Bon Appetit Baltimore

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$35.10 for a three course dinner? $20.10 for a three course lunch? It must be Baltimore Restaurant Week!

Twice a year, during the months of August and January, many Baltimore City restaurants participate in Restaurant Week. During these seven days of deliciousness, each restaurant offers a menu which highlights its tastiest and most popular items. Guests are allowed to select a first, second, and third course (my favorite!) from the items offered. It’s a great way to try a new restaurant in town, visit an old favorite, or afford a more expensive venue where you’ve always wanted to try.

During Restaurant Week, my strategy has always been to get the most “bang for my buck,” while also sampling the cuisine of a restaurant I’ve never visited.  In the past, I’ve been to places like Tio Pepe (the best tortilla in town), Jack’s Bistro (mmm chocolate mac and cheese and fried smores), and Ruth Chris Steak House (delicious petit filet).

This summer, I continued the trend and went to The Wine Market, Marie Louise Bistro, and Tabrizi’s.

On Monday night, some friends and I were off to the Wine Market. It’s located in Federal Hill but this restaurant has a parking lot right outside—a plus for the city. With a variety of different styles of food on the menu at this wine bar, there was something for everyone:

First Course (choice of one)
Mesclun greens with a gin poppy seed vinaigrette, baby yellow tomatoes and pickled shallots
Caesar salad with garlic croutons
Hamachi Crudo with soybean puree, fresh citrus and pickled shitakes
Chilled corn soup with smoked yuzu olive oil and fresh, crispy herbs
Slow roasted pork belly with local sassafras consommé, daikon radish

 

Second Course (choice of one)
Pan seared scallops with tomato risotto, parmesan broth, pickled ramps
Butter poached cod with mashed crimson lentils, mustard vinaigrette
Pan roasted Creekstone Farms sirloin with black truffle tots, tomato molasses, sugar snap peas
Roasted chicken ballantine with golden raisins, whipped potatoes, borscht sauce

Third Course (choice of one)
Chocolate pretzel pave with oatmeal stout ice cream and dijon caramel
Basil panna cotta with fried pineapple, ginger broth
Lychee sorbet
Death by chocolate ice cream

Here, I tried the slow roasted pork belly, the pan seared scallops with tomato risotto, and death by chocolate ice cream. While the pork belly was probably my favorite of the evening, I was able to try a friend’s chocolate pretzel pave with oatmeal stout ice cream and dijon caramel and thought it was amazing. A fun fact we learned while at the Wine Market:  Every Monday is Neighborhood Night—that means 20% off ALL entrees. I really love how places have specials like this—it really shows how important the community is to them. We’ll definitely go back to take advantage of this deal!

A few colleagues and I headed to Marie Louise on Tuesday night. Located in Mt. Vernon right on Charles Street—about a 10 minute drive from the Johns Hopkins Homewood campus—this restaurant is a local favorite. When I walked in, the place immediately reminded me of the scene from Love Actually where Jamie (Colin Firth) finds Aurélia (Lúcia Moniz) working at a restaurant and asks her to marry him in poorly spoken Portuguese. In the front, there is a deli counter where pastries and lunch items can be purchased. As you walk towards the back, there is a first floor Dining room and a black metal rod stair case which leads to a second floor Dining area (think Love Actually here with Jamie standing on the first floor by the bar and Aurélia on the second floor talking to customers at the table).  Once seated, we perused the menu:

First Course (choice of one)
 
Classic gazpacho, served chilled with garlic crouton
 Poached pear salad
Candied hazelnuts, Bleu cheese crumbles and champagne vinaigrette
Lobster bisque

Second Course (choice of one)
Trio of lamb chops, Merguez sausage, b’steeya
Lamb jus, pickled red onion, Tzatziki sauce
Pistachio crusted rockfish
Braised leeks, citrus-glazed carrots, roasted potatoes, Buerre Blanc sauce
Free-range chicken breast
Mediterranean vegetables, Kalamata olives, preserved lemon, white wine roasted garlic

Third Course (choice of one)
Chocolate hazelnut neapolitan
Passion fruit crème brulee

I decided to start with the poached pear salad, followed by the trio of lamb chops, Merguez sausage, b’steeya, and concluded with the passion fruit crème brulee. Dinner was great—the salad had candied walnuts and the perfect vinaigrette, the assortment of meats were a treat, and the unique twist of passion fruit flavored crème brulee was something I had never tried before. All in all, the trip was a success. A return visit to Marie Louise Bistro is definitely in the works.

On Thursday night, a friend and I headed to Tabrizi’s (where we happen to run into some Hopkins students who work in our office). With Mediterranean style food, this restaurant is located right on the water in Federal Hill. The weather was really nice, so we were able to dine outside at a table with a harbor view. The menu here was one of the most extensive:

First Course (choice of one)
Grilled Mediterranean sardines with jalapeño, olive oil and lemon juice
Avocado with colossal crabmeat, drizzled with aioli vinaigrette
Sautéed rock shrimp, baby calamari, julienne Bell peppers, garlic, ginger, and olive oil in a sweet spicy chili sauce
Grilled house-made grape leaves stuffed with rice, finished with extra virgin olive oil, served warm with goat cheese
Ahi tuna tartar, a hint of sesame seed oil and lemon emulsion
Fried eggplant napoleon with olives tapenade, fried Haloumi cheese, tomatoes, over extra virgin basil oil
Tabrizi’s classic hummus garnished with parsley, pine nuts and extra virgin olive oil
Mozzarella caprice-tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and oil

Second Course (choice of one)
Grilled beef tenderloin medallions au poivre atop organic Mesclun, tossed with stilton vinaigrette and crispy onion rings
Blackened sautéed chicken tenders over a bed of organic Romaine, grapes, tomatoes, roasted pecans, and cucumbers, drizzled with apricot honey-lavender vinaigrette
Grilled Norwegian salmon with parsnips puree and grilled asparagus
Chilean sea bass encrusted with sesame seeds, pan seared, served over couscous, ratatouille and rosemary Beurre Blanc
Australian grilled rack of lamb with wild rice, and haricots verts drizzled with fresh mint demi-glace
Grilled chicken kebob with Armenian rice and charred trio Bell peppers and onions, served with fresh garden vegetables and lettuce
Lamb kebob with hummus and chilled diced garden vegetables

Third Course (choice of one)
Gifford’s ice cream, choice of: chocolate, chocolate chip, peppermint stick, coffee chip, or vanilla
Chilled tiramisu with mascarpone, espresso, rum, and tia maria
Crème brûlée with a hint of vanilla
Baklava
Seedless watermelon with shaved pecorino

After much deliberation, I went with the avocado with colossal crab meat, the grilled beef tenderloin medallions, and crème brulee. The appetizer was a great start to the evening—who doesn’t love Maryland Crab—that’s what we are known for after all—but the beef was a bit disappointing. Although cooked perfectly, there was way too much pepper on top. However, I did split entrees with a friend (the more options you can try, the better!) and the rack of lamb was much better. The crème brulee finished off the evening, and convinced me to give this place a second shot—although I will not be ordering the beef again.

In the end, restaurant week was a huge hit—more than half of the locations who participated decided to run their special menus for an additional week.  So, if you are planning on visiting this January/February, you just might want to arrange your visit around Baltimore’s Winter Restaurant Week—although you will need to cross your fingers that Snowmageddon doesn’t return then too!

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