Farmers Market Season Starts with BUGS

 

With the opening of the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar two weeks ago, you can safely say that the city’s farmers market season has officially started. While I love the tried and true markets, I wanted to give a shout out to a smaller, less-known one that’s big on heart, as well as food.

This Saturday, May 6, 2017, be sure to check out the  BUGS Farmers’ Market on Living Classrooms’ campus. This one day market is run by the BUGS students who worked all school year to grow the food, make the crafts and wares, and plan the entertainment. It’s kid planned, kid grown, and kid powered! Not only can you fill your bags with delicious locally grown produce, but you can feel great knowing that all the proceeds go right back into the BUGS program. Trust me, this is one program you want to support.

Finishing up its 22nd year, the BUGS program is one of Living Classrooms Foundation’s outreach programs that works to give under-served Baltimore City elementary students academic, social and dietary help. Currently, the program works with 60 students from Commodore John Rodgers Elementary School and offers a unique support system that includes help with homework, a healthy dinner, and the opportunity to learn skills not often found in the traditional education setting. With five areas of study: gardening, cooking, art, dance and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math), students in grades 2 through 5 are able to learn a variety of things, like healthy eating, chicken raising, dance routine creation and ice cream making. Working after school all year, students create or grow the wares and food that will be on sale at this year’s market.

BUGS Farmers Artists 2016

The BUGS Farmers’ Market itself is in its 21st year and is a staple of the community that surrounds Living Classrooms’ campus. It’s the must-attend event of the spring with seasoned patrons arriving early to snag a sought after tomato plant, bowl of freshly made ice cream or, the crowd favorite, money soap. (Seriously, this soap has $1, $5 or $10 hidden inside!) Along with other traditional favorites like scented soaps, herbs, and perennial flowers, this year’s market will also sell kid-made pillows, recycled handbags, slime and the very on-trend succulents.

Want to get a little more hands on? BUGS wouldn’t say no to some adult volunteers —  simply contact Erin Myers at emyers@livingclassroomfoundation.org.

After you peruse the stands, fill your bags (and empty your wallets) swing by the face painting, say hello to the chickens and watch the dance performance. It’s a morning at the market like no other.

The BUGS market is open on May 6, 2017, from 10 am until 2 pm at 802 S. Caroline Street and will be well worth the visit. Then, put it on your calendar for next year. Program Director, Algernon Campbell, gave me the scoop about 2018:

“Next year: Ponies.”

What could ‘B’ more fantastic?

BUGS Farmers Table

 

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Seeing the City through a Newbie’s Eyes

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At the beginning of the year I set out to achieve four goals for 2017. (If you missed it, you can read about it here.) Recently, I met one of those goals — Travel (around town) — in the most interesting of ways.

Last Friday, I received an alert on my phone from Couchsurfers: Jonathan has requested to stay with you. Seeing as my weekend was pretty empty and I had the room, I enthusiastically hit the “Yes” button. What happened next was not having a person crash on my couch, but even better. I made a new friend and gained a new perspective on the place I call home.

If you really want to fall back in love with Baltimore, then show around an out-of-towner.

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The first place that Jonathan and I hit up was the National Aquarium. One of the city’s jewels, we decided to take advantage of the Fridays after Five deal and enjoy the underwater world without having to get soaked. (It was already raining, so staying dry was a bonus.)

Now, I will say that I am biased when it comes to visiting the Aquarium because I work there on occasion. But due to a pesky broken ankle that’s made walking a literal pain, I haven’t been back in six months. There is something about seeing a familiar place with a person who has never been there, which allows you to notice things that you may not have noticed — and get points of view on things you have always wondered. (For instance, Jonathan being an Aussie native, enjoyed the Australia exhibit and was delighted to get to see the archer fish being fed. Although, when you get to watch fish spit water to knock crickets out of the air, it’s hard to be disappointed!)

It also shows you that, even when you live on the other side of the world, some things are universal — like getting your picture taken at the bubble tubes, something I’ve seen every visitor do at least once. We spent a good two hours wandering the Aquarium, so Jonathan was able to see Maryland rockfish, sturgeon and horseshoe crabs. He appreciated all of that, since he wasn’t able to hit Ocean City on this trip.

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Jonathan really wanted to know about the city as well as the animals. He already knew to grab a crab cake, try Old Bay with fries and buy a box of Berger cookies. I figured we could make some of it happen that night.

crab dog

He wanted to get a real Bmore feel, but had to be at an event in an hour. I knew that if he wanted local Maryland beer and seafood, the best place close by was none other than my fave, Heavy Seas Alehouse.

Our awesome waitress helped Jonathan choose between the oyster poor boy sandwich, crab dog and crab cake sandwich — gotta go crab cake, man! I went with my own tried and true dinner of a foot long crab dog. We swapped stories of our homes while dining on lots of crab cakes, crab dip, Old Bay and beer. Just like a normal Bmore night, right? Well, with one Aussie twist: Jonathan brought Tim Tams from the land down under, so we swapped those in for dessert instead of searching for Berger cookies.

(By the way, tipping your waitress with an additional Tim Tam surprise is totally worth it!)

tim tams

Over the next few days, I wasn’t able to physically show Jonathan around (jobs are pesky like that). Instead, I steered him towards Hampden for some great music and dinner at The Food Market. And he enjoyed his crab cake so much, he hit up the Papermoon Diner for a crab melt. Before he left, he bought his own box of Berger cookies to take home. Rumor has it, his coworkers thought they were delicious.

I’m hoping that Jonathan and I cross paths again on the travel trail. And I must tell you, having grown up on crab cakes and Old Bay it was fun to watch someone experience the flavors for the first time. I was a little jealous! So if you ever get the chance to take someone around town, I say do it! You won’t regret it!

After all, what could ‘B’ more adventurous?

heavy seas

 

5 Places to Check Out this Restaurant Week

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It’s the most wonderful time of the year! No, not the time of gifts and lights and pretty wrapping paper, but the time of three course meals for affordable prices at some of Baltimore’s best restaurants. That’s right, friends: it’s Baltimore City Restaurant Week 2017 – Winter Edition!

Starting this Friday, January 13 and ending on January 22, you can skip around some of the best eateries the city has to offer. (That’s 10 days of glorious eating, for those of you counting.) If you have yet to hit the streets and fill your stomach during Restaurant Week, this is the year to do it. (Although, I put it on the list of things to do in 2016!) Being a seasoned patron of Restaurant Week, I thought I’d help you to narrow down the list to a few great eats. What makes these places worth mentioning over the rest? Three things: great food, great vibe, and great value for the price. So while it’s a steal of a deal during this week, if you venture there any other time (like the day after because you made a mistake or couldn’t get a reservation) you’re still going to have a full belly.

This is, of course, just one gal’s opinion, so if you feel I overlooked a great option please let me know! Chances are I just haven’t eaten there yet.

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Blue Agave

I’m going to be straight up honest and tell you that tacos, burritos and nachos are my life’s blood, so there was no way a place with Mexican cuisine wasn’t making my list. This fantastic tequila bar and restaurant in Federal Hill has everything you need for a Restaurant Week experience to remember. The staff is friendly, helpful and always game to share a great story or two, and the inside has just enough going on to keep a wandering eye busy but not overwhelmed. And then there’s the food. My best foodie friend still has dreams of their Mushroom & Garlic Empanadas and I’m sure that when we make our plans, this is the place we’re hitting up. While I mentioned the staples of Mexican food, this is where you go to try things that are a bit different, like their puerco cocoa or lamb birria. And of course, treat yourself to one of their 130 tequilas.

Bond Street Social

Bond Street Social

Want a place to hit up after work? This is your destination. Located on the water in Fells Point, this is the place with the upscale industrial vibe and fun bites. I once had an entire meal of just their appetizers and would gladly do so again (I’m looking at you house pretzels and mac n cheese bites). Adding to the posh vibe is the ultra cool staff who manages to make everyone feel like VIPs. If we have unseasonably warm weather during your trip – and that’s not impossible – grab some outdoor seating. If not, chill at the bar or by one of the multiple fireplaces. Yep, you heard that right, multiple fireplaces.

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Jack’s Bistro

There’s nothing quite like Jack’s Bistro, the little eatery in Canton with a lot of personality. The small space is decorated with slight retro vibes and lots of funky art which helps to match the unique cooking style. Specializing in sous vide (pronounced soo vee), the food is prepared by placing it in airtight plastic bags and heating in a hot water bath for long periods of time. With a changing menu, you can visit often and never have to order the same thing twice. Although some favorites, like the 100% Pure Ground Bacon Burger, is almost always listed.

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Salt

You want some duck fat fries? This is the place to get them. Located in Butcher’s Hill, this local art showing, green lit, white-washed brick walled converted rowhome is a place that you MUST try. Multiple times. A week. But if you can only manage it once a year, this is the week to do it. The vibe is hip, but not obnoxious; the staff is knowledge but not stuffy; and the food is marvelous, without exaggeration. I had the best octopus in my life at this restaurant and a risotto that I wanted to savor for hours, but scarfed down anyway. The menu here is constantly changing, so unfortunately nothing I mentioned is currently there. But that just means it’s time to go back and try something new. The hardships of life, am I right?

waterfront-kitchen

Waterfront Kitchen

If you have to see the water even in the dead of winter, you can’t do better than Fells Point’s WK; their one wall is an actual floor to ceiling window overlooking the harbor. The view is only one of the many things to love about this alphabetically last-on-the-list stop. All of the food served here is locally sourced and in season, so it’s the definition of fresh. This is not a line, as much of the produce comes from greenhouses right around the corner on Caroline Street. Still not impressed, you say? What if I told you that same produce is grown by Baltimore City students as part of Living Classroom’s BUGS program? A great meal and a great cause all rolled into one. Now that’s something worth chowing down for.

What could ‘B’ more delicious?

*Photos by my awesome editor, Melinda Campbell
*None of these are paid advertisements. As always, these are things I know of that I want to share with you!

 

Sushi Outside the City: A New Place for your Raw Bar

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Rainbow Roll & Spicy Tuna Roll: Sushi Staples

I’m just going to come clean: I’m addicted to sushi.

Hopelessly, shamelessly, happily addicted to the rice buffered, seaweed wrapped, pastel colored circles of taste explosion. There is never a time when I don’t crave the intricate flavor dance that is a sushi roll. Luckily for me, there are no shortages of places to go to feed this joyful addiction.

There is a new kid behind the sushi bar: Ooki Sushi in Owings Mills. (I know, it’s outside of Bmore, but food is an adventure right?) All I can say is that if you find yourself wandering around the area you must give this place a try.

Located in a strip mall by a Giant and a gym, you wouldn’t think it’s much from the outside – but trust me – this is a place to surprise a date on a Friday night.

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Ooki Sushi, complete with mounted fish

The inside gives a super modern vibe with textured walls, changing light displays, and a color palette that’s easy on the eyes. Whether you want an intimate booth for a date, a high top table for a causal girls’ night out, or the sushi bar to cut it up with the chef, the waitstaff will have you comfortable and covered.

This isn’t one of those places that’s dimly lit so you can’t read the menu or see your food. It’s bright, inviting and with a six page menu of traditional favorites and chef specialties, there’s no worry about running out of rolls to order.

Ordering might actually be the most difficult thing you do once you arrive! (Although pricing may help – while it’s not extreme in expense, it’s not your cheap eats either.)

 

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Philly, Green Dragon and Yellow Tail and Scallion Rolls

Staying with tried and true favorites for my first trip, I have to say they did not disappoint. The rolls were the perfect size, steering away from the gargantuan monstrosities that you sometimes encounter or the tiny morsels that leave you wondering if you ate anything. Where sauce was used, like in the Spicy Tuna Roll, it never overwhelmed the fish. Each roll allowed you to taste the flavor notes of each ingredient and blended together to give you the perfect sushi eating experience. I highly recommend the Yellowtail Scallion roll, the perfect pairing of light fish flavor and tangy onion family goodness.

pork dumplings

Pork Dumplings

Not in the mood for raw fish? There are other plates for your discerning taste. The pork dumplings were a favorite of mine. Light, sweet, with a great accompanying sauce. It’s the perfect plate to share… or order seconds and thirds!

I’ll definitely be back for a new round of rolls – and maybe desserts (there are bear shaped chocolates that I’m keen on trying). When you check this place out, let me know what you think! And leave me your sushi suggestions – I’m always looking for a new place to roll up and try.

What could B more fresh?

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9944 Reisterstown Road, Owing Mills MD