It's the end of the road for Beltway Gourmet.
WBAL radio is dropping the weekly restaurant feature after 21 years. Doug Roberts, a local actor and voice-over artist who first cooked up the segment and continued doing it all these years as a station freelancer, said it was a great gig while it lasted.
"I don't know of a freelance job ever being 21 years long," Roberts said.
Or anything in radio lasting that long, for that matter.
Amid a tough economy, WBAL honchos decided that Beltway Gourmet had to go. The Thursday morning feature will stop at the end of the month.
"I think it's the numbers," said Roberts, who will continue doing commercials and special programs for the station. "It's what the whole world is going through now. They were very nice to me and complimentary."
Roberts has never claimed to be a hifalutin' foodie, just someone who likes to eat. He doesn't even cook. That led to a memorable flub a few years back, when the station started having him get a recipe from whatever restaurant he was reviewing, to post on the WBAL Web site.
"The boss called me and said, 'You know in your recipe you called for 20 sticks of butter?' The chef gave it to me the way he did it for 300 people. He said, 'Do me a favor, read these things before you turn them in.' I had to run them by my wife and say, 'Does this look right?' "
Roberts occasionally reviewed destination restaurants - he loves Woodberry Kitchen, Chameleon Cafe and (brace yourself, chow snobs, for a chain) Ruth's Chris - but he focused on inexpensive eateries with great grub.
"These neighborhood restaurants never had any publicity," he said. "I felt like we were doing them a service."
The feeling wasn't always mutual.
"We made a restaurant very angry one time because we had his soup and raved about it," he said. "It was delicious, and the next day, about 300 people showed up for soup and sold him out. He said, 'Please don't ever come back.' "
The pinnacle of politeness
Howard County civility has been very much on display lately, The Baltimore Sun's Larry Carson reports.
Like at a recent meeting of the Downtown Forum, a loose group of community and Columbia Association types that meets to discuss downtown redevelopment. Roy Appletree, retired head of the immigrant advocacy group FIRN, played moderator but noted that he is not leader of the forum. It doesn't have a leader, he said. The group is about gathering facts and information, he added.
"We don't reach conclusions," he said.
He called on various people with questions, including Bridget Mugane, president of the Howard County Citizens Association. She had her hand up frequently and, toward the end of the session, was called on for the second or third time. Mugane attends virtually every public meeting about anything, including County Council hearings.
"I apologize for over-participating," she said, before launching into her question.
At the end of the meeting Jud Malone, a former CA board member, called out to Appletree in jest: "Thank you for not being in charge."
A few weeks back, at a Maryland Transit Administration hearing in Columbia, a woman rose to address the state hearing examiner listening to testimony from hundreds of bus commuters worried about losing Columbia-to-Baltimore bus routes, plus one that serves U.S. 1. The woman apologized to the state official - who was paid to be there - for having to listen to their complaints.
Maybe not so polite
Well, it didn't take long for The Prince to prove he's not a Bob Ehrlich guy anymore.
On his newly launched blog, http://darknessrising-steffen.blogspot.com, ex-Ehrlich aide Joe Steffen reports that the former governor took a swipe at Michael Steele at an unofficial administration reunion last month.
Ehrlich attended the event. The former lieutenant governor did not - a good thing, based on Steffen's account of Ehrlich's remarks to the crowd.
"After making it known that he was unsure what the future would bring (nudge, nudge, wink, wink), he mentioned how he wasn't sure if former Maryland Lt. Governor and current media star, Michael Steele, would be showing up at the reunion," Steffen writes. "Then, making a comment I deemed inexplicable, Ehrlich said something about Steele's tremendous media presence ... before asking if all of us aren't just a little bit tired of seeing Steele on TV all the time."
Steffen suggests that Ehrlich, with his weekly radio gig on WBAL, might be a little jealous of his former LG, who was all over Fox as a commentator during the presidential campaign and now is running for national GOP chairman.
Ehrlich spokesman Henry Fawell said: "Governor Ehrlich had a wonderful time at the event and fully supports his friend, Michael Steele." Fawell later added: "The comment was meant to be a laugh line. Moments later, he called on everybody in the room to join him in supporting Lieutenant Governor Steele's efforts."