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Woodberry Kitchen, Baltimore, Maryland by Kelly Fiore – Associate Editor
My husband, Matt, and I are relatively new to the organic and local food movements. What has been hardest for us in converting to this lifestyle is eating out. Despite our somewhat close proximity to Baltimore and Washington DC, we have had trouble finding restaurants that serve mostly organic dishes that aren’t strictly vegan. And we, my friends, are meat eaters through and through. That is why it was such a blessing to find Woodberry Kitchen, a fairly new restaurant in the recently refurbished Clipper Mill district of Baltimore City. Woodberry Kitchen’s philosophy is Farm to Table. Period. And once you’ve gotten a look at their menu and a taste of their food, you won’t believe the focus and labor that goes into running this restaurant. The owners, the wait staff, the cooks all adhere to the philosophy of the restaurant itself and it emanates out of every aspect of the meal.
When you enter the restaurant, a slim hallway leads you to a candle-lit hostess’ station – but just beyond the ambient lighting is the bright bustle of an open floor plan. The bar, the kitchen, and a good sized dining room are set against the backdrop of a strategic, art installation-style barrier of firewood, exposed brick walls, and huge plate glass windows framing the front of the room. Off to one side, a cozier dining room is filled with smaller tables. And up the staircase, onto a balcony-like landing, is the land of the couples: a mostly two-top table haven looking down over the rest of the restaurant. I felt a little like Jimmy Stewart in Rear Window up there; I could practically see the apps on the table-side iPhone beneath me.
My absolute greatest regret about this meal was that, as I write this, I don’t remember my waiter’s name. He deserves so much credit for the fact that this meal was amazing. He spoke for the dishes, telling us their origins, their back story, the background information on the life of an animal or aging of a cheese. It was absolutely essential to have this kind of attention in order to really appreciate the intricacies of this meal. We began with cocktails; Matt chose their version of a classic Manhattan (called a Man-Hampden after the Baltimore neighborhood), which used Pikesville Rye, a local whiskey. I chose a Cranberry Apple cocktail made with organic vodka, homemade apple spice simple syrup, and cranberry liquor. A smattering of fresh cranberries floated on top with the ice and the glass was garnished with a dried, candied apple slice. The drink was sweet and spicy, somewhat reminiscent of the long-past fall season.
Woodberry’s food menu has offerings ranging from small $1-$5 plates of Deviled Eggs with Chipped Ham or Local Pears with Buckwheat Honey and Sea Salt to larger entrees of Rockfish and Chips and the Kitchen Burger, served with onion jam and french fries. There is always a selection of local, Chesapeake Bay oysters served both raw and wood-fire grilled with various sauces. Nightly flat-bread specials are exceptionally creative (the night we went, they were offering one with chorizo, arugula, sweet potatoes and ricotta – I really regret not getting it!) Matt and I chose to start with two of their specials, Braised Oxtails and Local Ricotta with Roasted Figs and Apples. Both selections came out piping hot – the oxtails swimming in a cola-infused sauce over polenta and the cheese and fruit browned inside a miniature cast iron skillet. The oxtails were a slightly fattier version of short rib-style meat. They can be prepared similarly and result in the same tender texture and almost barbeque-style appearance.
For our entrees, we chose the Scallops served with Butter Beans, Pork Belly, and Tarragon Sauce and the local “Meat Plate”: Smoked Chicken, Pork Ribs and Belly, Homemade Sausage and Sauerkraut. The scallops, our waiter explained, were non-chemically treated, which apparently most scallops are. And it’s true, they did taste different – cleaner and sweeter and softer, somehow. Still like a scallop, but more delicate. The “Meat Plate” was also a huge hit with us – the sauerkraut was delicious and crispy, as fresh as sauerkraut can be. The meats were perfectly cooked; I never order chicken in restaurants as a rule, but this smoked boneless cut was graced with a cap of crispy skin and was absolutely delicious.
To end the meal, we both chose two of the more simplistic desserts on the menu. I am a sucker for Chocolate Mousse on any dessert menu and the Woodberry Chocolate Pudding was just as good, if not better, than many mousses I’ve had elsewhere. Matt decided on an Apple Pie Sundae, complete with made-in-house Vanilla Bean Ice Cream and Apple Cider and Honey Sorbet.
The thing that resonates most about Woodberry Kitchen is the commitment. Anyone who tries to shop organic or local knows that it is rarely convenient and sometimes a down right hassle. To run a business this way requires dozens of things to be made on-site and explains why Woodberry hired their own butcher and competitive barista – they are looking to keep things close to home in all ways. At one point, our waiter told us he’d been at the restaurant until 6 am that morning from his shift the night before, baking the bread for that day. I think that sums it all up – Woodberry Kitchen is a place full of dedication and commitment to a lifestyle that isn’t always easy but, in this restaurant, is always delicious.
2010 Clipper Park Road, No. 126
Baltimore, MD 21211
Baltimore, MD 21211
Farm to Table
Accepts Mastercard, Visa, American Express, and Discover
Dinner Check: $$$
Hours: Mondays-Thursdays 5-10; Friday-Saturday 5-11; Sunday Brunch 10-2;
Sunday Supper 5-9