I visited Balt’amour last weekend to spend time with three close friends from college. Lisa, Malka, and Elana picked me up from the always cheerful Baltimore Travel Plaza.
We drove directly to Nacho Mama’s in Canton where we started sipping on these not-so-lethal hubcap margaritas. I’ve had many a discussion with friends about how the drinks in Baltimore are, for some reason, delightfully less deleterious than the ones in New York. I can drink without the fear of a terrible hangover the next day. Of course, Baltimore’s prices are kinder, too- these hubcap margaritas were $10 each, and we split that four ways.
Nacho Mama’s menu is expansive but I prefer to stick with the nachos- tried and true, with proper cheese to beans to veggies proportions. The jalapeños were actually fiery. My friends ordered quesidillas that were overstuffed, with the tortillas baked to a dry crisp. Not exactly appetizing but with such a large plate of nachos, who needed more food?
The next day we headed to Hampden’s roomy but odd Dogwood Cafe for lunch. We walked down a ramp to enter the large underground dining room and I felt as though I were entering a dungeon. The tables, lighting, and artwork were pretty fancy, yet, something seemed off. We sat next door to the kitchen and while the main dining room is perfectly presentable, I stared at the stretch of uncarpeted, shabby floor leading into the kitchen. I know it was a weird fixation, but that patch of floor was starkly different from the methodically decorated dining room and I started wondering why they hadn’t taken care of the floor everywhere and what this stretch of floor could portend about the kitchen beyond.
But I’m being unfair because Dogwood is actually an admirable institution. It operates as a restaurant/culinary training school for people recovering from addiction or incarceration and it’s also a green business that buys vegetables from local farms and emphasizes sustainability. When we went, the two entrees I was interested in- the Asian Buckwheat Noodle Salad and the Lentil-Mushroom Moroccan Veggie Burger- were out for the day. I had to settle for a pretty boring Grilled Vegetable Sandwich with Ohio Yogurt Cheese. Nothing extraordinary taste wise, but I suppose I felt good about eating locally. And my friends thoroughly enjoyed their meaty entrees.
For dinner, we gorged ourselves on cheese at The Melting Pot. There is nothing I like more than big pots of hot cheese with bread. My family enjoys fondue at Thanksgiving and sometimes my birthday, and other special occasions. Elana, Malka, Lisa and I appropriated the cuisine as our special occasion meal too, and spent quite a few nights senior year over in Towson- often with different themes attached to our dinners out. We ordered the Mediterranean fondue- the Big Night Out special, with shallots, garlic, dates, and truffle oil- and the Wisconsin, which featured fontina, blue cheese, and scallions. Unfortunately, the Meditterranean was too garlicky- not subtle enough for my fondue-primed tastebuds, though garlicky cheese is still, at its essence, cheese, and therefore, still bound to be good.
For dessert we ordered the S’mores pot in which marshmallows and graham crackers are incorporated into melted milk chocolate and a pot of the Flaming Turtle, which is a mix of milk chocolate, caramel and peacans. The Flaming Turtle was too sweet for me- caramel is not my favorite dessert topping- but I ate both anyway, dipping in marshmallows, cheesecake, strawberries and bananas. Definitely excessive but hey- it’s not everyday anymore that four good friends from college get to spend time together, and now our meetings are cause for celebratation.
After that dinner I was ready to turn in for the evening because I could barely walk. However, it was only 10 pm and my friends aren’t as lame as I am so we went to Pisces, where our cute friend Mike (newly adorned with a beard) works as a bartender. I sat out for the first round of drinks because I was still digesting, but tried a sip of Malka’s dirty martini and loved its savory taste, ideal for sipping slowly, an after dinner digestive.
Later, Mike made me one for myself. Pisces is classy- it’s on the top of the Hyatt and offers an amazing view of Baltimore, Domino sugar sign and all, which I failed to capture properly with pictures due to my forever shaky hands. Apparently, Denzel Washington(!) was supposed to be at the bar the night we were there- the Society of Black Engineers had their awards ceremony earlier that evening and he was the special guest presenter that never showed up. We know because the award winners continued their celebrations at Pisces where Elana made friends with some of them and got the scoop.
The next morning, Malka took me to CakeLove, the bakery started and owned by former lawyer and current host of the Food Network’s Sugar Rush, the very delicious Warren Brown. He was personable and built- he needs to have muscles for all that baking- and sweetly recommended that I try the pumpkin pound cake.
Since I love anything pumpkin I was sold in a second and took the cake back to enjoy later. It had a moist crumb yet it wasn’t too heavy or sweet. A hint of aromatic cloves accentuated the mellow pumpkin slightly, which differentiated this pumpkin flower from most pumpkin baked goods that usually disguise the base flavor with copious proportions of cinnamon.
We went for a late lunch at The Stalking Horse in Federal Hill, sports bar with no defining characteristics except for the giant horse statue underneath the televisions in the front room; we kept accidentally looking at the horse’s ass every time we turned towards the TV. Malka and I split a nondescript sandwich with avocado and the Ferrari salad. We were saving our appetites for our dinner at Hopkins Deli, excited at the prospect of their veggie pizza. But I was disappointed because the sauce wasn’t as spicy as I remembered, the crust was drier and thicker, and it was sloppy with cheese. I guess some foods are better left in my brain. Still, I got to see my brother, back from a trip to Hawaii, and his girlfriend. After a stop at a claymation party, we ended our night at an old favorite, the seedy but lovely Charles Village Pub. Of course it was amazing, CVP always is.