Eat Yourself Warm

Mike Cook

From spring through fall, every month features a new culinary delight. First we treat ourselves to crisp green asparagus, then ripe red strawberries and tomatoes. Sweet corn is followed by fall squash and then, the tragic end of the harvest. There are no fruits or veggies ripening in the coming months, but that does not mean the winter is without its eating pleasures. We simply focus our taste buds on the dishes and not the produce.

Nothing makes a cold winter day better than a pot roast, a hearty soup, or some gravy-slathered meatloaf. Though restaurants in Baltimore are pretty good about seasonality, you don't see a lot of these big-pot winter meals. When was the last time you saw pot roast on the menu? If you're in the mood for winter food, though, here are some spots to try.

One of my winter favorites, Sobo Cafe, has recently been sold. When it closes for good and switches hands we're not sure (and nobody seems to know), so you might yet have a chance to stop by. Their meat muffins, small meatloaves wrapped in bacon, will kill any chill.

Anywhere with a fireplace gets a vote for a winter stopping place, of course. In general there are lots of great winter hideaways in Fells Point, where the close confines of the old buildings seem stifling in the summer but just right once the cold rain starts falling. I like One Eyed Mike's and Henninger's, in particular. If you're in Canton, I've always thought Annabelle Lee Tavern had a warm feel to it.

Wherever you are, you might look for beef short rib on the menu. Last winter a lot of restaurants were serving it in pot-roast-like preparations, with carrots and potatoes and dark, rich sauces. Possibly my favorite winter grub, though, is a savory pie. Be it chicken pot pie or shepherd's pie, nothing else makes me feel as completely impervious to cold. Dangerously Delicious is king of pies, but you can also find meat pies at a lot of Baltimore's Irish bars. Ryan's Daughter has three varieties.

Of course heavy meals like these bring extra calories, but science says that's OK. You actually do burn more calories when cold. Of course just sitting around feeling chilly won't necessarily earn you an extra helping of mashed potatoes. According to Wayne Askew of the University of Utah, you might get a 3 to 7 percent increase in calorie burn if you feel cold. Shivering is more energy intensive, but don't stand around outside without a coat, please. This is not dieting advice.

Being cold isn't the only way you'll burn more calories this winter anyway. As heavy boots and snow shovels increase your everyday labors, well, look forward to that extra gravy without qualms. Even if you haven't burned every calorie you need to, you've earned it.

Where do you go for hearty winter fare?

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