Tuesday, November 25, 2008

The Parkside

I really can't express how disappointed I am in the Parkside. We were so excited when it opened within walking distance of our house but a couple of visits made it pretty apparent that it was not going to be a regular spot for us. The first time I went for lunch I got a dry, uninspired sandwich. Both the turkey and the bread was dried out and the olive spread was bitter. However, it was the first week they served lunch so I gave them a pass. Then tonight we went to dinner and I realized that it was just part of a larger issue.

I ordered the gumbo (which the menu warned had no okra) and received a bowl of soft rice in a thin broth with bits of shredded chicken and tiny wedges of sausage. I thought there was onions but not sure if there were peppers or celery, which is troubling in a gumbo. I had never seen gumbo served all stirred together like that. Normally it is a mixture of seafood, meat and some vegetables served over rice, not a thin soup.

After just a few mushy bites I bit into something hard. Really hard, it felt like a rock and clanked against my teeth. When I told the waitress, a second waitress (because I couldn't find our waitress at first) and then the manager, they all seemed completely unconcerned. The second waitress said she thought it must be a part of the sausage, but I have to say, I have never once found a rock in sausage before. The manager, when finally summonded, didn't even bother to apologize, just asking if I had saved the rock (I had daintily spit it out into a spoon and returned the whole mess to the "gumbo") and took it away. Our waitress finally did take it off the bill but still...rocks in mediocre soup? No concern from the staff? Not what I would expect from a new local business trying to stay afloat.

Matt didn't fare much better-his "Tuscan chicken" open-faced sandwich could be charitably described as a homemade french bread pizza (think chicken and peppers with lots of red sauce and covered in cheese served on thick, tasteless bread) and was served with an "antipasto" salad which contained what appeared to be long, flat Asian noodles and a creamy sauce. The sauce on the sandwich tasted like it came from the jar and the the 3 mushrooms we were told about were missing. Matt said the sandwich reminded him of something he would have made as a hungry teenager with leftovers from the fridge.

The food was amateurish at best, the staff apathetic and the menu is rather overpriced for what you get. I just didn't get the impression that the chef or the staff was very interested in or familiar with food which, for a restaurant, is pretty shocking. Perhaps the Parkside should refocus what they want to be a kiddy destination? a bar? a sandwich shop? a bakery? a market? a full service restaurant? because it is pretty clear they can't handle doing it all. I love to support local businesses and I love our neighborhood but it is just not good. If you go there, I would recommend just sticking to drinks or the risotto cake which was bland, but not bad. The fact that the food was awful was bad enough but the fact that they didn't seem to care at all was worse.

We are going to be taking all of our business to the delightful Hamilton Tavern further down Harford Rd where the food, staff and drink have all been top notch no matter when we've been there.

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Parkside Fine Food & Spirits

I haven't been yet but I noticed that The Parkside (4709 Harford Road)Restaurant now has a sign out that says they are open for business! I can't wait to try them out.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Early voting? Maybe next time

You may have heard that there's a Presidential election coming up in a couple of weeks. We don't usually get too political here, so I'll just say it's basically a race between two guys. Again. Hmph.

Anyway, here in Maryland we actually have some other pretty important stuff on the ballot, as well. And you don't want to get caught trying to read the ballot initiatives for the first time -- on the ballot. Two biggies include an initiative to allow early voting in the state of Maryland, as well as to allow slots here.

The Maryland League of Women Voters has an awesome web site with explanations of the pros and cons of these initiatives, as well as information on all the candidates running for all the offices. Click here and then click on "Election 2008 Voters Guides. "

It's important that you get out and vote on these important changes being proposed for our State. No matter how you vote, just vote.

(But seriously, you should vote "no" on the slots thing.)

Friday, October 10, 2008

Chameleon Café - Eat in Season Challenge

The Chameleon Café steps up to Slow Food Baltimore's Eat in Season Challenge this month.

Chef and restaurant owner, Jeffrey Smith, always serves a seasonal menu and he has created a special our-course meal for the Challenge based on local, seasonal fall foods.

Available: October 11 - 18
The $35 prix fixe seasonal offering features:

Corn Chowder
George's silver queen corn and peppers; Martins Farm garlic;
Briedenbaugh Farm potatoes and onions; Krakos smoked polish sausage

Fried Green Tomatoes
George's green tomatoes and Truck Patch Farms smoked

Grilled Pork Loin with Succotash
Truck Patch Farms pork loin; farmers'
market lima beans, crowder peas and butter beans; George's corn and
Briedenbaugh potatoes

Seasonal Fruit Tart
Reid's Orchard fruit

The Chameleon Café
4341 Harford Rd Baltimore, MD 21214

I think the menu sounds great although I am a little skeptical of the "in season" corn being offered. It is late in the season for local corn but I am sure it will be tasty!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Yes, we're still in business, but Hon, I need your help!

Okay, so I apologize for letting such a long time go by without posting. I honestly didn't realize it has been this long -- August?

I guess you can see that this blog is in serious need of some new blood -- fresh energy. I know there's a lot going on in the neighborhood. Unfortunately, due to family commitments out of state, I haven't been able to stroll through our streets. Hopefully I'll get back to that soon.

In the meantime, I'm looking for contributors. Doesn't have to be great prose -- jeez, look at some of the lame stuff I post here!

So if you're at all interested in being a contributor to Harford Road Hon, please send me an email to:


and I'll get you set up. Imagine how impressed your friends and family will be when you tell them you're a blogger!

On second thought, you're right. Better keep that to ourselves ....

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Interesting blog alert!

If you're interested in following the Conventions, check out the website for the Center for Emerging Media, Marc Steiner's new digs. Marc is out in Denver now, blogging about the events. I hope he'll also be at the Republican Convention.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Hamilton Tavern open for business!

Okay, so it's not technically in Westfield, but it is on Harford Road, after all. And I hope that supporting this surge of new restaurants and interesting businesses along Harford Road could mean they continue to creep up our way.

They don't have a website up yet, but the reviews from ChowHound sound positive:
"Food was outstanding - some unique items on menu - fried dill pickles - wonderful -
The burger was outstanding cooked perfectly - spend the extra money and add a fried egg and or bacon to it - you will not be disappointed. We had the veggie pita which was so tasty - Though we did not have- we heard great comments about the steamed shrimp and mussels. Be sure and ask about specials - I had the gazpacho and it was truly the finest I have ever had anywhere ! - Also had a peach cobbler special - it was to die for ---- We will be back soon and often!! --"
So far, their hours are:

Friday and Saturday 4:30 pm to 2 am
Sunday 4:30 till... Brunch coming in September!
Monday 4:30 till
Tuesday... CLOSED

Peach cobbler -- to die for? Has anyone else eaten there yet?
Weds and Thurs 4:30 til

It's back to school time, hon!

The Baltimore City Schools System is seeking volunteers to support both schools and students. If you have some spare time, they will match volunteers with schools to help out in ways that fit both your schedule and the school’s needs. They're looking for everything from being a positive presence around the school at dismissal, to helping out within the school, or to tutor or mentor students.

If you're interested, click here for more information.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Spray Paint all over Westfield- A good thing?

Does anyone know why there is so much spray paint marking up Harford road from Northern Parkway to  Hamilton Center? Could it be the Harford road improvements to our south and north are finally coming our way? Anyone know? 

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Could this be the end of bags in trees?

A proposal to ban plastic bags in Baltimore made its way through a critical City Council committee vote yesterday. Banning the use of plastic bags could mean the end of bags in waterways or caught on tree branches. The proposal would require only larger stores to offer paper or reusable bags (those with gross annual sales of less than $500,000 would be exempt).

Seems like a great idea to me, even though it costs more to produce paper bags than plastic. But the long-term effects cannot be denied. Those bags in the trees never go away -- they just blow over to your neighbor's tree.

The proposal was approved by a vote on 3-1, with our Councilman Robert Curran as the sole "no" vote. Curran, whom the Baltimore Sun notes "took a job bagging groceries after high school," (see -- he's just common folk like us!) said that he is standing with grocery worker unions who oppose the bill.

I am a fervent supporter of unions, so I understand Curran wanting to do the right thing here. However, I would have much preferred he be more forward-looking and take the approach of Councilwoman Agnes Welch. From the Sun:
City Councilwoman Agnes Welch, meanwhile, voted for the bill in committee so it could be vetted by the full council, she said. But she said she may not support the measure when it comes before the full council.
Your thoughts?

Image from "It's our L.A.!"

Friday, June 27, 2008

The "Heart of Hamilton"

I missed Channel 2's "Dine on a Dime" story, but it seems that Clementine's continues to give Hamilton good press:
Can you feel the Heart of Hamilton. This is the town I use to go get my vaccum cleaner fixed or go to church at St. Dominic’s.

Or get confused as to where the old Hacienda Restaurant was…was it on Harford Road or Bel Air Road. The answer is at the bottom. If you haven’t visited this part of town in a while, it’s starting to grow up like Canton.

Believe me when I say that. It doesn’t take buildings, it takes people to build a community. Right there on Harford Road you now have Chameleon Café, Alabama B-BQ, Brewers Art and Big Bad Wolf’s House of Barbeque, and here’s a new restaurant that won’t blow your house down or destroy your budget.

It is the two week old Clementine’s. Winston Blick and his wife Cristin opened this place, three blocks from their home. Winston, or Winnie use to run the Sobo Café and before that McCaferty’s in Mt. Washington.

This is his first time owning his own place. The place is packed for breakfast, lunch and dinner. It is all locals…all your neighbors. You will go inside and within 3 minutes you will know someone you haven’t seen in 15 years.

The prices are very reasonable and you will see many families coming in to dine. Any place that sells Stewarts Root Beer is a place you want to visit. Hacienda was on Bel Air Road.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

I believe in dog, do you?

Although this reaches way outside of Westfield, I think our dog-lovers might be interested in this good cause. I'm incredibly fortunate in that a co-worker of mine spends many hours helping out with the local SPCA -- the foster pups she often brings to work with her have gotten me through many a rough day. So I'm pleased to be able to let all you dog lovers out there know about a great way to help dog rescue programs around the country -- and get some pretty cool dog paraphernalia. Because goodness knows, our dogs just don't have enough "stuff," do they?

For the month of June, I Believe in Dog will donate 40 percent of the profit from every purchase to the Prince George's County (MD) SPCA. Yes, 40 percent! Each month, the proceeds are donated to a different dog rescue group around the country. Other recipients have included FOR Greyhounds, Fort Collins, CO; Mid Atlantic Great Dane Rescue League; Husky Haven, Inc., Houston TX; Collie Rescue, Inc., Chantilly, VA; Westie rescue, Inc., Bluemont, VA; Duchess County SPCA, Hyde Park, NY. Here's the complete list of recipients.

So, check out I Believe in Dog, and get your 4-footed canine best-friend/co-worker/ companion/ protector/hoovering beast of burden something special today -- and help other dogs in need. Fritz (a former SPCA dog himself) highly endorses this good cause!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

A glimmer of hope regarding ChokChai?

File under complete speculation:
At the end of February, I spoke to the owner of ChokChai, who told me he was hoping to open in a week, pending some issues with BGE being worked out. Obviously to those who have been paying attention to our local Thai eatery, this has not happened. Today however, there was extensive BGE work going on just outside ChokChai's new location. The entire street was dug up. Again, just speculation, but I had all but given up hope. 

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Darlin' Clementine

It looks like investors have finally caught on to the fact that Hamilton is full of affordable real estate and hungry people. Recently opening in downtown Hamilton is Clementine at 5402 Harford Road, which we know is in the heart of Hamilton, and not in Lauraville as was reported by critic Elizabeth Large in the Baltimore Sun recently. Clementine is open for business, and word is that Christopher Curmudgeon approves. Here's a copy of the menu.

According to the Sun article, there's also a major transformation going on at the Hamilton Tavern, which is owned by one of the partners at Brewer's Art. Elizabeth Large has done me wrong before with her less-than-accurate reviews. Please don't toy with me Lizzie ....

illustration by Steve Felmore

Friday, May 2, 2008

Westfield Wildlife

Enjoy the scene from our backyard this morning. (Click to enlarge the image.)

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Westfield loses a voice of compassion and caring

It is with a very heavy heart that I must tell you of the passing of one of our own, Scepter66. He was a resident of Westfield for many years, and was an eager contributor to this blog. As he battled pancreatic cancer over this past year, he still took time to give us a journey down Harford Road on New Year's Eve, and was keeping a keen eye on the re-opening of Chokchai, a local favorite of his.

I have written a longer tribute to Scepter66/ John Steber at my own blog, Nailing Jello to the Wall. John was a loyal reader there and enjoyed discussing politics and current world events. An excerpt from my post follows:
John was an excellent writer, and always left great comments here. The thoughtful kind that I personally always have a hard time leaving at blogs myself. He also dabbled with keeping his own blog to express his feelings about the battle he was going through, although I think felt a little self-conscious about being too revealing of his emotions in front of the strangers of the blogosphere. The quote in the title ["coping with life. facing death. seeking wisdom."] is from his blogger profile. You can get an idea of what kind of man he was by reading from the last post on his blog, Colonial Vulcan, where he quotes Ben Franklin:
"How many observe Christ's birthday! How few, His precepts! O! 'tis easier to keep holidays than commandments."
And I would be remiss if I didn't also mention that John was a regular writer at a local blog that we started in our neighborhood, Harford Road, Hon. In fact, he was our regular roving reporter, with posts such as his photo journey down Harford Road on New Year's Eve. He also was a great advocate for the local restaurants in the neighborhood, and kept a keen eye on openings and closings. "Harford Road Hon" has not been the same without John, and again, I always felt he was my reader whenever I posted there. I will miss writing something funny and imagining his laugh when he read it.

It often seems cliche to say someone fought a "brave battle" with cancer -- that is, until you see someone wage that battle. When you see the terrible toll that this disease takes on the body, you wonder at how anyone could be strong enough to cope. But John fought hard and strong, keeping his dignity and compassion for others throughout his ordeal. Even when it became obvious that the experimental treatment he was undergoing was not helping, he insisted on continuing, because it might help someone else down the road. I can only hope that if faced with this type of personal challenge, I would be half as strong as John was in facing it head-on.
Donations may be made to the Gilchrist Center Hospice of Baltimore in memory of John Steber.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Bring back the HAC!

Sure, it's technically not in Westfield, but the Hamilton Arts Collective is a great thing to have down Harford Road. I've seen some hilarious improv shows there, as well as terrific artwork in the gallery. Unfortunately, the building in which these events take place was shut down last December for fire code violations. From the blog BMore Tunes:
The Hamilton Arts Collective is coming back. The art and performance space was shut down in December for fire code violations, but managing director Stephen Thomas has a plan. The collective needs to raise $25,000 to put the performance space on the second floor and the art space on the first floor, and make other repairs. They are looking for a lot of help, with donations, planning fund raisers and grant writing.
In addition to these volunteer efforts the HAC has announced a benefit show on April 6:

The super-awesome folks at The 2640 Space have graciously offered to host a benefit show on behalf of the HAC!

Here's the lineup:
3:30pm doors
4pm: Baltimore Improv Group
5pm: Complimentary food is served!
6pm: live music with OFM
7pm: live music with Mongoloidian Glow
8pm: live music with Bad Liquor Pond

ADMISSION: Sliding scale of $10 - $25
Discounts available...check out the details here!
All proceeds go towards the renovation efforts at the Hamilton Arts Collective.

St. Johns United Methodist Church Hall
2640 St. Paul St.
Baltimore, MD 21218

Friday, March 21, 2008

Send yer positive energy

Harford Road Hon blogger and chronicler of New Year's Eve, Scepter66, is feeling under the weather. Be sure to send out your most powerful positive vibes in his general blogospheric direction.

On a bicycle built for ... you?

Earth Day is just a month away, on April 22, 2008. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to get involved in any way you can. If you don't want to volunteer, you can always plant a tree, or at the very least, ride a bike!

A cool blog I just discovered is Baltimore Spokes, which -- as the name implies -- is focused on bicycling in Baltimore. I must admit, I don't do much riding up and down Harford Road, but I have seen some brave souls attempting to maneuver the traffic. And really, there's no reason why our neighborhood shouldn't be more bike-friendly.

As gas prices continue to rise, it might be time to get the 'ol Hello Kitty bike out of the basement and take her for a spin again.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Dance for Democracy

Sorry I didn't see this earlier, I know it's short notice. But if you're in the mood to put on your dancin' shoes tonight, here's a great cause.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Hungry in Westfield...

If you're anything like me, you've noticed several of the local eateries have temporarily closed their doors at the same time. 2 of the 3 are staples at our house (and one a much loved rare treat) so we have certainly paid attention. Some updates: Giovanni's is open for business once again after 3 weeks closed. Chokchai's owner told me last Thursday he plans to open within a week. As of Wednesday they were still closed. Koco's will reopen March 4th according to a sign on their door. 
I guess closings like this are a small price to pay for such great family owned restaurants, but next time they should coordinate!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

When you REALLY need to know the weather

With a "weather occurrence" about to drop on our heads, I thought I'd share a fun — and informative! — blog: Foote's Forecast: Busy Weather for Basic People. I first learned of Mr. Foote when I was a teacher in Baltimore County. You see, Mr. Foote is a science teacher himself, so he clearly understands the importance of knowing an accurate forecast. He's rarely wrong ....

Friday, February 15, 2008

New retail district emerging to the south

While not technically Westfield, just to our south an exciting little community of shops are springing up. Just next to the Safeway you can now find everything from fine dining to knitting supplies. 
The newly opened Spinster Yarns (knitting supplies), Rock Candy (a candy store with attitude), and Bediboo (children's boutique) join  such neighborhood staples as The Chameleon Cafe and The Red Canoe. And the best part of shopping at the new "Lauraville strip"? The almost constant smell of Zeke's coffee being roasted right behind these shops. 

Hey you — Yeah I'm talkin' to you

I need your help. I'm still looking for contributors to this blog — you can post regularly, occasionally, whenever your muse visits. All you need to do is send me an email at pookyshoehorn@gmail.com, and I'll get you set up to post whenever the mood strikes. As you can see from my posts, you don't have to write much, and you don't have to be particularly profound, either. Photos are good, and very easy to post.

And if you're still feeling shy, please email me your ideas for posting or photos that you'd like me to post. I'm happy to keep this blog going, but I need your ideas!

Meanwhile, I've added some new links to the right under "Blogs with a Taste of Baltimore," and I encourage you to check them out and let me know what you think. I highly recommend a visit to the Open Society Institutes's Baltimore blog at OSI-Baltimore. There are a lot of good people doing good things in Baltimore, and this is inspiring reading.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Chelsea Clinton and some man at Belvedere Square

The caption for this photo from the Baltimore Sun says:
Chelsea Clinton tours Baltimore's Belvedere Square market as she tries to build support for her mother's presidential campaign.
But what we want to know is, why does that man in the varsity jacket who's leering at Chelsea look so darn familiar?

Monday, February 11, 2008

“Meet the Farmer” Community-Supported Agriculture Meeting at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah on Monday, February 11th

In Northeast Baltimore, thanks to unique partnerships between a local farmer, a church, and a coffee roaster, thoughts of summertime and Community-Supported Agriculture (CSA) go hand in hand…along with fresh organic strawberries, lettuce, kale, corn, and, or course, big juicy heirloom tomatoes. And even though it’s the middle of winter, planning is already under way for One Straw Farm’s two CSA Pick Up Sites in Northeast Baltimore at the Episcopal Church of the Messiah at 5801 Harford Road in Hamilton, and Zeke’s Coffee at 3003 Montebello Terrace in Lauraville. This year’s 25-week season starts on Monday, June 2nd at Messiah and Tuesday, June 3rd at Zeke’s, and runs through Monday, November 17th.

So what is Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)? A quick description is that it creates a direct partnership between farmers and local consumers, eliminating supermarket middlemen and restoring the connection between a community and the source of its food. It also protects our “foodshed” by ensuring farmers an income throughout the growing season, keeping your food fresh and local.

How CSA works: people buy “shares” of a farmer’s harvest ahead of time and pick them up every week. A share is 8 units of produce and is designed to feed a family of four the vegetables they would need in a week. Many families split a share and still have enough produce to serve their weekly needs, so the price of a share, divided over 25 weeks, is very reasonable, especially in light of sharply rising supermarket food costs. Since the price of a share hasn’t gone up this year and the season is an extra week long, the savings are especially good. There’s plenty of information on Church of the Messiah’s website, http://www.messiahbaltimore.org/CSA_Pick_Up, and on One Straw Farm’s website, http://www.onestrawfarm.com/.

Want to know more? There will be “Meet the Farmer” Meeting at the Church of the Messiah on Monday, February 11th at 7:00 p.m., when Joan Norman of One Straw Farm will give a presentation about her farm and how the CSA program works. She’ll be available to answer any questions you may have, and refreshments will be served. Come see how eating local helps you stay healthy, saves money, and strengthens your community, all the same time!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Great Soul Wellness Studio to Open on Harford Road

Great news for Hamilton, and hopefully the start of a renaissance for Harford Road -- all the way to Westfield! What had been a blight on the neighborhood is now brimming with positive energy. In the space of the old Cameo, several local entrepreneurs are opening the Great Soul Wellness Studio.

From their Mission statement:
The services offered promote healthy living through natural healing, stress reduction, and exercise. The environment will be welcoming and provide a safe and comfortable get-away that will encourage community-building for individuals and families.
Activities will include classes in yoga, tai chi/qi gong, meditation, and dance. Wellness options will include acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine, and shamanic healing.

Great Soul will be having an open house this Saturday, February 9 from 3 - 6 pm. They are located at 4711 Harford Rd, 2nd Floor, Baltimore, MD 21214 (410-254-2786).

Let's support this venture, and hope that's it's just the beginning of many more good things to come!

Monday, February 4, 2008

Super Duper Tuesday right here in Westfield!

Get out and vote!

The next WNIA meeting (Tuesday, February 5) will be the "Election of Officers." Time to quit yer complainin' and start your votin'.

The Holiday House
6427 Harford Road
7:30 pm

Be there or ... well, just be there!

Thursday, January 31, 2008

Smoke 'em if you got 'em ... but only until midnight tonight!

Tonight at midnight the statewide smoking ban goes into effect. It will be interesting to see if this has an effect on restaurants and bars -- such as the small ones in our neighborhood. As a frequenter of Koco's down Harford Road, I'm torn. I certainly don't want them to lose business, but, I will be glad to come home from dinner without everything I'm wearing smelling of smoke ...

What do think?

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Your chance to see some great photography ends February 2

I know, I know, it's the Towson Arts Collective, but my colleague Edwin has a show there. And until we ever get our own art gallery here in Westfield (and to think, we were that close!) we'll have to travel elsewhere. (Click on the flyer above to enlarge it slightly)

Larry the llama (not his real name) says, "Don't miss it!"

Thursday, January 17, 2008

It's snowing!

It will probably turn to rain before the day is over, which is all the more reason why you should go out and play in it while you can!

Thursday, January 3, 2008

Mount Westfield! This is progress?

UPDATE: Yes -- update! The city crew came last night around 6 p.m. and hauled away our newest geographical landmark. So if you didn't come by to see Mount Westfield, I'm afraid your chance is gone now. All that's left is a patch of asphalt. No, I won't post a photo of that, don't worry.

Well, we all came home from work last night to Christopher Avenue shut off and no water in our homes. I don't know what time the work crew started digging, but they had a big hole in the street at 5:30 when I got home. The water came back on about 8 p.m.

Anyone want to put a wager on when they will come back and finish the job?

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

H a p p y N e w Y e a r

As we usually do, my wife and i stayed home for new years eve. had our usual feast of shrimp and buffalo wings, and tried to keep our sanity while worrying about our kids out celebrating. They lost interest in our quiet little evening home years ago. We decided to take a late night walk with the new puppy and see what was going on in our neighborhood for the new year. It seems that it's rather quiet on these streets on new years eve. It appeared that most of our neighbors stay home as well and many in bed already. It was nice to have the usual fireworks displays going off all around us and then back to a peaceful evening. Even Valentinos seemes rather slow. but i guess they get busy when the bars close.
HAPPY NEW YEAR , everyone. may 2008 bring us all and our neighborhood of westfield good fortune.