Thursday, January 19, 2012

Review: Woodberry Kitchen

Farm to Table: Homegrown Flavors at their Finest

From the foundation to the food, every aspect of Woodberry Kitchen emanates comfort cuisine and homegrown attention to detail and the finest flavors of Baltimore and the Chesapeake region. Named for its historic Baltimore roots in the 1802 mill town, Woodberry Kitchen delivers seasonal dishes from local growers and organic meat producers using sustainable agricultural practices. Tucked away in a trendy pocket of Hampden, the rustic restaurant nestles inside the renovated Clipper Mill factory.

An outdoor wood-burning fireplace gently illuminates the large patio lining the front of the restaurant. Inside impressive two-story wood-beam shelves stacked with round-cut logs and canned vegetables ground the open floor plan. Exposed brick walls, the open kitchen and a wrap-around dining loft contribute to the unpretentious, comfortable setting.

For reservations, visit Woodberry Kitchen.
Coordinated, not contrived, Woodberry Kitchen radiates energy and genuine excitement. The menu includes the local farms, labeled local heroes, which produce the table’s bounty; farms like my neighbors One Straw Farm and Daily Crisis Farm in White Hall. Often menu items name the source, for instance the Tilghman Island Crab Pot ($15) and the Springfield Farm Chicken & Biscuit ($28) entrée. Local harvests from sustainable agriculture provide the ingredients for every dish.
Soups, salads, snack and supper sections of the menu each offer several meat, fish and vegetarian options. Organic cuts of pork, poultry, beef and lamb grace plates with seasonal root vegetables. While seafood choices include fresh crab, shrimp and rockfish, a variety of Chesapeake Oysters ($13-19) come highly recommended and allow a connoisseur to select the desired brine intensity and preparation. Gluten-free and children’s menus are also available.
A cocktail menu featuring original adaptations complements the local, organic wines and regional beers. Our server, Corinne, suggests a unique spin on a classic drink, the Manhampden ($12). It blends Maryland-style rye whiskey, California sweet vermouth, new-fashioned bitters, Peychaud’s and an orange twist.
For those seeking nonalcoholic options, the teetotaler selections look just as promising. Each glass of WK Lemonade ($4) is hand-shaken with fresh-squeezed lemons sweetened by local honey.
After a table basket of house-baked ciabatta, cranberry wheat bread, and yeasted cornbread, we segue into a snack course. A wooden lazy Susan is placed in the center of the table topped with a variety of homemade crackers and gingerbread, local soft cheeses, a baby jar of Cybee honey, blueberry relish, apple butter and sliced pears.
Simply yet elegantly presented, the supper entrées further highlight Woodberry Kitchen’s consistent attention to every detail with a sophisticated flair. Buttered cabbage, country bacon and fingerling sweet potatoes dress the juicy and tender Whitmore Farm Glocester Old Spot Pork Chop ($27). Crispy lardons intensify and add salt to the lightly sweet and hearty flavors of the oven-roasted sweet potatoes and create a cohesive dish.
The Pooles Island Rockfish Out of the Oven ($28) salutes the state fish of Maryland. The chef’s preparation accentuates the beautiful contrast between the light, crispy skin and the buttery, flaky meat. The fish is presented atop a blend of young potatoes, turnips, butternut squash and a smooth parsnip cream.
For dessert, try the C.M.P. ($11)--a malt ice cream concoction with marshmallow fluff (M) and wet peanuts (P). The C could stand for chocolate sauce, or maybe the thin layer of candy coating that seals the sundae, or maybe ice cream. Who cares? Order it with confidence and eat every bite. Every item is handmade onsite. In fact, executive chef Duff Goldman, owner of Baltimore’s own Charm City Cakes, showcased C.M.P. on The Best Thing I Ever Ate.
The music, acoustic rock, and din of a full house rises to the balcony, so ask for a table downstairs if you are seeking quiet conversation. In addition, tables in the separate dining room, when available, provide greater space and privacy compared to some of the tighter-packed seating near the bar and kitchen.
Charming atmosphere, friendly and attentive service, outstanding quality and upper-moderate menu prices make Woodberry Kitchen a true value not often found. The portions are just right and the comfortable pace allows each course to be savored. Exceptionally well planned and well executed, Woodberry Kitchen presents a humble paragon and delivers the highest culinary offerings of the Chesapeake. 

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