Once the choir has died down, and the carols have ended, and we’re able to get Scalzo (known in some parts as the Mayor of Loyola) to stop glad-handing and schmoozing with students and alumni and get her to put her coat on and actually out the chapel doors, it’s time to eat.
To be honest, it’s rarely ever not a time to eat, but on Candles & Prayers day, eating is a big part of the ritual. We start the day at Miss Shirley’s for a late breakfast/lunch.
Then there’s the hangout time at the student union on Loyola’s campus, while Scalzo rehearses with the rest of the choir. New this year! Starbucks on campus. Very exciting. There’s also crossword puzzle-doings while in the student union, which doesn’t have anything to do with food, but it certainly works up an appetite.
And then there’s the whole, ya know, reason for the season and all, what with the candles, the prayers, the songs, more prayers, a Christmas tree, presents for needy kids, more songs, some sing-a-longs, and then it’s over.
It’s really time to eat.
Every year we pick a new restaurant to try. Last year it was Clementine. The year before it was Rocket to Venus. The year before that it was a wine and cheese reception on campus. And the very first year it was Papermoon Diner followed by drinks at The Belvedere Hotel’s 13th Floor.
But this year.
It was the fifth anniversary of our C&P excursions. So it had to be special, of course.
Which means that there’s no shame in making dinner reservations in August.
Which is what we did
For Woodberry Kitchen.
If you live in/near Baltimore and you like good food, you just fell out of your chair at that last sentence.
If you don’t live in/near Baltimore, and could give a crap about food, you probably have no clue why other people might have just fallen out of their chairs. Was there an earthquake or something in Baltimore? you might be asking.
No. Not unless you mean the earthquaking of my soul.
Okay, that doesn’t even make any sense.
Woodberry Kitchen is a restaurant in Baltimore. Kind of near the Hampden area. It’s been popular since the day it opened, a runaway success. Getting a reso there on short notice is fucking near impossible, especially if you have more than four people in your party.
Hence why we made our reservation back in August. We just wanted to be sure. (Also because last year we had a snafu with a certain restaurant that shan’t be named, that I’ve tried to go to a couple different times, but keep getting the shaft.)
You’d think, after stuffing ourselves on grits and pancakes and eggs and bacon and grilled cheese and whathaveyou at Miss Shirley’s, we wouldn’t even be hungry for dinner. But bear in mind, dear Interwebers, Miss Shirley’s was seven hours prior to dinner.
And that’s a long time for this crew to go between feedings.
Woodberry Kitchen was bustling and busy and just….swamped…the minute we walked in the door. We got drinks at the bar, then waited for our table to be ready, happy to wait, seeing as how we showed up 15 minutes before we were due, and our cocktails were so lovely. In actuality, we waited another 15 minutes past our reservation time, which normally would make me furious*, but which this time I barely noticed, and things were handled so smoothly that I would have even waited an extra 15 minutes after that.**
Crab pot. Pumpkin flat bread. Both arrived at the table almost immediately courtesy of the restaurant, along with another apology from the staff—manager included—for making us wait past our reservation. It was so well-presented, well-handled, and then turned out to be so delicious, we all knew at that point we were in for a treat that evening.
We ordered. Insane amounts of food—roasted pork shoulder, rockfish, spelt noodles, steak—and two bowls of popcorn. (Yes, they have popcorn on the menu. And it tastes like each kernel has been individually buttered and salted to the perfect amount.) (Great, now I want popcorn. AGAIN.) Our waiter was incredibly patient with our gaggle, even though we made him blush a couple of times with our bawdy tales and aptitude for yelling out incredibly appropriate things like, “It’s okay! We can have sex and I won’t hold you to it!” just as he approached the table to see if we need another round of drinks.***
(The answer was no, we didn’t.)
(But we ordered them anyway.)
My friend Linds and I ended up splitting an entrée. But before you go thinking that I’m one of those girls who’s all, “Oh, I’ll just have this half of a carrot and one grain of rice, gee, so delicious I’m full!” bear in mind that the entrée we split was a 22 ounce strip steak on half a garden of roasted vegetables.
A food runner elegantly presented us with the dish, plated in a thick crockery baking dish, a chunk of herbed butter (presumably) melting deliciously on top.
“This is Ramseys,” he told us. “He came to us earlier this week.”
The girls and I looked at each other, then at the food runner.
Oh my. He was serious. This steak’s name really is (was?) Ramseys. File away another string of love in my heart for Woodberry Kitchen.
He took Ramseys away, explaining that they were going to slice it up in the back—easier for us to split that way—and it would come back out with the rest of the entrees. When our waiter later came back to check on how our entrees tasted, I replied, “You know, his name may have been Ramseys, but tonight his name is Delicious.”
Dessert is another story. Five girls, five different orders. Almost—but not quite—one of everything on the dessert menu. It was gluttonous. It was unnecessary.
It was wonderful.
I regret nothing.
I will never be the same again.
Candles & Prayers may never be the same again.
But if you’re going to do it up, do it up big.
Ramseys, I loved you. Every bite of you.
Amen and hallelujah.
*Listen: I worked in the restaurant industry for 15 years, and I can be pretty lenient when it comes to a lot of things, because you just never know what’s going on behind the scenes and in the back of the house. But typically one hard and fast rule I have is if I make a reservation at your restaurant, and I am not seated within five minutes of my arrival, I’m going to be PISSED. Why the fuck did I bother to make a reservation if you’re going to make me wait anyway? Unless Jesus Christ Himself is the reason for the delay, I don’t care. Just fix the seating issue and fix it fast.
**Okay, maybe not 15 minutes, seeing as how we were getting pretty hungry, but at least another 10.
***I read these things that I write and I realize that it’s astounding that—TRUTH—we have never been kicked out of a restaurant.