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June 2, 2011

Last Baltimore meals, part 2

baltimore mealsLast month you were asked about last meals in Baltimore. We wondered, what would yours be?

It wasn't an idle question. A Dining@Large reader was preparing to leave Baltimore and wanted your suggestions. You gave them. You can read those comments here.

Now, it's really time for the reader to leave for San Francisco.

Here is an account of the reader's last meals in Baltimore, which are be publishing in two parts. Part one is here.

Thanks so much for this contribution. I hope I speak for everyone in Baltimore when I wish you a happy marriage and the best of fortune in your new city. Stay in touch!

Meal#3: Baltimore’s Finest

I had been to  Cindy Wolf’s Charleston once before for my parents 25th wedding anniversary a few years ago. My parents don’t drink alcohol and wanted to celebrate at the best restaurant in town but thought they should at least bring someone along who might enjoy the wine pairings and I happily obliged. This time my in-laws took us for my husband’s birthday and also as a prelude to our wedding weekend. It is still unquestioningly the best meal in Baltimore.

We started off the evening with a drink at the beautiful bar and were served a couple of crackers with a fine tasso ham mousse. Probably one of the classiest and best salty nibbles to go with a drink I’ve ever had. We then moved to our table in the elegant wine room and proceeded to indulge ourselves with nothing less than perfection from Cindy Wolf. We started with a little tasting plate with a lovely and salty salmon and caper salad, some kind of puff that I’m sorry I don’t remember that well, and a cornmeal fried oyster, so buttery and melt in your mouth delicious I wish that the oysters had been on the full menu because I could have gone for a whole plate.

I started with the rich lobster curry soup, presented beautifully with delicate pieces of lobster plated in the center of the bowl surrounded by drizzles of the arugula and curry oils with the lobster stock reduction then poured over top of the lobster tableside to complete the dish. I had remembered being told that Chef Wolf’s soups were a work of art in the past and this was no exception. Every bite was slightly different with the way the oils mixed into the soup but all wonderful nonetheless.

Next up for me was the cornmeal fried softshell crab. I made everyone order them and we all cleaned our plates. This dish is simple softshell crab perfection. If you go and it is still on the menu (I know the week is over) please order it, you will not regret it. After the crab, I had wanted to try the foie gras but since I’ve had one not so great foie gras experience before I opted to have it paired with a grilled magret of duck as opposed to the foie gras alone. While the duck and accompanying mushroom fricassee was good, I really should have gotten the whole foie gras dish as the piece of it in the duck dish was truly excellent.


I wrapped up the meal with a grilled Gunpowder Farm buffalo tenderloin accompanied by a creamy polenta, oyster mushrooms, and crispy shallots, yet again another rich and satisfying dish. My in-laws and husband covered a good range of the menu with their selections as well and absolutely everything was enjoyed. Dessert for me was a white chocolate strawberry dome with a little bit of a balsamic drizzle on the side. I loved this combination. We also got an accompanying plate of small candies and pastries, the best of which was a macaron.

I could go on and on about the food at Charleston, but I should also mention the service as well. Foreman-Wolf really knows what they are doing with service. What’s so great about it is that even though it’s such a well-regarded fine dining establishment, there is absolutely nothing snobby about the service. Everyone is warm and friendly, they are thoughtful when offering suggestions without being pushy, and plates are served and cleared from tables in such organized fashion it’s really an amazing to sit back and pay attention to all the careful thought they put into those details.

I will say though that the highlight of service for the night was when my father-in-law ordered port to go with his cheese. The server delivering the port ended up in conversation with us talking about our upcoming move to San Francisco. He actually offered restaurant recommendations in San Francisco for us and somehow managed to hit on lots of different things that excited me about the city that I want to explore there (a great banh mi for example). It was wonderful and I think really sums up about how I feel about Charleston. It’s a place where you go to have an experience in eating and everything about that experience is absolutely the best Baltimore has to offer.

Meal #4: A memory to last a lifetime

If the previous bit wasn’t enough of a Foreman-Wolf love fest for you it’s only going to get better because I can’t end this without talking about the rehearsal dinner we had at Cinghiale. I think when my husband and I first started wedding planning the thought of Cinghiale hadn’t really crossed out mind. We were looking for something simple and laid back. In comes my father-in-law who loves OpenTable and looked at the menu for every restaurant listed in Baltimore under the private dining section. When he found the menu for Cinghiale matched his passion for fine Italian food, the decision was made for us and we never looked back.

I won’t touch on all the details of the food since there is entirely too much to talk about but I will point out a few highlights. People couldn’t stop eating the tuna tartare, it was so simple yet so perfect in its flavors and freshness. I loved the russet potato gnocchi with lamb ragu and fresh mint. I could go on and on about all of the wonderful food, we enjoyed every bite.

The service again was amazing. Being the center of attention as the bride and groom of the weekend, my husband and I got pretty mobbed by guests trying to greet us while passed antipasti were being served. The staff noticed this and seamlessly found us in the crowd making sure we had a chance to sample everything and even bringing us our own plates of salame and bresaola since it was stationed at the opposite end of the room from us. I honestly felt like they were reading my mind the whole night, they anticipated everything I could have wanted.

My husband also loves gelato, and when we had tried out Cinghiale last fall to decide on the dinner he sampled a salted caramel gelato that he fell in love with. While we were initially told that serving 60 plates of salted caramel gelato at once would be impossible because the chef didn’t want anyone to have any melted gelato, they found a way. A member of the kitchen staff actually plated every single plate in the freezer and they made the salted caramel flavor special for us that night. I still am amazed that they were able to put together the gelato for us and I know it made my husband so incredibly happy.

The execution of the entire night was literally perfect and the folks taking care of us couldn’t have been friendlier. Chef Julian Marucci came out to talk to us at the end of the night and seemed so humble when listening to our litany of compliments. He is also incredibly young and I think will be doing amazing things for years to come. I am in awe of what Cinghiale was able to do for us and for anyone considering a private dining event, if you go with Cinghiale I guarantee you it will be something you and your guests will talk about for years to come. I know we will and I can’t think of a better way to close out how great of a time I’ve had with these last few meals and these last few years here in Baltimore.

 

Posted by Richard Gorelick at 9:51 AM | | Comments (1)
        

Comments

Thanks for the best wishes! I've arrived in my new home and absolutely love it here. Having these posts have actually inspired me to start my own blog detailing my various adventures (not limited to eating) while in San Francisco so I'm excited to play around with that.

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About this blog

You are reading the archives. For updated blog posts about the Maryland food scene, see Richard Gorelick's new Baltimore Diner 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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