Pair of Choux Susannah Siger made many women smile nearly a decade ago when she married the unlikely but oh-so-right coupling of shoes and chocolate under one retail roof. Now she's added another passion to the mix: authentic French pastries served up with frothed and swirled caffeinated beverages, including deep, dark sipping chocolate sourced from places like Hawaii. Choux, which recently opened next door to Siger's shop, Ma Petite Shoe, is named for the light, buttery pastry used in such treats as profiteroles and cheesy gougères, sold here in sets of four melt-in-your-mouth bites. The menu also has a dense croque monsieur, oozing ham and gruyère, and healthy salads like sweet potato and fig or kale and date. The former site of the Baltimore Burger Bar (and before that, Puffs & Pastries), the building, which shares a wall and a covered front porch with the shoe store, was already equipped with a commercial kitchen, which was outfitted with a baker's oven. Siger has revamped the place with clever hexagonal wooden display shelves by local artisan Steve Baker to hold such specialized grocery items as tea and jams, and her wife, Amanda Pellerin, is installing a hand-glazed tiled wall. For now, seating is limited to the couple of café tables on the front porch, but Siger hopes to open an upstairs seating area later in the summer.
Choux, 832 W. 36th Street. 410-235-3442. Mapetiteshoe.com/café
Grazing In the happy kingdom of Woodberry, picking up a basket of produce from your local community supported agriculture farm is cause for celebration. Kale! Peas in the pod! A box of small sweet strawberries and sand-crunchy leeks! Music, dancing and microbrew! When Five Seed Farm began using Woodberry spinoff Artifact Coffee as a drop-off site for its CSA subscribers last year, Artifact owner Spike Gjerde had a thought. Why not turn the routine event into a party? June 7 launched "Union Graze," a festive event in the courtyard of the Union Mill building in the Hampden/Woodberry neighborhood. In addition to CSA pickups, the market-planned weekly-includes fresh flowers and fermented stuff from Hex Ferments. There will also be chickens on the grill, snacks, and beer from Union Craft Brewing for sale, and wine tastings-look for pours from Woodberry favorite Black Ankle on Friday, along with live music. "It's a new model for a farmers market," says Gjerde. "You stop by on a Friday evening and it turns into a party." Union Graze is a logical part of the continuum Gjerde seeks to build between food producers and consumers. "Why not have farm-to-table sub shop and pizzeria and taqueria?" he wonders. "That's where it needs to go."
Local Pour Ten years ago, says restaurateur Jerry Pellegrino, a few smart winemakers began making serious wine on a consistent basis in Maryland. "For years, the industry had been run by hobbyists and that's what we were exposed to." The bar has been raised, and wine in Maryland has become a serious enterprise, says Pellegrino. Indeed, the number of wineries has doubled in the last decade to 64, and serious contenders claim space on high-end wine lists. Recently, the Maryland Wineries Association (MWA) hosted the annual Drink Local Wine conference to enthusiastic response from sommeliers, journalists, and enthusiasts from around the country.
Pellegrino, who has long championed local foods-and is currently behind the "seed-to-table" Waterfront Kitchen-will highlight local grapes during Maryland Wine Week (June 14-24), pairing Knob Hall Winery White Oak with crab cakes and Basignani's red Lorenzino with a grilled Gunpowder bison rib chop.
Johnny's in Roland Park will host free tastings with different Maryland wineries each night of the week of June 18-23, featuring pours by Elk Run Vineyards, Old Westminster, and Millstone Cellars, a nascent cider company in Monkton. The Four Seasons' Wit & Wisdom will be pairing local blue crab with Black Ankle, and the Downtown Frederick Partnership will host a progressive dinner featuring a range of wines on June 18. "If you eat local, drinking local goes hand in hand," says Briana Berg of the MWA, who's corralling the week's activities. While historically drinkers of Maryland wines would venture out to vineyard tasting rooms on weekends, the point of wine week "is to bring wine to the people," says Berg.