Ethicureans abroad: or, our visit to Baltimore
Update: We've added photos after a slight delay.--MolM.
This last weekend, Man of La Muncha and I traveled to Baltimore for a friend's wedding. The wedding was wonderful, and we met (and in some cases, re-met) a lot of very fun and interesting people. But, of course, any trip involving Ethicureans involves checking out the scene for sustainable, organic, local, and ethical foods, so on Sunday we broke off on our own for some sight-seeing and food tourism.
Our first stop was the Baltimore Farmers' Market. We made it to the market about fifteen minutes before closing, but the market was still bustling, filled with people sampling produce, buying sausages and coffee, and loading up their bags with purchases. Man of La Muncha and I noted that the patrons of the Baltimore market are more diverse than those of our local Ballard market, in part due to the difference in diversity levels between Seattle and Baltimore, but due also in part to the location. The Baltimore market is in the downtown core, making it easy for people to access using public transportation, on foot, or driving. We also noticed a higher ratio of prepared food vendors to those selling produce and other products. There is one egg seller, a seller of organic beef, a cheesemaker, and one man selling Maryland's famous blue crabs. We agreed that we prefer the variety of our local farmers' market, though we did buy a pound of Zeke's Hippie Blend to take home with us.
The waterfront street performer attracted attention by shouting at people, "I could be your kid!"
After an afternoon of walking the Baltimore waterfront and taking a water taxi to visit Fort McHenry, we ended up back at the Inner Harbor. It was not yet time for dinner, but we were feeling the need for a restorative at the end of our sight-seeing. Fortunately, there was a brewpub near at hand, where we were able to have pints of locally produced beer. We toasted Baltimore and, after finishing our pints, moved on to dinner.
We had dinner at The Brewer's Art, which is dedicated to serving seasonal meals alongside their own Belgian-style ales. The space is large and inviting, with dark woodwork framing white plaster walls. Man of La Muncha and I ordered a sampler of the house ales and reviewed the menu. Our server, while friendly and helpful, did not know where the beef came from, though he did assure us that it was organic. He said something about the pork tenderloin coming from the Fell's Point Meat Market, though he didn't elaborate and didn't seem certain enough of this to say it with confidence. He did, however, assure us that it was local. He also said that all small game on the menu (none at the time we visited) is free-range, and that they try to use line-caught wild fish when possible.
I decided to start with the sautéed summer squash with saffron cream and bacon, while Man of La Muncha began with the duck proscuitto, which was served with pickled peaches, a sorrel salad and spiced almonds. The sautéed summer squashes were green and yellow pattypans, with the saffron cream sauce and the large chunks of bacon making for an intriguing combination of savory, sweet, and bitter. Man of La Muncha's duck proscuitto was a perfect balance of savory and salty, with the pickled peach providing a sweet/sour accompaniment that he enjoyed on its own.
Man of La Muncha followed with a salad of summer berries, and sorrel, served alongside almond-goat cheese "truffles" and topped with a walnut vinaigrette. I found the vinaigrette to be far too tart, especially in combination with the raspberries and blackberries that were served alongside, but Man of La Muncha liked the combination.
Sorrel, berries and almond-goat cheese "truffles"
For the main course, I opted for the steak frites, featuring a grilled coulotte cut, while Man of La Muncha decided to try the pork tenderloin. I ordered the steak medium-rare, and was pleased to find that it arrived perfectly done. I had never had a coulotte cut before, and after asking the waiter, found that the cut was a triangular one from the tenderloin. While it was not local, and certainly not grass-fed (it had the buttery-rich mouthfeel of grain-finished beef), it was rich, tender, and done to perfection.
Coulotte avec frites
Man of La Muncha's pork tenderloin was also cooked to his specifications, with the light seasoning enhancing the natural sweetness of the meat.
Pork tenderloin with a potato ball
Though we were nearing satiety, we decided that we needed to order dessert in order to finish off the evening. I was tempted by the cheese plate, but ended up ordering the chocolate ganache cake made with one of their house ales, with a corresponding glass of the same ale alongside.
Man of la Muncha ordered the pumpkin flan and a cup of coffee. The cake was rich and creamy, and the ale in my glass, corresponding as it did to one of the ingredients in my cake, went stunningly well. The pumpkin flan was pumpkin-pie spicy, though it lacked the firmness he likes in his custards. The flavor, however, was fabulous, and went very well with the ginger cookies that were served alongside.
Pumpkin flan with gingerbread cookies
While I was disappointed with the lack of information around the source of the ingredients on the menu, the food at The Brewer's Art is hard to argue with. The west coast habit of noting the provenance of every major ingredient on the menu is one I appreciate; however, I also appreciate well-done food in a pleasing atmosphere. I would return to The Brewer's Art when next we visit Baltimore, and I would heartily recommend it to friends.
Photos by Man of La Muncha
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