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Restaurant Review: The Wild Orchid

Nov 14, 2010 10:49PM, Published by Anonymous, Categories: Eat+Drink+Shop

The Wild Orchid 200 Westgate Circle Annapolis, MD 410-268-8009 When to Enjoy: Open daily for lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch Expect to Pay: Apps/Soups/Salads: $5.50-11 Lunch Entrees: $9-15 Dinner Entrees: $26-36 and market price Desserts: $7 Wine by glass: $4-9, Wine bottles: $30-50 Also Offered: Kids menu, private rooms for parties and catering

The café recently moved from its nine-year spot on Bay Ridge Avenue to the Severn Building on Westgate Circle. The new restaurant is very sumptuous—its style is modern, rich with stones and cherry wood, with multiple wine cases in the entrance area, and a see-through kitchen. The seating is open and comfortable.

Jim and Karen Wilder strive, and succeed, in my opinion, to distance the restaurant from others by focusing on good food made with the best products offered by local providers. This includes dairy farms, ranches, and meat and seafood retailers, most of which are still family operated and possess a strong sense of neighborhood and community.

Our waitress, Valerie, served us with distinction. My girlfriend, Celia, and I were joined by Celia’s daughter, Angie, as I trust her taste for good food—and good it was. For starters, we tried an unusual dish called Chesapeake Mezze ($10), which was a delicious surprise. It had a dollop of Smoked Blue Fish pate, served with zesty humus, a fresh spinach fondue, and a few crudités. I was impressed by the use of smoked blue fish and its well-paired accompaniments. Another starter was the Crab and Farmer’s cheese fondue ($10)—simply superb with gorgeous jumbo lump crab-meat delicately coated with a creamy, tasty cheese. It was lightly baked and came with a side of a little bundle of fresh fruits. The farmer’s cheese was accurately described on the menu as a creamy, naturally fermented raw cheese similar to the inside of Brie.

We found a refreshing palate cleanser in the crisp BLT Caesar Salad ($10), made of romaine lettuce tossed with applewood bacon, tomatoes, croutons, and grated parmesan cheese in a homemade light Caesar dressing.

We had a great start and were eager for the entrees to arrive. Celia opted for the Duck Breast ($30), which was very tender, skinless and pan-fried to her preferred temperature. The duck was laced in a red wine caramel glaze and served over a butternut and goat cheese purée, along with some fresh string beans and a small handful of delicious fried grapes. Quite a success.

The All-Natural Beef Tenderloin ($36) was absolutely superb. It was a very large cut of meat, grilled and seasoned perfectly and delicately sauced in a silky white truffle Béarnaise. The steak paired nicely with rainbow chard and a buttery potato purée—a steak lover’s paradise.

The third entrée, Shrimp and Grits ($30), came as a mouth-watering sautéed dish consisting of large plump shrimp, caramelized onions and Tasso Ham all finished in its own sauce, nicely laid over creamy grits. In my opinion, this dish could qualify as a Cajun specialty, as Tasso Ham is a unique flavor of that particular cuisine. It is a spicy, peppery version of smoked pork made from the shoulder that has a great deal of flavor.

The ham is first dredged in salt cure, then rinsed and rubbed with a spice mixture containing cayenne pepper and garlic, and hot-smoked until cooked through.

I guess now it’s time for my favorite—the desserts. At this point, we were thoroughly satisfied, but couldn’t resist a couple of items. The first was the Cheesecake with Berry Sauce ($7), a delectable, generous portion of a very light cake—not too sweet—drizzled with a full-flavored berry sauce. The second one was a Passion Fruit Ice Cream, the origin of which slightly stresses the restaurant’s principles of using local providers. The ice cream comes from a small dairy farm in Pennsylvania, and is absolutely delicious, creamy and luscious.

To go with this wonderful dinner, we indulged in a voluptuous glass of Chimney Pinot Noir ($8). The menu has been well-paired with the wine list, and an assortment of grapes and origin complement the style and bring a refreshing tone. It is moderately priced and has the versatility for every palate.

The Wild Orchid celebrates this wonderful world of food and wines on a daily basis through many specials and happy hours. It is the kind of place that I’d be comfortable visiting regularly. Nicky, the manager, is a fantastic, bubbly, and cheerful young lady whose friendliness put a nice cap on our experience.

The tip of my toque to Jim Wilder at the helm of the kitchen!

Gilles Syglowski graduated from the Lycee d’Enseignement Professionel Hotelier in Metz, France, and is a certified executive chef, certified culinary instructor, and food-service consultant. Mr. Syglowski has more than 30 years of experience in the hospitality industry and is currently assistant general manager of the Cosmos Club in Washington, D.C.



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