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This Easter season of new living, I offer this culinary confession with encouragement to fill your mind with the beauty of art and your stomachs with good food! Since Lenten disciplines are over, go ahead and sleep in and trust that brunch will get you started off right.
Rated as one of Baltimore’s top Brunch places, Gertrude’s – named after famed Chef John Shield’s grandmother – offers brunch, lunch and dinner in a beautiful setting. It shares the same lobby entrance to the Baltimore Museum of Art, giving foodie art lovers a feast for eyes and stomach.
The chic and contemporary design offers bar seating, main dining and an outdoor-tented area for private receptions. The restaurant resisted the clichéd display of artwork. Instead, it provided attractive views with a large wall of windows – unfortunately decorated with semi-blinking Christmas lights. A centerpiece pillar converted into a circular seating area and a wall mural gives an artistic flair, but the tacky paper napkins clashed stylistically.
The ambience can be boisterously loud, filled with pent-up conversations from people who had to be quiet in a museum – similar to the narthex after Mass. The background music distracted me with corny renditions of elevator music, including Roberta Flack’s “Killing me Softly with (this) Song.” What happened to Bach or Beethoven?
Although the restaurant was brunch-friendly, waiters looked surprisingly like they needed more sleep. Besides the pleasantly accommodating receptionist, the other wait staff lacked grace, style and energy – no smiles or pleasantries; just business.
True to form, the menu is a big catch with Chesapeake Bay crab lovers, but also offers sandwiches, soups and veggie options. “Grandma” probably inspired the kid-friendly menu, playful desserts and tableside crayons to inspire young Picassos to be creative on the white paper table cover.
The cuisine was good, but at times lacked artistic finesse. A tired bread server gave us dry biscuits. The fennel apple slaw began to oxidize. Skillet potatoes were dry and under-seasoned. My crab quiche was delicious, but it lacked height and the buttery crumbly crust. The crab Benedict skimped on hollandaise.
Though underwhelmed, I did not leave disappointed. Authentic Bay flavors, modernist approaches to classic recipes and generous portions will make for a great start to a late morning.
This beautiful time of the year celebrates new life. Enjoy it with a family brunch after Mass, a walk through a park, a museum visit or prayers at the graveside of a loved one. Gertrude’s provides the diners the convenience of seeing something beautiful and digesting it in a new, artistic way.
We pray that Grandma Gertrude became a saint by serving her family good food. She is named after a great saint. This restaurant-in-a-museum reminds us that God wants to create beauty in us through the food he generously feeds us.
Next month: Cinco de Mayo! Have a restaurant review suggestion? Send e-mail to gmatysek@CatholicReview.org.
Father Patalinghug is founder of Grace Before Meals.