Baltimore’s Best: Foodie Edition
We caught up with Baltimore foodie, recipe creator and seventh generation Baltimorean Rachel Rappaport for insider tips to great restaurants in Charm City, as well as homemade creations that reflect the city’s unique Mid-Atlantic flavors. Want to plan your own Baltimore foodie adventure? Book 14 days in advance aboard the Northeast Regional and save 25%, which will leave you plenty of dough to check out some of Rachel’s favorite local eateries.
Amtrak: How would you describe Baltimore’s food personality? What are the influences found in Charm City cuisine?
Rachel: Like Baltimore’s geography the food personality is a bit Southern, but Northern-influenced as well. We do a lot of seafood dishes that have commonalities with New England cuisine but we like things spiced…hence the obsession with Old Bay! We have influences from our various ethnic groups (African American, Caribbean, German, Greek, Polish, Jewish, etc.) and all are united by the flavors of the Chesapeake Bay and our local farms.
What are classic Baltimorean treats? Some not so well known ones?
You can’t talk about Baltimore treats without discussing the crab cake. Our crab cakes are big, beautiful pillows of lump crab with very little filler with lots of Old Bay. We also have lake trout, which is actually cornmeal dusted fried whiting — try it with a nice dash of hot sauce and some pepper. Crab pretzels are another wonderful Baltimore treat. A warm doughy pretzel that is covered in cheesy crab dip and baked until the cheese melts. We also have some classic Baltimore deserts that our long-standing bakeries all carry: Peach cake (a raised sheet cake covered in peaches and glazed) and Smearcase (a raised sheet German style cheesecake).
Baltimore is made up of a series of neighborhoods, each with their own flare. What are some of the best restaurants in your favorite neighborhoods?
There are so many great restaurants in Baltimore that it is hard to choose! South Baltimore’s Hersh’s Pizza has some great house-made pastas and wood fired pizza. Fells Point is home to Thames Street Oyster House with delicious seafood and fresh oysters from all over the country. I also love downtown Baltimore’s Puerto 511, a tiny place with great Peruvian cuisine. Make a reservation because they only have a handful of tables!
How do local ingredients or flavors impact your recipes and baking (read – do you use Old Bay in everything)?
I do use a lot of Old Bay! Not to the extent of excluding other great flavors, however. I like to use local ingredients like oysters, crab and a variety of fish. What I enjoy the most is re-creating classic Baltimore dishes like Maryland Style Fried Chicken, Baltimore Snowballs, the Tomato Aspic that was served at the venerable Woman’s Industrial Exchange, homemade sauerkraut (we serve sauerkraut at Thanksgiving here in Baltimore!), brunch favorite Crab Cakes Benedict, Crab Dip, and of course, Crab Cakes!
There you have it. Some expected and not-so-expected dining tips on one of America’s oldest port cities. Let’s roll to Charm City!