One of the best questions anyone has ever asked me was, “What was your favorite restaurant experience?” I thought it would be a simple answer but as I sorted through my memories trying to pick out the perfect one, I realized it wouldn’t be as easy of a task as I thought. I began to see just how many factors are at play in determining a truly memorable and life-changing moment at a restaurant. It becomes so much more than just the food, though that it important as well. It involves the people with whom it was shared, or not shared at all, the circumstance in which it occurred, the service, the ambiance, etc. A best restaurant experience is a time where for the two hours or so in which it takes place, the rest of the world seems to disappear an all that matters is that moment, a moment that can never quite be matched. Really, with that said, only a handful of my experiences can be truly deemed as great.
I did have one of those memorable moments recently at a restaurant I’ve been dying to visit for a while now, Woodberry Kitchen in Baltimore. I took my mom for Mother’s Day brunch. It’s a place where it is not difficult to relax, where people make great food with even better ingredients. A place where the utmost care seems to go into every little detail yet at the same time you get a sense that everyone seems to be rather care-free. A place where conversation flows easily, drifting out of the mouth and up across the high beamed ceilings and around the locally handmade glass light fixtures. Where the kitchen has nothing to hide but rather makes itself known with a roaring wood-fired oven and things like coffee and cocktails are treated as an art rather than an afterthought. Dishes are simple and need no fancy plating, further prompting sharing and appreciation of the fine ingredients. It was everything I wanted it to be and more.
I wish I could have tried so many more items on the menu but I feel like we did well with our selections. I started with a Moscow Mule, made with ginger beer, lime syrup, and organic vodka, and served in its traditional copper mug with lots of ice. Now normally I’m not a big cocktail fan and generally stick to beer but this is certainly an exception to that rule. It’s cold, it’s refreshing, it’s pleasantly spicy and packs an nice punch. My mom and I also started the meal with a simple bowl of fresh cut spring strawberries, soaked in bitters and doused with a generous spoonful of tarragon scented Chantilly cream.
My entrée was a wood-fired oven breakfast pizza with maple sausage, potatoes, cheddar cheese, pickled chiles, and two eggs, just barely set, so that the yolk oozed over the pizza like a nice rich sauce to offset the heat from the chiles. The crust was blackened and blistered perfectly and chewy and light inside. My mom got the asparagus and potato frittata, served in an individual cast-iron skillet. We ended by sharing a beautifully delicate pecan scone, served warm, and maple lattes made by their nationally acclaimed baristas. Seriously, best cup of coffee I’ve had in my life.
The meal really stayed with me a good while after the experience was all over. I craved pizza even more so than normal and dreamt of that Moscow Mule. The warmer days are approaching and I realized I needed to get a recipe figured out in preparation for the sweltering summer evenings. I’m currently at the beginning of what I think is going to be a big home-brewed soda kick (just bottled up some grapefruit-hibiscus soda yesterday) so naturally I started with a batch of ginger beer. You can find the recipe here. Once it was ready, the rest was easy – a bottle of grey goose, some limes, a batch of simple syrup. Hopefully my own concoction will tide me over until I can get over to Woodberry again. My birthday is coming up…in two months…
makes one drink
½ cup ginger beer (homemade is certainly not necessary. My favorite brand is Fentimans. It’s a little hard to find so Gosling's will do in a pinch)
1 oz good vodka
1-2 tsp. simple syrup (recipe here)
Fill a rocks glass (or a cupper mug, if you have one) with ice and pour over the vodka. Add the ginger beer, 1 tsp. of the simple syrup, and a small dash of lime juice. Stir to combine. Give it a taste and add the other tsp of simple syrup, if desired. Some ginger beers are sweeter than others so you may or may not need the extra sugar. Kick back and enjoy.