I celebrated my 26th birthday a few weeks ago but we were so eager to get our NYC posts up, I hadn't had the chance to tell all five of you loyal readers about all the birthday festivities. On the Saturday before my birthday, friends gathered in Baltimore for dinner at Dionysus, a greek-ish place in Mt. Vernon, followed by delicious beers at The Brewer's Art, one of my favorite bars in the city. I was so glad to see so many folks come out to celebrate with me! Or perhaps they couldn't resist Brewers' beers? I'd like to think it was a little of both.
This being a food blog, however, I will focus on the fabulous meal Xani and I had on the evening of my birthday (July 28 - best day ever!) at Salt, a place that's been on our list since the list was written!
Salt is located on Pratt Street in Butcher's Hill, a cute part of town with hard-to-find parking. Once we'd found a space, however, the rest of the evening went swimmingly. Xani and I took a seat in the dining area, separated from the funky bar area, and took note of the exposed white brick walls and the cool artwork hanging from them. The dining room also had huge green lights hanging over many of the tables, giving us a challenge as we chose the light settings for our cameras.
Our knowlegable and friendly waiter brought us some delicious bread and tomato-y spread, and we ordered glasses of wine.
Then, we consulted the much heard about awesome menu of Salt. As is typical when Xani and I dine out, we are often more excited about the appetizers/starters/small plates than the entrees since they are usually much more interesting. In addition, since the apps are always smaller, you can order more of them for the table than you would entrees, and more apps means more things to try! I love being able to try as many things as I can. Maybe it is the blossoming food critic within, but I think this preference goes WAY back to when I was little, because when I ordered Chicken McNuggets, I got ALL the sauces. Yup, all of 'em, whatever they had (usually sweet n' sour, BBQ, honey mustard, and honey), even if it cost the BCD parents extra.
Anyway, per our usual, Xani and I were more excited about the apps than the entrees, so with the guidance of our waiter, we selected five starters, which came out in three courses.
For our first course, we ordered the Trio of Gazpachos. The three flavors were Amish tomato, watermelon chili, and mango jicama. They were all served cold (very important on a hot July evening) and were all very interesting. Each had its own little garnish on the top (chives, parsley, etc.) in a super-fine dice. Nice knife skillz!
The best was the Amish tomato gazpacho, a traditional version of the soup with great tomato flavor, bits of fresh vegetables floating around, and a bit of a kick from some sort of pepper. Our next favorite was the watermelon chili gazpacho, which was sweet in the beginning but then hit you like a punch in the mouth with the heat. Yowza! It was hot, but good, and unlike the traditional gazpacho, it didn't have veggies floating in it and was pretty uniform throughout. Last on the list was the mango jicama gazpacho, which had a lot of good flavor but was a little too sweet for our tastes. Plus, it was a little on the thick side. Still, all three were very tasty, and beautifully presented.
For our next course, we enjoyed the Eastern Shore Corn Salad and the Tuna Poke. Both of these dishes were really fabulous with interesting and totally delicious flavor combinations. The corn salad was accompanied a "spicy crab and avocado ball and a sweet onion vinaigrette." The corn salad was sweet from the fresh corn and had lots of cilantro and mint, in addition to a cilantro puree alongside the salad. PLUS there was the crab ball. Fresh, spicy crab meat covered in thin slices of perfectly ripe avocado, topped with a sprinkling of sea salt. Hooboy, this was good!
The tuna poke was also a great dish. Poke is the hip, Hawaiian name for tuna tartare, and it was quite delicious. It was served with a "cucumber ginger granite and spicy peanut brittle." The poke had a delicious spicy sauce on the fish, and then the granita was sweet and hot, but icy and cold. The brittle added more spice and some crunch to the dish. Not only were these dishes amazingly tasty, they were amazingly interesting and unique, and we so appreciated that.
For our last course, we ordered the Duck Fat French Fries and the Foie Gras & Kobe Beef Slider. The fries were excellent (though, unfortunately, still not as good as Xani's!) and were served with a trio of aioli: chipotle, malt vinegar, and truffle. The aiolis were excellent, the truffle being my favorite, of course. Though the malt vinegar one was a great throwback to our days walking the boardwalk!
The best dish all night, however, was the awesome, decadent slider. It was a perfectly cooked kobe beef mini-burger topped with an equally-sized seared piece of foie gras on a grilled bun with truffle aioli and red onion marmalade. Holy crap. Xani and I split this tiny burger (with a big price tag: $15) and it was sooo rich, it was just the right two-bite amount. So good, it was like a (birthday) party in my mouth!
After our meal o' appetizers, we decided to get a little dessert to celebrate the birthday. We got a dessert I'd heard about from my friend Nicole: three mini ice cream cones! The three flavors were espresso, cookies and cream, and dulce de leche. Ice cream being my favorite dessert, I was a very happy birthday girl, plus I got to blow out a candle!
It was a great meal and I can't wait to get back to Salt to try more of their wonderful, creative dishes. Thanks to all who made my birthday one of the best ever! I love you all!
ps. Here are some pics from our evening out at Brewer's:
My birthday gift from Craig, Mark, and Rachel was an apron embroidered with the BCD logo!!! Order yours today!
Mark & Craig
The Wash U crew!
Xani and Mark and their beers