It’s Valentine’s season in Baltimore – and local restaurants are ready.
It’s Valentine’s season in Baltimore – and local restaurants are ready.

This week is a big one, Baltimore, with food-friendly holidays filled with love, luck and lots of fun. Here’s a look at what’s happening around town.

Opening & Announcements

Blair’s on Hudson, the new restaurant from the owners of the now-shuttered Jack’s Bistro, has officially opened (though it’s still brand new, so, as with all new restaurant openings, be patient–they might have some kinks to work out in the early days).

In Hampden, the Other Corner Charcuterie Bar is in the throes of transformation. On Wednesday, it will reopen as Elmwood Social Club. Ultimately, Elmwood will be a private, members-only martini and cigar bar, but on Wednesday, it will be open to the public, so everyone can get a glimpse.

Sometime in March, Pikesville will welcome a new Eastern European spot called Bravo Restaurant.  

Restaurant Weeks & Month

Vegan Restaurant Week kicks off Friday, Feb. 9, and lasts through Feb. 18. Participating restaurants will offer new and creative vegan-friendly dishes.

On Saturday, Feb. 10, the week gets competitive, when the 2018 World Vegan Mac & Cheese Championship takes place at the Radisson Hotel downtown.

And don’t forget about the Black Restaurant Challenge. The challenge encourages people to dine at two or more African American-owned restaurants each week this month.

Manners with Miss Shirley’s

Miss Shirley’s is taking on the major (and important) challenge of teaching kids to how to behave properly in a restaurant. On Saturday, Feb. 10, the restaurant will host a kids’ etiquette class its the Roland Park location. The class, called “How to Eat, Greet & Not Gross Anyone Out,” is designed for kids ages 7 to 10 and is being conducted in partnership with the International School of Protocol. ISP is a local organization that teaches etiquette to people of all ages (and they do a terrific job of it).

Unfortunately, this session is sold out, but they promise more sessions to come, so if you have a child in need of some gentle pointers, keep an eye out.

Get to Know Winecream

Have you tried Winecream? It’s tasty, boozy ice cream made by a company based right here in Baltimore. On Saturday, Feb. 10, the Winecream crew is opening their doors to the public for a tour and tasting. The company is located on S. Pulaski Street in an interesting older building that also houses furniture shop Cedar & Cotton.

Chili at Barcocina

Sunday, Feb. 11, Barcocina will host its fourth annual Chili Cook-Off event. Guests get to sample the goods and vote, plus enjoy discounts on beer and cocktails.

Mardi Gras at Ida B’s

This week of holidays starts with Mardi Gras on Tuesday. Ida B’s Table will be celebrating New Orleans-style, with Creole-inspired dishes like po’ boys and gumbo, and classic Sazeracs and Hurricanes.

Love Is in the Air

This week’s biggest restaurant news is, of course, Valentine’s Day. Restaurants all over the region have plans for the holiday, which falls on Wednesday this year.

Get in the mood and maybe do a little shopping at the first annual Valentine’s PopMart at the Market, which will take place Saturday morning at the 32nd Street Farmer’s Market in Waverly. The market will have more than a dozen special guest vendors, including foodie favorites like Pure Chocolate by Jinji and Juniper Culinary Apothecary.

Sotto Sopra is a romantic spot for a Valentine’s dinner for two, but it’s also a fun place for family activities. On Monday, Feb. 12, the restaurant will host a Valentine’s celebration for children, including a kid-friendly three-course menu and entertainment.

Gertrude’s is doubling up on celebrations this week, with a Galentine’s Day celebration on Tuesday, Feb. 13, featuring an afternoon tea and a three-course dinner and waffles, in honor of Parks & Rec character Leslie Knope.

The restaurant’s Valentine’s menu, which will be available on Feb. 13 and 14, includes choices like baked creole oysters and rockfish imperial, plus several vegan and gluten-free choices.

There’s also still time to pre-order a box of love-themed donuts from Donut Stop Believin’. The boxes, which come stacked with either six or 12 donuts, can be picked up at Gertrude’s on Valentine’s Day.

Parts & Labor is also celebrating Galentine’s Day on Feb. 13–but with pig, not waffles. The Remington restaurant is hosting a special beef butchery demo with head butcher George Marsh. Attendees will get some great instruction plus cured meats, local cheeses, a glass of bubbly and a steak cooked on the hearth for dinner after the demo.

Woodberry Kitchen is starting the celebration tonight and it’ll last through Sunday, Feb. 18. The restaurant will offer a handful of special touches available for pre-order, including an option for you can call ahead and have cookies, chocolates, bubbly or a card with a handwritten message on the table when you arrive. The restaurant will also have a complimentary photo booth with props and take-home Polaroids.

At the very lovely restaurant The Elephant, Valentine’s Day dinner includes dishes like blood orange-glazed duck breast and wild mushroom and quail paella.

In Harbor East, where the shops and restaurants are celebrating a series of giveaways from now through Valentine’s Day, you can enter to win a chance to be “love-bombed” with a bottle of sparkling wine delivered to your table at one of the neighborhood’s restaurants.

Bookmakers Cocktail Club is offering a four-course prix fixe, with dishes like sweet and spicy cauliflower and seared scallops over pasta.

Ida B’s prix fixe will include courses like BBQ quail, Moroccan mussels and cassoulet.

Charleston’s menu includes choices like grilled elk tenderloin with Knob Creek bourbon sauce and porcini mushroom bisque.

At Cinghale, the four-course menu includes numerous choices, including venison ragu with buckwheat spätzle and braised veal breast.

Petit Louis’ menu includes a creamy artichoke soup and the restaurant’s classic duck leg confit.

At Johnny’s, the three-course menu’s options include a steak-and-cake or jumbo shrimp with mussels, claims and Chesapeake creole sauce.

Bar Vasquez’s choices include wood-grilled foie gras and saffron potato soup.

At Corner Charcuterie in Hampden, the four-course meal, available Wednesday-Sunday, includes options like garlic butter toasted bone marrow brioche and bouillabaisse.

Modern Cook Shop’s Valentine’s Day menu includes a “romantic mix” of options, including a terrific-sounding mariner’s market tray with oysters, clams, mussels, whole shrimp and langostinos.

Valentine’s Day will be a candlelit event at Wit & Wisdom, where guests can pair their three-course meal with wine specially selected by the restaurant’s very smart sommeliers.

Wine Market Bistro’s four-course menu includes dishes like an espresso-rubbed short rib with cauliflower mousseline and a veal shank served with Parisienne gnocchi.

Donna’s Cross Keys’ menu includes dishes like beef carpaccio and wild rockfish with crispy skin.

Cosima’s Valentine’s Day offerings include roasted and raw oysters dressed in luxe toppings like champagne vin cotto with pink sea salt and roasted quail stuffed with focaccia, pine nuts and raisins.

At The Bygone, the menu offers luxe classics like crab Louie and lobster vol au vent.

Tagliata’s menu features options like ricotta gnudi with truffles and braised beef short rib with bone marrow custard.

Azumi’s prix-fixe menu includes both sushi and cooked dishes, from a 14-piece sashimi platter to their excellent miso black cod.

The Valentine’s Day menu at Loch Bar includes two types of caviar and three different shellfish tower options.

Ouzo Bay’s menu includes Greek classics like octopus and branzino as well as some more continental fare, like a foie gras appetizer.

Encantada’s very vegetarian-friendly Valentine’s dinner includes choices like the super Nashville cauliflower and, for the meat lovers, hangar steak dressed with delicata bell pepper chimichurri.

At Minnow, the menu has oysters Florentine, chestnut soup and duck magret with foie gras torchon, sauternes reduction, spinach and pickled strawberries.

The four-course dinner at La Cuchara features dishes like a frisee salad with black ruffle vinaigrette and squid ink fideos, mussels, scallops and chorizo.

At BoatHouse in Canton, the three-course meal features dishes like herb-roasted wild mushrooms and a classic crab cake.

In Towson, Café Troia will serve their Valentine’s Day menu from tonight through Saturday, Feb. 17. The specials include a silky lobster bisque and heart-shaped seafood ravioli.

Gunther & Co.’s four-course menu comes with optional wine pairings, oyster course and a shellfish course. The main menu offers options like sweet soy-glazed quail and homemade duck confit ravioli.

Grano Emporio’s sweet menu includes dishes like filet au poivre and cavatelli with calamari and fra diavolo sauce.

16 on the Park is celebrating with a “10 Days of Cupid” menu including three courses, available from today through Feb. 19.

The French Kitchen will have a special menu on Valentine’s Day with dishes like crab fondue and beef bourgignon.

B&O American Brasserie’s menu features romantic dishes like caviar-topped eggs and coriander-spiced duck breast.

Sweet Stuff at Artifact

Need to detox from that Valentine’s chocolate sugar high? On Thursday, Feb. 15, Artifact Coffee will host its 23rd Origins event. This month, the dinner and drinks will be accompanied by conversation about natural sweeteners.

The guests, Chris Krantz from Krantz Honey Company and Joseph and Margaret-Ann Burkholder of Compass Winds Sorghum, will talk about natural sweeteners and baking without sugar.

Chinese New Year Celebrations

Valentine’s Day and Mardi Gras aren’t the only holidays this week! Chinese New Year is on Friday, Feb. 16, and a couple local spots have plans to ring in the year of the dog with a bang.

At Wet City on Thursday, Feb. 15, The Local Fry and Ekiben teams will join forces for a Korean-Chinese fusion pop-up. And on Friday, The Corner Pantry will host an Asian pop-up starting at 11 a.m.

A Winter’s Night at Wet City

Mark your calendars for Monday, Feb. 26: that’s when Craig Falk, aka The Lunchbox Lady, will be popping up at Wet City. Falk will be cooking a variety of traditional Hungarian dishes, like stuffed cabbage and chicken paprikash, and is getting an assist from his 92-year-old grandmother, who will be in town from her native Hungary.

The meal starts at 5 p.m. and it’s sure to be a special one.

Planning Ahead

Here are a few events to look forward to over the next few weeks:

February 24: Swig & Pig at Ryleigh’s Oyster 

March 3: Winter Whisk(e)y Dinner at Magdalena 

April 21: Winemaking workshop at Charm City Farms 

Kit Pollard

Kit Waskom Pollard is a Baltimore Fishbowl contributing writer. She writes Hot Plate every Friday in the Baltimore Fishbowl.