The best meal of my life

This past September Adam and I left Maya with her grandparents and traveled to London for a few nights across the pond. When the Ravens first announced they were going to play in London, we joked that it would be fun to go. Then we found out they were playing on my 30th birthday weekend and one of the weekends where Adam has Friday off and everything fell into place – how could we NOT go, right?

I always thought the UK had a reputation for not having the best food, I mean, how much fish and chips can you eat? But Adam showed me several articles about London being a foodie destination and was able to convince me of the merits of the British food scene. He made two reservations for us at Michelin starred restaurants – Chez Bruce and the Ledbury. Chez Bruce was great, but the Ledbury was literally the best meal of my life.

We went for lunch as that was the only reservation we could get and I think that added to the experience – and meant we had the whole afternoon to walk off the multi-course meal!

We both had four courses – with Adam going with the chef’s daily recommendation and me picking one from each course section of the menu. Of course, we ended up eating so much more than those four courses. First, they brought out three beautiful amuse bouche – one was best described as a deer hush puppy, one was a parmesan crisp with a deer jelly and one was a seafood mousse on a seaweed crisp with roe. All three was served beautifully, tasted incredible and were a sure sign we were in for an incredible meal.

Next, they brought us chantilly of oyster with tartare of sea bream and frozen English wasabi. This was a first course option we were both considering and asked the waiter about but ultimately chose something else. They brought it out to us anyway because they wanted us to try it. What a treat! It was, of course, amazing and such a unique flavor: creamy, salty, seafood-y and ice cold. Such a delight and one of my favorite parts of the meal.

Then came our actual first courses: I had the white beetroot with English caviar and smoked eel. The beets were super delicious – shaved thin and a wonderful slightly crisp texture. I had a bite with the eel in it which was way too smokey for me, but the dish was an ample size so I had plenty non-eel parts to eat and just gave the eel bites to Adam and he enjoyed. Adam had yellow tomato soup with sorbet.

For our second course, I had warm bantam’s egg with dried ham and truffle. I at least partly chose it because I read the Big Red Barn to Maya every morning and there are bantam hens in the book. I slightly regret that I didn’t get the scallops with roast cauliflower which are more of a “me” dish. However, the bantam’s egg was delicious and probably lighter than the scallops which was good because there was so. much. food. Adam’s second course was cod with zucchini (or courgette as they call it in England – we had to google many of the menu items). The cod was, once again, beautifully presented and delicious.

For our third – main – course, I had lamb with tea-crusted eggplant. The flavor of the eggplant was a bit overwhelming, but the lamb was absolutely outstanding. Soft and perfectly cooked melt in your mouth meat. Adam had the fallow deer that was served with deer sausage. Not my kind of dish, but he really enjoyed it.

After our savory dishes came the sweets. I can’t remember exactly what this pre-dessert little bonus taste was  – something like cream and lavender sorbet and plum donuts. Light and yummy. Then, I had the raspberries with violet ice cream and Adam had fig ice cream with meringue. Both were incredible and just look at how gorgeous that raspberry dish is! Finally, they brought some little candies and truffles to finish off the meal.

Wow recapping it reminds me just how many wonderful and different flavors we enjoyed. Not mentioned were the bread and virgin cow’s butter (yes apparently that’s a thing). Adam had a beer, but I had been feeling a little under the weather so just had some orange juice and a hot tea. We were focused on the food – not the drinks! All in all, such an amazing experience and definitely worth the money for a special and memorable meal.

What’s the best meal you have ever had? Some of our best meals in Baltimore have been at Charleston and Sotto Sopra

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Ray’s: the Steaks

A couple of weekends ago we ventured across state lines to Virginia to see family. It was a long(ish) drive but worth it because they bribed us with the promise of a good steal. And they delivered.

I had been to Ray’s: the Classics and to Ray’s Hell Burger, two of the three restaurants originally started by restaurateur Michael Landrum, but had never before ventured to Ray’s: the Steaks. When we arrived, our party of nine was seated at a large table in a private space off the dining room. It was a little warm in there, but otherwise was really nice to have a room to ourselves.

We started with a round of drinks and I shared a bottle of pink cava with my mom and cousin. We were afraid it would be too sweet, but it was perfectly crisp and bubbly. After the important stuff was taken care of, we moved onto salads.

I had the wedge salad because wedge salads are decadent and fantastic and usually all I want at a steak place. This one did not disappoint, it was huge and had a bit of a kick to it which gave it a little something extra. I ended up sharing with my mom because well, look at the size of it.

rays the steaks ny strip

Next it was time for the pièce de résistance, the meat! Most people at the table got the filet (which they said was fab), but I’m not much of a filet girl  and went for the NY Strip. I got the classic cut with none of the offered sauces or preparations (thought I was tempted by the brandy mushroom cream sauce). It. was. delicious. Perfectly cooked and obviously a really high quality cut of meat. Their meals come with mashed potatoes and creamed spinach for the table which is a nice touch since so many steakhouses charge for those a la carte. I ended up bringing home half my steak and the remaining sides and had more than enough food for another meal.

There are plenty of tasty steak places in Baltimore (hello Prime Rib my love), but if you find yourself in Arlington, Ray’s: the Steaks is highly recommended!

Dinners Lately

I know we talk about food a lot here on Young(ish), but it’s been a while since I recapped a new-to-me restaurant. To make up for it, we’re going to talk about three meals I’ve had recently. One at a new-to-me place, one at a place I haven’t been to in years and one at an old favorite.

Grano Emporio: I visited Grano for the first time on Christmas Eve with Adam and his family for an early, festive dinner. Growing up, my family always had Italian food on Christmas eve and I was happy to keep with tradition. We were seated upstairs and quickly ordered drinks while we waited for the rest of our group. I loved my blood orange vodka martini while the others polished off a few bottles of the house Montepulciano (it’s red and that’s about all I can tell you).

We started with antipasto and salads (I enjoyed one with shaved beets off their special holiday menu) before the main meal. For our main dishes, I had the lasagna and Adam had Grano’s version of the Feast of the 7 Fishes (in keeping with the holiday). As you can see above, the portion was pretty small (a bite or two of each fish), but luckily I had more than enough lasagna to share.The meal ended on a high note with delicious mini cannoli. The service was fantastic and the whole night was a great experience. I still think you can get better Italian food elsewhere in the city (check out my top 5 spots for Italian food), but for Christmas eve you can’t beat being able to follow dinner with a walk to 34th Street.

Neighborhood: Hampden                               Price: entrees $15-25

Sobo Cafe: We returned to our neighborhood favorite for a cozy New Year’s Eve dinner and were not disappointed. I started with a sparkling flight that included a prosecco, cava and a rose. Nothing like a little bubbly to kick off a fun night. Our meal began with the house smoked salmon spread which is one of our go-to favorite dishes, served with pickled veggies and thin crostini. For my main course I kept things going with the salmon served over potato cake, leeks and cabbage with a creamy mustard sauce which was amazing.The salmon was cooked perfectly and I loved the accompaniments. The portion was large and since we were saving room for dessert, I saved some to bring home as leftovers. Speaking of dessert. It was apple bread pudding and It. Was. So. Good. Warm and sweet (but not too sweet) and served with vanilla ice cream.

Neighborhood: Federal Hill                                     Price: entrees $15-20

13.5% Wine Bar: As I mentioned last week, Adam and I went to 13.5% with two other couples and I started with a nice white wine before we shared a variety of small dishes. I found the menu a bit confusing as nothing is organized into categories and we ended up with sort of a hodgepodge of tastes: barley arancini, brussel sprouts with peanuts and anchovies, smokey mussels and fettucini and house ribs. I wasn’t particularly crazy about any of it, though I enjoyed everything but the ribs (which came with a crema that I didn’t care for). Our friends shared the pizza which looked delicious so I had a bit of food envy! I think my experience could have improved with better ordering.

Neighborhood: Hampden                                         Price: Small plates $7-15

So that’s the scoop! A little insight into three Baltimore restaurants, two options in Hampden and if you haven’t been to Sobo Cafe yet – check it out.

 

 

Wine Market Bistro

A couple of weeks ago I paid my first visit to Locust Point’s Wine Market Bistro for a planning dinner with my business school alumni club. Because obviously the best ideas are generated over a couple cocktails and three delicious courses. Obviously. If you are ever looking for a good location for private dining in the city, I can definitely recommend this place. The room was gorgeous (see below pic I snagged from their website), the service was fantastic and the food was out of this world. I can’t speak to the pricing since I wasn’t paying, but their menu is on the pricier side so watch out for that.

Private Room at Wine Market

We had a special three course menu and so many of the options sounded good that I had trouble deciding what to order! I ended up starting with the house made pasta which was made with sausage, roasted onions, poblano peppers and cherry tomatoes. It was a generous portion and the flavors were fantastic. The pasta was cooked perfectly – not too soft or too al dente (I thought it was soo much better than the pasta we had a Cinghiale).  The carrot and coconut soup with lentils and the cornmeal fried oysters also looked fabulous.

Wine Market Pasta Wine Market Soup

For my entree I had the halibut which was pan seared and served over sweet corn grits. It was topped with tomato jam and pickled okra. I discarded the okra but the rest of the dish was incredible. The fish was perfectly flaky and the tomato jam was an excellent complement. And the grits were so good my mouth is watering just thinking about them. I loved their interpretation of more traditional Southern foods.

Wine Market Halibut Wine Market Dinner

Like at many places, most of the dessert options had nuts (as someone with an allergy, I am always campaigning for more nut free desserts) so by default I had to go with the bourbon bread pudding with chocolate crème anglaise and cherries. Google tells me crème anglaise “is a light pouring custard used as a dessert cream or sauce.” Like my other two courses, this dessert was another winner. I don’t care for cherries so I just avoided them and concentrated on the bread pudding which was doughy and delicious, but could have used just a smidge more sauce. 

Wine Market Dessert

All in all it was a fantastic meal and great experience. The only negative was my first cocktail – it was described as a mint lemonade with cucumber vodka, but the cucumber flavor was totally overpowering. Clearly I should not have disregarded the name of the restaurant and for the rest of the meal I stuck to wine.

If you are interested in checking out Wine Market Bistro, they have weekly specials including a neighborhood night on Mondays. If you are more excited to check out their wine selection they are hosting a wine tasting event on September 1st – $39 to sample over 25 wines and enjoy their passed apps (call 410-244-6166 for tix).

 

Wine Market Bistro

Location: Locust Point, 921 E Fort Ave 

Highlights: Wine list, well cooked food with a Southern flare.

More Meat Please

Vegetarians beware – at Parts & Labor in Remington, they use all parts of the animals they serve which means even the bread is served with pig fat in lieu of traditional butter. Even I was a little squeamish about that one along with the fact that it is communal seating and that they don’t post their menu online, but my husband is a more adventurous eater than I am so I tried to get past all of that and go in with an open mind. I’m glad I did because the food was out of this world. The meat-focused menu is definitely unusual: it’s broken into small plates and salads, hearty plates, butcher’s cuts, sausages and sides. You are encouraged to order a bunch of different dishes and share which does get a little pricey but gave us the opportunity to try many different flavors.

We had a 7:30pm reservation and when we arrived we were seated at a long table with two adults and four children. I was super impressed with how will behaved the kids were and how they seemed perfectly content with steak and corn on the cob for dinner (it isn’t exactly what I would call a kid friendly menu). Adam and I started things off with a drink – I got a cocktail our server recommended with vodka, fernet, sage and honey and Adam got a pony of beer. They have a fantastic draft list and ordering the small 5 oz pony allowed Adam to try multiple options throughout our meal (he started with an Allagash Confluence for you beer aficionados).

part and labor cocktail

When it came time to order we opted to try a little bit of everything and got something from every menu category except for the hearty plates. The handful of hearty plates are a little more like what you would expect to see on a menu with a meat served with some accompaniments. The food also comes out sort of like tapas, they bring it over when it is ready. This contributed to the only little snafu of the evening when the steak we ordered never appeared and it was only after we inquired that we were told they had run out of it. No worries though, we chose another steak off the menu and it was delicious.

Without further ado, our meat feast:

part and labor charcuterie

Salthouse Plate – from the small plates section, we started with some charcuterie: finocchiona, basturma and coppa. They gave an explanation, but I really have no idea what we were eating other than they were delectable salted, cured meats. The finocchiona was the favorite of both of us, it was a harder, chewier salami and the flavor was fantastic.

Goat Sausage – we joked on the drive over than no way was I going to eat goat or any of the more unusual meats that might be offered. Well, I caved. The goat sausage was served with tomato peach relish and it was one of the best things I ate all night.

Grilled Summer Squash – thick cut zucchini and squash cooked with brown butter, honey and oregano. It was very good and had absolutely no meat which was a nice break from our animal-filled meal.

parts and labor cheeseburger

Raw Cheeseburger – exactly what it sounds like – steak tartare served on  tasty bread with all the traditional toppings you’d find on an actual hamburger. Or, at least the hipster version of those toppings: onions, dill pickles, egg yolk, tomato honey, mustard and fish pepper. This was definitely the most unusual dish we ate and one of the best. The flavors went really well together and the steak tartare taste still stood out – I was a little afraid the other things would overpower it but that wasn’t the case.

part and labor cheese burger and salad

Bibb Salad – we saw one of these salads get delivered to a neighboring table and knew we had to order one. Bibb lettuce, green beans, cucumbers, tomato, smoked ham, scallions and a buttermilk dressing. The salad was fantastic, the green beans were nice and crisp and the heirloom tomatoes were juicy and delicious. The smoked ham (because obviously, more meat) had a great flavor that went nicely with the dish.

Plate Steak – they offer four cuts of meat and we first ordered the flank. When we were told they were out of it we switched to the plate which is apparently the most similar. I had never heard of this cut of beef, but some googling tells me it’s also called skirt steak which I am more familiar with. It was cut into the strips and served with herb relish. It was also delicious, but a little chewy. At this point we were super full and had the last few bites packed up to bring home to our dog, Jack.

Parts & Labor

Location: 2600 N Howard St, Baltimore, MD 21218

Price: $30-50 a person, more if you really go to town like we did

Highlights: Meat, meat and more meat. They aren’t joking around. They know their meat and it is delicious!