Restaurant Review: Knoxie’s Table at The Inn at Chesapeake Bay Beach Club
Mar 15, 2016 03:42PM ● Published by Arden Haley
Welcome Home with a Seat at Knoxie’s Table
Knoxie’s Table at The Inn180 Pier One Road, Stevensville; 443-249-5777
By Mary Lou Baker // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
It took a team of A-listers to create a veritable village on the Stevensville shore of the Chesapeake Bay—an evolving project that began in 1999 when visionary John Wilson built the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club. Popular primarily as a waterfront wedding and event venue, it slipped from general public consciousness until late last year, when Wilson opened the luxe inn on the property and named its centerpiece restaurant Knoxie’s Table after his wife.
She should be pleased. Seating at well-spaced tables under a soaring ceiling where lamps shaded with market baskets shed a soft glow and framed drawings of food illustrate the restaurant’s local farm-to-table aesthetic. An adjoining space features a bar area and fireplace with a stone façade where diners are seated on comfortable couches or at tables.
Esteemed Eastern Shore Executive Chef Paul Shiley, an alum of The Tidewater Inn and The Narrows, brings his love of local classics to a kitchen that turns out food that looks and tastes good. His menu, inspired by Maryland favorites and printed on the brown paper usually associated with a crab feast, is seemingly simple. But be prepared for some delightful surprises, such as a basket of homemade biscuits and puffy rolls called Knoxie’s Bites, escorted with honey butter and the kitchen’s update of pimento cheese in miniature Mason jars with tiny spoons for spreading.
Bacon jam, tangy tomato-peach relish, local honey, dried fruits, and nuts bring Knoxie’s Cheese Board to a higher level. Its accompanying house-made crackers proved the perfect partner for a trio of cheeses from local cheesemaker Chapel Farms: crab cheddar, St. Michael’s beer blue, and Six-Mile Amber, marinated in the local beer for a surprising mouth-finish. Not a fan of lima bean and ham soup? Change your mind with the kitchen’s version after a single slurp of the rich broth that makes it memorable. Disdainful of iceberg lettuce? Change your mind again with a mini wedge of a green that gets no respect, but proves the perfect foil for a smoky “Kent Island” dressing accented with Chapel Farms’ “Bay Bleu Cheese” and a sprinkle of roasted pumpkin seeds.
Under a menu heading of “Food for Friends” are several items that lend themselves to sharing. A Sauté Pot ($16) for instance, features mussels, clams, calamari, smoked sausage, sweet corn, and tomatoes in a saffron-tinged cream sauce accompanied by toast points for sauce-scooping. With it, you could order a half-dozen on-the-shell or fried oysters ($15) and make everyone happy. I like the flexibility of Knoxie’s menu, giving diners the option of eating “light” by ordering several appetizers or making a vegetarian meal of its “sides” (locally-grown produce that rotates with the seasons) or going full speed ahead with one of its “mains.”
For good reason, the restaurant’s Roseda Farms 28-ounce roast prime rib for two is a bestseller at $48. Roseda Farms in Monkton, Maryland, is universally respected for its happy, grass-fed, anti-biotic-free cows. We’ll go back for that another time, but on this visit, my partner couldn’t resist the 12-ounce venison chop—a rarity on area menus. The meat was fork-tender and delicious with a crusting of porcini mushrooms and a splash of blackberry Pinot Noir sauce that seeped into a creamy wild rice risotto. A side of broccoli Hollandaise rounded out what he pronounced could be “the perfect last meal.”
I, on the other hand, decided to test the kitchen with an entrée of fried chicken ($21) with one of those wonderful biscuits. The test got high marks. A soaking in buttermilk and a light bread coating took it out of the ordinary and the addition of a hot-and-sweet honey-Siracha sauce made it special. Fried pickles came with it (and stayed on the plate after a single bite) but that biscuit disappeared within minutes. I have a theory that homemade biscuits are a secret to success—and I hope Knoxie’s Table proves me right.
Chef Shiley agreed with me during a post-review phone conversation. “Yep, biscuits and pies—those are two of Mrs. Wilson’s favorite things,” he confided. Not a baker himself, Shiley hired a Kent Island resident known for her baking talents to join Knoxie’s kitchen. Kelly Germershausen makes the pies (apple, cherry, banana cream, chocolate, white potato…you name it) and ice cream that are the restaurant’s signature sweets—as well as those wonderful biscuits.
Knoxie’s Table is a notable addition to the Eastern Shore’s rich restaurant scene, with Daniel Porchon as food and beverage director. Porchon, a graduate of the Culinary International Institute in Hyde Park, has a stellar record of 31 years in the kitchens of many tier-one restaurants here and abroad—including the Inn at Perry Cabin. He heads a very special team at a remarkable restaurant that deserves the attention of folks who want to experience the true meaning of the current farm-to-table philosophy. It’s all good.