La Famiglia e Tutto–Family is everything–is the greeting on the wall, which also displays numerous vintage black and white family photos. The greeting, like the ownership, is new. But the Oxford Inn and Pope’s Tavern in Oxford is an institution. Built around the 1880s, the Inn, which consists of nine rooms and a restaurant, is located on one of the oldest streets in America.
New owners Scott and Jeanne Prisco are not from the area, nor were they in the hospitality/restaurant business. Scott, a trained architect and owner of a large architectural engineering firm, was designing futuristic K-12 schools using sustainable strategies that were 20 years ahead of its time. He spent time in Pennsylvania, Virginia, and New Jersey, which eventually led to a job as the chief building official for the city and county of Denver, Colorado.
But the call to return east to be closer to family was strong, and they started looking at inns with restaurants. The Priscos had always enjoyed entertaining large groups of friends and family. And there was also the matter of putting to use Scott’s grandmother’s authentic Italian recipes. A restaurant with a bed and breakfast component seemed the logical choice, and even though it was something they aspired to do in the future, it began to make sense in the present. It just so happened that the Oxford Inn and Pope’s Tavern was for sale, and it was the right location and the right price, and the deal was struck. Now all they needed was a talented chef.
That’s where Anthony Grandepioggia comes in. Chef Anthony, a highly rated chef for the past 40 years in the New York City area, had also considered purchasing the Oxford Inn. He had, for a time, lived in this area and wanted to return. Now all he needed was a restaurant. Chef Anthony reached out to the Priscos.
It was an ideal match.
“Jean and I had the vision of what a perfect plate should look like,” says Scott. “It’s easy for me to cook a dinner for 12-15 family members and have it come out perfect. But it’s hard to cook 30 different items on a menu and have them all come out the way you want. Anthony is amazing. Take the light, crispy, and tender calamari; it’s wonderful. Even the odd things on the menu—like my mom used to serve Chicken Parmesan with Fettuccine Alfredo—Anthony makes it come out looking and tasting as delicious as she used to make it.”
That’s because Chef Anthony has the food industry in his veins. Armed with a passion for cooking and a family history of people in the food business, he made a name for himself, working at some top-rated Italian restaurants in the Queens/Long Island area. But, did the many years of working in top Italian restaurants conflict with working for someone new in the industry who insisted on using his grandmother’s recipes?
“Anthony has a wealth of knowledge,” says Scott. “We did some tastings with family and friends and got opinions. I had my Chicken Marsala, and he had his, and because our menu is so traditional, everyone sided with his. We compared the Chicken Piccata, and his had a little more lemon zest to it than mine, and mine had more capers, and everyone favored my piccata. The bottom line is that if I make a suggestion, he’s very open to it, and if he makes a suggestion, I’m very open to it. So, it’s a good team approach that we have.”
Chef Anthony had an even more direct observation: “There’s a lot of prima donnas in the industry, chefs that want to do things the real basic, hard-nosed Italian way. Scott agrees with me most of the time, but if there’s something he really wants, I just shut up and do what I’m told. That’s the name of the business.”
But one thing Chef Anthony will not capitulate on is his tiramisu, and Scott is perfectly in agreement with that. “I tell everyone that comes here that this will be the best tiramisu that you’ve ever had,” Scott said. “I’ve eaten in thousands of restaurants in my lifetime, and Anthony’s tiramisu is the best I’ve ever eaten anywhere.”
Even if you’ve eaten at a restaurant where Chef Anthony has worked, don’t think you’ve had his tiramisu because this tiramisu is specific to this restaurant.: “If something happened,” he said, “and I was to move on, I would never do this tiramisu again. Every restaurant has its own identity, and every restaurant deserves to have at least one dessert that is unique to its identity.”
There is a lot of planning involved in creating a signature dish. But there is another dessert on the menu that was not planned but which is receiving rave reviews. It happened like this: Chef Anthony was making the filling for their homemade cannoli (sweet filling usually made out of ricotta or mascarpone) when something went wrong. But like any great chef, he was able to turn the error into a masterpiece. “The mascarpone I was using was too loose; it was almost two-thirds of the way a cheesecake. So, I invented what I call the Cannoli Cheesecake. It was stupid luck, but it worked out.”
Of course, starting a restaurant is challenging, even with an excellent chef by your side. The hours are long, and Scott often finds himself waking up at dawn and working until midnight. There’s breakfast to serve his inn guests and pies and pasta to be made.
Oh, did we not mention that they make their pasta fresh every morning? Yeah, there’s that. If that’s not enough to bring you in, check out their incredibly extensive and impressive wine list coupled with a vast knowledge of food/wine pairings.
With so many interesting possibilities on the menu, it’s easy to forget that the restaurant is only half of the business. There’s the inn part as well, and that seems to be doing just fine. “We feel very blessed,” says Scott. “I think because of what we went through with COVID, there’s a pent-up desire to be out right now. And we’re the recipient of that. We’re really, really busy. Every weekend is full, and we’re starting to fill up during the week, as well.”
As the Priscos successfully settle into their new life, we couldn’t help but wonder what happened to Scott Prisco, the environmentally-conscious architect?
Well, he’s still here.
Look around the property and see the new LED compliant fixtures and the recycling dumpsters. But there’s more: “We’re mindful about what we order,” he says, “making sure that we’re using all the products and that we don’t have a lot of waste, not just from a financial point of view, but from a right-thing-to-do point of view. We’re also trying to support local vendors. We get our ice cream from the (Scottish Highland) Creamery, and we get a lot of our produce from Teddy Bear Fresh.”
Changes are also evident in the restaurant, including the noise deadening panels and the textured simulated ash tables. One more thing is worth noting, and it’s a big one—the restaurant’s name. What used to be The Oxford Inn & Pope’s Tavern is now The Oxford Inn & Pope’s Tavern & Market. That’s because you will be able to stop in and shop for not only wines, olives, cheeses, and meats, but also the delicious freshly made pasta and sauces that you can make at home. There’s also talk of a catering business…but we digress. That’s in the future.
For now, the emphasis for the Priscos and Chef Anthony is expanding the famiglia. Says Scott: “That’s what we’re about—creating and enlarging our family to include Oxford, Easton, and the surrounding areas. We love to entertain, and we love people. We love to cook, and we love good food and good wine. And we want to extend that to the community.”
So, go for a visit, say hi to the new owners, pick up some pasta and sauce for dinner or make a reservation (strongly recommended) and enjoy the meal and the atmosphere. But whatever you do, save room for the tiramisu.
The Oxford Inn & Pope’s Tavern & Market is located at 504 South Morris St., in Oxford, Md. The restaurant is open from 5:00pm to 9:30pm. Closed on Tuesdays. For reservations call 410-226-5220 or check them out online or on Facebook.
Val Cavalheri is a transplant to the Eastern Shore, having lived in Northern Virginia for the past 20 years. She’s been a writer, editor and professional photographer for various publications, including the Washington Post.
We are lucky to be celebrating a series of social events denied us last year. After being locked down for so long, there is an embarrassment of riches laid out before us this weekend: Juneteenth (our newest federal holiday), Father’s Day, and the Summer Solstice. Let the summer games begin!
Here is the latest update from the Spy Container Garden 2021: we have tomatoes. And a few of them are turning red. I listened to latest episode of The Splendid Table podcast while Luke the wonder dog and I were working on our 10,000 steps the other day. It is delightful episode about June in three regions of the United States: https://www.splendidtable.org/episode/2021/06/11/3-junes One of the guests interviewed was Chef-Farmer Matthew Raiford, who farms and cooks in Coastal Georgia. He said there are three essentials that must to be ripe by the Fourth of July: corn, tomatoes and watermelon. The Spy on track for the tomatoes, with one is ripening on the vine, and another is pinking up on the kitchen windowsill.
Tomorrow is Juneteenth. Juneteenth commemorates the day when the last enslaved African Americans in Galveston learned they were free. Red is a powerful color, and red foods are important to Juneteenth celebrations: red beans and rice, strawberry soda, watermelon, red velvet cake, barbecued meats, and, of course, tomatoes. https://www.oprahdaily.com/life/a36479941/juneteenth-food-traditions/
Fresh tomato tarts are perfect to bring to your Juneteenth celebration. They aren’t fancy, but they are beautiful, and they are deelish. I found a few tomato tart recipes which showcased the beauty of tomatoes. The tarts are simple to put together and can be brought to potlucks and picnics all tomato season long. They are divine warm, or at room temp. You can use store-bought tomatoes if you must, but it is smugly satisfying to use the ones grown in your own back yard. Save the store-bought card for the pie crust.
I adapted this recipe from the New York Times:
1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes (about 4 medium)
¼ cup pesto*
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella (I used some left-over mozz from last week’s Friday Night Pizza, and added another handful of ground Parmesan cheese)
1 tablespoon torn fresh basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
3 large eggs
⅓ cup heavy cream
½ teaspoon Maldon salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
*For the pesto I tossed a fistful of basil leaves (we have basil growing in abundance on the Spy Container Farm this year!), a clove of garlic and about 1/4 cup of olive oil into the blender and blended it until it was a bright emerald green liquid. Then I spread it with a pastry brush on the browned pie crust.
• Heat oven to 350°F. Fit the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch tart pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
• Bake for 15 minutes, until beginning to brown at the edges. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
• Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a colander to drain excess tomato liquid for 20 minutes.
• Spread pesto in an even layer over the pie crust. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella and Parmesan over the pesto. Scatter the fresh, torn basil and oregano over the cheese.
• In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper.
• Neatly place the sliced tomatoes evenly over the cheese and herbs in overlapping concentric circles. I found this process strangely soothing, although I heard Julia Child’s voice in my head: “It’s so beautifully arranged on the plate — you know someone’s fingers have been all over it.”
• Pour the custard evenly over the tomato slices. Bake until the filling is set and won’t jiggle when shaken, about 35 minutes.
• Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving warm. This tart can also be served at room temperature. It is also delicious cold, eaten out of the fridge for lunch, when you are suddenly ravenous and can’t be bothered to make a delicious tomato sandwich from the bounty on the windowsill.
This tart was lighter than a frittata or quiche.
There usually is a paywall challenge with New York Times articles, but here is a link to the recipe, just in case: https://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/1021252-heirloom-tomato-tart?
“Freeing yourself was one thing, claiming ownership of that freed self was another.”
— Toni Morrison
After a 734-day hiatus due to the pandemic, DrinkMaryland: Centreville – A Maryland Makers Event will make its triumphant return this Saturday, June 19 from noon to 5 p.m. in historic downtown Centreville on Broadway and Lawyers Row and the Queen Anne’s County Courthouse Square. The event is produced by the Town of Centreville and its event partner the Maryland Wineries Association.
DrinkMaryland: Centreville is free and open to the public. Guests 21+ with a valid ID can also purchase a sampling pass to taste or purchase wine, beer and spirits from various craft beverage makers from all across the state. Tasting passes are $20.00 in advance and $25.00 at the door. Visit DrinkMaryland.org.
Now in its fourth year, this popular event showcases Maryland makers, including wineries, breweries and distillers, in addition to artisans, food vendors and performers. Event sponsors at press time include Silver Sponsors ($500): Beres Group @RE/MAX Executive; Queen Anne’s County Library; Rosendale Realty, and Shore United Bank, and Bronze Sponsor ($250): Rural Maryland Council.
Featured performers this year will be:
- J. Coursey Willis & The Stone Authors, performing 12:30 to 1:30 p.m. Native son J. Coursey Willis has always had a strong connection with his Eastern Shore roots and is sensitive to the quickly changing landscape of his beloved home, Kent Island. Last year Willis recorded a collection of singles called the Isolation Diaries. His first release, “Ink in the Well,” was an immediate success, calling on the emotions produced by the quarantine. The live acoustic music video filmed in a local cemetery garnered over 600,000 views in three weeks. Visit jcourseywillis.com.
- The Justin Taylor Band, performing 2:30 to 3:30 p.m. Upon graduation from high school, Justin was invited to become a member of the Sam Grow Band. Touring with this professional group, based in Nashville, gave Justin the experience he would need to hone his skills as a musician and learn about the rigors and rewards of a professional touring musician. After a two-year stint, he embarked on a solo career. As an emerging singer-songwriter Justin Taylor released his first EP as a solo artist in early 2020. The band features PRS Guitars Pulse Artist Curtis Lewis. Visit justintaylorband.com.
The event will be emceed by Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach, a certified sommelier, author of The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine and a sought-after wine expert who blends wine education with humor to create events that are 100% fun. Forster will get the audience involved with a tasting presentation starting at 3:30 p.m. Visit thewinecoach.com.
At press time, participating wineries include: Cove Point Winery, Olney Winery, and The Urban Winery. Participating breweries are Bull & Goat Brewery, The Buzz Meadery, Oliver Brewing Co., Maryland Beer Company and Ten Eyck Brewing Co. Participating distilleries are Baltimore Spirits Co., Blackwater Distilling, Gray Wolf Spirits, LYON RUM, McClintock Distilling, Old Courthouse Distilling, Old Line Spirits, and Twin Valley Distillers.
Participating artisans include: Alloyed Earth Jewelry/Regen Linn, handcrafted custom made sterling silver and gemstone jewelry; Caulfield Provision Company, gourmet sauces and dips; Chesapeake Shoppe, handcrafted jewelry and other crafted goods; Fresca Frankie Recycled Accessories/ Lisa Ford, unique line of hand made accessories fashioned from common recyclable material; Heavenly Delights, delicious mini pound cake; Pope’s Leather LLC/Pope and Cindy Travers; and Resouled -Nautical charts on vintage windows and doors. This year’s food vendors are: BBQ Bueno/Smoke, Rattle & Roll, Jimmy’s Fat Rolls, Shore God Eats, and Team Autism.
Convenient shuttle transportation and multiple event parking lots are available. Festivalgoers can park at Queen Anne’s County High School, 125 Ruthsburg Rd., and use the free shuttle to the event or park at event parking lots throughout town. All lots are clearly marked.
In 2016 more than 20 Centreville Main Street volunteers developed an idea for a signature event with a working title of Maryland-Made. The intent of the event was to shine a light on Maryland’s makers such as artisans, authors and musicians as well as well as wineries, breweries and distillers. In 2017, that vision became a reality when the Town of Centreville joined forces with the Maryland Wineries Association to present Centreville’s first DrinkMaryland event.
Once upon a time, long ago in the golden age of travel and visiting folks, we stopped to see friends who live outside of Philadelphia. Our Mr. Smith is a fabulous cook, and the meals he prepares are the stuff of legend. He made an impressive Dorie Greenspan chicken recipe for our dinner. His version of Dorie’s “Chicken in a Pot: The Garlic and Lemon Version” was a show stopper. (The dish is the cover photo for her book “Around My French Table” https://www.eatlivetravelwrite.com/2015/05/french-fridays-with-dorie-chicken-in-a-pot-the-garlic-and-lemon-version-the-final-recipe/)
Mr. Smith brought a large Dutch oven to the table, its lid was sealed with brown, baked dough crust. Dramatically, with a sturdy screwdriver, he broke the dough seal, and a billow of fragrant steam puffed out. The pope had been elected. This the first time I had ever seen that cooking technique. (https://www.meilleurduchef.com/en/recipe/flour-dough-sealing.html) After the applauding the special effects, we were delighted to hungrily fall on the wondrous garlic-y chicken casserole, while talking a mile a minute. And we resolved to replicate this dining experience at home.
The first couple of times Mr. Sanders attempted Mr. Smith’s chicken there were hits, and there were misses. He was fooled by the cover photo of the newly acquired cookbook, which shows a whole chicken inside the Dutch oven, instead of a more accurate and true-to-the recipe, cut-up chicken. It was pretty tricky trying to brown a whole bird, which he attempted, before re-reading the recipe. Which then necessitated buying a boning knife, so he could cut a whole chicken into pieces. (I would have bought chicken pieces, pre-cut, but I am a journeyman cook…) And then the seal that the dough was supposed to provide was not as tight as was required. So we bought a fancier Dutch oven, with a better fitting lid. It was slightly smaller than the previous pot. Which brought more complications to the process.
This is the time of year when I do my best to stay away from the kitchen and the heat of the oven. This is when I enjoy Mr. Sanders and his penchant for grilling outside on the back porch. We sit out there, tossing the ball for Luke the wonder dog, watching as fireflies begin to appear in the darkening hydrangeas. We enjoy the dissipation of the heat of the day, while he flips burgers, rolls foil-wrapped ears of corn, times the salmon, adjusts the chicken breasts. He is the grill master. Imagine my surprise last weekend when we spent an entire afternoon in the kitchen, almost following a Dorie Greenspan recipe for roasted chicken.
Mr. Sanders had originally intended to replicate Mr. Smith’s chicken-in-a-pot dish, as a Sunday dinner showpiece. We stopped by the farmers’ market on Saturday and picked up a chicken from our favorite poultry farmers, choosing a 4.5-pound bird. On Sunday, upon re-reading the original recipe, Mr. Sanders decided to opt for something new. He had flipped through the Greenspan cookbook and landed on “Roast Chicken for Les Paresseux”. Les Paresseux are lazy people. Certainly lazy people would never have attempted this dish, which required yet another trip to the fancy grocery store. We have a pot of rosemary on the porch, but no sprigs of fresh thyme or oregano, because the dried stuff would certainly never do. Nor did we have baby potatoes or four shallots, or French bread to line the bottom of the pot, absorbing juicy goodness while the chicken was cooking.
Les Paresseux chicken does not not need to be cut up, so it looks quite pretty. But our fat bird filled the fancy Dutch oven, snugly. There wasn’t enough room to add the newly acquired herbs, vegetables, garlic and French bread. Instead, he lined a baking sheet with parchment paper, drizzled them with oil, and roasted them separately. The chicken cooked by itself in the fancy new Dutch oven, without a top, without veggies, and without a dough seal.
This was the intended recipe: https://www.food.com/recipe/roast-chicken-for-les-paresseux-500592 Instead we had a simpler, improvised roast chicken, with a side of roasted veggies, and plates of bread and butter. https://www.markbittman.com/recipes-1/simplest-roast-chicken-8-ways with sheet pan vegetables. https://www.cookinglight.com/recipes/sheet-pan-roasted-vegetables Simplicity. And it took all of a Sunday afternoon.
“One of the delights of life is eating with friends; second to that is talking about eating. And, for an unsurpassed double whammy, there is talking about eating while you are eating with friends.”
Education doesn’t stop for vacations. You should learn something new every day, and often it can be surprising. Over the Memorial Day weekend we visited a vast farmers’ market in another city, and as we roamed the many booths and displays we were overwhelmed by the abundance of colorful items for sale: cut flowers, bedding plants, fruits and vegetables, smocked infant dresses, driftwood sculptures, honey, and baked goods.
There were huge displays of tomatoes: conventional red, slicing tomatoes, plum tomatoes, jewel-like multi-colored cherry and grape tomatoes. The bulbous and irregularly-shaped heirloom tomatoes glowed purple, yellow, orange and crimson. Grocery store stacks of trucked-in produce cannot compete with the wide array of glorious produce at a local farmers’ market. My mind raced while considering the permutations and possibilities of so many delicious choices – unlike the weekly confrontation with flavorless, hot house tomatoes and bland, boring lettuces.
One booth we visited had Kirby cucumbers, salad cucumbers, cabbages, kale, grape tomatoes, and shiny, red onions that were still attached to their leafy green headdresses. We saw a battered pickup truck whose entire bed was filled to the brim with sweet potatoes. Next to it was a display with freshly dug red potatoes, gleaming tomatoes, human head-sized cabbages, baskets and boxes of blueberries, many, many containers of strawberries, and watermelons galore.
We staggered around, awe-struck by the vast harvest spread out before us. And then we saw them: weird, alien creatures with green, pointy heads. It was our first encounter with pointed head cabbages. How had we never seen pointy cabbages before? Ignorance comes from rarely coloring outside the lines of the chain grocery store. Bring your mask and head outdoors to a farmers’ market or a farm stand this weekend, and see what you have been missing. You are sure to get an education and an appreciation for all the hard work involved in setting food down on your table.
I have since learned that pointed head cabbage (which is also called sweetheart cabbage) is softer and sweeter than the white and red cabbages I grew up on. I am planning on some innovative new coleslaws and stir fries this summer. I brought home a couple of pointed head cabbages, which should keep nicely in the fridge, while I do my research.
Classic coleslaw: https://www.simplyrecipes.com/recipes/coleslaw/
Pointed cabbage coleslaw: (There is a kitchen sink hidden in here, I am sure. As well as some whopping typos, still the cook’s enthusiasm is infectious.) https://myfattyassets.wordpress.com/2014/11/04/pointed-cabbage-coleslaw/
This is quick and easy and deelish – three of our favorite recipe qualities: https://schoolofwok.co.uk/tips-and-recipes/flash-fried-sweetheart-cabbage-with-dried-chillies-and-sweetened-soy
Here is a charming, and short, video on stir frying sweetheart cabbage:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Pg2_ZuyS3Tw&t=1s
“I said I ‘liked’ being half-educated; you were so much more ‘surprised’ at everything when you were ignorant.”
― Gerald Durrell
Madeline Morrell, a 2020 graduate of Easton High School, is the recipient of the 21tst Annual Garden Club of the Eastern Shore (GCES) Scholarship. The $5,000.00 merit scholarship was awarded to Morrell in recognition of her outstanding academic record, strong work ethic, and commitment to the community and environmental preservation and conservation.
Morrell will attend Roanoke College in Virginia this fall, where she will major in Environmental Science. She credits her parents with fostering her interest in the natural world by taking her to all of Maryland’s state parks to participate in the Park Quest program. Through Park Quest she learned how to identify trees, birds and invasive species and became interested in sharing that knowledge with others.
“In a field of outstanding candidates, Madelinestood out because of her stellar academic record, commitment to the environment, and commitment to community service,” Dr. Virginia Blatchley, scholarship committee co-chair says. “We were particularly impressed with the energy and grace with which she pursued her interests.”
The GCES offers a scholarship annually to graduating seniors from Talbot County public and independent high schools. Students being home schooled are also eligible. The scholarship is available to students with outstanding academic records, who are also considering careers in botany, horticulture, agriculture, landscape architecture or design, environmental science, or related fields.
The GCES is committed to promoting environmentally sound landscape practices and to providing programs for the community that explore conservation practices and environmental issues. It spearheaded the extensive restoration of Easton’s Thompson Park which it continues to maintain.
“In addition to our other community involvements, our annual scholarship has the full support of every member of the Garden Club of the Eastern Shore, “Kathy Gilson, GCES President says. “I personally believe that this investment in the future of the talented, hardworking young people in our county is the most important thing that we do as a group.”
For additional information about GCES programs or to make a contribution to the scholarship fund, please call Dorothy Whitcomb at 443-385-0486.