Free Spirit

lavielleplatecupcakes

I love art, especially when it’s near my backyard.  Baltimore has plenty of galleries and museums at little to no cost to you, for your viewing pleasure.  How many of us take advantage of this?  I can say with most certainty,  I don’t give myself the opportunity to expose myself to more art and more culture than I really should.

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The Alchemy of Art embodies what a passion and love for your craft is truly all about.  The owner, Sheridan Costa, has made this one of the places to be in Fells Point, and Baltimore for that matter.  Best of all, it’s free to attend.  What else is best?  Well there’s lots of arts, lots of crafts, and lots of gems that fit just about everyone’s budget.

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And you know what else is cool?  They throw lots of charming parties and events.  And these are some of the most authentic and laid back parties I’ve attended in the city. There’s a great mix of people from all walks of life.  And when we’re under this roof, we’re all here for the same reason, to appreciate art and to appreciate one another’s company.

Good parties usually means good food.  And good food segues into good wine, and vice versa.

The longstanding sentiment for me with The Alchemy and anywhere that throws a soiree is to try to bring something.  Never come empty handed.  Luckily, there is a wine and spirits shop caddy-corner to the gallery.

It’s now become tradition for my friends and I to find affordable bottles of wine for purchase and take that short walk to gallery.  If we run out, it’s just seconds away. And the store has extended hours compared to most shoppes, so we have no excuses!

Last Thursday was special.  It was Alchemy’s third anniversary party.   Time is flying.  I don’t know how long I’ve been fortunate enough to visit.  It hasn’t been the entire three years, but it’s been a significant part.   And the gallery is getting better by the year, and better by each visit.

We were told there would be loads of cupcakes and foods.  So vino is necessary.  This time I was feeling sentimental (that tends to be every week) and wanted a wine with animals on the label.  For no reason, other than I love animals and animals on a wine label.  Yes, chickens!

The 2015 Vintage from La Vieille Ferme Rouge fits the bill as am everyday wine, for so many reasons.   First of all, the price I was able to find it at was $9.00.  That’s a no-brainer.  You see a bottle like this at this rate, you grab it, you bring it to a party and everyone will love you.  Actually if you were invited someone must love you anyways to some extent, so the wine will be an added bonus.

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This Rhone Blend has some spice and some kick to it. There’s something dark about it. It’s almost akin to eating a piece of dark chocolate.  Well in that similar vein, there were plenty of cupcakes at this party, so hopefully someone got to sip this wine with a chocolate or another enticing cupcake.   My wine never had a chance.  It was decimated in minutes.

Even though I didn’t harvest the grapes, or be involved in the fermentation or bottling process, it feels good when other friends and folks finish what you brought to a party.  A little piece of me feels alright.

This wine will resonate.  It has this distinct taste that separates itself from similar red and Rhone blends you would find at bargain prices.  It’s a bitter taste but it’s a good one. There’s nothing extraordinary or life changing about this wine, but it brings much to the table, aside from the price.

And I’ve seen this wine everywhere.   And as low as $7.00.   So if any of you are interested, it’s a standard label that might be at your neighborhood store.

Here are the tasting notes.  And even some more over here.

I look forward to their next party.   There’s a good vibe, with good people, and plenty of awesome things on display and for purchase.  I’ve included pictures throughout this post.

If you’re interested in learning more, the Alchemy of Art’s contact info can be found here.

They throw a good party near the holidays, so hopefully this will be revisited. And they deserve multiple visits.

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Support art and support local.  Yes!

Ideen

Downtown Abbey

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For those who loved the Abbey Burger Bistro in Federal Hill, then you will either love this post or be perplexed.    This is not all of a sudden going to turn into a burgers n’ beer board but, the Fells Point location is bringing some excitement barely two weeks into opening.

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Now the original location has gained a following and reputation by many as having the best burgers in Baltimore.    I am not an aficionado in that respect.  I do like ’em but never been a fan of the buns themselves. Fortunately, there’s plenty of alternatives.  And that’s a major positive. Not every establishment is that accommodating.

So what does this have to do with wine?   The original destination sells bottles for $28 and glasses for $8.50, which is the appropriate mark up of 2-3+ times retail price of what you would find in stores.   However, the Fells Point locale is doing bottles for $15.00.  Yes, you read that correct, $15.   If you just wanted a glass that would b $7.50.  So you actual benefit from getting it all for yourself or sharing a bottle with someone you care about, or loathe if that’s what you’re into.

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But this list is legit.  I’ve seen many of these labels anywhere from $8-$12+ in my local shoppes.

I had a couple of ideas for what to write about today but this one found me over the weekend.  Our awesome server Lindsey took great care of my friends and I this past Saturday.

The vibe inside was fantastic.  It’s cozy enough that on non sports you’ll find peace and an comfy seat at the bar or a table off to the side.

Our visit over the weekend saw a packed house for college basketball and the college bowl games.  We had a little bit of a wait time but nothing to get impatient over.

Alright I’m beating around the bush.  Which wine did I get?  By accident or not, the Pinot Noir I requested was already sold out.   So I’ll have to write about that another time.  Lindsey suggested the same grape from Root 1 which  I sadly must have missed, because I’ve been a fan of them and their wines for quite some time.

I’ve had their Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere before, and loved them both.  The labels are anything but an eyesore.  One of the better ones I’ve had the privilege of looking at.

It was the first time I had the Pinot and it was a winner.  This was a medium-bodied wine with a very cherry and jammy flavor that was so easy to drink.  Traditionally it may not be the perfect pairing with our burgers, chips, fries, and tots but I didn’t care.  No one else seemed to either.

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I enjoyed my bison burger and as a first timer here, I wanted to get a brioche bun mainly because it looks good on camera.  The meat was great, the bread was fine too but for what I was able to eat.    My peers enjoyed a portobello mushroom and lamb burgers respectively.

The meals were great, the company was the same, and so was the energy of the place.  That’s what matters.

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Like any new locale, there will be loose ends that will be fixed.  We had ordered crab dip tots for the table and only got regular.  These things happen and nothing to hold anyone against.   And a few of the other wines were sold out too.  That might be a product of a $15 steal gaining popularity so quickly.  We all want the best deals in town so this didn’t come as a shock.

I didn’t because I’ve already been back since and will continue to do so.   Eric was providing the drinks and food for round 2.He was cordial and pleasant.    The photos of their wines are shown below.  I guess I just have to write about them all eventually and in perpetuity.

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The Fells location, from what I’ve been told, wants to have a separate identity from the original location, yet also remain the same.  I can understand that.  The Federal Hill spot has a hardcore following for the Arsenal football club.  Many of those guys are dear friends of mine.

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I could go on and on but the word count is starting to grow.   The Abbey is a winner.  I look forward to visiting their Ocean City location sometime down the line.

And Root 1 is great.  They’re a brand of wines I need to sip more of.   And I intend to.

If you can’t make it to the Abbey, there’s a likelihood that you can find them at your local retailer.  I’ve seen them all over Maryland and in various other wine stores.

All The Best,

Ideen

 

 

What Pairs With Eggnog?

V-NO Pinot

I must be joking right?  Well not entirely.  Fells Point Main Street held their 12th annual Old Thyme Christmas event this past Saturday.  And it was a rousing success!

Part of the festivities including an eggnog contest with various bars, restaurants, and retail shoppes participating.   All it required was a small donation and a little stamina to drink something so dense and so thick.

My pals and I nearly hit all of them.  And that’s an unofficial count of 20. I feel bloated as I elaborate on it.

A lot of water to cleanse the palate and the soul was necessary.  But as always, wine serves that same purpose.

Tradition dictates that we head to V-NO.  I’ve been coming here for a numbers of years now and have always had pleasant service, a treasured experience, and lots of great vino.  This was no exception.

V-No Menu

Unless we wanted to be ushered out on a forklift, a lighter varietal was in order.   So without hesitation and in unison we went with the 2014 Domaine Brunet Pinot Noir.  Good choice.

After intaking lots of dairy it may have been a challenge to appreciate the simplicity of a solid and peaceful glass of anything.    And any flavors that we could have detected might have been marginalized but I still think it turned out fine.

After a cup of water our palates were reset.   Wine is a forever learning process and while there are flavors present, our interpretations and our minds are going to process a lot of different things.  That’s the fun of this. Fortunately when you can detect black cherry off the bat then it’s going to be an easier uphill battle when nailing other components.

The one link I posted above and again here mentions notes of vanilla and then another review discovers dark chocolate, so who knows who’s entirely right.  Maybe they both are.

V-No Reverse

The back of the label mentions blueberry notes and another one will say blackberry.  Who is right?   If you’re just having fun then no need to analyze every detail like I am now.  But it’s fun to think about and discuss.

It’s just a great wine that doesn’t always need to be scrutinized or dissected just to get a few fruits and tastes right.

If I could find this wine in a store I would gladly buy it again.  I have never seen or noticed it in my shopping experiences but I will surely be on the lookout now.  Fortunately the friendly folks at V-No sell a multitude of wines to go, including the one we delighted in.

For our friends in Baltimore and in the Fells Point neighborhood there’s no need to sell you on how charming this place is.  We already know.

There’s an intimate bar on the inside and plenty of outdoor dining outside.  Yes it’s December and the weather was still conducive to relaxing on the patio.  It doesn’t get any better.   Not very Christmas-like but no one’s complaining on this end.

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I’ve had plenty of inspiring meats, cheese, and other joyous treats in previous visits.

The bottle (with corking fee) came to a little over $20 and it was well worth it.  The estimated price of this bottle in shoppes will be a little over $10 and that’s nothing for what you will be getting.

During the holidays we’re going to over-indulge, even when we go with the lighter stuff.   A glass of this, or anything light for that matter, is a good way to step back and relax for a second.

It’s easy to get carried away these next few weeks, but there’s more than a place to take it easy and simply relax.    If we allow it, it’s going to be a hectic time for all of us or we can take it easy and appreciate all the things that make this holiday great.  Life is meant to be great.  An experience like this, that we had at V-NO, is a reminder of such.

Not to mention that awesome 80’s music that was blasting.  That doesn’t hurt.

Happy Holidays.

Best,

Ideen

 

 

A Great Weekend

Following last week the universe wanted me to keep the Mead discussion going.

The Fells Point Fun Festival concluded this past weekend and it was such an enjoyable time.  It was one of the better festivals I can remember and I’ve been going since 2002.

Since drinking in the streets with those charming cups was put in place two years ago, it encourages myself and others to appreciate the outdoor vendors and local businesses. Many set up shop on Broadway and Thames.

This year, more than most, I really took my time noticing what so many of these hardworking and dedicated stand-alone and independent businesses have to offer.  I did my part and purchased a few things to commemorate this special weekend.

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A couple of friends who knew about this blog and read last weeks post directed me to the Charm City Meadworks tent.  They thought I might find something to expound upon.   They were right.

Charm City Meadworks or CCMW for short has never been on my radar but it will be now.   The staff was so friendly, personable, and approachable to everyone in the 10 or so minutes I was surveying the situation.  I got to snap some pictures too.

Free samples of any beverage were made available.  And you know freebies always bring in a crowd, no matter what it is.

As we approach November, mead is the perfect thing to have and talk about as many of us may opt for more seasonal and flavorful wines.  If you don’t like the heavier reds than I feel these are a viable alternative.

With some intriguing options to choose from, which one did I go with?

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I chose the Cinnamon Still Mead and I took my time sipping this one.  The intent is for this to be savored and not chugged.  At first it wasn’t to my liking but it improved as the minutes went by.  This is an acquired taste that may take some getting used to.  But I am all for new things.

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To that point, I am grateful that this tent was available and was allowed to be a part of the street drinking experience.   I am not really a beer drinker and sometimes red wine during the day can exhaust me.   These all day events are a marathon and not a race.   This was the perfect drink to sip, relax, and take a step back to appreciate what a fantastic weekend this was.   And for $5 a cup this was a tremendous deal.

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The perfect beverage in your hand only enhances that experience.   I look forward to writing  more about this awesome group of folks again and that hopefully involves a visit to their taproom.

If you’re interested in finding out more, click here.   The first meadery in Baltimore is doing it right and doing it with class.

Can’t wait for the next awesome event!

Cheers,

Ideen

What’s in the Box?

BlackBox

I was “looking” for inspiration for what to write about this week.   As soon as I stopped looking and thinking, it found me.

As I’m taking a leisurely stroll around the beautiful Fells Point neighborhood in Baltimore, I see my friends working but also enjoying life at The Frame Room in the heart of the community.

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When you’re your own boss and your own entity, you can be open and available whenever you want to be. And that also means you can enjoy the fruits of your labor.

I walk in and the first thing I see my pals doing is drinking some vino out of cups! Seems like my kind of party.  So what was the drink of choice?

Black Box Wine is something almost all of us of drinking age have had at one time or another.   You tend to see it at many parties over the course of the calendar year.   I’ve probably had it over all four seasons and likely each month in some way, shape, or form.  I’ve seen it served at outdoor parties and barbecues when it was nearly 100 degrees, holiday parties when the weather is perfect for it, and everything in between.

And for further verification on how it’s awesome all year round, here is their Seasonal Enjoyment Guide.  I’m loving them even more as I write this.

This wine is not for the snobs and for the so-called experts.  It’s a wine to enjoy with friends for any occasion you want.  It’s to relax, enjoy life, eat some good food, and enjoy good company with.  Actually that can be said for all wine.

But this has also been a wine of choice for my friends who otherwise wouldn’t drink wine.  And that’s great. I’ve had a couple of my friends tell me that Black Box led them to try other wines and now they can appreciate where they started from, even more. That sounds wonderful!

But the wine is so much better than that.  It has won many an award because there is a strong soul and spirit behind their varietals. I’ve had many of their grapes and thoroughly enjoyed them all.

The drink of choice was the Cabernet Sauvignon and it got the job done.  It tasted as medium-to-full as a Cab should. Tasting notes can be found here.   The oak was present and I’ve always sung the praises of oak. The more oak, the merrier. No fancy glasses today.  Cups will do just fine.

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You get the equivalent of four bottles of this, for the cost of one.  I’ve seen them priced anywhere from $10-$15. How can you beat that?  It’s a deal on top of deal!

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And I took many pictures in and out of the shop itself for your viewing pleasure.   It’s always important to local businesses, especially new ones.  It’s this sense of community that has kept neighborhoods like Fells Point thriving.  They even have a blog if you want to learn more about framing.

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There’s great people behind the operation, so if you’re in the neighborhood or even living in the city, I would highly recommend them for your custom framing needs. Their specials can be found here and Contact information can be found here, as well as their location.

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For more on where to find Black Box, you can click here.

Have a great one!

Best,

Ideen