Coastal Flair in a Rustic Farm Chic Setting
Oct 01, 2018 12:00AM
● By Brian Saucedo
By Rita Calvert Photography by Stephen Buchanan
It was time to pay a seasonal visit to The Inn at the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club, the gardens, and best of all, Knoxie’s Table. Perusing the gardens is one of my favorite explorations to see what the kitchen is growing for Executive Chef Paul Shiley. Owner and developer, John Wilson, began this journey many decades ago with Wilson’s Garden Center in Columbia and to this day loves to garden with a little free time. In fact, the entire plot of land which Wilson now owns from the Chesapeake Bay to Route 8 was named, “The Gardens of Queen Ann.”
In 1998, Wilson began a project to build a waterfront establishment on Kent Island and a year later, the Chesapeake Bay Beach Club opened. In 2015, the Club began welcoming guests to the property’s newest addition, The Inn. At the outdoor area of The Inn—even beyond the Knoxie’s fence—there is a lot to take in. One can walk throughout what feels like a beautiful estate in a rustic-chic style with a nod to the farm.
Knoxie’s Table is a formal restaurant at the Inn and is open to the public. Inside Knoxie’s, the ambiance skews to a more contemporary upscale American vibe, while the outdoor rustic chic area allures one to stay awhile. When lounging, enjoy the furnishings of navy and naturals in wicker sofas—cushioned seats, gray weathered square lattice fencing, and gray stamped concrete flooring, which a server referred to as cobblestone.
Our very warm and friendly hostess made us feel truly welcomed. We were early, so even before sitting down to dine, we felt a world away from daily life merely from our stroll around the plush immaculate grounds and inviting kitchen gardens. My dining companion seriously stressed from preparing to move, says she could picture herself enjoying a good book and a glass of wine right in the garden, or around the firepit surrounded by inviting rocking chairs.
Arriving just before the end of happy hour, our server was more than happy to put in an order right away to assure us of that pricing. We were prepared, from our advance glance at the menu, to choose the smoked Bluefish Spread, always a temptation, and Knoxie’s house-made crackers made it a winner. A hefty scoop of the spread in a pretty lettuce cup made a tasty dish for scooping. I was amazed. How did they manage to get the flatbread crackers so thin and crispy?
Somehow, we also managed to pretty much polish off the gratis rolls and muffins. Savory house-made puffy rolls and small corn muffins are accompanied by sweet little jars of soft butter, honey, plus irresistible (and superb) pimento cheese spread. It has made a comeback lately, and Knoxie’s has the secret to making it sharp and memorable, so this is the one to try.
My companion chose a summer cocktail from the fun menu. It’s au courant to see house-made cocktails these days, and Knoxie’s offerings made the choice challenging. Blueberry Orange Smash was a winner, with Luxardo cherries and blueberries in a fresh-squeezed orange juice base with generous swirl of blueberry vodka and Cointreau. Note to beer and whiskey fans: there’s an impressive selection of local craft beers and worldwide whiskey, rye, and bourbon. You can even order a flight of whiskey that acquaints you with the medicinal concoctions from Prohibition days. Knoxie’s Table had an impressive lineup of tasting events and options, often featuring locally produced spirits.
Since we enjoyed a happy hour price on our first appetizer, we indulged in another—seared scallops. Three very large and plump scallops were seared just right. It was beautifully presented on a bed of frisee with citrus segments, golden beet glaze, a novel sprinkle of pistachios, and a Vidalia onion vinaigrette that was fragrant and tasty.
We took a long time deciding on our entrees with so many excellent choices. The menu is very Maryland with plenty of Callinectes sapidus (blue crab) dishes, and Southern ingredients shine in items like shrimp and grits or pimento cheese and Virginia ham.
Shrimp and grits was tempting while giving a wave to Knoxie’s Southern offerings with Southern grits, charred corn, spicy grilled shrimp, sausage, andouille sausage gravy however when on the coast, seafood is the way to go and the baked rockfish drew me in. The dish was visually stunning, and the generous center cut filet was blanketed with a rich Citrus Beurre Blanc and dotted with mounds of backfin lump crab and toasted almonds for texture. A bed of buttery spinach supported the Maryland specialty.
My companion chose the petite filet, and petite doesn’t seem like the right description. It was thick enough for a hearty appetite, and like the perfectly seared scallops, this had just the right crisp to its edge. It was juicy and flavorful, especially with a sizable topping of lump crabmeat—much more than a token topping. Dressed with a lime béarnaise, it too had that coastal flair. Accompanying the filet was a hefty serving of “divine” garlic mashed potatoes, and perfectly cooked asparagus added a bright green dash to make it a winning meal.
Of course, filet calls for a good glass of red. Knowing that Knoxie’s Table is proud of its homemade pies for dessert, how could one resist trying the Carneros Cherry Pie Pinot Noir? The Cherry Pie line of wines are named after an oil painting of juicy mouth-watering hot-out-of-the-oven cherry pie by the artist TR Colletta, known for detailed paintings of every day, distinctly American objects.
Pastry Chef Kelly Germanhauser is a baker with a passion for pies that are a definite trademark. Several offerings made it difficult to choose just one, but, well, you already read about the house-made crackers, rolls, and muffins we ate, so we limited ourselves to one: key lime pie. With a Florida Keys aficionado at the table, it is hard to please with restaurant key lime pie. But Knoxie’s passes, with its combo of properly made graham cracker crust, thick and crunchy, with a lime filling that’s not overly sweet. Next time, we’ll have to (try to) skip the rolls so we can try another of its several delectable pie offerings—perhaps with Knoxie’s home-made ice cream.