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December 30, 2008

Baltimore: Woodberry Kitchen

Woodberry Kitchen's farmhouse chic facade
Photo: Woodberry Kitchen

by Julia Bainbridge

Woodberry Kitchen looks like an English countryside stable and tastes like farm-to-table-inspired Seattle, but it sits happily in Baltimore's suburbs. This eco-friendly restaurant, Spike Gjerde's joint venture with wife Amy and Grand Cru wine bar's Nelson Carey, opened a little over a year ago to much fanfare.

Leading up to that highly anticipated opening date, Gjerde and Co. were busy fleshing out the bones of the nineteenth-century foundry in the Clipper Mill complex with stone floors, a woodburning oven (with an open kitchen and mile-high stacked logs to prove it), exposed brick, and a lofty ceiling. Its main dining room is handsome and comfortable, like that high school boyfriend who never knew how much the other girls stared (cue clips of handsome-but-bumbling Hugh Grant in Four Weddings and a Funeral).

The food, too, is genuine and unpretentious: sea-salted popcorn is a must for pre-dinner nibbles, a cast-iron ribeye with cheddar potato gratin needs no explanation, and egg-and-bacon fried rice, although a departure from the mostly New American pub-style menu, does the trick. Bread is baked on the premises and locally sourced oysters come both on ice and oven-roasted in various fashions (Rockefeller; bacon and herb butter; spinach and smoked tomato). Desserts are sublime: The chefs make all the ice creams in-house, and the flourless chocolate cake is positively molten. 

Drink-wise, my Sazerac was a little anise heavy; perhaps better to go with a signature cocktail like the Headless Horseman (Maker's Mark bourbon, spiced pumpkin syrup, and citrus) or the Gov't Mule (organic vodka, house-made ginger beer, and lime-ginger syrup), both served in copper mugs. There's also an affordable wine list that hops happily from old world to new, along with a list of Chesapeake region wines and beers. It's good-looking, satisfying, and friendly--and everyone is looking.

Further reading:
* Woodberry Kitchen's Web site
* Maryland pride: Crabs, crabs, and crabs
* Catch of the Day: International noshables


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