Table Talk: Woodberry, Volt chefs are semifinalists for Beard award

Charleston offers lunch

find gourmet sausages at Stuggy's

February 24, 2010|By Richard Gorelick | Special to The Baltimore Sun

Around here, we refer to the Oscars as the James Beard Foundation Awards of the movie industry. The first round of nominations for the foundation's annual Chef and Restaurant Awards were announced last week, and Spike Gjerde (Woodberry Kitchen) and Bryan Voltaggio (Frederick's Volt) were among the 20 semifinalists in the category of Best Chef - Mid-Atlantic.

The next step on the road to the May 2 awards ceremony is the announcement on March 22 of the five finalists in the 19 award categories. Making that cut gets a chef a ticket to the awards ceremony at Lincoln Center, as well as a permanent change of name - from Jane Doe to James Beard Award finalist Jane Doe. The only Baltimore-based chef with Beard bragging rights is Cindy Wolf, a semifinalist in the Mid-Atlantic category in 2006 and 2008.

Gjerde was in Vancouver attending the Olympic Games with his son when he learned of the nomination, which his wife and Woodberry co-owner, Amy Gjerde, said he was thrilled by. Voltaggio, who was runner-up to his brother Michael in season six of Bravo's cooking competition "Top Chef," was in San Francisco when the news broke and couldn't be reached for comment. For the record, Michael Voltaggio was not nominated this year, but "Top Chef" host Tom Collichio and contestant Kevin Gillespie, who was runner-up to the Voltaggios, were - for Chef of the Year and Rising Chef of the Year, respectively.

In other Woodberry news, the rum raisin ice cream is gone, at least for now, but in its place is a mind-blowing homemade cocoa sorbet. Also new for dessert - smearcase!

Lunch at Charleston Speaking of James Beard Award finalist Cindy Wolf, her flagship Harbor East restaurant Charleston (1000 Lancaster St., 410-332-7373, charlestonrestaurant.com) started lunch service Tuesday, something it did briefly when it first opened in 1987 but not since. The $44, three-course lunch, a more traditional version (i.e., first course, second course, dessert) of the fixed-price arrangement than the what-you-will method the restaurant uses for dinner, includes both such signature dishes as cornmeal-dusted oysters, shrimp and grits and new items created especially by Wolf for midday dining - a lobster Cobb salad with Tasso ham, and steak tartare served with baguette and pomme frites. Wolf is also reintroducing a favorite from the old days at her Savannah restaurant, the benne-seed fried chicken breast with spoonbread and haricots verts. But for customers who want to turn daytime into evening, whatever the restaurant's current tasting menu is will also be available for $68.

Expanding to lunch obviously gives diners more opportunities to come (or not, depending on your extravagance threshold) and more shifts for servers to earn money, but Wolf pointed out to me another not so obvious dividend. Adding in another service period is a way for her kitchen staff to develop, to move up, for instance, from line cook to sous chef.

The restaurant will primarily be using its harbor-facing Palm Room for lunch, which begins seating customers at noon and stops seating them at 1:30.

Hot dogs, sausage and soda Stuart and Ryan Perlberg, a father-and-son team, are converting the old Burritos en Fuego space into Stuggy's, a gourmet sausage and hot dog joint and soda fountain (809 S. Broadway, stuggys.com), which Ryan Perlberg describes as a "throwback." Encouragingly, "gourmet" here means a reliance on local suppliers (Ostrowski's sausage, Gunpowder bison) and a lot of preparatory work in the form of father-son tasting vacations. The plan now is to have limited seating and late hours on weekend nights, for things like fried pickles and fried Oreos.

More moves Dominion Ice Cream (3215 N. Charles St., 410-243-2644, eatyour veggiesicecream.com) is moving its traditional and patent-pending vegetable-flavored (spinach, carrot, and sweet potato) ice creams into bigger and what owner Donna Calloway calls more upscale quarters, the old Sweet Retreat space at Charles and 33rd streets. The snows held up the relocation, and Calloway is working toward opening sometime next week. Meanwhile, the folks from the charming Carma'sCafé (3120 St. Paul St., 410-243-5200, carmascafe.com) will be taking over the Dominion Ice Cream space. The plan, according to co-owner Carma Peterson, is to use the acquired space primarily as a grab-and-go and carryout location, which would then free up some room in the cafe proper, which does get good and crowded. The new space, which will be connected below ground but not above, is scheduled for a late spring opening.

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