Baltimore, Maryland… Restaurant Week(s) in Baltimore, Maryland holds a few significant surprises – particularly for those, like me, who may have dismissed this harbor town as a “foodie” destination.
The goal of any city-wide Restaurant Week is to encourage diners to get out and try new eateries and between January 22nd and February 7th those in search of a fresh mid-Atlantic dining experience can explore top food destinations in Baltimore’s Little Italy, Mount Vernon, Federal Hill, Canton and the Inner Harbor neighborhoods.
Sixty plus restaurants are offering a three-course dining experience (approx. cost dinner $35.10; lunch $20.10).
Many also offer wine pairing menus, cooking classes, and special tasting menus all to encourage you to discover B’more dining. Toss in discounted parking at City-owned garages, convenient public transportation and a very walk able city and you have a culinary treasure chest waiting to be discovered.
During a preview tour of a handful of the participating establishments I learned that dining in Charm City includes lots of:
~ Gunpowder Farm Bison, a flavorful lean red meat that provides a healthful alternative to beef;
~ Great cheese and sausage choices;
~ Incredible quality local Maryland wines;
~ Flavorful small brewery pub stouts, lagers and ales;
~ That the Szarec Rye and Absinthe Cocktail is now trendy,
~ Baltimore Chefs are passionate about the food they create and are eager to step out from behind the stainless steel counters to share what they do and how they do it.
Join me as I explore a few of “B’More’s” dining highlights.
Chef Jerry Pellegrino
1026 South Charles Street
Chef Pellegrino is a man that easily shares his passion for food.
At Corks diners enter the glass-fronted building and are greeted by the bustle of the front kitchen where much of the food preparation takes place.
Chef Pellegrino has a robust love of Maryland wines and as he welcomed our group for a hands-on “The Art of Making Pizza” demonstration class ($55.00 per person) he uncorked Maryland wines Basignani Lorenzino Reserve 2005 and a Basignani Seyval 2006 from a
Sparks, Maryland winery and a Woodhall Jubilee Reserve Barbera (2007) and Woodhall Gunpowder Falls White (2007).
The Basignani Lorenzino Reserve 2005 is an incredible blending of Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc with Merlot. The wines nose is jammy with hints of blackberry, herbs and spices.
This wine, and Chef Jerry’s passion for incredible food, is one of the many Baltimore Surprises I hope to share with you from my tour of Baltimore eateries!
Corks is an intimate space where diners will find a menu replete with incredible cheeses – cheese sandwiches, fondue and plates.
With those cheeses ask for Chef Jerry’s salami, a rich, garlicky sausage devoid to my tastes of the offending peppers and mustard corn so often found in Baltimore’s German inspired cuisine.
The sausage is dark red and has just the right amount of savory greasiness to make it perfect.
Visit Corks for lunch, or dinner and don’t miss the Cork’s Burger made from ground Bison and grilled Vidalia onions.
For a larger meal, try Chef’s Black Truffle Meatloaf and Mashed Potatoes.
For restaurant week, Corks offers both a lunch and dinner menu with great choices like Truffle Scented Mac & Cheese, Fuji Apple Lasagna and Chef Jerry’s delicious Extra Virgin Olive Oil Cake, a pound-cake like dish served with lemon curd and ginger Chantilly cream.
For dinner, my choices amongst the many would be the Beef Carpaccio appetizer, Hudson Valley Farms Confit Duck Leg and the Chocolate Cheesecake that is fluffy, light and very chocolate.
Mr. Rains Fun House – The American Visionary Art Museum
Chef Bill Buszinski
800 Key Highway
The American Visionary Art Museum is one of those Baltimore Surprises not be missed. The museum features the work of “untrained” artists whose work is often seen along rural roadsides or in the postage-stamp front yards of urbanity.
The museum is comprised of three buildings – the main building where curators have launched the Life, Liberty and Pursuit of Happiness exhibit that explores the Roots of Rights – from the Civil Rights of the American Indian and African American, to sexual orientation, gender and religion.
The exhibit is powerful featuring the work of persons such as Ala Bashir, an Iranian doctor who was hand-picked by Saddam Hussein as his personal physician and whose work demonstrates the horrors of that regime along side the powerful images of Pedro Martin Declet, a self-taught artist raised in New Haven, Connecticut whose work – in many mediums – speaks of the artist’s relationship with emotion.
Other areas include the Tall Sculpture Barn and Giant Whirligig and Sculpture Plaza and the Wildflower Garden.
Located upstairs to the museum is Mr. Rains Fun House Restaurant where pure fun and whimsy rule and where Chef Bill Buszinski incorporates color and texture in his plates creating a culinary homage to the art that surrounds him.
Face it, after spending hours viewing the incredible images throughout the museum, a burger on a white bun is just not going to do it for you.
Hues of brilliant orange and pink with peacock feathers and mirrored hangings surround diners as they dine on a brunch menu that includes a Grilled Bibb and Apple Salad garnished with Manchego cheese, pecans and herbed buttermilk dressing add the house-made fragrant duck sausage and potato cake with a spicy Tamarind Chili sauce for a fully flavorful meal.
A Baltimore Culinary Surprise is Chef Buszinski’s Lumpia, traditional Philippine spring rolls – reported to be hand wrapped by the Chef’s Philippine mother-in-law - filled with ground chicken and shrimp along side the purple hued Ube Crepes, filled with grilled seasonal vegetables and a brilliant green edamame sauce.
I strongly suggest the Grilled Bibb salad and Lumpia. Strongly suggest. Make that insist. Excellent fare.
Deserts are daily however on our visit a trio consisting of a dense chocolate, spiced carrot and moist blue cheese cheesecake with honey sauce was served.
The blue cheese cheesecake was unexpectedly light and delicious with only the slightest hint of the robust flavor of its namesake cheese.
During Restaurant Week, ask your server at Mr. Rains for a three-course recommendation.
Restaurant Week in Baltimore Maryland run through February 7th and showcases more than sixty Baltimore based restaurants.
Jacquie Kubin is a 15 year, award-winning veteran of travel and culinary writing. Today Jacquie edits and directs a staff of writers for Donne Tempo Magazine and is always looking for new talents who wish to expand their horizons.
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