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.
Kolache Kreations adapts generations-old eastern European recipes to bake up fresh, circular pastry bundles loaded with sweet and savory fillings complemented by a menu of coffee drinks and more. Kolache's Old World wizards start with slightly sweet dough and tuck the tender foundation around scrumptious stuffings of fresh fruit, meats, cheeses, or an infinite series of incrementally smaller kolaches.
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.
Each day, the Timonium and Frederick branches brew eight different types of coffee (Annapolis brews six per day), mining from the Baltimore Coffee & Tea Company's coffee reserve, a treasure cove of 120 different varieties of beans. Types of coffee ($1.60 for 12 oz.) are offered on rotating basis, with flavors such as coconut cream and pumpkin spice introducing new aromas to bored taste buds, as well as Swiss Water–decaffeinated varieties for those that love the taste of coffee but find themselves inadvertently building a shrine to Grease after two cups of regular joe. Introduce yourself to the well-crafted wares of Mother Earth with a cup of tea ($1.95 for 20 oz.)—the shop features more than 1,000 kinds of leaves for consumption, from medicinal herb tea to an Eastern Shore variety—or go full throttle with an espresso concoction ($1.50–$4.25).