This is what I will call "The Woodberry Kitchen" problem.
People think that I eat out way more than I actually do. The key to a hobby like writing daily about food is to write short and to make sure that you see posts in the basic food that you enjoy.
The truth is that Mrs. HowChow and I eat from restaurants a few times a month around Howard County. Often, it is a weeknight. Or it's a point when we just want to relax. We eat broadly, but we tend to eat in the middle ground -- casual places that serve dinner for two for $20-40. We grab burgers at Victoria. We go for Korean barbecue. We get sushi at either The Sono or The King.
But there is an upper limit. We'll spend $50 for our favorites -- or to get some extras at House of India that will become two lunches. But we often leave Howard County for special meals. There are nights when we're going to spend more money or when I'm making reservations for someone's birthday, and the truth is that I keep going back to Woodberry Kitchen.
Now, I'm the perfect customer for Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. I love the fresh ingredients, minimal cooking, and small plates. In July, we had a meal where we didn't pick a dish that had been cooked. Pickled eggs, a raw peach dessert. Three of the courses were just perfect produce, sliced and served with spices or vinegar. We spent less than a night at Sushi Sono and left as happy as I have ever been in a restaurant.
But it makes me wonder how high-end restaurants compete in Howard County?
I can list restaurants in Howard County with high expectations: Portalli's, Bistro Blanc, Venegas Prime Filet, Aida Bistro, Cafe de Paris, Tersiguels. . . . But as I consider my "best restaurants" list for 2010, I have only eaten at half of these places.
Obviously, some people expect to spend $50-75 for two on a weeknight, but that seems more common in Bethesda than in Kings Contrivance. When people like me schedule a special night, we're fine with driving into the city -- in fact into either city -- so Howard County high-end is competing with local, cheaper options and with the high-end places as far as 45 minutes away.
What Howard County restaurants are worth the extra money? What do you order for your special nights? Or, if you run one of these restaurants, what do you think people should know about your place? The risk of high prices is that people have high expectations. So how do you entice people to try you out and leave satisfied?