Torrential rains thwarted our Saturday evening plans, so come Sunday we felt bright-eyed and ready for a spit-polished brunch. Bounding out of bed, we scrubbed behind the ears, ironed a shirt, and headed for perhaps the most civilized brunch in Baltimore.
Inside the Baltimore Museum of Art, we took our seats in the city's eatery on the hill, Gertrude's (10 Art Museum Drive,  889-3399, gertrudesbaltimore.com), owned by James Beard nominee and PBS television host chef John Shields. Looking around, we felt tucked away among the greenery surrounding the museum's Sculpture Garden and could see the fountain bubbling outside as wait staff and families quickly wound their way around the tables—a reservation is highly encouraged. We were definitely the youngest diners not accompanied by our parents or grandparents, so we staked our claim and settled into the throw pillows to order our drinks. The atmosphere at Gertrude's (named for Chef's grandmother) turned our usual brunch up a notch; this was "grown-up brunch."
Despite the mature nature of the dining experience, each table comes equipped with butcher paper and a pot of crayons. As we colored away, our cocktails descended to the table along with a small basket of exquisitely flaky biscuits, flanked by whipped butter and house-made jam. Among the drinks, Chef's signature Dirty Gertie ($9) delivers a supremely well-balanced play on the standard bloody mary. Lemon-peel-infused vodka, Old Bay, Dirty Gertie Mix (insert inquisitive side-eye), all topped with a sweet, plump shrimp balanced on the rim. If left to our own devices, we could have made a meal of just biscuits and Dirty Gerties.
We sampled the blood-orange mimosa ($8), which shone with sweet-tart citrus, a vibrant ruby red color, and just enough effervescence to tickle our noses. The glass, however, comes crusted with sugar. Considering the well-proportioned notes of the drink, the sugar crust was gilding the lily.
Diligently sipping away and creating masterpieces on the tabletop, we looked up to find our meals arriving, smelling deep-fried and briny. Skipping over the omelets (ranging $14 to $20) and quiche ($16), we took advantage of the soft-shell crab eggs benedict special ($20). It was arranged differently than expected: A small tower of those delightful biscuits, poached eggs, and cheerfully yellow hollandaise, sprinkled with mustard seeds, sat beside a crisp and tender crab.
The kitchen knew to leave well enough alone, lightly breading the crab to let its sweet, saline qualities emerge with no extra frills. Served with roasted potatoes, this dish was the epitome of a mid-Atlantic early-summer treat. If we had one gripe, it was that the eggs were a tad overcooked, so we couldn't indulge in the joy of popping runny yolks.
We dug into the curiously named Gutman Avenue Eggs ($14) (we hadn't yet figured out the reference to the block-and-a-half long street south of 25th Street). Piled high, the seafood hash came spread across a long rectangular plate and loaded with smoked salmon, flaked fished, capers, and potatoes, with a refreshing spritz of lemon and dill—all topped with two jiggly poached eggs and hollandaise sauce. The Gutman tasted deceptively light and halfway through shoveling it into our faces, we called "uncle" as the sheer volume of tender seafood and roasted potatoes packed us to the gills. We begrudgingly put down our forks, but we were happy to know that we'd revisit the leftovers as soon as our bellies would allow. Chef seems to have an affinity for riffs on eggs benedict with seven versions scattered throughout the menu, ranging from $13 to $22 each. As Virginia is for lovers, Gertrude's is for hollandaise addicts.
In keeping with our civilized brunch, we topped the meal off with a single blueberry pancake ($3) for dessert. As we scooped up our first bite, the blueberries literally burst, leaving streaks of purple and red smeared across the plate. This pancake was phenomenal: It was thin with light crispy edges and lacy bubbles inside and came with whipped butter and maple syrup.