Thursday, February 1, 2007

Things To Do in Frederick When You're Dead, or at least a little wiped from the weekly grind...

The first weekend of every month typically offers a little bit extra in the way of things to do for those seeking recreation around Frederick County. Both the Brunswick Main Streets Program and Frederick's Downtown Partnership (Frederick's Main Streets Program) offer additional things to do as you window shop in those two communities.

Start on Friday evening in Brunswick for the family friendly "First Friday." Shops will have extended hours and will be offering complimentary food and wine. Special activities include a 5:30 showing of Lady and the Tramp and a 7:00 showing of A Summer Place at the Brunswick Railroad Museum while the Ambulance Company Building at 200 West Potomac Street will be hosting a Valentine's Dance for all ages.

Be sure to stop into The Book Crossing at the intersection of Potomac and Maple Ave. They will be offering a fondue fountain, wine and a craft for children. Also checkout Sundance Art & Frame, EBA Sports Apparel & Equipment, and Brunswick Hardware, all regular participants in the First Friday events.

On Saturday, move on to Frederick for the First Saturday Gallery Walk beginning at 5:00 pm. From the Downtown Partnership's Web site, "On Saturday, February 3rd from 5 - 9 PM, Downtown Frederick will turn fire into ice with the Fire in Ice First Saturday Gallery Walk! Join the First Saturday fun with 23 sparkling ice sculptures placed throughout Downtown, a LIVE ice carving demonstration, FREE hot cocoa, and luminary-lined streets!"

Many of the shops in Frederick will participate in the festivities with offerings of their own, however, make it a point to stop into Amber Coast on East Patrick Street (always good for celebratory-type treats), Shab Row and the relatively new Frederick Cellars on East Street, and kitsch-central, CineGraphics Studios where owner Erik Krasner always has something happening.

As for Sunday, if you haven't figured out that I'll be watching the Super Bowl, then you're not familiar with my other blog, or the work I do for

Movie Review; Pan's Labyrinth, the Brother's Grimm revisited

Set during the time of the Spanish Civil War in the 1940's, Guillermo del Toro's Pan's Labyrinth is a fairytale in the truest sense. Filled with bloody violence, like an unabridged tome of the Brothers Grimm, del Toro's morality tale follows the story of Ofelia, a girl of about ten, in the wilds of 1944 Spain.

American film goers, most familiar with del Toro's American films - Mimic, Blade II, and Hellboy - should not expect the often mediocre horror/action ride of his English language films. Rather, they should expect films more along the lines of the complex horror/drama of 2001's Devil's Backbone, or 1993's Cronos.

Like del Toro's fantasy/horror, The Devil's Backbone, Pan's Labyrinth tells the story of a child eventually orphaned by war, and of innocence in the face of horror. The characters, written in broad brush strokes, gain subtlety from the performances of the actors, particularly apparent in Sergi Lopez's portrayal of Capitan Vidal, the villain of the story.

Lopez's Vidal makes the viewer watch as though a horrible car accident has occurred, and while the onlooker does not wish to continue watching, he or she cannot look away. Sans the performance of Lopez the character would have necessitated a cape, top hat, and mustache to twirl. Lopez, however, brought complication to the portrayal that spoke of a military tyrant that was equal parts petulant child trying to live up to his father military legacy while at the same time resenting him for it.

Ofelia, played by Ivana Baquero, portrayed her character without falling into the too cute, or too precocious so often found in film children.

del Toro borrows from a variety of places as he tells this story of the proverbial "Alice" falling down the rabbit hole, with visual nods to Alice in Wonderland, The Wizard of Oz, and even Clive Barker.

While an excellent movie, often tense and occasionally disturbing, this is not going to be a film that will appeal to all tastes. For my money, with the attention paid to the cinematography, the performances and the complexity of story line, it was definitely worth the price of admission to see on a large screen.

Academy Award Nominations:
Original Screenplay, Art Direction, Foreign Language Film, Cinematography, Original Score, Make Up

Spanish language with English sub-titles

Now playing at;
Kentlands Stadium 10

Regal Valley Mall

Regal Westview

For times, contact your local theater.

Monday, January 29, 2007

Brewer's Alley Revisited

Brewer's Alley
North Market Street
Frederick, MD

Anyone that visited the site over the weekend knows that I lunched at Brewer's Alley on Saturday (see post entitled "I Thought it Was Just a Mirage"). Brewer's Alley has been a favorite destination of mine since I moved to Frederick County almost three years ago.

Recently BA changed up some of their menu choices, keeping certain standby items such as the Smokehouse Macaroni and Cheese (highly recommended) and dropping other items like the Osso-buco (which was one of their few dishes that I have been disappointed with), and, unfortunately the crawfish springroll appetizer. While it's commendable that BA changes their menu in order to keep offerings fresh, change isn't always good. I ordered the BLTC (bacon, lettuce, tomato and cheddar sandwich, $6.95), which in the past was served on a nice country white bread, but this time came out on two pita rounds. The pita, which was uncomfortably chewy, dominated the sandwich in a way that bread should not.

My wife had the Po'boy of the day (priced daily based on the main ingredient) - oyster this past Saturday and stated that it was "nice quality bread, tasted fresh but they were skimpy on the oysters though. Usually the sandwiches are overstuffed, I could have used double."

As always, their beer was excellent. Currently the seasonal is the Scotch Ale, which is a personal favorite, but it's hard to go wrong with any of the beers here.

Service, as always, was good.

Brewer's Alley is also a reasonably priced respite for the entire family if shopping in downtown Frederick. Three beers ($2.85 a glass), a root beer for my daughter, 2 meals off the regular menu and an order of the Chicken Dinosaurs ($3.95) off the kids menu ran $40.00 which included a healthy tip. In spite of some of the issues, I would definitely return to try some of the other new additions to the menu (am looking forward to the opportunity to try the Crawfish Mac and Cheese).

A little Latin flavor

That Cuban Place Cafe
North Market Street
Frederick, MD
This little Cuban sandwich shop might hav a legitimate chance to stick, in spite of probable land-lord issues (the same person owns the building that Asiana once housed, and a fare chunk of the 300 block of North Market).

The owner is friendly and ready to answer any questions regarding his menu, the fried plaintains are stupendous, order Ropa Vieja (translated as old clothes which combines braised shredded skirt steak and vegetables)whenever they offer it as a special, and the portions are large. For those on a budget that are looking for a quick, tasty meal, all the main courses and specials on TCP's menu run $8.00. Definitely worth a return visit.

La Paz Mexican restaurant
South Market Street
Frederick, MD

Last year long time Frederick standby La Paz moved from its small out of the way location tucked behind the parking garage on East Church Street to a brand new location on Carroll Creek. If I had one complaint about La Paz's old location, it was that the noise level in the restaurant somehow always seemed inordinately high, and I thought building the new location would give the owner a chance to address the issue.

Unfortunately, the move to bigger, more modern digs did nothing to decrease the decibel levels inside the restaurant, and I have been disappointed in both the service and the quality of the food since the reopenning. The service was painfully slow the last time I was there, and their nachos, a particular favorite in the past, somehow lacked the flavor of previous trips.

In spite of these problems, La Paz continues to be popular to the point of the ridiculous at dinner time, drawing crowds large enough to merit a half-hour wait.

Pizza, subs, and wings, oh my!

King's Pizza
W. Potomac Ave.
Brunswick & Walkersville, MD

I came across Kings at the beginning of 2006 during my house hunt.
Owned by a family that moved here more than a decade-and-a-half ago from Brooklyn, King's is one of the two places in Frederick County where you will find truly authentic New York style pizza. The little pizzeria doesn't look like much from the outside, but is definitely worth venturing into.

For those wondering about my qualifications to comment on that - I lived about half an hour north of New York City for 13 years, and had a college internship in lower Manhattan...I know my New York style pizza, and King's is excellent. Certainly worth the 25-minute drive from Frederick if you're a displaced New Yorker, or from that region.

They make an excellent pie, but also offer a menu of typical pasta dishes and the hot and cold sandwiches that often help round out their offerings. If there was one weakness that I pinpointed, it would be their chicken parmesan sub. While the sauce and cheese are nice, and the sandwich is filled to over flowing, in my estimation, the chicken tends to be somewhat overdone and a little chewy. Also, their Buffalo wings would not meet the standards of a native of the Buffalo region. If you truly want proper Wings, you need to get them elsewhere.

Amongst the recommended dishes - the seafood pasta was better than you would expect, the calzone was excellent, the garlic knots are worth taking a flyer on, and King's makes a decent canolli, filling it when ordered so the shell doesn't get soggy from sitting. King's also offers a limited choice of beer and wine for the dine-in customer.

Toppings Pizza
New Design Rd
Frederick, MD

Recommended to me by Ken Busz, the former president of the Frederick County Chamber of Commerce, and a displaced native of New Jersey, Toppings is in a neck in neck battle in my book for the best pizza in Frederick County. Like King's, Toppings is owned by an emigre from the greater New York City area (as I understand it, Trenton, NJ, approximately one hour from the Big Apple).

Sadly, I must admit that I never got past ordering pizza from Toppings, but I also never lived as close to Toppings as I currently do to King's. However, for those displaced from the Philadelphia area, they offer tomato pie on their menu, which also covers a variety of the typical offerings for this sort of establishment. Toppings, like King's offers beer to its dine-in customers.

For the sports fan that is also looking to get a night out with his buddies, but doesn't want to deal with the noise levels in a bar, Toppings does have a television that is constantly tuned into ESPN or others sports.

Pizza N' Wing Shack
Souder Rd.
Brunswick, MD

More conducive to taking out than eating in, the Shack is erratic with its best dish: wings. When on, they make the closest thing to proper Buffalo wings (their 911 wings) that I have had since moving south of Manhattan.

Their pizza is okay, at best, but likely to be good for those trying to watch their calories as it is probably lower cal due to a cracker like crust and its smaller than average size.