Courtesy of Jesse Wu
The restaurant foraged. opened its doors in Hampden this past December.
“What is jowl?”
You know when you and your friend have just been growing apart lately? Maybe there have been too many hours spent studying, partying or just hanging out with different crowds? There’s just a sense of a rift that starts to divide you two, and it makes both of you sad.
The solution: brunch.
Added bonus: you write for The News-Letter, and you both get to chat with the Head Chef because The News-Letter gives you all the authority in the world. Cool!
So, my buddy and I headed out to brunch at a restaurant in Hampden which I had heard about only a week ago. I had read about it opening back in December, but I hadn’t really thought much of it because it sounded way above my price point. That said, I figured this time it would be worth it since it was a special event, and I had a great friend to go with me.
foraged. opened in December 2017. Its menu is based on a relatively new premise of showcasing local flavors through each season of the year.
For its normal dining menu, foraged. has a section dedicated specifically to pig parts and pickles, which sounds odd even to the more open-minded foodies among us. Hence, the restaurant’s first brunch event was aptly named “Pig Parts and Pancakes.”
“This is actually the only brunch event of the year,” chef and owner Chris Amendola said.
Amendola explained the science behind the timing of the brunch, which they oriented around the regional trees’ production of sap.
“It only happens when the temperature during the day is above 32 degrees Fahrenheit and the temperature at night is below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. Up north, it lasts longer, but where we live, it only lasts for two or three weeks. That is why we can only do this once a year,” he said.
Amendola, the former executive chef at Waterfront Kitchens, graduated from the Southeast Institute of Culinary Arts in 2002.
foraged. is the first restaurant that Amendola has started and owned. He explained that it’s a way to combine his love of foraging for unusual ingredients that have a shorter season with his love of cooking delicious food.
“For example, fiddlehead ferns: There are only three days in the year to collect them before they open up into fronds. I want to show that sort of plant,” he said.
This means that the menu is significantly shaped by what is available seasonally, with each transition serving as a unique creative challenge for Amendola.
“Moving into the spring is going to be a totally different game, and I’m interested to see how that transpires through the year,” he said.
The Baltimore Fishbowl describes the menu and its ingredients as “both adventurous and approachable.”
I would say this was an apt description of my meal. The belly I consumed was a familiar friend, while the jowl was the new guy who no one really knew well.
For starters, we ordered a stack of buttermilk pancakes. It came with a fat slab of butter on top and maple, black walnut syrup on the side. The syrup was thin, but it fit appropriately with the soft pancakes.
What made this pancake experience stand out from any other was the combination of the buttermilk richness of the pancake in and of itself paired with the slightly unexpected flavor of the syrup. The maple was there for the familiarity, but the black walnut was a welcome addition.
The maple syrup came from Third Way Farm located in Havre De Grace, Md., and the black walnut syrup came from Whistle Pig Farm located in Red House, Md.
Then the pig parts came. Wow.
Each of the pig parts came with apple butter toast pieces and over-easy eggs (although, of course, you can get them any way you want them).
The jowl was also served with eggs and toast.
“All of our pigs come from Rettland Farm in Gettysburg, Pa. All pasture raised, GMO free. Great farmer, I’ve worked with him for years,” Amendola said.
Rettland raises Berkshire pigs with intense care, allowing them to graze and live in natural light.
The jowl is the part of the pig that is right below the cheek. It has a high fat content and was scored to render out the oils. It was served in small slices, and man, it packed a porky punch! Jowl is where I draw the line, due to the sheer amount of pork fat flavor that comes from it. On its own, it could take your taste buds down, but with the toast and eggs, it worked well.
The belly was a classic brunch cut. You can’t ever go wrong with pork belly with a bit of basic seasoning coupled with eggs and toast. Simple cooking is what brought out the amazing quality of ingredients in this meal.
That was my amazing brunch experience. I hope to go back soon to try out their new spring menu. foraged. is one of a few places where you can truly feel the importance of eating locally sourced and fresh food. Hopefully, there will be another brunch next year for all of you to enjoy!