Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Leave Me Alone with My Chicken Baby

These are the leftovers! Leftovers!
It's no wonder that Gertrude's – John Shields' restaurant in the Baltimore Museum of Art – only serves its moist, crispy-skinned fried chicken once a week. Based on the massive platter of thighs, drumsticks and wings that arrived at our table they'd quickly go out of business if it was offered on a regular basis.

This was my first trip back to Gertrude's since our first wedding anniversary. My wife and I were married on the museum's patio in the midst of a pounding rainstorm in September of 2003 and we had our reception in the restaurant. The chicken – along with a pepper speckled turkey meatloaf and crab cakes based on those served at the Long Beach Island, NJ restaurant my wife's family owned for over four decades – was on our reception menu but that night is a blur of family and friends, highlighted by the smiles of my parents, who never thought they'd live to see the day.

Coincidentally, last night's weather – dreary and rainy – was a throwback to that September night a dozen years ago, but this time we got to enjoy it with our eight year old daughter (and burgeoning foodie). Just walking into the inviting, cozy restaurant with its impressive bar and low but not too dark lighting brought back a flood of great memories.

Actually, I probably shouldn't say "flood" as our honeymoon on OBX was cut short due to Hurricane Isabel which forced us to evacuate the island and sent my bride of a few days off to work as her station covered the damaging storm. On to more pleasant topics... like the food!

Despite doing a brisk Tuesday night biz – thanks to the aforementioned fried chicken and reduced price $15 entrees – we were quickly seated at a quiet corner table and munched cornbread slathered with sweet, creamy butter while we looked over the menu.

Chris had been eyeing the chicken since we made the decision to go while I had a hankering for Shields' signature crab cake – served with hand cut fries and a crisp, refreshingly different cole slaw – and Ryan settled on a whopper of a cheeseburger from the kids menu, which she quickly slathered in the ketchup that was probably intended for her fries.

While Ryan was disappointed the starters didn't include calamari (her "go to" appetizer) I was happy to get a cup of rich, velvety Cream of Crab Soup that reminded me of the Lobster Bisque I love at Howard's Restaurant on LBI. A platter of Corn & Chicken Fritters featured more than enough to go around, and the surprisingly light app paired just fine with a local Union Brewing Duckpin Ale, served in a can but poured into a glass.

We skipped dessert but you can combine one of the reduced price entrees, soup or salad and dessert into a three course meal for $30. While Ryan and I polished off our dinners  there was enough chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy, biscuits and broccoli – aka My Chicken Baby – to bring home for another dinner or two.

Looks like I'll have to push my Andy Nelson's plans till Friday! – Dan Taylor

You can pick up the anniversary edition of John Shields' influential cookbook Chesapeake Bay Cooking at Amazon as well as at the museum store if you happen to be in the area.

No comments: