By Krista Pfunder
On a recent quiet afternoon at the office, we decided to try the newly opened Garten by Preserve for lunch. I called the phone number a few times to make sure they were open, but there was no answer. Our executive VP, Tara Davis, suggested we go anyway.
We hopped in the car and headed up to Severna Park, noticing the lovely fall colors along the way. We discovered they were open, but there was no parking in sight. I jumped out of the car to see if they had a table free.
Outside seating is true al fresco—you are seated in the center of a garden (how lovely it must be to dine there at night under twinkling lights). Inside, pale wood, open spaces, and views of the gardens dominated. The bar between indoor and outdoor dining areas has a large window that can be opened so fresh breezes can blow through when the weather is nice.
I was able to be seated inside immediately even though the place was quite crowded and Tara was able to pull into a spot right out front as a diner pulled out. The afternoon was off to a great start!
Our server brought us a large bottle of water for the table and was patient while we took a work call—meaning it took us a bit to peruse the menu (side note: the service was excellent and our food came out quickly—but not so quickly that we felt rushed).
For drinks, my dining companion chose the Garten Spritz ($12) which is a combination of Aveze Gentian, Cocchi Rosa, Capitoline Tiber, and Honey Tangerine. It was refreshing and tasted as if you were “drinking a garden”. She also tried the Seasonal Frose of Spiced Peach ($12), made with rosé, white and blood red peach, amaretto, and peach liqueur. Between the two, she preferred the Frose.
A riesling seemed appropriate given the German theme and the soft pretzels headed our way, so I had a glass of the Red Tail Ridge Good Karma riesling. It was crisp and refreshing.
We debated between the soft pretzels ($9) or cheese board ($19) appetizers, but went with the pretzels on our server’s recommendation. Two pretzels are served with Garten mustard (you can also add options like raclette for $5 or Obatzda for $4). The pretzel/mustard combo was the best one I’ve had. The pretzels arrived warm and were light and easy to pull apart. Sometimes pretzels are a bit tough on the outside—not these. The mustard was the perfect accompaniment and had a great flavor. We finished both pretzels and most of the mustard.
For our main dishes, Tara chose the Schnitzel Sandwich ($15), another recommendation from our server. A crispy, pickle-brined chicken cutlet with pickles is served with shaved cabbage and “camping sauce” on a toasted bun. For her side, the vinegar slaw. Neither of us knew what “camping sauce” was, but Tara enjoyed the sandwich and the slaw and said she would recommend it.
I chose the Brie-wich ($14), which is warmed brie, fig jam, shaved apple, and frisee lettuce on sourdough bread. For my side, I chose deli-style potato salad. The portion sizes were generous; the sandwich would be enough to split with someone (especially if you start with an appetizer or salad). The sourdough bread was excellent and, like the pretzel, soft and easy to bite into. The sandwich was tasty but next time I will try something like the Bavarian Grilled Cheese ($14) or the Shrimp Roll ($21).
I’m not usually a dessert fan but turns out we had both been eyeing the Black Forest Mousse ($10), so… A large portion of mousse arrived topped with chunks of chocolate and dark chocolate cake, drizzled with a red berry sauce. It was good but rich. Be sure to get the berry sauce on each bite as it ties all the other flavors together and cuts the richness.
Overall we were most impressed by the attentive wait staff and the same creative spirit the owners first brought to our region with Preserve. Garten is an excellent spot for a business lunch or a social gathering.
As we walked through the outdoor dining area to the parking lot, we spotted a large flower garden on the property and realized the same flowers that had graced our table inside came from here. Garten achieves its mission to “bring the outside in.”
Make reservations at: garten-eats.com.
Read Chelsea Harrison’s story on Garten’s beginnings: https://bayweekly.com/restaurateurs-to-open-garten-by-preserve/