There was an error in the July 13 article describing Baltimore's Harborplace. The Flying Fruit Fantasy sells only drinks with fruit. There are no diary ingredients.
ARCHITECTS AND city planners may describe Baltimore's Inner Harbor as dazzling urban restoration, but food mavens are bound to see it as one big exercise in gustatory hedonism, now that Harborplace has arrived.
With a 100-stall farmers' market on Sundays and summer weekend ethnic festivals, everywhere you look there's something to eat or drink. Of 133 stalls, booths, carts, kiosks and enclosed spaces in the new Harborplace pavilions, 66 sell food. There is food to eat sitting down in restaurants, of which there are or shortly will be 11; food to eat standing up at one of the dozens of butcher-block counters dotting the food areas; food to eat while strolling along the brick-lined walkways where the two pavilions meet the wharf; food to take home and heat up; food to take home and cook from scratch. High-priced food, well-priced food, wonderful food, schlock food.
It would take several weeks of serious eating just to do justice to the stand-up food.
Harborplace has two air-conditioned glass canopied pavilions, each two stories high, each with an atrium. To those with limited time, not to mention limiting eating capacity, the Pratt Street Pavilion can be left for another trip: All it has of interest are six restaurants. But the Light Street Pavilion -- where the aroma of the sizzling Polish sausage competes with cinnamon-covered deep-fried pasteries -- forces the foodaholic to make choices constantly: Should it be a slice of chocolate zucchini cake or a calzone, an egg cream or a strawberry pink panther?
The pavilion is segmented. There's a Food Hall, the Colonnade Market, Trading Hall, Sam Smith Market plus cafes and restaurants. But don't ask how the assignments were determined: Just eat your way up and down the aisles.
If you think critiquing wall-to-wall food in the midst of wall-to-wall people is difficult, (a million and a half visited the first week) contemplate for a moment Paula Rome's job. She sampled "well over 300 offerings, and that's a conservative figure" in the course of choosing the concessionaires. Rome, who had written a guide book to the city, called "Bawlamar," was hired because so many people wanted to rent food space at Harborplace. Rome did most of the leasing for the food stalls, kiosks and carts.
She said her "first criterion was does it taste good, but it really became apparent that people have to know how to run a business. A lot of people who are just good cooks at home can't really deal with several thousand people a day. We had 32 people in the cookie competition. A lot of them had terrific products -- little old ladies who had wonderful cookies. But they made them in batches of several hundred. We needed them in batches of 20,000 a day." Washington's Cookie Connection won that competition.
Six people applied for the baked potato with toppings concession. The one chosen, The Prime Potato, was not part of a chain, but, Rome said, "he came in with a terrific presentation."
In some instances Rome used her knowledge of the city to seek out potential vendors. She found the Harvest Fare farmers at the Sunday Farmers Market. "I liked their personalities. I liked the people working for them," Rome explained. Rebecca Pepkowitz-Tabor and her husband, Michael, also sell organic produce and Amish cheeses at the Adams-Morgan farmers market in Washington on Saturdays. At Harborplace, they have wonderful made-on-the-spot apple cider, grape juice like you used to get before anyone bottled it, preserves and pastries, which are made for them and filled with their preserves. All the fruit products come from their communal farm in Hancock, Md.
But if I had to choose my absolutely favorite food (so far), the soft Italian ices probably would win. It's part nostalgia, part good taste. Oasis may sell the only soft Italian ices within 100 miles of Washington. Its owner, John Kosouris, used to be a regular at Baltimore's festivals and fairs. Rome said he started with fresh lemonade, and "the concept just built until he had enough to pay the rent." He's also selling a Baltimore specialty, lemons stuffed with candy canes.
The soft ices are 50 cents. When I was 6, the big ones cost 3 cents, the little ones a penny. At 50 cents, Oasis soft lemon ice is worth every penny. l
Just across the aisle the Congo-Bars and egg creams being produced by Jim Burkholder and Kevin Connor. Connor owns The Man in the Green Hat on Capitol Hill and Col. Brooks Tavern near Catholic University. Lillian & Kay's Original Congo-Bars, chocolate chip brownies, come from Boston; the egg creams come from New York. According to Burkholder, egg creams are made as follows: "What you have to do is go to Fox's in Brooklyn and get Fox's U-Bet Syrup. You put two shots of it in the glass with milk and then seltzer which you bounce off a spoon and when it gets near the top you have to stir it." (No eggs.)
Burkholder says real fanatics "claim there's only chocolate egg cream, but people have come up and asked for vanilla and strawberry, so we're going to cave in to consumer demand."
There are vanilla egg creams: I had them when I visited the Bronx.
For those whose food nostalgia has its roots in the South, a visit to Ben Mercer's 10-by-15 stand is in order. Mercer, who owns Southern Style Bar-B-Que, is a Wilson, N.C., native. Some people think Wilson is the home of the best barbecue on the East Coast. "That minced barbecue is what got me into this place," Mercer said. He was raised on a farm where they barbecued their own hogs and sold them. "It's my recipe." A sandwich of it, filled to overflowing, will cost you $1.50.
For drop dead chic food, Harborplace has a sushi and tempura bar, The Golden Flounder. On opening day the sushi offering was limited to one made with cucumber, but the owner confessed he must have had 500 requests for sushi with faw fish, so they will carry it.
If you have small children in tow, you'd be advised to stop by Whimsy Works, where they are selling the sizzle along with the steak, in this case hot, deep-fried pastries 16 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide, sticks of fried dough, dipped in cinnamon, vanilla or chocolate, plus a lot of musical fanfare and dancing puppets.
Nearby is Lee's Ice Cream Factory from Towson. It is 17 percent butterfat and except for what they call the kooky flavors -- oreo, fig newton, gingersnap -- the rest are all natural. You can buy a 65-cent scoop of very good ice cream or you get a sorbet.
Since this is Baltimore, there are two raw bars, Shuckers and Phillips. Shuckers is a first-time effort. Phillips has been doing business for 24 years in Ocean City. They are selling three clams for 85 cents, and a crab cake with lots of crab but no great flavor for $1.95. They also have a restaurant.
Another Baltimore tradition, homemade Polish sausage, is being sold by another Baltimore tradition. Ostrowski's. You can take them home or eat them there -- grilled on a stick at $1.25 and good.
Washington connections are all over, Dianna's Caribbean Cooking, which can still be found on Georgia Avenue under the name Dianna's West Indies Cooking, is selling curried chicken, beef and goat. You can get made-on-the-premises fudge at the Bon Bon Tree if Leslie Carr's fudge machine has arrived by now. Carr used to be candy buyer for Hecht's.You can buy elegant carry-out at the Washington-bred American Cafe, and by the end of August you'll be able to eat at their restaurant.
Ms Desserts, once headquartered in Washington, is now a Baltimore operation, and Dean Kolstad is still selling the same delicious sweets, not to mention a good cheese bread served warm with butter, if you want to gild the lily. A big fat slice is $1.35.
The French Bread Factory, which has brioche for 60 cents and croissant for 50 cents and dozens of French pastries, has another Baltimore location and less than two months ago opened on N Street in Georgetown.
There's Greek food at the Little Greece; enormous crepes, 15 inches in diameter, and Belgian waffles at the Old Amsterdam Dutch Crepe and Waffle House; Chinese food at Trishaw Express; jollof rice at the African Queen; Mexican food at the Mexican Fiesta.
Among Rome's favorites are the Mexican Fiesta, Pretzel Productions, soft pretzels with dips from Philadelphia; Wings 'N Things, fried chicken wings et al; Flying Fruit Fantasy, fruit shakes with yogurt; Ms Desserts; Dianna's Caribbean Food; Southern Bar-B-Que and the Golden Flounder.
Still have room? There's spiedini at Tavola Calda from the same people who won "best pizza" from Baltimore magazine; a chese melt at A.B. Cheese, cream havarti on French bread; Nevada Annie's World Champion Chili out of Las Vegas will sell a cup for $1.15 when it opens in about a week; calzone and funnel cakes at Anna's Fried Dough; "healthy" foods at New Life; bagels at the Bagel Place; French onion soup at La Petite Marmite; French fries at Thrashers; prime meats at Simply Steak; fancy but expensive produce at Vincenzo's.
Books for Cooks will provide you with recipes to use up this food. All the equipment you can possible cook with is available at the Pratt Street Pavilion in the China Closet, another Washington transplant.
If you get tired walking around the Light Street Pavilion, have a sit-down meal at Jean Claude's, a cafe, or at City Lights, a brasserie with more French food, or somthing lighter at The Soup Kitchen.
It you want a change of scene you can walk over to the Pratt Street Pavilion where you'll find Greek food at Athena Taverna, a Frence and continental menue at the Black Pearl (a Newport, R.I., import), fresh pasta made in an open kitchen at Pronto and the Little Cheese. This is a little sister of Georgetown's Big Cheese. It is scheduled to open at the end of August.
In order to enjoy all of this variety in Washington you'd have to travel the city, and its suburbs. And you still wouldn't get everything.
In case you are still fantasizing about Paula Rome's job, keep her parting words in mind. Asked if she ever sampled anything inedible she said: "There's an awful lot of bad fudge out there that sets your teeth on edge."