Tastings Gourmet Market

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Whether Annapolis is your home, your destination or a pit stop on the way to your beach vacation, Tastings Gourmet Market is the place to pick up a few provisions for an al fresco meal on the waterfront.

For some, the perfect picnic is as simple as a hunk of delicious bread with cheeses and spreads, capped off with a few chocolates imported from Paris. Those can all be found here in the form of a house-baked baguette ($2.75), a spread of marinated Italian gigande beans mixed with roasted eggplant ($5.99 per pound), and mesmerizing cases of fancy cheeses and Michel Cluizel chocolates (95 cents to $1.50 each).

If you're looking for something a little more substantial, pick up the Italian ($7.50), a sandwich brimming with hard salami, provolone, lettuce, roasted tomatoes, red onion and a red pepper spread with a touch of heat. The fillings are first-rate, but the bread -- kalamata olive focaccia with Asiago cheese and kosher salt baked on top -- makes the sandwich special.

The Italian Orzo Salad ($8.95 per pound) pairs nicely with the sandwich. Although shop owner Stacey Zier says the pasta salad changes daily -- sometimes inspired by Italian flavors, other times veering toward Greek ingredients -- on this day it was a perfect marriage of tomato, perlini (tiny mozzarella balls), pine nuts, asparagus, mushrooms, basil, olive oil and parsley.

The Spring Salad ($6.50) elevates greens from the usual snooze. Mixed baby greens are graced with two generous disks of black-pepper-dusted Vermont chevre, fresh strawberry halves, candied walnuts and a sprig of seedless red grapes. The house-made honey balsamic vinaigrette spiked with minced shallot hits just the right note, making picnickers wish the salad came with more than a thimbleful of it.

-- Rina Rapuano

Tastings Gourmet Market,

1410 Forest Dr., Annapolis; 410-263-1324;http://www.tastingsgourmetmarket.com. Hours: Monday-Friday, 10 a.m. to 7 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.; Sunday, 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

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