Help me make a kickass gourmet dinner for my parents in Baltimore/DC
December 13, 2013 10:10 AM   Subscribe

I will be visiting my family in the Baltimore/DC area for the holidays. As a present I would like to make my parents a really fabulous, gourmet dinner. Please point me to the stores with the best selections of seafood, veggies, and cheese!

Some background: I live in Seattle where we have amazing butchers and fishmongers and farmers' markets in practically every neighborhood selling locally-sourced ingredients, Whole Foods and even a lot of "regular" grocery stores sell wonderful produce, lots of specialty cheese stores, and even a caviar shop. I have NO idea where I might find anything even close to equivalent to these places near my parents.

I haven't lived in Baltimore in ages, so I really don't know where the cool foodies shop these days and typically I just end up going to the Whole Foods in downtown Baltimore. Their selection is... okay. Can I do better?

I don't know what I'm going to make yet, but it will probably be fish based and definitely gluten free (parents' dietary requirements), so no need for recommendations on the best place to get bacon or baguettes. Please throw at me all of your suggestions, whether large stores or specialty shops that only sell one type of thing.

Extra info: my parents live in Columbia but I will have access to a car and don't mind driving around a bit. I would prefer to stay out of DC proper unless it's really worth my time (what can I say, I'm a Baltimore girl at heart) and going to the northern VA suburbs is definitely way too far.
posted by joan_holloway to Food & Drink (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Balducci's. There are other small cool places on the other side of DC from you, and I'm sure there are wonderful little gems in Columbia, but Balducci's will have the cheese and caviar and produce and fancy things all in one place.
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Some Baltimore suggestions:

For seafood, I'd say maybe Faidley's in Lexington Market. Have some crab cakes and oysters while you're there!

Green Onion Market in Hamilton works with local farmers and has a small, local produce section. Usually a bit expensive and always small. What they are really great for, though, is their in-house charcuterie and a pretty decent cheese selection. Worth looking into.

Wine Source in Hamden also has a good cheese selection along with really nice ingredients like olive oils and lovely vinegars.

The Waverly Farmer's Market is open year round, every Saturday. You will be able to find some produce there, though obviously limited because it's winter. There are other really great local vendors, and you may find some other things like breads, etc.

So a bit of a treasure hunt around the city, but all are little gems. Have fun!
posted by goggie at 10:32 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

My neighbor loves Green Onion. I haven't been, but he's a fantastic cook. If I'm looking for unusual ingredients, I go to Wegman's up in Cockeysville. For fresh fruits, veggies and fish, you are going to do best at HMart or Asia Mart on Rte. 40 in Catonsville. HMart is closer to Columbia.

The best cheese counters in Baltimore are Whole Foods and Wegman's. I don't consider either to be all that wonderful, but Zingerman's spoiled me. There is a Cowgirl Creamery in DC. I have not been to that one, but their SF site had some really good stuff.

There is a wonderful Greek restaurant wholesale supply store called Prima's on Kane north of Eastern on the east side of Baltimore. Unusual cheeses, best place I've seen anywhereto buy olives. They have other interesting things. If you need feta, my Bulgarian former boss insists the Bulgarian feta is the best and cheapest. It is definitely very tasty, and I never argue with someone who cooks as well as she does.

For herbs and spices, Penzey's on Rockville Pike near DC.

If you are looking for ingredients that are typically Latino, the Highlandtown Market on Eastern and Conklin (combine with a trip to Prima's a few miles east) is where I go. There may be places as good closer to Columbia, but they also carry full dairy, dry, frozen and refrigerated lines of Middle Eastern food. If you need laban or Lebanese-style yogurt, this is your only choice. (It is also kitty corner across the street from Chicken Rico, a superb, inexpensive Peruvian chicken joint that I can't recommend highly enough, especially if you've never had charcoal chicken.)

My favourite Indian grocery store is Punjabi Market on 33rd near Union Memorial Hospital in Baltimore. Their fruits and veggies aren't much, but if you need Indian spices, grains, beans, bean flours, etc., this is a great place to get them. Bonus, they sell homemade samosas by the piece. There are likely to be places as good on the west side of town, but I don't spend as much time there.

I don't find the Waverly market to be all that useful this time of year (although it is a few blocks from Punjabi Market). In the winter, the local produce requirement is waived, so there is a lot of random stuff from around the country. You'll do better at HMart for a quarter of the price this time of year.

Faidley's rocks and I love the free music in Lexington Market on Saturdays, but watch the seafood. There is some good stuff there (and a lot of the same produce you'll see at the Waverly Farmer's Market in the winter for a lot less) but there are also vendors who do not properly ice their seafood. In fact, that is a common problem around Baltimore.

There is a nut store downtown that roasts their own nuts, fresh. They are really incredibly good. I think this is a women owned and run business, if that kind of thing matters to you, they are local and very nice folks.

Going food shopping is an awesome way to tour a city!
posted by QIbHom at 10:54 AM on December 13, 2013

There's a Wegman's in Columbia on Snowden River Parkway and McGaw Road. If that is too pedestrian there is Clark's Farm in E City for meats and Frank's Produce Farm in Lark Brown for produce.
posted by Rob Rockets at 11:03 AM on December 13, 2013 [1 favorite]

Belvedere Square is worth checking out.
posted by kalessin at 11:13 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

I should probably elaborate since it's also on the north side of Baltimore so you might want reasons to go there.

Belvedere Square is home to Atwater's Restaurant, which does various sandwiches and soups. They also sell local products like cream, cheese, dairy. It also has Planet Produce in it, which sells very high quality produce. It has Neopol Smokery which sells smoked food that is SO GOOD. My favorites are their gravlax (not smoked but they did inspire me to make my own gravlax), their smoked tofu, smoked bacon and smoked egg salads. Divine.

Ikan Sushi also sells fresh sushi grade fish and pre-made sushi at the counter, as well as having some very fine fried foods for sit-there meals.

Also they're attached/adjacent to a very fine Italian deli, grocery and meat market, Ceriello's.

Looks like they've added a few vendors since I was last there (a couple years ago), but I can personally vouch for the quality of the vendors I've mentioned.
posted by kalessin at 11:55 AM on December 13, 2013 [2 favorites]

Franks seafood in Jessup.
posted by rabidsegue at 12:39 PM on December 13, 2013

posted by matty at 2:14 PM on December 13, 2013

I love The Fresh Market for meat, seafood, and produce. There's one in Quarry Lake in Baltimore, but also one in Annapolis Harbour Center in Annapolis. I'd recommend the latter location, as there's also a Whole Foods two minutes from there in Annapolis Towne Centre, and a Wegmans in Crofton, which is on the way back to Columbia.
posted by justonegirl at 6:32 AM on December 14, 2013

I just found a link to HowChow that I sent myself. Although it's titled "A Starter List of Places to Shop" (in Howard County) I think it might be helpful to you, even though you're a better chef then me.
posted by Rob Rockets at 4:56 PM on December 14, 2013

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