Iron Bridge Wine Company serves such good food that you can enjoy yourself even if you order randomly. I did last weekend.
On Saturday night, I ordered the "brown bag flight" -- three half-glasses of wine that Iron Bridges selects for you. Delicious. A spectacular white, and two reds that I really enjoyed. Generous pours, and a friendly waiter who joked with us and who let Mrs. HowChow taste two wines after she described what she normally likes.
The real news at Iron Bridge is that they started taking reservations this month. You have to call between 10 am and 3 pm, but you can guarantee yourself even a prime time like we did this weekend.
Reservations are great news because Iron Bridge remains one of the best places to eat in Howard County. An innovative cuisine. The kind of American menu that relies on top-notch ingredients and the intelligence to do simple, flavorful things to them. It's expensive. We spent $50 a person because we were having such a great time -- wine, an "amusement," three appetizers, a cheese course and dessert. But everything was delicious, and we could have cut back to economize.
Don't cut the ham-wrapped dates if they're on the menu. That was our amusement, and it was a perfect welcome back. Salty serrano ham broiled to a slight crisp and wrapped around a date stuffed with a mild cheese. This is "best restaurant" food, the kind where the bread is strikingly delicious. We picked a seared tuna with cold noodles that paired nicely with a shrimp dish with BBQ sauce that might have had tiny cubes of ham in it. And we loved the "burgers, fries and shake." Expensive, name-brand burgers are trendy, but this was a bite-sized (actually several bites) burger served with regular fries and a spectacular strawberry shake. A tiny coffee cup filled with happiness. The taste of berries, ice cream and maybe vanilla.
Iron Bridge is fun. The waiter was nice. Everyone seems happy. My brown-bag flight was so down-to-earth that they offered $5 if I could guess a wine variety or the theme that they had used. (No hope with my lack of wine knowledge.) We kept eating because we were just having fun. After little plates for dinner, the cheese plate -- ironically -- is enormous. We had generous chunks of three cheeses, so generous that I happily just ate slices of cheddar and finished my wine after the apple and crackers were gone. Then, we had a chocolate souffle with pistachio ice cream. The souffle was the star -- a crisped souffle shell around a molten interior.
This is really one of the best restaurants in Howard County. A splurge for most people. And now a predictable one if you make reservations!
Click here for a description of Restaurant Week 2009 at Iron Bridge. Click here for a list of great restaurants in Howard County. If you love wine, you should definitely check out the i.m. Wine store in Fulton.
Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 Rte 108
Columbia, MD 21044
NEAR: This is on Rte 108 west of Rte 29 and Centennial Park. From Clarksville, you could just come north on Rte 108. From anywhere else, it's very convenient off Rte 29.