Aug 23 2011

Hot and Bluesy

Last weekend, I spend most of Saturday at the Hot August Blues & Roots Music Festival at Oregon Ridge Park in Cockeysville. I had no idea such a beautiful venue could be found so close to Baltimore. The rolling hills just south of Hunt Valley horse country set the perfect scene for the musicians on stage, and the weather gods smiled on us, providing a sunny day framed by the weekend’s thunderstorms.

I’m pretty sure my days of 12-hour music festivals are behind me, but I devoted a respectable six or seven hours to the event. I didn’t see any of the bands from the B-Side Stage, but on the way there I heard a charming interview with the 10-year-old frontman of Lennon La Ricci and The Leftovers on the festival sponsor radio station, 89.7 WTMD. I had a great seat for the bands I was most excited about, and I was certainly not disappointed. (I do recommend the VIP tickets. You get dinner, free drinks, and plenty of space for your lawn chair.)

After a high-energy set by the 70s-inspired Kings Go Forth, Robert Randolf and the Family Band took it to another level. I’ve seen this band before, at the 2007 Crossroads Guitar Festival, and it’s clear they’ve evolved since then. Their sound was much tighter, and they were relaxed with the crowd. During the last song of their set, dozens of people in the front rows made their way up to the stage, and Robert Randolph just went with it. “There’s nothing wrong with a little bit of electric church,” he said. And that’s what it felt like–the crowd had become a community.

The finale was Tedeschi Trucks Band. I’ve seen the husband and wife team of Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi twice before, when they performed as The Derek Trucks Band featuring Susan Tedeschi, and I must say I’m a fan. Derek Trucks is a guitar virtuoso, and Susan Tedeschi is a talented guitarist in her own right with a soaring, soulful voice. When the two of them perform together it’s magic. I love that they allow the talent of the rest of their band to shine through, as well.

It was hot in the sun, but lovely to spend the day outdoors with great music and great friends. For the first time in a long while I didn’t worry about work or deadlines or grad school assignments. I left the concert renewed and refreshed. As German novelist Berthold Auerbach said, “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” Indeed, it does.

Aug 7 2011

To Market, To Market

I love the Baltimore Farmers’ Market, especially this time of year. Why? Because it’s TOMATO SEASON! There is absolutely nothing in the world like heirloom tomatoes when they’re in season. I could eat them every day. Dressed with balsamic vinegar, simmered in sauce, roasted…delicious! I have to admit I barely made it home from the market today before I ate one.

A trip to the farmers’ market is something I look forward to every weekend (when I’m in town, that is). Located under the Jones Falls Expressway at Holliday and Saratoga streets, the Baltimore Farmers’ Market & Bazaar is open 7:00 a.m. to noon every Sunday from April until mid-December and features vendors who sell everything from seasonal produce, eggs, and flowers to honey, maple syrup, and freshly baked bread. Local artists also sell hand-made jewelry, handbags, artwork, and other crafts. You can get breakfast (or brunch, if you sleep in) while you shop, at booths offering ready-to-eat food, such as crepes, mini donuts, burritos, and spring rolls. One stand even sells smoothies you can blend by riding a bike. And the line for Zeke’s Coffee is always long, but it’s worth the wait.

Today, I bought eggplant, cucumbers, and onions from Calvert Farm. I had a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) subscription with them last year, and it was fantastic to get new produce every week. This year I missed the deadline to sign up, but I love their veggies so I continue to buy from them. I bought heirloom tomatoes from another stand, as well as several pounds of plum tomatoes to roast with onions and garlic and then freeze for later. Fresh basil, bell peppers, black beans, and okra rounded out my produce purchases for the day.

I stopped by the Hawks Hill Creamery stand for some delicious Colby raw milk cheese, which pairs perfectly with the black bread with raisins and walnuts I found at one of the bakery stands.

Now, the only question is…what to make for dinner? I think I’ll try out a recipe from The Greens Cookbook for fettuccine with roasted eggplant, peppers, and basil. With a side of heirloom tomatoes.

Aug 6 2011

Buster’s Last Stand

My mom and I took a trip to Worcester, MA last weekend to go wedding dress shopping with my sister, and we had dinner with her future in-laws at The Sole Proprietor. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were greeted by “Buster” the giant crab, affixed to the roof of the restaurant like something out of a 1950s horror flick.

Apparently this curiosity can be seen only during crab season (The Sole features a special “Buster’s Favorites” menu of crab dishes–kind of creepy if you think about it) and we were lucky to see him, as it was his last day before retiring for the year.

The restaurant was packed, even though it was a Sunday evening  (always a good sign) and the food was delicious. We started with vegetarian roll and Tiger Eye sushi appetizers. Several people in our group raved about the crab risotto (a “Buster’s Favorite”), and the seafood with scallops, shrimp, and mussels. I’m a vegetarian and haven’t eaten seafood in several years, but I loved the Asian pear and walnut salad, which could have been a meal in itself, with a side of rich and creamy mac and cheese. It’s probably just as well–I don’t know if I could have looked Buster in the eye when we left if I’d ordered the crab anyway.