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Top Ten

The Year in Food

Grilled Sardines, She-Crab Soup, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Pierogi and Other Memorable Morsels

Christopher Myers
Back Dat Pork Up: Mondo Bondo's phat ass pork chop

Top Ten 2003

The Year in News O'Malley vs. Ehrlich, Public Housing Segregation Trial, Computer Voting, Baltimore's Primary Election, and More

The Year in Quotes Bon Mots by Joy Martin, Martin O'Malley, Keiffer Mitchell, Miss Maryland and Others

The Year in Film Another year, another intro essay bitching about the past 12 months of cinema...

The Year on Television So now it's official, there are two kinds of television: the kind you watch, and the kind you gawk at...

The Year in Music Jay-Z, Little Brother, OutKast, Stephen Malkmus, The White Stripes and more

The Year in Local Music Urban Ave 31, DJ Debonair, Misery Index, Lungfish, Richard Chartier and more

The Year in Art "Work Ethic" at the BMA, "Imperfect Innocence" at the Contemporary, Performance Video at UMBC, and Other Remarkable Shows

The Year in Books The Cadaver Industry; a Meditation on Race, Music, Family and Postwar America; Growing Up in the Bronx, and More

The Year on Stage Hedda Gabler, Dickens of a Carol, Misalliance, Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Other Great Performances

The Year in Food Grilled Sardines, She-Crab Soup, Spicy Tuna Tartare, Pierogi and Other Memorable Morsels

Posted 12/17/2003

1

Grilled sardines, Brewer's Art On a typical day, everything tempts on Chef Ravi Narayanan's menu. When, one season ago, fresh sardines showed up on the bar menu, we offered up no resistance. Fresh sardines--and we believe these had been swimming in Mediterranean waters the day before yesterday--are rare treats around here. Grilled with some salt, pepper, and olive oil, their arrival at the smoky downstairs bar caused a mild commotion--"Excuse me, what are those?" With an accompanying salad of fingerling potatoes and peas, we were transported to another, sunnier world. The little tykes are off the menu now, and we're told they'll probably never be offered again. (Richard Gorelick)

2

She-Crab soup, Charleston Rich. Silky. Just a hint of sherry, flirting delicately with the subtle spicing. Loaded with lumps of naturally sweet backfin crab that work as part of the fantastically creamy whole instead of stealing the show. The incomparable she-crab soup (think cream of crab's upscale, more sophisticated cousin) at Charleston is a perennial favorite, indeed one of Baltimore's finest dishes. It borders on heresy to name a South Carolina low-country version of crab soup over myriad native offerings of Maryland-style potage, but the proof is in the bowl. The empty, scraped-with-a-spoon (and some of that marvelous spoon bread) bowl. (Michelle Gienow)

3

Spicy tuna tartare, Suzie's Soba Five years ago, who could have predicted that raw tuna would become as ubiquitous a menu fixture as the Caesar salad? It's a raw material, no pun intended, that brings out the artist in a chef, and high-grade tuna handled right looks and tastes about as lovely as anything. Served in halved avocado, the tuna at Suzie's Soba glistens like rubies. Topped with a take-notice lime wasabi dressing, it will have you considering a second serving right then and there. So do it. (RG)

4

Pierogi, Ze Mean Bean Ahh, dumplings. Every culture has its own luscious stuffed dough pockets, but the pinnacle of the form, at least in Baltimore, is achieved Ukrainian-style at Ze Mean Bean. Best bet is the pierogi platter, where yummy pickled purple cabbage and roasted root vegetables keep company with plump cheese, potato, and sauerkraut pierogi. Go ahead--slather with sour cream and enjoy. With three more months of winter on the books, you're going to need that extra layer of body fat. Those Eastern Europeans know something about comfort food, and, indeed, we can think of no better way to stay warm this winter. (MG)

5

Tournedos Rossini, Aldo's The menu description: "Grilled prime filet mignon, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, Italian black truffle, porcini, and wild mushroom sauce, with four-cheese risotto." The result: exactly what you'd expect from Chef Aldo Vitale--an original and accomplished take on a classic dish, using the best and freshest ingredients available. Every bite is like an epicurean argument for the triumph of momentary pleasure and the importance of accepting into your life, at least occasionally, something that is the best. The cost: $45. The solution: expense it to a secret fund. (RG)

6

Grilled Phat Ass pork chop, Mondo Bondo The greatest dining pleasure comes sometimes when an ordinary restaurant takes an everyday item and handles it so adroitly or so passionately that it leaves you feeling a little happier about life in your city. Mondo Bondo performs yeoman's work with its regular menu of pastas and sandwiches, but with its regularly appearing, and infelicitously named, pork special, it achieves a moment of perfection. Phat Ass, indeed. The chop served here is gargantuan, big and very thick, which makes the precision with which it is grilled all the more impressive. (RG)

7

"Melted" pumpkin stuffed with bluefin crabmeat, Abacrombie Fine Foods This year's hot new chef was Sonny Sweetman, who took over the subterranean space at a bed and breakfast catty-corner from the Meyerhoff. Diners had better be flexible; Sweetman offers only the briefest of menus, but most memorable was a savory hollowed-out baby pumpkin stuffed with roasted Maryland blue crab--and lots of it, too--topped with a praiseworthy tangy Szechwan hollandaise. A surprising combination of strong flavors--sweet, salty, smoky--aroused the entire palate--the perfect appetizer. (RG)

8

Curried cauliflower soup, Ploughboy Soups We've enjoyed slurping down Ploughboy's nearly infinite variety of stews, chilis, gazpachos, and bisques since the Belvedere Market reopened last spring. While the consistent best at this lunch/dinner counter may be its decadent shrimp and crab bisque, the Top 10 moment came when we discovered a pleasant surprise at the bottom of our curried cauliflower. The Indian-inspired soup itself was savory, spicy, and chock-full of fresh, tasty cauliflower. But then came a couple of slices of sweet apples, stuck to the bottom of the bowl, so good that we wondered whether the fruit was picked earlier that day. (Christopher Skokna)

9

Turkey club sandwich, Dizzy Issie's This turkey club reminds us of two things: New York diners and the day after Thanksgiving, 'cause the folks at Dizzy Issie's are generous with the roasted bird back in the kitchen. You know how the rest of the story goes: three slices of toasted whole-grain bread, well-cooked bacon pieces, lettuce, tomato, mayonnaise, and American cheese layered and cut diagonally with fringed toothpicks. Utz chips and a pickle spear sit on the side. The Diz offers up this tasty morsel like it doesn't know Remington rowhouses are gonna double in price as soon as Hampden is sold out. Fine with us. We heart American cheese. (Wendy Ward)

10

Beef taco, Fells Point taco truck Don't let the hot dog carts around Camden Yards fool you; there's not much in the way of street food in these parts. At least not until an unnamed taco truck started parking on the 200 block of South Broadway a bit more than a year ago. Here, members of Baltimore's ever-growing Latino community (and chowhounds such as ourselves) line up for well-made home-style cuisine, a little bit of meat stretched into an inexpensive meal. There's not much to these suckers: freshly grilled steak, beef, or tongue, a sprinkle of cilantro, and a dash of hot sauce, all wrapped in a freshly made, yummy tortilla. But it's more than enough, and each one's only a buck-fifty. (CS)

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The Year In Tracks (12/15/2009)
. . . just in the case the album really is dead.

The Year in News (12/9/2009)

The Year in Movies (12/9/2009)

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