Farm Country: Hereford finally gets its own farm-to-table restaurant with Woodfire Kitchen

It's an odd conundrum that farm-to-table restaurants are all over the city, but out in actual farm country, they're practically nonexistent. This was certainly the case in the rural community of Hereford, where eating options were, for several years, limited to a 7-Eleven, a pizza carry-out, and a sno-ball stand. June's opening of Woodfire Kitchen (17114 York Road, Parkton, [443] 491-3505, wfkitchen.com)—brought to you by the folks behind Cardwell's Tavern in Canton—aims to keep local food very much local.

Woodfire Kitchen's casual yet intelligent fare is precisely what the North County needed. The menu ranges from brick-oven pizzas (featuring cheese from Charlottetown Farm) to bodacious burgers (courtesy of Roseda Beef) to classic—and some very interesting, but not so classic—Maryland crab dishes. Even the batter for the house onion rings is made with locally brewed beer. Attention to detail is evident throughout the menu. Most everything, from the pizza sauce to the half-dozen different salad dressings to the proprietary herbal salt blend on the fresh-cut fries, is made in house. All the better to change with the seasons, says chef Craig "Nacho" Nachodsky.

Let's get the crab cake out of the way. At $17, it clocks in as the most expensive item on Woodfire Kitchen's board of fare, and is said to be the "crowd favorite" signature crab cake from the crew's previous Canton operation. It is stuffed with truly colossal hunks of meat, Old Bay, fresh parsley, and a few other "secret ingredients." It was indeed mighty, but oddly flavorless. The seasonings appeared to be MIA, which was strange for a kitchen sophisticated enough to offer a very tasty three-cheese-and-Sriracha baked macaroni ($7). We asked for a side of the house red pepper aioli, just to liven things up sandwich-wise, and it was promptly provided.

Much better was the crab pizza ($16). Fresh dough topped with the house-made marinara sauce, cheddar cheese, diced fresh local tomatoes—and then both hunks of crabmeat and gobs of crab dip. Wow. It was the kind of ooey-gooey, over-the-top goodness that just begs for a beer to temper the cheesiness—which makes this a good time to mention that Woodfire Kitchen is BYOB. There is a $5 corkage fee, and staff will keep your beer or wine chilled while you dine and cheerfully top off your quaff.

Of the other gourmet pizza combinations on the menu, the Gunpowder ($15) was the most intriguing, with spicy Gunpowder bison sausage, apple-wood bacon, and red onion as toppings. Diners can also build their own creations from a choice of six different cheeses and the 20 meat or vegetable toppings for $10 per pie, plus $1 per additional topping. The gluten-free pizza crust was on par with others we've tried around town, with a texture more akin to cardboard than glorious, chewy, regular-people pizza dough. We don't blame Woodfire for this, however—it's merely the sad reality of GF crust. And given the care with which the pizza chef worked the notoriously sticky and tricky GF dough—the oven area is open to the dining room—we figured the extra $1 charge for the GF crust was a dollar well spent. That dollar ought to go directly to him. Cardboard texture aside, it's still heartening that there are plenty of options at Woodfire for those with dietary restrictions. There are gluten-free sandwich rolls available, as well as certified gluten-free mozzarella for the pizzas. And the house-made red, white and black bean burger ($8), with its lovely balance of legume heft and lemony herbal leavening, is the best vegan burger we've had this year.

That's not to dismiss the carnivorous burgers, though—the house basic burger ($9) is like the platonic ideal of hamburgers. Half a pound of Roseda Farms' finest is simply seasoned, grilled to order, and served on an airy, lightly toasted brioche bun with lettuce and a slice of impeccably ripe local tomato. There are abundant other toppings available to add if you so desire, and a few house special concoctions. We did not try the signature WFK Burger ($14), which intimidated us: a half-pound burger topped with mac and cheese plus house-made root-beer pulled pork. However, after the success of the so-wrong-it's-right crab pizza, we're now planning to give the WFK a try some time. All sandwiches, by the way, come with either the house fresh-cut fries—which are crisp and perfect and wonderful—or a locally sourced mixed salad or veggie du jour. The night we visited, this was green beans from One Straw Farm done as a straightforward but delicious saute.

We suggest splitting the grilled pear, beet, and goat-cheese salad ($12)—it's too much for a one-person side but not quite enough to make an entire meal. The Bartlett pears had been grilled to just-tender perfection, the beets lightly caramelized, and the sweet-but-not-too-sweet local berry vinaigrette deftly united them with the bed of spinach and goat cheese. There is also a local garden salad ($10) that changes with the seasons, and also with availability of ingredients from local farms—so changeable that on our first WK visit there was no salad available at all, actually. But we so appreciate the commitment to local growers that we are willing to pull up our big-girl pants and eat french fries instead of salad, if we must.

Try to leave room for dessert. The Charlottetown cheesecake ($7) is extraordinary—a barely sweet goat-cheese tart with a lovely citrus tang. Not currently on the regular menu but often available as a special are the sweet knots ($6). These are heavenly clusters of buttery dough, baked in the brick pizza oven and drizzled with a cinnamon sauce for a fabulously flaky and addictive ending to a good and righteous Woodfire Kitchen meal.

Woodfire Kitchen is open Monday-Thursday 11 a.m.-8 p.m., Friday-Saturday 11 a.m.-10 p.m., and Sunday 11 a.m.-7 p.m.

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