Eat Seasonally At Any One Of These Local Favorite Baltimore Dining Rooms
The Maryland menu is back for its third year at Lauraville's Chameleon Café. It mostly revisits last year's efforts, which is great news, because these are dishes to remember and anticipate all over again. Back are the sublime breaded pan-fried chicken with lardoons, bananas, and horseradish cream; the green tomato soup with leeks and crabmeat; and the delectable bluefish with lemon mayonnaise, shrimp mousse, and corn fritters. New this year, some Baltimore-made sausage--Krakus Deli's kabanosy sausage folded into the corn chowder, and Ostrowski's Gypsy sausage supporting the grilled pork loin. Don't not go.
Down in Fells Point at Peter's Inn, all summer long, Karin Tiffany has been serving up a radish salad. Ah, summer, no one thinks, time for radishes. But at Peter's, and midtown at the Brewer's Art, where John "Tip" Carter has been cranking out the seasonally changing menus for the past two years, some of summer's cranky supporting players, with their sharp flavors and peppery attitudes, are stealing scenes from the big tomatoes.
Actually, at Peter's, the radish gets a Busby Berkeley production ($5.50). Served on a bed of peppery mache, the red radishes--some bought from the Gardner's Gourmet stand at the downtown farmers' market, more from other farms around the northern counties--get trimmed and then tossed with sea salt and walnut oil, for starters. The radishes are to then be speared by the diner with an oyster-fork and dipped into a ramekin of creamy mascarpone cheese (not just for tiramisu anymore), and then rolled onto a scattered bed of crushed walnuts. You get it crunchy, salty, creamy, nutty. But the radish itself is never not a radish. An unbilled separate salad of cucumber, hearts of palm, and fresh mint adds further layers of texture, flavor, and temperature. And the salad seems to last forever, well beyond the arrival of the entreés, when repeated attempts to take it away have to be fought off.
More earthy fun: a dark and mysterious collard-green pesto showed up originally as an accompaniment for the blackened New Zealand lamb chops ($14.50)--so admired was it that it's been lent out to other dishes, most recently a pork shank with pasta. The tartness of panko-encrusted goat cheese, herbed in-house, complements the sweetness of red and yellow beets in a red balsamic reduction.
Peter's went nonsmoking three years ago and seems to have lost nothing in the change. It's still as merrily rough as ever. Peter's may have once been the folklorish biker's bar with a gourmet's tongue, but as long as I've known it, it's just been a great place to eat.
At the Brewer's Art, summer is given scantier but still judicious attention. It sneaks up on the side beside a pan-seared barramundi in the form of fried green tomatoes ($24) or next to three gorgeously cooked scallops au poivre as a salad of cucumber, red onion, and bread (think panzanella without the tomatoes); shows up as rum-soaked peaches on a braised pork-belly appetizer ($7); and as fresh melon alongside smoked duck in a frisée salad. Still, especially in the cool basement, it feels like eternal autumn at the Brewer's Art, and there's never a good reason not to order the steak frites ($26), featuring a purely delicious coulotte steak. Collards (not actually a summer vegetable) are working hard here, too, adding a startling weedy-bitterness to a sauce for steamed mussels made from Beacon Ale and garlic--its first few bites almost tasted wrong, and then, the flavors made the perfect sense of a dandelion.
It's smart, good food, put out by Carter and a hard-working kitchen that doesn't always get its due. That will change when the tobacco smoke clears in January.
812 Park Ave.
Baltimore, MD 21201