Table Talk: Harford Road haunt Clementine adds some elbow room

Larger dining space, a bar and a curing room are among the additions

April 20, 2010|By Richard Gorelick, Special to The Baltimore Sun

Clementine (5402 Harford Road., 410-444-1497, bmoreclementine.com) opened in April 2008 without a liquor license and only 43 seats. From the very first, space, or the lack of it, was a concern. The way co-owner Cristin Dadant remembers it, "You think you've thought of everything, and then when you finally get the place open, you think. ‘Where am I going to put the straws, let alone people?' "

People just took right away to Clementine's version of comfort dining, equal parts Pacific Northwest and New England, with an emphasis on homemade ingredients, friendly to kids and hipsters alike. The lack of space continued, for that first year, to challenge staff and customers.

Eventually, Clementine got that liquor license, and its expansion last summer not only doubled its seating capacity and gave customers waiting for tables a place to congregate but also made the original space appear bigger (busting down walls will do it). The bar provides residents in the Harford Road corridor with another hangout — the bartenders have been avidly experimenting with infused vodkas and other specialty cocktails.

The expansion also provided the space for Winston Blick, Clementine's chef and co-owner, to install a curing room for Clementine's side project, a charcuterie that produces pates, hams, and sausages for the restaurant and for customer pickup. Located in the Harford Echodale-Perring Parkway neighborhood (Lauraville, nearly), Clementine is open for lunch and dinner Wednesday through Sunday and dinner only on Tuesday.

Volcano and salmon The price of salmon is going the way of volcanic ash — up, up, up — and the reason is the Iceland eruption.

That's according to Alan Morstein of Regi's American Bistro, who writes:

"The volcano in Iceland does not only have an impact on Euro travelers. We are now seeing the results. Seizing on an opportunity and realizing that Iceland cannot export salmon to the west for at least two weeks, Canadian and U.S. Fisheries have taken it upon themselves to raise the price of salmon 25-30%.

"They are now the only game in town. The news was received from my supplier Friday, who distributes in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Delaware and Washington. This increase is immediate and should hit supermarkets on their next purchase. Unfortunately we will have to absorb the increase similar to the one we just experienced with tomatoes and vegetables out of Florida."

Maxie's: Up in Charles Village, a new pizza place named Maxie's (3003 N. Charles St., 410-889-1113) opened in the space where Xando was. Maxie's was doing good business when I wandered in, and my internal dialogue was "Um, HELLO! COLLEGE STUDENTS!! PIZZA!!" The owner here is Luigi Romano, who learned how to satisfy collegiate appetites with a similar operation at Temple University in Philadelphia. Also on the menu are lasagna, spaghetti, salads, sandwiches and what Romano promises is a Philly-style cheese steak. Still, it's odd to think how obviously ill-fitting the Xando coffeehouse formula became, when not too long ago it made perfect sense.

Maxie's, which has counter service only, will have its liquor license soon.

Closings Two restaurants closed recently, one at least temporarily, one at least apparently, both definitely on on Fort Avenue. In the Locust Point Industrial Area, Luca's Café closed April 10 after a valiant two-year run. Over at Dining@Large, neither its supporters and detractors nor the owners themselves had any conclusive reason for its demise, other than that business was bad. Eight blocks west, in Riverside, Ullswater Restaurant and Wine Bar closed — or at least, beginning April 8, stopped opening for business. This was Nicholas Batey's project after the demise of Bicycle. Some observers expressed amazement ("The are always packed"), others not so much ("I never say anyone going or coming from there").

E-mail dining news tips to our food blogger Laura Vozzella at laura.vozzella@baltsun.com.

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