Saturday, March 10, 2007

The Baltimore City Paper's Cosmic Cocktail Party

Thanks to Lars Rusins of Baltimore Foodies for the Email warning me that the The City Paper’s Cosmic Cocktail party, held from 7-10 p.m. on Thursday, March 8, was about to sell out. Thankfully, I was able to grab one of the last available tickets on Tuesday afternoon by stopping in person at the City Paper offices. Thanks later on to Walter Manzig, for sending me the above image to replace an earlier picture of lesser quality that I'd shot with a cell phone.

The event, which heralded the release of City Paper's 2007 Dining Guide a day earlier, packed both main rooms of the Hotel Belvedere’s 12th floor. Except to allow space for a disc jockey, each room was surrounded by draped tables from which local establishments served up food and drink. It was the kind of scene where not too many years ago, yours truly very likely would have been dishing up Denzer’s Maryland Crab Soup.

My grazing began in the east room with a tortilla chip laden with Bicycle’s poke tuna and avocado washed down with a sip of this intimate, eclectic, and popular South Baltimore eatery's delicious corn and crab soup. At the next table, I stopped to enjoy the mango bruschetta on cashew nut bread that Red Star was offering. A bit further down, Vin’s lobster corn dogs could have been my favorite taste of the evening. Here I observed Chef Chris Paternotte express visible concern as a partygoer reached for a dog upon which he had yet to place Vin’s spicy house mustard and baby greens. From an especially large platform across the room, Helmand, Tapas Teatro, and b Bistro were lined up together and serving Middle Eastern bruschetta, marinated baby octopus and delicious gorgonzola ravioli with walnut cream sauce. Having all but forgotten that this was a cocktail party, I stopped where the Grey Goose Vodka people poured "ginger pears," or Grey Goose LaPoire topped with gingerale and sizeable splashes of cranberry juice. It went down smoothly though quickly to free up a hand for sampling a plate someone had been placed in the other bearing Oceannaire’s Cape Hatteras swordfish with smoked tomato and shrimp salsa. Oceannaire's newly opened neighbor at Inner Harbor East, Lebanese Taverna, was also its neighbor tonight at the adjacent table. Its delicious Sharhat Ghanam (spiced cuts of medium-rare lamb grilled with a lemon and butter sauce) accompanied with hummus was wonderful.

Having yet another large room to graze, I refrained from further sampling and crossed the hallway to the West Room. Here the DJ had it turned up to the point that many from within the throngs were taking to dancing and grooving. Maneuvering my way to Harborplace’s Tir Na Nog Irish Bar and Grill , I attempted to inquire about the bangers over mashed potatoes they were serving, but the decibel level was such that obtaining further information---at least verbally---was impossible. Other active players included Huckas, Scores, Mad River, Kooper's Tavern, and Millstream Inn. My premature notion that Lexington Market's Tree of Life’s Holistic Vegan Eatery could have been an enigma in such company was nixed as I observed one of its servers amongst the dance floor’s most active participants. From a culinary standpoint, my favorite bite from the West Room was a plate of creamy scallops with shallots from Truffle’s Catering. In addition to its extensive catering business, Truffles is responsible for all the food and drink that’s served in the Belvedere---tonight being the only exception of which I'm aware.

For a number of years now, Baltimore has enjoyed an increasing number of events featuring serious grazing. The City Paper Cosmic Cocktail Party has rightly become as popular as they get. At $30 a ticket, it’s a great value.