Even in the calm and comfort of her own Pikesville kitchen, Diane Macklin is in perpetual motion. She makes coffee with her new single-cup Keurig brewer, throws open the doors of a cabinet to show off her Indian spices, rifles through a recipe notebook to share her favorite dishes, and quickly pulls items out of her refrigerator.
She has no qualms about showing off the homemade, basil-infused vodka, which she proceeds to serve (at least on this weekday) well before noon. “I’m on my fourth cup of coffee,” explains Macklin, more commonly known as “Downtown Diane.” “That’s why I’m so revved up.”
But truth be told, the diminutive dynamo (“barely 5 feet,” she giggles) is always on the go. She’s an entertainment, food, and travel reporter, who dishes on hot happenings in and around Baltimore on her website downtowndiane.net (she has more than 4,900 followers on Twitter) and does a gig with 105.7 radio on the Norris & Davis Show.
When she isn’t out and about, though, she can most often be found in her homey kitchen, whipping up cauliflower curry stew for her daughter, Jessica, 20, and meatloaf for her husband, Larry, and son, Josh, 18.
Preparing family holiday favorites, such as apple kugel (see recipe), is also part of her repertoire. “I found this recipe on a cooking website a few years ago,” says Macklin. “I wanted something to add to the Passover table that was a little bit sweet. Since you can’t eat noodles on Passover, I decided to substitute farfel [broken pieces of matzo] for noodles. It’s not your typical kugel, but my guests have always loved it.”
Macklin’s sunlit kitchen—stocked with cookbooks (Roy Yamaguchi, Rachael Ray, and Gertrude’s John Shields among them), a wine rack, and ample seating for family and friends—is the hub and the heart of the home. “I’ve thought about redoing this kitchen,” she says, “but I love the light and the white, and I really use this kitchen. I have a friend with a two-million-dollar house who doesn’t know how to turn on her oven, and I’m like, ‘Are you kidding me?’”
The all-white kitchen is also a perfect backdrop for the colorful Macklin who was named funniest girl at both Pikesville Middle and Pikesville High schools. “I am the only girl in the family, and I have two brothers,” says Macklin. “I was always around my brothers’ friends and had to be outgoing.”
Radio personality Steve Rouse can attest to her persona. “Diane is a cross between Joan Rivers and Mother Teresa,” says Rouse, who helped her get started in radio. “Pretty crazy and very giving and caring, all at the same time.”
Macklin has always been a foodie. “Ever since high school, I’ve worked for almost every restaurant in Baltimore,” she says. “At various times, I worked at Lee’s Ice Cream, Sizzler (“I quit after the first night because they told me to clean the dining room,” she says, laughing.), Miller’s Deli, and York Steak House. “My favorite was Lee’s,” says Macklin. “I still make an amazing milkshake because of working there.”
As a mass communications major at Towson University, Macklin interned with radio and TV personality Eddie Applefeld, who was then marketing director of Lexington Market. “I was in charge of leading the school groups and teaching them about the different types of foods sold there, including tripe and pig’s feet,” says Macklin, who went on to become a marketing director for a Baltimore-area Domino’s Pizza franchise at age 23.
Although Macklin takes frequent cooking classes (at Roy’s and Chef’s Expressions, for example), her own taste buds have been her greatest guide.
“The secret to being a good cook,” says Macklin, “is putting your own touch on a recipe. If something calls for a certain amount of an ingredient, do it according to your own taste. That’s key. In the kitchen, you have to be fearless.”
Passover Apple Kugel
- 2 cups matzo farfel
- 4-6 apples (preferably Granny Smith), peeled and diced
- 2 eggs, beaten
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 3 tablespoons margarine, melted
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Fill a medium-sized pot half full of water and bring to boil. Add farfel and cover. After five minutes, when farfel has softened, drain.
In a separate bowl, mix remaining ingredients, adding cinnamon to taste. (She likes to add cinnamon to the mixture and then sprinkle more on top before baking as well.)
Add the drained farfel to the mixture. Mix well and pour into a baking dish. Bake for one hour.
Serves 8 to 10.