Some Words on Our Menu

September 27, 2010 by

Within a few days, we hope to have our introductory menu posted here. We plan on introducing many new items in the coming weeks . . . we opened with a somewhat limited offering in order to perfect our systems and recipes and pricing.

(If you don’t want to wait for us to get the menu posted here, you can always come on down and take a look at it in person. It’s written on the wall.)

In addition to regular menu items, we’re also looking into the logistics of offering catering menus and a bagged lunch subscription, so let us know if you have any thoughts on these, or anything else.

Lastly: milk!

Did you know that all of our milk-based beverages and recipes are made with completely organic and hormone-free milk from Organic Valley? Now you do.

Most of our coffees from Counter Culture Coffee are also certified organic (and those that aren’t are very likely organic but not certified).

Charmington’s: Tastes great, won’t poison you.

Ta-Da!

September 25, 2010 by

In case you’re not following us on Facebook or Twitter, you may have missed the news. Charmington’s is open for business!!! It’s been a long and winding road, and we’d like to wholeheartedly thank everyone who helped get us to this point, especially the management team at Miller’s Court and the guys of Hencken and Gaines, our contractors. Our plumber Bob, of RLB Plumbing has also been great at dealing with our complex needs.

And we’d like to thank our investors, friends, and families for supporting us over these many months.

And most of all, we’d like to thank YOU, Baltimore, for a very successful opening. And thank you for being patient as we work out the kinks. And thank you in advance for what we hope is many years of a happy relationship.

If you could only hear some of the discussions and debates we’ve been having about how to provide you with the absolute best coffee and food. We at Team Charm are passionate on these topics, and we hope this shows in everything we do.

Adventures in Coffee Tasting

August 26, 2010 by

Amanda and I have spent the past two days down in DC at the Counter Culture Training Center maxing out on caffeine until our heads and tummys exploded. On Tuesday we took a Beginners Espresso Class offered by CCC to train new baristas on the art of espresso and whip seasoned baristas (like Amanda and I) back into shape after working at less than suitable cafes where we developed many a bad habit.

The best part of the class is that we were able to use a machine somewhat similar to the one we just purchased! The CCC Linea was a three group and had some upgrades like teflon steam wands, but the look and feel of it will be similar to our soon to be arriving machine.

Here are some of the cappuccinos that I poured:

The classes were taught by our CCC rep and old co-worker Alex as well as the CCC technician Brian. It was much needed practice and we both learned some new tricks and pointers. We also found out that we were inadvertantly on the track to becoming CCC certified baristas. After two more classes, Milk Chemistry and Intermediate Espresso, we will be able to take a test and have excess street cred in the barista world. In addition we get sweet personalized tampers for completion of the course and passing the test which includes pouring two good shots of espresso, making two good cappuccinos, creating a signature drink and completing a written test.

We both decided that we should come back next week and take the Milk Chemistry course and start working on our certifications.

Wednesday we had plans to meet up with Alex to do some tasting for our house brew and espresso blend. It was pretty hard work, but obviously enjoyable at the same time. We had the pleasure of trying out CCC’s newest espresso blend, Apollo, which we had heard a lot about. Although we really enjoyed Apollo once it was dialed in and pulled perfectly, we both fell in love with Toscano the day before and decided that it was what we would be using in the shop. Toscano is an amazingly sweet and mellow blend which drinks wonderfully as both an espresso or mixed in with milk in a cappuccino or latte.

After multiple tastings, we came to the conclusion of Finca Nueva Armenia as our house roast. FNA hails from Guatemala and is very much a coffee drinker’s coffee: smooth, slightly bitter, but with great taste all around. This coffee is great black, but will also lend well to milk and sugar for those who roll that way. Also it is certified organic and falls under CCC’s strict Direct Trade Standards.

We can not wait to serve both these and and many more coffees and foods to all of you. The anticipation in the group is reaching a critical mass and fortunately we will be able to relieve ourselves once our doors open in the very near future.

Amanda and I both had a blast these past couple of days and are definitely excited about our next class next week, however we are both less than enthused about the friendly DC traffic…perhaps the Marc train will be in order for our next trip. Keep posted for more updates as our opening date approaches!

Proceeding

August 9, 2010 by

We did not forget about you! Everything we do, we do for you. It’s just that we’re doing an awful lot at the moment.

The good news is that the planning, permitting, and construction of Charmington’s continues apace.

The other news is that our opening has been delayed for a few weeks until the end of August.

We can’t wait, and we hope to see you then!

May 27th Ottobar Event

June 18, 2010 by

So almost a month ago we sponsored a really awesome event at our gracious neighboring Baltimore mainstay, The Ottobar. It was one of many events that we hope to sponsor in the future and it went off with a bang. We had food for sale, coffee to try out (provided by our awesome roaster Counter Culture and brewed by our good friend and CC rep, Alex) and some amazing bands providing the entertainment – Birthmarks, The Matrimonials, Pansori, Beard and DJed by the Mustache Crew.

The event was so much fun and those in attendance got to try out some of our future goodies and had chances to win some AMAZING prizes

Here are some photos from the event, more can be found here on our flickr page. Special thanks to Megan Lloyd for snapping these shots!


Read the rest of this entry »

RestaurFriend Shout Out! Curbside Cafe

May 7, 2010 by

Do you ever meet someone, and they seem cool, and then the more you get to know them, the more impressed you are, until finally you’re like, “Look, who the hell ARE you?  Tone it down, live like the peasants for a minute.  Jeez!”

Anyway, let me tell you about the Pistols.  They have real names, but I first knew them through roller derby, so to me, they’ll always be Pistol Whip and Mr. Pistol.  Here they are getting married at a roller derby bout!  Pistol skated in the bout before the wedding, and her team beat my team.

Well, now, after retirement from the roller world, they’ve turned their attentions to something else ridiculous and awesome: a travelling burrito truck in Baltimore.

Give it a rest, guys!  Seriously!

But, no, don’t actually, please.  We need our burritos.  I see by their facebook page that they’re going to be parked on the avenue tonight  (and it’s First Friday, so extra fun!)  Go out, get your burrito, and show your support of another cool local restaurant!

Team Charm knows all the hard work it takes to get a food service establishment going, and so we definitely congratulate Curbside Cafe!

We’ll fill our mouths with cinnamoooon

May 4, 2010 by

Guys, I was posting about this on our facebook wall, but I think I need more space to discuss my rich and complex  feelings about cinnamon rolls.

First off, I don’t want to make you any false promises.  From the start, we of Team Charm have planned to make as much of our food on the premises as possible, both to cut down our own food costs, and to have food that’s both fresher than pre-made food and unique to our fine establishment.  We want to do this SO BADLY, but as we get closer to opening and have to make tough decisions about where every crucial opening dollar is going to go, sometimes it looks like we may not immediately be able to make our own baked goods.

Don’t scream!  We are idea people, and foodies, and already we’ve got some great alternate menus planned, with all kinds of fresh, delicious foods, including some definite comfort food.  (You would think I was constantly distraught, the way I seem to need comfort food almost daily.)

Whether we get to make our own baked goods right away or not, we’ve still been testing recipes.  Making a tasty recipe at home and at leisure  is one thing. Making the same recipe consistently, quickly, and as part of a day that starts early and includes a lot of other vital prepwork is another.  When we try recipes, we try them over and over again, with prep time, storage, and many other concerns in mind.

So, anyway, now you see why I just have to make  a ton of cinnamon rolls, all the time, or I’ll be letting down Charmington’s (and all of Baltimore.)  As I try to find the recipe and variations that will suit us best, here are some of the things I’m considering.

Expectations

As a nation, we expect cinnamon rolls to come from tubes, or from a stand at the mall.  We want the dough to be fatty with a hefty sodium punch, the icing to be gooey and plentiful, and for the bun to be the size of a big guy’s fist.

But, food in tubes is suspect, and rich in unpronounceable chemicals and preservatives.  The cinnamon rolls you get at the mall clock in at 730 calories apiece (or a mere 300 for the “mini” versions).

I worked out the calorie breakdown of the recipe I’ve been messing with lately to about 119 a roll, but since I have literally never been able to eat just one, let’s call it 238 with a serving size of two rolls.   The dough is a little drier and a lot less sweet than tube-roll dough, but that’s a bonus, I think, because it keeps the glaze from being overwhelming.

My challenge here is to get the smaller, less fatty, less sweet rolls to be so delicious that the other rolls taste gross in comparison.  It is not necessarily rocket science.

Timing

Unlike muffins or scones, cinnamon rolls are made with a yeast dough, which means kneading and time (or no-kneading, and even more time.)  At home, when I’m baking for fun, I don’t mind kneading dough at all, but at Charmington’s, we can’t afford to have someone come in at 3:00 AM to start bread rising (even if anybody wanted to take a shift that early.)  I’m trying a no-knead recipe later this week, which means that dough processes itself over a longer time frame, but this still requires attention to time and a lot of planning.  Plus, yeast doughs are high-stakes in that if you burn them or otherwise mess them up, you are now hours behind schedule.

Portions

This goes back to the mall rolls again.   They are huge, and the tube rolls come in jumbo for a reason: giant breakfast-dessert pastries just seem more inherently awesome than smaller ones.   But, seriously, you guys.  One reason the mall rolls are so high in calories is that they are enormous.

Even if you’re not concerning about your weight or sugar levels, even if you’re an active person who needs to consume a lot of calories per day, 700 calories of breakfast pastry, she is not so good for you.  If nothing else the gigantor roll will take up valuable stomach-space so that you’re less inclined to eat anything with some more nutritional value.

The other thing is, giant portions are inherently wasteful.  Wasted if you throw it half-uneaten in the trash, sure, but kind of wasted if you throw it in your body, too.

I’m not trying to be preachy here.  I am just trying to tell you some of my thoughts about cinnamon rolls.    What are yours?

Coffee Nerd Talk

April 28, 2010 by

So for a cafe which aspires to win next years Best of Baltimore award for Best Cup of Coffee and Best Coffee Shop, there has been very little coffee talk here on our little blog. This ends today!

While we at Charmington’s will be very focused on offering you the best cup of coffee that Baltimore (and one day, the World) has to offer, please do not mistake us for your typical elitist shop forcing our ideals of “good” coffee on everyone unexpectedly stumbling through our doors. We want to be a center of coffee education for those interested parties who would like to learn more about this substance that so many of us obsessively consume daily. At the same time, we want to be the place where you can order a coffee simply by saying “coffee, please” rather than reciting a scientific formula.

As much as we would love for you to buy all of your coffee drinks from us, we also want to educate you on how to brew great coffee in the confines of your own home with the equipment you already own because lets face it, supporting a habit such as this can get pretty pricey.

Cara has already given you readers a quick run down on the roaster we plan to use (Counter Culture Coffee), and why we plan to use them (because they are awesome). Coffee is much like wine in the sense that if it is prepared correctly you can taste the different characteristics and flavors which it inherently possesses. Picking up on all of the flavors that a wine or coffee may have takes a well trained palette, but there are a lot that can be picked up easily. Please do not confuse these flavors with flavored coffee, for these are not chemicals sprayed on inferior beans but rather traits centered around the origin of the coffee plant. A well roasted and brewed coffee bean will both taste like great coffee and at the same time possess notes of other flavors such as caramel, chocolate, and even strawberry or blueberry (remember, coffee beans are the seeds of the fruit found on coffee trees).

The coffees that will be provided by Counter Culture will all have detailed descriptions which will refer its flavors and characteristics . If you happen to get a cup and do not taste all of them, do not fret! Most of us don’t taste all of the flavors either. The most important thing is that you taste a great cup of coffee.

I will leave you with the link to a video from Counter Culture going through the cupping of one of their espresso blends, Espresso Toscano, which was apparently blended to taste similar to a Snickers bar…how awesome is that?!

Treats, indulgences, and malevolent elves

April 20, 2010 by

I don’t know about you all, but I’ve been glued to Jamie Oliver’s Food Revolution.  Well, sort of lightly glued, as (wait for it!) I Don’t Own a TV*, so I catch it on Hulu, which depends on me having free time, a decent internet connection, and nothing else to come along and claim my attention.

Still, I’ve managed to mostly-watch every episode so far.  I’ve seen the truck of lard, and the kids who couldn’t use a knife and fork, and the school officials who patiently explain over and over again that their jobs depend on straight-facedly calling French fries a vegetable.

It’s interesting on a personal level, because like I mentioned a few posts back, some vicious elves (or maybe sprites: not sure about the taxonomy on this one) have been tightening my pants, and I’m trying to fight them.   I hear they hate vegetables and sweat, so that’s what I’ve been using to ward them off.

It’s gotten me thinking, though, about cafe offerings.  I know, for example, that we’re not going to be serving ultra-jumbo muffins.  It is because we don’t have any giant muffin pans.  I know we’re going to do our best to incorporate in some local food, some organic food, and above all some fresh food, but I know that the bananas in the vegan banana bread probably aren’t coming from a local garden patch.

I know, too, that when I want a muffin, or a cookie, or some other indulgent treat, I kind of want the real deal.  I’d rather sub out my bagel for a salad sometimes than spread it with a thin layer of lite cream cheese, and sometimes, I want that bagel to be made of sparkling white processed flour, with no flecks of stuff. And, I’d rather have the occasional whole milk latte and drink black coffee the rest of the time (even though skim milk foams better, if we’re being frank.)

But, I also want Charmington’s patrons to feel at home there, and eat there on a regular basis.  I don’t want to enforce my all-or-nothing snack views on a defenseless populous.  I’d feel like a spectral Jamie Oliver was about to bust in and dump a truck of lard in my parking lot. So I must ask: what’s you favorite semi-healthy, semi-indulgent snack?  Or entirely healthy snack that feels like an indulgence to you?

*I watch a lot of TV for someone who DOATV, FYI, BFFs.

“When do you open?”

April 6, 2010 by

Recently, Team Charm had a tasting party to show off some potential menu items to our friends and families, as well as to recruit some investors.  I’ll post more about it when we get some photos coming in.   Anyway, the party was quite successful.  We thought we completely over prepared and made way too much food, but then guests started arriving and hitting the buffet table, and the phrase “Plague of locusts” sprang to mind.

In a good way.  Great plague, locusts!  Stay insatiable!  No, I mean, it was great to see so many of our friends and supporters enjoying the food and going back for more.

Of course,  one thing people kept asking was, “When do you open,” which is a natural question, but a tough one to answer.  Our exact opening date depends on the vagaries of contractors and the health department, so we are planning on doing a very soft opening.  I’ll tell you all about it here, and if you live or work in Miller’s Court, you’ll probably catch on pretty quick.

Right now, though, know that we’re working hard to get the doors open as soon as we can, and we do, it’s going to be phenomenal.

Also, watch this space for information at an upcoming event at our neighbor, the Ottobar!


Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.