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Aug 24, 2012 02:17 PM

Baltimore: Pairing dinners at the Royal Sonesta Harbor Court... Who knew?!?

So I had the chance to attend a wine pairing dinner at the Explorer's Club at the Royal Sonesta in barricade-ville, I mean the Inner Harbor, an area of the city I generally avoid. But this was freaking great! I have to confess that our tickets were comped because my wife is a food writer, but we didn't get anything extra over the paying guests. And at under $80 a ticket it would have been a steal considering we had a lot of really beautiful wine and five courses of absolutely fantastic food -- creative, innovative, smartly paired up to the wines, etc... For once I wasn't like "that was pretty great... FOR BALTIMORE!" It was genuinely world class, I thought.

The wines were from AA Badenhorst in South Africa and were all really special. The courses ranged from rockfish crudo with cotton candy (sounds totally gimmicky but actually worked really well, especially with the wine), to sweetbreads on a fried green tomato to Gunpowder bison tartare. You can see that it was both interested in featuring local produce AND doing unusual things with it. They have other events coming up, like a beer dinner with Flying Dog beers in October and who knows what else. We got to chat with the chef quite a bit and he's a smart guy looking to do cool things.

Anyway, there are a ton of pics here:

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  1. Is this the same Explorer's Club that has dinners with unusual foods from around the world? Sounds like it from the dishes you described.

    There used to be a restaurant in Rockville called Explorer that was associated with the club and served things that you just didn't get anywhere else on Rockville Pike or anywhere else in the area. This was maybe 40 years ago now. Geez, how time flies.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MikeR

      Huh, I don't know! It may very well not be related but that's interesting either way. This was more decorated in a sort of colonial-style setting, with murals of elephants and monkeys, dark wood bookcases with Kipling and stuff like that, and assorted prints and sculptures from around the world. Not sure why other than just for aesthetic fun.

      The produce used really did feature local stand-outs but it wasn't slavishly local: There was a slice of avocado on the sweetbreads plate. It was just so much better than I expected. We go to a fair number of food events that I don't bring to CH because they were either pretty good or were really good but with a couple of duds mixed in. Everything about this was just so dead-on great. I really had my socks knocked off. As locals we rarely go to hotels to dine (especially not since our last experience at the Colonnade restaurant, whatever they're calling it these days. Blech.) but we'll go to more of these, for sure.