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September 13, 2009

What I did on my summer vacation, part one

FrescosRestaurant.jpgRecently I got good reports from two of our regulars on their vacations -- at least the eating part. They are both long but worthwhile.

I'm going to start with Hal Laurent's on the week he and his wife spent in Ocean City. I suggest you save it as a reference for a future trip. After all, September and October are two of the nicest months to visit the ocean.

Later today or tomorrow: Retired in Elkridge goes west.

Here's Hal. I met him for the first time at a party Labor Day weekend; and believe me, he didn't look like he'd been eating this way the week before. EL

Monday:

Lunch on the way down at the Narrows in Grasonville (just across Kent Narrows from Kent Island). Cream of crab soup was tasty, but way too thick.  A bit of a disappointment. A pate special was very good.  It was pretty much a country-style pate, with cornichons, cherry tomatoes, a creamy mustard sauce, black olives (very good), and a cube of tomato aspic.  It was accompanied by water crackers, which fit quite nicely.

Soft shell crab was served on top of a salad and topped with "frizzled onions" and corn (obviously fresh) cut off the cob.  The crab was excellent. The salad was good, but a bit overdressed (a balsamic dressing of some
sort).  The presentation made it a little difficult to eat the crab. Nonetheless, both of us would consider ordering this again (maybe on Friday on the way back home).

I got the crab cake, and chose fried green tomatoes as the accompaniment. The crabcake was very good.  In my younger days I would have dissed it for not having enough Old Bay, but as I've gotten older I've come to prefer letting the crab flavor come through without overpowering it with Old Bay. It was a mix of lump and backfin, with some binder.  Pretty much what a crab cake is supposed to be, or at least was before it became a boutique item.

The crab was proper blue crab, not Venezuelan or Asian.  The last time I had a crab cake at the Narrows I thought it was heavier on the mayonnaise than I would make it, but this time that wasn't the case.  The fried green tomatoes didn't seem all that green, but they weren't bad.

Dinner Monday night, Fausto's Bistro at 11th and Boardwalk (in the Howard Johnson hotel). Web site menu looked much more interesting than the actual menu (on one sheet of paper laminated in plastic). Cocktails were made very well.  Atmosphere was such that I didn't ask for a wine list.  We ordered low (a Reuben and a burger) and weren't disappointed, except for the fact that we were expecting a more substantial restaurant.

Tuesday
:

Breakfast was at Soriano's, a quirky little place at 301 S. Baltimore Ave. Tasty breakfasts.  We discovered this place on a previous trip to Ocean City.

Lunch was at the Rusty Rudder in Dewey. We were on the way to Rehoboth for lunch when Peggy spotted this place in Dewey.  Nice bayside view from the wooden deck.  Drinks served in plastic cups.  Our expectations were low.

Surprisingly, the cocktails were very good, as was the food.  Peggy had onion soup and steamed shrimp.  I had a fried seafood platter.  The crab cake was made from real crab, not Asian.  Not big lumps, but very tasty.
Excellent, very flavorful scallops.  Good shrimp that weren't overcooked.

Dinner was at Fresco's, 8203 Coastal Highway. This place was really good.  Best dish was Tuscan Fiocchi.  The menu description reads: "Delicate Pasta Purses stuffed with Mascarpone Cheese and Pear in a Creamy sauce with Roasted Red Peppers & Pine Nuts, finished with Gorgonzola."

When I read the menu description I thought the pear sounded a little weird, but it turned out that it made the dish.  The bit of crunch from the pear bits, followed a second or so later by the sweet taste of the pear, really
made this dish a favorite. I also had an appetizer with lump crabmeat, prosciutto, and  wine sauce that was very good.

Peggy got the crab cake, and rated it pretty highly (maybe 8 out of 10).  It got scant attention from her, though, as my pasta purses made her swoon.

Between the excessively large crab and prosciutto appetizer and the double crab cake dinner, we have lots of leftovers.  Fortunately our hotel room has a refrigerator.

Wednesday:

Breakfast was at Fausto's Bistro.  Not terribly good, but rather expensive. We won't be going here again.

Lunch was at Galaxy 66 Bar and Grille, 6601 Coastal Highway. Menu descriptions of what we got:

- Spring green salad.  Tossed with red onions, artichokes, tomatoes, goat cheese and a pesto vinaigrette topped with toasted pine nuts.
    
- Seared scallops.  With pickled jalapenos, crispy sweet goat cheese, cranberry relish, port reduction.
    
- Award winning cheesesteak.  Slow roasted ribeye, carmalized onions, chiffonade romaine, pepper relish mayo, white cheddar cheese on house made roll with house made fries.

The salad was very, very good, with the exception of the lackluster tomatoes (no excuse for that this time of year).  Much better than Peggy was expecting.

The seared scallops were also very, very good, except that they may have been just a touch too rare for Peggy's taste.  She ate all of them anyway. The scallops were very flavorful. The crispy sweet goat cheese was outstanding and a great complement to the scallops. Cranberry relish was nice.  Peggy thought the "port reduction" tasted more like a raspberry sauce.  Everything came together beautifully.

I got the cheesesteak.  I was a bit taken aback when it was served, as it was overstuffed and had a sauce (probably the pepper relish mayo) drizzled over and under it.  I ended up eating it with a knife and fork, which just seems wrong.  Nonetheless, it was very, very good (I seem to be saying that a lot in this review).  The homemade fries would be very well liked by those who like that style of fry (thick, with the peel still on).  It's not my favorite style of fry, but they were still pretty good.  Obviously cooked at the last minute, as they stayed hot for a long time.

We had a very tasty Joseph Phelps Sauvignon Blanc from the nice wine list.

Dinner was at the Marlin Moon Grille, 12806 Ocean Gateway. Overall impression: disappointing. Service was very rushed.  Appetizers came out very quickly, when cocktails had barely been started. Main courses came out while the appetizers (excessively large salads) were barely a third eaten. Food was good, but not notable.

Thursday:

Breakfast was at Soriano's again.  We like this place.  Quirky, somewhat limited menu, but good.

Lunch was at Capt. Bill Bunting's Angler Restaurant, on Talbot St. by the drawbridge on Rt. 50. Hardly any customers, which has been true at lunchtime pretty much everywhere during this slow week in OC.

We've been to this place before (also for lunch during a non-peak time), so we knew what to expect.  Decent food, competently prepared, but nothing to go out of your way for.  What we go here for is the pleasant environment, sitting on the deck overlooking the docks and the Route 50 drawbridge.  The drawbridge opens pretty often, providing extra entertainment. We split a half dozen oysters on the half-shell, which were small but tasty.

Peggy got a "crab imperial sandwich," which was crab imperial on top of each of the halves of an English muffin.  I don't remember every seeing cheese on crab imperial before, but Peggy said it was good, if not outstanding.  It did have real blue crab meat, not the Asian stuff.

I got a grilled shrimp po-boy.  It wasn't a po-boy, being served on a soft round roll rather than French bread, but it was pretty good.  The grilled shrimp were not overcooked like they often are, and the Cajun mayonnaise had a nice kick to it.

It didn't feel like a wine place, so we stuck with cocktails.  The cocktails were well-made, and served in nice heavy glass rocks glasses, rather than plastic cups like Tuesday's outdoor lunch.

Dinner was at Jules, 11805 Coastal Highway. Peggy got the house salad, which was very good but a bit overdressed, and the soft crabs.  Unfortunately the soft crab description isn't on the Web site menu for me to paste here, but she thought there was too much stuff obscuring the crab flavor.

I got an appetizer special of clams and chorizo in a wine sauce (or something like that).  Very good!  I also got the "French Onion Soup Style New Zealand Rack of Lamb," because the description sounded so out there.
The menu described it as "lamb chops atop a lamb stock soaked foccacia crouton and caramelized onions, warm gruyere cheese sauce, seasonal vegetables".  It was very good, but the foccacia crouton was hard to cut (although it didn't seem tough when eaten).  I probably wouldn't get that item again, but I wasn't displeased with it.

Desserts were good.  Peggy got something that was described as being related to a Smith Island cake.  The waiter mentioned "chunky monkey" in his description, but we didn't know what that meant.  But at any rate, Peggy thought it was very good.  I got a berry shortcake thing of some sort, with a very tasty and crisp shortbread topped with strawberries, blueberries, and a cream sauce.  Very tasty.

Friday:

Breakfast at Layton's, at 15th St. and Philadelphia Ave. I had good corned beef hash with competently fried over-easy eggs and mediocre "home fries" (they didn't seem much like they'd been fried).  Peggy had perfectly adequate pancakes with tasty bacon, although she'd have preferred the bacon a little more well done. This place seems to attract a lot of families with young children, which makes for a rather high noise level.

Lunch on the way home was at the Narrows, again. I got the soft crab on a salad special that Peggy had gotten on Monday. I really liked it a lot! Peggy got a special of cioppino served on angel hair pasta.  ...We really like this place.

(Photo of Fresco's dish by Karl Merton Ferron/Sun photographer)

Posted by Elizabeth Large at 10:50 AM | | Comments (20)
        

Comments

We live in Bethany Beach DE for about 5 months of the year and dine out a lot. Fresco's in Ocean City is one of our top-rated restaurants --- and those little "purses" are to die for.

Hal looks like that because he runs 40 miles a day.

Hal looks like that because he runs 40 miles a day.

I'd probably die (or at least pass out) if I tried to run 40 miles at a time. I've never run more than a half-marathon (13.1 miles). I did run a 15K (9.3 miles) race this morning, though.

Elizabeth was being generous, I think. Or perhaps it's just that I know how to dress to not advertise my belly. Polo shirts, tucked in? What are people thinking!

The shocking thing here is not Hal's weight, but that he used the term "dissed." I'm just having a hard time wrapping my brain around Hall dissing anything.

Don't worry, Lissa, I'm sure "dissed" isn't' hip anymore. For that matter, I doubt if "hip" is hip anymore.

The shocking thing here is not Hal's weight, but that he met EL.

Yeah, what happened to remaining Anonymous?

Amazing as it may seem, I actually do have friends. EL

Sniff--I feel left out!

Actually the amazing thing is that EL met Hal.

Good one, Jon! Most people here don't know just how close-to-the-mark that is. :-)

And Jon, at least I know the name of your cat.

I'd like to suggest a slightly more on-topic swerve. At three of the restaurants reviewed above, long lists of specials were recited to us. I don't know about the rest of you, but my brain isn't capable of handling that much information, especially when delivered verbally rather than in writing. I wish more restaurants would have the specials on a piece of paper instead of it being a test of my (and the waiter's) memory.

Hal, I'm with you on the printed list of specials. Makes it so much easier. Any more than two specials given verbally, and my eyes glaze over.

Jon is right. I live near Hal, and have never met him (although I have been in the same room with him at least once). YumPo was on the same cruise ship with him, and didn't meet him.

I think Hal is trying to be the platonic ideal of an introvert.

Lissa could have met me, but she was even more introverted than I am and wouldn't introduce herself.

You'd think if the chef wanted you to try the specials, he or she would make it easier for you to do so by providing a printed list. Maybe it's all a trick to avoid giving prices.

Well, there were 3 bass mandolin players. I could have guessed wrong.

Going to the Butcher's Hill Flea next Sat., Hal? I love that flea market. Always find awesome stuff for next to nothing. It just keeps growing, too. It'd be perfect if all the dogs were on lead (for their own safety) and there was better food.

Great list, but I can't go to OC without a little Bayside Skillet.

If anyone is looking for lunch spots on the way to the beach, my wife and I stopped in Cambridge at Bella Luna and were quite impressed. They have an assortment of Italian sandwiches for lunch that were delicious.

http://www.bellalunarestaurant.net/

Nice list. We were in OC last week and since the weather was awful, we spent most of our time eating. We also had a fantastic dinner at Fresco's. Better yet was Liquid Assets. We ate there 2 nights in a row! Best food I've had in OC hands down.

Mitch, thanks for that Bella Luna mention. Everytime I drive through Cambridge on US 50 I wonder where the actual city is, as all one can see from the highway is suburban sprawl. Next time I go through I might have to use lunch as an excuse to find the city proper.

Dave, what did you have at Liquid Assets? How about a mini-review?

I have also heard good things about Bella Luna in Cambridge.

There is also a fairly newish Bistro Popular in Cambridge that is also on my list of places to try.

Of course there is always my new favorite in Cambridge, Jimmy and Sook's, which serves the best soft shell crab sandwich I've ever had.

Portside Restaurant in Cambridge has wonderful stuffed shrimp and some of the hottest wings on the shore.

Also, Hal, the crab imperial sandwich at The Angler sounds more like a good old crab melt. I grew up in OC and crab imperial on a sliced English muffin with cheese on top is a crab melt. I'm surprised an OC institution like The Angler doesn't refer to it as such. Nice rundown of your week - it makes me miss home!

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About this blog
Richard Gorelick was appointed The Baltimore Sun's restaurant critic in September 2010. Before joining the paper staff fulltime, he contributed freelance criticism and features articles about food to area and regional publications. Along the way, he dispatched for short-distance trucking companies, shilled for cultural non-profits, and assisted in cognitive neurology research – never the subject, always the control.

He takes restaurants seriously but not himself, and his favorite restaurant is the one you love, too.
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