Author Archives: Andrew Gerson

Mash Files: Philly

10860367516_45d2dec895_o

Any time you arrive in Philly and get to head straight to a lunch at Amisyou know you are in for a good week, especially when you end that evening at  Zahov for dinner.   Tuesday morning I headed over to the Belgian Caféto start prepping for our Local 2 Ways dinner with an old chef and friend , Evan Seplow.  Famous for their Mussels, the Belgian did not disappoint. A full dining room of guests enjoyed Heaping bowls of citrus infused mussels along with the refreshing taste of Sorachi Ace.  The lemon verbena nuances of this farmhouse saison perfectly balanced the creamy bite of the mussels and the tart orange notes of the broth.  Local 1 was a welcomed companion to a pulled duck risotto with dried cherries and seared duck breast, accentuating the light fruit flavors of this golden Belgian Abbey Ale.   With many more courses in between, and a delicious sweet potato beignet with a snifter of Black Chocolate Stout as a finale, guests left feeling satiated and merry.

Slow Supper came early in the week and I jumped from the Belgian over to my Buddy Mike Sultan’s new food truck commissary to prepare for our feast at  Isaiah Zagar’s Magic Garden, withJonathan Adams of Rival Bros Coffee.  Our Ten previous Slow Suppers were situated in incredibly unique spaces,but this was by far the most awe inspiring.  This dynamic mosaic-ed visionary  environment is a true ode to the human imagination and spirit.  The energy surrounding this meal was incredible as family, friends, colleagues, and strangers dined in the most eclectic art space I have ever had the pleasure of hosting a dinner in.  The beautiful collages mirrored the array of dishes that we sent out, a mix of plated and family style courses taking inspiration from German beer hall cuisine.  Ravioli of pheasant and foi gras celebrated our Silver Anniversary Lager, and its artist created one of a kind labels where a perfect match for the decor, as well as the gamey, yet delicate filling of this handmade ravioli topped with pheasant skin cracklings, parley leaf salad, and creamy beer hollandaise.   The star of the show, however was a choucroute. This heaping dish of wonder, jam packed with homemade smoked sausage, boudin blanc, sauerkraut, and confit duck legs left our guests transfixed as they sipped their glasses of Local 2.

The dinners ended early in the week, but the adventures continued with an array of happy hour events at Time, including some rare beer samplings and a serious beer and cheese pairing with Rocco Rainone, an old buddy from Di Bruno Brothers.  New Jersey and Pennsylvania cheeses also graced our flat bread creations at Molly Malloy’s in their newly renovated home at the Reading Terminal Market courtesy of Valley Sheppard Creamery.   Chef Bobby Fisher executed the delicious cheese lathered flat breads that we had created that morning with a slew of local ingredients including double smoked apple wood bacon from Country Time Farm available at the Fair Food Farm stand at the other side of the market.  Reading terminal has a similar feel to the Magic Garden with a delicious and colorful mosaic of market vendors, prepared food items, Amish crafts, book stores, and an eclectic mix of locals, and tourists from all walks of life.

After an exciting week of Mash events I finally got a chance to relax on Wyebrook Farm with my master butcher pal Brian Mayer, and his family.  Brian helped curate Wyebrook’s diverse polyculture, butchery, and curing program with the rest of the staff. This historic property is a true testament to simple, yet sustainable animal farming practices, not to mention a majestic place to spend the afternoon. I ate amazing food in Philly all week long, (and cooked some too) but the best bite I took the whole week was a simply prepared burger with the most flavorful meat I have ever tasted. Here’s to the simple things Philly!

Mash Files: Pittsburgh

IMG_1624

Mash Pittsburgh was deliciously nuzzled between two amazing meals, a dinner at the soon to open Butcher in The Rye, and a collaborative fall dinner at White Oak Farm, with five of the cities culinary juggernauts. The week began in the kitchen making perogies with Chef Richard Deshantz owner of meat and potatoes, and Nine On Nine. Richard opened the first Gastro Pub in Pittsburgh and is playing an integral role in revitalizing downtown Pittsburgh’s culinary scene. Downtown is transforming slowly, but outside of the city center Pittsburgh’s neighborhoods like the strip, and Lawrenceville (where you can enjoy the 40 taps at Industry Public House, or the recent brews at, Hop Farm Brewery a dinner at Cure, the Firehouse Farmers Market, or fill your sweet tooth at Mon Aimee chocolate shop), are setting the tone for the rest of the city.

Butcher in the Rye, this Mad Hatter ode to J.D Salinger is the most interesting restaurant space I have seen this year. At this downtown locale Clock Work Orange meets your favorite hunting lodge, where Stanley Kubrick and Jack Nicholson (think The Shining) would happily meet for bourbon’s and an excellent small plate meal. Butcher boasts one of the largest bourbon collections in the country, and with a an upstairs bar-lounge with barrel aged pre-mixed cocktails on tap will prove to be one the finest drinking institutions in the Pittsburgh area. Rich designed and built the restaurant himself, and never has a restaurant reflected the true nature of a chef more. From the bunny paws that lead to a butchered rabbit on the floor to the tattooed arm that leads you towards the bathroom, boasting the coolest locks I have ever seen not a single detail has been overlooked. This attention to detail carried over into the dishes we created, and paired with a fall worthy selection of our beers.

One of the things that makes Pittsburgh unique is the amount of Chef owned and operated restaurants. Our Sunday Dinner at White Oak Farm boasted three of the city’s top chefs and budding restaurateurs. Each owns all or part of their establishment and run their kitchens with passion, enthusiasm and respect for their ingredients, and their staff. From charcuterie made with heritage breed pigs (Justin Severino, Chef and owner of Cure), to ingredients harvested from her own farm (Kate Romane, Chef Owner of E2), or serious artisan sausage skills, beak to testicle cooking, and creator of the best parsnip soup I have ever eaten (Keith Fuller, Chef and owner of Root 174), I was deeply impressed by these chefs, and honored to share a grill with them on one of the nicest fall days of the year. I will drink homemade moonshine with those crazy folks anytime!

Working a farm dinner with David Cross‘ twin brother Justin Severino is always fun and the banter was as entertaining as the food, and as dry as colorful as our Brooklyn Brown Ale punch. Cocktails provided by bartender  and owner of Acacia, Lynn Falk, and an array of Brooklyn beer kept our jokes quick and punchy, and made for a much more receptive audience. Adam Milliron  snapped photos as over 80 guests enjoyed family style plates that welcomed their beer parings. Kriek, part of our Brooklyn Ghost Bottle Series melded perfectly with a kimchi sausage, and black bean fermented rice, funk met funk head on, and the rounded bourbon barrel accents softened the tartness of the cherries and subdued the depth of heat and acidity from the kimchi infused sausage and black rice.

The camaraderie, humbleness and level of knowledge being passed down in Pittsburgh kitchens from seasoned executive chefs and owners to the younger generation of talent will ensure that Pittsburgh continues to grow and evolve in a culinary capacity. Food writers like Hal B. Klein, and photographers like Adam Milleron are documenting the food, flavors, beers, cocktails, farmers, butchers, brewers and culinary faces of Pittsburgh, forging a vital link with a public eager for industry growth. Combine these folks with the role that Slow Food and other organizations are playing and you have a town poised for explosive culinary growth. Pittsburgh was once famous for its steel, coal, and pig iron, but now its heritage pigs and cast iron skillets are drawing the crowd.

Mash Files: Chicago Edition

10090235324_e327669173_o

Chicago Mash

All Mash Cities have a certain charm, but Chicago is the city I had the most trouble saying goodbye to. Diverse neighborhoods bleed into each other ripe with unique and delectable restaurants serving fall inspired dishes with a laid back feel. I haven’t experienced this concentration of incredible eating locales in any other city but the one I reside in. The array of talented chefs that grace this town are not doing anything incredibly different than other cities we have visited along the Mash, but they are doing it consistently, creatively  and  collaboratively across the board. The “Shi” is an artistic metropolis with a true neighborhood feel, offering as many cultural perspectives as The Bean (Cloud Gate) itself. Steel bridges connect this lakeside city and add as much character as the myriad restaurants we frequented.

Lake Michigan provides a gorgeous city backdrop, but it also creates the brisk winds and chilling temps that make Chicago one of the coldest cities in the country. I think the chefs there understand this better than others and truly value the short growing season, preserving the rich bounty for the cold months to come, and honoring the fresh ingredients in a simple, yet sophisticated manner. The network of chefs that I encountered was truly inspiring, and everyone seemed to know everyone creating a culinary community that spans many bridges.

Slow supper prep at Found restaurant reminded me of Chris Sheppard’s kitchen (at Underbelly, Houston), with more preserves and pickles then I could imagine. The walk in refrigerator boasts a rainbow of pickled produce that could have easily been an installation at the Museum of Contemporary Art. Packed Mason jars abounded like the preservation kitchen at Blackberry Farm, as captivating as the amphitheater and BP Bridge in Millennium Park, by architect and artist Frank Gehry. Nicole Pederson might be a pickle queen but she sure knows her way around rabbit rillettes, and presses a mean goat pate that tastes of barnyard and pistachio, a perfect accompaniment for one of our Ghost Bottles of Crochet Rouge Riesling. Combined with pickled sausage, fresh made mustard, and sweet but tangy plum butter. This course and many others demonstrated the typical style of many of the chefs we encountered, with a full understanding of local ingredients and a playful, yet traditional approach.

Small Bar’s rabbit pate, marmalade, and parsley salad also accented the nuances of Crochet Rouge Sauvignon Blanc, expertly prepared by Executive Chef Justin White.  Ghost Bottles graced the tables at both of our meals, but  Carnegie Special 175th Anniversary Porter was most appropriate in capturing the essence of our 1883 World Fair Slow Supper feast, and a perfect accompaniment to the dramatic reading by Paul Durica, author of Chicago by Day and Night, as well as the delectable poached pear and sponge cake it was served with.

Our week of Mash events melded perfectly  with the intoxicating energy of Chicago, from its many farmers markets, artistic and thoughtfully designed green spaces, diverse neighborhoods, talented chefs, and impressive architecture. From Longman and Eagle, to Lula café, Nightwood, Fat Rice, Little Goat, there were more great restaurants then I could imagine, or find time to eat at. Whether sitting in a hole in the wall Mexican place on the east side, dining on Randolph street, or out in Evanston you can be sure that Chicago’s food scene will leave you satiated, smiling, and extremely impressed. I just hope your stay is longer than mine. I am in agreement with my cousin Ari, Chicago may be the greatest city in the country, at least four months out of the year. I hope your larders are packed for the remaining eight months. Stay warm Chicago, can’t wait to see you next year!

MASH Files: DC

9919418995_796c7f3216_b

The District of Columbia might be the Nation’s Capital, but with such a vibrant Ethiopian community it is also the epicenter of Ethiopian cuisine in the US. Chef Hiyaw Gebryohanness, founder of Taste of Ethiopia was a perfect Slow Supper DC ambassador. I learned about the history and culture of Ethiopian cuisine, as we prepared modern riffs on Ethiopian classics. My Injera-baking compatriot expertly demonstrated the proper way to make an authentic one hundred percent teff crêpes (an ancient grain and staple of Ethiopian cuisine). The three day fermentation process yields a tart and sourdough-esque batter that is griddled on a hot plate until bubbles form on top and is slid off with a hand woven reed mat to join the steaming stack. Injera is the tastiest utensil I have ever encountered, and it served that purpose in 3 different iterations throughout our 6 course meal, a crisp chip for berbere guacamole, a perfect spoon for a rich and spicy chicken peanut Stew (Loze Wet), and a sweet version  to scoop up the last bits of Cardamom Honey wine Pudding.

We got a chance to see some of Hiyaw’s family and friends  at other Ethiopian restaurants around the city as we quested to find a few bottles of the homemade honey wine, Ethiopia’s answer to mead, a super potent but delicious drink. Over sixty  guest filled the cozy second floor loft at  Studio 52 to break bread the Ethiopian way, with a family style meal paired with Brooklyn big bottles, eye inspiring projection candy from Nuit blanche, and comic book inspired menus and place mats from local artist and illustrator Elizabeth Graeber.

Ethiopia may have been the inspiration for Slow Supper but it was Modern American with a new world Italian flair that graced the tables at Local 2 Ways. A Scallop crudo paired with Sorachi Ace started the meal off right. House cured Charcuterie and Foie Gras torchons welcomed the delicate fruit flavors and malt balance of Local 1, our golden Belgian Farmhouse ale. High gravity bottles abounded throughout the meal, to the last sips of Black Chocolate Stout that accompanied a warm and rich chocolate brownie with house made salted caramel ice cream. The new Match Box location is a serious addition to the 14th street corridor which boasts a slew of new eateries, watering holes, and funky places to be entertained after a long day on the hill (that’s Capitol Hill to those of you unfamiliar with the political lingo).

I did not have the pleasure of encountering any politicians, but I did get to hear the diplomatic comedic rants of those two hilarious buddies of ours Nick, and Joe as they waxed poetic about current issues in the world of VHS. Found Footage found itself at a super secret speak-easy theater called Warehouse Theater that I had trouble finding, until I realized the employees only entrance was just a silly ruse. DC, you get me every time.

Backdoor politics and backdoor theaters may be the norm here, but Glen’s Garden Market where Togather was held is a welcomed addition to the local DC food scene, where your neighborhood co-op meets event space and bar. Get your shopping done while enjoying a pint and maybe learn something too. I sure did, as Tracie McMillan author of the The American Way of Eating discussed the economic realities of our current food system with food writer and co-author of The Founding Farmers Cookbook, Nevin Martell. Nothing like an Oktoberfest and some intelligent discussion to end a rainy evening, especially if the meal you had beforehand was at Little Serrow ( my new favorite Thai spot).

We may have missed the cherry blossoms, but all in all DC Mash was a Capital success!

Mash Files: Boston

IMG_3652

Mash Boston reaffirmed my love for bodies of water.  This sounds strange but bays, oceans, tributaries and the beauty they encompass set a perfect backdrop for our week of events.   My past Boston culinary experiences were limited to super carnitas burritos at Anna’s Taqueria when I would visit an old girlfriend during college. Things have changed quite dramatically over the last ten years, and great restaurants are popping up all over offering interesting riffs on traditional New England cuisine along with many other styles of food.  I had one of the best clam chowders of my life at Island Creek oyster bar, New England of course, none of that tomato malarkey.

I was able to gain a new respect, and perspective on aquaculture and the vital role it plays in New England life.   The Atlantic Ocean, its tributaries, and the many rivers that lead into it have long been a source of sustenance, income and leisure, for New Englanders, playing a vital role in the areas evolution.  Much of our week was focused on maritime activity or its byproducts.  A small detour from our seafood centric meals was our Local Two Ways dinner at Poe’s Tip Tap Room with Chef Brian Poe, and many happy hour events at Stoddard’s Pub.  If you think I am busy you should check out Brian Poe, juggling three restaurants with the expert skill and precision of a veteran circus clown (the talented ones that hurl multiple flaming bowling pins effortlessly, while telling jokes). Brian and I prepared antelope tips and kangaroo tartar with a pistachio and yuzu gremolata.  I don’t know about you, but I have never eaten, let alone prepared kangaroo in my life, needless to say it was a night to remember, and as  I hop from city to city it is a flavor I will hold onto and savor.

We were back to the sea the next morning as we headed out of Boston towards Duxbury bay, home of Island Creek Oyster Co.  We arrived nursing hangovers that would make a college student proud, and were met with the sweet salty air of the ocean and Chris Sherman the Vice President of ICO, and one of the most knowledgeable, well spoken, and  downright enjoyable people I have met in a while.  Our trip began in the hatchery where oysters are bred, reared and transferred to holding tanks below the docks where they spend their first six months of life.  The algae lab is the most essential part of this process.  Multiple strains of algae (oyster feed) are grown in tanks and tubes of various sizes and pumped into the tanks that house these growing prehistoric creatures.  We boarded a small boat and headed out to the oyster beds that dot the bay, protected by a large half moon strip known as Duxbury Beach, and boarded the floating house where oysters are sorted into three different grades.  The passion and expertise of these rugged oyster farmers, and savvy business men, have made these oysters a coveted mainstay at Thomas Keller’s Per Se, French Laundry, and many other fine dining institutions across the couomtry.

Lowell’s Boat house, the oldest active boat house in the country was the setting for our Slow Supper dinner with Chef Marc Sheehan of Brasstacks (a local pop up restaurant concept). Marc honed his skills at Blue Hill, under Dan Barber before taking over some of Boston’s best kitchens.  I was thrilled to put out plates that mirrored the flowing history of the Merrimack River and work with such a young and talented chef whose historically relevant and technical approach to cooking left our guest begging for more.  Quahog bread and Black Ops pretzels where paired with Silver Anniversary Lager, and the boisterous conversation and glass clinking echoed far across the river just feet from the long wooden  planked  communal table constructed for our dinner by master boat maker and teacher Graham McKay of Lowell’s boat shop.

Our week culminated in a cyclical manner with our Togather event featuring Erin Byers Murray, author of Shucked, Chris Sherman, and Graham McKay discussing the waters that have shaped their lives, careers, and outlooks.  My sea legs felt much sturdier after absorbing bits of their passionate conversation that flowed effortlessly like the Merrimack, or the tides of Duxbury Bay.  All hands from our week of adventures were on deck for this memorable event. Sipping Brooklyn Summer Ales, and slurping oysters felt more like an outing with old friends then a literary reception. Boston I can’t wait to set sail for your waters next year. Ahoy Mattie’s!

 

 

Mash Files: Twin Cities

9144505625_0d5c7bee0d_z

Lakes, Gnomes, boats, a City rivalry, large communal feasts, outrageous storms, winding rivers, and a castle, no this is not the next episode of Game of Thrones, but the Twin Cities Mash I speak of. Our week kicked off with a dinner hosted by Monica Walch of Dinner on The Farm, on the rooftop of Solera, overlooking scenic downtown Minneapolis, and ended with our Slow Supper dinner hosted by The Brooklyn Brewery team, Jamie Malone of Sea Change and Monica Walch at Soap Factory, cyclical or what?

Our whirlwind week continued at Happy Gnome (our Mash Headquarters) where beer and cheese abounded, and I had the opportunity to get to know some Twin City beer aficionados as well as sample some local brews. Besides being home to a slew of Craft Breweries, Twin Cities has a cutting edge restaurant scene that is borderline incestual, but incredibly delicious. All the young talent of the last 10 years seems to have worked together at one point or another as they trained under their predecessors, and are now operating (or own) the best kitchens in town. I had the chance to work with two of these rising stars who are running great teams, cooking exceptional food, and inspiring those who work alongside them (and me).

Our Local 2 Ways dinner with Landon Shoenfeld, Executive chef, and owner of Haute Dish was one of the best meals I have collaborated on. Each dish not only paired perfectly with the beers selected but had incredible nuances, flawless execution, and were true visual works of art. I have never been in a kitchen where so many chefs seemed genuinely happy to be there, engaged, knowledgeable and incredibly motivated to follow the lead of their Phish loving, easy going leader. Haute Dish was a night to remember, even if the high gravity of the beers consumed made it easy to forget.
Landon is not the only talented chef in town, Jamie Malone of Sea Change not only impressed me (a far easier task), but the folks at Food & Wine, earning herself a place on the list for top ten chefs of 2013 (insert applause here) Jamie may be leading a crazy jet setter life these days ( I can sympathize) but her humbleness, composure, good natured humor, incredible skill, dedication, and mischievous smile make her a great gal to work with and learn from. Slow Supper in a giant art space, langoustine crudo, Sweet bread tortellini, potato pave seared to look like drift wood, Ghost bottles abounding, and a room full of boisterous happy guests, throw in an installation from Nuit Blanche, Stephanie Jarrett (vintage day dreams), and you have one hell of a dynamic eating experience.

Two great meals, boat trips on the purifying waters of Lake Minnetonka, a specialized Found footage Fest, a king sized temperpedic mattress at Castle El Maraghy ( anything feels like a castle compared to my Brooklyn apartment), a stop at The Beer Dabbler to see my main man Joe Alton for all the copies of the Growler, the greatest lightning storm of my life, The sounds of Jonathan Toubin, and riding tandem on a tube with my favorite event producer in the whole wide world, yah you could say it was a great week, Ya-knoow?

Charleston Tour

IMG_3310

We swayed into the Palmetto state on Monday and arrived in Schvitz city for a week of food, beer, brewery tours, and general merriment. My first stop off the plane was the cozy little bottle shop, Beer Exchange. I arrived to find Sarah of Goat.Sheep.Cow, Cheese Shop dolling out a Honey goat Gouda paired with Local 1, the perfect combination to begin my Charleston culinary adventure.

Charleston has always been recognized for its quiet historic streets, war relics, and Cannons and artillery pointed out to sea, symbolically protecting its peninsular coastline. The true soldiers here are the chefs, restaurateurs, and brewers who not only protect, but also foster a local food system with a valor that only a southern gentleman could muster. And believe me this is not an assumption, I tried a pretty significant cross section of the restaurants that make Charleston one of the most vibrant food capitals I have been to. Charleston has a particular balance of Southern inspired cuisine mixed with great fusion spots, crafting local ingredient forward menus with a southern sensibility like, Xiao Bao Biscuits, Two Boroughs Larder, Husk and the Butcher and Bee. If it sounds like I am listing places it is because I am, we ate our faces off trying to work through all the recommendations we received. Figs Italian inspired menu was a perfect meal from start to finish, and seven of us worked our way through the entire thing. Throw in Liberty Tap Room, Tattooed Moose, The Glass Onion and you have a serious food scene mixed with southern hospitality, great beer, and a true sense of community.

I had the opportunity to eat at all of the Places mentioned above but the real highlight of the week was cooking with Todd Garrigan at Craftsmen Kitchen and Tap Room. Todd and I created a menu inspired by his cuisine, and perfectly paired with our beers. Duck Ham, a Mallard riff on southern cured ham melded perfectly with the deep cherry flavors of Our Kriek (Ghost Bottle). Guests drank Sorachi Ace alongside seared Head on Shrimp and sautéed vegetables as a typical June Monsoon poured through town. As the rain pounded down its sound was lost amongst boisterous conversation, great food, and flowing beers.

Wednesday was a much anticipated Charleston brewery tour where we got a chance to visit local legends like Westbrook, Holy City, and the ones who started it all, Palmetto Brewery. After three hours of meandering around town in the sweltering heat before our tour started, I was ready for a cold beer. Our tour guide and drinking companion from Brews Cruise explained that Charleston had a rich brewing tradition, but the reemergence of breweries after prohibition was slow to take hold. They may have started late in the game but these brewers are not messing around, and If my Lost bag ever arrives I will have some delicious bottles to remember my new friends by. We ended the day at Holy City, sitting around the bar in a large open garage and patio equipped with darts, a pool table, corn hole, and a full view of the Brew House just feet away. If it sounds like all we did was eat and drink your wrong, we sweated too, which is kind of like exercise, so I don’t feel so bad about our culinary pursuits.

A Table Full of Ace’s (and Oysters)

photo 1 (1)

What  used to be a poor mans lunch, (Oysters and farm house saison), has become  a decadent  snack .  Sorachi Ace is a likely companion for the sweet flesh of the West Coast  Kumamoto oyster, picking up on the citrus caviar (finger lime) accompaniment.  Sorachi also balances the ocean-like salty brine of local Blue Point Oysters, and the apple mignonette they where topped with,  making it an ideal pairing for East or West Coast oysters, and a lazy afternoon with friends.

A meal fit for Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager.

Brooklyn Silver Anniversary Lager

photo (14)

Seared Hanger Steak with Cayuga Grains Wheat Berries, and Parsnip Puree

photo (13)

Sleeper Moses Brie (Jasper Hill Dairy) Wrapped in Roasted Purple Spring Onions

The smooth malt character of this Dopelbock version of our flagship lager balances the roasted elements of this dish with the sweet and earthy notes of the parsnip puree. With a body strong enough to hold up to roasted meat and fine tuned delicate flavor to work with the subtleties of this unique cheese and onion pairing, the versatility of this beer makes it an ideal dinner guest.

photo (12)

Mash Files: Charm City Edition

Bmore Mash plate

[Flatbread Spring Salad from Slow Supper @ Cylburn Mansion.]

After a great weekend in Philly with my family I hopped into the car with Meg, our Event Producer, and my partner in Mash voyages, and headed for Baltimore. Hersh’s Pizza was our first stop on this rainy evening, but a tour of the kitchen and the 950 F Italian wood-fired pizza oven warmed us right up. After meeting Josh, Chef and Owner of Hersh’s and sampling some of his great pies, I was eager to start cooking the menu we collaborated on for our Local 2 Ways dinner. Charm City stood up to its name as the skies cleared on Tuesday, and the Baltimore Mash hit the ground running with the speed of a lookout boy from HBO’s The Wire. Max’s Tap House, just a block from the harbor, provided a perfect Mash HQ. We sat outside sipping cask ales before heading off to Birroteca to try another modern Italian take on the pizzeria. After living so many years in Italy, it is always nice to find good Italian food in a new city. (continued below)

Birrotecca may be known for its pizza, but the confit calamari and the house-cured meats were out of this world. I have never had calamari as tender in my life. The Duck Prosciutto was like stepping into a Peking duck house with subtle notes of star anise, so good I changed our Sunday Slow Supper menu to feature it as one of the courses. Another menu adaptation occurred when I tasted the passion fruit buddino. My mouth went wild with the most amazing puckering tartness, followed by a smooth tropical sweetness; I knew we had to incorporate it in our dinner.

Early the next morning I headed back to Birroteca to meet up with Executive Chef Cyrus Keefer, the mastermind behind these dishes, along with Aja Cage the buddino goddess/Pastry Chef. We tweaked the menu, adding some local ginger to the dessert (candied and as a cookie), and planned to meet at the market on Sunday morning to get vegetables for Slow Supper. Then it was off to Hersh’s to prep with his team for Local 2 Ways. I was excited to cook for a group of family members and 45 other guests all seated upstairs in the private dining room. Many beers where paired with an outstanding array of food, from pizza with to crab sformato paired with Sorachi Ace. For a glimpse at the whole menu check out BrooklynBreweryMash.com. As my mother praised her son to anyone who would listen, guests mingled and stayed long after their last sips of Brooklyn Black Ops.

After saying my goodbyes to the team at Hersh’s, we boogied over to Metro Gallery to catch the Soul Clap & Dance Off with my buddy Jonathan Toubin on the ones and twos. I can safely say that Baltimore hipsters could give our Williamsburgians a run for their money. Many a dancer was left in the dust, sipping Summer Ale as their consolation, as number 11 shimmied his way to the top securing himself a roundtrip ticket to New York to compete in the Soul Clap and Dance-off Finale. Follow me on vine to catch a glimpse of those dancing skills and some super duper outfits.

I knew Baltimore had some great restaurants but I was in for a treat at Chaos Cooking when I found out it was hosted by the executive chef of Moonshine Tavern. John and his lovely lady had a roof deck that overlooked the stadium with the harbor in the distance and a kitchen fully equipped to handle the chaos that ensued. Chefs and amateurs alike doled out delicious dishes and john made racks of lamb with parsnip puree and a rich demi-glace that left us all fighting over the last chops. We sipped Brooklyn and broke bread with new friends until late in the evening.

Saturday was the highlight of my trip as I headed over to the 15th Annual Kinetic Sculpture Race, one of the wildest events I have ever seen. Riders in crazy outfits took to the streets in giant whimsically constructed vehicles for a 13 mile race combining water, mud, hills and other obstacles. I watched these crazy creations hit the water then headed for The Wine Source for a cheese and beer pairing.

The Cylburn Mansion could have been a set from the Adams Family with the beautiful Nuit Blanche installation casting ghost like shadows on the walls. Instead it became our Slow Supper space. Tucked away in the Arboretum the Cylburn estate is a city landmark that inspired a meal rich in Baltimore history. Cyrus, Aja and I prepared a menu paying homage to the local bounty of Baltimore and the surrounding area. As the band played, and representatives from Slow Food Baltimore, the center for a livable future spoke, glasses clinked, and lights flickered in this old mansion a midst the background of beautiful Japanese maple trees, we almost forgot we were in a bustling city. Needless to say, it was a charming way to end our BmoreMASH.