10 October 2010

Bluegrass Tavern with the Charm City Hounds

I attended my second Charm City Hounds dinner Thursday night at Bluegrass Tavern in Federal Hill. I hadn't heard too much about the restaurant, but after seeing the promised 5 course menu I was eagerly anticipating the meal. While I usually try to take detailed and accurate notes, at function such as this one I prefer to socialize with my fellow diners, discussing food in all it’s forms. So here is the menu we were served and some photos and a few short notes. While I felt no dish we had was perfect, no dish was a complete failure either. I wish I could’ve worded that sentence better, but no matter. On to the dishes!

Chef’s Amuse: Foie gras torchon, pomegranate & cherry jam, pain perdu.

The mass consensus on this dish was that the flavors worked well together, but the jam was overpowering. I didn’t really get too much from the pain perdu, and would’ve been just as pleased had the dish been served without it. If you managed your foie to jam ratios well, I felt the flavor combination was quite splendid.

First Course: Rabbit loin, endive, hazelnuts, pickled enoki mushrooms, port wine emulsion.

If I had to pick a least favorite course, this would be it. It was good, just a little scatterbrained. I loved the robust flavor of the rabbit, but it was on the dry side. The hazelnuts and port wine emulsion were fine, but I’m not sure what the pickled mushrooms added to the dish, and I’m just not a big fan of endive, it serves as a fine vessel for other ingredients, but it doesn’t have much flavor on it’s own. As I searched the plate for the mushrooms I was amused to hear my sentiments echoed down the table. They’re the skinny dark things laid across the rabbit loin.

Second Course: Sausage stuffed quail, maple poached egg, anson mills stone ground oats, house hot sauce.

I would eat this for breakfast every day if I could. This would’ve been my favorite course of the night, had the hot sauce not been mouth-scorchingly hot, and you know I likes me foods spicy so that really says something. I appreciated the fruitiness of the habanero, but even used sparingly it scorched my taste buds. I did love the ultra-smoky quail, one of the highlights of the meal for me.

Third Course: Bacon wrapped veal loin, cauliflower puree, red wine ravioli.

The main complaints about this dish were that the bacon was tough, making it hard to cut through the veal, and there was not enough of the fantastically creamy puree. I loved the crimson waterfall that poured out of the ravioli after I pierced it with my fork, but it lacked the concentrated punch I look for in a red wine reduction. The veal itself was perfectly cooked, tender, and gamey.

Fourth Course: Venison backstrap, aged cheddar grits, snail & piopini ragout, escargot butter.

This was my overall favorite course due to the fact that I felt it was the most balanced. Like the veal, the venison was perfectly cooked and tender, and the portion size was ample indeed. The grits were some of the best I’ve had (which leads me to wonder if I’ve just had a lot of bad grits…), both smoky and creamy while still retaining some texture. I was tempted to ask the chef for a big bowl of grits to go. I loves me some grits. The combination of the snails and mushrooms made for a supremely earthy ragout, and I’m sure the escargot butter was in there somewhere, but I couldn’t tell you where.

Dessert: Apple & pear pave, apple caramel ice cream.

I believe this was the table’s overall least favorite dish, but it came in second to last for me. The star of the dish (the pave) was a complete flop, but the accompanying ice cream, crumble, and caramel made for a very pleasant flavor combination. This dish was served with a spoon, but even after the entire table requested knives to cut the pave, which was made up of very thin layers of apple and pear, it was still very hard to cut through. I’m not lying when I say that mine flew off of my plate three times before I gave up and ate it by separating the layers. Maybe that was the intention? Also, considering we’re in prime apple season I expected the apple flavor to be very pronounced and, unfortunately, it was quite muted. I did, however, enjoy the granny smith apple chip.

All in all I felt this was a really solid meal, and for $50 per person quite reasonable. I enjoyed chatting with my fellow hounds and look forward to our next gathering. I also look forward to coming back to Bluegrass Tavern to sample some of their standard menu items, although I’ve heard from a variety of sources that the menu is constantly shrinking, and some of their better staple items are no longer offered.

Don't worry, I'm not giving up on my anniversary posts, day 5 is almost complete. Until next time, thanks for reading and go eat something!

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theminx said...

The first edit of my post isn't quite as nice as yours. Maybe I should tone mine down a bit...lol

You had the biggest portion of venison at the table!

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