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Food & Drink

Bits & Bites: Heavy Seas launches cocktails, Ethiopian street food pop-up, Lexington Market moves to the plaza

There’s been a spate of issues lately that highlight food and water safety concerns, putting them top of mind. First, there was the suspected outbreak of food poisoning from Baltimore magazine’s The Best of Baltimore Party where over a dozen restaurants participated. Then came the E. coli contamination detected in drinking water for parts of the Baltimore area leading to a boil water advisory.

And that’s just locally.

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Nationally, an ongoing E. coli outbreak has spread to multiple states. The Centers for Disease Control has so far attributed the sickness to an unknown food source, although the agency says that “many sick people reported eating sandwiches with romaine lettuce at Wendy’s restaurants.” Wendy’s has removed certain types of lettuce from its menu while the investigation continues.

Before that, there were concerns and some recalls related to potential contaminants in ice cream, strawberries, lentils, peanut butter, and baby spinach, to name a few.

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Food safety experts say to reduce the chance of getting sick when eating out be sure hot food is served hot and cold food is served cold. Avoid anything lukewarm. Also, ask if sauces or dressings contain ingredients like raw eggs. Finally, make sure leftovers are refrigerated within two hours and are consumed within 3-4 days. For more information, go to cdc.gov.

Heavy Seas Beer launches canned vodka cocktails

Heavy Seas releases crafted cocktails

Cocktails on the go? Baltimore’s Heavy Seas Beer says we can-can-can do it.

The Halethorpe-based brewery, known for its craft beers, has a new crush: canned cocktails. It’s introducing a lineup of vodka-based crafted cocktails in 12-ounce cans with a 7% ABV (alcohol by volume). Flavors include Orange Crush, Watermelon Crush, Cherry Limeade and Strawberry Lemonade.

Owner Hugh Sisson, the brewery’s founder, said his favorite flavor is the Orange Crush. “It’s so indigenous to this area, although they’re all really good.”

Sisson said the new line arrives at a time when beer companies are trying to diversify and reach would-be customers who are not primarily beer drinkers.

“The beer business is sort of in the process for morphing and lines are getting blurred between categories,” he said. “You don’t want to be a beer company but a beverage company.”

With canned drinks being hugely popular, it made sense to move in that direction. Sisson said 90% of craft beer was sold in bottles a decade ago, but now 70% is sold in cans.

“It’s convenience. Cans go more places,” Sisson said, pointing out that it’s easy to toss one into a beach or golf bag. “People who have more active lifestyles, they prefer cans.”

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Heavy Seas plans for the ready to drink cocktails to be distributed year-round in the Mid-Atlantic area. The company has already shipped 4,000 cases.

Sisson expects heavy competition from established canned drinks, especially hard seltzers, which are leaders in the category. But he’s not too worried.

“The seltzers kind of opened the door, “ Sisson said. “[But they] have lost some ground. And they’re bland. People like flavor.”

Habesha Flavor brings Ethiopian food to R. House pop-up

Micknai Arefaine is an Ethiopian-American chef living in Baltimore. She has worked in and managed restaurants for nearly
30 years. Her cafe, Habesha Flavor, has a pop-up at R. House through Sept. 30.

Chef Micknai Arefaine brings the fusion stylings of Ethiopian cuisine to Habesha Flavor, the latest pop-up restaurant at R. House in Remington.

Arefaine, who grew up in Harrisonburg, Virginia, moved to Baltimore during the pandemic after going to grad school on the West Coast. She has a master’s degree in applied anthropology but cooking is her passion and her heritage.

“My family had a restaurant in Harrisonburg for 10 years and I ran that [Blue Nile Ethiopian Cuisine] for six years,” she said. An uncle has owned the Ethiopian restaurant Abyssinia in Philadelphia for almost 30 years.

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So to say Arefaine has the chops is to understate how deeply immersed in Ethiopian culture she is. And how deeply concerned she feels for the country and for her family there.

“I started going to Ethiopia when I was 16. I have been there more than 20 times,” she said. “A war is going on there now and the area where I go to see my family is currently blocked off and you cannot go there. It has been a very difficult time for me.”

Add to that the stress of grad school and as for many, the pandemic did not help. So Arefaine said she came to Baltimore in search of peace.

And she found it in the city and the arts and the people, who gave her the encouragement to return to her roots and embark on a new food journey.

“There’s great energy here,” she said of Baltimore, explaining how when she arrived in 2020 she would just walk for miles exploring the nooks and crannies of the city. “So bit by bit, I started to find my courage again and my inspiration.”

Arefaine began joyfully sharing food with friends and neighbors, preparing the simple Ethiopian dishes that are a part of her life. “People just loved the food and they wanted more of it. It was like something from my heart and it was very healing.”

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Habesha Flavor serves Ethiopian traditional and fusion conscious cuisine using locally and internationally sourced ingredients. The pop up menu will feature fresh made injera (a pancake-like flatbread above), vegan and meat dishes, and nourishing rice bowls. Chef Micknai pays homage to the women in her lineage who told stories through culinary brilliance and resilience.

At Habesha Flavor pop-up cafe, she is offering Ethiopian street food that reminds her of Addis Ababa and soothes feelings of being homesick. “We’ve taken the elements of Ethiopian food and mixed them all together,” she said.

The rice bowls include choice of tofu, chicken or beef with vegetables — stewed collard greens and split peas are currently offered — topped with a savory chickpea gravy. A dish of fit fit, the Ethiopian mainstay, includes a choice of protein served over injera. All of the items served at Habesha Flavor are dairy free, gluten free, corn free and nut free.

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“I went into the pop-up with an open heart and mind, without expectation,” Arefaine said. “R. House has been very good to us and we’ve really enjoyed that environment. The community feel of it has been really lovely.”

Lexington Market moves into transition phase

Dr. David Fakunle, a professor of public health at Morgan State University, performs outside during a 70th anniversary closing tribute for Lexington Market East. Food trucks and merchants will be opening in the new Lexington Market Plaza starting on Sept. 6.

If you’re used to snagging a quick bite at the old Lexington Market, these next few weeks will be what we’ll call the “between times.”

The East building, the familiar facility that has been around the last 70 years, closed Saturday, Sept. 3, with a celebration of sorts. Then the bell was rung and the doors were shut. The West building and the arcade have already closed as part of the $40 million renovation to create a new Lexington Market.

So, in an effort to keep things humming along at America’s oldest continuously operating public market, officials are offering a rotating group of vendors and food trucks on the new Lexington Market Outdoor Plaza. This week, JBee’s Jamaican Me Crazy food truck is at the plaza off Eutaw Street. Hours are Tuesday to Saturday, 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. By the end of next week, the market plans to have additional food trucks, according to Cherrie Woods, a spokeswoman for Lexington Market.

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Faidley’s Seafood will return to its usual space inside the East building on Sept. 10. Customers will be able to go directly to Faidley’s using the Paca Street entrance.

Woods said the Faidley’s is expected to relocate to the renovated market by early 2023. The build out for the iconic seafood shop will take some time, partly because of its size. “It was the largest space in the old market and it’s the largest space at the new market,” said Woods.

The transition over the next month or so will lead to a soft opening of the newly constructed South Market building by early October, followed soon by a grand opening. An official date has not been set for either opening, Woods said.


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