Vino Rosina: The New Italian On The Block


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Years ago, I found myself creeping along the quiet streets of a swath near Baltimore's Little Italy, squinting through the darkness as I tried to find Charleston, a restaurant that had been highly recommended.

Even though this roughly eight-block area was flanked by the perennially packed and fratty Fells Point on one side and the touristy Inner Harbor on the other at the time, its streets were still largely undeveloped in the late 1990s. Charleston, a Southern-inflected French restaurant, was an early adopter in the neighborhood and once we'd located it, we were glad we went. The meal was phenomenal and it was thrilling to be at a place that felt like it was on the cusp of something larger.

The husband and I recently returned to Baltimore for a short visit and decided to trek to Charleston to take a look at the place where we'd had one of the first romantic dinners of our courtship. The restaurant, helmed by the talented Cindy Wolf in the kitchen, is still there and hopping but the area around it has since become unrecognizable. Now named Harbor East, the area has sprouted gleaming condiminium, office and hotel buildings and has become as packed with restaurants, cafes and bars as its nearby neighborhoods. (You can check out a piece I wrote for the New York Times Travel section this past weekend on Harbor East here.)

Amid the current hubbub, a new little place caught our eye: Vino Rosina, a modern Italian restaurant in the Bagby Furniture Company Building, a historic red-brick structure that used to be a factory. Outside on the street, we could hear laughter wafting out along with the intoxicating smells of oven-roasted meats. So of course, we decided to step in and give the place a whirl …

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Lemongrass Frozen Yogurt: The Joys of Cooking Redux



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Years ago, I heard a sports writer complain about how he used to love sports — until he started writing about it.

Once it became a job, he all but stopped watching games on weekends. The thing that he adored had morphed into stress-inducer.

I remember feeling aghast — you get paid to write about something you love. Isn’t that more than many people dream of?

Recently, however, I’ve started to understand. After spending weeks with my nose buried deep in my book manuscript — which is all about a journey home to my native Singapore told through food and cooking — my time in the kitchen has become, simply, work. Meals have been thrown together out of sheer necessity; easy old faithfuls rather than new creative dishes have been making far too many appearances on the dinner table.

The stress of writing and editing my hundreds of pages on food, sadly, had transformed my love for cooking into a source of anxiety.

But I only realized I’d forgotten how to enjoy the act of making food when my Let’s Lunch friends nudged me back into the kitchen — not to put a meal on the table but to whip up something silly and anything but practical: A decadent chilled dessert.

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Sicily: A Duomo Above Others


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Just about this time last year, I was in a little car, racing four hours across Sicily in search of a good meal.

At the end of the trek from Palermo, in far western Sicily, to Ragusa, in the Southeast, lay Ristorante Duomo, one of just two restaurants on the island at the time to have received a Michelin star.

Now, I’ve gone to many lengths in the name of sampling noteworthy food — this level of devotion is not anything new. But doing an eight hour-trip in a day just for a spot of lunch? Even that was a little insane for us.

What can I say? It was worth it. 

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Cowgirl Sea-Horse: Fish So Good It’s Got To Be Bad For You


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It’s always a little unfair to judge a restaurant based on its first week out the gate — kinks still have to be worked out; the kitchen may not have found its rhythm yet.

Judging from a visit to Cowgirl Sea-Horse just days after it opened, it’s a place well worth checking out. If things are only expected to get better after the first week, well, let’s just say they’re already pretty darn satisfying.

This new seafood outpost of the popular Cowgirl in the West Village has the same Southwestern flavor and Steel Magnolia bartenders that the original restaurant does. But it offers slightly different fare from the chicken-fried steaks and smoked barbecue ribs that have been mainstay of Cowgirl for decades.

On the menu are $12 to $14 seafood gumbos, fish tacos and shrimp cornettas (crispy cones filled with shrimp). Like Cowgirl, it does a good job at what it does — uncomplicated comfort food. One thread links the two restaurants: there’s an awful lot of fried in both places.

Not that there’s anything wrong with that, of course.

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Paris: The Tried And True


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The upside to visiting Paris with a first-timer: The excuse to retread paths well worn.

There is the Angelina chocolat chaud yet undrunk, the freshly baked Poilane pains undiscovered. 

The sister, she has come to Paris with guidebooks well-marked and images of Amelie’s Montmartre flitting through her head. But first, the basics must be covered; important stops must be made.

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