Monday, August 24, 2009

Excuse us, We're PRESS

by Xani and Erin

Writing a food blog is a mixed bag. Sure, it's fun most of the time, getting comments from friends and strangers alike, feeling like you have special corner of the internet all to yourself, and having an excuse to check out that new recipe or restaurant ("we just HAVE to make croquembouche, for the BLOG!"). Sometimes its a bit of a chore, always worrying about how long its been since you posted, making sure you've got something interesting to blog about, getting nagging emails regarding lack of blogging from "fans" who clearly need more going on in their lives (you know who you are!). But one of the BEST things about being a blogger is getting a little extra-special treatment-- like when we were invited to a Press Dinner during the soft opening of Baltimore's newest restaurant, the B&O American Brasserie

The B&O American Brasserie is located in the brand-new, gorgeous Hotel Monaco Baltimore, which is situated in the landmark Baltimore and Ohio Railroad headquarters building, in downtown Baltimore (on Charles St. between Baltimore and Fayette Sts., for our local readers). EP and I jumped at the chance to check out this new restaurant which promised to fill a gap in Bmore dining-- downtown, delicious, and (slightly) upscale. Would the meal live up to our expectations??

Well, before we even had a bite of food, we fell in love with the look and feel of the B&O. As soon as you step in, you are greeted by a warm, inviting, but chic space. A friendly hostess led us through the lovely bar/lounge space (which includes a view of the open kitchen) and up the stairs to a very intimate yet spacious dining room. The tables are far enough apart to give each party plenty of privacy, and the high-backed booths add to that (plus they're comfy!).

Our helpful (and, as we would discover, hilarious) waiter came right over and presented us with the cocktail list. The hand-crafted cocktails are clever and tasty-- we enjoyed the Hobo’s Bourbon & Cola (Bulleit Bourbon & Housemade(!!) Cola), the Junction Berry Fizz (Plymouth Gin, Red Berry Syrup, Orange Flower Water, Lemon & Club Soda), and the Peach Julep (Makers Mark Bourbon, Peach Puree & Mint). Hey, we were thirsty! And they were all VERY good, fresh-tasting and not too sweet. B&O offers drink specials during their happy hour Monday-Friday from 4-7. We enjoyed some very good bread and soft butter with basil salt to soak up the cocktails.

Junction Berry Fizz

Peach Julip

Hobo's Bourbon & Cola -- we love hobos!

Then, onto the FOOD! The B&O dinner menu includes a variety of seafood, flatbreads, steaks and various other mains, including daily specials (known as "The Local"-- one of their cute railroad/train references that pop up here and there). But we started, of course, with starters...

We shared the Local Mixed Greens with Snap Peas, Radish & Citrus Walnut Vinaigrette, as well as a Crispy Pork Belly with Sweet Potato Mash and pickled onions on top (and other stuff that escapes me at the moment).

The salad was very fresh-tasting and the snap peas were nice and sweet. The pork belly was excellent - we saw it on the menu immediately and HAD to have it! While the cut of pork belly we got was -- I can't believe I'm going to say this -- a little too fatty (not enough meat), the flavors from the pork belly combined with the sweet potato worked beautifully, and the pickled onions cut through all the richness. A-mazing!

Mixed green salad with snap peas and walnuts

Pork belly with sweet potato puree

We ordered two mains to share (of course). First we got the special of the day: Buttermilk Fried Chicken atop mashed potatoes. The chicken was perfectly cooked - crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside, lots and lots of flavor in the breading. The mashed potatoes were light and fluffy and when paired with the chicken, created a delicious bite that tasted like childhood.

We also got the Steak Frites, which was offered in a variety of cuts of meat, and we got the coulotte steak, also known as a top sirloin cap steak. The steak was served with delicious frites and -- this is the best part -- they came in a teeny tiny fry basket! So cute - I died. The steak had lots of flavor and our only criticism was that it was a little rare for us.

Tiny fry baskets make fries even more delicious

Then it was time for dessert! Adorably, the dessert menu was called "The Last Stop," keeping with the train theme. When we asked our waiter which desserts he recommended, he suggested the Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler with whipped creme fraiche before I could even get the question out. So, we obviously ordered that. We also ordered The "Wicked Pissa" Cupcake.

Strawberry-Rhubarb Cobbler


The cobbler was very good - you could really taste both fruits distinctly: the tartness of the rhubarb and the sweetness of the strawberries. We loved the crumbly top and whipped creme fraiche. The cupcakes were very good as well - they were pretty dense and chocolatey, so therefore more like brownies than cupcakes, but still very delicious.

After our awesome meal, we got a sample of the basil salt we had with our bread and butter to take home and a little note from the chef. So cool!

We then left the restaurant and explored the new hotel a bit. We went upstairs to the "Living Room" which is the concierge level for hotel guests. We were both FLOORED by this room - it was so beautifully decorated with warm tones and funky patterns, super-cool furniture and an entire mirrored wall in the middle of the room with a double-sided fireplace. The flower arrangements included birds-of-paradise flowers and artichokes. We could have stayed there all night! They have a wine hour from 5-6 during weekdays and we may be visiting very soon.

We had such a good time at the B&O American Brasserie and we will definitely be back for dinner or perhaps drinks and snacks in their chic and cozy bar area. We encourage out of towners (or Baltimore folks!) to stay the hotel - it looks beautiful and one of the amenities is a "companion goldfish." What could be better?

Thanks to Amy for the invitation - it was lovely to meet you! We hope to see you again soon.

In short, it's good to be a blogger. :)

X & EP

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