Baltimore Magazine’s “Best of Baltimore Party” 2013

 **This post was originally written by me for The Fab Empire, check out The Fab Empire for all things Fabulous in Baltimore, DC, New York and Boston

Baltimore Magazine celebrated their 25th annual “Best of Baltimore” party  last Thursday at The Hippodrome Theatre (12 N. Eutaw St).  The theme of this year’s party was Speakeasy, which included lots of feathers and fringe.

It seems that everyone in Baltimore loves a themed party because about 80% of guests were dressed in their best 1920’s prohibition garb.  Over 35 restaurant vendors were in attendance and also participated in the festivities with a “Best-Dressed Booth” contest.

As in previous years, guests enjoyed specialty cocktails from numerous bar stations setup around the venue.  The Vodka bar featured cocktails made with Prairie Vodka, the Tequila bar featured Milagro brand tequila, and the shots bar featured Jägermeister . The tequila bar seemed to be the popular choice among guests as they kept the four bartenders busy all night mixing a variety specialty drinks made with Milagro Silver, Milagro Anejo, and Milagro Reposado.

Not to be outdone by the cocktails, the food vendors in attendance did not disappoint.  Some of Baltimore’s favorite restaurants such as, The Rusty Scupper, TenTen, Sobo, and Bond Street Social –  just to name a few,  cooked up their “best” dishes voted by the readers of Baltimore Magazine.

In the Covergirl VIP Lounge, guests enjoyed a live music from the Bumper Jacksons, catered food from The Oregon Grille, and portraits from caricature artist Laura MyersCovergirl cosmetics were also on-hand for mini makeup consultations as well as eye shadow and lipstick giveaways.

In the main ballroom guests enjoyed a photo booth fun, music by DJ Kopec, and aerial burlesque performances by Cirque Oya.

A portion of the proceeds were donated to The Family Tree, a local organization on a mission to prevent child abuse and neglect.

For more information on who made the cut for “Baltimore’s Best” pick up a copy of Baltimore Magazine’s “Best Of” August issue on magazine stands now.

 

 

 

TEN TEN American Bistro

That Baltimore Harbor East is really making my heart flutter with all the new restaurant additions they’ve introduced within the last two years.

Last weekend, I had the pleasure of visiting the neighborhood hidden gem known as Ten Ten American Bistro (1010 Fleet Street, Baltimore, MD). The restaurant is located in the Historic Bagby Furniture Building on Fleet St. adjacent to the Whole Foods Market. I call it a “Hidden Gem” because it’s literally hidden – pull up to the valet, get out of your car, hang a quick right, walk between Fleet Street Kitchen and Bagby’s Pizza Co., through a pedestrian alley courtyard, and there you will find the restaurant… hidden. I’m not complaining because valet was free and a minor detour sure beats circling the block three times and walking five minutes to the restaurant with the wind beating my face.

The restaurant decor is like most in that area with hardwood floors, exposed brick, and leather seating. The restaurant seats about 75 people comfortably and maybe six more at the bar area. The floor plan is split level with a sheer veil-like partition and three steps separating the main level and upper level.

TenTenBack

TenTenGlass

The upper level features a corner wall with built-in wine storage, more seating, and a large corner booth that my eight friends and I had the pleasure of filling. Bagby’s does branding well with signature wine glasses on the table etched with the “TenTen” logo. The entrée menu features the traditional American restaurant fare with flair, items such as crab cakes, fish, chicken, shrimp & grits, pork ribs, and steak. These items are paired with non-traditional ingredients such as duck cracklings, sunchoke puree and quail egg. I will say, even though the items are traditional, the taste is exceptional. I decided on the barbecue pork ribs served with cornbread and greens. The ribs were slow-cooked and tender, a nice compliment to the sweet and sticky barbecue sauce.

TenTenRibs

But as always, I had food envy when three of my friends ordered the chicken breast topped with a fried quail egg with a side of sweet potatoes. Eggs are the one thing I know how to cook and when I make them at home I always opt for sunny-side up. One bite of that seasoned chicken with egg and I wanted more. I was slightly disappointed when all my friends removed the egg from the chicken and ate their chicken without it – where’s the fun in that? The entrées are reasonably priced between $18.00 and $25.00.

TenTenChicken

No desert for us because we were still celebrating a birthday and brought our own cake to enjoy with our meal. After the birthday song concluded and the cake was cut, the manager came over to our table and advised us that the restaurant normally charges a fee to customers to customers for bringing their own cake, but I guess we were having such a good time he didn’t charge us.

The Bagby Restaurant Group also includes the aforementioned Fleet Street Kitchen and Bagby Pizza Co. I look forward to visiting both in the near future.

TenTen

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Darbar

A hankering for Indian food and a coincidental suggestion from a friend recently led me to Darbar  located on Aliceanna St in the heart of Fells Point.   Just shy of one year in business (opened in April 2011),  this quaint restaurant is slowly picking up momentum as the newest and best in traditional Indian cuisine in Baltimore.

Darbar ExtSide

It’s pretty hard to overlook Darbar  while driving on Aliceanna St; it’s oddly located in the middle of a residential neighborhood and the exterior resembles a city storefront more than a restaurant.  Colorful holiday lights and bright white spotlights border the windows at the front entrance of the restaurant, however once inside, the lights are dim and the mood was subdued, an immense difference from the outer appearance of the restaurant.  Traditional Indian artwork adorns the walls and pristine white tablecloths are neatly draped on every table beneath properly placed silverware and glassware.  The restaurant has two main dining areas, one larger than the other, separated by a single large arch doorway.

The  hostess greets my party of two at the door and we are escorted to the larger, more populated dining area and seated in a quiet corner.  Our waiter dressed in formal black pants, white top, and a bowtie, strikes a match to light the dinner candle in the center of our table. As I looked around I noticed pairs of patrons and I understand why… low lights + candles = romance.  The waiter  quickly brings out the complimentary papadums served hot with an assortment of tamarind chutney, mint chutney, and onion chutney.  Papadums, for those who may not know, is a thin wafer-like flatbread with the texture of a cracker. The papadums was very colorful with visible sesame seeds and grains fried into the dough, this makes for a healthy texture and compliment to anchor the chutney.  The tamarind chutney was especially delicious with its red color and unique sweet & sour flavor; often called “ketchup of the east” it gave a tangy kick to the papadums and reminded me of a slightly upscale version of chips and salsa.

Darbar App

On to the main course,  we stuck with the basics of Middle Eastern cuisine and ordered naan ($3.95) curry shrimp ($14.95), and chicken tikka masala ($14.95) served with rice and peas.   The curry shrimp was the correct consistency of spicy; enough spice to please my palette, but not too spicy or overpowering.   The highlight of my meal was definitely the chicken tikka masala, this dish absolutely blew my mind – it was just that good.   The tikka masala sauce had a smooth buttery sweet flavor that reminded me of southern cooking or comfort food.  Not all Indian restaurants make their sauce that sweet, but I personally enjoyed it.  The servings were very large, enough for myself and my friend to eat and still have leftovers to take home.

Darbar1

The service our waiter provided was great, and management also checked in on our table to confirm the dining experience was going well.  As we left Darbar around 9:30 p.m. on a Wednesday night, the dining area was full of patrons and that’s certainly a good sign that this restaurant is doing something right.

Rock Star

Last weekend my best friend and I made our way to Joe’s Crab Shack to give it a whirl because the  commercials always look like a good time… Way to advertise Joe!

I was in the mood for a Margarita (as I’ve been all Summer, Fall, and now Winter) and I was excited to see there was a “Pop Rocks Pomegranate Margarita” on the menu.  Whoooaahh! Sold!! I get super pumped when sampling new trendy drinks!

The bartender warned us about putting the poprocks in the drink, she said they would pop everywhere.  So I closed my eyes and went for it and wowzers! They popped in my face, in my hair, and down my shirt…dangerous, but fun nonetheless.  The actual margarita wasn’t the best, it was a little weak as most frozen/blended drinks normally are (unless you are drinking at Wet Willies), but overall a gun drink.

 

 

Creme Restaurant & Lounge

**UPDATE** Creme Restaurant & Lounge has been renamed “Warehouse 518”. 

Being the self-proclaimed “Foodie” that I am, I make it a point to never miss an opportunity to participate in Baltimore Restaurant Week.  Some time ago I visited Crème Restaurant & Lounge (518 N. Charles St) in downtown Mount Vernon.

The newly opened restaurant is located in the same building that housed the previous Ixia Restaurant.  From what I am told, not much has changed with the décor of the space;   brightly colored walls in shades of yellow, blue, and red are accented with gold trim.  The color combination sounds like an odd mix but it actually works well together in the space. I must admit, I visited Crème previously for brunch and sampled their Chicken & Waffles and Shrimp & Grits so I already knew what delicious caliber of food to expect.

S&G

The Restaurant Week three-course menu at Crème featured a full array of what the restaurant has to offer.  Strategically I ordered the caesar salad as my appetizer because (a) I like caesar salad and (b) two of my friends ordered the shrimp risotto and I knew I would taste theirs…way to get my sample on!  The shrimp risotto was true to taste and texture. The consistency of the rice was tender and blended well with the flavors of parmesan cheese. It was accompanied with two perfectly placed shrimp skewers that added a little spice to the dish.

Rissoto

For my entrees selection I ordered the “Meat and Potatoes” a boneless beef short rib with sautéed spinach and sweet potatoes au gratin and this dish did not disappoint!  Our server told us that the chef marinates the short rib for over eight hours giving it the tender and flavorful combination that the regular patrons have come to love. I found it to be everything he described and more.  The potatoes side dish was a casserole-like mix of au gratin and sweet potatoes that I found pleasantly surprising because I was wondering how they were going to mix the two.  My only suggestion and slight disappointment about that the au gratin is that I wish the portion size was bigger because it was about the size of a post- it-note.  I don’t know, call me greedy but I like lots of potatoes with my meat.  It definitely left me wanting more.

My dessert choice was a no-brainer thanks to a pre-scan of the menu the day before, I ordering the “Not Ya Momma’s Banana Pudding”.  The pudding was served layered over a cinnamon pie crust in a small martini glass.  The pudding was tasty and nothing out of the ordinary.  The real star of the night was the coconut cake which was a warm slice of pound cake with vanilla icing and coconut shavings.  The dessert was phenomenal and so delicious that my friends couldn’t stop talking about it all night or the next day.

 

 

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