In November of 2012, Chef Kevin Perry and his wife Cecilia Benalcazar opened Liv2Eat to high praise from local foodies and restaurant critics, even winning the 2013 “Best New Restaurant” award from the Baltimore City Paper. In just a few short years, Perry and Benalcazar shuttered their restaurant….but only briefly. They opened a few weeks later, in August 2017, as In Bloom, a joint effort with new partners Chef Cyrus Keefer and Angela Keefer. Chefs Perry and Keefer had worked together at Sotto Sopra, a popular Italian restaurant north of downtown in an area known as Cathedral Hill. Keefer had been looking to open his own place for a few years now, and thought the partnership with Perry made sense for both of them.
The restaurant itself got a bit of a face-lift–not that it especially needed it–in the form of fresh paint and new lights for the patio. I’ve always thought it was a pretty space, not fussy, with nice details like the inlaid pebbles on the bar and the aluminum chairs, both of which are still around.
Unfortunately, the chef partnership didn’t work out and Perry and Benalcazar are once again on their own. That, of course, does not change the deliciousness of the restaurant.
When it was known as Liv2Eat, the restaurant’s menu was short and to the point. At In Bloom, it still has a welcome brevity, but incorporates more of a melting pot sensibility to go with its established seasonal focus. On our most recent visit, Chef Perry’s fabulous risotto fritters, wee crispy clouds of creamy rice served with lemon chive creme fraiche and shavings of Parmesan, were a highlight of our meal. Perry’s love for rustic Italian food shows in the ultra-light potato gnocchi in a rich gorgonzola cream sauce with hazelnuts (inspired by a recent trip to Italy), and a plate of fried mozzarella with eggplant caponata. Other dishes show a strong Asian influence.
One thing that struck me about the food at In Bloom is that while some items definitely swing toward the fine dining end of the spectrum, others, particularly among the entrees, seem far more casual. The bacon burger, made with local Roseda beef, is a riff on a classic fast food burger, stacking two 4-ounce patties with bacon and cheddar and adding a sauce more “fancy” than “special.” Though a beef kabob sandwich with peppers, mushrooms, and garlic sauce sounds like street fare, it was elevated to sit-down status with a pillowy pita made from brioche dough, cooked to order. For those folks more interested in knife-and-fork food, there are more traditional plates involving short ribs or fish, and a terrific crab cake, too.
While there is a bar in the space, In Bloom only serves wine and beer. The handful of cocktails they serve are wine-based, like the Bamboo Mule, which gets its kick from sake. But the wine list is so interesting, who needs cocktails? I enjoyed a glass of the bright and sweet Pamplemousse Rose, a rosé with a strong grapefruit aroma and flavor that is all the rage in France. I followed that with a glass of Maui Blanc, a 100% pineapple wine that’s weird and slightly funky and delicious all at the same time. There are flights available for those who can’t make up their minds about which wine to try first.
There are desserts too, my favorite being the plate of warm, fresh-from-the-oven, chocolate chip cookies presented with a ramekin of cream for dunking. The cookies are small, making them the perfect size for the end of a meal.
Minxeats Baltimore food blogger and Co-author of the new book, Maryland’s Chesapeake: How the Bay and its Bounty Shaped a Cuisine, plus Food Lovers’ Guide to Baltimore, and Baltimore Chef’s Table.
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