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Baltimore's best and especially good Chefs.

Who are the best/especially good Chefs in Baltimore right now?

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  1. I'll state the obvious one- Cindy Wolf (Charleston, Petit Louis, Pazo, Bin 604, etc.)

    1. I'm a huge fan of Edward Kim, but he's between gigs right now.

      5 Replies
      1. re: JonParker

        Edward Kim isn't at Saffron anymore? I thought he just took over their kitchen in 2006, and I hadn't gotten to try out his menu there yet. Damn!

        Edit: Brain fart. Saffron is closed now. Boooo :(

        1. re: beta

          Yes, and I find that tragic. Saffron was damned good, and at least in the first few months after Kim took over one of Baltimore's best bargains.

          I hope he lands somewhere soon.

          1. re: beta

            Sad indeed. Two of my best fine-dining Baltimore meals were at Saffron. The others were from Cindy Wolf and Nasu Blanca.

            1. re: beta

              If I may stray slightly off-topic, does anybody know if Saffron's permanently closed, or just going through another "re-imagining"? As I recall, it started out as Tony Chemanoor's (apologies if I misspelled the last name!) Sub-continental Fusion Cuisine dream, then got closed and re-opened with Chef Kim. Is Tony C. trying again after another hiatus, or is Saffron sold or otherwise gone for good?

              1. re: Warthog

                Right now the plan seems to be finding a new chef as opposed to selling.

          2. Without a doubt, Cindy Wolf. Besides the fact that her restaurants continue to put out the best in Baltimore, she's made a "brand" for herself. I think if you expand the list to include those in the Baltimore area, you'd probably add the Chef from Tersiguel's and definitely Michael Gettier at Antrim 1844 in northern MD.

            2 Replies
            1. re: jrussd

              Send me to the gallows if you will, but I do not believe power money overflowing in gilded buckets or an empire of glamour restaurants decrees chef-demigod status. I can on some regard admire the accomplishments of the Wolf/Foreman allegiance, but my true respect shall always tip to those driven, passionate souls who crank out grand food outside the corporate stranglehold. I despise Pazo for myriad reasons, none of which have to do with the food. Hell, I miss the machine shop that occupied the space for years....you can keep your rabbit terrine and purgatory bread.....I want sheet metal and iron scraps. Charleston can topple into harbor for all I care about blind flagship reverance. I shall always tip my hat to chefs like Karin Tiffany of Peter's Inn, Christian DeLutis at the Wine Market and the entire kitchen staff at the Chameleon.

              1. re: flmx

                Wow--your post says it all, so I won't elaborate much further.

                As for your other named restaurants, I really enjoy Peter's Inn. But, can it really be deemed a great restaurant if they don't offer (most of the time) dessert? That has always bothered me.

                I like Wine Market, as well, but I find their dishes too complicated and the flavors just don't add up. Maybe they need to follow the more is less philosophy?

                And, I love Chameleon. I agree with that selection.

            2. Kevin Miller of Ixia - Blind tasting menu every Wednesday
              Bud and Karin Tiffany of Peter's Inn

              1 Reply
              1. re: FoxBeatus

                I second this: Bud and Karin Tiffany of Peter's Inn

              2. Well like 4 months ago I would def say Edward Sonny Sweetman, but he left to go to Austria for some uber high end resort thing. His sous chef is pretty good. Michael Putnam, he was just in the paper a couple weeks ago but he's in between gigs as well. Seems like good chefs are like sports celebrites on how they switch teams and get traded!!!

                1. Ras Doobie - Current wherabouts unknown since his restaurant closed, though I'm told he's doing occasional work for a bar in West Baltimore for "Carribean Nights". Granted, his Jamaican cooking may not be haute cuisine, and you're not likely to get many surprises once you've tasted his basic repertoire, but *within his niche*, he is quite talented, intuitive, and consistent.

                  I'd also give a tip of the hat to the mastermind (and owner?) behind Joe Squared. Granted, not everything there "works", in my opinion. For example, the sour dough pizza crust does seem to be a "love it or hate it" thing. Yes, the execution by the staff may not always live up to the original ideas. Over the course of my many visits there, however, I've enjoyed some very interesting flavor, ingredient, and cooking technique combinations being attempted there, whether in their pizzas, sandwiches, risottos, soups, or anything else. OK, except maybe the desserts, which usually stick to fairly standard items, done fairly well. I like a place that's willing to take some chances, and while it's not exactly a temple of food, I've seen more inventiveness and creativity out of Joe Squared's kitchen than I've exeprienced in most other places in Baltimore combined.

                  And pulling up a name from the distant past, anybody know whatever happened to Michael Tabrizi, who had a place with his partner (Susan Daniels?) on South Charles many years ago? He was another whose work I really admired during the time that Tabrizi's was open.

                  4 Replies
                    1. re: hon

                      I think this is new - his old place was on Charles long before web pages were as common as they are now. If it is in fact new, it will be wonderful to be able to have Tabrizi's Mermaid and Gagi Mish-Mish dishes again!

                      1. re: Warthog

                        Wow, that is really a blast from the past! I remember Tabrizi's from back when I lived in Balto and got my hair cut by Kelly Allen across the street.

                        Glad to see Tabrizi is still around -- this looks like it will be a nice addition to the Balto dining scene.

                    2. I think Brian at Birches is consistently good, especially with what he's trying to do right now. I'll also give out a shout-out to Three, Salt, and Jack's Bistro, who are trying to raise the food choices in Baltimore.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: BmoreHound

                        I agree with Salt and Jack's Bistro. Am I the only foodie in Baltimore who doesn't like Peter's Inn? The atmosphere is nonexistent, the food is really bland in my opinion and menu isn't what everyone says it is.

                        1. re: jrl2929

                          The first time I went to Peter's Inn, it was on a whim. A friend and I were going someplace else, but I was dying for steak, and she wanted really good beer. What I liked about it was the fact that it was a bar that didn't serve typical bar food. They were raising the bar (pun unintended) a little by serving steak, scallops, etc. It wasn't the best steak I ever had, but it was cooked as asked, and I loved the fact that the menu (albeit written on a chalk board), said that it came with "real" butter. My friend's scallops came alonside caviar and both were very good. Name another bar in Baltimore that can top that?

                          1. re: jrussd

                            I agree with the above - and I might add that I've had some exceptional soups/bisques at Peter's that made me want to lick the bowl!

                            1. re: jrussd

                              I think part of the deal is that Peter's Inn used to be an unbelievable chowhound place - remember, in the day, Fells Point was a lot rougher than it is now, and the Red Star (the original incarnation, not the one now) was considered the most upscale place to go. For the price and the quality, back then, Peter's could not be beat.

                              But that was a few owners and I'm sure a few mortgages ago, and it's not quite the same either for food or value. But a lot of great memories are still associated with that place.

                            2. re: jrl2929

                              Jrl2929, you and my Fiance are the only people (perhaps on the planet) that I know who did not like Peter's. I've only been there once - with my Fiance - I loved it and she was unimpressed. I'm in the process of trying to persuade her to give them another chance. Peter's was excellent in my humble opinion.

                              1. re: Whitemarshjohn

                                I'm with the non-lovers. It is one of my good friend's most favorite restaurant in Baltimore and I think it's blah. And seriously what's up with not having dessert?

                          2. Cindy Wolfe is the only chef in Baltimore turning out memorable food, food that would make it in NYC. (i'd have put Edward Kim in that class based on Soigne, but Saffron was not up to that standard, and Kim, alas, is gone.) There are lots of other exc chefs in town, but they are doing variations on a standard. I dont denigrate that--hell, I love taco stands, but there's a diff betw a really good cook and a great chef. Balto and great chefs seem not to fit, probably because B-morons are unwilling to pay top dollar for creative food.

                            1. Nancy Longo(Pierpoint's) is very good and inventive, but does have a tendency to rest on her laurels....

                              5 Replies
                              1. re: Hue

                                There's a review of Pierpoint on the Baltimore Sun Web site. It's pretty favorable but the general tone of the review is how "off the radar" Pierpoint now is. I remember when it opened back around 1990 and it was quite hip (by Mobtown standards).

                                1. re: Bob W

                                  How many other people haven't been there in 15 years?

                                  1. re: sistereurope

                                    This is one of those situations that make me very curious. It seems the lots of people have written the place and the chef off, and yet it's still in business. Of those who haven't gone in a while, one wonders what portion is because of "I wouldn't go back" issues of whatever severity, and what part is the phenomenon one sometimes sees where a place goes from "trendy place to go" to "trendy place to *not* go" (Oh, they are SO last week!"), even though the restaurant or chef in question hasn't really become any less capable than they ever were.

                                    1. re: Warthog

                                      here's the February Sun review; it's good reading.


                                      FWIW, if I still lived in Balto. I would go back for Chef Longo's crabcakes. I will be up there for a Red Sox-O's game in August, but since I will be meeting my brother Lurker W. and he has graciously agreed to pay for dinner, I am finally going to get to try Charleston.

                                      1. re: Warthog

                                        I am definitely not in the "SO last week" category...if memory serves, I liked it a lot in the beginning then kind of felt that it slipped a bit with all the hype and popularity (I don't like places that are popular just because they are trendy, which may have influenced my view!) Then I moved away for 5 years.
                                        I've been back in B'more for 6 but haven't gone back..my comment was more of the "oh, yeah, I wonder WHY I haven't been back there in 15 years?" and I wondered how others felt.

                                2. I'm hard-pressed to note Cindy Wolf - other than the fact that she operates four restaurants in Baltimore and generates lots of positive feedback from her customers. I've found the food to be good but quite a bit shy of what it could be.

                                  What I mean by this is if we consider the pinnacle of the cuisine to be authentic - say tapas at Pazo - I continually find palate wishing/wanting more from the flavor and food. It's as though they consider the pinnacle of flavor and then intentionally shoot a few notches below to satisfy the relatively benign palates of Baltimore's denizens. I think it's a shame because it could be so much more and I wouldn't have to leave town to enjoy great food.

                                  The crew at Three are doing promising things. Quite a few misses, but the technique and food quality gives hope.

                                  Personally speaking, I'm looking forward to seeing what Spike Gjerde is going to do at his new Woodberry Kitchen.

                                  5 Replies
                                  1. re: onocoffee

                                    Now I know what my problem is..I have a relatively benign palate.
                                    Must be a Baltimore thing

                                    1. re: onocoffee

                                      I dont consider the "pinnacle of cuisine" to be authenticity; I want creative, memorable food in addition.many of the people on this board have eaten all over the world and do not think Bmore is stocked with first-rate chefs. It's not a Q of benign palates but recognition that the food here, for whatever reason, can be quite satisfactory--esp in the price/quality ratio--but it cant measure up in the larger world.

                                      I simply do not undertand what posters have against Cindy Wolf; Charleston is the best resto in town, by far. (if you want outside judgment she was the runner-up for Mid Atlantic Chef in the James Beard Awards--that includes DC. I doubt that she does much with Pazo--that's Tony's territory, for better or worse.

                                      1. re: tartuffe

                                        I got into this discussion with another blog writer about two months ago. He had slammed Cindy Wolf and basically said that Baltimorians don't know good food, because, hey it's not like they've eaten at really good restaurants before in bigger cities like New York, Chicago, San Fran, etc. I just let the discussion drop, because his arrogance spoke for himself. But, having eaten at supposedly some of the best restaurants in the country, by some of the best chefs in the culinary industry, I've always felt Cindy Wolf's Charleston was right up there. And, considering we're next door to Washington, DC, and having lived in Northern VA for some time and gone to many of DC's best restaurants, I'd pick Charleston over them any day of the week, if only I could afford going there every day of the week!

                                        1. re: tartuffe

                                          I think there's talent to be found in Baltimore, but I think the tastes of Baltimore tend to be on the conservative side, which limits and restricts what can be done successfully (profitable).

                                          I do think that "authentic" food is important. Is "satisfactory" a goal to strive for? If I go out to eat, do I want my experience to be "satisfactory"? Think about it for yourselves - do you want something that is merely "satisfactory" or spectacular?

                                          Personally speaking, I prefer spectacular or simply "good" or "delicious" to anything "satisfactory."

                                          1. re: onocoffee

                                            How about we note the chef's who have little exposure. It's hard to deny Ciny Wolf when she's all over everything about food for Baltimore....

                                            I second the Chameleon and Birches in Canton

                                      2. I have always been a fan of Jane at Henningers!