With so many businesses and dining establishments closed or severely limited during the pandemic, what in the world do I write about in my restaurants column?
Hometown hospitality heroes, of course!
During normal times, virtually every charity and nonprofit requests gift certificates and free food from local restaurants for their fundraising galas. Restaurants can receive 10 or more requests a week. I happen to know because I’m one of those individuals who asks, time and time again, and most restaurants are quite generous.
Why do they do it? Because most food establishments don’t just open a business. They create relationships with neighbors, residents, local organizations and other businesses. They are the heart and soul of their neighborhoods and communities.
Now, in the middle of a pandemic, the Baltimore area’s hospitality community is once again stepping up to the plate to serve their communities.
Nancy Longo, executive chef and owner of Pierpoint Restaurant, has been an integral part of the Fells Point food scene and community for more than three decades. For the past 24 years, she’s organized “Party With a Purpose” with the Taste of the NFL’s “Kick Hunger Challenge” in which chefs from each of the 32 NFL team cities host events before the Super Bowl. The challenge raises funds to combat hunger in their hometowns, with 100 percent of the proceeds raised by Chef Longo going to the Maryland Food Bank.
In this time of crisis and anxiety, she’s joined forces with Harbor Park Garage owner Andrew Sachs to launch “Heart of the Park” to provide ready-to-eat, ready-to-heat meals for anyone in need.
“Too many people have lost work, and if two square meals from some talented chefs help ease the burden for even a few minutes, we will consider that a huge success,” says Sachs.
The plan is to implement the program with speed, safety, compassion and humility. (For information, visit harborparkgarage.com/events-promos/heart-of-the-park-partners-band-together-to-feed-baltimore. To order curbside pickup and delivery, purchase gift certificates or register for online cooking classes from Pierpoint, call the restaurant at 410-675-2080 or go to pierpointrestaurant.com. BTW, their big sellers are the smoked chicken paella, Moroccan lamb and chicken kebobs.
In addition to “Heart of the Park,” Chef Longo is feeding first responders and the homeless community (#hometownhospitalityhero). To donate, visit gofundme.com/f/pierpoint-staff-and-relief-fund.
Hotel Revival in Mount Vernon is offering bagged lunches and produce from the hotel’s rooftop restaurant Topside to anyone in need. Based on a first-come, first-served basis, they typically serve about 300 meals.
“It is our obligation to do what we can to make a difference,” says Donte Johnson, general manager of Hotel Revival. (For distribution dates and times, go to Hotel Revival’s Instagram: @revivalbaltimore.)
At the Dog Chef Cafe on Howard Street, the menu regularly serves fresh, healthy pet food and treats, courtesy of chef Kevyn Matthews. Now, he and his wife, Meredith Brown, have created a community pantry with boxed human food, fruit, breakfast foods, dog and cat food, household essentials and baby items.
The Dog Chef Cafe is open by appointment only for the pantry, as well as for custom fur-baby orders. (Call 301-785-2998 or message them on Facebook: facebook.com/thedogchefcafe.)
‘Need Your Support’
Brian Boston is chairman of the board of directors for the Restaurant Association of Maryland. In addition, he was the proprietor and executive chef of The Milton Inn, a landmark restaurant in historic Sparks in northern Baltimore County that closed permanently last week after more than seven decades in business.
“Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic was one challenge I couldn’t overcome,” Boston wrote in a letter to Milton Inn customers. “Our financial losses are overwhelming and I find it impossible to re-open. … To the many people that came to see me regularly, thank you for your support — my success came from you.”
Boston urged diners to support their area restaurants during this difficult and uncertain time.
“Local restaurants are struggling to hang on, but the timeline for reopening is unknown,” he says. “Our amazing hospitality professionals intend to stay open or reopen, and offer help to the community, as long as they can. But right now, they’re the ones that need your support.”
Among them is the Duck Duck Goose brasserie in Fells Point, which is open for curbside and delivery service. Chef and owner Ashish Alfred implores diners to call the restaurants directly when placing orders.
“When the public uses dining delivery apps like Grubhub and Uber Eats, they say, ‘No delivery fees, help us help the restaurants.’ But it can cost the restaurants up to 30 percent of the sale,” he says. “We’ve been able to gain forbearance on leases but not the apps, so it doesn’t really help us out.”
To order from DDG, call 443-869-2129 or visit their website (ddgbaltimore.com). Their best sellers are the roast chicken au jus and the cauliflower steak. Enjoy!
Randi Rom is president of RJ Rom & Associates. She is a freelance columnist and writer who represents some of the region’s top restaurants and food-related events. Contact her at email@example.com.
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