Spy Investigation: The Talbot County PawPaw

A few days ago, a Spy subscriber left a plastic bag with two pieces of very exotic-looking fruit at our international headquarters on Dover Street for our sampling pleasure.  While the reader did not indicate as such, the Spy believes that he/ she may be associated with the PawPaw Appreciation Association – Cooke’s Hope chapter, since the fruit is a Talbot County product.

The PawPaw is not new. It was discovered and named Asimina in 1541, and actually is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the North American continent. And it certainly helps to know that the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plant to offer as a dessert. It also served as a critical part of Lewis and Clark’s food supply.

But how does it taste?

Good. The Spy took our sample and did a tiny and uncontrolled taste test on Goldsborough Street. It was served at room temperature (Washington liked his chilled), and it had a softer texture than pyataya. Is that enough to bring back the PawPaw to restaurants and fine dinner parties shortly? You’ll need to contact the Cooke’s Hope chapter representative for that answer but they left no contact information.


Inside the Sprout Kitchen: The Art of the Order

Over the last year or so, the Mid-Shore is growing used to the idea, thanks to Sprout Kitchen in Trappe, where one can order freshly prepared meals delivered to your door rather than having to make a mad dash to the supermarket as the dinner hour approaches.

Unlike such popular meals by mail startups like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, where one still needs to go to the trouble of actually cooking those entrees, Sprouts takes it to the next step. And the next step is not only cooking these meals but locally sourcing the food that is prepared.

And with that kind of business plan, the irony is that Sprout Kitchen owners, Emily and Ryan Groll, actually encourage their clients to order less than more.

Why? In this latest installment, the Grolls answer that question and much more, as we visit once again Inside the Sprout Kitchen.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For information about the Sprout Kitchen and their meal plans please go here

Piazza Food Bites: Spy Notes on Piazza’s Latest Wine Dinner

Two great Easton entrepreneurs joined forces with Folio Fine Wine Partners to produce an extraordinary tour through Sicily’s Donnafugata winery. With Amy, Chef Chris and the Out of the Fire Restaurant team preparing a perfectly paired five-course meal to match the carefully selected wines by Emily and her team from the Piazza Italian Market, the nearly forty who signed-up for the event were in for an evening of sensational taste experiences.

Piazza’s Emily Chandler briefs the wine dinner attendees

Out of the Fire was opened only to the wine tasting guests and they were greeted by pickled shrimp with melon, speck and basil at the table as they entered and Donnafugata’s Anthilia was poured. That was followed by grilled swordfish on a perfect green heirloom tomato accompanied by the second white wine, the Lighea from Italy’s Zibibbo grape.

The red wine courses were remarkable and really highlighted two very popular Donnafugata wines. The Sherazade was paired with a Sicilian-style pizza topped with heirloom tomatoes, anchovies and calabrese sauce. The Nero d’Avola grape from Sicily delivered on Donnafugata’s promised ” pleasantly fruity bouquet with fragrant notes of cherry and red plum, combined with light spicy scents of black pepper.

The Nero d’Avola grape blended with Petit Verdot and Syrah provided the second red wine in what Donnafugata calls its “flagship red,” Mille e Una Notte. Paired with lamb meatballs that included toasted semolina polenta, arrabbiata sauce and ash goat cheese, this course made for a magnificent conclusion to the dinner entrees.

Of course, Out of the Fire and Piazza had one wonderful treat left, a fresh goat cheese cheesecake and peach preserve, paired with Donnafugata’s Ben Rye 9, described as “one of Italy’s most appreciated sweet wines.”

Thus, another of Piazza’s wine tasting dinner came to a fulfilling conclusion.

Watch Piazza’s website  for information on future wine tasting dinners and drop by after 1 PM on Friday’s for the weekly tasting of a featured wine.

Inside the Sprout Kitchen: Where’s the Beef (Coming From)

If there has been one food group under attack over the past several decades in America, it would be meat products. Denounced by vegetarians, maligned by some environmentalists, and avoided by more than a few health experts, meat, or more precisely, beef has lost its once secure place in the pantheon of American culinary popularity over the years.

Nonetheless, it remains an important staple for the vast majority of consumers, even with those who consider themselves advocates for healthy diets. And that would include Emily and Ryan Groll at Sprout Kitchen.

While it is true that the Grolls are conservative when it comes to offering beef in their weekly selection of prepared foods, they do enjoy it periodically as an excellent alternative to turkey or other white meats. And nowhere is this better seen than when they make their unique recipes for classic meatloaf or Mongolian beef.

They also have done their due diligence is finding the right local beef producer to supply them.  In this case, and after months of extraordinary research, they entered into an exclusive partnership with Evermore Farms in Westminster, Maryland.

In the latest edition of “Inside the Sprout Kitchen,” Emily and Ryan talk about the role of beef in their cooking philosophy and the importance of knowing where their beef is coming from.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For information about the Sprout Kitchen and their meal plans please go here

Inside the Sprout Kitchen: Talking Turkey

When a good percentage of your total food purchases is dedicated to buying the best turkey, which Sprout’s Kitchen does, it’s a big deal.

And like everything else the Sprout Kitchen owners, Emily and Ryan Groll, do, they spent a lot of time figuring out who was the right producer, what kind of bird they would use, and where it came from.  While there might have been more convenient options, the Grolls make a 100 mile trip to Maple Lawn Farm in Howard County when they need turkey.

In the latest edition of Inside the Spout Kitchen, Emily and Ryan recap why Maple Lawn fits the bill for their unique food business, and why consumers should know the difference between real turkey and “a real turkey.”

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For information about the Sprout’s Kitchen and their meal plans please go here

Spy Food: A New Breakfast Place Opens in Easton

When Stephen Mangasarian closed Restaurant Columbia of Easton several years ago, he said that one day he’d like to try something more casual, “…maybe even a sandwich shop or diner.”

Well, less than a month ago Stephen opened Breakfast In Easton. It’s kind of a diner, and for sure it provides a darn good breakfast!

While remaining involved in Banning’s Tavern as executive chef, Stephen prepares an excellent breakfast for his guests at his new hideaway location at the back of 28 South Washington Street…right behind the Talbot Historical Society. And, Jen takes the orders, makes the coffee and serves the meals.

Nice place to stop in the morning. They only take cash, but the pancakes and sausage were less than $8.


Piazza Food Bites: After That Big Meal Comes Amaretti di Saronno

Leave it to the Italians for finding the perfect solution for ending a grand meal with just the right amount of sweetness and lightness.

While famous for such show stoppers as Tiramisu, Panna Cotta, and Cannoli, the Italians also found the need to offer guests something a less filling, particularly during the summer months, that works well with that after-dinner espresso or dessert wine.

What they discovered is the remarkable use of dried apricot kernels to create an exceptionally light cookie, festively wrapped in colorful paper, to help end those special meals.

Emily Chandler, the owner of Piazza Italian Market, talks to the Spy about the role Amaretti di Saronno plays in the culinary world of Italy, but also the surprising news that cooked apricot kernels can also be used to fight certain cancers.

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

Piazza Food Bites: Let’s All Scream for Bacon

Poor bacon. The poster child for heart-related illnesses and consistently on the guilty food lists for most people over thirty, bacon never seems to gets a fair break in our modern world of healthy living.

We will leave it to the scientists to determine bacon is right or wrong for you, but for Emily Chandler, owner of Piazza Italian Deli in Easton, it is more of a question of who produces the bacon and how they do it, rather than how it ranks on cholesterol tests. And her search for the perfect bacon ended up in a small town in Indiana and her introduction to Smoking Goose Meatery’s Applewood Smoked Bacon.

In this edition of Piazza Food Bite, Emily talks about the unique and straightforward approach Smoking Goose takes will all their meat products and also her own bias on when it’s best to use American style bacon over the thinker, more intense Italian prosciutto also found in her store.

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

Easton Sidewalks: Mason’s Return on Harrison Street

In hindsight, it shouldn’t have been a shocker that the owners of Mason’s, a culinary “Rock of Gibraltar” in Easton since 1966, would put the family-owned business up for sale a few years ago. With most restaurants these days lasting about eighteen months, the decision for the family to sell the fifty-year-old dining establishment and retire seemed to follow the predictable lifecycle for any enterprise.

What wasn’t especially evident however was the motivation behind the new owners swapping out Mason’s time-tested business model for a high-end steakhouse with prices to match. Mason’s had not been sold because it was losing money. Its formula of excellent service and food in a perfect Eastern Shore setting had worked its wonders into making Mason’s one of the few restaurants in town that could count on a profit most years.

But, alas, this significant fact didn’t stop the new owners from re-branding the venue as a deluxe Chophouse, confidently thinking that area diners wouldn’t miss the original Mason’s. But they did, and that led to an early end to $50 steaks but also left one of the town’s most attractive restaurants sitting empty and lifeless.

It was, therefore, all the more exciting then for the Spy to learn that the mighty Mason’s will be getting a second life in a few months. Angel investors have come to the rescue of Easton’s “Grand Dame,” and plan to return both the name and its distinctive take on American cuisine to Harrison Street this Fall.

More details will be forthcoming on its grand opening date but needless to say, Mason’s, like a great phoenix rising again, will once again be back in town soon enough.


Inside the Spout Kitchen: It’s All about Baywater Greens

While Sprout’s Kitchen prides itself on finding the freshest local ingredients for all their prepared entrees and snacks, there is very little doubt that their number one priority has been in the area of produce to make their hugely popular weekly salads and greens that make all their meals special.

The challenge was to find a local farm that could deliver exceptional product all year around, not just during the traditional growing season. They also wanted to make sure the producer was indeed local, which permits Sprouts to use greens just harvested and use for their meals the very next day.

After much research, Sprout owners Emily and Ryan Groll discovered Baywater Greens just outside of Salisbury to play this critical role with Sprout’s Kitchen. Now on their 6th generation of family farmers, Baywater has been successfully using hydroponic greenhouses in 2010 to grow organic produce in addition to their traditional outside fields to be the premium choice for restaurants up and down the Delmarva as well as Baltimore and Washington, DC.

In our latest edition of Inside the Spout Kitchen, Emily and Ryan talk about how important Baywater Greens is to their business and their early success in providing the freshest, healthiest meals to their ever growing list of clients on the Mid-Shore.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For information about the Sprout’s Kitchen and their meal plans please go here


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