It was sometime ago I last visited the Orchard Market & Café in Towson. I happened to run into the manager/co-owner at an event recently and he told me if I hadn’t been there for awhile, I should drop in for lunch and dinner. And that’s exactly what I did.
I went in for lunch and came away with a much better understanding of Persian food. Jason, that owner guy, explained to me Persian food is not spicy or hot, it uses a lot of fruits, nuts and grains and it’s all combined with meats and plenty of saffron.
Before ordering, he suggested I allow him to bring out various dishes. Let me tell you right here I generally don’t like that. I prefer to order and eat what I like and I don’t want anyone experimenting with my taste buds. A practice I might add that doesn’t allow for much variety. But I told him OK and I will admit I was glad I did.
This time at least.
I tried the chicken fesenjune (a poached breast in a sweet and tart walnut pomegranate sauce). This is the national dish of Iran. I also tried the mixed kebobs (tenderloin, ground beef and chicken breast with grilled tomato, onion and sumac; the shirin polo (leg and breast of chicken on the bone with an orange mango sauce and jeweled rice of saffron, barberries, carrots, oranges and raisins). Please understand I did not have full orders of any of this, just samplings, which were plenty for me.
All of those happens to be among the favorites at the Orchard. And speaking of favorites, I will add to that list the eggplant & artichoke (layers of eggplant and artichokes with Bulgarian feta cheese in a tangy sweet dill Dijon mustard sauce) and the salad shirazi (a mix of diced cucumbers, tomatoes, mint, parsley and spring onions marinated with lemon juice). Coincidentally that was exactly what I would have made for myself at home. OK, who believes that?
The big thing to remember is this, do not be intimidated if you’re not familiar with the menu items. That is exactly why Jason is there. He’ll be happy to assist and if necessary, review the entire menu with you. As I mentioned, he is the co-owner along with his wife Sharareh. They have been owners since 1997.
The restaurant is open six days (closed Monday) for lunch and dinner. There’s plenty of free parking, carry-out and it is BYOB. On the first Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the month they have live music. Other times Persian music permeates the dining room. If I have this right on Tuesdays there’s gypsy jazz, Wednesdays a harp and Thursdays hammered dulcimer. You don’t have to be hammered to enjoy it.
On one side of the decorated walls you’ll find very nice oil paintings by an Iranian artist. On the other side, portraits by Jason and assorted middle eastern bas reliefs with a Persian motif. I have no idea what that means, but I did like the work.
I have to tell you, I thoroughly enjoyed my visit. And talking with Jason about middle eastern art, food and lifestyle. The restaurant is located at 8815 Orchard Tree Lane in Towson. That’s directly off Joppa road. I’m going to take a wild guess and say there isn’t many of you who have had middle eastern food recently. All the more reason to give it a try. You can reach them at 410-339-7700 or at orchardmarketandcafe.com.
Eddie Applefeld is a Baltimore native and a graduate of Towson University. He has been in the broadcasting profession for over 30 years. Currently he is the Promotions Director of WCBM radio. Before that, he was part of the Rouse & Company show on WQSR, host of a cable TV show called Dining Out and adjunct instructor at Towson.
His past accomplishments include being named a finalist in Baltimore Tourism’s Employee of the Year Program and winner of Toastmaster’s Speaker of the Year contest. He was also twice a heartthrob for the American Heart Association’s gala fund raiser.