Fork & Wrench: My Review In Photographs
On February 13th, the day before my birthday, I was welcomed with opened arms to a place that has quickly become one of my favorite culinary sanctuaries here in Maryland. The Fork and Wrench is the perfect marriage between familiar yet sophisticated meets experimentally cutting edge. It's menu holds no credence to any palette in particular though there seems to be something on the list that suits everyones tastes. From your meat and potatoes kind of guy to the most "uppity" consumers, they've surely got you covered. Luckily, I just so happen to fall right in the middle somewhere and on this night in particular, I kick my "Dolo Dining" ritual up a notch by inviting one of my favorite people in the world with me, Natalie Amini, A gorgeous massage therapist and fellow boozy foodie by way of Silver Spring.
We order up an array of craft brews and cocktails courtesy of the very talented and taste-conscious bartender Jay Calvert; accompanied by a number of beautifully plated, mouthwatering eats from Chef Benjamin Sawyer. After our huge late night supper, I sat down with both Jay and Ben to discuss the inspiration behind their creations and get a feel for their style and technique behind all that is the Fork and Wrench experience
It was an effortless task getting a feel for the bars many wonders. Upon being seated, Jay simply asks what we're in the mood for. and due to our pre game session courtesy of The Glenlivet 18 yr. single malt, we answer accordingly. Leaning more towards the scotch whiskey/ brown liquor family. He greets us first with two takes on the egg white cocktail. one, a traditional, well balanced whiskey sour and the other, a whiskey root beer float like concoction both enhanced by the creamy, full bodied, frothiness of an expertly incorporated egg white, A tasty start to our evening.
Food wise we begin with my favorite, the crispy pig ear salad topped with a fired egg. Want to know how that combo came about, refer to my previous post, "My Obsession With Fork And Wrench: Pt 1 of my Dolo Dining Series"
After the expected appetizers, we order up entrees and side dishes starting with the Fried Eggplant in honey-ricotta with Calabrian chilies and pine nuts; A delicious accompaniment to the several entrees we saved room for.
Jay whips us up the perfect tea-infused dinner cocktail thats easy on the booze and precisely complements the feast before us. First up is a hearty roasted Half Chicken with pomegranate, curried kabocha squash and cauliflower. This was one of the dishes I was urged to try before the menu shifts into springer flavor profiles. I'm glad I did. This generous portion of poultry reminded me of a twist on what my mother would prepare on a cold night. Complete with all the well seasoned, perfectly paired fixings.
On to the Saddle of Lamb with saffron, bulgur wheat, almonds and currants amidst a spiced lamb broth. This is one of the most poetic dishes I've had the pleasure of devouring in quite a while. The plating is exquisite. The beautiful slices of tender, reddish lamb sitting atop that delicate, cinnamon and nutmeg spiced broth looks like perfection sitting in the center of a shallow, avocado green bowl. The colors, textures and aromas do a number on the senses before even taking a bite. This is the first time i've ever had a saddle cut of lamb. I was expecting it to be fatty and maybe a little gamy. But to the contrary, it was clean and perfectly cooked, well balanced in regards to flavor with all its complementary grains and spices. All I needed was a piece of crusty bread to sop up that incredible broth but its all good, we still had our last dish to dig into..
Finally, we share the Braised Brisket and fingerling potatoes with red cabbage purée and mustard crème fraiche. This incredible, melt in your mouth hunk of braised heaven takes the cake. I could cut through it with a spoon if I wanted to. Its tender and totally not stringy. And the red cabbage purée made for the perfect dipping sauce. The buttery fingerling potatoes makes this dish another hearty meal reminiscent of mom.
As our bellies reach the brink of fullness, a light dusting of snow begins to fall lightly upon the quaint Canton neighborhood. Our buddy jay serves up a couple after dinner drinks as we're joined by chef Benjamin at the end of a busy dinner shift. It was awesome to finally put a face to the immense talent that flows abundantly from the Fork and Wrench kitchen. I half way expected some pompous, sauce stained culinary guru to come down to my table and turn his nose up at my questions. but Chef Benjamin Sawyer is a kind, passionate, personable guy that I wouldn't mind having a few beers with any day of the week. I was shocked to learn that he had only been working at F&W for a little under a year now. He went from making wings and burgers to sourcing local meats and produce for a menu thats completely inspired and far from the ordinary. Without pretentiousness, he spoke of his palate being his greatest asset. Crediting his signature use of ingredients and spot-on preparations to his trained tastes and techniques. He certainly takes his food seriously and never gets too comfortable with one menu. He's always seeking the next best in culinary intricacies and encourages growth in the kitchen at all costs.
As our night reaches its end, we head over to the bar for a few more rounds with Jay. True to form, I prefer to drink my desert instead of blowing out the candles on some frosted reminder that I am now one year older. Keeping this in mind, jay expertly mixes up a sexy, chili-infused chocolate, bourbon beverage and a few shots of Monkey shoulder for my culinary comrades, We toast, settle our tabs and make our way out into the cold.
I want to sincerely thank all the amazing folks at The Fork and Wrench for allowing me to come by in celebration of my birthday and throw down on an enormous feast. It was a beautiful welcome into my 28th year of life. You all are some of the kindest people I've encountered thus far in my foodie-based travels. Until we meet again. Salute!
ALL PHOTOS COURTESY OF ALEX ALEXANDER PHOTOGRAPHY
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