Monday, November 28, 2016

New Fall Menu at B & O Brasserie

B & O Brasserie in the Hotel Monaco is one of our favorite restaurants, especially for special occasions, but also for a simple weeknight dinner. The restaurant has seen several executive chefs over its relatively short existence, but each has created complex, high-end dishes that have never been boring or predictable. B & O's current executive chef, Scott Hines, continues the tradition set by his predecessors with a new fall menu that entertains the palate with layers of flavor and ingredient combinations that are new and exciting. We were happy to be invited to try out the new offerings recently.

We started our meal with a Brussels sprout salad made of the bright green outer leaves of the sprouts. Crab apples, onion, Marcona almonds, and pancetta round out the salad, providing a variety of flavors and textures. When I first tasted it, I thought the pancetta was Mexican chorizo. I later found out that the maple vinaigrette included achiote (or annatto) which lends an earthy flavor as well as a yellow hue, and is also used in chorizo. I was glad to discover that my tastebuds were not playing tricks on me. 

The oxtail marmalade is slow cooked oxtail (actually the tail from cattle we think of as cows, as opposed to oxen) blended with sweet and savory ingredients to create intense, meaty, flavor. When combined with a bit of bone marrow schmaltz (a rich combination of bone marrow and beef tallow) and a little of the lightly acidic pickled shallot and peppercress garnish on a slice of ciabatta, the result is a rich and satisfying bite that is lovely and well-balanced. A top-notch appetizer that would also be a perfect bar snack when paired with one of the B&Os always inventive cocktails. In that vein, I had the Harvest Moon from the new fall menu, a surprisingly dry combination of apple brandy, cacao nib syrup, lemon, and Millstone gingerroot cider. The Minx had the Rock Wall, a combination of mezcal and rum with cider, lemon, and spiced sugar syrup that reminded her of wood smoke and fall leaves.

The lamb noisette features medallions of medium rare lamb over a bed of fregola flavored with black olives and merguez sausage, and escarole, with a simply perfect lamb jus. An intensely carrot-y spiced carrot reduction is spread across the plate and feta cheese is sprinkled on top for an additional layer of flavor. There was just so much going on in this dish, and all of it was exactly the right thing.

A exciting surprise for me was the marjoram and orange gremolata atop the house made pappardelle with veal sugo. The veal is slow braised for 6 to 7 hours, making it unbelievably tender, and the pasta is lovely and silky on the tongue. While the dish would have been amazing as is, the salty pepperiness of pecorino pepato cheese nudged it over the top. While I might not be ambitious enough to tackle the slow braised veal, I would like to try the marjoram and orange combo on one of my own pasta dishes. It was quite the flavor revelation. Marjoram, a member of the mint and oregano family, is a somewhat underutilized herb when fresh, at least in such an obvious way. The flavor is reminiscent of both oregano and mint and added a fresh herbal contrast to the rich meaty sauce.

Although we were bursting at the seams, Chef Hines wanted us to try out a selection of their desserts. The lavender and caramel flan was redolent of lavender and finished off with slices of crisp meringue.

From the moment we arrived at the restaurant, everyone was raving about the lemon bar, and the praise was completely in order. Feuilletine white chocolate crunch, berry gelee, toasted meringue, vanilla ice cream, and lemon brittle make for a wonderful variety of flavors and textures that all work together. Your palate never gets bored with this dessert.

The B & O ice cream sandwiches are nothing like the ones you pulled out of the freezer as a kid. Almond macarons sandwich rich vanilla ice cream and are set on a pool of dulce de leche. To cut the sweetness and provide a little warmth on a chilly fall evening, the sandwiches are served with a cup of spiced hot cider.

While we've never had a bad meal at B & O Brasserie no matter what time of year we've gone there, this fall menu created by Chef Scott Hines is something worth checking out before the season is over. It makes us excited for the new, inventive dishes he will create in the future.

Full disclosure - Chef Hines provided several recipes for our latest book, Maryland's Chesapeake. He's a terrifically creative chef who is also very generous. We are so pleased that he's running the kitchen at B & O, and look forward to many more delicious meals there.

B & O Brasserie
The Hotel Monaco
2 North Charles Street
Baltimore, Maryland, 21201

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