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For me Charleston still sits at the pinnacle of "fine dining" in Baltimore. For better or worse, the East Harbor location is now ultra-trendy, close by the water (ask to sit in the front if you want a view) and steps from several other chi-chi restaurants like Roys and Flemings and all that is Fells Point. Inside is serenity itself: richly appointed, comfortable and refined. Do not bring young children. Don't even think about it. The menu is split between prix fixe and a la carte. I enjoy Cindy Wolf's cornmeal crusted oysters - six or seven for a first course with lemon-cayenne mayonnaise are reason enough for me to go. The cornmeal fried soft shell crabs are amazing too. Sauteed and served in a bright lemony brown butter, they need and get nothing but the few dressed greens upon which they perch in oozing glory. Grilled gulf shrimp with Andouille sausage and cubes of salty tasso ham over stone-milled grits are a perennial menu favorite. I'm no Southerner, grits ain't me, but these grits is great! The fried green tomato "sandwich" (ok, stack) with lobster and lump crab hash includes tiny perfect cubes of Yukon gold potatoes and a healthy pinch of curry. Oh yes. Entrees are wonderful, but this time it was straight to dessert. Cheesecake with apricot compote. A ramekin-size light cheesecake on a bed of roasted chopped pecans was very good, but apricots are my favorite fruit and the intensely tart/sweet compote surrounding the cake was the best I've had.
I finally got around to try Cinghiale near the harbor. It's an Italian restaurant that is part of Cindy Wolf's Charleston group in Baltimore. The place divided into 2 sections, the more casual bistro-like Osteria, and the fancy Enoteca. However, you can order off both menus no matter where you sit. Since we were more slobbed out, we ate in the Osteria, but I ended up ordering off the Enoteca menu, which is like a prix fixe that you can also add wine pairings with each course. The food was really delicious- I started with La Carne Cruda- a raw veal tenderloin topped with poached quail egg. My next course was some boar ravioli with a brown butter sauce. The main dish was amazing - Il Maiale- a roasted Berkshire pork rack with red wine sauce, grilled peaches and an arugula salad. My dining companions had a pretty amazing heirloom tomato salad with gorgonzola. All in all, it's definitely got the impressive food the Charleston group is known for. Pics