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March 10, 2009

Cynthia's March Madness

Cynthia%27sPromotion.jpgGood eater and local Zagat editor Marty Katz told me that Cynthia's in Severna Park was having what I think of these days as a recession promotion. Cynthia's, in case you don't know it, is a fine-dining restaurant with very good food. Unfortunately it's located in a Ritchie Highway shopping center, but don't hold that against it.

The promotion is three courses for $35. They consist of a Caesar or mixed green salad, a dinner entree from the menu and a dessert of either an "unconventional s'more" or baked toffee pudding. The menu is available Monday through Thursday through March, except for next Monday when the restaurant is closed. ...

Now this is a very good deal. Take a look at the dinner menu and its entree prices. However, two of you are still going to spend around $100 once you have a glass of wine and pay taxes and tips. It will be worth every penny, but for most of us that's still special occasion dining.

Maybe we'll have to stop thinking of Friday and Saturday as the nights to go out for a special occasion. Maybe Monday through Thursday is the new Friday and Saturday.

By the way, desserts are a specialty at Cynthia's. I don't usually get dessert when I eat out on my own, but here you would want to. The owner, Cynthia Bennington, is a wonderful pastry chef. Maybe those two desserts on the fixed-price menu don't sound like much, but here are the a la carte menu descriptions. Note the prices:

dark chocolate semifreddo, graham cracker, warm marshmallow 9

brown sugar, vanilla, butter rum sauce, and vanilla whipped cream 8

(Algerina Perna/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 4:52 PM | | Comments (65)


When you're retired, any night can be Saturday.

We had truly great meal there but what I remember most was their oatmeal-raisin cookies. I don't even LIKE oatmeal-raisin cookies! Blew me away. They gave one as a gift as you were leaving. Since I only had that one, I gave tiny pieces to all my baker friends and asked them if they could reproduce it. It's a long way to drive for cookies, you know.

The food at Cynthia's is very good, but the service leaves a lot to be desired. My wife and I went there, and once we told the server that we wouldn't be drinking alcohol, we were basically ignored for the rest of the evening. My wife has been back with friends and said that the service has been better, but it's doubtful that I will return.

Hi everyone, I'm a very long-time lurker who has been too intimidated to post before now-- just never felt I've had anything to add that's funny or insightful enough compared to what the regulars post. However, since I have eaten at Cynthia's four times over the past four months (sometimes more than once a month and then skipping), I do agree that the experience depends quite a bit on whom you have as a server. Three of our four times we were fortunate enough to have the same terrific waiter who made the experience wonderful and made us eager to return as soon as we could; the specials they've been running every month since January notwithstanding, and even if one or two of the courses may not have been something we would have ordered again. However, on our last visit, we had a different server, who started out with an attitude (we ordered a bottle of wine, so that wasn't it). She did drop it over time, but we also waited a V-E-R-Y long time to get each course, with no explanation or apology (45 minutes for the appetizers; another 30 for the entrees; no offers to refill the bread; did not bother to give us an update until she saw our visible impatience-- "your order is coming out right now" and we waited 15 more minutes after that) even though the restaurant was nearly empty (this was after 7:00 on a Wednesday evening). Sure sounds as if there were problems in the kitchen that night, but TELL US PLEASE, and PLEASE at least offer us more bread if we've devoured the contents of the bread basket and are gnawing on our bloody stumps to stave off starvation. (I know it's not a pretty sight but pretend.) We are clean, look nice, and act civilized most of the time, plus we tip well.

By the way, appetizers and desserts at Cynthia's ARE FABU. Cannot go wrong with any of the desserts. I know. I've ordered them all.

Thanks for coming out of the shadows. :-) EL

Welcome YP. Good name.

Why is the blog so crashy today?

I have only had the pleasure of dining at Cynthia's a couple of times as it is quite a ways from my house, but each time it was worth the drive. Unlike the other review, I have never had anything but prompt, friendly, knowledgeable service. This is definitely a restaurant I will visit as often as I can.

Welcome YumPorchetta. But be careful. I used to be just like you, now look what's happened.

Blog was crashy yesterday, too.

Glad you decided to chime in YumPorchetta. Even OMG started out small.

It's not just this blog that is crashy today--I got dumped over at the mommy blog, too.

YumPorchetta--welcome, hon!

Thank you for the warm welcome. I know I'll like it here but I may only dip a toe or two in at first, since most of the time rather than drafting a pithy (that's with a "th" in the middle) response, I'm just laughing at all the witty repartee amongst the regulars-- must be the modern-day version of a Noel Coward play? Hey, as I always say, wordplay is foreplay.

Hey, as I always say, wordplay is foreplay.

Ms YumPorchetta, you will fit in soooo well. And remember, this is the only blog you will ever need (partly because its more addictive than oxicontin [the only illegal drug advocated by Rushbo] or crack.)

The service you receive at any business, whether a bank, restaurant, retail store, etc., plays a part in defining the experience you have.
As one of Cynthia's co-owners, I am disappointed to read that some customers have had poor experiences related to service. The service you receive at the restaurant should not be a function of whether you order wine or whether you're a good tipper (I don't know of any customers who have declared that they "tip well" before being seated). You should receive good service, period.
I am equally disappointed to hear that you had to wait so long for your meal on one occasion without adequate communication from the staff about any delay.
Without personally knowing more immediately about when you dined or who worked that shift, I won't try to comment further (and if you remember who your server was, please don't use Elizabeth Large's blog to "out" the server). However, I will take these comments to heart, and use this as an opportunity to further improve the training of our staff and our restaurant.

Hey, as I always say, wordplay is foreplay

And that's why I am longer allowed to do crossword puzzles in bars.

Pithy, Owl, very pithy.

And a classy response from Cynthia Bennington. Excellent!

I think Robert (the Single One)is right...I now have this uncontrollable urge to respond to Retired in Elkridge:

"When you're retired, any night can be Saturday"

Which is better than Every Day is Like Sunday…(cue the music, OMG)

(I can't figure out how to do italics or anything complicated yet...and by the way, how long can I use that excuse?)

Pointy bracket thing above the comma no space i and then the other pointy bracket thing over the period gets you italics. Substitute a b for the i and you will get bold. To end either add a slash before the i or b and close the bracket and the coding ends.

How long: a good six months. But our record keeper is notoriously lax, so don't worry.

Yes! Another one trapped into this web of intrigue/addiction!

YumPorchetta, don't feel bad, I don't know how to do all that stuff either. And Welcome, glad you made the leap.

My first posting and there I go offending a restaurant owner already...I appreciate Ms. Bennington's comments since it shows that she cares a lot about her restaurant and what her customers think, but my comments weren't meant to "out" the waiter. I hoped to encourage people to try Cynthia's since three out of our four experiences WERE excellent; after all, we did return, have told others about the great food, and we plan to again very soon (sooner than she may expect). I was trying to explain something we already know: yep, service does make a big difference in the perception of the diner(s), even if the food is really terrific. Note that I also mentioned that we assumed there was a problem with the kitchen, and we didn't take our frustrations out on the waiter or the rest of the staff. I think we kept our sense of humor even though we WERE hungry and felt abandoned. (By the way, I never mentioned that we "tip well" when we sat down, there or anywhere -- it's gauche-- so I hope that was misinterpreted.) I hope Ms. Bennington didn't overlook the high praise I had for almost everything on the menu. Did I mention that the appetizers and desserts are FABU? Or how many of her desserts I've snarfed down? Or how many men I've defeated in discreet butter-knife duels over THEIR desserts? (Well, I thought those battles were discreet. Not much blood was visible.)

Slinking off to my corner now...will cause no more trouble. (snork)

Wow, YumPorchetta already shouting out requests. Bring it!

I can't ever understand
Why my life has been cursed,
poisoned and condemned
When I've been trying every night
To hold you near me
I'm telling you
It isn't easy
Believe me!

Trudging slowly over wet sand
Back to the bench where your clothes were stolen
This is the coastal town
That they forgot to close down
Armageddon - come armageddon!
Come, Armageddon! come!
Everyday is like Sunday
Everyday is silent and grey

Thanks YumPorchetta, now I have a soundtrack for today's amuse bouche of self-loathing and self-pity. And now "How Soon Is Now?" ... I am human and I need to be loved...just like everybody else does

Next stop: Joy Division

YumPorchetta, you will be amazed at how long you can get away with that excuse; I still haven't used italics (just put everything in quotes as you did; we call them discretionary quotes around here).

Also, since you have already submitted the obligatory food comment on this thread, you are now free to discuss just about anything.

Ms. Bennington, classy response.

Owlie, Joy Division is so much better than The Smiths ever hoped to be.

I know OM, I know...yes, she's lost control...

Confusion in her eyes that says it all.
She's lost control.
And she's clinging to the nearest passer by,
She's lost control.
And she gave away the secrets of her past,
And said I've lost control again,
And of a voice that told her when and where to act,
She said I've lost control again.

You are doing just find, YP.

This is the way.
Step inside.

Welcome, YumPorchetta.

What's your view on tipping? Foie gras? Blue cheese on cheeseburgers? Do you know ALL the damn ingredients that make up a meatball?

Yes! YP is one of us now. And our Army of Dorkness grows.

Of course "Love Will Tear Us Apart" is one of the best relationship songs ever, but I never appreciated Joy Division until I saw the recent movie about them "Control". Great movie, filmed in glorious B&W to capture the filthitude of 1970s Manchester. One of the best movies about music I've ever seen.

"You don’t have to know anything about Joy Division to grasp the mysterious sorrow at its heart."
– A.O. Scott, NYT

Welcome YumPorchetta to The Only Blog You'll Ever Need!

cool name. great comments!

do you have a good meatball recipe for Bucky?

To YumPorchetta,
There was no offense taken in your feedback. I would encourage you and other diners to write or email the restaurant owner to share your experience not just when it's 100% positive, but also if there was something negative about it. My husband -- who owns the restaurant with me -- and I, regard constructive criticism as a way to improve what we do. Because we don't have any "handlers," we do read our own mail and we do make it a point to discuss such situations with the staff. Trust us -- we don't come to work hoping to get a bunch of negative letters. But we know that sometimes, the bad comes with the good. Once we receive the letter, it's how we respond and rectify the matter that becomes important because we want to avoid making the same mistakes again, and hopefully, regain the diner's confidence in the restaurant.

And yes, I did notice all your favorable comments in your initial post, and I thank you for that. It's easier to respond to great comments -- but by responding directly to the service issue, I wanted you to know that we will own up to missteps and apologize for them, and we expect the same of our staff.

And as for "outing" the staff member -- I did not mean to imply that you or anyone else was a snitch, but simply wanted to suggest that you could discreetly let me know via email rather than on a blog. I think most restaurant owners would agree that if they are going to apply a band-aid, they need to know where they're bleeding from...they need to know which squeaky wheel needs the grease. Alright, maybe those analogies weren't great, but I'm sure you get the idea. Knowing what the specific problem or issue is will help a business owner more directly address it.

Thank you for your feedback.

Oh...and I forgot...
You can come out of your corner now.

Lissa, I smack you with my butter knife for insulting The beautiful Smiths! ;)

Stacy, when I'm in a nostalgic mood for the music of my college years, The Smiths are just fine.

But, when I want great music, I turn to Joy Division. Or Mozart. Or Kraftwerk. Or Sapphire, The Uppity Blues Women. Or early Metallica...

Lissa, I love early Metallica. What went wrong with them?

Also unrelated, has anyone eaten at the Appalachian Brewing Company in Harrisburg? Their food was surprisingly good for a brewery.

(I can't figure out how to do italics or anything complicated yet...and by the way, how long can I use that excuse?)

Oh, YP, it took me forever and about a dozen separate instructions before I figured out the italics. Now I'm just addicted to them and suspect that no one else finds them as cute as I do. Eh, so what? I have my italics to keep me warm! (My links still come out ugly)

Note that to the right of the page under Categories there is one called "Linking" that should help. EL

Lissa, I love early Metallica. What went wrong with them?

Oh that has a great answer. See the documentary Some Kind of Monster. I've never fan a fan of them but this film is amazing. It shows the complete collapse of the band. It is also hilarious. They hire a full time therapist for five years who deconstructs the band to the point of absurdity. It doesn't get any funnier than seeing the guitarist leave a recording session at 5 PM to pick up his daughter after ballet class and the other members having a fit because they are a wild rock and roll band not a nine to five corporation. Another highlight is watching the therapist interview a bemused Dave Mustaine (Megadeth) about his feelings about being kicked out of the band years ago. Hilarious.

Wow, I take a few hours to go to sleep, actually DO WORK, and when I log on, look at all the stuff I missed!!! So many welcoming comments from everyone-- thank you. And the blog isn't crashy anymore!!!

Thank you, Ms. Bennington, for your very kind words and even more for confirming the high opinion I already had for your restaurant. Lissa and Dahlink are right -- classy responses.

Lissa, look at Johnny Marr and his influence.

Bucky, thank you for the tutorial on how to do cool things with HTML. My IT Dept will tremble with fear when I'm done. But I think may follow Laura Lee down the rabbit hole of "discretionary quotes" -- anyone else care to help me irritate Mr. McIntyre with my misuse?

Bucky and PCB Rob, do you REALLY want to get me started...? GOOD. I thought so.

OMG 2, maybe therapy drove them to cover Whisky in the Jar.

I defer to Owlie's superior metatude.

"Whisky in the Jar" is one of the less annoying metal covers of old folk songs around.

Johnny Marr? Influence? is this something I need to be younger to understand? He was in the Smiths, a few side projects...wrote proto-emo songs with Morrissey...I'm obviously missing something.

Metatude? That sounds like something I wish I had.

Lissa, probably because he keeps a low profile: besides being a member of The The, another great band (why did they sell out for M&Ms!!! Was it the "MARS/Marr" connection? Hmmm...), "he has also worked as a session musician and writing collaborator for artists including The Pretenders, Pet Shop Boys, Billy Bragg, Black Grape, Jane Birkin, Talking Heads, and Beck. Marr became a session player, writing, touring and recording with, among others, Bryan Ferry, Kirsty MacColl, Neil Finn, Karl Bartos of Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Black Grape, Billy Bragg, Pet Shop Boys, Beck and Oasis. He also acted as co-producer for some of them. He also continued to work as an official member of various groups, including The Pretenders, The The, Electronic, Johnny Marr & The Healers, Modest Mouse, and The Cribs. Radiohead guitarist Ed O'Brien has acknowledged that he idolized The Smiths in the 1980s; the band pays homage to The Smiths in their song "Knives Out". After O'Brien played with Johnny Marr in New Zealand in 2001, he acknowledged that Marr was the reason he had picked up a guitar as a teenager."

But then again, I'm twisted...

Metatude? Is that Metamucil with an attitude?

The The. How could I forget them? They are my favourite band to use when I'm teaching catalog searching techniques. Unfortunately, Pratt doesn't own any of their CDs.

Radiohead has so sold out. That or I'm getting old.

The Pet Shop Boys, on the other tentacle, remain fabulous.

Hmm...I see I'm not being myself tonight. Forgot I cleared my cookies.

Great music (in terms of metal) is and will always be Led Zep IMHO. If you have any doubts put on Led Zep II with headphones (especially those Bose noise reducers if you can!). Whole Lotta Love, Heartbreaker, Livin, Lovin! The progenitor of all that is rocker metal headbanger!

Zeplin totally sux compared to the Stooges man.

Compare and contrast:
How years ago in days of old, when magic filled the air.
T'was in the darkest depths of Mordor, I met a girl so fair.
But Gollum, and the evil one crept up and slipped away with her, her, her....yeah.

I'm a street walking cheetah with a heart full of napalm
Im a runaway son of the nuclear A-bomb
I am a world's forgotten boy
The one who searches and destroys

Honey gotta help me please
Somebody gotta save my soul
Baby detonate for me

Look out honey, cause I'm using technology
Ain't got time to make no apology
Soul radiation in the dead of night
Love in the middle of a fire fight

Honey gotta strike me blind
Somebody gotta save my soul
Baby penerate my mind
And I'm the world's forgotten boy
The one whos searchin, searchin to destroy


While Led Zeppelin was among the titans of rock, my vote would go to Black Sabbath for the kings of metal rock. Their first five albums especially. Take Hole in the Sky and Symptom of the Universe from Sabotage. Headbanging at its best!

Just watched them on youtube. I'm in the office alone today, so the speakers were cranked.

I always liked the Immigrant's Song. With or without Viking cats.

Lissa, is the VIking cat thing still on the internet anywhere? I haven't seen it in years.

Hal, it is still around.

(blog is very crashy suddenly.)

Ah, yes, LEDZEP!!! I was madly in love with Jimmy Page for so long; he was supposed to be so depraved yet he wore cream-colored pleated trousers (that was then) and a beautiful blue silk shirt onstage. Not very Alistair Crowley-ish. Or Iggy-ish. Pagey never smeared PB all over himself. He hasn't changed much except he has a big cotton-ball head of hair now. I freak out when I see Robert Plant's face nowadays-- WHOA! You can see how much fun HE had over the years just by looking at his face. Maybe not as much fun as Keef, but who has?

How depressed am I? I'm picking a fake fight over Led Zeppelin. So sad. Not familiar with the viking cat.

Oh google "viking kittens". It's funny. Huh, the actual words are completely different than the ones I made up, most of which weren't really words at all. Still the best hand slammed in door scream ever.

Yeah, I never knew the words until I saw the viking cats, either. Kind of embarrassing, considering my age.

Then again, it took me a few years to figure out the words to the Pledge of Allegiance, too.

Cant do viking cats here at work. It needs flash and the IT folks won't give it to me unless I have a good business reason.

I guess viking cats isn't one of them.

Speaking of Zep, that tribute band out at the Towsontown Festival last year was really good. The name of the band escapes me right now.

I came to the Stooges long long after the fact. I hate to say that maybe the first time I heard "Search and Destroy" was in The Life Aquatic where Bill Murray is rushing the aft deck of his ship shooting a Glock at the Filipino (?) pirates. It worked really well in a cool double-ironic way. Talk about Raw Power. I probably knew about Iggy before I knew his music at all. I worked my way back from the early 90s stuff to the classic Bowie produced Berlin album The Idiot described as ."a funky, robotic hellhole of an album". Sounds like fun to me.

And this weekend's project is to get flamey happy banana dude with hula hoop to dance to Trio's song "Da Da Da". A worthy project.

Owl, much respect to the Stooges! They were doing amazing things in early rock that totally (in retrospect) blew away bands of their like that got all the respect (and money) in later years.

Fl Rob, you are quite right that Sabbath was amazing in their Ozzy years. I'm never sure of timelines so I don't know if they pre or post dated Zeppelin but they certainly made metal their own.

YumPorchetta, yes lots of living on both of those dudes faces (Plant and Page). If you watch the video the concert they did with the Egyptian musicians a few years back, Page looks like he might be in hepatic failure. Usually there's nothing pretty about old rock 'n rollers unless they're Joan Jett. But, that's another story.

btw, what's up with the weird green double underlines that's appearing on random words?

weird green double underlines that's appearing on random words?


Ah, yes, Joan Jett still looks amazing. Saw her at Artscape last year. That was a trip, in oh, so many ways.

I had more to say, but lost my train of thought when Joyce mentioned Joan Jett.

Black Sabbath was putting out their best music at the same time Led Zep was, 1969-1979.
When Ozzy got canned in late 1979, it was the end of an era. I saw Sabbath live at the Civic Center in September of that year.
It was a great show, and after they left the stage, the lights came on with some classical music. Couldn't tell what it was because my ears were ringing. They were louder than Ted Nugent. Still, the classical music was a nice touch.

Neither Ozzy or Sabbath were the same since.

I'm amused that I'm not the only one who couldn't understand the words to The Immigrant Song until seeing the Viking kittens things.

I saw LedZep live in 1969--in Schenectady, of all places, What I remember best was the guy in the shop who asked in a breathy voice, "Do you like scarves?"

I suppose it would simply draw even more ridicule upon myself to point out to y'all that Herman's Hermits is playing at the Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis on June 25, 2009.

Yeah, I thought so.

BTW lamb with ginger is an excellent treatment for unfocused rage and self-loathing. It's that time of the year – wood anger rising. I have to chuckle when I see this post heading toward 65 comments and think of what Cynthia must be thinking: How did my restaurant special become a forum for Led Zeppelin fans? Funny.

Yes the Viking Kitten video was shocking – shocking that the actual words to the song are articulate, eloquent and tell a good story. No sprinkly for the May Queen here.

Bucky, I'm quite old enough to remember Herman's Hermits.

Hal, my friends and I joke about my personal lyrics to Smoke on The Water. One of my all time best mess of lyrics:
We all went down to Yonkers
On a lake beneath the shoreline
To make records with Motown
We didn't have much time...

Lissa, thinking about Joan Jett removes all other thoughts from my head too.

Fl Rob, agreed. Ozzy and Sabbath never as good as the original group together. I saw Sabbath with the next vocalist (Rob Zombie?). Not the same at all.

By the way, here's an honest-to-goodness comment about my most recent experience at Cynthia's (Hey! What's that you say? This a DINING blog or sumthin'??? Get outta here kid, you bother me...). We had a really terrific meal. I wasn't expecting the endive and watercress salad (with blue cheese and candied pecans) appetizer to be one of the highlights, but it was stunningly good. The soup of the day is always a excellent bet, too, and it's a nice sized bowl. The chocolate souffle made me whimper with joy. Their promotions menus are really a wonderful deal -- the portions are regular size and are very filling.

And since I started with this subject in my very first comment, the service was great all around.

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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.

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