Again, everyone, these really are great suggestions. First of all, i realized I probably am leaning towards a place in the D.C. area (I'll be in college park, and I'd rather take the metro home after a night of wine than drive).
This doesn't mean Bmore is outta the question- I can probably get my brother to DD if I have to. That aside, here are my thoughts (after perusing the menus, prices, and thinking things through):
1)Cityzen- Boy, does this place look good. I'd be going for the 6-course tasting menu w/ wine, and the food on the website sounds right down my alley. I'm an adventurous eater and this looks really interesting (cuttlefish ratatouille, potato agnolotti with sea urchin) and delicious (asparagus and lobster hash with poached egg!). Unfortunately, its a bit out of my price range ($180!). Maybe if I can just get my parents to love me more...
2)Charleston- this looks equally delicious, and growing up near Baltimore I've consistently heard that this is the city's best restaurant. I'd be going for the 6-course "The Season" menu for wine pairing for $134- which is stretching my price range but not by much. Unfortunately, as I said earlier, I'm leaning against driving to Bmore.
3)Proof- This place also has a 6-course tasting menu with wine @ $135, again almost withing my price range. This may be a dumb question, but I know these tasting menu's require everyone at the table to participate (usually), but that doesn't mean everyone has to get the wine pairings too, right?
4)Equinox- this one is a little less expensive, at $120 for 6 course pairing +wine. Also, this menu allows some choices for the 6 courses, at least I think. All the food sounds great, but if I would have one complaint, its that the proteins all seem a bit mundane, nothing too exciting, besides foie gras (e,g, salmon, rockfish, crabcake, lamb).
5) Palena- I've hear good things about Palena in the past, and their menu really makes my mouth water, and fits my criteria of "differentness" (venison pate en croute, pheasant consomme, pancetta-wrapped sturgeon). The 5-course menu is $76, but there's nothing on the menu about wine pairings! Have I made it obvious yet that I know nothing about wine and want people to choose for me?
6) Minibar- now this looks like a fun place to eat. But, again, out of my price range- $120 w.out wine, probably at least $50 more with. And I hear its hard to get reservations for, plus this place may not be my parents cup of tea.
7)Komi- website doesn't tell me much, but I've also read great things about this place. Any idea about price? I've also heard this is a hard place to get reservations to...
8) Grapeseed- This seems like a great place, especially for the wine. I love how they have suggested wines for every dish (and prices for full and half pours). No tasting menu, so my only issue would be choosing what/how much to order. This is where the server can help, but that can be hit or miss. Food looks great, though a bit standard.
9) Corduroy- AHH no wine suggestions or tasting menus on the website. This is where calling ahead and figuring this stuff out may help. Otherwise, looks like a good variety of dishes, and a slightly Asian influence, which my family would like.
10) PS7- I also see no wine pairings/tasting menu. But, the prices are great (no entree over $30) and the food looks good.
11) CInghiale- this place is in Bmore, so unfortunately may not be an option. It is very reasonable ($70 for 3 courses and wine), but I don't know if I wanna go the Italian route.
12) Abacrombie- this place has a website, but no menu or prices, which makes no sense.
So, after all this (probably poor) menu/price analysis, you might be able to let me know which of these places sounds best? Or suggest something else? Thanks!