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Sunday, December 25, 2016

The Mt. Washington Tavern

      Temperatures take a dip, I see everything through pumpkin-colored glasses, and my steps crunch on the ground covered in red and amber leaves. All this heralds the best time of the year. If you have to visit Baltimore, now is the time, the window between the humid end of the summer and the wet beginning of winter. Add a little wedding dress shopping, and you have yourself an exciting weekend getaway.
     Yes, my 26-year-old daughter, Laura, is getting married next year to a true Prince Charming. I couldn't have wished for a better son-in-law. That makes me grateful. He's also a native Baltimorean who knows all the trendy eateries in the city. That makes me giddy with anticipation.
     The Tavern, a neighborhood staple, was established in 1979, went through a major overhaul after a massive fire that pretty much flattened it in 2011. Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, it reemerged in 2012 to reclaim its place as an area favorite. Its Chesapeake Bay-inspired coastal decor is bright and welcoming yet casually elegant in a way that makes you want to dress up a little when you visit.
     The menu offered too many enticing options, a problem I don't mind having. Our table was adorned by Stone Ground Cheddar Grits, Prime Rib Cheesesteak, Cuban Panini, Truffle Fries, Jumbo Lump Crab Dip, and Three-Beef Chili. The grits were lumpy and satisfying, although I wished for a stronger cheddar punch. The cheesesteak-filled hoagie provided soft, juicy bites with the subtle sweetness of the grilled onions as a bonus. The Cuban garnered respect, although I must admit I had my doubts about whether it would be executed to the same level as they are in Miami.
     The creamy crab dip screams 'comfort' as soon as you see it in the deep bowl covered in a sheet of steaming melted cheese escorted by thick baguette slices. The chili carried a promise in its name, but didn't quite deliver. We expected a hearty beef flavor, understandably, but it just wasn't there. Dare I say, it was even bland. That was probably the most disappointing dish. On the other hand, the fries made it all better. Fried to crusty perfection, a mountain of thin potatoes, with its Asiago-covered peak, arrived to put a smile on my face.
     It was our last day in Baltimore, and we made it an early night in expectation of a busy travel day. The dessert menu was left unexplored. Also, to be honest, I didn't want to tackle that with the sadness of having to go back to the real world. Dessert must be addressed with proper focus and attitude. The probability that I will return to this cheerful place and play some more with their menu is 100%!

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Sunday, December 11, 2016

The Crimson Moon

     Dahlonega, GA... musicians' favorite gig? Turns out, yes. The Parker-Nix Storehouse, home of The Crimson Moon, was built in 1858 as a general store, and it's the oldest commercial building in the town square. It has even been romanticized by the locals as a once-upon-a-time mythical house of ill-repute. Today, it seems the acoustics provided by the wood interior is favored by club-circuit musicians. It's like playing inside a giant acoustic guitar, I guess.
     We arrived on a lazy Sunday afternoon, and the place was nearly empty. A lone guitar player, Jason Childs, was finishing a set. We sat right in front of the stage and enjoyed his last two songs. I joked with John, a prodigious guitar player himself, that I wish he would be the type to just jump on stage and jam with the talent. As if pixie dust had fallen on us, Jason turned to John and started a conversation with him about guitars which soon led to an offer to try out several instruments. What followed was a dream come true for me. I know what a gifted musician (disguised as a CPA) I married. I just want to share that with everyone everywhere we go. That made our visit to this groovy joint a highlight of our Georgia getaway weekend.
     The food wasn't bad either. Not award-winning, but appropriate for the venue and atmosphere. We ordered the Fab & Fancy grilled cheese sandwich, The Moon's Burger, and the BBQ Plate. My sandwich was generous, prepared on good whole wheat bread and containing plenty of crispy bacon and caramelized onions. What it lacked was cheese. The menu promised two cheeses, but all I could find was one slice of a cheese I couldn't recognize, and which evidently had a hard time melting on the grill. I didn't get that gooey experience you associate with a grilled cheese sandwich. Not 'Fab' at all. More like a 'Fancy' BLT.
     Once again, John gave in to his burger addiction only to be disappointed. All his usual ingredients were there, the mushrooms, the onions, the cheese, the bacon, but the flavor and execution fell short. I admire my husband for his perseverance. I would've given up on the quest a long time ago, and only trusted my favorite to tried and true establishments, but his hope springs eternal.
     Both the sandwiches were satisfying even if not captivating, but the BBQ plate earned the menu some points. A hearty portion of pulled pork in heirloom barbecue sauce, came with a thick, buttery slice of Texas toast, battered fries, and a kicky pineapple slaw.
     I could see myself returning to this intimate, friendly setting to enjoy performances by their accomplished visiting musicians, and even savoring the food, as long as I keep my expectations in check.

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