At the beginning of this month I attended an AATOD conference for work in Baltimore, Maryland. AATOD stands for the American Association for the Treatment of Opioid Dependence. These conferences deal with all new and emerging topics for doctors, counselors and treatment facilities dealing with the treatment of all drug abuse related topics. When I first got the email that I was going a few month back my first intuition was to start looking for places to eat at when I had down time, which was pretty much every night. I ventured out alone to all except one and each place was perfect in its own right, THIS is the taste of Baltimore.
On my first full night there I treated myself to dinner at Cinghiale, which is Italian for Boar. Cinghiale was my first meal after a 28 day stretch of high-fat, low-carb, no sugar ketogenic dieting. I was really looking forward to bread, carbs and dessert to say the least. I opened the meal with a beautiful salumi board consisting of cinghiale cacciatorini, salame piccante and 24-month prosciutto di parma. The cacciatorini was my favorite (in the photo on the left). It was hard boar salami and it was the perfect little fatty meat. I got the burrata because I’m addicted and needed it. This certain burrata was served with broccoli, which I thought was, a little weird but once I tasted it I knew why. The broccoli was lightly fried and charred a bit, crispy. I had never eaten broccoli cooked like this and it made me like the vegetable a little more. Next was THREE different pasta dishes which were all half portions. Agnolotti filled with short rib, Maccheroni alla Chitarra Bolognese and sausage filled Casunsei (ravioli). All of these dishes were insane, this is definitely Cinghiale’s forte and it stood out. I took a breather and ordered dessert. Torta di Formaggio for me! This was a small, circular, lighter cheesecake served with apples and moscato fluid. I was pretty happy that Cinghiale was just around the corner from my hotel because I rolled home.
When I first found out that I would be traveling to Baltimore I hit up my worldly chef buddy Tyler Anderson. He suggested I go to a place called Woodbury Kitchen; I did not question his suggestion. I called myself an Uber because this was a good 15-minute drive into the Woodberry/Druid Hill Park section of outer Baltimore. Head Chef/Owner Spike Gjerde won a James Beard Award last year so I was really looking forward to this. I opened the meal with two insane mocktails, one called a “Staghorn Crush” and the other called a “To Betty June.” Staghorn Crush had Sumac, verjus, sorghum syrup and WK wineberry vinegar. To Betty June had peach tea, verjus, MD honey and mint. Started the night with three different varieties of Oysters. War Shores, Rappicos and Battle Creeks, all smaller and briney, just how I like. First dish was Rockfish Dip served with radish and crispy spelt crackers. Next was the Buttermilk Fried Rabbit Saddle. HO LEE FUQ. I thought I had been duped, I thought this was chicken! So good and tender with a crisp shell, served over grits. After that was a perfect meatball dish served with toast and whipped ricotta. Dessert was Early Fall Sweet Potato Tart served with maple sherbet, ooo wee was this good. I should note that this restaurant setup was beautiful and they also make and sell their own line of marmalades, jams and apple butters, grabbed some on my way out.
Google Cindy Wolf, the woman has been opening restaurants in Baltimore for over 20 years and she’s one of the more accomplished chefs in the city. I have been following her cooking for a while now but I never thought my visit to the Charleston would have went down like this. I had nothing to do for close to three hours the day I went and they don’t open until 5:30. I literally sat upright in bed waiting for the restaurant to open then got there right at 5:30 like a goddamn creep. To my amazement guess who opened the door, Chef Wolf herself. I almost laughed because it was comical. She said welcome, sat me in the bar and made some small talk with me. Maitre’ d Peter Keck chopped it up with me and we actually discussed some of our favorite restaurants, one being his actual sister’s restaurant WM Farmer and Sons in Hudson, New York. I ordered from the tasting menu and settled in. I had the bartender make me a mocktail before we got started, all he told me was it was called a “Session 1004.” Before any food came out, Chef Wolf came back out and asked me if I liked oysters, I half stuttered a scared “yes” and she disappeared back to the kitchen, and then boom, here came cornmeal fried oysters with lemon cayenne mayo. I wanted to cry, this woman has cooked for presidents and was co-signed by Julia Childs, and she brings a scum like me oysters, bless your heart Chef Wolf. In between every course they brought out small two-sip soups, gougeres and other between-meal bites. Rich lobster soup with curry oil was what I chose to set it off with, broth poured tableside. I should have taken a pic before they poured the broth because the way the lobster looked with the different oils encircling it looked insane. Second was the shrimp and grits, lil tasso and andouille. Third was Foie, I couldn’t not. Little known secret, center of a good foie gras should be room temp. This piece may have been one of the best I’ve tasted, Chef Wolf is a foie master, I melted into my bar chair. Last was dessert, Chocolate Marquise, served with apricot sorbet, chocolate cremeux and candied cocoa nibs. After snapping a pic with Chef Wolf and thanking the staff I rolled myself back to my hotel.
Connie’s Chicken & Waffles
While frequenting Davidus Cigar Bar down the street from my hotel I had a conversation with the guy that ran the place. We started talking food and he was like, “You know what? You like chicken and waffles.” I was like “Shit yea.” He directed me to a heavenly spot in the Lexington Market that had THE BEST chicken and waffles I’ve had in my entire life. I Ubered over the next day with some of my colleagues and had the most beautiful life changing experience. Connie’s Chicken & Waffles is run by Connie and her two sons and I don’t think I have ever met another trio that was this sweet and humble. Connie WANTED to feed us; I paced back and forth in anticipation while my waffle was cooking like a true animal. Connie’s offers three flavors of waffles; original, sweet cinnamon and red velvet. I went for the sweet cinnamon with loads of syrup and hot sauce. The Chicken was cooked perfectly crisp on the outside and juicy on the inside. Connie’s offers you a choice of bone-in pieces or boneless. Connie’s also bottles and sells their own seasoning and you KNOW I brought one back to CT with me. I walked back to the counter and demanded a hug from Connie. I professed my love for her then found my way back to the hotel all the while thinking about all the intensely good food I had eaten over the last week and that I would be returning to Baltimore sooner than later.