Vintage? Autumn!


Americans have been tippling apple-y spirits since before we even set foot on this continent. Pilgrims drank hard cider on the Mayflower while crossing the Atlantic; John Adams enjoyed it for breakfast; and it was more popular than beer during the Colonial era.

Wines made from the forbidden fruit came to the New World with the Europeans settling along the Eastern Seaboard, who home-brewed new twists on old-world classics.

Now, all across Maryland, winemakers and distillers are reviving this beloved tradition by transforming the humble apple into buzzy beverages that appeal to modern tastes while staying firmly rooted in our epicurean heritage.

Rob Miller and Patty Power are surrounded by reminders of times gone by. The couple owns an historic Civil War-era farmstead in Jefferson that they’ve transformed into a modern-day pressing operation, Distillery Lane Ciderworks.

It all started 10 years ago, when the enterprising duo began planting 2,500 trees sporting 30 different heirloom apple varietals, including Kingston Black, Roxbury Russet, and Gravenstein.

“We didn’t want to be crop farmers, and there’s no money in cows,” Miller explains. “So we thought cider could be our little niche.”

Finish reading this article on the Maryland Life website.



A Taste of Home

Walking through a regional farmers market is like checking an edible calendar. Bundles of glistening green asparagus signal springtime; a bounty of berries is a sign of summer; gourds of every shape and size greet autumn’s arrival; and a booming business at the mulled cider stand means the cycle is complete.

No matter what time of year, it’s a showcase of the best bites and the most superior sips from across the state.

More than 130 farmers markets have sprouted up across Maryland, giving ranchers, vintners, cheesemakers, craftspeople, farmers, foragers, and fishermen alike a chance to directly interact with a growing legion of locavores. On the flipside of the stall, community-conscious consumers now have a way to meet the producers who are helping them serve up a taste of home every day.

From the depths of the Chesapeake Bay to the heights of the Blue Ridge Mountains to the sprawling fields of southern Maryland, the Free State offers a diverse landscape to harness.

“Dairies, orchards, produce, local meats, and seafood—we have it all,” says Christine Bergmark, executive director of the Southern Maryland Agricultural Development Commission.

“There are few states that have all those resources wrapped up into one.”

This attractive advantage cultivates A-list admirers. Chef and reality TV favorite Bryan Voltaggio, for instance, transplanted to Frederick to open haute-cuisine hot spot Volt in the summer of 2008 specifically because of the cornucopia of fresh goods cultivated nearby.

“I get stuff that’s straight out of the ground,” he says. “People show up at the back door with fresh products all the time.”

Finish reading this article on the Maryland Life website now.


Oktoberfest Surprises

Big, frothy steins of brewskis get all the play during Oktoberfest. (Cue images of lederhosened Germans partying in Munich in late September, or American frat boys gulping down lager for the entire month of October). But the festival’s food — bratwursts, sauerkraut, vegetables and pretzels — also deserves a “Prost!” especially if it’s served with Oktoberfest’s unofficial condiment, mustard.

OK, the spicy, yellow sauce might not attract as much attention as flaxen-haired St. Pauli girls hoisting hefferveisen, but it’s a big part of any German celebration. “I can’t imagine Oktoberfest without mustard,” says Barry Levenson, curator of the National Mustard Museum, which houses more than 5,300 mustards from 79 countries. “Mustard’s been an integral part of Oktoberfest food since the 15th or 16th century.”

In a mustard-seed shell, the substance is usually made with mustard seeds, oil, vinegar, beer, a sweetener (honey and brown sugar are both popular) and herbs such as turmeric, tarragon and allspice.

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.


By The Glass – Sinful Sip

Photo courtesy Corey Weddle.

The drink: Original sin

The bartender: Alex Strange, Shab Row Bistro and Wine Bar, Frederick, Md.

Past stomping grounds: Bezu in Potomac, Md.; Aquaknox at the Venetian Hotel in Las Vegas

Before the bar: Spent his youth on Broadway playing Gavroche in Les Miserables and Edgar in Ragtime, which earned him and the rest of the cast a Tony nomination.

Tat Stats: His latest ink of a skull with crossed martini glasses was inspired by an episode of No Reservations in which Anthony Bourdain created a graffiti artwork of a pirate-chef symbol.

Finish reading this article and get the recipe on the Plate website now.


Ink Spotted: Graffiato’s Mike Isabella

A decade ago, Graffiato’s Mike Isabella walked into the now-defunct Nicole’s on the Upper West Side of New York City looking for a job. He was surprised to find that the eatery’s chef sported blue hair and a body crisscrossed with tattoos. “I thought it was the coolest thing,” says Isabella, who scored the gig that day. “It made me realize that chefs don’t care what you look like. They only care if you have a clean outfit and sharp knives.” Strangely enough, the tattoo-loving cook that hired Isabella was none other Ed Witt, who now works as the executive chef at 701.

Finish reading this Ink Spotted feature and see pics of all of Isabella’s tats by clicking over to Eater now.


Food Networking Stars: Bringing ‘friends’ to the table

Having tons of Facebook friends and LinkedIn connections might look impressive online, but does it actually help you find jobs or develop friendships? Two new Web sites serving the District — and — believe they offer better ways to get users offline and into meaningful relationships. They want you to break bread together in restaurants.

Down4Lunch was launched in mid-July by Jess Sadick, a 39-year-old D.C. resident who wanted to create a professional networking site with a real world component that trumps Internet-only options.

“It’s all about who you know in this town and LinkedIn has its limits,” says Sadick. “I have 280 connections, but how often do I sit down with those people and build meaningful relationships, so that they will go out of their way when I need it or vice versa? Not that often.”

Finish reading about Down4Lunch and find out about Grub With Us by clicking over to the Washington Post‘s All You Can Eat blog now.


Fancy Food Work: Rogue 24

At chef RJ Cooper’s ambitious new tasting menu restaurant, the adventure begins before you even take a single bite. To get there, you go down a quiet side street near the convention center and turn into an alleyway that looks like it’s seen some shady deals. Coming around a corner at the end, you find yourself in front of a wood facade. Graffiti of a knife superimposed on a wishbone seems to float above the door. Welcome to Rogue 24.

Vision: “When you put chefs and restaurants in a box and categorize them, it stifles creativity,” Cooper says. “Open up the box and say, ‘Do whatever you want,’ and the possibilities become endless.” With that as his mantra, the James Beard Award-winning chef has created a dinner experience that prides itself on its scope and vision.

Finish reading this article on the Express website now.


Campfire, Rewired: Gadgets to Make Cooking While Camping A Breeze


Toque’s Tool Kit
Even a talented chef can do only so much with a Swiss Army Knife. Pack the MSR Alpine Deluxe Kitchen Set (pictured, $55, and you can slice, stir and season like Mario or Bobby. Plus, the corkscrew ensures that everyone else can enjoy a glass of wine while you toil.

Bubble Study
Having a cold brewski or a chilly Pepsi post-rock-climbing sounds great at day’s end. But having a bottle break in your pack and soak your sleeping bag sounds positively hellish. The insulated Carbonated Drink Bottle ($20, keeps bubbly beverages carbonated, frosty and safe.

Find out my other four favorite culinary gadgets to take camping by reading the full article on the Express website now.