You want to see a damn good martini? I’ll show you a damn good Martini. What makes a damn good Martini? Well, many things, but a full glass is high on the list of requirements, and if the bartender fills the glass so full that it reaches above the top and forms a meniscus, then you know you’re in business.
Of course it’s not just about looks, but the one above served on a rainy night in the empty and fairly soulless bar of the Balto Tavern and Tap inside the Radisson Hotel in downtown Baltimore tasted every bit as good it looked.
This next one tasted considerably better than it looked, which was a good thing since it doesn’t look that great, and it sure isn’t very full.
This is actually called a Belvedere Martini, drunk in the Owl Bar, also in Baltimore, which is very soulful place indeed. The Belvedere Martini consists of “Belvedere Vodka, Dry Vermouth & Bleu Cheese Stuffed Olives.” I’m never sure about blue cheese stuffed into a martini olive – it always sounds better than it tastes, but in this case (and maybe it was me, or maybe it was the vibe of the place) it tasted pretty great.
The Owl Bar also had on the food menu, would you believe, a “Chesapeake Poutine: Crispy fries, crab meat, white crab gravy, old bay.”
I believe that a man has a duty to order poutine whenever and wherever he can, and in any form whatsoever: I hope that crab was Maryland blue crab, the local specialty, though I can’t swear to it. And In this case the fries were a very long way from being crispy, but hey it was poutine!
The most enjoyable meal I had in Baltimore was at a Nepalese/Indian restaurant called Lumbini. You probably know – I’m ashamed to say I didn’t – that Lumbini is where Siddhartha Gautama, the Lord Buddha, was born, in 623 B.C.E.
Here, in this earthly and earthy restaurant, we had goat curry on the bone with “Himalayan spices.” That’s the bowl on the right, and it was very good.
But the one on the left was the real star - that’s Hyderabadi Lamb, Hyderabad being some 1100 miles south of Lumbini. According to the menu Hyderabadi Lamb is “Lamb marinated overnight with yogurt and peanut sauce and cooked with delicious Himalayan spices.” Again with the Himalayan spices. Man, it was good; creamy, of course, intense, rich, fatty but incredibly bright and somehow uplifting. I know that doesn’t sound quite possible.
There’s evidently a considerable Nepalese community in Baltimore, and we asked our waiter – very young and exotic looking, with a very stylish haircut – if he was from Nepal. He was. How long had he been in the States?
“Two months,” he said, in a subdued way.
“Do you like it here?”
“I like some things,” he said, now sounding downright melancholy.
“That’s OK,” I said. “Nobody likes everything about America.”
He nodded in agreement but he didn’t seem to find that altogether consoling.