Baltimore Book Festival This Weekend!

If you live in the DMV and have never been to the Baltimore Book Festival, then you need to head to Baltimore’s Mt. Vernon neighborhood this weekend to see what the fuss is all about.

From author appearances and book signings, to cooking demos, open mic opportunities, historical tours, storytelling, street performances, music and food, there is something for everyone at the Baltimore Book Festival.

This year’s author lineup includes “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” star Teresa Giudice (Fabulicious: Fast & Fit); Grammy-nominated singer Ledisi (Better Than Alright: Finding Peace, Love & Power); bestselling author Ann Hood (The Knitting Circle); Laura Lippman (And When She Was Good) and Jessica Anya Blau (The Summer of Naked Swim Parties).

To check out the full lineup of authors, performances and events (including the City Paper’s super cool Book Swap), check out the Baltimore Book Festival’s website.

Check out these highlights from last year’s Baltimore Book Festival…

Follow @BmoreBookFest on Twitter, hashtag #2012BBF.

Breakfast Bliss

First Watch, 1431 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. 410-602-1595 | | On Twitter: @First_Watch

There’s nothing I love more for lunch than breakfast. There’s just something about a forkful of fluffy scrambled eggs followed by a forkful of yummy, buttery french toast drenched in good maple syrup. Just writing about it makes me want to eat breakfast right now.

I don’t know when my love for breakfast started. Nor do I care. It’s just something about the symphony of flavors and textures of breakfast foods. Maybe it also has something to do with the symbolism a fresh, flavorful breakfast holds: renewed optimism at the start of a new day. I can get very quixotic about breakfast foods, so let me stop now before I lose my train of thought.

I met my mother for an impromptu lunch at First Watch in Pikesville the other day. I love First Watch for its simple yet sophisticated wholesome breakfast menu. Their food is made fresh and there’s a certain sense of healthfulness that I get in each bite. I’m not just eating french toast. I’m eating french toast that is good for me. First Watch’s fare is a long way from the greasy, oversized portions you’d get from the local diner. Don’t get me wrong. First Watch has some of the most generous-sized pancakes around. But they’re not gluttony-inducing, artery-clogging pancakes; they’re just good for you.

Perfect example: yesterday I ordered First Watch’s Banana Crunch Pancake with Granola. (First Watch boasts an impressive assortment of whole grain pancakes, BTW.) Everything about that pancake — the sweetness of the banana and the savory crunchiness of the granola — was perfect, blissful. So what it’s 890 calories. Those 890 calories were holy and pleasing and acceptable to my stomach. I felt smarter, happier and healthier for having eaten them. I know you’re probably snickering, thinking about the butter and syrup (and extra calories) that obviously accompanied the pancake, but I am refusing to mention. Unspoken calories are just that: unspoken.

The point I am trying to make is that First Watch’s breakfast food is divine. From their light, airy egg dishes, to their healthful (read: well seasoned, not greasy) First Watch potatoes, to their wonderful array of fresh sandwiches, soups and salads, First Watch gives standard fare a healthy twist.

The interior decor was bright, cheerful and comforting. The soothing greens, subtle oranges and sunny yellows on the walls and accents reflected the bright, sunny promise of the morning. First Watch, named for the first shift of a sailor’s day is all about getting the best and most out of the morning…with syrup on top and some fresh fruit on the side (my words, not theirs.)

My only complaint about First Watch is that they’re only open for breakfast and lunch. As someone who believes in the virtues of eating breakfast any time of the day, I wish they were open for dinner.

In any event, they’re still a winner in my book.

Grade: A+


Cinnamon, With A Side of French Toast

Pike’s Diner, 921 Reisterstown Road, Pikesville. 410-653-5545 |

I have heard a lot of buzz about Pike’s Diner in Pikesville. “It’s an experience,” one person told me. Someone else said, “Girrrrrrrrrrrl, you gotta try their Henny Penny Fried Chicken.” So my husband and I ventured to Pike’s Diner recently to see what all the buzz was really about.

We pulled up to the restaurant on a cold, rainy Sunday morning after church. We were a little concerned that the parking lot was almost empty at that time of day. Where was everybody? Surely people were out and about looking for a good, hearty weekend breakfast at 10 in the morning.

I didn’t quite know what to make of the Hollywood-on-steroids décor. Life-sized figures of the Blues Brothers looked down on the dining room that was full of movie memorabilia and blinking lights, but sparse on diners. Walking to our table (the hostess told us we could sit anywhere), all I kept thinking was that Gordon Ramsay or Robert Irvine would love to rip a place like this apart and rebuild it.

Being a french toast connoisseur, I ordered their French Baguette French Toast, along with a side of bacon and breakfast potatoes. What I ended up getting was an order of cinnamon with a side of french toast. The flavor was overpowering, and quite disappointing. The texture, which should have been rich, light and eggy was dry and just plain sad. The baguette slices were not soaked in the cinnamon-egg batter long enough, leaving the middle dry and uncooked. If only they had let the bread soak in the batter just a few minutes longer. Insert sigh…


My husband ordered eggs, bacon, potatoes and toast. Neither of us enjoyed the potatoes. They had a strange gritty quality. I wondered if they had been reheated.

It’s a shame that Pike’s Diner didn’t meet my expectations. The diner is in an excellent location and has a lot of potential. I’d really hate to say it’s past its prime, but it’s definitely not a go-to spot for a weekend breakfast

Grade: D (for dismal)

In the Name of the Butter, the Syrup and the French Toast

Ah, breakfast. The most important meal of that day. That’s because of the syrupy, buttery goodness that makes breakfast worth every bite.

I don’t know when or where my love affair with breakfast began. Perhaps it was in college when they would serve midnight breakfasts in the cafeteria during midterms and finals. I always loved breakfast. I had fond memories of the breakfasts my mom prepared for my sister and me. From the eggs to the pancakes to the french toast, everything she made was divine.

I love all things breakfast, but French toast? Oh, how do I love thee? Let me count the ways. There is something about the fluffy, buttery goodness blessed with sweet maple syrup that makes my stomach smile and my heart skip a beat.

And so I’m starting a special series on the blog, “In the Name of the Butter, the Syrup and the French Toast”. Over the next several weeks, I’ll be posting reviews of some of my favorite breakfast spots in the DMV, as well as some new ones, too. If you have a favorite restaurant that you think I should check out, let me know! I’d love to hear from you.

Now let’s hope I don’t gain too much weight from this project…

Sweets & Tweets at the National Aquarium

Last week, I was invited to a Tweetup via Twitter by the fine folks at the National Aquarium (@NatlAquarium on Twitter). They were hosting a preview of Polar Express 4D, and had invited a group of tweeps from in and around Baltimore to the event.

I was honored and delighted to have been invited. But being that I had just had surgery, I was afraid I wouldn’t be up to the adventure.  My husband assured me as long as I took it easy, it would be fine. (He’s always right. Well, maybe almost always. But in this case, he was right.)

So Wednesday evening, we drove down to the Aquarium, and I was delighted to see downtown Baltimore spruced up for the holidays. Upon arriving at the entrance, we were greeted by Aquarium staffers and the conductor of the Polar Express!

We were directed up to the Polar Express Lounge where the air was abuzz with excited children, the aroma of fresh-baked cookies, and hot chocolate! Of the many, many times I have been to the Aquarium, I have never been there late enough to enjoy the night views of the Inner Harbor. Stunning!

And then, the pièce de résistance: the movie preview. We were ushered (mugs of hot chocolate and 3D glasses in hand) into the Aquarium’s 4D Immersion Theater for the experience. We were advised to put our mugs on the floor, because we were in for a bumpy ride. And bumpy it was. Not only that, it was cold, windy and snowy at times. It made for an incredibly rich experience.

I was delighted to meet one of my Twitter idols, @CharmCityMa, in person after the viewing. She is one of the most fabulous, wittiest mom-divas on Twitter, and the fact that she reps Charm City is an added plus!

At the end of the evening, we were delighted to catch a glimpse the Power Plant Holiday Light Show. Take a peek here:

A perfect holiday ending to a perfect holiday evening!

Master Class

My first job out of college was teaching introductory telecom courses part-time at Baltimore City Community College. On a whim, I responded to an ad the school had placed in The Baltimore Sun. Three weeks and a phone call later, I was hired. Who know getting a job teaching college was so easy?

I was all ready to change the world. My students would learn about communication, and when the semester was over they’d be ready to change the world themselves, armed with the knowledge to write powerful speeches and scripts, create television shows and radio programs, and work for Oprah. I was giddy about the opportunity to teach college students some of the things I just learned only a few years prior. All I needed was a little confidence and a can-do attitude.

The man that hired me, Dr. Lester, was an interesting character. He reminded me of an older, more diminutive Ivan Drago from Rocky IV. He seemed unfazed by my lack of experience and assured me I could teach the students how to take a computer apart and identify parts on the motherboard.

“All you need to do is tell them to flip to the back of their books and use that diagram to do their lab work,” he told me. This was coming from a man who offered me the job after a fifteen-minute phone interview.

Fast-forward to the first night of the second semester. I was running late…not a good look for an instructor. I jogged into the building, past the security desk and onto an awaitng elevator. The other person on the elevator — a portly, scruffy-looking older gentleman — was going to the same floor as I was. He was clutching a brown bag, smelling like he had doused himself with Colt 45 or maybe Old English. He smiled; I nodded. The ride to the third floor was taking far too long.

The man muttered a hail of curse words under his breath before he said, “Gotdammit, I’m gonna be late again.” Then he looked at me. “What class are you going to?”

“Intro to Telecom.”

“Good,” he smiled. “I won’t be late by myself then.”

The thought to let him know that I was the instructor never crossed my mind.

“You know anything about this teacher?” He tucked the brown bag under his arm and uncrumpled his class schedule. “Williams, Kimberly,” he read aloud. “You know anything about this Kimberly chick?”

Actually I do. I know her very well. I know she’s late for class. I decided that I’d let my silence answer his question for me.

The scruffy man decided to introduce himself just as the elevator crawled to the third floor. “Hi, I’m Hercules. Hercules Clark.” He chuckled. “I hope she ain’t one of them uptight broads that flips out when you’re late for class.”

No, I’m not an uptight broad. I’m just Kimberly. And things are about to get really awkward.

The elevator dings, the doors open and Hercules stepped off and strolled down the corridor. It was 6:31. Late.

I let him go in first. After all, it’s boys before broads, right?

The classroom was full. There were three seat left: two in the back row and one at the front for the instructor. Hercules trotted to the back, probably expecting me to follow suit. I stopped at the door way, gathered what little composure I had, and walked to the podium.

When Hercules turned around to see I was at the front of the room, he filled the air with an endless stream of profanity. “I guess you done already gave me an F, huh?”

I couldn’t stop laughing, grateful for an icebreaker even better than the one I had planned.

“I’m so sorry, Miss Kimberly, ma’am,” Hercules apologized. “I called her a broad in the elevator.” He explained to the class.

Several of the women in the class chided Hercules for using such a derogatory term, and for insulting their poor little instructor (that would be me). Wanting to make a point, yet not wanting to go overboard, I just offered Hercules a few words of advice in regards to addressing and interacting with women. From there we moved on to the business of learning.

I later learned that Hercules was a disabled vet. He had taken my class to have something to do with his evenings. He seldom was absent for class, although most of the time he was there he was nodding off.

For the work that Hercules did while he was awake in class, this broad gave him a solid C-.

Artscape Turns 30

Artscape is synonymous with summer in Baltimore. It’s the time of the year when people and all things creative converge in the heart of the city’s Arts & Cultural District, when quirky and edgy are normal and square is not.

My first and fondest memories of Artscape were when it was in its infancy, just a few years old. My mother put my sister and me in the car on hot Saturday in July and headed into town so we could check out this new free arts festival. I was probably 11 or 12 years old at the time. Life for me was about Michael Jackson and Prince and MTV and the Rubik’s Cube.

The 80s were bright and big. Shoulder pads were in. So was the Jheri Curl. As a child of the era, I was subjected to both. However, it was during that decade that I learned to appreciate creativity in all its glory. Looking at all of the outdoor art exhibits at Artscape, I marveled at the wild, quirky artwork on display. I remember seeing painted toilets, newspaper and foil fashioned into art, and many other unthinkable things. Nothing inappropriate, just strange.

I embraced Artscape. It was a big playground for the creative types. Individuality and expression were celebrated. People sang, danced, ate, and danced some more. My mom, my sister and I walked around that first year and took it all in. Artscape became an annual tradition.

This year, Artscape turns 30.  To mark the occasion, Artscape are going retro. 1982 to be exact. There plenty of beats and eats to take in this weekend. Add to that karaoke and improv comedy and storytelling workshops, and shows paying homage to pop culture (Think: all the 80s toys and fashion your nostalgic heart can hold).

If you’re in the area this weekend, head on town to the Mt. Royal area. You can plan out your Artscape experience, or just let it happen. Whatever this case, you won’t want to miss all the music, the performances, the food and the shopping. (Come to think of it, I bought the cutest pink & green purse from Artscape a couple of years ago. Now I can’t find it. Someone must have borrowed it permanently. I also bought a cute pair of pants made out of 100% Egyptian cotton sheets. Now I can find those, but can’t fit them anymore. Oh well.)

Happy Birthday, Artscape!