RESTAURANTS

Brunch at Spoons Café in Federal Hill

My favorite brunch buddy and I are up early on Sunday morning, I mean early like 8:00 am.  We’re ready to eat early too but most of the restaurants we frequent don’t open until 10:00 or 11:00 am.   Last Sunday, however, my friend wanted grits and I told her that I had the best cheesy grits at Spoons Café in Federal Hill, Baltimore.  We googled the hours and luckily they open at 8:00 am. We arrived at Spoons around 8:45 and half of the restaurant seating was already occupied. The hostess sat us quickly towards the rear of the restaurant at a two-seat table adjacent to the kitchen.  Spoons is a quaint restaurant space that looks like it could have been a house converted into a restaurant.

My friend and I order a carafe of Apple Cider Mimosas because it’s October and that means you drink apple cider.  That was my first time trying that flavor mimosa and I was impressed. I ‘d never thought to mix apple cider with champagne, but it was a fresh Fall take on the original mimosas. We scanned the menu and decided on The Beast, Fried Oysters and Grits, Deep-Fried Stuffed French Toast and the 2-2-2 (Two Eggs, Meat of your choice and French Toast or Pancakes).  I know, I know… we’re greedy.

The Beast
Fried Oysters and Grits
Deep-Fried Stuffed French Toast
Poached Eggs, French Toast and Scrapple

The Beast sandwich is — well you guessed it — A Beast. It’s a biscuit sandwich with buttermilk fried chicken, fried egg, smoked bacon, American cheese topped with sausage gravy.  Even though the menu describes it as a sandwich it’s not meant to be handheld, you have to eat this with a fork and knife.  In addition to the chicken and bacon, the sausage gravy added another meat element. The chicken was a tender cut, seasoned well and the biscuit was moist.  The Fried Oysters and Grits were my favorite. The oysters had a crispy, seasoned, thick batter on them, what you would call chicken-fried,  and the oyster inside was soft and fresh. The grits at Spoons are always great, even when I get them as a side with cheese, they are thick like grits should be. It also had an oyster sauce that was the consistency of soup and paired well with the oyster/seafood grits dish.  The Deep-Fried Stuffed French Toast was just light and flaky on the outside and stuffed with warm sweet cream on the inside, it’s the perfect portion to share.

Spoons is a great neighborhood restaurant with tasty food and great service. It’s the type of place you bring family that’s visiting from out of town, they’d love it.  They have beer and lunch options also. And because it’s in the heart of Federal Hill, you may want to stop at one of the nearby bars after brunch.

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

 

Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant in Annapolis, MD

Recently I visited Annapolis, Maryland for a two-day seminar and of course I was excited to explore and visit a new restaurant.   While researching nearby restaurants I decided on Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant because it was minutes away from my seminar location and their menu options looked amazing.  My second day of the seminar ended early enough for me to stop in Cooper’s Hawk during their lunch time.

Cooper’s Hawk in Annapolis is a two-story restaurant and bar with a wine tasting room, retail store and barrel-aging room.   The bar side of the restaurant has an extended outdoor patio that includes seating.

As I mentioned, I’d already looked at the menu and I knew what I wanted to order for lunch.  My waitress was very pleasant and helpful explaining the wine list and food pairings.  Because the wine list is so extensive, some guests have a hard time deciding and they are encouraged to sample one or two wines.  Of course I sampled two…who doesn’t like free wine samples?!  The restaurant provides complimentary pretzel bread warm and fresh from the oven.  For my appetizer I ordered the Crispy Brussels Sprouts with Cashews, Mint, Sweet Thai Chili and Sesame-Sriracha Aioli. Best Brussels EVER! Hands Down! I think it was the Sweet Thai Chili sauce and the Sriracha, that sweet and spicy mix with the perfectly crisp Brussels is a hit! And it’s a hearty appetizer size, I wasn’t able to eat it all and had to take the leftovers home.

After sampling three wines because I couldn’t’ decide on which two to sample,  I decided to order the Sparkling Wine Flight.  Cooper’s Hawk offers six different wine flights – Sparkling, White, Red, Dessert, Cooper’s Hawk Lux and Create Your Own. Each flight is the equivalent of two glasses of wine.  The Sparkling Flight featured an Almond Sparkling, Raspberry Sparkling, Sparkling Rose’ and Blanc de Blanc.  Surprisingly I loved the Almond Sparkling wine, I wasn’t sure about how an Almond wine would taste but it tasted like almond cookies or candy.

For my lunch option I ordered the Chicken Piccata and swapped the baked chicken for their Parmesan-Crusted Chicken and it was the best decision. Perfect pasta topped with a buttery lemon sauce seasoned with crisp capers. Seriously this meal is amazing. I’ve been back to the restaurant two more times in the last 30 days because I had to have it again and again.

During my last visit I ordered the Dessert Wine Flight and I especially liked the blueberry wine. As you can tell, I tend to like sweet wines.  Maybe on my next visit I’ll venture out and order a red wine or white wine flight.

Have you been to Cooper’s Hawk Winery and Restaurant? What’s your favorite dish to order?

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

Rye Street Tavern

Baltimore’s newest neighborhood has recently welcomed Baltimore’s newest restaurant – Rye Street Tavern in Port Covington opened on September 12, 2017.  The New American restaurant is next to Sagamore Spirit distillery and boasts views of the Port Covington waterfront.  My first experience with Rye Street Tavern was during my visit to Sagamore Spirit’s “Whiskey On The Water” event.  The restaurant wasn’t open to the public yet, but they prepared and served a few entrees from their menu.  My recent visit was to dine and explore what the newly opened restaurant had to offer.

I visited on a Saturday evening around 6:00 pm. Some visitors were already enjoying their meal with a view in the outdoor seating area.  My friend and I decided to eat inside and we were escorted to seating near the kitchen area.  It’s always a plus when I get seated outside of the kitchen because I like to see and smell all the deliciousness coming out. The restaurant features an open-kitchen concept, though there is glass separating visitors from the kitchen, if you’re seated close by you can still see what’s going on.

These were our seats. Pretty cool, huh?!

 

We were greeted by a friendly and knowledgeable waitress who brought us some complimentary jalapeno cornbread and answered questions we had about the dinner and cocktail menus.  I was torn between two drinks and she convinced me to try the “Sagamore Swizzle”… great choice! My drink was a cross between a Mint Julep and a Dark and Stormy but with Chocolate Bitters and they were not skimpy on the Rye.  Once we finished our cornbread the waitress come to our table and cleared the plates and excess crumbs from the cornbread and gave us fresh plates and silverware.

My friend and I were curious about the Fried Popcorn Softshell Clams because we’d never had fried clams before, so of course that’s what we ordered for our appetizer. Soft texture and flavorful, they were amazing.  As soon as the plate hit our table we could smell the jalapeno and peppers on the plate, that’s how you know they have the freshest ingredients.   For the main courses I ordered the Wood-Grilled Maryland Rockfish, Shrimp and Grits with smoked tomato and my friend ordered Cornmeal-Crusted Wild Blue Catfish and Gumbo with Carolina Gold Rice.  The shrimp succulent, the grits were creamy and the rockfish was cooked to tender perfection with a crispy skin. I also liked the contrasting flavor of the smoked tomatoes.  The gumbo was seasoned well and the entrée included two healthy pieces of catfish. Everything about our meal was perfect, I have no complaints.

We decided to split a dessert. The waitress told us about the dessert special made with a rare fruit named “PawPaw” she explained that it’s a cross between a banana, mango, citrus fruit and it’s only in season for about 6-8 weeks. We decided to order it.  They prepared it as an ice cream and drizzled caramel sauce and pecans…delicious!

After our meal, we walked upstairs to see the rest of the restaurant… actually the restrooms were upstairs and that gave us the opportunity to explore.

Stairs to the upstairs dining area
One of the empty dining rooms upstairs
That’s me blending in with the décor…same colors, not planned.

Have you visited Rye Street Tavern? Or Sagamore Spirit Distillery?  Tell me about your experience.

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

Sandlot Baltimore

It seems like just yesterday I was sitting on the patio at the Harbor East Gordon Biersch location, looking out at the cranes and construction equipment at the newly open Harbor Point. Fast forward to summer 2017 and Harbor Point is up and running complete with apartments, a coffee shop, a furniture store and Baltimore’s newest outdoor attraction – Sandlot.  It’s a concept by Chef Spike Gjerde of Woodberry Kitchen.  The name is an homage to the baseball movie with the same name.  Sandlot can be described as a Baltimore Beach but on the harbor – a manmade beach with sand, sun and fun without the swimming.  It’s an adult playground with volleyball courts, giant jenga, sidewalk chalk, hammocks, corn hole, bocce ball and top 40’s blasting from the speakers.  I’ve been to Sandlot about five times since it’s opened and I’d say by day it’s family and dog friendly and at night it has a laid back beach party vibe that us locals enjoy.  Also, the views at night are incredible, you can see across the Baltimore skyline.  It’s normally open from 4-11pm daily but times can get delayed if it rains. 

My first visit to Sandlot was their opening day and it was packed, so packed that I stood in the line for about 45 minutes just to order a cocktail.  They’ve since worked out the cocktail kinks by adding extra beer stations around the site and allowing servers to take orders at your seat.  The cocktail selection normally includes your normal liquor selection, beer and a few frozen drink specials…gotta have the frozen drinks at the beach.

The food options include traditional American Fare such as Nachos, Specialty Hot Dogs, Chicken, Fish, Potato Salad, Onion Rings and many more options. Since I’ve visited several times, I’ve been able to try a variety of entrees.

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich
Rotisserie Chicken
Crab Fritters
Chessie Nachos

Soft Shell Crab Sandwich –  Lightly fried, topped with fresh, crunchy, tangy cole slaw on a soft toasted bun… This soft shell crab sandwich was one of the best I’ve ever had.
Rotisserie Chicken – I had the chicken twice. The photo above is my first sampling and it was flavorful and falling of the bone good. My second time having it, wasn’t that great. I guess it’s a hit or miss.
Crab Fritters– Lots of corn, not enough crab.  But the chilli pepper jam made up for it…so good.
Chessie Nachos – The menu offers a variety of five nacho options. The Chessie is topped with smoked fish, crab, corn salsa, beer cheese, onion and jalapeños.  I ordered them because I’ve never had smoked fish nachos. Lots of fish and crab on every chip.  These are great if you like seafood.

Sandlot is definitely the place to take out of town guests to show them how cool we are in Baltimore.  Or visit for a chill weekday evening or a people watching weekend.

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

BlueBird Cocktail Room

 

As a former bartender, craft cocktails are something I can appreciate. So you can imagine my excitement was on another level when I heard about The BlueBird Cocktail Room, a new bar opening in Hampden. I’ve wanted to explore more restaurants and bars in Hamden, Baltimore because I have a few friends that live in that neighborhood and I’m always in the area.  Last Friday, I attended a blogger Happy Hour/Meet-Up and finally got a chance to check it out.

Tropic of Quebec
Mint Julep
The Handsome Devil
Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms
Lamb Meatballs

Happy Hour is definitely the time to do a little menu sampling. The appetizer bites are 1/2 priced Monday-Friday from 5-7pm and because we were with a large group I got a chance to sample a few items.  The Happy Hour cocktails are $5 house wines, $5 Pimm’s cups, and $2 Natty Bohs. My favorites on the food menu were the lamb meatballs and squash blossoms. They gave me five meatballs which were so filling, I almost didn’t’ have room for anything else.  The “Tropic of Quebec” cocktail is an Orange Creamsicle in a glass, so sweet and reminiscent of childhood on a hot summer day.

The décor is somewhat romantic… think chandeliers, dark floors, dark blue walls, blue sofas with bright yellow accents. They have a long high-top table in the middle of the space and quiet, intimate sofas and corner tables along the perimeter. You have to order your food/drinks at the bar and the server gives you a number to take back to your seat.  The food and drinks arrived at the table pretty fast, which was a good thing because the space was filled with customers on a Friday evening.

This would be a perfect place to impress a first date!  Send me a message or reply, tell me what you think. Also, I need suggestions for your favorite bars and restaurants in Hampden.

And always follow my foodie and cocktail adventures on social media …  

  

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