I had the most delightful find when treating myself to an afternoon in Annapolis at what call, the catalogue mall, Annapolis Towne Center. I found both a dive bar with an intriguing chef and delicious food and a marvelous, new boutique shop selling designer oils, vinegars and salts.
First, lunch. I posted on facebook & twitter, "Any gr8 eats near the Annapolis Town Ctr near @bin 204 @Wholefoods?" With over thirty responses in an hour, I settled in upon my friend, Petra Compel's recommendation of one of her favs in the Shopping Center area, West End Grill at 2049 West Street, 410-266-7662.
Determined to keep it healthy, I spoke to the Chef, Dan Hill , who came out of the kitchen to say hello and greet me personally. After asking if we suffered from any allergies, he surprised us by whipped up a seared tuna appetizer with seaweed salad. It was delicious. then I continued to enjoy a seared tuna steak (5oz) on a house salad, my choice. My friend enjoyed a Caesar with piping hot, perfectly grilled chicken on top. We chose to eat light, but were delighted at the dessert presentation of chocolate mousse.
The bar is a typical bar, serves burgers, crab cake sandwiches and soups. But, if you look deeper, you will see it is but not a typical greasy spoon. There wass homemade chili being eaten at a nearby table and a Greek Wrap served with tzasiki sauce, tomato, feta cheese on a rolled flat bread. BBQ Kielbasa, chicken avocado sandwich with cilantro mayo on a brioche and steak frites, ribs, pork chops and rib eye standout on the menu. Oh, did I mention grilled rockfish over corn bread was also on the menu? Menus change often and seasonally, keeping guests and the kitchen interested.
Next we enjoyed the Annapolis Town Center around the corner. Most notably enjoying my lavish birthday present of a Nespresso Machine from Sur La Table. See, at this time, I thought all of the stores were mostly chains, except the About Faces Day Spa run by Helga Surratt, and Bin 201 Wine Shop, next to whole Foods. Not so, and boy, did I find a newly opened gem in CLEO's Fine Oils & Vinegars, which brings some of the best olive oils and vinegars to the Annapolis area. The store is flanked by vats of premium extra virgin olive oils, nut & seed oils, wine vinegars & balsamic vinegars and also has about twenty flavored sea salts.
Whether coming from Saleta's personal connections with individual macadamia nut growers in Hawaii to trendsetting makers of Washington State grape seed oil to connections with award-winning olive oil producers in California, It is a family affair and CLEO's Fine Oils & Vinegars' owners are determined to meld their love of great food, good health and excellent ingredients.
Entering the shop we were greeted by a Linda Cameron, a doctor and self-professed foodie, who turns out to be the shop founder, Saleta Cameron (who was not in that day), sister. Linda asked, had we ever been in a store like this. We both exclaimed, no. So she gladly gave us a tasting tour of the inventory which consists of elaborate olive oils, vinegars and sea salts. This store is what Linda calls, "a labor of love."
The point is to sample and then take home in a variety of sizes, some of your favorites. I chose to bring home the four-pack sampler. My personal choices to be bottled were: Basil infused Olive Oil, two balsamics, one 25 year old-I was told should be perfect poured atop strawberries, another spectacularevery-day balsamic and the signature Italian olive oil. Linda filled, labeled and sealed the bottles for me to take home
I couldn't exit without my true love, white truffle sea salt. Mmmmm!
Saleta has created a gem. I will be back and highly hope you find them soon-it is sure to be a hit. IF only OPRAH was still on!
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