Hunters’ Tavern at the Tidewater Inn is Good and Gracious
Aug 05, 2018 12:00AM ● Published by Brian Saucedo
By Mary Lou Baker
Photography by Tony Lewis, Jr.
Easton’s vibrant restaurant scene has undergone some changes over the past year. Several favorites have closed their doors. But Hunters’ Tavern at the Tidewater Inn could make some of the longtime local favorite restaurants that have recently shut down a distant memory.
These shifts created a sense of loss among local foodies who were motivated to re-visit the venerable Tidewater Inn and delighted to discover an updated version of the historic property’s in-house restaurant. The surge of popularity for Hunters’ Tavern was a welcome happenstance for owner John Wilson. Wilson, creator of the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, oversaw the historic property’s transformation from stuffy to spectacular with a focus on food, wine, and fashionable fun.
We are happy to report that Hunters’ Tavern is A-list worthy. Friends living in Easton had told me so, and I was delighted to see for myself what all the buzz was about. Four of us drove from Annapolis to the heart of town, parked on Harrison Street just in front of the inn and found a charming tableau of folks enjoying themselves at well-spaced tables on a gorgeous brick verandah accented with a striking brick fireplace. We made a note to come back for
lunch soon and went inside.
With reservations, it was a smooth trip to our table in the club-like dining room a few steps below a small bar. Water goblets were filled, drink orders taken and we began the pleasurable task of perusing a menu full of many temptations and a few surprises. Executive Chef Daniel Pochron, a graduate of the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, has helmed the kitchen at Hunters’ Tavern for two years. Pochron has impressive culinary credentials. They include three years at the Inn at Perry Cabin, seven years in the kitchen at Masons, and a stint at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club.
"They offer a good representation of down-home favorites as well as riffs on what’s new”
Many of his former co-workers have followed Pochron to Hunters’ kitchen, forming a skilled team of professionals who share a passion for perfection. Hunters’ Tavern’s menu is grounded in Maryland dishes (crab, mussels, scallops, rockfish, oysters, turtle soup). They offer a good representation of down-home favorites as well as riffs on what’s new, such as: ahi tuna with seaweed salad; ethnic surprises like pierogis; and pairings of fruits and vegetables as ingredients rather than garnish, such as a pairing shrimp with scallops, cucumbers, mint, and lime.
The bill of fare was full of temptations, and the party of four went pretty wild. We shared appetizers of seared ahi tuna, thin slices brushed with wasabi and a ginger glaze, the fiery taste cooled with swirls of fresh seaweed; twin scallops nicely seared and singing of the sea with a sidebar of pecan smoked bacon, spring onions and a garnish of grilled heirloom tomatoes; the kitchen’s version of crab dip, light on the promised jumbo lumps and heavy on the spinach, artichoke leaves, cheddar and cream cheeses; and a huge bowl of mussels steamed in white wine, roasted tomatoes, fresh basil, and capers with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese. Those tasty mussels, their shells open wide and ready for scooping up the heavenly broth, brought out the worst in us as we dove in like fish after prey.
Feeling a bit over-indulgent, we took a break while sipping a fruity and friendly pinot noir from the Adesheim Vineyard in Oregon and gearing up for the main courses. Mine, an impeccably fresh slice of Maryland rockfish was served with a scattering of toasted almonds, a velvety swirl of whipped potatoes and steamed spinach. Others enjoyed their own main courses. One, a tender lamb loin accompanied by bright orange carrot puree and a totally original waffle made with shredded zucchini and cheddar. Another, a two-way preparation of duck—sliced in a red wine sauce and a leg confit that showed the skill set of the kitchen. And another gentleman raved about his petit filet topped with a generous portion of lobster.
As if to prove its uniqueness once again, the kitchen offers Baked Alaska on its dessert menu. Considered a tour de force because it pairs cold (ice cream) with heat (a final flaming with brandy), Pochron made it for one of the investors’ 80th birthday, and it was so well-received it has stayed on the menu. This version features vanilla and strawberry ice cream encased in méringue that has been singed then doused with brandy. It was a lovely finale to a beautiful evening in Easton—and I want to return to sample Pochron’s namesake meat loaf, a secret recipe its creator will not reveal except to say “it is made with lots of love and secret spices.”