Thursday, August 04, 2005

Brilliant Ideas in Baltimore

I don't travel much outside of Boston for work (unless you count Quincy as traveling). Sometimes I feel twinges of jealousy toward friends who go to, say, Phoenix or London or Florida for work. But then I remember the grass is always greener -- when I have traveled for work you do spend a lot of time in hotels and airports.

However, in June I attended a conference in DC for work and got to visit a lot of my favorite old stomping grounds from when I taught school there while living in Chevy Chase, which happened to be close to the conference hotel. I visited my favorite bookstore/coffeeshop where I once spent many hours drinking coffee and grading papers, Politics and Prose. Next door was one of my favorite bakeries, Marvelous Market; this was long before food quest days had begun, but nonetheless I remember being very excited at their selection of yummy things. I was not disappointed during my visit 10 years later. They had a very interesting cookie called Salty Oat -- oatmeal with coarse salt sprinkled on top. It was lovely -- the salt gave it a caramel-like aftertaste. Cool!

Just wandering around the old neighborhood was such a treat. It is amazing how much of a place you retain in your memory, even if you don't consciously think about the details until you are walking on the streets again. I even had a sense memory for the many roots that were integrated into the sidewalks -- how I used to have to be careful at certain sections that were especially bumpy when I wandered around my neighborhood after a tough day of teaching, admiring the pretty houses and the happy-seeming families.

As a bonus, I added on an extra travel day and went up to Baltimore to see my old pal, Karin. Out of all of my wonderful friends, I think Karin gets the oldest friend award -- not due to her age but the length of our friendship -- I think we met when I was about four years old at a family church gathering. We still keep in touch faithfully and have gotten to hang out a few times each year. There is just nothing in the world like an old friend. They were there when you lost your baby teeth, for goodness' sake! Lots of shared memories.

Karin now lives in Baltimore and she gave me a wonderful tour of that city. I had no idea how cool it was there! My new favorite museum, as in it is at the TOP of my list, is the American Visionary Art Museum. The photo above was taken there. It's complicated to explain, so just go to their most excellent website. It's one of those places that you feel overwhelmed with excitement at all you are going to see, but also exhausted because you know you don't have time to appreciate it all. And I'm a huge folk art fan. To top it all off (literally), the top floor was a modern Mexican restaurant called the Joy America Cafe, where Karin and I had an incredibly good and inventive lunch. (Plantain soup, anyone?) I was so happy. Really. Just the name of the restaurant made me happy.

But the whole town was great. To finish off my exuberant post, let's have a little dessert. I had to include this brilliant idea sold at Vaccaro's, an Italian bakery that specializes in Cannoli.
Anyone who has eaten one of these things knows how good they are but how messy they are to eat. So to turn it into chips and dip is just ... Baltimore brilliant.
So now I have to go back, to see Karin of course, and to cover the rest of the things that I missed.

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