Monday, October 31, 2005

Dining Out All Weekend

I had a big weekend, food-wise. Full of fun restaurants and things I love to eat. It started on Friday night, with carry-out from Fortunato's. Just a dinner salad and a piece of tomato bread - $5 total - but my GOD the tomato bread is good.

Saturday afternoon, Cooper and I were driving past Annapolis, and I convinced him to stop at McGarvey's for lunch. McGarvey's is, in my opinion, possibly the best bar in the entire world. I practically lived there back in the day when I lived in Annapolis, and still would if it just wasn't so far away. The crab dip is the best in Annapolis (believe me, I've tried them all), so we started with that on Saturday. I also had a crab cake sandwich (broiled, not fried; cocktail, not tartar) and Cooper had the fish and chips.

I think I might have enjoyed the meal more than Cooper did, but he said his lunch was good. Mine was delicious, but I'm sure some of the credit for that should go to the atmosphere. I just love it there.

Then, as if that all wasn't enough, we had plans to go out to dinner with our friends Sarah and Doug. Our original plan was to go to Tapas Teatro, but we arrived just as a movie was getting out next door, which would've made for an uncomfortably long wait (and it was already after 9). Instead, we headed down to Brewer's Art, which is in a very cool building on Charles Street.

We got a table right away, and some very nice drinks. The wine list isn't long, but it's reasonable and interesting. I had a Tempranillo that was $6 or $7 a glass and very, very good. The boys had beer - they make their own. And Sarah had a Sauvignon Blanc that was also nice.

The atmosphere at Brewer's Art is awesome - cool art, interesting architectural elements, bookshelves all over, couches at some of the tables. And the basement bar feels sort of like a dungeon, but one that's filled with art students. I used to hang out there back in my very cool advertising agency days.

Unfortunately, the food doesn't quite live up to the ambience. The restaurant has burned through a few chefs in the past few years, and they still haven't completely gotten their footing. Two years ago, I had a fantastic pumpkin and lobster ravioli there. Nothing's impressed me so much since. Everything is a little too precious. And it tastes good, but it could all be better.

My oyster appetizer was probably the brightest spot: smoked oysters served on French toast with little bits of bacon. It was interesting aesthetically and texturally - and reminded me of the smoked oysters wrapped in bacon my mom makes (and my brother, sister, Dad and I fight over):

smoked oysters
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Sarah's caesar salad tasted good - it was very, very garlicky and was served with parmesan chips on top. But it had also been molded in a ring. Why would you do that? Seriously. First of all, the ring is soooo overused. Secondly, salad isn't all that moldable. By the time it got to the table, it was already falling apart:

ceasar salad
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Cooper's venison osso bucco had great flavor and was extremely tender. It wasn't exactly what he was hoping for, though. Not the fault of the dish...I think he just wanted venison, but not slow-cooked venison.

Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

My duck was cooked very nicely - on the rare side of medium rare - and was served with a mild brown sauce. I was very happy with it...though I wasn't a huge fan of the vegetable - a roasted kohlabi, which I'd never had before. It's a root vegetable and, well, tastes like one. It just has a little too much of a bitter edge for me. But I could imagine it pairing really nicely with beer.

Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Sarah enjoyed her halibut and oysters - also in a nice, light sauce. Plus, she didn't mind me taking pictures of her. Which is always nice.

apple confit
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

Doug had steak frites, which looked good, but didn't photograph that well, thanks to the piles of greens on the plate. The frites were Brewer's Art's famous garlic and rosemary fries, which I absolutely love.

Now that I'm writing about it, our meals sound better than I remember them. And they were good. Just not...great.

And finally...dessert. Cooper and I just had Irish Coffees (served without whipped cream...actually, I had to ask for any cream), but Sarah and Doug each got something off the dessert menu. The presentation was great, and Doug's creme brulee was good, but Sarah's apple confit was disappointing - and nearly frozen in the center.

apple confit 2
Originally uploaded by Kit Pollard.

What's nice, though, is that the dessert menu includes cheese options, and offers advice for pairing beers with the cheeses. I do like that.

So, after our good but not great dinner, I still wasn't finished with my big weekend of restaurants. Sunday morning, I met my high school girl friends at City Cafe for brunch, to celebrate an engagement. I'd gotten coffee at City Cafe before, but had never eaten. The coffee is good, the space is very cool (and prime for hot-gay-guy-watching) and the food was great.

We started with complimentary cinnamon rolls - and I am a total sucker both for cinnamon rolls and anything complimentary. For breakfast, I had a chevre, basil and roasted red pepper omelet with slightly spicy hash browns - interesting and tasty.

And after all of that, I walked through the Jones Falls Farmers' Market. I hadn't been before, but had heard a lot - and it didn't disappoint. Then I headed home, to do a little Sunday cooking.

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