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Gertrude's, in the Baltimore Museum of Art

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Last night, went to Gertrude's for restaurant week with some co-workers. The restaurant's chef is John Shields, who hosts Coastal Cooking on PBS, and it's located inside the Baltimore Museum of Art. The cuisine has a lot of regional seafood- crab, of course, oysters, fish, and shrimp, as well a Southern touch.

I had actually been there on a Tuesday when the restaurant runs a special Gertie's Cafe and serves $10 and $12 entrees, including a fantastic pan fried 1/2 chicken for the $10 price with sides.

Last night, I opted to not stick to the restaurant week menu. Instead, I got the Chesapeake style gumbo- it had blue crab, crawfish, clams, mussels, shrimp, scallops and andouille sausage. My dinner companions got Chincoteague single fry oysters- lightly dusted in cornmeal with a remoulade sauce, the lump crabcake, and the turkey meatloaf.

It definitely was a more comfort food oriented meal.

For dessert, one of their unique items is the goat cheese cheesecake- it is a lot smoother in texture than conventional cheesecake.

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We had a pleasant and leisurely brunch* here with some friends today for someone's birthday before strolling through the museum. Service was quite good--especially considering how busy it was--and friendly.

They have a "build your own" brunch option with a protein, sauce, and two sides (from a wide-ranging list of options) that two of us chose. I almost didn't order this because I thought it would be too much food, but it was a moderate portion, and I ate it all. We both had the Gertie's crab cake for $20. (The options range from $17 to $27.) I had a tangy, creamy three mustard sauce with mine, two poached eggs, and skillet home fries. I was tempted to keep the lump crab cake (described as "traditional" on the menu) as pure as possible but ended up spooning on mustard sauce and dragging crab through egg yolk. It was quite satisfying. The eggs were poached just right. The potatoes (which also had some bell pepper, onion, and bacon) were okay but not spectacular. I think I'd try a different side in their place next time, possibly the apple-fennel slaw the other crab eater ordered; it looked good.

My husband went with one of the brunch specials for today: Asparagus & Smoked Gouda Omelet With marinated artichokes, roasted red peppers, spinach & free-range eggs, served with a Garden Salad…15. I didn't get a chance to try any because he ate it all. The omelette was a fairly decent size. The salad took up the other half of the plate. I think his portion was actually bigger than mine.

The birthday boy ordered Sirloin Steak Ranchero 20. grilled locally-raised top sirloin steak (4 oz.) topped with poached eggs & a tomato-jalapeno hollandaise sauce, served with skillet home fries.

He asked for it to be pink on the inside and commented that it was cooked exactly to order. Everyone must have been pleased because we all completely cleaned our plates. (I cannot recall the other two orders, but one was a variation on Eggs Benedict, maybe with crab, and the other may have also been one of the several versions of Benedict.)

We mostly stuck with water and coffee, but my husband ordered one of the housemade sodas on the specials menu, the blood orange. He liked it okay, but it kept separating, and he drinks fairly slowly, so the ice diluted it over time.

The table split two orders of the sorbet sampler for dessert ($8 each):

Winter’s Cure: OJ, lemon juice, honey, ginger, bourbon & a touch of cayenne

Pear & Ginger
Lambic Cherry Beer & Almond
Cranberry & Roasted Orange
Grapefruit & Hibiscus

I was very full, even for trying sorbet, and only sampled three of them. The lambic cherry beer and almond was fantastic; the cranberry-orange okay; and the one with bourbon gets the middle rating. (These aren't served in a manner too conductive to sharing, as they come served in ceramic soup spoons. Presentation is beautiful, though.) One of the plates had a candle in one of the scoops of sorbet and "happy birthday" written in chocolate on the plate.

This is a most satisfactory location for brunch in the area. The prices seemed a little high in an absolute sense but in line with other museum restaurants. It appeared to be kid-oriented too. I saw a number of families with small children. The tablecloth was covered with white paper and there was a container of crayons on the table. With the museum (free admission) right there, I'd imagine it might also be good for a brunch date :) , except for maybe* .

*Except for the noise level. Ouch.

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