Best of Baltimore in a Box

This is my second month of participation in Foodie Penpals, a foodie exchange in the spirit of “Secret Santa” hosted by blogger friend Lindsay at The Lean Green Bean.

The Lean Green BeanEarlier in this month, I learned that I would be mailing goodies to Tenecia (of Boobs, Barbells, and Broccoli fame) while somewhere in the foodie universe someone had gotten my name. I couldn’t wait to go shopping! Then a day after I sent my box, one arrived in the mail addressed to me.

I was thrilled to open my box to find all kinds of treats from Baltimore, but even better, the next day I received an email from my penpal Leah at Cupcakes & Race Dates with a blog post explaining all the items she had sent! So, not only did I get a great box of treats but a guest post as well!

Best of Baltimore
authored by Leah Prehn

After reading [Denise’s] original email about the kinds of foods she was interested in, I was inspired to create a “Best of Baltimore” box. I collected all of the foods that my hometown is known for. (Except for the most popular; blue crabs. Unfortunately they aren’t quite in season yet.)

For Mother’s Day, I took my Mom to the third annual Baltimore Foodie Experience where we spent hours sampling foods from local restaurants and food trucks. After we ate ourselves silly, we were treated to a talk and cooking demo from Andrew Zimmern from the Travel Channel’s “Bizarre Foods.” While he was cooking octopus, someone from the audience shouted out (must have been all the free beer & wine!) “Where’s the Old Bay?!” Andrew stopped what he was doing and said something to the effect of  “There aren’t many places that when you hear the name you get a taste in your mouth but if someone says Baltimore you immediately taste Old Bay!” I have lived in the area my whole life and he is right; Old Bay Seasoning is like a religion around here and people put it on everything from popcorn to salads, eggs, fried chicken, French fries, potato chips and my favorite, sweet Maryland corn on the cob. It’s also mandatory in Bloody Marys anywhere in the Chesapeake area.

One example of the Old Bay flavors in use is the crab chips that I included in my penpal package. UTZ chips have been made in nearby Hanover, Pennsylvania since 1921 and sold in Baltimore since the beginning. UTZ chips are so pervasive in Baltimore that a local jeweler used the UTZ girl image in a really cute advertising campaign. She is being proposed to by the Natty Boh’ man, the other favorite local logo. The tagline reads, “Where Baltimore gets engaged.”

This brings me to the beer that I also included in the package. While it is no fancy delicious local micro-brew, in my admittedly biased opinion, it is one of the better cheap beers available in our area. I sent three cans, one for the recipe and one each [Denise and Dom] to drink while enjoying the shrimp; nothing washes down salty Old Bay seasoned dishes better! National Bohemian is the full name but around here it’s known as “Natty Boh” or simply “Boh”. It was first brewed in Baltimore in 1885 and stayed in the area until the 70’s. Although the company has been sold a few times to much larger companies who now make it elsewhere, it is no less celebrated here. The former brewery building displays a glowing neon Boh’ man in the neighborhood now known as Brewers Hill. There are even tourist stores that sell all kinds of merchandise emblazoned with that loveable grinning face.

Because no meal is complete without dessert, I sent Baltimore’s favorite sweet treat, Berger cookies. The recipe was brought from Germany to Baltimore by George and Henry Berger in 1835. The vanilla wafer cookie which is topped with a thick layer of chocolate fudge are still handmade in Baltimore. Aside from the their website, the company only sells the cookies in the Baltimore and Washington D.C. area.

Finally, less culturally important but a favorite of my little furry friend, I included locally baked biscuits from the Baltimore Dog Bakery. They are high quality and all natural with no additives or preservatives. The bakery sells their wide range of dog treats at the wonderful Baltimore farmers market and at many pet stores in the area. 

Sharing all of these goodies with [Denise and Dom] is getting me really excited for the summer where I and the rest of the region will spend countless hours with friends and family picking crabs coated in Old Bay, washing it down it some Boh’s and if we aren’t too stuffed, sharing some Berger cookies.

For those of you who can’t get your hands on REAL blue crabs, (fresh from the Chesapeake Bay which no true Marylander would settle for anything else!) this is a great steamed shrimp recipe that highlights our best local flavors.

•    1/2 cup vinegar (I use apple cider vinegar)
•    4 teaspoons Old Bay Seasoning
•    6 oz. Natty Boh’
•    1 pound shrimp

1.    Combine first 3 ingredients in pot. Bring to a boil.
2.    Add shrimp, stir gently and cover. Simmer until tender, about 5 minutes.
3.    Drain, remove shells and devein.
4.    Enjoy!