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					Baltimore Magazine - Best of Baltimore 2008                                                                                                          8/4/08 3:39 PM




                                         Best of Baltimore 2008
                                         Our annual guide to the best Charm City has to offer.
                                         Edited By Max Weiss                                                                                Search

                                         Additional writing and editing by Jane Marion, Suzanne Loudermilk, Ken Iglehart, John Lewis,
                                         Janelle Erlichman Diamond, Jess Blumberg, Mike Unger, and Mike Anft with Bianca Sienra, Jessica
                                         Leshnoff, Kit Pollard, Jess Hofmann, Christina Brooks, Carolyn Vidmar, Jamie Buonato, and Hayley
                                         Peterson.


                                         Fierce. It’s the buzzword of the year, first introduced by America’s Next Top
                                         Model’s Tyra Banks and then popularized by Baltimore’s very own Christian
                                         Siriano, winner of Project Runway. (You go, boyfriend!)

                                         So what does it mean? Its closest corollary is "fabulous," but with an extra
                                         touch of bravado, an envelope-pushing quality to give it that millennial
                                         twist. Which leads to the inevitable question: Is Baltimore fierce?

                                         If you check out the various winners of this year’s Best of Baltimore, we
                                         think you’ll agree that our fierceness factor is on the rise. Not just in the
                                         hip, new hotspots—like Harbor East and Clipper Mill—but in rejuvenated
                                         stalwarts like Federal Hill, Mt. Washington, and Lauraville. Plus, what could
                                         be more fierce than being ecologically correct? To that end, we added our
                                         first-ever Green category to Best of Baltimore.

                                         But this fierceness thing is still a work-in-progress. So we asked local
                                         luminaries to weigh in on ways to make Baltimore even more fierce. As the
                                         saying might one day go, you can never be too rich, too thin . . . or too
                                         fierce.

                                                  Food | Green | Shopping | Service | Indulge | Fun | Arts | Media


                                                                                     FOOD

                                                                 Bakery Visit Piedigrotta Bakery, 1300 Bank
                                                                 Street, 410-522-6900, on the outskirts of Little Italy
                                                                 at your own poundage peril. Delicacies—from
                                                                 profiteroles and éclairs to cannoli and strudel—
                                                                 beckon temptingly in this fragrant space. Owner-
                                                                 baker Carminantonio Iannaccone and his wife,
                                                                 Bruna, who tends to the glass cases of goodies,
                                                                 moved into larger quarters this year. Now, patrons
                                                                 can linger at small tables with their sweets and cups
                                                                 of espresso. But it's in the spanking-new, stainless-
                                                                 steel kitchen where Iannaccone works his baking
                                                                 magic. Perhaps it's no surprise that he's credited
                                         with inventing tiramisu (also available at the shop) in his native Italy.

                                         Ambiance In the beginning, it seemed an odd pairing: Indian food at an
                                         elegant Old Baltimore apartment house where residents were better known
                                         for their blue-blood taste buds than ethnic leanings. Of course, the
                                         naysayers were quickly shushed by the first-rate royal Indian cuisine being

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                                         naysayers were quickly shushed by the first-rate royal Indian cuisine being
                                         served at the Ambassador Dining Room, 3811 Canterbury Road, 410-
                                         366-1484. The elegant setting, with 30's-era architecture and white-table-
                                         cloth service, extends to the outdoor terrace in warm weather with a
                                         spectacular backdrop of greenery and colorful seasonal blooms—a peaceful
                                         tableau to savor in the city. You'll want to linger long after the last drop of
                                         chai.

                                         Barbecue It may be hundreds of miles to Alabama, but you really only
                                         have to drive to Cockeysville to get a taste of Dixie food at Andy Nelson's
                                         Barbecue, 11007 York Road, 410-527-1226. As soon as you see the pink
                                         pig with the "Q" on the roof, you know you've found Southern nirvana. The
                                         slow-cooked, hickory-smoked pork simmered in a family sauce produces a
                                         succulent 'cue that's hard to beat. It's why a friend of ours, who hails from
                                         Alabama and landed in Delaware, makes the trek frequently down 95 and
                                         across the Beltway. It's the real deal, he swears. And worth the trip,
                                         whatever your origins.

                                                                Bento Box We've adopted a lot of things from the
                                                                Japanese, but the bento box has to be one of its
                                                                most utilitarian—and delicious. Usually, it refers to
                                                                a metal or wooden box divided into compartments,
                                                                each filled with some sort of tantalizing food. RA
                                                                Sushi, 1390 Lancaster Street, 410-522-3200, ranks
                                                                at the top of our list for these "fast-food" lunch
                                                                presentations. At RA, you'll find several main
                                         choices—from shrimp tempura to beautifully glazed salmon teriyaki—to go
                                         along with miso soup, uchi no salad, rice, spinach gyoza, and a vegetable
                                         spring roll.

                                         Bread Thank goodness, bread is in again, although it was never out for us.
                                         We consider it the staff of life, despite what Atkins' followers might say. And
                                         when we want to load up on carbs, we head to Atwater's, 529 E. Belvedere
                                         Avenue, Belvedere Square, 410-323-2396, (there's another location at the
                                         Shops at Kenilworth in Towson) for one of its hand-shaped, hearth-baked
                                         breads made from scratch. Sure, you can lather it with creamy butter, but
                                         we prefer its plain, organic wholesomeness whether it's peasant wheat,
                                         sunflower flax, or kalamata olive.

                                         Burgers Run-of-the-mill hamburgers may claim a spot on many menus,
                                         but a truly memorable, classic burger is a rare and valuable find.
                                         Fortunately, Burger Bros., 14 Allegheny Avenue, Towson, 410-321-1880,
                                         delivers just that. With a lovingly baked brioche bun embracing freshly
                                         ground, expertly seasoned meat, a burger just doesn't get any better than
                                         this. Order a gigantic side of fries (you won't be sorry), and don't forget to
                                         grab a handful of napkins before your first bite!

                                         Cake Finally—our very own state dessert, thanks to this year's General
                                         Assembly, which saw fit to honor the multilayered Smith Island cake as our
                                         own. It's a regal cake with down-home roots in its namesake Chesapeake
                                         Bay outpost, where the ladies in town are known to turn out yummy
                                         confections. But you don't have to travel to the island to enjoy its charms.
                                         SugarBakers Cakes, 752 Frederick Road, Catonsville, 410-788-9478, has
                                         a delicious rendition with nine layers of yellow cake and eight layers of
                                         chocolate frosting for $60, or you can head across the street to Catonsville
                                         Gourmet Market & Fine Foods for a slice of statehood from SugarBakers for
                                         $6.50.

                                         Chocolate Of course this wonderful stuff is called "food of the gods." But,
                                         as we've found, some chocolates are more heavenly than others. To us,
                                         Cacao Lorenzo, 1818 Pot Spring Road, Timonium, 410-453-9334, ranks
                                         right up there on the celestial plane. Pluck any morsel from its "galerie au
                                         chocolat" and revel in seductive combinations of, say, port-wine-soaked figs
                                         and milk-chocolate butter ganache or lavender-flower-infused ganache
                                         enrobed in dark chocolate. Or maybe try chestnut-paste ganache with
                                         calvados in dark chocolate. We could dreamily go on about these elixirs.
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                                         calvados in dark chocolate. We could dreamily go on about these elixirs.
                                         Regardless of the feel-good endorphins they may stimulate, these chocolates
                                         are guaranteed to make your heart flutter—with joy.

                                         Coffee We are so lucky to have Zeke's Coffee, 3003 Montebello Terrace,
                                         Lauraville, 443-992-4388, in our midst. The roastery's heavenly beans
                                         produce seductive brews that will have you hooked in no time. This
                                         hometown coffee is available at numerous restaurants and stores around
                                         town, including the Baltimore City Farmers' Market. We're partial to the
                                         Mexican Chiapas fair-trade beans, which produce a medium-bodied coffee
                                         with a surprisingly chocolaty kick. But there's so much more, including
                                         those with names attached to Bawlmer: Charm City Blend, Herring Run
                                         Brew, Tell Tale Dark (thanks, Mr. Poe), and Shot Tower Espresso.

                                         Cooking Classes Chef/owner Nancy Longo of Pierpoint Restaurant,
                                         1822 Aliceanna Street, 410-675-2080, has added another notch to her
                                         apron—that of cooking teacher. Her classes for budding chefs ages 10-17
                                         proved so successful that parents began clamoring for their own time. This
                                         year, Longo added fun, informative sessions for us grown-ups, too. The
                                         intricacies of French, Italian, Thai, and other cuisines are explored in her
                                         Sunday afternoon (and occasional Monday) sessions. She'll even customize a
                                         class for groups of eight or more.

                                         Crêpes Whether wrapped around hearty cheeses and meats or elevating
                                         simple fruits to fancy dessert status, these delicate French pancakes are all
                                         the rage. Our favorites can be found tucked into an unassuming office
                                         building at Crêpe Café at Café de Paris, 8808 Centre Park Drive,
                                         Columbia, 410-997-3904. Available with a variety of fillings both sweet and
                                         savory, these crêpes inhabit that golden mean between paper thin and
                                         sumptuously fluffy. Don't be surprised when they leave you whistling "La
                                         Marseillaise."

                                         Cupcakes We're great fans of the trend toward miniaturization: tiny
                                         vegetables, tapas, servings for one. The same goes for our treats. While
                                         towering cakes have their place, their smaller counterparts definitely win
                                         the cute factor. The Baltimore Cupcake Company, 1433 E. Fort
                                         Avenue, 410-783-1600, is our go-to place for a tiny taste of sweet goodness.
                                         (There are other locations, including Annapolis.) The moist, tender cakes
                                         are topped with a generous swirl of icing in a variety of flavors. But nothing
                                         says party time like the pure joy of a rich chocolate cake with butter-cream
                                         frosting and confetti sprinkles.

                                         Dessert If you eat out enough, you tend to see the same dessert offerings:
                                         chocolate mousse cake, Key lime pie, tiramisu. So it's always a treat when a
                                         restaurant takes an adventurous leap and turns up the heat, literally. The
                                         Baked Alaska at The Oceanaire Seafood Room, 801 Aliceanna Street, 443-
                                         872-0000, is all we could ask for in a wonderfully retro dessert that
                                         deserves a place in the new millennium. The swirly meringue topping,
                                         sealing the sponge-cake-ice-cream interior, is flamed tableside, creating
                                         quite a spectacle with absolutely delicious results.

                                         Ethnic We've got plenty of reasons to celebrate the opening of Baltimore
                                         Pho, 1116 Hollins Street, 410-752-4746, not least of which is that there's
                                         finally a truly excellent Vietnamese restaurant in the city proper. We're also
                                         just plain hooked on its eponymous signature dish, which boasts a heady
                                         broth that'll cure what ails you, as well as the sophisticated digs that make
                                         you feel like you're eating chic even though the food is pretty cheap. But we
                                         also admit we're thrilled that the opening of Baltimore Pho—as well as
                                         nearby Zella's Pizza—signals the resurgence of Sowebo, a neighborhood long
                                         in need of attention and love. Go Pho!

                                         Grocery We have to applaud Graul's Market, 12200 Tullamore Road,
                                         Lutherville, 410-308-2100 (and other locations), the family-run grocery
                                         store that opened in 1920 in Baltimore. Since the early days, the stores have
                                         multiplied and prospered under the direction of family members. There are
                                         now six markets in the area, with the newest one in St. Michael's. We're
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                                         now six markets in the area, with the newest one in St. Michael's. We're
                                         partial to the accessible layouts and pretty products on display. The lemons
                                         seem a little brighter; the beef, a little redder here. At the Mays Chapel
                                         location there's a whole cadre of pleasant workers in pink pinstripe shirts
                                         who really seem to care about you. It's a nice change from bumbling around
                                         a cavernous mega-grocery looking for capers or crème fraîche.

                                         Kids Menu Why should grown-ups have all the foodie fun? Twelve-and-
                                         unders who want to venture beyond chicken fingers will love the kids menu
                                         at Golden West Cafe, 1105 W. 36th Street, 410-889-8891. Mixing classics
                                         like mini burgers and cheese quesadillas with more experimental fare such
                                         as the PBJ French toast (with real blackberries and blueberries), the menu
                                         is diverse and interesting enough for any budding gourmand. Moms and
                                         dads will be happy, too, with the healthy entrées and variety of side options,
                                         spanning fries to whole wheat Fig Newtons.

                                                                 Milkshake How can you go wrong with ice cream
                                                                 and milk whipped into a cool, frothy beverage? You
                                                                 can't. That pure and simple recipe produces a lip-
                                                                 smacking milkshake at The Olde Malt Shop, 635
                                                                 E. Fort Avenue, 410-727-5769. There's vanilla,
                                                                 chocolate, strawberry, and other flavors—pick your
                                                                 pleasure. Mark Trunk and his wife, Penny George,
                                                                 are the congenial soda jerks in second-career jobs at
                                                                 this old-fashioned ice cream parlor, which was
                                                                 featured on Rachael Ray's Tasty Travels on the Food
                                                                 Network. While the milkshake is yummy, don't
                                                                 forget to try the malts, floats, sundaes, and cones,
                                         too.

                                         New Restaurant After a long hiatus, much-heralded chef and
                                         restaurateur Spike Gjerde came roaring back last fall with Woodberry
                                         Kitchen, 2010 Clipper Park Road, 410-464-8000, a zeitgeist-conscious
                                         nod to the locavore movement which, in typical Gjerde fashion, brings high
                                         style to the homespun concept of eating simple, locally grown food. Few
                                         "rustic" environs are as chic or alluring as Woodberry's Clipper Mill venue,
                                         and one taste of the succulently sweet Marvesta Farms shrimp is proof that
                                         local flavor is, well, pretty damned flavorful. No apologies to McDonald's.
                                         We're lovin' it.

                                         Pasta There are so many terrific Italian restaurants in town, but we have to
                                         go with La Scala, 1012 Eastern Avenue, 410-783-9209, as our favorite
                                         place for hearty, Old World pasta dishes like the spicy shrimp fra diavolo.
                                         You can always count on chef/owner Nino Germano to produce comforting
                                         feasts with thick, red, pleasantly garlicky sauces among other tempting
                                         creations. The restaurant has also gone through a recent expansion,
                                         including the addition of a 2,200-bottle wine room and an indoor bocce
                                         court. That's right. Now you can indulge in a little sport after downing the
                                         amazingly large tiramisu.

                                                                         Pizza We admit it. We've been selfish when
                                                                         it comes to Pasta Mista, 822 Dulaney
                                                                         Valley Road, Towson, 410-321-8855. It's
                                                                         hard enough to share its gustatory pleasures
                                                                         with the mobs of college kids and other
                                                                         suburbanites who jam the store. But now
                                                                         that it's opened another location at Conkling
                                                                         and Boston streets in Brewers Hill, we're
                                         ready to spread the word about its pizza charms. Sausage is a big seller, but
                                         the white veggie is a great indulgence, too. Thin crusts, generous toppings
                                         and, okay, a tad of grease make these pies everything you want in that all-
                                         American food we call pizza.

                                         Poultry We knew there was something special about them as soon as we
                                         saw them. The free-range organic chickens of Springfield Farm, 16701
                                         Yeoho Road, Sparks, 410-472-0738, are noticeably smaller than the
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                                         Yeoho Road, Sparks, 410-472-0738, are noticeably smaller than the
                                         hormone-laden behemoths you see in the supermarket. But the taste is
                                         giant-sized, a revelation of tenderness and succulence. You'll find
                                         Springfield chicks—and their equally lovingly raised lamb, beef, pork, and
                                         turkeys—in the finest local restaurants, but a trip to the farm is worth the
                                         gas, especially if you've got kids. The Smith family will let you roam the
                                         grounds so you can encounter those fabulously tended animals in their
                                         natural habitat, a true lesson in mindful eating for even little locavores.

                                         Pub Fare One of the things we especially like about Mother's Federal
                                         Hill Grille, 1113 S. Charles Street, 410-244-8686, is that it's a
                                         multigenerational hangout. You'll see toddlers in high chairs and families
                                         with teens sharing space with dating couples and fun-loving grandparents.
                                         The food is equal opportunity, too. There's fancy fare if you'd like, but we
                                         prefer the casual side of the menu—okay, the caloric stuff known as bar
                                         food. (We like to think of Mother's crisp mozzarella sticks with marinara
                                         sauce and meaty Buffalo wings as necessary food groups, but no one's
                                         buying it.) The highlight has to be the Heart Attack on a Plate: a plump,
                                         beer-battered burger stuffed with cheddar and then deep-fried. Seeing is
                                         believing. Eating is even better.

                                         Restaurateurs They've done it again. When the Charleston Group,
                                         a.k.a. Tony Foreman and chef Cindy Wolf, opened Cinghiale in
                                         Harbor East last year, they not only added to their considerable empire—
                                         three of the city's most important restaurants and a thriving wine store—but
                                         solidified their rep as the most able, savvy, and forward-minded
                                         restaurateurs in town. Cinghiale, a lavish celebration of pure, regional
                                         Italian cuisine, bears the signature trait of all their endeavors: a passionate
                                         commitment to the best wines, real food, and expert service; and a burning
                                         desire to single-handedly elevate Baltimoreans' dining experience. We'd say
                                         they've done pretty darn well.

                                         Romantic Setting The Milton Inn, 14833 York Road, Sparks, 410-771-
                                         4366, is not just a place to take your 80-year-old parents for their
                                         anniversary. It's also an elegant, throw-back setting for couples of any age
                                         looking for a quiet interlude, impeccable service, and innovative food. Yes,
                                         innovative. Chef Brian Boston delivers the expected (traditionally prepared
                                         steaks and fish) but also the unexpected, like the edgy jerk-marinated pork
                                         chop with andouille risotto and pineapple-Key lime coulis. All this while
                                         enjoying the grandeur of sitting by a roaring fire in the charming 1740's
                                         mansion or sitting on the outdoor patio amid the verdant hills of Hunt
                                         Valley.

                                         Shrimp Salad This is a town that has almost as many versions of shrimp
                                         salad as it has crab cakes. So when someone tells us that such-and-such
                                         place has the best shrimp salad, we cast a weary eye in their direction.
                                         We've been burned before. But our visit to Towson Delly North, 1711
                                         York Road, Lutherville, 410-560-3399, was a turning point. We will happily
                                         return for the shop's incredible shrimp salad again and again. It features
                                         whole, large shrimp with just a touch of mayo to bind it all together and a
                                         hint of Old Bay. The shrimp is cooked perfectly and the sweet flavor is
                                         immediately evident. To our shrimp salad tipper: Sorry we ever doubted
                                         you.

                                         Sliders Once the sole province of fast food joints—RIP The Little Tavern—
                                         the slider's name has been adopted for a variety of foods sandwiched
                                         between small buns. Nearly every restaurant has a version these days. Our
                                         favorite for its creativity and richness in flavor is the foie gras and Kobe
                                         beef slider with truffle aioli and red onion marmalade at Salt, 2127 E. Pratt
                                         Street, 410-276-5480. What more can we say?

                                         Tea Room Is there any better way to inject a little serenity into the daily
                                         grind than a perfectly civilized afternoon tea? We think not. With wall
                                         murals of soothing Scottish moors, a menu ranging from delicate tea
                                         sandwiches to robust soups and wraps, and a mile-long tea list that spans
                                         the globe, The Crown and Thistle Tea Room, 10 Fila Way, Sparks, 410-
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                                         the globe, The Crown and Thistle Tea Room, 10 Fila Way, Sparks, 410-
                                         472-4566, will satisfy both hardcore tea enthusiasts and those simply
                                         searching for a genteel afternoon luncheon.

                                         First Date Oy, the jitters, the awkward pauses, the "what if we've got
                                         nothing in common?" perils of a first date. Not to worry; we've got the
                                         perfect remedy. Start off with a movie at our favorite indie-rep-art cinema,
                                         The Charles Theatre, 1711 N. Charles Street, 410-727-FILM, followed by
                                         some shared small plates at in-house eatery Tapas Teatro, 410-332-0110.
                                         The movie's sure to be a conversation-starter (not to mention a litmus test),
                                         and Teatro's party atmosphere—always packed, always loud—guarantees a
                                         nix on the awkward silences.

                                                                   Southern Cooking We love the ebullient Casey
                                                                   Jenkins, the plucky chef/owner of Darker Than
                                                                   Blue Café, 3034 Greenmount Avenue, 443-872-
                                                                   4468, in part for bringing much-needed culinary
                                                                   chops to the underserved Waverly neighborhood. A
                                                                   native New Yorker, Jenkins uses ingredients from
                                                                   the nearby Waverly farmers' market and Culinary
                                                                   Institute of America training to create fare that's
                                                                   both soulful and sophisticated, particularly with his
                                                                   roster of Southern stalwarts: fried chicken, candied
                                                                   yams, cornbread, mac 'n' cheese, and achingly sweet
                                         iced tea. With comfort food like this, plus the restaurateur's friendly vibe,
                                         you'll feel like you've come home to supper.

                                         View There's something special about combining a stellar meal with a
                                         memorable view, especially if you're looking out over a wide swath of the
                                         harbor. We found that Watertable, Renaissance Harborplace Hotel, 202
                                         E. Pratt Street, 410-685-8439, provides just the right vantage point for
                                         taking in the watery vista. Daytime has its own charms, but in the evening,
                                         the boats and shops twinkle with lights in a magical setting while you're
                                         nestled at contemporary wood tables enjoying the culinary talents of chefs
                                         Sean Patrick Curry and Niven Patel.

                                         Back to top


                                                                            GREEN

                                                                 Green Cheerleader For the past 20 years, Carol
                                                                 Silldorff has been promoting environmentalism to
                                                                 government agencies, nonprofits, and everyone in
                                                                 between. Silldorff, 41, has championed recycling
                                                                 programs and shed light on hazardous waste
                                                                 management. Seven years ago, she started to focus
                                                                 on nonprofit groups like One Less Car and
                                                                 Baltimore Green Week, which have expanded
                                                                 exponentially since she took the helm. Hats off to
                                                                 Silldorff for going green long before it was cool.

                                                                   Earth-Conscious Clothing Store Nest, 5809
                                         Clarksville Square Drive, Clarksville, 443-535-0212, is about way more than
                                         clothes. Sure, virtually every product is organic, handmade, or fair-trade,
                                         but the store also spreads its eco-love to the community by sponsoring
                                         monthly environmental events and belonging to "Conscious Corner," a
                                         group of green stores in the area. Clothes at Nest are made of organic
                                         cotton, hemp, soy, bamboo, and even recycled soda bottles. Customers can
                                         even sign optional eco-pledges, like be sure to wash your clothes in cold
                                         water when you take them home.

                                         Eco-Aware Home Décor If you're looking for anything earth-friendly,
                                         chances are you'll find it at bluehouse, 1407 Fleet Street, 410-276-1180.
                                         The retailer/café sells chemical-free home décor made from recycled
                                         materials and paint with low- or non-toxic chemicals. All of the coffee and
                                         tea in the cafe is organic and fair-trade, meaning farmers get equitable

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                                         tea in the cafe is organic and fair-trade, meaning farmers get equitable
                                         compensation for their labor. Bluehouse's stationary, business cards, bags,
                                         and napkins are made from recycled materials. It even gives out used coffee
                                         grounds for gardens or compost piles.

                                         Eco-Friendly Construction Company A lot of the construction giants
                                         are taking on more eco-friendly projects these days, but we want to give a
                                         nod to one that's all green, all the time. Baltimore Green Construction,
                                         814 W. 36th Street, 410-889-3193, built the first home in Maryland made
                                         out of pressed straw from wheat fields. It also recently broke ground on the
                                         Masonville Cove Environmental Education Center, a radically low-energy
                                         space with solar panels and insulated windows. Proof that its homes save on
                                         energy? One customer thanked them for her $25 utility bill.

                                         Eco-Gifts You're giving more than just one gift when you buy from Earth
                                         Alley, 3602 Elm Avenue, 410-366-2110. Almost every trinket lining the
                                         yellow-green walls of this fair- trade eco-oasis is made from reusable
                                         material and supports nonprofit causes in the artist's country of origin.
                                         Gifts include lightweight aluminum bangles, delicate necklaces made from
                                         broken plates, mirrors framed with tightly rolled magazine pages, intricate
                                         metalwork made from recycled oil drums, candles that melt into massage
                                         oil, and bowls made from tightly-wound telephone wire. This shop will
                                         make you reconsider the artistic value of everything you've ever thrown out.

                                         Energy-Efficient Building Form is function at the Herring Run
                                         Watershed Center, 3445 Belair Road, 410-254-1577, the new
                                         headquarters for the Herring Run Watershed Association, which improves
                                         the environmental quality of the watershed. The center has a "living roof"
                                         with tons of plants that absorb rainwater and a cistern that collects more
                                         rainwater for plumbing. There are also insulated windows, skylights, and a
                                         light well to maximize natural daylight.

                                         Green Festival Who said helping the environment is all work and no
                                         play? Baltimore's EcoFestival, held each spring in Druid Hill Park,
                                         features bands, food, and art, all while promoting an eco-friendly lifestyle.
                                         Attendees at this year's event—including Mayor Sheila Dixon—could listen
                                         to the tunes of folk rocker Caleb Stine while munching on veggie burritos
                                         and sipping organic Bluebird Coffee. They could also practice yoga moves in
                                         the wellness area or browse the more than 100 vendors with information on
                                         solar panels and composting.

                                         Green Neighborhood Initiative Last December, thousands stood in line
                                         to buy recycling bins, as a part of the city's Single-Stream Recycling
                                         Program. A best-of worthy feat on its own were it not for one glitch: The
                                         bright yellow containers, on sale for $5-6, quickly ran out and residents had
                                         to wait weeks for new ones. The solution? Residents in the
                                         Hampden/Roland Park area decided to get creative. They went out to local
                                         department stores and bought and decorated reusable bins. In this massive
                                         do-it-yourself project, some people spray-painted the bins yellow and
                                         others drew their own versions of the recycling symbol. Thanks to that
                                         creative energy and the Department of Public Works' new program,
                                         recycling tonnage has increased nearly 20 percent since the beginning of the
                                         year.

                                         Green Transportation Initiative Bikes whiz by frequently on the streets
                                         of Portland and San Francisco. In Baltimore? Not so much. But
                                         Velocipede Bike Project, 4 W. Lanvale Street, 410-244-5585, wants to
                                         change all that. The cooperative project collects donated bikes, teaches
                                         people how to repair them, and provides affordable, refurbished bicycles
                                         and parts to its members. To join, you pay a monthly fee of $33 or give
                                         three hours of volunteer time. Once you're an official co-op member, you
                                         can pick out a frame, fix up a bike for yourself, and call it your own.

                                         Organic Salon Who says you can't look gorgeous and be good to Mother
                                         Earth? Since 2006, Sprout, 925 W. 36th Street, 410-235-2269, has been
                                         the most eco-friendly salon in town. Besides using chemical-free products
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                                         the most eco-friendly salon in town. Besides using chemical-free products
                                         like Aubrey Organics, John Masters, Druide, and its own hair-care line, the
                                         salon has bamboo flooring and energy-efficient lights. Sprout also buys
                                         renewable energy credits from wind farms around the country and it
                                         recycles everything it can—yes, even the hair it cuts, which is used for
                                         sponges and fertilizer.

                                         Sustainable Car Dealership Nowadays, you can purchase a hybrid
                                         vehicle from just about anywhere. But Northwest Honda, 9701
                                         Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, 410-363-8700, is hardly just anywhere.
                                         The dealership has a "green roof," with approximately 60,000 drought- and
                                         frost-resistant plants (which makes storm run-off go into the soil rather
                                         than the watershed), plus 87 insulated glass panels, and light sensors that
                                         automatically switch on and off to conserve energy. The dealership's main
                                         heat source uses recycled oil from cars. It's no surprise that there is
                                         currently a waiting list for Northwest's Civic Hybrid—we "Greenies" tend to
                                         stick together.

                                         Sustainable Restaurant The Dogwood, 911 W. 36th Street, 410-889-
                                         0952, is both a good restaurant and a good neighbor. Its market-driven
                                         menu uses locally produced ingredients like chicken from Springfield Farms
                                         in Sparks, salmon from local fisherman Gaylord Clark, and other food from
                                         Tuscarora Organic Growers Co-Op. The restaurant (and catering company)
                                         composts all of its food waste and uses corn-based plastics and containers
                                         made from sugar cane.

                                         Use of Greenbacks What better way to build a greener future than to
                                         catch architects while they're still in school? That was the thought of
                                         Baltimore developer John B. Colvin and his wife, Karen Colvin, who
                                         donated $3 million to the University of Maryland's School of Architecture,
                                         Planning and Preservation (its largest gift ever) to start a program
                                         concentrating on green design. The donation established the Colvin Institute
                                         of Real Estate Development, which features courses in green design,
                                         adaptive reuse of old buildings, and energy-efficient structuring.

                                         Baby Greens Shannon Delanoy had a hard time finding sweatshop-free
                                         clothing for her daughter Alice. So she started the Sweet Pepita,
                                         sweetpepita.etsy.com, baby clothing line last year. The line takes retro T-
                                         shirts and blends them with brightly colored, 100-percent organic cotton
                                         shipped from New Mexico. Kline makes shirts, dresses, scarves, bibs, and
                                         hats. She explains that most of the T-shirts that she alters come from thrift
                                         stores or friends' closets, so some toddlers get adorned with a Guinness logo
                                         or Jimi Hendrix decal. A small price to pay for sustainability.

                                         Earth-Friendly Art MICA professor Hugh Pocock first began
                                         offering his "Climate Change and Sustainability" class in the fall of 2007.
                                         The goal of the course is to educate students—in any major—about the
                                         science of global warming and the art of sustainable planning. The most
                                         ingenious part? All students are asked to do a carbon footprint project,
                                         where they calculate their own carbon footprint, document a simple way to
                                         reduce it, and develop an art project in response to their findings. In the
                                         spring semester, senior Annika Blomberg disassembled a found couch
                                         and reused all of its parts to make functional items, like handbags, boxes,
                                         cabinets, and buttons.

                                         Organic Grocer Ideally, we'd do all our shopping at an organic grocery
                                         store, but we'd also like to, you know, pay our bills. That's why My
                                         Organic Market (MOM), 7351 Assateague Drive #190, Jessup, 410-799-
                                         2175, is so appealing. The concept began in 1987 out of owner Scott Nash's
                                         garage in Beltsville. Today, MOM has five retail locations—Rockville, College
                                         Park, Alexandria, Jessup, and Frederick—which sell organic food that a
                                         typical family on a budget can actually afford. And they walk the walk, too:
                                         The Jessup location, for example, features skylights, energy-efficient
                                         equipment, and a bamboo service desk.



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                                                                          SHOPPING

                                                                  Accessories Has your accessory shopping gotten a
                                                                  little routine? Then head to Shine Collective,
                                                                  1007A W. 36th Street, 410-366-6100, where the
                                                                  accessories are as vibrant and eclectic as the
                                                                  shoppers. We love that the bags, belts, and bangles
                                                                  that adorn the walls of this Hampden boutique are
                                                                  so effortlessly chic. The jewelry is particularly eye-
                                                                  catching: delicate Viv & Ingrid, intense Draugsvold,
                                                                  feminine Valentina Black, silly Alex & Chole. These
                                                                  are the kind of pieces that elicit the, "Oooh, where
                                                                  did you get that?" every time they're worn.

                                         Baby Shopping Destination We'd like to announce the arrival of
                                         Baltimore's newest baby destination: Lauraville. Isn't she precious? The
                                         northeast Baltimore neighborhood has quietly become a Mecca for tot
                                         friendly shops. Just follow the chalk drawings to Harford Road: Red
                                         Canoe, 410-444-4440, delivers a sweet selection of baby books; Bediboo,
                                         410-444-6060, just might be the best baby boutique to hit Charm City;
                                         candy store Rock Candy, 443-919-4527, is a hot pink sugar rush; and
                                         Spinster Yarns & Fibers, 410-444-9276, sells that ultimate baby gift: the
                                         hand-knit sweater.

                                         Bookstore The warmhearted, neighborly atmosphere of Ivy Bookshop,
                                         Lake Falls Village, 6080 Falls Road, 410-377-2966, is enough to make you
                                         want to curl up with a good book. (Well, you might want to wait until you're
                                         back at home.) Since it moved a few doors down last January, the once
                                         cramped shop can now breathe a little. There's more home and garden,
                                         more politics, more kids, more mystery . . . and more help. The dedicated
                                         staff will recommend or track down even the most remote of book club
                                         selections—and even offer your club a discount.

                                                                   Children's Clothing How to make mom happy?
                                                                   Fill a store with countless rows of the most adorable
                                                                   children's threads and a playhouse to occupy her
                                                                   kids while she shops. The Pied Piper, The Village
                                                                   of Cross Keys, 32 Village Square, 410-435-2676, is
                                                                   stocked full of everything from pajamas to dress
                                         garments to play clothes. And for those Carrie Bradshaw's-in-training,
                                         there's Lacoste, Burberry, Juicy, and True Religion in wee sizes. Plus, lots of
                                         sweet layettes for little ones still getting the hang of this dressing thing.

                                         Fancy Shoes The Little Shoebox, 7625 Bellona Avenue, Ruxton, 410-
                                         825-3191, is every party girl's dream. Lining the shell-pink walls are clusters
                                         of kitten heels by Emma Hope, gem-encrusted mules by Olivia Rose Tal,
                                         and strappy sandals by Giusseppe Zanotti. Before you know it, you've
                                         chosen a pair for every cocktail dress you own. Don't say we didn't warn
                                         you.

                                         Fun Shoes Doubledutch Boutique, 3616 Falls Road, 410-554-0055, has
                                         always been our go-to place for playful accessories and colorful summer
                                         togs from hot indie labels like Mon Petit Oiseau. But one of its best-kept
                                         secrets is the affordable and funky shoes tucked in the back (just past the
                                         cutest check-out area ever). Some are gimmicky but fun (plastic Melissa
                                         Shoes) and some are simply irresistible (mini heels by Pink Studio), but all
                                         are leaving on our feet.

                                         Handbags Nowadays, every boutique in town "dabbles" in handbags. We
                                         love Handbags in the City, 840 Aliceanna Street, 410-528-1443, because
                                         they are almost exclusively all about handbags—and it shows. Michael Kors
                                         Collection, Badgely Mishka, Jill Stuart, Juicy Couture, Longchamp, and
                                         Roberto Cavalli, they've got it all. You want classic? Trendy? Outrageous?
                                         Shop no further. And while the store is guilty of a little wing-spreading itself

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                                         Shop no further. And while the store is guilty of a little wing-spreading itself
                                         (selling designer heels, sunglasses, and even some threads), it mostly sticks
                                         with what it knows best: bags, bags, and more bags.

                                         Jeans Sunbleached, stonewashed, sandblasted, oh my. Finding a fantastic—
                                         and flattering—pair of jeans can be a chore. So, when we want to simplify
                                         our denim-hunt, we head straight to Jean Pool, 5616 Newbury Street,
                                         410-466-1177. Once inside, ladies break to the left, and guys to the right.
                                         There's denim from a ton of designers including Chip and Pepper,
                                         Aristocrat, Rich and Skinny, and Stitches. Plus, in-store alterations offering
                                         original hems. Owner Scott Wable and his staff have an amazing eye for
                                         what will fit your form and match your style.

                                         Lingerie Our cup runneth over when it comes to quality lingerie shops in
                                         Baltimore. But oddly enough, our favorite shop is online. We simply can't
                                         resist the beauty and sophistication of the European designs at A La Mod
                                         Body, alamodbody.com. Hometown girl Susan Rohr pounded the streets
                                         of Paris to find labels like Elise Aucouturier, Antonia Ghazlan, and
                                         Princesse Tam Tam. The prices are staggering, but so are the products like
                                         ultra hot chiffon lace chemises, Italian hipster panties, and fine silk robes.
                                         For those wary of click-and-point lingerie, make an appointment with Rohr
                                         at her private studio.

                                         Locally Made Crafts Our hearts swell with B'more pride whenever we log
                                         onto The Baltimore Etsy Street Team's site, baltimore-
                                         etsy.blogspot.com. This is a compilation of all the local designers and
                                         crafters who have pages on Etsy, the popular online marketplace. The talent
                                         is awe-inspiring. Some of our faves: TheBrokenPlate takes vintage and
                                         contemporary dinnerware and gives it new life as a necklace or ring. And
                                         vwstudios, where images on clay are created using a process that includes
                                         photography, painting, and printmaking.

                                         Mall OK, so there's no Anthropologie—yet. But the Westfield Annapolis
                                         Mall, 2002 Annapolis Mall, Annapolis, 410-266-5432, is worth the trek
                                         down 97 for countless other reasons. Sure, there's the usual suspects—Gap,
                                         Banana Republic, et al.—but we like the stores we can't find in our neck of
                                         the woods: Martin + Osa, Madewell 1937, and Under Armour. The Pottery
                                         Barn Kids makes us wish we were five again and the Lord & Taylor takes us
                                         back to the big department store heydays. Even its Cinnabon tastes better.

                                         Men's Threads Ken Himmelstein can blame his good taste on genetics.
                                         His grandfather, Samuel Parker, was known for his superb taste in clothing
                                         and worked as a haberdasher in the 20's. Himmelstein's tribute to his
                                         grandfather, Samuel Parker Clothier, Lake Falls Village, 6080 Falls
                                         Road, 410-372-0078, has that same élan. The rustic and sophisticated
                                         boutique is known for its friendly and highly knowledgeable service and
                                         features well-regarded labels like Polo Ralph Lauren, Hilditch & Key, and
                                         Robert Talbot. Plus, all those unnecessary necessities: bow ties and designer
                                         cowboy boots.

                                                                 New Boutique Tucked in a far corner of the Cross
                                                                 Keys Village, a window display features small-
                                                                 mirrored boxes resting on a row of white pedestals,
                                                                 glistening brilliantly. Step closer and you realize
                                                                 that the boxes are, indeed, treasure chests, for they
                                                                 hold a most magnificent variety of precious
                                                                 gemstones of every size and color. Welcome to
                                         dresscode by Gita, Village of Cross Keys, 36 Village Square, 410-323-
                                         9009, Baltimore's newest designer jewelry and accessory boutique. With a
                                         rotating window display that's artful, you can only imagine what happens
                                         inside—and trust us, you won't be disappointed. Quite simply: dresscode by
                                         Gita, with her exclusive collection from more than 27 international
                                         designers, has raised the bar for Baltimore shopping.

                                         New York Shopping Experience Walking through the heavy glass doors
                                         of Form, 1115 W. 36th Street, 410-889-3116, and across the shiny wood
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                                         of Form, 1115 W. 36th Street, 410-889-3116, and across the shiny wood
                                         floors, beneath a line of crystal chandeliers that glow faintly against the
                                         grey-blue walls—it's hard not to lose all sense of Hampden and imagine
                                         yourself on a different Avenue: Fifth. The racks burst with silky Rachel
                                         Mara and Vivienne Tam blouses, embellished Vera Wang Lavender and
                                         Corey Lynn Calter jackets, and Tracy Reese frocks. Sure, it's expensive, but
                                         think of all that money you're saving on a train ticket.

                                         Preppy Clothes The Pink Crab, 7701 Bellona Avenue, Ruxton, 410-823-
                                         8544, is to pastel-colored polos what Chicago is to pizza. This is what
                                         preppy heaven must look like: endless rows of Lily Pulitzer florals, colorfully
                                         quilted Vera Bradley bags, and oh-so-trendy Eliza B flip flops. While most
                                         of the store is dedicated to women, there are also sundresses for kids, ties
                                         and sweaters for men, plus a few classic home goods. And yes, even Fido
                                         gets the preppy treatment with floral collars and leashes.

                                         Shopping Neighborhood Slowly and steadily Federal Hill's South
                                         Charles Street has become the city's hottest shopping destination. Old
                                         favorites like Lucky Lucy's, 410-837-2121, The Gilded Peach, 410-685-9090,
                                         and Ladybugs & Fireflies, 410-244-0472, now share the tree-lined street
                                         with charming new shops: Whimsy | Reason, 410-234-0204, Babe, 410-
                                         244-5114, Amy's Boutique, 410-244-1133, SoBotanical, 410-234-0333, The
                                         Bottom Drawer, 410-783-8998, Le Petit Cochon, 410- 528-6001, and many
                                         others. So what are you waiting for?

                                         Sophisticated Frocks The grand dame herself no longer works the wood
                                         floors of her sumptuous glass-and-mirror boutique, Ruth Shaw Inc., 68
                                         Village Square, 410-532-7886. But Shaw's trendy, cosmopolitan style and
                                         trusted brand carries on with a dedicated staff (including new owner,
                                         longtime sales sensei Ray Mitchener) and client base. From elegant uptown
                                         looks by Trelise Cooper, Amina Rubinacci, Piazza Sempione, and Hanni Y.,
                                         to more casual everyday styles by DKNY, Calypso, Common Thread, and
                                         Velvet, Shaw's avant-garde collection continues to impress.

                                         Trendy Clothes Holly G, two locations including 1340 A Smith Avenue,
                                         410-433-3389, has breathed new life into two shopping districts—Federal
                                         Hill and Mt. Washington. The boutiques are enticing—even down to the
                                         warm citrus scent—and the clothes make us giddy. This classic shop carries
                                         smart lines including Velvet, Ixia, and Eva Franco. And we can't get enough
                                         of the gorgeous day dresses, figure-flattering tops, and tailored slacks.
                                         There's a great selection of denim and accessories, too.

                                         Trendy Men's Threads With a new crop of men's shops in town, we
                                         thought it only appropriate to pay homage to one of the original
                                         trendsetters, Cloud 9 Clothing, 3201 St. Paul Street, 410-889-1330 (and
                                         other locations). Guys can browse for as long as the girls in sections
                                         devoted solely to fashionable, vintage-inspired menswear, including must-
                                         have lines like Penguin, Ben Sherman, Lucky Brand, Paul Frank, and Scotch
                                         & Soda. And if you're the kind of guy who can't justify splurging on clothes—
                                         the store features regular sales racks overflowing with name-brand
                                         markdowns.

                                         Tween Gifts Because shopping for a tween is about as much fun as sitting
                                         through a High School Musical 2 marathon, we head to Treasure House,
                                         9163 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills, 410-363-4110. This cozy shop is
                                         literally stuffed with tween treasures: beach bags, bangles, and cool charms.
                                         There's splurge stuff like jewelry by Pandora and send-to-camp stuff like
                                         headbands by Hadley Pollet. You—and the tween you love—will thank us.

                                         Vintage Why do we love Ten Car Pile-Up, 511 York Road, Towson, 410-
                                         832-5246 (besides its disturbingly catchy name?) In a word, it's groovy.
                                         With an extensive collection that includes sequined disco mini dresses,
                                         flowing hippy peasant shirts, peace-sign-patched men's leather vests, and
                                         Elton John-inspired sunglasses, this vintage shop ranges from costumey to
                                         everyday garb—depending on your style. Shipments arrive daily, so you'll
                                         have tons of dyn-o-mite styles to chose from, man.
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                                         have tons of dyn-o-mite styles to chose from, man.

                                         Weekend Clothes For whimsical fashionistas who feel positively
                                         oppressed by the khaki-and-blue monotony of every-day office wear,
                                         Urban Outfitters, 301 Light Street, 410-685-3115, serves as a bottomless
                                         treasure chest for weekend attire. Grab an oversized tote from anywhere in
                                         the store (they're hanging from every rack and hook in sight) and stuff it
                                         full of slim Fred Perry polos, lightweight Lux sundresses, patterned Sparkle
                                         & Fade camis, grandpa cardigans, funky Kimchi & Blue knit tops, plus
                                         shorts and skirts of every length and color. UO gives us wearable weekend
                                         styles reminiscent of former fads, as well as affordable pieces right in line
                                         with the latest rage.

                                                                 Hostess Gifts Who would have thought gift
                                                                 nirvana could be found in a parking lot in Ellicott
                                                                 City? The Good Life Market, 3752 Old Columbia
                                                                 Pike, Ellicott City, 410-480-5077, is a two-part
                                                                 shopping spree. First, take in the quaint vine-
                                                                 covered greenhouse filled with outdoor goodies
                                                                 (strawberry plants, herb markers, birdhouses, posh
                                                                 gardening utensils) and surrounded by plants and
                                                                 waterfalls. Then, the adjacent rowhouse takes care
                                                                 of the inside stuff: Bella Cucina Artful Food and
                                                                 Wood Wick candles.

                                                                 Stationers It's shops like Chelle Paperie, 851W.
                                         36th Street, 410-366-6333, that make us long for the good ol' days. You
                                         know, when people used to write actual letters. Rachelle Harper's Hampden
                                         boutique gives us hope. She custom designs everything from wedding
                                         invitations to baby announcements, but also offers greeting cards and
                                         modern business supplies from Russell & Hazel. We love the darling front
                                         window displays. A recent one, filled with toy birds and an old-fashioned
                                         bike, made us want to write Grandma.

                                                                 Window Display Be careful not to bruise your
                                                                 face when pushing it against the windows of Red
                                                                 Tree, 921 W. 36th Street, 410-366-3456. Opened in
                                                                 October 2006, this home goods store is stuffed to
                                                                 the brim with some of our favorite items—but it's
                                                                 the windows we're truly addicted to. The displays
                                                                 change every eight to 12 weeks and are inspired by
                                                                 new merchandise. Everyone on staff contributes,
                                                                 even if it means hand-making 70 paper birds to
                                                                 hang from the ceiling, as manager Gary Godbey did
                                                                 for the spring window. When the mood of creativity
                                                                 strikes, it is all consuming, explains co-owner Kacey
                                         Buchanan Stafford: "We've stayed 'til two or three in the morning because
                                         we were all so inspired."

                                         Back to top


                                                                          SERVICE

                                                                 Antique Store Dubey's Art & Antiques, 807 N.
                                                                 Howard Street, 410-383-2881, dubeysantiques.com,
                                                                 a navigable collection of heirloom-quality antiques
                                                                 spanning three floors and four centuries is proof
                                                                 positive that Antique Row is making a comeback.
                                                                 What sets this 20-year-old operation apart is owner
                                                                 Philip S. Dubey's obsession with the authentic.
                                                                 Dubey prides himself on collections of period
                                                                 American furniture, Chinese export porcelain, Dutch
                                                                 oil paintings, Japanese Imari ceramics, and English
                                                                 and Scottish curios. In addition, Dubey has a
                                                                 trained, knowledgeable, and friendly staff always
                                         eager to aid and abet with provenance and pricing.
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                                         eager to aid and abet with provenance and pricing.

                                         Bath Store To design the bathroom of your dreams look no further than
                                         the 12,000-square-foot, multimillion dollar showroom of Ferguson, 302
                                         Harry S. Truman Parkway, Annapolis, 410-573-6612 (and other locations).
                                         From a jacuzzi with an optional built-in coffee machine (!), to a shower
                                         with digitally timed his and hers spray jets, to a remote-controlled Kohler
                                         bidet toilet, to Hansgrohe faucets so gorgeous you'll want to wash your
                                         hands before you even touch them—if you can't find it at Ferguson, it
                                         simply doesn't exist.

                                         Carpet Store Say you spill wine on your brand new cream-colored carpet
                                         from Arcade Floors Carpet One Floor & Home, 8511 Loch Raven
                                         Boulevard, Towson, 410-668-7500, and the stain won't come out. Or maybe
                                         you've just installed a new fuschia-colored carpet in your family room, and
                                         it clashes with that chintz sofa. Get this: At Arcade, if they can't clean it or
                                         even if you have buyer's remorse after the first few days, they will replace it
                                         free of charge. That kind of commitment to customer satisfaction is the
                                         hallmark of this 72-year-old business, which also has one of the largest
                                         selections of carpet, hardwood, laminate, and ceramic tile in the area.

                                                                 Car Wash With its stainless steel and bright blue
                                                                 décor, eager-to-please staff, stacks of great
                                                                 magazines, and extensive list of "spa" services from
                                                                 hand waxing to shampooing to leather
                                                                 reconditioning, we could hang out all day at the
                                                                 newly renovated Auto Spa Hand Car Wash and
                                                                 Detail Center, 10117 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-
                                         683-7222. Our cars like it, too, as they're transformed from road weary to
                                         just-off-the-assembly-line gleaming. One insider's tip: Apply for a free Auto
                                         Spa VIP Club Card and get a 10 percent discount on all wash services, a free
                                         birthday wash (your birthday, not the car's), and other extras.

                                         Cobbler The place doesn't look like much from the outside, but local
                                         fashionistas and well-heeled business types swear by Eugene's Shoe
                                         Repair, 516 W. Coldspring Lane, 410-243-8874, for fast, high-quality
                                         repairs on anything from boots to baby shoes to that precious pair of Jimmy
                                         Choos. Ukranian owner Eugene Gomberg, who has been repairing shoes for
                                         20 years, once even replaced a zipper on a customer's jeep door! It's a
                                         bargain to boot: A pair of soles is $45, for instance ($20 cheaper than most
                                         competitors). And with the price of new shoes these days, why not restore
                                         what's already on your rack?

                                         Custom Framing Whether it's a favorite painting that begs for museum-
                                         quality framing, a historic family document that needs professional
                                         preservation, or that college diploma you're anxious to hang prominently in
                                         your new office, Framin' Place, 1350 Smith Avenue, 410-433-3434, comes
                                         through. Yes, they tend to be a little on the pricey side, but a staff of savvy
                                         art college grads, great personal service, plus meticulous attention to detail,
                                         makes it worth the investment. Your only challenge? Picking from the
                                         4,000 frame samples and mats, from classic to contemporary, that the store
                                         has in stock.

                                         Custom Tailor For 17 years, Steven Adelsberg, 410-580-2022, has been
                                         Baltimore's tailor to the see-and-be-seamed set. He works for the Tom
                                         James company, the largest custom clothing manufacturer in the world.
                                         There's no store to drive to—Adelsberg comes to you. Pick out a sartorially
                                         splendid CEO, Fortune 500 exec, or big-time managing partner in this
                                         town, and there's a good chance Adelsberg is the man behind the cloth.

                                         Dry Cleaner For convenience's sake, most people prefer to find a dry
                                         cleaner in their own backyard. But the 18-year-old Rainbow Clean, 9946
                                         York Road, Cockeysville, 410-667-0900, owned by the relentlessly cheerful
                                         Sue Piao, is actually worth the detour (and even the price of gas). Piao's
                                         expertise with antique tablecloths and napkins, wedding gowns, gabardine
                                         suits, and designer dresses has clients ignoring the gas gauge from as far
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                                         suits, and designer dresses has clients ignoring the gas gauge from as far
                                         away as Abingdon and Ellicott City. The highest compliment? One client
                                         who moved to North Carolina several years back actually brings her dry
                                         cleaning back to Baltimore when she visits her daughter!

                                         Electrician Vince Madden, Madden Electric, 729 S. Ellwood Avenue,
                                         410-563-2076, has been plugged into the electrical needs of Baltimore for
                                         20 years. Madden offers a wide array of services, including new construction
                                         and home addition wiring, upgrading service in older homes, wiring hot
                                         tubs, inspecting for dangerous wiring, and installing everything from
                                         security systems to generator panels to track lighting. Work ethics don't get
                                         any better than this—Madden answers his own phone (even in the dead of
                                         night) and he and his fully licensed residential and commercial crews
                                         respond quickly to putting a little light back in your life.

                                                                 Floral Arranger Why settle for FTD's carnations
                                                                 when you can order a show-stopping centerpiece
                                                                 with pink protea, horsetail reed, and brunia berries
                                                                 from Wicked Willow, 410-925-7990? While it's
                                                                 hard to improve on Mother Nature, Wicked
                                                                 Willow's abstract and sculptural pieces are as much
                                                                 a work of art as floral design. These one-of-a-kind
                                                                 creations don't come cheap (a minimum
                                                                 arrangement is about $75) but will add a "wow"
                                                                 factor to any gift or interior. (Lluminaire and Red
                                                                 Door Spa are weekly clients).

                                         Furniture Store In this day of mass-produced and cheaply constructed
                                         particle board furniture, it's a breath of fresh air to find heirloom-quality,
                                         artisanal pieces at Harbor East's recently opened Arhaus, 660 S. Exeter
                                         Street, 410-244-6376. In addition to using responsibly sourced wood and
                                         recyclables, Arhaus carries a diversity of styles in furniture and accessories
                                         for every room of the house. A hand-forged iron bed, an Old World hand-
                                         painted armoire, a solid mango wood Colonial-style dining table—whatever
                                         your design leanings, Arhaus will make your house the prettiest one in the
                                         'hood.

                                         Garden Store Year in, year out, we search for a new winner in this
                                         category, but no matter where we go, all roads seem to lead back to Valley
                                         View Farms, 11035 York Road, Cockeysville, 410-527-0700. With
                                         unbeatable prices and service—not to mention a great choice of trees and
                                         shrubs, annuals and perennials, veggie plants, fish ponds, and planting
                                         accessories from topsoil to trowels—Valley View is in a class by itself. Oh,
                                         and in case you hadn't heard, it's also a favorite holiday stop for Christmas
                                         trees and decorations.

                                         Groomer Just like her human stylist counterparts, Kerrie Grudziecki,
                                         Reisterstown Boarding Kennel Pet Resort and Spa, 14454 Old Hanover
                                         Road, Reisterstown, 410-833-2090, has a full book of appointments. Bring
                                         your pooch in for a wash, a nail clipping, a coat conditioning, or a special
                                         anti-shedding treatment, and Fido will look Westminster-ready. Grudziecki,
                                         who is great at calming nervous first timers, also offers the latest in pet
                                         grooming—a special spa treatment that includes a facial and paw scrub, a
                                         massage and vitamin-enhanced conditioner. The ultimate seal of approval?
                                         Even her most clipper-shy clientele always wag a tail when they see her.

                                         Hardware Store Sure, if you're certain it's a left-handed brass wing nut
                                         you need, you can go to the big-box home stores and save $1.70 (after
                                         standing in the self-checkout behind the guy who just bought 27 bags of
                                         cement and some PVC piping). But if you want to take the "hard" out of
                                         hardware shopping, head to Stebbins Anderson, 802 Kenilworth Drive,
                                         Towson, 410-823-6600, where you'll get professional advice from some old-
                                         timers who really know about construction, plumbing, tools, and electrical
                                         matters. While you're there, check out Stebbins excellent patio furniture
                                         selection, birdhouses, hammocks, and housewares on the upper level.

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                                         Home Theater Store Stargate Cinema, 3455 Sweet Air Road, Phoenix,
                                         410-667-3517, stargatecinema.com, is not your ordinary home theater store.
                                         For starters, most clients order their theater seats, popcorn machines,
                                         lighting, signage, movie art, and game-room goodies from the store online,
                                         without ever visiting the showroom. This local startup, owned and operated
                                         by Ken and Mary Lerch (and once run out of their basement!), is growing at
                                         warp speed. With online orders ranging up to $50,000 a pop, and more
                                         than 7,500 products (at near-wholesale prices) to choose from, Stargate is
                                         one of the largest home-theater accessory retailers in the galaxy.

                                         Interior Design The venerable Gaines McHale has long set the standard
                                         for the finest in European antiques, so lucky for us, owner Jean McHale
                                         decided to open an interior design firm, GMI Design, 700 S. Caroline
                                         Street, 443-524-0036, on the second floor of the furniture showplace.
                                         Whether GMI is designing a contemporary space for Jim Palmer's city
                                         apartment or having its way with a floor plan in a Beacon Hill, MA manse,
                                         McHale and her talented staff of designers have a knack for blending
                                         comfort and timeless beauty.

                                         Kitchen Store Home Goods, 9616 Reisterstown Road, Owings Mills,
                                         410-902-4435, has everything you need to stock your kitchen at bargain
                                         basement prices, but prepare for the hunt. There's lots of inventory on the
                                         shelves—pots and pans, glassware, fine china—but if you really take your
                                         time to trawl for treasures, you'll find some standout items such as a $7
                                         Japanese ceramic saki set, hand-painted Italian dinner plates for $5.99,
                                         even a German steel Henckels chef's knife for $12.99. Home Goods may not
                                         have the froufrou factor of other such shops, but if you buy your wares here,
                                         you'll be the happiest frugal gourmet on the block.

                                         Painters At 16, Steve Zemanek became an understudy of the now-retired
                                         master Werner Hauger. About 20 years later, Zemanek took over Werner
                                         Hauger Painting, 410-491-1202, and his handiwork can be seen in
                                         Guilford, Roland Park, Homeland, and Greenspring Valley. Zemanek's
                                         perfectionist credo—"You do the job 100 percent the right way, or you don't
                                         do it all"—explains why his business can boast it's made The State House,
                                         Government House, Hampton Mansion, Carroll Mansion, and countless
                                         other historic properties just a little bit more beautiful.

                                         Pest Control Getting rid of unwanted house guests is the business of
                                         brothers Bob, Ken, and Tom Collins, owners of Accurate Termite and
                                         Pest Control, 8000 Philadelphia Road, 410-574-2661. The siblings began
                                         the business 21 years ago because they wanted to bring a level of integrity to
                                         a sometimes shady field: "There are a lot of shenanigans out there in the
                                         pest-control business," says Ken Collins. "We went out on our own because
                                         we wanted to treat people honestly, and that's why we've been successful."
                                         Loyal customers with annual maintenance schedules swear by them, and
                                         they are the critter-busters of choice for many restaurants in Baltimore's
                                         Best Restaurants listings (no, we're not telling who).

                                         Place for Bric-a-Brac You won't need a passport to buy handmade home
                                         accessories from developing countries such as the Congo, Haiti, India, or
                                         Burkina Faso at Ten Thousand Villages, 1621 Thames Street, 410-342-
                                         5568. The store is actually a nonprofit organization that represents more
                                         than 130 artisans in 36 countries. From artisanal baskets hand-woven in
                                         Uganda to hand-painted wooden boxes from Indonesia and crocheted
                                         coasters from Bangladesh, Ten Thousand Villages is a retail pioneer that has
                                         been practicing fair-trade since 1946, long before it became trendy.

                                         Place to Furnish on a Budget If you enjoy the hunt for unique items,
                                         you'll love the five well-stocked warehouses of Second Chance Inc., 1645
                                         Warner Street, 410-385-1101. A recent jaunt turned up some great finds
                                         including a mint condition 1920's French armoire, a handmade Afghan rug,
                                         Victorian-era chairs, and a shelving unit deconstructed from the set of The
                                         Wire. The nonprofit Second Chance also believes in giving low-income
                                         Baltimoreans a second chance by training them in carpentry, craftsmanship,

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                                         Baltimoreans a second chance by training them in carpentry, craftsmanship,
                                         and construction.

                                         Place to Get Your House Wired Your search for high-tech home-wiring
                                         wizardry is over. Give a call to Ron Strickland's Mt. Airy-based Strickly
                                         Digital, 240-235-0641, stricklydigital.com, which has built a rep for fast,
                                         professional, and fairly priced work on everything from wireless and
                                         satellite hookups to broadband Internet, home theater, and stereo
                                         installation.

                                         Professional Organizer Need help letting go of your childhood tiddly
                                         wink collection? Amy Rehkemper, Simplify Organizing LLC, 410-370-
                                         4109, can help free you from the clutches of clutter. Rehkemper, who has
                                         appeared on HGTV's Mission: Organization, can work with you for a few
                                         hours in a single session or help you organize weekly. Unlike many services
                                         that leave you with the pile to donate to Goodwill, Rehkemper hauls it all
                                         away and distributes it to worthy charities such as House of Ruth and the
                                         SPCA. "I'm a modern day Robin Hood, taking away things that have
                                         become hazardous in my client's lives," sums up Rehkemper, "and
                                         delivering it to charities and people in need."

                                         Sunroom Builder You can't beat the artistry and quality of the gazebos,
                                         pool houses, and sunrooms created by Tanglewood Conservatories, 15
                                         Engerman Avenue, Denton, 800-229-2925,
                                         tanglewoodconservatories.com. Tanglewood is one of only a handful of
                                         conservatory builders in the United States, and, fortunately for us, it's
                                         located on Maryland's Eastern Shore. With copper cupolas, soaring
                                         skylights, stained glass panels, fluted pilasters, and state-of-the-art
                                         engineering, Tanglewood's designs invoke the beauty and grace of the late
                                         1800's and will add a note of elegance to any site.

                                         Tableware Store We could name drop all day—Vera Wang, Hermès,
                                         Spode, Saint-Louis, ahhhh—but trendy or timeless, Radcliffe Jewelers,
                                         1848 Reisterstown Road, 410-484-2900, is 25,000 square feet of home
                                         décor heaven. Prices are on the higher end (between $80 and $350 for a
                                         five-piece place setting), but the luxest of the luxe is never cheap. Also, if
                                         you're willing to wait, the store's annual holiday show is the stuff of legends,
                                         with rock bottom prices on select items made by Baccarat, Lladro, Lalique,
                                         and plenty more.

                                         Window Treatments Your room will go from ordinary to exceptional
                                         with handmade curtains from Christopher Bitter's new Palette, 3528
                                         Chestnut Avenue, 443-682-7523, in the heart of Hampden. Bitter's curtains
                                         —Roman valances, balloon shades, floor-length shears with pleats—are so
                                         pretty you might be tempted to pull a Scarlett O'Hara and wear them to
                                         your next dinner party. Bitter does it the old-fashioned way with a simple
                                         Singer sewing machine, a measuring tape, bolts of fabric, and a few rolls of
                                         tassels and trims. Bring in a picture of what you want or give Bitter carte
                                         blanche to create something to suit your taste and style.

                                         Linens Strolling though The House Downtown, 524 E. Belvedere
                                         Avenue, 410-464-1440, with its fluffy, puffy, pillow-covered beds is like
                                         walking through a waking dream. It isn't just the store's superior stock of
                                         400-thread count sheets, matelassé duvet covers, dotted Swiss shams, and
                                         crisp linen bed skirts by Legacy and Peacock Alley that makes us swoon
                                         with pleasure. We also love the savvy staff and design team willing to make
                                         house calls for even the simplest of requests, such as helping us choose
                                         which duvet or upholstered headboard will go best with our freshly painted
                                         boudoir.

                                         Party Staffer There's nothing worse than throwing a dinner party and
                                         then working the graveyard shift to clean the spinach dip off your Lenox.
                                         Next time, consider hiring Beck-n-Call Event Services, 15635 Falls
                                         Road, 410-472-2526. Owner Tammie Monaco, the former director of
                                         catering at The Brass Elephant, will provide servers and bartenders for your
                                         romantic dinner for two or that 150-person wedding in your tented
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                                         romantic dinner for two or that 150-person wedding in your tented
                                         backyard. Monaco's resume is star-studded—in her college years, she spent
                                         summers in the Hamptons at the beck and call of Kim Basinger and Alec
                                         Baldwin (in, uh, happier times), Rudy Giuliani, and Jimmy Buffett.

                                                                Pet Store Howl, 3531 Chestnut Avenue, 410-235-
                                                                2469, is like a Whole Foods for pets. Five years ago,
                                                                when owner Robin McDonald sought healthier
                                                                options for her sensitive-stomached Weimaraner,
                                                                Harper, there were none. So McDonald opened her
                                                                own store with all-natural everything—from chicken
                                                                and apple chews to wheat-based cat litter. Howl—
                                                                formerly Chow, Baby!—also offers services,
                                                                including nail-clipping on the first Saturday of each
                                                                month and a first-rate obedience school for dogs.
                                                                Look for animal acupuncture and monthly
                                                                educational seminars to come soon. "My goal," says
                                                                McDonald, "is to help people be better pet owners."

                                         Residential Landscaper It's not the biggest operation in town, nor the
                                         one that has reaped the most awards for mega-bucks renovations, but 75-
                                         year-old Green Fields Nursery and Landscaping, 5424 Falls Road,
                                         410-323-3444, is our choice for the homeowner who wants professional
                                         landscaping and personal service from folks with an eye for design and a
                                         knack for helping new trees and plants thrive. General Manager Pete
                                         Bieneman's three construction crews specialize in urban gardens,
                                         courtyards, wooded areas, and terraces (think hilly Roland Park and Mt.
                                         Washington).

                                         Back to top


                                                                         INDULGE

                                                                Estrogen Heaven In the last few years, Baltimore
                                                                has seen a real renaissance in the chocolate world,
                                                                and trust us when we say we've tried 'em all. With
                                                                all this choice, we still have a sweet spot for
                                                                Hampden's Ma Petite Shoe, 832 W. 36th Street,
                                                                410-235-3442. You see, owner Susannah Siger
                                                                quells our cravings with not just an impressive
                                                                selection of melt-in-your-mouth, high-quality, hard-
                                                                to-find European chocolates, but the latest and
                                                                greatest in designer shoes as well. Ladies, resistance
                                                                is futile.

                                         Barbershop There's nothing like a fresh shave and a haircut to make a guy
                                         feel good. Throw in some cigars, a shoeshine, and a little Frank Sinatra, and
                                         now we're talking. It was in that spirit that Craig Martin opened the
                                         decidedly old-school Quinntessential Gentleman, 31 S. Calvert Street,
                                         410-685-7428, in the fall of 2005. With hot towels, warm lather, a straight
                                         razor, and after-shave balm, QG offers the best shave in town. Services such
                                         as beard trims, brow waxing, and yes, manicures are so much more pleasant
                                         when you're holding a complimentary espresso in one hand and a beer
                                         bottle in the other.

                                         Blowout With a blow dryer, a round brush, and a way of taming even the
                                         wildest of manes into perfect position, Uno (née Unal Tuluoglu) of Uno,
                                         The Salon, 10751 Falls Road, 410-821-9080, is our town's Hair Whisperer.
                                         We're not sure how he does it, but no matter how thick or thin, frizzy or
                                         smooth, curly or straight, Uno knows exactly what brushes to use and what
                                         products to spray to make his clients look runway ready.

                                         Body Products Don't say we didn't warn you: One step into
                                         bluemercury, 200 E. Pratt Street, 410-576-9090, and your whole day is
                                         shot. Effervescent salespeople are happy to answer all questions and shower
                                         you with free samples. (After all, you have to try products to know they

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                                         you with free samples. (After all, you have to try products to know they
                                         work, right?) This national chain—which came to Baltimore in October
                                         2006—specializes in hard-to-find labels, but also carries a beauty junkie's
                                         tried-and-true favorites such as Trish McEvoy, Frederic Fekkai, Bliss, and
                                         Bumble & Bumble. And if you're tuckered from all that retail therapy, no
                                         harm in trying out one of bluemercury's legendary facials.

                                                                Cosmetics Diamonds may be a girl's best friend,
                                                                but makeup is a close second. So swing by Hunt
                                                                Valley's Ulta, 118 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley (and
                                                                other locations), 410-527-9960, for a beauty
                                                                wonderland guaranteed to make you smile. With
                                                                locations coast to coast, this mega store sells
                                                                everything from Bare Escentuals to Stila and
                                         Smashbox, as well as a great assortment of accessories including Kabuki
                                         blush brushes and precision eye curlers.

                                         Culinary Indulgence Nothing beats the legendary black truffle with a
                                         dollop of caviar from Eddie's of Roland Park, 6213 N. Charles Street,
                                         410-377-8040. Although these extravagant delights can be special-ordered
                                         year-round (when available), during the Christmas season, the high-end
                                         supermarket's Charles Street location actually carries the sacred black
                                         truffle, known as much for its earthy flavor as its hefty price tag (last year,
                                         it ran about $375 per pound). Throughout the year, caviar-savvy shoppers
                                         also flock to Eddie's for some of the best domestic caviar money can buy.
                                         The tiny eggs fly off the shelves during the holidays, so stock up—and then
                                         sit back and sigh.

                                         Facial If Ponce de Leon had experienced the 24-karat gold facial at Mt.
                                         Washington Spa, 1600 Kelly Avenue, 410-664-3400, he would have
                                         discovered the Fountain of Youth here in Baltimore. The facial, in which
                                         sheets of gold leaf are massaged into the face, is purported to tighten,
                                         brighten, and turn back the hands of time (well, at least temporarily). Mt.
                                         Washington Spa is one of the few spas in town to offer this exclusive service
                                         and owner Vesna Stojanovic sets the standard with her Midas touch.

                                         Inexpensive (But Fabulous) Haircut In this day of fast-track salons,
                                         Shear Classic, 5004 Lawndale Avenue, 410-435-6646, is a throwback to
                                         simpler times (and simpler prices) and walk-ins are welcome. At this tiny
                                         Roland Park beauty nook, you won't need to work a night job to afford the
                                         latest in cut, color, and chemical treatments, but you won't sacrifice quality.
                                         Men's cuts start at $15 and women's cuts start at $22. "This is the kind of
                                         place where you can come wet from the pool or in sweatpants," says owner
                                         Lynn Foltz. "It's not the kind of place where you need to wear your Sunday
                                         best."

                                         Makeup Artist There's a reason why it takes three months to book an
                                         appointment with salon co-owner Dean Krapf, Lluminaire Salon, 15 W.
                                         Allegheny Avenue, 410-583-1500. Krapf began his journey to the upper
                                         echelons of Charm City beauty 25 years ago doing hair, but, after a decade,
                                         he added makeup artistry to his bag of tricks. Not only does Krapf use top-
                                         shelf cosmetics (some exclusive lines from Japan, as well as standards such
                                         as Chanel lipgloss and Dior mascara), he gladly schedules makeup lessons
                                         to teach the basics, perfects age-appropriate looks, and helps "edit"
                                         cosmetic routines (hint: less is more).

                                         Manicure What makes Moldovan-born Zena Fox, Zena's Spa and Salon,
                                         1014 N. Charles Street, 410-783-1971, a great manicurist? A relaxing,
                                         massaging, polishing experience, some good conversation, a caring attitude,
                                         and polish that doesn't chip before your parking meter expires. It's no
                                         wonder that tastemasters, such as designer Rita St. Clair, flock to get
                                         groomed by this former art student. What's more, Zena offers one of the
                                         best manicure perks we've ever encountered—instead of reading two-year-
                                         old issues of Us while waiting for your Essie to dry, you can use the
                                         treadmill or bike for free at the adjoining Mt. Vernon Fitness!

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                                         Manscaping All you men who feel like you're missing out on the chance to
                                         get waxed, fret not. "Manscaping" (or body hair removal for men) is all the
                                         rage, and the folks at FX Studios, 11270 Pepper Road, Hunt Valley, 410-
                                         771-1500, have a way of making it . . . fun? Okay, at least you'll be
                                         distracted—with movies (Indiana Jones, Death at a Funeral),
                                         complementary ice cream, "floating hosts" who serve drinks, and enough
                                         flatscreens to make you an honorary Nielsen member. And rest assured,
                                         discretion is paramount. Let's face it, when you're getting your back waxed,
                                         it's not like you want the whole world to know about it.

                                         Massage One thing you won't smell walking through the door of ReNew
                                         Organic Day Spa, 843 W. 36th Street, 410-400-2745, is chemicals.
                                         Instead, expect the essence of orange or the aroma of lavender. Co-owner
                                         and massage therapist Sherrie Tennessee—a former Johns Hopkins
                                         researcher—knows the human body like, well, the back of her hand.
                                         Tennessee incorporates Native American hot stone massage and
                                         aromatherapy into the green getaway's signature massage.

                                                                 Pampering For Your Pooch Going out of town
                                                                 and worried that, for your little Toto, there's no
                                                                 place like home? Then head to PetSmart's
                                                                 PetHotel, 9041 Snowden River Parkway, Columbia,
                                                                 410-312-4890. This state-of-the-art pet hotel—with
                                                                 its airy atriums and suites, hypoallergenic lambskin
                                         beds, and caring staff—has all the amenities you'd expect in a fancy hotel,
                                         including a "Pawsgress Report" and a "Bone Booth" (so you can phone in
                                         and talk to your buddy). In addition to a 24-hour on-site pet hospital, it
                                         even offers "room service" and in-suite movies such as Lady and the Tramp
                                         and Lassie. As far as we know, there's no mini-bar.

                                         Pedicure Get ready to be waited on hand and especially foot when you
                                         book an appointment at Salon Laurie & Company, 5910 Falls Road,
                                         410-464-1500, for a pedicure. Our favorite is the "Ten" pedicure, featuring,
                                         you guessed it, 10 rejuvenating ingredients including African cacao extract,
                                         caviar age control complex, white truffle oil, and champagne grape seed oil.
                                         Pedicurist Kathy Mojica, who works out of a private room, is attentive to
                                         your every need, and a brie and fresh fruit snack is served under a domed
                                         crystal dish during the soak-and-polish portion of the experience. Included
                                         in the price ($60) is a caviar body emulsion cream to take home.

                                         Personal Trainer Whether you're a seasoned athlete or an exercise
                                         neophyte, Meadow Mill Athletic Club Fitness and Wellness director
                                         Jon A. Kaplan, 3600 Clipper Mill Road, 410-235-7000, will custom
                                         develop your perfect exercise routine. Kaplan is a friend, therapist,
                                         confidante, and trainer all in one fit package, which is exactly how he keeps
                                         clients from falling off the exercise wagon. "My whole philosophy is to keep
                                         people moving," says Kaplan, who has 22 years in the industry. "You need
                                         to get people to show up at the gym, and the way to do that is by
                                         connecting to them."

                                         Place To Buy A Fur Coat While fur might fly at the suggestion, there's
                                         nothing that spells luxury like a mink coat (just ask Mayor Dixon). At
                                         Mano Swartz, 10801 Falls Road, 410-825-9000, you'll find classic full-
                                         length minks and foxes, hip Persian lamb jackets and sable stoles, fur-
                                         trimmed gloves and cashmere wraps, and even a selection of fur coats for
                                         men. Have a puffy-sleeved, full-length fox from your Dynasty days? Swartz
                                         can reshape it into a trendy, swing car coat and make a matching pocket
                                         book, pillow, or even a teddy bear with the scraps.

                                         Spa Getaway With the arrival of the luxe Red Door Spa, The Village of
                                         Cross Keys, 42 Village Square, 410-323-3636, four years ago, red became
                                         our new favorite color. From the minute you enter through the bright red
                                         doors of this Elizabeth Arden spa, you'll be transported by the zen décor and
                                         soft-spoken staff, waiting to tend to your every luxury need. And whether
                                         you stay for an antioxidant facial, an abhyanga and shiatsu massage, an

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                                         you stay for an antioxidant facial, an abhyanga and shiatsu massage, an
                                         olive oil pedicure, or a seaweed body wrap, it's like leaving town without the
                                         hassle of airport security.

                                         Wellness Center If heaven is on earth, we found it at Ojas Wellness
                                         Center, 1501 Sulgrave Avenue (and other locations), 410-664-OJAS, a
                                         blissfully tranquil, eco-friendly oasis offering a million and one ways to
                                         unwind. Ojas has it all, including Five Element Acupuncture, massage
                                         therapy, Reformer Pilates, organic skincare, and yoga classes for every skill
                                         level. In the ever-expanding world of wellness centers, the expert staff—
                                         trained in everything from Vinyasa and Iyengar yoga to Reiki massage and
                                         Chakra balancing—will help you to achieve your goal, be it inner peace,
                                         chronic pain relief, or a flatter tummy.

                                         Limo Service For most of us, limo service is a rare treat. So if you're
                                         gonna do it, do it right. Zbest Limousine, 6809 Ritchie Highway, Glen
                                         Burnie, 410-768-1148, provides upscale vehicles—think stretched Hummers
                                         and Escalades—for everyone from President Bush to the Prime Minister of
                                         Turkey. The place virtually never closes, with drivers on standby and
                                         operators ready to take reservations 24/7. As for brides-to-be? Says general
                                         manager George Rains: "Our drivers cater to the bride. We're going to be
                                         right there with you, whether you need a Tic Tac or a button sewn on." Now
                                         that's service.

                                                                 Upscale Haircut Baltimore is a town with an
                                                                 embarrassment of great stylists, but lately those in
                                                                 the know have been flocking to Yolanda Carr, La
                                                                 Salon De Beaute, 105 Old Court Road, Pikesville,
                                                                 410-484-2890. With its relaxed vibe and cozy,
                                                                 homespun interior, La Salon de Beaute is as
                                         unassuming as it gets. But Carr's clients could care less about décor—they're
                                         here because she can help them morph from blah to beautiful with a wave
                                         of her Hikari Japanese shears or a soupçon of artfully applied golden
                                         highlights.

                                         Back to top


                                                                             FUN

                                                                   Cocktail It's tempting to believe a replica of the
                                                                   Capital Grille's winsome signature cocktail, Stoli
                                                                   doli, Capital Grille, 500 E. Pratt Street, 443-703-
                                                                   4064, could be mixed anywhere. With just two
                                                                   ingredients in the upscale chain's succulent
                                                                   pineapple martini, what's the big deal? How 'bout
                                                                   this: The Inner Harbor location receives its
                                                                   pineapples 48 hours after they're picked in Maui,
                                                                   then promptly slices them into thick bricks and
                                                                   stows them in vats of Stoli vodka for two weeks.
                                                                   After two more weeks of refrigerated marinating,
                                                                   the pineappletinis are doled out for $11.95 a pop.
                                                                   Steep, we know, but try just one and you'll be sold
                                         (and possibly a little sloshed).

                                         'Burbs Bar Atmospheres as bland and stale as the food they serve plague
                                         many suburban bars. If zippy one-word chains in strip mall parking lots
                                         aren't your thing—and we're quite sure they're not—drive over to Rams
                                         Head Tavern, 8600 Foundry Street, Savage, 301-604-3454, for a taste of
                                         the genuine. Housed in a 19th-century foundry that oozes character, the
                                         downstairs Rathskeller pub provides the perfect pitch of darkness, the bar's
                                         top-notch Fordham beer on tap, and Rams Head's legendary $2.50 happy
                                         hour drafts with free food buffet. There's a pool table and a few TVs. Plus,
                                         the bartenders aren't required to wear any pieces of flair.

                                         Closer-Than-You-Think Recreation Spot It's a wild and wonderful
                                         fact: Harpers Ferry, harpersferrywv.net, and its myriad recreational

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                                         fact: Harpers Ferry, harpersferrywv.net, and its myriad recreational
                                         options is just an hour-plus drive from Baltimore. Seventy miles (mostly on
                                         I-70) is all that separates us from some of the best tubing, rafting, hiking,
                                         hunting, and fishing in our area. The confluence of the Potomac and
                                         Shenandoah rivers provides a perfect spot for water activities ranging from
                                         the lackadaisical (tubing) to the intense (kayaking). World class hiking is
                                         available on the famous Appalachian Trail. We smell a day trip.

                                         Federal Hill Bar For Grown-Ups The first eye-opener on a typical
                                         night at Regi's American Bistro, 1002 Light Street, 410-539-7344, is the
                                         demographic of the customers—diners and imbibers actually born before
                                         the Carter administration. That's not to say the place is stodgy or stuffy.
                                         Anything but. An adventurous menu features monstrous salads and adult
                                         takes on kids' classics. The tater tots are stuffed with melted brie cheese and
                                         applewood bacon. There's music on the stereo–more likely Radiohead than
                                         a crooner from the Rat Pack–but the tunes play at a volume that actually
                                         encourages conversation. Bless you, Regi's.

                                                                   Gym If you were a member of the MAC Harbor
                                                                   East, 655 President Street, Suite 200, 410-625-
                                                                   5000, you might actually look forward to working
                                                                   out. The vibe in this gleaming new facility is more
                                                                   spa than gym. Technology is omnipresent: Every
                                                                   piece of cardio equipment is fitted with a flat-screen
                                         TV and iPod jack, and there are computers with Internet access in the
                                         lobby, so after you burn off those calories you can check your body mass
                                         index (or order a pizza). Four pools, four squash courts, plus studios for
                                         kinesis, yoga, Pilates, and boxing offer members virtually every exercise
                                         option under the sun. Here's the kicker: The place even smells good.

                                         Hangout For A First Daughter Despite her strong Republican lineage,
                                         Jenna Bush (whoops, make that Hager), has never seemed overtly political.
                                         The same can be said of Federal Hill's popular watering hole, Ropewalk
                                         Tavern, 1209 S. Charles Street, 410-727-1298. A Ronald Reagan statue
                                         stands proudly over a bronze elephant in the corner of the back bar, and the
                                         menu features The Gipper, "Named after the Patron Saint!"—but the lively
                                         tavern is an unpretentious gathering place fit for both right and left leaners.
                                         Indeed, Ropewalk takes its cue from a poster hanging near the front bar
                                         touting the 2008 candidacy of Ronald Reagan and his running mate, Natty
                                         Boh. "Everybody loves a good party."

                                         Happy Hour Perhaps no societal institution is more aptly named than
                                         happy hour, that precious time when workday worries are washed away. RA
                                         Sushi, 1390 Lancaster Street, 410-522-3200, a new oh-so-hip sushi
                                         restaurant/bar/lounge in Harbor East offers its own Eastern-infused twist
                                         on these three hours of bliss with major deals on fresh fish and libations.
                                         Eight-piece orders of California rolls are only $3.25, tender spicy tuna just a
                                         few quarters more. RA's happy hour, week–days from 4 to 7, features one of
                                         the greatest deals in all of Baltimore drinking: $1 hot sake.

                                         Hiking Spot Each summer, thousands flock to Oregon Ridge Park,
                                         oregonridge.org, to enjoy concerts, barbecues, picnics, and playgrounds.
                                         But beyond the park's well-known face spans a body of more than 1,000
                                         acres, which offers some of the most pleasurable hiking trails in the region.
                                         Start at the Nature Center to pick up a map of the nine primary routes (and
                                         be sure to check out the turtles). The clearly-marked trails range in length
                                         from the Iron Mine Gray Trail (at .18 mile) to the Loggers Red (at 1.6
                                         miles), and are all accessible even for the outdoorsman who spends most of
                                         his time indoors.

                                         Neighborhood Bar Like that mythic Boston basement bar that never ran
                                         dry of beer or buddies, Hull Street Blues, 1222 Hull Street, 410-727-
                                         7476, is the type of low-key joint where everybody seems to know your
                                         name. Chock full of customers who've been coming for years, the cozy
                                         tavern offers a warm and inviting environment for newbies as well as
                                         regulars. Shuffleboard, a solid jukebox, and friendly bartenders and patrons
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                                         regulars. Shuffleboard, a solid jukebox, and friendly bartenders and patrons
                                         make the place just right for a bustling Friday or a laidback weeknight.

                                                                 New Bar The secret's out. Every time we step into
                                                                 Annabel Lee Tavern, 601 S. Clinton Street, 410-
                                                                 522-2929, it's more crowded than the last. The
                                                                 Tiffany lamps behind the bar, the dark-red color
                                                                 scheme, and the 40's and 50's jazz and big band
                                                                 tunes give the place the feel of an old friend's living
                                                                 room. Owner Kurt Bragunier runs the place with a
                                                                 smile on his what-has-to-be tired face. People seem
                                                                 to love the Edgar Allan Poe-themed bar's homey
                                                                 charm. Or maybe they're just addicted to the sweet
                                                                 potato fries, served piping hot and doused in
                                                                 cayenne and brown sugar.

                                                                   No-Frills Bar Stroll into Dougherty's Irish
                                         Pub, 223 W. Chase Street, 410-752-4059, and you'll immediately be struck
                                         by its breathtaking, well, ordinariness—but that's exactly what makes it so
                                         special. Never too crowded, never too vacant, this not-so-Irish pub harkens
                                         back to a long-gone era when bars didn't feel the need to pass themselves
                                         off as the place to be, they just needed to be. Its menu sports refreshingly
                                         simple options like a cloak and dagger sandwich (no, it wasn't invented by
                                         Royal Farms) for around $6. Plastic pitchers of domestic beer don't cost
                                         much more—and be sure to check the chalkboard behind the bar for
                                         specials.

                                         Oriole Legend Boog Powell seems to grow larger—in stature, and
                                         otherwise—every year. The product of an era when the players were just like
                                         us, working class guys who lived, ate, and drank in the same places we did,
                                         Powell's achievements on the field can be overshadowed by his outsized
                                         personality off it. He smacked 339 homers (and 11 triples!) during his
                                         career, which included two championship seasons. These O's could use a
                                         Boog or three—not just his bat, but his zest as well. Luckily for us, his
                                         presence still looms large at the Yard, where he's often dishing out barbecue
                                         and visiting with fans, embodying the best that Baltimore baseball has
                                         offered through the years.

                                                                 Oriole Newbie Call him Lord of the Flat Brim.
                                                                 His trademark: closing out Orioles wins while
                                                                 wearing a hat that looks like it hasn't been touched
                                                                 since it left the factory. With brim meeting bird logo
                                                                 at a 90-degree angle, George Sherrill has owned
                                                                 the ninth inning since coming to Baltimore from
                                                                 Seattle in an off-season trade. Teammates and fans
                                                                 delight in flipping up their brims to honor his
                                         duckbill platypus cap style after he closes out a victory, something he's done
                                         23 times at press time. Here's hoping he'll keep breaking opponents' bats,
                                         while never breaking in his hat.

                                         Public Golf Course Links-style golf commonly is associated with Scotland,
                                         birthplace of the sport. Flat courses with few water hazards or trees, links
                                         tracks usually are set by the sea or—in the case of Compass Pointe, 9010
                                         Fort Smallwood Road, Pasadena, 410-255-7764—by the Chesapeake Bay.
                                         The course features 36 holes (divided into four nines) spread over 800 acres
                                         that challenge golfers of varying skill by demanding accuracy and
                                         imagination. The facility is kept in immaculate shape, and its driving range
                                         has plenty of mats to ensure you'll seldom be crowded. Greens fees range
                                         from $30 to $70 (be sure to check the Web specials).

                                         Raven Set aside, for the moment, the prestigious Johnny Unitas Tops in
                                         Courage Award that Ravens director of player development O.J. Brigance
                                         received in March, and take note of what already sits proudly in his trophy
                                         case: the Unsung Hero Award, the Winston/Shell Award (given annually to
                                         the most innovative player development director), the Ed Block Courage
                                         Award, and don't forget that Super Bowl XXXV ring. Since being diagnosed
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                                         Award, and don't forget that Super Bowl XXXV ring. Since being diagnosed
                                         with ALS, Brigance has refused to let the disease sideline or even sidetrack
                                         him. He shows up to work every day with a smile on his face, resolve in his
                                         step, and faith in his heart. Ravens president Dick Cass sums it up simply:
                                         "He is an inspiration to all of us."

                                         Smokers' Paradise This year has been rough on more than just the lungs
                                         of Baltimore's smokers. They've been scorned, ostracized, and driven from
                                         bars onto the streets like some sort of carcinogen-spewing lepers. But the
                                         marriage of two classic vices can't be killed overnight, so it was only a
                                         matter of time before bars adapted to the new anti-smoking law. The
                                         outdoor courtyard between Tsunami and Lemongrass, 1300 Bank
                                         Street, 410-327-7835, offers an admittedly hazy first glimpse into this
                                         future. Under a lattice roof, a large Buddha looms over a half bar (shots and
                                         beer), and the space is filled with comfortable wooden chairs and booths,
                                         and even large heaters. This is the last bastion of nicotine, and as anyone in
                                         this smokers' Shangri-La will tell you, it's just what the doctor ordered.

                                         Sports Bar More neighborhood bar than jock hut, NcDevin's, 801 S.
                                         Decker Street, 410-276-0600, is a relatively meat-head-free environment.
                                         The games are important here, but when the war on the field (actually, on
                                         one of NcDevin's 16 TVs) ends, enemies (Steelers fans are known to
                                         populate the place) strike a truce and exalt in booze and some of the best
                                         bar food around. (Try the fried pickles.) The always-friendly bartenders are
                                         more than willing to work with you to find your game, and the bar even
                                         carries sports television's twin white whales, the Big Ten Network and
                                         ESPNU.

                                         Urban Sporting Goods Store What could be more important to the
                                         young city-dwelling athlete than looking good while working out? City
                                         Sports, 809 Aliceanna Street, 410-837-4420, to the rescue. Not only does
                                         it sell its seriously cute signature logo T-shirt, there's a dizzying array of
                                         supplies for sports, running from the mainstream (basketball, tennis, and
                                         running) to the more niche (skateboarding, badminton). Along with the
                                         requisite Ray Lewis jerseys, there's an impressive selection of watches and
                                         sunglasses in display cases up front.

                                         Wire bar When Detective Lester Freamon (Clarke Peters) confronts hand-
                                         in-the-cookie-jar Senator Clay Davis (Isiah Whitlock Jr.) in the penultimate
                                         episode of The Wire, he meets the corrupt pol at a silky smooth north
                                         Baltimore bar. Of the several local nightspots in which Wire creator David
                                         Simon shot, New Haven Lounge, 1552 Havenwood Road, 410-366-7416,
                                         is the grooviest. Old school and understatedly cool, like Freamon himself,
                                         murals of musical legends adorn the walls, and jazz bands set up shop in
                                         the middle of the small club Friday and Saturday nights, playing at the
                                         perfect pitch. As one fan said of the space, "It's like living in the album."

                                                                 Urban Sports Organization "Serene" is not a
                                                                 word most people associate with the water of the
                                                                 Inner Harbor. Sickening might be more like it.
                                                                 Regardless of what lies beneath, anyone who's
                                                                 paddled a kayak from Canton to Locust Point as the
                                                                 sun sets on a warm summer night knows the
                                                                 experience is downright blissful. Canton Kayak
                                         Club, cantonkayakclub.com, offers 60-plus kayaks docked at multiple
                                         locations throughout the city, providing a hassle-free passage to the sport.
                                         For $135 a season, members get a training course and unlimited use of the
                                         kayaks. No reservations are necessary, just show up and plop down into a
                                         kayak, and prepare to feel the stress flow from your body.

                                         Back to top


                                                                             ARTS

                                                                 Band Beach House, the local duo of Alex Scally
                                                                 and Victoria Legrand, crafts lush, understated

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                                                                 and Victoria Legrand, crafts lush, understated
                                                                 chamber pop infused with dreamy warmth. His
                                                                 fuzzy guitars, vintage drum machines, and
                                                                 trembling keyboards waltz blissfully around her
                                                                 bittersweet vocals on the group's second disc,
                                                                 Devotion. Gorgeously produced by Rob Girardi, it lit
                                                                 up the blogosphere and got love from the likes of
                                                                 Rolling Stone and The New York Times.

                                                                  Actress Of the many notable roles in The Wire,
                                                                  none was more peculiar and distinctive than
                                         Felicia Pearson's "Snoop." Discovered by cast member Michael K.
                                         Williams (Omar) in a Baltimore club, Pearson brought an androgynous and
                                         nuanced ambiguity to her role that elevated it far beyond that of a typical
                                         street killer. "Snoop" didn't look, or sound, like anyone else on television.
                                         Let's hope she'll be able to find decent work, post-Wire.

                                         CD Peabody's Manuel Barrueco snagged a Grammy nomination for last
                                         year's Solo Piazzolla, his take on compositions by tango master Astor
                                         Piazzolla. This year, the acclaimed guitarist upped the ante by adding
                                         strings (the Cuarteto Latinoamericano) to his Piazzolla interpretations. The
                                         resulting disc, the sublime Tango Sensations, bleeds every bit of emotion
                                         from Piazzolla's evocative compositions, as it migrates from classical tour de
                                         force to crossover gem.

                                         Cultural Event On a cold Monday afternoon in February, the First
                                         Mariner Arena was filled with a crowd that looked like a cross-section of
                                         Baltimore's population—in terms of race, gender, age, and economics—
                                         which, outside of Artscape, rarely occurs in this city. People were mingling,
                                         chatting, and smiling, as songs by Stevie Wonder and Neil Diamond
                                         boomed over the P.A. The atmosphere was festive, like before a concert or
                                         sporting event, but these people were actually there to hear a guy talk
                                         politics for an hour. And no matter how you felt about Barack Obama's
                                         speech, the cultural significance of such a diverse gathering was
                                         undeniable.

                                         Documentary The Tinklers create deceptively simple art—songs,
                                         paintings, books, and performance pieces—that, because of its nuance,
                                         would seem to be a poor match for a straightforward documentary. But
                                         Brian Averill's Everybody Loves the Tinklers uses rare performance
                                         footage and insightful interview clips to get at the genius behind two wildly
                                         creative guys (Charles Brohawn and Chris Mason) who, among other things,
                                         play rubber band guitars and wrench xylophones and sing songs about the
                                         library. Averill nails the timeless wisdom at the heart of The Tinklers work
                                         and doesn't shy from its utter delight.

                                         Free Concert Series There's an unlikely venue tucked away in the woods
                                         behind Catonsville Senior High School, and each summer, it hosts a
                                         remarkable line-up of performers. This year's Lurman Woodland
                                         Theatre Summer Concert Series includes Deanna Bogart, Charles "Big
                                         Daddy" Stallings, Bayside Big Band, Carl Filipiak, Pan American Rhythm
                                         Project, St. Charles String Quartet, Junkyard Saints, and many others. The
                                         acts are first rate, the theater is shaded, and most impressively, it's free.

                                         Genius Move Maestra Marin Alsop won the prestigious MacArthur
                                         "genius" grant in 2005. So what is the BSO music director doing with the
                                         final grant installment of $100,000? She's using it to found OrchKids, an
                                         innovative after-school music program, at Harriet Tubman Elementary
                                         School. That's not only genius, it's incredibly generous.

                                         History Museum As it celebrates and documents Baltimore's Jewish
                                         community, The Jewish Museum of Maryland, 15 Lloyd Street, 410-
                                         732-6400, manages to relate that history to the city at large and the nation
                                         as a whole. Two recent exhibits, The Voices of Lombard Street: A Century
                                         of Change in East Baltimore and Ours to Fight For: American Jews in the
                                         Second World War, made those vital connections without ignoring the
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                                         Second World War, made those vital connections without ignoring the
                                         thorny issues of race and nationalism. As a result, the material was thought
                                         provoking and relevant, without any of the dust that often settle over such
                                         shows.

                                         Music Festival (alternative) Last year's Whartscape, the Wham City
                                         collective's annual music fest, qualified as a notable event, but this year's
                                         version shaped up to be the ultimate celebration of the city's fertile indie
                                         music scene. Over the course of four days, July 17-20, the Whartscape
                                         schedule included Celebration, Beach House, Dan Deacon, Ponytail,
                                         Matmos, Cex, Double Dagger, Ecstatic Sunshine, and dozens of others at
                                         various venues. You wouldn't find a better homegrown line-up for a festival
                                         anywhere in the U.S.

                                         Music Festival (mainstream) Lots of folks were surprised when the
                                         Virgin Mobile Festival chose Pimlico as its flagship venue, and there was
                                         much skepticism that it would actually remain at the decaying track. But it's
                                         proved to be a surprisingly good match so far, as interest and attendance
                                         has grown. And how often will you see the likes of Nine Inch Nails, Kanye
                                         West, Bob Dylan, Foo Fighters, Jack Johnson, Chuck Berry, and Iggy Pop
                                         on the same bill?

                                         One-stop Culture Hub Normal's Books & Records, 425 E. 31st
                                         Street, 410-243-6888, is a vital arts and culture hub masquerading as a
                                         used book and record store. On any given visit to the Waverly shop, you
                                         might nab an out-of-print Grace Hartigan monograph, page through local
                                         lit publications like Shattered Wig Review (published by co-owner Rupert
                                         Wondolowski), get tips about upcoming poetry readings and art shows, run
                                         into fellow shoppers such as John Waters or Madison Smartt Bell, and hear
                                         some of the most adventurous music Baltimore has to offer. A gem like
                                         Normal's is as much about community as it is about commerce.

                                         Patron Saint When painter Larry Scott passed away last November, the
                                         city lost one of its most beloved artists. And when Xando's, the Charles
                                         Village coffee shop where Scott hung out, closed soon after, the two events
                                         seemed eerily related. But since then, Scott's influence continues to
                                         reverberate, as various artists (including Don Griffin, one of his closest
                                         friends) cite him as the inspiration behind recent work. Scott's wife,
                                         Desiree, is putting together a show for the fall that will feature work by
                                         Scott and his various cohorts and admirers.

                                         Poet It takes a poet with Zen calm and Thoreau-ish powers of observation
                                         and insight to gaze at a snail, note its physical attributes, contemplate its
                                         metaphysical state, and make the reader care about such things. But
                                         Goucher's Elizabeth Spires does just that, and much more, in her latest
                                         book, The Wave-Maker.

                                         Song It isn't everyday that Mel Gibson comes calling to a relatively
                                         unknown songwriter. But that's what happened when Gibson's Icon
                                         Productions found Howard Markman's "Almost Home" via the
                                         internet and placed the Hampdenite's song alongside tunes by Bob Dylan,
                                         Talking Heads, and The Killers in the penultimate episode of PBS' Carrier
                                         documentary. Although not originally written with the U.S.S. Nimitz in
                                         mind, Markman's melodic and memorable song perfectly captured the
                                         anticipation felt by sailors returning to port after a six-month deployment
                                         in the Persian Gulf.

                                         Work in Progress When local filmmaker Michael Lawrence set out to film
                                         various musicians playing and discussing Bach, he had no idea how much
                                         cooperation he'd get. As it turns out, a stunning assortment of players have
                                         been filmed for Lawrence's upcoming Bach Project including violinists
                                         Hilary Hahn and Joshua Bell, singer Bobby McFerrin, the Emerson String
                                         Quartet, banjoist Bela Fleck, and mandolin player Chris Thile. Their
                                         involvement virtually guarantees a revealing examination of Bach's music.



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                                         Writer Dan Fesperman crafts thrillers that deftly mix political intrigue
                                         with the politics of being human. A foreign correspondent with The Sun,
                                         Dan Fesperman frames his narratives with a keen understanding of current
                                         events, which makes books such as Prisoner of Guantanamo and The
                                         Amateur Spy all the more timely and believable. At this point, Fesperman's
                                         body of work even rivals that of more well known Sun alums like David
                                         Simon, Stephen Hunter, and Laura Lippman.

                                         Zine Who says blogs have made zines obsolete? That's certainly not the
                                         case with William P. Tandy's Smile Hon, You're in Baltimore. Tandy's
                                         Baltimore narrative exists largely outside the official record in that it's
                                         gleaned from folks sitting on barstools and standing on street corners.
                                         That's what makes it indispensable reading for anyone who appreciates and
                                         loves the city, warts and all.

                                         Art Publication Locus, the local journal/exhibition space/magazine,
                                         exudes a sort of restless creativity that makes each issue surprising and
                                         satisfying. Smartly edited and beautifully designed, it showcases art infused
                                         with both passion and humanity. Locus doesn't strive to be fashionable,
                                         trendy, or cool—just good.

                                                                 Design In 2002, we gave a Best-of nod to Nolen
                                                                 Strals for his concert poster designs. Since then,
                                                                 Strals and his partner, Bruce Willen, have been
                                                                 stretching the boundaries of graphic design and
                                                                 conceptual typography with their firm, Post
                                                                 Typography. From show posters and book covers
                                                                 (see Jonathan Miles' Dear American Airlines) to
                                                                 experimental fonts and their recent Public Print Lab
                                                                 installation at the Creative Alliance, Post-
                                                                 Typography refines the DIY aesthetic in ways that
                                                                 are exciting and engaging.

                                                                  Outdoor Art Every two years, an amazing
                                         assortment of sculptures seems to magically appear on the grounds of
                                         Evergreen House. The Sculpture at Evergreen biennial features about a
                                         dozen site-specific pieces spread throughout the property, and stumbling
                                         across them is half the fun. For the duration of the show, a simple walk
                                         around Evergreen becomes a wondrous, whimsical, mysterious, and
                                         surprising act of discovery—a veritable Enchanted Forest for art lovers.

                                         Back to top


                                                                           MEDIA

                                                                  Arts Writer Under a byline that most writers
                                                                  would kill for (yes, it's her real name), Violet
                                                                  Glaze pens eye-popping stories on the region's
                                                                  growing and dynamic counterculture for City Paper
                                                                  (and occasionally Baltimore). Her stories recount
                                                                  everything from performance artists who staged a
                                                                  "love parade" on North Avenue to an operation in a
                                                                  Parkville basement that turns modern women into
                                                                  40's-era "pin-up girls." Glaze reports as well as she
                                                                  criticizes and observes, uncovering stories on the
                                                                  fringe without turning her very human subjects into
                                         freaks. A Glaze story is as evocative as her name, often funny, and honest
                                         without clubbing you over the head.

                                         Balti-centric Blog The digital Frankenmonster that is The Mobtown
                                         Shank, sugarfreak.typepad.com, always gets us going one way or
                                         another. There are the gloriously random snippets of conversations called
                                         "overheards," the wonderfully bad video bits of old TV shows, some
                                         excellent mp3 downloads of post-punk and roots bands, a hipster's
                                         happenings calendar, and other oddities submitted by a cast of genuine
                                         characters. Atomic Books main man Benn Ray, who runs the cyberjoint, has

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                                         characters. Atomic Books main man Benn Ray, who runs the cyberjoint, has
                                         impeccable taste in the good and in the so-bad-it's-good, and is an astute,
                                         often-angry observer of politics to boot. Long may the Shank wave.

                                         Blast of Radio Static Whether you miss Marc Steiner's serious daily look
                                         at Baltimore in all its problematic glory, or you hated his left-leaning guests
                                         and too-knowing banter, you'll have to admit that Steiner's forced exit
                                         from WYPR-FM's daily mid-day talk slot in February was made for his
                                         first love: theater. Steiner's refusal to go quietly, the picketers who marched
                                         outside WYPR's lower Charles Village offices, the defiling by vandals of the
                                         "Y" and "P" (representing the "Your Public" in "Your Public Radio") on its
                                         building—a modernist play about a media martyr couldn't have been better
                                         scripted. Like all good dramas, this one played out quickly: Ratings are up
                                         at the station and Steiner has landed a new gig at WEAA.

                                         Countercultural Media Experience Ever wonder what the closing-time
                                         crowd at the Ottobar might look like in a fashion shoot? Or what moves the
                                         eccentrics behind this city's most obscure art journals and columns? The
                                         blokes and blokettes who churn out Gutter Magazine,
                                         guttermagazine.com, a slam-glam fashion cyber-pub for the magically
                                         hip, think about these things all the time. With dozens of rough-edged,
                                         super-saturated photos each month and a drunk-at-midnight's focus and
                                         'tude, Gutter works really hard to show us that it doesn't care what you
                                         think of it. And what could be more beautiful than that?

                                                                    Columnist Coming up with ways to express the
                                                                    absurdity, vanity, and venality that lurk behind the
                                                                    curtains at City Hall isn't as easy as it looks. You
                                                                    need an all-ears network of sources, some news
                                                                    sense, and a sarcastic wit that owes as much to
                                                                    Hedda Hopper as it does to Mark Twain.
                                         Fortunately for us, there's The Sun's Laura Vozzella around to cheekily
                                         tell us about the circus of humanity at City Council meetings, or about the
                                         city's eccentric circuit court clerk, Frank Conaway, who haughtily refuses to
                                         call Sheila Dixon "mayor" because she chose to have Governor Martin
                                         O'Malley swear her in instead of him. As they say, you just can't make this
                                         stuff up.

                                         Deejay Steve Ash—that's Stash to you—has been one of our favorites at
                                         98 Rock (97.9 FM) for years, spinning a solid collection of classics and new
                                         stuff while keeping his banter remarkably intelligent. So, when the
                                         headbanger banged his own head during an accident at his home last year,
                                         we worried that we might have heard the last of him. But after two months
                                         of therapy to regain his speech and motor skills, Stash returned to his
                                         afternoon show in February. The results have been gratifying on so many
                                         levels: Stash sounds strong, and even more appreciative of the music and
                                         his audience. The feeling is very mutual.

                                         Enlivener of the Dismal Science Jay Hancock, The Sun's shining
                                         business columnist, grants us clarity every Wednesday and Friday, and his
                                         blog keeps it coming in between. Want to learn about the latest wrangling
                                         between the state and Constellation Energy and what it will mean for your
                                         electric bill? Need to get a sarcastic laugh on the craziness of the economy
                                         or read a snarky column "from the future" on an insolvent America and its
                                         coming Triple-Z bond rating? Economists, those dismal scientists, talk like
                                         robots. Hancock is flesh and blood, and appreciates that you need to
                                         understand the economy, too.

                                         Impersonation of the New York Post "BLUDGEONED!!!!" screamed
                                         the headline, after a Riderwood teen murdered his mother in May. "HOLY
                                         STASH!" followed the discovery a few days later of street drugs in a shrine
                                         outside St. Frances Academy. While Rupert Murdoch moves upscale (we
                                         hope) following his purchase of The Wall Street Journal, The Baltimore
                                         Examiner goes for the gut. It doesn't take a media analyst to figure out
                                         why: The tabloid wants to turn more heads toward paper boxes and at
                                         newsstands, and get those well-heeled residents to stop griping about its
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                                         newsstands, and get those well-heeled residents to stop griping about its
                                         free delivery.

                                         Magazine Rescue When David Dudley returned to Baltimore last year
                                         and accepted an offer to run Urbanite, many warned him that turning the
                                         earnest, progressive monthly into something lively and reader-friendly
                                         would be a near impossibility. The Cassandras were wrong. Dudley, a
                                         former Baltimore magazine editor, has already assembled a number of
                                         issues that microscopically examine the city's warts—crime and public
                                         schools among them—with depth, style, and much-improved writing. We
                                         like the product's pared down, manageable new shape, too.

                                         Print Reporter "Juvenile justice" is a loaded term in this town, when one
                                         considers that thousands of kids start the day poor and hungry—there's no
                                         justice in that. For a reporter, the trick is to cover the epidemic of juvenile
                                         violence with an eye toward what's happening to the kids, and then turn
                                         their sagas into compelling narratives that deal with the harrowing
                                         complexity of so many young lives. Julie Bykowicz at The Sun pulls it all
                                         off with seeming effortlessness, most recently detailing (with reporter
                                         Melissa Harris) the death of a two-year-old girl who swallowed her young
                                         mom's dose of methadone.

                                                                   Radio Show We love the freewheeling aspect of
                                                                   the The Signal, WYPR's weekly arts-centric
                                                                   chronicle (heard Fridays at noon and 7 p.m.).
                                                                   Producers Aaron Henkin and Lisa Morgan (aided by
                                                                   the distinctive throat of program director Andy
                                                                   Bienstock) aren't married to a set format. They'll
                                         run interviews with no interviewer, or head out on the road to assess the
                                         mood of The Free State, if they happen to feel like it. The result? A timely,
                                         stylish, often-quirky set of offerings each week—interviews with poetry
                                         slammers, mandolin orchestra members, and "fair-trade" enthusiasts—that
                                         never fail to enlighten and entertain.

                                         Reason for Reporters to Hold on to Those Slippery Day Jobs We
                                         majored in English, so we're all for storytelling laced with such things as
                                         "authenticity" and "verisimilitude." We're also suckers for cameos by old
                                         stars who play themselves in bad TV shows. But those acting
                                         "performances" by Sun reporters on The Wire this past season
                                         may have ruined it all for us. It made us pine for the thespian
                                         professionalism of All the President's Men—or even Lou Grant.

                                         Sports Announcer Although some many disagree, we happen to think
                                         that the heyday of Orioles broadcasts was during the 80's, when Jon Miller
                                         and Joe Angel would team up to bring you baseball on the radio. Angel's
                                         pipes, deep knowledge of the game, frequently hilarious asides, and
                                         exhaustive pre-game legwork returned to Baltimore in 2004 to enliven
                                         games that certainly needed it. Now heard on WHFS-FM (105.7), he and
                                         partner Fred Manfra have improved steadily as a team—and this season, it
                                         seems the other team (the one on the field) is finally catching up.

                                         Sports Blog As longtime lovers of Roch Kubatko's "Roch Around the
                                         Clock," we're loath to ditch Kubatko and his clever, insider-y multiple daily
                                         entries on everything orange and black. But Kubatko's batting machine-like
                                         barrage of O's tidbits took a backseat in March once Kevin Van
                                         Valkenburg started downloading the poignant stories behind the sports in
                                         his "Life of Kings" blog. Incandescent tales of playing ball with kids in
                                         the Dominican Republic and a touching elegy of a fellow O's fan and friend
                                         are among the entries that elevate blogging to an art form.

                                                                  Sports Gal Hired as a pretty face by the local
                                                                  Fox/Sinclair crowd in 2004, Amber Theoharis
                                                                  refused to play to type (although she is, indeed,
                                                                  quite fetching). Before long, she was (wo)manning
                                                                  the weekend sports desk and reporting award-
                                                                  winning sports features. These days, you can't flick a
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                                                               winning sports features. These days, you can't flick a
                                                               dial or pick up a paper without seeing or hearing
                                                               her—a good thing, we think. Her from-the-sidelines
                                                               work on Orioles' MASN broadcasts is stellar, and
                                                               her radio show, "The 'A' List," on WHFS, manages
                                                               to be both provocative and intelligent. Ditto for her
                                                               "The Broad Side" column in PressBox. Maybe
                                         Amber is overexposed, but we can't seem to get enough of her.

                                         Sports Guy How do we love Mark Viviano, WJZ-TV sports director? Let
                                         us count the ways. 1. He breaks news, the most famous example being the
                                         Cleveland Browns' move to Baltimore in 1995. 2. He affects no annoying
                                         "guys like us" jock swagger, instead delivering sports news clearly and
                                         professionally. 3. He's as good reporting from the sidelines as he is
                                         delivering no-frills accounts of the day's highlights, and 4. He keeps sports
                                         news in perspective, realizing, as the late and great Chris Thomas (formerly
                                         of Channel 11) once remarked, that a billion Chinese don't give a damn
                                         about American athletics.

                                         Story The saga of Cindy McKay, the multi-state black widow and thief,
                                         made for classic narrative—or a Coen Brothers cinematic treatment. Starting
                                         with McKay's faked suicide at the Ocean City inlet, reporter Justin Fenton
                                         at The Sun unspooled several hundred miles of yarn on McKay in a three-
                                         part, front-page series in April. We eagerly awaited each segment's arrival
                                         to see how involved McKay's sons were in the insurance-yielding murder of
                                         at least one of her husbands, or just how low McKay would go to rip off the
                                         charities she worked for. Fenton's spare style let the facts of this bizarre, Ma
                                         Barker-like tale shine through. Do we smell a book deal?

                                         TV Anchor Local television news desks have become retirement homes for
                                         our longtime favorites—not a bad thing, especially since it means that we
                                         get to continue enjoying the affability and straightforwardness of WMAR
                                         Channel 2's Mary Beth Marsden. The station may be in the ratings
                                         basement, but with Marsden's humor and good grace setting the tone for
                                         folks like Terry Owens and Jamie Costello, we often wonder why.

                                         Weatherperson Why is it that WJZ's Bob Turk gets our psyche
                                         permanently set on mild and sunny? Most likely it's his lack of histrionics,
                                         his soothing aspect no matter what the weather. Bob will give us the full
                                         poop on inclemency and havoc, to be sure, but as "The Sunshine Kid"
                                         begins to head into the sunset after a legendary run in Baltimore, his
                                         laidback presence has become calming and avuncular, as if to say: "Bring
                                         the heavy weather on. We can handle it."

                                                                   TV Reporter (who isn't Jayne Miller) There's no
                                                                   "I" in team, unless it's the I-Team. So, it's fitting
                                                                   that our closest-to-Jayne selection is a member of
                                                                   her WBAL hit squad: Barry Simms. In the past
                                                                   year, Simms exposed bad contractors, took on
                                                                   incompetent repair crews from Home Depot, and
                                                                   was hot on the trail of slimy "home rescue
                                                                   operators" who buy homes from people who are
                                                                   having a hard time affording them, then rent them
                                                                   back at exorbitant rates. He's done it all with a no-
                                                                   nonsense, low-key style. It's not for nothing that
                                                                   Simms won awards this spring from the Associated
                                                                   Press and the National Association of Black
                                                                   Journalists.



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