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We as consumers, want to be able to dine responsibly. Hence the popularity of the farm to table movement, but honestly just about all of the ingredients that land on the table , come from a farm. Present day, you hear a great deal about urban farming, as well as vertical gardening. A new agricultural  movement is on the up an up .Hyper local is gonna be the new farm to table. Foraged is a hyper local eatery that recently opened on Chestnut St in the Hampden neighborhood of Baltimore. I went there on Saturday, and had to find out if all the hulaballoo lived up to the hype. 

I made a reservation for 4 for 6pm. The space is relatively small and I believe it may seat up to 30 people in one seating. You kinda feel as though you are in a farmhouse, and I kinda like it. The overall aesthetic of the restaurant was rustic.  On the left wall there are installations of 2 vertical garden panels. Vertical gardens are all the rage you know. All the cool kids are doing it. We brought a bottle of wine to have with our meal. There is no charge for corkage since their liquor license has not been obtained yet. I  imagine once they are in full swing, one may expect to imbibe on locally crafted brews, and spirits.  We were sat at a lovely table parked right in front the kitchen. The best seat in the house, in my opinion. First look at the menu,  I am immediately pleased. There aren't distinctive apps and entrees, but rather plates encouraged to be shared. I like the idea that several dishes can be ordered , and passed around the dining table. Often though when dining with a group of people, this can be a plus, or a minus. I'm am referring to  the end of the meal and  calculating  who pays for what. If you dine with a group that equally shares, then it only makes sense to split evenly, but if one party only partakes in one dish, sharing of the dishes may present challenges. But back  to the food.

One of my guests happen to have dietary restrictions, and I was pleased that the kitchen was able to accommodate. We were told the entirety of the dish may be presented differently, but changes could be made. Another trend that is happening to menus everywhere is the attention made to feed both vegetarians, and vegans alike. I commend this effort.  My guest happen to be neither, but could not consume dairy. The server informed us that it may greatly restrict her choices considering just about everything on the menu was basted or prepared with dairy. The  server  checked with the Chef before giving his final answer. Otherwise, sadly we would have had to leave and venture to another restaurant. Fortunately , the Chef was able to adjust to my guest dietary requests. 

I started out with the oyster chowder. I have been spoiled with good soup that has been prepared at the hands of Chef Tom Power of Corduroy, so my expectation was high. I am happy to report, the chowder delivered. The briny flavor of the oysters, paired with the elegant composition of the  silky broth made for a perfect chowder.  The presence of fennel and a brunoise of aromatic veggies, that I can't put my finger on, elevated the soup.  The menu description was appropriately titled.  I wanted to tip the bowl into my mouth so that I could savor every drop. It was then followed by a Mushroom stew. It may not have been a traditional stew, but its was amazing.  Stewed Hen of the woods mushrooms garnished with dollops of ricotta gnudi, and topped off with a pillowy poached egg. The star of the dish was obviously the mushrooms, but I expected the yolk  to add a richness that surprisingly was missed.   The addition of what I thought to be sunflower seeds, which actually were pine nuts, added a clever nuttiness to the dish. I only wished there was a bit of bread to soak up the mushroom liqueur in the bottom of the bowl. I conclude my meal with the pastrami pork belly served with greens. My instinct was to order the catfish stew, but was directed to try the pork belly instead. I should have stuck to my gut. Though the pork belly, as good as it was, did not deliver as I thought it would. I found it to be salty, and paired  with the greens being briny as well, it was overkill.  Pork belly has essentially become the chocolate molten cake of menus. Everyone does it. Nothing ground breaking here.  I often follow the guidance of the server, and he versed it to be a sure thing. To me, I should have went with my first choice. 

The meal  as whole, was good. Could it have been better, sure. I will venture back after they have expanded their menu to include spirits, and will follow my own compass as to what to select. One thing is for sure,  the Chef followed a bit of advice from  his former employer, Sean Brock of the famed McCrady's. The James Beard Awarded chef passed on to the Chef, " Respect the food. Treat it like you would treat a loved one." You could taste the love in the food, especially in the first two courses. The last course, the Chef may have been a bit over zealous, and seasoned the dish aggressively.  The setting of restaurant, along with the meticulous details in preparation of all of the dishes,was not missed on this diner. In my travels, I seek out spots that set themselves apart from the rest of the herd. The Chef, Chris Amendola, has made an impression on me that will warrant  another visit. I will be back. This time I just won't have the molten chocolate cake, oops, I mean the pork belly. 

Roaming gourmet,



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