Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Woodberry Kitchen: Worth The Drive To Baltimore

You have to leave Howard County some times -- so make it a night worth remembering at Woodberry Kitchen.

This is a casual, but refined restaurant just off I-83 in Baltimore. It's part of the old Clipper Mill, and it's a shining example of the new "local produce" cuisine. Local spinach. Chesapeake oysters. Chincoteague clams. The menu actually lists the farms and suppliers where Woodberry sources your meal.

But Woodberry is fun. Really fun. Like $1 for a bowl of popcorn -- tiny kernels called ladyfinger and the perfect coating of butter and sea salt. That is Woodberry cooked down to the essence -- something delicious and slightly unusual, seasoned or paired with something intelligent. No individual ingredient is exotic. Every taste on the table was unique.

The popcorn, buttery but somehow not greasy. A small basket with a half-dozen different types of bread. Pickled vegetables. Chevre cheese served with tiny raisins and a "vin cotto" -- a dark, sweet vinegar that tasted like thickened wine. Mrs. HowChow and I never touched an entree because we built a tapas-style dinner for ourselves from the "small plates" half of the menu.

The high point was pears roasted, then served with buckwheat honey and sea salt. It sounds simple. It tasted complex, and I cook just enough to recognize skill when I see it. The best part was that plate was $5, so we could also sample a pear flatbread with blue cheese, rocket and mustard cream. Our table literally overflowed, and I never ordered the oysters that first caught my eye because I kept noticing food that I wanted a little bit more. Everything changes seasonally, so I think I could go back in a few months to try an entirely-different menu.

Woodberry could be expensive. Entrees run $15-25 except for the $12 burger, and the imaginative cocktails (cider press - apple brandy, elderfloer, citrus, sparking cider) and the coffee drinks were enticing. Add that liquor and side dishes, and you could spend a big night quickly. But it's delicious, and frankly, you can eat reasonably as well. We passed on liquor and gorged on six small dishes, dessert and coffee for just $54. It was a happy birthday for me.

Make reservations. The place fills up quickly.

(Update: Woodberry is one of absolute favorites.  We have been back several times, always ordered tapas-style and always amazed by the fruit and honey variation of the pears above.  I added photos here of nectarines with honey that was a late-July version and of local fish thin-cut and served like sashimi.)

If you want to try this kind of seasonable cuisine closer to home, I do recommend Iron Bridge Wine Company in Columbia.

Woodberry Kitchen
2010 Clipper Park Rd # 126
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 464-8000

NEAR: Mrs. HowChow navigates in Baltimore. Google says you can drive to Woodberry Kitchen in 30 minutes from Columbia by taking Rte 29 to I-70 East and then local roads to Clipper Park Road. Check that out.

To read a half dozen other reviews and blog posts about Woodberry Kitchen, check out the Urbanspoon page by clicking this icon:
Woodberry Kitchen on Urbanspoon

3 comments:

Baltimore Beer Guy said...

Happy Birthday!

Liz Stambaugh said...

Woodberry is one of our all time favorite places to go. We live in northern baltimore county, and don't even think twice about driving downtown to eat there.

as_visitbaltimore said...

I'm with Visit Baltimore, and we just did a video with Spike Gjerde from Woodberry Kitchen. In the video, Spike tells us about Woodberry Kitchen's menu, location, and fresh produce. Check it out at http://bit.ly/amqaDj