Seven Eight Nine
by Elisabeth Dahl
Alan lifted the pitcher the day nurse had left on the TV tray and filled a plastic cup with water. He put the straw to his mother’s lips, but she turned away, toward the sunroom’s south-facing wall, and continued sweating silently into the rented sheets.
Alan rubbed his eyes. This was like having a newborn again. The nurses seemed to sense his mother’s needs, but he was always—well, clutching at straws.
Once, this sunroom had been his mother’s turf. At her mahogany secretary, the one now shoved into the living room to create space, she’d write notes and make phone calls. On the wicker rocker where the nurses often dozed, she’d once paged through the newspaper every night.
He turned the cotton blanket down toward his mother’s ankles in three neat folds, then pulled a rawhide chew from under her hip. The dog regularly used her as a hiding place now.
His mother stared wordlessly at the African violets Alan had been tending since moving in six months earlier, when she began a downward slide. The violets’ needs—how much water, and when, and how—were no clearer than his mother’s, and the furry green leaves had dark spots now, just like his mother’s hands.
“I can’t get the watering right,” Alan said. “Got any tips?”
His mother didn’t respond.
The terrier barked from his round brown bed, then ran to the front of the house. Alan’s twins bustled in, dropping their kindergarten backpacks in one dusty corner of the vestibule.
Andie, his ex, wrapped a loose lock of hair behind an ear. “You okay?” she asked, already halfway out the door.
Alan nodded. “The night nurse comes at 8.”
He fed the kids, then started them on Toy Story. Back in the sunroom, his mother’s eyes were closed again. He rested a hand on her wide, heavy knee. Her legs had been saplings once—tapered and narrow, ending in slingback heels. Once she’d had a neatly set bob and five different church hats, kept on rotation. Now she had dandelion fluff that a hat would cloak completely.
Alan washed the dishes, saving the pizza slice Lena hadn’t finished, the peas Kyle had chased around the plate. He looked out the kitchen window, toward the east, where the darkening had begun.
The twins ran in. “Can we talk to Grandma?” Lena asked.
Alan wiped his hands on a dishtowel. “Sure. But remember, she may not respond.”
The kids perched on the hospital bed. “If you need to go,” Lena said, “just count to ten and go!”
“To infinity and beyond!” Kyle exclaimed.
His mother didn’t stir.
“Want to hear a joke?” Lena asked. “Why was six afraid of seven?”
Alan leaned against the opening to the sunroom, looking at the girl’s cheek. It curved the way the earth did, at the horizon.
“Because seven eight nine,” Lena proclaimed.
His mother opened her eyes. “Ten,” she said clearly.
Baltimore native Elisabeth Dahl is the author-illustrator of “Genie Wishes,” a novel for children (Abrams/Amulet, 2013). She writes for both children and adults. Her stories, poems, and essays have appeared at NPR.org, in Johns Hopkins Magazine, at Baltimore Fishbowl, and in other outlets.
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by Jen Grow
Brenda talks to the mirror.
“Why, yes. I’m a floral designer,” she says to an imaginary acquaintance. “I create arrangements for some of the most high profile weddings in town.” This is only partially true, but it makes her feel good to say it.
“How creative,” someone will comment.
“I bet you see some interesting places,” someone else will marvel. “Old mansions and cathedrals.”
“After a while you get used to it,” she answers herself. “All the brides, how beautiful everything is, knowing that you had something to do with it.” She puckers her lips to check her lipstick in the mirror. She curls her hair, draws sparkling shadow across the hoods of her eyes, puts on her best padded bra. She’s dressing for her 20th high school reunion, trying on different outfits. Brenda smiles at herself and winks.
She plans to avoid all direct questions about her own state of marriage by standing next to the food table and eating hors d’oeuvres. “Excuse me,” she’ll say if someone asks. She’ll chew her teriyaki chicken wing and look around the room with a napkin to her mouth. She’ll excuse herself to get a drink at the bar and ask someone, “Have you seen Clyde?” Clyde sat in front of her in her ninth grade science class. She imagines he will remember her with the same crush of fondness she has for him. She hasn’t seen him since graduation. If he’s there, if he remembers her at all, she knows she’ll look good.
Then, when it’s time to leave, she hesitates. She doesn’t want to be early, she says. She sits on her sofa in her dress clothes for a moment and turns on the TV. Old humiliations float around her like ghosts. She was shy and graceless in high school, always embarrassed. A half hour passes. There is still time to go to her reunion, but something holds her back, and for the time being, it’s a program on TV about a woman who believes her husband was wrongfully accused of a crime and is being framed. The investigative reporter seems to have evidence to the contrary, and Brenda is interested to see how it turns out. She’s hoping the husband isn’t lying. She’s almost crossing her fingers about it. This suspense is why she tells herself she can’t leave just yet. She’s waiting for the commercials to be over so she can find out more.
When the story ends in a predictable way, Brenda scolds herself for thinking it might’ve been otherwise. She stands and checks herself in the mirror again. She knows she could still change her mind and go, but she changes the channel instead. She gets absorbed in something else. More time passes. I will leave just after this, she tells herself. But she doesn’t move.
If Brenda had gone to the reunion, there’s this: a mirrored bar, carrots and dip, teriyaki chicken wings, people gathered in a dark room trying to recall faces. They squint at each other’s nametags made of old photos from the yearbook. They secretly note who has aged and gained weight, who’s improved, who’s gray, who appears to be alcoholic. Some of the wives pack leftovers from the buffet to take home and make meatball sandwiches. Near the end of the night, a woman wearing gold lamé skids across the wet floor as she exits the bathroom; she falls and sprains her wrist. A few husbands bend to help the woman off the floor. The deejay stops the music for a moment, but no one was dancing anyway.
Jen Grow is the fiction editor of Little Patuxent Review. Her writing has appeared in Other Voices, The Sun Magazine, Hunger Mountain and many more. Her story collection, “My Life as a Mermaid and Other Stories,” was the 2012 winner of the Dzanc Books’ Short Story Collection Competition and is forthcoming in 2015.
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In the Bordeaux region of France, garagistes shook up the red wine world in the 1990s with their nontraditional blends. Named in part for that movement, Le Garage opened in Hampden in April with its own take on French and Belgian beer-with-food. Chris Spann, founder-owner of The Wine Market, stands in the background as “partner-consultant” while Brendan Kirlin, who trained as a beer buyer for Spann’s Locust Point bistro, mans the front of the house and stocks the bar. The kitchen is commandeered by Sarah Acconcia, whose credentials include helming 13.5% Wine Bar and the defunct Kettle Hill as well as working as sous chef at Maggie’s Farm.
Menu. While the menu is inspired by flavors French and Belgian, Acconcia dabbles in Southeast Asian flavors, possibly influenced by her previous gig with Andrew Weinzirl at Maggie’s Farm.
Specials include a Maryland rockfish, bouillabaisse with lobster, mallard duck breast and ribeye steak frites. Acconcia is most jazzed about the chef’s blind tasting menu, five courses of inspiration, du moment.
Frites & burgers. Le Garage’s Frites shop, in the entry vestibule on the Avenue is a first for Baltimore. Thick-cut fried potatoes, creamy inside, crispy out, come in cones with a choice of 18 dipping sauces—ranging from a sharp red chili gochujang aioli to Old Bay ketchup to sweet pea and ginger— though missing is classic Belgian mayo. Try them all. The restaurant menu boasts a delicious burger, a Roseda dry age topped with cheddar, arugula and fois gras.
Bar. Kirlin has stocked the taps with a mix of Belgian, French and local craft suds, designed to complement the beer-friendly food, and available for transport in Le Garage-branded growlers. There’s a cocktail list with classic drinks featuring local spirits, and familiar French elixirs—think Lillet and Chartreuse—in new concoctions. Wine drinkers can turn to what Spann calls “the smart, efficient little all-French wine list.”
Décor. The former Dogwood has been divided into discrete bar and dining sections by open shelves stocked with empty growlers, vintage cookbooks and assorted bric-a-brac. The basement space has a garage-y feel; SM+P partner Charles Patterson (who also designed the nearby Food Market and Mt. Washington Tavern) chose dark hues and industrial chic touches—like a window with arty tinted panes looking into the private dining room—to create an informal vibe. 911 W. 36th St., 410-243-6300. legaragebaltmore.com
A couple of years ago, the night before we were supposed to leave on our annual beach trip, I nervously drove myself to an urgent care clinic. I’d been coughing for a few days and running a fever, but as I struggled to catch my breath lugging baskets of laundry up our stairs, I had an intuitive inkling that something wasn’t right.
A nurse confided that I looked “terrible” and suggested a chest X-ray. She scanned the shadowy films and tut-tutted at me. “You need to wait for the doctor to talk to you, but you’re going to be verrrry glad you came in tonight,” she said knowingly.
The X-rays showed I had pneumonia.
I explained to the doctor that we were supposed to be leaving on a long-planned week’s vacation. Could I still go?
“Well, where are you headed?” she asked. “Someplace you’re going to be very active, like Disneyland?”
No, no, I told her. We were about to spend a week in an Outer Banks rental house with my husband’s family.
She looked at me and asked the question every mother longs to hear. “Do you think you can do nothing but lie on the beach with a book and relax for a week?” she asked with utter earnestness. “That means no cooking. No cleaning. You really need to take it easy if you want to get better.”
Lie on the beach with a book for a week? Uh, no problem, Doc. I think I got this one. Could you write that down on a prescription pad?
The doctor had no idea that she had unwittingly hit on a hot-button issue for me. I find the world of vacations very thorny. Lying on the beach with a book and doing absolutely nothing? That’s a vacation I can get behind. Museums and anything vaguely educational I understand. But in truth, places like Disneyland—places designed for people to do nothing but have fun—actually terrify me. Rides make me incredibly anxious. Water slides? Uhhh…no. I don’t know how to ski or surf or hang-glide or climb mountains. I can kinda sorta be down with hiking because, well, isn’t it really just walking? But the world of pure amusement is an utter mystery to me.
I know, I know. The First World-iest of First World problems. But let me just say I come by this weirdness honestly.
Let me back up for a moment. I come from a family steeped in lore. And in the Mendelsohn family mythology, few stories loom as large as that of The Ocean City Vacation. It was August of 1967. And my parents packed my four brothers into their trusty Chevy station wagon—I didn’t make my debut until the following fall—and drove to Ocean City for a few days, to join friends who lived outside of D.C.
The story looms large not because of any terrible mishap that happened along the way, or because of a run-in with a famous person. It’s not that it coincided with an important historical moment, unless you include the airing of the final episode of the TV show “The Fugitive,” which my brother Andrew fell asleep and missed, much to his chagrin. It looms large because it was, in our family’s entire history, the only time we ever went on a family vacation. (Cue the youngest kid stomp-fest: I ALWAYS MISS ALL THE GOOD STUFF!)
We lived an otherwise unremarkable, middle-class lifestyle. My father was a research scientist for an aerospace company. My mother, a teacher, stayed at home full-time until I was in high school. We wanted for nothing truly crucial. We traveled occasionally as a family, but always, it seemed, to the brisket-scented homes of elderly relatives, and never to anything even remotely resembling a ski lodge or the Magic Kingdom. With five kids to keep in sneakers and braces and college educations, going someplace just for fun was pretty low on the agenda.
In retrospect, I think it was less about money than it was about leisure. My parents simply weren’t idle types. Both the children of hard-working Eastern European immigrants, they weren’t particularly comfortable indulging the urge to be unproductive. Neither had any particular interest in seeing the world. I would always look at the tanned faces of other kids at school after Christmas vacation with a mix of envy and wonder. You just…went to a hotel in the Caribbean? Just…because?
Now that I’m the parent, though, I’m determined that my kids’ experience will be different than mine. We’ve dutifully taken them to plenty of fun places “just because,” places like Great Wolf Lodge (Oh, the humanity!) and Hersheypark, where I politely declined to ride the roller coaster that begins with riders on their backs, in roughly the exact position of an astronaut about to launch into space. And while I’m still a Disney holdout, this past Christmas, we officially took our first major family vacation, just the four of us on an impromptu jaunt to a paradisiacal resort in Puerto Rico. Just…because.
It was every bit as wonderfully indulgent as I imagined. My older son went down a water slide so tall it gave me hives just to look at it, but there was no denying the joy on his face when he popped back up out of the water, triumphant. My kids were the ones who came back from Christmas break with those tans I always marveled at.
But while lying on a raft in the Puerto Rican sunshine, I came to the very important revelation that in the great water park of life, I’ll always be a lazy river kind of girl. And I’m OK with that. Just let me sit with a book and do nothing. I’ll happily look up and wave as my boys go squealing down the slide.
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.”
Savvy never did quite understand why it’s “holistic” and not “wholistic.” After all, the idea is to make one’s life fully integrated. Still, she does appreciate the sense of serenity she gets when she steps into Auramé, a new alternative health shop brimming with positive energy. That’s thanks to owner Belinda Schroeder, who, in addition to being a retail maven, is a color therapist. Need a pick-me-up? Let Belinda diagnose you. In the meantime, succumb to the sweet scents of Aura-Soma color therapy oils sold in bright, cheerful bottles, soft bamboo wraps by Angelrox, labradorite necklaces by Bittersweet and one-of-a-kind Art Deco cuffs from Paris by Lotta Djossou. Toss a Hobo bag over your shoulder, grab some bath salts and B.Witching Organic Muscle Rub for hubby, and you’re good to go. 836 W. 36th Street, Hampden. Summer hours vary.
Jon Fogg near his office at the Baltimore Sun
Jon Fogg didn’t give a second thought to the man he saw on a bicycle. It was around 1:30 a.m. on a Tuesday in January, and Fogg, 31, a Baltimore Sun sports editor who had just left work, was eager to find parking in Canton and get home. He grabbed a spot, got out of his car and began walking to his house. That’s when the cyclist rolled up beside him and asked for a light.
“I felt very panicked, but I’m a calm person, so I tried to play it off,” Fogg says. He politely said no, then turned away. In that moment, the guy “somehow jumped off the bike and tackled me, just in a split second like it was nothing.”
After pushing Fogg between two cars, the attacker jammed something up against him through his sweatshirt, saying it was a gun. He took Fogg’s wallet, keys and laptop—and grabbed a brick from the stack that surrounded a small tree nearby and hit Fogg in the head with it. The entire episode was probably only a minute long, but “it felt like an eternity,” says Fogg. The attacker took Fogg’s car and left him with six missing teeth, broken bones in both hands and six skull fractures.
Fogg’s subsequent medical care has led to mounting bills. Along with a three-day hospital stay, hand therapy and psychological therapy, Fogg, who has a high-deductible health plan, needed extensive dental work, including dentures, bone grafts and implants. Doctors estimate his dental bills alone could reach $20,000.
To help, Fogg’s sister, Melissa Fogg Castone, turned to crowdfunding. She started a website on GoFundMe with the goal of raising $1,000. Three months later, Fogg’s campaign has raised $37,461 through 869 donations. The response “has been way beyond anything I could have imagined,” Fogg says.
In the last few years, crowdfunding has expanded beyond creative projects. In 2012, 21 percent of families who were fully covered by public or private insurance still struggled to pay medical bills, according to a recent survey by the National Center for Health Statistics. Sites like GoFundMe that allow people to fundraise to cover medical costs—as well as funeral expenses, adoption costs and other financial stressors—seem like an ideal solution. In 2013, campaigns on GoFundMe raised a combined $128 million; this year, the site is on track to surpass $600 million. Similar websites have done well, too: FundRazr, YouCaring, and GiveForward raised $23 million, $62 million and $45 million, respectively, last year.
Fogg, who has since returned to work and relocated to Baltimore County—a move he had planned with his girlfriend since last year—continues to use the GoFundMe money to pay for his therapy sessions and ongoing dental work. “These sites are a great way to help out people whose situation you might hear about,” says Fogg, adding that many of his donors are strangers.
The sites do come with a downside though: the fees, says Columbia resident Wyntre Denne, whose GoFundMe campaign has raised more than $20,000.
Although fundraising pages are free to set up, the websites often take a 5 percent fee per donation, while their online payment processors, such as PayPal, take an additional 2.9 percent plus 30 cents per transaction. YouCaring only charges PayPal or WePay fees, while GiveForward gives donors the option of covering its fees.
Still, Denne, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer in 2012, says that without her campaign, “I would be paying the hospital…until I die.”
Denne, 44, a real estate agent and mother of four kids, ages 11 to 21, has faced many medical issues since her initial diagnosis. After having a hysterectomy and being cleared of ovarian cancer, she began having pains in her side. Doctors found a large tumor on both her colon and her bladder and dozens of tiny tumors across her abdomen. She’s had surgery to remove the large tumors and three months of chemotherapy to attack the small tumors.
Over an egg sandwich at Cracker Barrel, Denne is lighthearted about her diagnosis, even making jokes about how she has a runnier nose since losing her nose hair during chemo. (“Just call my nose the slip and slide,” she says. “Nothing is stopping it.”) But she also admits that the physical pain and mental anguish can be overwhelming. During chemo, she crammed about 20 pill bottles on her nightstand for hot flashes, nausea and other side effects. She’s had surgery on her port six times. And she sometimes feels like a burden on her family, in part because of the financial challenges.
“You think that you can’t take it anymore,” Denne says. “Then [you find] the strength to take it to the next day.”
Although Denne doesn’t want to think about her “final bill,” she has already paid $6,500 to cover last year’s medical procedures and expects to pay a few thousand more. This year, her deductible has gone up to $3,000, and her coverage has gone down. With another surgery planned for June followed by a second round of chemo, Denne, who will have two kids in college this fall, expects higher bills.
A private person uncomfortable with asking others for money, Denne says that her friend Jennifer Swales suggested starting the GoFundMe campaign. Swales, who has since raised the campaign goal to $27,500, monitors the site and approves the financial transfers to Denne’s account.
Denne’s eyes fill up as she talks about the campaign. “It’s humbling to know that there are a lot of people who are willing to help you when you’re down and out,” she says.
The Gardner family outside of their fire-damaged home
Others like Lisa Gardner, whose house burned down earlier this year, have used crowdfunding to rebuild their lives after a disaster. Although they didn’t own the house, Gardner, 41, her husband, Chris, and their two daughters, Elizabeth, 9, and Sara, 7, lived there as caretakers of the property. During an ice storm in early February, a tree crashed into power lines, knocking out the Gardners’ power. Embracing the situation, the family was huddled in the living room next to a burning fire.
At around 9 p.m., the room filled with smoke. The Gardners opened the door for air, and the upstairs and outside smoke detectors began beeping. When Gardner tried to go upstairs, “the smoke was so thick,” she says. “It got my throat, it got my nose, it got my eyes.” Without socks or shoes, the family ran outside to the car in their pajamas, leaving everything but their wallets and keys behind.
Later, the Gardners learned that the chimney mortar had crumbled and smoldered, causing a backdraft when they opened the outside door. Half of the house burned down in six minutes, destroying the living room, the master bedroom and the attic. The next day, they salvaged only the girls’ baby blankets, a few photos and glassware pieces and some paperwork.
For Gardner, seeing the destroyed house was surreal. “You’ve got a coffee cup on the table and stuff in the fridge,” she says. “There was this life that was taking place in this house, and [we’d] been plucked out.”
The family spent the next 11 weeks in a one-bedroom suite at the Hilton Garden Inn in Owings Mills. Although their renters insurance paid for part of the hotel fees, the Gardners still had to pay a portion for their room while doling out more money to eat many meals in restaurants. They also had to buy new clothes, shoes, kitchen supplies, cleaning products, furniture and more—all at once.
Turning to FundRazr, Lisa Gardner’s ministry, The CREW Ministries, raised more than $10,000 for her family in four days. Friends raised an additional $2,000 on YouCaring.
“Without those fundraising pages, we would not have been able to keep afloat during our time at the hotel, and replace everything we lost,” Gardner says.
They also put some of the money toward a down payment on a new home in Reisterstown. Sitting on her new beige carpet on move-in day, Gardner says that the fire has given her family a fresh start. A couple of days earlier, she decorated the girls’ new rooms. Later that night, Sara was sprawled out on her own floor playing with pink and purple Legos.
“It’s something she hasn’t been able to do in a long time,” Gardner says. Seeing her like that, she adds, “I know we’re going to be OK.”
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
Mally flashes her signature smile on the QVC set.
THE GLAMOUR GIRL
Mally Roncal, Founder, Mally Beauty
“WAKE UP. KICK ASS. BE KIND. REPEAT.” That’s the “Mally Mantra” celebrity makeup artist-turned-beauty mogul Mally Roncal posted on her Facebook fan page the morning of her interview with Style—and it’s a perfect description of her carpe diem attitude.
An only child and second-generation Filipina American born to two doctors, Roncal learned early on not to take life for granted. When she was just a year old, her mother was diagnosed with breast cancer and given six months to live, but she fought back—and thrived to see her daughter’s 17th birthday.
“We had so much fun,” shares Roncal, 42, who says her always impeccably put-together, Chanel-clad mom inspired her “drag-queen-level obsession” with beauty, which included playing with makeup before she could even talk. “We lived by seizing every single moment together. I think that’s why I am the way I am now—very positive and sensitive. I’m lucky to see life as one big play date.”
Roncal’s boisterous personality (and big smile) shine brightly on QVC, where she launched Mally Beauty—a full line of professionally inspired cosmetics and beauty tools—in 2005.
“It’s like the Olympics of television,” she says of the circus that is appearing on the shopping network, where she has become famous for her Mallyisms, including calling everyone and everything gorgois! (Yep, it rhymes with “moi” and is a fancier way of saying gawgeous.)
Imagine standing there with two monitors in front of you—one live and one that’s going live in a few minutes. You’re trying to articulate the benefits of a product, while looking fabulous, being funny and approachable, and simultaneously dabbing makeup on models and interacting with the program’s hosts. A ticking clock tells you how much shrinking time remains to sell an item and there’s a producer buzzing in your ear with comments like your hair is scratching your mic” or “move to the left, we can’t see the product” or “this is good, you’re doing great” or (the dreaded) “we’re going to move along”—all based on real-time data about whether viewers are flooding the station with calls…or changing the channel.
“People might laugh and be like, ‘How hard could it be?’” says Roncal. “But there are 4 billion things going on at the same exact time. Whether you watch QVC or not, you can’t deny what those people do on the air is an art.”
But plenty of people are watching.
“Since our first sale in 2005, we’ve grown to more than $70 million in retail sales worldwide. Six of our products won QVC’s customer choice award last year—beating all other similar items out of hundreds of options on the channel” says Don Pettit, CEO of Mally Beauty, which is headquartered in Towson and boasts a staff of talented expats from other beauty companies, including Noxell, CoverGirl and jane cosmetics. The team recently celebrated another magnificent milestone: Mally Beauty’s retail launch at all Ulta Beauty locations in May.
“It is a joyful journey for us all,” says Pettit. “Mally has an appreciation of people that is infectious and uplifting. She’s also the single best makeup artist I’ve ever seen in 30-plus years in the beauty business. She knows how to make women feel wonderful about themselves.”
Indeed, Roncal has developed a loyal and passionate following of “Mallynistas” that includes everyday moms and working professionals—just like her. (She and her model-turned-photographer hubby have three young daughters and live in West Chester, Pa., not too far from the QVC campus.) While she can’t pinpoint this group down to a specific demographic as her fans span all ages, races and geographic regions, Roncal does see one common thread: All of them lead busy lives and respond to her openness to try (and teach them) new things—like, say, how to use an eyebrow pencil.
“My fans tend to be women who need a girlfriend, cheerleader or a partner-in-crime to give them permission to do something beautiful for themselves,” she says. “I’m very unapologetic about being who I am when it comes to makeup. Wanting to feel pretty doesn’t make you inferior, less strong, less smart. It makes you confident.”
Of course, women aren’t just responding to Roncal’s “schtick” so to speak, but also to the quality of her makeup. Around the Towson office, she is renowned (and revered) for being lovingly “psycho” about testing, testing and testing her products. (Hint: she’s not afraid to say, “Take this crap back and start over!” if she doesn’t like a new mascara or foundation.)
“There’s a difference between throwing a product on the shelf and saying ‘if you like it, you like it, if you don’t, you don’t,” Roncal says with a laugh. “But I have to stand up on national TV, essentially face-to-face with a customer, and tell her my mascara is going to give her longer-looking lashes or this eyeliner won’t budge. The only way I can do that is to believe it.”
Not budging (or smudging) is a big part of the Mally Beauty brand, which was inspired by Roncal’s work as makeup artist to the stars, including everyone from Angelina Jolie, Hayden Panettiere and Maggie Gyllenhaal to Rihanna, Beyonce and Jennifer Lopez—one of our faves. (“She has this confidence that’s unlike anything you’ve seen before,” confides Roncal. “It’s electric.”)
After working as a design assistant for Tracy Reese in the Big Apple, Roncal started doing makeup for fashion shows and editorial features—and got her big break when her agent called her to work on an Us Weekly photo shoot with a young Emily Watson. She spent the next decade traveling the globe and doing makeup for some of the world’s most famous women, as the celebs-on-magazine-covers trend took flight. But after meeting her future husband, she decided to cool her jet-setting ways and settle down to start a family…and a beauty empire.
“I call my makeup bullet-proof,” says the former Sephora spokeswoman who had access to every cosmetics brand on the planet but couldn’t find a single line that worked perfectly for the likes of J-Lo and Queen Bey. “Nothing had the staying power that could stand up to the singing, dancing, sweating, the whole nine yards. So I decided to create my own line that gives people a celebrity look, but won’t come off until you take it off.” (Her 4:30 a.m.-applied “face” was still flawless when we interviewed her in the afternoon.)
Roncal has worked an extraordinary list of famous faces, but—if given her druthers—there’s at least one “dream celebrity” she’d still love to get her hands on: Dolly Parton.
“She’s my idol. Back when I first started a million years ago, she was going on the cover of Out magazine. They had her sitting on hay bales with a bunch of naked guys laying around her—and they asked me to do the makeup for the men. Dolly had her whole team there, but her presence was amazing. I also love Barbra Streisand. Anyone who has a look and owns it, that’s my definition of beauty.”
These days, of course, Roncal is the celebrity—with fans asking for her autograph or to put on their lip gloss in line at the grocery store.
“It’s humbling and amazing,” she says, noting that she even loves those rare moments when she gets caught without makeup in public. “The Mallynistas have no problems calling me out on it! But, truly, there’s nothing more special than when somebody recognizes me and says, ‘You taught me something that helped me to look and feel better.’ It melts my heart.”
As for her detractors who say that Mally is just, well, too damn perky?
“Between you, me and the lamppost, there are customers who can’t stand me.
I don’t read negative stuff online anymore, but I used to get hurt by comments like, ‘Nobody is ever that happy. It’s complete bullshit,’ she says. “Now I’m just like, ‘Sorry, honey. Wish you could come over to the sunny side of the street—but, feel free to stay over there.’ I’m incredibly grateful for my life and I’m never going to pretend that I’m not.”
Available at QVC, Ulta Beauty and the Mally website. mallybeauty.com
Believable Bronzer, $50. Melted Lipstick Duo, $38. Effortless Airbrush Nourishing Eyeshadow, $29. Perfect Prep Hydrating Under-Eye Brightener, $35.
THE MIXOLOGY MAVEN
Jamyla Bennu, Co-founder, Oyin Handmade
Sitting at her store counter, surrounded by her wares, Jamyla Bennu looks every bit the beaming self-made woman. But something’s wrong with this picture: She’s not mixing up her luscious bath and body products. Instead, she’s cutting up a lowly T-shirt, albeit in an artistic way.
“What can I say?” she comments. “I’m a crafty chick.”
Indeed. She started out almost 15 years ago at her kitchen table in Brooklyn, N.Y., mixing batches of honey, shea butter, lavender, rose petals, flaxseed and other ingredients into skin and hair care products that she then tried on herself and friends. Slowly refining her recipes over the years, she developed several successful mixtures, started selling them by word of mouth, and voilà! A star was born. So was a name: Oyin, which is the Yoruba word for “honey.”
Bennu launched Oyin Handmade on-line in 2003. It has since expanded to brick and mortar. Tucked into a modest basement storefront on Charles Street a few blocks above North Avenue, Oyin sells dozens of products festooned with colorful labels and cheeky names – “grand poo bar” “hair dew,” “no ash at all,” “funk butter” – all of them made by hand by a team of workers in a warehouse just a few blocks away.
Bennu, 38, is joined in her endeavors by her dapper husband, Pierre, a writer, filmmaker, visual artist and general dynamo who encouraged his wife’s fledgling business and pushed her to make something more of it. From the do-it-yourself gamble at the kitchen table, it has turned into a successful company with projected sales of $1.2 million in 2014.
“This is a milestone for us,” says Jamyla. “It’s been 10 years. First, Whole Foods, and now, Target.”
She is referring to the fact that the grocery chain started selling Oyin in a few select stores a couple of years ago, and the retail behemoth is stocking the products in 140 of its stores nationwide. “Target pioneered the multiethnic market,” Bennu says. “They realized there was a need.”
While most of her customers, says Bennu, are black women, often looking to tame their tight, curly hair, other women are starting to discover Oyin as well.
“Yay!! I love my #oyinhandmade products,” raved one recent commenter on the company’s Instagram feed. “I’m a Caucasian woman with very thick and curly hair, and they’re the best!”
Bennu’s own hair is a short-cropped mass of curls and coils, framing a high-cheekboned face sprinkled with freckles. She’s got a model’s good looks. Could that dewy glow be attributed to her products? And if so, which are her favorites?
“I don’t have a lot of time anymore,” she says with a laugh. “I have two little kids. Mostly, I just get up and go.” But she says her proudest recent accomplishment is a new styling cream called boing!
“It took forever to develop,” she recalls. “About six months. It’s got shea butter, coconut oil, Irish moss, so it fights frizz and is also very moisturizing. It was a lot of fun.”
Even more fun are the hilarious videos that accompany boing! and its brethren on the website. The brainchild of Pierre, the videos feature a crowd of people in goofy wigs and fake noses cheering on an Oyin employee who extols the virtues of a product. It’s not enough that a pomade works on your hair, for example; it also “helps in the kitchen” and “fights crime.” (In the video, an Oyin worker appears to smash a tomato. Cut to a scene of perfect slices. Wild applause. For the crime-fighting bit, the employee hurls a jar of boing! to the side. Off-camera, you hear a man crying out in mock agony. The worker then returns to his hair spiel.)
Though Bennu calls herself the “Grand Mixtress” of the operation, she credits her husband with product development and naming. Neither of them has a background in this kind of business. After she earned her master’s in anthropology at New York University, Jamyla dropped out of a Ph.D. program to pursue her love of creating body products—“the magic of emulsification,” she calls it. Pierre stopped working in banking to focus on his art. Together, they turned their talents to the labor of love that is Oyin.
“Love” is a word that comes up often in conversation with the Grand Mixtress.
“It’s a great thing to do for a living,” she says. “I love meeting customers, seeing the impact these products have had on their lives.”
2103 N. Charles St. | 410-343-7020 | oyinhandmade.com
Funk Butter all-natural deodorant, $6. Grand Poo Bar solid shampoo, $7. After Bath blended body oil, $12. Boing! curly hair styling product, $15.
THE BUSINESS BEE
Kara Brook, Owner, Waxing Kara
When many people think of honey, they think of that hipster-foodie version of syrup that needs to be specially requested from your local diner to pour on pancakes. For beekeeper Kara Brook, honey is much more than a sweet treat.
Brook’s Waxing Kara business specializes in Bee Inspired Goods, which range from, yes, things you can eat—like organic Eastern Shore honey and lollipops—to household products like candles, “bee bling” jewelry and beeswax art. Plus, she has partnered with experts around the globe to produce a hive’s worth of haute beauty products.
Take, for example, her signature face mask—a “Botox alternative” with Manuka honey and a small amount of bee venom (stay away if you’re allergic!) imported from New Zealand that’s used to give your face a tiny lift.
“There’s just enough of venom to trick the skin into thinking it has been lightly stung, which stimulates circulation as it tightens and smooths the surface,” Brook tells Style from inside the Honey House, the main venue for her product line, which serves as both a retail space and warehouse in Owings Mills.
Fret not, nature lovers. No bees are harmed in the making of this product. A glass-covered electronic device is installed beside the hive. The bees gently secrete venom on the glass as they attempt to sting the surface, which they can’t penetrate, so their abdomens remain intact.
Brook’s other notable beauty products include a honey-based body scrub that can exfoliate your face and keep your skin moisturized, and a body scrub that’s 100 percent pure, crystallized honey. (You could eat it, if you wanted to.) The Honey House also sells a trio of organic, tinted honey lip balms, along with a collection of handmade soaps that serve as natural humectants and antibacterials.
With Brook’s knowledge and the wide array of products, you might assume she’s long been queen bee in the honey trade. Surprisingly, she got her start only three years back. No doubt her artistic identity helped her claim this quirky new territory with confidence.
“An artist is just something that you are. You’re born that way,” says the Baltimore native and MICA grad, who feels particularly well wired to take creative risks. “You’re always a little different from day one—and that’s me.”
In her earlier career, Brook worked as a graphic designer for a then-fledgling AOL and loved it, but she still missed creating art.
“I made a deal with myself,” she says.
“I said that by the time I was a certain age, I was going to go back to it.”
At first, Brook would just paint with acrylic on snow days. But then she fell in love with an encaustic (wax) painting, which inspired her to take workshops on the art form.
She set up hives at Chesterhaven Beach Farm on Maryland’s Eastern Shore to get wax. After the first harvest, she “realized the glory in honey,” and was hooked—or perhaps stuck on the ritual. From there she committed to her sweet new life.
“I really like the idea of Eastern Shore honey,” she says. “There’s something so tranquil and peaceful about it.”
In reality, the process of putting these lovely products on the market has involved endless hard work. Beekeeping isn’t some ethereal and elegant process. It involves suiting up, sweating and being prepared for the worst. “It’s natural to be afraid,” she says.
Brook’s fearless best friend, Joyce, accompanied her the first time she ventured into the hive, which proved easier than Brook expected. Physical danger actually seems to be the least of her worries. A stickier problem: A Varroa mite issue has been killing her bees off, which puts a hinder on her efforts to keep organic.
But it’s all worth it for the entrepreneur who thrives on her collaborations with other beekeepers, seasoned artisans and beauty experts across the country. She’s also having fun experimenting with unique honey recipes for a future product. And the proceeds of her business have allowed her to continue her support of VisionWorkshops, a nonprofit that teaches at-risk youth the art of photojournalism.
“I’m really not trying to prove anything anymore,” she says. “This work is very meditative in a way. As soon as I can track inventory and not be a week late ordering lollipops, I’ll be golden.”
10989 Red Run Blvd. | Owings Mills | 410-415-3027 | waxingkara.com
Peace of Mind Bar Soap, $9. Bee Venom Mask USA, $70. Strength Bar Soap, $9. Sweet Lips Organic Tinted Honey Lip Balm Trio (Plum), $24.
Illustration by Sophie Casson
by Timmy Reed
I was the only boy in Baltimore that had to go to summer school for Sexual Education. I knew nothing and had mostly avoided the class. I hadn’t expected to meet any girls.
Girls were far away, impossible. I’d never really touched one. I’d been riding the same fake kiss from summer camp for the last four years.
Summer school was in the classroom of a lower school in Hampden. There were ducks and the letters of the alphabet on the wall. An old man with a big orange afro was my teacher. I forget his name. I thought of him as “Ronald McDonald.” He was a nice man. He taught me awkwardly, alone, about the ways of a woman’s insides.
I had a girl in mind though: Harriet Hurtt. Not for sex yet, that seemed so far off and impossible. For whatever romantic options boys think of when sex is off the platter. I dreamt of those options. I dreamt of what they might be.
Harriet was the toughest person in summer school. She was there for every class, all day long, except Sex Ed.
It was July, boiling, and they shut the school down for our safety. We were all given bus passes so we could get on the MTA and go home. I bought an egg custard snowball first, then went to my stop.
Harriet was across the street, headed south on the same line.
“Hey, Kid!” she called across, looking all sweaty and important. I had never been called a nickname by anyone that mattered. “I’ll trade you a cigarette for some of that snowball.”
The ice melted off her spoon as it touched her mouth. I would follow her anywhere.
“Let’s go swimming,” she said.
We wound our way down Falls Road until we hit the waterfalls left over by the mills. My father had shown them to me once on a hike, but warned me against touching the water.
“Dirty,” he said. “Keep yourself clean as long as you can.”
The falls were a postcard, half-round like a horseshoe, gushing toward the harbor in a sweet, liquid song. There was garbage stuck to the banks. Harriet went in fully dressed. She eased herself into the water. I pushed sick-yellow foam away with a stick.
She flicked her wrist.
“On my way,” I told her.
Now we were next to each other. We paddled back toward the falling water, holding hands, treading. The falls tried to breach us, but couldn’t. We were pushed forward, but held strong. I tasted love like filthy water in my mouth.
Our exit was too soon. I could have stayed in that brown stream until fall, holding this bad girl’s hand. It was a new kind of classroom. There was still so much to learn.
Timmy Reed edits fiction for What Weekly.com and recently self-published a collection of stories called “Tell God I Don’t Exist.” His debut novel, “The Ghosts That Surrounded Them,” is forthcoming this winter from Dig That Book, Co.
MORE STORIES >>
Move over Margarita! The Spa Cooler has arrived on our summer scene. Simple and delicate, this cocktail has all of the flavor of a punch with only natural fruit sugars and sparkling delight. Mix up a carafe to share. It will rejuvenate on a hot afternoon by the pool or refresh during an evening on the patio by the grill.
Carafe (32-40 ounces)
8 ounces Edinburgh gin
1⁄2 cucumber thinly sliced
1⁄2 pound of diced strawberries
1⁄2 large navel orange thinly sliced Lemon Perrier
Fill carafe halfway with ice. Add gin and fruit. Fill carafe with lemon Perrier and gently stir.
By Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East and founder of Tend for a Cause.
Ask any woman—can you ever have enough beauty products? Silly question. That’s why the opening of Lush at Harbor East is divine. Sidle up to the cosmetics bar, for an array of fragrant soaps with names like Karma, Porridge and Sultana, or perhaps a colorful Bath Bomb called Secret Garden, Honey Lumps or Twilight. (Sorry, sexy vampire not included.) The handmade products are organic, vegetarian, not tested on animals and come with little or no packaging so you can feel good about feeling good. 1001 AliceannaStreet, Harbor East. lushusa.com
Beach season is upon us. And maybe that means the same lazy traditions we have always held dear: boardwalk browsing in A.C. while munching caramel popcorn, cooking a sunburn while scarfing Grotto Pizza in Rehoboth, or enjoying an afternoon beef-and-beer at Abbey Burger Bistro in Ocean City. And that’s OK! We’re not here to judge (just writing that paragraph made us hungry). But we think it’s worth noting that numerous health and wellness options are popping up throughout the region’s beach communities—part of a growing trend toward scenic fitness, organic fine dining and body-pampering treats so delicious we sense a new beachgoer tradition on the tide. Here are a few of our favorites.
Atlantic City Surf School and Club
Feeling core-confident upon arrival? You might sail straight to surf school. Run by a national surfing champ and a two-time NSSA national team member, the Atlantic City Surf School and Club (acsurfschool. com, 609-347-SURF) offers lessons for all levels, including intensive Weekend Warrior camps designed to get you hanging 10 in three days or less. Also look for kids’ programs, including the brilliantly titled Teenie Wahinnie camp for ages 9 to 13. Really, can you imagine a cooler Facebook pic than you standing upright, catching a sky-blue wave? (Yes, the pros say they can at least get you to stand on the board, but often more.)
Or ease into your beach exercise routine with free boardwalk fitness classes starting (not that early) at 10 a.m. Work up a light sweat dancing Zumba amid the amazing Étude Atlantis installation on the A.C. boardwalk at California Avenue. An optical illusion of painted stripes, the “walkable mural” designed by John Roloff, serves as a fun and trippy backdrop for music and stage acts as well as fluid aerobic
exercise. Classes offered June 21-Sept. 1 and also include a regular AC Beach Body Boot Camp starting at 9 a.m. Visit atlanticcitynj.com for the full schedule.
A treatment room at Spa Toccare in the Borgata Hotel and Casino
Sore muscles deserve luxurious TLC, so reward yourself at Spa Toccare at the Borgata Hotel and Casino (theborgata.com), where you can choose among mega-rich facials, massage and moisturizing body floats. The Egyptian Milk and Honey Cocoon Float, which lasts 50 minutes, results in two perks: velvety-soft skin (at least for the night) and a new level of relaxation (at least until your cell rings). Then again, Table Thai Bodywork’s tempting too, especially for those on the wellness wagon. Nicknamed “assisted yoga,” the 50-minute practice walks each client through individually tailored stretching and breath work aimed at achieving spiritual invigoration and a state of “profound rest.” Sounds downright, well, heavenly.
The cool pool at The Water Club at Borgata
Sidestroke note: The Water Club at Borgata, the immense luxury hotel located steps from older brother Borgata, houses its own spa called Immersion, which features many of Toccare’s spoil-me services plus a gasp-worthy infinity lap pool and whirlpool overlooking the Atlantic. Here, taking a dip is more like taking a tranquilizer. Spa cuisine by celeb “Iron Chef” Geoffrey Zakarian is also potentially addictive—happy guests gather in the Sunroom Lounge nightly for cocktails and not-terrible-for-you tapas.
If retail therapy is your bag, visit the nearby Tanger Outlets (tangeroutlet.com), where you can take a bite out of the kids’ back-to-school shopping budget with savings at Lacoste, Abercrombie & Fitch, J. Crew and Puma. Tanger also has outlets in Ocean City, Md., and Rehoboth Beach, Del.—perfect for reducing road rage after a bout with traffic on the Bay Bridge.
Lums Pond State Park in Bear, Del.
If you’re looking to get back to literal nature on your summer getaway, good news: the newly launched Delaware Trail Maps website (destateparks.com) makes it extra easy to snag an immediate overview of the more than 150 walking, biking, running, paddling, canoeing and swimming options sewn throughout the striking nearby state.
At Trap Pond State Park in Laurel, Del., for instance, did you know you can canoe past rare bald cypress trees, picnic under a canopy of natural shade and then consider a game of horseshoes? Check the site. There’s also kayaking, fishing, hiking, bird-watching—and more. Meanwhile, the Junction and Breakwater Trail, another camera-ready, non-commercial option, offers high-steppers a lovely lighthouse overlook. You’ll follow a section of the former Penn Central Rail Line, marching past mature hardwood and conifer forests and inspiring open fields. This trail is user-friendly for hikers, bikers and babies in strollers, so feel free to bring the kids along for the communing.
Later, wake your taste buds with fresh, organic dishes from critical darling Planet X Cafe (302-226-1928, planetcafe.com) in Rehoboth. (Keep your eyes peeled for the precious pink, blue and green house with a wraparound porch.) Both meat-lover and vegetarian menu options abound, and here, natural does not mean simple or plain. The popular Zen Bowl with scallion stuffed chicken thighs with red Thai coconut curry quite simply rocks—as does the stacked eggplant with creamy herb Boursin cheese and tangy Italian Puttanesca sauce. The moderately priced restaurant’s Buddha Bar also features organic wine—salud! Reservations suggested.
Sunset paddle with 48th Street Watersports
Ocean City, Md.
From 9 a.m. ’til dusk, test some new waters by standup paddle boarding (SUP, man), one of the fastest growing workouts on water. For the $20/hour price of a board rental, coaches at 48th Street Watersports (410-524-9150, 48thstreetwatersports.com) will guide you through the strategic basics of the sport. At the end of the day, the popular Sunset Paddle class puts training travelers to the test with muscle-toning moves made less intimidating thanks to the darkening, romantic setting of the Isle of Wight Bay. Perfect for couples, cohorts and singletons, but interested paddlers should call ahead for reservations.
Ocean City Brewing Company
New arrival Ocean City Brewing Company (443-677-3075, ocbrewingcompany.com), native Joshua Shores’ family-owned, all-organic brewpub, is a fitting and festive place for fitness-centric visitors to indulge in a natural craft beer (or two) after a long day on the water. “We call it clean and green,” Shores says. “We don’t use preservatives or chemicals. All spent grains are recycled to farms for feed or made into dog biscuits, which we sell in our gift shop.” (Cute, non-cliché gift idea for friends back home.) Twelve to 20 craft beers are on tap on any given day—from light beers to dark ales—and the bar features 15-foot Oktoberfest-style tables to encourage communication among locals and renters alike.
Frontier Town High Ropes Adventure Park
Wild horses are usually the draw at Assateague, the 37-mile-long barrier island located off the eastern coast of Delmarva, spanning both Maryland and Virginia. But now you can also go on a zip-lining escapade at Frontier Town High Ropes Adventure Park (800-228-5590, frontiertown.com). Not sure what zip-lining consists of? Picture wooden platforms built in trees, linked by cables, ropes, bridges and various fun obstacles to heighten your senses as you climb, swing and “fly” (wearing a helmet; attached to cables, natch) through the air with the greatest of ease. Choose your degree of difficulty based on fitness level and comfort. The park is situated between Frontier Town Water Park and the Wild West Theme Park—so package deals are available. Kids under 10 are not permitted. And if you really want to rough it (we rarely do) consider the family campground. Yee-haw!
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina
When you’re simply looking to hole up in a nice hotel, but still keeping health and wellness foremost in mind, the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay Golf Resort, Spa and Marina (410-901-1234, chesapeakebay.hyatt.com) offers deep pampering and ample outdoor activities in balanced measure.
Nestled on 342 acres, the resort’s sporting opportunities (beyond the award-winning, championship golf course) are divided between land—such as bike touring, tennis, volleyball and working out in the StayFit gym with views of the Choptank River—and water, where you can kayak, water-ski, crab/fish, go tubing or take a cruise with official Chesapeake Bay watermen.
The newly renovated Sago Spa and Salon, named for an underwater grass indigenous to the Chesapeake region, now features locally inspired treatments, like the Eastern Shore Remedy massage and the Old Fashion Back Tonic, a hot massage using steaming towels infused with rosemary, basil, bay laurel and arnica gel.
Heck, you can even book a hypoallergenic room at this we’ve-thought-of-everything resort, which for the first time this summer, is offering all-inclusive getaway deals, starting at $479 per night, based on double occupancy. If you’ve got kids on board, ask for the Family Petite Suite, which features bunk beds for the gang (and a king bed for Mom and Dad).
Get a sitter for dinner, though, because the resort’s new summer season restaurant, the River Marsh Gastropub, provides an ideal spot to drink and de-stress, just the two of you. Menu highlights—cheddar beer soup, Chesapeake crab hush puppies, Guinness-braised short ribs, crispy pork belly tacos and sticky toffee pudding—are decidedly bad for you. But no one’s watching. And, hey, sometimes bad-for-you can be divinely good for the hungry traveler’s soul, too.
HOLISTIC CURIOUS? Nava Health & Vitality Center in Columbia is the one-stop shop for Eastern-Western integrated wellness. Visit the contemporary spa retreat-inspired environment and locate your inner Zen via acupuncture, massage, chiropractic treatment, IV micronutrient therapy (B12, anyone?), hormone optimization and nutrition plans for total wellness. They even offer hyperbaric oxygen therapy, which involves slipping inside a human-size duffel bag.
Expect your ears to pop, like on an airplane, but otherwise your muscles will breath easier. (It’s a common recovery strategy for athletes.)
Founded by Bernie Dancel—CEO of its parent company Ascend One—Nava opened in February. A health-oriented businessman, Dancel saw the benefit of Eastern-Western practices when a Florida-based holistic doctor healed his wife, who had fallen ill and wasn’t benefiting from the specialists she saw beforehand. Afterward, Dancel wondered why that doctor’s treatment, which tied all of his wife’s symptoms together, wasn’t on the map.
“My wife and I made it our mission to do something about it,” says Dancel, who believes the problem with seeing multiple specialists is that they don’t share patients. “We’re able integrate care—and maintain objectivity, because Nava is not run by our medical professionals.”
Prospective clients come in for a wellness consultation and receive diagnostic results from a Nava physician. Nava’s pro team then devises an individualized plan with the option of monthly memberships to help keep you on track.
Side note: We tried acupuncture with Steve, who aimed to help us release our “inner tiger” (which we interpreted to mean repressed stress). Not sure if the tiger came out, but after a few gentle needles to the inner ear and feet, we purred the whole way home. navacenter.com
Growing up near the bucolic farmland of Western Maryland as I did, it would have been difficult—perverse, even—not to have developed a taste for the juicy, meaty tomatoes that my mother bought by the bushelful from roadside stands all during the hot, lazy months of summer. During tomato season, it didn’t matter that my mother was no great shakes in the kitchen; after all, the plump, fulsome tomatoes needed next to nothing to shine. We ate them with everything: on top of salads, alone with just a bit of salt, and, to this day, my favorite way—in sandwiches with plenty of mayonnaise.
It’s true that a proper summer tomato can stand entirely on its own, but I’ve played with it a bit in the following four dishes, while still allowing its essential tomato nature to shine. The fried green tomatoes are a classic of Southern cuisine, and the sweet heat of the Creole remou-lade works perfectly with their pleasantly bitter bite. The tomato and eggplant gratin, meanwhile, makes a fabulous side dish at a cookout, or works as a light meal on its own on a steamy summer night.
The tomato candy tartlets take just four basic ingredients—grape tomatoes, arugula, fresh cheese and pastry—and combine to become so much more than the sum of their parts. These addictive bites work either as a first course, a cocktail party hors d’oeuvre, or—if you’re feeling extra puckish—you could down them all in one sitting for a satisfying yet light meal.
Finally, the baked tomato eggs with blue cheese and bacon are the ultimate (slightly decadent) brunch dish. However you fancy your tomatoes, one thing is certain: with these four dishes at your fingertips, you’ll never again complain that you planted too many tomatoes in your garden.
IT’S LIKE UNICORN HUNTING. That’s the feeling I had after trolling endless department stores and mall-based lingerie shops for the perfect strapless bra. Having lost a little weight this year—how shall I put this?—my cups no longer runneth over. And I’ve settled somewhere in the vicinity of a 38B (aka the “mythical creature” of bra sizes).
“Girl, your shoulders are sexy,” explained the perhaps-too-honest gal at Victoria’s Secret, as she wraps a tape measure around my torso. “But your breasts just can’t keep up.”
Translation: You and your miniscule boobies might want to consider a clothing-optional community, because you’re never going to find a bra that really fits you.
Turns out, she was wrong. I took my broad back, shrinking “girls” and bad attitude straight into Bare Necessities at Green Spring Station, where owner Lynn Fram straightened me out.
“Every bra fits differently—even in the same line—so it helps to have lots of styles and sizes under one roof,” explains Fram, whose personal mission is to save women from the indignities of back fat, side lumps, over-boob and nip slips—not to mention ugly bra syndrome. Her store is brimming with beautiful brassieres from 30A to 52L, including more than 20 strapless options. (Other stores I visited had two or three.)
After hand-selecting some boulder holders for me to try, Lynn and I agreed on two gorgeous little numbers—including one black “plunge” bra that rivals my favorite from my 20s—that cost about $50 each. The key: selecting a strapless where the support comes from the band with added silicone lining to prevent slippage. (She also suggests washing after every wear to remove oils and prevent stretching.) Here are some other tricks of the trade I learned.
SMALL BUST: Go for a bra with padding only on the bottom to give you a little lift without looking like you’re wearing Madonna cones.
FULL FIGURE: Consider a bustier with boning in the bra and a waist-slimming corset. (Yes, you can find one that’s comfy.) “If you get a little mush at the bottom,” says Fram “just add a pair of Spanx.”
BETWEEN SIZES. Fram staffs two full-time seamstresses who can quickly (and affordably) customize any bra for the perfect band/cup ratio. “We just move a tab or add an extender in the back. It’s not magic, but it’s pretty close.” 410-583-1383, necessarysecrets.com
bringing sexy Back
Ladies and gentlemen, get ready to swoon. Pop music superstar Justin Timberlake is bringing his 20/20 Experience World Tour to the Baltimore Arena, where fans of the former ’N Sync lead vocalist can sing and dance to his plethora of recent and throwback hits from his four platinum-certified albums, including “Rock Your Body,” “Cry Me a River” (sorry, Britney Spears) and the latest, “Not a Bad Thing.” So smooth. While Timberlake has been deemed one of the most commercially successful solo acts in the past decade, it should be noted that Jessica Biel’s hubby is also a businessman and philanthropist and has become a well-versed actor and comedian. (We love his stints on “SNL” and recent performance in “Inside Llewyn Davis.”) But all this begs one burning question: Is there anything JT can’t do? We plan to be in the front row on July 14 to find out. Tickets, $59-$195. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Snap Out of It!
What could be better than spending a hot summer night viewing a classic Italian-inspired movie under the stars? Probably eating a hearty bowl of spaghetti while you watch. Since 1999, Little Italy has provided the Italian-inspired cinema spirit with the Little Italy Open Air Film Festival (aka “Cinema Al Fresco”), which screens films both kid- and adult-friendly every Friday night in July and August. Located across the street from the rowhome of the late “Mr. John” Pente, films are screened onto the outside wall of the Ciao Bella Restaurant in the Di Mimmo’s Ristorante parking lot. Films this year include our all-time favorite, “Moonstruck,” “Gladiator” and “Silver Linings Playbook,” along with the cherished Italian-language classic “Cinema Paradiso” (a closing night tradition). Before every 9 p.m. screening, viewers can enjoy live entertainment and treats from Little Italy’s restaurants. So bring your appetite—and your own lawn chair. July 11-Sept. 5. Free admission. promotioncenterforlittleitaly.org
It’s time to break out the visors, designer shades, khaki capris and golf shoes. The inaugural LPGA (Ladies Professional Golf Association) International Crown will be held at the Caves Valley Golf Club in Owings Mills. The biennial, team match-play competition will feature some of the leading players in the sport, hailing from the U.S., Australia, Japan, South Korea, Spain, Chinese Taipei, Sweden and Thailand. July 24-27. Tickets, $25-$185. lpgainternationalcrown.com
If you’re looking for an old-fashioned, head-banging time that’s just a wee bit trashy (in a good way), look no further than MD Live! Rams Head Center Stage, which will host the one and only Bret Michaels. First gaining fame as the lead vocalist of the chart-topping metal band Poison, Michaels has dabbled in other genres, including hard rock and country rock, and made some infamous forays into reality television. Yes, we’re talking about VH1’s “Rock of Love,” that dating show in which all those—how can we put it?—memorable contestants competed for Michaels’ hand. July 17. Tickets, $35. 443-842-7000, marylandlivecasino.com
Takin’ It Easy
Singer-songwriter and social activist Jackson Browne will bring just himself, his guitar and piano to the Hippodrome as part of his national solo acoustic summer tour. Since the 1970s, Browne has sold more than 18 million albums in the U.S., spawning classic hits such as “Take It Easy,” “The Pretender” and “Somebody’s Baby.” Known for merging personal life stories with personal politics, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee is sure to garner even greater affection during this rare, intimate performance. Aug. 23. Tickets, $62-$117. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
It’s 9 O’Clock On A Saturday
Admit it. You’ve heard “Piano Man” at one point in your life when you weren’t quite sober, and you sang along and it made you a little teary-eyed. OK, maybe that was just us. But you’ll have the chance to hear the iconic tune live when Billy Joel plays Nationals Park as part of his 21-concert national tour. So put on your Uptown Girl (or guy) summer best and make the trek to D.C. for this event—our “worth the drive” pick for the summer season. July 26. Tickets, $99-$124. tickets.com
Hot and Heavy
It’s not called the Hot August Music Festival for nothing. Hats, sunglasses, plenty of sunscreen and cold beverages will be necessary for the blues and roots musical festival, celebrating its 22nd year in the area. Featuring a list of bands including Old Crow Medicine Show, Dr. Dog, Tab Benoit, Elm, Nickel Creek (not to be confused with Nickelback) and more, the daylong festival is held at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. Aug. 16. Tickets, $49 to $148. 877-321-FEST, hotaugustmusicfestival.com
Sing It, Honey
Fans of NBC’s “The Voice” will have the chance to experience their favorite reality singing competition live onstage. The Voice Tour is coming to The Lyric, and will feature Season 6’s top finalists and past favorites, including Season 5 winner Tessanne Chin (pictured), runner- up Jacquie Lee, Season 1 runner- up Dia Frampton and a yet-to-be-determined fan favorite. July 8. Tickets, $46-$77. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Medieval painters often filled their manuscripts with scenes of everyday life that included charming illuminations of people and animals playing musical instruments and dancing. Many of these images, however, functioned as sophisticated symbols, as musical harmony and dissonance were thought to mirror the perfection of heaven as well as the disorder of evil. Seeing Music in Medieval Manuscripts, an exhibition of 20 manuscripts and other objects at the Walters Art Museum, will explore music in its relationship with philosophy, religion and the arts during the Middle Ages. Through Oct. 12. Free. 410-547-9000, thewalters.org
Art Free For All
It wouldn’t be a complete summer in Baltimore without the city’s annual Artscape, the largest free arts festival in the country. Attracting around 350,000 people throughout its three-day run, the outdoor festival features more than 150 artists, craftspeople and fashion designers, a diverse collection of on- and off-site visual art exhibits, an array of live music, performing arts and family events (including a Baltimore Symphony Orchestra performance) and an international food and drink menu. Artwork by the Janet & Walter Sondheim finalists will be featured at the Walters Art Museum for three weeks, starting the day after the fest ends. July 18-20 at Mount Royal Avenue and Cathedral Street, Charles Street, Bolton Hill and the Station North Arts & Entertainment District. Free. artscape.org
American singer-songwriters Gavin DeGraw and Matt Nathanson—both recognized for their signature brand of contemporary pop-rock—will join forces onstage at Pier Six Pavilion. Best known for his hits “In Love with a Girl,” “Chariot” and the “One Tree Hill” theme song, “I Don’t Want to Be,” DeGraw has sold more than a million records in the U.S.—and in 2012 showed off his dancing skills (and charm) on “Dancing with the Stars.” Nathanson is best known for his platinum-selling single, “Come On Get Higher.” As a special treat, the two will also be joined by Something Corporate and Jack’s Mannequin vocalist Andrew McMahon. Aug. 12. $29-$65. piersixpavilion.com
Something Old, Something New
Experience Charm City’s version of “Antiques Roadshow” during the 34th annual Baltimore Summer Antiques Show, the largest indoor antiques show in the U.S. Held at the Baltimore Convention Center and produced by the Palm Beach Show Group, the four-day affair attracts numerous collectors and dealers from as far as Beijing and Dubai, to scope out the more than 200,000 items offered by over 575 expert exhibitors. With merchandise ranging from Asian art, European silver, porcelain, American folk art, textiles and more, the event is sure to quench any antique fan’s thirst. Aug. 21-24. Tickets, $15. baltimoresummerantiques.com
Let’s be honest. Video games wouldn’t be nearly as exciting without the intense musical score in the background. The Baltimore Symphony Orchestra will bring some of those famous tunes to life at Video Games Live, an engaging concert experience featuring music from some of the most renowned video games ever, including “MegaMan,” “Mass Effect,” “Final Fantasy” and “World of Warcraft.” Dress to impress, as there’s a costume contest before the performance—not to mention a “Guitar Hero” challenge, where the winner will be featured onstage during the show. July 26 at The Meyerhoff. Tickets, $28-$68. 410-783-8000, bsomusic.org
Not all of us are looking to go on outdoorsy adventures this summer, which is why museums are here to enlighten us and give us air conditioning. Consider, for example, For Whom It Stands—named one of USA Today’s Top 10 must-see exhibitions of the season—at the Reginald F. Lewis Museum of Maryland African American History and Culture in Baltimore. The 3,200-square-foot exhibition is home to more than 100 pieces of artwork, documents, photographs and artifacts that represent American experiences. The exhibit is highlighted by the little-known contribution of Grace Wisher, a young African- American indentured servant in Mary Pickersgill’s household—on the same block as the museum—who helped create the original star-spangled banner during the War of 1812. Through Feb. 28, 2015. Tickets, $1-$8. rflewismuseum.org
Death at the La Brea Tar Pits
by Jessica Anya Blau
L.B. could sense the kids on the bus glancing at him, whispering. He was on the backbench, his arms spread wide like wings, his legs open in a giant V. His posse, Ethan and Jack, were on either side of him. L.B. was the tallest kid in the eighth grade, skinny as a rope, but muscly, dense. “A bullet couldn’t make it through that,” his mom liked to say, and she’d punch at the top of his arm, right near his shoulder. It’d hurt a little, especially when she landed him with her chunky, gold and silver rings. But he wouldn’t even wince. He’d just stand there, The Man, his stomach muscles clenching and his balls instinctively tucking up like a hiding rodent as he took the crooked blows.
At school, the boys who weren’t L.B.’s friends were afraid of him. Not because he bullied them, more because he ignored them, walking by as if they didn’t exist. And the ones who weren’t too afraid to be his friend still believed he was The Man.
L.B. liked watching people watch him, although what the kids were doing now on the bus—their glances as hard to capture as darting birds—didn’t make him feel watched as much as it made him feel observed. Just yesterday, most of the eighth grade had gathered around him as if he were a street performer, screaming and whooping as he stuck a lit firecracker in a lizard’s ass just to watch the animal explode.
The bus was taking the class to the La Brea tar pits. There were 60 middle schoolers and only two teacher chaperones. It was a field trip L.B. had made every year since the fourth grade when he and his mother moved to Los Angeles from Baltimore.
Who knew where his dad, Big Bill, really was. His mother said Big Bill was a no-goodnik who was in prison. But if he were in prison, wouldn’t he email? Or call? They have computers and phones in prison; L.B. had seen them on TV shows and in movies. One day L.B. would track down his dad, and they’d sit on a couch together, drink beer and watch TV. L.B. loved beer and his mother let him drink it as long as his homework was done, which it always was as he was able to rip through it—math, English, everything—in the amount of time it took to ride the bus home.
Sometimes, when his own homework was finished, L.B. would do the math homework for someone else on the bus. “What dumbfuck wants a perfect score on their math?” he’d ask, then L.B. would look down at all those waggling arms, like perfectly arrayed snakes popping up, and try to pick the person who was in the highest math class. The harder, the better—it got boring when things were too easy.
The kids were still whispering and they were looking at L.B. with different eyes: not scared, and not daring. Curious. Or nervous. He couldn’t really tell.
“What the fuck?” L.B. said to Ethan, and Ethan handed him his cell phone to show him a text.
L.B. Collier’s mother OD’d. Chloe’s mom works at the hospital and said they brought her in already dead.
“Don’t tell the teachers,” L.B. said, although he wouldn’t remember saying this until later, when the social worker asked him if he had any idea why no one, including L.B. himself, informed the chaperones.
L.B. turned his face away from Ethan’s and looked out the window. It felt like thick, bulletproof glass was sliding down over each side of his brain. He was walling off the information. Encasing himself.
When they walked off the bus, L.B. stared at the glaring sunlight through the imagined bulletproof wall that was opaque and smudgy from fingerprints and smog. There were people around him, L.B. knew that to be factually true, but he couldn’t hear them and couldn’t make out their forms. As the class lined up at the fence of the biggest tar pit, L.B. felt so alone he had to gasp, just once, to make sure he was really there.
Once upon a time, L.B. had loved the tar pits. He liked envisioning a saber-toothed tiger approaching the sheen of water on the black surface, stepping in for a drink and then being sucked down into the oily, darkness. If the tiger’s head was above the tar line, another meaner saber-tooth would pounce on him. They’d ravage each other in a fight, ripping out chunks of fur with meat attached to the back in the shape of icebergs. Eventually, they’d spiral down together, deeper into the muck. With each breath, they’d pull in a hot, dense stream that would fill them like molten copper being poured into a mold.
L.B. had often tried to imagine death, the emptiness, the nothingness. It was as hard to fathom as the idea of himself before he was conceived; L.B. before he was growing in his mother’s body; L.B. before his father was called Big Bill in contrast to him; L.B. before L.B. How can nothing exist when everywhere you look there’s something? How can a person be completely gone when everywhere you go, you feel them?
Jessica Anya Blau’s newest novel, “The Wonder Bread Summer,” was picked for summer reading lists by CNN, NPR, Vanity Fair and Oprah’s Book Club. She is also the author of “The Summer of Naked Swim Parties” and “Drinking Closer to Home.”
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I don’t know about you, but I tend to hibernate in the winter. My DVR becomes my best friend and my beauty philosophy hovers somewhere between “but moisturizer is so cold” to “why bother to shave if I’m just wearing leggings every day?” (No wonder “The Walking Dead” is my favorite show.) In the spring, I get a little less lazy, thanks to an influx of vitamin D, outdoor happy hours and the beginning of Orioles season, where looking cute in direct sunlight has its advantages. But summer is my season! From strapless dresses to sun-kissed skin, this is the time when I get my flirt on and feel totally fab about life. If you’re on the same seasonal roller coaster ride, here are seven beauty strategies to help you get your groove back.
Jennifer Drumgold makes waxing comfortable (and even fun!) at European Wax Center.
Wax On, Wax Off. I have to admit, I was slightly taken aback when the person checking me in for my Brazilian at the new European Wax Center was a hot guy with hypnotizing golden-brown eyes. Turns out that’s general manager (and owner’s son) Jake Kapneck, who moved to Maryland to open the first of several local franchises for the national brand. “Our concept is to combine efficiency with intimacy,” explains the young entrepreneur who books clients every 15 minutes in the bright, modern space with six treatment rooms. Now, before you get too excited, he’s referring to the center’s customer service philosophy where you can come in for a quickie (wax, that is) and still get highly professional service, education about the house products (I recommend the Brow Enhancing Serum), plus an invitation to join the center’s loyalty program where you can buy several months of waxes at a discounted rate.
Stylish and sassy aesthetician Jennifer Drumgold delivers all-star service during my bikini wax, which includes a proprietary four-step system—cleanser, pre-wax oil (to ensure only hair—no epidermis—comes off), organic beeswax that hardens on the skin (no strips!) and a final rejuvenation with ingrown hair serum and calming cream. This was my maiden voyage with the center’s trademarked Comfort Wax infused with lavender oil. I can’t say it hurt that much less than a traditional Brazilian, but I experienced zero post-wax irritation—a first for my sensitive skin. Another first: at the end of my session, Jennifer handed me a mirror to check out her work. Let’s just say I left with a bump in my self-esteem—and an appointment to come back for an underarm wax the next week. Brazilian bikini wax, $47. 1809 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville 410-415-6500, waxcenter.com
Play Footsie. “This isn’t going to be one of those relaxing pedicures,” says Mary Villaluz, nail department manager at About Faces in Canton, with a mischievous grin. But I actually relaxed more than usual at my first “Medi Pedi”—a therapeutic spa service designed to cure whatever ails your tootsies, from cracked heels and calluses to even athlete’s foot and more serious issues caused by diabetes. The magic comes from integrating a line of pharmaceutical-grade Footlogix products featuring “Dermal Infusion Technology” that enables active ingredients (think Spirulina microalgae for moisture) to penetrate faster and deeper into troubled skin.
While the treatment was thorough, as promised, it was never uncomfortable (maybe ticklish!) and I could literally see dead skin flying off in the sunlight as Mary sloughed my “flip-flop heels” into submission. This beach girl loved the lightweight, mousse-based formula, the fresh smell of the seaweed scrub and the luxurious leg massage. Bonus: the products are oil-free so I left with super-soft, “lubed up” legs and feet—without the risk of slipping in my yoga class. Medi Pedi with Footlogix, $60. Six area locations. 410-675-0099, aboutfacesdayspa.com
FACE PLANT. When our inside source at the Spa at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore tells us that something is a “game- changer”—we listen. And my 80-minute HydraFacial MD lived up to the hype. Billed as a medical-grade, noninvasive “power peel” with no downtime, the four-step service involves deep cleansing, exfoliation, extractions and hydration—all delivered with a magic “wand” that feels like having a nubby electric toothbrush run across your face. “The key is using antioxidant-rich serums with peptides and Hyaluronic acid that are potent but won’t aggravate the skin,” says aesthetician (and one of my all-around favorite humans) Natalie Sams, as she basically vacuums my soon-to-be-blackhead-free nose without a single wince … from either of us!
I have to admit, I was floored by the results. I’ve never experienced a facial that delivered instant improvements (in my case, a complete reversal of skin dehydration with a dramatic reduction in rosacea symptoms that has lasted for several weeks) without any side effects (usually a few stretched out pores, blotchiness and a reactionary blemish or two.) If I was a celebrity, I could have walked the red carpet that night. Instead, I made kissy faces at myself in the rearview mirror, enjoying the (temporary but glamorous) plumping effect the HydraFacial gave my previously parched lips. I’m in love. Available in 25-, 50- and 80-minute sessions, $175-$350. 200 International Drive. 410-576-5800, fourseasons.com/baltimore/spa
Stephanie Casey (left) and Melissa Jacobson, co-owners of Bare Skinlabs
Get a Perm. No, not the tragic ’80s hair variety. At the new Bare Skinlabs in Green Spring Station, permanent makeup is all the rage. “Before this, I was basically trying to pull off a comb-over,” says one forty-something client, as she proudly shows off her newly tattooed eyebrows—a great solution for women with thinning brows or bald spots from bad wax jobs.
“I gave her a natural look by using two different needles—one that’s more powdery and another that allows me to do hair-like brush strokes,” says co-owner Melissa Jacobson, who also offers permanent eyeliner, lip tint, areola restoration and even hairline fills for the balding and beautiful among us. It’s true, these are not Groucho Marx’s eyebrows—they’re lovely. I spend the rest of my visit invading the staff’s personal space to inspect their ink. Jacobson’s perfectly pink lips slay me—she actually tattooed them herself to closely match her own skin tone. “As a working mom, having a little color helps me wake up without looking like a zombie,” she says. Results can last several years—then you might need a touch-up. I’m not brave enough to take the leap just yet, so Jacobson tints my eyebrows instead. It’s like an instant eyelift. Permanent makeup, $100-$300. Eyebrow tint, $30. 10751 Falls Road, Lutherville. 443-469-0591, bareskinstudios.com
Jars of Candied Lashes at Baltimore Spa and Salon
Lash Out. If you’ve read my “Beauty Explorer” column, you’ll know I’m already sweet on NovaLash eyelash extensions—individual falsies that are applied with formaldehyde-free adhesive (no wig glue here!) to your own lashes, which naturally grow out and fall off in a month. (Hint: you can get “refills” and stay mascara-free all year-round.) But now Baltimore Spa and Salon at the Ritz-Carlton Residences offers Candied Lashes—colorful extensions that are hand-dipped in crystallized glitter, from hot pink to emerald green to indigo blue.
“Oh come on, just try it,” says delightfully bossy Emily Horwath, who received advanced training with celebrity lash stylist Sophia Navarro to do the honors. She adds just two chocolate brown singles to the corners of my usual curlicue-style lashes—and they look adorable. Barely noticeable in this shade, they give off just a little “pop” when the light hits me just right. Most popular with Horwath’s older clientele in their 40s, 50s and 60s, everyone from attorneys to grandmothers are asking for the special treat. “Sometimes you just need a little sparkle in your life,” says Horwath. Indeed. Candied Lashes (three to four on each side), $40. Glamour set (up to 100 lashes), $185. 801 Key Highway. 410-625-2427, baltimorespasalon.com.
Sun cather. After a firm talking-to from my dermatologist, I’ve decided to be more protective of my skin this summer. Thank heavens, then, for the new Infinity Sun airbrush tanning at Soirée in Cockeysville. Co-owner Sarah Weiskittel hand-picked the L.A.-based organic line—enriched with antioxidants and botanicals, plus an instant bronzer made from walnut shell extract—to dovetail with her Aveda salon’s dedication to natural beauty. What’s unique? “We can choose from 30 different shades to customize the perfect tan for every client,” says Weiskittel, who not only offers streak-free, total body tanning (with or without the use of disposable undies) but also a la carte options for the face or legs. “Since you wash your face twice a day and shave your legs, tanning only those areas can help you keep your faux glow longer.” Just brilliant. Face, $20. Legs, $30. Total body, $45. 9832 York Road. 410-628-6061, soiree-salon.com
The rainfall shower in the sleek, new Tuscan Suite at Spa in the Valley
Deplane. De-stress. Ever feel like you need a vacation after your vacation? I do. Every time. The antidote: come back one night early, organize your life for the week, then zip off for a serene Sunday treat, like the new Aveda Stress-Fix Massage at all Salon by Debbie locations (Hunt Valley, Abingdon, White Marsh). The 90-minute treatment combines Swedish and deep tissue massage along with foot reflexology, acupressure point treatment and guided meditation—all the while incorporating Aveda’s proprietary Stress-Fix aroma blend of lavender, lavandin and clary sage. These scents are clinically proven to calm—in fact, I keep a rollerball of the stuff on my desk to apply when I’m feeling deadline-frantic.
Consider trying the service at Spa in the Valley, which boasts a newly renovated Tuscan Suite, including an aromatherapy sauna, dry steam room and Swiss shower featuring a rainfall shower head and 360-degree body jets. “Come an hour early to enjoy the space,” suggests redheaded spa manager Beth McHugh. “Just relax and remember to breathe.” Aveda Stress-Fix Massage, $138. 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley. 410-771-0200, spainthevalley.com
Nearly a decade ago, to celebrate Cygnus Wine Cellars’ 10th birthday, owner and winemaker Ray Brasfield invited a few chefs to put together tasting dinners. The gatherings, in the lower level of the circa-1930s slaughterhouse that Cygnus calls home, were so well received, says Brasfield, he decided to keep them going. Each Sunday in July, diners gather in the late afternoon to sip a sparkling Royele and nibble on snacks before moving into the rustic banquet room for a sit-down meal. Since 2005, guest chefs have included Jerry Pellegrino (now of Waterfront Kitchen), Michael Gettier (formerly of Antrim 1844) among others, who prepare multi-course feasts to pair with current Cygnus wines and special bottles from the library. “I’m into it,” says Antonio Baines, executive chef at Tapas Teatro, who has made the trek to Manchester nearly every year—and will return on July 27 for a yet-to-be-determined menu. Because the winery’s kitchen facilities are minimal, Baines sets up a grill to prepare most of the meal. “I just wait and see what’s available a few days before the event,” says the chef, whose favorite Cygnus wine is the Port of Manchester, a Port-style wine that is sweet without any fortification. “It’s kind of a play on words,” he says. “There’s no port in Manchester.” Cost, $80 per person. 410-374-6395, cygnuswinecellars.com
The Franklin Institute is going to look a little bit different this summer. And by little, we mean a 53,000-square-foot, $41 million expansion in the form of the three-story Nicholas and Athena Karabots Pavilion, which will house the nation’s largest permanent exhibition titled Your Brain—offering more than 70 interactive experiences, including a two-story climbing structure that simulates a neural network, and real specimens contributed by scientists across the country. Also look for traveling exhibits, including “Circus! Science under the Big Top” through October, “101 Inventions That Changed the World” (from penicillin to the Internet) through December, and “National Geographic’s Ocean Soul,” a breathtaking photographic journey, through December. Dive in! fi.edu
New York City
Can’t get your nerdy spouse off the couch when “The Simpsons” are on TV? Suggest a fun intervention—a trip to NYC for the Animation Block Party, which features all genres of the latest national and international animated features from students, independent filmmakers and pros. Founded in 2004 as a single-day minifest, the event now attracts close to 3,000 attendees each summer and runs for four days with films screening at Rooftop Films and BAMcinématek in Brooklyn. This year’s opening night will feature sneak previews of shorts from MTV Other, the network’s short film channel, along with a live musical performance before the screening and a filmmaker Q-and-A to follow. July 24-27. animationblock.com
Even at its Wonder Bread,pasteurized Kraft cheese worst, a grilled cheese is still pretty darn good. But you don’t know the iconic American sandwich’s true potential until you visit GCDC, the District’s first grilled cheese bar. The hip, one-of-a-kind restaurant serves up chic staples like the Kim-Cheese-Steak, a cheddar blend with Korean-style roast beef and kimchi for lunch, then turns swanky in the evening with fun cocktails, craft beer and an array of gourmet cheese plates and spicy meats. Perfect before or after a trip to the White House, just a few blocks away. grilledcheesedc.com
The folks at Bond Street Social have expanded the fun by opening an equally social new restaurant at the harbor’s edge nearby. And while Barcocina (a Spanishy-sounding combo of bar and kitchen) “appeals to a similar demographic,” general manager Shane Gerken describes the new spot, which opened in early May in the former Shuckers space, as “a little more chill” than its older sibling. Renovations included opening up the side of the building and installing 14 glass-paneled, garage-style doors and raising the patio to meet the restaurant’s floor so in warm weather it all feels like one contiguous space. The menu, overseen by Bond Street executive chef Marc Dixon and executed by Chris Angel (former chef de cuisine at Aldo’s), is equally chill. Mexican-inspired small plates feature a selection of guacamole with such add-ons as fried egg and chorizo, sharable tacos, an ancho shrimp quesadilla and crabcakes with a chipotle bite. The drink menu is divided into sweet, spicy and smoky, using techniques like capturing smoked cinnamon on the inside of a glass and repurposing the liquid from the sous vide tequila bacon as an ingredient in brunch bloodies. 1629 Thames Street, 410-563-1500, barcocina.com
When complaining about how much we loathe Spinning to local bike racer Rebecca Chan at a recent cocktail party, she said a certain piece of equipment might change our minds about hopping on a bike. The Specialized Turbo, an electric, pedal-assisted bicycle, carries the rider at speeds up to 28 mph, making the ride more pleasant for commuters and fitness fiends alike. “All you need to do is pedal and the Turbo will take you for a ride,” says Tommy Bullough, sales manager at Twenty20 Cycling Company in Hampden. “You can get to work faster—and burn some calories without the added sweat.” Upshot: We can’t wait to show off at the next Baltimore Bike Party. $5,900 in red and black. 725 W. 36th St. http://www.twenty20cycling.com
For more than 25 years I’ve had a William Hamilton cartoon from The New Yorker on my bulletin board that shows a couple of soignée dames talking to a guy in a checked hunting jacket. One of the ladies is ululating—“Maine! What an authentic place to come from.” I’ve heard that line before. I’m from Maine.
Summer rolls around and Americans start thinking vacation. And when they start thinking vacation, they start thinking Vacationland, Maine’s annoying moniker. No one wants to be a vacation destination—even if they make a living off tourists—but as my late father used to point out, tourists eventually go home.
Maine has marketed itself as a tourist mecca since the 19th century. Henry David Thoreau was a tourist in Maine. Mainers don’t seem to be able to stop taunting the rest of the country. Drive across the great bridge that spans the Piscataqua River separating Maine from our right wing neighbor New Hampshire (“Live Free or Die”) and there is a big sign that proclaims “Maine, the Way Life Should Be.”
Tourism is one of the state’s major moneymakers. Nearly 28 million people spent more than $5 billion visiting Maine last year. More than 85,000 people have jobs directly related to tourism. That’s more people than live in the state’s largest city, Portland.
Since most of the mills closed or moved to Sri Lanka, marketing Maine is all Maine has left to market. Maine sells Maine. The Way Life Should Be. It’s a fantasy. But what’s the harm?
Tourists have been good to Maine and tourism is a soft industry that is not incompatible with Maine life and it harms the environment less than fracking would. Folks complain about tourists causing traffic jams. Trust me, the worst traffic jam in Maine history would be a rolling backup on the inner loop of the beltway most weekday mornings.
Maine has made its pact with the devil. The state fiercely promotes itself as a four-season destination—allowing tourists to get lost in the woods year-round. (But, hey, it keeps the game wardens busy.) The most sparsely populated state east of the Mississippi and larger than the rest of New England combined, Maine has one big problem. More than 70 million Americans and Canadians live within a one-day drive of Vacationland. Yikes! Even gas prices over $4 a gallon could not keep them away.
And so it is that I am going home in July for a visit, a vacationer in Vacationland, a grouchy expatriate. Tourists think Maine is a pine-covered wonderland, just one lighthouse and picturesque village after another, with L.L. Bean thrown in for rainy days. But I’m from the interior of the state, a town of dark, satanic mills where the industrial revolution began—and ended. Tourists do not visit dark, satanic mills. How would that look on a bumper sticker? I VISITED A DARK, SATANIC MILL.
If home is where the heart is then I think it takes a hard heart to love a mill town. But Maine is home. I’ll have dinner with my brother one night (that’s often more than enough) at his house on an island in Casco Bay. My brother loathes tourists and is a rich source of weird stories involving flatlanders who’ve had misadventures on the Appalachian Trail, were plucked from watery death by the Coast Guard off Owls Head or were rescued by the warden service from whitewater rafting trips run amok. Some of his stories are even true.
I never stay in Maine long now. I have become a “fair weather Maine man.” That’s not a compliment. I drive around and look at the past, the things that are no longer there. The funny thing about the things that are no longer there is that I can clearly see them all. I stop at Fat Boy’s, an old Route 1 drive-in where my father ate lunch. I visit a few friends. I get lots of dinner invitations. My brother marvels at my popularity, observing that when you only come home once a year people are actually glad to see you. That’s the idea.
Better than any other art form, film reveals the nature of the world’s great cities. Even if you’ve never visited New York, London, Paris or Tokyo, movies have very likely given you a strong sense of those cities—from their streets and buildings to their personality and vibe.
Before I recently visited Rome for the first time, I felt as if I already “knew” it from having seen dozens of films shot on its streets, from the starkly tragic “Rome, Open City” to the grimly affecting “Umberto D” to the fizzily romantic “Three Coins in the Fountain.”
So during my weeklong stay there, I let six classic Italian films guide me to its iconic sights, and in the process, I saw stunning art, ate fabulous food and made unanticipated discoveries.
Anita Ekberg frolics in the Trevi Fountain in the 1960 film “La Dolce Vita.”
Americans of a certain vintage first “saw” Rome via “Roman Holiday” (1953), director William Wyler’s breezy romantic fable starring Audrey Hepburn as a duty-bound princess and Gregory Peck as an enterprising journalist. He whisks her away from her dreary royal responsibilities via a wham-bam tour of the city that makes pit stops at numerous scenic and historic locales, including the Trevi Fountain, Forum, Colosseum, Spanish Steps and a memorable cinematic moment at the Bocca della Verita (Mouth of Truth).
At a café adjacent to the Pantheon, Peck quippily orders “Champagne per la signorina and cold coffee for me.” That original café disappeared long ago, but after a de rigueur visit to note the Pantheon’s dizzyingly spectacular engineering, you can now decamp to the mere-steps-away Caffe Tazza d’Oro for granita di caffe: shaved ice soaked in sweet coffee liquid with panna (whipping cream) on top and bottom. Then drink in Caravaggio’s dark, beautiful and mesmerizing trio of paintings depicting signal episodes in the life of St. Matthew at nearby San Luigi dei Francesi.
Audrey Hepburn clings to Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday.”
On its surface, Federico Fellini’s “La Dolce Vita” (1960) faintly echoes Wyler’s film, as newspaperman Marcello Mastroianni trails Hollywood glamor girl Anita Ekberg. But at its heart, the film serves as Fellini’s corrosive indictment of a vacuous society besotted with celebrity, sensationalism and status.
Famous city landmarks flit by—the Spanish Steps, Piazza Navona, Piazza di Spagna, Pantheon, Palazzo del Quirinale (residence of first, the pope, then the king, and now the president)—but the film’s most indelible scenes occur at the gargantuan, opulent and magnificent Trevi Fountain (in the real world, mobbed by a Benetton Nation of tourists day and evening, and probably best experienced just before dawn as Mastroianni and Ekberg do in the movie) and on the Via Veneto.
In “La Dolce Vita,” Via Veneto functions as a tony ground zero for the international jet set, perpetually staked out by predatory paparazzi; today, though, the stretch seems queasily clinical, chockablock with designer clothing and jewelry shops, posh hotels and upscale restaurants—evincing no real soul. For a vividly bizarre dose of the latter on Via Veneto, visit the Santa Maria della Concezione, whose crypt houses five chapels lined with decorative religious motifs (crucifixes, crowns of thorns) assembled from the bones of 4,000 dearly departed friars.
Do not forego a stop at the close-by Santa Maria della Vittoria to see Bernini’s breathtaking marble sculpture “The Ecstasy of St. Teresa,” wherein the prototypical independent woman undergoes a, hmmm, startlingly graphic spiritual orgasm.
“The Bicycle Thief,” directed by Vittorio De Sica.
For a considerably less glittery portrait of Rome, screen “The Bicycle Thief” (1949), Vittorio De Sica’s bleak neorealist drama about an impoverished poster-hanger who desperately searches the city—with his young son in tow—for his stolen bike, essential to perform his job. Stops include a church, a whorehouse and Rome’s bustling Porta Portese public market, where the protagonist catches a brief glimpse of the thief.
Held each Sunday from 6:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. in the Travestere area, Porta Portese, a gargantuan flea market, falls somewhere between the chaos of a Moroccan souk and the decorum of a suburban American church bazaar. Aggressive hawkers bark the merits of their particular item: shoes, luggage, books, CDs, jewelry, handbags, toys, DVDs, housewares and every conceivable article of clothing. New merchandise, for the most part: all of it cheap, and, you can bet, cheaply made. A memorable sensory-overload experience, even if you don’t buy anything.
Afterward, reward yourself aesthetically with a stop at San Francesco a Ripa, one of whose eight chapels boasts another gob-smacking Bernini sculpture of a woman seized by spiritual bliss, “The Ecstasy of Beata Ludovica Albertoni.” Then reward yourself gastronomically with a rectangle of exquisite pizza—fresh, gorgeous, delicious toppings—at Forno la Renella, whose ancient oven burns hazelnut shells as fuel.
With 1958’s “I soliti ignoti” (known here as “The Big Deal on Madonna Street”), Mario Monicelli elbowed aside the solemnity of cinematic neorealism, inaugurating the era of Commedia all’italiana (Italian-style comedy), which adroitly combined gentle humor with social satire.
Brimming with a stellar cast (Mastroianni, Claudia Cardinale, Vittorio Gassman, among others), “Big Deal” boasts a gang of putative jewelry shop burglars whose members move from ineptitude to ineffectualness to, ultimately, indifference, dispersing amiably, if no richer, at film’s end in the Piazza Armenia.
Their attempted heist was shot in teeny-weeny Via delle Tre Cannelle, wedged unassumingly between an L-shaped bend in central Rome’s mammoth Via IV Novembre. Descending a flight of nearby steps, enter the gateway to the vast Forum, classical Rome’s political/economic/legal locus, whose stately ruins of temples, arches, columns, and courts straddle block after block after block of Fori Imperial.
Next march west from Via IV Novembre to see the more compact ruins of Sacra dell’Argentina, four temples dating from the early 3rd century B.C. that now serve as a public cat sanctuary. From above, ogle cats sunning themselves on stubs of disinterred marble columns, then cross the street to drink a decadently delicious caffé completo (espresso, dark chocolate paste, whipped cream, cocoa powder) at Cafffe Camerino, its white crockery emblazoned with three red “f”s.
In addition to its glamor, charm and ancient allure, Rome, like any huge metropolis, boasts a seamier side. In his directorial debut, “Accattone” (1961), Pier Paolo Pasolini captured just such a place—the grimy tenements of the city’s Pigneto neighborhood. Relentlessly grim, the film pulses with a charged literary neorealism, depicting the downward spiral of a small-time pimp whose life of lassitude collapses when his lone hooker winds up in prison.
More urban than urbane, Pigneto has been claimed and invigorated—but not tidied—by artists over the past decade. A constant beacon, regardless of circumstances, has been Necci Dal, 1924, the restaurant/bar where Pasolini shot significant portions of “Accattone.” Hip without being hipster-ish, its shady front patio and rustic interior invite lingering over cappuccino and a flaky cornetto (the croissant’s Italian cousin) in the morning and a cocktail and a plate of fiori di zucca (fried stuffed zucchini flowers) in the evening.
Granted, it seems counterintuitive to visit a Roman suburb, but to see the almost alien landscape that Michelangelo Antonioni used as the backdrop for “L’Eclisse” (1962), you’ll need to hop aboard the city’s southbound Metro to reach EUR (Esposizione Universale di Roma). A tale of alienation set in a context of materialistic grasping, “L’Eclisse” follows Monica Vitti and Alain Delon as they toy distractedly with a soulless affair. She tells him, “Two people shouldn’t know each other too well if they want to fall in love. But then maybe they shouldn’t fall in love at all.”
Antonioni reinforces the numbing effect by framing his narrative with EUR’s “fascist” architecture. Begun under Mussolini and intended for completion to coincide with World Expo 1942, these buildings were discontinued because of World War II, and then finished—along with several new ones—by the original architects from the mid-to-late 1950s.
The austerely arresting structures hover throughout the film: an immense mushroom-cloud water tower; the spaceship-like Palazzo dello Sport; the 22-story Palazzo ENI office complex; and the Palazzo della Civilta Italiana, whose arches mirror those at the Colosseum. In short, a severe, modernist otherworld, of which Delon notes, “I feel like I’m in a foreign country.”
Foreign to Americans, certainly, but Rome’s soulfulness, graciousness and cosmopolitan-yet-unpretentious nature made me feel completely at home, readily surpassing, not surprisingly, the city I knew only on film.
WHEN IN ROME…
Given the language barrier, actually seeing a film in Rome can prove tricky for American visitors, with most movies made in Italian or, in the case of foreign films, dubbed in Italian—and many of them mainstream fare. Mercifully, the following three venues show both Italian and foreign films, with the latter offered in their native language, while booking indie, classic and documentary works.
Casa del Cinema. Housed on the grounds of the vast and elegant Villa Borghese Park, on the north edge of the city, this multipurpose cinema center boasts three indoor theaters, one outdoor theater (for warm-weather use), a film library, a DVD-screening room, two exhibition spaces and various film- and book-related events. Plus, there is a bookshop and café. All screenings are free.
Nuovo Sacher. Vexed by inadequate film distribution, director Nanni Moretti established Nuovo Sacher in Trastevere for cineastes to see under-the-radar Italian productions, as well as similar foreign films, for extended runs. Like our own summertime outdoor screenings in Little Italy, this venue shows movies (from the previous year) in its open-air amphitheater each summer. Also on the premises: a bar and bookshop.
Nuovo Cinema Aquila. The city’s most daring film programmer, this three-story, glass-and-steel film and visual arts cultural center—repurposed from a 1940s movie house in the Pigneto neighborhood—presents a diverse menu of Italian and foreign indie productions as well as an array of film fests (deaf, lesbian and audio, among others). It features three theaters and a bar.
“Bowtie” Bob Nelson at The 8x10
Whether you’re wondering if the baby’s going to sleep through the night or crossing your fingers she’ll make it home from a fraternity party by 2 a.m., you might lie in bed at night and think about the person you used to be before you were a parent.
Remember all the concerts you went to? The bands you saw before they got big? In hindsight, you were pretty cool. And you can be pretty cool again, if you know where to start.
Despite what you may think, Charm City’s music scene doesn’t care how old you are. Just ask “Bowtie” Bob Nelson, a 69-year-old who lives in Mount Vernon and sees more shows than the average MICA student.
“I would go nuts sitting at home, watching TV every night of the week,” Nelson says. “I want to go out; I want to be where there’s music.”
After living in Parkville for more than 30 years, Nelson—who is “more or less retired”—moved to Mount Vernon to be closer to the action. He lives across the street from a senior center, but doesn’t see himself moving in anytime soon. He’s too busy finding new haunts. “I love walking into a place where I’ve never been before and I don’t know everybody,” he said.
Shirlé Hale and her husband, David Koslowski—both in their 40s—moved back to Baltimore two years ago after several years in North Carolina. Here they formed the post-punk trio Small Apartments with drummer Greg Dohler and have been welcomed back with open arms.
“There’s no reason to label yourself as an older person,” Hale says. “How old do you feel?”
Timing couldn’t be better to renew your interest. In the past few years, the Baltimore music scene has exploded. Bands are moving here from around the country to be a part of it. Most of the experimental music happens at DIY venues and also clubs in the emerging Station North Arts and Entertainment District (by the Charles Theater).
Here’s a crib sheet to get you started.
8-10 E. Cross St., 410-625-2000 the8x10.com
Wedged into the bustling Federal Hill nightlife scene, The 8x10 has been home to live music for decades. You can drop by on a weeknight to sample some of the city’s best funk, roots rock and jam bands, or buy a ticket for shows by national touring groups like the Honey Island Swamp Band.
Run by the husband-and-wife team of Abigail Janssens and Bryan Shupe, it’s been something of an underdog for years—the little club that could. Janssens and Shupe care deeply about local music and routinely go out on a limb to book bands they believe in.
where to watch: There aren’t many bad places to stand inside The 8x10, but it’s fun to be on the upper balcony if you can get a spot by the railing.
What to wear: The 8x10 can get elbow-to-elbow for some shows, so go with something comfy and durable, especially in the shoe department.
where to Park: Try your luck on the street. (Beware the residential permit section.) Or, for a sure bet, head for the West Street Garage.
201 W. Baltimore St., 410-347-2020 baltimorearena.com
The grand old dame of Baltimore concert spaces. Well, maybe more old than grand. But as much as people love to hate on it, the Baltimore Arena still books great bands. Justin Timberlake and the Black Keys are set to perform in coming months, and Kanye West played there this past Valentine’s Day. We just wish their concession stands weren’t stuck in the 1980s.
where to watch: Try for a seat in sections 103 to 108.
What to wear: Layers to accommodate the AC/body-heat ratio.
where to Park: You can reserve parking in advance at the Arena Garage on Howard Street.
Cat’s Eye Pub
Cat’s Eye Pub
1730 Thames St., 410-276-9866 catseyepub.com
Walking into this Fells Point bar is like stepping back in time. It’s one of the last bastions of old school Baltimore, with reasonably priced drinks, regular live music and a cast of colorful regulars. Young Tony Cushing took over when his father, Tony, passed away in 2008 and believes in the “wipe but don’t scrub” aesthetic. Area blues, jazz and roots-rock musicians frequent the Cat’s Eye. Go on a night when Ursula Ricks or Carl Filipiak is playing and you’ll walk away smiling.
where to watch: From the bar. And keep an eye out for Bowtie Bob—this is one of his favorite hangouts.
What to wear: Who cares? Just be you.
where to Park: In the ’hood. You might have to circle for a while, but you’ll find a spot.
3134 Eastern Ave., 410-276-1651 creativealliance.org
The Creative Alliance breathed new life into the ailing Patterson Theater, staging concerts and burlesque shows alongside cutting-edge art exhibits. It’s even residence for a handful of Baltimore artists—beatboxer Shodekeh and “Love” muralist Michael Owen have both lived there.
From 2012 to 2013, Creative Alliance was also home to a sister location of the standout restaurant Clementine, but the CA took back over the café last February. You can still grab a stiff drink before shows at the Marquee Lounge bar, which has a jaw-dropping orange and red mural.
where to watch: Try to get as close to the middle center rows as you can.
What to wear: Get funky; get crafty.
where to Park: Search for a spot along Eastern Avenue or by Patterson Park. Allow a little extra time to locate.
1910 N. Charles St., 410-625-4848 facebook.com/thecrownbaltimore
Brendan Sullivan, who plays in the experimental Baltimore band Weekends, opened this Station North lounge in June 2013. It quickly became a go-to for established and emerging Baltimore bands. Dan Deacon tested an intimate set of new material there, and Baltimore Club whiz Blaqstarr recently manned the turntables for a DJ set. It’s a cozy second-floor space, with two small bars and an elevated stage.
where to watch: A barstool or one of the plush chairs.
What to wear: Please don’t go to American Apparel to stock up on the latest hipster garb. Find a way to flash your inner cool.
where to Park: Easy! Outside on Charles Street or nearby on North Avenue.
133 W. North Ave., 410-545-0444 joesquared.com
If there were a Station North 101, it would start at the original Joe Squared. One of the first good restaurants to open on North Avenue in years (there’s also a location in Power Plant Live), Joe Squared has excellent pizza and a surprisingly good rum and beer list. Better still, there’s live music nearly every night, usually for free. The lineup is mostly acoustic—bands start during dinner and are often good enough to hold your attention for a couple hours. Dixieland swing group Sac Au Lait is a perennial favorite, and things get super funky at DIG!, when Landis Expandis of the All Mighty Senators mans the turntables.
where to watch: Sit at a table about halfway back, order some pizza and stay for the music.
What to wear: Keep it casual. You may get tomato sauce on your shirt.
where to Park: There’s plenty of metered neighborhood parking (mostly free after 6 p.m.) and also a parking lot behind Load of Fun, accessible via Maryland Avenue.
Merriweather Post Pavilion
Merriweather Post Pavilion
10475 Little Patuxent Parkway, Columbia 410-715-5550, merriweathermusic.com
Ten years ago, Merriweather was almost left for dead—until the unlikely team of Howard County executive Ken Ulman and concert promoter Seth Hurwitz (who also co-owns the 9:30 Club) brought it back from the brink. These days, the woodsy amphitheater hosts large festivals like Virgin Mobile FreeFest, Sweetlife and Vans Warped Tour, as well as shows from A-listers like Phish, Willie Nelson and Queens of the Stone Age. And you don’t have to stay out late: Since it’s in Columbia, all shows end by 11 p.m.
where to watch: Let the kids stand on the lawn. You deserve a seat in the pavilion. The center section, about halfway back has the best sound, and the roof gives you shelter from the evening sun or any summer storms that may blow through.
What to wear: Linen and other breathable fabrics. Bring a light coat for the walk back to the car, which can be chilly, depending on the month.
where to Park: There is plenty of official Merriweather parking, but if you’re there after business hours, head for one of the free garages just across S. Entrance Road. It’s a longer walk, but you won’t have to wait in an endless line of cars to leave.
Sarah Werner, Metro Gallery
1700 N. Charles St., 410-244-0899 themetrogallery.net
When it opened in 2007, the Metro Gallery was a turning point for the Station North Arts and Entertainment District. Owner Sarah Werner turned an old dry cleaners into one of Baltimore’s coolest spots for art and live music.
“I get asked so often, ‘Is it a gallery, a bar or a club?’” Werner says. “That question used to annoy me. Now I kind of like the confusion. Usually by the end of the night, they get it.”
Our perfect night: see a movie at the Charles; grab a bite at Tapas Teatro; stroll across the street for music.
where to watch: Try for the corner of the bar, which is shaped like half of a square. From there, you can see the bands without standing, and be an arm’s length away from your next beverage.
What to wear: Anything goes. You’ll see hipsters standing next to 40-somethings in button-down shirts.
where to Park: The infamous $2 lot next door (where the attendants are known for playing everything from reggae to opera).
2549 N. Howard St., 410-662-0069 theottobar.com
You may have been to The Ottobar back in the late ’90s when it was a grungy little club on Davis Street downtown. These days, it’s a grungy mid-size club on North Howard Street, where known and unknown Baltimore bands play alongside nationally touring punk and indie rock artists like King Buzzo of the Melvins and Evan Dando of the Lemonheads. The bathrooms are infamously skeezy, and have spawned their own Tumblr, Ottobar Bathroom Selfies (ottobarbathroomselfies.tumblr.com).
where to watch: Get there early enough to snag a seat on the balcony lining one side of the club. Or if you’re really lucky, you can claim the sole table to the right of the stairs leading up to the bar. It only has two or three seats, but a killer view of the stage.
What to wear: Something you won’t mind being ruined by accidental beer spills.
where to Park: If you’re nervous about the neighborhood at night, bring some cash and park in the lot behind the club. Otherwise, you can usually find street parking nearby.
Pier Six Pavilion
Pier Six Pavilion
731 Eastern Ave., 410-783-4189 piersixpavilion.com
Pier Six Pavilion doesn’t get enough cred. How many cities have grassy amphitheaters right in the middle of downtown? Concerts tend to skew older (Hall & Oates, Steely Dan), but Pier Six also draws some trendier acts like Panic! At the Disco and Gavin DeGraw. It’s just a shame you face away from the water instead of toward it.
where to watch: On your friend’s yacht, anchored in the Inner Harbor next to the amphitheater. If you’re not so lucky, pavilion seats are worth the extra money.
What to wear: Unless you’re going to dinner at the Ritz-Carlton beforehand, keep it easy. Note: Even on the hottest summer nights, there’s usually a breeze.
where to Park: Plenty of lot parking next to the amphitheater, as well as several nearby garages.
Rams Head Live
Rams Head Live
20 Market Place, Power Plant Live, 410-244-1131 ramsheadlive.com
If you’re looking to dip your toe into the mainstream Baltimore concert scene, start here. Rams Head Live is in Power Plant Live, so it’s easy to make a night of it. Have dinner and drinks before the show—or better yet, rent a hotel room. Rams Head Live holds 1,600, making it one of the region’s biggest clubs. Jay-Z, Smashing Pumpkins and the Beastie Boys have all played intimate shows here. The usual lineup is a hodgepodge of tribute bands, vintage artists such as Devo and newer groups like Neko Case.
where to watch: Rams Head Live is an oddly shaped space with endless nooks and crannies, and the sound can vary wildly depending on where you are. One of the best spots is near the rear of the lower level, which gives you a good view, quality sound and easy access to the bar.
What to wear: Show off some bling if it’s your thing.
where to Park: Lockwood Place Garage, accessible by Market Place or Lombard Street. It’s only $10 with a voucher from the Rams Head box office.
12 W. North Ave., 410-244-8855 thewindupspace.com
The best time to go here is just after dusk, when you can sip a drink and watch night fall on North Avenue. Take a few minutes to walk around and check out the art. Say hi to Russell de Ocampo, the owner (he’s the guy behind the bar with the black beard). Not long after, the music starts. All kinds of great Baltimore bands play the Windup. If you’re the adventurous type, try the Out of Your Head Improvised Music Collective shows at 9:30 p.m. most Tuesdays.
where to watch: Depending on the show, there are usually tables set back a bit from the stage. If they’re all taken, opt for a barstool.
What to wear: Skinny jeans; dirty hair.
where to Park: Street parking on North Avenue or Charles Street
Sam Sessa is Baltimore Music Coordinator for 89.7 WTMD, which hosts free weekly Live Lunch concerts at noon on Fridays, and also produces the free First Thursday Concerts at Canton Waterfront Park. Sam also hosts Baltimore Hit Parade, a weekly show offering the best of Baltimore’s music scene, at 9 p.m. Tuesdays and 4 p.m. Sundays. wtmd.org
Flower power is all the rage this summer. It’s flirty, fun and appeals to all ages—and sexes. Otherwise, how would Hawaiian shirts for men ever have become popular? That’s what behemoth retailer Tommy Bahama discovered long ago, when it amped up traditional tropical offerings with a jolt of sartorial manliness. Now the brand sells everything under the sun, including women’s wear, furniture and home décor. And pervading it all is a “don’t worry, be happy” vibe. Since Savvy can never get enough ocean breezes, she’s cruising to her idyll at the first local store. Towson Town Center. tommybahama.com
French-trained Joseph Poupon has been cranking out crusty bread, flakey choux and ornately embellished wedding cakes since he opened Patisserie Poupon in 1986. The tiny East Baltimore Street storefront is familiar to Francophiles, sweet-toothed cognoscenti and the soon-to-be-married but is otherwise unspectacular—at least from the décor perspective. Not so the recently opened Poupon Cafe in Mount Vernon’s Grand Historic Venue. The café’s menu is similar to that of the Georgetown sandwich shop the baker opened in 1997—sandwiches, salads, ham and cheese croissants, quiche—as well as coffee drinks and plenty of alluring treats, buttery and sweet. Oversized vintage posters advertising such everyday French products as breath mints and laundry products, bistro chairs with bamboo frames and high ceilings with bowl chandeliers give the place an aura of authenticity. But the truth really hits when you bite into a mille-feuille, oozing pastry cream, the thousand leaves crumbling between your lips. When Poupon came to Baltimore nearly 30 years ago, he’d already made sweets at some of New York’s fanciest patisseries—including Bonte and and Dumas—and delivered baked goods to the iconic restaurants La Delice Pastry Shop and Le Côte Basque. Now he’s found a new home on Charles Street. C’est si bon. 225 N. Charles St. 443-573-4620, patisseriepoupon.net
by Jen Michalski
The couple at the four-mile marker of the trail has the smallest Yorkie you’ve ever seen. It eats from a collapsible bowl under the picnic table as the woman offers you a drinking glass for the water pump.
“Hard to get enough like that,” she says as you curl your head under the stream of water.
You fill the plastic tumbler. The people who frequent hiking trails are super nice or super crazy. Sometimes they’re both. You consider this as you join her at the table, where she is spreading egg salad on wheat bread. Her husband, muscular, head covered in a bandana, repacks their SUV.
“Cute.” You reach under the table and it jumps on your palm, licking it. Its enthusiasm would be annoying in a normal-sized dog, but you can hold her in your hand. “Is she still a puppy?”
“Princess is eight.” The woman stops, admiring her work. “She’s been to 48 states.”
“Military?” The water is soothing down your throat. This much water, so early on in your 20-miler, is a luxury and a danger.
“He’s a contractor.” She nods toward her husband. “We’re living in Aberdeen. They’re a little weird out there.”
“Generally, the farther out you venture out from the city….”
“You know what our neighbors did?” She holds up the clear plastic knife. You imagine her packing supplies this morning, the dog bowl, grapes. “They found a little poop in their yard and tied it to our front door in a baggie. And it wasn’t even hers—it was probably a deer’s or something. They think I’m Paris Hilton or something because I drive a Mercedes and have a little dog.”
“That seems unreasonable.” You agree. “Maybe you’ll move again soon enough.”
“I hope so.” She tops the sandwiches. “But you never know which America you’re moving to.”
You are not sure what to make of her, her serious running shoes, her Mercedes, her toy dog. Her husband has finished packing the Pan-America, which sounds more like an airline than an SUV, and sits at the table, not looking at you. The dog lies on her back in the grass, wriggling back and forth.
“We have to be careful.” The woman looks at Princess. “Sometimes the hawks swoop down to grab her.”
“She’s precious. I’d be careful, too.” You stand. “Thanks for the water.”
“They found that girl not far from here,” she says between mouthfuls of egg salad. Her husband coughs. “You read about her?”
You haven’t, but you nod.
Later, they scare the shit out of you after you’ve run another two miles, on a shady park of the trail. They’re on bikes, and she turns slightly and waves as she passes. Princess rides in a basket on the front of her bike, and her husband has a mini boom box strapped to his. It’s hard to place the music—not country, not rock ’n’ roll, but something soothing, like in a grocery store. He pedals past you, controlled, erect, like someone bringing forth a truth to this world.
Jen Michalski is author of the novel “The Tide King,” a collection of fiction, “Close Encounters,” and a collection of novellas, “Could You Be With Her Now.”
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’Til the Well Runs Dry (Henry Holt), Lauren Francis-Sharma’s first novel, is a sweeping multi-generational, multi-cultural tale. Set in Trinidad and the U.S., the book tells the story of smart 16-year-old seamstress Marcia Garcia, a girl with two boys to raise—and a family secret to protect. Recent buzz in O, Elle, Cosmopolitan, and Glamour reminds us to pack this read for the road.
Jen Michalski’s latest story collection, From Here (Aqueous Books), hits stores Sept. 30. These 12 stories explore the dislocations and intersections of characters searching, ultimately, for a place to call home. If you’ve not yet read Michalski’s award-winning novel, The Tide King (Black Lawrence Press, 2013), we heartily recommend it as thoughtful entertainment, the perfect vacation read to tide you over…
Let Me See It (Triquarterly Books), James Magruder’s lovely new collection of linked stories follows two gay cousins, Tom and Elliott, from adolescence to adulthood. An addicting blend of comedy and tenderness, the stories depict the boys’ attempts to navigate gay life while the AIDS crisis deepens. Publishers Weekly starred it this spring—we’d add a sunburst for superb beach pick.
Persistence: Poems of Warren, Maryland (David Robert Books) by Ann Eichler Kolakowski tells the story of the former mill town near Cockeysville that was destroyed in 1922 to create the Loch Raven Reservoir. Kolakowski’s grandmother was believed to be Warren’s last surviving resident when she died at 103 in 2006. We appreciate the poet’s musical language and precise, personal lens.
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Savvy is in awe of people who can craft things with their hands. Intellectual endeavors are all well and good, but when you need the physical attributes of a civilized life, you call on a carpenter. And at Su Casa, owner Nick Johnson is your guy. Besides filling his stores with the beachy keen, urban chic furniture and home accessories we’ve come to expect, he’s now donning safety goggles and geeking out building custom furniture—a new passion. His latest inspiration is reclaimed pallet lumber—oak and pine—done in a chevron pattern for a media stand. Try to resist caressing this baby next time you’re in Fells for dinner. Four locations: Fells Point, Kenilworth, Ellicott City, Dewey Beach. 410-522-7010, sucasa-furniture.com
Beach House. This dream pop duo is Baltimore’s most popular band, big enough to fill the 2,500-seat Modell Center at the Lyric last year. Guitarist Alex Scally and singer/keyboardist Victoria Legrand craft haunting, gorgeous songs ideal for a dark summer night. The next time you’re home alone, pour a glass of red wine and put their latest album, “Bloom,” on the turntable (did we mention vinyl has made a comeback?). Songs to start with: “Myth,” “Zebra,“ “Wild.“
Dan Deacon. Your kids may have told you about this electronic composer who puts on some of the most wild, energetic, release-your-inner-child concerts around. He’s an incredibly smart, articulate musician who also leads classical ensembles and scored a Frances Ford Coppola film. About 10 years ago, Deacon and several other artists moved to Baltimore from New York and formed the Wham City experimental arts collective. They’re a large part of why Baltimore has one of the country’s best music scenes. Songs to start with: “True Thrush,“ “Crystal Cat,“ “Wham City parts 1&2.“
Future Islands. If you missed this trio’s late-night TV debut when singer Sam Herring danced his way into David Letterman’s heart, YouTube it immediately. They are one of Baltimore’s hardest-working bands, constantly on the road, and lately, they’ve gone from critical darlings to indie breakouts. Their new album, “Singles,“ has some of their best material yet, with vintage-sounding synthesizers, irresistible grooves and Herring’s soulful singing. Songs to start with: “Seasons (Waiting On You),“ “Before the Bridge,“ “Long Flight.“J. Roddy Walston and the Business. Their hair is almost as big as their music. Almost. These local boys play old-school rock ’n’ roll, their front man, Rod, nailing the piano, screaming like a demon and whipping around his thick mane. Not long after J. Roddy released their scorching album “Essential Tremors“ last year, the rest of the country began to realize what Baltimoreans have known for a while: this band rocks. Songs to start with: “Heavy Bells,“ “Take It As It Comes,“ “Used to Did.“
Wye Oak. If you’re a fan of the TV show “The Walking Dead,“ you’ve already heard Wye Oak—the title track to their breakthrough 2011 album “Civilian“ was used in the trailer for Season 2, and in one of the episodes from that season. They’re also a duo—Andy Stack somehow manages to play the drums and keyboard at once. Jenn Wasner sings and is one of Baltimore’s best guitarists, but after hitting writer’s block, she switched to the bass for their new album, “Shriek.“ Songs to start with: “Glory,” “Before,” “Civilian.”
Need an extra reason to procreate? Consider the cocoon-shaped wonder that is the Pod Crib by Ubabub. This sleek, sustainably made sleeping space converts into a children’s bed when you’re toddler starts, well, toddling. Weighing in at a mere $2,100, this bad boy (or girl) is just one of hundreds of stylish kids’ items you’ll find at Wee Chic, when the beloved boutique expands to its new 3,000-square-foot space in Green Spring Station in July. New additions will include a colorful Candy Bar (we love the gummy bear lamps!), a classroom with fun programs curated by (cool) progeny blogger/supermom Heather Walsh and an expanded line of tween fashions by designers like Vince, Desigual and LAmade. “We handselect clothing that’s trendy but tasteful,” says owner Bridget Quinn Stickline, who was more than happy to “pass” on the half-shirt craze this summer. And don’t worry, in addition to the haute options, you’ll find plenty of fashionable staples and gifts that won’t break the piggybank. 2360 W. Joppa Rd., Lutherville. weechic.com
Vacation (Weight Loss) – All I Ever Wanted!
After finishing each issue of STYLE, I like to do something special to celebrate. Most recently, that included a getaway to South Beach with my dear friend Deb, where we both agreed—instead of indulging in haute cuisine and cocktails—we’d use the weekend as a retreat to recharge our health and fitness goals. READ MORE »
The Letter Mmmmmmmm
Move over, Ben Affleck. I have a new obsession. For those of you who have been following my beauty, health and fitness adventures in STYLE, you may recall I tried out Medifast for a month (read my “Hunger Games” diary!) and lost almost 17 pounds. Naturally, I decided to stick with it. READ MORE »
Decision-making isn’t my forté. I’m the girl who’ll stand in the cereal aisle for 10 minutes reading food labels, then decide I want to go gluten-free and walk away empty-handed. This indecision has extended for years into reading books and articles on integrative nutrition, only to find myself overwhelmed with choices about wellness and losing weight. READ MORE »
If you’re looking to slim down for summer—or just find some healthy snacks to take to the pool, beach or office—here’s your chance! READ MORE »
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
Photographed by David Stuck
Note: Some featured pieces are estate jewelry and may have been sold after publication.
For better or (usually) worse, everybody has a tequila story. But this tequila bottle has its own story. The fifth installment of 1800’s Essential Artists series is dedicated to Jean-Michel Basquiat, who cut his teeth as a graffiti artist in Brooklyn in the late ‘70s, palled around (and occasionally collaborated) with Andy Warhol, and exhibited an unrelenting unwillingness to compromise in his work—carving out an entirely individual portion of the neoexpressionist and primitivist movements. We can’t wait to display one of these limited-edition beauties on a bookshelf. But if you want to make like 1800’s celeb spokesman Ray Liotta and actually drink the stuff, the trapezoidal bottle has a top designed to serve as a shot glass, perfect for Cinco de Mayo. $30 at Wells Discount Liquors in Towson.
When Karen Graveline, owner of Home on the Harbor, discovered the French-made Fermob outdoor furniture line, it was love at first sight. “It was the colors. They just made me feel happy,” she says. Perfect for urban environments, Fermob’s sleek design fits well in a small garden, on a rooftop deck or beside the pool. “The collection has an element of fun, but it’s designed in a sophisticated way,” says Graveline. “And you can mix and match pieces and colors for more fun.” Why not celebrate Earth Day by treating yourself to these entirely sustainable pieces? St. Tropez chair, $791; chair and ottoman set, $1,150. Available exclusively at Home on the Harbor. 1414 Key Highway, 410-433-1616, http://www.homeontheharbor.com
Why wait for May flowers, when you can have this minimalist-chic stretch satin number by Dennis Merotto in March? Known for his fresh modern perspective, European fabrics and sophisticated tailoring, the Toronto-based designer who has been designing high-end women’s clothing for the past 25 years—nine of them as senior designer for the internationally celebrated Lida Baday collection—struck out on his own in 2011. “We had a wonderful first season with Dennis’ line,” says Lori Kilberg, owner of Lori K in Stevenson Village. “The response has been overwhelming. Whether you’re a size 2 or 14, a career girl or a jeans-and-leather jacket girl, his collection offers something for everyone.” Watch for an upcoming trunk sale at Lori K, the only retailer in Baltimore to carry Merotto’s line. Long-sleeve Japanese floral minidress, $750. 10411 Stevenson Road, 410-580-0081, http://www.shoplorik.com
Seeing that Maryland is crisscrossed with waterways, you wouldn’t be surprised that all things nautical abound here. But do you know your sheet bend from your becket hitch? Aye, there’s the rub. No worries. Designer Kohli Flick will welcome you to her store all the same. Becket Hitch, besides being a type of knot, is a new shop at Green Spring Station that should please seafarers and landlubbers alike. It’s full of stylish items such as handmade home furnishings by Lostine, canoe paddles by Sanborn Canoe Co. that double as wall décor, soy candles by Sydney Hale, English Navy wristwatch bands, Meant To Be Sent stationery and luscious jewelry by Loren Hope. Nobody will put a hitch in your giddy-up here. (Oops, wrong metaphor.) 2360 W. Joppa Road, Lutherville. 410-350-6434, http://www.beckethitch.com
I stumbled on an unforeseen new calling last fall at the apartment of friends in Brooklyn, a longtime pair who had recently gotten engaged. Like so many gay couples, Mark and Kevin had decided to make it legal because they finally could, and were just starting to work out the details of their big romantic day. Having had several glasses of Montepulciano d’Abruzzo with my lasagna, I exuberantly suggested that I get an instant-minister credential and perform the wedding.
No less excited about my idea in the clear light of day, I Googled my way to Open-Ministry.org in milliseconds the next morning. Right in the middle of the home page was a purple button: Get Ordained. Underneath it a line of copy read, “Join the global community of ministers now!” I clicked it and poof, I was a minister. There was no charge, though I did eventually send money for a certificate of ordination, notarized letter and other materials needed to register as an officiant in various states.
Next, I got on Facebook to hang out my shingle. My post—“Have Reverend Marion perform your next wedding”—got 175 likes and 52 comments, but most importantly, drew a message from a young woman who had taken a personal essay class from me 10 years ago at York College. Layla Rahimi said she was planning nuptials with a very short lead as her dad was critically ill. She wondered if we could put together something as early as January.
As it turned out, Layla’s father, Habib Rahimi of Habib’s Kabob and Bagel Cafe in Eldersburg, Md., worsened so quickly the first wedding date she set had to be canceled. By the time the morning of the rescheduled event arrived, the family
and friends of the couple had recently attended his funeral, and had to carry on without what surely would have been the proudest of papas. One woman at our table looked wistfully out the window at the unusually warm, sunny February day and murmured, “Habib must have sent this gorgeous weather.”
It was hard to believe that the lovely, slender woman in a dove-gray gown who greeted my 13-year-old daughter Jane and me when we arrived at Overhills Mansion in Catonsville was a recent widow. Kim Rahimi didn’t even look old enough to be the mother of the bride. I confided in her that I had been in a similar situation to Layla’s when my father died a month before my planned wedding date in 1985. But she already knew this, because her book club had read my memoir First Comes Love.
This flattering news helped a bit to calm my jitters, but man, I was nervous. I had spent hours choosing my “minister outfit,” a deep scarlet crepe dress with a long, fitted black jacket, Celtic heart earrings, a pearl choker and, pinned to my lapel, a stuffed heart with tiny bells that arrived in my mailbox Valentine’s Day with no card or return address. (I could tell by the writing on the envelope that it was almost definitely from a girl, so don’t get too excited for me.) We’d stopped at Barnes and Noble on the way, where I’d dropped 30 bucks on a red leather-bound journal to use as a Marriage Register—a tip in the Open-Ministry packet inspired the purchase. I had a nice pen for signing the marriage license and I was ready to go.
The ceremony we’d agreed on was an adaptation of the civil one, adding vows the bride and groom had written themselves. The groom, dressed in gray twill Aladdin-type pants, a matching vest trimmed in blue satin and cloth slippers, pulled crumpled notebook pages from his pocket and read a slightly rambling yet adorable speech in which he revealed that his mother had predicted the marriage when the two were teenagers. He said Layla was his goddess and he would spend his life loving her. The bride, wearing floor-length ivory chiffon, made equally romantic promises, including professing her intention to try to become more inter-ested in snowboarding and more tolerant of really loud music.
After stumbling over a word or two in the beginning of my text, I found my sea legs and finished up with a blessing from the Persian poet Rumi, who was one of Layla’s dad’s favorites. Then, by the authority wildly invested in me by the County of Baltimore and the State of Maryland, I pronounced them Mr. and Mrs. Eddie Garmzaban, and the two beautiful young people kissed as their guests cheered. I followed the recessional out and got a huge hug from my daughter, who was beside herself with the romance of her first wedding ceremony.
It was an unparalleled honor and a thrill to be the instrument of people’s happiness on the happiest day of their lives: the connector in the completed circuit of true love. A Hebrew school dropout like me might be the last person you’d expect to find in this position, but recent studies show the religiously unaffiliated number 1.1 billion worldwide. Somebody’s got to run all those weddings and funerals and naming ceremonies. Maybe you too should join the global community of ministers now!
Have a couple glasses of wine and see if you don’t agree.
Laura Marino wasn’t the only one to breathe a big sigh of relief when Rocco DiSpirito, host of the Food Network’s “Restaurant Divided,” proclaimed the restaurant she owns with her partner, Andrew Weinzirl, and “frenemy” Matthew Weaver would remain Maggie’s Farm. The guys had hoped to reimagine the tiny Lauraville farm-to-table as a turn-of-the-century gastro-pub, queasily called “Speakgreazy”—a hybrid of greasy spoon and speakeasy. Get it?
Even so, the men (it was indeed a gender war, as Marino teamed up with then-sous chef Sarah Acconcia for the competition) scored on some critical fronts on the program, aired late last year. And ever since DiSpirito said farewell, Maggie’s Farm has continued to evolve and grow.
Owners. Weinzirl established a following with his thoughtfully crafted dishes for the iconic predecessor, Chameleon Café, launched in 2001 by Jeff Smith, a pioneer in Baltimore’s chef-run restaurant scene. Marino, who raises produce and makes desserts, is also the number cruncher and was dismayed by runaway spending in the early days of Maggie’s Farm. Weaver, a veteran front-of-the-house guy, has become passionate about using fresh ingredients and infusions in cocktails. However, none had much experience running a business, and were admonished by local restaurateur Tony Foreman to “frickin’ get it together” on national TV.
Décor. In the end, the “turn-of-the-century, brothel-y, speakeasy” décor beat out Marino’s vision for a baby blue country kitchen style restaurant. Gilt stenciling on crimson walls looks like flocked wallpaper, and the bar—a combo of poured concrete and reclaimed wood by local artisans Luke Works—combines with rustic and rusty bric-a-brac for a kind of agrarian steampunk vibe. Another of Marino’s concepts, brown paper-covered tables, on which wait staff would jot down the menu as they recited it to customers, was likewise rejected. Chef Cindy Wolf, a “special guest” at the smackdown dinner, says Weinzirl, “told Laura there’s no way you’d be able to do this every night.”
Food. If her décor tanked, Marino can feel vindicated that her ideas about food survived. The menu continues to proffer creative plates with seasonal, locally sourced ingredients—though the boys’ vision of small plates is alive and well. Don’t miss the $5 fried oyster steamed bun, an Asian-style take on the Po’boy: cornmeal fried oysters in a sweet chewy roll with kimchi and basil mayo.
Bar. Weaver also got to retain his concept of seasonal craft cocktails made with small batch liquors. For spring, try the Road to Perdition: housemade ginger liqueur, lemon juice and chamomile-infused gin, served with a twist in a cocktail glass.
Sunday Brunch. Weinzirl seems somewhat baffled by the popularity of weekend brunch. “All of a sudden something just clicked,” he says, “and we have lines out the door” for the fresh warm doughnuts, steak and eggs, chicken and waffles and, of course, cocktails. Common wisdom in the restaurant world is that Sunday brunch is a chance to use up ingredients left from the week, thus mitigating overspending. So Marino may be the biggest fan of all.
Final Verdict. While the name Maggie’s Farm stayed in place, the restaurant has undergone a dramatic change—for the better. Inviting décor, innovative and affordable dishes by Chef Weinzirl and a new cocktail menu make it a go-to any night of the week. And the owners are all getting along.
4341 Harford Road, Baltimore
“Aren’t there already enough shops full of antiques, junque and sundries on The Avenue?” you might ask. Savvy did. But then she walked into the wonder world of Bryan’s Finds and Designs. Owner Bruce Bryan has an eye for beauty and hands to create it. Not only is he a custom furniture designer and upholsterer (Savvy swooned over a leopard-print loveseat), but he also turns out elegant, feminine jewelry such as bracelets fashioned from recycled silverware and copper, and necklaces of beads and pearls. Vintage clothing, shoes, purses and home accents also fill the space. Oh, and Bryan even does stained glass. You can spend anywhere from $6 to $1,600 in this captivating little shop. 845 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-435-2826
There’s a passage in one of my favorite books, Michael Chabon’s “The Mysteries of Pittsburgh,” in which the narrator confesses to a secret pleasure he indulged in as a child, while walking through the “infinite chain of backyards” on his way home from school:
I would catch glimpses in windows of dining rooms, tables set for supper; of crayon drawings tacked to refrigerators, cartons of milk standing on counters; of feet on low hassocks, framed photographs, and empty sofas, all lit by the bland light of the television; and these quickly shifting tableaux, of strange furniture and the lives and families they divulged, would send me into a trance of curiosity. For a long time, I thought that one became a spy in order to watch the houses of other people, to be confronted by the simple, wondrous fact of other kitchens, other clocks, and ottomans.
I’ve never been seized with the desire to become a spy, but I have definitely fallen under the spell of that “trance of curiosity” about the inside of other people’s homes and the “lives and families they divulged.” I’ve long harbored the same love of other kitchens and ottomans, of seeing tables set for supper and framed photographs of people I don’t know. It’s one of the reasons I became a journalist. And it’s why I can’t get enough of my neighborhood listserv.
While it may not actually let me see their kitchens, the listserv provides a fascinating glimpse into my neighbors’ lives, in all their quirky, sometimes exasperating glory. It’s our digital town crier, hooking me in to the pulse of community life.
Some listservs, I’m told, are pretty banal: ho-hum forums where people exchange plumber recommendations and field requests for info about the school registration process or trash schedules. But ours is not one of those. Instead, it’s an entity so lively that at least one friend stayed subscribed long after she had moved away. And I’m convinced our listserv would make for an utterly compelling reality show.
I first got hopelessly hooked on the listserv during the Trashcan Man episode. In 2008, a neighbor out walking her dog through an alley came across a man who was, well, stuck in a trashcan. With only his head visible above the rim, he was asking for help getting out. She reported the incident to the listserv, and all hell broke loose. As bizarre as the episode was, even more bizarre was the eventual revelation that such incidents had been happening all over Mount Washington…for years. After a fight over the appropriateness of the inevitable Oscar the Grouch joke, Trashcan Man soon became the stuff of legend.
The listserv has its regulars, characters all. There are scolds and comics and cheerleaders, know-it-alls and voices of reason. There are some participants whose names I’ve heard only online, which leads me to conspiratorially wonder if they even exist outside the listserv, and some whose online persona is almost completely unrecognizable from their real-life ones. There was, for many years, even a resident troll, a hilarious fictional character named Ned Dunkleberger who was ultimately outed, in an infamous bit of listserv drama, as the alter ego of my across-the-street neighbor. “Ned” now writes a column for the Mount Washington Improvement Association newsletter.
Of course, the listserv does have a practical function. It’s where you go to find a dermatologist or a window washer. It also serves as a de facto swap meet. I once posted asking where I could buy test tubes for a school science project. In a quintessentially Baltimore moment, my query was
answered by a cell biologist from Hopkins, who gladly donated some. We used the listserv to give away the crib that had served us through two babies, a gift from my parents when our first son was born. A young single dad packed it into his pickup truck on a rainy weekday night and drove off with a sentimental piece of our family’s history. In memorable posts, neighbors have graciously offered up “six stalks of celery,” a “barely used” container of organic milk and, naturally, extra kombucha cultures.
The listserv has its share of warm and fuzzy moments—neighbors once banded together to help pay for the funeral of a baby who died at the local pediatric hospital – but contention is often the coin of the realm. There have been heated, protracted debates about racial profiling, a proposed bike trail and the merits of BGE’s new “smart meter,” among countless others. And then there was the infamous ice cream incident. A neighbor innocently asked whether our community pool could include some low-fat or sugar-free options among its ice cream offerings. Approximately 400,000—ok, it was 24—posts later, you would think someone had asked about storing radioactive waste in their yard.
One friend recently announced on Facebook that he just couldn’t handle the negativity any more and was throwing in the listserv towel. But I just can’t quit, although I do only read the digest version now and then.
It finally dawned on me not long ago that the listserv represents exactly what a community is supposed to be. We’re borrowing a cup of sugar, gossiping, laughing and arguing, just as we might have done a hundred years ago in a dusty community hall or Ladies’ Auxiliary. We may not be raising barns for one another anymore. But in this digital age, we’re doing the next best thing. 9
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared inThe New York Times, People, Slate and,USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
The month of May—midway between winter’s bluster and summer’s blister—leaves most of us craving a cool breeze and a cold drink at the end of the day.
Baltimore has a surfeit of outdoor seating, from usual suspects like Gertrude’s garden, the sublime Ambassador and the waterside Rusty Scupper, to destinations like Oregon Grille’s bluestone patio and Petit Louis’ chic new terrace in Columbia.
I’m enchanted by McFaul’s IronHorse Tavern’s (2260 Cromwell Bridge Road) treetop deck above the Gunpowder Watershed. When warm weather sets in, the deck sheds its vinyl cloak to become a lively aerie with seating for 70. Along with fruit crush specials, craft beers and cocktails, you can order daily oysters, or chef Evan Orser’s Irish-influenced gastro pub specials.
Who knew you could sit outdoors at Michael’s Café on busy York Road? The time-honored crabcake spot with its appeal to suburbanites of a certain age, has expanded its already 16,000-square-foot space to add an outdoor patio with a covered bar and plenty of comfy chairs.
If the weather is too hot (or too cold), after-work revelers can retreat to what general manager Mark Fischer calls the “new patio”—a climate-controlled space with floor-to-ceiling glass and a sleek new bar.
The rooftop at Blue Hill Tavern (938 S. Conkling St.) has a West Coast vibe and a sprawling view of the city from its Butchers Hill stanchion. There’s no better place to enjoy a Blue Hill Mojito, kaffir lime muddled with lemon grass-infused rum.
Liv2Eat (1444 Light St.) is a charming secret garden, with potted trees and twinkle lights walled off from the real world. The family-owned restaurant is a pleasure to the senses anytime of year—and great for small wedding receptions.
The dining room at Waterfront Kitchen (1417 Thames St.) feels like the inside of a yacht without the seasickness, so why shouldn’t the outdoor dining area, which juts into the harbor, feel the same? You can up the ante with drinks in an actual floating vessel by signing up for cocktail hour on the skipjack Sigsbee or the pungy schooner Lady Maryland, followed by a wine dinner at the restaurant.
Another waterfront option is Wit & Wisdom (200 International Drive) where Michael Mina protégé Zach Mills keeps the wood fires burning, even when the outdoor temperature is high, so the entire restaurant smells like a summer barbecue. Order a $6 happy hour cocktail, a fruit- or herb-infused concoction to sip as the sun begins to set over the harbor.
Sweeping back to North Baltimore, check out Mt. Washington Tavern’s (5700 Newbury St.) new second-floor “sky bar” that opens onto a deck overlooking Mount Washington Village. The neighborhood fave held a summer drink contest last year with the winner a coconut-pineapple-rum concoction submitted by a customer. While a similar contest is planned this season, last year’s winner, Sweet Summatime, may remain on the menu, says co-owner Rob Frisch. “We ordered 1,000 cups with the recipe printed on them. I think we have about 600 left.” —Martha Thomas
When Brad and Pui Wales reopened My Thai last year (relocated to Central Avenue from Mount Vernon) they built a stainless steel counter and grill in the center of the restaurant designed to proffer authentic Thai street food. Fifteen diners could sit around the bar and watch chefs—including Pui’s son Jirat Suphrom-In—crank out sautéed silkworms, beef tongue and pig brains seared on a hot grill, grasshoppers on a bed of charcoal.
Somehow, the idea didn’t catch on—news may not have reached Baltimore’s edgier diners; there’s also the issue of sourcing. (Raw silkworms aren’t always available.) So the Wales are instead using the space to fill a niche local diners seem to be clamoring for: a noodle bar. Slithery rice and egg noodles are layered in slow simmered aromatic broth (the duck base begins with 18 fowl) layered with dark green yu choy leaves, pepper flakes, fresh basil and bean sprouts. Flavors include duck, pork, chicken and beef, as well as Thai classic sweet and sour Tom Yum soup, made with shrimp and fish sauce. Wales hasn’t given up on the street food concept and has instituted “Bizarre Food Night” on Tuesdays. Bring on the charred grasshoppers. 1300 Bank St., 410-327-0023, http://www.mythaibaltimore.com
The Baltimore Marriott Waterfront’s new Apropoe’s, a purportedly Edgar Allan Poe-themed restaurant tucked in the corner of Harbor East where the Jones Falls meets the harbor, doesn’t feature purple curtains or loose floorboards. But Poe, says the hotel’s head chef, Carlos Gomez, will be celebrated in the old-fashioned approach to cooking. “We’re pickling and braising and smoking things.”
Apropoe’s foodstuffs will be sourced from the food service for the rest of the hotel. The farm egg dropped on a duck confit pizza, the crumbled goat cheese in a mixed beet salad and the roast chicken with crispy skin and simple jus—and of course the burger—come from local farms. Meanwhile, Gomez grows herbs used both in the kitchen and at the bar on a fifth-floor terrace.
The restaurant, which replaces Grille 700, is part of a lobby renovation that conforms to what Robin Richmond, director of restaurants, calls the Marriott’s “Great Room Concept”—a daytime café area, complete with USB ports along the bar, transitions to what she hopes will be a buzzy bar scene later. And if it’s too buzzy, says Richmond, there’s always the “Poet’s Corner,” set apart from the room’s flat-screens and adorned with Poe’s words. 700 Aliceanna St., 410-895-1879, http://www.apropoesharboreast.com
Photographs by Alan Gilbert
In both horticulture and art, this six-acre garden in the Green Spring Valley is all about sculpture. Even before the couple (a retired T. Rowe Price executive and a retired math teacher/community volunteer) started collecting, they had created a sculpturesque garden. Curved paths, stone walls, flowing garden rooms, interesting tree and plant collections all had sculptural form.
In 2000, when the couple and their two daughters moved to the 1945 Georgian brick house, the property had no significant gardens. The addition of a portico, pool and pool house, a garage and cobblestone courtyard soon redefined the space. Enter David Thompson, founder of Foxborough Nursery, Inc., who worked with the couple to create gardens influenced by their regular trips to England. “We love English gardens,” says the wife, who describes her style as more casual and her husband’s as more formal.
Soon was born, in classic English form, a garden which used the “borrowed” landscape around it to frame a series of flowing garden rooms that open one after the other. Some are open and casual, others clipped and formal. A preference for cool, quiet tones sets a palette of white, blue and pale pink, with occasional warm tones used in dozens of containers that further the sculptural bent.
Moving via green corridors and hallways, visitors are struck by the surprise of what gradually appears and by diverse plantings whose varied textures and shapes play well off of each other. Repetition creates a harmonious flow. Throughout the gardens, for example, are majestic blue atlas cedars, delicate and curvaceous Japanese maples, clipped boxwoods as geometric hedges or spheres.
A dozen garden rooms had been well-established before 2007 when the couple started incorporating sculpture. The sculptors are all represented by Halcyon Galleries in London where the owner is on the board. Soon the gardens included works of three very different artists: Lorenzo Quinn (son of actor Anthony Quinn), Simon Gudgeon (internationally well-known, wildlife sculptor) and Wu Ching-ju (the most famous contemporary sculptor in China). Quinn’s typically include hands or spheres,
Gudgeon’s are animals and Ching-ju’s often are women. The sculptures are not grouped by artist but placed in whichever garden seems best.
“My husband is the chooser; I’m the placer,” says the wife, whose strong sense of artistry and mathematical precision play out in spot-on, subtle and interesting placements. “Each is placed so it doesn’t take over the spot…so it’s a pleasant surprise and melds.”
Ching-ju’s “Deep Within Me” appears in the East Garden after a visitor has passed it well tucked in among smoke trees. Gudgeon’s “A Covey of Flying Grouse” takes flight above a garage window en route from “The Secret Garden” to the woodland walk, where many international visitors enter for parties. “We are blessed to have been able to create this tranquil environment that we enjoy sharing with others from around the globe,” says the husband.
Some gardens, like the Circle Garden, were designed around a new piece of sculpture. When Foxborough’s Thompson saw Quinn’s sculpture “What Goes Around Comes Around,” he shook his head at yet another sculpture, but soon after he created three circular gardens centered on the sculpture and sited to form an axis through antique iron gates to knot gardens in the Courtyard Garden and Ching-ju’s “Mirror of my Mind.”
Each piece of sculpture in the 15 garden rooms looks as if it has always been there, a true sign of good placement. The sculptures do not hit the garden visitor in the face or scream for attention. They come like aha moments, as quiet, pleasant surprises that add another dimension to the rolling, planted landscape.
“Sometimes the plantings of existing gardens have to be changed to enhance the sculpture,” says the designated placer. The geometry of plant forms resonates with the two-dozen sculptures. Grasses often highlight sculpture and add texture. White blooming plants or those with variegated leaves also brighten spaces, like white caladiums that give horticultural light to Ching-ju’s graceful “A Thousand Emotions.”
“We are indebted to David and Andrew Thompson who have worked with us in close partnership to create these gardens over more than a decade,” says the husband.
“Our girls say ‘no more sculpture,’” adds their mother. But it is hard to imagine these collectors stopping. There’s always room to tuck one more on a brick wall by the pool or on a stone wall above the sunken, four-square garden. “They’re hard to resist, but we’re running out of room.” Unimaginable in this verdant gallery.
Photograph by David Stuck
AT FIRST, Catharine Robertson wasn’t sure if she should message her birth mother on Facebook. After all, they’d never met—never made contact—and general bio family search etiquette dictates offspring ought to call or write a letter. In an instant, though, she decided to initiate her look-alike mother Susan Mathews’ Facebook friendship. In a couple of hours, they were linked online—within a week, they embraced at Susan’s place of business in joyful tears.
Born “Sarah Mathews” on July 24, 1969, in a facility for unwed moms, Catharine, now 44, was adopted and raised by a doctor and his wife in Richmond, Va. As contractually agreed, her birth mother Susan took care of her newborn girl for four weeks’ time before giving her baby up to the adoption agency to whom her own parents paid monthly tuition. These four sweet weeks spent with her child, Susan says, probably saved her life. She still refers to the August date she said goodbye to her little girl as “The Terrible Day.”
A casualty of the Baby Scoop era, the age of closed adoptions, which lasted from about 1940 to 1970, Susan, now 66, was one of roughly 4 million such expectant young moms. Programmed by the prevailing culture to surrender children many of them authentically wanted, these women were told from day one, “This baby you’re carrying is not your baby.” (After Roe v. Wade in 1973, these numbers thankfully plunged.)
For her part, Catharine never stopped dreaming she’d find her birth mother. (All told, she spent about 30 years hunting leads, following every miniscule biographical element Susan had been allowed to leave on file.) Meanwhile, Susan never gave up the dream she’d be found. Today—almost a year after their summer 2013 reunion—they consider each other a true best friend.
We asked Catharine and Susan to interview each other for STYLE. They made a master list of mutual questions and spoke casually. It was a pleasure to share a seat at their table.
Did you anticipate our meeting one day?
Susan: Absolutely, I always saw you as a little baby. I thought you’d look just like me. But I wished longer legs for you, which you got!
Catharine: For a while I thought I’d find the author I liked so much, V.C. Andrews, who wrote ‘Flowers in the Attic.’ Long story, but as a kid, I thought she was my mother. Once I got over that, I could not picture anything. I did anticipate meeting you, but I had no way to conceive of what you’d look like because I don’t look like anyone else. Not until last June when I suddenly looked like everybody in our family.
What was your state of mind between our first email contact and first meeting?
Susan: I got numb; I couldn’t cry; I couldn’t laugh. I didn’t even want to talk to anybody about it. I’d waited so long, I thought, ‘If I say anything, I’m going to hex this.’ I just wanted my hands on you.
Catharine: Once I found your Facebook page, I went from being terrified you wouldn’t answer to not being able to wait. I told one of my adoptee friends and she said, ‘Go do it now!’ So I emailed. I decided I was going to lead with vulnerability.
Susan: How did you become so strong and positive?
Catharine: I’ve learned a lot of lessons from the behavior of other people toward me that was less than ideal, and also from my own behavior. I probably couldn’t have been so positive in my 20s or 30s.
Susan: Searching for me for 30 years took a lot of guts. I don’t think you would have blossomed the same way if I’d raised you. You write well; you look like a million bucks; you’re terrific on your feet—I will claim only about 5 percent credit for these things.
In what ways do you think we’re alike?
Susan: You’re so much more like me than my other two children! We like to act and sing…
Catharine: We have the same sense of humor! We have the same hands and feet. We have the same laugh and the ability to laugh really loudly at anything and everything. Also, I’m now convinced it’s possible to inherit the trait of swearing all the time. I told you that when we first spoke by phone.
Susan: I said, ‘Does that mean you use the f-word all the time? You are definitely my child.’
Are you still scarred by what happened to divide us?
Catharine: Since I’ve told friends, they say, ‘This explains things.’
Susan: ‘Now we know why you acted like that,’ people tell me. I have been one of those crazy people: bad faith in men; decisions made not in my best interest. I went to Alaska and got married; I bought a Harley…
Catharine: I’ve always felt different. Eventually, I took it as a point of pride.
Susan: I always felt like I was damaged—because I thought everyone thought I was.
Catharine: Is it OK to ask about the way you felt during your pregnancy? And on The Terrible Day and beyond?
Susan: Yes, I can talk about that. I was a sheep and I followed the rules—you’re going to go here and you’re going to have this baby, but she doesn’t belong to you…and you’ll never be able to find her. Every day from the time I left you in that cradle, I said, ‘Sweet baby Sarah, Mommy loves you wherever you are.’ I said that every day to myself without fail for 44 years.
I always did a cupcake and a candle and wished you a happy birthday. I wonder if somewhere in the universe that might have plugged in to you.
Catharine: (tearful) Well, it’s possible. People say you have to prepare for rejection in life—or prepare for the worst, as you expect the best. But I never anticipated rejection. I thought, ‘I’m a good person; I have to come from good people.’ You were putting it out there, and I was feeling something.
Despite the tragedy of lost time, do you think there’s an advantage to meeting each other now, as self-actualized grown women?
Catharine: I never went through a period of hating you or straining against the strictures of the household rules; I never saw you having a difficult relationship with anyone. Plus, I’m in my 40s, and I’m in a good place.
Susan: For me, not only have I now gained a daughter, I’ve gained a mature best friend. You’re my closest confidant. It’s amazing to have a girlfriend you actually birthed.
How has your life changed now that we’ve met?
Susan: My whole outlook has changed—it’s like the final puzzle piece got popped in. Everything’s got a shine it didn’t have before. I love to sit on the couch with you and talk. The wonderment will never subside.
Catharine: I will never stop being astonished when I see you standing at the stove. The way you’re stirring something in a pot will make me tear up. Every time I register something physically specific, there’s another piece of my puzzle, from the way you pronounce a certain word to the way [your son] says something. These physical manifestations are helping to make me emotionally whole.
Susan: I was told for so long ‘No, you can’t.’ Now it’s ‘Yes, I can.’ I want to see you every holiday and birthday!
Catharine: (laughing) I’m the one who told you to move to Baltimore.
What connotations do you have with the word mother?
Susan: Mother’s never been a real warm and fuzzy word to me. When we first met, you asked, ‘What am I going to call you?’
Catharine: And I call you Mommy. We tried out your college name, Sunny, but it sounded weird to me. I grew up in the South where everyone said Mother after a certain age. It makes me feel warm saying it this other way.
Susan: I love to hear you call me Mommy—it’s like a frisson zinging through me. And I call you FB, firstborn.
What would you like other children and birth parents in this searching scenario to know?
Susan: I would like for adoptive mothers to understand we didn’t give our babies to them. These babies were taken from us.
Catharine: I would tell other adoptees that, no matter what state you’re in, don’t listen to the authorities if they tell you to forget your original identity. You do have a right to it, and many states agree with me. If you want to find someone, there are ways to do it.
Susan: Never give up.
Catharine: Maybe our story could be made into a movie like ‘Beaches.’
Susan: Well, I can guarantee you I’ll never go see it. I hate chick flicks. I want ‘The Godfather,’ car chases, blood and guts and gangsters.
Catharine: Actually, my comfort movies are ‘Jaws’ and ‘Ronin.’
Susan: Mine: ‘Die Hard,’ ‘Jaws,’ and ‘Goodfellas.’
Catharine: I haven’t seen ‘Goodfellas.’
Susan: What? I made your siblings see all those horrible movies. We’ve got catching up to do.
Soon after this interview, Catharine, along with her husband, Ron Spencer, met Susan in the Florida Keys for Susan’s younger daughter’s wedding. The two women plan a mother/daughter vacation for early June, the one-year anniversary of their 2013 reunion.
Every spring, Europeans all over the continent go asparagus mad. I was fortunate enough to be in Vienna, Austria, one year during the season. Entire restaurant tasting menus were given over to dishes featuring this delicate vegetable, and I feasted on a dizzying array of asparagus-based dishes: soups, salads, pasta, main courses featuring asparagus drizzled with a delicate sauce and accompanied with potatoes and ham, to name a few.
Inspired by my culinary memories of springtime in Vienna, I have created my own asparagus-tasting menu of sorts here, although each dish can certainly be enjoyed on its own. Begin your spring feast with the mini quiches, small bites bursting with crunchy asparagus, tangy chevre and salty ham. Move on to the creamy asparagus soup, which, thanks to the use of Greek yogurt, is actually a very healthy version of the cream-soaked zuppes I enjoyed in Austria.
For the main course, the lemony asparagus and ricotta pasta feels rich but is delicate enough to let the asparagus shine. Finish your tasting menu with the refreshing shaved asparagus and sea bean salad. Sea beans are just what they sound like—sea vegetables. They’re a bit like a green bean, only quite salty, so go easy on the finishing salt.
On paper, Seattle isn’t unlike Baltimore—it’s a port city with a population just over 600,000 (if you omit the millions of people in the suburbs). And yet, there’s a vastness of scale we don’t have. The fir trees have diameters up to 6 feet—some stand as tall as 250 feet. The Puget Sound has 2500 miles of coastline, and reaches depths of 930 feet. The snow-capped Olympia Mountains rise on the other side of the sound’s glacial water. On the sunny days of our visit, that deep shade of blue seemed impossible, like something out of a beer ad.
I was there to give a presentation called “Teaching and Writing Overseas” at the annual AWP conference—the Association of Writers and Writing Programs. Before I landed my job at Goucher College and moved to Baltimore, I taught at a university in England for five years. Others on my panel had worked in Bulgaria, France, Ukraine and Spain—we all had stories to tell about how the overseas life can be full of headaches and isn’t quite as romantic as one might imagine.
There was something, it seemed to me, “overseas-ish” about being in Seattle. We hadn’t crossed any oceans, but we’d crossed a continent—the flights, with layovers, took about the same time as a nonstop to London. The landscape and wildlife were as foreign for us East Coasters as anything in Europe. And yet, the accents were familiar, we had access to our ATMs and there were more Starbucks than I’d ever seen in my life. It was, in short, a winning combination of the exotic and the easy.
I especially enjoyed my mornings in Seattle, running through Discovery Park and Elliott Bay Park, right on the water. There are separate paths for runners and for cyclists, so that everyone can enjoy the vista—the huge cargo ships, the circling cormorants, possibly even seals on the beaches—at his or her own pace, something that seems very Seattle.
I definitely needed to burn the calories. My boyfriend, Howard, a physician by day and a consummate foodie every other moment, had been researching Seattle’s offerings for months. Whenever the 25 concurrent AWP panels got to be too much, we’d escape on a culinary adventure. Sometimes a frazzled Baltimore writer friend or two we’d find in the lobby would come along. Howard was a like a comfort food guru to the overworked; we were ready to leave behind earthly concerns.
It’s no secret that Seattle has great salmon. Howard discovered, though, that the city also offers outstanding vegan and local fare. First, we tried his picks in Capitol Hill, a short walk from downtown. Our server at Sitka & Spruce told us that the tea we ordered had been foraged by a woman who specialized in such endeavors. The ginger mint tea was both pungent and smooth in a way that no tea bag can offer. None of us who ate at Plum Vegan Bistro were vegans, but the food was so good, we kept falling silent and staring at each other with big eyes. “I can’t believe this is vegan. How is this vegan?”
On subsequent days, we ventured farther afield into the neighborhoods of Wallingford and Fremont. In Wallingford, where we had amazing and authentic soba, we stumbled across the Erotic Bakery. We were encouraged not to take photos of the cupcake display and to stop all that giggling. Each one had a marzipan penis or vagina or set of breasts on it—just the right gift for one of our newly single friends.
Howard’s pick in Fremont was the Theo chocolate factory. Anyone who has been to Ma Petite Shoe in Hampden knows this company, which makes such ingenious chocolate bars as Bread & Chocolate, Ghost Chili and Fig, Fennel & Almond. The gift shop offered samples of every bar they make—around two dozen different varieties—generous, gigantic broken pieces stocked in deep bins. There was free coffee to wash it down. It was a bit like getting drunk.
We decided to splurge on our last night and go to Canlis, one of the most highly rated restaurants in the U.S., a place with a long history. John Wayne used to eat there. “Ooh, Canlis,” locals kept saying when we told them we had a reservation.They would nod in that knowing way that said: Yes, my friend, you have chosen well. It’s the kind of place where they don’t give you a valet ticket. They just know who you are and your car is waiting when you come out. We ordered the vegetarian tasting menu—seven courses for $105/person. Through the enormous picture window, we watched seaplanes land in the sound while we ate some of the best food we’ve had in our lives, including beets with goat milk and lemon curd and butternut squash with capers and brown butter sabayon.
Worth traversing a continent for? You bet. And we didn’t even need our passports.
Pike Place Market is more than a tourist attraction. It’s a vibrant functioning market that offers fresh food, especially seafood and produce, as well as handmade crafts. pikeplacemarket.org
The Seattle Great Wheel offers great views of the city and, on a clear day, the Olympia Mountains across the sound. Tickets, $8.50 to $50 VIP. seattlegreatwheel.com
For foodie-approved and award-winning cocktails, try Oliver’s Lounge in the extra elegant Mayflower Park Hotel, where you might want to splurge and stay a night. (The “Spy Who Loved Seattle” package sounds perfect.) mayflowerpark.com
The Book Larder Community Cookbook Store has been named Best Bookstore by Seattle Magazine and Seattle Weekly, and recently garnered attention in Bon Appetit’s “The World’s Best Cookbook Stores” guide 2014. booklarder.com
Best Photo Op
While visiting the artsy ‘hood known as the Center of the Universe, check out the Fremont Troll, a public sculpture under George Washington Memorial Bridge. He grips a Volkswagen Beetle in one hand—and visitors are encouraged to “interact” with him (i.e. climb on him, try to poke out his eye, etc.). 3405 Troll Ave N. http://www.fremont.com
Fifteen years ago, I attended my first-ever Maryland Film Festival —and several extraordinary things happened. First and foremost, Chris Noth (of “The Good Wife” and “Sex and the City” fame) totally flirted with me. Seriously, we locked eyes—27 feet apart, burning with unbridled passion across the popcorn-scented lobby of the Charles Theater.
I’m certain I didn’t imagine it.
I mean, his eyes clearly said, “That brilliant, fresh-faced ingénue has the aura of the next Carrie Bradshaw.” Or maybe he was just thinking to himself, “I’ll keep smiling until ol’ Squinty Eyes over there figures out that, yes, indeed, I am Mr. Big and goes back to her volunteer duties.”
However the moment happened, I’ll treasure it always—along with the empty Diet Coke can Barry Levinson handed me before he walked into that night’s screening. To this day, I still place my lips ever-so-delicately where the “Diner” director’s had been in hopes of channeling inspiration during any creative crisis.
Errrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! [Cue: needle-scratching-record sound effect]
Just kidding about the can. I recycled it like a normal person. But it just goes to show the funny details you remember about life’s firsts.
The brilliant thing about the Maryland Film Festival is that it’s entirely about firsts. Chances are, you won’t have heard of many—if any—of the movies being shown here this year. And that’s the point. For 16 years running, the extra-ordinary MFF staff has curated a robust schedule of independent, foreign and experimental films that rivals the Cannes and Sundances of the world. It’s the place where Kathryn Bigelow screened “The Hurt Locker” when Hollywood had all but given up on the (now Oscar-winning) film and Lena Dunham presented her pre-“Girls”-fame “Tiny Furniture” to a packed house of movie fans who had the pleasure of seeing the next big thing before she bared her soul (and body) on HBO.
It’s also a great venue to see big-time stars in small-budget flicks they do for kicks or indie street cred. Witnessing Danai Gurira (aka “Michonne” from “The Walking Dead”) play a Nigerian bride in Brooklyn who finds a very creative way to get pregnant without her infertile husband in last year’s “Mother of George” was nothing short of a visual miracle. And this year, I can’t wait to see Josh Lucas in what I’ve heard is a flinch-inducing performance about a dark-and-twisty relationship between two brothers in “The Mend.” (Although it’s certain to ruin his “pretty boy” factor.)
In short, the Maryland Film Festival is a hotbed of blooming creative genius—and you need to get in on this cinematic action, running May 7 through 11 at seven downtown locations in and around Station North, including the MICA Brown Center and (new this year) the Walters Art Museum. Here are my top tips for how to do the festival like a pro.
The Q&A session with filmmakers at last year’s Opening Night Shorts program.
Perhaps there’s nothing more indicative of MFF’s pioneering spirit than the choice to open every festival with a selection of short films. Opening Night Shorts is hands down, my favorite event of the year. These stunning capsule masterpieces never fail to inspire, like last year’s “Flutter,” a short documentary about a charming 76-year-old butterfly collector who spends hours each day chasing down silver-spotted skippers and sleepy dusky-wings. After just eight minutes, the audience was equally spellbound.
That same night, we also watched a comedy about two parents who send their young daughter into the forest to be raised by wolves…and she later eats them. (Won’t see THAT on the National Geographic channel!) So just know that you can always expect some humor and heartbreak on opening night, too.
LISTEN TO JOHN.
I’m not going to lie. Watching one of the films John Waters recommended last year single-handedly ruined my sex life for about three months. (Watch Ulrich Seidl’s “Paradise: Love” if you want to see why.) But Waters temporarily redeemed me with the perversely brilliant “Paradise: Faith” (by the same filmmaker), which actually had us laughing aloud as a religious zealot flogged herself in front of a crucifix for the umpteenth time.
Each year, the mustached master (and MFF board member) hand-selects a favorite movie to present at the fest—from vintage cult and camp titles to contemporary ribald comedies and art- house dramas—and it’s an absolute blast. No surprise, Waters’ provocative dialogue always incites squeals and snorts from the crowd. And you might just catch him—along with other filmmakers and actors—for a convo over a nightcap at Club Charles after the show.
If you have the luxury of seeing several films at the fest, consider picking something that’s outside of your comfort zone—whether that means going foreign, going dark or going weird. This year, I’ve decided to geek out at a campy horror film (not usually my forte) titled “Call Girl of Cthulhu” by local D.I.Y. dude Chris LaMartina. According to the publicity stills, his leading lady’s breasts have…teeth—ouch!—so this should be quite an interesting ride.
Or check out two of the festival’s annual traditions: a vintage 3D movie shown in the original two-projector 35mm format or the Sunday morning silent film featuring live musical accompaniment by the Alloy Orchestra.
Of course, for some readers, challenging yourself may simply mean walking into a venue that suburban moms might otherwise consider “sketchy” like the Windup Space, a funky little North Avenue bar that also hosts some of our favorite Stoop Storytelling events. And that’s OK. (As far as I know, owner Russell de Ocampo and his friendly staff don’t bite…unless you ask them nicely.) And don’t even sweat it if you’re considering sneaking out of work to watch a matinee on Thursday or Friday. (I’ll write your boss the world’s most perfect excuse note.) Also of note: solo-screening is a societal norm at film fests. You’ll fit right in if you happen to come alone. And you might just leave with a new movie buddy.
“Ping Pong Summer” director Michael Tully on location in Ocean City, Md.
While the festival screens films from all around the globe, there’s always a strong contingent of homegrown talent—and you’ll definitely want to catch at least one film made in Maryland (or by a fellow Marylander). The former high school beach-tag checker in me is, like, already, like, totally losing her mind over “Ping Pong Summer,” an ’80s-themed coming-of-age flick about summers spent in Ocean City, starring Susan Sarandon, Lea Thompson and Amy Sedaris. Note to filmmaker Michael Tully: I still have your “Septien” movie magnet (circa MFF 2011), compete with outsider-art genitalia, proudly displayed on my refrigerator.
On a far more serious note, in 2011 Baltimore native Matthew VanDyke picked up a gun—and a video camera—to join forces with Libyan rebels in their fight against Gaddafi. And, at this year’s festival, you can see his stranger-than-fiction story in the documentary “Point and Shoot.”
Filmmaker Joe Swanberg (second from left) at his “Drinking Buddies” screening.
If I had to pick just 15 seconds in time that sums up exactly why I adore the Maryland Film Fest it would be this: sitting one row behind actor/director Joe Swanberg during the screening of his star-studded comedy “Drinking Buddies” last year. There I was, sharing popcorn with my date, when we happened to look over and notice Swanberg’s face light up in the glow from the movie projector. He was laughing in unison with us over some clever remark Olivia Wilde had just made on screen. (Filmmakers…they’re just like us!) And you could totally imagine Swanberg recalling some on-set shenanigans with the cast and crew. My date squeezed my hand and gave me a goateed grin that said, “I just saw that, too.” And it was magic.
Dorky, I know. But really, that’s the joy and privilege of having this film festival in our hometown. This year’s lineup includes about 50 feature films and 10 short-film programs from around the world—and every U.S. feature film will be hosted by its filmmaker. Without question, stick around for the post-movie Q&A sessions, which are fun, intimate, and thought-provoking. Where else would you have the opportunity to chat up a cult hero like Bobcat Goldthwait, meet a normally reclusive director like Todd Solondz and engage a true-crime legend like Detective Patrick Kennedy who, sadly, died last year but gave a candid and fascinating presentation at MFF 2012 after a screening of “Jeff,” the Jeffrey Dahmer documentary. (Kennedy was the lead investigator on the case.)
This year’s fest will no doubt prove equally singular and moving, with highly anticipated newcomers like Darius Clark Monroe, who dissects the circumstances that led him to commit a bank robbery as a young man in his Spike Lee exec-produced film “Evolution of a Criminal.” Not to mention the return of swoon-worthy Swanberg, who will be screening his comedy “Happy Christmas” in which he also stars with the pitch-perfect Anna Kendrick and MFF alum Lena Dunham.
No matter which films you choose, be sure to thank the hard-working, over-caffeinated MFF staff and 400 volunteers afterward. And when you inevitably run into festival founder Jed Dietz around campus, just do like I do. Walk right up and tell him three simple words: I LOVE YOU. After so many years, he’s probably used to me doing it. But how wonderful if our entire city did the same?
Individual tickets (average cost, $10) are available online and at each screening location, as well as Tent Village located on North Avenue, between Joe Squared and the MICA Studio Center. Or buy an All Access Pass, $325, for unlimited movies and first dibs on seating. mdfilmfest.com
BEST OF THE FEST
At the time STYLE went to press, half of this year’s MFF selections were still a secret. Check out our official picks for must-see flicks at baltimorestyle.com/film.
Painter, linguist and all-around Renaissance woman Deborah Patterson has forsaken the land of Dante and da Vinci for the charms of Charm City. Go figure. But be glad she has. Hanging on the walls of Studio 834 are massive commissioned oil paintings as well as small water- colors of Venice, so dreamy and enticing Savvy felt she had stepped into the scenes. Patterson has also painted plenty of local venues, which you’ll have fun recognizing; you can even pocket them in the form of prints and postcards. And if you have a hankering to learn Italian, Patterson gives small group lessons. 834 W. 36th St., Hampden, 410-243-3834, http://www.834onheavenue.com
Feeling like you need to lighten up? Prescription: the upbeat coral “Satchel” ($88) by Danielle Nicole, one of many easy options from Ellicott City-bred designer Danielle DiFerdinando’s sweet spring line. “My spring collection was inspired by the beautiful countryside of Italy and its amazing cities—Portofino, Milan, Venice and Rome,” says DiFerdinando, whose bags appeared on HSN for the first time in March. Also look for beautiful shades of mint and blue with an exotic lizard texture, color-blocking or laser-cut details at Nordstrom and South Moon Under. Or grab a bag for Preakness at STYLE’s Off to the Races Fashion Show on May 14—hosted by the Four Seasons and Les Collective—featuring a DN pop-up shop, along with hats by esteemed milliner Christina A. Moore. Visit http://www.baltimorestyle.com/preakness for event details.
Bloke of Genius
“Because that’s what narcissism is all about; looking in the mirror every day and thinking ‘Damn, I’d like to shag myself.’”
There’s no question that Eddie Izzard is a sexy beast—not to mention a force of nature. So we couldn’t be happier that the sage surrealist is blowing into Baltimore for a one-night stop on his “Force Majeure” world tour—aka the biggest comedy pilgrimage ever known to man—which, by its completion, will span 25 countries on five continents, including shows performed entirely in French and German. Beeindruckend! (Hint: that’s how they say “impressive” in Berlin.)Hopefully the gender-bending Brit will throw in at least one “hon” as he waxes surreal about everything from Darth Vader and Greek mythology to human sacrifice and chaos theory—all wearing a sharp suit and Cuban heels. Did we mention he also performs an itsy bitsy musical about a trouserless spider? We’ll bite. May 20 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $59-$78. 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com
Get ready for a love hangover like no other. Diana Ross, the Queen of Motown and arguably one of the best-known voices of our time, is bringing her star power to Baltimore. With more than 100 million records sold and 18 No. 1 hits, Ross has been the inspiration for countless artists around the world—not to mention being a Kennedy Center Honors recipient, best-selling author and Oscar-nominated actress. (“Mahogany” still makes us weep.) See the legend perform live for one night only—June 28 at The Lyric. Tickets, $70-$190. 800-745-3000,
A Baltimore institution, Betty Cooke’s handmade jewelry holds a special place in every sophisticated woman’s jewelry box. Cooke, whose studio and showroom are part of The Store Ltd. in Cross Keys has been designing and making her distinctly contemporary but timeless jewelry for nearly 70 years. A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and MICA, Cooke has taught her craft to WW II veterans, been exhibited at the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and designed several pieces for the collection at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston. We think she’s way overdue for an exhibition. You can see her work and learn more about this fascinating woman in an exhibit at the Goya Contemporary Gallery through June 5. 410-235-1538, http://www.goyacontemporary.com
Mad About Him
What Baltimorean can forget Paul Reiser’s hilarious portrayal as Modell, one of the infamous “Diner Guys” in Barry Levinson’s 1982 homegrown comedy, “Diner.” In the years since, Reiser has kept us laughing in the beloved sitcom “Mad About You” and movies like “Beverly Hills Cop” (I and II) and his books on married life and parenthood. Reiser fans will have a rare opportunity to catch his stand-up act at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation’s annual benefit, Night of The Stars. May 8 at Baltimore Hebrew Congregation. Tickets, $50-$165. 410-764-1587, http://www.bhcong.org
Sounds of Silence
In a loudly opinionated Jewish family where everyone talks over each other at the dinner table, Billy, who has been deaf since birth, is the exception. But hey, he’s used to these people. They are his tribe. Direct from theaters in London and New York where it garnered rave reviews, Tribes, a 2010 winner of the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Play, follows Billy’s journey of self-discovery, including his relationship with Sylvia, a young woman on the brink of deafness and considers what it truly means to be understood. Directed by Vincent M. Lancisi. May 28-June 22 at the Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $32-$60. 410-752-2208, http://www.everymantheatre.org
The Happiest Place in the World
Gil has definitely seen better days. With his boyfriend leaving him, his acting career stalling and his mother passing away, life looks awfully grim. Thank goodness for his BFF, Mo, who knows that a trip to the Magic Kingdom will lift Gil’s spirits. With Terry the funeral director and his wacky Aunt Flo in tow, Gil finds himself on a roller coaster through love and loss in Disney World. Colman Domingo’s Wild With Happy, directed by Jeremy B. Cohen, will make you wish you were along for the ride. May 28-June 29 at Center Stage. Tickets, $19-$59. 410-332-0033, http://www.centerstage.org
Take it Off
A new show by MICA’s Exhibition Development Seminar proves there’s more to burlesque than removing your clothes. The exhibition, Workin’ the Tease: The Art of Baltimore Burlesque, looks at the evolution of Charm City’s unique performance tradition, from its heyday in the early 20th century when The Block was home to a thriving club scene, to its decline in the mid-century to the lively underground burlesque culture that’s developed in recent years. The exhibition includes awesome artifacts like costumes, pasties, calling cards, posters and new photographs by Sean Scheidt. The exhibition will be accompanied by a series of programs and performances. Through May 7 at The Lyric. http://www.workinthetease.com
When we’re on a much-needed vacation, we like to lather on the sunscreen, set up camp under a palm tree and sip piña coladas until the sun goes down. And, of course, listen to Jack Johnson. Arguably the biggest name in beachside pop/rock today, the handsome Hawaii native’s spring tour is sure to put you in a great mood—all the way down to your “Bubble Toes.” Even better, Amos Lee is opening. (We can’t wait to hear him play “Charles Street.”) June 5 at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets, $40-$65. 410-715-5550, http://www.merriweathermusic.com
A Different Neverland
A highly anticipated live-action film remake of Peter Pan is hitting theaters next year, but while you’re waiting, why not check out the story-before-the-story onstage? Peter and the Starcatcher, the prequel to the events of the original play and animated film, takes viewers on a hilarious ride through Neverland, including what happened before the green Spandex-clad cutie met Wendy and John Darling. The winner of five Tony Awards, Entertainment Weekly calls it “an absurdly funny fantastical journey.” May 6 to May 18 at the Hippodrome. Tickets, $38-$92. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster. com
There’s No Place Like Home
The timeless musical fantasy The Wizard of Oz is heading to Baltimore for a weekend you won’t want to miss. From “Somewhere Over the Rainbow,” to “Ding-Dong! The Witch is Dead,” this stage adaptation features all the classics that made the film so memorable, along with new songs by Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber. May 28 to June 1 at The Lyric. Tickets, $60-$80. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Kacey Musgraves, Willie Nelson and Alison Krauss and Union Station are coming to town! Musgraves, whose country music career started with a seventh- place finish on USA Network’s “Nashville Star,” has skyrocketed to become one of the genre’s hottest performers, with two Grammys under her western belt buckle. Willie Nelson (of course) needs no introduction, and with a voice like Alison Krauss’ it’s no wonder she and her band, Union Station, have won a whopping 27 Grammys. (Plus, she’s married to Elvis Costello, which makes her our hero.) June 14, 5 p.m. at Merriweather Post Pavilion. Tickets, $45-$75. 410-715-5550, http://www.merriweathermusic.com
Return to Me
In 1954, Pierre-Auguste Renoir’s “On the Shore of the Seine” (1879) was stolen from the Baltimore Museum of Art. Sixty years later, the 5½-by-9-inch painting has returned to the museum to join more than 20 other works of art in the exhibition, The Renoir Returns. The exhibition highlights works donated to the BMA by Sadie May, one of the museum’s and Baltimore’s most generous donors. May first purchased the Renoir in 1925. Other works on display will include Piet Mondrian’s “Composition V” (1927) and Paul Klee’s “Traveling Circus” (1937). Through July 20 at the BMA. 443-573-1700, http://www.artbma.org
We can’t think of a more magical way to spend an evening than watching A Midsummer Night’s Dream: A Concert—a unique “musical theater” production of one of the Bard’s bests performed by members of the Folger Theater Shakespeare Library. Adapted and directed by Edward Berkeley with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn and performed by the BSO and the Baltimore Choral Arts Society. Marin Alsop and Tom Hall conduct. May 29 at Strathmore and May 30 to June 1 at The Meyerhoff. Tickets, $29-$94. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
Art Festival Revival
Back by popular demand, Art Outside, the daylong outdoor festival in Druid Hill Park, will be happening again this spring. While this is the second anniversary of Art Outside’s new rendition, the over-60 crowd will happily recall a similar event that took place around Druid Hill Reservoir during the 1950s and 1960s. Just as it used to be, the festival is meant to connect communities and local artists and will feature Maryland artisans displaying and selling their work. Art Outside will also include children’s arts and crafts, Baltimore’s best food trucks and a Maryland Distinguished Artist Gallery. Plus, don’t miss the new Art Truck featuring the work of Shawn Theron. Come rain or shine. May 18, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Druid Hill Reservoir. Free. 410-583-5703, http://www.artoutsidemd.org
A Little Night Music
A provocative play and film that won both numerous Tony and Academy awards, Amadeus portrays a dramatic confrontation of genius and mediocrity. Salieri is a hard-working, ambitious composer who seeks to be the very best, while Mozart is a young, silly and unpolished musician who truly is the greatest composer of his time; a genius, some would say. Hint: This does not sit well with Salieri. See the musical showdown live at Fells Point Corner Theatre, May 2 to June 1. Tickets, $15-$20. http://www.fpct.org
American artists in the 19th century were more than just artists. They were students, cosmopolitans, adventurers and tourists. Many traveled abroad and turned their experiences into works of art, which you can now view in Baltimore. A grant-funded project, sponsored by the U.S. Institute of Museum and Library Services, has catalogued and photographed more than 600 American works of art for American Artists Abroad, an exhibit that features the works of Mary Cassatt, James McNeill Whistler, John Singer Sargent and many more on display this spring and summer. Through June 22 at The Walters Art Museum. 410-547-9000, http://www.thewalters.org
Taking apart a whole animal, says chef and butcher George Marsh, “is a beautiful thing.” Even so, plenty of today’s carnivores “are used to buying a piece of meat that doesn’t look like an animal, sitting on a piece of Styrofoam.” Parts & Labor, which Marsh oversees as part of Spike Gjerde’s restaurant group, is dedicated to whole animal butchery in all its gory glory.
Named in homage to the space it occupies, once a Remington tire shop, Parts & Labor is a butcher shop by day—receiving and carving up whole animals for the Woodberry restaurants and to sell to the public. At 5 o’clock, the place opens up for drinks and dinner. “Our vision is someplace lively and sociable, kind of like a beer hall,” says Marsh.
The former repair shop is a deceptively grand space, with an eggplant-stained concrete floor and a wood bar (built from reclaimed barn beams by local builder Luke Steckel) sporting 22 taps for local suds. The 84-seat dining space is a mix of communal seating and smaller tables, where diners can graze on snacks or go for the whole hog, so to speak. “People can come every day without breaking the bank.” 2600 N. Howard St., 443-873-8887, http://www.partsandlaborbutchery.com
SIT AND SPIN. “What doesn’t challenge you fails to make you stronger,” says instructor extraordinaire Jessie Benson as she gears up her five students for our next round of tabatas (tuh-BA-tas), a high-intensity training method created by an Olympic speedskating coach. We aren’t on the ice, but rather in an 82-degree pool at Brick Bodies’ downtown location, trying out a brand-new Aqua Spin class—an exclusive offering in the Baltimore area. We propel the pedals of our fancy, Italian-made H20 bikes, as our heart rates rise to about the same level we would achieve on land. Bonus? It’s gentler on our joints—and our behinds.
Get wet—and sweat—in an Aqua Spin class at Brick Bodies’ downtown location.
“Thanks to the buoyancy of the water, Aqua Spin is a great cross-training option for athletes who are recovering from an injury or just looking for a great cardio workout without all the stress,” says Benson, who also takes us through a series of upper-body exercises with foam free weights—all the while strengthening our core as we work to stabilize ourselves against the wake. “Plus, it’s just a fun option for anyone who loves group fitness—and sweating in the water.” Single class, $15-$18. Packages available. 410-547-0053, http://www.brickbodies.com.
WATERFRONT WELLNESS. Only a Balti-moron would miss a chance for fun, free fitness in the heart of Charm City—courtesy of the Waterfront Partnership. Weather permitting, hop over to West Shore Park (400 block of Light St., by the Maryland Science Center) for a “double feature” of fitness classes held most weekends between May 24 and Aug. 31. Start your Saturday with Boot Camp (8 a.m.) taught by a rotating bevy of our favorite instructors, then shake your booty in the sunshine at Zumba (9 a.m.). On Sundays, join the bendable bodies from Charm City Yoga for an energizing stretch session (8 a.m.) then dare to try Parkour (9 a.m.), a hard-core workout based on military obstacle course training. We’re sore already. Bring your own mat and a big ol’ bottle of water or Gatorade. http://www.waterfrontpartership.org
Daughter of a tailor yet can’t sew a stitch: that’s Savvy in a sartorial nutshell. Yet one thing she did learn from Dad was how to spot quality work. A rolled lapel, a well-turned cuff, an impeccable cut. Edye Sanford can deliver. Proprietor of Designs from the Edge, Sanford started out making children’s clothing but has branched out into custom-made grown-up goods, including bridal wear. Whether you want an ivory lace confection, a snazzy cocktail dress or just a comfortable pair of pants, Sanford will work with you to craft the garment you want. By appointment only. 410-467-8729, http://www.edyesanford.com
My wife has been trying to get me to come out of the closet. We’ve talked about this for some time. It’s a private matter. You can’t really involve anyone else; even family members. I was embarrassed to tell my brothers or my closest friends.
My wife thought that maybe talking to someone, a professional, would help. You know, someone with expertise. Someone who could be supportive. But that was the problem in the first place. If it hadn’t been for a closet designer, I’d still be in the closet.
Let me be clear: I’m not coming out of the closet. I’m being expelled from it. Pushed out. Pressured. I’m being outed. My wife wants the closet all to herself. In other words, she wants me out of “her” closet, previously known as “our” closet.
When we bought our turn-of-the-century barn of a house it did not have closets. None. It was a good buy. I might not have been able to afford it if it had closets. I thank my lucky stars because owning my little piece of Baltimore allows me to pay property taxes that one would normally need to move to Scandinavia to find. And bask in our opulent city services! What’s not to like? Just call me Mr. Lucky.
So we needed closets, walk-in mini-rooms where one could keep hundreds of pairs of shoes, racks of suits, shelves of shirts. Not that I actually own racks of suits or shelves of shirts.
I’m not sure what the previous occupants did. Perhaps armoires were enough? Perhaps a century ago no one could afford more than one suit?
So we hired a carpenter to build closets, little rooms really. Then something called California Closets—one of those operations at the mall between a discount optometrist and a place that sells potpourri by the ton weight—took it from there. Their experts made those rooms into closets—and in one of those closets my wife assembled her vast wardrobe and legendary shoe collection. My wife is the Imelda Marcos of Roland Park. We have a first-name relationship with the UPS man and FedEx. Zappos uses her shoe collection in its national advertising campaign. And those are the cheap shoes. This is where my problems began.
The use of the term master suite is a misnomer in our happy home. My presence is very slight. Not really required. I am never allowed to use the master bathroom lest I disturb something. I believe that marriage counselors used to tell young couples that marriage is not always 50-50. Sometimes it’s 60-40. Or 70-30? Closets are like that, too.
We started out 50/50. Half the closet was my wife’s space. And half was mine. That changed fairly quickly. I was at a disadvantage going into this arrangement.
I don’t own half a closet’s worth of couture. I only have a few pairs of shoes.
The next thing I knew my closet space was being encroached upon, a kind of sartorial Anschluss. My space was annexed, occupied, overrun. I was squeezed into a corner. Indians must have found this to be the case with the first settlers. First they build a little homestead, a few acres. Next, they have Connecticut. And Massachusetts. And pretty soon they want you to move west. That was the story of our closet. I am being slowly and inextricably pushed out.
At this writing I am still in there but it’s pretty pathetic. I’m down to less than 30 percent of the space and things do not look good. A tsunami of shoes in the last six months left me pretty devastated. Now the summer season looms, a kudzu of new clothes—and I fear that will be the end.
I have had to move most of my suits and sport jackets into a closet in my daughter’s room. She lives in New York so there’s room in her closet. But my wife is making inroads there, too. She has begun to colonize that closet. Where will this end? I could wind up in one of those PODS, one of those portable storage units that you see parked in front of houses that are being renovated. I’ve always wondered if someone was living in those things. Now I’ll know.
Photographs by Geoffrey Hodgdon
Ten months is record time for building and furnishing a home from scratch. Designer Erin Paige Pitts accomplished the feat after dismantling a cottage on-site to recycle into new house plans. Her incentive was getting her husband, two small children and a newborn into this, their permanent home, but so was the end game—settling into the gated, bucolic privacy of Gibson Island with its 360-degree views of the Magothy River and Chesapeake Bay.
“Gibson Island is a place from an earlier time that’s preserved because its natural beauty is prized and separated from the mainland by a causeway,” says Pitts about the place her husband, Gregory Pitts, design director for David Edward Furniture in Baltimore, discovered through friends. His desire to raise a family there got him looking early for a spot among many which are choice. (Frederick Law Olmsted Jr. laid out the island’s master plan in 1922.)
“I love a water view,” says Pitts about the 1.5-acre lot they found between the bay and marshland. “There’s something magical about having the sea and sky worked into a home for your family.”
Their preference for building with the shingle style’s porches, gabled overhangs and weathered shingles fit right into the island’s dominant architecture. The style’s characteristic interior openness could magnify the dynamic views, thought Pitts as she directed her work with an architectural draftsman. The resulting high ceilings and tall windows achieve a spacious volume that feels right on the water. She marshaled every detail into elevations ahead of construction. “Whether it’s for me or a client, I do what I call ‘the download’ to get the facts before I start a project,” says the designer whose two decade-old business recently debuted a satellite office in Delray Beach, Fla. Her own download embraced the comforts she and her family enjoy and a taste level opting for longevity over trendy. “Even though I’m working a lot at home, being on Gibson Island relaxes me,” she says. “I was conscious of working a sense of that tranquility into the rooms.”
Strong but not overpowering architectural elements are one secret to Pitts’ serene room plans. She brought some exterior motifs—classical columns from the porches and old paneling from the cottage tear-down—into the new work. “I wanted consistent classical elements, inside and out, to relate the spaces in a way that’s easy on the eye,” she says. She trumpeted other strong motifs, including a fireplace with a big, carved ship’s medallion and a wallpaper of a myriad schooling fish for a powder room. They’re eye candy against a light-enhancing backdrop of white walls and millwork. Her trick for avoiding white’s potential monotony is to throw in some balancing color. Blue in several aqueous or maritime shades is woven through the first floor—and the kitchen’s walnut floors relieve and warm its white envelope like a love letter.
I’m so not a massage person—I’ve always dropped my mind/body money on external fixes—but my prenatal rubdown with therapist Jessie Bernstein at the pleasant, pastel-accented Healing Path location in Timonium immediately feels more natural than I was, well, expecting. “It’s important to remember your needs at a time when your entire body’s doing so much work to support new life,” Jessie tells me angelically. I nod. As I’m currently six months pregnant with twins, my hip pain and carpal tunnel throbbing worsen by the week. “Bring on the healing,” I tell my nearly naked self, as I straddle a body pillow tucked strategically to aid my circulation.
WHAT TOUCHES ME: Jessie sinks her small hands into my shoulder blades, hips, ribs (these with permission) without force, more an intuitive warmth. “I won’t touch your belly,” she says. “I consider that a sacred zone.” Agreed—if not sacred, it’s sensitive and definitely not up for grabs. I notice the twins swim and kick a lot throughout the day. But it’s funny: During the massage we’re all zoned out, still and sweet. It’s almost like my blooming pregnancy got sent to the baby sitter. I hate the expression, but it’s the first me time I’ve experienced in weeks.
Maybe I’ll sign up the twins for Jessie’s infant massage workshop. “It helps the colic, sleep, constipation,” Healing Path owner Marie Gallagher tells me later. “Boosts the baby’s immune system; provides a great bedtime/bath ritual. You’ll always remember it—and they’ll remember the scent.”
By the time my session’s done, Jessie has to rouse me: “Hello?” I’d honestly forgot she was there. For $85 an hour, I could get used to this.
GETTING MY GROOVE OFF: The luxurious oil Jessie applies liberally is an adjustment for me. When I leave, she leaves it in place. I’ve been loosened up, yeah, but also lubed up…
LOCATION, LOCATION: Marie just relocated her Fed Hill branch to a more user-friendly (parking-realistic) setting on Charles Street. A new Fells Point location is due in June—featuring fun retail, like those awesome Unwined Candles made in Sykesville and our favorite Tyanna Foundation T-shirts reading “Save the Girls” (hint: that means boobs). http://www.healingpathbaltimore.com
The writer’s first mani/pedi with Lauren Flater
Halfway through my first manicure, as my hand floated in a lukewarm citrus milk bath, I began to question my manhood.
The technician pushed and peeled my cuticles, filed my nails, then paused to ask, “Would you like some shine on these?”
It was one of many unexpected moments I’d encounter during my marathon of man-pampering at the Quinntessential Gentleman in downtown Baltimore. Since opening in 2005, QG has expanded from haircuts and straight-razor shaves to a full-on men’s spa, offering waxes, mani/pedis, massages and facials. That’s not to mention the cigar lounge, complete with a pool table and walk-in humidor.
Last December, QG debuted a retail store, with high-end clothing and accessories, a line of custom suits and a master tailor. All of these services are spread out over four levels of the same Calvert Street building, which owner Craig Martin sees as a kind of modern-day men’s department store.
A perfect straight-razor by Brendan Klekner.
“It’s like peeling open a book,” says the sharply dressed, 42-year-old Martin. “You have a story on every floor.”
My journey to find my inner gentleman started with a 30-minute head and neck massage ($55) from Amy Wittig, who said “I’m glad you feel better” in a voice that was comforting but also kind of sultry. She tugged on my earlobes—and my heartstrings.
Next up was something I swore no self-respecting man would ever get: a facial. (That’s where they pop your pimples and stuff.) At QG, they perform HydraFacials ($165), a multi-step process involving a futuristic and slightly sinister-looking
machine, which gave off a medicinal blue glow in the dimly lit room. A few tubes snaked out from behind its center display case, which contained four bottles of liquid, and the whole thing was topped with a computer monitor.
I had doubts. But Emma Greco, my skin care specialist, helped reassure me.
“I was put on this earth to remove blackheads and whiteheads,” she says. “It’s my calling.”
She wasn’t kidding. Using a wand that could both dispense and suction up liquid, she took me through HydraFacial’s four steps: cleansing, acid peel, extraction and hydration. The acid peel tingled some but didn’t burn, and afterward Greco gleefully dragged the wand across my face, vacuuming up all sorts of nasty stuff.
When she finished, my cheeks were a little flush, which she said is common. It faded within a day, and left my face looking the best it has in a long time. My pores went from “Braille” to “silky.” She even rubbed some lotion on the circles under my eyes, which have noticeably darkened in the year since my son was born.
“This will help with your dad eyes,” Greco deadpanned.
Quinntessential Gentleman has two of the manliest pedicure chairs imaginable: plush black leather cushions, dark wood frames and black whirlpool tubs. Perched on such a throne, it’s easy to justify paying someone to scrub your feet and trim your toenails. Or maybe that’s just the tyrant in me.
Modeling a custom suit and dapper accessories from the new department store.
My grooming specialist was Lauren Flater, who also handled my executive manicure ($20). She exfoliated my ankles and feet with a salt scrub, then turned her attention to my toenails, which my wife once called “pokey.” Flater said pedicures are popular with high-powered businessmen, because they get blisters from squeezing their feet into fancy yet cramped designer shoes. I got the express pedicure ($35); the next step up ($45) includes a foot massage. I didn’t want it to end.
“Your wife will be happy,” Flater said after she finished cutting my sharp corners. Grooming manager Brendan Klekner gave me an expert trim ($30), but all the while I was dreading the next phase in my pampering—having my back waxed.
Some men have a forest of hair back there; I’ve got more of a grassy patch below my neck. OK, maybe a few smaller patches here and there. But after seeing “The 40-Year-Old Virgin,” I was more than a little petrified. Kelly Claaaaaarrrrkkkssssson!
Greco, whose calling it was to remove my whiteheads, also removed my back hair. I took off my shirt and laid face-down on a massage table, my face peering down through a doughnut-shaped headrest. Greco sterilized my back before slathering some warm-but-not-hot wax on me. “Breathe in,” she said as she laid a strip of paper on some wax, and then said, “breathe out” and yanked.
There was a nanosecond of pure terror as she ripped off the paper, which was followed by a full second of scorching pain. I screamed (on the inside, of course). This process ($60) was repeated several times.
I felt naked for days, as if my missing back hair was a phantom limb. One week later, the patch was still barren, save for a few strands that had hesitantly emerged to assess the damage. I’m not sure I would do that again, but I see why other, hairier men with higher pain thresholds might like it.
For the final step in my transformation from schlub to stud, I took the elevator to the fifth floor, where Phill Walters, QG’s clothier, who helped set up the retail store and custom suit corner, was waiting.
Sam with QG owner (and pool shark) Craig Martin.
Walters handed me a QG custom two-piece suit, which start at $859, a pair of Bourbon-colored Allen Edmonds “Strand” Cap-Toe Oxford shoes ($365), a gold Gitman Brothers silk knit tie ($109) and a custom QG pocket round ($25).
I looked in the mirror, and for a moment didn’t recognize the man I saw. “Hey babe,” my reflection said, “I negotiate million-dollar deals for breakfast. ”
When he founded QG nearly nine years ago, Martin went all-in, selling his house, car, stocks and even pool table, and emptying his 401(k). He started with 1,400 square feet and now runs nearly 12,000 square feet—and later this year wants to open a men’s social club on the sixth floor. All this, from a fancy barbershop.
“I’ve had probably 25 people pull me aside and say, ‘We didn’t think you were going to make it, because we didn’t think Baltimore was ready for something like this,’” Martin says.
At first, I didn’t think I was ready for it either. But us guys could use a little pampering, too.
Quinntessential Gentleman. 31 S. Calvert St. 7 days a week. 410-685-7428, http://www.theqg.com
Calling all cool cats! You don’t need to go all the way to N’Awlins to hear some hot jazz. The D.C. Jazzfest, which celebrates its 10th anniversary this year, has it all. Headlining this year’s performance lineup are dual Grammy nominee Gregory Porter, Trombone Shorty, Yasiin Bey (aka Mos Def), Cyrus Chestnut and The Dizzy Gillespie Afro-Cuban Experience just to name a few. Jazz concerts and jazz-themed events will take place throughout the weeklong festival at clubs, restaurants, museums and outdoor spaces in the city. You’ll dig it, man. June 24-29, http://www.dcjazzfest.org
Paul Cézanne once wrote that “Fruits like having their portrait painted. They seem to sit there and ask your forgiveness for fading…they speak of the fields they have left, the rain which has nourished them, the daybreaks they have seen.” Enjoy the bounty of the pre-eminent French post-expressionist painter’s work in “The World is an Apple: The Still Lifes of Cezanne” at the Barnes Foundation in Philly this summer. Called the Master of Aix, since he hailed from Aix de Provence in the south of France, Cezanne painted almost 200 still lifes and the Barnes collection contains 69 of them. View 16 favorites, plus five other masterpieces in the sure-to-be-stunning exhibition. June 22-Sept. 22. http://www.barnesfoundation.org
Feel the earth move. “Beautiful: The Carole King Musical,” stars Tony-nominated Jessie Mueller as the beloved singer/songwriter, and Jake Epstein as Gerry Goffin, her early songwriting partner and first husband. “Beautiful” traces King’s early life growing up as Carol Kline in Brooklyn in the ‘60s, when she fought her way into the record biz with heart, guts and a voice that would help shape a generation—from her first No. 1 single (at age 17) to the release of her mega-hit album “Tapestry” and beyond. Somehow the Big Apple doesn’t seem so far away, does it? http://www.beautifulonbroadway.com
Photographs by Brion McCarthy
Go behind the scenes with Baltimore STYLE fashion editor Suzin Boddiford for her “Marrying Kind” fashion shoot, where she dreamed up 7 perfect ensembles for a serial bride…and all of her suitors!
Digital Imaging and Photography: Brion McCarthy. Production and Fashion Styling: Suzin Boddiford. Model: Courtney Hejl/CIMA Talent Management. Floral Design: Brigid Landers of Mobtown Florals. Hair: Andrea Mitchell for Giuseppe’s Hair Studio and Spa. Makeup and other female model (Companionship): Leah Bassett/CIMA Talent Management. Male models: John Paul Boddiford (Love); David Hodnett (Brawn) and Vicent (Fame) both from CIMA Talent Management; Sam DeCrispino (Money) from Betsy Royall Casting; Thomas Neuberger (Brains); Jared Glasser. (Laughs). Fashion Assistants: Tricia Munro, Elisabeth Roskos, Jill Andrews. Crew Caterer: ROUGE Catering. Videographer: Curtis T. Blank. Special thanks to: John Boddiford, Betsy Royall, Betsy Wendell, Mia Tarley, Lisa Soudry, Fred Hiken, Luis Bujia.
STYLE editor-in-chief Jess Bizik poses for a selfie with Bobcat Goldthwait at MFF 2013
This year, there are about 50 feature films and 10 short film programs screening at the Maryland Film Festival. (Check out my fun Insider’s Guide from the May/June issue!) The moment the schedule is released, I print out the charts for each day, plop down on the floor and start circling movie titles with the care of an architect making final tweaks to a blueprint. If you’re an equally obsessive cinephile, some of the films you want to see may overlap and you’ll have to kill a few darlings—but, after years of practice, I find sticking to a plan keeps me happy (read: prevents meltdowns) between movies. Be sure to note the location of the films—everywhere from the beautiful MICA Brown Center to the Walters Art Museum (a new host this year!)—so you can plan enough travel time. And stay for the Q&A after each film.
Here’s my personal schedule (so far) for this year’s fest—running May 7-11, 2014. Hope you’ll join me for a few flicks—or visit the MFF website (mdfilmfest.com) to create your own line-up of must-see movies.
WEDNESDAY, MAY 7
Opening Night Shorts. Five capsule creations fresh off the heels of Sundance, SXSW and Cannes. Plus, the requisite post-movie party avec hors d’oeuvres, drinks and great discussion. (7 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
THURSDAY (May 8)
Evolution of a Criminal. A Spike Lee exec-produced documentary by Darius Clarke Monroe, who examines the life circumstances that led him to rob a bank as a young man. (4:30 p.m., MICA Gateway Building. Other date/time available.) Read more >>
The Mend. A few days in two brothers’ lives results in more than they (or perhaps the audience) bargained for in this supposedly flinch-inducing drama starring pretty-boy Josh Lucas who crashes a party to kick-start the chaos. (6:45 p.m., UB Langsdale Auditorium. Other date/time available.) Read more >>
Hellion. Still choosing between the Josh Lucas film above and this one starring Juliette Lewis (with whom I have a cinematic love/hate relationship) as the aunt to 13-year-old Jacob who is acting out after the death of a parent. As much as I want to see “The Mend” (it’s always an interesting psychological experiment for me to see films with primarily unlikable characters), there’s a strong chance this bittersweet tale will win out—especially due to the breathtaking performance promised by newcomer Josh Wilkins in the lead role. (7 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
Summer of Blood. Plan to put my “I’m over ‘True Blood’” rant to good use before this comedy about neurotic bloodsuckers in the Big Apple starring writer/director Tukel (of MFF 2011’s “Septien”) alongside Anna Margaret Hollyman who was the darling of last year’s fest. (I loved her in “White Reindeer” and the gorgeous short “Social Butterfly” by Baltimore expat Lauren Wolkstein.) (10 p.m., The Windup Space. Other date/time available.) Read more >>
FRIDAY (May 10)
Faults. The first feature from Riley Stern’s whose short “The Cub” was both shocking and a bit silly…in a good way…at last year’s Opening Night Shorts. Looking forward to this full-length film about a loner’s high-stakes effort to rescue a girl from a cult—which promises dark comedy, psychological thrills and drama. (1:30, MICA Brown Center. Other dates/times available.) Read more >>
Abuse of Weakness. I can’t count high enough to tell you how often I’ve thought of the film “Domain” (a mathematically inclined love story) presented by John Waters at MFF 2012. This year, he’s offering up another challenging French film—“Abuse of Weakness”—which stars Isabelle Huppert as a director who, after suffering a stroke, is victimized by a notorious con man. It was inspired by a true-life incident that happened to filmmaker Catherine Breillat, whose often sexuality-based body of work is as memorable and provocative as Waters’ himself. (7 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
SATURDAY (May 11)
Club Sandwich. I predict Fernando Eimbcke’s sweet coming-of-age flick will be the perfect start to a long, thought-provoking day of movie-watching. Fifteen-year-old Hector and his thirty-something mother Paloma are vacationing at a sleepy resort near the beach, ordering room service and lounging by the pool. Expect awkward flirtations as a local teenage girl enters the picture—stirring up new emotions and revelations for both mother and son…and relatable laughs for the audience. (1:30 p.m., MICA Brown Center. Other date/time available.) Read more >>
Obvious Child. Can’t wait to watch SNL-vet Jenny Slate (who has also appeared on “Parks and Recreation”) pull out her improv/comedy chops in this fictional feature about a female standup comedian and the harsh-yet-tender cast of characters that surround her. MFF founder Jed Dietz says the film is directed with unflinching conviction by Gillian Robespierre to achieve a result that’s “as fresh, startling and insightful as the best work from Louis C.K. or Tig Notaro.” (4:15 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
Ping Pong Summer. The former high school beach-tag checker in me is already, like, totally losing her mind over this an ‘80s-themed coming-of-age flick about summers spent in Ocean City, Md. In addition to the teen cast, the movie stars Hollywood heavyweight Susan Sarandon, the always “Some Kind of Wonderful” Lea Thompson and the incomparable Amy Sedaris. If only her brother David would make a movie! (7 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
SUNDAY (May 12)
Secret Screening. This screening is so cool, it’s a secret! No, seriously, I can’t tell you anything about it. But when MFF does their infamous undisclosed movies (due to restrictions by either the filmmaker or discributor) you’re always in for a highly anticipated indie film by an emerging voice in the industry. Come experience a little shock-and-awe (the good kind!) with me and other movie buffs. (11 a.m., UB Langsdale Auditorium) Read more >>
Joe Swanberg with indie fave Melanie Lynskey in “Happy Christmas”
Happy Christmas. Swoon-worthy Joe Swanberg rocked my film-fest-fan world during last year’s “Drinking Buddies” screening. (Read my homage to him here…and look for the movie On Demand.) So I’m waiting with baited breath for the bearded talent to return with this year’s “White Christmas,” in which he also stars with the adorably pitch-perfect Anna Kendrick and “Girls” creator/star Lena Dunham. (2 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
Kukimo, The Treasure Hunter. I haven’t started watching the new TV adaptation of “Fargo” (“So you were having sex with the little fella, huh?) So please let me know in the comments section if you are—and if it’s DVR-worthy or should be fed into the wood chipper. Also, consider stopping by MFF to see this offbeat indie comedy that follows a young Japanese woman who believes her worn VHS copy of “Fargo” contains instructions to recover that film’s buried treasure. By the Zellner Brothers (David and Nathan) whose “Goliath” and “KID THING” I’ve enjoyed at previous fests. (3:45, Walters Art Museum) Read more >>
Little Accidents. Elizabeth Banks, Chloë Sevigny and Josh Lucas (yep, again!) star in this Sundance-screened drama that explores the aftermath of a coal-mining disaster on a small Appalachian town. Shot by Rachel Morrison (preciously of Fruitvale Station, which was at the top of my Oscars snubs list this year.) MFF’s closing-night films are always incredibly well-curated feats of filmmaking—and all ticket-holders are welcome to attend the closing night party in the Filmmaker’s Tent Village afterward. (7 p.m., MICA Brown Center) Read more >>
Note: This schedule subject to change due to hunger, indecision, persuasion, Kleenex shortages, cute filmmaker sightings or between-movie meltdowns/shenanigans.
The Medifast food closet (aka Fuel Mecca)
Decision-making isn’t my forté. I’m the girl who’ll stand in the cereal aisle for 10 minutes reading food labels, then decide I want to go gluten-free and walk away empty-handed. This indecision has extended for years into reading books and articles on integrative nutrition, only to find myself overwhelmed with choices about wellness and losing weight.
I’ve gone Paleo, tried intermittent fasting and done my fair share of juice cleanses. In fact, I once considered dating a guy from Whole Foods just to get a discount on my favorite BluePrintCleanse beverages. (Because, hey, the only thing better than drinking kale all day is paying $11.99 per serving for the privilege.)
None of these experiments resulted in any significant changes in my body—or my brain. I still obsessed over my weight every 37 seconds and remained as poor as ever with food planning and preparation. (Think: picking up Thai takeout on the way home from work at 9 p.m.) Worse, I started chronically missing my classes at the gym and feeling like a slug.
So one day last winter, I said ENOUGH. I drove straight to the Medifast Weight Control Center in Pikesville and walked inside saying, “I’m looking for a quick fix.”
After sitting down to discuss my health history, lifestyle and goals with Heather Gotsch, one of the center’s super-sweet nutrition coaches, I committed to trying Medifast’s jump-start program—also known as the “5 & 1 Plan”—for 30 days. This includes eating five specially formulated Medifast meals (about 100 calories each) plus one “Lean & Green” meal that I would prepare myself each day. Due to the assertive calorie reduction (consuming no more than 1,000 calories per day) I also agreed to stay relatively sedentary during the first few weeks while my body adjusted.
Then it was time to PICK MY FOOD!
I have to admit, the first time I walked into the Medifast “food closet” (which I now refer to as Fuel Mecca) I was a little shocked by the options for my so-called meals.
They seemed more like snacks. “You mean this is all I’m going to be eating at one sitting?” I asked, (wo)man-handling a bag of no-more-than-12 honey mustard pretzels.
But Heather assured me that Medifast foods are scientifically engineered to help with satiety. They’re all uber-low-carb and fortified with vitamins, fiber and either soy or whey protein. Plus, she added: I would be eating more often throughout the day—every two to three hours—and threw in a reminder about that two-piece bathing suit I hope to wear this summer. So I packed up two bags filled with bars, shake mixes and just-add-water meals like crab soup and chocolate chip pancakes, then hit the road—feeling a little pre-performance anxiety but excited about the month ahead.
WEEK 1: I’M HANGRY! If you’re not familiar with the word, “hangry” is the dangerous combination of being hungry and angry at the same time. It took me about three to four days to get past this stage. To say that I had an epic hissy in the STYLE lunchroom when my Medifast mac-and-cheese boiled over in the microwave would be an understatement. For me, it helped to remember that I was hangry for a reason. The goal of Week 1 is to kick your metabolism into high gear—specifically the fat-burning state known as ketosis, which occurs when you drastically reduce carbs and up your protein intake. Weigh-In: Down 7.5 pounds.
WEEK 2: THE CORNBREAD INCIDENT. Being in ketosis has some funky side effects. Some people get a metallic taste in their mouths, but I got as parched as Marco Rubio delivering his post-State of the Union
address. Seriously, I couldn’t hold a conversation without chugging water and applying ChapStick like a crazy woman. The lesson here is that people often mistake thirst for hunger. Whenever I felt hungry after eating one of my mini-meals, I just drank a glass of water—waited 20 minutes—and the hunger subsided. So, by the way, did nearly all my carb cravings.
I did have one precarious moment at Mission BBQ when I ordered a salad with sliced turkey breast—and received a surprise piece of cornbread. I stared it down, admittedly took a bite off the corner, then covered it in Memphis Belle sauce and smushed it with a napkin—all the while picturing Fat Elvis in white spandex. Have mercy! Weigh-In: Down 3.5 pounds.
WEEK 3: LOVE ME (CHICKEN) TENDER. For fear of messing up my diet, I ate almost all the same Lean & Green meal (chicken + dry lettuce + tomato salsa) for the first two weeks—never once feeling bored with my Medifast options. I fell in love with the baked ziti—it’s nothing to look at, but it’s delicioso—and the chocolate mint bars, which I swear are better than Girl Scout cookies. But Week 3 presented my first major snag. Let’s just say it started with Valentine’s Day and leave it at that. In the week that followed, I proceeded to pull through a McDonald’s drive-through to order a 32-ounce Coke Zero to eat with my Medifast cheese puffs…for breakfast. I microwaved two bars (at once!) and topped them off with low-cal whipped cream. And I scarfed 36 black olives (that’s four individual packages mind you) at 2 a.m. While none of these foods were technically off-plan, it was a reminder than any food can be “abused” if you’re eating it for emotional reasons. Weigh-In: Down 2 pounds.
WEEK 4: MORNING, SUNSHINE. This week, I needed to incorporate exercise back into my life—if only for the endorphins! When I first started Medifast, I was zonked by the end of the day and went to bed early with a bowl of Froot Loops-esque cereal and almond milk. But by the end of the month, I was full of energy—and full of hope. I kicked butt in my Spin class but was careful to watch my food intake afterward so I didn’t overcompensate for the calories I burned. The last four weeks have restored my faith in my willpower—and the ability to make big changes in my life despite having a crazy schedule. Best of all, I woke up two hours early on the last day of my program because…wait for it…I was excited to look at my body in the full-length mirror. Now that’s worth demolishing some cornbread, don’t you think? Weigh-In: Down 3.5 pounds.
TOTAL WEIGHT LOSS: I lost 16.5 pounds and 15 inches. (Yes, two of them were in my boobs, but I like it!) In fact, I’m so inspired I’ve decided to continue my wellness journey on my new blog called The Jess Files. Join me at baltimorestyle.com/jessfiles
“DRINKS TOO MUCH WINE. SHOPS ON ETSY.” I once saw a bumper sticker with that mantra on a minivan—and I have many friends who are proudly part of that club! While I can’t say I was buzzing when I took my latest spin on the craftsy online marketplace, I did fall head over heels for this Thonet chair covered in colorful striped fabric remnants by Name Design Studio. “These chairs seem to cheer everybody up,” says Istanbul-based interior architect Jo Supara, who handmakes them—along with adorable armchairs, ottomans and other vibrant-hued home accents—with design partner Ali Tarakci. “We’ve had many requests for people’s homes, but we’ve also sold them to restaurants around the globe.” Now that’s some delicious design. Available in sets of four, $2,000. www.namedesignstudio.com
Photographs by Justin Tsucalas
Scott and Jen Michalski, 41
Author and Dept. of the Environment employee
Being a twin means having a relationship that’s challenging to explain but effortless for both of us. We don’t need to use a lot of words to communicate with each other—imagine the world’s most comfortable silence. We’re closer than siblings, but we’re not married. When we’re out together, people assume we are boyfriend and girlfriend. We knew each other for nine months before we met another human being—even our mother. Although we are not physically connected, like Siamese twins, for better or for worse, our souls are completely inseparable.
Katherine and Lauren Albert, 10
We love, in no particular order: muscle cars, Michael Phelps (we’re swimmers, you know?), Harry Potter, collecting funny pictures of cats (including our own, Cheddar and Colby), drawing and coming up with clever ad campaigns, performing in our school band (we play clarinet and baritone horn), going antiquing with our Dad, seeing movies with our Mom, wild animals (Lauren adores lions; Katherine is currently sweet on snow leopards, but give her a week!), listening to our fave pop stars like Katy Perry, Maroon 5 and OneRepublic—and being the same yet totally different. We do NOT like: Justin Bieber. “What an idiot.” (Yes, said in unison.)
Judith Hyland and June Dunton, 87
Great-grandmothers of 16
We are mirror twins and we’ve had a mirror life. We dated best friends in high school and waited until they both got home from World War II in 1946 to have a double wedding. Our father walked us down the aisle at the same time. We even went on our honeymoon together—wore matching gray suits with red accessories. June checked into the hotel first—and the concierge was quite surprised when a woman who looked just like her showed up with a totally different husband a few hours later. He said, “Wow, you’re fast!” These days, the fastest thing about us is June’s driving. So Judith prefers to take the wheel.
Cole and Karsen Smith, 6
We’re in different classes this year—and it’s the first time we’ve been apart during the day. We started a little tradition and didn’t realize anyone else noticed, but here’s what one of our teachers told our Mom: “Every single day, Cole sits on a bench on the playground and waits for Karsen to come out at recess. She walks by, gives him a high-five and then they separate to go play with their friends.” When the STYLE lady asked us why we do it, Karsen simply explained, “It’s our thing.” (“Plus, I miss her a little bit during the day,” admitted Cole, wrapping his arm around his sister.)
Angelo and Mateo Belen, 13 months
Future male supermodels
When we were babies (you know, like six months ago) our Mom used to carry us up and down the steps in a laundry basket. Apparently, we were super wiggly. She says if any marriage can survive “cry it out” with twins, the couple is set for life. For about a month, our whole family slept in the living room together—Mom, Dad and Bruno (our dog) on the couch…and us, Angelo and Mateo, in our swings. The first time we slept through the night our parents celebrated by buying a new mattress. Now we’re the kings of our cribs and whisper secret sounds to each other by the morning light.
Linda and Amanda Nord (age withheld)
Model and musician
There’s a Senegalese proverb that says the dominant twin kicks the other twin out during birth. That was Amanda. She’s a whole 12 minutes younger, likes to take her time. For some reason, people assume firstborn Linda is the more outgoing one, but Amanda thinks of herself as the wild child. Of course, in many ways we’re a lot alike. Our friends call it “Nording out” when we goof around with our unique-to-us personality. Fifty years from now, we can see ourselves living together in a cabin in Colorado, needing no more entertainment than just reading the newspaper to one another.
Jonathan and David Murray, 51
Finance experts and media personalities
During our orientation at Dickinson College, a bunch of senior girls walked up and asked, “Are you Jonathan or the other one?” Having grown up sharing everything—one birthday cake, one birthday card, you get used to being perceived as one unit. There are pluses and minuses to that, but you get a best friend for life. As a kid, you never walk into a classroom or onto a ball field feeling alone or intimidated when your twin is with you. Same thing as adults at a work function or cocktail party. We often turn heads when we’re together. Being a twin is instant attention.
I’VE ALWAYS DREAMED of being a mermaid. But since I’m stuck with four appendages, I can’t wait to step out in these sexy, scalloped, sea-foam green “Bobbie” sandals—designed by none other than Sarah Jessica Parker. Her new Italian-made SJP line was inspired by designers like Charles Jourdan and Maud Frizon, whose single-sole, simple silhouetted beauties were a staple for fashionistas in NYC in the late ’70s. The release of the line, sold exclusively at Nordstrom, comes on the heels of rumors that Parker is secretly confirmed to appear in one final “Sex and the City” movie. Which reminds me, if your boyfriend ever breaks up with you on a post-it, go ahead and throw one of your SJP shoes at him. Well worth the $365, don’t you think? http://www.nordstrom.com
Illustration by Matthew Daley
A few years ago, after my husband-to-be and I discovered that his sperm had been damaged during radiation therapy treatments, we sat down to talk about using a sperm donor to get pregnant.
I wasn’t so interested—the idea seemed to me sad, clinical and financially forbidding—but Michael disagreed. If his wounded sperm couldn’t create a kid, why not put our heads together and find the right guy to inseminate my eggs?
“The child will still be ours,” Michael said. “Maybe with your huge hair.”
“But he won’t have your face,” I thought, but didn’t say it out loud because I’d said it before. Eventually, I gave in.
Soon after we married, we’d sit down on the couch with a bowl of popcorn and click through donor records (height, weight, ethnicity, education, hobby, astrological sign, medical history and more) and partial audio interviews made available for free through the Fairfax Cryobank website. In the beginning stages, listening to your typical young buck describe his No. 1 life goal as “competing to win, against myself” or “making other people smile,” we thought we might sooner gag on clichéd blather before we choked on buttered popcorn. But little by little, we warmed to the odd game—we stuck with it long enough to locate a few donors whose voices and photos (which we bought for a modest fee) appealed to us enough to order a vial or sometimes two (depending on current discount offers). The process felt a lot like dating a
third party. When two rounds of IUI (intrauterine insemination) didn’t work, we sought another stud, and then another, seeking better articulated answers to the life-purpose questions we were still puzzling.
As I worked up to trying IVF (in vitro fertilization), I learned that several of my single girlfriends were surfing donors and buying sperm from various banks around the country, trying their luck—and
pursuing possibly their last late-30s chance to carry their own biological babies—with strangers’ stuff. I learned that several longtime lesbian couples in my circle used donors years ago to build their beautiful families. Inspiring information. I wanted to know even more.
The happy fact that I’m now six months’ pregnant with fraternal twins—the product of my eggs plus the fast-swimming sperm of a surly and smart Fairfax donor originally from Georgia, the country, not the state, who opted against sharing his photos or making his identity available to potential offspring when they reach 18 (each donor’s choice)—has me redirecting many of my 40-ish friends still in search of Mr. Right to the sperm site.
If you’re short on sperm yet certain, like I was, that you want to attempt to have your own biological baby rather than first foster a child or adopt, you’re ready to begin shopping—right now. Shopping is a user-friendly process that does not demand financial commitment. Once you’ve chosen a bank that’s geographically convenient, you simply create a username and password and begin to check off boxes bearing those physical traits and lifestyle choices you prefer: For me, requirements were advanced education, dark hair or reddish brown hair to match my husband’s, and Euro roots like his. You might want to match your hubby’s photo to your donor’s face. (That costs extra.) You might want to locate a bodybuilding Korean male with wavy hair who’s not yet finished college but knows he wants to remain anonymous to future offspring as much as he wants to start his own business…or an Aries African scientist who has left his ID-search option open and whose donor page already boasts a customer-reported pregnancy.
Each vial I purchased for IUI cost me $750 on average; each vial I purchased for IVF cost about $500. Pricing may be a little higher or lower depending on education level and other factors. (Unfortunately, most insurance plans do not cover donor sperm or related procedures.)
If you choose, you can obsess over each donor’s family health history. I was at first put off by the idea that one attractive guy’s two grandparents had suffered heart failure, but the more I shopped, the more I gathered that no donor is invited to fill a cup without first proving a mostly robust three-generation-long line. (If he has children of his own, he must file four generations of medical information.)
Michelle Ottey, Ph.D, Fairfax Cryo lab director and manager, confirmed my take.
“If there are things that would rule them out, they’re rejected,” Ottey said. “If the donor’s mother had breast cancer at 40, and her sister had ovarian…and their mother had breast cancer, they’re out.”
How does Ottey verify the applicant’s answers are accurate?
“They fill out the application and have to verify it many times,” she said. “We don’t put a donor on the site till month seven.”
By month seven, at Fairfax, the successful donor has been formally interviewed by a bank staffer, and then tested for various infectious diseases, including HIV and even HPV—only Fairfax checks this one—as well as other genetic diseases. Per FDA regulation, his sperm sample has been held in quarantine for 180 days, at which time the donor must pass a second blood-draw to be certain he’s still disease free.
The bottom line is: The sperm is expensive because these donors are carefully screened and each one is successful in his own way, in terms of sperm motility and count, in terms of genetic history, even in terms of social interaction.
“There is a huge perception that a donor can walk off the street,” another Fairfax rep (who asked to remain anonymous) explained. “It’s harder to get into than Harvard.”
Who Donates? Why? (And Does He Have 3,000 Kids?)
About 60 percent of all donors are college grads age 21 to 29—they are typically in grad school or beginning their careers, according to Ottey’s recent donor survey. All Fairfax donors are required to be enrolled in or have completed college.
(That doesn’t mean everyone is an A student or an SAT stunner; staffers consider “the big picture.”) About 20 percent range in age from 18 to 20. The remaining donors are 30 to 39. (The FDA requires an age range of 18 to 39 for active donors.) Most donors stay with the program approximately 12 to 18 months. The bank encourages each to build enough stock to provide future sibling donations.
Ottey’s survey revealed that most donors are motivated by financial compensation, which seems like a no-brainer; more surprising to me is the news that an equal number of donors reported a motivation “to help families” have kids.
According to “Brad” an anonymous donor with whom I spoke, a donating dude’s payment varies based on whether he provides a sample once or twice weekly.
“Roughly, the best case is upward of $100 to $125 per week if you go twice,” Brad said. “So you can earn upward of $500 a month.”
For Brad, who is in his mid-to-late 30s, money isn’t the motivation.
“My wife was in an accident when she was younger,” Brad said. “We don’t have kids and just attempted our eighth IVF. She doesn’t want my awesome genes to go to waste! If I can help another couple or individual, it makes me feel good.”
Though Brad has always maintained a regular workout schedule and refrained from drinking much and smoking—donor requirements—his sacrifice seems to me more intense than it might be for the average donor, since he and his wife have to reserve some of his donation days for their own fertility schedule.
To make matters more challenging, “I am required to have a 72-hour abstinence before I donate,” Brad told me. “So if my wife says, you’re not going to donate this week, I need some loving, I don’t donate.”
As I listened to Brad, I kept wondering how many kids he might have out there in the world. I know that the Fairfax Cryobank limits pregnancy numbers by inviting customers to report their success stories via the site. But based on last year’s Vince Vaughn movie “Delivery Man,” my mind pictured an army of Brad.
“Once we have 25 reported, except for siblings,we stop distributing the donor,” Ottey told me.
“Oops, I never reported my pregnancy,” I admitted, figuring a decent number of other donor-pregnant women might likewise forget or not think to report.
“Well, please do!” Ottey urged me. “Our newsletter reminds people to report.”
(Because I’ve been busy, I still haven’t reported the news, nor have I ever requested the bank’s email newsletter. I get so much spam.)
To ID or Not to ID
While there is no strict donor psychological evaluation process, each applicant discusses with a clinic supervisor whether or not he will remain anonymous to his future children.
“We make sure these donors recognize that children will result from this transaction,” Ottey said. “We have no donors whose sperm hasn’t yielded children, except the most newly recruited.”
The section of Ottey’s donor survey I find most intriguing concerns the anonymity question.
“Eight percent of respondents said they changed their mind to ‘anonymous’ after the educational screening period early on,” Ottey said, “but 30 percent of surveyed donors said they first thought they were originally going to remain anonymous but decided, after learning more, to be open ID.”
At this time in the U.S., it is a donor’s right to remain anonymous, though this law could change at a later date.
“We realize that we don’t have control over the laws, and they may change,” said Dr. Stephanie Beall, a physician at Shady Grove Fertility Center in Towson (and the same amazing woman who got me pregnant via IVF with my Georgian donor sperm last October). “That is a scary possibility—anonymity may not be upheld.”
Ottey disagreed with Beall’s “scary” prognosis, but acknowledges the potential for legislative turnaround.
“We don’t feel like it’s looming; we do grant that it may happen,” Ottey said. “There are some very vocal proponents of ID-only in the U.S. When you look at the international picture, it’s very different from country to country. Usually, even when the law requires ID availability, it doesn’t happen retroactively.”
The New Normal
For Brad and his wife, the decision to opt for ID-open was easy.
“I almost can’t wait to find out,” Brad said. “I want to know how many people I’ve helped, how many children are out there growing and experiencing life.”
Would Brad consider having a close relationship with one of his kids once they pass 18?
“It would depend on the child,” he said. “If the child was interested in having an uncle, I’d be interested. An uncle or a good friend or confidant would be appropriate.”
Donor “Twitch” (not his real name) imagines a vastly different scenario for his biological child, a baby daughter he conceived through scheduled intercourse with the wife of one of his best friends from Marine days who suffers infertility after testicular cancer. He’s currently en route to the couple’s home city to establish residence and become a bigger part of his daughter’s life, from several blocks away.
“We might say to her that she was loved so much we decided to birth her in this huge circle of family,” Twitch said. “She’ll know I was the biological father from the get-go. Sam [not his real name] is the
father. I’m going to be very special ‘Uncle Twitch.’”
Baltimore residents Lisa Stambolis, pediatric and adolescent clinical director at Healthcare for the Homeless, and her life partner Lania D’Agostino, a painter and sculptor, opted for an anonymous sperm donor from Fairfax Cryobank back in 1994 to conceive their daughter, Anais D’Agostino, now a 19-year-old college sophomore. Stambolis has a son, Michael, 31, from a previous relationship. They have a different take on sharing the ID.
“Why does it matter who the father is?” asked Stambolis, who carried their daughter at age 33 after D’Agostino, then 38, spent seven years trying unsuccessfully to be inseminated. “There have been times when our daughter wanted to know. But at the end of the day, it’s Lania and I who are her parents…who love her. We created a world.”
As my husband, Michael, and I anticipate the arrival of our twins, we discuss various approaches to sharing their story with them. (It’s our plan to do so fairly early on.) A small array of instructional children’s books abounds these days—“Before You Were Born: Our Wish for a Baby” by Janice Grimes, R.N., “Hope and Will Have a Baby: The Gift of Sperm Donation” by Irene Celcer—but I like to think we’ll know what to say on our own when the time feels right. I like to think of Twitch telling his daughter his truth that love brought her to life. I like to imagine Michael finding his own unique words to convey: “I’m your father in the everyday, forever way that matters most.”
What’s more beautiful than a single orchid? Thousands of orchids. And what’s better than being in NYC? Being in NYC and Key West at the same time. You can have it all at The Orchid Show: Key West Contemporary at the New York Botanical Garden’s 12th annual show—this year, inspired by a modernist Key West estate garden originally designed by award-winning landscape architect Raymond Jungles. Take a walk through the conservatory’s glasshouse gallery and see for yourself why the orchid is widely recognized as the world’s most coveted of ornamental plants. In conjunction with the exhibit, enjoy a Key West poetry reading, orchid care demonstration, Jimmy Buffett-style concert or a magical ‘Orchid Evening’ cocktail party. http://www.nybg.org
If you are among the fortunate foodies who had the pleasure of dining at Le Bec Fin before it closed in June, you may be squeamish when it comes to trying out Avance, a new progressive American restaurant that recently opened on the hallowed ground that was once home to Philadelphia’s finest French restaurant. But don’t be. Avance has already garnered outstanding reviews from people who were just as squeamish as you were. Start with the cauliflower chawanmushi appetizer; then move on to the dry aged duck and try the coffee mousse for dessert. Or better yet, order from chef Justin Bogle’s tasting menu. And if a terrific meal isn’t enough to justify the drive to Philly, sightseeing in historic Rittenhouse Square should help you build up a great big appetite. http://www.avancerestaurant.com
According to Webster’s, the definition of cool is “fashionably attractive or impressive.” But a new exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery aims to dig deeper. Curated by Frank Goodyear III and Joel Dinerstein, American Cool comprises photographic portraits of 100 of the ‘coolest’ individuals in modern memory. We’re talking Marlon Brando and Madonna, James Dean and Jay-Z—even entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs, activists like Angela Davis and jazz saxophonist Lester Young, who introduced America to the concept of “being cool” in the 1940s. Photographers Annie Leibovitz, Diane Arbus and Richard Avedon are among the iconic artists whose work is featured in the show. Through Sept. 7. http://www.npg.si.edu
When Tony Foreman talks about restaurants, he talks about the movies. He imagines the dining room as set and diners as cast in the film he most wants to see. And designer Rita St. Clair listens. The latest Foreman-Wolf restaurant, Petit Louis in Columbia, says Foreman (whose business partner is chef Cindy Wolf), “is a Belle Époque, turn-of-the-century silent movie.”
“Not too silent,” interjects St. Clair. This is, after all, a restaurant. St. Clair and her associate, Brian Thim, reached back to what St. Clair calls “perhaps the most wonderful time in Europe,” a time without wars, when for the middle class and the nobility “life was a party.”
With 150 seats, a convivial bar area and an adjacent coffee, pastry and sandwich shop, Petit Louis on Lake Kittamaqundi is substantially larger than its St. Clair/Thim-designed 115-seat namesake, which opened in Baltimore’s Roland Park neighborhood in 2000. But it shares much of the same design vocabulary, from the Parisian style globe lamps to cozy vinyl-upholstered booths. Even so, the Columbia space is “a bit more gilded” than Roland Park, says St. Clair. “More brasserie than bistro,” Foreman adds—meaning, presumably, that it’s a bit fancier.
Indeed, there’s an elegant private dining room with a recessed tray ceiling lined in faux tin and lit by bowl-shaped chandeliers. Muralist Kelly Walker painted the walls and a sliding pocket door that divides the room in muted golds and greens depicting a fanciful view of Versailles—inspired by photographs Wolf brought back from a visit there. Foreman points to a monkey perched in a tree clutching a bouquet of delphiniums, a detail that Walker added in honor of his daughter, Delphinium, born in November.
The restaurant and the sunny “comptoir” are in a space once occupied by a Chinese restaurant. When the team began working, says Foreman, it was a dark warren of walls, with dropped acoustic tile ceilings and an enormous tropical fish tank as a centerpiece. “Terrifying” from a design perspective,
Now there are distinct seating areas, including banquettes along mirrored walls, tables near a fireplace—its surround sourced from a New England salvage outlet—and a massive marble-topped bar illuminated by art nouveau- style fixtures. St. Clair bought plaster cherubs in Italy and had them fashioned into lights for above the bar; a graceful period lamp depicts a woman in a flowing dress, with sprays of flower blossoms. The kitchen is large enough for a separate baking area, where Ashley Roop, the former executive pastry chef at Charleston, cranks out desserts and pastries for all the Foreman-Wolf operations.
The mahogany woodwork throughout the restaurant begins with the exterior. The design team replaced the plate glass storefront with paned windows in keeping with the period, and paneled the outside walls. In warm weather, seating (on Parisian-style faux wicker bistro chairs) will extend outdoors.
With a menu and wine list nearly identical to the Roland Park original, Petit Louis is part of a larger redevelopment of the Columbia lakefront, and sits on a plaza that reaches to the water. Across the way is a circa-1970s modernist stucco and glass building designed by Frank Gehry. Not exactly part of a Belle Époque screenplay, but as St. Clair says cheekily “it could be worse.”
Petit Louis bistro
10215 Wincopin Circle, Columbia.
Designers: Rita St. Clair and Brian Thim, Rita St. Clair Associates
Executive chef: James Lewandowski
Pastry chef: Ashley Roop
Photographs by Justin Tsucalas
Maybe you’ve seen that coo-inducing video going around Facebook of the newborn French twins who are locked in an embrace as they float in a bathtub, in mutual denial that they’ve been sprung from the womb where they cuddled similarly nine months long. We’ll wait for you to watch it one more time. ...
The intimate bond between twins has long piqued the curiosity of singletons the world over. In Western culture, which puts such enormous emphasis on individuality and selfhood, twins who look either identical or strikingly similar, and who perhaps behave in copycat ways, as many twins do—displaying like-minded views or shared talents or even patterns of speaking—turn heads. Now and then they may raise eyebrows (how old is too old for lookalike clothing?).
Were you ever envious of certain twins’ ability to know what the other’s thinking, not necessarily in a truly psychic sense, but due to sheer closeness and heightened communication? Remember those twins in middle school who’d trade classrooms—and trade their very identities—for an entire school day without getting caught? These clever girls or boys might have struck you as best friends, or they might have struck you as magical halves of the same mysterious whole. (They struck this writer as sooo lucky.)
Some twins remain unusually close their entire lives. Take the identical Singh twins, Amrit and Rabindra, a pair of British Indian sisters born in 1966 who today make paintings together, often at the same time, employing different technical skills to one canvas, unified by an entirely copacetic aesthetic. Their work has been shown worldwide.
Maybe you’ve seen Linda and Terry Jamison—born in Pennsylvania in 1965 —identical sisters who call themselves the Psychic Twins. These brunette look-alikes are credited with putting their heads together and correctly predicting everything from terrorist threats to the untimely fatal plane crash of John Kennedy Jr. to the breakup of Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony. (It should be noted: They also in unison get certain predictions very wrong. And you’re right—maybe we could have predicted JLo’s break on our own.)
Even literature rejoices over an uncanny or eerie doubling; think back to Robert Louis Stevenson’s spine-tingling Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, maddening Tweedledee and Tweedledum from “Through the Looking-Glass,” the crime-solving Bobbsey Twins, or key supporting players in “Harry Potter,” Fred and George Weasley.
But if we’ve always been intrigued by the twinning phenomenon, in ages past described as an exciting “accident of nature,” we’re now much more universally aware of its traits and challenges. That’s because the rate of twin births has, well, doubled since 1980, when one in 60 births resulted in two babies—now, thanks to assisted reproductive technology, or ART, it’s one in 30, according to professor Nancy Segal, director of twin studies at California State University Fullerton.
Because so many twins are being born, certain U.S. colleges have begun offering generous tuition discounts to twin applicants. (Scholarships for multiples of three or more are also available around the country, in case that applies to your brood.) There are twin magazines, twin fan clubs—even a town called Twinsburg, Ohio, that hosts the world’s largest twin festival every summer.
Certainly, the occasional twins, both fraternal and identical, likely don’t relate any better than two estranged second cousins. Many adult twins make their homes far apart and, like lots of brothers and sisters, rarely chat. But the more familiar concept of twins who grow up happily together—finishing each other’s sentences and forming a friendship that endures beyond childhood—codes our culture.
Professor Segal attributes this harmonic cohabitation to more than just proximity and shared experience—in a BBC World Radio interview recorded last year, she theorizes that genes are the glue that
creates the seemingly surreal connection some of us single-born may secretly crave.
In fact, Segal cites a long-running University of Minnesota study, looking at twins born between 1982 and 1991 and separated at birth, in which numerous duos split and raised in different cultures, different countries even, prove to hold stunningly similar views on politics, to share mirror-image social behaviors and, in some cases, quite matching personalities or temperaments. Segal herself has been studying two female twins separated early and raised apart in North America and Europe. She describes the little girls’ reunion at an airport, when she was blown away by “how well they got along so quickly; looking at each other…then falling into an embrace.” Swoon.
We are without a doubt as twin-curious as you—that’s why we invited some of our favorite local pairs to appear in this issue and answer a few personal questions we’ve wanted to ask them only our entire lonely lives.
“So I went to a club the other day, which is timely because my self-esteem had been hovering right around ‘normal’ and I had been meaning to knock it down to negative 1,000.”
Bravado. Mike Birbiglia ain’t got it. Adorable, self-deprecating charm? That’s our boy. Fresh off the heels of his Sundance Audience Award-winning film “Sleepwalk with Me”—aka the first feature film co-written by Ira Glass and co-produced by “This American Life” (brilliant!)—the comedian/ author/filmmaker is returning to his stand-up roots with his “Thank God for Jokes” tour. (If it’s anywhere near as hilarious and endearing as “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend,” which was the No. 1 comedy special of 2013, Baltimore is certain to fall in love.) Join Birbiglia on April 4 at the Lyric as he recounts his recent visit to Cats-a-chusetts, argues with a stranger about her nut allergy, hosts an awards show for angry celebrities and learns that Fozzie Bear is a tough act to follow. We can’t wait to see the multi-talented funnyman and tell him how darling we think he is. Not that he’ll believe us. Tickets, $28- $38. 800-745-3000 http://www.ticketmaster.com
Red, White and Blue
The Baker Artist Awards present Front Room: Sterling Ruby, the provocative soft sculptures of Sterling Ruby, who crafts pillow-esque forms using red, white and blue fabric. Resembling vampire fangs and visual metaphors that may or may not be a critique of the state of American politics and culture, The New York Times has called Ruby “one of the most interesting artists to emerge in this century.” Through June 15 at the Baltimore Museum of Art. Free admission. 443-573-1701, http://www.artbma.org
Love her or love to hate her, she’s just being Miley. From Hannah Montana, to “Party in the U.S.A.,” to “Wrecking Ball,” the world has seen Ms. Miley Cyrus evolve from Disney starlet to controversial pop star, and she’s had her fair share of criticism lately. But Cyrus doesn’t care; she’s just doing her own thing. You can watch her do it when the Miley Cyrus: Bangerz Tour comes to D.C. this month. You’ve been warned: be prepared for enthusiastic fans, an abundance of tongue wagging, dancing teddy bears and, of course, a whole lot of twerking. And who knows? A giant crying Tumblr cat might make an appearance as well. April 10, at the Verizon Center. Tickets, $65-$108. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Joys And Oys
You don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy listening while MOBs (members of the tribe) tell stories about modern Jewish life. Whatever your persuasion, you’ll likely relate to their tales in one way or another. So, schlep out to Bolton Street Synagogue on April 5 for the Stoop Storytelling Series’ presentation of It’s Complicated: The Joys & Oys of Contemporary Jewish Life. Apart from stories by WBAL anchor Deboreh Weiner, author and UB professor Marion Winik, and Temple Oheb Shalom Senior Rabbi Steven Fink, the event will also feature a silent auction, raffle, and festive food and drink with proceeds benefiting educational programs at the synagogue. Tickets, $50. 888-810-2063, http://www.stoopstorytelling.com
Lost In Translation
Things aren’t looking too peachy for Mr. Gross, a company president who receives a memorandum in a mysterious language he doesn’t understand. If he can’t decipher the memo, he’ll lose his job and his wits. This is the setup for Vaclav Havel’s play, The Memo, a comedic and satirical look at bureaucracy and nonsensical office antics in a socialist 20th-century Czechoslovakia. Translated from Czech by Paul Wilson, the setup could easily take place in contemporary America. April 2-27 at the Single Carrot Theatre. Tickets, $10-$25. 443-844-9253, http://www.singlecarrot.com
Care for a little banjo? The 2014 Charm City Folk & Bluegrass Festival is coming to Druid Hill Park—and is bringing some big-name artists with it. Rain or shine, fans can enjoy daylong music from 13-time Grammy winner Jerry Douglas (member of Alison Krauss and Union Station), Noam Pikelny & Friends, Sierra Hull, Mad-Sweet Pangs, Trace Friends Mucho, a local contest winner and more. But that’s not all. If you’re up for it, be sure to check out the official late night show after the festival, which will feature a “get on your feet” improvisational bluegrass blowout featuring The Everyone Orchestra. April 26, noon (11 p.m. late night party) at Druid Hill Park. Tickets $57-$150. http://www.charmcitybluegrass.com
Dysfunctional Family Fare
You’ll think you’ve died and gone to Russia as award-winning playwright Christopher Durang channels Chekhov in Vanya and Sonia and Masha and Spike. Vanya and his sister Sonia have lived a quiet, peaceful and unexciting life at the Bucks County, Pa., farmhouse where they were raised. Things change, though, when their landlord, who happens to be their movie star sister Masha, arrives at the house with her man candy, Spike, to stir up some trouble. Directed by Eric Rosen and presented and co-
produced with the Kansas City Repertory Theatre, this popular comedy promises loads of laughs. April 16-May 25 at Centerstage. Tickets, $10-$59. 410-332-0033, http://www.centerstage.org
A Ghostly Romance
Fans of the Oscar-winning film “Ghost” can relive their eerie memories—and we’re not just talking about the pottery scene—at a performance of Ghost The Musical, a new Broadway show adapted from the film’s screenplay. The musical is filled with cool special effects and an original pop score from Grammy winners Dave Stewart and Glen Ballard. For those who need a refresher, the story follows young and in love couple Sam and Molly, whose relationship ends abruptly when Sam is murdered. That isn’t the end though, as Sam, trapped between the worlds of life and death, turns to a psychic to help him communicate with Molly and avenge his death. April 8-April 13 at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets, $38-108. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Cruising for a Brewsing
So many beers, so little time (to drink them). Budweiser, Coors, Dogfish Head, Flying Dog, Guinness. In between chugs, have you ever wondered about the history of your favorite beverage? Brew School with Nick “the Baltimore Beertrekker” Thomas will teach you all you need to know in a hurry. You’ll learn the background of brewing, ale geography, beer politics, marketing, legends and more. Oh, and there will obviously be beer tasting accompanied with cheese. Because, duh. April 15, 7:30 p.m. at the Creative Alliance at The Patterson. Tickets, $40, $35 for members. http://www.creativealliance.org
In 1930s Hollywood, Vera Stark is an African-American maid to a white movie star. But strong-willed, ambitious Vera has acting chops, too and things get mighty complicated when she and her boss are cast in the same film. Meanwhile, another controversy is unfolding behind the camera. Written by Pulitzer Prize winner Lynn Nottage, By the Way, Meet Vera Stark delves into the public’s obsession with tabloids and celebrity gossip, while exposing the significant obstacles faced by black actors in
Hollywood during the early 20th century. April 16-May 11 at Everyman Theatre. Tickets, $32-$60. 410-752-2208, http://www.everymantheatre.org
The Jets and The Sharks are still at it—and, so crazy, they look as young and snappy as they did back in 1975 when West Side Story first debuted on Broadway. The “Romeo and Juliet” inspired musical with music and lyrics by legends Leonard Bernstein and Stephen Sondheim returns to the Hippodrome with such classics as “America,” “I Feel Pretty,” “Somewhere” and “Something’s Coming.” They’ll be sure to do those hits proud, as the new cast album won the 2010 Grammy for Best Musical Show Album. April 26-April 27 at the Hippodrome Theatre. Tickets, $43-$102. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
In the Mood
Need an aphrodisiac? Skip the champagne and oysters and
take your lover to The Lyric for Toujours L’Amour, a one-night celebration of the French grand opera. The Baltimore Concert Artists Orchestra under the direction of Edward Polochick will accompany vocalists Nicole Cabell and Stephen Costello performing oh-so-romantic operatic works from Romeo and Juliet, Faust, Manon and Thais. April 25. Tickets, $32-$96. 410-900-1150, http://www.lyricoperahouse.com
Zoinks! A mischievous ghost is on the loose and Scooby and the gang are determined to solve the mystery. Can they crack the case? See for yourself when Scooby- Doo! Live Musical Mysteries brings the classic animated mystery series—not to mention that infamous van and Velma’s hairdo—to real life at The Lyric on April 12. Tickets, $37-$74. 800-745-3000, http://www.ticketmaster.com
Dog lovers are in for a (Scooby) treat! For four days, kennel clubs from across Maryland, Virginia and D.C. will come together for the Dog Show presented by Cherry Blossom Cluster (Baltimore County Kennel Club, Old Dominion Club and Catoctin Kennel Club). From specialty shows focusing on single breeds such as golden retrievers and Chihuahuas, to all breed cluster shows, dog people will delight in sharing this experience with their favorite furry friends. April 18-April 21 at the Maryland State Fairgrounds. 410-252-7555, http://www.cherryblossomcluster.com
Even preschoolers know that Itzhak Perlman is one of the greatest violinists of our time. Whether he’s soloing with an orchestra, performing before Queen Elizabeth or a U.S. president or even guest-starring on “Sesame Street,” Perlman’s talent is undisputed. Expect nothing less when Perlman returns to Baltimore for two performances with the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra this month. Perlman will perform Beethoven’s Violin Romances with the BSO, and will demonstrate his conducting prowess when he leads the orchestra in Hector Berlioz’s “Symphonie fantastique.” April 12 and 13, at The Meyerhoff. Tickets, $46-$110. 410-783-8000, http://www.bsomusic.org
Music To Your Ears
It has to be kind of awesome to be a successful violinist with a name like Violaine Melancon. Since 1990, The Peabody Trio—including Melancon, along with cellist Natasha Brofsky and pianist Seth Knopp—have been known for their interpretations of chamber music classics, championing of new music and mentoring of young musicians. You can see them perform live as part of Johns Hopkins University’s Sylvia Adalman Chamber Series. April 8, at Miriam A. Friedberg Concert Hall. Tickets, $5-$15. 410-234-4800, http://www.events.jhu.edu
Heaven knows there are already plenty of boutiques for bright young things stocked with skimpy T-shirts and miniskirts and the remnants of grunge chic. So it was with special pleasure that Savvy walked into a sunny new space and was greeted with loads of feminine, grown-up clothes. It also has the cheeriest colors and cutest name you’ll find anywhere: Lime Blossom Boutique in Fells Point. Owner Shannon Burdick says she wanted to offer more than club wear or party dresses, while still appealing to women of all ages. Savvy flipped over the bright tribal print skirts by Flying Tomato for only $40 and the floaty beaded, embellished tops by Endless Rose. And one can never get enough of those handy, lightweight crocheted cardigans to throw over your shoulders in the frigid air conditioning of modern America. Add in Italian leather wedges, vegan bags by Melie Bianco and a smattering of affordable jewelry, and you can walk out with a whole new outfit and not go into debt. Now that’s savvy. 1716 Fleet St., Fells Point, 410-563-5060
Oh, your father also buttled?
“Oh yes, sir. Even my father’s father was a gentleman’s gentleman.”
Those lines are from a November 2000 episode of the TV sitcom “Frasier,” where the ever-aspiring lead character fulfills a lifelong fantasy and hires a butler. That situation, like similar ones in “Upstairs Downstairs” or “Downton Abbey,” is about as close as most Americans will ever get to the idea of a butler. Being “in service” is a concept that went the way of the dodo.
Or did it?
Not according to Andrew Lowrey. The tall, dark-haired man with perfect posture, impeccable manners and a native British accent is a professional butler and Baltimore’s very own staffer to the stars. Lowrey runs Precise Home Management, an agency that trains, vets and supplies domestic staff for households around the country. That means butlers, estate managers, housekeepers, chefs, personal assistants, you name it. If you have the money, you can have a little piece of “Masterpiece Theater” all your own.
Growing up in Cambridge, England, Lowrey says he always knew he was meant for “a life of service.” He has the kind of eye for detail you might attribute to an interior designer and a facility for order and organization akin to that of an engineer—attributes that propelled him from waiting tables in restaurants to serving tea in Buckingham Palace to presenting formal dinners at a 90-foot table aboard a Saudi yacht.
“They had Lalique crystal and Christofle silver,” he recalls of the Saudi royals. “The silverware had tiny little sapphires embedded in the handles. The tablecloth was linen with sheaves of corn embroidered in gold thread. It must’ve cost $20,000.”
Lowrey came to Baltimore in 1990 for a job: managing a 25,000-square-foot home for “a prominent Maryland family” (a butler-like discretion forbids naming names). He founded Precise Home Management eight years later. Housed in one of those grand Victorian mansions in the stately Belvidere Terrace block of North Calvert Street, the agency provides an ideal setting for training people in the arts of table etiquette, social manners, formality and hard-nosed business sense. It’s all well and good if you know a fish fork from a salad fork, but to be a good butler you also have to know how to get stains out of fabric, how to solicit bids from contractors for a landscaping project, how to troubleshoot a vast array of electronics and how to anticipate whether Monsieur would prefer Taittinger or Veuve Clicquot for this guest or that guest.
“We’re chameleons,” says Lowrey. “We adapt ourselves to our environments.”
He recalls one job in Florida where his employer kept a yacht that had to be winterized out of season. The boat, he says, was shrink-wrapped. But seagulls kept zooming in, breaking holes in the plastic. So Lowrey, in addition to his house duties, had to repair the holes with duct tape after every avian attack.
Ah, the glamorous life!
But a butler or housekeeper can make a good living, says Lowrey, anywhere from $65,000 to $250,000 a year, often with full health and retirement benefits. And the ranks are growing. The Domestic Estate Managers Association, a trade organization for domestic service employees, has more than 1,500 members in the U.S. and other countries.
But what about handling the quirks and foibles of the very rich, and, potentially, even mistreatment? Lowrey has a motto: “It’s not personal.” There’s a line, of course; certain things up with which he will not put. But in general, he says, he looks at the whole spectrum of duties as just doing one’s job, whether it’s walking the dog, packing a picnic lunch or setting and re-setting two different tables, over and over, depending on the whim of the employer.
That equanimity is an essential characteristic, one he can spot pretty quickly in a person interviewing for a job. He says he gets people from all walks of life, all ages, applying to be modern-day domestic servants. Some of them, he says, are looking for a “Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous” experience. “They think they’re going to be jetting off to all kinds of exciting places,” he says. Those get winnowed out right away. Others are just looking for a stable job in a decent environment. All, he says, have to be good at “noticing things.”
“I’m like a dating agency,” says Lowrey. “I match people up.”
Precise Home Management
1007 N. Calvert St.
In June of last year, City Paper published its annual “Queer Issue,” in conjunction with the Baltimore Pride festivities. The first since the historic passage of Question 6, the issue’s cover featured two women kissing while holding celebratory sparklers, a nod to a mass same-sex wedding being held in Druid Hill Park that weekend.
My friend Evan’s then 6-year-old son Jack pointed to the picture and said, ‘What’s that?’
Evan says he “took a deep breath” and launched into an explanation. It was a picture of two women in love who were getting married, he began.
Jack interrupted. “No, Daddy. Not that, THAT,” he said.
He was asking about the sparklers.
It’s a scene familiar to many modern parents, who are raising kids completely nonplussed by nontraditional families. Unencumbered by prejudice or cultural expectations, our kids see families as just that: families, paying little attention to the particular constellation of genders therein.
A few years ago, my oldest son asked me if our beloved neighbors, two men with children, were married.
I answered that I honestly didn’t know if they were married, because in many states it wasn’t allowed. Ethan was absolutely scandalized.
“How could they not be married?” he asked, wide-eyed. “They do everything together!”
As the sister of two gay men, I’ve always had a vested interest in raising children who respect the fundamental equality of all people and who embrace all kinds of families. But as a card-carrying Generation Xer, I find the civil rights sea change currently unfolding in America—from the Supreme Court’s United States v. Windsor decision to the coming out of Missouri All-American football player Michael Sam—especially electrifying.
I was born in 1968, one of the most tumultuous years in American history. It was “The Year That Rocked The World,” as the title of one book puts it, the year of the riots at the Democratic National Convention and the assassinations of both Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King. It was the year of the Tet Offensive in Vietnam and the heyday of the Black Panthers.
But by the time I was old enough to pay attention to the world around me, all that turmoil seemed a thing of the past, especially from my vantage point in a generic Long Island split-level with a station wagon parked in the driveway. There were no sit-ins or marches or riots on my agenda. It was the era of “Free to Be You and Me” and Title IX. Women entered the work force in record numbers. America certainly wasn’t perfect, by any stretch, but it felt as though the heyday of toppling discriminatory barriers was largely over, as was the exhilaration that came with it.
I was always curious what it might have felt like to witness a revolution firsthand, to have experienced groundbreaking social changes like those of the era I was born in. For many of my peers, the AIDS and apartheid activism of the ’80s was a first taste.
Now we do have that chance, one made all the more powerful by the fact that we are also witnessing it through our children’s eyes. The ironic thing is it’s almost too difficult for today’s kids to grasp the profundity of what’s happening. The legislative and social barriers being broken through by gay people seem as puzzling and backward to our kids as the antiquated and repulsive “Whites Only” drinking fountains seemed to us—something you might see in a history museum.
“That’s just like segregation,” my friend Krista’s 7-year-old daughter Soren marveled after they discussed why NFL prospect Michael Sam was making headlines.
The gay rights movement has provided an opportunity to teach our kids the power of social protest, sometimes with a wholly contemporary twist. In January, after “Duck Dynasty” patriarch Phil Robertson made racist and homophobic remarks, pop star Liam Payne of One Direction tweeted his support to Robertson’s son. Payne and his fans subsequently got into a Twitter war with a popular YouTube sensation named Tyler Oakley, who is gay. My friend Kirsten’s 11-year-old daughter Sarah, once an enthusiastic One Direction fan, was so upset she unfollowed everyone having to do with the band on Instagram and took down all of their posters from her room.
Similarly, when it came to light that Chick-fil-A—one of our kids’ favorite restaurants—had been donating money to virulently anti-gay causes, we told our boys we had no choice but to stop eating there.
And I know they got the message. Well, sort of. Because the morning after President Obama finally voiced support for marriage equality during an interview with ABC, I explained to my boys as we drove to school why this was such a big deal.
There was a moment of silence as Ethan pondered the news. Then he piped up from the back seat.
“Does this mean we can go back to Chick-fil-A now?” he asked eagerly.
It was an important reminder that in the end, kids are just kids and view the world the way kids do. But it makes me happy that it’s kids like Jack and Ethan and Soren and Sarah who will be the parents of tomorrow, the members of Congress of tomorrow, the business owners of tomorrow. I feel safe knowing that when it comes to this last ugly vestige of bigotry in our country, the future is in enlightened hands. 9
Jennifer Mendelsohn lives in Mount Washington with her husband and their two boys. Her work has appeared inThe New York Times, People, Slate and,USA Weekend. She also serves as one of Us Weekly’s Fashion Police “Top Cops.”
Photographs by David Stuck
Building a family is risky business, regardless of how it’s done. Adoptive parents navigate myths, wild rumors and horror stories. But for every learning curve, hoop to jump through and unfounded fear, there are more stories of joy and luck. In the end, adoption, like any family-building exercise, is a leap of faith, and there are several ways to do it.
“I don’t rule out anyone,” says Dean Kirschner Ph.D, the executive director of Adoption Makes Family, Inc., a nonprofit, private agency that does domestic adoptions. In this model, prospective parents work with a counselor to connect with women who are pregnant and plan to put their babies up for adoption. The adoptive parents create narratives about themselves—scrapbooks, letters, web pages—to help birth parents get to know them, and agencies like Kirschner’s screen in, not out. “I don’t look at your age, your marital status or your sexual orientation,” he says. “But the birth parents may.”
While it can be stressful to be at the whim of birth parents, there are advantages to domestic adoption: The process can be fast, the adoptive parents often bring home an infant and there’s an opportunity for the adoptive and birth parents to know each other and their histories, to whatever degree makes both parties comfortable.
Sandy Asirvatham, her husband Kevin and son Miles.
When Sandy Asirvatham and her husband, Kevin, decided to adopt, at age 35, they kept an open mind. Sandy, a writer and musician, explored the terrain and realized that a domestic adoption might suit them best. “I liked the idea of knowing a lot about my kid, both in terms of medical history and the child’s family narrative,” she says. “On a philosophical and political level, I liked that this would be a decision made by both parties.”
She and her husband worked with a private, nonprofit, secular agency in the D.C. metro area. Two years after launching the elaborate paperwork process, they met briefly with a birth mother who’d delivered a newborn currently under agency-sponsored foster care. He was only 4 weeks old when they brought him home. “With Miles,” she says, “the stars aligned, the birth parents were mature and wonderful and we had a very competent counselor.”
When Miles was 5, they tried again—but the second time was thornier. Their adoption counselor seemed less competent than the first; in hindsight, Sandy says, they probably should have asked to work with a different counselor. There were other hurdles: Birth parents seemed to prefer religious couples and childless couples. But they found a birth mother who liked them, and they brought home a baby girl soon after she was born. “Miles fell in love with his new sister,” says Sandy. Then, out of the blue, the birth father made a claim that was within his legal rights; the counselor had failed to provide complete and accurate information about him. “We did the DNA test, and she was taken away from us. We had her for five days. It was the worst thing we’ve gone through in our lives—and I put Miles through that, too.”
The No. 1 fear for people who want to adopt is that the baby will be taken away, says Kirschner, who has been working in the adoption world for 20 years. “There are no easy answers for this,” he says. “My advice is for people to work with a seasoned adoption counselor with a lot of compassion for both the birth parents and adoptive parents.”
“You open yourself up to risk, but it’s all risk,” says Sandy. “We’re now perfectly happy with the family we have.”
In many ways, international adoption offers the opposite experience: The birth parents are an unknown entity, and they have no say in who adopts their child. Sometimes, quite literally, the baby has been left on the doorstep of an orphanage.
The Richard family: Virginia, Madeleine, and Isabelle
“Closed adoptions can be really hard for kids and parents,” says Virginia Richard, a single mother and teacher who adopted two daughters from China. “But I was afraid that an open domestic adoption could result in the child being reclaimed by its birth family. I knew there was no way I could handle it, and with international adoption, you will end up with a child.”
With international adoptions, there are as many variables as there are nations. Countries that work within the Hague Adoption Convention, which protects children and their adoptive parents, tend to do a better job regulating fees and contracts and work harder to prevent trafficking than non-Convention countries. So, for example, Convention countries like China, Colombia, Peru and Vietnam have more stable fees, while in non-Convention countries like Ethiopia, Haiti and Russia, fees can vary wildly.
But any government can be fickle, and things happen. Fourteen years ago, when Virginia began the process with Great Wall China Adoption, the nation had no restrictions on single mothers. She brought home Madeleine in 2001, when she was 13 months old. By the time she brought home Isabelle in 2004, China had become less tolerant of single mothers. In the years since, China has closed itself off to singles, and then opened up again. The 2010 earthquake in Haiti derailed many adoptions from that country, and Russia recently enacted an anti-gay adoption ban. Virginia was delayed by more than a month meeting Madeleine because of 9/11.
The screening process for both domestic and international adoptions can be dizzying, with home studies, background checks and medical reviews. But the bureaucracy involved in international adoptions can become epic. With Madeleine, Virginia found herself on an 11th-hour paper chase that involved a $100 cab ride from Annapolis to Washington, hours spent going back and forth from the State Department to the Chinese consulate and a nap in a park in Georgetown while waiting for paperwork. She failed her first home inspection because of a radiator that didn’t have a cover. “I have so many smoke detectors now,” she says.
Despite the delays, Virginia is sanguine about it: “If I hadn’t been delayed, I wouldn’t have gotten Madeleine.”
Jillian and Rod Fry with their two boys.
Often, this is where the conversation about adoption ends. But there’s a third option: fostering to adopt. There may be no bigger leap of faith than the ones taken by people like Jillian and Roderick Fry, a public health researcher and chemist, who knew before they were married that they wanted to build a family this way.
Although this was not the motivation for the Frys, fostering can be a great option for people who don’t have the financial resources to pay tens of thousands of dollars in adoption agency fees. The Department of Social Services foots every bill and provides a monthly stipend, and the child is covered into adulthood by Medicaid.
Jillian and Rod enrolled in the foster-to-adopt program through DSS, and after training, home studies, medical review, and background checks, they were ready to foster. After several months they got a call in 2010 from DSS about a 15-month-old boy who needed short-term care for about three weeks. Although their goal was to foster long-term, they leapt.
“They called at 11 o’clock in the morning,” says Jillian, “and by 3 o’clock Joseph [name changed] was in our house.” They bought a pack-n-play that afternoon, and their co-workers pulled through with a bounty of baby supplies. “We went from zero to 100 in four hours,” he says. As the months passed, it became clear that this might be long-term, after all. “It changed quickly from babysitting for three weeks to ‘this is our son,’” says Jillian.
After a year, a judge granted Jillian and Rod a year of preliminary full custody and guardianship. Everyone present at court, including the birth parents and caseworker, agreed that the arrangement was working well. A year later, in 2012, the Frys went to court again and were granted permanent full custody and guardianship. Joseph’s birth parents have not had their parental rights terminated, which means that Jillian and Rod can’t legally adopt him—but everyone is comfortable with the situation. Joseph calls Jillian and Rod “Mom” and “Dad,” and his birth parents by their first names.
Once a month, the Frys take Joseph to a play area in a mall or park to visit with his birth parents. “We don’t have court-ordered visitation, but we do it for Joseph, because it’s good for everybody,” says Jillian.
“We tell Joseph, ‘They love you, but they couldn’t take care of you,’” says Jillian. “We’re your forever mommy and daddy.”
Of course, with fostering to adopt, there is the fear of losing the child to claims by the birth family, and Jillian and Rod have met people who lived through that ordeal. Before Joseph was even in their home, they decided to have a biological child—another boy, who is now 3.
“We got very lucky,” she says. Joseph, 5 years old, has been with them for four years. “It’s definitely risky. A child came into our lives, we fell in love, the situation has challenges and we could have easily had our hearts broken. But if people are prepared and go into it with their eyes open, it can be a beautiful thing.”
Adoption at a Glance
Costs Domestic and international adoption through an agency: $20,000-$45,000. Foster-to-adopt through DSS: $0
AGE Most agencies prefer that there are no more than 45 years separating parent and child. Some agencies require adoptive parents to be at least 30 years old.
single? Not religious? already have a child?Nonprofit, private agencies don’t discriminate, and neither do foster care services—but in the case of open domestic adoptions, birth parents may have preferences.
Gay? Nonprofit, private agencies don’t discriminate, but it’s trickier when fostering; laws vary from state to state. With international adoptions, some countries discriminate. Again, in the case of open domestic adoptions, birth parents get to decide.
Trying to get pregnant Some agencies discourage fertility treatments during the adoption process, others don’t.
Roadblocks or DealBreakers
Not having covers on your radiators
Not vaccinating your pets
Intercountry Adoption, U.S. Department of State | http://www.adoption.state.gov
Adoption Makes Family, Inc. | http://www.adoptionmakesfamily.org
Maryland Department of Human Resources | http://www.dhr.maryland.gov
Being a woman of a certain age, Savvy remembers the days when people actually wrote letters to each other. Even, if you can believe it, thank-you notes. Though she, like everyone else, has largely gone over to email, she still enjoys putting pen to paper, especially if the paper is beautiful. Thank goodness, then, for Simply Noted in Ruxton. Not only will you find oodles of cards, notepaper and stationery, but also wrapping paper, candles, hostess gifts and dog treats. Yes, dog treats. Apparently Fido also knows a quality product when he sees one. Simply Noted also carries the work of local printmakers and letterpress designers such as Gilah and Maggie Stewart. 1515 LaBelle Ave., Ruxton, 443-275-7094
What’s the chief difference between dogs and cats? Anyone who has ever known a cat knows the answer. Dogs are man’s best friend. But cats remain forever and always their own best friends. I did not need to spend $27.99 to learn this but we’ll come to that.
The cat has a long relationship with man. Domesticated to deal with pests like mice and rats, they were worshipped in ancient Egypt and persecuted in Europe in the Middle Ages. Some cultures believed cats to be emissaries from other worlds—or that they were in cahoots with Satan. Black cats, witches and all that. Winston Churchill loved his cat, Jock, referring to him as his special assistant. Lenin, Hemingway and Jack Kerouac loved cats.
Mark Twain adored cats, too, observing: “When a man loves cats, I am his friend and comrade, without further introduction.” I feel the same way. The Humane Society of America says there are 95.6 million cats in this country. (More cats than dogs, by the way.) I know two of those cats—Luke and Hamlet.
I have a long relationship with these felines and I can tell you this with certainty: you don’t know them any better the longer you know them. They remain impenetrable, mysterious, Zen-like creatures.
John Bradshaw, author of “Cat Sense” (that’s where the $27.99 went), believes that cats regard their owners as extended members of a cat family. My cat, Luke, thinks I am a cat. A cat he knows and trusts. (A cat that knows how to open cans, too.) My neighbor’s cat, Hamlet, visits daily. He also thinks I am a cat. We have him on a modified American eating plan. He takes breakfast and dinner here. I do not know where he gets lunch. Bradshaw believes that my cat thinks that I am his mother. I don’t look anything like his mother but we’ll let that pass.
The subtitle of the book is what intrigued me. “How the new feline science can make you a better friend to your pet.” What more can I do? My cats (I have owned three in 34 years) live like kings, eat the most expensive cat food and have free rein. The first two, Grace and Diesel, lived to be 20. How could I be a better friend? Buy them cars?
Cats are said to be most adaptable. But I think cats are stubborn, sly and shrewd. In my experience, life is always on the cat’s terms.
Think about dog obedience schools, places where red-faced ladies with English accents in tweed suits bark (literally) orders at dogs. Dogs apparently don’t mind this. They are trainable. Man domesticated the dog, but Bradshaw says man has not completely domesticated the cat. Exactly! It’ll never happen. Can you imagine anything more preposterous than a cat obedience school? A cat-leash law? A cat whisperer? That would be a good way to get scratched.
Anyone who knows cats wonders about the things they do. Why do they knead before they settle down in your lap? Bradshaw thinks it might be a reflexive thing from kittens kneading their mother to stimulate her milk. What’s the deal with the cat walking around with its tail straight up in the air? Apparently, it means they are happy to see you. And all those noises they make? Well, they may be trying to communicate. But maybe not. We do know that every human language has a representation of the cat’s meow—a universal sound known around the globe—but we don’t know exactly what it means. Cats like it that way.
One time, I saw a little sign in a gift shop, an aroma-therapy parlor full of wind chimes where the smell of potpourri could kill an asthmatic. The sign was directed at cat owners. “A cat is not a little person in a fur coat.” Anyone who knows cats understands that’s wrong. A cat is a little person in a fur coat. That is precisely its appeal.
Cats are color-blind. Cats do not like change or car rides or cages. You might get the odd cat that enjoys a car ride, but that’s fairly rare. An old vet once told me that it takes two people to put his 9-pound cat in a carrying cage—and it takes three people to get that cat out.
Cats are finicky, suspicious and nocturnal. Very well rested. Hard not to admire a creature that can sleep 22 and a 1⁄2 hours a day. Cats appear to like it when people speak to them in a high-pitched voice. But we don’t know why. My theory is that cats like it when we make fools of ourselves.
Lunchtime can be mayhem at tiny Trinacria, the Italian deli and gourmet grocery on Paca Street. Customers crowd the deli case waving paper stubs with numbers, calling out orders for muffaletto and eggplant parm, while those here for a bottle of $3.99 wine or frozen lasagna have to elbow their way to the back. In part to ease this crush, owner Vince Fava, whose grandfather Vince emigrated from Italy in the early 20th century to start a spaghetti company, has opened a nearby café with his wife Dee, who did the design. The new place, Trinacria Café at the corner of Park and Centre serves all the prepared pastas, sandwiches and sides available at the shop, only you can sit down to eat. Plus, it offers salads, pizza and hand-cut fries. The eatery overlooks attractive apartment buildings, like the new 520 Park and Chesapeake Commons, and the Walters Art Museum is around the corner. Space seats about 75; in warm weather, Fava hopes to expand outdoors. Another future goal: groceries by delivery. 111 W. Centre St. 410-685-7285, http://www.trinacriabaltimore.com
Between the proliferation of online shops and their brick-and-mortar counterparts tucked away into tiny corners of the city, Savvy is getting dizzy with all the offerings. The latest Charm City shop to expand from the cyber powerhouse Etsy to a spot on the street is Bottle of Bread, part vintage clothing store, home furnishings shop, gallery and “dream zone.” Walking in here is like opening up a trunk of your grandmother’s lifelong collections. Sweaters, skirts, boots, scarves, doilies, jewelry, paintings, even X-rated salt and pepper shakers—if you can’t find something you like here, there’s no hope. 2007 Fleet St., Fells Point, 443-963-9388
Who doesn’t love two kinds of “buzz” in one? To imbibe while caffeinating has seemed like a privilege reserved for the Irish for generations. But with a coffee and cocktail culture growing in parallel strides in Baltimore, why not evolve our approach to the caffeinated cocktail along the way? This delicious mix will put a pep in your step while delighting your palate.
11⁄2 ounces Patron XO Cafe
1⁄2 ounce Cointreau
2 ounces cold brew iced coffee
Fine granulated raw sugar
Combine Patron XO Cafe, Cointreau and cold brew coffee together with a pinch of sugar in mixing shaker packed with ice. Shake for 10 seconds. Strain into rocks glass over fresh ice. Enhance with a touch of cream as desired.
By Ginny Lawhorn, award-winning bartender at Landmark Theatres, Harbor East and founder of Tend for a Cause.
Brandon Rust is the first to acknowledge that his restaurant in the old Pikesville Cinema building needed some help. “The food sucked; I’m not afraid to admit it,” says the general manager, who decided to make some changes. Rust, whose family has owned the restaurant since 2006—redubbed it The Pikes Cinema Bar & Grill and refurbished the menu to coincide with the reopening of the art deco-style movie theater, shuttered since 1986 and recently revived by Ira Miller’s Horizon Cinemas, owner of both the Rotunda and Beltway movie houses. The menu is pleasantly eclectic: stuffed oysters packed with spinach, shrimp and cheese, pasta and burgers and many Mexican options. The retro décor—including a mash-up of almost-life-size statues of film characters from Laurel and Hardy to the Blues Brothers—gives the place a quirky air. Don’t forget the full bar with boozy shakes and classic cocktails. No, this isn’t fine dining, but locals seem delighted to have a place to nosh before or after a film. “At least 75 percent of the people who come in tell us about coming here when they were kids,” says Rust. 921 Reisterstown Rd., Pikesville. 410-653-5545
Emporiyum, a fancy food gathering planned for the Thames Street Wharf Building on April 26 to 27, isn’t limiting its reach to Baltimore’s makers. Taharka Brothers will rub elbows with Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams from Columbus, Ohio; Mouth Party will serve chewy caramels alongside handcrafted gumdrops and lollipops from Portland, Ore.-based Quin Candy. Outside vendors—like Momofuku Milk Bar and Luke’s Lobster—are clamoring to be involved, says Mindy Schapiro, whose nascent event company And More, is behind the festivities. “They see Baltimore as an untapped market.”
Emporiyum was inspired by Smorgasburg in Brooklyn’s Dumbo neighborhood. Schapiro, who grew up in New York, frequently travels to the city for inspiration. Still, she believes the Baltimore food scene “is on the cusp of chic and hip,” and Emporiyum is “trying to mix in people from around the country who are doing the same things.”
Sue Jean-Chun, a New York-based publicist has enlisted her clients Bryan Voltaggio—of Volt and Family Meal in Frederick and Range in D.C.—and Eric Bruner-Yang, owner of D.C.’s Toki Underground, to distribute bites.
News of Voltaggio’s plans to open Aggio, an upscale Italian restaurant in Power Plant Live, came close on the heels of the Emporiyum buzz. Tickets, $15-$20. 1300 Thames St. http://www.theemporiyum.com
Photographed by Dean Alexander
PRINTS CHARMING Mixed print, poly/spandex dress, $270, by Clover Canyon, at Trillium, Green Spring Station. Runway cuff, $64, at Katwalk Boutique, Fells Point. Patent leather floral print shoulder bag, $249, and silk bedspread (backdrop) at Kashmir, The Shops at Kenilworth.
ROSES ARE RED Rose print T-shirt, $75, and full skirt, $248, both by Ted Baker; tall gladiator sandals, $398, by Stuart Weitzman: all at Nordstrom, Towson. Felt flower neckpiece, $18; Tagua nut elastic bracelets, $28 each; leather flower cuff, $24: all at A People United, Mount Vernon.
Floral print patent leather handbag, $249, at Kashmir, The Shops at Kenilworth. Vintage Rudi Gernreich silk print scarf on head, from Vogue Revisited, Roland Park. Embroidered cotton print bedspreads, at A
People United, Mount Vernon.
PLEATS, PLEASE Pleated-front dress, $400, by Shoshanna, at L’Apparenza, Lake Falls Village. Mid-rise skinny jeans, $245, by Hudson; statement necklace, $69, by Amrita Singh: both at South Moon Under, The Shops at Kenilworth and Harbor East. Elastic wood and beaded belt, $28, at Kashmir, The Shops at Kenilworth. Stone clay bangles, $48 each, at Katwalk Boutique, Fells Point.
ECLECTIC ACCENTS Silk print shirt dress, $32; antique silver beaded statement necklace, $144; antique multi-strand beaded necklace with semi-precious stones, $288; leather flower cuffs, $24 each, all at A People United, Mount Vernon. Accordion pleated maxi skirt, $50, by See You Monday, at Shoe City, Pikesville. Elastic jeweled rings, $36 each, at Katwalk Boutique, Fells Point. Elastic beaded belt, $36, at Kashmir, The Shops at Kenilworth. Metallic leather porcupine handbag, from ReDeux, Wyndhurst Station.
ZIGZAG Coral blouson top, $275, by Alice + Olivia; gold bangle cuff, $30; long hammered brass rings, by Citrine: all at L’Apparenza, Lake Falls Village. Washable, poly/spandex, zigzag print maxi skirt, $74; floral runway necklace, $250, by Amrita Singh: both at South Moon Under, The Shops at Kenilworth and Harbor East. Turquoise and coral embellished belt, $62; stack of print bangles; recycled sari wrapped as a turban: all at A People United, Mount Vernon. Rhinestone mesh toe ring flat sandals, $239, by Lola Cruz, at Matava Shoes, Green Spring Station and Belvedere Square. On couch: embroidered cotton, floral print bedspread, at Kashmir, The Shops at Kenilworth. In background: embroidered cotton, floral-print bedspread, at A People United.
GIRLY GIRL Custom-detailed cotton sweatshirt top with vintage lace, $228, by Simion Isrial, at Katwalk Boutique, Fells Point. Floral print elastic ankle pants, $24, and floral-print platform heels, $65, both at Shoe City, Pikesville. Gold bangle cuff, at L’Apparenza, Lake Falls Village. Metallic beaded headband, $30, by Deepa Gurnani, at South Moon Under, The Shops at Kenilworth and Harbor East.
Fashion Editor: Suzin Boddiford. Model: Willow Kim/CIMA Talent Management. Make-Up: Lauretta J. McCoy. Hair: Milroy Harried. Stylist Assistant: Tricia Munro.
Photo Assistant: Jon Michelle Moses.
Photograph by David Stuck
I knew when I left my low-paying university job for a no-paying volunteer position as an at-home dad that there would be hurdles. For one, I need permission from my wife to buy a pizza, as she will see it on the credit card statement the night of the purchase. Also, I can no longer feign a cough to go golfing on a sunny Thursday, as there are no sick days. (Note: my 15-month-old “boss” loves taking midday trips to the zoo, so there’s that.) Also, I have joined a workforce that is more than 96 percent female, which sounds awesome in one sort of female-power way, but is also like being the only guy at an Ani DiFranco concert.
There is an unfortunate gender bias in my field that I don’t necessarily disagree with. Plenty of mom groups in the area do not allow dads, and I understand that. Guys can be creepy and it’s better not to have to worry about them if you don’t have to. But by now, I thought I’d have met a nice mom, gotten in her good graces and infiltrated her private little group like an intuitive Jane Goodall. Of course, according to this random metaphor, I am the scientist and the at-home moms are the gorillas. (What would my little boss make of my analogy?) I grant you it’s possible I lack the charm and sensitivity necessary to pull off this ambitious assimilation.
At the heart of the issue is the fact that I would have to basically ask out a married woman. And though I’m married and have Mabel now, I still have a crippling fear of both rejection and women. And how would I even go about doing that? What does that next step even look like?
“Yeah, she’s really getting the hang of this walking thing! She loves the jogging stroller, too! … 15 months, and your son? Well, he’s not doing so bad either. Say, since we both have kids about the same age, how about I come over to your place and we get some Legos and wine and see what happens?”
Back in high school, I was complaining to a friend of mine that I couldn’t get a girlfriend. To this, he said “Do you know why you can’t get a girlfriend?” I said no. “Because you don’t ask.” He had a point. As did my wife when she said the same thing about play group last Tuesday. Could it be that there is an at-home mom out there just waiting for me to ask her and her child on a date? I know now that was not the case with Katie McAllister my junior year, but maybe this time will be different. Of course, since I’m getting outnumbered at 27 to one, it would be nice if one of the moms could show a little empathy and be the aggressor. (And now, just like junior year, I’ve justified myself out of having to ask. You still got it, Dustin.)
When I take 15-month-old Mabel to the playground, the interactions are usually very friendly. At-home moms will often praise me for the work that I’m doing with my daughter. They’ll say how great it is to have so many dads staying home to raise their children nowadays. Which begs the question: If being an at-home dad is so great, how come we can’t be a part of your little club? And the answer: Because it’s easier. Why mess with the dynamics? What can really be gained? What happens if somebody needs to breast-feed her baby? There has been a time or two when I’ve been watching Mabel run around the playground or the library and accidentally caught the eye of a woman in mid-feeding session. Though a complete accident—and I can almost guarantee that I felt more exposed than she—I tensed briefly as if a surprise
electric shock had just been administered, and immediately faked a coughing fit, turning my gaze toward my shoes, or the sky, or rubbing the skin off my eyes for about 10 minutes. But it did reinforce one of the major reasons we dads aren’t fully accepted into this culture yet.
So I did find and join the rare local dad group recently. However, they tend to meet either too far away or at inconvenient times for a toddler—and a dad—who still require a midday nap.
Since my boss is female, I’ve been asking her for advice. Right, she can’t talk just yet. But she gives me great cues (think Maggie Simpson). When I’m overthinking something, she usually finds a playful way to district me (nose pinch). Until she can verbalize a real plan of action, we’re going to keep showing up to the toddler book club at the library, among other such events, continuing to familiarize ourselves with the at-home mom culture. If all else fails, I’ll play the pity-my-poor-friendless daughter card, hopefully subtly enough not to sound high-school desperate. And once Mabel starts talking, maybe she can ask for our dates herself.
Put aside any lingering associations you may have with lavender and your grandmother’s favorite soap, perfume or sachet. When used judiciously in cooking, this aromatic herb can add an elegant, sophisticated and surprising note to both sweet and savory dishes.
My lavender lemon quick bread is subtly sweet, with a kick of spice from the white pepper glaze—enjoy a warm slice for breakfast with coffee or tea. And a touch of lavender in the buttermilk pancakes transforms an ordinary Sunday brunch dish into something truly special.
This versatile herb lends its heady scent to the sweet/tart hibiscus lemonade; top it off with some gin and you’ve got yourself the perfect cocktail for spring. And why stop at sweets? Lavender, rosemary and garlic play beautifully with the grassy notes in medium rare lamb lollipops.
Note: Make sure to buy culinary lavender to use in your cooking, available from online retailers.
Photo by David Stuck
There’s a new f-word in fitness. Now, before you jump to conclusions—jump (quite literally) over to Fit!, where they’re putting the “fun” into functional workouts. The Towson gym boasts the first Queenax system in the U.S. after the owner saw a demo at a trade show and bought it on the spot. Made in Italy, the equipment is similar to an adult jungle gym that combines 10 stations in one—allowing participants to jump, climb, box, swing on monkey bars, do TRX exercises and compete Gladiator-style on the battle ropes.“Queenax has unlimited creativity,” says Michele Calderon, a trainer for nearly two decades, who has customized her own strength/pilates/barre trifecta. “I have unlimited options on how to design a class and modify the moves. Everybody can do it.” That includes 40-something Julia Fahey, who admits she almost toppled over a few times during her first session. “I kept blaming my shoes, but really needed to work on my balance and core,” she says. “Now I’m addicted.” $50-$75 per 6-week session, http://www.fitgymusa.com
If you can’t make it to the English countryside for the weekend, a visit to the Winterthur Museum, Garden and Library is just the ticket. That’s especially true this month, when the resplendent childhood home of American collector and horticulturist Henry Francis du Pont opens its brilliant new exhibit, Costumes of Downton Abbey. Oh yes, Masterpiece mavens, you can spy Lady Sybil’s harem pants (God rest her soul), Lady Mary’s engagement dress (God rest Matthew’s soul) and Lady Edith’s wedding dress (don’t even get us started), along with 37 other glamorous get-ups paired with du Pont family duds and decorative items used during the same era. Note: Winterthur is home to one of the last of the original wild gardens, a style of horticultural design that was all the rage at the turn of the 20th century. Be sure to stop and smell the roses! Through Jan. 5, 2015, http://www.winterthur.org
Theater buffs rejoice! Time is on your side with the Kennedy Center’s three-week-long World Stages International Theater Festival 2014. Curated by Alicia Adams, the veritable smorgasbord of performing arts showcases nearly 250 artists from 20 countries in 13 productions—nine of which are U.S. premieres. Highlights include a video installation with multiple interpretations of Ophelia’s mad scene in “Hamlet,” an installation of puppets by Rosa Magalhães of the Pequeno Teatro of Brazil, an exhibition of costume sketches for Broadway’s “Wicked,” “The Lion King” and “The Wiz” and the premiere of “Green Snake,” a play by the National Theater of China. Also on the agenda are discussions with participating directors and playwrights, staged readings and behind-the-scenes tours. March 10-30, http://www.kennedy-center.org
Always up for a new challenge, the wildly versatile James Franco will join our favorite actor du jour Chris O’Dowd (you’ve probably seen him in “Bridesmaids” but check out “Friends with Kids”) in the first Broadway production of Nobel Prize-winning author John Steinbeck’s classic novel Of Mice and Men in 40 years. The revival is directed by Tony Award winner Anna D. Shapiro, and also stars “Gossip Girl’s” Leighton Meester whom, well, we’re giving the benefit of the doubt. In case you don’t remember honors English, “Of Mice and Men” is the story of George (Franco) and Lennie (O’Dowd)—two migrant workers during the Great Depression who develop an unlikely but deep friendship. Previews begin March 19. Make haste! http://www.ofmiceandmenonbroadway.com
Clustered around Falls and Clarkview roads in Baltimore County is a burgeoning little design district. Several shops, including The Kellogg Collection, Leesha Lee and A Fabric Place, already cater to the inner artists of DIY decorators. And now there’s a new kid on the block: Urban Threads. Moved from its former Ellicott City location, this bright little shop is as yummy as a cupcake—which is fitting, given its swirly meringue light fixtures that hover over colorful bundles of silks, linens and cottons. Elegant ready-made drapery panels line the walls, while dozens of decorative pillows, sheets, blankets and other accents furnish the beds. Savvy flipped over the fashion plate pillows by Ox Bow Decor, printed with vintage Parisian shoes, and the luxe velvet scarves made from duvet remnants in every color under the sun. 1407 Clarkview Road, Bare Hills. http://www.urbanthreadshome.com
Photography by David Stuck
Moments after Laura Cohen pries the lid off a white plastic bucket labeled “Ale Pale,” a bright, herbal aroma begins to fill her dining room.
The group of 10 women standing nearby crane their necks to peek at the murky liquid inside, and offer a chorus of “Oooh!” Lady Brew Baltimore, the city’s first female homebrewing club, is about to bottle its first batch of gruit, a medieval ale made with herbs and spices instead of hops.
“I think it’s going to be really intense,” says Cohen. She would know. Since founding Lady Brew in February 2012, she has helped make more than a dozen beers, from a chocolate lavender porter to a spicy peach pilsner.
Cohen and the other members of Lady Brew are part of a growing number of women who, in the past couple years, have been elbowing their way into the boys’ club of craft beer. Last year, Sacramento resident Annie Johnson became the first woman since 1983 to win Homebrewer of the Year in the American Homebrewers Associations national competition. Hop Bombshells in Salt Lake City and other all-female clubs are bubbling up across the country. And Barley’s Angels, a social craft beer club for women founded in January 2011, now has almost 100 chapters around the globe—including one in Fulton, Md.
“People think beer is just for men, and that’s not the case,” says Lauren Smith, who opened the Maryland chapter in May 2013.
On the last Thursday of the month, more than a dozen women pay $10 to sample six brands of craft beer at I.M. Wine in Fulton, where Smith is the manager. They tried wheat beers last October, and stouts in December.
“Sometimes people just taste Bud Light and are like, ‘Oh, I don’t like beer,’” says Smith, 26. “It helps people realize there are other beers than that.”
Cohen became interested in home brewing four years ago, after graduating from the Maryland Institute College of Art with a master’s in community arts. She liked the way brewing brought together chemistry and creativity, and the seemingly limitless possibilities. Why make a traditional ale or lager when she could add whatever flavors she wanted? Ingredients that make a tasty soup or dessert often work in beer, too, she found.
“I thought, ‘You know what would be great together? Chocolate and cherry,’” she says. ‘“I’m going to make a chocolate cherry porter. Boom.’”
Not long after, a few of Cohen’s girlfriends also started brewing, and as the number grew to include people she didn’t know, Cohen decided to make it an official group.
Lady Brew, which meets every other month to brew and bottle, is as much about beer as it is about socializing and meeting like-minded women. At the gruit bottling, which took place on a Sunday afternoon in mid-January at Cohen’s house in Mayfield, members drank tea and coffee, and shared their own home brews. Cohen, a natural-born teacher who by day directs the community art department at Baltimore Clayworks, goes over each step of bottling with the group.
When Erin Mellenthin moved to Baltimore from Wisconsin in June 2012, she wanted to meet new people, and learn how to make her own beer. In Lady Brew, she found both.
“Lady Brew is a small piece of what Baltimore is—a lot of folks trying to create communities, whether through brewing or activism or biking,” said Mellenthin, a 24-year-old who lives in Better Waverly. “It’s a wonderful way to meet people and understand Baltimore.”
While Lady Brew isn’t exclusively female, its members take pride in creating a women-friendly space—and offense when other beer events don’t. In December, they took a stand against the name and imagery of local homebrew competition Barley Legal. They voiced their opinions to the event’s organizers, who agreed to disagree.
“It’s not like we go looking for things to fight,” says Cohen, 28. “But it’s important when this stuff comes up not to be silent.”
Joining Lady Brew costs $20 and includes membership to the Maryland Free State Homebrewers Guild and 10 percent off at local homebrew stores Nepenthe and Maryland Homebrew. Members also receive a copy of “Lady Brew Baltimore Homebrew Quick Guide,” a book Cohen wrote and illustrated.
Lady Brew meets twice for each beer, usually on a Sunday at Nepenthe or one of the members’ houses. The first session is for brewing—usually a five-gallon batch. Members bring ingredients they want to use, clean and sanitize the equipment, boil the ingredients, let the mixture cool, add yeast and let it ferment for seven to 10 days. Then they meet again to bottle the beer, usually forming an assembly line to sanitize, fill, cap and label the individual bottles.
Members, who are mostly in their 20s, 30s and 40s, chip in $10 to take home a six-pack. The group is also planning more events in the community, hopefully starting with a monthly Lady Brew night at Liam Flynn’s Ale House in Station North.
After bottling their first five gallons of gruit, named “Phlebotanist,” Cohen and the other members pour the final pint into a tumbler and take a sip.
“You can really taste the juniper berry and the coriander coming through,” Cohen says. “It’s amazing.”
Lady Brew Baltimore’s next brewing session is March 2 at 2 p.m., with a bottling on March 16 at 2 p.m. Membership costs $20, and a six-pack of the beer is $10. Go to http://www.ladybrewbaltimore.com
The Maryland chapter of Barley’s Angels meets on the final Thursday of each month at I.M. Wine, 8180 Maple Lawn Blvd. in Fulton. Tastings are $10 each, or a yearly membership is $25. Call 240-456-0330 or go to http://www.barleysangels.org
With the wildly popular Birroteca barely a year old, Robbin Haas opened the buzzy Nickel Taphouse in Mount Washington last November. Two restaurants booming in formerly troubled spots may anoint Haas with a reputation for a Midas touch. “The truth is,” says Haas, who has owned and operated restaurants from Florida golf resorts to Guatemala to the Eastern Shore, “I build restaurants that I want to go to.” Nickel, inspired by gin mills in Haas’ hometown of Buffalo, N.Y., features Beef on Weck—thin-sliced steak on a plump caraway-studded Kummelweck roll. But there are no chicken wings to be had. “I don’t want to be that place,” says Haas. “No wings, no nachos. We’re not a bar food restaurant.”
Décor. Haas commissioned local artist Robert Merrill to design Parisian-inspired decals for the windows, with such inviting messages as “Ladies Welcome,” “Open Sundays” and “Fresh Mussels.” The 140-year-old front door with a beveled glass window, and wood for the bar came from salvage outlets, and Haas purchased the beadboard booths that line one wall from a defunct Hooters—painting over the orange with a cool slate and adding brown Naugahyde cushions. An iron rack suspended above the bar holds 120 flickering votive candles, and the deer antler chandelier coordinates nicely with the bison horn door handles—and toilet paper holder in the bathroom.
Drinks. Nickel has 32 (mostly mid-Atlantic) craft beers on tap, with the brews constantly changing. “We buy one keg at a time, and when one pops we put another one in,” says Haas. There’s also a 50-bottle wine list with only a handful over $40, and 18 wines by the glass. Bar manager Danny Onaga designs cocktails with small batch spirits and housemade fixings. “You won’t find maraschino cherries behind the bar,” says Haas. Nor will you find Seagram’s or Absolut, for that matter, though there is Buffalo Trace Bourbon infused with bacon fat, used in one of Nickel’s special Boozy Shakes along with candied bacon, vanilla ice cream from Prigel Family Creamery and ground walnuts.
Food. Along with its signature Beef on Weck, Nickel offers healthy salads, plates (for two) of whole bronzini, chicken and dumplings and brisket with mashed potatoes. There’s also a sinfully juicy Roseda burger—“everyone who uses that beef has an amazing burger,” Haas demurs—along with a nightly selection of oysters (on a recent Saturday night, the place shucked more than 600) and, yes, mussels.
Service. Haas’ restaurant philosophy is more about the Golden Rule than a Midas touch. “To me, service is key in a restaurant,” he says. “In our job description I list the tools you need each day: an apron, five pens, a wine opener and a smile. It’s called the hospitality business because you’re supposed to be hospitable. You’re supposed to make people happy.”
Location, Location, Location. The 2,000-square-foot space has seen at least four tenants in nearly the same number of years. But if Haas can keep up the vibe—as he seems to be doing with Birroteca—there’s no reason to think Nickel won’t be a keeper. As for the other tavern around the corner? “The more the merrier,” he says.
Final Verdict. For some, Nickel might be a bit out of the way, but it’s worth remembering when you’re in the mood for filling victuals and affordable drinks. Not to mention smiling staff and Boozy Shakes.
Photography by Tim Lee
It must have been kismet. When the new homeowners of this waterfront Annapolis townhouse were looking to move from the Eastern Shore to the capital city several years ago, they asked a woman if there were any homes for sale in her community. At the time there weren’t, she responded, adding that she and her husband had recently bought their house but that they came on the market very infrequently.
Fast forward a few years and the couple renewed their home search efforts. A friend mentioned she thought she knew of a great place for sale and, you guessed it: It was the home of the woman they had spoken to earlier.
The couple not only happily bought the house, but the entire contents as well, from the custom-designed furniture to the previous owners’ extensive collection of art and sculpture.
“Buying a turnkey home has really been a joy,” say the new homeowners. “It’s like going on vacation and never leaving.”
The 2,400-square-foot Severn River townhouse was painstakingly renovated by the previous owners, who called on Florida-based interior designer and space planner H. Allen Holmes to adapt the 35-year-old townhouse to a maintenance- and clutter-free lifestyle, but one that also was welcoming to their many friends and family.
Not only was the house completely gutted architecturally, but the homeowners also started with a clean slate when it came to the furnishings, which reflect a more modern aesthetic, one that the new homeowners appreciate as well.
To make the house meet his clients’ needs, Holmes—who worked with Annapolis architect Scarlett Breeding and custom residential contractors Lynbrook of Annapolis—reconfigured the interior space, combining four bedrooms into two and creating two spa-like bathrooms and spacious his and her closets.
To keep clutter under control, Holmes thought of the house as if it were a boat and created a central core that keeps everyday appliances and tableware out of sight. When the cabinet doors are open, they slide back into the core, maintaining the sleek lines of the kitchen/dining area but keeping the amount of workspace intact as well.
“Allen really thought outside the box here,” says the new lady of the house. “Everyone who comes to our home says the same thing: ‘Wow, I’ve never seen anything like it.’”
Holmes also used materials that would enhance the design sensibility and feeling of space and light, from the striking stainless steel and glass staircase to translucent movable glass panels (used instead of blinds) and an Israeli agate dining table that sits atop acrylic sheets for a floating effect.
“There are custom details throughout the house,” says Holmes—such as the living room TV that rises out of the floor at the touch of a remote so that it does not compete with the view of the harbor or “argue with the art.”
The reconfigured floor plan, which offers more generous wall space, is ideal for the eclectic art collection, which is now enjoyed by the new homeowners, and includes works by such artists as American abstract painter Brian Rutenberg, artist and illustrator Roxie Munro and American impressionist painter Marilyn Bendell.
Holmes didn’t know at the time that two sets of homeowners would enjoy the results of his work. But he’s happy his attention to detail has been so appreciated.
“Every aspect of this house is unique,” says Holmes. “It’s an art piece in itself.”
Architect: Scarlett Breeding of Alt Breeding Schwarz Architects, 410-268-1213. http://www.absarchitects.com.
Builder: Ray Gauthier of Lynbrook of Annapolis, 410-295-3313. http://www.lynbrookofannapolis.com.
Designer: H. Allen Holmes of H. Allen Holmes, 772-245-8586. http://www.hallenholmesinc.com.
Loyalty is such a rare virtue nowadays, don’t you think? We live in a world of throw-away clothing and nanosecond attention spans. How civilized, then, to be recognized for your dedication once in a while. Poppy and Stella thinks so. Now the Fells Point shoe mecca is doing more than enticing you with its footwear, apparel, accessories and cosmetics, it’s rewarding you as well. For every $200 you spend, you get a $20 voucher to spend on future purchases. Savvy thinks that’s worth sticking around for. 728 S. Broadway, Fells Point. http://www.poppyandstella.com
Remember the friendly skies? Remember Delta is ready when you are? Remember up, up and away? That was TWA and if you’re old enough to remember TWA you may remember the pleasures of travel. Well, those days are gone the way of the Pan Am Clipper.
Had a round-trip Delta flight from BWI to Salt Lake City recently. On neither flight did my seat recline. Flight attendants shrugged. Said it was my proximity to an exit row, although the seats next to me reclined. (I’m not an aeronautical engineer, but I think the seat was broken.) They say that reclining seats on airplanes may be unheard of in another year—at least in coach, but then everything is really coach now more or less. Flying Greyhound.
There’s nothing to eat now either. Snacks, perhaps snackettes is a better word, are distributed with a flintiness that would have warmed a workhouse warder in Charles Dickens’ London.
But the worst part was getting on and off the plane. Our plane was at the gate long before the scheduled takeoff. But still we left late. Why? Any frequent flier could tell you. It’s the staggering amount of carry-on luggage. The airlines created this problem. When carriers began charging fees to check bags, Mr. and Mrs. America—looking like Jerry Lewis in “The Bellboy”—began dragging things on planes, stopping just short of live poultry.
And there’s security. Folks blame 9/11, but that’s not the problem. There’s no consistency from airport to airport. You might be strip-searched in Chicago, but they simply wave you through in Denver. A small carry-on passes through the X-ray machine in Baltimore no problem but the next day in Boston the same satchel results in my being pulled out of line. The charge: possession of Tom’s Toothpaste. They confiscated Tom. Took him down to Guantanamo. I’m lucky that I didn’t go with him.
Meanwhile, back in the no-longer friendly skies, the seats get smaller and more spartan. A recent New York Times headline “On Jammed Jets, Sardines Turn on One
Another” seems to capture the esprit du voyage. They say by 2017 passengers won’t actually be sitting on domestic flights of less than two hours but will be strapped together in a standing position like some sort of weird amusement park ride. OK, I made that up, but someone’s going to try it.
So where does this leave us? At the gate actually. Planes take off later and later. It now takes 30 to 40 minutes to board an aircraft today—more than twice what it was in the 1970s. I did not make that up.
Blame the “nachos factor. ” Travelers will carry anything on to a plane. I selected the ubiquitous nacho because there’s nothing more difficult to carry than a container of nachos slathered with an industrial solvent that resembles cheese. Face it, our problems have less to do with 9/11 than with
7-Eleven, so to speak.
And airlines not only charge too much to check bags but they fail to enforce the carry-on rule. This cripples boarding. (Travel tip: If you can’t lift a suitcase over your head, IT’S TOO HEAVY.)
The on-time performance rate of airlines would take off if only they would enforce the carry-on rules. Purses, lap- tops and briefcases are one thing, but anvils masquerading as suitcases are another. My solution: check all luggage.
There is NO WAY that you could not board planes more quickly and efficiently if you banned most carry-on items. There are legitimate reasons flights are late—bad weather, maintenance issues, pilot drunk. But those are occasional glitches. The nacho factor is a constant.
“What about convenience?” I hear some dim bulb ask.
How inconvenient would it be to check your luggage and leave the Slurpee behind? Security would be faster. Less to examine! And a more powerful screening process might be used to examine the checked luggage. And
with the money saved, airlines could hire more baggage handlers. Maybe even put in fewer seats to allow reclining?
Southwest Airlines, the nation’s largest domestic carrier (and BWI’s, too), should try this. I’m a huge fan. They changed the face of flying. They’ve made mistakes. Got mixed up with AirTran and altered their frequent flier program, which really ticked me off. But I still love them. This advice is my gift to them. Free. If it works, perhaps I can recline?
If there’s one thing Charm City has in spades, it’s creative types. But with so many, Savvy gets breathless trying to keep up. How convenient, then, that oodles of them now gather at Bmore Flea organized by local epicureans Patrick and Lonnie (shhhh—they still have to keep their day jobs). You might find handmade soy candles by Charm City Wax, prints by Flat Rat Press, tiny trees by Ishida Bonsai or wacky, irreverent tees by Sharp Shirter. You can even slurp an oyster and sip a Natty Boh or Bloody Mary while you’re shopping. Can’t do that at the mall. Saturday, March 8, St. John’s Church, 2640 St. Paul St. After that, it’s held outdoors every Saturday at Penn Station plaza through the fall. http://www.facebook.com/bmoreflea
RUNWAY TO REAL LIFE. We’ve heard the phrase many times. But fashion trends are far more reaching than your favorite boutique. Couture details are popping up everywhere, including well-appointed interiors and gardens. This season we are loving…RHAPSODY IN BLUE, a dreamy indigo world with sumptuous fabrics and classic lines. ART INSPIRED pieces that take their cues from paint strokes, graphic design and historical art movements. GLOBAL CHIC finds that take us on a journey to market from Morocco to Istanbul to Greece. And MIXED MEDIA where glass flirts with gold and wood bonds with bronze.
When Kevin Spacey’s limo pulls up at night to a big, pleasantly shabby house in scene 4, episode 12 of the Emmy Award-winning “House of Cards”—that’s our house in Roland Park. Its five minutes of fame was the culmination of months of visits and four days of filming in October 2012, by a crew of 30 cast members and stagehands—much to the delight of most, but not all, of our neighbors on St. John’s Road. Here’s how it happened.
The doorbell rang in August, just as we were talking about getting a new roof.
A young, easygoing guy named Eric introduced himself as a location scout for a new Netflix series that was filming in Baltimore. Would we be interested in letting our house be used as a location?
My husband, Dan, whose office is just off the entrance hall, and who never looks up for visitors, looked up. Not one to be overly impressed by celebrity, or even the possibility of celebrity, he listened and chatted with more than his usual animation, holding off on asking the question that those who know him well could see was uppermost in his mind. “Would it pay for a roof?”
Eric was invited in to look around. He walked through the main rooms—complimentary but noncommittal—and said they were checking out other houses in the neighborhood as well. He would be in touch. Our hopes sunk.
A few days later, he called to see if he could bring over some more people to see the house. A set designer and a producer showed up and admired the “sightlines.” Soon after, cameramen and an art director came, noting that the wide hallways would accommodate the large cameras.
Our hopes rose again. Finally the director arrived to give the green light—and Dan lit up.
Note to film and TV buffs: Allen Coulter of “Boardwalk Empire,” “Sex and the City” and “Sopranos” fame directed episodes 12 and 13. Executive producer David Fincher (“The Social Network,” “Girl with the Dragon Tattoo” and “Fight Club”) directed the others.
Weeks passed while the cast and crew filmed at other Baltimore locations, including the nearby Baltimore Country Club. By the end of September, things were heating up here. Set designers came and went, explaining the look they were trying to get and what changes they would need to make in the house. The color palette for the show, they told us, was neutral. So out went the rugs, the red sofa, the curtains and the upholstered chairs. The walls were painted, and there was a lot of discussion about removing some distinctive wallpaper in the front hall. (In the end, it stayed.)
In “our” scene, Frank Underwood (Spacey) takes a night flight to the Midwest to visit the home of a character loosely modeled on Warren Buffett. Raymond Tusk, the Buffet character, lives in a rambling, unpretentious, shingle-style house that suits his down-to-earth personality. The script describes him as “the modest billionaire.” Just like us! He lives there with his 60-something wife, a pet cockatoo and lots of brown furniture that’s seen better days. Even our kitchen, last updated in 2001, was too modern—and so they installed new blinds (with better light control) and added net curtains on top. Our countertops were replaced by butcher block, and all of our light fixtures were removed.
Days before filming started, we were told that they would be filming in our bedroom. Kevin Spacey in our bed! Would we mind leaving the house to spend three nights at the new Four Seasons Hotel downtown? Um, sure, that would be OK with us—even with the teenage son, who would have his own room overlooking the harbor to compensate for “the horrible inconvenience” of having to do homework in a different room.
While we packed our bags, Eric started working the street, talking to the neighbors about what to expect. Politely, he apologized in advance for the giant trucks that would be lining narrow St. John’s Road, and for the dazzlingly bright lights that would be shining on our house during night filming. He invited everyone to eat from the food truck, a gesture that went a surprisingly long way to keeping everyone happy.
St. John’s moment of fame had begun.
The first morning, five giant tractor- trailers rolled down our dead-end street, taking up its entire length, with one or two more parked on Roland Avenue. Swarms of crew members arrived with microphones and walkie-talkies, bringing scripts, makeup and props for the day. A black Escalade (preferred vehicle of movie stars) pulled up with Kevin and his dog, a black Lab mix, in the back. People started to gather outside the house to watch dozens of extras, handlers and crew coming in and out, smoking and chatting about the action going on inside.
The crew had warned us that we would probably never get to meet Kevin Spacey, because when in character for a role, “Kevin is completely focused” and “doesn’t even talk to us.” But one afternoon, still in costume, the man himself wandered out of the house and chatted at length to neighbors, kids and local dog-walkers standing outside.
He talked about dogs, about our house, about his role as Frank Underwood the manipulative senator from South Carolina, and about his time in London, where he has long been artistic director at the Old Vic theater. The next night he made another appearance, greeting us all—charming, witty and self-deprecating as you could wish a movie star to be. No photos were allowed sadly, because HBO/Netflix owns any photograph of him in costume and makeup as Frank Underwood.
There were a few complaints. A tree branch was damaged by a truck. Getting in and out of our dead-end street was time-consuming and neighbors had to park blocks away. Sorry guys.
For us, however, it was all good.
In the end, we got the house back better than before (they left the blinds). And we are proud owners of an 8-by-10-inch glossy signed by our friend, Keven Spacey, along with some fun memories and part (but not all) of a new roof. Something to remember next time a location scout knocks on your door!
It may have similarities to Liquid Assets in Ocean City, Md., but Liquid Lib’s, the newest member of the Liberatore’s clan, has an urban flair and seems to be attracting folks from inside and outside the Beltway. Tucked behind the mothership in an office building on Deereco Road in Lutherville, the wine shop with benefits lends itself to suburban meetups and is worth the trek. General manager Nick Angelini, whose resume includes stints at Kali’s Court and Da Mimmo’s, has stocked the place with wines of varied price points, for takeaway or consumption on-site with a $10 corkage. (This minimal markup means, say, a Napa Cabernet from Silver Oak, a customer favorite, priced well over $200 on many wine lists, can be had for $135 here.) If you’re undecided, sample from about 60 wines available by the glass, or from the selection of wines in the Cruvinet, an automated wine dispenser operated by the swipe of a pre-purchased card. Liquid Lib’s also offers solids; deviled eggs with scallop crudo or crunches of bacon, mussels, meatballs and salads are served on small plates, most under $10. The wine you choose might influence where you drink it: there’s a glass bar, lit from beneath with colored lights for a quick quaff of pre-movie Chardonnay, high-top tables made from reclaimed barrels where you’ll want to share a Willamette Valley Pinot Noir with friends and comfy loveseats around a fireplace—perfect for a sparkly splurge. Go ahead, lib a little. 9515 Deereco Road, Lutherville, 410-561-3300, http://www.liberatores.com