Mar 21, 2014 01:04PM ● Published by Cate Reynolds
“The Dover Sole should be here any minute now,” the chef assured me again. The cushy suede bottoms of his oxfords carried him swiftly across the 300-year-old floors in one of Easton’s grandest historic homes. Chef Jordan Lloyd went from kitchen to door—wondering, but not really worrying—his trademark focused-but-peppy gait foiling any panic as he maintained his always patient smile.
A celebrity fish was the focus of a photo shoot under way at Bartlett Pear Inn, also the center of attention later for 40 dinner guests. Meanwhile, ice cream with chocolate from a small chocolatier in Baltimore was churning, while organic onions from an Eastern Shore farm were sweetening up, too, in a hot skillet. Morning prep was readying for a full house in the dining room that evening.
A special-order food that goes awol at a time like this could rattle a chef, but not Jordan Lloyd, who finds opportunity in obstacles. Everyone will tell you—Jordan being the first—it takes a dedicated team to keep on top. But it is obvious that Jordan’s penchant for perfection powers that energy directly into the food, an ingredient you taste as it blooms from inside the passionate heart of the chef himself. Talk about sourcing locally!
The Dover Sole is perhaps Jordan’s most dramatic example of fishing for the freshest quality ingredients. I was behind the scenes at the Pear (as the locals call it) also waiting for the delivery from fisherman Jean Marc, who caught the sole himself in Brittany, France, the day before. Sourcing this special seafood from across the Atlantic is no small order, and Jordan has worked hard to keep coveted culinary contacts such as this and many more closer to home to provide quality sustainable ingredients from Chesapeake waters, Maryland farms, genteel livestock yards, and family run dairies—for beyond just artisanal cheeses to include even the butter that composes the Himalayan salt spread for each table’s basket of in-house baked bread.
The real Dover Sole comes from European waters—a Julia Child favorite, making the fish famous in America. When Jordan finishes it off at tableside as a menu special, he sautés it in a brown butter herb/wine sauce that enlightens the fish’s natural fresh essence and nutty finish. As with most of Jordan’s cuisine, you savor each bite slowly, and why not, the table is yours for the night.
The fish was my second taste of Jordan’s food after house-made butternut squash agnoletti and truffle butter pappardelle, the latter made with a local reserve cheddar and a fricassee of maitake mushrooms. The chef himself came out to shave the French truffles from Burgundy over my pasta and I didn’t even have to eat the food to know how good it was going to taste, something dinner guests say all the time about the preparation of the Pear’s food.
While both the ravioli and the un-stuffed pasta are still on the menu, my most recent choices included a pan-seared filet mignon with peppery sauce and a breast of duck with a medley of black-eyed peas and glazed celery over dried pastrami flatbread. Charcuterie is one of Jordan’s ways of creating his own in-house sustainable ingredients—prosciutto to salami—including bacon lardons in a scallops au vin.
Silky pâtés, velvety sauces, and one-of-a-kind desserts showcase Jordan’s creativity in reinventing original French dishes he learned in noteworthy kitchens: Thomas Keller’s Per Se in New York; Auberge Du Soleil in Hilton Head, South Carolina; and Michel Richard’s Citronelle in Georgetown (Washington, D.C.).
Wife Alice Lloyd has been by Jordan’s side as business partner and manager, operating the Pear’s successful seven-room bed and breakfast. They were grade school sweethearts who left Easton after high school to pursue further studies and met again afterwards, married, and now have two young children.
In addition to the fine dining rooms, you can go for cocktails and tapas in the intimate bar, with wines chosen by Alice and staff, mostly mixologist Justin Peregoy, whose edgy cocktails seem custom made when he allows local peaches to ignite a Rainwater Madera and bourbon blend, or when he tickles a Scotch with carrot juice and fresh ginger, dropping in his salted celery ice. Enjoy his drinks with Jordan’s bar bites, such as corn hash with crabcakes, steak with sauce bordelaise, and fennel salad with toasted pistachios.
In either dining room or bar, don’t miss the house’s hand-cut French fries that seem an odd accoutrement to fine cuisine. But that’s the fun part of Jordan’s kitchen, “and it all has to be about the fun,” he says. An order of the toasty potatoes pops out of a tin cone like unstructured strokes in a Picasso painting, and it always seems there is a cone on every table.
Alice’s grandmother’s maiden name was Bartlett, inn trivia along with more passionate and prominent history of the building that will now also mention Jordan and Alice with phrases like Hometown Couple Ran a Premiere Inn and Restaurant at This House, Fulfilling Their Childhood Dreams. Testifying to those top-notch accolades are many local and national publications, plus Zagat, Trip Advisor, and Open Table. Every detail is covered here, even giving back to the community—to Habitat for Humanity and CASA, as well as recognizing teachers who have shown above-and-beyond performance by awarding them a full dinner for two. Jordan says they can even order the Dover Sole if it’s in house, which it finally was that day. And like all respected guests, Dover Sole was ushered in as they do here for any guest, opening the door before one can even reach for the knob. A pearfectly elegant thing to do!
Gail Greco is a food and home interiors writer and photo art director/stylist. Author of 16 cookbooks and TV producer/host for the Discovery Channel and PBS, she is chef/editor of the DuPont Teflon cooking website. She lives and works on the Eastern Shore and in Sarasota, Florida.
Bartlett Pear Inn
28 South Harrison Street, Easton