Tuesday, January 3, 2012

My Maryland = Friends & Food

Two reasons we love to visit State # 20 - Maryland:

Visiting Good Friends
Eating Good Food
Especially during Crab Season!

I mentioned in my previous post that we are fortunate to have several friends that call Maryland home.  So we have visited the "Chesapeake Bay State" many times. 

On our official ALPHABETICAL ORDER visit in 2006 we drove through Richmond, Virginia and stopped to visit our friend Jose.  He took us to lunch at Firebird's located in Short Pump Town Center Mall.  We so enjoyed our time with Jose and the food that 3 years later when our daughter, Jill, moved there we sought it out again.  If you're in the area try it yourself!

Now Jose resides in Annapolis, Maryland - which makes it convenient for us.  When I visited Jose in Annapolis, he took me to lunch at Carrol's Creek (pictured here) which has great views of the waterfront and the Annapolis skyline, along with imaginative food.

Often I like to recommend the inns and hotels in which we stay for your travels.  But this time I am sorry to say that you CANNOT stay in the finest accommodations in Ellicott City.  We love to stay at Nancy & Stephen's house (Nancy is Haley's sister) and they live literally, steps away from each other.  And if this couple is in town when we visit, we lodge with Haley & Mike; which I love because then I have breakfast with the girls, Lily & Grace.

Did I mention that Haley's husband is a musician?  On our first night in Maryland we were surprised when another Nordstrom friend, Stephanie, joined us to travel to Georgetown to hear Mike perform at Nick's Riverside Grill  (yes...right along the Potomac River) and to have dinner.  I can't guarantee that the live music will be as good when you visit but I am certain you will enjoy the delicious Dancing Crab’s Famous Maryland Crab Soup and Maryland Crab Cakes.

Guy even bought roses for all 3 of his dates!  And it was the first time we heard Mike perform...since their wedding.  When I returned to Atlanta from their wedding in 2002 friends would ask about the wedding and I could only say one thing:


The following morning, after breakfast with the girls, we headed for Baltimore's Inner Harbor fully intending to visit the National Aquarium and take the precious girls to visit the "fishies."  The Inner Harbor is a must see when you're in this city and everyone visiting Baltimore starts here.  Since the revitalization in the 1970's it has become a popular destination for pleasure boaters, tall ships and high-tech racing sailboats.  In 2004, when Jill was working in Maryland we spent a lovely day on Nancy & Steve's boat in the harbor.

Full disclosure:  I only consented to visit the aquarium for the girls.  And as it turned out we did NOT go to visit the "fishies."  There were incredibly long lines (it was a Saturday) and there was a thunderstorm in the area.  I am not a fan of "BORING FISH TANK PLACES," but my husband truly enjoys a visit to an aquarium.  So, I concede to his wishes...remember, he lets me book the nicest room in the inn and took me to 5 Broadway shows in 6 days.  (On a positive note - I love the Georgia Aquarium.  Besides the fact that it is in our hometown - it is not boring!)  Three days later on our way to the Eastern Shore, we did visit the National Aquarium...our nation needs to up our game in the aquarium department...and had lunch at Hard Rock Cafe.  This restaurant is located in the historic original Power Plant Building in the Inner Harbor, within easy walking distance to the aquarium and Camden Yards.

When you visit the Inner Harbor be sure to venture into a couple of Baltimore's oldest neighborhoods; Little Italy and Fell's Point.  If you've seen the movie "Sleepless in Seattle," you've seen Fell's Point (Meg Ryan's - Annie lived there).  The streets of Little Italy are charming and filled with the aroma of Italian food cooking in the numerous restaurants.  Our favorite...Amicci's...a very casual eatery!  Usually crowded with locals who don't want to pay a lot for good Italian food and don't want to dress up, Amicci's is larger than it looks from the sidewalk.  So, if you have to wait it won't be very long.  When you dine here, you must order the PANE ROTUNDO ("shrimp & bread thing")...they are famous for it.  You may remember that I collect menus and this is the only KIDS MENU I have ever brought home from our travels.

Lily & Grace modeling my jewelry!

Every item on the Kid's Menu sold for $4.95 and had adorable descriptions of the different pastas.   Best of all it had 6 rules for dining in the restaurant:

1.  Sit up in your chair.
2.  Use good table manners.
3.  Indoor voices and NO whining.
4.  Try to order for yourselves.
5.  Enjoy your food.
6.  Have fun!

"If you do not behave, then you'll have to go into our very hot kitchen and wash all of the dirty dishes until we close!"

On the following Sunday, our friends Mary & Matt served us dinner in their home and Mary is an excellent cook!  Much like the finest accommodations in Ellicott City, I cannot recommend this dining experience because they no longer live in Maryland!

And if you could dine with Haley & Mike, this would be the festive table setting for your meal!  But since you probably won't be eating here while visiting Maryland, we have several other suggestions:
(my notes say, Best Crabcakes Ever!)
The Flavor of Mexico in Historic Ellicott City.

It doesn't get any fresher than this!

Chick and Ruth's Delly Annapolis, Maryland Delicatessen

When Sara & Chris followed our recommendation to this "delly," they were surprised we ate at a place like this!  I told you...we'll try anything once.  Besides Chick & Ruth's is usually filled with midshipmen from the Naval Academy(Dinner and nice scenery!)

This is the view from our table.  If you've seen the movie "Wedding Crashers" you've seen this resort.  Delicious seafood with a view of the Chesapeake Bay!  And since you can't stay at Nancy & Steve's house, you might want to stay here when you visit the Eastern Shore.

And if you are in Maryland during crab season you have to go to Ships Cafe in Catonsville for hard shell crabs.  We celebrated Haley's birthday here with her parents.  As you can see from this photo we enjoyed every bite!

And on Saturday night the four grown-ups went down to the historic village of Ellicott City to a tiny place called Pure Wine. When you visit this suburb of DC...THIS IS A MUST!

A small cozy wine bar beautifully tucked into an historic building. I enjoyed a flight of wine at the recommendation of the sommelier to accompany our tapas choices. It was impossible to choose a winner because I believe the chef put a magic spell on this food! Every morsel was incredible! Our choices:

 Truffle Fries with Truffled Black Pepper Aioli, Fleur de Sel, Fines Herbs

Duo of Catalan Meatball Sliders - Kobe Beef, Toasted Baguette, Smoked Paprika Aioli, Fontina

Medley of Roasted Exotic Mushrooms - Maitake, Beech & Royal Trumpet Mushrooms, Truffle Oil, Fontina Crostini

Fig & Bleu Flatbread - Seared Prosciutto, Black Mission Figs, Carmelized Red Onion, Roaring 40's Bleu Cheese

Smoked Duck Flatbread - Sweet Chile Gastrique, Roasted Shallots, Crumbled Chevre, Asparagus

Macaroni & Gruyere Cheese with Smoked Prosciutto

I could not make this up! As you know, Guy and I love to find truly unique places to dine and this one will be a standout in our memories for years to come. Of course, the meal was divine because of the people we shared it with...thanks Haley & Mike.

To thank our friends for their hospitality, we took them to Baltimore's finest restaurant...

Located in the Inner Harbor, The Charleston is all the rage in Baltimore.  It's crowded, yes, but the service is so attentive you'll think they're only serving you.  With a beautiful setting and imaginative menu, the mood here is "gracious."

Cindy Wolf

  Chef Cindy Wolf's restaurant celebrates Southern hospitality.  (See why we chose it to celebrate our friends?)  With cuisine based on the freshest ingredients the menu changes every day.  According to many locals and food critics the food here is...simply the best in Baltimore.  We agree!  The chef's husband and co-owner, Tony Foreman, has selected the numerous bottles of wine to complement his wife's menus.

Tony Foreman
All of the dining rooms are warm and inviting - the main room gives diners the opportunity to see the open kitchen.  Wine lovers will want to make a reservation for the Wine Library, but keep in mind this room is kept slightly cooler to protect the wines lining the walls.  (See the photo above.)

Unlike any other fine dining establishment we have ever visited, The Charleston offered an interesting twist on their prix fixe menu.  You could choose the number of courses according to your appetite and price...but you were not limited to one choice per category.  We each decided to have 3 courses and dessert would be our fourth course.  The men were delighted and chose three meat courses!  The ladies chose soup, a fish and a meat course.  It is the only time we've ever dined this way or should I say...feasted!

While I don't recall exactly what we each had...(it was more than 5 years ago!)...I do recall what I had for dessert (big surprise, right?).  The pastry chef served an incredible Roasted Pineapple Napoleon with Buttermilk Panna Cotta...absolutely delicious!  And as you can see in the photo above the chef inscribed my menu: To Liz - Eat Well and Enjoy Life!
And that is exactly what we did in...
State # 20 - Maryland
Next time:
My favorite state so far in our travels -

Saturday, September 24, 2011

I Love A Parade!

April 2006 - State # 20 - Maryland

I had so been looking forward to visiting this state because it meant we could spend time with our dear friends who live there...but who knew that they would hold a parade for us!

Actually, this is a photo of Noon Formation.  Usually held in Tecumseh Court on the campus of the Naval Academy in Annapolis.  The midshipmen line up before marching in for the noon meal.  When you visit Annapolis, plan your trip in order to see this.  Because of high security, guided tours are the only way to visit (unless you have a son or daughter enrolled).  So get there in time for an 11:00 tour and your guide will make sure to have you at Tecumseh Court for this patriotic spectacle.  More on this later, but let's visit those dear friends first...

I met all of these fine folks back in 1998 when Nordstrom opened its first store in the southeast at Perimeter Mall here in Atlanta. Haley (left) actually hired me in 1997 from the War Room at the Ravinia.  Matt (center) was the manager of Logistics and later, Mary, now his wife, was the Visual Display manager for the Mall of Georgia Nordstrom.  And Jose (right) was a server in the now retired PUB inside the Menswear department at Perimeter Mall.

Full Disclosure:  We have visited Maryland on many occasions.  So, not all of the photos posted here are from 2006 (like this shot of the Inner Harbor in Baltimore from Nancy & Steve's boat).  I had to meet Haley's first child after all, the adorable Lily.  And later, her second, the gorgeous Grace.  And we always have a great time with her husband, Mike!

And in 2009 our daughter Jill moved to Richmond, Virginia; and on our visits to see her we always made time for a road trip to MarylandMary and Matt were married in Virginia three weeks after 9/11 and afterwards they settled in Columbia, Maryland(Now they live in Florida - we'll have to double back to State # 9!)

Visits to Maryland allowed us to meet their beautiful daughters, Sarah and Abigail.  And all of these girls were able to meet the "Purse Lady."

And Jose settled in Annapolis after opening Nordstrom's first store in Richmond.

That explains our numerous trips to State # 20...but in 2006, on our official visit in Alphabetical Order, we played the role of tourist in addition to visiting our friends.

This is a photo of sunset at Chesapeake Bay.  And we took it from the balcony of our room at Great Oak Manor.  This inn is located in Chestertown on the Eastern Shore and we recommend this hotel.  As you drive the country road leading to Great Oak Manor, you can imagine what the once-massive estate encompassed when it drew luminaries such as Guy Lombardo, Robert Mitchum and Jack Kennedy.  The road segues from sunny to serenely tree-lined and shaded as you approach, and then the inn suddenly comes into view.  Reminiscent of European manor homes, Great Oak Manor stands majestic at the top of a circular drive.



After breakfast here, we drove the Eastern Shore to the town of St. Michael's.  Since its founding in the late 1700's, this lovely village has depended on the water for its living.  Most of all - Shipbuilding.  Starting with log canoes, then waterman boats and racing boats.  Bugeyes and Baltimore clippers were built here, too.  In fact, the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum is the best attraction in town.  You can actually talk with the folks who are building the wooden boats right before your eyes!


The Hooper Strait Lighthouse, now standing on Navy Point, was originally built in 1879 to light the way for boats passing through the shallow, dangerous shoals of Hooper Strait, a thoroughfare for boats bound from the Chesapeake Bay across Tangier Sound to Deals Island or places along the Nanticoke and Wicomico Rivers.  As a "screwpile" lighthouse, it is built on special iron pilings which were tipped with a screw that could be turned into the muddy bottom for a depth of 10 feet or more.

The other marvelous thing to do in this quaint village is SHOPPING!  St. Michael's has a lovely concentration of eye-catching shops along Talbot Street.  Our favorite - OPHIUROIDEA.  This is a lovely establishment filled with unique gifts from local artisans.  (I love that!)  And if you have a sweet tooth you will enjoy ST. MICHAEL'S CANDY & GIFTS.  Delicious handmade chocolates and Baltimore's own Lee's ice cream and a variety of other sweet novelties.


Of course, we expected to see beaches and shoreline in a place called the Eastern Shore, but we did NOT expect to be driving along serenely beautiful roads through the crops of Maryland.  Seriously, the roads were literally ribbons of asphalt through perfectly symmetrical rows of grapevines, peach trees, corn, tomatoes, peanuts and various other crops.  And we enjoyed numerous stops at roadside stands for a fresh treat.  People usually visit this part of Maryland for the beaches; but if you are here during the spring or fall, you'll really miss out if you don't take a short detour and travel these back roads.


Our final day on the Eastern Shore we planned to tour the U.S Naval Academy at Annapolis, see the Noon Formation and spend the rest of the day in Historic Annapolis.  Tucked behind the historic district, standing proudly on the shores of the Severn River, the U.S. Naval Academy has been educating future naval officers for nearly 170 years.  


Visitors to "the Yard" can tour the grounds, see a sample midshipman's room  (do NOT call them cadets)  and visit the crypt of John Paul Jones  ("I have not yet begun to fight!")  in the chapel undercroft.  On the tour you will also see Bancroft Hall, the largest dorm in the world and the magnificent chapel, which boasts very unusual windows.  Stained glass on the inside, outside you'll only see blue glass!  And although you can't actually see it in my photo (top left) one entire pew is reserved with an iron candelabra for missing sailors...we were in reverential awe.  Did you know all students here are on "scholarship?"  They pay zero in tuition!  Instead they spend 5 years in the Navy or Marine Corps to earn their education.  After visiting here, we decided this is where our federal taxes go - really, our money pays tuition for a few worthy midshipmen here - not treadmills for shrimp!

On the day we visited, much to our delight, they were holding a Formal Dress Parade for the review of then current National Security Advisor to the President, Stephen Hadley.  And we were invited to stay as long as we did not leave the campus.  So, we had lunch at the Officer's Club(The manager gave me a leather bound menu.)  And toured the museum in Prebel Hall, which is full of items depicting naval history while waiting for the afternoon event.  The parade was stunningly beautiful and made us proud to be Americans!

At each Formal Dress Parade held at Worden Field these 5 sailboats  (all midshipmen learn to sail on these boats)  are launched and sail past the parade grounds while cannons are fired.  STUNNING!  Blue and yellow sails out and white sails back home...this is so POSH?

Posh    This comes from the days of Britain's East India Company.  Aboard the ships that sailed from England to India, the most comfortable quarters were found on the PORT side of the ship going OUT to India  (Because the sun rose in the east, thus warming that side of the ship first, and setting in the west, which cooled that area earlier from the heat of the day).    Returning from India to England, the more comfortable quarters were now on the opposite side of the ship for the same reason, or STARBOARD HOME.  Naturally, these quarters were much more expensive for passengers traveling by ship.  Thus, only the more wealthy families could afford to have the initials P.O.S.H.  (Port Out, Starboard Home)  entered into the ship's log book when they made their reservations.

So, our visit to Historic Annapolis, the capitol of Maryland, was brief.  We only had time for some shopping  (of course)  and dinner.  We really hope to return in the future just to see Annapolis (What do you say, Jose?)

That's all I have to say about our visit to the Eastern Shore of Maryland. 

Next time...

Family & Friends in Maryland