Woodberry Kitchen: Baltimore, MD, USA
I have heard a lot of good things about Woodberry Kitchen, mostly that it is supposed to be among the best in Baltimore. The first farm-to-table restaurant in this city, it set the trend for all the other fancy restaurants that came to be in Baltimore. At the same time, I was also told to lower my expectations by a closer friend of mine, perhaps the oldest friend that I have here in B’more. Thankfully I did. This wasn’t to say that Woodberry Kitchen wasn’t good because it was. However, as my friend said, “Don’t expect to be wow’d, especially knowing you and what you’ve eaten.” Truth be told, I wasn’t impressed by the menu when I first checked it out online. In fact, I was going to only order a few small plates and call it a night, but when with friends, you do what foodies do. You order and you eat. Things we had included:
- hand-pulled mozzarella, tomato jam and rocket pesto, toasts
- summer cantaloupe, rock salt, basil
- deviled eggs
- seared scallops, rice grits
- softshell crab, toast, cucumber-tomato salad
- Rhub-berry cobbler with quark cheese ice-cream
Hand-pulled Mozzarella, Tomato Jam and Rocket Pesto, Toasties: probably my favorite of the appetizers
- perfect flavor combination: that rocket pesto and tomato jam perfectly complements the hand-pulled mozzarella
- perfect amount of toasts for 3 which just happened to be our table: I think they planned it out this way though
- arugula was amazingly fresh
- too little jam, it was that good
- would prefer buffala versus hand-pulled mozzarella: the hand-pulled version is much better than your standard ball of fresh mozzarella because it’s a little softer, but for all the blend of favors to go on the toast slice, I’d much rather have that nice oozy cream of the buffala.
Summer Cantelope, Rock Salt: my second favorite, only because I really like the sweetness of this cantaloupe.
- good combo: rock salt goes well – this is very similar to an Italian appetizer I like to make with cantaloupe and prosciutto. The only difference is that I can never find canteloupe that are this ridiculously sweet. As my friend C said, it’s almost like you picked it straight off the ground in California, where a majority of the cantaloupes in this country come from.
- price: I’m not so sure I like the idea of paying $6 for 3 slices of cantaloupe.
- good creaminess to the yolk, not overly “runny”
- nice presentation: never thought to pipe out the yolk filling.
- I almost felt like the yolk-mixture went bad because it was more tart and sour than I expected. Perhaps it was the amount of mayo that went into the yolk, but I was taken by surprise. In addition, I tend to like my deviled eggs a bit more well, spiced rather than “mayo’d”.
Seared Scallops and Rice Grits: truth be told, I was so hesitant about rice grits. Yes I’ll say it, I’m a southern snob and grits to me mean something that I can get in a 3lb bag for $4 and make several meals and make them tasty nonetheless. Therefore, to pay $30+ for what appeared to be 4 scallops on a bed of rice grits just didn’t seem right. Also…rice grits??
- Rice grits were done well: nice flavor, went well with the scallops
- Scallops were “melt-in-your-mouth”, probably because they weren’t completely cooked all the way in the center, at least my piece wasn’t. I’m okay with this since I happen to love sushi, but I don’t know if everyone would like this.
- scallops only seared on one side: I like the char on both – it’s what brings out the flavor in the center. It also takes a bit more skill I believe to get a good sear on both sides without over-cooking the scallop
- rice grits were essentially what I thought and confirmed to be fancied up Chinese rice congee (porridge) and I’ve had better at some of the good dim sum restaurants in Toronto or Asia even.
- really well-done, especially with the salt crust. When C ordered it medium rare, it came out medium rare. Now I’m not so sure if I like this because I’m not sure if the fish was frozen to sushi-grade temperatures to kill out any parasites and so normally I’d like to have it a bit more cooked. But given that this place is among the “best” in Baltimore, I’m hoping this is not the case because it really did taste awesome. Oh that salt crust!
- I’d have to say it was the middle not being completely cooked all the way. That just gives me the heebie-jeebies.
Soft-shell Crab, Cucumber-Tomato Salad, on Toast
- it’s a whole crab
- great quantity. I definitely could not finish this dish.
- cucumber and tomato was lightly dressed, not overwhelming.
- soggy breading: this was a huge disappointment. The batter on the crab was literally soggy and I could peel it off because it had separated from the crab. I want to say that this was probably because it sat in the oil that it was fried in, or maybe the batter was too watery.
- not enough flavor: the crab was essentially just crab. Crab and soggy breading. If you just like the taste of crab then knock yourself out, but I honestly feel that this could have been amped up just a little bit to enhance the seafood flavor, especially since this crab had quite a bit of crab roe as well.
- Toast is not the best thing to serve this on, especially since the tomato and cucumber made it somewhat soggy. C and A and I discussed another alternative to this as well. Personally, I feel if you just flavored the crab a bit more and then used a turnip or cauliflower puree, it may be better.
Rhub-berry Cobbler with Quark Cheese ice-cream: we specifically swapped out the oat bran ice-cream for Quark Ice-cream. Quark is a german-based cheese that comes out of Pennsylvania that has a similar taste to cream cheese but is supposed to be softer. After tasting it, I believe that the more appropriate description would be a yoghurt-cream cheese flavor that is the consistency of cream-cheese. It is delicious, in ice-cream form anyway.
- the breading was amazing. Slightly sweet and crispy on top while cakey as it hits the berry-rhubarb filling, it paired perfectly with the tartness of the berries and then the sweet-sour creaminess of the Quark Ice-cream
- Berries were cooked great: you can’t go wrong with an iron-skillet pan
- Quark-Ice-cream: amazing. Glad they make this in-house, not so glad they do not sell Quark cheese or Quark ice-cream by the pint because I would have bought it to go.
- need a bigger serving!
All in all, I have to admit, as my friend said, Woodberry Kitchen is really good. Is it the kind to knock your pants off like Alinea? Not so much. But it is among the better in Baltimore. I’d definitely recommend this for a nice graduation dinner. One big con for the restaurant is that you need a car or at least fork over for an Uber to get out here because it’s not accessible by public transportation. In summary:
- hand-pulled mozzarella: **** (4 stars)
- summer cantaloupe: ***.5 (3.5 stars)
- deviled eggs: *** (3 stars)
- swordfish: ***.5 (3.5 stars)
- seared scallops, rice grits: ***.75 (3.75 stars)
- softshell crab, toast, cucumber-tomato salad: ***.75 (3.75 stars)
- Rhub-berry cobbler with quark cheese ice-cream: **** (4 stars)
If you want to check out Woodberry Kitchen, you can find them here:
2010 Clipper Park Rd #126, Baltimore, MD 21211
Reservation recommended via OpenTable. Definitely worth it for a date at least! But for me, the best part was getting to eat some pretty good food with some of my favorite people, fellow foodies to boot. Admittedly, it’s been a great way to close out these last few days here in Baltimore. As DMB put it way back in the day, “it’s not where but who you’re with that really matters.” Yes, these are definitely among the loveliest people to eat with in Baltimore. Closing out the days…