael Phelps Swim School
• Single track, Scott Burkholder, executive director, Baltimore Love Project
• The Amalfi Coast, Mary Ann Cricchio, owner, Da Mimmo Restaurant
• Fire, Walker Babington, artist
• My 1968 red Mustang convertible, license plate: VRRHEUM, Dr. Iredell W. Iglehart III, rheumatologist
• J. R. R. Tolkien, Gregory R. Weidman, curator, Fort McHenry National Monument and Historic Shrine and Hampton National Historic Site
• The smell of dirt and grass, Jean Trout, former owner, The Mitre Box
• Labradors Abbey and Bailey, Joe Radebaugh, florist
• A transformed block in Pigtown, William J. McLennan, executive director, Paul’s Place Inc.
• My garden, JoAnn Fruchtman, owner, The Children’s Bookstore
• Mowing the lawn, Jonathan Oleisky, president, Kalix Communications director, Safe & Sound
• The garden court at the Frick Museum, Carol Macht, principal, Hord Coplan Macht
• Felco 2 pruners, Peter Bieneman, general manager, Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping
• Simon & Garfunkel’s Concert in Central Park, Mary Pat Clarke, 14th District, Baltimore City Council
• Everything Harry Potter, The Rev. Scott P. Bellows, Rector, St. David’s Episcopal Church
• Cape Cod light, Kate Blom, supervisor, Howard P. Rawlings Conservatory
• Smalltimore, Diane Lochte, owner, Gundy’s Gifts
• Ice hockey, Maureen Walsh, headmistress, The Bryn Mawr School
• John Derian decoupage paperweights, Jennifer Grove, creative director, Sky Blue Events
• Well-written dialogue, Pamela Berwager, owner, Sprezzatura
• Audio books, Michael Flanigan, antiques dealer and appraiser, PBS “Antiques Roadshow”
• Autumn afternoons in the Jardin du Luxembourg (Paris), Laura Mason, senior lecturer, Department of History/ Program in Film & Media Studies, Johns Hopkins University
• The breath, Katherine MacLean, instructor in the Deptartment of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine
• My Marcus Garvey collection, Kwame Kwei-Armah, artistic director of Center Stage
• Closing the deal, Patrick Turner, principal, Turner Development
• Almond Smash Soda, Ann and Ed Berlin, owners, The Ivy Bookshop
Cecilia Benalcazar has done everything from running a children’s clothing shop in the Inner Harbor to managing a convenience store and a smoothie and sandwich eatery in Annapolis. With Federal Hill’s Liv2Eat, the self-described foodie and her husband, Kevin Perry, a former sous chef at Annapolis’ Hell Point Seafood, are finally living their dream. Employing lots of woods and earth tones, Benalcazar and Perry have transformed the former location of Centro Tapas and Bicycle into a warm space for their seasonal, made-from-scratch comfort food (think pastas, Roseda beef burgers and steaks and a welcome array of shellfish). “We want to be the neighborhood go-to place,” says Benalcazar. Dinner, Tuesday-Sunday; Sunday brunch. 1444 Light St., 443-449-7129, liv2eat.com
When Nasheena Noel went looking for young, flirty finery for plus-sized gals, she was disappointed in what she found. Thus, was born her shop on The Avenue, Curvy Doll. Though, as she’s quick to tell you, she carries every size “from 2 to 22.” If you want a sequined party dress, hip jeans, a silk blouse or those Pamela Mann suspender tights worn with shorts that are all the rage, she’s got you covered. And she makes a point of carrying Baltimore designers as well as national ones. Staci Sherri and Clique Chic are examples of the former, Zinga and Deepa Gurnani the latter. Spying a blue-and-white-striped sleeveless blouse with a green placket, Savvy was reminded of the impossibly chic Jean Seberg in Godard’s “Breathless.” 840 W. 36th St., 410-340-7855
So the holidays are over and now we’re stuck with plain old winter. Short, gray days. Long, cold nights. That “nothing special” time of year, which leads to irrational thoughts like, “Do I really need to shave my legs this week?” and “Pajama Jeans are totally acceptable for the office, right?”
Well, snap out of it. What you need is a vitamin D supplement and a reminder to feel happy in your (dehydrated and flaky) skin. Try one of these luxurious spa treatments to lift your spirits and give your body some much-needed lovin’ to tide you over until spring.
You glow, Cleopatra! Legend has it the Egyptian queen slept in a gold mask every night to preserve her youthful complexion. Now modern-day girls can get the Midas touch with the 24k Gold Facial, $350, at Mt. Washington Spa. “Gold’s anti-inflammatory properties help to lighten, brighten and tighten the skin,” says manager Katie Attman, who says the precious metal is applied as a paper-like mask paired with an ultra-hydrating nano-mist and silk-infused gel moisturizers to help the benefits, quite literally, sink in. 1600 Kelly Ave., 410-664-3400, http://www.mwspa.com
Can’t jet off to Turks and Caicos? Slough off your winter woes with the Epicurean Papaya Pineapple Body Scrub, $75, at Studio 921 Salon & Medi Day Spa. The full-body treatment takes your mind to the islands, while exfoliating dead skin cells and promoting circulation. If you’re a total beach babe, add on an Airbrush Tanning Session and Shimmer Shot, $45, for a sparkly, sun-kissed look that lasts up to two weeks. “The color is totally customized,” says Annie Sumi, a massage therapist. “So you can walk out looking like whatever Hawaiian Tropic model you love most.” 921 E. Fort Ave., 410-783-7727, http://www.studio921spa.com
Luxury is for lovers at the Four Seasons Baltimore, where you can rent the ultra-sleek VIP suite for a relaxing and romantic Couples Spa Retreat, $1,200. This decadent date includes a welcome foot ritual, aromatherapy bath for two and the spa’s signature body treatment, a sea salt scrub with warm oil body massage. “We pamper you from head to toe for four straight hours,” says spa manager Toni Sullivan. In warmer weather, couples can enjoy champagne on the terrace overlooking the harbor. Or skip the view for some, ahem, private time in the suite’s high-tech “experience shower,” complete with hot steam, therapeutic shower heads and twinkling colored lights reminiscent of stars. 200 International Drive, 410-576-5800, http://www.fourseasons.com/baltimore/spa
PLUMP IT UP
Madonna’s personal assistant was recently spied carrying a bulky beauty contraption out of the Ritz Hotel in Paris. Turns out, the Material Girl’s “secret skin care weapon” is the Intraceutcals Oxygen Infusion Facial, available locally for $185 at La Papillion Spa & Gift Boutique. “It’s like a tall drink of water for thirsty skin,” explains chief aesthetics officer Madeleine Homes, who says the facial delivers a potent cocktail of antioxidants, vitamins and hyaluronic acid that plump up fine lines (especially around the eyes) and leave your skin red-carpet ready in a flash. We hear it’s so effective, other celebs like Fergie and Kim Kardashian use it to immediately (albeit temporarily) erase the signs of partying and jet lag before appearing on high-def TV. 12 Galloway Ave., Cockeysville, 410-252-1400, http://www.lapapillonspa.com
Frankly, we feel miffed when we get a shampoo or spa treatment that doesn’t include a scalp massage. That’s why we head to Spa in the Valley for 75 minutes of glorious, above-the-shoulders action with the traditional Shirodhara Treatment, $122. It all starts with an “energy balancing” to calm and center you, followed by an Ayurvedic face massage focusing on “marma points” to relieve tension. Finally, the aesthetician gently pours warm sesame oil over your forehead and scalp for an almost hypnotic effect that simultaneously nourishes your hair. (If you can stand it, leave the oil in overnight to maximize the benefit.) Be sure to ask for Cindy Turner, who studied at the London Center of Indian Champissage. 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, 410-771-0200, http://www.spainthevalley.com
Nature lovers looking for a different kind of “oil change” may want to try Absolute Balance, $145, the newest holistic therapy at The Pearl Modern Spa and Boutique. Enjoy a full-body application of a palette of six luscious organic oils before you’re swaddled in soft sheets and receive a hand, foot and décolleté massage. The treatment features exotic flower remedies from Lotus Wei (recently named one of Oprah’s favorite things) designed to nourish your skin—and your soul—with scents said to inspire love, happiness, inspiration, peace and vitality. 8171 Maple Lawn Blvd., 301-776-6948, http://www.thepearlspa.com
Beauty connoisseurs go gaga (or should we say, ooh la la?) over Darphin, the luxury skin care line from Paris. Here in Baltimore, we often fancy the Darphin Divine 8 Flower Lifting Facial, $185, at About Faces. The lush, 1½ -hour treatment uses a special serum made from essential oils derived from eight different florae to help fight the signs of aging. Bonus: In February, About Faces is launching new treatments from another fab French line, Caudalie, which is only available at a few U.S. locations. Five locations, 410-675-0099, http://www.aboutfacesdayspa.com
WELL, WELL, WELL
As much as we want to look good, we really want to feel good. Enter the Day of Wellness, $375, from Ojas, pronounced OH-jus, an ancient Sanskrit word meaning “fluid of life.” The five-hour experience begins with a private yoga or pilates lesson, where you can increase your flexibility while getting personalized tips from a pro. Then enjoy a custom massage with aromatherapy, healing stones and warm towels, along with your choice of a 30-minute reiki, reflexology or cupping treatment, and an organic customized facial. Round out the day with an acupuncture session designed to soothe mind, body and soul. 1501 Sulgrave Ave., 410-664-6527, http://www.ojaswellness.com
We love the traditional shoe exchange at the Spa at the Mandarin Oriental in D.C., where you can kick off your kitten heels and settle into rubber slippers for an afternoon of Eastern-inspired tranquility paired with modern amenities. Don’t labor over the luxe spa menu. Just book the signature Time Ritual, $495, a 2½-hour bespoke experience for whatever you’re craving that day. The possibilities are endless, from a Shea Butter Belly Wrap for expectant moms to a mineral makeup application fit for the Real Housewives of D.C. Our favorite: the Oriental Bamboo Massage, a deep-tissue treatment similar to a hot stone massage, but performed with warm bamboo rods. 1330 Maryland Ave., SW, Washington, D.C., 202-787-6100, http://www.mandarinoriental.com
“You don’t have to live at the Ritz-Carlton to enjoy the same luxuries,” says Marilyn Horwath, the nurse/entrepreneur who recently took over the space formerly known as Chas to open Baltimore Spa & Salon. Now a full medi-spa, the menu is as schmancy as ever, including the Nature Red Flower Arctic Berry Omega Body Boost Therapy, $250, a six-part ritual where skin is nourished and cleansed with organic milk and powerfully exfoliated with bioactive peat enzymes. The lymphatic system is stimulated with a mushroom and phyto-nutrient wrap followed by an ionizing mist to oxygenate. Then, like a perfect crescendo, the treatment ends with a Vichy raindrop shower, followed by an application of rich arctic berry extracts, cypress and birch oils before you head back to reality. 801 Key Highway, 410-625-2427, http://www.chasspasalon.com
When former Chameleon Café chef/owner Jeff Smith decided to sell majority ownership in the restaurant to begin another business and spend more time with his family, two former employees, manager Matthew Weaver and chef Andrew Weinzirl, and Weinzirl’s wife, Laura Marino, stepped in to create what they now call Maggie’s Farm. “Jeff and I definitely share the same philosophy about using as much local produce as possible,” says Weinzirl, “but our inspiration is a little different. Jeff was classical French. I’m rustic Italian, Spanish and there’s Southern comfort food ingrained in me as well.” Along with a decidedly eclectic menu, diners will notice a more casual dining room and expanded bar. And the name? Chalk it up to a love of Bob Dylan, says Weinzirl, referencing the singer’s famous song. Dinner, Monday-Saturday; Sunday brunch. 4341 Harford Road, 410-254-2376, maggiesfarmmd.com
Michael Wood, owner of High Grounds Coffee Roasters in Highlandtown, presses the single shot button on his 2-week-old La Marzocco Linea espresso maker—what he calls the “Ferrari of espresso makers”—and the sleek chrome machine whirs to life.
The water, already heated to a toasty 205 degrees, is forced through the ground beans and after 20 seconds, Wood catches it in a cup beneath a spout. He tilts the cup, revealing a mocha-colored foam. “What we have here floating on the top is called crema and the various colorizations are called tiger stripes,” he says. “That’s where all the fats are, the sugar. When I tilt the cup you can’t even see coffee. That’s crema so thick you could surf on it!”
Across town in Roland Park, Lindsay DiFabbio, the coffee auteur for Johnny’s in Roland Park, is equally jazzed about her new toy, a K-10 Fresh espresso grinder by a Spanish company called Compak. The $2,000 gizmo lets DiFabbio control grinding time for a single or double shot to within a tenth of a second. “As far as I know, it’s the only one in the city, and it’s really cool.”
In case you haven’t noticed, Charm City is riding a caffeine-spiked wave of sorts. With the recent openings of specialty coffee shops like Johnny’s, Lamill, Artifact and Spro and continued success of small-batch roasters such as High Grounds, Spoons and Zeke’s, Baltimore suddenly has a legitimate coffee scene. DiFabbio goes one step further: “Baltimore,” she says, “is about to become a huge coffee town.”
Not bad for a place that had only one free-standing Starbucks as late as 2004, and whose mayor at the time, Martin O’Malley, practically begged the company to open up more outlets because “real cities” had lots of Starbucks.
Now baristas are bragging about their Italian-sourced espresso machines, holding coffee cuppings or tastings and educating coffee drinkers about using alternative brewing methods like a Chemex, Abid Clever or a vac pot.
“It’s all part of the third wave,” says Jay Caragay, the owner of Spro in Hampden, referring to a national coffee movement that began about 10 years ago.
Coffee’s first wave, according to Caragay, was characterized by “coffee in a can,” supermarket brands like Folgers and Maxwell House. The second wave took place in the ’80s and ’90s as national chains like Peet’s and Starbucks introduced Americans to lattes and double frappuccinos. Now, like the ubiquitous farm-to-table movement in restaurants, progressive, independent coffee houses are putting a greater emphasis on quality, preparation and sourcing beans with the farmer’s welfare in mind.
Credit Caragay, 43, with helping propagate the movement in Charm City. Like the French Laundry’s famed chef Thomas Keller and his progeny of cooks who have gone on to open their own restaurants, Caragay has been training the third wave of Baltimore’s coffee baristas as they set out on their own. He counts Johnny’s DiFabbio, Lamill’s head barista Becka Dowding and Bonnie Hohman, owner of BB’s Café in the Towson Public Library, as former employees.
“Jay has the ability to impress the art of the craft and stay true to what quality coffee is all about,” says Hohman, who worked for Caragay when Spro was located in the Towson library. “He really is the go-to guy around town and has passed on his knowledge to us baristas. He’s internationally known and has helped create the coffee culture as we know it—here and around the world.”
“He’s a genius,” says High Grounds’ Wood. “He’s the godfather of third wave in Baltimore. Want to know what the fourth wave will bring? Ask Jay.”
CARAGAY, WHO GREW UP IN BALTIMORE, wasn’t always a coffee virtuoso. Originally, it was sno-cones.
In 2002, Caragay was running Jay’s Shave Ice in Timonium, when he decided to start selling coffee to complement his Hawaiian ices during cooler months. He found a grower he liked in Kona, Hawaii, and began importing beans—what third wavers now call “direct trade,” or dealing with the coffee grower without going through a middleman or coffee broker. “Without knowing anything, we were direct trading right away for no other reason than we didn’t know any better,” he says.
Over the next 10 years, Caragay increased his coffee I.Q., learning the industry from John Sanders, co-founder of Hines Public Market Coffee, the legendary Pacific Northwest roaster and coffee shop owner. In 2006, he decided to go into coffee full time, opening Spro at the Towson Library, and operating it at that location for five years before moving to The Avenue and selling the Towson location to Hohman.
These days, his speaking services are much in demand at Specialty Coffee Association events and he serves as a judge at the annual World Barista Championships, where competitors whip up the prettiest—and tastiest—cappuccinos and espressos for bragging rights and trophies. In 2011, as a competitor, he was crowned the National AeroPress Champion at the Specialty Coffee Association convention in Portland, Ore. (AeroPress is a method of brewing coffee that involves steeping grounds in a cylindrical device before plunging hot water through a small disc-shaped filter.)
When it comes to coffee, Caragay is like a jazz artist. He enjoys improvising and experimenting, hates pretension and talks as passionately about coffee beans as any vintner does about grapes. At Spro, which was named by Travel & Leisure in 2011 as one of “America’s Coolest Coffeehouses,” Caragay typically offers a half-dozen varieties of unusual coffees on a menu that changes weekly. Customers can choose from one of seven ways to have their cup of coffee brewed, from using a French press to a vac pot. “I kind of look at it like cooking,” he says. “Chicken is chicken essentially, but you can sauté it, bake it, roast it, braise it, smoke it—and it’s still chicken, but the experience of that chicken is very different. And I think that’s true of the methods we have here.”
Allowing customers the choice of a rotating menu of brews is a hallmark of third wave coffee. Over in Hamilton, Zeke’s roasts between 40 and 60 types of beans, and owner Thomas Rhodes is constantly experimenting with blends—and giving them colorful Baltimore-centric names, like Tell Tale Dark, Mobtown Espresso or Montebello Reserve.
At High Grounds, Wood offers customers more than 15 varieties of coffees he roasts daily in a back room. “Our customers love being able to try something from Brazil one day and Indonesia the next,” he says. He’s also the only coffee shop in town that regularly carries Ethiopian Ardi coffee, imported by Baltimore-based Keffa Coffee. (See sidebar.)
Caragay acknowledges the Baltimore scene is nowhere near as developed as coffee hot spots like Seattle and San Francisco, but he prefers it to many more established coffee towns. “Baltimore’s coffee scene is kind of exciting in that it’s very different than most places. You go to some cities that are known coffee places and they’re all getting their coffee from the same place. D.C. is like that. I personally feel that gives the town a little bit of a blandness—like you went to a city and all the bars just served Bud. Baltimore is very progressive in its coffee scene.”
He cites restaurants like Woodberry Kitchen as a national leader when it comes to restaurant coffee programs. “What they do is just as good as anything in New York City—and they’ve been doing it since 2007.”
Caragay also says the Baltimore scene isn’t as barista-focused as in some other cities. In other markets, like Seattle and San Francisco, baristas are like celebrity chefs, with their own legions of followers.
In D.C., baristas gather on the third Thursday of every month for Thursday Night Throwdowns, where coffee geeks from around town pack into a cafe after hours and, for a $5 buy-in, battle it out at the espresso machine. Competitors get one minute to pull a shot, steam milk and create the perfect design on the surface of the cup. Judges score based on symmetry and contrast within the design.
Lamill’s Dowding attended her first latte art competition in December and says she could see the day when Baltimore baristas duke it out. “I’d really like to see the Baltimore coffee scene expand even more,” says Dowding, who (insider tip) says Pitango Gelato in Fells Point makes some of the most underrated espresso in town. “There’s not a deep-rooted community among other coffee people yet, but it’s neat to be part of a growing trend in a small city.”
DiFabbio says she’d like to host coffee house crawls and organize latte art competitions in town, but there aren’t enough baristas—yet. “It wouldn’t be any sport with only five people,” she says with a laugh. “But we’ll be able to do it pretty soon. This is a really great town to be a coffee person.”
Out of Africa
From where do some of the nation’s most popular boutique coffee roasters source their Ethiopian coffee beans? Would you believe Towson?
Keffa Coffee, headquartered on Cromwell Bridge Road, imports a half million pounds of green (unroasted) coffee beans annually from owner Samuel Demisse’s native Ethiopia. Keffa then distributes the beans to more than 300 boutique roasters across the country. (The company stores its beans at a warehouse in Dundalk.)
Demisse, 41, who grew up on a coffee farm, began his import business in 2006, and with help from the Towson Global Business Incubator, where his business was based until last month, he has increased sales annually to more than $1.7 million. Every month, he imports shipping containers filled with 40,000 pounds of coffee from family farms throughout Ethiopia—including his family’s own. The main reason he chose to locate his business in Baltimore was because of its port. “The longer it takes to ship coffee, the more the quality goes down. It only takes three weeks to ship coffee from Africa to Baltimore,” says Demisse, who notes it takes 35 days for the same shipment to reach Norfolk, Va.
Keffa’s presence in Baltimore has been a boon to local roasters, such as High Grounds, Annapolis’ Ceremony and Spro. “Here’s an importer bringing in amazing quality coffee that people across the industry are clamoring for and it’s warehoused in Baltimore,” says Spro’s Jay Caragay. “It’s a game-changer for us. There are a lot of great coffees coming in through Seattle and Oakland and now we’ve got great coffees coming in through Baltimore. That’s unheard of. Instead of buying a pallet at a time, we can grab a bag or two. For a small roaster like us, that’s huge.” —J.S.
Baltimore by the Cup
Third WaversArtifact Coffee
Artifact Coffee feels like a step back into a time that never was. Vaulted ceilings and stone walls suggest a gentleman farmer’s barn more than a coffee shop. Mason jars of homemade provisions line up neatly on shelves like lab specimens, and orders are taken and delivered to tables by servers dressed in vintage duds.
Coffee’s origin: Artifact mostly serves coffees from Counter Culture, which specializes in sustainable coffee practices including direct trade, shade grown, organic and bird-friendly coffees.
Price, regular cup of Joe: $3.50 for 12-ounce “pour-over” (daily “featured” coffee is $4.50)
Priciest pour: Occasional special or seasonal coffee drinks run $4.50
Programs: Free coffee cuppings every Friday at 10 a.m. 410-235-1881, artifactcoffee.comBB’s Café
The bridge that leads from the parking lot to the Towson Public Library might be the most unusual place for a coffee shop, but book lovers—and coffee snobs—know this is the best place to get an espresso north of the Baltimore City line.
Coffee origin: Bonnie Hohman sources most of her roasted organic beans from Hines, the venerable Vancouver-based roaster.
Price, regular cup of Joe: $1.50/8 ounce, $2/ 16 ounce
Priciest pour: $4.25 for a 12-ounce mocha— homemade chocolate syrup, two shots of espresso, steamed milk and “maybe a little latte art, depending on which barista is working” 410-296-0023Johnny’s
The latest effort from the Foreman-Wolf Restaurant Group comes in many guises, from casual luncheonette to grotto gourmet, and emphasizes its coffee program, headed by barista Lindsay DiFabbio.
Coffee’s origin: Johnny’s usually offers two coffees, a house blend and a seasonal “guest coffee.” Roasting is done by Ceremony Coffee in Annapolis.
Price, regular cup of Joe: $3.50, brewed in a Chemex
Priciest pour: The Starfleet Captain, a blend of espresso and half-and-half infused with bergamot, lavender and Earl Grey tea, and served in a shot glass sets you back $6—but it’s worth it.
Programs: DiFabbio hosts occasional coffee cuppings and informal classes. Call Johnny’s for a schedule. 410-773-0777, http://www.johnnysdownstairs.comLamill
The only East Coast location of the Los Angeles-based coffee boutique serves up a full menu of roasts in a sophisticated setting on the first floor of the Four Seasons Hotel. The shop also features tasty baked goods by pastry chef Chris Ford of Wit & Wisdom restaurant.
Coffee’s origin: Lamill has a “green buyer,” who sources green coffee beans from 50 to 100 rotating farms throughout the world. Many are organically grown. All coffee is roasted at the
company’s California plant before being shipped cross-country to Baltimore.
Price, regular cup of Joe: $1.50 to $2 depending on ready made or custom poured hand-drip.
Priciest pour:The 16-ounce café con leche includes a whopping six shots of espresso layered with brown sugar and costs $9.75
Programs: Free “coffee clinics” every Saturday at 9 a.m. 410-576-5800Spro
Like a coffee chemistry lab, Spro offers seven different brewing processes, from the AeroPress to the Chemex to the Abid Clever to cold brew towers. That means coffee geeks (and wannabes) can do their own cupping experiments by trying the same beans brewed different ways.
Coffee’s origin: Spro gets beans from all over the world—Ethiopia, Mexico, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea—and buys from five roasteries nationally as well as small-batch roasting at their East Baltimore facility.
Price, regular cup of Joe: $3. Be patient—each cup is hand-crafted and take about four minutes to brew.
Priciest pour: $12 buys you a cup of 2007 vintage Rancho San Francisco coffee produced in Chiapas, Mexico.
Programs: Nothing scheduled, but check sprocoffee.com or call 410-243-1262 for events.
Baltimore Coffee and Tea
Maryland’s largest specialty roaster traces its roots back to 1895 and company president Stan Constantine says his family has been importing coffee since 1910. The Timonium-based roasting facility churns out 30,000 pounds of coffee per week, and does a brisk mail-order business, offering 120 different varietals and more than 1,000 kinds of teas. BC&T has retail outlets in Frederick, Annapolis and Timonium. 410-561-1080, http://www.baltcoffee.comHigh Grounds
Owner Michael Wood began roasting coffee in his backyard shed in 2000 and took over High Grounds, across from the Patterson Theater, several years later. He roasts about 1 1⁄2 tons of coffee per month, and supplies various local restaurants, Wegmans and Whole Foods. 410-342-7611, http://www.highgroundscoffee.comSpoons
Co-owners Deborah Cogan and Bernard Kayes started roasting coffee 12 years ago in order to provide the freshest coffees they could for their Federal Hill restaurant. At one time, they would roast as many as 20 different varieties, but now concentrate on a half dozen or so organically grown beans, available only in-house. 410-539-8395, http://www.spoonsbaltimore.com
Owner Thomas Rhodes learned his trade while roasting for the now-defunct Key Coffee and built Zeke’s popularity via Baltimore farmers markets. Now you can find his coffees throughout the
Baltimore environs, including the company’s retail outlet/coffee shop along Harford Road. Rhodes says he just wanted to “make really good coffee and sell it at a reasonable price”—something the “everyman” could drink. “I mean, we still sell it in a brown paper bag,” he says. 4607 Harford Rd., 410- 254-0122, http://www.zekescoffee.com
Photography by Justin Tsucalas
Marie Burkhead once savored seafood dinners at Red Lobster with her husband. She noshed on pizza and shared birthday cakes with her son. At 5-feet-7, she weighed a trim and healthy 120 pounds, sometimes edging up to 125. “My weight didn’t bother me,” she says. “I thought, ‘Oh, I’ll lose that extra 5 pounds someday.’”
Then, in 2004, she and her husband separated, and her 10-year-old son chose to live with his father. “I went from being a full-time mom to seeing my son only sporadically,” says Burkhead, of Perry Hall. “I had lost my main identity, and I wasn’t in control of my life. So I started to eat less and exercise more.”
She’d hike 2 1⁄2 hours a day, often trudging through the woods in Gunpowder Falls State Park. “It would take my mind off being by myself,” she remembers. Health food became her mantra. Fruits and veggies. Minimal calories. No cookies or other sweets. And the weight started dropping. 115, 110. When she reached 100 pounds, she wasn’t alarmed.
“I thought, ‘Wow, I got to 100.’”
Then she started losing energy, muscle mass and became too weak to even walk the trail. “I was battling to finish,” she says.
By 2009, she had dropped to 84 pounds. Exhausted and afraid, she checked herself into the Sheppard Pratt eating disorders program. She was 36 years old when she was diagnosed with anorexia nervosa.
“I wasn’t even healthy anymore,” says Burkhead. “I was trying to have some sort of control. I had lost my identity as a wife and a mother, and this disease came out. Look what I did to myself.”
In treatment centers here and around the country, cases of anorexia nervosa and other eating disorders long associated with young women and teens have been rising among people over age 35, according to recent studies and local experts.
“The stereotypes of the past are really breaking down now,” says Dr. Harry Brandt, director of The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt in Towson. “For a long while, attention has been focused on young people, but we’ve seen a fairly dramatic increase in people age 30 to 35, and even up into their 50s and 60s.”
At The Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program, which often treats long-term chronic cases, at least one-third of their patients are over age 35. “We don’t know if there are truly more cases of anorexia or whether they are getting to Hopkins more,” says Dr. Angela Guarda, associate professor and the program’s director. “But do we have more older patients? The answer is yes.”
A study published in the July issue of the International Journal of Eating Disorders shows that 13 percent of women ages 50 and older struggle with eating disorders—some for the first time.
The study noted that common maladaptive eating behaviors include purging, binge eating, excessive dieting and excessive exercising. In some cases, like Burkhead’s, first-time battles with anorexia or bulimia are the result.
“It’s very hard to get rid of. It’s hard,” says Burkhead, now 39 and still weighing in the low 90s. “It’s a mental disease. You are fighting with your mind all the time.”
When it comes to age trends in eating disorders, those in their 40s and 50s seem to be struggling like teenagers. What’s going on here?
People might be more aware of the disease via the Internet and media coverage, experts note. Or those diagnosed at younger ages are living longer because of advances in medicine.
Stressors like divorce can tip some women or men—who are already dieters—over the edge. And societal pressures to stay thin have evolved over the past decade as the population grays—or at least buys more hair dye.
“You have the Baby Boomer Generation, the Twiggy Generation, that is not as comfortable about aging,” says Brandt. “‘Fifty is the new 40, 60 is the new 50,’ that kind of thing.”
Central to the disease, in most cases, is body image. And Americans often don’t like what they see in the mirror. University of North Carolina researchers who led the study published in July showed that a whopping 79 percent of women surveyed online reported that their weight or shape affected their self-perception. And the majority of respondents age 50 and over said such weight issues had a negative effect on their lives.
The trend is spreading across the spectrum. Up to 24 million people of all ages and both genders in the U.S. suffer from an eating disorder (anorexia, bulimia and binge eating), according to the National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders (ANAD).
“Eating disorders affect anybody and everybody, it doesn’t matter their nationality, age, sex, religion or race,” says psychotherapist Sharon Peterson, founding director of the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland. “Too many people are falling through the cracks.”
Peterson says that 50 percent of her private patients struggle with eating disorders. “Either they had an eating disorder all along or one that was not recognized,” Peterson says. “Sometimes they’ve been in remission, but it begins to resurface; or they are going through this for the first time.”
Peterson notes that eating disorders might go undiagnosed by physicians or unrecognized by family members. Some cases are mild (occasional bingeing on food), others more severe (anorexia, or bulimia nervosa—also known as bingeing and purging). If left untreated, eating disorders can lead to health risks such as heart ailments, osteoporosis, depression—and death. Eating disorders have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness.
Although fewer men face eating disorders (about 1 in 10 treated for anorexia are male), more cases are surfacing, experts say. “There is a normal progression with weight, yet men will say they want to be the same weight they were when they got married,” says Brandt. Men can be prone to binge eating and yo-yo dieting.
Some of the triggers for adult eating disorders differ from those faced by teens, including life stressors such as children leaving home for college (or moving back home), marital problems such as a spouse’s infidelity, divorce, or loss of a loved one, aging parents, menopause, sexual dysfunction and illness or injury. A common factor, however, seems to be negative self-image and a need to regain control.
Once divorce hits, for example, people feel they’ve got to get back out there.
“America has a high divorce rate, and people age 45 or age 50 think they need to be thinner if they want to be attractive,” says Brandt. “Or they are not as mobile in their 50s—they’ve developed tendinitis or knee injuries and think, ‘I’m not burning enough calories, so I can’t eat.’ Or they’re adjusting to kids moving out, so there’s less focus on the kids. Obsessive behavior can set in as a way to control things.”
Burkhead knows all about that: “I’d make lists and plan my meals out ahead, and it really became obsessive.” She says she had no eating issues as a teen or in her 20s, though she struggled with anxiety. By her mid-30s, she was surfing websites for calorie-restricted diets. “I picked this up as my identity and it was something I was good at,” she says. “I could fool myself.”
Media messages and pop culture clearly contribute to Americans’ overall obsession with weight. “Tabloids are always showing stars who have lost a lot of weight or gained a lot of weight,” Peterson says. Among girls in fifth to 12th grades, nearly 70 percent report that magazine photos influence their idea of a perfect body shape, with nearly half saying they want to lose weight because of those images, according to ANAD. Yet the ideal body type portrayed in advertising is “possessed naturally by only 5 percent of American females,” studies note.
That same preoccupation, experts say, shifts from Seventeen magazine to Self, Vogue or Shape. Consider an emaciated Demi Moore, 50, on a recent cover of Harper’s Bazaar or 90210 alumna Jennie Garth on an October cover of People magazine: “40 Wow! ‘I just lost 30 Pounds.’”
Trying to look 17 is one thing. Yet, during the past few years, actresses or models remain hot commodities into their late 30s, 40s and even 50s. Consider these slim A-list celebs: Jennifer Aniston, 43; Halle Berry, 46; Julia Roberts, 45; Cameron Diaz, 40; Angelina Jolie, 37; Jennifer Lopez, 43; and the ever-youthful Andie MacDowell, 54. The upside of their career longevity might carry a downside for women who feel pressure to look forever young.
“So they see a Jennifer Aniston and think, ‘Look how thin she is and she’s in her 40s, and here I’m not as thin,’” says Brandt.
And while a host of women might simply feel a bit down on themselves, this Sisyphean search for perfection can create a “perfect storm” scenario for some whose personality traits make them prone to eating disorders.
“We are looking at Type-A personalities,” says Peterson. “Strong-willed, hypersensitive, perfectionist, with a tendency to see things as black and white, to be rigid in their thinking.” Other traits include competitiveness, high self-expectations, repetitive exercise routines, compulsiveness, drive and a tendency toward depression.
The Modern Mom might be especially at risk. Some women, including those who’ve set aside professional careers or juggle both work and home, become avid marathoners or attend serial spin classes at the gym. They obsessively eat only organic or raw foods.
In more extreme cases, such health consciousness can morph into a newly described form of anorexia known as orthorexia nervosa, or an obsession with eating only “healthy foods.” In those cases, a strict diet of raw vegetables with a dash of almonds could become another way to justify limited calorie intake.
That was the case for Burkhead, who says her desire was less to be thin than to be a “super healthy” person. “I can’t get my head around eating something ‘unhealthy.’ I haven’t been able to eat candy, cookies, cake, bad food, junk food,” says Burkhead, who was diagnosed with orthorexia. “I know it’s bad, but I started to feel superior doing these things. I could just watch people eat cake.”
Guarda and others compare eating disorders, especially anorexia, to alcoholism—in which a behavior, such as social drinking, can trigger problems for those genetically predisposed. “It’s like drinking at a cocktail party,” she notes. “Only a couple of people get trashed and can’t get home.”
A similar “can’t stop” switch might be flipped with eating disorders. “People start dieting, and it’s more rewarding to them than it is to others,” Guarda says. “If a physical illness or stress causes them to lose that initial weight, they can get stuck in this dieting and exercise behavior and it becomes increasingly driven.”
“We are not very accepting of ourselves as we get older. It’s a developmental step people aren’t willing to take,” says Brandt. “I’m 55 and I can empathize with the struggle. But people are dieting to go below the weight where the body wants to be—a normal, natural set point.”
He poses the dilemma. “Do you think a 50-year-old woman is supposed to weigh the same at age 50 as she did at age 20? She has had children and gone through other physical changes,” he says. “We need to engage this population to look at this as part of life.”
Brandt and others urge people to focus less on the scale and more on being healthy and balanced. Health risks for adults with chronic or late-onset eating disorders can prove especially deadly: including liver or kidney failure, severe osteoporosis, pancreatitis or irreversible heart damage. “The older you are, the more susceptible you are,” Guarda notes.
Yet that message of balance might prove increasingly difficult.
With more than one-third of Americans now obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, current public health efforts—including U.S. government anti-obesity campaigns—center on curbing calories in our diet. The message is laudable but also can fuel obsessive behaviors to control weight, experts say.
Authors of the University of North Carolina study recommend that health professionals screen for eating disorders: “Greater public health attention must be drawn toward effective strategies to achieve health rather than desperate and ultimately ineffective attempts at weight loss.”
As awareness grows about the issue, families and friends on the front lines also can become more aware of signs or symptoms, and then encourage loved ones to seek counseling or treatment.
Burkhead’s mother and ex-husband staged a quiet intervention, urging her to get counseling. At first she didn’t want to admit she had a problem. Eventually, after being diagnosed, she found effective counseling. Burkhead also joined a support group with ANAD and is buoyed by the friends she’s found there. She gives herself positive pep talks and taps other coping skills. Already facing pre-osteoporosis, Burkhead wants to increase her weight. Her tentative goal: Add 25-plus pounds to get back to her 120 mark.
“I can’t say I’m recovered or anything close to it, but I’m trying,” she says. “I want to be more flexible. Shake things up. I’d like to start dating again. To settle into a more normal life.
“I brought a cookie in my lunch today. And I haven’t had a cookie in a long while,” she adds. Then she laughs at herself. “But, still, it’s a cashew cookie. It’s not like it’s an Oreo.”
Contact the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland for facts about eating disorders, area treatment providers and support groups. 443-377-1266, http://www.ednmaryland.org
National Association of Anorexia Nervosa and Associated Disorders is a clearinghouse for information about eating disorders across the country. Helpline: 630-577-1330, http://www.anad.org
Left to right: Dr. Harry Brandt, director of The Center for Eating Disorders at Sheppard Pratt; Dr. Angela Guarda, director of The Johns Hopkins Eating Disorders Program; and Sharon Peterson, founding director of the Eating Disorder Network of Maryland.
At 7:30 a.m., Stephen Sanford, my, ahem, butler, knocks on the door of my cottage, a silver tray bearing a pot of French press coffee and a paper bag of hot sugared beignets in his arms. Only a day earlier he had asked what time I wanted my morning treats, walked me through the garden to my cottage and, after adjusting the heated floor in my bathroom and showing me how to turn on the fireplace in my bedroom, entreated, “May I please get your bags from your car?” as if I were allowing him a great favor.
Later that evening, I arrived back at the cottage to find a pot of rooibos tea and four tiny trompe l’oeil chocolate sandwich cookies posing as bite-sized hamburgers (the lettuce, I soon discovered, was tinted coconut; the tomato, a sliver of strawberry). My butler had also turned down my enormous bed and quite possibly plumped the half-dozen pillows that fill it.
My butler. Not a phrase I’ve ever used before; nor will I soon use it again unless I return to the Inn at Willow Grove in Orange, Va., a rural oasis 130 miles from Baltimore and a short 40-minute detour from Skyline Drive.
“Inn” seems a small word for a 40-acre property that includes a 1778-vintage manor house, suites and a few private cottages (soon to include several pet-friendly options in spring 2013), a spa, a renovated barn used for private events, gardens, fire pits and a farm-to-table restaurant. Owners David and Charlene Scibal, bought the 18th-century property in 2008 after watching it fall into disrepair and undertook a multimillion-dollar renovation before re-opening in 2010. The day-to-day operations are managed by the Scibals’ son, Matt, and his wife, Hope. “Charlene and I love to restore things,” says David, an insurance executive who owns Advantage Specialty, a Somers Point, N.J. based firm.
The result is what Hope characterizes as “urban plantation”—loosely translated as the combination of modern amenities in a country setting. My cottage, for example, may have an enormous gilt vintage mirror hung on a wall of exposed brick and a private patio and covered porch where I can view the rabbits and birds that scamper across the well-manicured property, but it also has two flat-screen televisions, free Wi-Fi, champagne-colored granite countertops and a heated towel rack in the bath.
There is a fire pit on the patio at the back of the manor house and two more outside the inn’s restaurant in the house’s lower level, where on Wednesday nights locals and guests fill the dining room and bar for $5 tapas, including a tongue-tickling cheddar-chipotle biscuit served alongside a shot glass of lobster bisque. In other words, I’m not roughing it.
“It’s Southern hospitality,” says Hope. “We want guests to have the experience of being treated like royalty and being treated like a friend.” The butler service is case in point.
But what does a modern-day butler do exactly? I wonder aloud. Had I wanted him to, Hope tells me, Stephen would have unpacked (and packed) my bags, ironed and hung my clothes in the closet. More often, he plans itineraries or makes travel arrangements for guests. Still, “butler service can be anything you want that’s not immoral, unethical or illegal,” David adds dryly.
As David also points out, there’s not too much to do in Orange itself, but Orange is a great hub, about an hour’s drive from Charlottesville, and even less from Fredericksburg, and within easy driving distance of several wineries on the state’s Monticello Wine Trail.
After the coffee and beignets, I drive to nearby Madison, Va., to visit Early Mountain Vineyards, 305 undulating acres that were formerly known as Sweely Estate Winery. The land was purchased by AOL co-founders Jean and Steve Case, who renovated, re-opened and renamed it after the original property owner, Revolutionary War veteran Lt. Joseph Early, in 2011.
Although the Cases are dedicated to making wine from parcels of varietals including cabernet franc, viognier and pinot gris, they also have constructed their business as a social enterprise designed to promote and benefit Virginia’s wine industry, including making their winery a showcase for the best of Virginia food and wine.
Under the soaring roof of the winery’s new tasting room, I indulge in a flight of Early Mountain Wines (the viognier is typically lush with pineapple and peach with a clean, dry finish) while a foursome visiting from Washington, D.C., share a bottle of nebbiolo from nearby Barboursville Vineyards at a table next to the stone fireplace. The smoked salmon in my salad comes from McLean, Va., I’m told, and I’m quick to pick up a container of the creamed honey made by the monks of the Holy Cross Abbey in Berryville that accompanies the equally impressive plate of cheeses for sale in the winery’s market.
On another day, I’d take my lunch to the covered patio or to a chair near one of the fire pits at the bottom of the hill that rolls away from the tasting room. But for now, I’m happy to settle in by the windows and enjoy the breathtaking landscape and my taste of Virginia. No butler required.
The Inn at Willow Grove, 540-317-1206, http://www.innatwillowgrove.com. Rooms from $265.
Early Mountain Vineyards, 540-948-9005,www. earlymountain.com
What sets Birroteca apart from other pizza and beer joints in the city? Its location in a vintage 1883 stone building on Clipper Road, for one. For another, try its 24 beers on tap, emphasis on crudo (raw) and cured meat and seafood-based small plates like porchetta, tuna aioli and pickled fennel. There are also family-style daily specials for two or more, like Monday’s roast chicken (cacciatore style) and pizzas with inventive toppings from mussels to duck confit. “We’ve built a restaurant that’s just a little different from when people think pizza,” says owner Robbin Haas. “We’re not a normal pizzeria.” Blink-and-you’ve-missed-him chef Cyrus Keefer (1542 Gastropub, Maisy’s, Brasserie 10 South) helms the kitchen. Open for dinner, Monday-Friday; lunch and dinner Saturday and Sunday 1520 Clipper Road, 443-708-1934, http://www.bmorebirroteca.com
Savvy has been shopping vintage and coveting clothing castaways ever since she can remember. She’s used to scouring crowded racks for a great find, even if the racks are dusty and the items, ahem, are less than clean. She’s not used to finding such things in an airy, elegant setting with sheepskin throw rugs on the floor, vintage Vogue posters on the wall and a crystal chandelier hanging from the ceiling. But that’s the way Posh Retro rolls. Charming owner Amber Ivey offers previously owned men’s and women’s clothing, shoes and accessories and donates 15 percent of her proceeds to Mission: Launch, which helps formerly incarcerated people re-enter the job market. The store also hosts private parties where you and your BFFs can try on clothes while celebrating a birthday (get that Martin + Osa LBD before somebody else does). In that case, Ivey donates 20 percent of the proceeds to the nonprofit of your choice. Good deeds and good duds? Now that’s an old-fashioned idea. Saturdays, 10 to 5; otherwise, by appointment. 1003 Light St., 443-687-9070, http://www.poshretro.com
Las Vegas and neon go together like Imelda Marcos and shoes, and Liberace and bling. So we’re happy to report the opening of The Neon Museum, a shrine to the blazing beauties of old Las Vegas that were once called “liquid fire.” In the museum’s two-acre outdoor exhibition space, called the Neon Boneyard, you can feast your eyes upon 150 signs that date from the 1930s. Heavy hitters—the Stardust, the Moulin Rouge, the Flamingo—rest in peace among a host of other less-famous signs that tell a story both of Sin City’s particular visual culture and a national modern art form. The visitors center is housed in the lobby of the historic La Concha Motel, that 1961 Space Age beauty designed by acclaimed architect Paul Revere Williams. The lobby of the motel, which originally stood on Las Vegas Boulevard South, was saved from demolition in 2005 and moved in 2006 to the museum site. Two of its original signs—the mosaic lobby sign and a section of the main roadside sign—were restored and illuminated as part of the museum’s ongoing efforts to preserve a wonder of science, art and advertisement. 702-387-NEON, http://www.neonmuseum.org. —Laura Wexler
One September, when I was 10 years old, I was rummaging around in my grandmother’s guest room, a place of mysterious Victorian furniture and various attached dust ruffles, when I discovered a stash of wrapped Christmas presents. I immediately became hopeful.
I went downstairs to tell my grandmother that I’d found some gifts from the previous December that she’d neglected to tag and give to me. Could I open them? I asked.
Alas, she let me know that at the holidays, there were often guests that came to her house unexpectedly for refuge from their unhappy families, or perhaps because they were traveling for work and stranded far from loved ones. She made a point to not only host them for Christmas Eve dinner or her big party on the first of the year, but to have appropriate gifts for them at the ready. Those presents I had found were for those guests, not for me. This was my first encounter with the idea of “holiday orphans.”
This idea stayed with me as I got started in the restaurant business. Our first restaurant in Baltimore, Savannah, opened the day before Thanksgiving in 1995. It was very easy on that particular Thanksgiving to provide a heartfelt meal to all the staff displaced from their families while they were working with us. We probably drank a little better and with greater thirst and relief than any of the guests who preceded us in the seats that evening.
Since then, each year we always serve a serious Thanksgiving meal to our staff after our clients have gone, and usually we’ve invited employees from other restaurants who are not traveling to distant family. We have often numbered in the 50s and 60s. One year we had at least 10 children come, along with the spouses of the staffers working at Charleston that day. It was especially interesting to see little family moments and work-friend moments coalescing all around the room.
There is a purity of intention to these meals. All parties are truly thankful for the chance to stop work, relish a meal and have a leisurely time with their compadres. It doesn’t hurt that the food and wine is always remarkable and plentiful. There are no moments of family weirdness, untold family secrets or angst. For a few hours we are the relaxed and well-heeled bon viveurs enlivening the room. We just clear our own plates.
In the past few years, since my father has retired and moved back to the area, he has insisted on hosting Christmas dinner at his house in the country. Every year it seems I am nominated to cook, and I am happy to do so—with one major stipulation. I need to have my orphans to dinner.
There are a few family friends that are entertaining fixtures, and one year it was a close friend and her husband and a handful of key managers from my company for whom travel to family was impractical. These last-minute insertions are always terrific. They bring energy and freshness to something that could be staid and fussy. And the shifting number of guests keeps us on our toes.
Time has taught me that the inclusive nature of this event at my father’s, just like my Thanksgiving at work, is my real highlight for the season. I have been a thorough humbug-er for most of my life. This may have cured me.
Tony Foreman is a restaurateur and co-owner of the Foreman-Wolf group.
With more than 30 locations nationwide, including three restaurants in Maryland and D.C., it’s no wonder Gordon Biersch Brewery Restaurant has tapped Baltimore as its latest outpost. The choice was natural, says Tom Dargen, director of Brewing Operations: “Baltimore is a great beer town and has sophistication without pretension, and that fits our concept, too.” The company has looked to local talent, hiring former Brewer’s Art brewer and Parkside Fine Food and Spirits proprietor Chris Cashell as the restaurant’s head brewer (several employees on the brewery side of operations are veterans of The Wharf Rat, according to Dargen). Along with a full menu of burgers, pizzas, pastas and entrees, expect to find on tap Gordon Biersch’s five flagship beers, a revolving seasonal beer, plus local offerings from breweries around the region. “Sometimes it’s difficult to put local beers on our menus because the quality isn’t there,” says Dargen. “The difficulty in this city is how do you choose?” Open daily for lunch and dinner. 1000 Lancaster St., Suite B, 410-230-9501, http://www.gordonbiersch.com
Who doesn’t love a heartwarming story? Homegirl or boy does good, reaches a pinnacle, falls from grace, rises again in triumph. That, in a nutshell, describes the return of a beloved department store to White Marsh—Boscov’s. When the store reopened in October, after a four-year, recession-driven absence, customers went wild. They not only thronged the store, they went up and hugged the sprightly, affable CEO, Albert R. Boscov, who was beaming in the aisles (Savvy wasn’t there, but she has it on good authority). Boscov’s is still a privately owned chain, and it’s a true department store—meaning one-stop shopping for everything from jeans to shoes to toys to vacuums to drapes. 8200 Perry Hall Blvd., 410-931-2005, http://www.boscovs.com
While she doesn’t have any little tykes of her own (at least not of the two-legged variety), Savvy does appreciate stylish toddlers whenever she sees them. Just the other day she was bowled over by a darling black-and-white gingham check frock with pink tulle peeking out from the hem. Could the little girl’s mother have gotten it from Borrow Baby Couture? Owners Heidi and Alex Lieske, who are based in Timonium, have capitalized on the popularity of the luxury clothing rental phenomenon and scaled it down for the wee ones. If you can’t countenance the idea of spending gobs of money on a dress your child will grow out of in a trice, but you’re still attracted to Moschino, Fendi, Robert Cavalli and the like, you can rent something for a fraction of the price online at Borrow Baby Couture. That cherry print dress by Jottum goes for only $10.95 a week, long enough for your chica to look adorable in a party photo that, one day, will cause her to look back and say, “Wow, I had style!” Online only. http://www.borrowbabycouture.com
TRUE CONFESSION: One night last summer I took an Ambien to help me fall asleep. Seven business days later a FedEx box filled with $1,139.15 worth of Gap clothing appeared magically on my doorstep. Whoops!
In case you haven’t heard, Ambien can occasionally result in a strange behavioral side effect where you do something excessive—say, drive through Burger King at 3 a.m. or have phone sex with your boss—and forget about it by morning.
Normally, I’d be embarrassed to share this shopping sin, but here’s the brilliant part. While I had zero recollection of the transaction, I was still cognizant enough to dig through my email account and redeem—not one, but two coupon codes—saving nearly 50 percent on my purchase.
But the incident did make me wonder: Why—given all the regrettable acts I could have committed before dawn—did my deep-dark subconscious gravitate toward clothes shopping? Is there something buried deep in my past that compels me to shop?
To help answer my questions, I decided to probe the minds of several national shopping experts and track down some of Baltimore’s biggest, baddest shopaholics. Maybe there would be something in their tales of consumerism that would help me answer my own questions. (And just maybe they could share a few hot tips about upcoming sales!)
I started by calling around to some of my favorite stores for recommendations of folks to interview, but it turned out to be a hard sell.
“Girl, I wish I had shopaholics in my store right now,” said one Fells Point dress shop proprietor. “If you find some, send them my way.”
Other retailers called their top customers, but they declined to be interviewed. One woman, the wife of a foreclosure attorney, felt it would be in bad taste to share her riches during a recession. Others seemed to be embarrassed by their shopping habits.
“Fifteen years ago, you’d go to a party and all people wanted to talk about was shopping,” says Nancy Lattman, who has owned L’Apparenza in Lake Falls Village for more than a decade. “But the conversation has changed. Women don’t want people to think all they do is shop.”
Just then: a breakthrough—in the form of a return call from Jody Kesner from Stevenson’s Joanna Gray Shoes.
“I called shopaholics all day, but nobody wants to be outed,” she tells me. “But I do have a personal friend, Ina Parson. She’s a great bargain shopper—give her a ring.”
THE BARGAIN HUNTRESS
A week later I find myself standing in Ina Parson’s dining room examining the spoils from her latest hunting trip. The glass table and chairs are covered with shopping bags. The floor is lined with shoe boxes. Tissue paper flies everywhere as she pulls out purses and tunics and belts like so many rabbits out of a hat.
“Oooooh, I forgot about this bag!” she exclaims, revealing a darling assortment of smart solid separates paired with a few animal prints and fringe. “You know the Talbots outlet on York Road? Everything is on sale for $17.99 or less. I got this whole bag for less than a hundred bucks.”
Indeed, Ina shops frequently enough—three days a week, minimum—that sometimes she surprises herself by rediscovering a hidden gem amongst the rows of paper and plastic in her Pikesville home.
She has been known to hit six—count them, six—Marshalls in a single day, filling her minivan with everything from Betsey Johnson handbags to Marc Jacob belts. Oh, and leggings. She owns at least 50 pairs of black leggings.
“I don’t even know what crap I have in here sometimes,” she says with an exhale that puffs up her frosted bangs. “But I love finding things that are different and funky.”
Being a bargain shopper, by default, requires being an impulse shopper, so I ask Ina whether she ever has buyer’s remorse.
“Never,” she says with more confidence than I believe at first. “I actually get opposite kind of remorse. If I see something I love and leave it at T.J. Maxx, I’ll obsess about it the whole way home. Most of the time, I end up driving back to get it.”
Just then, Ina’s next-door neighbor, Ruth, stops by for a visit. The 60-something gal with a smart cropped gray coif and a twinkle in her eye seems poised to spill some secrets.
“So do you think Ina is a shopaholic?” I ask, testing the waters.
“Oh, please. It’s like a disease!” she says.
“A disease,” repeats Ina, nodding her head.
“It’s awful,” says Ruth.
“Awful,” mimics Ina.
And by awful you can tell they really mean awesome.
Ina caught the shopping bug at about 13 when she bagged her first bargain: a cute little knit number from Hecht Co. She once dreamed of going to school in New York to study fashion merchandising. But, instead, she fell in love and got married—to a man who owns a dry cleaning business and hates clothes. “He hasn’t bought a new shirt in 20 years,” she says.
But Ina still grabs a bite of the Big Apple on frequent bus trips to Manhattan.
“You should see when they let me out of the bus. It’s like I get a shot of adrenaline and I can’t breathe,” says the former retail associate who sold a whopping $2.1 million during her tenure at Smyth Jewelers. “People used to wait an hour just to work with me—they saw my passion.”
These days Ina’s passion is decorating her home with consignment shop finds.
“I’ve redone almost the whole house for less than $5,000,” she says with a Vanna White gesture, pointing out the blue leather sectional, a Joseph Sheppard oil painting, copious amounts of Capodimonte porcelain statuettes. Sometimes she finds vintage fashions, too.
Her pride and joy? A Persian lamb duster with a mink collar (“It’s like the ‘I Love Lucy’ coat”) with another woman’s name embroidered inside.
“Did you ever think to Google Margaretta Diggs to see who she was?” I ask.
“Not really,” she replies, running her finger along the embroidery. “This is all just part of my story now. Shopping makes me happy.”
YOUR BRAIN ON BLOOMINGDALE’S
So does shopping really make us happy? There’s plenty of evidence to suggest it does.
In a recent study published in the journal Neuron, researchers at MIT, Carnegie Mellon and Stanford strapped volunteers to an fMRI machine and showed them photos of products. When shoppers saw something they wanted to buy, a flood of dopamine to the nucleus accumbens—the brain’s reward center—lit up their fMRI images like a Christmas tree. (Too bad the chemicals wear off by the time the credit card bill arrives.)
I honestly don’t know if shopping makes me happy, but I definitely shop more when I’m feeling blue. If my boss tells me off or a guy breaks up with me, I don’t want to risk another negative interaction with the “real” people in my life. Instead, I drive straight to Nordstrom—the land of milk-based moisturizers and “Oh, honey, you look 10 pounds lighter in that dress.”
You can collect free samples at every cosmetics counter, imitate the lady over the loudspeaker (you know they train them all to sound the same), try on 5-inch heels you could never-ever-ever wear in real life and even get a foot massage if you get the right sales guy. (Wait, he does that for everyone, right?) And for a few hours, I’m distracted and fulfilled.
“I totally get that,” says Katie Nannes, my next interview, who admits she’s had times in her life when shopping was a great escape from boredom or stress.
Once, in a cubicle not so far away, Katie sat conflicted. The consummate girly girl from a small town in upstate New York was dedicated to her marketing job. But, as with any Millennial these days, surfing the Internet was a way of life—and online shopping seemed like a not-so-naughty distraction from the humdrum nature of corporate life.
“At that time, the big flash sale sites like HauteLook and Rue La La were just becoming popular—and it was so great to have all of this designer stuff at your fingertips,” says the Cornell communications grad, who has since switched from her agency job to become the public relations and events director for Urban Chic, a Harbor East boutique. (Yes, a job that actually encourages shopping!)
“I had always loved fashion,” she explains, recalling stories her mom told her about throwing a temper tantrum every time she tried to dress her in jeans. “I want to look like a GIRL!” she would yell.
Another time her favorite aunt came to visit for a casual weekend and made the oh-so-horrendous error of wearing the same T-shirt two days in a row. “Apparently, I was very concerned and told her that my mom would gladly take her shopping, if she needed more clothes.”
In addition to the flash sites, Katie also started shopping the well-edited selections at Bloomies, Saks and Neiman’s websites, too—getting a “Sex and the City” style buzz and a killer closet to match. But soon, the boxes started piling up.
“I found myself catching the D.C. metro a few minutes early in hopes of picking up the UPS packages before my fiancé got home,” she says. Plus, she started feeling a little embarrassed when the mailroom attendant would yell, “I’ve got another one for you, Katie!” across the lobby every day.
While it wasn’t a problem per se, Katie decided to level with her now-husband Steve, a self-proclaimed “schlumpy journalist” who works as a producer at CNN.
“It wasn’t like he was shocked at how much I shop, since I had always been very well put together. But once you combine bank accounts, there’s no more hiding,” she says.
At first, her hubby suggested something quite rational: a budget. “I think we started with something crazy like $500 a month. I mean, hello, that was gone in like two days,” she says with a laugh. Later the couple decided to simply keep each other informed prior to any big purchases.
But, truth be told, sometimes Katie Nannes has just gotta have it.
“There was this amazing pink pencil skirt from Alice + Olivia we bought for the store—and I freaked out, because it sold out,” she says. “When I love something, I get obsessed with it and stalk it like an animal hunting its prey.” ($268 later on Shopbop.com, it was hers.)
Katie says it helps to have a partner-in-schlumpy-journalist-crime who is forgiving, but knows when to say when. In fact, they have sort of a shopping safe word.
“When Steve uses the phrase ‘tighten it up,’ I know it’s time to pull in the reins,” she says.
Several days later, while trolling the Web, I come across shopacholicsanonymous.org. And before you can ring up $1,000 in Burberry scarves on Overstock.com, I’m speaking with the site’s founder, Terrence Shulman, director of the Shulman Center for Compulsive Theft, Spending and Hoarding in Franklin, Mich.
Terry, who admits he was once a compulsive shoplifter, now works as both an attorney and a licensed social worker, helping folks deal with the emotional reasons why they compulsively shop, steal or hoard. He was also a guest expert on an “Oprah” episode about people’s secret lives, which gives him enough street cred for me.
Terry tells me that our consuming passions are a reflection of—no surprise—the society we live in. “In the old days, keeping up with the Joneses meant keeping up with the family down the block,” says Terry. “But today, thanks to reality TV, the Joneses have become celebrities.”
Yes, yet another reason to hate Kim Kardashian. But, really, people can’t think they can live the same lifestyle as the gazillionaires we see on TV, can they?
“No, but we’ve upped the ante,” he tells me. “People feel more pressure to have that bling or wear that designer dress to feel like they’re worth something today. Even if I don’t live in a mansion, I can still buy a Gucci purse and have a piece of the American dream.
“But it’s not really about the stuff,” Terry is quick to add. “Most people who are shopping addicts report that, yes, of course, they want things. But it’s more about what those things represent. What we really want is security, freedom, power, prestige, confidence or acceptance. A lot of people just want to fit in.”
Several days later, I find myself at a real-life Barbie’s Dream House. “Let’s go!” says Deb Townsend, a 47-year-old blonde bombshell, as she grabs my hand sweetly and leads me through her Stevenson home, pointing out some of its extraordinary features—from a rock climbing wall to a photo studio—en route to our ultimate destination: THE CLOSET.
At first glance, you might not even notice its simple white door with the seven-digit lock, hidden in the middle of a marble, gold and stained-glass bathroom so ornate I half expect angels to start singing. Inside, I discover a fashion lover’s Narnia brimming with evening gowns, fur coats and Cinderella shoes.
In a world where money is no object—there are clearly no exceptions here, thanks to Deb’s “alpha male” husband Dennis, chairman of Townsend Capital, who follows fashion trends and loves to see his wife in beautiful things.
“It’s crazy, right?” giggles the former videographer, clearly responding to my widening eyeballs. “It’s been seven years and I’m still getting used to everything.”
As we continue to explore Narnia, I realize Deb doesn’t really know who a lot of fashion designers are—including the ones hanging in her closet. She regularly has to check the labels to see who made what—and, as she’s modeling a fur-lined Diane von Furstenberg handbag, she freely admits she had no idea who DVF was until a sales associate in Vail gave her the scoop. “My friends are all like, ‘You have Prada this and Dolce & Gabbana that’—and I laugh and say, ‘Wow, really? That’s cool,’” she says with a shrug.
“Here’s how I get dressed every morning,” she goes on. “To me, the world is my stage—and I have to know what role I’m playing. What’s the setting? Who is my audience? Then, I pick a costume.”
For example, when Deb and Dennis got hitched—the second marriage for them both—she was surprised to learn she couldn’t just go to Baltimore Country Club with him, but rather had to interview for the privilege. So she put on some long pants and a light blue Escada blazer (“very Hopkins”) and wrapped a strand of pearls around her neck three times. Then she marched her sensible shoes straight into a boardroom, prepared to do what she does best: make ’em laugh. (Spoiler alert: It worked.)
Deb is no stranger to being on stage. Growing up, her family owned Tuerkes Leather Goods—a 42-store retail chain—and every time her dad opened a new location, he brought in all eight kids to show it was a family business.
“In a family that big, you’ve got to scrap,” says Deb, who left home at 17. “Nothing is ever handed to you.”
She went on to play the role of “starving college student eating Oodles of Noodles and tuna fish” and buying her so-called costumes at Hampden vintage shops, where she still shops to “maintain some balance” in her life. She also spent some time in Namibia taking photographs for a furniture maker’s catalogs and in Germany window-dressing for four luxury boutiques. “In some ways, I was more comfortable hand-washing my clothes in Africa than I am in my life today,” Deb says. “I guess with more things comes more responsibilities, which is not always freeing to the soul.”
Still, she’s the first to admit—she’s having the time of her life. When it comes to shopping today, it’s not the act itself Deb loves, but traveling with Dennis to collect memorable clothes from all over the globe.
“When we go into a boutique, I walk straight to the fitting room and let Dennis or the salesperson pick outfits that will look good on me,” she says. “Then I come outand model for everyone!”
Her favorite garment is an Alexander McQueen dress she found on her honeymoon in Turkey. It’s a black-and-white knee-length with jagged tears along the collarbone and fraying edges on the hem and sleeves—one of the final pieces the designer created before he committed suicide. “It’s a little darker than I usually am in my spirit, but you can clearly see the emotional state of the designer,” says Deb, who has experienced some great sadness in life, including successfully battling a rare cancer and the loss of both her parents. Today, she’s the proud mom of two boys and has pretty much decided, with a life this damn good, she’s going to be the life of the party.
“When we first moved into this house, my older son and I had some trouble adjusting. So I told Dennis I was going to put fliers in all our neighbors’ mailboxes inviting them to a Misfit Cocktail Party. Please join us if you don’t fit in!” she says with a grin. (Insiders quickly advised her that no one in Green Spring Valley would RSVP to a party like that.)
Now, “I just show up in my designer gowns and keep putting my foot in my mouth,” says Deb, who seems to consider it a personal mission to help uptight society folks feel more free. “It’s like these beautiful earrings I found shopping in Europe. They were exquisite gold birds in a cage. But the door was closed, so I decided against them. A closed cage just isn’t me.”
I scored my next shopper through a friend of a friend on Facebook. Now I’m standing in a hallway at Johns Hopkins’ East Baltimore campus surrounded by a sea of suits—navy and black, male and female, frumpy and frumpier—when up walks the proverbial Lady in Red: a curly-topped 37-year-old wearing a ruby shift dress, Jimmy Choo pumps and a pearl bracelet paired with a silver-spiked bangle.
It’s no surprise to me this is Kelly Cavallio, a die-hard fashionista, whom I’m told has been known to shop a good Saks sale on her iPhone walking the distance of the JHU campus. This is clearly a woman who stands out in the workplace.
“Hopkins is a very conservative organization with lots of pictures of old white men on the wall, so I’ve always dressed professional with a little flair,” says Kelly, an ambulatory services administrator who has been with Hopkins since 1994. “But now that I’m a little more established in my career, I feel more confident playing. Nobody’s going to judge me on one crazy outfit on a Friday afternoon.”
Next Friday, however, she’s planning to call out sick for her fifth annual pilgrimage to the Lucky Magazine Shops, a Soho warehouse sale where all the designers du jour—from Joie to Milly to Rebecca Minkoff—sell their fashions at deep discounts.
“It’s amaaaazing,” says Kelly, who takes a gaggle of girlfriends to the event each year. “They have male models serving you drinks and hors d’oeuvres on silver trays. And there’s even a jeans bar, where a tiny little seamstress hems your jeans on the spot!”
By the end of the Lucky sale, Kelly will drop about $1,500 for four pairs of shoes, three or four purses and six dresses—all of which retail for at least twice that much. Even better? She gets to “double down” on the loot, thanks to her best gal pal—Baltimore stylist Stephanie Bradshaw—who also goes on the trip.
“Back home, Stephanie and I constantly text each other pictures from Loehmann’s saying, ‘Hey, I love this dress. Do you want to split it?’ Whoever finds the item gets it four days a week; the other gets it three. It’s like joint custody,” she says.
Usually, Kelly is delighted with her purchases. But being a fashion risk taker occasionally means making mistakes.
“Every once in a while I’ll get in something from a Gilt Groupe flash sale and have to ask, ‘What was I thinking buying some crazy jumper with polka dots? I look like an Esther Williams reject!’” she says, admitting the aforementioned garment is now shoved unceremoniously beneath her bathroom sink. But that’s about as far as the anxiety goes.
“Fashion is just an outlet for me, a hobby. Some people play tennis, some people go hiking. I go shopping,” she says. “Besides, I work hard for my money. As long as my other obligations are being met, I don’t believe in shopper shame.”
The next time I run into Kelly is at a fashion show downtown. We continue to bond over the indignity that is the cattle-call-style fitting room at Loehmann’s and her honeymoon to Istanbul, where she scored a ridiculously good knockoff Celine bag that I’ve since pet-named Sheline. What I love about this girl is it’s clear that shopping is pure joy for her.
I, on the other hand, hit the mall late the previous night—trudging through every dress department looking for something to wear to this fancy schmancy fashion event.
Unfortunately, I spent most of the fashion show comparing my frock to every other female’s. It wasn’t the worst (yes, mid-life lady in the yellow polyester uber-mini, I’m thinking of you), but it wasn’t my favorite. And that made me shopping sad.
The next morning, in lieu of calling a shrink, I interview one last expert—Cornell economist Robert H. Frank, who has written extensively about our consumerism and our winner-takes-all society. According to Dr. Frank, I’m just normal.
“What people consume defines the social norms where you live,” he says. “So it’s natural to ask: Is my house OK? Is my car OK? Are my clothes OK? You’re not an insecure person if you feel bad because your consumption level is jarringly below what’s normal for your area—or, if you just occasionally compare your dress to another woman’s dress in the ladies room mirror.”
How did he know?
“In the long run, we’re just creatures who like cool stuff—and there’s a lot of cool stuff out there,” he says.
Since I don’t routinely chat with economists, I thought I’d ask for one last piece of positive reinforcement.
“So, Dr. Frank, I’ve been eyeing this adorable Kate Spade coat that’s about $500 out of my price range. If I buy it, that’s totally going to help the economy, right?”
“No,” he says flatly. “That only works if everyone spends more money—and we have much more efficient ways of boosting the economy, like hiring people to rebuild the roads and bridges that are falling apart.”
And with that I’m off for another foot massage at Nordstrom. But I won’t be refilling my Ambien prescription any time soon.
According to Martha Stewart, “The cocktail party is probably America’s greatest contribution to the world of entertaining.” I couldn’t agree more. Hands down, cocktail parties are my favorite way to celebrate during the holidays. I don’t need a whole sit-down affair. I am perfectly content spending my evening nibbling on an array of bite-sized hors d’oeuvres while sipping on a refreshing cocktail (or two).
To create these party bites, I drew inspiration from some classic cocktail party dishes. The curly beet and carrot chips with chive yogurt dip are a play on chips and dip, with a healthy twist. They’re baked, not fried, which concentrates their inherent sweetness, while the dip is a nod to that iconic sour cream and onion dip.
Meatballs are a cocktail party must, and these blue cheese-stuffed bison meatballs are the perfect little bite—think of them as inside out miniature cheeseburgers. For the crab salad in phyllo cups, I was influenced by another party staple: crab dip and pita chips. The phyllo cups look impressive but are dead easy to make, and the crab salad gets a modern kick with the addition of spicy Sriracha sauce.
Finally, the cocktail is a play on the French 75. Named after a French field gun, the original cocktail contains champagne, cognac (or gin, depending upon whom you ask), lemon juice and sugar. For my Italian 75, I have substituted pink Prosecco, grappa, grapefruit bitters and rosemary simple syrup. This drink positively screams “holiday.”
I had barely recovered from the astonishing news that Forbes magazine had proclaimed dear little Hampden one of the hippest neighborhoods in the Republic when The New York Times proffered advice on what any hipster should do during a 36-hour sojourn in Charm City.
I remember Hampden before it was hip. And, truth be told, you do not need to stray too far off The Avenue to find plenty of ye olde Hampden. Look for a Confederate flag or a “We Don’t Call 911” bumper sticker. In the old days, the whole place felt like a slice of Appalachia that had been dropped by the Fallsway. The ever-sensitive H.L. Mencken called the citizens “lintheads.” Sections of the neighborhood looked like scenes from Walker Evans’ photographs.
Nowadays they make washboard tummies at Meadow Mill Athletic Club and the neighborhood is hopping with hipsters. But the hillbillies—or if you prefer, Appalachian-Americans—have not decamped. You will find them still at the Redman’s Hall, Zissimos or Dimitri’s. God bless them.
The first thing I noticed about the Times’ piece “36 Hours in Baltimore” is the writer spent not 36 hours among us but nearly 48. But it’s perfectly understandable that a visiting hipster would quickly realize there was lots more to do here than could be savored in a mere three-dozen hours.
I agreed with the recommendation to visit the American Visionary Art Museum and the Windup Space, though I thought the Times pushed the cliché-o-meter into the red zone by mentioning John Waters, “The Wire,” Edgar Allan Poe and Michael Phelps. One thing I did not agree with was the suggestion of Club Charles as a dive bar for the hip tourist. Club Charles is now almost a T.G.I. Fridays. May I suggest to any hipster in search of a real dive bar that any of the aforementioned watering holes in Hampden will do nicely.
Baltimore was only No. 15 on Forbes’ hip list, but there are a lot worse things that could have happened. We might not have made the list at all. And if hipsters want to come here and eat crabs or kangaroo and stay up late, well, I say a rising tide floats all boats.
Still, I must take issue with Forbes’ evidence of Hampden’s hipness, which reads thusly: “Home to the annual ‘Hon Fest,’ where women tease their hair in 1960s-style beehives, Hampden embodies retro cool. Bars, restaurants and independent coffee houses co-mingle with two-story rowhouses harking back to the neighborhood’s days of mills and factories. Every year the neighborhood celebrates Christmas with a ‘Miracle on 34th Street’ decoration spectacle in which residents adorn their abodes with thousands of lights.”
Face it, most Baltimorons avoid the Hon Fest. And, unless you have small children or drunken out-of-town relatives on your hands, you never go near the gridlock of “Miracle on 34th Street.”
The real Miracle on 34th Street is Falkenhan’s Hardware and I go there all the time, often in search of an actual miracle. I have an old house and I need things that would otherwise involve driving halfway to Bel Air to a Home Depot. Real live hipsters work at Falkenhan’s! The cat sleeps on the counter. A great cat, sprung live from a George Booth cartoon in The New Yorker.
I went in there one day to get a battery for my automatic car door opener having been told by three Radio Shacks that while they could sell me a battery they would not help me put it in the door opener. The kids at Falkenhan’s are all right. They fixed my door opener. And this was for a $5 transaction. So I think that might be a little about what Baltimore is. The hipsters are not too busy to be nice. That’s what makes Baltimore hip. I believe the sainted John Waters always understood that, too. He has never been anything but a good citizen of this city.
Like most of my fellow taxpayers, I’m willing to suck it up so people from York, Pa., or wherever they come from, can see beehive hairdos or take a photo of the giant pink flamingo on the front of Café Hon. What harm? I’m too old for skinny jeans. And I don’t look good in a pork pie hat.
But I like hipsters. I like them so much that I hope some of them will buy rowhouses and fix them up and pay taxes and have a litter of little hipsters and send those little hipsters to public school and raise the test scores and all will be well.
In the meantime, I have only one concern. If Hampden gets any hipper, and garners any more national media attention, the state of West Virginia is going to want it back. Then we’ll have a problem on our hands.
We admit to being a little bit jealous of Philadelphia’s Reading Terminal Market. Sure, we’ve got some great city markets in Baltimore, but none of them compare to that 120-year-old smorgasbord in Philly. We turned even a little greener with envy after visiting the market’s recent $3.4 million renovation/expansion, which added a gleaming demonstration kitchen; a gourmet olive oil/vinegar outpost called the Tubby Olive; a fantastic German sausage maker, Wursthaus Schmitz; a spice/nut company, The Head Nut; and Valley Shepherd Creamery, which trucks in 8,000 pounds of milk three days a week from its New Jersey dairy to storage tanks in the market’s basement in order to make its cheeses on-site. Cheesemaking on-site! Several other vendors have shifted spots in the market, including venerable DiNic’s whose lines have only gotten longer since Adam Richman of Travel Channel’s “Man v. Food,” crowned its roast pork sandwich the Best Sandwich in America. C’mon, Lexington Market, are you listening? http://www.readingterminalmarket.org —Joe Sugarman
Savvy’s feet are killing her. But that doesn’t mean she’s lost the desire to shoehorn her hooves into something beautiful and sophisticated. Of course, when that beauty and sophistication can be combined with comfort, so much the better. And when that comfort can be custom made to her pedi-specs, well, ding ding, we have a winner. Enter Jo’s Comfort Zone, which is worth the trip to Gaithersburg. When you enter, you’ll be greeted by glamour-loving owner and certified pedorthist Jo Ann Epps. She not only stocks all the best comfort brands, but she has an eye for fashion. She can wrangle those Ferragamos that pinch and those Jimmy Choos that have no forefoot padding and even those awful flip-flops that have no arch support and that will wreck your feet and shins over time whether you know it or not. In other words, bring her your tired, your weary shoes so that your feet are no longer yearning to be free. She’ll free them, with a custom fix. She also carries pretty vegan purses, decorative umbrellas and other girlie things. Savvy has her eye on the black leather knee-high boots with lacy laser cutouts by Naot. They’re called “Enjoy.” Boy, would she like to. 118 Market St., Gaithersburg, 301-330-2436
STYLE: OK. First things first: What size suit are you?
McKINNIE: Honestly, I don’t even know. All my suits are custom. And since the last time I was measured, I’ve lost weight, so I don’t even know.
> Where do you get your clothes?
From a place in L.A. called Alba. That’s where I get my suits. There’s also a stylist in L.A. named April Roomet where I get my, I guess you could call it, ‘urban wear.’
> All right. How about shoe size?
18. But I have to do some tricky stuff because I like nice shoes—Gucci. The biggest I can find is a 151⁄2 so I buy them and take the insoles out and I wear really thin church socks and that’s the only way I can fit them.
> Wow, isn’t that uncomfortable?
Nah, it works. And the width is OK, too.
> Where did you get your fashion sense?
My mom was into fashion. Back when I was young and didn’t care about clothes, my mom always made sure I was well-dressed. As you become older, it kind of grows on you.
> Most people don’t think of big men as good dressers, do they?
Big guys get a bad rap for not knowing how to dress. And that’s not me. I think if you’re big, you need to dress nice because everybody sees you first, you know what I’m saying? If you’re a well-dressed big guy, people will notice. I always hear a lot of people say, ‘Oh, you can pull that off for a big guy.’ Because I’ll wear stuff that little guys wear that you wouldn’t expect big guys to wear. You’ve got to have confidence, too. I’m like a big walking billboard, so you might as well dress nice.
> So are you the best-dressed player on the team?
I’m in the top five.
> Who else on the team dresses well?
Brendon Ayanbadejo. But he’s a label whore. I’m not into the labels. I think you can just put a few things together and they’ll look real nice—they don’t all have to be labels.
> Do you like any designers in particular?
Definitely Gucci, but all I can wear is the shoes. And I have a Gucci wallet. I like Louis Vuitton shades. And they make red bottom sneakers for guys. I like some of those.
> Who else on the team has good fashion sense?
Anquan Boldin dresses well. Ray Rice is putting himself in that category now, too. And Jimmy Smith.
> Who’s the worst?
Te Cody. He’s always wearing pajamas or something like that. It’s like pajamas and a T-shirt and book bag. He’s a big guy, so he should care a little more!
> Do you encourage other players to dress well?
A lot of them ask me now. That’s when I realized I should start taking it seriously. A lot of other big guys will ask me, ‘Where do you get your clothes from?’ Sometimes you probably have big guys who want to dress nice, but they don’t know where to get their clothes.
> Do you ever take them on shopping sprees?
We had a game in Philly and I took a bunch of the big guys to a [big and tall] shop in South Philly called Torre’s. Haloti [Ngata]. [Dannelle] Ellerbe was with us, too, though, he’s not a big, big guy. Michael Oher, Arthur Jones, Kemo [Ma’ake Kemoeatu]. Te Cody. See Cody bought his pajama pants that day, and I was like c’mon!
> I hear you also play tennis, which is another thing not many people associate with big guys.
I told Ray Lewis that I play and he was like, ‘Man, I would pay to see that. You’re too big to be playing tennis.’
> But you’ve had good teachers. How did you hook up with the Williams sisters?
I’ve been friends with [Venus and Serena Williams] since maybe ’05. I ran into them in L.A. when I was doing something for ESPN and I went out to dinner with the crew and they were at the table next to us. The lady from ESPN goes over there and tried to hook me up with Venus. And she was like, ‘Why can’t he come over here himself?’
> Did you get her number?
No, but I kept running into her in Miami and she was like, ‘All right, this must be meant to be. I’m going to give you my number. We’re going to hang out.’ So we started talking about football and tennis and I was telling her how long and hard football practice is and she said tennis practice was long and hard and I was like, ‘Not as hard as football!’ And it went back and forth and she was like, ‘Why don’t you try to play?’ And I went out there and I was like, ‘Wait, this is hard!’
> Is Venus a good teacher?
Yeah, she’s better than Serena. I’ve played against Serena, but she’s not a good teacher. She wants to play and beat you and that’s it.
> So do you see fashion playing a bigger role in your life after football?
Eventually, I want to create my own line. Start out with jackets. A lot of big guys like rapper Rick Ross. He wears Levis and T-shirts, but the main thing is that he wears a jacket that makes it all look nice. I want to start a line of real fly jackets for big guys. Then get your shoes to match the jacket and it brings it all together.
> Do you think the Ravens dress better as a team than your former team, the Minesota Vikings?
Yeah. It seems there are more people who care about that here. The Vikings were kind of country. I don’t wear blue gator shoes. That’s a bit much!
*At press time, we learned that Bryant McKinnie was allegedly being sued for owing money to several Miami strip clubs—a claim he denies. Luckily, we talked with him about putting clothes on, not taking them off.
Before you visit Ellicott City’s new outpost of BonChon Chicken, we should probably clarify the differences between American and Korean-style fried chicken. First off, Korean-fried chicken relies on an Asian frying technique to remove the fat from the skin, transforming it into a crackly and almost transparent crust instead of the well-seasoned nubby crust a la KFC or Popeye’s. Secondly, at BonChon, you can choose among wings, drumsticks or dark meat strips, topped with either a sweetish garlic-soy glaze or a hotter red-pepper sauce. Finally, don’t expect any blue cheese or celery sticks with these wings; at Bon- Chon, you get fries, cubes of pickled radish or kimchi slaw. There are other Korean specialties on the menu, too, including bibimbap and bulgogi, but we’re stickin’ with the wings. Col. Sanders, who? 3419 Plum Tree Drive, Ellicott City, 410-465-0515, http://www.bonchon.com
Have you noticed the recent changes at Belvedere Square? Atwater’s has moved and expanded its coffee bar operations to the section where fresh bread had previously been sold. A beautiful countertop, made with repurposed wood from a former Fells Point warehouse, accommodates seating for 16 and baristas now offer pour-over brews. There’s also a new dairy bar, featuring different kinds of yogurts and toppings (olive oil, toasted sesame seeds, grilled fruits), cheese plates as well as malted milkshakes and locally made ice creams. And keep on the lookout for a new venture from Woodberry Kitchen’s Spike Gjerde: rumor has it he’s opening an oyster bar where Atwater’s bakery used to be. Look for additional changes—including expansions of Neopol smokery and Ikan Seafood & Sushi, as well as a new gourmet hot dog stand from the folks at Grand Cru—in early 2013. 410-323-2396, http://www.atwaters.biz
>On a recent Sunday afternoon, I found myself in a predicament familiar to any suburban parent: I needed to be in two places at the same time. My 16-year-old daughter had SAT tutoring in Mount Washington and my 13-year-old son had math tutoring in Towson. She needed to be dropped off at the same time that he needed to be picked up.
I spent the entire afternoon driving between the two locations at top speed, praying I wouldn’t run out of gas and cursing under my breath because I was late to pick up my son, but couldn’t warn him since once again, he’d left his beloved cellphone in my car. When we finally pulled into my driveway in Pikesville at around 5 p.m. (just in time to do the grocery shopping), my daughter, sensing my exhaustion, said, “Teach me to drive.”
“Get your permit and I’ll teach you,” I told her.
“But I don’t have time,” she said.
Now this might sound funny to you—no time to learn to drive?—if you remember getting your drivers license as a simple ritual that involved going for a few spins around the parking lot with Mom or Dad before taking the test. Then, watch out folks, you’re hitting the open road.
It’s not so quick and easy for wannabe drivers today. All 50 states have a graduated licensing system (GLS) requiring new drivers to complete a three-part process involving about a 100-hour time commitment before they’re handed the proverbial keys to the car. The first step is getting a learner’s permit, which requires passing a written test with 20 questions. Then it’s on to 30 hours worth of driver’s education classes and six hours of supervised driving time—plus 60 hours of practice driving with a driver older than 21 who has held a license for three years or more. Only when all these requirements are met, there’s the road test. If you pass, you get a provisional license.
Teens can drive with the provisional license, but they can’t legally transport another person under 18, with the exception of immediate family members—in other words, they can’t drive their friends. And they can’t stay out late since they’re only permitted to drive unsupervised between 5 a.m. and midnight.
The stringent requirements were enacted in the interest of safety, and according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, they work. On average, teen crashes have been reduced between 10 and 30 percent since graduated licensing laws went into effect. And states with the strictest laws see the best outcomes.
But a side effect is that many kids just don’t have the time or the will to complete the requirements. Which means parents play chauffeur for a few more months (or years). As one mother put it, “All of us ran out to get our licenses right away. That was just what we did. But nowadays, it seems like kids are in no big rush.”
Harrison Linker of Lutherville obtained his learner’s permit as soon as he reached the required age—15 years and 9 months—but waited an entire year to take driver’s ed. “I have a lot of homework so I didn’t want to have [driver’s ed] classes after school and on weekends,” says the Towson High School senior. Harrison completed driver’s ed and the required practice hours during the summer before his senior year, turned 17 in October and took his road test in November. According to his mother, Amy Linker, for the most part, the yearlong wait to get his license was not a hardship.
Jared Won, 16, of Phoenix also is in no hurry to learn to drive. “I kind of enjoy being in the car when Mom drives,” says the Loyola High School sophomore. “It’s relaxing, and I’m not in the mood to go to MVA, and take the test.”
Jared’s mother, Darlene Won, says it’s not always convenient to drive him everywhere, but she’s perfectly happy about Jared’s lack of interest. “He can wait as long as he wants. I have to say, I’m nervous about Jared driving on dark country roads when I know that others are driving 60 miles an hour in a 40-mile zone,” she says. “It’s scary.”
Justin Allison, a junior at Carver Center, also is putting off getting his license. He got his permit last July and took one of the three driving lessons for which he registered in mid-August. He also drove with his father on several occasions. “The first time I drove with my father was one of the most terrifying experiences of my life. I was shaking when I got out of the car,” says Justin. “I would like to drive to be able to get from one point to another, because I don’t like to rely on my parents, but I just wish I could teleport there.” Since that’s not an option, he’ll probably get his license in May.
At Elite Driving School, a Maryland-based business with 15 locations throughout the state, owner David Resnick has noticed that teens are waiting longer to get their driver’s licenses. He cites a 2011 study, published in the journal Traffic Injury Prevention, that reported that the percentages of teenagers with licenses declined by as much as 20 percent in the 25 years between 1983 and 2008.
“There isn’t the same urgency about driving that there used to be,” says Resnick. Social activity, he explained once revolved around driving with friends. “With social media, they can have conversations on Facebook, through Skype or instant messaging without having to be together.” Others who have theorized about why teens are waiting longer to drive also maintain that social media has changed the way teens socialize, making driving less imperative.
The economic downturn also may have played a part in teens waiting longer to get their drivers’ licenses, says Resnick. On average, he says, a driver’s education course in Maryland costs around $350. “Parents might not have wanted to incur that type of expense for something that isn’t necessary,” he says, “At 16, kids can still ride a school bus.”
Patrick Francis, founder of Roland Park Driving School, says he’s “100 percent in favor” of kids getting their licenses when they’re older. “I wish they’d make the driving age 18. There’s such a big difference between a 16-year-old and an 18-year-old,” says Francis, 64, who has been teaching new drivers for 18 years. “The part of the brain you need to drive isn’t fully developed when you’re 16. Sixteen-year-olds think they’re invincible, but the No. 1 killer of teenagers is car accidents.”
Studies show that when driving the same distances, the fatal crash rate for drivers ages 16 to 19 is four times higher than for drivers ages 25 to 69. The number of deaths caused by teen drivers is greater than deaths of teens by cancer, suicide and homicide combined.
At Maryland AAA, spokeswoman Ragina Averella says, “While it’s unclear what are the precise reasons for the delay, teens deciding to wait a little longer to obtain their licenses is good news.”
As for me, I guess I should take comfort, as I spend my Saturdays shuttling my kids from one activity to another. Sure, I’m shaving years off my life with the rushing and the stress, but at least I don’t have to worry about my daughter driving the roads alone.
My first visit to New York City was not an auspicious one. I was 18, and on an overnight college bus trip. It snowed ferociously but not enough to clean up mucky Times Square, which had not yet been Disney-fied. And my sister spent all of Act I of “Big River” getting sick in the ladies room after a questionable dinner in Chinatown.
I had to be persuaded to return to New York City a year later, when my entire family signed up for a Christmastime bus trip sponsored by the staff association of my part-time employer, the Baltimore County Public Library. Fortunately, this trip made me fall in love with the city. We arrived in Manhattan on a brilliantly clear, cold morning and packed in a day of sightseeing, taking in the skaters at Rockefeller Center and the decorated windows of Saks and Bergdorf Goodman. We pushed through revolving doors to gape at the gilt overload of the Plaza, nodded to the giant bears in FAO Schwarz, found Strawberry Fields in the sprawl of Central Park, counted angels on the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s grand Christmas tree.
By the end of the day, as we turned down 57th Street to see Carnegie Hall, we were exhausted and hungry. My resourceful mother asked someone in front of the concert venue for a recommendation on where to eat. He pointed us to an Italian restaurant across the street.
We didn’t know at the time that La Fontana di Trevi was a favorite among the Carnegie Hall crowd, or that it had been immortalized by Billy Joel in his song “Scenes from an Italian Restaurant” (“A bottle of red/A bottle of white”). Instead, we melted into the warmth of stucco walls, white linen tablecloths and red-coated waiters who coddled us, brought us drinks and made us feel like treasured guests. My father remembers ordering gnocchi. I, too remember what I ate: a heart-stopping velvety dish of veal cannelloni with white sauce.
The cannelloni was gorgeous, subtle and rich with a faint, warm undertone of nutmeg, a mix of flavors that, from that moment on, I associated with New York more than roasting chestnuts or exhaust fumes.
The only pasta we ever ate at home was spaghetti and meatballs and the occasional lasagna. And while I had probably tried the similarly shaped manicotti (a dried pasta) in a restaurant, I had never had cannelloni (a fresh pasta), much less stuffed with veal and sauced in bechamel laced with cheese. I was smitten.
All of my family’s subsequent trips to New York included a trip to La Fontana di Trevi, and although little things distinguished different visits—the year it was balmy in December, the year we waited in the bar for our table and a female patron flirted outrageously with my dad, much to his pleasure and our amusement—I always ordered the cannelloni.
Little did I know that years later I would marry someone who had his own cannelloni memories. While Kevin was in college in Minnesota, a friend took him to a mom-and-pop Italian restaurant whose name he no longer remembers in the suburbs of the Twin Cities. There he ordered veal cannelloni in white sauce—exotic for a small- town Iowa boy whose only experience with noodles was macaroni and cheese or Hamburger Helper—and returned to order it again and again.
La Fontana di Trevi has closed, but the memory of its cannelloni lingers. I’ve never found one to match it. And every so often—when we visit New York, when we go to an Italian restaurant—Kevin mentions that we should just make our own cannelloni. So earlier in the fall, when he was carbo-loading in preparation for the Baltimore marathon, I decided the time was right. I cobbled together a plan from several cookbook recipes and my own memory and jumped in, melting butter in a skillet and lightly browning diced onion, garlic, carrot and celery before adding ground veal. When the mixture had cooked, I let it cool slightly, and following Marcella Hazan’s instructions, I added to it an egg yolk, a handful of Parmesan and a couple scoops of ricotta. That was the filling.
Next I made a basic béchamel to which I added still more Parmesan. I used a current magazine recipe as a guide for the noodles, blitzing flour and salt and eggs in the food processor and kneading the dough together before letting it rest for a few minutes. Then I rolled it out on my metal top table and fed it through the pasta machine given to me by my former (Italian) pastor. It had been his mother’s, and I channeled Mama Casciotti as I turned the crank. The pasta sheet rolled through, egg-yellow, pliable and thin as a membrane. After the pasta was cut, boiled and drained, I rolled each rectangle around a spoonful of the veal mixture, put it in a baking dish and topped the loose rolls with sauce.
We poured wine, toasted the cannellonis of our past and bit into my creation, hoping to taste the dish of our memories. But, in truth, my cannelloni was just OK. The sauce could have been thinner; the pasta, lighter.
Will it be better next time? As they say in Minnesota, “You betcha.”
Veal Cannelloni with White Sauce
It would be no less time-consuming, but instead of making your own pasta, you could instead make crepes or crespelle for your cannelloni. Or you could save heaps of time and use dried manicotti. You won’t get the same gentle pliancy in the pasta, however.
2 tablespoons butter
1 small carrot, peeled and diced
1 small rib of celery, peeled and diced
¼ cup onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 pound ground veal
1 egg yolk
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ to 1 cup ricotta, to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
Melt butter in a large skillet. Add carrot, celery, onion and garlic and cook slowly over medium heat until softened, but not browned, around 10 minutes. Add veal and cook until no remnants of pink remain. Remove from heat and cool slightly.
Lightly beat egg yolk and add to meat mixture along with both cheeses. Season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
2 cups milk
4 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ cup grated Parmesan
Heat milk in saucepan until bubbles form around edge of pan. Do not boil.
In another saucepan, melt butter. Add flour all at once, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Do not allow flour to brown. Remove from heat.
Add hot milk to butter-flour mixture several tablespoons at a time, stirring until milk is incorporated before adding more milk. Once all milk has been added, return pot to stove, add salt, and cook over low heat until sauce has thickened. Remove from heat and stir in Parmesan.
2 cups flour
¼ teaspoon salt
3 eggs, lightly beaten
In a food processor, mix together flour and salt. Add eggs, and process until dough is pebbly looking and just begins to hold together. Remove dough from processor and knead by hand until smooth. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let sit for 15 minutes.
Divide dough into 2 pieces. Roll 1 piece of dough into long ¼-inch-thick rectangle and pass through pasta machine several times, each pass on a narrower setting. Cut the pasta into roughly 6-by- 5-inch rectangles. Do the same with the remaining piece of dough.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Cook pasta rectangles, a few at a time, in boiling water, around 1 minute. Remove each rectangle from pot and cool briefly in a bowl of cold water. Drain pasta and dry on paper towels. Lightly brush each rectangle with olive oil.
Putting it together:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking pan. Spread ¼ cup béchamel on bottom of pan. Starting with short end of pasta sheets, place a generous tablespoon on the short end of each pasta sheet and roll into a loose roll. Place rolls together snugly in pan. Pour remaining béchamel over pasta. Bake for 40 minutes.
Yield: 6 servings.
Really, who wants to schlep their laptops when they travel? For those of us fed up with hauling our computers on planes, there’s now the Cube Laser Virtual Keyboard, a matchbox-sized device that projects a laser QWERTY keyboard on any flat surface and connects wirelessly via Bluetooth to iPhone, iPad and most smartphones. It charges via USB and its battery lasts for 150 minutes. Best of all, it’ll fit in your jacket pocket; no extra computer bag required. $179 from http://www.thinkgeek.com —J.S.
When my third child was a few months old, I started having fantasies about the Exersaucer, and that’s how I knew. My fantasy went like this: instead of stashing the Exersaucer in the cellar for the next baby that might issue forth from my body, I would give it away, to be well used by some other baby that issued forth from some other woman’s body, while my womb stayed as empty as the day is long.
Like me, my husband was ready to put the brakes on baby-making for good. He was also ready to ditch the clunky birth control and figured he was on the hook for the next move—I had given birth to three children within five years, after all. Off to the urologist he went.
For couples like us (fertile, heterosexual and ready to stop having children), two sterilization options stand out as being low risk, with high rates of success: vasectomy for the man and tubal ligation for the woman.
For many couples I talked with, vasectomy seemed like the only fair way to go. Patty, a mother of two who lives in Arcadia, said, “I paid my reproductive dues, twice.” Erin, from Hampden, said, “I’d been messed with enough—it was his turn.”
Urologists are quick to say that of the two sterilization options, vasectomy is the lowest-risk with the lowest rate of failure. “A vasectomy is done under local anesthetic, it’s less than 30 minutes, you walk in and walk out,” says Dr. Brad Lerner, chief of urology at Union Memorial and the urology consultant for the Baltimore Ravens. “You take Friday off from work, and you’re back to work on Monday.”
Urologists have slightly different methods, but in all versions of the procedure the surgeon removes a segment of the vas deferens, which is the tube through which sperm travels during ejaculation, and seals off the ends so that they never re-connect. Many urologists, including Lerner, use a no-scalpel method in which a small puncture is made outside the scrotum and the vas deferens is pulled to the surface, cut and sealed off with a combination of electrocautery and sutures.
It may sound a little gruesome, but Lerner is quick to point out that a vasectomy doesn’t affect erection, pleasure or ejaculation. “Some people ask, ‘Can I still produce semen?’” he says. “Of course you can, because sperm is only 10 to 15 percent of ejaculate fluid and a vasectomy only stops the flow of sperm.” And it works nearly all the time—the statistical failure rate of a vasectomy is only one in 2,000.
Lerner performs about 180 vasectomies a year and says that most men who come for the consultation end up going through with the procedure.“In my parents’ generation, women got tubals,” says Lerner. “Now men step up to the plate more.”
But make no mistake. A vasectomy is not an easy thing, and it’s important to follow the doctor’s instructions. Paula, who lives in Lauraville, confesses that neither she nor her husband read the doctor’s handouts, one of which offered the important tip, “Wear close-fitting underwear the day of your procedure.” Her husband wore boxers, as usual, so on the three-block walk from the doctor’s office to the car, “he staggered along Fayette Street, gently supporting his poor testicles in his cupped hand.”
Mark, who lives in Charles Village, had a more harrowing case of what doctors call “noncompliance.” After his vasectomy, he sat in front of the television with a pack of frozen peas and a Percocet, happy to have the day off. “I drank a couple beers, went to bed, no pain,” he says. The next morning, still feeling good, he picked up his 32-pound child and threw him in the air.
“I heard and felt a loud pop in my groin. I thought, ‘Wow, that was probably a mistake.’ I felt funny immediately and went back to the couch with more frozen peas.” By the next day he had a fever and his urologist confirmed that he’d torn a suture, which had become infected. Antibiotics did the trick, but he had a huge hematoma on his testicle, which swelled to the size of a mango. He had to miss an extra three days of work and walked gingerly for about two weeks.
Operator error aside, the whole thing usually comes off smoothly. Emma, who lives in Towson, says, “Any man who makes a big fuss about it should rest assured that it is pretty painless and only requires walking like John Wayne for a few days. It is a huge relief and the best decision we ever made.”
While urologists like Lerner report that vasectomies are gaining in popularity in their practices, tubal ligations are still more common in the United States. A recent national survey conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that tubals outnumber vasectomies about 3-to-1 in this country. Other studies show significant disparities along race, class and ethnic lines: white, educated, high-earning men are more likely to get vasectomies than minority, less-educated, low-income men. In the Western world, tubals are only twice as common as vasectomies; they’re eight times more common in Asia; and they’re 15 times more common in Latin America and the Caribbean.
When Amy, from Towson, was ready to stop making babies, she discovered that her husband was not comfortable with a vasectomy. “A procedure of any sort made him anxious,” she says. “But after having three kids, you get used to being poked and prodded.” In a laparoscopic tubal ligation, which involves general anesthesia, a small incision is made near the navel, and the surgeon blocks, ties or cuts the fallopian tubes. The procedure does not affect hormones or menstruation.
After her tubal, Amy found that she was “tender, but not incapacitated.” As for the decision, she says, “It’s simpler for a man to get a vasectomy, but you have to take everything into consideration, and a man and woman have to do it together. Everybody has their own feelings about medical procedures.”
When Tracy, who lives in Hampden, knew she was ready, she asked her husband at the time (they’re divorced now) to get a vasectomy, but that didn’t happen. So she went under the knife. “I was put under general anesthesia and had the whole thing: hospital robe, wheelchair, everything,” says Tracy.
As she was being wheeled into surgery, an older nurse scolded her. “Why didn’t you get your husband to get a vasectomy?” asked the nurse. “This is major surgery.”
It took Tracy a full week before she could really move around and she was surprised by the amount of pain. “It was more intense than I thought it would be,” she says. “You have to do a lot of healing.”
Of course, if you’re having a C-section anyway, maybe a tubal ligation is the way to go. But think ahead, especially if you’re delivering at a Catholic hospital. When Joyce, who lives in Woodberry, found herself having an emergency C-section at St. Joseph Medical Center, she and her husband decided that since she was already in surgery, she might as well get the tubal. No dice; neither St. Joseph nor Mercy will perform that procedure, which violates Catholic moral teaching against sterilization.
Dr. Endrika Hinton, a gynecologist and reproductive endocrinologist at Greater Baltimore Medical Center and Johns Hopkins Hospital, says she spends a lot of time convincing patients not to have tubals. “It’s almost a rare surgical procedure for me right now,” she says. She points out that although it’s a laparoscopic procedure, it’s intense. Her patients take off four days from work and there’s no lifting or vigorous exercise for two weeks.
Instead, Hinton recommends an IUD for most of her patients. “With an IUD, you come into the office, I pop it in and you have five to 10 years of birth control.” In addition to providing long-term contraception, IUDs can provide some protection against uterine and ovarian cancers. And, depending on the IUD, “you can have magnificent periods,” says Hinton.
How do tubal ligations stack up when it comes to fail rate? “When I was doing my training in 1989, we were doing tubals left and right, but honestly, now there’s more failure from tubals than from the IUD,” says Hinton.
Hinton steers many of her patients “of a certain age” toward IUDs, which help with perimenopause. In fact, some women whose husbands got vasectomies find themselves back on birth control—the pill or IUD—in their 40s to regulate their periods. As Patty from Arcadia mentioned, it seemed only fair for her husband to get a vasectomy. But several years later, when she became “a woman of a certain age,” she started taking birth control pills to regulate her periods. “So maybe it was money ill spent,” she says of the vasectomy. “I suppose we’re double covered now.”
Just as humans have invented a bunch of ways to make a baby, there are a bunch of ways to not make a baby. I can’t remember who ended up with my dear, old Exersaucer, but I’d be willing to bet that wherever it is, someone in that house is reviewing the options.
Dante had to go through nine circles of Hell and seven of Purgatory before he reached Paradise. Luckily, the journey for Savvy isn’t so arduous: it’s right on The Avenue. Paradiso is like a gentlemen’s curio cabinet come to life. Or a miniature version of the American Craft Council Show. Curated by husband-and-wife owners Ric Martinkus and Sharona Gamliel, this singular store stocks everything from Art Deco antiques to mid-century modern classics to handcrafted jewelry to raku pottery to the whimsical, otherworldly textile “paintings” of Chris Roberts-Antieau. Every time she walks in here, Savvy wants to throw out everything in her house and redecorate à la Paradiso. It broke her heart recently to forgo a leopard-print chaise lounge worthy of Mata Hari because there was just no room for it. Two new lines, however, caught her eye: architectural handbags by Wendy Stevens and Metalace bowls by Talila Abraham. Who knew stainless steel could be so sensuous? The handbags fly out the door, so if you want that red billfold Savvy has her eye on, better hurry. She’ll leave the gray “La Sera” evening purse and black iPhone carrier to you (Savvy is lucky she knows how to text; an iPhone is too advanced for her). But no technical expertise is required to appreciate the delicate décor based on antique lace patterns: Savvy will take the Sultana candlesticks and 19th-century Romanian bobbin lace pattern bowl. Oh, and don’t forget to go up to the second floor! 1015 W. 36th St., 410-243-1317, http://www.paradisohampden.com
Could the names be any more Baltimore? Duckpin Pale Ale. Balt Altbier. Black Wing Black Lager. And, why not? Union Craft Brewing is all about showing pride in Baltimore, says Kevin Blodger, brewer and co-founder of the brewery with another Baltimore native, Jon Zerivitz. Blodger, who formerly brewed for Frederick Brewing, Cap City and Gordon Biersch, brewed his first Union beers in June. The tasting room, which offers free samples and a short tour, opened in July. Union hopes to begin canning its brews next year, but for now the beers can be found on tap around town and for sale as beer to go at the tasting room. Open Saturdays, 1 p.m. to 4 p.m., 1700 Union Ave., Suite D, 410-467-0290, http://www.unioncraftbrewing.com
American Spirits: The Rise and Fall of Prohibition at Philadelphia’s Constitution Center is the first comprehensive exhibition about America’s most colorful and complex constitutional, ahem, hiccup.
Spanning the temperance movement through the Roaring ’20s to the repeal of the 18th Amendment, the exhibition features more than 100 artifacts, including flapper dresses, authentic barware, temperance propaganda and a re-created speak-easy where you can learn to Charleston and explore the culture of the Roaring ’20s. On display through April 28, 2013. http://www.constitutioncenter.org
While in town, you’ll want to stay at Philly’s newest hotel: Kimpton’s 268-room Hotel Monaco, set in the circa-1907 Lafayette Building at 5th and Chestnut streets— about as close to the historic attractions around Independence Park as you can get. Plus, its rooftop bar, Stratus, has been hotter than a Franklin stove since it opened, and provides a bird’s-eye view of ndependence Hall and the skyline beyond. 437 Chestnut St., 855-295-BELL,www. monaco-philadelphia.com —Joe Sugarman
At Zion Lutheran Church in downtown Baltimore, just across from City Hall, a quiet courtyard of boxwood, magnolia, crape myrtle and fig beckons office workers to stop in and take a break. It’s an enclosed green space, free to anyone who wanders by. But at the back wall, under a brick archway, is the real treasure: a fan-shaped biblical tableau, 12-feet-by-12 feet, made up of hundreds of brilliantly colored handcrafted tiles by Henry Chapman Mercer, a visionary of the American Arts and Crafts movement.
The Arts and Crafts movement, with its rejection of the mass production of the Industrial Revolution and the fussiness of Victorian decoration, appealed to Mercer, who was born in Doylestown, Pa., just outside Philadelphia, in 1856. He graduated from Harvard in 1879 and trained as a lawyer at the University of Pennsylvania. But he never practiced law; his heart belonged elsewhere. Following the Arts and Crafts precepts of the day, Mercer simply taught himself to do everything he wanted to do, pursuits that included archaeology, architecture and tile making.
After traveling through Europe, the Middle East and Latin America, collecting clay tiles and other handmade objects along the way, Mercer returned to Doylestown and set about building three structures: Fonthill, the Mercer Museum and the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works. All three exhibit Mercer’s skill with molded concrete and his love of, if not obsession with, tiles. This year marks the 100th anniversary of the completion of Fonthill, a fairy tale castle if ever there were one.
I’ve seen French castles and Bavarian castles— I’ve even seen American castles— but I’ve never seen anything quite like Fonthill. Driving through the charming little city of Doylestown doesn’t prepare one for the sudden appearance of a monumental edifice, set on 60 acres of grass and trees, that looks like an estate out of “Masterpiece Theatre,” albeit a wacky one.
Mercer built Fonthill bit by bit, as he went along, with no defined plan other than the fantasies of his imagination. He had been impressed by Versailles, Herrenchiemsee and Neuschwanstein, and he wanted a castle of his own. He also wanted it to be fireproof. So he built Fonthill entirely of reinforced concrete. He even held bonfires on the top story when it was completed, to prove its mettle.
But if the outside of Fonthill is impressive, the inside is breathtaking. I hang out in the conservatory, where I get just a taste of what awaits in the rest of the house. Tiles. Tiles everywhere. Pressed tiles, mosaic tiles, brocade tiles, tiles that tell tales from the Bible and folklore, tiles of Mayan faces and Viking ships, tiles of the sun and moon and constellations, tiles that depict workshops and wars and weddings, tiles that look like bunches of grapes you could pluck from the ceiling and eat.
And there are still 43 rooms to go! Along with 18 fireplaces, 32 stairwells, 200 windows, and nooks, alcoves, balconies and vaulted ceilings worthy of a Gothic cathedral. You need a guide to get through this place, or they might find your desiccated body in a few months. Luckily, I’ve got Bucks County Historical Society Site Administrator Edward Reidell, who seems to know every one of Mercer’s tiles, along with the 1,500 foreign ones as well— Persian, Chinese, Babylonian, Italian, Dutch, Spanish.
“Mercer was decades ahead of his time,” says Reidell. “His interest was in the common man and his handiwork.” That’s why he collected as many plain, pressed tiles as highly polished, ornate ones. That’s also why he collected books and artifacts that predated the Industrial Revolution. So many, that he needed yet another place to house them.
I walk a few blocks to the Mercer Museum, a seven-story wonderland of Old World tools and implements stacked everywhere— and I do mean everywhere— with little winding stone staircases that take you from one room full of surprises to another. Kids will love it, though you might lose them along the way! There’s so much stuff here, I think I must be in a hoarder’s paradise (or hell). Sleds, saws, looms, rakes, boats, bicycles, wooden cigar store statues, even a vampire-killing kit— it’s all too weird and wonderful to believe. I’d like to look at everything, but it’s overwhelming. Besides, I want to leave time to see Mercer’s third testament to the Arts and Crafts movement: the Moravian Pottery and Tile Works.
This National Historic Landmark, a castle-like companion to Fonthill, is a functioning factory where you can see ceramists in action, still molding, glazing and firing tiles from Mercer’s original designs. (The name “Moravian” was Mercer’s tribute to the German heritage of tile craftsmanship in Pennsylvania.) Tours are offered every half-hour, and the ceramists are happy to explain what they’re doing and answer questions. The gift shop contains hundreds of decorative tiles, mosaics, pavers and borders. I can’t resist the noble “Rampant Lion” and a couple of Fleur-de-Lis. And then I see a little crab, blue on a terra cotta background, and have to have it. At 15 bucks each, they’re a bargain as well as a small contribution to keeping this glorious place alive. (A catalog is also offered online.)
Mercer never married— “he was too eccentric,” Reidell had told me. He lived at Fonthill until his death in 1930, at the age of 73. But his tiles can be found all over the world, from the Pennsylvania State Capitol Building in Harrisburg to the Isabella Steward Gardner Museum in Boston to Grauman’s Chinese Theatre in Hollywood— even the casino at Monte Carlo. And, of course, at Zion Lutheran Church in Baltimore.
Fonthill Castle and Mercer Museum / 215-345-0210, http://www.mercermuseum.org
Moravian Pottery and Tile Works / 215-348-6098, http://www.buckscounty.org/departments/tileworks
Doylestown Tourism / www.visitbuckscounty.com
My grandmother was the queen of dinner parties. Actually, there was no entertainment or sort of hospitality she didn’t love. In the 1950s and ’60s, she gave formal late suppers after the opera— I’ve seen all the photos. I myself was witness to all of her constant seasonal and themed entertainments thereafter. She was always organizing something to honor the visiting maestro, or just to cheer up her confirmed bachelor neighbor.
She required that gentlemen guests wore a jacket at the very least, and at times, she would require pretty extravagant costuming up to and including white tie or “Chinese” themed garb. She was happy to put herself out for her guests and she had an expectation that they’d do the same in return by dressing appropriately.
She was an abysmal cook, though she tried earnestly, at times with terrifying results: meatballs with peanuts inside or pork chops cooked beyond dead with a Pepsi- Cola-and-ketchup sauce. For an event, she would usually hire a professional to man the kitchen and I would hide out there watching, helping, tasting. Periodically I would be sent out with trays of hors d’oeuvres and such. I got to be the invisible kid observer of so many behaviors, clothing choices, eating and drinking habits. There was no end of characters with strong personalities. It was a fascinating education.
At some point it struck me that the guests were all not just themselves, but were really wearing their personas. My grandmother’s cousin Charles may have been wearing his dinner jacket at a black-tie event, but really he was wearing his Cousin Charles Persona that superseded that little bow-tie. His huge signet ring, plaid cummerbund, thick horn rimmed glasses, pomaded hair and long-neck posture made him uniquely himself.
Another of my favorite characters who often inhabited these events was a particular lady from North Carolina whose persona required a great deal of male attention. Her signature look was the balancing of a massive hairdo with dramatically engineered cleavage that was partially encased in an overly well-fitted animal print cocktail dress. At 9, I wasn’t entirely in touch with why she was such the show-stopper, but she got my attention, too.
There are moments now when I miss Cousin Charles and his sort of gentlemen. I’ll be at a black-tie wedding and see so many men having a hard time being themselves in their tuxedos, and so many women struggling to move smoothly in the shoes they have chosen and yet are ill fitting. As a society, we are out of practice dressing well.
I think part of our fascination with the retro style demonstrated in “Mad Men” is actually a romantic attraction to the consistency of the style of that era. Maybe we don’t really want as much choice as we have these days. Maybe, though we defend our right to express our individuality through our clothing, our right to wear a tracksuit to a nice cafe— maybe what we really want deep down is to be told exactly what to wear. And to feel fancy and good and fine in it.
Not many hosts demand formal attire these days. I certainly don’t, though lately I’ve been thinking that my grandmother had the right idea. If she were in my shoes, she’d be enforcing dress codes, removing caps from gentlemen and requiring a jacket, or at least a cardigan, to come watch football at the house, much less to sit down at a beautiful table for dinner.
Tony Foreman is a restaurateur and co-owner of the Foreman-Wolf group.
Before Monkton resident Heather Crowe even had kids, she told her husband, “If we have sons, they are not playing football.” Today, she has two boys, ages 6 and 8, and she hasn’t budged.
Crowe, a clinical assistant professor at Towson University with a doctorate in physical education, is resistant to football largely because of the potential for injuries, particularly head trauma. In the past few years, an increasing number of studies have reported a connection between concussions sustained by professional football players and the onset of depression, Alzheimer’s and other neurological problems. Indeed, the accumulated effects of head trauma over time represents one of the most pressing— and tragic— issues today in the National Football League, where thousands of former players are suing the league for long-term damage sustained while playing.
Fewer large-scale studies have been conducted on younger players, but one released last February, in which researchers placed sensors in the helmets of second-grade football players, found an average player sustained 100 head impacts during a season.
“Kids as young as ages 5, 6, 7 are very vulnerable to trauma,” says Mark Hyman, a Baltimore-based sports journalist and co-author of the new book, “Concussions and Our Kids: America’s Leading Expert on How to Protect Young Athletes and Keep Sports Safe.” “Their heads are disproportionately large for their bodies, as compared to adults; their necks are weaker; and they have more difficulty than adults keeping their heads steady when hit.”
Hyman’s co-author is Dr. Robert Cantu, a leading expert on athletic brain trauma and the link between concussions and progressive brain disease in athletes. He has a simple mandate: “No tackle football until the age of 14.” He and Hyman would like to see flag football (no contact) make a comeback for young children.
But, at least for the time being, flag football is apparently not what people want. Pop Warner, the nation’s largest youth football organization, with nearly 300,000 players ages 5 to 15, offered flag football for years, but in 2005, after dwindling interest, dropped it and added tackle for the 5- to 6-year-old division. “Parents were asking for tackle. This was a market-driven decision based on demand,” says Hyman. Today, there are more than 16,000 5- and 6-year-olds playing tackle.
Jack Franks, president of the Reisters- town Mustangs, an independent youth tackle league with players as young as 5, says he’s very aware of the dangers and damage that can come from concussions. The Mustangs are governed under the policy of the Mid-Maryland Youth Football and Cheer League and the USA Football League, the national governing body at the youth and amateur level that offers standardized training, education and certification of youth league coaches. “We take concussion education very seriously,” says Franks. “All of our coaches take concussion training and get certified as a condition of being a coach.”
As a result of the training, coaches know better how to observe a player who has taken a hit, says Jerry Hudson, head coach for the 9- to 11-year-old Mustangs. “We watch how they get up,” he says. “Are they rocky, slow? We look at their eyes.” There are five assistant coaches at each game for this age group, and Hudson says if he misses an impact, one of the other coaches sees it. “We are watching the players as much as we are watching the play,” he says.
Cantu encourages parents to become educated on concussion symptoms, and reminds them that they are in the best position to spot changes in behavior or demeanor or appearance— all signs of injury. But preventing injury is as important as care after a hit. Twelve-year-old Joshua Kreshtool, who plays defensive tackle in the league, says his coach’s mantra is, “Keep your head up. Keep your head up.” USA Football has a new program called Heads Up Football that instills the message that tackling with the head down is dangerous. Still, injuries happen regularly. “Out of two teams playing a game, there’s one kid who gets their bell rung, sometimes minor, sometimes severe,” says Nate Bickerstaff, defensive coordinator for Perry Hall High School’s football program.
Bickerstaff began playing football in the first grade and played through college before back injuries ended his career. He can’t count the number of concussions he’s suffered. “I had my first concussion in the fourth grade when I took a knee to the head during a Saturday afternoon game. I was rocked, dizzy, nauseous and out-of-it, but after a few plays off, I was back in the game,” he says. If that happened today, he says, a trainer would evaluate a player before he could return to the field.
Bickerstaff makes his players read the warning labels affixed to each helmet. “I reiterate that using the helmet as a weapon can result in severe injury and death,” he says. “I drive that point home.”
In an effort to decrease the risk of injury, especially concussion, Pop Warner has changed its rules regarding football practices, which is where studies indicate the majority of head blows occur. The first rule limits time allotted to contact in practice drills to no more than one-third of the total weekly sessions. The second change prohibits full-speed, head-on type drills.
“Training is helpful. Tackle techniques can minimize injuries. But this is not the answer,” says Hyman. “We need to hold kids until age 14 before letting them play tackle, and we must reduce the amount of contact kids are subjected to, especially in practice.”
Suzanne Schriver disagrees there should be no tackle football before age 14. Instead, she and her husband, who serve as football administrator and commissioner, respectively, for Towson Rec Council’s Spartans Football League, a tackle league governed under the Greater Baltimore Youth Football League, have devoted their efforts to ensuring the safety of players by providing quality equipment, teaching technique, training coaches and instituting the new Pop Warner rules. The Schrivers’ 12-year-old son, Wesley, is a fullback for his rec council team. “My son is the most precious thing to me,” says Schriver. “We do not accept kids being hurt.”
The Schrivers took over leadership of the league in 2006, and under their supervision it has grown to seven teams with 150 players ages 5 to 14. Schriver was recently awarded several large donations that allowed her to buy state-of-the-art Xenith helmets for every player.
“Football is not going away,” she says. Still, registration for the 5- to 7-year-olds was down this fall, a decline she thinks could be related to concerns about concussions. “We had roughly 18 fewer registrations— enough to drop a team,” she says. “Parents are worried, and I understand that, but we do not accept unsafe play here. We provide an environment where the refs, coaches and team mothers will not accept any of that ‘shake it off’ mentality.”
Timonium native Alex Griswold, 24, played football for 10 years, first during middle and high school at St. Paul’s School and then at Davidson College, a Division I school in North Carolina. A year ago, he happened upon an article reporting that football players receive an average of a thousand sub-concussions per year— and it alarmed him. “Any time you get jolted, your brain sloshes around and causes damage. Any head-to-head impact is a sub-concussion, even if you don’t pass out. And there were lots of head-to-heads,” says Griswold.
Griswold vividly remembers his first concussion, which he sustained in middle school. “I stood up feeling woozy, but continued to play, not realizing I’d been out for a moment,” he says. Griswold’s father, a doctor, saw the play and still made the diagnosis only after the game.
Despite the current changes being made, the question remains: Is tackle football safe for young boys? Sure, young kids don’t participate in the collision aspect seen at the collegiate level, says Griswold. But kids still hit each other. “And those hits are not insignificant,” he says. “My kids will not play in the Pee Wee leagues, I know that.”
When you run a small shop, you have to be very selective about what you put in it, especially if you’re a jewelry store going up against the behemoths. That’s why Savvy never misses a chance to pop into Craig Coyne in Ellicott City. While lovestruck couples are looking for engagement rings, she can sidle up to cases containing everything else: necklaces, bracelets, earrings, estate pieces, all carefully chosen by owners Sam Coyne and Jesse Craig. (The messieurs don’t turn up their noses at costume jewelry either, which has forever endeared them to Savvy’s heart.) Their newest line, one that no one else in Baltimore is carrying, is by Alishan Halebian, a self-taught Armenian designer whose creations are so beautiful and unusual they give Savvy the vapors. Alishan’s specialty is brushed, patinated silver that takes on a deep, steely-gray hue, overlaid with handcrafted gold, palladium and precious gems. A garnet ring looks like it came from King Arthur’s court. An asymmetrical orb pendant, simultaneously modern and Byzantine, has sheets of gold that lay like fabric in a tray. Earrings that caress the curve of the chin dangle on strings of tiny pavé diamonds. Many of the creations are unisex. But which Emmy-nominated luminary wanted one of Alishan’s designs for the red carpet? Shhh— he’ll never tell. 8113 Main St., Ellicott City, 410-480-2210, www.craigcoyne.com
My mother was not a great cook. Of course, that never occurred to me when I was growing up. Back in the 1950s and ’60s, I believe no one’s mother was a great cook. Maybe it was caused by the Depression? The War? Betty Crocker?
My mother wasn’t Lucille Ball in the kitchen. She wasn’t dangerous. She wasn’t someone who burned the roast or set herself or one of her children ablaze. (My mother-in-law did that.) We knew kids whose mothers were scary cooks, though. They did nasty things with canned corn. Committed unnatural acts with Campbell’s cream of mushroom soup. Made recipes from Family Circle magazine. Asked to stay for dinner, we sprinted homeward.
We had an actual cookbook in our house (I am sure my brother has it now and he can’t cook, either). It was an ancient missal, a sort of family Bible with old yellowed recipes taped in it from the Boston Evening Traveler. The Traveler ceased publication in 1912, about the time that any interest in cooking ceased in our family.
Although my mother and her mother were not top chefs, they had some culinary obsessions. Chief among these was the prevention of trichinosis. They described it as a condition not unlike rabies that involved frothing at the mouth, baying at the moon and so forth. They dedicated their lives to fighting this wily roundworm. I am alive today because of that.
You perhaps think I am overstating this, but consider that I grew up in a world where people still believed in demonic possession and exorcism and these were not things they acquired from watching movies. Trichinosis was part of the package.
My mother and grandmother thought the only way to avoid death by trichinosis was to overcook everything. Thus all vegetables were boiled to a consistency resembling baby food. You could have eaten most of the meals we ate without teeth.
But nothing was more dangerous than a pork chop. You had your life in your hands with one of those bad boys. Ours were prepared in such a way that they looked like roofing shingles when served. Rare meat meant a trip to the emergency room and a terrible death. We had heard of rare meat but only as something out of National Geographic, something that wild men in New Guinea might eat.
We ate nothing raw except for iceberg lettuce. My mother’s kitchen was a shrine to iceberg lettuce. For some reason this was the one thing that could be eaten raw. Iceberg lettuce was immune to trichinosis. As we were members of the Church of Rome in those heady pre-Roman Catholic Lite days, we ate a lot of fish. Trichinosis knew no bounds and could swim, so as a precaution the fish was also overcooked, although sometimes it was given a continental touch with a few slices of Kraft cheese. A special treat was a dish that consisted of elbow macaroni, ground beef (overcooked) and stewed tomatoes. Readers may know this as American Chop Suey, but we called it “train wreck.” It was the most rarefied fare prepared for our table.
At my convent school, the nuns made sure that for our spiritual well-being the nutritive value of everything we ate had been removed by, you guessed it, boiling. I was an adult before I realized that vegetables were not the color of military fatigues.
When I went off to university in the big world, I ate food that I had never heard of. I lived in Chicago, which had a vibrant Greek town. I ate moussaka and pastichio. I liked Greek food. I liked Greeks. I returned home to report that these tasty dishes did not look hard to prepare. And that the people of Greece had survived trichinosis. Alas, my attempt to prepare moussaka went badly off the rails. This reaffirmed another culinary dictum in our home. Never try anything new. Ever.
Now we live in another world. My parents and my grandmother are no longer alive. (They did not die of trichinosis.) I devour all kinds of dangerous dishes. I love drunken noodles. I eat rare meat.
Now comfort food is popular. But, as I am old enough to remember comfort food the first time around, I find it’s not much comfort. It’s too upscale and expensive. The price of a hot turkey sandwich now would feed a family of four in the old days. I like a BLT, but I don’t have to see the pig’s birth certificate, thank you very much. I am suspicious of comfort food. It tends to be a little twee, as the British say. Too complicated.
How comforting can the food be if you have to have a lecture from a kid in skinny jeans and a flannel shirt?
Last winter, at Woodberry Kitchen, I had a Proustian moment. The waiter was droning on about parsnips. Restaurants were now alive with parsnips. And turnips.
Suddenly it occurred to me that although my mother was not a spectacular cook, we ate these things. We knew all about root vegetables. Apparently, we had been locavores. We just didn’t know it.
You know the name from the Fells Point pub and the burger truck painted to look like a bar, both named in homage to owner Patrick Russell’s late doggy friend. Now Kooper’s makes its way north to Lutherville. Expect to find the same menu of casual favorites: meatloaf, crabcakes, bread pudding and, of course, a full selection of burgers, from beef (Angus and Kobe) to bison to bean (and turkey and lamb, too). Welcome to the ’burbs. Open daily. 12240 Tullamore Road, Roundwood Shopping Center, 410-853-7324, http://www.koopers.com
Does Baltimore need another local-seasonal restaurant? The folks at the Bagby Restaurant Group are betting on it as they complete their Fleet Street trifecta with the opening of Fleet Street Kitchen, just doors away from their Bagby Pizza Co. and TEN TEN. At Fleet Street, eggs, vegetables and herbs are sourced from the restaurant’s own Cunningham Farms in Cockeysville. Under the direction of chef Chris Becker, whose menu is tweaked regularly, the kitchen hangs its own hams for charcuterie and cures its own bacon. And then there’s the wine list. “Every table gets an iPad with our wine list on it,” says beverage director Tim Riley. “We offer 550 bottles and about 20 wines by the glass, and everything is stored at the proper temperature, so your reds aren’t too warm and the whites aren’t too cold.” Sounds just right. Open for dinner; closed Sundays. 1012 Fleet St., 410-244-5830, http://www.fleetstreetkitchen.com
If you can’t get to Greece anytime soon, Harbor East’s newest addition will bring Greece to you. Ouzo Bay offers “high-end Mediterranean with tremendous Greek influence,” says Alex Smith, the restaurant’s owner, who describes himself as “half Greek, half Smith.” “We are taking it to the next level.” All the fish served at Ouzo Bay are fresh (most are wild caught) and sold whole, grilled and by the pound to account for size variation. Rib-eye and fillet are prime. Lest this sound less than Greek, the menu is also full of familiar dishes like moussaka, spanakopita and a panoply of Greek pastry made in-house. The restaurant’s name is a nod to the 12 ouzos available on the cocktail menu and the complimentary shot of one given to each diner at the end of the meal. Opa! Open daily for dinner. 1000 Lancaster St., 443-708-5818, http://www.ouzobay.com
Mount Washington’s Blue Sage Café and Wine Bar is a boon for the diner who can’t decide between Asian, Italian and American cuisine. “We feel like there should be something for everyone here,” says the restaurant’s manager, Ricky Johnson. And so there is. Along with a wine program that strives to introduce patrons to unfamiliar varietals, Blue Sage’s menu includes de rigueur casual fare like pastas, pizza, burgers, as well as global offerings including Caribbean spicy steamed mussels, Middle Eastern lamb kofte and Vietnamese banh mi. Blue Sage also offers continental breakfasts beginning at 9 a.m. on weekdays. Breakfast, lunch and dinner, Tue.-Fri., 9 a.m. to 10 p.m.; dinner, Sat.; brunch and dinner, Sun. 1604 Kelly Ave., 443-438-9417, http://www.blue-sage-cafe.com
Though Savvy appreciates the ease and comfort of off-the-rack clothing, she has to admit that there’s nothing quite like a custom-made item. Add to that the fact that she’s the daughter of a tailor yet can’t sew a stitch and you can understand her appreciation for the skill of this noble domestic art. So she was thrilled to find Rae Cumbie toiling away in creative bliss in a modest house in Anneslie. Rae does “high-end alterations and redesign work.” Want to do something with that wedding gown besides pack it in a trunk? Have it made into a christening gown. Pondering a figure flaw that no mass-produced dress can disguise? Let Rae do the fixing for you. Or just don’t want to see yourself coming and going in something nine other people out there may have bought? Let Rae make you a one-of-a-kind article. Silk, wool, cotton, lace, even polar fleece— if you want it, Rae can do it. And if you’re handy with a needle and thread, you can even buy one of her Fit for Art patterns and make something yourself. 410-377-0706, www.raecumbie.com
Last May, Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” became the most expensive artwork ever sold at auction, fetching $119,922,500 during an intense 12-minute bidding session at Sotheby’s in New York City. The 1895 masterwork— one of four versions that Munch created between 1893 and 1910— is the only one remaining in private hands. (The other three are in museums in Norway.) Now, that very rich, nameless collector has graciously lent the pastel-on-board work to New York’s Museum of Modern Art, where you can see it on display through April 29, 2013. Also at MOMA this fall: ‘Tokyo 1955–1970: A New Avant-Garde’ and ‘Artist’s Choice: Trisha Donnelly,’ a series in which contemporary artists curate an exhibit from the museum’s holdings.www.Moma.org —J.S.
Like bears who know when to hibernate or geese whose internal radar signals the time to fly south, every October I respond to some primal imperative to make beef stew.
I dust beef cubes with flour and sauté them in oil in my heavy green Dutch oven, slice onions as thin as my mediocre chef’s knife and technique allow, and throw in fresh thyme sprigs and a large bottle of Duvel, a Belgian ale. Later in the season I might get fancy and make boeuf bourguignon. But my first stew of the season is always an easy one, designed to sate the craving rather than impress a crowd. If I’m feeling particularly ambitious, I might make a simple loaf of bread, and I almost always serve a green salad. As my husband cleans his plate, I challenge him with the rhetorical question my family likes to pose when we’ve made a particularly good meal: “How much would you pay for that in a restaurant?”
I’m a devoted home cook, but for the past half-dozen years or so, I’ve eaten out regularly on a professional basis. In that time, I’ve tried new trends like ducks’ tongues (pass), grown tired of bread pudding and crème brûlée and eaten my weight in gourmet hamburgers.
During weeks when I was dining out a lot, I’d long for a plate of simple pasta, a BLT, a bowl of soup all made in my own modest kitchen. But even in a restaurant scene bursting with lobster mac ’n’ cheese, homestyle fried chicken and upscale meatballs, I don’t think I ever was offered something as homey or home-kitchenesque as my autumn beef stew.
Perhaps that’s appropriate, as our motivations for dining out rarely include hunting down a home-cooked meal. We go to restaurants for a treat, to celebrate something special or nothing at all. We go for the theater of spectacular cooking, flawless service and an ambience we won’t find at home. We go for convenience after a film or on those nights when even making toast seems like a chore. We go to meet friends or simply to get out of the house and be social. And if we do it right, restaurant dining in places other than our hometowns nearly guarantees an adventure into the world of regional cooking, be it Maid-Rites and pork tenderloin sandwiches in Iowa or haggis and neeps in Glasgow.
These days, I find myself suffering from a bad case of the law of diminishing restaurant returns. And so I’ve taken a break—a hiatus, if you will— from the role of professional restaurant eater in order to return to my previous life as a devoted amateur cook. I’m heading back to the kitchen. Here are three reasons why you should, too.
You make the rules. In my own kitchen, I’m not at the whim of an establishment that legislates no substitutions— even if I don’t want hard-boiled egg in my salad or mayonnaise on my chicken sandwich. I can make pesto or Russian dressing, even if they’re out of fashion. I can eat hot soup in summer and cold soup in winter. I can prepare the foods that I wouldn’t, or am unable to, order in a restaurant, things like creamed chipped beef and sauerkraut. If I want to eat only cheese and bread and a glass of wine, no one makes me feel guilty for not ordering enough. Or for lingering. Among my eating-out pet peeves are the general address of a table as “guys” and the move to clear plates before everyone has finished eating. At home, the people around my table address each other by name. We linger over plates, have seconds, open another bottle of wine and take our plates to the kitchen when we are truly done.
You get to create. Though years of cooking have made me a decent home cook, I can always be better. So aside from the feeling of accomplishment I have from rolling out pie crust or making meringue, my kitchen allows me the opportunity to practice, to get a more perfectly minced onion or more flavorful gravy, to dump the pasta into the colander in the sink without burning an appendage (still need to work on that one). There’s always a new dish to try, a new cuisine to explore, a cassoulet to tackle, a jam to perfect.
As someone who loves to work with her hands, I’m drawn to cooking’s active nature, which is, to me, so much more dynamic (and satisfying) than the static gesture of placing your order with someone else (except after an extremely long day or a special celebration, when going out is welcome). Like writing, cooking is a little magical, a kitchen conjuring, and the joy of a dish turning out as you expected— or maybe even better than expected— made for someone you love is hard to match. So I bake lemon meringue and pecan pies for my mother and sister, popovers for my father and fry soft crabs for my husband, small culinary gifts for people I love. Sure, not every meal is a work of art or deserving of a Bon Appétit photo shoot. Sometimes we just have to eat.
You save money. I admit to occasionally having a case of the cheaps, but even when I’m feeling extravagant, it’s still much more cost-efficient to eat at home. A pound of lump crabmeat can make crabcakes for four; a pound of dry aged beef grilled at home will cost you far less than in a steakhouse, homemade mashed potatoes and creamed spinach included. If you need convincing, look at your grocery bill and ask yourself: “How much would I pay for that in a restaurant?”
If eating at a restaurant is a beautiful fantasy that sometimes breaks your heart, eating at home is the reality— the sometimes frantic meal of almosts, old favorites and come-from-behind winning dishes. The kitchen is the lab, the heart of the home, the place where everyone hangs at parties. I can’t wait to return to it.
Beef Stew a la Jacques Pepin
The original recipe calls for a Belgian-style pale ale, and I often use Duvel or Brewery Ommegang’s Hennepin. Pepin also calls for baby carrots in his version, but I prefer regular carrots chopped into small sticks. Sometimes I also throw in a few potatoes. Serve over egg noodles or, if not using potatoes in the stew itself, mashed potatoes.
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 pounds stewing beef cut into small cubes
Salt and pepper to taste
1 large onion, halved lengthwise and thickly sliced
3 tablespoons flour
2 12-ounce bottles Belgian-style pale ale
3 bay leaves
½ cup chicken stock
5 fresh thyme sprigs
5 carrots, cut into 1-inch batons
1 cup frozen baby peas
In a large casserole or Dutch oven, melt 1 tablespoon of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil until sizzling. Sprinkle meat with salt and pepper and brown in batches over high heat around 2 minutes per side or until meat is lightly browned on both sides. Transfer meat to a dish. Repeat until all meat is browned, adding extra butter and oil if necessary.
Add the onion to the casserole and cook over moderately high heat, stirring with a wooden spoon, until lightly browned, about 4 minutes. Sprinkle the flour over the onion and stir well. Stir in the pale ale and bay leaves, scraping up any browned bits on the bottom of the pan. Add the chicken stock and thyme and return the beef to the casserole along with any accumulated juices. Bring the stew to a boil, skimming the surface occasionally. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the meat is tender, about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
Add the carrots, cover and simmer until tender, about 15 minutes. Add the peas and simmer for 5 minutes. Season the stew with salt and pepper, discard the bay leaves and serve.
Make Ahead: The beef stew can be prepared through Step 2 and refrigerated for up to 2 days. Reheat the beef stew gently before proceeding.
It’s been a long time since you could buy ice cream and live bait at the original mom-and-pop store at Sanders’ Corner. Today, the only bait you’ll find at McFaul’s IronHorse Tavern at Sanders’ Corner, the newest incarnation of this 130-year-old building, are comfort food favorites, most of them made with local ingredients like the turkey potpie created from local Albright Farms turkey, and chili cheese dogs that drench Stuggy’s hot dogs in chili made from Gunpowder Farms bison. Limited parking on-site is augmented by a shuttle service between the restaurant and the nearby Cromwell Bridge Road Park & Ride. “We’re going for a family-friendly neighborhood restaurant,” says owner/general manager Kristin McFaul. “We’re trying to fill a void.” Except for the live bait. Open daily for lunch and dinner. 2260 Cromwell Bridge Road, 410-828-1625
When Christian and Nola Martin were married on Aug. 18th, their reception at The Four Seasons featured all of the expected elements: food and drink, a band, a cake and a photographer. But there was an additional element that was slightly out of the ordinary: In a corner of the room, fine artist Patricia Bennett stood at an easel, painting the wedding reception as it was happening.
Bennett, 35, is what’s known as a “live event artist,” a painter who captures a celebration or happening as the action unfolds. Since painting her first party in June, she’s been painting three to five events per month, everything from corporate gatherings to bar mitzvahs to weddings.
A Baltimore native, Bennett studied at The Art Institute of Chicago and The Schuler School of Fine Arts of Baltimore, but never planned to make art a career. She got into live event painting at the suggestion of a friend, and now it supplements her other fine art work. (Bennett charges about $1,500 plus expenses to paint an event.)
In preparation for painting an event, Bennett tours the venue, draws sketches and gets a sense of what the client hopes to capture, including the names of the people who should be depicted. Then, she arrives about two hours before the event to set up her equipment— an easel, a canvas, acrylic paints and often a bright light.
She first paints the scene in black and white to establish shapes and composition. Then she incorporates color and, as the event progresses, adds in people and detail. By the time the event ends, the painting is complete. Bennett totes it home, lets it dry and then signs and delivers it.
Although Bennett usually paints from a corner and could simply blend in with the background of the reception, she becomes a point of interest for guests, who approach with questions, including requests to paint them into the scene. “I’ve noticed that I’m able to talk to guests and paint at the same time,” says Bennett, who lives in Mount Washington with her husband and two children. “I get into a zone when I’m painting an event. Nothing can break my focus.”
Because the painting must be completed in a short amount of time, Bennett focuses less on detail and more on the event as a whole.
“Christian and I call it ‘The Monet of Our Wedding,’” says Nola Martin. “The look of the painting is very soft, and there is less specific detail.”
For Martin, hiring Bennett was a perfect way to both entertain guests and capture the spirit of the evening.
“The photos captured the little moments, like getting ready with my bridesmaids in the hotel, but the painting captures the entire evening,” says Martin. “You can really see all our friends and family, my husband and I, and the happiness we all felt together. That’s what makes it so special.”
Looking for a fresh foodie getaway? The cuisine of the fertile Charlevoix region of Quebec has always had a strong sense of terroir, and now, thanks to the vision of Cirque du Soleil co-founder Daniel Gauthier, the area is poised to become a major center of culinary tourism. The luxury Le Train du Massif, his brainchild, began operations between Montmorency Falls in Quebec City and La Malbaie just this year, and Gauthier’s innate flair for the theatrical can be felt everywhere. Large windows offer dramatic views of the mountains and the St. Lawrence River, the onboard iPads provide narrative context and history for the locations along the route, and the ever-changing music, including an Edith Piaf ditty, is the perfect soundtrack for a romantic train adventure.
Onboard gourmet meals, prepared by chefs from the famed Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu, include breakfast, tapas, or a multi-course dinner, depending on the package, and showcase local products, such as artisan cheeses, Charlevoix tomatoes or venison.
The train stops in Baie-Saint-Paul at Gauthier’s brand-new Hotel La Ferme, which boasts a mix of high-end and hostel-style accommodations, a seasonal farmers market at the train station and several dining options, all with a focus on cuisine du marche— or roughly “cooking from the market” for those of you struggling to remember your high school French. Train packages start at $119 per person. 877-536-2774, http://www.lemassif.com/en/train —Tracey Middlekauff