Richard Kagan, Arthur Valk, Nancy Valk, Shreve Simpson, Loren Kagan

Baltimore, Maryland


Not long after the arrival of Sidney at Johns Hopkins—and the subsequent appearance of judicious Jackie—a small group of neophyte food and wine afficionados began to coalesce around Maître Mintz. Initially these get-togethers were marked by the youthfully-abandoned consumption of Sidney's novel creations. Over the years, the group's membership has fluctuated with the tides of academic, professional and marital fortune. Likewise its tastes have matured (somewhat), and at one recent moment, with Weight Watchers in the ascendant, greater effort was made in the preparation of fat-free and reduced-calorie dishes. This culinary concern has not cramped anyone's vinous style, however. Sidney also has remained constant in his penchant for sweets (albeit not a predilection for power) and his heavy hand on the salt shaker.

In keeping with the anthropological interests of the group's most venerable and venerated member, many of the Mavens' gatherings focused on ritual occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, Easter, book publications, the completion of home renovations, and the mourning of beloved pets. Christmas Eve dinner has been an annual event, with menu and beverage planning begun weeks in advance and often punctuated by lengthy phone consultations with Maître Mintz, and enriched by flights of Leoville Las Cases, boîtes of foie gras, dollops of caviar, and, at least once, angulas smuggled in from Spain by the youngest Maven.

The Mavens have had to muddle through Thanksgiving dinners without the company Sid and Jackie, who have been otherwise occupied in New Jersey or New York. But there was one memorable Thanksgiving dinner chez Mintz that took place (and why not?) in high summer! This meal, featuring dishes masterminded by the Maître and skillfully prepared by a local chef, became the basis for an article in Hopkins Magazine, with both hard-core and honorary Mavens photographed in their summer dress and partaking heartily of autumnal fare.

Sid's love for ethnic cuisine is legendary, and spans diverse cultures ranging from China (for obvious reasons) to the Caribbean (another no-brainer). Yet throughout this culinary array, there is the taste memory of the New Jersey diner where Sidney learned to enjoy simple, honest, and well-prepared food under his father's tutelage. Hence the occasional Mavens menus with borscht, meat loaf, and rabbit stew. On the other hand, Mintz senior cannot be held responsible for the suckling pig that Sid once soaked (in the bath tub!) and then roasted to perfection.

The Mavens studiously repress any memory of failed dishes. Yet the periodic disasters at restaurants that did not meet the Mintz standard for food, wine, service, ambience, and qualité/prix remain vivid, as they invariably elicit an uncharacteristic silence from Maître Mintz.

Vive nôtre cher Maître! And quoth the Mavens: Evermore!!!

Contributed by charter members Nancy and Arthur Valk and Richard Kagan, and by (the relative) newcomers Shreve Simpson and Loren Kagan.