Scene & Heard


December 25, 2005|By SLOANE BROWN

Gathering to celebrate for Special Olympics

FREEZING RAIN WASN'T KEEPING the hundreds of guests from arriving inside Merritt's Downtown Athletic Club. But they weren't there to work out; they were eating all sorts of delicious food from local restaurants and caterers. Then, there was the gaming, and the wine, beer and spirits also being quaffed. In fact, the closest anyone came to working out was boogying down on the dance floor.

Welcome to Holiday Heroes Bash 2005, benefiting Special Olympics of Maryland. Former Baltimore Raven Michael McCrary and Ravens defensive coordinator Rex Ryan played host to guests that included Ravens Peter Boulware, Jonathan Ogden, Darius Thomas and Orlando Brown. Another star that night was the DAC's Vanessa Buenger, who helped organize the bash, and sang, too.

"She's fabulous! She's also a great body pump teacher, and a great singer!" raved DAC staff member Jon Kaplan, pointing to the stage and the evening's featured chanteuse.


It's prime time for the queen of toffee apples

Lisa Portera, 42, is known as one of the sweetest gals around Baltimore. That's because 15 years ago she started Lisa Anne's Toffee Apples. Her signature creation is a large Granny Smith apple drenched in caramel, chocolate and toffee. She has since created other candy-covered apples, as well as additional sweet treats, and sells them out of her North Charles Street store and tearoom, in Towson Town Center, and online at We caught up with her at Cat's Eye Pub, her favorite after-work hangout.

This time of year, you must be so over apples and chocolate.

Every year we're so inundated with orders -- phone calls, faxes, e-mails and Internet orders. It's so intense. I work from 8 a.m. to at least midnight for days. And then, suddenly, Christmas Eve, it's quiet. We close at 5. My staff leaves. And I'm always the last one. I clean and organize. And then I always cry. I'm crying now!


I feel so sentimental about my customers. And my staff. Every year, they go the distance. I know we're only dipping the apples. But, I want it to be as close to perfect as I possibly can.

What's Christmas Day like, then?

Then, I feel really nice. I feel tired. But it's a satisfied, peaceful tired. I'm always with my family. It's centered around my niece, Olivia. She's seven, turning eight in January. She's the center of our world.

After so many years of making them, do you still like to eat the apples?

My staff and I will have a wedge, maybe, once every couple of months or so. And we'll say, you know these really are good. When we make new flavors, we really do try those.

So, you make these goodies that so many other folks crave. What do you crave?

I love the marshmallow donuts from Fenwick Bakery on Harford Road. It's basically a donut. They just stuff it with marshmallow. And I ask for extra powdered sugar on the top.



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