Thursday, March 31, 2011

Roadtrip: Smoked Fish, Italian Groceries And Maybe Flowers At Belvedere Square

We have to admit that Howard County does not have everything, and we certainly don't have anything like Belvedere Square.

Density.  Wealth.  Some developers with a vision for the unique.  You end up with the perfect place for a food roadtrip -- eat beautifully and then carry loot back to the motherland.

Belvedere Square is a small development in northern Baltimore.  One side has stores.  The other side basically has a spectacular food court -- a sushi joint, a bakery, an Italian grocery, Atwater's for soup, then even a stand that specializes in smoked food.  Roadtrip there on a weekend morning to eat, shop and nose around.
There is enough jammed into Belvedere Square that you need a plan.

First, you need to buy some lunch.  Walk everywhere and think about what you'll want to return to buy.  Atwater's makes beautiful breads and soups, but I have never had them there.  I end up on the other side, deciding between a smoked fish sandwich and a dozen Italian delicacies.

On my last trip, I went with the BLT with salmon from the Neopol Savory Smokery.  Bacon and salmon both smoked in-house, served on a thick-cut bread.  Good vegetables even in winter, terrific flavors.  Nothing at Belvedere Square is cheap, but I can't imagine where else I could get a sandwich like that.

While I ate, I made a list of the other things that I wanted to buy.  Start with the produce.  Produce Planet sells fresh-squeezed orange juice that Mrs. HowChow ranks above Whole Foods.  Like WF, the fruits and vegetables look priceless and can be priced that way as well.  I bought a few small apples and picked up some stuff that I needed for a recipe.

Then I walked to Ceriello Fine Italian Foods. You should really walk the entire store before you start buying.  Again, it's expensive, so you probably won't be able to buy everything that catches your eye.  But it's so delicious.  Cancel one night at a restaurant, and you can gorge at Ceriollo and eat better than almost anywhere else:

  • cerignolo olives, roasted red peppers, marinated artichokes and other antipasto regulars;
  • crusty breads;
  • frozen ravioli;
  • Italian dried pasta and canned goods;
  • ready-made sandwiches;
  • Italian cheese, including several grades of parmesan;
  • house-made mozzarella;
  • an entire butcher's counter with steaks and chickens;
  • deli meats like turkey sliced from a real bird;
  • sliced, cured meat by the ounce, including thin-sliced prosciutto in three different grades.
On a lark, I ordered a few ounces of the most-expensive speck prosciutto, which was some special import and cost several dollars a slice.  But I actually preferred the mid-grade, which had all the pork flavor and none the sliminess that I have found in bargain meat.  Much of the groceries are sold in bulk so you can taste a quarter pound or even by the ounce.

Once you're done, take one more walk around the entire development.  The bakery looks great.  Other stores sell gourmet sodas, gourmet pickles, gourmet candy, gourmet ice cream.  You get the point.  It's a 40-minute drive from Columbia to Belvedere Square, so you deserve a chance to soak it all in and maybe to snack on the way home.

If you go to Belvedere Square, you should also check out Greg's Bagels a few doors down from the food court area.  And check out the Dutch Connection florist.  Again, expensive but unique.  Check out their Web site for a feel for the modern vibe.

(Update: Check out Hanne's comment below.  Absolutely right that this is a great place to drive if you're entertaining out-of-town guests.  A fun activity.)

Belvedere Square
529 E. Belvedere Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21212

NEAR:  Belvedere Square is in northern Baltimore.  The fastest way is to take the Baltimore Beltway north either to I-83 South (and then cut east on Northern Parkway) or to Dulaney Valley Road (and then south as that turns into York Road).  Belvedere Square is right near the intersection of York and Northern, but you should check a map for exact directions.  You can get there by cutting through downtown, but there are a huge number of lights.

Belvedere Square on Urbanspoon Neopol Savory Smokery on Urbanspoon Ceriello Fine Italian Foods on Urbanspoon


Hanne Blank said...

I like it that you venture into the city from time to time. Belvedere Square is a great little nook, and a much better bet if you're entertaining out-of-towners than trying to schlep them into the (yawn) Inner Harbor and its chain restaurants.

2 Belvedere sleepers:

1. the fried shrimp at Ikan Sushi. Not tempura -- just the fried shrimp plate. Plentiful, crispy, juicy, never greasy, light, fried in oil that is definitely hot enough. You won't find better anywhere in the area. (Ignore the fries that come with the shrimp, though.)

2. Neopol's smoked egg salad. The apotheosis of egg salad. Good enough that a friends request it when they visit, and how many times does *that* happen?

RDAdoc said...

Belvedere Square is my absolute favorite place!! It is definitely worth the drive. My favorite things there are the soups and salads at Atwaters, the orange smoothies at Produce Planet and homemade pasta at Ceriello! YUMMY!

cafen8ed said...

Thanks for all the great info. Will be moving to HoCo in July and I've learned so much about the area already.

K8teebug said...

I used to work across the street from Belvedere Square in college and went to Greg's Bagels every day! LOVE THEM.

Anonymous said...

Neopol's has been a regular at the Wednesday Farmers Market in Catonsville for years. We are looking forward to their return this year. Atwater's has been a regular at the Catonsville Market too but now we can just visit the branch on Frederick Road all year long!

lucky little bird said...

I always eat at Egyptian Pizza -- have been for at least 15 years -- when I'm up at Belvedere.

I also second the Greg's Bagels rec. Greg is always there, yyou can't miss him.

And soon the Senator Theatre will be revamped -- I heard they will have a crepe shop upstairs (from the Sofi's Crepe people, I think.)

That area of North Baltimore is definitely a great weekend destination.

Mo said...

Another great Italian grocery spot is Trinacria in Baltimore itself - on Paca a few blocks north of Lexington Market ( ). It's tiny, and easy to drive by and miss, but its loaded with Italian staples that are reasonably priced, along with house-made bread, mozzerella, and refrigerated/frozen goods, and a deli.

Ana said...

LOVE Belvedere square. Last time I was there I bought a warm round loaf of bread (foccacia I think) from Ceriello that was baked with tomato sauce and thick slices of mozzarella on top.

Gosh, just staring at their sandwich cases makes your mouth water.