Chris Clune came on board March 1 but took over the kitchen for real on March 21. For now, Clune will be happily executing the menu put in place by departing executive chef Jamie Forsythe, who stayed around for the transition.
But come May, when the spring bounty really arrives, diners will be start to see more of Clune's personality. Clune grew up in the business — his mother owned restaurants in Oxford and Barnegat Light, N.J. Asked to describe his cooking philosophy, he invokes the French chef Joel Robuchon.
"It's the whole cooking with the five senses thing," says Clune, who considers his trips to L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon in New York City visits to the "food altar."
"I love letting the food speak for itself," Clune says. "I try to cook as cleanly and methodically and thoughtfully as possible, where each ingredient is held up on its little pedestal. That's what I hope to bring here."
For now, Clune is settling in, making a few tweaks and going to town on the 30 pounds of ramps that B just got in. The ramp, a garlicky member of the onion family also known as the wild leek, has become something of a spring darling in chef's circles.
Clune is sauteing ramps as a side for a rockfish special, pickling ramps to serve with a radish salad and cured meats, and pounding ramps into a pesto for a turnip ravioli.
The ramp is one thing, but the morel, the other sign that spring has come, is another, and Clune can hardly wait for it.
"Once morels come in," Clune says, "I'm going to lose my mind."
B, a Bolton Hill Bistro is at 1501 Bolton St. in Bolton Hill. For information call 410-383-8600 or go to b-bistro.com.
Speaking of spring The Baltimore Farmers' Market & Bazaar begins its 35th season April 1. This is the second year the popular market is starting so early. Until 2003, when it was moved up to the first week in May, the opening came in early June.
Last year, skeptics wondered if the crowds would come to the market before the spring bounty started showing up in stalls. Although there was a drop-off after the first week, sharp shoppers began noticing what was at the market rather than what wasn't.
There are, of course, vendors selling things like breads, pastries, sauces and meats that don't depend on the season. There are also the popular vendors of coffee, omelets, crepes, pit beef and Indian, Thai and Cajun foods that market-goers haven't seen since last December.
April at the market is also a profusion of early greens, plants and herbs. Master gardeners of the University of Maryland Extension will be at the market to give advice on planting and growing herbs
The early weeks are also a great time to get to know your vendors. If you see only one stall selling asparagus, it might be because that asparagus has been trucked up from the South. That's a farmers' market no-no, but vendors get away with it.
The Baltimore Farmers' Market is located on Saratoga Street between Holliday and Gay streets under the Jones Falls Expressway. The market runs from April 1 through Dec. 23, from 7 a.m. until things sell out, usually about noon. For more information, go to bop.org.
A ball of string Good news for Abell is bad news for Highlandtown. Plans to convert the old Haussner's space into a microbrewery have been scrapped.
The news that brewer Stephen Demczuk had signed a lease for the old Capital Beverage Corp. bottling plant in Abell means that Demczuk won't be going into Haussner's after all.
Last June, Demczuk was considering Haussner's as the site for a "Gasthaus," a German-style restaurant/bed-and-breakfast, and microbrewery. Demczuk's plans were supported by the Highlandtown community and business associations. A deal was said to be close at the time, but things fell apart.
"It's unfortunate," Demczuk said about the Haussner's plan falling through. "It had a lot of space, but it was too expensive and too run-down. Everything needed updating — the plumbing, the electricity, you name it."
Haussner's, a Baltimore dining institution, served its last strawberry pie on Oct. 6, 1999. Since closing, the building has operated, briefly, as a steakhouse and as the headquarters for Moveable Feast.
It's been on the minds of some Baltimoreans lately because of the return of "Mad Men." In August 2009, a re-creation of Haussner's interior was a setting in the show's Season 3 opener.