Creative differences, Weird wines, and Green gobbles

Creative differences Running the restaurant at the Creative Alliance was a little more chaotic than husband-wife team Winston Blick and Cristin Dadant, owners of Hamilton's Clementine restaurant and the Green Onion grocery anticipated. The couple launched the narrow space in the Patterson Theater (coincidentally, on the same day that the Green Onion opened) back in June, bringing along their farm-to-table ethos as well as sous chef Jeremy Price to run the kitchen. The Clementine folks operated the restaurant, while the nonprofit Creative Alliance managed the bar, in what seemed an ideal match: locally sourced food and artisanal cocktails in a space that regularly drew large audiences to offbeat performances, films, and art openings. But Clementine's other businesses, including a fledgling catering outfit, left Dadant scurrying back and forth between restaurants, she says. "The experience taught us a lot about what it takes to open a second restaurant in a different location." The name of the Creative Alliance restaurant reverted to its original Marquee Lounge in late February, but Chef Price will remain in the kitchen. For information, creativealliance.org/marquee-lounge.

Weird wines March is eclectic wine month at the Wine Market. The idea, says Chris Spann, owner of the Locust Point restaurant, is to give people the opportunity to try unusual grapes. When was the last time you sipped an Austrian zweigelt or quaffed a spicy Greek moschofilero? Wine director Lucien Walsh will be pouring a curated selection of off-the-beaten-track varietals, and all glasses will be half-price. "We remember getting into wine way back when," says Spann. "That eye-opening experience of trying something for the first time."

In April, the Wine Market will host another eclectic event, a fundraising dinner for Baltimore School for the Arts. If his two daughters didn't attend the school, would owner Spann host these occasional fundraising dinners? The answer, says Spann, is "yes. It's such a great school. Not only for the arts, but academically. They have an amazing record of sending kids on to higher education and those kids graduate from college." Spann's oldest daughter graduated last spring and is now attending MICA; his second daughter is a junior at BSA.

The $39 three-course dinner-with several menu options for each course-will be held April 2. Students from BSA will entertain diners with mellow jazz. Wine is extra. For information, winemarketbistro.com.

Green gobbles When Baltimore Green Works began enlisting students from downtown culinary college Stratford University to prepare food for its EcoBall, the kids hadn't really encountered the concept of sustainability, says Christina Nutile, program manager for the nonprofit. That was five years ago. Now the student teams who participate in the Top Chef-style event not only embrace the local ingredients on offer-canned tomatoes from One Straw Farm, honey from Baltimore Honey, and dairy products from Trickling Springs Creamery-they'll be experimenting for the first time with vegan options.

This year's EcoBall, held at the waterfront Frederick Douglass-Isaac Myers Maritime Park and Museum (March 22), features student-run food stations (where guests are asked to vote on the best team), and guests are encouraged to wear eco-friendly formal wear. In years past, getups have included a dress made from Target bags and bubble wrap, as well as over-the-top hand-me-downs and consignment finds. "We ask people to not go out and buy a whole new outfit," says Nutile. "This year, we've heard rumors of an outfit made from a deck of cards." Whether or not the playing-card ensemble will work on the dancefloor (especially to the upbeat sounds of the Shameless Mooks) remains to be seen. Tickets $75, students $40; for information, baltimoregreenworks.com.

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