As the snow and wind blanketed Baltimore in a Valentine's Day tundra, we hunkered down in a bar and celebrated long enough to bring on a groggy, cold Sunday morning in the haze of friends and love. In need of more robust sustenance than chocolates and flowers, we made our way down Boston Street to Fork & Wrench (2322 Boston St.,  759-9360, theforkandwrench.com), which occupies a deceptively large corner establishment on the busy thoroughfare near the water.
We've been to the shabby-chic, steam-punk eatery (they call themselves a "boutique dive bar") for dinner and were wowed by the cocktails, precision of the entrees and appetizers, and decadence of the desserts. Now we'd let them fill our hungry little bellies while the sun was shining.
The place was busy, though not chaotic, and it seemed like a reservation might've been a good idea, so we sidled up to the bar while staff set us a table. Starting off with a round of hair-of-the-dog cocktails, we sampled a little from the evening menu and a little from the brunch round (all running $8-$12). The morning's special dazzled us with a daring mix of tamarind-infused tequila, cinnamon, ginger, and bitters, which not only settled the hungover gurgles, but made the usual second cup of coffee unnecessary thanks to its bright and tangy zing. The Satin Slipper from the evening menu had a softer touch with its vodka base, offering gentle notes of citrus, lavender, and peach.
The staff warmly and quickly showed us to a cozy semicircle booth near the front of the bar and we settled in to peruse the small but carefully curated menu of midday offerings with simple names reinforcing the humble-but-precise nature of its cuisine. Dishes ranged from clear morning classics like the garden frittata ($13), full of vegetables like chard and mushrooms, and soft scrambled eggs ($14), boasting avocado, mussels, and crème fraiche, to all-day headliners such as buttermilk fried half chicken ($20) and shrimp 'n' grits ($17).
We settled on the morning fare and turned our attention to test-driving a cornucopia of egg and pork preparations. The tomato-braised eggs ($15) came on a sturdy foundation of creamy polenta propping up soft runny eggs nestled among sweet and tangy oven-braised tomatoes. Atop the eggs sat a perfectly cubed piece of crispy-fried, lightly greasy pork belly balanced with bright green al dente rapini (think meaty greens still attached to crunchy stems). While the dish needed a tad more seasoning, the brightness of the vegetables matched with creamy cornmeal and golden yolks made for a satisfying and sneakily nutritious start to the day.
Our other two entrees were just as runny-yolk-focused, but the main events were the daring and intricate pork presentations (not that the fried geometrically cut pork belly wasn't impressive—we were impressed). The eggs benedict stacked a tiny tower of shredded salty pork shoulder on delicately poached eggs, spilling with lemony hollandaise, all pulled together with sweet pickled red chilies. Eggs benedict is a "sometimes food" for us, but this rendition with that tangy chili topper could test our resolve.
The griddle wild boar terrine ($19) was presented like it was ripped right from a food magazine's "sexy breakfasts" spread. An earthy bed of farro made a textured, grainy bed for a crisp slice of swine; the terrine offered up layers of spicy game flavors encapsulated in a seared crust. It was all topped with a sunny-side duck egg fried with frilly little crunchy edges and an herbaceous salsa verde. Each bite of the dish dripped with rich sauce and complex flavors. Note: The salsa verde reads more like a well-executed pesto than a typical salsa verde.
Brunch dessert is fast becoming a norm around these parts, and not to be outdone, the good folks at Fork & Wrench have a full midday dessert menu, but we opted instead to close out our meal with a gleaming plate of butternut squash pancakes ($13). These burnt amber flapjacks came flanked with a small pot of maple syrup and sprinkled with brown sugar oat streusel. Fluffy with an understated vegetal quality, this short stack made for a perfect dessert: not cloyingly sweet, but crunchy and light, glistening with syrup. We rounded out our meal sopping up each last little dribble and crumble and pushed our forks aside satisfied and feeling entirely more human.
The kitchen and staff at Fork & Wrench bring stellar service and precisely executed dishes day or night. We'll have to stop by for that golden fried chicken we spied headed to another table.