“. . . the prettiest place on earth is Baltimore at night” —Bobby Bare
I fell in love with that city just after I got married and found a job at Hopkins. I have always loved Philadelphia and so Baltimore, another Federal-era town, was a natural fit, but it’s Philly-more-funky. I don’t get to Charm City near as much as I would like but last night I had the pleasure of dinner and a show—with my Husb, no less!
We met up with Marion Winik and her friend, Doug Preston, and headed for Brew House No. 16 at the corner of Read and Calvert streets. Not one to stick to convention (and that would be putting it mildly), writer and writing professor Marion became involved with the creation (specifically, the liquor license) at the Brew House and is now its most enthusiastic supporter. After we sat down, she introduced us to owner Harry Hummel and told the story of how they bonded as neighbors in Glen Rock, PA, when their sons became friends (there’s even a hayfield fire in the story). So when Harry and brewmaster son Ian needed a liquor license in the name of a Baltimore resident, now-relocated Marion stepped in. Thus was born Brew House No. 16, housed in an old firehouse building (yes, complete with the poles).
Dinner menu . . . what to eat on a hot, hot day. For starters the three-hummus plate (roasted garlic and lemon, cilantro lime, roasted bell pepper) and a basket of soft pretzels (homage to PA, of course). Note: Be sure to order the housemade mustard with the pretzels and you’ll never have Herlocher’s commercial version again! (I say “commercial version” because I don’t believe what they’re selling in the grocery stores is the same as what we used to have at the Train Station . . . but I digress.)
And drink choices? Husb went with the excellent Brew House Coffee Porter (“flavors and aromas of coffee, roasted chocolate malt”)—very memorable. I had the lighter Strawberry Fields, “an American wheat ale brewed with 20 lbs of strawberries from Calvert's Gift Farm. Mild in bitterness and body.” In fact, I had two.
This may be a brew pub but it’s not all bleu-cheese burgers and sweet-potato fries! We had a cornucopia of entrée choices, from pan-roasted rockfish to duck confit poutine. Husb did order traditional, the Firehouse burger (“Roseda angus beef, double-smoked maple bacon, roasted garlic aioli, hand-cut fries”), and Marion went with the chili-glazed mussel bowl (“roasted garlic, preserved lemon, sweet chili glaze, toasted baguette”) and a salad. Doug and I were of a like mind: we both ordered the crispy split-pea cake (“yellow split pea polenta, grilled mushrooms, roasted sunchokes, red pepper hummus, pea shoots”), which came with some red-pepper hummus on the side. It was perfect for the hot day, light and delicious, perched on a bed of greens. I love it when a restaurant dares to be a little different with the vegetarian entrée and goes beyond a “veggie burger.”
We could not linger, regrettably, because we had a show to go to. So we headed down to Creative Alliance, housed in the Patterson Theater on Eastern Avenue. Their mission statement spells out exactly why I love Baltimore so much: “The Creative Alliance builds communities by bringing together artists and audiences from diverse backgrounds to experience spectacular arts and education programs and engage in the creative process. We provide support to area artists, promote Baltimore as a center for creative production, act as a positive force in our community, and advocate for cultural expression rooted in a sense of place.” C’est tout.
I paused before we went inside because the sun and clouds were conspiring to do spectacular things.
Then I had to admire the exterior of the Patterson, itself a beauty.
Inside, on the first floor is an art gallery (check out their website for everything Creative Alliance offers—they do a lot) and a music venue (with a bar!). While we had auditorium-type seating for the show, Marion said that sometimes they do a club layout with tables and chairs. The performer—Steve Forbert (you who know me are right now not surprised). When Marion found out that Doug was a long-time fan, of course she got in touch with us about joining them . . . Steve, with Mark Stuart accompanying, did not disappoint the full room of loyal fans—btw, look for his autobiography to be published at the end of the year.
The end of the night, we walked across the street to the car, which was parked in front of Matthew’s Pizza, “Baltimore’s First Pizzeria” (someone at the show told me that a neighborhood date in the 1960s meant a movie at the Patterson and pizza at Matthew’s). The colored milk jugs strung high above Eastern Avenue were lit, giving a festival atmosphere to the evening—yes, “the prettiest place on earth.”