This week, I swing by Faidley Seafood’s new location in Catonsville and check in on a bakery in Baltimore known for its sweet potato cake. I also make the case for sampling ice cream with ants in it.

Trust me on this.

From Faidley’s to The Fishmonger’s Daughter

With a dozen vendors up and running, the new Lexington Market is starting to welcome its first shoppers.

Meanwhile, Faidley Seafood, famous for its jumbo lump crab cakes, is still operating out of the old market while it awaits construction of its stall at the new building. “We will be open at our old location all the way till the day we open at the new one,” said co-owner Damye Hahn. “We’re not planning on shutting down at all.”

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But even after it launches in Baltimore’s renovated Lexington Market, the business will shift some of its operations to Baltimore County.

In 2020, the family business purchased a former wallpaper store at 720 Frederick Rd., once home to Heidelbach’s grocery store, a high-end shop in Catonsville that Hahn likens to Dean & DeLuca.

“With Lexington Market being uprooted, we were looking for a place where we could stay,” said Hahn, whose great-grandfather started the family’s seafood stall in 1886. On Frederick Road, the restaurant will share a neighborhood with Catonsville’s burgeoning restaurant scene, including newly opened Doozy’s Diner, The Beaumont steakhouse, State Fare and Atwater’s.

It’s here that Hahn envisions the next chapter for her family’s storied business. The ground floor will be home to an elegant seafood restaurant, The Fishmonger’s Daughter, a nod to Hahn and her mother, Nancy Faidley Devine. What’s set to become an upstairs event space was once home to Baltimore’s largest German bakery.

The basement will eventually serve as the shipping center, where staff will pack and send the company’s signature crab cakes to customers far and wide. That aspect of Faidley’s business has increased significantly during the pandemic. “That’s what kept us alive, is our nationwide customers,” said Hahn.

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Brought to a halt during the pandemic, the renovation of the property has taken far longer than anyone anticipated. After getting approval from the Maryland Historical Trust, Hahn tore down a neighboring building that dated back to the 1880s. Hahn said the space, while modernized in the 1970s and 80s, suffered from termite rot and would have been incredibly costly and difficult to renovate. “It really wasn’t worth keeping,” she said.

Hahn has reclaimed the old wood and other furnishings from that building and plans to incorporate them into the restaurant. In the renovation process, years of old receipts and labels from the 1920s — even canceled checks — were found. Recently, she stacked old adding machines, or mechanical calculators, to give away to anyone who wanted them.

As for an opening date? Amid constant changes, Hahn said, “I would go nuts if I had to stick to a schedule.”

There’s a significant amount left to do: The building will need new plumbing and electricity. “This is far more than most people would take on,” she said of the project. “But it does fit our history and legacy.”

Baked in Baltimore has reopened its location at 6848 Reisterstown Rd. (Christina Tkacik)

Baked In Baltimore is Back

Who can resist sweet potato cake this time of year?

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Especially when it comes from Baked in Baltimore, a local company that also sells its goods through partners like Starbucks and Wegmans. The business recently announced the reopening of its storefront on the one-year anniversary of a burglary at its Reisterstown Road location.

“It was really a slow walk” to reopening, said co-owner April Richardson. Feeling shattered in the aftermath of the incident, she thought of relocating her business outside of Baltimore. Though a Charm City native, she had previously operated in Washington, D.C., moving back to the area at the personal urging of former Mayor Catherine Pugh.

Who can resist sweet potato cake from Baked In Baltimore, sold by the slice (pictured) or as a whole cake? (Christina Tkacik)

Ultimately, Richardson decided to stay, while ramping up the company’s manufacturing business and putting additional safety protocols in place.

Back in operation, Richardson says she’s feeling the pinch from the rising cost of goods. “The cost of butter has increased so much,” she said. “It’s a killer for tinier companies like my own.” (Grab one of the shop’s yummy snickerdoodles and you’ll taste why butter is a key ingredient. They were a big hit in The Banner newsroom).

But Richardson remains undaunted, and says she is looking to eventually add new locations at BWI Airport and local stadiums. She’s taking a page from Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, who encourages small business owners to get to know their neighbors before expanding to a national audience. “That’s one of our goals for 2023.”

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Taste testing The Charmery’s ‘Fear Factory’ flavors

It’s good to try new foods, even if they end up being kind of gross.

I learned this during my recent honeymoon in Southern Italy. Eager to do my best Stanley Tucci impression in Naples, I booked a food tour through Culinary Backstreets, a company that spotlights generations-old businesses and foods off the beaten path.

Early on, we sampled Neapolitan lemonade, made with freshly squeezed lemons, which are abundant and not too sour in Italy. Sounds harmless, until you add in locally sourced sulphur water, with a pungent flavor reminiscent of rotting eggs. The beverage is finished off with bicarbonate of soda, which makes it explode like a science fair experiment; you’re advised to spread your legs as you drink it.

The taste? Like liquefied farts.

Food reporter Christina Tkacik samples Neapolitan lemonade during a food tour in Italy. (Christina Tkacik)

The experience reminded me that a universe of foods and flavors exist that aren’t specifically designed with my palate in mind.

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I thought of this drink while reading an explanation for The Charmery’s line of “fear factory” flavors.

The Hampden-area ice cream company recently dared customers to try out flavor combinations that sound downright disgusting. Think: tomato and mayonnaise ice cream with toasted bread in it, or celery-flavored ice cream with actual ants on it. The object is to “stretch the limits of what your mind and palette can accept as ice cream,” according to a flyer.

Always up for a challenge, The Baltimore Banner staff sampled the offerings in our Inner Harbor office.

What was our favorite? The answer might surprise you.

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