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May 17, 2014 02:54 PM

Where are the Balto chowhounds?

There don't seem to be many postings from the Baltimore Chowhound sector. I, myself, would love to participate much more frequently, but my personal situation has prevented me from dining out very often.

Whatever happened to "Whitemarsh John?" He was so excited when P.F. Chang's opened in Whitemarsh. I miss his excitement.

Haven't hear much from our dear "Hon." She was always spot on with regards to a no-nonsense brief opinion.

Then there are various other "regulars" that I miss hearing reports on their dining excursions. Of late, I have to "dine out" vicariously through my fellow local Chowhounds.

My last dining out experience was at Gianni's Italian Bistro in Halethorpe/Arbutus area. It was "All you can eat oyster night." I actually enjoyed the experience. The oyster stuff was chock full of plum oysters--the raw oysters were adequate (I don't eat them raw, but my dining partner certainly chowed down and got his money's worth). The fried oysters were plentiful, very small, but good.

There was a buffet with salads, etc. All in all, it was a worthwhile dining experience. Now that the season for oysters is done, the restaurant offers an "all you can eat crab feast for $29.95.") Maybe someone can post their opinion with regards to this offering.

Be informed, this is a neighborhood restaurant--Italian Bistro and Seafood crabhouse--their Chicken Arancini is wonderful along with their Veal Francaise. In one dines without high expectations of "farm to table" and other trendy offerings, then it is worthwhile to check out.

It reminds me a bit of Kibby's Restaurant, with their claim to fame shrimp salad. They also have amazing sour beef and dumplings (even better then now defunct Haussner's). They also have amazing eggplant tempura. But, the restaurant is resting on its laurels decor-wise. It needs a big redo and some more current offerings food-wise. But, I suspect that they have the captive "audience" of the local hospital/medical community and no other restaurant for competition.

Hope I am not coming across as to "snarky." Just trying to stir up some "conversation." Thanks to all and Happy Preakness Day. FoiGras

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  1. FoiGras...also noticed the waning posts from B'more.
    Maybe one can only answer "the best near Inner Harbor and best crabcake" so many times.

    1 Reply
    1. re: Hue

      Thanks HUe--I thought I was the only one to take notice. But, my original posting wasn't "original." One of the Chowhounder's (several months or so ago-) posted the same comment.

      As I explained, I unfortunately, can't dine out in the style nor times as I used to. I Google all of the local restaurants/menus and "champ at the bit" wanting to get out and about and dine then post my "two cents worth" on this website.

      Thanks, Hue, for responding. Maybe you can add some of your recent culinary excursions. FoiGras

    2. Hi FoiGras,

      I really appreciate your post. It's funny-- there have been questions I've been wanting to post in recent weeks, but since I haven't seen much activity here, I didn't. I am particularly eager to get folks' feedback on Le Garage in Hampden, so if anyone has been there, please share!!!

      As for me, I have 2 recent experiences I can report on:

      1) Indigma: I know not everyone on this board agrees, but I really love this fusion Indian place. We were there a couple Sat. nights ago, and it was another great experience. On Sat. night, they have a sittar player, which adds to the ambiance, and made it a particularly unique dinner! Since our last visit a few months back, they changed the menu so that you can also order small portions of most dishes (like tapas). I loved that option since we were able to choose so many more dishes than before. A particular highlight for me were the new "lamb croquettes"- which were delicious lamb and lentil patties with a soft, creamy texture and perfect seasonings. We also tried a new eggplant dish (the name escapes me, but it included potatoes and peppers) which was also amazing. My one complaint was that the Chicken 65, which is billed as being fiery/spicy, was not as spicy as I would have liked (my husband, though, thought it was perfect). We ended the meal with the Grand Gulab Jamun-- luscious little light "donuts" that melt in your mouth. Mmmmm.....
      2) Villagio Cafe: This is the new Persian restaurant in Stoneleigh. We started with the baba ganoush and then shared a "family platter" that included chicken, beef, and lamb koobideh (ground lamb) kebabs. I should note that before we went, I had heard many people RAVE about how incredible it was, which I think set my expectations too high. I thought it was good, but nothing to rave about. The bana ganoush was good, but not as flavorful/spicy as it could have been. The warm pita it came with, though, was a highlight-- completely perfect! As for the platter, the lamb was the best-- tender, flavorful, and cooked perfectly. The chicken was also great- tender and seasoned well. The beef, though, was lacking-- the pieces were cut too thin, were chewy, and tasted pretty plain. And the rice was fine, but didn't live up to the menu's description as "fluffy basmati." I should add that the meal was incredibly affordable. But given all the buzz about the place, I thought it would be much better than average...

      Hope to read about others' recent experiences! And thanks again FoiGras for motivating everyone to write!

      3 Replies
      1. re: stephanieg

        Hi stephanieg--I always enjoy your input and responses. You make Chowhound fun and informative.

        Hopefully, with your exquisite recent dining out and postings, the Balto Chowhounds will become inspired to heat up and participate. (I only wish I could--but, hopefully, in the future I'll be back on track).

        Your restaurant "reviews" were quite impressive--you could be a professional. Yeah Gal.

        I must reveal--I am not into the cuisine that you embrace--but being a Chowhound I love to hear about all of the dining experiences of any culture/cuisine. I suppose that I am not into spicy/hot foods. I will try just about anything food-wise if it doesn't have steam coming out of my ears and nose.

        To show you how I avoid the hot/spicy cuisine--Okay, I'm a Baltimore born and bred gal. Steamed Crabs--okay--I'm sure that Old Bay is like sugar to most people. Prior to eating steamed crabs, I rinse off most of the seasoning. I know--I know--people say that I must be a Baltimore import--and, get this, I don't drink beer when eating crabs--wine is my choice of drink. Oh too much information.

        I recall that you posted about an eggplant dish at the Helmand previously, which sounded delectable--and I know that you would recommend something fantastic. I have a friend who has encouraged me to dine at the Helmand and at least give the cuisine a chance--perhaps the chef could cool down the spices until I could develop a taste (or tolerance) for the "fire."

        BTW--if you go back to Ch postings--on April 24th--check out "Girls' Night Out In Hampden." "Gregb" responded with a briefing on Le Garage. It was brief, but quite positive.

        As always--I enjoy your input. FoiGras

        1. re: FoiGras

          How astute of you to remember that, Foi! I think you need to be on the payroll here. I've wondered, while searching through other very active boards (Chicago, San Fran, NYC etc.), if some of those who post most frequently are connected to Chowhound. On those boards, it would seem that there would be lack of interest from locals who are asked to answer the same touristy questions over and over again. In fact, it's quite the opposite. I love visitors to the area, but I wouldn't want to do that unless it were part of my day job! Just my CH $0.02...

          Yes, Le Garage is quite good. I think the menu is well put together, the new space is better than it was, the frites are fantastic, and the beer list is better than anything I've seen in MD. The pork chop I had was dynamite. Just another great spot in a neighborhood that's far and away better than any other in Baltimore, IMO.

          Parts & Labor in Remington is also very impressive. I'm admittedly not the biggest Spike fan, but the service and food were both better than anything I've had at WK. Very cool space as well, I want a hearth like that.

          1. re: FoiGras

            I was the "Girls' Night Out" girl. We actually ended up at Le Garage for dinner. Since we didn't have reservations, we ended up eating at the bar. It was a fun, high energy place. As a budding mixologist, I was impressed with the care and attention that the folks behind the bar paid to the cocktails.

            My two friends are polar opposites when it comes to dining. One is a vegetarian and the other is a meat and potatoes girl (tell me that's not a nightmare when picking out restaurants). After a long day of enjoying all that Hampden's bars and restaurants had to offer, I'm sorry to say that I don't remember what my companions had. I do remember that they each found something they liked on the menu and enjoyed it very much. I had the roasted marrow bones (which I loved) and the escargot tartiflette (which I did not). All in all, it was a great experience and I plan on returning soon.

        2. I've been to Villagio Cafe too and thought it was pretty good (not great). I thionk the main problem is that there just aren't many good middle eastern restaurants (except The Helmand) in Baltimore. We tried all of the kebabs, and I agree with stephanieg's assessment of them- they were very good, except for th ebeef which was tough and dry. I thought that the baba ganoush was very good as well, as was the hummus. The only thing that fell flat were the grape leaves, which contained slimy,mushy rice and and were truly horrible. They tasted like they came out of a can.

          The only other really noteworthy place we've been lately is Puerto 511- it's a new Peruvian place that's opened downtown, not too far from Lexington market. This place was just awesome. I had the best ceviche (the ceviche classico) I have ever had in my life- so fresh and flavorful, and a tamale with shrimp that was great as well. The place is tiny, so I'd highly recommend making a reservation. The owners were very charming- it's a husband and wife chef/server team.

          1. Thanks, FoiGras. I also have missed many of you (didn't Roland Parker move to Dubai?). And like you health issues have limited my dining out.

            I had a snack at Le Garage of frites (maybe the best I've ever had anywhere) and bone marrow (good, but not great). Fine bar service and parking in back!

            Went to Liberatore's for Mother's Day (chosen by others for its saving virtues of close-in parking and no steps). Surprisingly good standard red sauce stuff, esp the veal picatta. Friendly place

            Like the others, I ignore the standard queries. Do some research first

            6 Replies
            1. re: tartuffe

              I am excited to hear from my Favorite Chowhounds. All of you keep me apprised with the best dining establishments and your enthusiasm with regards to the "art" of cuisine.

              The frites at Le Garage sound intriquing. What do you think made them exceptional?

              Haven't been in about 6 years, but I used to really enjoy Liberatore's in Timonium. No ground breaking cuisine, but always reliable--and the restaurant offered generous portions in a lovely atmosphere. I recall one wintry night--snow was falling down--my dearly departed Hubby and I were the only diners in the restaurant. There was a dish--something "Veal Rosamelda." At the time I was attempting to cut back on meat dishes. I asked John (one of the owners) if I could substitute shrimp. He happily accommodated my request and even offered to put the dish on the menu with my name. I opted to remain annonymous. (spelling?).

              Then, another time, my Hubby and I just arrived back in Baltimore from a business/pleasure trip. Since we lived relatively close-by to Liberatore's, we decided to dine at the restaurant. Once again--SNOW. When we arrived at the restaurant there weren't any cars on the parking lot. My husband went to the entrance--opened the door and discovered that John was about ready to close the restaurant for the evening. John was so sweet--he ran out to our car and offered to personally make dinner for us. We declined his gracious offer and headed over to the Nautilus Diner--we were tired and hungry--so the diner suited our immediate needs.

              Hadn't realized that Roland Parker moved to Dubai. Wow-that must be a culinary culture shock. Correct me if I am wrong, but unless one dines at the hotels and/or American sponsored restaurants--no liquor is served along with other dietary restrictions.

              So good to hear your response. FoiGras

              1. re: FoiGras

                Really sorry to hear about your husband. You could never describe a meal without including what he ordered (although it was usually a veal chop), which says pretty much everything we need to know. I'm sure everyone here will be thinking about you!

                1. re: FoiGras

                  Oh, I'm sorry to hear about your husband. I do remember your posts from back in the day and it sounded as if you had many wonderful meals with him and they will be memories to treasure.

                  We did move to Dubai seven years ago (amazing how the time has flown) but we still have family in Baltimore and return every summer faithfully, and it's still home for us. I still post on the other forums but I'm hardly up to date on the Baltimore dining scene other than a few favorites like LP Steamers. And you're correct, alcohol in Dubai is only available at specially licensed restaurants, which have to be attached to a hotel. Drinks are very expensive, a mediocre glass of wine will set you back between $10-$15. Interestingly enough (or perhaps not so when you think about it), restaurants that serve alcohol are also licensed to sell pork, so the "sin" licenses are bundled together in one package. Dubai actually does have a wonderful dining scene, given that 90% of the population is expatriate and over 140 nationalities live in this small city.

                  I do wonder what's happened to some of the other Baltimore regulars, such as Baltoellen and Kukubura. They really got out and about, both high and low, and I always looked forward to their comments.

                  1. re: Roland Parker

                    Hi Roland--thanks for your condolences with regards to my husband. We certainly did have many wonderful dinners out and shared beautiful memories.

                    I can imagine that you've adjusted to Dubai--but it must have been quite an initial cultural shock. But, as you said, with all of the expatriates living there, the dining scene would accommodate Western culture cuisine.

                    I am glad that I posted as it seems to have brought back some interest from the "regular" Chowhounds. I guess the pot needed stirring. I only wish that I could provide my own dining out experiences, but I don't get out very often. Hopefully, that will change in the future. There are so many newer places that I am anxious to try. FoiGras

                    1. re: Roland Parker

                      Baltoellen is still alive and well, just doesn't do Chowhound much anymore (neither do I, for that matter).

                      Jon Parker, sadly, died recently.

                    2. re: FoiGras

                      Went to Libratores over Mothers Day with my 93 yr old mom and sisters. Fine service, esp given the cripples. decent-plus red sauce food. not worth a detour, as Michelin says, but certainly Ok.

                      Great hearing from Roland Parker

                      Like mant, health limits my dining out, alas

                  2. Thank you all for your additional insights into La Garage. Ahh-- the simple pleasure that freshly-prepared frites can bring. I have to work in a way to get there sooner than later and rationalize adding a frite "snack" into my diet!

                    And FoiGras-- great memory as well about the eggplant. Eggplant is one of my favorite vegetables, and I am always searching for places that cook it well. I think you were remembering a post I wrote about a melt-in-your-mouth eggplant appetizer at the Ambassador-- it is one of the most heavenly eggplant dishes I've had!

                    It's interesting what you write about hot foods. If it's the heat that's keeping you away from Indian food, I'd urge you to give it another chance. There are many, many dishes with no heat at all. What I love about Indian dishes are the complex array of spices involved, which makes Indian dishes uniquely rich and flavorful (but not necessarily spicy). And if you like meats, well-prepared tandori dishes (basically the Indian version of grilled) are amazing.

                    By the way, thanks for your compliments about my posts. I certainly can say the same about yours-- you're always insightful, honest, and detailed! And hey-- we can be food writers together-- I'll cover the ethnic scene and you can do the rest. Wouldn't that be a dream :)

                    3 Replies
                    1. re: stephanieg

                      stephanieg--Oh yes--the eggplant app at the Ambassador--sounds amazing. Like you, eggplant is absolutely one of my favorite vegetables. I love it grilled, tempura-style--I roast it in the oven-sliced-drizzled with olive oil and lemon zest and some tarragon--I leave the skin on. Emeril Legasse (spelling) has a recipe for "eggplant fries." Oh stepanie--they are amazing. Dip eggplant (cut into the size of french fries) into flour/then egg wash and then breadcrumbs (it's been a while since I made them--so please check out the original recipe)--then the aioli (spelling again) dip. I recall having these "fries" many years ago at one of the restaurants in New Orleans--a famous one (probably a touristy one--can't remember at this moment). I could have spent an entire evening just eating those morsels. I found them even better then "real" french fries--duck fat or otherwise.

                      Okay--you've convinced me to broaden my horizons and try some of the Indian dishes. Anything grilled and mildly flavored sets well with me. Besides, I know you wouldn't steer me wrong.

                      Oh I LOVE WHAT YOU SUGGESTED--food writers together. I only wish--I trust that you are much more adept at writing reviews, so I could just be your "typist." lol--But.....I would enjoy the dining out experience--but not the pounds that would settle onto my body. EXERCISE-EXERCISE--PHEW.

                      Well, off I go to the kitchen and graze for the evening. I love to roast carrots/red bell peppers/onions/celery/potatoes--and, I am going to prepare the "lowly" chicken livers--haven't yet decided the best way to "cook" them as yet. FoiGras

                      1. re: FoiGras

                        We should embark on the challenge of trying eggplant throughout Baltimore-- mmmm--- what a glorious "mission" to take on for the crew! One reason I love eating eggplant out is that I feel that I can never make it as well as seasoned chefs. Same with fries. By the way, the recipe you described sounds like the one I used to turn my kids onto eggplant. I also add parm cheese in with the bread crumbs and then bake them at a very high temp. Delicious!

                        1. re: stephanieg

                          Wouldn't it be fun tasting various preparations of eggplant. Actually, it doesn't seem to be a popular at many restaurants, unless it's the standard eggplant parmigiana.

                          Kibby's Restaurant has tempura eggplant "fries." I could eat them until I explode.

                          One time I dined at the Olive Grove and asked if the eggplant parmigiana could be prepared without the typical red sauce. There happened to be another veal dish on the menu with a different sauce. The chef was accommodating and made my veal and eggplant dish with the alternate sauce--wish I could remember, but it was a nice change and the sauce didn't overwhelm the breaded eggplant. FoiGras