August 1, 2013
Tracey Chavous, CHHC
Photos: Courtesy of Iron Bridge Wine Company
Neatly tucked away along the tree-lined roads of Howard County, Maryland, is a diamond in the rough where intimate and cozy meet with big, bold flavors and sips. What began as a local tavern over 40 years ago has evolved into the Iron Bridge Wine Company, which just celebrated its tenth year in May along with a diverse population of regulars and traveling foodies. The deceivingly nondescript wooden structure that sits propped up closely to Route 108, is a charming, yet intimate, cove of warm cherry-colored furniture sprinkled with deep cranberry décor. Iron Bridge has some unique features, namely, that it is part wine store and gourmet coffee shop and part restaurant. Brothers Steve and Rob Wecker own this bustling location that also boasts a talented chef, Chris Lewis, who this week participated in Baltimore’s infamous Mason/Dixon cook-off contest and vied for first place compared to last year’s second place. The owners and the chef as well as general manager Vince Culotta are all local residents and seem to adore their Iron Bridge for its unique history, success and special clientele.
The menu contains a tidy list of selections that pair well with the eclectic wines from small, vintage vineyards throughout the world, in addition to a smaller, hard-to-find collection of liquors. The chef creatively changes three to five menu items once a month and aims to use fresh local, seasonal meats and produce from partnered farms in Maryland, some as close as Clark’s Farm, which is across the street.
The menu offers up to five courses beginning with items For the Table such as the Three Cheese Plate with artisanal cheeses, candied pecans, seasonal chutney and caper berries ($15). House Made Specialties offered fresh and well seasoned Crispy Brussel Sprouts ($4) and a House Made Charcuterie ($15). The Starters boast 11 options from soup to Pork Cheeks to salad. The Garden Gazpacho ($7) was a refreshing bowl of summer goodness coupled with the right amount of spice from the Chipotle Crème Fraiche. The Braised Pork Cheeks ($11) was a melt in your mouth blend of sweetness from the pearl onion, the crunch from the fried gnocchi and the tanginess of the bourbon sauce. The Braised Octopus ($12) was a surprisingly well-orchestrated blend of texture and flavors from the sweet and sour taste of the agrodolce, the sweetness of the golden raisins, the black olives and fennel over top of slivers of baguette. The Entrees offer 7 staple dishes along with a special selection of the day. The special Hanger Steak ($36) was cooked perfectly medium and was paired classically with whipped potatoes and fresh broccoli rabe along with a velvety demi glace sauce. The Chipotle Brined Pork Loin ($ 22) was tenderly presented with creamy cheddar polenta, fresh local summer succotash and a smoky chipotle barbecue sauce.
The wine selection was recited by the server (Jason) who not only knew his wine history, but was also able to pair the different choices perfectly with the different courses. His knowledge and ability to match wine with food selection was quite impressive. Equally impressive is the wine variety that Iron Bridge offers; they have won the “Wine Spectator Award of Excellence” each year. Iron Bridge Wine Company offers special monthly bargains, wine events, and special orders. Three wines (one white and two reds) were offered to provide a sample of the flexibility of the options available. The white offering for tasting was a Masseria Li Veli Verdeca, a varietal from Puglia that boasts a hint of peaches and flowers. It has a crisp, fresh feel with a tart, mineral finish. A Domaine De Noire Chinon Cab Franc was a red tasting that was offered; a smooth, easy red fruit and spice hint, coupled with white pepper and earthy wild flowers. Liquid silk comes to mind. The third offering was a heavy Chilean blended offering, Emilana “Coyam” Syrah, Carmenere, and Merlot. Its intense oak, ripe fruits, ripe plums and berries are a nice mix with the spicy, earthy hint of vanilla. Deep is the word that comes to mind after a sip.
The selections with the main course were the Cantina Del Pino Dolcetto D’Alba, another smooth red with a fruity base, touched with a hint of black pepper and mineral. This enhanced the pork and was a good support for the steak as well. The Hanger steak was paired with the Calder Wine Company Charbono, a rare charbono that gives a bright fruit start, with a vibrant acidity. Huckleberry, deep forest and wood spice provides the taste. The Hanger Steak embraced it.
Dessert was the perfect finale to a wonderful dining experience. The House Bread Pudding was made with two small donut shapes with cinnamon and sugar and baked inside of the bread pudding and drizzled with a sweet cream. The Crème Brulee had a creamy consistency with an auspicious surprise, ending in the form of warm chocolate on the bottom. Gourmet coffees and lattes are offered as well.
Iron Bridge is worth the lovely drive to the suburbs of Howard County, Maryland. Upon departing the restaurant, one notices the back of a server’s shirt which reads “Getting Better with Age…we sure know a thing or two about good food and wine.” Diners would only have to see for themselves to agree.
Iron Bridge Wine Company
10435 State Route 108
Columbia, MD 21044