Food Friday: Sangria!


This is a column from the Spy Way Back Machine. I am out of town for a week. Happy Friday!

I used to listen to a sporadically produced podcast called “Crimes Against Food”. It was a hilarious and irreverent take of making, growing, buying and eating food with two whack jobs named Gloria Lindh and Mia Steele. They podcast from Leeds, in Western Yorkshire, England, and are the polar opposite of some of the toffee-nosed podcasts I usually listen to on the BBC. They are young, and sometimes hung over. Their unscripted chats are peppered with words that we would not use in front of our mothers, but these occasional gaffs make for their cheeky charm. (I am certain I have heard one of them smoking once). I always imagine them sitting in the front room of a small urban flat, with window boxes of herbs, discussing the greater food issues of the day. Periodically there is a siren in the background. They advocate buying local, eating healthily and foraging for fallen crabapples, yet they have also gone on at great length about the mystical properties of bar snacks. Clearly, they are my kind of women.

Beside the subject of eating disorders they also discussed a universal topic: the weather. They nattered on about how miserable a summer it has been in England this year; nothing but cold and rain since June began. But looking on the brighter side they opined that winter should be there soon, so then they will have had 18 months of winter. Poor Gloria. Poor Mia. I would send them some of our heat if I could. Instead, I will channel them, and what they might like to drink if they came stateside this week: Crimes Against Food

Sangria is generous and forgiving and easy peasy. You don’t have red wine? Use that stash of cheap white wine, which is our personal fave. No lemons? Those peaches are going to work very nicely. You can use what is on hand, and what is in season. Raspberries, strawberries, blueberries. Just be sure you have plenty of wine and an abundance of ice. Everything is more delicious in Sangria.

Basic Sangria (from Spain)

3 1/4 cups ( 26 ounces) dry red wine
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of 1 large orange
Juice of 1 large lemon
1 large orange, sliced thin crosswise
1 large lemon, sliced thin crosswise
2 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and cut into chunks
1 cup (8 ounces) club soda

Combine all the ingredients except for the club soda in a large punch bowl or serving pitcher, mixing well. Refrigerate overnight. Immediately before serving, mix in the club soda for added fizz. Ladle into cups with ice cubes.

Emeril Lagasse’s Sangria

1 (750-ml) bottle red wine
1/4 cup brandy
1/4 cup orange flavored liqueur (recommended: Triple Sec or Grand Marnier)
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 orange, thinly sliced
1/2 lemon, thinly sliced
1 unwaxed apple, cored, and cut into thin wedges
1 (750-ml) bottle sparkling water, chilled
Combine everything but the sparkling water in a large plastic container or glass pitchers. Cover and chill completely, 1 to 2 hours. When ready to serve, add the sparkling water.

In this baking heat I cannot think properly about cooking. Tonight we are going to have Panzanella Salad. Doesn’t that sound appropriately exotic and labor intensive? “Ha!” I say. A trip to the Farmers’ Market for cukes, tomatoes, sweet onion, bread and mozzarella. I usually toast the bread or fry it up into croutons, but I am avoiding the stove this week. So I will just cut the bread into chunks and let them get a little stale in the nice, hot summer air. Peel and chunk the cucumbers, quarter up the tomatoes, cut the onion up into generous wedges, and deal with the mozzarella (or Feta, if you prefer) any way you like. Add a little oil and vinegar, toss in the newly stale bread cubes and pour out the Sangria. Find a shady spot in your back yard and wait for the evening breezes to roll in off the water.

“Summer bachelors, like summer breezes, are never as cool as they pretend to be.”
– Nora Ephron

Summer Solstice and Thoughts About Birds by Nancy Mugele


Welcoming Summer on my porch today watching the red-winged blackbird dine on my finally-filled bird feeder. The longest day of the year just might find me sitting on this porch all day long – lazy ceiling fans above match my mood. I am on a much needed staycation this week in my new hometown and I am really trying to resist email, social media and happenings at my school. I am not doing such a good job as I have already been there once to finish reading report cards and sign Honor Roll certificates. In my spare time I am reading from a stack of novels that have been on my coffee table since spring break, notating in some new educational texts, savoring Jamie Kirkpatrick’s Musing Right Along and doing some writing.  

My husband is in Baltimore today so the house is mine. I am not usually home alone during the week. My neighbors are at work or out of town and the quiet is a blessing – except for all of the birds chattering away in my yard. I am not a bird lover. Too many viewings of Hitchcock’s movie and living with pigeons in NYC as a young twenty-something fueled my dislike. Truth be told birds really scared me. 

When we found the red roof inn there was an osprey nest in the Chester by our dock. Instead of immediate disgust, I, strangely, felt a sense of calm. I knew it was an omen as Kent School’s mascot is the Osprey but I did not know at the time that it would completely ease my irrational fear of birds. Our two osprey – fondly named Olive and Oscar – sit stoically upon their roost. They arrived as predicted in April and we were so happy to welcome them to our family. We watched in awe as they built their love nest of wild branches. The first baby osprey sighting was on Mothers’ Day and we were thrilled by its existence. We mourned its loss days later when we realized it had simply disappeared. No explanation. The osprey talk loudly all day (like our family when we are all together) yet I wonder how sad they must be. I have grown very attached.

We also inherited a bird motel on a high rusted pole near the water’s edge. We need to take it down as it leans precariously towards the house, but it has no vacancies at the moment. So I sit, transfixed by all of the comings and goings of our birds. Funny thing, quiet, because it never really is. The birds’ calls to each other signaling new seeds or new flowers interrupt my solitude yet I feel like I have friends visiting my porch. Friends with huge appetites as the food I offered this morning has been devoured by day’s end. A lonely blue jay searches for the last remnants. There are a few morsels left but don’t get me started on the squirrels. 

Nancy Mugele is the Head of School at the Kent School in Chestertown

Judy Crow New Maryland Wineries President


Judy Crow

The Maryland Wineries Association announced May 1 that Judy Crow, owner and operator of Crow Vineyards, is the new President of the Board of Directors. Crow will preside over all Maryland Wineries Association meetings, assist with membership initiatives and guide major policy discussions at this critical time of industry growth.

“Judy has been an industry leader since the winery’s inception and we look forward to her dedication in the role of president of the association,” said Kevin Atticks, Executive Director of the Maryland Wineries Association.

Crow was raised on a dairy farm and spent almost thirty years teaching college and creating early childhood programs in Maryland and Delaware before she met Roy Crow, her husband. In 2008, Judy and Roy married and began the transformation of Crow Farm, a third generation family farm located in Kennedyville on the Eastern Shore. Together Roy and Judy focused on diversifying the farm from the traditional farm of corn and soy beans to include a farmstay B&B, a vineyard, and a winery along with an impressive herd of grass fed Angus cattle. Committed to creating the best products in the region, Judy, her son Brandon, and Roy continue to be very hands-on with the management of winemaking, the tasting room and wholesale distribution.

“In the short time I have been in the wine business, I have seen growth in the Maryland industry and believe that, with a strong winery association, the opportunities are endless. I believe that Maryland’s diverse wine growing regions allow consumers and tourist alike to experience a full portfolio of interesting wines,” said Judy Crow.

Maryland Wineries Association, a non-profit, member based, trade association, represents more than 80 wineries across the state. MWA’s mission is to cultivate a sustainable wine-growing community by expanding agricultural products and by increasing awareness through special events, industry education, advocacy, promotions and tourism. MWA is represented by the management group, Grow & Fortify. For more information, please visit the MWA website

Summer Silent Retreat at Camp Pecometh

Join Pecometh Camp & Retreat Ministries in Centreville MD July 9-14 for their Summer Silent Retreat at the Riverview Retreat Center. Facilitated by Rev. Karen Covey Moore and Anita Woods, this retreat offers an opportunity for you to experience a daily rhythm of prayer, simple meals, communing with God in nature, and spiritual direction.
You have the option of staying with them for the whole time or just a few days.
If you register for the silent retreat you can attend for their Yoga Retreat on July 9 for free!
For details and to register, call Retreat Program Coordinator Megan Shitama Weston at 410-556-6900 ext 104, email, or visit them online at the Pecometh website.

Learn to Build Fine Furniture with Robert Ortiz


Robert Ortiz has established himself as one of Chestertown’s most admired entrepreneurs, creating fine furniture that blends Japanese and Shaker traditions into something contemporary and distinctive. His two lines of furniture — named for his children, Daniel and Sofia — combine simple shapes and combinations of different woods.

A furniture maker for 30 years, Ortiz has had his studio in at 207 C S. Cross Street in Chestertown for the past 20 years. In addition to its primary function as a woodworking shop, it occasionally hosts concerts by the Pam Ortiz band, in which he accompanies his wife on percussion, guitar, and vocals. It has also doubled as “Olivander’s Wand Shop” during Chestertown’s Harry Potter Festivals.

Recently, Ortiz has launched onto a new aspect of his craft – passing along his knowledge and methods to others. Here’s what he told the Chestertown Spy about his new project in a recent interview.

Bob Ortiz with a table like those he shows his students how to build

“Since 2008 when the financial crisis happened, most people who have small businesses — if they’re not still recovering — are trying to figure out how to move into the future. . I spent about eight years trying to figure out how to survive in the furniture business, because like many small industries it’s completely different than it was prior to 2008.

I think of 30 years of making furniture as two generations.

“The first generation of people I made furniture for, they’re retiring, downsizing, moving into assisted living, in some cases passing on. I asked those folks, what are they doing with their artwork and their furniture, with their silver, china, and most of them tell me they’re taking it to second-hand stores. Their children don’t want it, their grandchildren don’t want it. The generation that’s replacing that older cohort are in a very different place than my parents or my grandparents were. They’re starting families much later; they’re moving through different careers, different jobs every year, so that stability isn’t there. They’re living with a lot more debt.

“So over the years, I’ve been asking myself, what’s the strategy here? Who wants furniture; who needs furniture? And the more I listened to people and read articles, I realized that there are two things going on. One thing is, that the generation that is just about starting to retire or recently retired they no longer want to buy art or craft: they want to make it. The other interesting thing is that their children and grandchildren are not buying hand-crafted furniture. So about a year and a half ago I came up with this idea that I call the Chestertown vacation workshops.

“Basically, it’s this: come and spend a week with me. It’s one on one, it’s not a group thing. Immerse yourself in the making of a beautiful object that’s useful. I’ve been making this line of furniture now for 20 years, and so my comfort with it, my ability to pass along what I’ve learned in those 20 years, is part of what the workshop’s about.

“I try to be real clear; this is not about starting a woodworking school. If you’re coming to one of my workshops, it’s about come, spend a week, we’ll go from soup to nuts. Picking out the wood, making the pieces, designing them, putting them together, and at the end of the week you get to take it home.”

Part of the Robert Ortiz Studio

Who are the workshops aimed at? Ortiz said, “I’ve had people with a little bit of woodworking experience, people with no woodworking experience. I’ve had men and women who spent their career behind a desk, who finally want to get out from behind that desk and make something. I’ve had several women who weren’t allowed to take shop in high school who finally said, you know, I’m going to make myself something.”

The Spy asked, “What kinds of skills are they going to need for the workshop?”

Workshop participant and project.

Ortiz said, “To a certain extent, when you come here, I don’t care if you’ve been a CEO, I don’t care if you’ve been a lowly worker – everybody is a private here, except for myself. The most important thing is for people to be willing and able to concentrate and to follow directions. The one skill that is really helpful is that you’re a problem solver. If you’re a good problem solver, it goes quickly. If not, we have to spend a little more time making sure that when it’s time to make a cut or put something together, that you’re able to do it right.

“Somebody who doesn’t have a lot of experience, or who has no experience, may wind up saying to themselves, well, gee, how am I going to take that workshop? Well, what I tell people is, you know all those people who are climbing up Mount Everest with a guide?  Most of those people – they’re not mountain climbers. They’re people who pay a lot of money to have somebody shepherd them up the mountain, hopefully they make it, hopefully they come back down the mountain and have a wonderful experience to talk about. Well, in my case, I’m shepherding you through the process of making a piece of furniture. My job actually ends up being to make all the test pieces to give the student the confidence that they’ll be able to make the cut.”

Ortiz takes a good bit of pride in the quality of work his students are able to produce. He said, “Back in October I had an alumni weekend. I invited everyone who had taken a workshop to come and bring their piece of furniture and have it out on the floor. It was during the studio tour that happens in Kent County, because I wanted other people to see what participants had made, and the quality of what people were able to achieve. On my website, I have lots of photos of things that people have made, and you’d be pretty amazed. And I had a CEO last week who told me his doctor told him he needed to find something to do as a hobby. So he hadn’t taken wood shop since high school. I was pretty amazed. He didn’t answer his phone once during the course of the week. So I think the most important thing is to leave your daily routine behind you and be able to immerse yourself in the craft and in all the nuances and all the focus that it takes in order to make something with your hands and make it beautiful.

Alec Dick of Chestertown making a table in an Ortiz workshop

“The process – most of these pieces take about five days. And in those five days, my hope is that people are willing to come into my world, see how I spend my day. And my day involves focusing on the work that I’m doing, focusing on the details, and trying to get my students, the folks who are taking my workshops, to focus on those details just as much as myself, so that at the end of the week they take home this piece that’s as good as, or nearly as good as, something that I’ve made.

“I mentioned earlier that older people are giving their furniture, their silver, their china to second-hand and thrift stores. The kids don’t want the furniture that their grandparents or parents bought. What he said took me by surprise and it opened up a door that I just wasn’t thinking was there. He told me he brought home the first piece of furniture that he made from the workshop, and in the course of a couple of weeks, his three sons came to visit. And each of them said to him, “I want that when you die.” So it became clear to him, ‘Well, OK, I need to make three pieces of furniture, one for each.’

“But what’s interesting to me is, now we’re talking about a heirloom that’s going to stay in the family, hopefully for several generations.”

Workshop participants and project.

Ortiz knows what that means. Among all the fine pieces in his shop, he showed the table his computer sits on. “That’s a table that my father made when we lived in a little apartment in Greenwich Village when I was a kid. My father had no workshop – he was a factory worker, he was a metal worker.  But that was a formica and metal table that he made. It’s always something that I’ve kept close by. And I guess to a certain extent the workshops are just a continuation of that. So – that’s what the workshops are about. The workshops are about legacy; the workshops are about coming and having fun; the workshops are about something, take it home, get to say every day, ‘I made that.’

The other thing that folks should know, I’m also willing to entertain other people’s designs. It sometimes costs a little more because I’ve got to figure out how we’re going to make them within the time frame.”

For more information about the workshops, and about Ortiz’s furniture, visit his website.

Furniture from the Daniel and Sophia furniture lines, made by Bob Ortiz in his Chestertown Studio:















Letter to Editor: In Reversal, Shore Health Wants to Maintain Inpatient Care in Chestertown Beyond 2022


The effort to “Save the Hospital” in Chestertown—to ensure that there will be inpatient care here long beyond 2022—is on a fast-moving train that appears increasingly headed for success.

There are debates on the tracks ahead, but with the leadership of our doctors and our General Assembly delegation, and with the support of Washington College, Dixon Valve, Chestertown’s Mayor and Town Council, and the citizens of Kent and northern Queen Anne’s counties, we have apparently won the battle to keep our hospital whole.

In a reversal of their stance in early 2016, the Shore Regional Health System board and University of Maryland Medical System now favor maintaining inpatient services at our hospital in Chestertown indefinitely.  They’ve said so in writing, in a “White Paper” written in response to a request by Deborah Mizeur and Dr. Joseph Ciotola, co-chairs of the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan Workgroup.

The White Paper hasn’t been made public, but Shore Health President and CEO Ken Kozel described it to me in detail.  The White Paper isn’t only about Chestertown’s hospital.  It lists facilities that Shore Health believes should be maintained in each of the five Mid-Shore counties, and calls for state support to ensure an economically sustainable system.  The Workgroup will consider the White Paper and other recommendations as it writes the Rural Healthcare Delivery Plan that must be finalized by October and presented to the General Assembly.

The White Paper, with a cover letter signed by Mr. Kozel and UMMS President and CEO Bob Chrencik, has been delivered to Ms. Mizeur and Dr. Ciotola, and to Sen. Thomas “Mac” Middleton, Chair of the Senate Finance Committee (which handles healthcare legislation) and Dennis Schaffer, Secretary of Health and Mental Hygiene.  In the coming weeks, Mr. Kozel will discuss the document with District 36 and 37 legislators, including Sen. Steve Hershey, and delegates Jay Jacobs, Steve Arentz, and Jeff Ghrist.  All are engaged and appear headed in the same direction, though there are issues to be resolved.

The White Paper recommends only 15 inpatient beds in Chestertown after 2022, a drop in capacity that concerns our doctors.  Though Mr. Kozel says Shore could maintain up to 25 beds, our doctors say it’s already too common for inpatients to stay in the ER for up to 48 hours when there are no available beds.  Inpatients belong in nursing units, the doctors say; reducing the bed count will exacerbate the situation.

Our doctors are also concerned that the White Paper recommends closing Chestertown’s Intensive Care Unit after 2022.  The ICU, they say, is a hospital’s safety net when med-surg (medical and surgical nursing floor) patients take a turn for the worse.

Save the Hospital will continue to fight for quality care, but we are heartened that our hospital’s future is brighter than it was a year ago.  We appreciate the willingness of Shore Health’s leadership to change course in response to the community’s needs.

In the fall, after the Workgroup has finalized its plan, attention will shift to Annapolis and to Sen. Middleton’s Finance Committee.  The senator told me he’s “very enthusiastic” about Shore Health’s White Paper and though designing and passing needed legislation “won’t be easy,” he is committed to producing a robust healthcare system for the Mid-Shore’s five counties.

A farmer from Charles County, “Mac” Middleton said he remembers when his community couldn’t afford a hospital, when his mother had to go to Washington to have a baby.  “My dad told me,” he said, “I should never forget my roots.”

Margie Elsberg

Volunteer Communications Coordinator for “Save the Hospital”

Board member, Chester River Health Foundation


First Friday “One Minute Plays”


On June 2nd, director Tia Glomb presents a sneak peek of the 4th annual Hey, Wait A Minute one-minute play festival at 5 pm in the Kohl Lobby at the Garfield Center for the Arts. The one-minute plays are showcased each year in conjunction with Short Attention Span Theatre, the Garfield’s annual 10-minute play festival. Now in its’ 13th year, Short Attention Span Theatre brings local actors, playwrights, and directors together for an evening of theatre designed to hold your attention for just. long. enough. Admission during Hey, Wait A Minute is free, the bar will be open and the box office will be selling tickets for the 10-minute play festival that runs for three weekends starting on June 23rd. The Hey, Wait A Minute plays will be performed again at 7:00 pm on Friday and Saturday nights and Sundays at 2:00 pm on each weekend of the Short Attention Span Theatre, that is, one hour before the SAST plays begin. The Garfield Center for the Arts is located at 210 High Street in Chestertown. For more information, call 410-810-2060.

Lit House Presents Second in Summer Salon Series June 27


For the sixth consecutive year, the Rose O’Neill Literary House is hosting its community-centric Summer Literary Salon series. Formerly called the Summer Poetry Salons, these readings have been expanded to include prose writers, as well as poets.

The second salon will be held at 4:30 p.m. June 27, featuring writers Laura Swearingen-Steadwell and Jen Michalski and music from local performers Harp and Soul. The community is encouraged to attend this free event.

Laura Swearingen-Steadwell is a poet and editor living in Brooklyn. She won the 20th Cave Canem Northwestern University Poetry Prize, and her second book, All Blue So Late, will be published by Northwestern University Press in November. She is a Cave Canem and Callaloo Fellow, and a graduate of the MFA program for writers at Warren Wilson College.

Jen Michalski is the author of the novels The Summer She Was Under Water and The Tide King, a couplet of novellas, Could You Be with Her Now, and two collections of fiction, From Here and Close Encounters. Her work has appeared in more than 80 publications. She was named “One of 50 Women to Watch” in 2013 by the Baltimore Sun and :”Best Writer” by Baltimore Magazine. She is the host of the reading series Starts Here! and editor of the journal jmww.

Harp and Soul performs traditional music from the British Isles – as well as some original tunes – in a blend of unusual and improvisatory arrangements. The group includes Meredith Hadaway on Celtic harp and concertina, Ben Bennington on guitar and vocals, Rebekah Hock on oboe and saxophone, and Bob Ortiz on percussion. The group’s annual holiday concert has been a sell-out favorite at the Mainstay for the past six years.