I'll admit that until this past weekend, I had never been to Frederick, Maryland. It seemed like a quiet and sleepy town, with limited offerings compared to all of what is available in downtown Washington, D.C.. However, I recently received an invitation from the Tourism Council of Frederick County to come out for the day and join other local food and travel writers to sample some of the food that will be offered at their upcoming Restaurant Week which takes place March 3rd to 9th. I was intrigued, and thought it would be a great opportunity to finally find out what this small town was about. Along with my friends Alejandra and Russell, we hopped in a car and drove about an hour out to the Frederick Visitor Center to join the group for a walking and eating tour.
The day started with a warm welcome from the Brewmaster at the local Monocacy Brewing Company, and a sampling of some of their finest beers. I was wowed by the Raspberry Brown Ale, which managed to have a fruity kick without being too overpowering. I could see myself drinking that beer regularly, and I am not normally a beer drinker. Monocacy Brewing is located at 1781 N. Market Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701. You can find them on Twitter @MonocacyBrewing.
The group then split into three, and we each sampled a few different restaurants that will be participating in the upcoming Restaurant Week. During Frederick Restaurant Week, lunches are offered at $15.14 for a 2-course meal and $20.14 for a 3-course meal. Dinners are offered at $20.14 for a 2-course meal and $30.14 for a 3-course meal. All costs are exclusive of tax, beverages and gratuity.
Our first stop on the tour was The Cellar Door, which is a restaurant and lounge that is located down a flight of stairs, and is dubbing itself as a "gastro-pub". I'll admit that when we first walked in, I wasn't sure what sort of quality food to expect. While the space was cozy and dimly lit, it didn't give off the impression of having thoughtful high-quality food. However, I was proven wrong quickly. We started with a goat cheese fritter with strawberry and apple compote. It was delicious, but how could that really be bad? It was the dishes that followed that showed more depth and complexity of flavors that won me over. The shrimp satay with a corn relish over a bed of grits was nicely done, and the peanut coconut sauce served on the side had a nice kick and added just the perfect amount of spice. I also enjoyed the beef short rib with carrots and scalloped turnips. It was comforting food on a freezing day, and it paired nicely with the dark and rich Cabernet Sauvignon from California. The tasting finished off with a strawberry shortcake bite, with an almond cheesecake fritter and strawberry sauce for dipping. It was a nice combination of bites, and The Cellar Door impressed more than I had expected based on first impressions.
The Cellar Door is located at 5 East Church Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701. You can find them on Twitter @CellarDoorRest.
Our next stop was Brewer's Alley which is the original brewpub of Frederick County, and is also one of the more popular spots in downtown Frederick. The place was packed upon our arrival, and filled with families and parties of all sizes. It was a very casual atmosphere, and most tables appeared to be enjoying burgers, pizzas, and basic American fare. Our tasting menu included a mix of bites including fried okra, pork suppli, beer and cheese soup, a chopped salad, BBQ shrimp, and of course a sample of their beer.
Some of the dishes at Brewer's Alley fell a bit flat like the pork risotto ball which was dry on the inside and in need of more flavor, but I adored the beer and cheese soup which was dusted with pretzels on top. It was good old fashioned delicious pub food, and it was done well. The BBQ shrimp over polenta was not only a very pretty bite, but one that tasted nice and had solid flavors. Overall, the restaurant was bustling, and it's clear that this is a beloved spot in downtown Frederick. Brewer's Alley is located at 124 North Market Street, Frederick, Maryland 21701. You can follow them on Twitter @BrewersAlley.
For our last stop on the tour we all met up at The Wine Kitchen which is located right along the creek in Frederick. I have been to their other location in Leesburg, Virginia, so I already knew that I was going to like what they offered. The restaurant is locally and seasonally focused, with a great selection of wines. We were able to sample the Domaine Tariquet, a French Chardonnay with oak and fruity notes which I loved. The Wine Kitchen's explanation of the wine? "What is abundant, delightful and makes friends easily? This wine and a room full of kittens." They also served us a butternut squash carpaccio with speck and goat cheese, as well as a scallop with red beet risotto. The carpaccio was very fresh and light, and the scallop was nicely seared. It was a nice tasting, and I know that The Wine Kitchen will offer a great menu during restaurant week for those who are interested in a more sophisticated dining experience in Frederick.
The Wine Kitchen is located at 50 Carroll Creek Way, Frederick, Maryland, 21701. You can follow them on Twitter @TheWineKitchen.
We had a great time in Frederick, and it really did make for a lovely day trip. In addition to some of the spots we sampled, there are many others participating in the upcoming restaurant week including Ayse Meze Lounge, Family Meal, Firestone's Culinary Tavern, and The Tasting Room. Also, there are some nice shops along the downtown area of Frederick that might make it worth the trek when paired with a nice meal. My friends and I capped off our day in Frederick with drinks and dessert at Volt Restaurant which was great. While Volt is not participating in restaurant week, it's worth the trip to Frederick all by itself. I'm really glad I got to experience Frederick, and the next time you're thinking about getting out of town for the afternoon, perhaps you'll consider giving it a try.