Takeout devotees may opt to stay

Restaurant profile

November 15, 2001|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Cerando's Kitchen and Market was built on the theory that people crave restaurant-quality meals in the comfort of their homes. So it sells the likes of beef tenderloin, steamed asparagus and chocolate black velvet cake to go.

Now, almost five months after it opened in Ellicott City, Cerando's is offering something extra to customers: tables and chairs.

The business, in Golden Triangle shopping center at U.S. 29, U.S. 40 and Ridge Road, is still dishing out take-home meals and running a catering service. But for customers who just can't wait to get home before sinking a fork into their honey-chipotle flank steak with corn and black bean relish, or those who'd like to enjoy their meal in a sunny shop decorated in the hues of a Tuscan summer, now there's a spot in which to dine.

"In Howard County, there are a lot of restaurants to go to, but they're very corporate-based," said owner Jerry Cerand. "If you want to go someplace a little more eclectic, a little more fun, you have to go to the city." Cerand says his place fills that niche.

The dining area is small and cozy - just five wooden tables for two. They occupy one corner of the store, which also sells gourmet specialty items such as couverture chocolate and organic quinoa, a high-protein grain. Customers order at a glass case brimming with entrees, salads, side dishes and sweets. The staff eagerly offers free tastes of the fare.

Sandwiches are made to order on fresh-baked bread. The rest of the menu is the same prepared food available for takeout, so there is virtually no wait unless the food needs reheating.

It's fine dining without the formality - and without the fine china. Every meal - whether it's down-home meatloaf and garlic mashed potatoes or a more elegant grilled salmon with mushroom risotto cake - come on disposable plastic plates.

Cerando's has been offering dine-in meals for about two weeks. The restaurant was working out a few kinks when it came to re-heating food on a visit last week, 10 days into the new venture. Counter staff members warned they were having some problems with the microwave, but somehow they were able to warm orders anyway.

Cerando's offers a range of entrees, including cornmeal and molasses fried chicken, crab cakes and Sicilian-style grilled swordfish with tomatoes, olives and oregano. Vegetarians can dig into meatless lasagna and burritos filled with roasted and grilled vegetables.

Side dishes and salads include tabouli, fresh mozzarella and tomatoes, Asian cabbage slaw, pasta and potato salads, tuna-white bean salad and potato pancakes.

One of the star desserts is the raspberry Charlotte (three layers of raspberry mousse, chocolate mousse and coconut wrapped in a sheet of white cake). Other tempting offerings are key lime mango cake, chocolate decadence (a mousse cake), lemon bars, chocolate macadamia nut bars and - a recent seasonal offering - pumpkin brownies.

While the meals are not fast-food cheap, prices for even the fanciest entrees are below what you would pay in a white-tablecloth environment. Cerando's offers a dinner special for two with a choice of entrees, two side dishes and a loaf of bread for $16.95. It can be eaten at the shop or taken home.

"You get Chinese takeout for two, you're spending 16 bucks," Cerand said. "Here you're getting a nice, fresh grilled piece of salmon, a couple of fresh sides, and it's probably better for you."

Cerando's Kitchen and Market

Where: 8801 Baltimore National Pike, at U.S. 29 and Ridge Road in the Golden Triangle shopping center

Hours: 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. Monday through Saturday

Prices: $2.95 to $9.95

Credit cards: Visa, MasterCard

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