It’s the (other) most wonderful time of the year! It’s Howard County Summer Restaurant Weeks! (And that other most wonderful time of the year happens to be Winter Restaurant Weeks.)
Twice a year, numerous restaurants around Howard County offer up delicious special menus — at equally delicious special prices — to entice patrons to visit.
This summer’s deals run from July 24 – August 7. You can find a full list of participating restaurants and their offerings here. For now, let’s have some fun and pretend to order a Restaurant Weeks dinner at some of my favorites.
Y’all know by now that AIDA is one of my absolute favorite HoCo restaurants. The food is always high quality and delicious, and we especially love indulging in a wine flight (or two).
AIDA is offering a three-course dinner for $39.17 per person. I’ll start off light with the local beet salad with greens, spiced Almonds, goat cheese & rosemary mousse and a sherry vinaigrette — although I’ll admit the sausage flatbread and local tempura squash blossoms look fabulous. (Owner Joe Barbera recently posted a video of himself harvesting squash blossoms on the restaurant’s Instagram page.) Since I’m having a white wine flight, I’ll forego the confit duck leg entree and instead take a dip in the ocean and order the pan seared flounder with billi bi, mussels, farro, and baby bok choy. For dessert, I’m definitely getting the white chocolate crème brulee — AIDA’s crème brulee is always a dream. Joe will probably order the Boston cream — sponge cake, pastry cream, hot fudge — that’s one of his favorite desserts.
Alexandra’s is the resident restaurant at Turf Valley Resort. Since Chef Chris Vocci took over the kitchen a couple years ago, he’s turned the menu into a combination of solid standbys and fun flavors. And of course, you can’t beat the Mangione family hospitality.
Alexandra’s three-course dinner menu is also $37.17 per person. I’ll start off with the iceberg wedge salad — nice and classic. I’ll cross my fingers that Joe orders the Cajun crab and corn chowder, so I can have a spoonful (or four) of that. My entree is the Louisiana shrimp and grits — I’ve had it before, and the flavors are so developed, it’s like the chef started the roux a week ago. I’ll have the chocolate mousse for dessert, thankyouverymuch.
Since Centre Park Grill opened a couple years ago, it’s grown into a casual go-to place for locals. We always sit at the bar — bar manager Aemon is a genius at pairing you with the exact drink you want, even if you walk in there having no idea what you’d like.
Centre Park’s three-course dinner menu is offered at $32.17 per person. I’m ordering the Centre Park Caesar salad to start, and washing it down with whatever Aemon puts in front of me. For my second course, I’ll have the sesame salmon, and tell Joe to get the New York strip so I can try the mushroom sauce. For dessert, I’ll have a piece of cheesecake and a bourbon. Neat. (Or however Aemon says it’s enjoyed best.)
This is a renowned locale for vegan cuisine. If you’re more of a meat-and-potatoes kind of person, I encourage you to not let the plant-based menu scare you away. Great Sage is good eats, across the board. For newbies, I’d recommend staying away from the few menu items comprised of imitation meats — it’s just not the same as sinking your teeth into animal flesh, and Great Sage has plenty of real-deal veggie-based options to satisfy you.
Great Sage is offering a single three-course dinner for $35.00. Since there aren’t any options to choose from, I’ll just go with it. So I’ll be having a carved watermelon salad with shaved watermelon radish, red onion, tofu feta crumbles, balsamic reduction, and smoked olive oil to start, followed by a gyro made with house-made seitan, and then something called kataifi for dessert. Apparently it’s a “spiced walnut cashew baklava rolled in shredded phyllo, drizzled with lemon honey, and served with coconut whipped cream.” I’ll take it.
We’re going to wrap up our imaginary journey with a trip to The Turn House. Chef Thomas Zippelli was just named “Best Under the Radar Chef” by Baltimore magazine, and with good reason — he takes fresh, local ingredients, and raises them to a whole other level using classic training and a flare that can only come from someone who is truly passionate about food.
The Turn House is offering a three-course dinner menu for $38.17. I think I’ll start off with the tomato tart with mascarpone cheese, basil, pickled onion, and dill, but I’m going to make sure Joe orders the watermelon gazpacho so I can try it. My entree will be the arctic char — it comes with bacon, chanterelle and morel mushrooms, and spinach. To top things off, I’m looking forward to the vanilla panna cotta, served with grilled peaches, pistachios, and a peach sorbet. You can’t get much more summery than that!