Monday, December 12, 2011

Wit & Wisdom Tavern, Baltimore

We went to the new Four Seasons Hotel in Harbor East in Baltimore for a light dinner at chef Michael Mina's Wit & Wisdom Tavern last week. Upon entering, our first reaction was, "Are we in Baltimore?" With it's large panoramic windows overlooking the water, a large bar area surrounded by fireplaces and couches, and a modern minimal decor, it felt like we were another city.
The kitchen area is open, similar to Woodberry Kitchen, with a wood burning stove in the center. The restaurant was dimly lit while it seemed as if spotlights were lighting up the chefs and food prep area like a show.
I was very excited that pastry chef Chris Ford, formerly of Rogue 24 in DC, was currently directing the dessert menu.
We decided to stick to small plates and appetizers for our meal to save room for dessert.
For out first course, we shared the smoked housemade ricotta topped with roasted eggplant, black walnuts and vinegar. The ricotta was delicate and wonderful. I also had a fall vegetable salad which consisted of beets, squash, parsnips, and Benton's ham.
Our second course consisted of perfectly fried hush puppies made of Anson Mills grits topped with a sauce made of Crystal hot sauce and honey. They were crispy outside, soft inside, and the sauce with it's combination of sweet and spicy just put this dish over the top.
We also shared the roasted brussel sprouts and apples with apple vinegar.
I had a small bowl of the Carolina Gold congee with duck tongue confit, egg, and crackins. It was like a meeting of Chinese and French styles in one bowl. The duck tongues were so good, and the broken yolk mixed with the rice was so creamy and delicious.

We decided to get two desserts to share. First was the "Baltimore Bar" which was a reimagining of a Baby Ruth Bar. It was made with a layer of peanut butter ganache and a layer of chocolate mousse, all covered with chocolate and then topped with pieces of pretzel and candied peanuts. It was a beautiful plate: rich and satisfying with sweet & salty flavors.
Our second dessert was even better. We had the maple custard with orange toffee, bourbon, and almonds. It was reminiscent of a crème caramel with more intricate flavors.
I look forward to returning to give their entrees a crack, but I will always save room for dessert here.

200 International Drive
Baltimore, MD

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Waterfront Kitchen, Baltimore

I had lunch at the recently opened Waterfront Kitchen, located in a Living Classrooms building in Fells Point, featuring local and seasonal cuisine.
We started with warm farmer's cheese flan as an appetizer. Consisting of goat cheese and egg, the flan was light, delicate and delcious. It came with toasted squash seeds, a schmear of Hubbard squash, and a frisée salad with pickled fennel.
For my main, I had the head-on Marvesta Farm shrimp poached in a tasty tomato nage on a bed of, not grits, but mashed celery root with some boudin blanc chunks. I left no shell or head uneaten.
My friend opted for the vegetable sandwich, which was composed of a grilled cauliflower "steak", roasted mushrooms, and these great pickle brussel sprout leaves on toasted whole wheat. It was a pretty hearty sandwich.
We shared dessert, a chocolate pate, topped with candied fennel sprinkles, creme anglais, cranberry sorbet and a lace tuile. It looked like a hostess cupcake, but the chocolate was smooth and rich through and through.

1417 Thames Street
Baltimore, MD

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

The First Gastronaut Society Dinner at Corner BYOB, Baltimore

Last week, Corner BYOB in Hampden held the inaugural dinner for their Gastronaut Society. The emphasis of the society is an exploration of "exotic meats". Members get a specially engraved knife, and discounts for the special dinners.
When I arrived, before being seated, members shared drinks and some hors d'oeuvres around the bar. My favorite was an oyster topped with pomegranate sorbet and American caviar. It had a pleasant mix of briny and sweet.
We also had asparagus wrapped with proscuitto and small toasts with pate and cornichon.

We were then instructed to take seats in the restaurant. There was no assigned tables, so we were able to sit with other diners and socialize. I liked this idea as I had come on my own. During dinner, we had great conversation and had a fun time sharing the experience of the meal.
The dinner was composed of seven savory courses, and the chef placed feedback sheets for each course that we were encouraged to fill out.
First up was kangaroo tartare with a raw quail egg and rosemary crostini. This was my first experience with kangaroo. It does not have much flavor, reminding me of a very bland lean beef. While I liked the presentation of the plate, it was just an ok dish.
I was happy that the next course took us into the wonderful world of offal. We had cow penis in a vegetable coconut curry broth. The penis had the texture similar to beef tendon or sea cucumber- firm, gelatinous, and it took on the flavor of the broth. While I wished the dish would have been served piping hot, I liked it.

The third course was braised boar cheek on a bed of parmesan truffled polenta covered with a foie gras froth. The cheek fell apart easily, and as you ate more, the foie gras flavor became more evident.
The fourth course was actually my least favorite as it was the least "adventurous". It was a pan seared diver scallop, cooked beautifully, on a bed of Napa cabbage with basil oil, prickly pear, spherical juice, steelhead caviar and a little rambutan.
The next plate was a roasted wild Scottish squab and brussel sprouts with a jerk lingonberry sauce. The meat of the bird paired well with the slightly tart sweetness of the sauce.
The last main dish was antelope loin with a green apple mustard sauce, salsify with Cherry Glen goat cheese, and bone marrow pommes Parisian. The antelope, particularly with the apple mustard was just great. I also liked the salsify. I don't think I could appreciate the marrow in the potatoes though.

The final course was a cheese plate with selections from Cherry Glen. My favorite was the Monocacy Silver that was served with dried cherries. We also had a fresh goat cheese, the Monocacy Ash, and  slightly bruleed Monocacy Crottin.
The next society dinner is in January. Can't wait.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Marquee Brunch at the Creative Alliance, Baltimore

I'm a fan of Blacksauce Kitchen, and their biscuits at the Saturday morning Waverly Market in Baltimore, so when I heard that they were going to be making brunch at the Creative Alliance in town, I could not pass up an invite to go. This was the second time running the event, and the host said they had got out some of the kinks from the first date the month before.
We ordered several items off the "Small Plates" part of the menu to start.
Before those items arrived though, they brought us small biscuits to start. These were not as good as the ones they have on Saturdays, but they were still tasty.
Our first item was an aged rum sticky bun. It had a generous rum flavor to it, and was my favorite of the starters.

The next item was warm beignets with a sweet lime glaze. I wish there was more of the sweet-sour glaze because it was so good.
We also ordered a small plate of their double smoked bacon. It had a sprinkle of pepper and was topped with what seemed to be a homemade ketchup.

We ordered three "Large Plates" and passed the dishes around so we could all try them.
My favorite item was the beef brisket with poached eggs on top of cider braised greens. The beef was cooked beautifully and had a great flavor that was complemented with the greens.
The second dish was the beef shortribs, fried okra pickles and stoneground grits. The beef was nice and tender.
Our third plate was smoked almond French toast with apple compote on a sweet potato shallot hash.
They are planning another brunch the first Sunday in December.

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Mémé, Philadelphia

Fried Brussel Sprouts

Grilled Quail
Fougoo, Xtine, and I made a trip to Philadelphia to have dinner at Mémé, chef David Katz's casual eatery located just west of Rittenhouse Square. Fougoo picked the place because of the Ralph Steadman designed logo as well as having read some good reviews of the food.
The menu was seasonal and really simple: starters, mains, and desserts. I love eating out with family because we decided to share everything.
We saw a lot of tables getting the roasted bone marrow, cut longitudinally, served with bread and caper-parsley radish, and it looked good. However, Fougoo had recently had her share of marrow at her recent dinner at Beacon.
Sautéed Veal Sweetbreads

We ordered three starters. First up was fried brussel sprouts that came with a ham croquette all topped with a zesty lemon aioli.
We got the grilled quail served with pickled onions, candied bacon, date purée, and aged balsamic.
The sautéed veal sweetbreads were my favorite of the three starters. They were tender and creamy. It came with roast grapes, mushrooms and a walnut purée.
Magret Duck Breast

We ordered two main dishes. First was the Magret duck breast with chard, beets and a port reduction. The duck was cooked beautifully- it was tender, juicy, and wonderfully fatty. I also really loved the chard and beets.
The "Catch of the Day" was a trout stuffed with chorizo cornbread that was served with an heirloom tomato coulis.

Trout with Chorizo Cornbread

Chocolate Ganache Cake

Heirloom Apple Crisp
We saw all the desserts on the menu and decided to order all three of them. There was a wonderful dark chocolate ganache cake with vanilla gelato and an heirloom apple crisp also with the vanilla gelato.
My favorite was the vanilla panna cotta with port cherries. The texture was smooth and rich, and the vanilla flavor went well with the cherries.

Vanilla Panna Cotta

2201 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA
(215) 735-4900

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Roberta's, Brooklyn

Brooklen, LBT, Jude, and I went one Sunday morning to East Williamsburg in Brooklyn to Roberta's for the the weekly NYC ritual of brunch. Brooklen had been wanting to go because he had tried their pizza at Madison Square Eats events.
When we arrived at the address, at first, we weren't sure we were at the right place. The exterior looked very modest, with a very small sign just above the doorway. Inside though, the space was great with long wooden tables, a red wood burning oven, exposed ceilings, a bar, and where we sat, a garden courtyard that looked into a radio studio.

We had to at least get one pizza. Immediately, we knew we wanted to try Paige's Breakfast Burrito pizza. It came topped with tomato, mozzarella, potato, red onion, jalapeño, egg, and Berkshire pork sausage. The crust on the pie was thin, crisp, and a little chewy with a decent char.
We also shared a tasty sticky bun and buttermilk biscuit. Both were scrumptious.

For our main courses, I ordered the fried eggs with beef tongue, salsa verde and potato hash. The tongue was great, really tender and delicate.
LBT got a breakfast sandwich of a hunk of sausage, egg, and cheese on a potato roll. It was a bit odd that they could not scramble the egg for her.

Brooklen got the ricotta pancakes with brown butter and maple syrup. We shared a small plate of thick fatty slab bacon.

261 Moore Street
Brooklyn, NY

White Rose System, Linden, NJ

I had friends visiting from the Midwest, so I wanted to take them to an authentic MidAtlantic breakfast joint before they flew home from Newark. I found White Rose System, a small diner in Linden, NJ. Their specialty is the Taylor ham (aka pork roll), egg & cheese sandwich. The "complete" included home fried potatoes in the the sandwich.

1301 East Elizabeth Avenue
Linden, NJ
(908) 486-9651

Monday, November 07, 2011

Totto Ramen, NYC

Vegetable Ramen
I was lucky to go to a taping of The Colbert Report last month, and afterwards, we grabbed dinner at Totto Ramen nearby. Their ramen is different that what I've had before, as their broth is based in chicken and soy instead of pork.
I got the Totto Miso Ramen, which came with a scoop of Koji Miso & pork, egg, scallions, bean sprouts, onion and char siu pork. I also got a side of their very spicy bamboo shoots. The broth, even though it was chicken based, was hearty and flavorful. The noodles were also very good, a little toothsome and good alkaline taste.
My friend ordered the vegetable ramen, which was also very good. I believe it was made with seaweed and shitake mushroom, and the toppings included avocado and yuzu paste, one of my favorite Japanese condiments. The yuzu added a pleasant salty-citrus flavor.
Totto Miso Ramen
366 West 52nd Street
New York, NY
(212) 582-0052

Friday, November 04, 2011

A.Kitchen, Philadelphia

We were up in Philly to see the Brothers Quay beautiful new film shot in the Mütter Museum, and Fougoo arranged for us a reservation at A.Kitchen, a restaurant near Rittenhouse Square that opened this past spring.
We had dinner family-style, sharing several of the small plates they had to offer. We started with a "breakfast" frisee salad that had a warm hash brown, poached egg, and bacon.
We then ordered two items from their "Fish" menu. I really wanted to try to octopus with caramelized watermelon. The octopus was grilled beautifully and it was complemented by the sweetness of the watermelon.There were also drizzles of hot sauce as well.
We also ordered the skate Provençal with fingerling potatoes.

Afterwards, we decided on two pasta dishes. They make their own pasta in house, so it was all very good. First was corkscrews with duck, chanterelle mushrooms, and butternut squash.
We also had the tagliatelle with veal ragu.
For dessert, we shared a lovely chocolate panna cotta.
135 South 18th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
(215) 825-7030