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Apr 25, 2007 06:53 PM

Been to Wine Market or Corks Lately?

I haven't seen any reviews of The Wine Market or Corks lately on the message boards, so I was wondering if anyone had been or was contemplating going? Either way, I visited each this week and overall had (very) good experiences.

I've dined at The Wine Market in Baltimore's Locust Point neighborhood a couple of times, each on a whim, nothing planned and no reservations. The first time was for lunch and this time was for dinner. Both instances were enjoyable, although certain elements were lacking.

On the latter occasion, my appetizer outshined the entree. Is it possible for a white asparagus soup to top a saffron poached scallop dish with rock shrimp risotto in a lobster cream sauce? There were too many elements competing against each other in the entree, even though all ingredients were cooked well and the scallops were particularly tender. The asparagus soup was simply flawless: perfect temperature (especially for a warm day), with bits of fried ham and frisee thrown in the mix.

My dining partner ordered the bruschetta of the day, which came with green olive paste and sun dried tomatoes. It was different and flavorful but not overwhelmingly delicious. For his entree, he selected the mahi mahi with buckwheat pasta and avocado buerre blanc. The fish was nicely prepared and seasoned, but, once again, too many ingredients got in the way.

Of course, the attraction to the Wine Market isn't really its food, but it's diverse and convenient selection of wine. I particularly enjoyed the Alto Sur chardonnay; my dining partner even switched to drinking this. On a warm, sunny, lazy afternoon, the wine hit all the high notes.

Our dining experience at Corks was a first. It's been on our list for quite some time, but we never seemed to make it there. For special occasions, we always selected another restaurant, such as Charlestons or The Bicycle. Since Corks traditionally ranks among Baltimore's best, we had high expectations. For the most part, those expectations were met, and, at some levels, even exceeded.

So many appetizers and starters to choose from, we ultimately decided on ordering three, and each were simply delicious. My duck leg confit was crispy and tender, with the right amount of seasoning. It came alongside potato salad that was not drenched in mayonnaise; instead, I could actually taste the potato! My dining partner ordered the sweetbreads, which was moist and flavorful, sandwiched between two pieces of toasted bread, couple of slices of crisp bacon, and mixed greens. We shared the third starter: a silky and textured mousse of foie gras terrine and carrots overtop sweet honey bread.

I actually preferred my partner's entree over mine. He selected the duck breast, cooked perfectly at medium rare temperature, which came with a baked potato gratin, crispy and flaky on the outside but still moist and textured on the inside. My entree was beef medallions, which were slightly overcooked and too tough at certain parts, but the carrots and fingerling potatoes were nicely seasoned.

Dessert was simply over the top. I selected the chocolate mousse, a mound of rich yet light chocolate accompanied by a chocolate cristini topped with sugar crystals. He ordered the exact same dish, except his came in between two slices of chocolate cake. By this point, the desserts were too delicious to merely inhale, so we opted to take them home.

Like the Wine Market, Corks is known for, of course, their wine. On this night, we ordered two half bottles, one was a Mason sauvignon blanc and the other was a 2004 Worthy. Each worked well with our courses and were moderately priced. I particularly enjoyed the fact that Corks offered them as half bottles, which allowed us to enjoy both without having to order two whole bottles for ridiculous amounts of money.

That was a good thing, because our meals more than made up for the reasonable prices of the wine. In the end, at Corks we certainly got what we paid for--and then some.

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  1. Nice reviews. Thanks. I'm a big fan of both places.

    I have to say I've had the EXACT same complaint about the entrees at Wine Market: too many flavors or components on the plate. Not every dish, mind you, but several that I've ordered. Relatively speaking, this is a minor complaint though. And the wine markups are nice.

    1. I've been to Wine Market many times and enjoy the food, wine, service, atmosphre and convenience. It's a wonderful neighborhood resource. Only once, on my most recent visit, did I leave disappointed and hungry. I ordered a Seafood Chopped Salad for lunch. The salad was bland, the seafood was almost non-existant and the portion was relatively small. If it were my first visit to Wine Market it would have left me with a poor first impression and I'd be unlikely to return. As it is, I will be very careful about ordering a salad at the Wine Market in the future.