Posts Tagged ‘food’

Spring has spring and oh, it is a wonderful and beautiful feeling!

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Yesterday, in the spirit of all things “springy”, I visited the Baltimore Farmers Market which is located beneath the I-83 Expressway. I was happy to see that many of the vendors from the year before were there and prices were very good, as always. I was a little sad to see less produce (fruits and veggies) as last year but I was reminded that it’s still early in the season so abundant fruits and veggies will be coming my way soon and I certainly cannot wait. The scents were overwhelming at first in a not-so-good way with a blast of fried foods, eggs cooking and that wet, outdoor, protein-rich scent where puddles of water had gathered as the vendors with cooked food products were set up. However, once we walked past that section, the scents of cheeses and fresh bread hit me which, the carb whore in me suddenly perked up and my mood was immediately elevated to new levels. It’s amazing how the feel of a cool, smooth, flawless kale leaf, the firm feel of sweet onions, or the sweet cream in those old-fashioned milk bottles can make me appreciate the animals, and earth from which we gain nourishment. So while there wasn’t as large of a selection from which to choose, I did not leave empty handed; in fact, we made two trips to the car. Besides, isn’t that what a Farmers Market is for? To get creative and get some ideas about food for the week that you may be lucky enough to change up next week!

Below are seven helpful hints of things I’ve learned from experience (and inexperience!) but before I get to that, here’s my usual “Good, Bad and Ugly” breakout:

The Good:

  • Most vendors were pleasant and seemed happy to be there. I will definitely return with much cash to encourage the feeling of happiness and warmth when interacting with these awesome folks. As I go there more this year, I will share more about the individual vendors…
  • The food was so fresh and so clean, clean!! The fish smelled and looked fresh, as did the buffalo, kale, collard greens, onions (red and sweet), sweet (heavy) cream, half and half, pressed olive oil, and avocado honey, among other products.
  • The co$t of all items I listed above were about a hundred dollars and twenty dollars. Yes! I got all of that for $100! Suck it, Whole Foods and Harris Teeter!! MUAHAHA
  • There’s not only produce and meat, there’s soaps, jewelry, clothing, and an entire section with cooked breakfast and lunch items, including coffee, delicious little donuts (that were featured on the Baltimore news recently for their tastiness), freshly made smoothies and juices, sandwiches, omelets, etc.
  • Abu the flutemaster. This gentleman at the opening close to the I-83 exit makes all of his instruments from PVC pipes, plastic funnels, etc., he plays them well and they sound very good!
  • The connections with people. I randomly met a Facebook friend in person and was able to share a few minutes of conversation and camaraderie.

The Bad:

  • If you’re not a morning person (which I’m not!) the “getting there” aspect is a bit tough on a Sunday. The vendors are there from ~7 AM to 12 noon. So don’t go partying like a rock star on Saturday night unless you’re in your 20s still and can do that sort of thing on two hours of sleep. 🙂
  • Sometimes parking can be a pain but if you plan it right (see the helpful hints below), you can walk a few blocks with ease and not worry about the parking.
  • For some, there may be an issue with the number of homeless people who are around asking for money or food. I’m not bothered by a homeless person and prefer to give food, etc., but some of the people I’ve encountered in the past can be very demanding while others aren’t rude or abusive.
  • There were two vendors who didn’t make my “pleasant” cut.
    • One was just kind of “cutting” with her tone because I pronounced the name of some greens inaccurately (my tongue was not feeling the word, “Mesclun” at o’dark thirty AM. She said it was because she had just taken a swig of a potent smoothie, which was fine if that’s the case, but I felt like I was being judged a bit by my inability to state my order. I ended up just pointing to the wretchedly worded greenery as I asked sheepishly for a pound of it.
    • The other vendor was the Caribbean food vendor who sold cooked items. This man was rude and even if his products weren’t dry and overly seasoned (I promise you that the statement is accurate and not based on his demeanor. After all, I know my Caribbean items!), I will not spend my money or recommend his products. Unfortunately, he may have been from an Island and I had to sigh at my Caribbean peeps and their ‘tudes. Why? Here’s a play-by-play:
      • Me: Is the Caribe pollo item spicy?
      • Vendor: The ingredients are listed right there.
      • Me: What kind of… [as I raised my arm to point to the part of the sign that said, “peppers” I was immediately cut off]
      • Vendor: Right there. It’s listed there. Not spicy. [giving me an irritated look as if I asked if he had washed his hands before serving the food or something offensive]. Either way, he appeared aggravated that I didn’t just place an order and move on. Apparently, this someone had watched a little too much, “Soup Nazi” Seinfeld episodes!
      • Me: Okay, well your ingredients list peppers and I need to know what kind.
      • Vendor: Oh, multi type. Sweet peppers.
      • Me: Okay, that’s all I wanted to know. I’ll take it. [Thinking, “was that so freekin hard!? I’m never going to spend my money here again.”]

The Ugly:

  • There is nothing ugly about this Farmers Market thus far!

 Natasha’s Helpful Hints

  1. Get there before 9 AM if you want parking spots relatively close to the market. This Baltimore Farmers Market It’s located below the I-83 expressway ramp so while it’s convenient to access, remember to pay attention to the metered parking signs and parking lots that clearly warn you against parking in them or you may be ticketed and/or towed. It’s in the heart of the city and tow truck drivers don’t seem to sleep.
  2. Take ca$h! Most of these vendors do not accept credit cards for small purchases. Many take cards for larger purchases like the items for $25 and up, etc. but for the most part, cash is king there.
  3. Take large cloth carrying bags. They have soft handles that are more comfortable for walking longer distances, and you can place a lot of the smaller bags of items you purchase.
  4. Return your empty cream, milk and olive oil bottles to the vendor for saving$!
    1. The creamery vendor took $2 off the purchase when they have their glass bottle back.
    2. The olive oil vendor takes $5 or so dollars off the purchase when you return the olive oil glass jar.
  5. Wear comfortable shoes and clothes! Sometimes with all the walking on an uneven surface, with dogs, children and crowds, your feet will be stepped on and it’s not a club people…don’t go getting mad when people accidentally step on your toes. It can get pretty hot with large crowds of people so dress for summer time.
  6. If you don’t like a vendor’s attitude or products, walk around. Chances are, there are more vendors selling the same products. You’re there for a good deal and fresh produce. Scope out the competition. But please remember that the vendors need to make money too and they’re often better and fresher than the supermarket chains so don’t be a cheap bastard and get upset with the prices if they’re mostly consistent. If you really think they’re expensive, leave and go to your supermarket. Don’t make the experience a bad one for others.
  7. Smile! Talk with the vendors only if they’re not busy. I’ve found that everyone (except the two I mentioned above in the “bad” section), were willing to tell me about their products, such as, the day the fish were picked up from the fishermen, the small business fees when paying with a credit card, etc.

Have you been to the Farmers Market in your town or neighboring city? Or the one in Baltimore and/or DC? Tell me about it!

Happy Spring!

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Let me start off with a disclaimer. Yes, it’s that kind of post coming. I don’t typically like stereotypes, generalizations, and anything similar to those such as assumptions, etc. With that out of the way, I will say that some things I’ve noticed tend to come from only certain groups of people and while many of my friends of all races, cultures and backgrounds have attributed some of the things I’ll discuss here as more prevalent in one race vs another, one culture vs another and so on, I found that I have just two basic groups – The ignorants and the Relatively Normals. Another disclaimer: I am not normal,  I think normalcy is relative – hence, “relatively normal”, and I don’t strive to be normal. Why? Because relatively normal folks can survive in everyday life at work or play, has a friend or two, isn’t a raging psychopath, serial killer and so on. While that’s great, I want more than that. I want to pay attention to my life on purpose. I want to dive deeper into what makes me, ME and what makes you, YOU. What questions set YOU on fire and make you feel alive? Surely it cannot be, “How do you like this weather?” (unless you’re a weather forecaster) and “Do you know what you’re missing by not eating beef?” (unless you’re a butcher).

So what does that desire have to do with a rant-like post?  Well, it’s hard to live a meaningful life while giving up time and energy to Ignorants. These are folks who may not mean anything weird, offensive, etc. but cannot, for the life of them, seem to stop asking, assuming, doing, saying, or acting like ignorant fools in some way. Some are self-centered and while many of us are to some extent, as it is human nature to survive and thrive, I’d like to think that we can turn self-centeredness off at times to truly care about others, be empathetic, or hell, read someone’s body language to know when they’re uncomfortable or about to slap you. I don’t think that most relatively normal people want to receive a verbal or physical beatdown but can’t seem to stop themselves from wandering right into one despite all the warning signs. Maybe narcissism and lack of education on body language play into this. In my observations and personal experiences with Ignorants, I’ve found it interesting that before and after statements that jeopardize the safety of their noses and eyes, some of these folks spoke highly of themselves in terms of emotional intelligence, world travels, and even claim to be religious. So why can’t they stop making crazy comments, or at least learn when to be quiet? Maybe they just don’t know…? If that’s the case, maybe this post will help.

Exhibited (repeated) traits or actions of ignorant fools, all in my opinion, of course:

  • Asking someone you’ve just met a LOT of personal questions. This action tends to apply to coworkers, dinner parties or social gatherings with people we don’t know, etc. Look, there’s one thing to try and make small talk, which I deplore but tolerate because it’s the polite thing to do in some settings, but don’t open an inquisition on my life. I will give you one freebie for small talk but if that nonsense or nosiness continues, I will walk away – sometimes politely, sometimes not. So how should you know the difference? Glad you asked. An example of tolerable small talk may include, “Crazy weather we’re having, isn’t it?”. However, my preference would be, “I love writing. What’s something you really enjoy doing?”. This way, I get to the heart of the person, what makes them tick, and I would actually care about the answer. I may even want to learn more about the person and his/her hobbies.
    I read in a couple of books that are instructional materials on how to deal with (medically treat*, interview, social skills, etc.) people of difference races and backgrounds, that white people may see questions as an acceptable way of getting to know someone. Says some may see nothing wrong with a personal line of questioning such as “Where do you live?”, or “Where do you work?”, etc. while some minorities (think the book specified African Americans in this section), may see the questions as intrusive and rude. I would honestly say that I don’t think it’s just a race issue. This line of questioning should just be avoided altogether when you don’t know someone or unless the setting is right to ask, as in you’re talking to a Realtor or asking for a recommendation on a place to move.What I drive, where I work, where I live are all just small aspects of my life. These tangible items do not make me who I am as a person, nor do they make me more or less interesting, or even a good conversationalist. If you are the one to ask these questions of someone you’ve just met, what’s the reason? Please share them with me so that I may gain some more perspective into this line of interrogation, which is how I feel I’m being treated when I’m asked these types of questions as soon as we meet. I really do hope it’s deeper than just being nosy but like I said, I don’t think that’s the case – I think that many of us are never taught how to truly interact with others in a meaningful way so we may treat every new social interaction like we would a work conference, or something equally dry and thus, we all sound like salesmen and consultants on the road when seated across from that stranger at the dinner table.

    *NClex Preparatory materials – NCSBN

  • Don’t question what I eat, how much I eat, or make statements on anything related to my food choices unless we’re very close friends. Even then, some of my friends have been told to stop commenting on my food, types of meals, etc. because I absolutely refuse to defend my choices and what I put into my own damn mouth. Why? It seems that many of us like to judge. If it’s your thing, do yourself a favor and don’t voice your judgment to me. Why? I may verbally slap you with my opinions on why you should not judge, condemn, or scoff at someone else’s choices. I care about my health and the health of those around me – especially my loved ones with food allergies so yes, I may make suggestions to help them get better nourishment or avoid allergic reactions. But I will never scoff or judge your or a random person’s meals. We’re all adults and I assume most of us pay for our own food so unless you’re paying for my food or directly involved with cooking my meals, NEVER give me grief about my food. If you think I’m “one of those people who have to eat like that” (yes, a direct quote) with regard to meat, or have ridiculous practices such as my designated days of the week to eat only vegan items, etc., under NO circumstance should you ask about, or comment on your thoughts.To be absolutely safe, also NEVER comment on my portion size, or servings unless you’re my doctor and I’m being unhealthy. Why? Because food is a personal choice and some of us have different expectations, purposes for what and how much we eat, and some have a very personal relationship with food choices (those who do not eat meat, etc.). If you really want to know about someone’s food choices or meals, ask politely and leave your judgment at the door. This is a topic that many are open or proud to discuss but not when they feel they’re being judged. An example of a good way to ask about food would be, “Hey that smells great! What is it that you’re about to enjoy?” Are you still wondering why you can’t say things like, “Wow, you’re eating again? Didn’t you just have something an hour ago?” or, “You don’t know what you’re missing by not eating beef.”? If so, start re-reading this paragraph.

I have several more observations that I’d love to share but instead of scaring you off with all of them in one post, I’ll let my thoughts breathe. Then depending on the number of readers interested, or depending on whether there are others who feel the same way I do, I may share or even create a new category for all of us to vent and in so doing, educate those around us. Who knows, maybe this venting and knowledge sharing will educate me on things I’m doing that annoy others. I know I’m constantly learning about life – other people’s as well as my own – and I’m not perfect. So what are your thoughts on these topics? Just a reminder that I am still open to questions and thoughts via emails for those shy bugs who always prefer to email me and not put their thoughts out into the blogosphere as I am to them on social media (twitter, FB, etc.).

Ruth’s Chris Steak House in Baltimore

The Good:

Excellent steak! (pics included below) We had the porterhouse for two and my, what a beaut she was when she showed up all sizzling on the 500 degree plate. The porterhouse was perfectly cooked at a medium temperature with a warm pink center and the soft, succulent pieces of USDA prime cut with both the tenderness of a filet and all of the flavor of a NY strip danced over my tongue with every bite.

The a la carte side choice was asparagus in a hollandaise sauce. Honestly, I didn’t care whether there was a party dress on my asparagus because I am such a fan if it’s lightly steamed and crunchy, which this was, but I hear the sauce was good so I’ll rate it as such. J

To accompany this feast, we chose a red wine that some may consider lighter than desired for a NY strip, but I highly recommend it because of the smoothness and taste. The lucky wine of the night was an Australian Shiraz from Rosemount Estate (pic included below) and surprisingly, one of the less pricey wines on the list. Don’t let the price fool you though. While I would typically pair a Shiraz like this with a peppered steak or a burger, the dark, smoky taste left delicious layers of ripe plums in a hint of oak on my tastebuds that complemented the orgasmic bites of steak.

The dessert was awesometasticer than the steak! We had bread pudding in a whiskey cream sauce (pic included below) which was liberally laced with a semi-sweet whiskey (maybe Jack Daniels?). The bread pudding is dense but soft and moist enough to be broken up easily with a fork. The serving was generous and unless you’re having nothing but dessert, you will be taking leftovers of this delicacy home with you. I paired mine with a Macallan 12 year and my dining companion went with a cocktail. Either way, we were happy with our choices and hey, after finishing a bottle of wine, who could blame us? 😉

Everyone, from the hostess to the wait staff and busboys were wonderful hosts, very friendly and courteous. I felt like a valued patron and despite the fine dining atmosphere, the environment felt “warm” and welcome. I would rate this restaurant’s service higher than any other restaurant I’ve dined in recently, with the one exception to the excellent service being the head bartender, which is a good segway into the bad…

The Bad:

The head bartender at the bar which is on the first floor. He made several “off-color” quips and jokes which made me uncomfortable and for a few minutes, ruined the experience. However, I think with our refusal to be baited into an awkward conversation, he realized his mistake when he did not receive laughs for any of his so-called jokes and tried to make up for it by being more of a bartender and just sticking to conversations about booze. After all, that’s all I want – a knowledgeable bartender and someone without a chip on their shoulder.
The Ugly:

Nothing ugly to report here, so yay!

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Giving thanks and food was the #1 topic in the U.S this past week. It coincides nicely with this post in my Wonderful Humans series. This wonderful human is someone I’m thankful to have in my life as a friend and fellow lover of good food and drink, Mara L. I measure friends in many ways, some of which include being fun, caring, thoughtful and generous and of these traits, she is all, and then some. She made the list not only because she’s a friend, but because she is a person with one of the biggest hearts that I’ve met in awhile, but not in a bad medical way or anything, and because she loves to feed strays like me!

This woman’s home kitchen skills is like going to a fancy, organic (soup?) kitchen for working folks with discernible palettes. I joke about the soup kitchen aspect because she feeds us for free and expects nothing in return. The meals she prepares are always nutritious and tasty with farm to table ingredients that are prepared in a variety of yummy ways. Let’s see, there’s been numerous ethnic styles of dishes and to top it off, or rather, whet our appetites for the middle eastern styled meal at a recent dinner, she hired a belly dancer to perform. Let’s just pause here for a second and take a poll. How many people have been to someone’s  home where they were treated to a surprise belly dancer performance? I didn’t think so…oh, and just ‘cause I know y’all, no, strippers don’t count.

While the free food and filling of my belly should be enough to fill this post, this is just one of the reasons I consider her a wonderful human. When so many were worried about the economy and the troubles that would befall them, she still opened her home up on numerous Saturday evenings to friends and their friends and significant others for dinner, without asking for anything in return. She wanted to continue perfecting her already amazing cooking skills and to find a way to connect with friends outside of social media.

Oh, and while we’re on the topic of living out loud and having fun, let’s just say that if fire-hooping and fun dance parties sound appealing, you and she have similar spirits. For those wondering, because I really do know some of my blog readers, she is a real person and not just an imaginary friend or firehooping fantasy in my head. Pfft.

What else…? Ah yes, how could I forget?! Kidding! I can’t forget to share that her husband is just as kind, cool and a friend as well. If not, how else would we still be eating free of charge at her house? 🙂 Goes to show that good people do attract other good people.

Oh, and just to show that not only do we eat and drink, which, let’s face it, is about 80% of what we do, they supported me at not just one of my mild and mellow, burn some sage and other incense at a poetry reading. No, these two were almost in the middle of the melee when a poetry partner and I hosted a poetry show at the Gladys Knight Chicken and Waffles restaurant, where obnoxious bar patrons heckled the poets all through the night. Granted, the show was sponsored by the alcohol, Patron. Needless to say, I never want to host a supposed mellow poetry show sponsored by alcohol again…I will just continue to take it in boxes to their house for the dinner parties!

Yes, some may say that this is just a post about a friend and yes, while it is, it’s a post that will hopefully remind us to enjoy some of the (dare I say, more?) important things in life such as having enough, and at times, too much, food in this country, and to hopefully, pay the kindness forward, and above all, cherish the wonderful humans in your life. Don’t wait for the holidays to show appreciation for what you have, do it every day.

Oregon Grille
1201 Shawan Rd
Cockeysville, MD 21030

The Good
The free food that I’ve had at this bar, which accompanies the happy hour drinks are exceptional! As much as I love good, well prepared meals, I have to say that while lunch and dinner at this restaurant have been very tasty, you can’t beat the happy hour specials in the bar.

Bar: I’ve had delicious oysters as well as some wonderfully prepared salmon and tuna sashimi. All of the seafood has been fresh, well prepared, and the tables at the bar with the food have been kept very clean, even when there are hordes of patrons surrounding it.

Full Dining: I’ve had several dishes during restaurant week, including pastas with red sauce, gazpacho and tasty salads, all of which I would recommend during restaurant week.  Outside of restaurant week, I’ve had several fish entrees, all of which were tasty and well-seasoned, but not overly done, with fresh veggies which were just the right amount of crunchiness and crispiness.

The Bad

In addition to the fine dining side, I’ve been at the bar for two full happy hours. I don’t like to judge a place only on one visit unless they’re absolutely horrible, but will say that the food is the only thing that will keep me going back. I had a good experience with the bartenders the first time around, and one in particular is always friendly, knowledgeable and fun. The other, not as much.

While this other bartender was good at making a drink that you ask him to prepare as you give all of the details needed, don’t ask for a whiskey, scotch or any similar recommendation. I asked for a whiskey or bourbon recommendation based on the types I expressed as my favorites and when he suggested one, I asked if I could taste it since I’d never tried it. His response was, “I can only let you taste a small drop or two of it”. Wow, what an immediate turn off. A bartender recommending a supposedly high end drink, after I’d already had a glass of wine as did my friends, all of whom have been to this restaurant several times, who did not want to share a taste or considered my request unimportant. I don’t know if he thought I’d go round tasting whiskey all night and not purchase any, but that’s why judgment should always be checked at the saddle bearing wall of the Oregon Grille.

The Ugly

The bartender’s response. Plain and simple. The ratings for this restaurant’s food and seventy percent of the employees are good. However, I will remove a star or two as this bartender’s response ruined my mood for a few minutes and was less than friendly on two occasions in small spurts.

http://www.theoregongrille.com/

http://www.opentable.com/baltimore-restaurants 

Woodberry Kitchen
2010 Clipper Park Road #126  Baltimore, MD 21211

The Good:

The food!! The service was very good and all of the wait staff, bartenders, and hostess were friendly, knowledgeable and did not have any hint of a bad attitude or seem as if they were being hoity-toity – the technical term for snooty or stuck up.

Our waiter was so friendly, provided full explanations of the meals and its preparation, and even successfully encouraged us to try the Beef Tartare, something that my friends and I wouldn’t have typically chosen, but I will say that it’s the item I long to go back to this restaurant for! It had the appearance of a raw meatloaf with seasoning and a raw egg on top of it, but once you bit into a forkful of it, the meat was so soft and well seasoned that the taste exploded in your mouth in a wonderful way.

We also had the Butcher’s Board, which contained not only slices of bacon, but several slices of bacon fat – the white part of the bacon strip. After a few Government mules (specialty drink that has a hint of citrus coolness and ginger beer), we had more appetizers and food. I promise to have pics from my next visit because honestly, I can’t find the ones I took. Don’t fret, though, see the urbanspoon link below that will take you to a pic of the beef tartare and a review.

Our waiter was also not only helpful when selecting our food, he turned me on to a very good scotch that I thoroughly enjoyed and will have there again.

On an unrelated to food note, I swear I was waiting for cute waiters and waitresses who were dressed as if they just stepped out of a Levi’s catalog to break into a line dance at any minute! They were all so fun dressed and who knows, maybe the jeans and shirts helped them feel more relaxed than a white starched so you can’t breathe shirt. Either way, love the quirkiness of the dress and the style of the restaurant.

The Bad:
Parking isn’t the most convenient, neither is the location. The restaurant is located in a section of Baltimore named, “Hampden” and on Clipper Mill road, the street parking fills up quickly while one of the parking lots is packed with gravel for those who care about their car/car tires However, there is valet parking so don’t let this comment deter you.

The Ugly:
Nothing to report on this aspect!

Also see the following sites for more Baltimore restaurants: