Thursday, July 24, 2008


For my birthday dinner--and do not, dear reader, inquire which one--Rod took me to Charleston in Baltimore. The flagship of Cindy Wolf's impressive array of Baltimore restaurants, which include Petit Louis, Cinghiale, and Pazo, it is well known for a superlative tasting menu and excellent cellar.

We went with high expectations, and we were not disappointed. Service was superb, a perfect blend of formality and friendliness. Food was exquisitely presented. I was especially taken with a goat cheese flan and grilled pheasant breast on a crispy corn cake. Many of the dishes are inspired by the time Cindy Wolf spent cooking and refining low-country cuisine in the Charleston area, as evidenced by the corn cake or the addition of grilled vidalia onion. Desert was equally impressive: Rod indulged in a chocolate bombe, while I greedily consumed a buttery fruit tart.

The ambiance of Charleston, the attention to detail, and the excellent cuisine made for a lovely birthday dinner except . . .

I think I came down with food poisoning. Awakened at 3:00 a.m. with, to put it politely, gastrointestinal upset, I spent the subsequent twelve hours doubled over in bed or rushing to the bathroom. I sent an e-mail to Charleston, but, so far, no one has responded. On Saturday, when fetching my weekly bag of groceries from our CSA, I chatted with Craig about the unpleasant aftermath of my birthday dinner. He suspected the pheasant which, as he pointed out, is only harvested in fall and therefore had most likely been sitting in the walk-in freezer for eight or nine months. Of course, I have no way of knowing what made me sick at Charleston, but I am disappointed that a restaurant of this calibre has not followed up on a likely case of food poisoning.

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