The Taste: Carrol’s Creek Cafe
Aug 03, 2016 10:37AM ● Published by Arden Haley
Carrol’s Creek Cafe
By Rita Calvert // Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
410 Severn Avenue, Annapolis
410-263-8102 | carrolscreek.com
As a restaurant hugging the border of a very busy historic Annapolis waterway, Carrol’s Creek Restaurant has been a go-to spot with a stellar view since 1983. I sat down to chat with owner Jeff Jacobs and general manager Richard McClure, who has been with Carrol’s Creek since 1986. Referring to the numerous wall plaques for superlatives of Best Cream of Crab Soup, Best Waterside Dining, Best Restaurant with a View, Best Business Lunch, and “Hospitality Hall of Honor,” to name a few, I asked how they have managed to capture these awards for so many years. Both contributed answers.
Humble and soft-spoken, Jeff explained that he has a great crew and teamwork is key. “We have a lot of long-term staff here,” he says. “We have one waitress who’s been with us for over 25 years, not to mention several managers with 10 to 15 years under their belts. My father has been a masterful silent partner over the years. His great wisdom contributes many ideas for us to try to incorporate into the business.”
Jeff, can you tell us about your background and how you came to own Carrol’s Creek? Did I hear you were a busboy here at age 15?My family became involved with Carrol’s Creek in 1983 when my father’s original partner needed some legal guidance opening a restaurant in a newly-built, multi-level waterfront complex. My first jobs in the restaurant were in the kitchen. I spent the first two summers washing dishes, prepping food, working in the pantry, and cooking on the line. After this experience I realized I wanted to work the front of the house with more people interaction. For the next four years, I worked at all positions in the front from busboy to bartender.
When I was in Towson University my father asked me to return to the restaurant since he and his partner had parted ways. Always the businessman, he wanted to know when I could leave school and not lose money.
What is your mission statement for Carrol’s Creek? How are you involved philanthropically in the community?I want to provide the highest level of food and service in a beautiful surrounding. My current philanthropic involvement is by donating to many local charities and organizations doing great work around Annapolis. I provide gift certificates for their fundraising events. I am currently on two volunteer boards: Anne Arundel County License Beverage Association and an advisory board for Sigma Alpha Epsilon at Towson University. I am a past president of a charity called HELP, which raises money for employees of the hospitality industry in times of need.
Richard, where does Carrol’s Creek get inspiration when creating new recipes? What gives each of you inspiration? How does the process work from conception to menu item?The inspiration for our food comes from many sources—it could be the visit to another restaurant or the vegetables in a farmers market. We bring the idea back to Carrol’s Creek and talk about it then try something that we think the kitchen can produce on a busy Saturday night. Then we have tastings with the staff. Then we try it as a special to see if the most important person likes it, our customer. At that point, it may go on the menu.
How would you describe the style of food of Carrol’s Creek? You mentioned being primarily a seafood restaurant while selling a good percentage of meat entrees. Do tell.Contemporary American Cuisine is our style...majoring in seafood with many global nuances. While seafood is our star, we sell more meat now than 25 years ago. I believe we are a special event venue for many customers and with the changes in home [dining, enjoying] a steak out is the treat.
What is executive Chef Ricardo’s background and training? How long have you worked as executive chef here?Ricardo’s training has come from working in restaurants from here to California and a hunger to know and do more. He has been the chef here since 2010 with a quest for what’s new. He is always searching for great flavor with exceptional value and along with that…a surprise!
Grilled Salmon Over Mashed Cauliflower with Sautéed Baby Bok Choy in a Saffron Cream SauceServes 4
The various components of this favored dish are simple. Make sure to have each one prepared and kept warm before grilling the salmon. All comes together beautifully in the assembly!
IngredientsMashed cauliflower (recipe below)
4 small bunches Bok Choy, steamed in white wine
4, 7-ounce salmon filets, grilled and kept warm
Saffron sauce (recipe below)
Garnish: 2 Tbsp diced red bell peppers
Saffron Sauce:Canola oil
1/2 cup onions, minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp chicken base
1 tsp cornstarch dissolved in 2 Tbsp water
Pinch saffron threads
In a medium saucepan, add a drizzle of oil. When hot, add onions and garlic, sauté until translucent. Add cream, chicken base, saffron, and bring to a boil. With immersion blender, puree until smooth. Whisk in cornstarch mixture. Keep on low heat until ready to serve.
Mashed cauliflower:3 cups raw cauliflower-ettes
1/4 cup heavy cream
1 Tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
1 Tbsp white wine
1 Tbsp butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
Steam cauliflower until very soft then mash with potato masher. Stir in remaining ingredients; keep warm until serving.
To grill salmon:
Pre-heat the grill to high. Brush the salmon with canola oil and season with salt and pepper. Also coat the grill grates with oil, to help prevent sticking.
Place fillets on grill, skinless side down first, ensuring they will get nice grill marks on the hot grill while the fish is still firm. Close the grill lid. Cook 1–3 minutes on the first side, depending on how thick the fillets are. Do not move them until you are going to flip them over, or they may fall apart.
Close the grill lid again once they are flipped and cook for another 2–5 minutes, again depending on the thickness of the fillets. Salmon should be just barely opaque throughout when done.
To assemble per serving:
Place 1/4 mashed cauliflower on center of plate. Place 1 head Bok Choy on side of plate. Top cauliflower with salmon filet. Ladle sauce on one side. Garnish with diced bell pepper.