« An adorable little parilla | Main | The Australian toast stealer »

December 30, 2008

Top 10 Most Memorable Dishes of the Year

BouillabaiseThaiStyle.jpgLast week when I made up a list of the best restaurants I reviewed in 2008, I didn't really get a chance to to talk about the food, except to mention how many stars each got. This week I went back to the archives and read through my reviews to come up with 10 memorable dishes.

I'm a big red meat eater (and pork), so I was surprised that not one made the list. I guess that was just in the nature of the restaurants I went to this year. Not one great steak house among them.

Every time I came upon a dish in the archives I raved about, I copied and pasted it. Then I looked at my list and had to eliminate a few. Finally I tried to put them in order of fabulousness and memorability.

Here's my list: ...

1) Grilled oysters on the half shell in a lemon-butter chive sauce so luxurious it ought to be against the law.  (Oregon Grille in Cockeysville)

2) Rockfish stuffed with crab imperial. This was probably the best version of this classic I've ever tasted, with nice big lumps of crab, just enough mayonnaise, and beautifully cooked fresh fish. It will knock your socks off. (Tark's Grill in Lutherville)

3) Seafood bouillabaisse "Thai style." It was beautifully presented, with fine somen noodles, large scallops, pink shrimp and bits of lobster meat. A confetti of fresh pineapple added an unexpected note of sweetness to the spicy coconut broth. (Kings Contrivance in Columbia)

4) The delicate, beautiful cioppino, with shrimp, scallops, clams, calamari and whatever fish is freshest delicately swimming in a saffron-tinged broth with chopped fresh tomatoes. (Fin in Fells Point)

5) The creamy risotto studded with pine nuts and flavored with fresh basil, with grilled shrimp sitting jauntily on top. It's an enticing dish that would be a good supper with a salad. (Crush in Belvedere Square)

6) The best fish and chips any of us has had in Baltimore, with very fresh, white, flaky cod in a beer batter, homemade tartar sauce and salty gourmet chips instead of french fries. (Corks in Federal Hill)

7) Tender young half-chicken, impossibly juicy and flavored with an edge of smoke. Creamy grits and fresh chard complete an almost perfect plate. (Woodberry Kitchen in Woodberry/Hampden)

8) A seafood version of pho created especially for Baltimore, or so the menu says, with a delicately flavorful broth, a meaty crab claw, a mussel on the half shell, a shrimp, a scallop and a square of perch. (Baltimore Pho in the Hollins Market area)

9) Very fine vegetable lasagna, made with a touch of truffle oil. But even without the truffle oil I would have loved the just-tender pasta layered with perfectly cooked eggplant, squashes, red pepper and more. (Stone Mill Bakery in Lutherville)

10) Moist citrus poundcake, soaked in honey, with a delicate homemade honey ice cream.  (Meli in Fells Point)


(Photo of Seafood Bouillabaise "Thai Style" by Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:38 AM | | Comments (55)
Categories: Top Ten Tuesdays


Hooray for Baltimore Pho. I love the vegetarian pho - Hollins market style (more veggies, fewer noodles). The problem BP must overcome is inconsistency. Sometimes the bean sprouts are not fresh and the basil ratty with brown edges. While I overheard the owner tell a table that all ingredients are bought fresh every morning, I have a hard time believing that. That same day, my broccoli had dry white patches, and the rice noodle rolls were missing ingredients. Anyway, I'm glad to see props given to pho (8), which is one of the world's most satisfying foods - and also to see a vegetarian dish (9) on a top ten!

What no links? I'll chalk it up to holiday laziness!

Laziness??? I'm in Buenos Aires on vacation. It's amazing there is a Top 10. EL

Only 3 out of 10 non-seafood?

It means nothing. It just happened that the restaurants I went to didn't specialize in meat as much as seafood. Or the meat we happened to order wasn't as good as the seafood we had. EL

Lady E., I love this list, since I love seafood, and feel sludgy just from reading all those posts about beef! The only dish from the list I've actually had is the grilled oysters from Oregon Grille, and our party would agree they are excellent. On our recent visit they still had that dish, plus unadorned oysters on the half-shell and fried oysters (I believe--haven't ordered the latter, since you only get 3 instead of 6).

This list reads like a pairing for Chardonnays. In addition to no beef or pork, there's also no lamb, duck, goose or game.

RoCK, perhaps that's the trend of '08- lots of seafood and chicken and no beef, pork, lamb, duck, goose or game. I wonder if the Restaurant Association keeps track of such things?

I do believe I've noticed that the seafood and chicken entrees tend to be more of a value (unless it's lobster) to the diner. For instance, in a restaurant where we dined recently, the steak was $26 and the seafood with pasta was $18. When you can make steak at home and easily, the seafood's going to usually win out, IMHO.

or the restarant reviewer is in the pocket of the seafood industry

Right. EL I'm curious to know exactly what the amount is of the check you receive from "the seafood industry". And is that weekly, monthly, bi-monthly?

I think the going rate for a seafood shill is 50 cockles.

Yes! Yes! Tell us, EL! What is it like in a pocket? Is it like a kangaroo, where you can pop your head out? Are the usual lint, ticket stubs, matchbooks and crumpled ATM receipts in there with you? Are you allowed to have pets?

or the restarant reviewer is in the pocket of the seafood industry

Yeah, sounds a little fishy to me.

I'm sure there are no industry bribes involved; EL probably does it just for the halibut.

Is there a seafood cartel?

Is there a seafood cartel?

Oh, yes. Their tentacles are everywhere!

Yeah EL, don't be so shellfish...Honestly though, we all know you are a reviewer with a porpoise.

All this talk about seafood is giving me a haddock

It is a roughy job. Always folks ready to mussel in and skate away with your job.

Please stop already. You're krilling me.

Holy Mackerel!
All this seafood cartel talk is making me crabby.

Perhaps we can grouper together and fight this thing?

Amberjack sounds like a light bourbon.

We sure know how to have a whale of a time, eh?

Well, bless my sole, I think I'll pull up a char and join in. This is the most effective grilling of a snapper who attacked our leader that we've ever managed to come up with.

And who said Vaudeville is dead. I'll bet Mr ken thought he was being clever. Better luck next time.

Speaking of being in the pocket of the seafood industry, and I don't want to tread on OMG's turf or heresey, but wasn't the fish on friday thing nothing more than an attempt by the church to help the fishing industry?

Thank you very much. We will be here all week. Don't forget to try the Prime Rib special for $9.95.

RoCK -- I vaguely recall that you raised the same question several months ago, in response to which I said that that while I didn't think the fish-on-Friday rule was meant to help the fishing industry, that industry sure did howl when the practice was dropped following Vatican II. As to the roots of the practice, according to Wikipedia, it dates back to the early Church, which, of course, had several fishermen among the Apostles. It would be prudent to defer to MD Canon, who is familiar with the Catholic and Anglican traditions, for further amplification.

The fish-on-Friday thing was an instituition in my house growing up, or more accurately, no meat on Friday.

I still observe that, for the most part, but will opt for a veggie dish sometimes since I'm not a big seafood fan.

I'm quite interested to hear MD Canon's take on this tradition.

Help the fishing industry? That's just silly. Why would the Church do that? And exactly what "industry" was there 1000 years ago? Fishing was local and unorganized with the exception of the dried cod trade. Don't get me started on that. There was never a fish on Friday rule anyway. It was a no meat on Friday rule. Big difference. If you think about meat and the Church's attitudes about sin, particularly gluttony, you can come to the conclusion that it's a mild form of fasting. No gluttony on the day that Christ died. Well that makes sense. Was there some other motive? Probably, but manipulation of the world economy is prima facie goofy.

Always look for the economic motive for anything including the basis of religion itself. I just think you're looking in the wrong place. The Old Testament is basically a theocratic guide to raising taxes. Kosher rules can be explained by economics too. Follow the money. Who benefits from less meat consumed? (Forget the fish already.) Well poor people most certainly didn't have the option of eating meat every day. So the Church wanted the elite to purchase less meat. Why? Less pork chops on Friday means more cheddar for the Church on Sunday. Ta da. It's possible.

That was fun. Let's do another.

cods anyone?

Good explanation Owl, thanks!

I think you can usually come up with an economic motive for most social situations. When it comes to human biology it's fun to wonder about what the evolutionary advantage is. For example, your sense of smell turns off when you are sleeping, which is why you need a smoke detector. What possibly evolutionary advantage could there be to that? Your sense of touch and hearing are on standby while you sleep. Just wondering.

That reminds me of one of my very favorite poems, a macabre meditation on dreaming and smoking. Enjoy.

Jesu Cristo has the blog not been updated for 12 hours? or have people migrated to the Road Runner Marathon on the Cartoon Network? Of course posting a comment on a dead blog is totally pointless. Glurg.

Jesu Cristo has the blog not been updated for 12 hours?

I was guessing maybe EL flew back from BA yesterday and that's why the inactivity.

But it does demonstrate how spoiled we are on this blog...if it's not updated every three or four hours, we feel like we've been abandoned.

(There's a compliment in that last paragraph somewhere, EL. It's for you.)

Thanks. You're right, I got in yesterday midday and then I was dealing with some family matters that came up unexpectedly yesterday afternoon. I can only expect people to fill in for me during their work hours. Also, with different people publishing comments, there was a block during a certain time period that didn't get published for some reason, which now should be up. EL

But it does demonstrate how spoiled we are on this blog...if it's not updated every three or four hours, we feel like we've been abandoned.

What a kiss up. We don't just feel abandoned, we are abandoned. If you leave your baby in your car for a day or for ten minutes does it matter how it feels? No, the facts is the facts.

We provide free content for a business in exchange for entertainment and possibly as a poor substitute for professional psychotherapy. It's human nature to maximize your benefit. Each and every one of us reasonably desires instantaneous posting of comments. Sometimes you don't get what you want but that doesn't mean you should lower your expectations. Keep you Invisible Hand strong bruthahman.

Wait a minute. We don't get a "poor substitute for professional psychotherapy"-we get top notch counseling. We have trained counselors available for a myriad of subjects. Plus we offer free support groups!

Right you are CGs. Free counselling and with the money you save you can have a nice dinner. For the price of three professional "What do you think it means" questions I get get some awesome sushi tonight at Minato's. Mmm ... toro ... Japanese Paxil.

Of course I do feel a little guilty for abusing Bucky. What can I say, I'm a middle child.

Of course I do feel a little guilty for abusing Bucky.

It will pass, Owlie.

I have noticed that, when there is some slack time on this blog, several members (including myself) venture over to McIntyre's Parlor for amusement.

"What a kiss up. We don't just feel abandoned, we are abandoned" - Owl, the winter getting to you?

Does the Sun have a third food reviewer now? Somebody named Scott Calvert had an article today about the tamale place in Fells Point.

OK, Michelle's goes on my list of places to visit when I eventually make it to Baltimore.

There is no comfort food more comforting than a well-made tamale.

Hal -- I think Scott Calvert has been a reporter for The Sun for several years, judging from the results that popped up when I searched his name on the Sun's website and in Google. He was a national reporter in 2003, covering the war in Iraq, and the Sun's Africa reporter in 2007. Judging from the tamale story, perhaps he's a general assignment reporter now?

Or maybe he just really likes tamales, hmpstd.

Like much of The Sun's articles, it's hard to tell what the purpose of Mr. Calvert's piece was. Review the tamale place? The popularity of tamales? "Write something" about the Hispanic community? Fill column space?

This is a weird article. I felt like I was having a serious ADHD moment when I forced myself to read it.

He talks about taco trucks in the region. Maybe I don't get out enough, but I've never seen a taco truck.

Maybe I don't get out enough, but I've never seen a taco truck.

You don't get out enough. Taco trucks are a regular feature on Broadway in upper Fells Point.

There is a taco truck that hangs out on Broadway, a few blocks north of Eastern. It is not bad, but I'm just as happy with the tacos from Tortallia Sinaloa.

Well, Mr. Calvert's article wasn't a review, since there was no mention of him actually eating a tamale, let alone judging its quality in his own words. (Also, it appeared in the Maryland section of the paper.) I'd call it a general interest story on a slow news day (somewhat akin to those fluffy filler pieces in the last 90 seconds of local TV newscasts), marveling at the fact that a "very exclusive" DC party had to obtain quality tamales from a Fells Point eatery. Either that, or Michelle's Cafe has a very, very good PR flack.

I don't think Michelle's Cafe is the kind of place that has a PR flack, let alone a good one.

I keep meaning to stop in there. I guess if I do, I have to get a tamale.

There is a taco truck that is usually on Patapsco Ave. near Hollins Ferry Rd./ Annapolis Rd. Area. There is also one on Washington Blvd. just south of the city.

Taco trucks? Huh. Now if we could only get some decent falafel wagons.

Unless I've been missing something, you've gotta go to NYC for a falafel wagon, Owl. I would sure patronize one though!

Scott Calvert came down to the sports bar where Ravens Roost 18 watches the away games. He was getting background info on what it was like to be a Ravens fan during the Super Bowl run. So he's been there since 2000.

Ahem... To get back on track of the original post:

I can't eat fish because I get sick when I do. So I must agree with the poster who expressed disappointment at three of the 10 dishes being something other than seafood. I know Marylanders love their seafood, but come on. And I also would like to see other meat choices.

Elizabeth, how about an article on the most comfortable/ romantic seating in a good restaurant?
My favorite at the moment is the armchairs in front of the fireplace at the Carlyle Club on University Parkway (their lamb with dates and almonds in a yogurt sauce is fine too)

That's an excellent idea. EL

Oooh--great topic, Crowsonguy! Our most romantic spot (it wouldn't be everyone's choice) is high up on the porch at the Back Porch Cafe in Rehoboth.

9:10, 9:11 and 9:12 are link spam.

Post a comment

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.

Top Ten Tuesdays
Most Recent Comments
Baltimore Sun coverage
Restaurant news and reviews Recently reviewed
Browse photos and information of restaurants recently reviewed by The Baltimore Sun

Sign up for FREE text alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for dining text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
  • Food & Drink newsletter
Need ideas for dinner tonight? A recommendation for the perfect red wine?'s Food & Drink newsletter is there to help.
See a sample | Sign up

Stay connected