Specials in Baltimore: Diners Can Now Book Special Menus, Dishes + Pairings at Select Restaurants

Did you ever wish you had information about a restaurant’s specials before you arrived? Now that’s possible, thanks to Specials in Baltimore, a new feature.

Specials in Baltimore

In the mood for authentic Maryland crab cakes? Have an appetite for a perfect plate of seasonal pasta? Whether you’re seeking out a special menu, dishes, or pairings, specials can help you quickly connect with what you crave at great prices in the Baltimore area — and make a reservation for that experience!

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Flavors of the Forest Cocktails: 7 Sips Offering a Taste of the Trees

Bar stars are looking to the wilderness for some of their most innovative new cocktail flavors. They are using a variety of tree components – from wood and bark to flowers and branches. Here are 7 flavors of the forest cocktails branching out from tradition to offer tipplers a taste of the trees.

Betony, New York, New York
Juniper berries have long been used as an accenting component, spicing up brines, providing a botanical backbone to gins, and adding a forest-y flair to game dishes. However, it’s unusual for the coniferous tree to provide the focus flavor. The Grand Cru Cobbler defies convention by featuring it three ways: juniper needle-infused gin, juniper oil, and juniper berries. Make a reservation at Betony.

Flavors of the forest cocktails

Cucina Enoteca, Newport Beach, California
These days, inspired bar types are infusing everything into bourbon – from bacon and tobacco to espresso and basil. Bartender Tucky Dias roots his Arbor Manhattan in tree bark bourbon. He rounds out the woodsy concoction with Amaro Averna, Antica sweet vermouth, and a few dashes of Angostura bitters. Make a reservation at Cucina Enoteca.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

American Cut, New York, New York
Order the Plank Smoked Old Fashioned and you’ll get a show, too. After mixing together bitters, simple syrup, and Bulleit bourbon, the bartender quickly torches a maple plank. As the wood smolders, a glass is turned upside down over it. With the smoke still lingering, a large ice cube is added to the glass and the cocktail is poured in with a showy flourish. Make a reservation at American Cut.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

Sable Kitchen & Bar, Chicago, Illinois
Spruce up your G&T routine. The Spanish-style gin and tonic – served in a goblet, of course – features Beefeater 24 gin, Q tonic, and fresh cranberries. The cocktail is completed with a few small boughs of spruce tips to reinforce its herbaceous tones. Make a reservation at Sable Kitchen & Bar.

Flavors of the Forest Cocktails

Annex at GreenRiver, Chicago, Illinois
Look into the bottom of the Delicate Refusal and you’ll see a pickled sakura blossom. Over the pink cherry tree blossom, mixologist Julia Momose pours a complex mixture of sotol, tequila blanco, fino sherry, pamplemousse, apricot, verjus blanc, and Peychaud’s Bitters. The resulting cocktail finely balances saline, smoke, acid, fruit, and herb notes. Make a reservation at Annex at GreenRiver.

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Magical Mystery Tour: Behind the Scenes at Minibar by José Andrés


“This is the part of the day most people don’t ever get to see,” says head chef Josh Hermias, as he ushers me into Minibar by José Andrés, the what-you-see-isn’t-always-what-you-get wonderland of molecular gastronomy and avant-garde cooking. It’s the shining crown jewel of the Spanish-born, James Beard Award-winning chef’s restaurant empire, which includes D.C. standard setters Jaleo, Zaytinya, and Oyamel, China Poblano in Las Vegas, Miami’s Bazaar Mar, and others.

On this late August afternoon, Minibar’s open kitchen, the counter surrounding it where will guests will sit that evening, and the semi-private dining area off to the side – dubbed José’s Table – are all ablaze with activity. (Not much can happen in the incredibly compact, unexposed back area of the restaurant, as there’s only room enough for a small counter, two ovens, an impressively tiny walk-in freezer, and the washing station). Approximately a dozen staffers are getting ready for tonight’s epic epicurean experience when 24 diners will enjoy a 26 to 28-course tasting menu. Hermias estimates it takes in excess of 140 man-hours just to make the six-hour dinner service happen. A crew of half a dozen begins working at 7AM; the last team member doesn’t go home until 3AM the following morning.

Clad in black aprons over white shirts, the cooks are currently prepping an array of components. Wending our way through the kitchen, we see chicken skins frying, chocolate eggshells being poured, and the legs of langoustines being snipped off with a small pair of scissors. One staffer shaves mounds of black truffles. Meanwhile, the orchids that decorate the space during dinner service rest in the window to get some light.

As we’re walking around, a cook presents Hermias and me with slices of super juicy watermelon to approve for use. The rosy wedges will be infused with tequila and Grand Marnier, and then served on a salt block. “It’s like a margarita,” says Hermias, who gives them the thumbs up, “but instead of a salted rim, your plate is the salt.”

A dry erase board catalogs all the work that needs to be done today: 30 marinated rabbits, 26 blowfish, 105 cauliflower leaves; the list goes on. A nearby chalkboard bears a quote from recently departed chef Michel Richard, “People love to get something that looks like one thing and tastes like something totally different. That’s truly magical.”

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Six Top LA Wine Bars: Where to Wine Like a Pro in Los Angeles

Top LA Wine BarsPeople say that one of the best things about living in LA is that at any given moment, you’re about an hour away from every natural playground you could ever want — the seasonally snowy mountains, the forest, the desert, the beach, and Santa Barbara’s thriving wine country. Yes, we are counting any and all wine growing regions as natural playgrounds. With some of the country’s best wines within reach, including Napa and Sonoma, and easy access to a dizzying portfolio of international wines, it’s no wonder that Los Angeles restaurants are boasting some of the best wine programs in the country.

We’ve rounded up six of the city’s top wine bars in restaurants with programs as progressive and exciting as they are approachable. So whether you’re a newbie who’s never ventured far from Franzia or a hardcore oenophile who’s watched Somm 100 times, there is something here for every palate – and that includes the food.

Smoke.Oil.Salt / Poco Wine Bar
This Iberian gem, housed underneath a tattoo and piercing parlor on LA’s iconic Melrose strip, features one of the city’s most thoughtfully curated Spanish wine lists, thanks to co-owner and wine director Stephen Gelber. With a 130-plus bottles and 30 wines by the glass list showcasing exclusive Spanish gems like Txakoli and Godello, an extensive selection of sherry flights, and wine cocktails, you don’t need a passport to tour Spain’s rich wine regions. Even more boast-worthy is Smoke.Oil.Salt’s use of the Coravin, a tool that extracts wine through the cork without ever having to open the bottle — thereby leaving the wine preserved. This gives Gelber the opportunity to let guests taste rare and prized bottles of wine that most would never be able to experience otherwise.

For a more casual experience, stop by the walk-in only POCO, the newly opened wine bar concept housed next door. POCO gives Gelber a little bit more room to taste and test wines — all at incredible prices. The weekly rotating glass list features a red, a white, and a sparkling from $5-$7, and everything on the small tapas menu is under $10. Everyone wins! Keep an eye out for soon-to-come monthly “wine socials” like women-only wine nights, sommelier-led tasting classes, and themed industry nights. Make a reservation at Smoke.Oil.Salt.

Top LA Wine Bars

At Wilde Wine Bar and Restaurant, where the wine selection focuses on small production and sustainable wines from all over the world, it’s all about discovery and adventure. “We want to break down the intimidation behind ordering wine. It should be a fun journey,” says owner and wine director Lorna Donohoe. “We’re excited to introduce customers to unusual wines like ancient grapes being revived in Greece or wines grown so high on The Alps only donkeys can be used to access them.” With themed nights like Vino and Vinyl, where guests can bring in their own records to play, Thirsty Thursdays, where guests create their own wine-inspired cocktails at a DIY cocktail bar, and Fried Chicken and Bubbles every Sunday, there is absolutely no shortage of fun, discovery, and adventure. Be sure to check their website for an updated events list as super cool happenings and weekly series are constantly being added. Make a reservation at Wilde.

Top LA Wine Bars

Napa Valley Grille
With a name like Napa Valley Grille, you can look forward to a list featuring the best of California’s famed wine country and a passionately educated staff to expertly guide you through it. In addition to tastings and weekly educational emails to his staff, wine and beverage manager Chris Shannon also created a separate (ahem, leatherbound) wine list for servers with tasting notes highlighting the nose and palate of every wine on the list. The restaurant group also proudly features its own collection of exclusive and reserve wines under the Tavistock Reserve Collection in addition to a curated selection of international wines. “One of my favorite things to do,” says Shannon, “is taste someone on a pinot noir from Burgundy versus a pinot noir from California or taste a guest through the delicate difference between a Napa chardonnay and a Sonoma chardonnay. I feel so lucky to be able to ask people what they want instead of telling them what they want. I think it’s important to be a place that’s educational and accepting of everyone’s tastes.” Consider yourself in good hands. Make a reservation at Napa Valley Grille.

Top LA Wine Bars

At downtown acclaimed Italian favorite, wine director Ryan Ibsen admittedly calls the wine list “a complete and chaotic immersion,” but trust us, that’s a good thing. “At any given moment, I can find just as many unexpected great French pairings as I can Italian pairings. Running a progressive wine program means finding the right tone and voice that appeals to everyone.” When Ibsen notices someone excited about the wine list but unsure about what they want, one of his favorite things to do, whether it’s a single diner at the bar or a party of six, is to provide pairings across the meal rather than the traditional bottle service. “It gives the people a chance to see what we’re all about and helps us to create a customized experience.” And despite the wine list’s exquisite range, Ibsen is quick to stress, “The educational tone is always to make the guest feel comfortable rather than holding the wine over their head.” At Bestia, go for the food and stay for the wine. You never know, you just may find yourself in the middle of an unexpected and unforgettable wine tasting! Make a reservation at Bestia.

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