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Food & Drink

Bits & Bites: Holiday eats at Baltimore’s Christmas Village, Ye dines on hibachi (but not crow) in Frederick, and Jerk At Nite suffers fire

Grab hot chocolate or mulled wine in a keepsake mug at the German-style Christmas Village in Baltimore.

Thanksgiving may be behind us, but I’m sure I’m not the only one working through the leftovers this week. I’m still thinking about the fried potato pancakes my father makes using the spare mashed potatoes: crisped on the outside, pillowy on the inside and topped with a thick square of butter, grains of sea salt and a dusting of black pepper. They’re proof that sometimes the simplest dishes are the most satisfying.

There’s plenty of holiday cheer to come. This week, I have a dispatch from the Christmas Village in the Inner Harbor, which officially opened its festive vendor stalls and tented beer hall to visitors over the Thanksgiving weekend.

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I also have an update on Jerk At Nite, the D.C.-based Jamaican restaurant that has plans to open in Pigtown. And I’ll fill you in on a couple of recent restaurant openings.

A culinary tour of the Christmas Village

There’s nothing like a mug of mulled wine and a box of gingerbread cookies to get into the holiday spirit.

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You can find both at Baltimore’s German-style Christmas Village, which kicked off earlier this month at the Inner Harbor with a bigger footprint and more vendors than ever. Bistro lights, a reindeer carousel and the 30-foot wooden “Christmas Pyramid” typical of Germany’s Ore Mountains might be the first things to catch your eye, but the market is also a destination for festive food and drink.

On a recent visit, I couldn’t resist sampling a little bit of everything: bratwurst topped with tangy sauerkraut, Belgian fries sprinkled with cheese, a slab of bacon on a stick. Richer still is the raclette, another holiday market classic, which is assembled in front of your eyes, with a vendor scraping hot Swiss cheese from a wheel onto a slice of baguette. Add some Dijon mustard, cornichons and prosciutto to make a satisfying sandwich.

Vendors scrape hot raclette cheese from a cheese wheel in front of your eyes at the Christmas Village in Baltimore.

To drink, there’s warm mulled wine, called Gluhwein, or hot chocolate (spiked or not) served in keepsake mugs. Or try a pint of Hofbrau beer, a staple of German Oktoberfest celebrations, in the tented beer garden.

This season, the market is hosting wine and beer tastings inside the tent, too. On Wednesdays from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., try wine samples from Boordy Vineyards in Baltimore County. Spirits tastings are on Thursdays, featuring liquor from Rockville’s Twin Valley Distillers. Tickets for the tastings are $20, or $35 for a VIP package.

Skate it all off at the Inner Harbor ice rink next to the Christmas Village. And as the Germans say, Guten appetit!

Pigtown fire delays restaurant opening

Jerk At Nite was just two weeks away from opening a new Baltimore location when the restaurant hit a major stumbling block.

The building housing the forthcoming Jamaican dining spot caught fire, damaging floors, ceilings and more, according to a post on Jerk At Nite’s Instagram page. “This has been very difficult for us to announce as we are still figuring out how to get past this,” the post says.

But plans for the restaurant aren’t dead despite the hurdle. In a comment below the post, Jerk At Nite said the fire is “only a setback for a comeback” and that it’s aiming to open the new store in spring 2023.

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“We are asking for your loyalty, your support and your patience,” the restaurant’s post says. “Through ups and downs we are going to make a way to keep the dream alive.”

Jerk At Nite, known for Caribbean fare like curry chicken, oxtail and jerk nachos, has another location in Northeast Washington. The restaurant opened a store last summer in Baltimore’s Rosemont neighborhood. The new Baltimore spot will be located at 1415 Washington Blvd. in Pigtown.

Controversial rapper Ye dines in Frederick

Ye, the rapper formerly known as Kanye West, was spotted dining at Frederick’s Matsutake Sushi & Steak this week. A Matsutake employee, who declined to give their name, confirmed on Tuesday that the rapper had dined there alongside his security detail.

The hibachi and sushi restaurant in a shopping center off of Buckeystown Pike is a little off the beaten path for a musician who once rapped about walking into ritzy Japanese restaurant Nobu “like it was Whole Foods.” West was reportedly in town for an appearance on Timcast, a podcast hosted by Tim Pool, alongside white nationalist Nick Fuentes and alt-right political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos. The rapper walked out on the interview after Pool pushed back against antisemitic comments Ye recently made, according to a report in Spectator World.

A few openings

The Royal Blue, a Station North bar and restaurant from the owners of Johnny Rad’s and Snake Hill, opened in October and seems to have been busy ever since. The buzzy spot features midcentury modern design, tropical cocktails like a blue-green Oaxacan Colada (mezcal, coconut cream rum, pineapple and Blue Curacao) and bar fare including smashburgers, vegan BBQ sandwiches and tater tots for lunch and dinner. 1733 Maryland Ave., Station North.

The former Salt Tavern storefront in Butchers Hill has found new life as Marta Fine Food & Spirits, an Italian restaurant from husband-and-wife team Matthew and Martha Oetting. Matthew, a former chef for Atlas Restaurant Group and culinary director at Titan Hospitality Group, serves elevated Italian dishes and other creative plates in the new spot, including a yellowfin tuna “cannoli” accompanied by avocado purée, garlic chips and pistachios. Martha, a 15-year hospitality industry veteran, is behind a bar program heavy on negronis and spritzes. 2127 E. Pratt St., Butchers Hill.

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Red Emma’s Bookstore and Coffeehouse recently opened in Waverly. The worker-owned bookstore/cafe has moved several times since its founding nearly two decades ago, but the new space on 32nd Street is intended to be a “forever home.” Grab a slice of vegan carrot cake and browse books on anti-racism, activism and more. 415 E. 32nd St., Waverly.

Honeygrow, the Philadelphia-based salad chain, opened in Bel Air this week. The restaurant in Bel Air Plaza is the chain’s fourth in Maryland and the 31st in all for Honeygrow, which also has locations in Charles Village and Harbor Point. 513 Baltimore Pike, Bel Air.

In other expansion news, local chain Neo Pizza + Taphouse debuted its latest pizzeria in Towson earlier this month. The restaurant offers specialty pizzas like the Chesapeake (lump crab, mozzarella, parsley, lemon thyme aioli and Old Bay) and the Fuego (marinated chicken, chorizo, jalapeño pesto, chipotle aioli, pepper jack and mozzarella cheese) There’s also a 34-tap self-serve drink wall featuring 20 craft beers, as well as wine, cider, cocktails and shooters. 1 W Pennsylvania Ave Suite 112, Towson.


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