Bowers is also the owner of four other Frederick restaurants – Isabella’s, Reina, Ayse Meze, Pistarro’s, and the city’s Monocacy Brewing Company. Opened in 2002, Isabella’s offers a Spanish tapas menu; Ayse Meza serves Mediterranean cuisine; and Pistarro’s, Italian dishes. Awarded “Best New Restaurant” by Frederick Magazine, Reina has Peruvian and South American flavors well in hand. All of Bowers restaurants have some gluten free items, and Pistarro’s offers vegan pizza. Monocacy Brewing Company just celebrated its tenth anniversary, complete with a tasting room, the brewery offers three year round beers. “Between Monocacy and Brewer’s Alley, we have a rotation of 25 beers,” according to Bowers. “The nice thing about brewing the beer in front of customers is that we get immediate feedback.”
As for plans to add to his collection of places to eat? “Never say never,” he said. “We have lots of different concepts and ideas. I’ve had inquiries about opening other locations of my restaurants so we’ll see what happens.”
Frederick’s culinary offerings extend beyond restaurants. Can you say … cheese? Step into Crisafulli’s Cheese Shop, just around the corner from Brewer’s Alley on East Second Street and you will soon become immersed in everything cheese. Owner Sharon Crisafulli, who, like Bowers has deep family roots in Frederick, greets me with an ebullient hello and eagerly fills me in on her year-old shop. She infuses her store with an airy and welcoming atmosphere, emphasized by the fact that it’s a family affair. Her mom, Betty Gardiner is co-owner, and daughter Caitlin works in the shop.
Crisafulli has done a 180 degree turn from her previous career as vice president of a real estate company. It’s a change that was a welcome one for her, as I could see her passion for and knowledge of her shop’s products. Folks can take their food to go, or enjoy the small eating space up front with a few round tables and chairs where customers can partake in the shop’s sandwiches and soup or cheese tray of the day. I had the Simple Steve V Grilled Cheese, (the V is for vegetarian), the blend of cheeses on lightly buttered bread literally melted in my mouth delivering an unbelievably smooth flavor. “We carry over 170 different types of cheeses, international and local,” Crisafulli said proudly. “We are constantly rotating our stock, and our goal is to get that number to 200.
The shop also carries items that compliment cheese: wines, ciders, pastas, sauces, antipasti, honeys, jams, crackers, candy, and charcuterie are but a few. Information signs are on almost every product in the store, which helps customers to mix and match products to get the best taste experience. “Our wines are from the regions that match with the cheese,” said Crisafulli. She also offers cheese education classes that take place in a large event room at the front of the store. Beer and cheese? Crisafulli’s banking on this winning combination. “We just started a partnership with Flying Dog Brewery of Frederick, and we’re teaching “Cheese and Beer 101″ classes that show people how to pair certain brews with artisanal cheeses that make a great taste experience.” she said.
I couldn’t leave without tasting their highly recommended cheese and a few other goodies for myself. I bought a wedge of Somerdale’s Wensleydale with Blueberries, celery crackers made by The Fine Cheese Company of Bath, England, and some caramels. Let me start by saying that, although I have an affinity for fruited cheese I’d never tried it with blueberries – I am glad I did; my personalized combo of cheese crackers was an experience in deliciousness, and popping one of the creamy, buttery caramel candies into my mouth make the perfect chaser.