I moved to Baltimore, MD, USA towards the end of August to begin (and complete) my MPH (Masters in Public Health) degree. For many of you who know what I do to begin with, it is a step away from dentistry. My heart has always been with medicine, but as it is probably not the most prudent choice to go back through the entire medical school process over again, especially with boards and licensing, the next best thing is public health. Even though deep down, I know that everything is run through bureaucracy and politics, and that everything needs money to run, it is my hope that I can somehow gain the experience, knowledge, and relationships at Johns Hopkins to make an impact in some form or another.
That brings me to Baltimore.
I have to admit, having lived in Washington D.C., London, Shanghai, and Singapore, as well as in my home place of Atlanta, I can’t say that I truly love Baltimore. They say it grows on you, but I have yet to fall in love with the city. However, we shall see as time progresses as this is the first of what will be a year’s worth of entries. Most of them will be food of course, but there will be other things as well…things like…survival HAHAHA. Survival in what is a city with very poor Asian foods and groceries, at least, if you don’t have a car anyway.
Let’s start with the first thing that I really enjoy about Baltimore. There happens to be one of the biggest and most popular farmers’ markets just about 4 blocks behind my apartment building – the Baltimore Farmer’s Market and Bazaar. I’ve been to a few outdoor farmers’ markets out in California, but they are tiny compared to this one. This farmer’s market also has a small bazaar associated with it where vendors sell everything from goat-milk soaps to local honey as well as self-made pottery. However, most people go there for local groceries such as fresh milk, eggs, and definitely vegetables. It is a bit more expensive than that in the grocery store, but it is more fresh and still cheaper than what you would find at Whole Foods. In addition, there are some local restaurants that do a small food truck/stall business where you can get some ridiculously tasty and also equally ridiculously expensive food for lunch.
One of the first places that I stopped to try after checking out their Yelp page (yes they actually have a Yelp page) is the Blacksauce Kitchen stand. The first day, they had a cured ham with egg biscuit that I was just ready to tear into. The line was actually pretty long as I got there a bit late. Tip #1: go early. As in, before 830am. Anytime from 9am onwards is moderate to heavy trafficking. Also Tip #2: wear good shoes and bring cash. Some of these stands will have credit cards, but I would say that about 90% do not. In addition, there will be some locals who are really irritated by the tourists that come in the summer and will just step all over you as they try to get out of the market after getting their groceries, not to mention the locals that bring their strollers even though they recommend you not to because it can be such a hamper to foot traffic.
So at Blacksauce Kitchen, behind the stand where they take your money and your order, there is a “chef” who is literally carving up a nice hock of cured ham and putting it in an iron skillet. In the same iron skillet goes a free-range egg (very healthy in the fact that it is free range, not so much that it’s being cooked in grease) that is going to be done over-medium to over-well in the same fat that your ham is cooking in. Multiple ham slices and multiple eggs lead to a whole lot of flavor towards the middle lineup of biscuits but it’s probably super greasy too! I have to admit – their biscuits are pretty damn good. It’s hard to find biscuits, especially ones like cheddar and peach, that are super soft and fluffy like the ones in the South. I do wish that they would brush a little bit of butter on top of the biscuit as it was somewhat crumbly.
Another stand that has a line out and to the back of the stall is Zeke’s coffee. Their coffee, by the pound, is pretty damn expensive. It’s more expensive than Starbucks coffee which I already think is pretty pricey. But, if you’re a coffee connoisseur, Zeke’s is definitely worth a try. If it wasn’t for the fact that my building gives free coffee to its residents, I would totally get a half pound and grind it on my own. The coffee is nice and smooth, doesn’t have too much acid and has a nice body to it. It’s probably one of my favorite cuppas here!
That’s that for Part I of the Baltimore Farmer’s Market and Bazaar! I hope you enjoyed the Asia series and are ready for my Baltimore adventures!