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 -