Wednesday, December 12, 2012

The Food Market

After being urged by several different people to try the Food Market, we did, with some delicious results.

The place is popular. Seriously. We eat dinner early, partly to miss the crowd, partly because we're old. By 6pm on a Saturday, the place was hopping, and getting louder by the minute. The music was loud, the people were louder, and the restaurant has no sound-absorbing materials at all, apart from the barely-padded banquette seats. So bring earplugs and a hearty appetite because there's lots to try.

The menu at the Food Market has categories like "little," "small," "big," and "in-between," which translates as "finger food appetizers (plus a soup)," "appetizers that require a fork," "entrees," and "sandwiches." (You're welcome.) Absolutely everything sounded like something we wanted to eat, so it was a bit hard to narrow down our choices. Eventually we settled on two littles, two smalls, and one in-between to share.

The Amish soft pretzels were less the stereotypical salty twists and more like buttery bread fingers (think Aunt Annie's). The generous portion of beer cheese fondue was spiked with jalapeno and had a nice kick. It was so good, we hated to waste it; even after the pretzels were gone, we kept the cheese sauce as a dip for french fries and the tasty foccacia that was brought to the table when we arrived.

Amish soft pretzels, beer cheese fondue
The meatloaf fries were fat little fingers of very good, very moist, homestyle meatloaf, dipped in tempura batter and deep fried. Complete overkill, but quite tasty. I think I might enjoy the meatloaf more if it were served in a more traditional manner.
Meatloaf fries crispy tempura
ketchup & black pepper beef gravy
At this point, after only two courses, I was getting full. The next two dishes that arrived were thankfully somewhat lighter. Yes, the pork belly seemed lighter than the meatloaf, probably because it hadn't been deep fried. Not that there's anything wrong with deep frying....

There was a nice ratio of fat to meat on the chubby chunk of belly, which can sometimes seem too fatty. (Not that there's anything wrong with fatty....) The brown sugar topping added a perfect amount of sweetness and married well with the toasted pecans. My favorite dish of the evening.
Brown sugar pork belly, petite greens, toasted pecans,
cherry tomatoes, bangin’ honey mustard vinaigrette

We also ordered the chopped salad, which the kitchen thoughtfully split for us. It wasn't quite a chopped salad, as the lettuce was whole and the sprouts were cut in half, but it was an interesting combination of flavors, and quite autumnal. I thought it was odd that the sprouts were warm, and everything else was at room temperature, and felt the macadamia nut crumble was merely a texture and not a flavor, but Mr Minx gobbled it up. And he's not a fan of either beets or cooked carrots.
Chopped salad lemon cream cheese, roasted brussels, beets, 
carrots, mac nut crumble, cranberry vinaigrette
Finally, we shared the Pat LaFrieda burger, which the kitchen again split for us. The saltiness of the bacon predominated, rendering even the pickles mute. But the meat was perfectly cooked, and the bun held up to the large amount of filling. The crinkle cut fries on the side were a touch of nostalgia.
Pat LaFrieda Burger diced bacon, lettuce, tomato, 
onion, sesame bun, cheese, pickles
And then we ordered dessert. I was tempted by the sound of pumpkin cannoli, but would have preferred a single large cannoli to the three small ones. I'm more about the filling than the shell, which was a bit dry and dense.
Pumpkin Cannoli
Mr Minx ordered the Heath bar bread pudding, which was lovely and moist, but far too sweet for my taste. The plain whipped cream was a welcome relief from the sugar overload, although it's probably odd to look to a pile of what is essentially whipped fat to lighten anything.
Heath bar bread pudding
I have mixed emotions about the Food Market. I love the concept, always love small plates, but think it really takes some advance knowledge of the dishes to put together a meal that feels like a meal, rather than a sundry combination of snack foods (granted, we did perhaps order oddly). Several of the diners around us were ordering big plates only, which might be the way to go. And speaking of other diners - the tables are fairly close together, so it's easy to overhear conversations. For instance, the table of annoyingly giggly female 20-somethings to our left threw out a few bons mots, my favorite being, "ooh...the Baltimore Club looks really good. Except for the shrimp salad." (A Baltimore club is generally a crabcake paired with shrimp salad. Without the shrimp salad, it's a crab cake sandwich.)

That said, I'd like to go back and try a few more things. The pork belly was seriously good (everything was, in its own way), and both the cracker fried oysters and lil' lamb porterhouses seem like items I'd really enjoy. And they have scallops, which almost always turns me on.

The Food Market
1017 West 36th Street
Baltimore, MD 21211
(410) 366-0606
thefoodmarketbaltimore.com

The Food Market on Urbanspoon

Posted on Minxeats.com.

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