Where they get the good stuff

CHEFS' SECRET SOURCES

August 22, 1993|By Joe Surkiewicz

Just where does Mark Henry, chef at the Milton Inn in Sparks, find those delectable vine-ripened tomatoes and exquisite just-picked cantaloupes?

What is Rudolph Speckamp's secret source of ingredients for that scrumptious chocolate triomphe offered at Rudys' 2900 in Finksburg?

And where does Nancy Longo find those succulent thick-cut pork chops she serves at Pierpoint, her Fells Point restaurant?

Let's rephrase the questions: Where do Baltimore's best food emporiums get the distinctive ingredients that make dining out so memorable?

Here's a hint:

They don't all come from fancy wholesale suppliers in New York.

These items -- and plenty more -- are available here in Baltimore . . . and you don't have to be a professional chef to buy them.

Whether it's farm-fresh produce, fine European-style cuts of meat, exquisite French pastries or mouth-watering loaves of fresh-baked bread, Baltimore's best restaurants procure many of their ingredients -- and often, finished products -- from local suppliers that also sell directly to the public.

That's good news for home chefs.

"Today, consumers are orchestrating their meals by buying items that are produced by different purveyors of quality food products," says Diane Neas, a restaurant consultant in Kingsville. "I can make a great grilled chicken, but I go out and buy a knockout dessert that would take me all day to make."

So why not shop where the professionals go?

"During the summer, I use Lacey's Produce at Falls Road an Lake Avenue," says the Milton Inn's Mr. Henry. "Whether it's tomatoes, cantaloupes or strawberries, Lacey really knows the local farmers."

From the tiny, bustling shop that she owns with her husband, Snuffy, Lacey Benton explains her success:

"I'm not a serious person, but I'm serious about food. My big thing is to search out what's in season. That way you get the best of the best."

In addition to having a wide array of locally grown veggies, Lacey's is jammed with fresh herbs, cheese, coffee, cookbooks and plants. The shop also sells food-related gift items, such as tea towels, mugs, herb grinders and cutting boards.

"We're like a roadside market, but more," Ms. Benton says. Lacey's Produce, located at 6070 Falls Road, Mount Washington, is open Mondays through Saturdays 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. and Sundays 11 a.m. to 6 p.m.; call (410) 377-5334.

Pierpoint's Ms. Longo would also like to share a professiona secret: where to buy the best fancy European cuts of meat available in Baltimore.

"The folks at the Fells Point Meat Market are the only people I buy my meat from," says the 30-year-old chef.

Located in the Broadway Market, the Fells Point Meat Market is a rarity among butcher shops -- a purveyor of restaurant-quality meats that also sells to the public.

"We like the combination of selling to restaurants and retail," says ErikOosterwijk, who operates the shop with his partner, Leo Pruissen. "It's a lot of fun."

Mr. Oosterwijk is from Holland, where he was trained as a butcher in the European tradition.

"As a result, our customers get a better-trimmed, better-quality piece of meat," says Mr. Oosterwijk, who opened the butcher shop in 1988. "The profession kind of got lost in this country. European butchers are more into specialties and making items ready to use by the customer." His shop in the Broadway Market at Broadway and Fleet Street is open Mondays through Saturdays 7 a.m. to 6 p.m.; call (410) 563-2602.

For a perfect plate of insalada caprese, a late-summer, Little Italy favorite inspired by the island of Capri, chefs combine fresh tomato slices, a sprinkle of extra-virgin olive oil and slabs of fresh mozzarella.

Where do you find fresh mozzarella?

Ask Buddy Chiapparelli, owner of Chiapparelli's Restaurant, an tell you there's only one source in town: Mastellone Deli at 7212 Harford Road in Baltimore.

"Mr. Mastellone makes it himself every day," Mr. Chiapparelli reports. "It's great tasting and he makes it right. I love it."

It doesn't taste anything like the mozzarella sold in stores, says Andrea Mastellone, the deli's owner.

"What you see in the chain stores was made two months ago," he says. "Go to Italy and give them that and they throw it back at you."

Mastellone Deli is open Tuesdays through Saturdays 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.; call (410) 444-5433.

Fresh sausage is another culinary item relished by area chefs especially Rudolph Speckamp, who is in charge of the kitchen at Rudys' 2900.

"For authentic German sausage, Egon Binkert is the best in town," the chef says. "He makes weisswurst and bratwurst that's out of this world. I think he's the best sausage maker on the East Coast."

Binkert's supplies sausages to restaurants, country clubs, hotels, Washington embassies and the public.

"A lot of people drive a long way to get a good German sausage from me," Mr. Binkert says proudly.

What's his secret?

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