Gourmet flavor, on-the-go style

Menu at Ellicott City restaurant changes often, but quality is consistent

Business Profile Noah's on the Side

May 31, 2006|By KAREN NITKIN | KAREN NITKIN,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

Now that Memorial Day is behind us and summer is semi-officially here, the whole slaving-over-a-hot-stove thing may seem less appealing than ever.

An alternative to fast food has arrived in Ellicott City in the form of Noah's on the Side, a takeout spot offering grown-up fare such as London broil marinated in espresso and brown sugar, goat cheese and fingerling potato custard, or soft-shell crabs with lemon-ginger brown butter.

Noah's customers learn to be flexible because the menu changes every week. Plus, owners Sharon and Russell Braitsch don't make large amounts of any item. When it's gone, it's gone, and they'll whip up something else as a substitute.

The couple met 11 years ago at Linwoods, said Sharon Braitsch. Sharon, who grew up in Towson, was a student at the Carver Center for Arts and Technology, working as an "extern" at Linwoods, where Russell, a Sykesville native, was the restaurant's sous chef.

They moved to New York in 1995 and lived in Hyde Park while she went to the famed Culinary Institute of America and Russell worked at restaurants, including Crabtree's Kittle House and Xavier's at Piermont.

In 2002, they moved back to Maryland and both got jobs at Corks, with Russell cooking the main dishes as chef de cuisine and Sharon in charge of desserts as the restaurant's pastry chef and event coordinator.

They opened Noah's in January in part to spend more time with their son, Noah, who is now 17 months old. Sharon typically works the day shift, arriving at 5 a.m. to begin making desserts and leaving in the afternoon, when Russell takes over.

At first, the store was open seven days a week, Sharon said. But that schedule proved too daunting even for chefs as young (she's 28, he's 32) and ambitious as the Braitsches. Now, the hours are Monday through Saturday, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

The Braitsches have two employees: Matt Breidenstein, who was a sous chef at Corks, and Phil Vincenty, the store's new pastry assistant. Since everybody in the shop is a food expert, they can offer advice to customers, helping them pair main dishes with sides, for example. Customers also are encouraged to taste before they buy.

Customers always leave with detailed instructions for warming the food either in an oven or microwave, Sharon noted. She said considerable time was spent finding the best way to heat the London broil without drying it out.

The first thing customers see when they walk into the store is a pastry case filled with treats such as a giant devil's food cupcake topped with swirls of buttercream frosting, a mocha mousse, a creme brulee and a chocolate-peanut butter cream pie.

Two small tables, each with two chairs, are positioned by the front window, for customers who want to eat a sandwich or salad at the shop. A refrigerated case to the left is stocked with unusual sodas, as well as house-made dips such as an olive tapenade.

A candy counter displays old-fashioned treats like gumdrops, rock candy, swirled lollypops and caramel-covered marshmallows.

Noah's stocks eight protein main-course dishes a week, as well as eight vegetable dishes and eight starches. The focus is on seasonal cooking, using organic produce and free-range meats whenever possible. "We actually call our food global," Sharon said, adding that culinary influences come from Asia, Europe, California and elsewhere.

The Braitsches also have a catering business. Sharon said Noah's typically caters about six parties a month. Noah's will deliver the food and set it up, and for an additional fee will have a chef on hand during the event, she said.

Noah's also offers an unusual service: bring in any recipe, and Noah's will make the dish. "It gives us new ideas," Sharon said. And that's useful when the menu is changed every week.

Noah's on the Side is located at 9339 Baltimore National Pike, Ellicott City. The phone number is 410-465-8030.

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