Sunday, February 3, 2008

Woodberry Kitchen (Not)

First, let me be clear that this isn't actually a review of Woodberry Kitchen. It's a bit of a bitch about them. A couple of odd things have happened that make me pre-disposed to be a bit irritated about them. First, there's this, from Elizabeth Large's Baltimore Sun food blog, Dining @ Large.

Apparently, Mrs. Large wanted to give her 3,000th commenter a gift certificate and although it was charged to a credit card, the certificate was never sent. When WK was called, they said it must have gotten lost in the mail and they'd send another one... which also never arrived. Even after writing about this on the blog (which gets several thousand visits a day), and getting a number of comments, WK still has not sent the certificate. Are they so busy and popular that they can afford this kind of bad press? And from Baltimore's main restaurant reviewer to boot?

Last night, I attended the Baltimore Architecture Foundation's Annual Groundhog Party. It moves from year to year, and this year it was at the Natty Boh's Bottle Building, an as not yet finished space. I was looking forward to the food, which was being provided by, you guessed it, Woodberry Kitchen. The party was for 300 or more people and the food WK provided was minimal, at best. They had three tables, with stacks of corn tortilla flats, bowls of guacamole, shredded pork and rice. Additionally, there was something that looked like roasted potatoes, but was really plantains.
The presentation of the food was something you'd sling out at a spur-of-the-moment backyard party for your good buddies. No chafing dishes, no serving utensils, plates only on two tables, brown paper napkins like the ones at a fast food joint, no forks on every table, etc.
The rice was in huge tupperware-like bins, and wasn't even warmed. The tortiallas were not even cooked or warmed, which makes them taste like eating rubbery damp cardboard. The flower arrangements on the table were gorgeous, but they weren't from Woodberry Kitchen. The beers and wines were great, but they weren't from Woodberry Kitchen. They were from Brewer's Art.

It was as though this gig was such an afterthought by Woodberry Kitchen as to not even have registered on their radar. This wasn't a crowd of flannel-clad 20-somethings, but a semi-formally dressed group of 30- to 50-year old professionals. If they were doing this event as a charity deal, and for the good press, I think they failed miserably.

14 comments:

crabapple said...

Wow...this doesn't leave me with a good feeling about going there, which I had planned to do soon. I am excited about a restaraunt doing local vendors, organic and seasonal foods etc...but their catering job sounds pretty miserable. That was a big mistake on their part.

On another note,I went to Juniors with another couple Saturday night. It was restaraunt week, but at the bar where we got a drink and waited for our table, we were told we could order from the regular menu as well. When we asked the waiter about this, he acted as though we were the most demanding customers on earth, gave us a blank stare, and said "no"...no explanation at all. That really put me off. C'mon Baltimore, friendly and thorough service should be a part of every dining experience, especially one that comes with a $200 bill...

Pigtown-Design said...

Crab... I totally agree with you. I like the concept of WK, but these are two major black marks against them in my book. There's just no excuse for either of these events to have happened.

Julie said...

There must be a story behind all of this...

Anonymous said...

I had the same odd catering experience on several occasions when Joy America (another Gjerde restaurant) was open in the American Visionary Art Museum - very minimal line-up of food for a very large crowd. All in disposable dishes without heat. They should just say no to catering, it does not appear to be their strong suite. From the looks of their menu it would lend itself well to catering.

Owl Meat said...

Nice blog Pigtown

I am the one who was supposed to get the gift certificate. The story is simple. They took the Sun's money, didn't supply the product, lied about it, lied about sending it a second time and then just stopped returning calls. The story behind the scenes is that the Sun's restaurant critic, marketing manager, and me to a lesser extent went through hell for no good reason and they were treated with the utmost disrepect. Not to mention the ridiculous amount of time wasted by all three of us.

After a month, they gave me the choice of continuing to try to get something out of Woodberry (which was paid for a month before) or go somewhere else. Duh. Why would I go somewhere that has such disrepect for people, their money and the truth. Green: respect teh Earth, screw the customer. That just tastes bad. So I opted for Salt and they sent a gift certificate the next day, which I received. Ta da. When the level of arrogance is so high that even a public excoriation doesn't get a response, well, screw them. Green? Yeah, that's the color of money.

Posting as Owl Meat on Dining@Large

Pigtown-Design said...

Owl... given the power of the press and the PR that this stunt has gotten, it is shocking that they've never coughed up the cert. Did the Sun person get a credit on her account? I sure hope so!

Anonymous said...

I post as Jay C. on the Dining@Large blog and came across this blog because of it.

As Julie noted above, there seems to be more to it that meets this blog. Like I've written on Dining@Large, I know some of the staff at Woodberry - which gives me a glimpse into the other side of the table, so to speak.

After reading this account, I asked one of them about this and it seems that while the the guacamole, pork and rice were provided by WK, the tortillas were not. They were provided by the Baltimore Architecture Foundation who sourced them from the tortilla place downtown.

It also seems that the Architecture Foundation asked them to donate the food items for their fundraiser and not to worry about catering items like chafing dishes, plates and such because they were being provided by the host.

I think it's cool to bitch and moan about things when you see something out of whack, but perhaps a little Q&A and some research before getting all wild about things?

One thing to keep in mind about catering (I know, I've hired caterers myself) is that the host sets the terms and conditions for the caterer. It could very well be that the host only wanted them to bring the food and nothing more.

In that case, who's "fault" is it that things weren't to your expectation?

Jeff said...

I had dinner at Woodberry Kitchen and it was delicious! I've also been to a lot of catered events where the event sponsers will just pick up the food and not worry about reheating it or the presentation. Sounds like that's what happened here. It would be in Woodberry's best interest to refuse catering events unless they were the ones serving. Incidentally the actual Woodberry Kitchen has a wood burning oven...making the food delicious and hot coming fresh out. I don't think they have one of these at the Natty Boh Building.

Pigtown-Design said...

My main bitch was that WK's name was all over the place as doing the food for the BAF event. So, people like me assumed that they were the ones who provided the food. I didn't have any reason to question whether they did or didn't, since theirs was the only restaurant name anywhere.

Anonymous said...

I worked at Spike and Charlies back in the early nineties, before and after the buildout. I won't claim to have liked working for Spike, he was hotheaded, pompous, and displayed a lack of discretion in personal matters, but he did put up pretty food. The donation story sounds about right.

K8teebug said...

I have been twice. I really like their burger, but the last time I was there, it was WAY too salty! (like it had been accidentally double salted).

It doesn't make me excited to take friends there again.

It's a pretty space though.

Anonymous said...

it's just a meal, people. most of the customers at woodberry kitchen are so insanely entitled-- as much of america is-- and sniff for something they can complain about so wk would comp them or VIP them next time. everybody is obsessed with luxury, with VIP treatment. it's disgusting! your complaints are valid but please, take a step back and relax about things like restaurants and meals out. it's a new restaurant with management issues. i would rather support a local, "green" restaurant than waste my money on a charleston group restaurant or a restaurant that wastes excessively and feeds me unhealthy food.
thanks.

Anonymous said...

Wow. I think that Spike and the staff at Woodberry have time and time again prooved that they provide great food and above average service. I have eaten at WK over ten times and each time I have enjoyed my meal. Once or twice I had to wait longer then I wanted for my food or to be seated, but its a popular restuarant and I can deal with that. Please step down off your soapbox. You don't need to like Woodberry Kitchen, because there are plenty of other people in Baltimore who do... and will support Spike and all the local producers which he uses.

Pigtown-Design said...

Anon... i have had dinner there several times, as well and it's quite nice. The gist of this post was the sloppy job that they did at the event, not the restaurant itself. It was also written in Feb. 08, so it's an old review.