Wednesday, June 29, 2011
I promised my friend, Sasha, that as soon as I got a bit of extra cash I would take her out to a nice dinner to celebrate her choosing the best college major ever (a.k.a. English) and I wanted to take her to a really nice place that neither of us have previously experienced. I must have walked by Cacique on Market St. a thousand times and thought, "I should try that some day," so I used our special occasion as a great excuse to give it a go.
This little adventure actually turned out to be full of fun firsts. For one, I had never been to a restaurant that you might call "fancy" that primarily serves Mexican and Spanish food. We felt a little guilty dripping their delicious and bountiful salsa on their nice white tablecloths, but assumed they must have had at least some expectation of this possibility so we carried on. We really enjoyed this part of the meal because not only were the salsa and chips good, it gave us a chance to chat and soak in the well-decorated atmosphere.
The menu was particularly interesting not only because it was full of super-spiced up renditions of traditional Spanish and Mexican cuisine, but because it also took many items that you might think of as "American" food and added a foreign flare to them. For instance, I ordered a rack of pork ribs that they called "Yucatan Ribs," that came bathed not only in delicious BBQ sauce, but also several spices that I couldn't identify that added a unique twist that I've never encountered at another restaurant.
The presentation was spectacular. I could literally hear my food coming out of the kitchen as it was still sizzling in a cast-iron plate that I had to let cool for a moment before I could begin eating. When I did, the first thing I noticed was that the meat was so tender that it was falling off the bone at the slightest touch. All items on this portion of the menu come with a little platter for making your own soft tacos on the side. Ever have spicy BBQ ribs at the same time as a soft taco filled with fresh salsa and sour cream? I highly recommend it. If that is how they do ribs, I cannot wait to come back and try the steak.
But as with any truly great restaurant, Cacique is certainly good at introducing us to dishes that we may not normally even think about. Sasha ordered the roast duck. She didn't give me too many details other than to say it was cooked just right, which I'm told is hard to do with duck because it can become kind of chewy if you don't know what you are doing.
I normally try to avoid talking too much about price when I do restaurant reviews (Sasha says it's tacky) but I think it worthy to note that this is the place to go if you want a "classy" dining experience without breaking the bank. In addition to the nice table cloths, the waiting staff is well-dressed, there is an extensive wine list, and pleasant music playing quietly in the background. I've had special dinners in very similar settings for about three times what this delightful evening cost. In fact, it might be my new go-to restaurant for such occasions when I'm the one footing the bill. Only next time I will try the lovely outdoor seating on the bustling sidewalk of Market Street!
26 N. Market Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Saturday, June 18, 2011
When I was a kid and traveled with my family out West for my dad's business trips, one of the things I couldn't help noticing were old-fashioned candy stores and general stores that sold candy by the pound out of old wooden barrels. I was always a little sad when we got back home because those types of stores are less prevalent on the East Coast. So I was super excited when I discovered Sweet Memories candy store on E. Patrick St. in downtown Frederick!
I think what caught my attention were the gigantic rainbow lollypops sitting in the storefront window. You know, the kind that they have at circuses and carnivals that are bigger than a child's face! The kind that made me sticky from head to toe as a five-year-old, but tasted so good that I just didn't care. Yeah, those!
Obviously I had to go in, and what I found inside was even more amazing: rows and rows of huge barrels filled with candy! In addition to the usual suspects that you might find at the grocery store, I saw tons of classics that are harder come-by. Many flavors of salt-water taffy, gold butterscotches, hard licorice, lemonheads, spicy jelly beans, coconut Neapolitans, peppermint balls, Root-beer barrels... and, so, so much more... adorn every inch of store space. They have about 65 barrel-candies sold by the pound, and 200 altogether counting the individually packaged candies, such as the giant suckers. They have barrel candy from every decade going back to 1846. Little tags stick up from the barrels with a little bit about the history of each one.
And just to add that little extra interest to their theme, the walls are covered in vintage posters, like the promotional poster from "I Love Lucy" and an old "Betty Boop" poster.
According to Christina Chase, who owns the store with her family, it has already begun to create strong attachments to the community despite having only been open little more then a year.
“We get people of all ages. With the little kids, they walk in and it’s like ‘O my gosh, I’m in Heaven,’” she said. “With the older generation it brings up all their memories, so when they have the time they say, ‘I remember this’ and they tell us a story. That’s what we like about our store, is people let us into their lives."
It's no wonder that people have developed a relationship with this store when I think of the experience here compared to buying bags of candy at the grocery store. As I was walking around the store taking pictures, I overheard Christina and her daughter, Jamie, interacting with the customers. They had lots of fun discussions trying to match up the customers to candies that were right for them, and what went well with what, and so forth. It is this level of customer service and personal investment on the part of the storekeepers that will always give them an advantage over the big stores in the suburbs.
Oh, and check this out. Have you ever heard of a candy store that caters weddings with candy buffets? Well, you have now! Not only that, but they do deliveries off their web site. They have such a uniquely vast selection that they have customers as far away as New England.
So who has a Sweet tooth!?
43 East Patrick Street
Frederick, MD 21701
Store Phone: 301-620-4202
Friday, June 10, 2011
On Saturday, June 18, head over to Railroad Square in Brunswick at 11am for the Brunswick Music Fest, a celebration of music that grew up at a crossroads of the railroad and Appalachian Mountains. The concert will feature two Bluegrass bands, two Blues bands and an "old time" or Appalachian folk music band.
Unfortunately I won't be able to attend because of a previous engagement, but Hanna Politis, a committee chair for Brunswick Main Street, who hosts the event, was kind enough to tell me what it's all about. She said that calling it a "festival" might be a slight misnomer because the primary focus of the event will be the music of the five bands, but they will also have food and drink vendors.
“The music was created by the railroad because Brunswick is a railroad town," she said. "That kind of music is the Blues and the Bluegrass and the old time music that came to existence when they built the railroad into the Appalachian mountains because there were a lot of Irish, Scottish and African American elements. They were singing about the hardships of life or the heartbreaks at that time”
She said that one of the goals of the concert will be to reconnect Maryland with cultural elements that it shares with Virginia and West Virginia, but doesn't often express. One of the groups preforming at the concert, the Woodshedders, are from West Virginia and very popular there, but less well-known in Frederick County even though they play here on a fairly regular basis.
"It seems like the Potomac is like a border," she said. "That music and that culture stays there and we want to bring it into Maryland because we are part of that culture, really."
Hanna also said that the concert is part of a larger project by Brunswick Main Street to revitalize the downtown area. I have always thought it was a cute little town with a lot of great potential because of its history and location along the C&O Canal, but many of its storefronts have become empty and it doesn't draw a lot of attention from visitors.
"People don’t go downtown anymore because there are shopping centers all around and people live in the suburbs," she said. “We want to revitalize downtown and we also want to give Brunswick a good name for a quality event that will be visited regionally.”
Hanna hopes that while people are in town for this great concert, they will take the time to visit other aspects of the town that they may not have known were there, such as the charming boutiques, cafes and restaurants. She also believes that people would enjoy exploring the portion of the C&O Canal that runs just on the other side of the railroad tracks. I enjoy walking through that area because it's a nice long, clear path for exercise and it's nice to be so close to the river.
"It's incredible how close it is. You just walk across the tracks and there it is," she said.
If you are interested in attending this awesome day of concerts, Hanna says that it's better to buy your tickets in advance from their web site or registered sellers at downtown stores because they are cheaper than purchasing them at the gate.
Brunswick Music Fest
Saturday, June 18, 2011, Gates Open at 11am
Railroad Square at South Maple Avenue, downtown Brunswick, Maryland 21716
Tickets are $15 for adults in advance, $20 for adults at the gate, $10 for students and seniors and FREE for children ages 5 and under.
Advance tickets may be purchased by calling 240-347-8760, via the website www.BrunswickMusicFest.com, or in participating downtown stores.
The Woodshedders: www.thewoodshedders.com
The Kelly Bell band: www.phatblues.com
Donna Ulisse and the Poor Mountain Boys: www.donnaulisse.com
Beaucoup Blue: www.beaucoupblue.com
The Fitzmaurice Band: www.fitzmauriceband.com