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Charleston, Baltimore, MD

by Michele Pesula Kuegler | November 4th, 2011 | Restaurant Reviews
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During a summer trip to Baltimore, my husband and I spent one evening strolling the Inner Harbor.  With a simple plan of walking and occasionally stopping for a cocktail and a snack, we found many enjoyable restaurants.  Our last stop of the night was at Charleston.  Upon entering, the restaurant emanated a luxurious atmosphere.  We enjoyed an hour or so in their lounge, speaking with our waitress and sampling a dish.  We knew that we would need to return for a full evening of dining.

Two weeks ago we had the good fortune to travel to Baltimore on business and were able to extend the trip into the weekend.  We arrived at Charleston shortly before our reservation of 9:30.  The restaurant was busy at this time of night, and we were offered a seat in the lounge.  While waiting, we each ordered a cocktail and were delivered a plate of homemade truffled potato chips with truffled creme fraiche.  Typically, I don’t enjoy potato chips, however, these were extraordinarily delicious.  After some waiting, we were seated by 10:00.

Once seated, all of our decisions for the evening began.  At Charleston, diners have the option of ordering a three to six course meal.  In addition to the chosen number of courses, dessert is served.  Also, diners have the entire menu from which to choose for their courses.  Both my husband and I decided to order the four-course dinner.

Our dining began with an amuse bouche of Southwest Soup, cheddar cracker, and tasso.  This was a wonderful spark for our palates.  The cracker was tender, as opposed to crunchy, with a sharp cheddar bite.  The tasso provided a bit of saltiness to this little bite.

With our palates awake and ready, our courses began.  My first course was the Chanterelle Mushrooms .  Served on a crispy grit cake with goat cheese cream, I think this was my favorite dish of the evening.  The dish was a wonderful balance of textures and flavors, tender, crispy, and creamy.  My husband started his dinner with Burgundy Snails, which were served with butter-poached garlic and bacon in a puff pastry tart.  This was a fabulous treat for him, as snails are hard to find on many menus.  Served with butter and bacon, I don’t think they could be presented in a better format.

For our second course, I picked a dish which was the least filling, Roasted Beet Salad.  A combination of mâche and frisée, fennel and raisin croutons, bacon, and raspberry vinaigrette, it was light and refreshing.  The croutons had an interesting combination of flavors.  My husband chose a perennial favorite for this course,  Sautéed Hudson Valley Foie Gras .  The foie gras was placed atop local roasted chestnut cream, and crispy vidalia onions and accented with fresh figs.  This was his favorite dish of the evening.  Not only was he able to have one of his favorite foods, foie gras, the plate was graced with his favorite fruit, figs, which reminds both of us of Paris.

With the third course beginning, I did consider that four courses were far too many for me.  However, I also knew that my able dining companion would gladly finish any course that I couldn’t.  My third course was Pan-Roasted Turbot, a fish which we do not find in our local area.  The turbot was flavorful and well-cooked but still quite moist.  Accompanying the turbot was a fresh artichoke and basil salad with arugula oil.  Artichokes are a favorite vegetable of mine and were delicious served as the main ingredient in a salad.  My husband also had fish for this course, though he opted for Pan-Roasted Wild Rockfish, another Maryland area fish.  In addition to enjoying the rockfish, he found the oyster and button mushroom fricassée and lemon beurre blanc to be flavorful accompaniments.

For our final course of the meal, we each chose a meat dish.  I chose Grilled Gunpowder Farm Buffalo Tenderloin served with creamy polenta, oyster mushrooms, and crispy shallots.  The tenderloin was succulent, the polenta rich, and the shallots a crunchy balance to the dish.  My husband ended his dining with Pan-Roasted Magret Duck Breast.  My husband enjoyed every bite of the duck and the complimentary pecan and vidalia onion stuffing, roasted carrot, parsnip and celeriac.

For dessert, I had the Gingerbread and Local Apples.  The cake was moist and had a nice ginger flavor.  Served with homemade ice cream and caramelized apples, their sweetness was balanced by the cake, which was closer to savory.  My husband finished his meal with the Local Bosc Pear and Almond Tart.  Served in a crispy crust and accented with more homemade ice cream and figs, it was a fabulous finish to the meal.

In addition to enjoying many courses of delectable foods, the meal was made even more enjoyable by the impeccable service.  Our waiter provided excellent guidance for our dinner choices and gave fabulous introductions to each course.  Other members of the waitstaff ensured that our water glasses were full, our courses cleared in a timely manner, and each course had the correct utensils.  Service such as this is rare.

Although a night at Charleston is an indulgence, it is one that I am sure we will repeat.

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