Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Catonsville Gourmet

This is exactly the type of restaurant I am always looking for, but regretably seldom find. Open for just 13 weeks, the Catonsville Gourmet is a restaurant and small gourmet market housed in a completely transformed former hardware store. Beadboard wainscotting and Robin's Egg blue walls are tastefully adorned with New England style signage and black and white photos. White clothed tables are topped with large shakers of Mediterranean Sea Salt, giving the place an almost beach resort feel. Who knew Catonsville, MD was a vacation destination.

The Market: Pre-made and pre-packaged versions of many of the restaurant offerings, like seaweed salad, crab cakes, smoked salmon et al. The meat case carries top of the line cuts of meat, steaks and chops dominating the selection. The Seafood case also carries much of what is being offered on the menu. It's fresh fish at it's finest, salmon, sea bass, black grouper and the like. An impressive selection of raw oysters, clams, shrimp and mussels is also available. If I lived in Catonsville, I would be in here everyday.

The Restaurant: An impressive selection of entrees with everything from Pepper crusted ribeye steak, Bouillabaise, to Meatloaf and Maryland Fried Chicken. Daily specials are offered and you should take note: this is where the good eats are. For an appetizer, we had the Pastrami style smoked salmon with fresh tomatoes, buffala di Mozzarella and warm foccaccia. That was followed by a lovely tray of raw oysters. We had the Blue Points and two other "off-the-menu" selections, one from Washington state and another from New England.

The real delight for me, though is the fresh fish choices of the day. 6 fresh fish selections are offered and they can be prepared either blackened, broiled or pan seared. Then you may top the fish with any of these sauces: Chimichurri Sauce, Hazelnut burre blanc, Lobster Sauce, Mango and Avocado Salsa, Sweet corn relish, Topped with Crab Imperial (add $5.99 for Crab Imperial) I had the Black Grouper, pan seared with Chimichurri Sauce. It was excellent. Perfectly cooked. Steven had the blackened Sea Bass with Mango and Avocado Salsa (One of the staff members in the market clued us in on that choice.) It was truly special.

For dessert we had the Smith Island Cake. An eight layer chocolate and peanut butter cake which could easily have been shared (but wasn't). Truly delightful!

It's amazing what one place can do for a neighborhood. Catonsville Gourmet is presently without a liquor licence, so it's BYOB. Throngs of people make the soujorn across the street to the liquor store to purchase their wine or beer before hitting the restaurant. All of their baked goods come from "Sugarbakers" just down the street, including that Smith Island Cake.

Service was fantastic! Everyone we encountered was friendly and knowledgeable. There is a definite "buzz" about the place and you can tell the staff was just as excited to be there as we were. I spoke briefly with Sean the owner, who is a Catonsville native, and he let us know the place is just getting going. In my mind, they are off to a great start!
Catonsville Gourmet Market and Fine Foods
829 Frederick Rd Catonsville, MD 21228 (410) 788-0003

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