Broccoli and potato soup at Milk & Honey Market, at Read… (Karl Merton Ferron, Baltimore…)
Visiting Milk & Honey Market, a new cafe and high-end grocery on Cathedral Street, reminded me of Morton's, a food and wine shop that once was located a few blocks away on West Eager Street.
Both were in Mount Vernon, both dealt in high-quality food, both had pleasant vibes. There were some differences. Morton's, which was in business from 1984 to 1993, had shelves loaded with wine and spirits. Milk & Honey, which opened in November in the old Medical Arts Pharmacy at Cathedral and Read, has shelves stacked with groceries — most of it organic and locally sourced..
Half of Milk & Honey is a grocery, with meat from Roseda beef, milk and dairy products from Trickling Springs Creamery, and bread from Stone Mill Bakery. The other half is a cafe. The cafe menu is limited: soups, sandwiches, an occasional empanada, as well as breakfast fare. What it does, it does well.
The evening I was there, the soup du jour was broccoli ($4.50 for a small). The soup was silky, helped along by my sprinkle of salt, and floating in it — in case you forgot what type you were eating — were two large heads of broccoli. They were perfectly cooked — not limp, not raw — welcoming bites.
Scanning the five vegetarian paninis on the menu — pear and Brie, apple and Manchego cheese, mozzarella and sun-dried tomatoes, black bean hummus and avocado, I picked the Red Goat ($7.50).
This was a marriage of goat cheese, roasted red peppers and fresh arugula. Arugula shows up in a lot of sandwiches at the Milk & Honey. It is much more interesting than plain old lettuce, but with its strong bite, it can be overpowering if piled on too high. Here the portion was just right. The arugula contributed to the sandwich without dominating it. The star of this sandwich was the roasted red pepper, which had sweet, vibrant flavors.
On the meat side of the sandwich menu there are paninis aplenty — ham and cheese, coppa (Northern Italian pork) with fresh mozzarella, and turkey, plus chicken salad as well as roast beef sandwiches.
I sampled the Italian hoagie ($7.50) a happy union of prosciutto, salami, ham, provolone and our old friend, fresh arugula. Served on crisp ciabatta, it was a superb sandwich, mixing the crunch of good bread, the richness of the meats and the tang of the arugula.
The style of service here is that the customer orders at a counter, and the staff calls out the customer's name when the order is ready. There was a minor flaw in my service — the staff initially forgot to produce my cup of fresh-brewed iced tea ($2) — but quickly delivered it when reminded and offered apologies..
Seating is minimal. There are a handful of tables and a couch indoors, and a sprinkling of tables outside on the sidewalk. The large glass windows on the front of the cafe offer appealing views of Cathedral Street.
Sitting at the table eating an Italian hoagie, listening to Indian music playing on the sound system, I found myself studying the visages of the Christian saints that frame the entrance to Emmanuel Episcopal Church across the street. I guess that qualifies as an ecumenical eating experience.
Desserts sit at eye level atop the counter near the cash register. I caught a glimpse of a brownie ($2) and a large oatmeal cookie ($2). Soon they were with me on my way home. The brownie was to my taste — strong on chocolate, light on sugar, with a nut or two thrown in. The cookie was also first-rate, an artful mix of oatmeal and raisins. Both, I learned, came from Stone Mill Bakery.
When I was at Milk & Honey one weekday afternoon, the cafe was filled. There were a couple of moms feeding their kids, some Peabody students and a handful of midtown professionals. Everyone except me had an electronic device — a phone or a laptop — holding their attention.
With its crisp breads, fresh ingredients and clever parings, Milk & Honey, like Morton's, offers a step up in quality and price from the usual sandwich shop.
Milk & Honey Market
Where: 816 Cathedral St., Baltimore
Contact: 410-685-6455, milkandhoneybaltimore.com
Open: 7a.m- 8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.- 6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday
Credit Cards: All Major
Soups and sandwiches: $4:50-$7.50
[Key: Outstanding: ✭✭✭✭ Good: ✭✭✭ Fair or uneven: ✭✭ Poor: ✭]