At the end of June I traveled to Baltimore with my office and several hundred of the nation's preeminent oncologists. My trip was a bit rocky due to a canceled flight, a delayed flight and a botched Super Shuttle reservation. I arrived at the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront at about 2 am and soon began a succession of very early morning work hours. One of the only perks with this work schedule was the ability to order room-service.
My room was huge, with two walls of floor to ceiling windows looking over the harbor, a king size bed and a large television. I spent a few nice mornings with the sun rising over the harbor, the history channel and satisfying diner food delivered right to my door.
The food wasn't stellar, but it hit the spot. I documented the occasion more for the novelty of the room-service experience than the culinary prowess of the Marriott kitchens.
My friend Mike grew up in Baltimore. During our senior years at Reed College, Mike, Tamara and I ran Renn Fayre together. Mike was also a guiding force behind Beer Nation, which kept those of age happily saturated with Northwest micro brew in campus beer gardens. Naturally, Mike did not lead me astray with Baltimore beer advice. I was able to make two visits to A Brewer's Art, once with my co-worker Aaron and a second time to meet up with my dear cousin Matt and his girlfriend Ana. Matt and Ana had just relocated to Washington D.C. from Portland, Oregon and were kind enough to drive down on Matt's birthday to say hello to me. While A Brewer's Art brews several delicious beers, their Resurrection Ale (an abbey-style dubbel) stands alone. Sadly, they don't bottle yet. They expect to start in the next few years according to the bartender.
After a particularly long work day and too many hotel meals, I decided to take myself out to dinner. Having little energy and limited Baltimore navigational skills, I decided to try one of the nearby Italian restaurants. I settled into a sunny table at Aldo's and ordered a Pinot Noir and an Arugula Salad with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano and an aged balsamic vinaigrette.
The salad was perfect. It was simple and full flavored with a hearty crack of black pepper.
My waiter, Jim, seemed to take a liking to me and was intrigued as to why I might be photographing my food. I explained my hobby and Jim turned up the charm, starting with a complimentary Four Cheese Risotto. The risotto was rich and creamy, with a nice subtle sharpness to the cheese.
My main course arrived with a complimentary glass of wine that Jim thought would be perfect with the fresh Porcini Agnollotti and Shitake Mushrooms tossed in Italian-Norcian Black Truffle Butter. It was.
Perhaps the most exciting part of the meal was an aperitif of Limoncello Cream made by chef Aldo Vitale himself. A combination of Meyer lemons, grain alcohol, sugar, cream and water create a silky, sweet and sour beverage that was a great end to a great meal.
The sun was just setting when I arrived back at the hotel. I caught the water taxi at the hotel pier and rode around the harbor. I switched boats and took the route towards Fell's Point. From what I had gathered, this area of Baltimore was a newly gentrified district on the water with a number of bars and restaurants. Upon docking I saw this was in fact true. The historic buildings were gorgeous, yet marred by neon lights. The area was crawling with polo-shirts, sun-dresses, burnt-skin and bad shoes.
I made my way to Max's Tap House. This bar boasts 70 taps, more than 300 bottles and accolades from Beer Advocate. It was super crowded, loud, brightly lit and had snotty service with a somewhat creepy clientele. Not really my kind of place. I was determined to try another good beer in Baltimore, however, and decided I should give the Clipper City Heavy Seas Loose Cannon a try. This was a very nice ale with a formidable hop level, including my favorite Amarillo hops.
I left Max's as soon as my beer was done and decided to wander around Fell's Point to enjoy the architecture. I came upon Pitango Gelato, a smart looking gelateria with a bustling crowd.
This was a truly lucky stop to stumble upon. Pitango's uses grass-fed organic milk and high end organic ingredients to create gelato that rivals many that I have sampled in Italy. They eschew artificial ingredients, flavorings and extracts and use milk, cream and eggs from their own single-herd Pennsylvania farm. They also serve frozen yogurt and sorbet.
I ordered the spicy chocolate and, of course, pistachio. This was one of the finest pistachio gelatos I have tasted. Pitango flies in Bronte pistachios from Sicily, which are grown at the base of the active volcano, Mount Etna. Needless to say I highly recommend Pitango gelato if you live near Baltimore. For everyone else I simply highly recommend pistachio gelato.
I was initially somewhat annoyed that I had to travel to Baltimore for work. I used to think that I would enjoy business travel, but it can be quite lonely. Luckily, I think I have a talent for truly enjoying loneliness, it just takes a few days to kick in.
I had a nice visit and would certainly not be disappointed to return to Baltimore. The only other time I was in Baltimore was when I was about 6. My cousin Matt who I mentioned earlier in this post used to live there. He taught me how to tie a double not that week as we spent hours in his tree house. Our dads took us to an Orioles game at the old stadium. I think it was the fourth of July. The fireworks went awry and started shooting into the crowds, directly at us. I watched a woman two rows ahead of us have her hair go up in flames. Our dads hoisted us under their arms and we ran out of the ballpark. I think it is safe to say that this most recent trip was better.
The flight home went as planned. I returned to find these beautiful flowers from Nick (anthurium and orchids). He bought them at Fleur in Logan Square. Fleur is a sweet little shop with an excellent selection of exotic flowers and letterpress cards. It was good to be home.