Piazza Food Bites: And, Yes, Expresso in Now being Served

The pressure was on. Piazza was making great strides in establishing itself as the premier Italian market on the Eastern Shore, but the lack of coffee was affecting their street cred. Customers would complain that they could not have an espresso or a cappuccino with their biscotti, and finally, the store bowed to pressure and installed on authentic Italian espresso machine.

In this installment of Piazza Food Bites, the store’s coffee advocate, Liz Capuano, talks about the simple approach to offering customers what they want.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information on Piazza please go here.

Piazza Food Bites: Happy Sausages

It shouldn’t be a surprise to local foodies that one of the most requested products Piazza Italian Market customers have been asking for was the addition of meat products that were from farms that treated their pigs and cows humanely. What was surprising was how hard it was to make those requests a reality.

 You would think, given these days of increasingly expanded food choices, that Emily Chandler, Piazza’s owner, would have a number of choices to satisfy her customers wishes, but that didn’t turn out to be necessarily the case given Emily’s high standards, and her use of the same careful research when importing Italian products. In short, reputation is everything.

And that’s what led her to a relatively small distributor in Indiana named Smoking Goose for her sausage and bacon choices. The Spy talked to Emily about her choice and, of course,  some great uses for this special sausage in our latest edition of Piazza Food Bites.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information on Piazza please go here

Mid-Shore Culture: History on Display at Chestertown Electric

Want to buy an old telephone – one with a real dial? How about one of the “candlestick” models we’ve all seen in old movies? Check out David Hoatson’s Chestertown Electric, at 324 Cannon Street. It’s just the place you’ve been looking for.

Hoatson opened his shop last October. For now, he’s open Friday evenings, 5 to 7 p,.m., and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Or if you’re in the market for something special and can’t get by during regular hours, call him at 410-778-0313. He’ll also answer the door bell if he’s home – he might be working in the large workshop/storage area in back or just upstairs. He lives in the apartment above the store.  He plans to expand the store’s hours in the near future.

Among the vintage items on display are ceiling and table fans,

Small electric fans – all restored and operational.

some as old as 1919 – all in perfect working condition. The old ones were more solidly made than newer models, with metal parts built to last, Hoatson said when the Spy visited his shop April 29. He began collecting old fans, lamps, and other antique electronics just about five years ago.

He’s done any necessary maintenance and restoration on the fan motors himself, supplied new blades where needed, and touched up the trim to make them look practically new.  For some of them, all he had to do was clean them up, plug them in, and they ran. The best electrical appliances were made before the Great Depression, he said.  Back then moving parts – gears, ball bearings – were made of good quality metal, not plastic like many of today’s appliances. Dayton, Ohio was once the electric fan capital of the world.

Hoatson is happy to talk about his collection – he has a story about almost all of them. Showing a stockpile of fan motors in his back room – which doubles as a storeroom and a workshop – he said, “I think some of these were stolen.” He told of a man in the 1930s who would check into hotels, take down the ceiling fans and lower them out the window to load them in his car. Hoatson came by them honestly, though – he found most of them at an antique fan dealer’s convention.

His collection of old phones – all of them in working order – includes some with 11 holes in the dial – the ten numbers plus a dedicated one to dial the operator directly, Many were made by Western Electric, but he also has some from Northern Electric – the Canadian branch of the company. Some of them need adapters to connect to modern outlets, but they all work perfectly.

There plenty more in the store – pre-1905 electric lights with carbon filaments, a hand-pumped vacuum cleaner from 1919, an Emerson brass desk fan from 1911 – and Hoatson can tell you the history of all of them. It’s like visiting a museum – with the added benefit that if you really like something, you can take it home.

Currently he is in the process of buying the building next door to his store.  He plans to move the family’s high-end audio store from Baltimore to Chestertown in the near future.  His son will manage the new store.

A native of Baltimore County, Hoatson attended Georgia Tech before returning to his home turf, where he worked as an electrical engineer for AAI Corporation, an aerospace and defense contractor in Hunt Valley. Among his projects was designing a special planetarium for the military – used to train antiaircraft crews. It’s in use in countries from Italy to Australia, as well as by the U.S. military.

Dave finds the old fans, phones, and electronic parts in many places – on e-bay, through an antique fan society, in second-hand stores,  at flea markets, etc.  Oddly enough, he says he hasn’t bought anything at Crumpton’s auction yet.  That may change, though.


Piazza Food Bites: Another Kind of Smart Cookie

Like most things at the Piazza Italian Market, there is very little fanfare given to the large variety of homemade cookies made each week to satisfy food connoisseurs in need of a light surprise at the end of an important meal. Hidden under the counter at the Talbottown store are nonetheless these perfect gems that built on the Italian tradition of biscotti and the simple but satisfying answer to cure a sweet tooth.

The Spy talked to Piazza’s owner Emily Chandler on the special effort that went into making these deliciously modest indulgences.

This video is approximately one minutes in length. For more information about Piazza please go here


Piazza Food Bites: Tis the Season for Asparagus Lasagna

During asparagus season, it’s not uncommon to find home chefs using every conceivable way to enjoy this lovely but relatively short-lived Eastern Shore delicacy. And while it might be true that the best method for savoring it is right off the barbecue grill or roasted in the oven, with an ample supply of extra virgin olive oil coating it, leave it to the folks at Piazza to remind us in Italy, asparagus is also celebrated with such classics as lasagna.

This week we talked to Emily Chandler, owner of Piazza, about her store’s ode to spring in the form of the classic asparagus lasagna. Anchored with an extra dose of lemon zest and four remarkable kinds of cheese, Emily is the first to admit that Piazza is not reinventing the wheel, but rather pays its respects to the extraordinary food traditions found in Italy and now Easton, Maryland.

This video is approximately one minutes in length. For more information about Piazza please go here

Piazza Food Bites: Pity Stilton Cheese No Longer

Pity Stilton cheese no longer; help is on the way.

For reasons still not well known, one of the best cheeses in the world, enjoyed by foodies throughout the year, has been marginalized in this country as an exclusive holiday treat. But Piazza owner Emily Chandler is dedicated to changing this unfair and completely irrational characterization.

In the Spy’s first installment of an ongoing educational partnership with Piazza Italian Market on the joy of food and wine, we talked to Emily about her love Stilton and the extreme steps she is takes to bring the very best to Easton directly from London once a month.

This video is approximately one minute in length. For more information about Piazza Italian Market please go here

The Talbot County Garden Club Finally Takes a Bow after 100 Years

It’s hard to think of a better example of unsung local heroes than the Talbot County Garden Club. While it’s remarkable work can be seen in almost every part of the region, from State Police barracks off of Route 50 to St. Mary’s Square in St. Michaels, the women and men of this venerable institution, have joyfully and without much recognition, beautified with flowers and native plants some of our most beloved settings in the area.

Without any significant effort to toot their horn, the Club has been doing that kind of work for precisely one hundred years, and it shows. Starting with their first project to rid the County of the 21,000 highway signs that existed when they formed in 1917, through their work on the County Courthouse, herb gardens with the Talbot Historical Society and the hugely popular Five Corners Garden, as well as countless classes and garden tours, the Garden Club has been quietly supporting Talbot’s extraordinary horticultural life.

But as the organization celebrates its centennial year, the Spy wanted to make a special effort to put the spotlight on the Garden Club’s historic role in Talbot County. And we spent a delightful time at Bullitt House a few weeks ago with three local members, Caroline Benson, Bobbie Brittingham, and Pat Lewers, who have a considerable amount of club seniority amongst them, to share this wonderful story of stewardship.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about the Talbot County Garden Club please go here

Maryland 3.0: Screaming and Shaking at Justine’s with Tyler Heim

There is something rather extraordinary about a small town ice cream parlor. It inevitably strikes a nerve of memory and nostalgia for many Americans as they recall their families special trips in the early evening of summer to the local stand on Main Street.

And one of those very special places is Justine’s Ice Cream Parlour in St. Michaels.

Known for having the longest lines in town during the summer months, including those eager to visit the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum. Justine’s over the last 30 years has become on those iconic snapshots of life on the Eastern Shore.

But behind the counter is another great American story of young entrepreneurs taking the concept of the summer ice cream place to an entirely different level. And that was the motivation behind the Spy’s recent interview with ice cream maker Tyler Heim,who, along with his brother, Jared, has been managing Justine’s for the store’s owner (and aunt) Kathleen Lash over the last few years.

When we talked to Tyler last week in the store last week, Tyler gave us an excellent overview of the world of local ice cream, the art of milkshake making, and plans to scale up the Justine brand in the years ahead.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information on Justine’s please go here. Maryland 3.0 is an ongoing Spy series on entrepreneurship on the Mid-Shore. 

Spy Profiles: Chesapeake Harvest with Deena Deese Kilmon

There seems to be a good bit of nostalgia about the traditional family farm on the Eastern Shore as of late.  Going back centuries, the idea of a self-sufficient, agricultural enterprise that’s focused on locally grown produce has had a minor renaissance as consumers continue to seek out healthy alternatives to commercial grown “fresh” fruit and vegetable sections.

That’s the good news. The not so good news is that in order for those local farmers to be competitive they are increasingly asked to certify their agricultural practices in order to qualify in the wholesale and retail markets.

This is not an easy undertaking. And that is why the work of the Chesapeake Harvest project formed by the Easton Economic Development Corporation is so critical to this important transition.

With the help of a federal grant, Chesapeake Harvest has made it its goal to work with 30 of these family farmers over the next three years to prepare them for USDA gap certification, the most common and well respected endorsement, while at the same time branding and marketing the notion of being “Bay-friendly” through the adoption of these production conservation standards.

Leading this marketing and outreach effort for Chesapeake Harvest is Deena Deese Kilmon who has not only had the invaluable background of coming from a family farm background, spent time in the wholesale food world but also owned restaurant in St. Michaels before joining the organization.

We caught up with Deena in Kent County a few weeks ago before she and her team of volunteers worked with the local farmer to do a risk assessment of that farm’s practices and make recommendations that will move that farm into a gap certified agricultural center.

This video is approximately three minutes in length. For more information about Chesapeake Harvest please go here

Maryland 3.0: Sprouts Starts to Take Over the Eastern Shore

Just so you know….perhaps one of the most significant “foodie” experiments in the country is taking place on the Mid-Shore.

A young couple, primarily trained in nutritional science and fitness, decide to escape the rat race of the Western Shore and relocate to Trappe to start a food delivery business dedicated to high quality prepared meals with locally sourced produce and meat.

The concept was simple. Rather than send clients the raw materials to make a nutritious meal (think Blue Apron), Sprout owners Ryan and Emily Groll would take it to the next level and actually cook the meals for its customers.

Sprout would do all the work. Whether it be breakfast, lunch, dinner, or even a snack, Ryan and Emily identify local farmers within a 200-mile range that produce some of the most exquisite examples of fruit, vegetables, chicken, pork, or beef in the region to produce meals that could be left at your doorstep twice a week.

Fast-forward one year later Sprouts has become an increasingly important provider on the entire Eastern Shore as well is in Annapolis. With Ryan’s mother in Chestertown, the couple continues to seek a local partner to help as a delivery station, which they call a “Sproutlet,” but they hope to cover the entire Mid-Shore within the next two years.

The Spy spent some quality time with Ryan in his portable kitchen in Trappe to discuss the couple’s courage and conviction it took to start a business of this kind and their aspirations over the next few years.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Sprouts please go here