Consistency Equals Success
May 08, 2018 12:00AM ● Published by Brian Saucedo
By Rita Calvert Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
410 Severn Avenue Annapolis, MD 21403
As a stellar waterfront location for over three decades, owner Jeff Jacobs shares how Carrol’s Creek retains its staying power. Executive chef Ricardo Bello also convey how their team efforts make the restaurant a shining star.
With 34 years under your belt at this location, what would you say Jeff gives Carrol’s Creek Cafe its staying power?
I believe that the success of Carrol’s Creek boils down to consistency. Level of service, quality of food and ambiance are my biggest concentrations in trying to provide the best overall experience for our guests. I have been blessed to have so many long-term people as part of our team. All but one on my management team, including the chefs, have been with us for more than 10 years and for the rest of our staff I’m sure we would average over five years. I would think that this is very high for our industry, and I am very thankful for that kind of record. One of the more difficult aspects of operations is menu design, trying to be innovative but having items that guests remember and look forward to on their visits can be very challenging. We work hard on trying to find the right balance for this. I also appreciate and understand the importance of our location for our guests in deciding where to dine. Therefore, being able to provide and maintain an inviting
and comfortable atmosphere has always been a priority over the years.
Your manager and wine guy, Richard McClure, has been with Carrol’s Creek for ages. What are some directions he takes to please customers in the libations department?
As we are a restaurant first, we try to make our wine selections food friendly. That could mean finding wines with enough acidity to go with food. It’s looking for value in wines that are both well-known or are lesser known. I also search for wines that are regional and still great. We have also moved to a draft beer program that has 24 beer selections with six of those on a rotating basis and also seasonal changes on others. Watch our Facebook page where we announce our new selections. Cocktails come with a menu of house creations and a full selection of standards. We pride ourselves in our selection of spirits.
Chef, what are your favorite ingredients in these profiles? Explain some dishes using them.
Some of my favorite ingredients to work with are avocados and dried peppers. I find the avocado can be such a versatile fruit, where it can be incorporated into so many dishes. When blended with other ingredients, it can make a great sauce that is light enough to not overpower the taste of a delicate fish. The use of dried peppers like guajillo and pasilla in food preparation can give items
the needed amount of flavor without being too spicy. I really enjoy the smokiness of their flavor profile. I use the guajillo pepper in our Tortilla Casserole on the brunch menu. This is corn tortillas layered with black beans and corn and topped with fried eggs and guajillo chili sauce.
Chef Ricardo, what are some of the food directions and ingredients you are excited about for this year?
Exploring more regional and local ingredients has me excited. I am always looking to incorporate all the wonderful items that this area has to offer into our menus and specials. Many of our guests—especially in the summer—come from other parts of the country. We love to showcase the items that our region is known for: Chesapeake Bay crab, oysters and rockfish.
I can’t wait for the fresh vegetables that we get from the Eastern Shore when in season. It also makes me feel good to support the local watermen and farmers.
Jeff, we know chef Ricardo, but tell us about the rest of your team of culinary folks.
Our Sous Chef, Bruce Waksmunski, rounds out our culinary team. He attended the Baltimore International Culinary Arts Institute at the beginning of his hospitality career. He then spent
time with the Dominique’s group of restaurants and progressed to being the chef at the Topside Inn Restaurant in Galesville. Bruce continued his culinary profession with us in 2008. His vast experience and knowledge in cooking styles has made him a great asset to Carrol’s Creek.
Your Happy Hour is a true winner and I adore the rack of lamb. Tell us about it and some of the favored items.
My favorite items are the Scallop appetizer, which is two sea scallops rolled in shredded phyllo, fried crisp, and served on a bed of wilted spinach, lump crab and proscuitto ham with a shrimp cream sauce. This is probably my favorite item on our whole menu. The flavor combinations all complement each other and it has many different textures that make it so interesting. Another favorite of mine is our baked oysters. We use local oysters and top them with horseradish, house cured bacon and Cabot Vermont cheddar cheese.
With close to three decades in the food, media production, marketing and public relations fields, Rita has created myriad programs, events, cooking sessions on national television, the stage and The Annapolis School of Cooking. Her work has always embodied the naturally wholesome and satisfying.
This dish is a shining star with a Canadian lobster tail, two jumbo shrimp, two clams, and two mussels over porcini mushroom risotto with peas and cherry tomatoes. It is finished with a drizzle of truffle chive oil.
1 ounce (75/25 proportion) canola
and extra virgin olive oil
4 ounces white wine
8 ounces Aborio rice
2 ounces white onion
1 lemon wedge
2 sprigs thyme
1 teaspoon fresh garlic, minced
2 ounces Porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup fresh peas
1/2 cup fresh tomatoes, diced
2 ounces Parmesan cheese
2 ounces butter, unsalted
2 (6 ounce) cold water lobster tails
8 Prince Edward Island Mussels
4 Top neck clams
4 (16/20) shrimp
4 cups shrimp stock
2 ounces white truffle oil
1 tablespoon snipped chives
Sauté onions and garlic until they are a light golden color using the canola oil in a large frying pan. Add the Arborio rice and cook for two minutes on medium heat. Deglaze the pan with two ounces white wine and reduce the liquid by three quarters. Add the tomatoes, peas, mushrooms, mussels, clams and shrimp. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the shrimp stock, adding a cup at a time, and waiting for the rice to absorb the stock before adding additional.
When the rice is al dente, remove from heat and stir in Parmesan cheese and butter to give
it a creamy consistency.
In a separate sauce pan, add six ounces of water, two ounces white wine, lemon wedge, and thyme; bring to a boil. Add the lobster tails and cover to steam until the lobster is firm and white.
To make the chive truffle oil, combine the truffle oil and chives in a small blender and mix for one minute. Place the risotto on a large plate and arrange the lobster tail over the risotto. Drizzle the truffle chive oil over the entire dish.