What a list of big names! Saturday saw four of them on the Meyerhoff stage for the Reginald F. Lewis Museum's second annual gala. Vocal divas Regina Belle, Jennifer Holliday, Stephanie Mills and Melba Moore performed for a sold-out celebratory audience. But they weren't the only big names in the house that night.
At a pre-concert dinner reception, there was plenty of local VIP watching to be had. Mingling in the crowd: George Gilliam, Karen Queen, Paul Wolman, Dr. Ben and Candy Carson, Beverly Cooper, Dr. Levi Watkins, Rhonda Overby and Joe Haskins, Jenine and Patrick Turner, Page Davis, Neil Muldrew, Ruth Louie, Bill and Cherie Roberts, Stu Simms, Darius and Dessolene Davis, Hal Hathaway, Trish Fallon, Gary Murray, Dr. Freeman and Jackie Hrabowski.
And let's not forget Loida Nicolas Lewis and Carolyn Fugett, the wife and the mother, respectively, of the late TLC Beatrice International CEO Reggie Lewis. Lewis museum executive director Sandy Bellamy stood just inside the door, greeting guests with her 6-year-old daughter Lauren (who was very festive in her faux-fur bolero). Museum board chairman George L. Russell Jr. looked particularly dapper. Unfortunately, his museum co-founder Lou Grasmick was unable to make it to the event, having just undergone knee surgery.
Just as our temperatures take a dive, you can enjoy a taste of the tropics, courtesy of the 23rd Degree, which is scheduled to open this weekend in the space on Cathedral Street formerly occupied by Spike and Charlie's.
Owner/chef Greg Miller says the restaurant's name refers to latitude lines. Greg says if you follow that latitude around the world, you'll see the cuisine he's using. Fare of the Caribbean, Mexico, India, Pacific islands, Africa and Southeast Asia all make appearances on the menu.
For instance, the appetizer list includes: sauteed jumbo shrimp marinated in a tamarind paste, red chilies and sugar cane, served on Malaysia slaw with a rum sauce ($10); chicken empanadas topped with an ancho chili sauce ($5), and Char Shu barbecue pork short ribs served with spicy cabbage and toasted sesame seeds ($7).
You'll find entrees such as tandoori chicken ($15); two pan-seared beef filet medallions topped with red bananas in a dark rum honey demiglace with fried horseradish and garlic mashed sweet potatoes ($24); Caribbean brined pork loin, grilled and served with a mango chutney and ginger gravy ($16); and pan-seared lobster and scallops served on udon noodles with a lemon grass seafood veloute ($22).
"They're all big portions that come with a starch and a vegetable," Greg notes. "This is not nouvelle cuisine."
He says he'll also have a light fare menu for the before and after show crowds from the Meyerhoff and Lyric - a menu that will include pizzas that were popular at Spike and Charlie's.
Greg says he's trying to get the owners of the parking garage across Preston to stay open late on non-show nights. The garage closes at 7 p.m., when there aren't shows at either venue.
Greg says he's left the interior layout as is, but he's changed the colors to warm up the space. The walls are warm yellows, browns and tans. Railings have been painted to resemble sugar cane. And lots of tropical plants have been added. Downstairs is a banquet room, which will convert to a jazz club at 9:30 on Friday and Saturday nights. He's also setting up a cigar bar downstairs, as well.
"This is fine dining with a casual, tropical atmosphere. No pretenses. No snobby waiters," Greg says.
The 23rd Degree is at 1225 Cathedral St. Call 410-752-8144 or visit www.the23rddegree.net for more information.