Mid-Shore Food: Sakura on Route 50

While technically Route 50 in Easton does not have formal sidewalks, this has not stopped the Spy from reporting that the third (that’s correct, the third) sushi restaurant has officially opened on the west side of the Ocean Gateway.

It must say a lot about the consumer demand for raw fish and rice that a town of 16,000 people, in a rural region, can still attract this kind of saturation on a small market. But in the case of Sakura, it does not hurt that a good percentage of the entire state of Maryland will pass their doors every summer.

The fact that this parade of sushi-starved beachgoers will not happen for another eight months can only be a good thing as Sakura, who, like any new restaurant, must work out some start-up hiccups in the kitchen before the masses arrive and judge.

 

What one can and does give Sakura great credit right off the bat is how one takes a deserted Sonic fast-food stand and turn it into such an attractive dining experience. A very nice job indeed.

Sakura Sushi 410-690-4773 8475 Ocean Gateway Easton, MD 21601

 

Spy Agent Report: Preliminary Findings on Mason’s – Redux 2017

Many new restaurants step up slowly to full menus and a packed house after opening their doors. But in Easton, Mason’s – Redux 2017 has elected to go from zero to sixty in a day. Courageous, and only possible with owners who pay attention to every detail along with a chef who brings restaurant experience and seriously capable culinary skills to the new enterprise.

Our party of three ventured out during the first week to give this long-anticipated dining location a try. While we went with expectations firmly in check given its still early days, we were delighted well beyond what a first-week experience would typically provide.

As you step off the brick sidewalk at 22 South Harrison Street, you notice the freshly painted building now gray. Entry occurs by moving through the velvet curtain – there to keep the cold outside. One immediately notices the tastefully elegant white tablecloth dining rooms as both appealing and inviting.

The young hostesses greet guests with efficient friendliness. Coats are taken without the use of those paper number things that always get lost. (They keep track of your jacket by your name.)

We were seated, offered water and beverages. The glasses of wine were selected from an attractive list of choices.

One can’t help but settle back and enjoy the environment while reviewing the menu. Our selections were made from an imaginative menu where seafood, pork, lamb, and beef are among the choices along with an attractive vegetable dish.

Our first courses consisted of roasted beets that included whipped feta, orange vinaigrette, and pistachios. Bibb lettuce salad topped with grapefruit, avocado, Bulgarian feta and poppy seed vinaigrette. Finally, the third member of our party enjoyed turnip cauliflower soup with cracked hazelnut and olive oil.

These offerings provided a delicious beginning to a dining experience we continued to enjoy.

We moved smoothly from our first course to our main course with the young wait staff removing and delivering plates to the table. The staff is friendly and comfortable in the new setting. Seasoning will come fast, and more senior members of the team are ever present ensuring that guests are fully satisfied.

Our entrees demonstrated the experience of chef Erin O’Shea. One of our party selected halibut that was perfectly prepared. Two of us enjoyed the lamb shank which remained moist and tasty as it fell off the bone.

We finished our fine meal by sharing the rice pudding topped with bourbon currants. This proved a soft-textured and sweet completion to our meal that was finished off with an excellent cup of coffee.

We fully enjoyed our evening. The owners were present and seriously reviewing their domain while warmly greeting friends and diners throughout the restaurant where every seat was taken. Our experience was relaxed and never rushed and came to a comfortable conclusion after two hours. The fare before gratuity was around $200 for our three courses and excellent wine by the glass.

As we departed, the opportunity to visit with one of the owners brought a series of thoughtful questions to make sure we enjoyed our experience. Relaxed fine dining is their stated objective, and that was certainly provided to us with a restaurant that seems positioned to do well in our community.

Mid-Shore Food: Perry Cabin Partners with Phillips Wharf Environmental Center on Oysters

Just in time for OysterFest weekend, Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond and Phillips Wharf Environmental Center are serving up a most delicious commercial partnership.

Beginning this week, Chef Ken MacDonald will feature in Stars restaurant and Purser’s Pub a variety of oyster specials sourced directly from Phillips Wharf’s new 5-acre oyster farm just off of Black Walnut Point.

“Phillips Wharf’s oyster farm sits right where Harris Creek meets the Choptank River,” says MacDonald. “The convergence of fresh river water with the Choptank’s brackish, saltier water offers a unique, incomparable flavor in these oysters that simply belongs at the Inn.”

“Right out of the water, these oysters are to die for,” says the Inn’s Food and Beverage Director Samir Dhir, “but we look forward to working with the team at

Phillips Wharf to create a signature flavoring and a truly proprietary line of Inn at Perry Cabin oysters. Alongside the Harris Creek Oyster Company products we continue to feature on our menus, the two taste profiles are distinct and complementary—perfect for discerning palates.”

Inn at Perry Cabin by Belmond’s flagship restaurant Stars has long offered one of the finest dining experiences on the Eastern Shore. It is the only Forbes-rated establishment in the area and recently earned the Distinguished Restaurants of North America’s (DiRōNA) Award of Excellence.

“This new endeavor with Phillips Wharf is a natural extension of our commitment to local, sustainable, organic and seasonal cuisine,” says Inn at Perry Cabin’s General Manager Michael Hoffmann. “Almost every ingredient on our menus in Stars and Purser’s is sourced within 150 miles of St. Michaels, and with the Farms at Perry Cabin up and running, that radius is rapidly shrinking. Every day we’re harvesting herbs and vegetables right here on property.”
Hoffmann adds that this partnership also reflects the Inn’s commitment to the Chesapeake Bay. “Our guests benefit from the health of this beautiful, bountiful body of water, and so many of our neighbors here in St. Michaels thrive off of it. So it’s essential to our business to be environmentally conscious and to support organizations like Phillips Wharf that work so hard to protect the Bay.”

“For Phillips Wharf, the oyster farm represents a steady stream of much-needed revenue to support our educational and conservation programs,” says Executive Director Kelley Cox. “We’re thrilled to partner with Inn at Perry Cabin, and eager to build on this model with other organizations in 2018.”
The Inn also will be receiving this week its second delivery of oyster spat—an annual tradition for the Inn in conjunction with the Marylanders Grow Oysters program—and an extension of its partnership with Phillips Wharf and the Midshore River Keeper’s Conservancy.

Stars is open seven days a week for breakfast, lunch, dinner and afternoon tea. It’s located at 308 Watkins Lane in St. Michaels, Maryland, and reservations can be made at www.opentable.com/stars or on (410) 745-2200. Purser’s Pub opens daily at 3 p.m. on weekdays and noon on weekends, and features an eclectic small plates menu.

 

Sunflowers & Greens Wins Oyster Stew Competition

Sunflowers & Greens Chef Harley Peet has been named the first place winner in the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum’s oyster stew competition, held annually during OysterFest.

Sunflowers & Greens of Easton, Md. earns bragging rights and a plaque recognizing the People’s Choice award. Votes were taken during blind tastings of the different stews at CBMM’s October 28 OysterFest, with Sunflowers & Greens served as stew ‘B’.  The stew will be served at Sunflowers & Greens and its sister restaurant, Bas Rouge, in Easton.

Five restaurants competed, with 500 festival-goers taking part in blind taste tests before voting by ballot for their favorite stew. T at the General Store of Royal Oak, Md. was served as stew ‘A’ in the tastings, which placed second with chef Hugo Ruesgas, with third place going to stew ‘D’ from Bistro St. Michaels’ chef Doug Stewart. Other participants included Billie’s Catering of Crisfield, Md. (stew ‘C’), and Gourmet by the Bay of St. Michaels, Md. (stew ‘E’).  More information about the event is at cbmm.org/oysterfest.

Hoopers Island Oyster Co. Launches Seasonal Retail Operation

Hoopers Island Oyster Co., a Dorchester County aquaculture business, has opened a pop-up store for the holidays in Cambridge during the months of November and December. It is the first time the company is offering oysters by the dozen and in shucked pints direct to consumers. Shucked oysters are also available in a one-gallon limited edition “Heritage Tin” modeled after the oyster cans used in the 19th and 20th centuries and popular with antique collectors today.

“Since founding Hoopers Island in 2010, we’ve had numerous people ask us where they could purchase both live and shucked oysters,” said Ricky Fitzhugh, Managing Partner. “We know that many people enjoy preparing and serving oysters for Thanksgiving and the winter holidays. The recent opening of our Cambridge sales and manufacturing facility provided the perfect opportunity to make our premium oysters available to local residents.”

The limited edition heritage tin, which contains two pints of Chesapeake Gold oysters, is designed by Cambridge graphic artist Jill Jasuta and features the work of Dorchester artist Michael Rosato.

Hoopers Island Founding Partner Johnny Shockley believes the oyster tin will be a popular hostess gift and holiday present with Eastern Shore residents and visitors.

“We’re proud to celebrate Maryland’s heritage of oystering and canning with this beautiful commemorative tin,” he said.  “As we work to revive Dorchester County’s seafood industry and return oysters and jobs to the Chesapeake Bay, we hope consumers will enjoy our oysters on the half shell, fried and in traditional recipes for stew and stuffing.”

Hoopers Island oysters, shucked pints and heritage tins will also be sold in Baltimore at Chef Spike Gjerde’s Parts and Labor Butchery in Remington.

Due to limited availability, orders for the oysters and heritage tins must be placed in advance and picked up at Hoopers Island’s Cambridge facility located off of Route 16 at 837 Chesapeake Drive (Unit B) or in Baltimore at Parts & Labor, 2600 N. Howard Street in Baltimore.

To place an order, call 410-397-3664 or email afitzhugh@hoopersisland.com.

Spy Foodie Report: Mason’s 2.0 Selects a Chef

While Talbot County has been thrilled with the the news a few months ago that the greatly beloved Mason’s would be returning to Harrison Street soon, there was the lingering question of who would take on the challenging job of leading the kitchen of Mason’s-Redux.

The Spy has found the answer. One of our many agents has reported that Erin O’Shea, formerly a star at Rooster Soup Co. in Philadelphia will be moving down to Easton to be the new Mason’s culinary founding food guru.

While Rooster Soup Co. may sound like a modest venue, it was one of only a handful of places named by GQ as one of the best new restaurants in the country last year. And it certainly didn’t hurt the 100% of the restaurant’s profits were donated to hunger projects throughout the city.

Chance Negri, one of the partners of Mason’s, couldn’t be more pleased. “I am confident Chef Erin’s menu will spice and liven up the food scene in Easton, Talbot County and beyond…”

Mason’s is planning to formally open in the middle of November so stay tuned.

 

 

 

Easton Hosts Craft Beverage Summit

Join Easton Economic Development Corporation on October 17, 2017 for an informal discussion of the economic and community impact of a brewery, distillery, or winery in the town of Easton, MD. Mayor Bob Willey will host a panel of professionals including Kevin Atticks of the Brewer’s Association of Maryland. Panelists will give an overview of the craft beverage industry in Maryland and answer questions regarding successful projects across the state.

A representative of the Maryland Comptroller’s Office will also be there to provide an explanation the state’s new “Reform on Tap” initiative. The task force is developing legislative proposals based on extensive review of Maryland’s beer laws and other states’ laws. The goal of the program is to facilitate the growth and success of Maryland’s craft beer industry and other independent businesses.

The summit will be at the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy, 114 S. Washington Street, Easton, MD. If you are a local brewer or distiller and would like to have a complimentary table to showcase your products, please call Pam Skillings, 410-690-7348. The event is free and open to the public.

About the EEDC
Easton Economic Development Corporation was launched in 2013 to drive economic vitality, smart redevelopment, and business creation in the historic Town of Easton, Maryland to foster a healthy quality of life for all generations. The EEDC works toward managing Easton’s continued growth as a diverse and healthy “smart town,” leading innovation where the land and water meet. http://eastonedc.com/

About the Reform on Tap Initiative
In response to the passage of House Bill 1283 during the 2017 Legislative Session and with the goal of modernizing Maryland’s beer laws and promoting economic growth across the State, Comptroller Peter Franchot established “Reform on Tap” Task Force in April 2017. http://comptroller.marylandtaxes.com/

About the Brewer’s Association of MD
The Brewer’s Association of Maryland (BAM) founded in 1996, is the non-profit trade association of Maryland brewing companies. The mission of BAM is to grow, promote and protect the Maryland craft beer industry. http://marylandbeer.org/

Spy Investigation: The Talbot County PawPaw

A few days ago, a Spy subscriber left a plastic bag with two pieces of very exotic-looking fruit at our international headquarters on Dover Street for our sampling pleasure.  While the reader did not indicate as such, the Spy believes that he/ she may be associated with the PawPaw Appreciation Association – Cooke’s Hope chapter, since the fruit is a Talbot County product.

The PawPaw is not new. It was discovered and named Asimina in 1541, and actually is the largest edible fruit indigenous to the North American continent. And it certainly helps to know that the likes of George Washington and Thomas Jefferson grew the plant to offer as a dessert. It also served as a critical part of Lewis and Clark’s food supply.

But how does it taste?

Good. The Spy took our sample and did a tiny and uncontrolled taste test on Goldsborough Street. It was served at room temperature (Washington liked his chilled), and it had a softer texture than pyataya. Is that enough to bring back the PawPaw to restaurants and fine dinner parties shortly? You’ll need to contact the Cooke’s Hope chapter representative for that answer but they left no contact information.

 

Inside the Sprout Kitchen: The Art of the Order

Over the last year or so, the Mid-Shore is growing used to the idea, thanks to Sprout Kitchen in Trappe, where one can order freshly prepared meals delivered to your door rather than having to make a mad dash to the supermarket as the dinner hour approaches.

Unlike such popular meals by mail startups like Blue Apron and Hello Fresh, where one still needs to go to the trouble of actually cooking those entrees, Sprouts takes it to the next step. And the next step is not only cooking these meals but locally sourcing the food that is prepared.

And with that kind of business plan, the irony is that Sprout Kitchen owners, Emily and Ryan Groll, actually encourage their clients to order less than more.

Why? In this latest installment, the Grolls answer that question and much more, as we visit once again Inside the Sprout Kitchen.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For information about the Sprout Kitchen and their meal plans please go here

Food Friday: End of the Summer Corn

Here we are, on the precipice of the end of summer. I’ve been teetering back and forth between wishing for change, and wishing that if it cooled down just a few degrees we could live in this weather all year round. Well, if we wanted that we could move to Florida, and that is just too problematic. Who really wants hot days and all those thunderstorms? I am ready for a little change, though.

If I eat one more ear of corn-on-the-cob I am sure my head will explode. I feel similarly tired of grilled hamburgers and hot dogs. It might mean that I am almost ready to head back into the kitchen, and relieve Mr. Friday of his summer cooking duties. Or I can make some side dishes to go with the last picnic of the summer season. Labor Day is a significant cookout opportunity, and we need to make the summer go out in style.

There is still so much fresh produce to enjoy at the farmers’ markets! I found a great app the other day: Seasonal Food Guide. It has a state-by-state produce guide to “Find What is in Season Near You.” There is a handy dandy Learn & Cook button, too, which always helps when you are in the middle of dinner despair. And it is free. Hooray. Here is a link to their helpful webpage: http://www.sustainabletable.org/4529/the-seasonal-food-guide I found the app in the iTunes app store.

This is a sweet and easy way to enjoy corn and cilantro all year long, but notably in these waning days of summer vacation. The jalapeno gives it a nice little kick. https://food52.com/recipes/61614-jalapeno-cilantro-corn-salad

Food52 has explored corn variations extensively. I love the concept of charred corn. Now I have a new term for corn that we have unintentionally scorched on the grill. Mr. Friday is a big fan of wrapping the ears of corn in aluminum foil and tossing them on the grill. And sometimes we get distracted by bright shiny objects and do not return to the grill in a timely fashion. Voila! Charred corn as an ingredient. And sometimes we are amazed at our own cleverness! https://food52.com/recipes/17913-charred-corn-and-avocado-salad-with-lime-chili-and-tomato?

One of our friends has decamped for New England for butter-drenched lobster-y Labor Day weekend. She is already taunting us with Instagram-ready photos of her deelightful meals. I hope she is having a very good time, and here is a recipe for her leftover lobster bits which also includes charred corn: http://abetterhappierstsebastian.com/journal/2015/8/24/charred-corn-farro-risotto-with-lobster

If it happens to be raining this weekend (and with Tropical Storm Harvey wandering around out there, it probably will) and you can’t get outside to the grill – never fear. You can make charred corn in a good sturdy cast iron frying pan, or under the broiler. And then you can make a charred corn pizza: http://www.homemadeaustin.com/2017/06/charred-corn-flatbread.html

Here are a zillion ideas from Epicurious: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes-menus/best-corn-recipes-cob-soup-salad-gallery/1

As summer wafts away we will be thinking more about cozy meals and roasted seasonal vegetables. In the meantime, go celebrate your Labor Day weekend with drawn butter, hot, charred corn, a couple of hot dogs, a crab feast (or two) and don’t forget to sneak a little reading time in the hammock. Next weekend it will be time to put away all our toys of summer. Enjoy!

“We know that in September, we will wander through the warm winds of summer’s wreckage. We will welcome summer’s ghost.”
― Heny Rollins