Sunday, February 28, 2016

Holiday Recap December 2015

As February marches quickly to a close I wanted to post some fun photos from our holiday party circuit. The fact we had time to attend holiday parties this year was a game changer. It's been lovely not working weekends I must say. E and I went to the Trohv party and feasted on Blacksauce biscuits and dumplings and visited with some of our favorite Hampden friends. 

Carmen always has the most inventive and creative windows. The straws were used a snowflakes and trees.

Have I mentioned how big of a crush I have on my husband? He looks so happy talking to our pal Sarah, I'm sure about coffee.

I had another free weekend in December and headed north to PA to visit the suburbs of Philly with Katie and Tony while E kept the home fires burning at work. Gretchen and Robert had the most beautiful party and Robert made all of the food. I couldn't stop taking photos, even in the powder room, of their exquisite taste. Thanks for letting me be weird and love on your home guys. Can't wait to see you at Easter.

Their home is so very Girls Gun Club

The party was wonderful. We laughed until we cried.

I'm obsessed with their kitchen. The banquette most specifically. Every little detail is so beautifully curated. We had a blast after the party cleaning and telling stories until the wee hours of the night. Do you remember it was 70 degrees in December of 2015? I'm sure it's weird when people see me snapping pictures all the time, but I love to remember the details in photos and look back on them like a good letter. The other funny thing is that one of my long time followers of this blog is friends with Katie, Robert and Gretchen. The world truly is small, small, small. Missed you Baldry's.

The kitchen twine fox. Can you just? I found one here on Etsy. He had a British accent with a little lisp, because of the string, naturally. The "glasses" on his nose are scissors. Look at this cutie owl here.



I'm totally bunny and Girls Gun Club obsessed so the bunny hunting the hunter mold just thrilled my soul. Maybe we need to make chocolate in March! I have a little collection of copper and can't really figure out what to do with it in our kitchen. The pots and pans hung look like a beautiful sculpture. We keep things pretty minimal here at Stone Hill but this kitchen inspires me to think up. Thanks again for the wonderful accommodations guys and fun, fun time.

The next morning we were off to Philadelphia proper to see Katie and Tony's new digs. I loved seeing our wedding present in their library. Stieff Baltimore Rose  magnifying glass in honor of the city we found our love.

Brunch was fun visiting with SDM and MM. And just like that the weekend was over and I headed back to Baltimore to sweet Charlie.

Thankful for Sunday's and finding a place to be spiritually fed. I found an 8:00 am service that I love with a Bible study. I feel so refreshed and ready for the new week.

Thankful that Katie found such good people up North and that we get to see each other soon.

Saturday, February 27, 2016

The Private Kitchen at The Food Market

January marked our eighth year in Baltimore. Time really flies when having fun. We have met some of the most incredible people in Baltimore. Creative. Genuine. Funny. Real. Amy is one of the really good people. She is a neighbor but we first met on social media. We don't really remember the first time we met. Could have been at an Artifact meet-up but it was most definitely through social media. She is one of the most humble people I've met and her story is inspiring. Quit your job. Do what you love.

Amy sent me an invitation for an event at The Food Market showcasing their private chef's table in the basement. I was an immediate yes. Due to my break from social media it was a bit ironic that I was included at all in this writer/influencer dinner. I didn't Instagram, Tweet or Snap at all that night. I realize now that I wrote a ton of notes, asked a lot of questions and truly enjoyed the experience because I was fully present. Clearly blogging has been replaced by instant everything. But as part of my Lenten discipline of no social media, I've realized how much I miss telling stories through this blog. So thank you again Amy for such an incredible experience and another opportunity to dust off the old Stone Hill Farm blog and get back in the writing + photo saddle.

Amy greeted us in the private kitchen in the basement. I've mentioned this staple in our hood many times. We land at the bar for an easy dinner often. Brunch for Sissy's birthday, godmother visits and general good times are always had at The Food Market. We are so lucky we can walk, but the fact that they have free valet is such a treat that it feels fancy to go there even for a few snacks. Janelle and I enjoyed our birthday luncheon earlier this month. It is for sure on my top five favorite restaurants in Baltimore. That said, I had absolutely no idea there was such a sweet private event space in their basement.

When you sneak past the open kitchen and head down the stairs it feels as if someone is going to ask you for a secret password. The speakeasy is all the rage again with pre-prohibition cocktails but this room feels like the real deal in 2016. The table was set for 9 guests. I believe it maxes out at 12 but 9 was ideal. The space feels like a typical Hampden basement with it's brick walls, but didn't feel dank, cold or claustrophobic. They decorated it with the hutch, behind Kit, and there is also a flat screened TV mounted if you need to have a presentation, watch Downton Abbey or play a rehearsal dinner video. It's a great intimate space for really special occasions. For more catering details shoot a note to Ashley at 

Okay, so major food porn warning alert. If you hate food blogs and food photos then this post is not for you and we can't be friends. :)

Amy saved me a seat which by the luckiest of chances was right next to the chef's, Todd Lewis, the Catering Chef and Chef Chad Gaus, Executive Chef and owner, who cooked for us all night. They were best pals growing up and Chad went to culinary school because of Todd. Fried pickles and my most favorite item on their menu, the Pretzel Sticks arrived almost immediately. Have you had the beer cheese that goes with the sticks? Go hard or go home people. They are a signature item on the menu and I think I would revolt if they were left off the menu.  I feel sorry for my gluten free friends, seriously. 

Prep view.

We began with the chicken broth. It was everything. I could eat this soup once a week. There were so many elements that made this humble broth the star of the night. The prosciutto was plated crispy and freshly sliced. The mirepoix was just barely blanched and not like most overcooked vegetables in a homemade soup. The vegetables has a spring back to them that gave a much needed crunch to compliment the crunch of the crispy ham. The bowtie pasta was handmade and cooked al dente as well. The Whipped Asiago was pumped in last and when the broth was poured a la minute when you mixed all of the flavors together it became this creamy, perfect balance of textures. Cracked pepper and truffle oil hung around with the fresh parsley for the perfect bite. My mouth is watering as I type this.

Next was a gorgeous poached pear salad and goat cheese. Do you see that hot pink dressing on the plate? It was made with fresh raspberries, shallots, olive oil and honey in...wait for it...a Vitamix. No yogurt or anything else to make it that pink. It was delicious, creamy and a lovely surprise.

The Rockfish was crispy seared with the biggest chunks of lump crab meat I've seen in a while. Spoiled fresh.

The lamb prep was really fun to watch. You could tell Chef Gaus really enjoys his job. 

He looks like he is whistling while he works. The mustard was a treat with the perfectly seared lamb. We were told to mix all of the sauces together. The potatoes were roasted with a touch of salt and the tender lamb melted it was so perfectly cooked.

Each course was paired with wine and this Zuccardi Q Cabernet Sauvignon was the star of the night in the wine department. I love big reds and this one was huge.

The finale was a s'more with chocolate piped pot de creme. We discussed pudding and slurry's. A slurry is corn starch and water. Pudding usually has eggs or a custard base...I think, but I was five flights of wine in at this point of the evening.

David was our server and a true hospitality pro.

Photo courtesy of Charm City Cook

It was a great night. My dinner neighbor Richard made the comment that he didn't feel overly full after five courses. The pace was lovely and we didn't leave at midnight feeling tired, bloated or over-served. This is the sign of a truly luxurious, well planed menu. I think in total it was approximately 2 hours. 

Rental Details:
$300.00 flat rental fee and there are three options for how the food can be priced. A la carte, 5 courses, or the chef prepares whatever they want. There are bar packages as well. Sounds like a perfect celebration location with dear friends.

Thank you again Amy, Chad, Todd and David. You warmed up February in the most delightful way.

Friday, February 26, 2016

January Winter Storm 2016

We had a little bit of weather the last weekend of January 2016. Record snowfall actually. The snow finally melted this week, but I'm still ready for more and having dreams of this past big storm. It started on a Friday afternoon and I took a walk over to Druid Hill to snap this shot of the Mill No. 1. 

Nothing like freshly fallen snow. The quiet silence that muffles all sound. I saw neighbors begin to shovel even on Friday night and I wanted to gently remind them to calm down, rest, and just wait for the big snow. Looking back, there was so much snow it was truly pointless to try to get ahead of it. 

Early Saturday morning E and I took a walk at 6:00 am! Yes, AM. I woke up like a seven year old on Christmas morning and said, "Let's go for a walk." Eric gave me a really sweet compliment, but he doesn't like to have everyone know everything so I won't quote him directly, but it was nice and we bounded out of bed, put on all of our woolies and braved the weather. The snow was already pretty deep that it was hard to walk. We even heard THUNDERSNOW. Which is scary if you have never seen/heard it before. Lightening and thunder during a snow storm is just weird. I've only heard it out east. That never happens in Michigan. 

We decided to press on and figured if we got killed in a thunder snow our families would have the best story ever. 

Jim Cantore's excitement is hilarious for thunder snow.

By 6:30 am (1/23/16) the roads in Druid Hill had all been plowed but there was no where for us to walk but in the street. It was so windy I wish we had ski masks to make it a little easier to walk. So our trip was short lived and we did a loop around Keswick to get back home quickly.

It just snowed and snowed and snowed some more all day that Saturday.

I made braised short ribs and buttermilk mashed potatoes. Recipe here.

Because shoveling is hard, cold work.

Right as the sun was setting on the windiest, coldest part of the day, I ran outside to do a snow angel. Terrible effort and photo, but looking up at our tree felt like meditation.

It was such a fine snow that it got through the screen on the front porch.

And then, on Sunday, like magic it was all over and the sky couldn't have been any bluer.

We only had one shovel so I went off for a photo adventure visiting neighbors and checking out the damage.

Nancy's dad got the bad end of the stick visiting from South Dakota.

Keswick Sunday morning January, 24, 2016, approximately 11:00 am.

Druid Hill roads were totally clear and melting fast. It was so odd. Three feet of snow and you could still see the road.

My favorite benches.

There were maybe 5 people total in Druid Hill that morning and these two were the luckiest on their snow shoes. I tried renting snow shoes earlier in the week but couldn't find a place to do so in Baltimore. I need to get the following:
  • Snow pants...from TJMAXX...they always have great end of winter sales
  • Ski mask
  • Snow shoes or
  • Cross Country skiis

Dad and I were texting and he wrote, "Don't forget the birdies."

I made homemade suet and dumped out the seed all over the ground. I didn't realize you have to wash out your feeders. Thanks neighbor Mary for the advice. My finch feeder was still full and the birds wouldn't go anywhere near it. I guess it was too dirty or clogged up. Either way, I dumped the seed out and took frozen bacon lard, made a ball, wrapped with twine and rolled it around in the seed. Voila. And all the birds came to the yard and hung out.

Even bird nerd Alice came for a visit and G&T.

Monday and Tuesday were snow days for me and the neighbors did such a great job digging out. I did help a tiny bit, but Eric gets the crown for most of the heavy lifting.

We tried to go for a coffee adventure at Dovecote Cafe. Driving through the park was a breeze in his big truck.

Once we got to Reservoir Hill however we were stuck behind an Uber driver. Heaven help us what was that guy thinking? The roads were only clear on 83. Keswick was awful and the side roads were insane. We turned around and headed to Spro. Delaying my first trip to Dovecote.

Mexican Hot Chocolate to the rescue.

The Avenue was passable but there was absolutely no place to park except The Wine Source. We bought cheese and bread and snuck over to Spro.

You can see all the little birdie footprints alone with ours.

It was glorious. Let's do it again.

Thankful for times of rest, snow days and snow covered fig trees.
Thankful for wonderful neighbors, walkable restaurants who stayed open in Hampden and sunsets over Stone Hill.