Washington Times Communities

Washington Times Communities June 10'

Southern inspired French cuisine at Baltimore’s Charleston
By Jacquie Kubin

Baltimore Harbor East restaurateurs Tony Foreman and Chef Cindy Wolf have combined Southern cuisine with classic French preparations creating a delightful, and award winning, fine dining experience at CJ Wolf’s Charleston Restaurant.

Charleston is about the food and the experience. Imbued with elegance created by a knowledgeable staff deftly schooled in order of service, a fine dining experience is delivered to each diner with discrete, and never intrusive, élan.

Yes, élan.

The restaurant’s style allows the diner to confidently accept the dinner coursings to follow knowing that they deserve to partake in Chef Wolf’s culinary offerings, each beautifully introduced by our table captain Brian Coats, just one of the many attentive individuals that anticipated our culinary and comfort requirements.

That service, comfortable and competent, is as much a part of the experience as the meals first bite, or Amuse Bouche. For this classic start to a fine meal, Chef Wolf delivers a delicate, crisp Brioche Toast toppled with thin ribbons of Scottish Smoked Salmon and Capers accompanied by an egg yolk mousse and caviar. A combination that is at once comfortable, savory, rich and surprising.

Sommelier Maurice Cherry brought the first of many fine bottles of wine, paring this warm dish with the classic French sparkling Pol Roger “White Foil” Brut NV champagne.

And with this first culinary note, the bar for the following four-course meal was set very, very high.

Presentation is extraordinary at Charleston. A classically prepared table included chargers with the Chef’s distinctive signature. The first course brought out a deep dish of delicate lobster nestled in a swirl of brilliant green arugula and curry oils.

To this service is a rich cream soup creating a dish both delightful to the eye and palate. This dish was paired with a Amontillado Viejo, Byass “Del Duque” sherry served in a diminutive stem bringing a bit of old world charm to the table.

A balanced burgundy Beaune Gréves Ier Cru, Bernard Morey (2007) accompanied a second curse of Pan-Roasted Turbot served atop an oyster and button mushroom fricassee with a lemon beurre blanc that provided a creamy citrus to the lightly crisped, mild white fish.

Rabbit is a dish best served by a chef of Wolf’s skill and her offering of a pan-roasted loin with fresh black truffle risotto did not disappoint. The rabbit, a mild, moist, dense white meat, was lightly grill seared. The creamy richness of the truffle risotto pairing perfectly with the delicate rabbit loin.

With this classically inspired dish, Mr. Cherry poured Domaine de la Vieille Julienne Chateauneuf du Pape (2004) from the Southern Rhone valley of France.

Here is where a course menu with wine pairing becomes a truly robust dining experience. This deep ruby wine brings sweet floral, black cherry, raspberry and currant notes with a level acidity that so complimented the rich creaminess of Chef Wolf’s plate that one could not be considered without the other.

Our course menu was finished with a Chateau La Vielle Cure (2000) that accompanied an incredible locally sourced Grilled Gunpowder Farm Buffalo Tenderloin served atop a creamy polenta and finished with crispy shallots and oyster mushrooms.

The medium body of the ruby rich red wine supported the rich meat prepared crisp and salty to the exterior, perfectly medium rare to the center. The wine presented a pleasant spice and while quite rich was also well balanced as to acidity and its smooth finish.

In the fashion of hauté cuisine dining, the tasting drew to a close with an assortment of cheeses chosen to compliment the meal by fromagier Ryan McFeely.

Our final culinary experience had Chef Wolf delivering a final offering, accompanied by chocolate sable and malted chocolate ice cream, creating a last final wave of flavor to a very compelling gourmand experience.

Setting this on a final note was the accompanying sweet Banuls Coume del Mas “Quintessence” desert wine that hails from the Languedoc-Roussillon, a treat in and of itself.

Throughout the meal one could not help but be impressed by the efficiency and care of the staff. Stepping to stand next to Chef Wolf's open kitchen, not a whisper could be heard as she directed her staff in much the way a conductor signals her orchestra to create waves of sound. A nod of her head. A hand movement. A barely whispered cue only they could hear.

However, in keeping with their Southern homage, CJ Wolf's Charleston is a very friendly and oh so very comfortable place to enjoy the masterpiece’s Maestro Wolf creates.