Tuesday, July 5, 2011

But mama said...

I broke a food rule this week. My mother is a native of Prince Frederick, Maryland. She doesn’t cook, but when she needs a taste of home she busts out her Christ Church cookbook and whips up some applesauce or biscuits (she’s been threatening to make coconut cake for years). But she never makes her state’s official cuisine: crab. She doesn’t eat crabcakes outside of the state limits—they are never good enough, never fresh enough. And she taught her Baltimore-born offspring to do the same.

Except. Even though I don’t normally eat crabcakes north of the Mason-Dixon line, this weekend I did. And—sorry, Mom—it was a great decision.
Let’s break it down: Saturday was go-to-the-movies-to-escape-the-afternoon-sun hot. We hit a two-o’clock Transformers 3, which was equal parts entertaining and soulless, as you might expect. I’ve got my theories on why, but frankly, I was most concerned with how long it was. I got the grumbles about an hour from the end. I got the grumbles bad. Like, is that the surround sound of an autonomous robotic organism from the planet Cybertron crashing into the enflamed Chicago skyline, or my stomach growling?
And what to feed a hungry belly? Gemini Bistro. In addition to recommending the restaurant, I’d like to suggest that you find a miracle parking spot on Lincoln so you can saunter past the valet fellow with a smirk that says, “Not tonight, pal, I’m spending that nine dollars on Prosecco.”  And I did. 
Once you are seated at a booth, the breadbasket will arrive and you must find the one golden roll hidden amongst the diagonal slices of whole grain baguette. The crust on this one shimmers like yellow sunshine on a calm lake and the coarse grains of salt will pierce your fingertips as you tear it in half.  You could grease a cookie sheet with your moistened fingers, but slather it with the sweet spreadable butter anyway.  Savor without sharing until your food arrives—you found it first. 
Alex and I split the Gemini Bistro salad—lacy frisee dressed in a tangy mustard vinaigrette with bacon, tomatoes, and a breaded fried egg. I don’t know how they manage to Milanese the egg, but I’m not complaining. 
While Alex enjoyed his bacon, cheddar cheeseburger on a pretzel bun, I shirked my usual seared scallops for a jumbo lump crabcake. 
I’ve already told you that it was a great decision, now I will elaborate: Big chunks of crab, crispy panko breading, bright salad, and spicy Tabasco aioli. The lack of classic Old Bay flavor may have added to my enjoyment, in that I felt no need to compare this crabcake to those made by church ladies at the annual jousting tournament back in the motherland.
Let’s talk about the French fries. This is the reason we came. Burgers, scallops, egg Milanese, fine. I don’t care what else you eat, get a side order of truffle parm fries. As soon as they arrive on the table they will call to you from their paper cone, a street food elevated to the highest of thrones. I love the bold flavors of earthy truffle and salty parmesan, shaved over crispy fried potatoes like delicate, savory sprinkles.  A generous dunk into creamy garlic aioli and you might just exclaim: Exquisite!  
Round out the meal with any number of delicious desserts—we are partial to the seasonal crisps, but jumped on the special: lemon meringue pie with fresh berries. OHF.

I believe it was Hermione Granger who once noted, “It’s sort of exciting, isn’t it? Breaking the rules.” 
Gemini Bistro on Urbanspoon


  1. This place looks fantastic! Great photos. With I could break the crab cake rule, too. Also wish I had some tournament apple sauce like whoa.

  2. Must remember this restaurant for my next trip to Chicago. If your mom must maintain her "standards" she can just have the scallops - I think the crab cake looks great!