Comings and Goings: La Cuchara, Clavel, Heavy Seas Beer's Island Jam Music Festival

City Paper
  • Come mid-April you’ll be able to jump off the light rail and, within minutes, be sitting at a bar throwing back pintxos—small tapas popular in the Basque region of northern Spain and southern France—and sipping on wine while you watch your dinner get cooked over a wood charcoal grill. That was the scene chef Ben Lefenfeld (formerly from the kitchens of Petit Louis Bistro and Charleston), his wife Amy Lefenfeld, and his brother Jacob Lefenfeld envisioned when they started planning La Cuchara, the soon-to-open Basque-focused restaurant on the west side of Woodberry’s Meadow Mill complex.

    “I love the idea of going to a bar, nibbling on pintxos, and having a couple glasses of [Basque] Txakoli wine,” Ben Lefenfeld says. Another feature of the Basque region, Lefenfeld said, is the use of traditional wood charcoal grills, a method he’ll be using for his entrees and other dishes. “It’s almost like an Argentinian grill, but instead of cooking with raw wood, we produce charcoal with fire cages that will be behind the wood grill,” he says, explaining that this method eliminates the bitterness you can get from raw wood without losing the good sear and smoky flavor.

    The menu will feature eight rotating pintxos at $2 each, six to 10 tapas for $7-$10, and a handful of entrees from $18-$32. The space will seat 185 people and will feature two dining areas and a long 40-seat bar area where guests can watch the open kitchen, and the wood grill just behind it, in action. Pending permits and construction, Lefenfeld says they plan to have the space open by the third week of April.

  • As if Union Craft Brewing doesn’t have its hands full enough with its ever-expanding beer releases and events calendar, it has decided to add the Liquid Local Legends (3XL) Series to the mix. Meant as a way to both show off local “legends” (human or otherwise) as well as dabble in off-kilter beer styles that may not lend themselves to mass production, the series debuted on New Year’s Eve with the release of Sweat Shock malt liquor, an imperial lager that honors (partially) local rock band J. Roddy Walston and The Business. The second installment of the series will be the Atomic Mutation Saison, a dry-hopped farmhouse ale that pays tribute to Atomic Books. “[Atomic Books owners] Benn [Ray] and Rachel [Wang] have been such strong advocates for the Hampden community and small, independent local businesses,” said Union co-founder Jon Zerivitz. “We think this brew, with its funky yeast-driven flavors and a bold hoppiness from a generous dose of Nelson Sauvin hops, will represent them well.” Expect Atomic Mutation Saison to be on taps April 2 with more 3XL beers to follow.

  • Baltimore Business Journal first reported back in January that the owners of W.C. Harlan—the top-notch yet hard-to-find Remington cocktail bar—would be opening a Mexican restaurant and bar focusing on mezcal. After talking with co-owner Lane Harlan, we now know that you can be enjoying a sampling of the smoky Mexican liquor in the restaurant, called Clavel, by this May, if things go as planned. Reached via email during a research trip to Oaxaca, Mexico, Harlan said the space is currently being renovated and designed entirely in-house without the use of contractors and will feature a full kitchen led by Sinaloa, Mexico native Carlos Raba.

    “Spending time in the palenques and agave fields of Oaxaca with fifth-generation mezcaleros has given me knowledge and understanding that I want to share,” Harlan wrote to explain the inspiration behind the new project.“I want to change public perception about mezcal and educate people on the oldest distilled spirit in North America. There is more terroir involved in mezcal than wine.” The bar program—what they’re calling the Mezcalaria—will offer “education-based tastings of artisanal and ancestral mezcals,” culinary-inspired cocktails, and a Spanish- and South American-focused wine program.

  • After such a ridiculously shitty winter, we couldn’t think of a better way to ring in the spring than drinking beer and listening to reggae bands. That’s exactly what Heavy Seas Beer has in mind when the brewery brings its first-annual Island Jam Music Festival to the Inner Harbor’s Rash Field on April 11. From 1-7 p.m. beer and music lovers can enjoy the tunes of 8 Ohms Band, Pasadena, BALLYHOO!, and the legendary Jamaican reggae band The Wailers while sipping beer and noshing on Caribbean food. Heavy Seas will be the sole beer vendor, serving $6 pints of its Loose Canon IPA, Cross Bones session IPA, Deep Six robust porter, and the Smooth Sail, a new 4.5-percent ABV American wheat summer seasonal brewed with orange and lemon peel that Heavy Seas will be unveiling for the first time at the festival. Heavy Seas Beer marketing director Fred Crudder said the event is “about great beer, enjoying the outdoors, getting that spring fever, scratching that itch, partying, and having a good time.” Tickets go for $29 in advance and $35 at the door, with food and drinks being sold separately. Check hsislandjam.com for tickets.
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