A New Take on Farm-to-Table in Hampden
For Chef Chris Amendola, the hours he spends tramping through the woods of Baltimore and Carroll counties gathering wild mushrooms, berries and other delicacies are just as crucial to the success of his restaurant as those he spends in the kitchen.
“I love to cook, and I love to wander in the woods,” says Chris, who opened Foraged, “a hyper-seasonal eatery” in Hampden in December 2017.
His inspiration for pursuing this new take on farm-to-table is simple.
“I love finding food in nature, and I love cooking great food.”
Of course, there’s more than mushrooms and fiddleheads on the menu at this popular dining spot at 3520 Chestnut St., just off the Avenue in Hampden. Thanks to partnerships with some 10 local farmers, Chris and his team offer a wide variety of “provisions” that change by the season and sometimes even by the week.
There’s no shortage of meat on the menu: braised lamb, grass-fed beef steak and duck confit make frequent appearances, as do seafood options such as fried oysters (with bacon jam) and scallops (with fennel, apple butter and toasted hazelnuts). For those with a hankering for pork, there’s an entire section of the menu devoted solely to “Pig Parts,” including snout, jowl, tongue and pig ears, all of which require a bit of extra preparation time, the menu notes “to ensure we prepare your pig parts perfectly.”
For some ingredients, the foraging chef need look no further than the walls of his restaurant, where edible plants, including nasturtium and lavender, grow languidly (and make an appearance as garnishes).
In the year-plus since Foraged opened, the restaurant—with its exposed brick walls and dark wood floors—has quickly found an appreciative audience. Business has been brisk, Chris says, whose culinary credentials include stints as chef at Baltimore’s Waterfront Kitchen and Fleet Street Kitchen, and Blue Hill at Stone Barns in New York.
But it was earlier in his career, when he was working at McCrady’s in Charleston, that he was introduced to the concept of foraging by chef Sean Brock, who shared his wisdom as they wandered. That’s information not easily gained, Chris says.
“It’s hard to get foragers to take you out. They don’t want to give up their spots.”
The chef himself is no exception. When asked exactly which local woods he frequents, he is vague. Then he laughs, saying, “I absolutely will not give up my spots for mushrooms.”
3520 Chestnut St., Hampden
“I love finding food in nature, and I love cooking great food.” –Chef Chris Amendola