Guests convene in a dimly lit dining area and share the tiny glow of a candle as they laugh, talk and enjoy cuisine inspired by every corner of the world. Patrons share carefully prepared foods and sip handmade drinks as they unwind from their day.
Tucked deep in an Ellicott City alley hides one of the Baltimore area’s most high-tech dining experiences. Born into an economic recession, The Rumor Mill has adapted creatively and become a very popular dining and drinking spot among the locals.
The Rumor Mill uses molecular gastronomy, a cooking technology involving edible chemicals such as salt and baking soda, to change the makeup of their food. The everyday chemicals offer unique flavor combinations and variations that bring out certain aspects of a dish and make the restaurant special.
“It’s basically a version of a cooking method involving science and chemicals,” said owner and executive chef Matthew Milani. “We’re using just one [chemical] where a processed food may have 10.”
The style of cooking uses a technique called sous vide, in which the food being prepared is seasoned and spiced before being pressurized and vacuum-sealed in a plastic wrap. According to Milani, the food is “impregnated” with oil and garlic before being sealed. It is then submerged in water to cook at an exact temperature as the heated water circulates around the food.
“We can do a whole case of duck and I can walk away,” Milani said. “Where if you’re baking it and get pulled away or trapped in another project, it might burn.”
This type of cooking allows meats to be cooked to the perfect medium-rare or perfect well-done every time according to Milani. The small plate trend allows guests to try and share these different flavors and enjoy foods from all over the world in one stop.
“The thought was we wanted to try to please everyone,” Milani said. “It was the opportunity to cook in a bunch of different mediums.”
What makes The Rumor Mill stand out among other restaurants that use molecular gastronomy in their cooking is that The Rumor Mill also offers a fusion bar. The project that spearheaded everything for Milani was when he made his own green tea vodka. The restaurant’s distributor at the time was increasing the minimum order of its green tea vodka causing Milani to stop ordering from them.
As a plethora of high-quality Asian ingredients were available to him, Milani created his first fusion vodka, the green tea vodka. The response of his customers was overwhelmingly positive. According to Milani, patrons loved his homemade vodka and preferred it over the original causing the project to grow.
Homemade flavored vodkas became a menu staple at The Rumor Mill. His fusion bar now offers close to 70 infused vodkas ranging from green tea to thai chile to dozens of fruit flavors. In addition, the bar offers infused bourbons, gins and tequilas. Currently a barrel martini, colored more like a wine, is the featured infusion. The reason for the color change is the barrel it ages in.
Milani takes pride in the work that he and his staff accomplish whether it be on a plate or in a shot glass. He believes in his recipes and hates having to alter them at all but pleasing the customer is the bottom line.
“This is the way we want it to come out, we feel like it’s the perfect blend of tart, spice and other flavors,” Milani said. “As much as it pains me sometimes, our number one goal is to please our guests. It is so hard to please everyone.”
Milani does not want to have to change the makeup of a dish but he sometimes has to in order to satisfy a specific guest’s needs due to food allergies, preferences, etc. The menu, however, offers a variety of plates ranging from fries to salads and soups to crab dumplings and dip to seasoned tuna, scallops or salmon. The menu’s variety makes it very possible to please every single guest.