Group meals in Baltimore have often centered around mounds of steamed crabs piled on newspapers spread across long tables, iced pitchers of beer, and an intense debate on who dishes up the best crab cakes. Crabs are still king but chef gardens, small plates of Lowcountry and exotic ethnic flavors, and coffee—yes, coffee, are redefining menu selections as exquisite experiences at the newly-opened dining establishments.
“People are surprised by the diversity of Baltimore’s F&B scene,” says Amy Calvert, vp of sales/services at Visit Baltimore. “They expect fresh seafood but are thrilled with the farm-to-table approach prevalent among our celebrated local chefs.” Multiple James Beard Award nominee chef Cindy Wolf and partner Tony Foreman just opened their 6th Baltimore restaurant. Cinghiale, a Northern Italian restaurant in the heart of downtown, evokes the chic style of Milano and Bologna of the late 1950s.
Chef Michael Mina doubles up on his culinary wonderfulness at Four Seasons Hotel Baltimore with Pabu and Wit & Wisdom. Pabu is modeled after traditional Japanese drinking establishments and favors small plates from the rabata grill. Wit & Wisdom is a tavern whose Mid-Atlantic inspired menu is prepared with classical wood-fire grilling and hearth-cooking methods.
We stopped in at Pabu for an industry event during AIBTM in June. By the end of the night everyone was dancing to the sounds of a live DJ after sampling all of the skewer food and ridiculously good sesame vanilla ice cream with warm chocolate fudge. Pabu is also great for outdoor cocktail receptions because everyone can gather at the harbor edge as the sun sets over the water.
Three new culinary experiences in Baltimore challenge the palate and stimulate group activities. McCormick World of Flavors is a 3,800-sf space with interactive and educational displays of the company’s products.
Charm City Food Tours combines history, architecture, culture and tasty samples of local cuisine from family restaurants and shops in a walking tour throughout Baltimore’s diverse neighborhoods.
And then there’s Baltimore’s latest food trend at the Woodberry Kitchen—coffee cupping. Similar to wine tastings, people are taught to evaluate coffee aromas and flavor profiles from international producers.