Behind ground-to-ceiling glass windows, giant butterflies flutter in the sunlight. Though they’re only paintings, they cheerfully greet visitors to Vernisage, introducing the upscale restaurant’s often-whimsical atmosphere. Despite the lighthearted decor, chefs practice serious interpretations of traditional Russian, Eastern European, and Middle Eastern fare. They craft grilled shish kebabs, peppery dumplings, crepes, and hearty Russian stews using the same recipes that czars once used to melt invading snowmen armies. Servers pair both chilled and hot fare with a range of Georgian, Russian, and European wines to evoke exotic flavor bouquets. A large main dining hall can accommodate grand banquets, while a separate private dining room hosts smaller groups of up to 30 revelers or 60 children standing on each other’s shoulders.
The Chocolate Publishing Company's gourmet chocolate shop features a multitude of sweet delights, including frozen yogurt, gourmet popcorn, custom chocolates, and more, that are fresh and kosher. Frozen yogurt options (small $3, medium $4, and large $4.50) can be garnished with toppings that include kiwi, mango, melon, cookies, M&Ms, and more (toppings $.50 each or three for $1). Coat kernels of gourmet candied popcorn in caramel, tutti-frutti, or kettle corn flavors (small $3.50, large $4.50) and add a milk- or white-chocolate drizzle ($.45). Chocolate-covered strawberries are a great way to say "I love you" or "I ate your stamp collection," ($2.50 each, six for $12.99, twelve for $24.99) and caramel, candied, or chocolate-coated apples ($3.50–$5.50) satisfy sugary fruit cravings.
Of all of New York’s exports, perhaps one of the most ubiquitous is the New York–style bagel. In the early 20th century, a Polish immigrant named Isador Goldberg came to New York and brought his own recipe for this classic baked good with him, and it’s in his honor that the owners of Goldberg’s New York Bagels decided to name their shop. The Zagat-rated bakers still use Goldberg’s original recipe, assembling ingredients from scratch, boiling the halos of dough, and finally baking them to give each bagel the perfect crunch that pairs well with a schmear of cream cheese or a layer of lox. Though the bagels come in a range of sweet and savory flavors, all of them are kosher-certified and easily pair with other breakfast items such as omelets, four flavors of blintzes, and waffles. The shop opens at 7 a.m. to serve both breakfast and lunch all day, allowing clients to stock up on staples such as sandwiches, frozen yogurt, or salad-bar selections all day long.
Whether seated on a patio overlooking stretches of grass or within a cozy dining room aglow with hanging lights, guests at Donna’s are treated to an array of tasty, upscale American dishes. The menu boasts a selection that changes weekly and may include quinoa and homemade falafel, five-spice ribs, salmon on cold noodles, or homemade tacos. From the expansive wine lists, guests select a glass of dry sparkling prosecco to pair with pizza or calamari or sip a seasonal cocktail such as the pineapple caipirinha. In addition to crafting delicious meals, the team at Donna’s offers cooking classes, during which they bake rustic breads, make pastas by hand, and quiet the melodramatic death throes of Italian vegetables.
Gathered around Shaquille O’Neal in front of the chalkboard scribbled with the day’s ice cream flavors, the staff of Taharka Bros. is positively beaming. While the visit from a basketball legend brings a crowd of admirers into their shop, Taharka’s ice cream wizards have no problem attracting throngs of fans sans the help of Shaq’s presence. Voted one of Baltimore's "Great Milkshakes" by The Baltimore Sun in 2011, and crowned "Best Ice Cream" by Baltimore Magazine in its Best of Baltimore 2010 edition, devotees are drawn in by the eatery's "irresistible ice-cream menu," which includes decadent flavors such as honey graham and salty caramel. Adding to the draw is its ability to "satisfy [your] ravenous social conscience" with its management training program that "offers the chance for urban youth to get a foothold in the workplace." Throughout the day, the entrepreneurial young staffers hone business skills as they hand-make batches of frozen confections using fresh ingredients such as fruits and magic beanstalk beans plucked from local farms. The sense of community and teamwork that goes into the creation of every scoop reflects Taharka Bros.' support of initiatives that uphold civic involvement, social justice, and cultural exchange through the arts.