One of my favorite food trends is a renewed interest in locally produced ingredients. It's a movement with so many benefits: environmental (less gas used to transport things), economic (supporting local farmers), and aesthetic. Local ingredients tend to taste better, because not only are they fresher, but they're bred more for flavor than for being able to withstand long-distance shipping.
It's nice to see this movement gaining traction in smaller, more casual eateries—among them, the Flying Avocado Cafe in Owings Mills. The Flying Avocado was opened earlier this year by two holistic pharmacists with a commitment to using locally produced and/or organic ingredients whenever possible. And judging by the line at the counter on our lunchtime visit, I'm not the only person loving this new trend. Every seat in the small dining area was taken. Thankfully, this is a bustling lunch stop, not a mellow coffeehouse made for lingering, so my friends and I were able to swoop in on a table within minutes of entering. Most customers, already knowing the score, opted to order carry-out.
The Flying Avocado offers a long list of specialty smoothies, free-trade coffee drinks, and loose-leaf teas. The menu carries plenty of meat dishes, but also a respectable number or vegetarian ones. This was good news for my friends Jen and Genevieve, neither of whom eats meat. We started with the "Triple Connection" appetizer platter ($6.50), a large plate of guacamole, hummus, and seed pâté served with chips, pita points, and crudités. As one would hope, given the place's name, the guacamole was excellent, but the hummus seemed bland. And while the pâté had a nice peanut-buttery note, it made Jen wrinkle her nose and comment, "This is what people think vegetarian food is supposed to taste like."
I had ordered a Fruit of Brazil tea ($1.50), but was given instead a smoothie with a similar name. As we didn't get an itemized bill at the counter, I'm not sure which we got charged for. My friends' smoothies ($4-4.95 each) were tasty and filling.
Doing our part to confirm stereotypes about female diners, each of us ordered a salad. But our meals were hardly petite. A niçoise ($8.95) filled a large square plate with good mixed greens, avocado, tuna, roasted red potatoes, hard-boiled egg, olives, pinto beans, capers, and artichoke hearts. Genevieve couldn't finish it. Again, though, the food could have used more flavor; a splash more vinegar in the beans, a few shakes of salt on the potatoes. Jen's special salad ($9.25) featured butternut squash, dried cranberries, and pumpkin seeds, but needed something to punch it up a bit. What helped was giving her some of the nicely pungent gorgonzola from my steak salad ($10.95), which was my favorite of the three. Prettily fanned-out pears and apples complemented the walnuts and marinated steak, and the honey-balsamic vinaigrette was properly authoritative to handle all these disparate ingredients.
Later, I tried a roasted lamb wrap ($8.95), which was generously portioned, but again needed punch—maybe more of its red-pepper yogurt sauce, or a nice schmear of goat cheese to liven things up.
Flying Avocado has some good-looking desserts. We split a slice of cheesecake with berries ($4.95), which had an unusual crust, made of nuts instead of graham crackers. And despite her disappointment in the seed pate, Jen picked up a "powerball" ($1.75): a small, sticky sphere made up of nuts, seeds, and dried fruit. Her pronouncement: delicious. There may be hope for health food yet.
The Flying Avocado Cafe, 10210 S. Dolfield Road, Owings Mills, 443-471-2600. Hours: Mon-Fri 7 a.m.-8 p.m., Sat 9 a.m.-5 p.m.