In my, what seems like, frenetic search to find all the places that serve food in Baltimore (I mean, seriously, just look at my Instagram), I keep kicking myself that I didn't find Colette sooner. I've been to Colette four times now and have tried to go countless other times (whaaatt...no Sunday Brunch? closed on Mondays?? I can't read a website??). When I've gone, I've never made it to the restaurant area. The bar area and that little nook & alcove at the front is pretty darn inviting and that's just the beginning of what is now one of my favorite bar-eating, good-fooding experiences in Baltimore.
The menu seems traditionally French and the really hip and cool staff do a good job walking you through all the dishes. I haven't eaten as many dishes there but have gone through a good gamut of plates from the duck to the bavette to those GD beignets that everyone raves about. One of the bigger draws for me, though, are their cocktails. Well, really their Sazerac (though I've heard all the others are great too) which is simply just excellent. It's served with rye, bitters, absinthe on the rocks with an artful lemon twist. I think I would describe the drink as simply being well balanced. It gives you just enough smoky notes, sweet notes, a touch of bitter and a little tartness. Not one element is overbearing or harsh. No offense to the other Sazeracs in the DMV, but this one simply can't be beat. There's some that come close but man...this one is too good.
However, I can't fail to mention the Cuban Old Fashioned either. It's good. Really good. Just get that before you get a Sazerac and fall in love.
As for the food. I guess I should talk about the Beignets first. It's what people rave about and unfortunately may be the signature item on the menu. Huh? Yes, the beignets are amazing and a little bit of a change up since they're not served as a dessert and can be found as a starter. They're also savory beignets. . . but not quite. So, officially they are gruyere beignets with honey, chives and sea salt. I wouldn't classify them as savory or sweet, more like balanced (see a theme here?). The batter is cake-like and thick like you would expect from a traditional beignet. The gruyere, to me, is almost secondary with it's addition of an extra layer of sticky density. The star. . .um. . .stars of the dish is the honey, chive and sea salt that's slathered over them. Just the right mixture of salty, sharp and sweet with a perfect vehicle to soak it all up. The beignets are fantastic and rightfully should be celebrated. All I'm saying is don't sleep on the rest of the menu.
I've had the bavette, their vegetable ratatouile and their desserts are worth saving some room for (especially if they have hot milk cake on the menu) but the one dish that I'll always come back for was their duck. The version I had was served with grilled peaches, duck jus and a deep fried squash blossom. First, deep fried squash blossoms should be illegal or you should plan on serving 100 of them instead of just one. Creamy and earthy in flavor to begin with that extra element of crispiness makes for a gorgeous bite. The duck was cooked to a perfect mid-rare and it's fatty sweetness was enhanced by the caramelization of the peaches. Adding the jus gives you just a bit of a needed sauce. Like everything I've written about above, this dish is consistent with the thought and balance that goes into everything at Colette.
I wanted to post about both Bottega and Colette (sisters from the same mister) since we've been told that both of these restaurants are changing slightly. Bottega is becoming Colette and Bottega's space is becoming an event space. All the menu items from both places will be preserved and this change makes sense because of it's efficiency. I'm sure the new new thing will be just as fantastic and since I'm pretty new to these two restaurants, I'm not sure I'll even remember the difference. But, right now, I'm pretty much a fan boy of both and I'd like to think of them as two distinct spaces where, if I chose, I can do a bang bang in one night by getting some fresh pasta, taking a walk, then having a Sazerac and maybe the duck & dessert so it feels like you've time traveled to two different worlds. But, to think of it, who needs a walk when that could mean an extra drink?
Colette, 1709 North Charles Street, Station North, Baltimore, MD 21201, 443.835.2945