The Tasting Panel magazine

January 2014

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RESTAURANTS THAT MATTER The City That Charms BALTIMORE MEANS CRAB CAKES . . . AND SO MUCH MORE by Merrill Shindler PHOTO COURTESY OF BAGBY RESTAURANT GROUP I t is taken as a given that the best crab cakes in Baltimore—a city obsessed with crab cakes—are the "big lump" crab cakes served at Faidley's Seafood in the Lexington Market. The competition is stiff—tough as a crab's carapace. But in the end, it's always Faidley's that comes out on top. Which may be at least in part because of the sentimental attachment those of us who have eaten at Faidley's have to the place—it's in a sprawling market where you're surrounded by food and noise and happy eating. And though it's tempting to say that Faidley's is the singular culinary reason to go to Charm City (hence Duff Goldman's Baltimore–based Charm City Bakery), it would be wrong. This is a venerable metropolis with a lot of Restaurants That Matter. And you can eat seafood in pretty much every one of them. Consider, for instance, the stylish Cunningham's in the Baltimore suburb of Towson. Meals begin with popcorn coated in brown butter, with honeyed hazelnuts and Espelette peppers, or with steak tartare tossed with "melted" leeks, pickled shimeji mushrooms, topped with a deviled egg and a black pepper purée—seriously! There are fried oysters coated with a pretzel crust, with a sauerkraut "chowder" on the side. There's a lobster-ginger soup, poached salmon with pickled ginger, and—of course—Dorchester County jumbo lump crab cakes. To wash it down, there are fine bits of mixology, including one called Luca Brasi. Remember him, from The Godfather? The dining room at Fleet Street Kitchen is chic yet comfortable. He was bumped off—and the line went, "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes." At Cunningham's he would have eaten them. The theme at Fleet Street Kitchen, on Fleet Street in Downtown "Balmore," is "locally sourced produce"—with the provenance of many of the ingredients listed on the menu. Thus, we find that the crispy pork belly (with poached egg, smoked maple glaze and butter toast powder!) is from Ferguson Family Farms in Maryland. The braised beef short ribs (with creamed spinach and red currants) is from St. Locally sourced Springfield Farm pork with gingerbread purée, glazed white sweet potatoes, smoked apples, and pork jus at Fleet Street Kitchen. 100 the tasting panel  / 100  /  the tasting panel  /  january 2014 TP0114_66-108.indd 100 12/19/13 9:48 PM

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