New chefs and menu on deck at the Boathouse, Pazo and B&O

Winter is a time of rebirth and renewal, making it an ideal season for restaurants to revamp their menus. Or something like that. It’s also a good time to ditch the low-carb diet to savor some comfort foods.

Leave your house if you can, like I did, in order to try new dishes at Pazo in Harbor East, downtown Baltimore’s B&O American Brasserie and The Boathouse Canton.

First up is B&O. Though open for five years now, it remains a serious contender in Baltimore’s culinary scene. Most of the tables in the 4,500-square-foot restaurant were occupied when I dined with my husband on a Tuesday night in early November. We had a chance to chat with the B&O’s new Executive Chef, Mike Ransom, who recently moved to Baltimore from San Francisco.

The chili and garlic calamari, made in a brick oven, tasted more like a stew and bore no resemblance to the fried stuff that you might get at a sports bar. We also tried the sweet and savory potato and leek pancake topped with an apple salad.

My absolute favorite dish was the sweet potato gnocchi, served with Brussels sprouts and sage fried in butter. It’s the kind of dish you think about long after the meal and wonder when you’ll get your next fix. And hey sweet potatoes are good carbs!

sweet potato gnocchi at B&O American Brasserie

sweet potato gnocchi at B&O American Brasserie

Pazo last summer switched its focus from Spanish to Southern Italian cuisine under the guidance of Executive Chef Julian Marucci. The cavernous, two-story restaurant made its mark 10 years ago for being among the first restaurants in the city to open in a former industrial building.

I recently tasted some of the new dishes along with some other food writers. My favorites were the wood-grilled octopus; crispy mozzarella di bufala with Brussels sprouts and spicy tomato sauce (yeah I love the Brussels); and, the bucatini with lobster, tomato and — wait for it — Brussels sprouts. Tony Foreman, who owns Pazo and other restaurants in the Foreman Wolf Group, was on hand to talk about the dishes and the accompanying Italian wines.

Bucatini with lobster and Brussels sprouts

Bucatini with lobster and Brussels sprouts

Next, we head to The BoatHouse Canton where I recently joined about two dozen other local media folks on the second floor of the waterfront restaurant, ideally suited for a private event. Standout dishes from Chef Matt Campbell’s winter menu included the lobster mac and cheese and the grilled salmon with pearl onions, bacon and — yes, Brussels sprouts.

The grilled salmon at the BoatHouse in Canton

The grilled salmon at the BoatHouse in Canton

The BoatHouse opened last spring in the former Bay Cafe space, following a $1.1 million renovation. You can see the handiwork of SM+P Architects, who designed a warm, clean, modern space. Their other restaurant projects include Canton’s Verde and Hampden’s Woodberry Kitchen and The Food Market.

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The Milton Inn debuts new lounge and small plates menu

The Milton Inn in Sparks added a new casual lounge and small plates menu this month to the Northern Baltimore County restaurant.

A total of 26 dishes are on the menu, including blackened catfish étouffée, French onion soup, clams casino and lobster, bacon mac and cheese. Guests can choose one, two or three courses and pair the dishes with wine, for between $12 and $57. The restaurant is offering the menu  Monday through Friday for lunch and seven days a week for dinner.

The c. 1740 lounge seats 100, including a patio (heated and covered in the winter) and The Hearth Room. The lounge is on the first floor of the 274-year-old building.

Brian Boston owns the Milton Inn and the Highland Inn in Howard County.

The Milton Inn

The Milton Inn

 

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Here’s a look at the latest bar trend: Cocktails on tap

There was a time when drinking a cocktail to meant imbibing something sickly sweet and/or girly (like a Cosmo) or far too much alcohol than my 5-foot-one-inch frame can withstand. So I stuck with my fume blancs, malbecs and cabernets.

Well the explosion of craft cocktails changed my perspective. I now peruse a restaurant’s cocktail selection even before I scan the wine list. There’s so much time and thought that goes into these complex flavors. Bartenders are now like modern-day alchemists.

Of course, mixing these complex craft cocktails takes time and on a busy Saturday night, it helps to have a shortcut. In comes cocktails on tap — premixed cocktails that come out of a barrel or tap (similar to beer). I spoke with manager and/or bartenders at Bookmakers Cocktail Club in Federal Hill; Downtown Baltimore’s B&O American Brasserie; Mount Vernon’s Ware House 518 (formerly Creme Restaurant & Lounge); Canton’s Fork & Wrench and Of Love and Regret; and, Harbor East’s Wit & Wisdom for this Baltimore Sun story.

Bookmakers Cocktail Club in Federal Hill

Bookmakers Cocktail Club in Federal Hill

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Here’s your guide to new Howard County restaurants

Indian, Peruvian and Italian cuisine are among the new offerings in Howard County’s dining scene. I spoke with the staff of Ananda, an Indian restaurant in Fulton’s Maple Lawn; Seasons 52, a chain at the Mall in Columbia where everything is under 475 calories; Italian chain Maggiano’s, also at the Mall in Columbia; and, Pisco, an Elkridge Peruvian restaurant owned by the same gentleman who owns the sleekly designed Italian restaurant Facci. You can read my story in the Baltimore Sun’s Howard Magazine.

Pictured below is the veranda at Ananda, owned by the same brothers, Binda and Keir Singh, who own the popular Ambassador Dining Room in Baltimore. The restaurant is as much a feast for the eyes as it is for the taste buds. The ambiance harkens the glory days of the British Raj in India. The sumptuous atmosphere reminds me of some of the former British “clubs” that I have frequented in India.

The veranda at Ananda Restaurant in Maple Lawn

The veranda at Ananda Restaurant in Maple Lawn

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French fry shop opening in Federal Hill

TheLocalFry

Federal Hill residents will get new munchies to chew on after their bar crawls once a French fry shop moves into their neighborhood.

The Local Fry will move into 21 E. Cross St. sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, co-owner Kevin Irish says. He and his wife, Elizabeth Irish, will own the 40-seat Baltimore restaurant that was the home of an M&T Bank branch.

Buffalo wings and salads will also be on the menu, but the fries will be the star attraction.

“Without giving too much away, our specialty fries menu will feature fries loaded with unique toppings, sauces and seasonings,” Irish says. “Fries are oftentimes overlooked as just a side dish and our goal is to make it the star, a meal in itself. Think poutine times 10.”

Irish says the concept was born after the couple’s visit to Ireland, where, as you probably know, they are called chips.

“There were dishes we craved from Europe that we couldn’t find in the states. Our menu will have many dishes inspired by our different cultures and our travels around the world.”

 

French fries

Gratuitous pic of French fries

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Ware House 518 opens in Mount Vernon

The restaurant formerly known as Creme Restaurant and Lounge has reopened as Ware House 518 in Baltimore’s Mount Vernon neighborhood. Owner Ezra Tilaye’s new name pays homage to Baltimore’s industrial past as well as the spot’s own legacy as the site of the former Ware & Co. Furniture. The aesthetic recalls early 20th century design, Tilaye says.

Southern-inspired fare and classic Maryland staples like rockfish, oysters and crab cakes are on the menu, along with pre-prohibition-style cocktails, wine pairings and local craft beers. Christopher Vocci, formerly of the short-lived Oyster Bay Grille in Towson, heads the kitchen while Pat Raley oversees the cocktail menu.

Tilaye is also co-owner of Creme in Washington, D.C.

Dish at Ware House 518

Dish at Ware House 518

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Goodwill is opening Ellicott City store Oct. 9

Thrift shopping alert. Goodwill Industries of the Chesapeake is opening its Ellicott City store today, its third in Howard County and 29th overall.

The new store is located at 10164 Baltimore National Pike, aka Route 40. It’s actually right next to the Sonic. Grab a burger, then pick up an outfit for that 80s party you were planning to throw.

The store will host a ribbon cutting ceremony and raffles from Oct. 9 to Sunday Oct. 12, giving away a Kindle Fire, a flat-screen TV and other prizes.

The new store will be open Monday through Saturday from 9 a.m. until 9 p.m.and Sunday from 11 a.m. until 6 p.m.

Goodwill’s other Howard County stores are in Columbia and Jessup. It operates 25 retail stores, three outlet stores and GoodDeals in Rosedale. Its retail stores fund its job training programs.

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