If you happened to see Anthony Bourdain’s No Reservations about Baltimore, you may think it is a rundown city with little in the way of culinary traditions and void of local culinary talent. I wholeheartedly disagree with Bourdain and think that he maybe watched one to many episodes of the The Wire.
Last week I had an ad-hoc high school reunion (thanks to Facebook) in Charm City and had plenty of time to partake in some great chow. From the airport we made a beeline to Cantler’s in Annapolis for freshly steamed Maryland blue crabs dusted with Old Bay seasoning and washed down with a few cold Natty Bos. While Cantler’s is in Annapolis, there are plenty of places of its ilk in Baltimore. That night we hit Bartenders Pub in the Catonsville neighborhood for a wine tasting and great pizza.
Friday was an around-the-city gastro-tour of Baltimore with stops at Attman’s Deli for a great hot pastrami with a schmear of chicken liver, Lexington Market (the oldest market in the country) for Faidley’s amazing crab cake, which was dreamy and chock-full of big nuggets of crab with barely enough filler and binding to hold it together. Friday night we had an amazing experience at Woodberry Kitchen in the old brick London Fog coat factory. The restaurant has impeccable casual-elegant service with pristine locally produced cuisine. Woodberry Kitchen was most likely based on one of my all time favorite joints, Fore Street in Portland, Maine. Woodberry's interior is old-modern, filled with ancient wood, cogs, and wheels cobbled from the old factory for decorative accent.
I had sublime Tilghman Island soft shell crabs with market vegetables and a corn coulis. The crabs were so fresh and so well sautéed with just a dusting of Wondra flour that they maintained pure crab flavor without exuding any oil or grease heaven. I followed the crabs with a caramelized corn flan with buttermilk blueberry ice cream and corn tuile—can you say summer? We dined with three children under age four and the servers embraced them as if they were eating $40 entrees and drinking wines from the captain’s list. The attitude was so refreshing, and the fact that it was backed up by a stellar space with dynamite cuisine made for a truly memorable evening.
The trip was finished with an event my friend Missy refers to as Meat Coma. Basically every guest needs to bring a few pounds of various meats to grill and we all grazed until we were blind with meat. There were sausages, smoked beef tenderloin, ribs, chicken, steak mole, oxtail sandwiches, and so on. I am not kidding about the meat-blindness either.
I think Bourdain needs to go back to Charm City and get blind.
P.S. Thanks to Facebook for making this all happen.