Last week a couple of my managers and I went to Baltimore for the Ecological Society of America conference. I realize by your gasps that you know exactly what I’m talking about. We have a new environmental science book coming out in January and went to the 4-day conference to promote it. The authors for this book were attending as well, so we took them to a nice dinner at Woodberry Kitchen. So as not to leave you in suspense, I will give a way the ending now: it was fabulous.
At first glance
Woodberry Kitchen serves American cuisine accompanied by an impressive wine list. They support local agriculture, and have a list on the menu of the farms where they get all of their food supplies. This impressed me, both because I like knowing where my food is coming from, and I was glad for their support of the local economy and agriculture.
Walking into the restaurant, I immediately got a homey feeling from the long wooden floorboards, warm yellow lighting, and high ceilings. As our table was not quite ready, we sat outside by a fire and ordered some drinks from a giggly waitress. The fireplace was huge and round and made of stone, surrounded by wooden benches. It was the perfect height for propping one’s feet up, and atop it was a grand metal structure reaching into the sky, inside of which the fire burned.
The place had a rustic quality, with old farming artifacts like rusted watering cans used as decorations. Across from us as we stood at the hostess stand was a staircase, under which lie wooden square cubbies stocked with firewood. The stairs lead to a wraparound balcony, which had more seating. We were lead up these to find an old timey-looking kitchen—or half of one; a long counter, a spice rack, and a metallic green fridge circa 1950-something. Thus rustic and vintage combined. We were seated at a somewhat odd table, all on one side on a bench that curved around the sides. I felt like we were attending the last supper, and as I was inadvertently in the middle, I got to play Jesus. Edison bulbs hung down from the ceiling, and the water glasses looked like little glass planters.
The staff was nice and conversational. Our waitress was frank but cordial, polite, and not afraid to give her opinion of the menu and what she likes. When my coworker asked about a dessert, the waitress just sort of shrugged her shoulders and said, “it’s not my favorite.”
First up we had some appetizers. The two I tried were the Deviled Eggs and Fried Next Step Eggplant. I’m not usually an eggplant fan, but the eggplant appetizer was delicious and surprising. Since it was fried it had a satisfying crunch, but what really got me was the spiciness. It wasn’t hot per se, but had some kind of zap to it that I was not expecting. The menus says is has fried garlic, peanut, benne seed, and fish pepper honey. I’m guessing one or both of those last two are what gave the dish its magic. The Deviled eggs we actually got for free, compliments of the house! A great start as well; the filling was creamy and a wonderful soft texture full of flavor, a pleasing orange color placed inside a halved egg in a wavy pattern.
After such a great beginning, we were all excited to taste our entrees. When they came out and everyone took their first bites, the unanimous reaction by all was “oh yum,” “oh wow,” and “mmmm.” I ordered the Many Rocks Farm Goat flatbread; which consisted of basil-peanut pesto, sweet pepper, button mushrooms, and tiger sauce. I’m very grateful that it was through this dish that I tasted my first bite of goat meat, as once again my taste buds were greeted with happiness. The meat was tender and flavorful. The pesto undertone was very basil-y but in a good way, and accompanied by veggies. The bread was wonderfully crunchy, just the way I like it. Although I like the taste of mushrooms, I can never eat them because I can’t stand their texture. I know it’s weird, I’m weird, get over it. However on this dish the mushrooms were cooked long enough that the dreaded mushroom texture was nonexistent, though the pepper still crisp. I added my own “mmm” alongside the others.
As to some of my colleagues’ dishes, one got soft shell crab and said it was delicious. Another, though he liked his meal, didn’t love all of it. He got the Springfield Farm Chicken & Biscuit. He loved the chicken, but said the beans were a bit bland and wasn’t sure what to do with the biscuit; it felt like something just added on to it, with nothing to mop up. Still, an overall delicious experience.
We shared a bottle of wine (well, two bottles) that one of our authors picked out. It was a Tempranillio called Cruz de Alba, dated 2011 from Ribera del Duero, SP. Though I am a big fan of red wine, I am not a wine aficionado so cannot relay a fancy review for you, but in any case I quite enjoyed it. It was flavorful and robust.
The one fault I found in this place is its dessert. Not a single chocolate option on there, which to someone like me is a blasphemous sin. I’m not sure I’ve ever been to a restaurant where there isn’t at least one dessert that is primarily chocolate, even if it does have other stuff with it. No brownie or cake or pudding or mousse–in fact, only one dessert dish had any chocolate included at all. Such a disappointing climax to a wonderful meal, and yet all hope was not lost. I did try the one dish that had chocolate in it: the C.M.P. (cream, marshmallow, peanuts). This was made with fresh cream ice cream, hot fudge, toasted marshmallow, and wet peanuts (I had no idea wet peanuts were a thing until I had this). The ice cream was good, and the marshmallow was gooey, but to be honest, it mostly seemed just like every other sundae. With lots of nuts. Too many nuts. Every bite was just a mouthful of nuts rather than a compliment on the ice cream and fudge. Sadly it was not as impressive as the rest of the meal.
My colleagues and I were invited into a homey, vintage-chic restaurant and served drinks by a grand fireplace. We were greeted with smiles and opinionated waitresses, offered a free appetizer along with others that tantalized the tastebuds. We enjoyed luscious red wine under mellow yellow lights and were delighted by each meal. Though we sat in a strange line where I had to take on the role of the Savior, it put us in perfect formation for a picture. The dessert was a letdown, but going back out to the fire afterwards ended the night on a high note, with thoughts of smore’s dancing in my head. If I’m ever in Baltimore again, I will definitely go back to Woodberry Kitchen.
Post and Photos by Shannon Moloney.