I flew out to Baltimore last week to attend my third PSTC (Pressure Sensitive Tape Council) conference. It’s not a large conference, but a very focused industry event.
I found myself getting to know new colleagues from a sister company, spending lots of quality time with key customers, and bonding with newer colleagues from my own company. In all, it was a great week (and I normally loathe being away for almost a week – especially while having a senior dog (and having recently said goodbye to my other senior dog)).
On my first evening in Baltimore, I met two new colleagues from Arkema Coating Resins for dinner. I immediately knew Pat (the planner of the evening) and I would get along. He promised me “a good restaurant”! ;-) Keith, a technical guy and I also hit it off quite quickly – lots of common interests! It’s awesome to feel such a natural connection with guys I had never met, and who live in NJ and NC, respectively. Yet, we are now “family”!
We met at the cocktail hour reception at PSTC (quite literally one hour, folks…so we weren’t staying long). We walked several blocks over to Kona Grill and immediately realized we were in a good spot for a seafood dinner! Here is the menu.
We were hungry, so we knew we wanted appetizers. Pat chose the Shrimp Diablo (diablo sauce, danish bleu, bleu cheese sauce), and then Keith turned the second option over to Robbie, our server. He chose the chicken + shrimp lettuce wraps (bibb lettuce, cucumber salad, spicy sesame vinaigrette). Both appetizers were delicious, and we devoured every last bite!
Robbie charmed me immediately with his great sense of humor (stepping back to “reset” as he flubbed when describing the evening’s special (which Pat ordered)). I can definitely appreciate someone who can laugh at himself and who can also recover so nicely after a minor “trip up”.
It didn’t hurt that Robbie brought me a glass of Sonoma Cutrer Chardonnay to compliment the appetizers and entree as well! :-)
The entree he chose for me was the Snapper topped with crab meat, served with couscous and asparagus. Normally, couscous doesn’t seem like an interesting side, but Kona’s couscous had really good flavor and texture to it! Delicious!
And, my colleagues had equally delicious, and beautifully plated dishes as well!
In addition to having a very pleasant server who was quite open-minded and excited about “She Ordered What?”, I had good quality time to get to know my new colleagues and to chat about both business and personal interests.
On Wednesday, we decided to have a casual evening and walk over to Oriole Park at Camden Yards to watch the O’s take on the Toronto Blue Jays. I had never been to Camden Yards, so I was excited to check that ballpark off the bucket list of venues to visit! If you haven’t been, you’ll see that it’s beautifully situated in the heart of the city and the brickwork makes it an absolutely beautiful area!
The view from my hotel room! Thank you, Hilton Baltimore!
Of course, it was a hot dog and beer kind of night. No fancy dining while watching America’s pastime! And, the Orioles won 6-1 that evening, so it made the local experience all the better!
Thursday, however, was a different story. I was totally set on going to my hotel room for the evening to write meeting notes, but my colleagues convinced me to venture out for dinner at a restaurant an industry contact recommended – The Fork & Wrench. It’s perfectly described as a “boutique dive bar”, and founded by Cyrus Keefer, (associated with that well-known James Beard foundation!).
The Fork & Wrench is an eclectic and charming space!
The staff all greeted us warmly, and at ~6:30 on a Thursday night, we were able to grab a table for four with no problem. Well, except the fact that we were all still reeling from one of the worst cab rides I’ve ever experienced. To the driver of cab number 90 in Baltimore: I will NEVER get into your vehicle again! It was so bad I took a picture AND tweeted about this dangerous ride!
I have a strong stomach, but all four of us wanted to bail multiple times during this 2 mile / 35 minute cab ride!!!
A quick glance at the menu, and I knew everything would be wonderful. My colleague was really trying hard to “move out of her comfort zone”, so she was quite impressed when she saw me hand my blog card to our server, Greg. He read it, and was totally up for the task! The only question he asked me was how hungry I was. Answer: pretty darned hungry!
The meal started with fresh bread and salted butter (delicious!).
Then came fried oysters, served with a glass of Simonnet Febvre Brut Rosé .
For good measure, I took a picture of all of the appetizers on our table.
You’ll see smoked Beef Tongue with tostones, aji marmalade & cilantro crema on the right, and Ssamjang Glazed Pork Belly with green papaya relish, kimchi purée & Bibb lettuce on the left (the colleague who stepped out of her comfort zone – and thoroughly enjoyed her appetizer!).
I teased Greg that he gave me a clue about my entrée when he set down a serrated knife.
For my entree, Greg was not the person to serve me, so I wasn’t sure if I should claim the dish that was presented or not! After all, this was a surprise!
When I mentioned that it “might” be my dinner, the server sat the plate down and then excitedly told me that everyone in the kitchen saw the blog card and thought it was such a cool idea! I have to admit that I got pretty excited by that response as well!
It turns out that I was served the Leg of Lamb served over stewed white beans, baby carrots & wild ramp salsa verde. Extremely tender meat and really nice flavor! I felt like it was a reasonably healthy dish as well – lots of veggies and no heavy cream sauce. That makes up for all of the gorging, right?
I couldn’t possibly finish it all, but I wanted to! And, it turns out that I didn’t need that serrated knife – the meat was that tender!
Although I was overly full, Greg had already decided that I needed to try dessert as well. I mentioned on Instagram that I (jokingly) thought I found my soulmate in Greg. He picked the dessert that had immediately caught my eye. The “Creamsicle” Gooey Butter Cake with blood orange curd, orange sherbet. Y’all know how much I love a citrus dessert!
But, let me tell you that the butter cake was the absolute BOMB. I wasn’t hungry any longer, but I would have licked that plate clean if it were socially acceptable!
On the way out, I stopped in the Ladies’ room, and I even felt compelled to take photos there. Such a charming space!
It’s no wonder Baltimore is called “Charm City”. Everyone I met was very pleasant, our servers Robbie and Greg were both charming men, and the spaces and places we visited had unique charm and character.
Now, time to get back to healthy eating and exercise! No more binging!
I hope you enjoyed my recap of my visit to Baltimore as much as I enjoyed the visit!