D.C.’s signature half-smoke sausage is made by a West Baltimore meat processor

Marylanders are well represented at the new National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, from scientist Benjamin Banneker to abolitionist Harriet Tubman.But there's a Baltimore connection you may never have heard of — half-smoke sausages. The spicy links served at the museum's Sweet Home Cafe are made by Manger's in West Baltimore.The family operation, officially called Manger Packing Corp., turns out about 20,000 pounds of sausages a week, with half-smokes making up about 9,000 pounds. Considered a signature food of the nation's capital, most of the half-smokes are destined for Washington and one of its most beloved restaurants — Ben's Chili Bowl.Alvin Manger, 81, is the fourth generation to run the meat processing company founded by his great-grandfather, George Manger, a German immigrant, in the 1860s.As the guardian of his half-smoke recipe, Manger vaguely describes the sausages as a blend of pork and beef combined with spices mixed on the premises — he doesn't trust outsiders to do it — and stuffed into natural casings."They are cured the old-fashioned way, overnight," he said.The definition of the half-smoke is mysterious, since no one has revealed the exact recipe for the links introduced to D.C. in the 1950s. Many food aficionados have concluded it's a smoked sausage that's half pork and half beef.Manger will only say, "It's similar to a smoked sausage. No one really knows."Regardless, it's become a ubiquitous Washington street food."Half-smokes seem to truly be a D.C. thing connected to a number of spots, most notably Ben's Chili Bowl," culinary historian Jessica B. Harris, a consultant for Sweet Home Cafe, said in an email. "They are also connected to a variety of African-American notables, including President Obama."The president discovered it at Ben's during a visit before he was inaugurated in 2009. He got his half-smoke smothered in chili.Asked for his thoughts on Obama sampling a Manger's half-smoke, Continue Reading

The most eye-popping dishes at Baltimore-area restaurants

Appearance is the last thing on chef Mark Levy’s mind when he’s mulling over ideas for new dishes at Magdalena, the restaurant at the Ivy Hotel in Mount Vernon.So when he created the peekytoe crab salad — a ball of yellow-tinged crab salad hidden beneath folds of pink turnips and sprinkled with fresh herbs — its final appearance surprised him.“When I come up with food, I never think of what the plate’s going to look like,” said Levy, the restaurant’s executive chef. “It’s flavor-centric and ingredient-strong, and then the rest really comes together with the artists’ eye.”Magdalena serves some of the most visually stunning foods in Baltimore, but each dish’s artistry plays second fiddle to its flavor. Once Levy has a sense of the components of a dish, he said the visual representation comes into focus later.Magdalena isn’t the only restaurant in town serving eye-popping food. Here are just a few of the dishes on local menus that are as appealing to the eyes as they are to the taste buds.Magdalena: Peekytoe crab salad ($20)205 E Biddle St., 410-514-0303, magdalenarestaurant.comWrapped in a ruffles of pink pickled turnips, the peekytoe crab salad is among the new additions to Magdalena’s winter menu.“This was more of an Indian inspiration,” Levy said. “I love ethnic foods so relating to these flavors with the curry and the pickle and the rice, they all seem to fold into each other very nicely.”Levy wanted to incorporate a shellfish appetizer among Magdalena’s winter offerings. He considered crab ravioli, but took a decidedly unique approach with the Indian-spiced salad. The dish incorporates peekytoe crab (also known as Jonah crab) meat, vadouvan mayonnaise, puffed wild rice, chopped mint and pickled mango. The ingredients are mixed together, balled and plated atop radish slices, more pickled mango and herb oil. The mixture is then wrapped in leaves Continue Reading

Whole Foods places new limits on suppliers, upsetting some small vendors

Whole Foods Markets is placing new limits on how products are sold in its stores and asking suppliers to help pay for the changes, riling some mom-and-pop vendors that have long depended on the grocer for visibility and shelf space. The changes, outlined in an email recently sent to the company's suppliers, are intended to save on costs and centralize operations. They come as Whole Food's new owner, Amazon.com, pushes to reduce prices at the chain's 473 stores. Some small-business owners said they are already feeling the effect. Valerie Gray, for instance, began selling her pasta sauce, Italian Heart's Gourmet Foods, to the Whole Foods store in Reno, Nevada, four years ago. For years, she said, the grocer allowed her to display 108 bottles of pasta sauce at a time. A professional photograph of Gray and her husband hung from the ceiling, alongside a sign that read "Made Locally." But in the past month, that photo has come down, Gray said, and the shelves now accommodate just 36 bottles of sauce as the store makes room for national brands. Sales of Gray's pasta sauce have dropped by 75 percent in the past month, she said. "It feels like that local, personal touch is going away," she said, adding that Whole Foods accounts for half of the company's sales. "It's hard to set ourselves apart anymore in the sea of well-known national brands." Previously, Whole Foods allowed suppliers like Gray to oversee their own merchandise or hire local firms to do so. But under the new rules, Whole Foods is requiring suppliers to work exclusively with Daymon, a Stamford, Connecticut-based retail strategy firm, and its subsidiary, SAS Retail Services, to schedule in-store tastings, check inventory on shelves and create displays on their behalf. (Jeff Bezos, the founder and chief executive of Amazon, also owns The Washington Post.) "For the last two years, we have been working to streamline our processes to ensure all our suppliers are supported and set up for success," Don Clark, general Continue Reading

How other communities are addressing food insecurity

Some solutions are born out of business strategies, nonprofit work, philanthropy or governments getting creative. From Baltimore to Texas, initiatives have launched that could be replicated in South Jersey’s fight against hunger. All four counties in The Press of Atlantic City’s coverage area — Atlantic, Cape May, Cumberland and Ocean — have the highest rates in the state of children who lack access to healthy and nutritious foods, both in quality and quantity, according to Feeding America. And a lack of healthy food is linked to health problems among children that can haunt them later in life — diabetes, heart disease, high blood pressure — from diets reliant on sugary, salty, fatty and processed foods. “Anything can be very effective depending on the community that carries it out,” said Adele H. LaTourette, director of the New Jersey Anti-Hunger Coalition. “It’s great to look at what other communities are doing and see if it can be effective in your community.” Campus Kitchen helps feed families in Atlantic City ATLANTIC CITY — Rona Whitehead pulled the van into the Sunset Inn motel on Route 30 and went… Baltimore Studies by Johns Hopkins’ Bloomberg School of Public Health found only about 10 percent of Baltimore’s food stores were supermarkets. Residents turned to corner stores, where food was 20 percent more expensive and basics like whole-wheat bread, low-fat milk and vegetables were often not available, the city wrote in its Baltimore City Food Policy Task Force report in 2009. One approach from the Baltimore Food Policy Initiative is the Virtual Supermarket Program. It allows residents in public, disabled and senior housing to order groceries online and have them delivered. Residents can pay with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, formerly known as food stamps. “Retailers have an understanding that brick and mortar is Continue Reading

Whole Foods Under Fire for… Making Sandwiches for National Guard?!

Whole Foods took down a photo of the National Guardsmen it fed after backlash on social media. The company posted a photo to Facebook and Instagram of members of the National Guard holding a bag of its groceries. The National Guard has been called in to Baltimore to help manage the protests that have broken out in the wake of Freddie Gray’s death. “We teamed up with Whole Foods Market Mt. Washington to make sandwiches for the men and women keeping Baltimore safe. We are so thankful to have them here and they’re pumped for Turkey & Cheese!” Whole Foods Market Harbor East posted on Facebook and Instagram. 'Baltimore, Get Off the Streets!': Ray Lewis Delivers Passionate Plea to Rioters But the post quickly drew the ire of some social media users. “As Baltimore's poorest kids are left hungry due to school closure (no school lunch), @WholeFoods feeds the oppressor,” one Twitter user wrote. “The stunt @WholeFoods in #Baltimore pulled today opened my eyes. I used to love Whole Foods, but I can't support the company anymore. #Bye,” another user tweeted. Surveillance Video Captures Looters in Baltimore Store Whole Foods told ABC News, “We removed the post because it did not accurately reflect all our local stores are doing to feed people across this city, especially children. Again, we love our community, and will continue to support our city in the days to come, as we always do, and extend our heartfelt sympathy to those affected." Geraldo Rivera praised Whole Foods this morning on “Fox and Friends.” “I’m filled with admiration for their generosity and for their compassion,” Rivera said. “Those National Guardsmen are citizen soldiers, […] their lives were disrupted to keep peace in this town, in this troubled [and] ravaged town.” Hateful Note to Vet: 'I Hope You Watch Your Child Starve & Die' VIDEO: Female Vet Tackled, Arrested for Trying to Stop Flag Continue Reading

Only a few hours from New York, Baltimore makes a great weekend getaway

After a few days in Baltimore, I realized that there’s much more cool, charm, and quirkiness in this oft-maligned metropolis than doomfests like the crime drama “The Wire” let on. Since Baltimore’s Penn Station sits just three hours from our own, a weekend in Maryland’s largest city might also be the ticket if you’re looking for an antidote to an increasingly corporate New York. In some ways, Baltimore feels like Brooklyn before it became a brand. The happening Hampden neighborhood, just northwest of downtown Baltimore, makes a good starting point. Once a hardscrabble neighborhood hollowed out by industrial decline, Hampden’s been reclaimed by young creatives looking for cheaper alternatives to a percolating downtown. Along 36th St., its low-slung main drag, you’ll find a hodgepodge of boutiques, eateries, and galleries next to gloriously weird oldtimers like Sandy’s Discount, where I found a neon-orange Baltimore Orioles vinyl wallet ($8.99) and a sequined purple fedora with a battery-operated light attached ($9.99). Just a few doors down, tidier Sixteen Tons (1100 W. 36th St., shop16tons.com) boasts high-end wearables from happening menswear brands like Naked & Famous and Schott NYC, along with a superbly edited collection of locally made products. Cross-embossed silver rings from Baltimore jewelers The Unbolted ($250) feel just rockerish enough, and a “BIAS” baseball cap ($30) from Attica Jailhouse memorializes late, great University of Maryland college hoopster Len Bias. The butcher’s apron made of chainmail armor I saw at nearby Synesthesia (903 W. 36th St., facebook.com/synesthesia36) may not have been as practical, but offers a window into gallery owner Jonathan Seder’s mission: Sell anything that catches his eye. “My store is very ADD-friendly,” he tells me. Along with t-shirts featuring Seder’s own psychedelic Continue Reading

Young, unemployed and hip, some food stamp users opt for upscale choices at the market

Fresh rabbit, wild-caught fish and organic vegetables might sound like items on the shopping list of an upscale cook planning an over-the-top dinner party. But some food stamp users are opting for such choice items these days, along with fresh herbs, triple-creme cheese and raw honey, according to a Salon.com report. The changing preferences in food choices bought with food stamps reflect the influx of young singles around the country who are now eligible for help buying with their groceries, says Salon.com. As part of last year’s stimulus package, recent changes in the food stamp program have made it easier for able-bodied adults without kids to collect food stamps. "There are many 20-somethings from educated families who go through a period of unemployment and live very frugally, maybe even technically in poverty, who now qualify," said Tufts University food economist Parke Wilde, who has written a lot about food stamp use and policy, according to Salon.com. Cities that draw creative types and young professionals in their 20s and 30s tend to have food markets that offer items such as grass-fed beef, gourmet ice cream and artisanal bread. And food stamp purchases have doubled in the past year at some stores in upscale areas that sell gourmet food products. "The use has gone way up in the last six months," Eric Wilcox, a cashier at Rainbow Grocery in San Francisco’s Mission District, told Salon.com. "We’re seeing a lot more young people in their 20s purchasing organic food with food stamp cards. "I wouldn’t say it’s limited to hipster people, but I’m certainly surprised to see them with cards." Those familiar with the New York City food stamp program say they doubt all that many hipsters here are cashing in their food stamps for wild-caught salmon and organically grown raspberries. "I am sure there are a lot of people here who fall into the category of hipster, but it is a small proportion relative to Continue Reading

Five underrated food cities on the East Coast

Everyone knows New York and Miami are great food cities. But what about the unsung heroes in cities like St. Petersburg, Fla., or Raleigh, N.C., making incredible food every day, with less national recognition? Now’s the time to add these under-the-radar cities to your East Coast travel plans, before everyone else catches on.Waltham, Mass., a former factory city that’s now home to two universities, is a worthy culinary contender to neighboring Boston, just 12 miles east. While it’s chock full of old and new school diners and delis, it’s also home to upscale establishments, authentic ethnic eats, craft brew pubs, and even a sake factory, making the diversity of options very impressive for a city this size (just less than 14 square miles).Baltimore excels at small, chef-owned restaurants and has several homegrown food heroes, like James Beard Award nominee Cindy Wolf, 2015 James Beard Award winner Spike Gjerde, and Food Network star Duff Goldman. “What makes this a great moment in Baltimore’s food scene is that the classic spots that have stood the test of time have finally been joined by a new generation,” says Gjerde. “Faidley’s, which has been around for the last hundred years, has been joined by new raw bars like Dylan’s Oyster Cellar and The Local Oyster. And the uniquely Baltimore Matthew’s Pizza stands alongside newcomers like Verde and Paulie Gee’s.”While Asheville, N.C. gets a lot of foodie love, its neighbor to the east has been quietly upping its culinary game. Raleigh, North Carolina’s capital, embraces its southern heritage while continuing to evolve and grow. A prime example is Ashley Christensen, chef and owner of no less than six bars and restaurants in the city, and other pedigreed creators, like Iron Chef America winner Walter J. Royal and three-time James Beard Award nominee Lionel Vatinet, also call Raleigh home.St. Petersburg, Fla., may not come to Continue Reading

Restaurant food delivery gets smarter, moves beyond pizza

Restaurant food is now available on demand to anyone with a smartphone.Just as consumers using Netflix can call up a movie wherever they are, a new wave of app-based companies are allowing diners to order delivery from their favorite restaurants that don't usually offer such services.The kind of foods that can be delivered is moving beyond pizza and Chinese to anything that fits into a takeout container. And ordering food is no longer dependent on making a phone call. All it takes is a few swipes of a finger on a phone and a credit or debit card, and then a customized meal is on its way to your door. RELATED: I had an $18 Chipotle burrito bowl deliveredThe third-party tech companies, many of which are based in Silicon Valley, are vying for a cut of the $70 billion takeout and delivery business.But there's a catch: Convenience comes at a cost. Restaurants pay a commission to the delivery companies on each meal, which can eat into profit margins. For consumers, the price of a meal can double or even triple after tacking on a delivery fee, service fee and tip.Yet non-traditional delivery keeps growing, and isn't showing signs of slowing down.Food delivery in America has been around since at least the 1950s.Still, it's a relatively small slice of food-service traffic, accounting for just under 4 percent, according to market-research company the NPD Group. Over the last several years, telephone ordering has decreased while Internet and mobile ordering has become more popular, said Bob O'Brien, global senior vice president of food service at NPD."They are aggregators of availability for people to choose from," he said. "It's the idea that you're sitting some place and thinking, 'What do I want to eat?' You can look at choices and the menus, pricing, ratings and payments are all there."What makes companies such as GrubHub and Postmates delivery "disrupters" is how they've changed the game. • These services rely on smartphone technology. Sophisticated algorithms Continue Reading

Readers sound off on bridge tolls, Bruce Jenner and Baltimore

No bridge tolls without polls Brooklyn: When, in the 1890s, voters in what is now the five boroughs were asked to combine into a City of Greater New York, each county’s vote was to be counted separately so the failure of the vote in even one county would defeat the measure. A majority of Kings County was opposed. To convince residents to change their minds, merger proponents offered a compromise: If the people voted yes to consolidation, all tolls on current and future bridges between the boroughs would be eliminated after the bridges were paid off. When the vote to consider merging the counties into five boroughs was taken, most of the county still voted against the merger. But Flatlands, a community of farmers, supported the consolidation because of a hope for new and better markets for their produce. The measure passed Kings County by 277 votes. When a mayor of the City of Greater New York then refused to remove the tolls from the bridges, the people were outraged. Fearing for his life and/or political future, he ordered the tolls removed. All proposals for new bridges since 1910 have informed the people that permanent tolls would be necessary to build and maintain them. Tolls on the free bridges between counties must be approved by a public vote and, as in the consolidation vote, each county must approve the tolls. If any county votes no, the proposal shall be defeated. Ken Kasowitz Join the dog pack Manhattan: The recent Op-Ed by Matt Bershadker (“Help shelter workers save more animals,” April 27) misses the point of my office’s audit. It’s never personal: Every city agency is subject to an independent examination of whether it is fulfilling its mission and providing value to taxpayers. Rather than apologizing for Animal Care & Control’s failures, I invite Bershadker to join me in calling for true reform at AC&C with an expanded, independent board of animal welfare and fund-raising experts that can make Continue Reading