Food trek ends on a sweet note of peach ice cream

August 02, 1999|By Rob Kasper | Rob Kasper,SUN COLUMNIST

The day begins with a bagel with bite. It's the kind that makes you work when you chew it -- and one that delivers terrific flavor.

I find it at Goldberg's New York Kosher Bagels in Pikesville as I begin the final leg of my eating journey through Maryland. For my last jaunt, I decide to take a leisurely trip from Baltimore to College Park.

Usually, I rush to get to the Washington area. Today, I am savoring the drive. Besides bagels, I am going to stop at a Mexican restaurant in Howard County and an ice-cream parlor at the University of Maryland.

As I walk into Goldberg's, the yeasty aroma of freshly baked goods hits me. Sunshine is streaming over a collection of customers -- some wearing yarmulkes -- who are sitting at a handful of tables and chairs.

"We are Orthodox Jews," says owner Stanley Drebin, who opened the store a year ago. "We close on Friday at 2 in the afternoon and open again Saturday night after the Sabbath is over. But we have a lot of non-Jewish customers."

Drebin says he gets his dough from a New York bagel maker, who uses a recipe dating back to Polish immigrants from the early 1900s named Goldberg.

"They won't give me the recipe," says Drebin, who doesn't want to identify his source.

Drebin brings the frozen bagel dough to Pikesville, where it is boiled and baked and turned into fragrant, chewy kosher bagels.

I may not know much about kosher foods, but I do know a good bagel when I have one. The bagels are fresh, yet they have a slight resistance in their crust. I like that.

I buy a bag filled with plain, raisin, black Russian and poppy-seed bagels -- 13 in all for a little more than $6. Besides the bagels, I like the attitude of Avinoam Miller, who works the cash register.

He not only rings up my purchase but dispenses a little start-of-the-day wisdom.

When I remark that I'm "half-awake," he sympathizes, telling me he wakes up at 5: 30 each morning to get to the store by 6 when it opens.

But, he adds, with a shrug familiar to anyone who has ever reluctantly hauled himself out of bed and off to work, "There is the money."

With this in mind, I head to Clarksville for lunch at El Azteca. It is a family-run Mexican restaurant that sits amid sprawling shopping centers and booming subdivisions.

Francisca Cortes, who owns the restaurant with her husband, Gilberto, says the landscape was much different 6 1/2 years ago when she got her first look at the small space in the strip mall.

"It was a former pizza place, run down, and this was a small town with cattle," she says. "But [Gilberto] wanted to do it, and here we are."

Now, the modest, 80-seat restaurant, decorated with colorful artwork and brightly painted ceramic parrots, has developed a reputation for serving dishes that are "muy Mexicano" or very Mexican.

Cortes tells me she and her husband, the restaurant's chef, come from San Luis Soyatlan, a small town near Guadalajara in west Mexico. They use ingredients imported from their homeland.

"All our spices and chilies come from Mexico," she says. "We get them fresh. The spices you get here they have preservatives."

I order tacos al pastor, slices of steak that are marinated, cooked quickly on a grill and served in crisp, corn tortillas. The meat is perfectly grilled, moist, with an undertone of the grill smoke.

"That is the way it is done in Mexico," Cortes says.

I polish off the steak tacos and put serious dents in mounds of tender rice and creamy refried beans. The tortilla chips with fresh tomato salsa also impress me.

The chips are made at the restaurant, Cortes says. "It is more work," she says. "But it is worth it."

The final stop of my eating tour of Maryland takes me to the Dairy, a 120-seat ice cream parlor and lunch restaurant in the Visitors Center at the University of Maryland in College Park. It seems like a good spot to wind up this summer idyll.

The Dairy serves homemade ice cream, a dessert that is a perfect finish to any summer day. I also like the idea of ending this summer adventure at a school. A trip to school usually marks the end of vacation for legions of parents and kids.

Although it is late July and there still are a few weeks of summer left, the Dairy is bustling with college kids. I don't know if they are taking classes, but they certainly are studying the tubs of ice cream.

I join them. After careful consideration, I select fresh peach as my choice.

The flavor is one of 16 kinds of ice cream made on campus by the college's department of animal and avian sciences. The university has been making ice cream since the 1920s, says current ice-cream maker Lisa Smith.

"We make it three times a week, 25,000 gallons a year," she says.

Students, who also can get the ice cream in dormitory cafeterias, prefer a flavor called "Cookies," which has bits of Oreo-like cookies in it, she says, while the faculty and general ice-cream-eating public go for vanilla.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.