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.

Spy Minute: What the Heck is the Bistro Bill with Joe Petro

Even after reading the coverage in the Star-Democrat over the last few days about the so-called Bistro Bill, the Spy was still not entirely clear what proposed legislation would do if the Talbot County Council ultimately passes in next month.

Our solution was a quick check in with Joe Petro, owner of Hair O’ the Dog, and the primary advocate for changing the law. As Joe explains, Hair O’ The Dog wishes to add a wine bar alongside their existing store off of Marlboro Street but current local law caps the amount Hair can serve its customers to one ounce. This change would permit them to remove that restriction for the wine bar addition and serve both wine and beer by the glass or bottle.

We checked in with Joe this morning to allow him to make his case that the law should change.

This video is approximately two minutes in length. For more information about Bistro Bill, a.k.a. Bill No. 1377, please go here

 

Mid-Shore Food: Finding the Balance between a Restaurant and the Family Kitchen Table

Bill Lynch might be one of the few chefs in America that works in the home kitchen of approximately 180 people every day. While it is true that Bill doesn’t get in his car to visit each one, the metaphor works in describing what it is like to direct the food service at the Londonderry on the Tred Avon community just off Port Street in Easton.

And that is where the challenge begins for Bill as he and his crew as they navigate the expectations of sophisticated residents with significant international culinary experiences but who also seek out simpler food options for their day to day meals.

That’s not an easy task for any chef, but with Bill’s own culinary background, starting with learning to cook from his Italian grandmother in Philly, to progressing through the hierarchy of professional kitchens, including some of the best in the Mid-Atlantic region, he has found himself very much at home himself is the new and satisfying change from what a traditional restaurant faces daily.

A few weeks ago, the Spy sat down with Bill to talk about this unique balancing act.

This video is approximately four minutes in length. For more information about Londonderry on the Tred Avon please go here

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.

 

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.

 

 

 

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

Piazza Food Bites: Spy Notes on Piazza’s Latest Wine Dinner

Two great Easton entrepreneurs joined forces with Folio Fine Wine Partners to produce an extraordinary tour through Sicily’s Donnafugata winery. With Amy, Chef Chris and the Out of the Fire Restaurant team preparing a perfectly paired five-course meal to match the carefully selected wines by Emily and her team from the Piazza Italian Market, the nearly forty who signed-up for the event were in for an evening of sensational taste experiences.

Piazza’s Emily Chandler briefs the wine dinner attendees

Out of the Fire was opened only to the wine tasting guests and they were greeted by pickled shrimp with melon, speck and basil at the table as they entered and Donnafugata’s Anthilia was poured. That was followed by grilled swordfish on a perfect green heirloom tomato accompanied by the second white wine, the Lighea from Italy’s Zibibbo grape.

The red wine courses were remarkable and really highlighted two very popular Donnafugata wines. The Sherazade was paired with a Sicilian-style pizza topped with heirloom tomatoes, anchovies and calabrese sauce. The Nero d’Avola grape from Sicily delivered on Donnafugata’s promised ” pleasantly fruity bouquet with fragrant notes of cherry and red plum, combined with light spicy scents of black pepper.

The Nero d’Avola grape blended with Petit Verdot and Syrah provided the second red wine in what Donnafugata calls its “flagship red,” Mille e Una Notte. Paired with lamb meatballs that included toasted semolina polenta, arrabbiata sauce and ash goat cheese, this course made for a magnificent conclusion to the dinner entrees.

Of course, Out of the Fire and Piazza had one wonderful treat left, a fresh goat cheese cheesecake and peach preserve, paired with Donnafugata’s Ben Rye 9, described as “one of Italy’s most appreciated sweet wines.”

Thus, another of Piazza’s wine tasting dinner came to a fulfilling conclusion.

Watch Piazza’s website  for information on future wine tasting dinners and drop by after 1 PM on Friday’s for the weekly tasting of a featured wine.

Inside the Sprout Kitchen: Where’s the Beef (Coming From)

If there has been one food group under attack over the past several decades in America, it would be meat products. Denounced by vegetarians, maligned by some environmentalists, and avoided by more than a few health experts, meat, or more precisely, beef has lost its once secure place in the pantheon of American culinary popularity over the years.

Nonetheless, it remains an important staple for the vast majority of consumers, even with those who consider themselves advocates for healthy diets. And that would include Emily and Ryan Groll at Sprout Kitchen.

While it is true that the Grolls are conservative when it comes to offering beef in their weekly selection of prepared foods, they do enjoy it periodically as an excellent alternative to turkey or other white meats. And nowhere is this better seen than when they make their unique recipes for classic meatloaf or Mongolian beef.

They also have done their due diligence is finding the right local beef producer to supply them.  In this case, and after months of extraordinary research, they entered into an exclusive partnership with Evermore Farms in Westminster, Maryland.

In the latest edition of “Inside the Sprout Kitchen,” Emily and Ryan talk about the role of beef in their cooking philosophy and the importance of knowing where their beef is coming from.

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

ESLC Teams Up with Lyon Distilling for Limited Batch of Black Rum

A local nonprofit known for land preservation and town planning on the Eastern Shore has hooked up with one of Maryland’s finest distilleries for a good cause.

Lyon Distilling Company of St. Michaels, known since 2013 as a micro, craft distillery producing ultra-small batches of award-winning rums and whiskeys in St. Michaels, has released its latest concoction – a special, limited batch Black Rum with a percentage of every bottle sold benefitting the projects and programs of the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy (ESLC).

This rum varietal features a rich and smooth finish, with subtle touches of oak spice and sweetness. From the bottle’s packaging: “Together we are committed to protecting the land on which we work and play, and encourage you to sip this delicious spirit soundly knowing that a portion of your purchase helps fund ESLC’s many worthwhile endeavors.”

“We’re so excited to help support the Eastern Shore Land Conservancy with our Black Rum,” says Lyon owner and co-founder Jaime Windon. “I’ve always admired partnerships like this. Philanthropy is so important to us and as a startup we are limited in what we can do. But we try to do everything that we can locally, and this is the first effort that has been organized at this level. Exciting times!”

ESLC plans to commemorate the release of the Black Rum partnership with a happy hour party on Thursday, August 31st from 5-7pm at their headquarters in Easton. Bottles will be available for sale with Lyon staff on hand providing tastings and joining in the celebration. ESLC’s Communication Manager David Ferraris described the partnership as “a natural fit.”

“ESLC is ecstatic to have its name associated with a local company producing an exceptional product,” said Ferraris. “Since their arrival on the Shore, Lyon has made it clear that they support local initiatives that are near and dear to their hearts. Protecting and preserving the environment in which they live and conduct business is one of those initiatives, so this makes perfect sense.”

For more information, please contact ESLC’s Communication Manager, David Ferraris, at dferraris@eslc.org or 410.690.4603 x165.