Savor: The Review, Too: A Canal Classic
The Chesapeake Inn offers a taste of two worlds in more ways than one.
Pork rib chop stuffed with fontina and sage served with a chutney of apples and cranberries (foreground) and rack of
photograph by Tom Nutter
The Chesapeake Inn Restaurant & Marina might be the closest incarnation to a beach restaurant this side of, well, the beach. The waterfront deck features casual dining and a hot bar scene, while the indoor restaurant offers a more formal experience, complete with attentive servers in tuxedoes, yacht club-like appointments and a pianist who plays a mean medley of Led Zeppelin songs.
We watched beer-sipping revelers below from our window seats on the restaurant’s second story. The view of the C&D Canal put us in the mood for some Maryland-style seafood—something the Chesapeake Inn aptly delivers.
Crab bisque was the perfect starter. Executive chef Matthew Schafenberg, who returned to the Inn last year, gently simmers a mirepoix—a mixture of diced carrots, onions, celery and herbs—until the ingredients cook down to become one. It is this savory stuff that gives the bisque its body. It also imparts a gorgeous coral color that contrasts nicely with the snowy crab lumps heaped in the center.
Schafenberg, who for two years owned 865 in Dover, has long been an appetizer aficionado. Novelties include roast duck crepes, lobster macaroni and cheese, and lobster spring rolls—four crisp packages bulging with slivers of zucchini, carrots and lobster chunks.
A refreshing crab and avocado martini, spritzed with a citrus-honey vinaigrette, was sweet and clean tasting.
Keeping with our penchant for classics, we went for plump shrimp wearing a tidy bacon cummerbund and crabmeat nesting in mushrooms so meaty, they were practically appetizers. Clams casino offered the requisite blend of finely diced red and green peppers with a dusting of breadcrumbs. The dash of lemon, however, was too heavy-handed.
The restaurant is famous for its crab cakes, and with good reason. The 4-ounce beauties are pan seared to a golden brown, their crusty flesh yielding to reveal fat lumps that gently cling together.
Stuffed flounder was a shining tribute to the great dishes of the past, and it demonstrates why crab imperial deserves a comeback. (If it can happen to iceberg lettuce, it can happen to crab imperial.) The flounder, fresh and flaky, had a subtle sweetness, thanks to its delicate lobster sauce.
I only wish I’d been half as thrilled with the Maryland rockfish, which tasted so flat I could only manage a few bites. Not even the pretty show of tomatoes, fresh basil and crabmeat could enliven it.
Despite my initial cravings, my favorite dish had nothing to do with the sea—or the bay, for that matter. A juicy New York strip, wearing attractive grill stripes and a tight curl of ivory fat, was first rate.
Sprinkled with black peppercorns, the steak’s crowning touch was an earthy pat of Gorgonzola butter, which melted into the meat’s rosy juices. We mixed and matched with the crab cakes to create a tasty surf and turf.
The restaurant is owned by the Martuscelli family, which also owns the popular La Casa Pasta in Newark. This would explain the Italian flag flying outside and why the restaurant offers a generous show of Italian-inspired entrées, including bruschetta, veal topped with crabmeat and at least seven pasta dishes. D
Two Degrees of Georges Perrier
The famed Philly chef's influence is so vast, it even touched
When Georges Perrier opened Le Bec-Fin in 1970, he blasted the Philly scene like a hurricane. Today the infamously perfectionistic Perrier is, according to Condé Nast Traveler, “a living monument.” Perrier may be the storm that never calms, but even he has gotten by with a little help from his friends in Delaware.
photograph by John Lewis
Jacques Amblard, general manager, The Inn at Montchanin Village
When Mobil busted Le Bec Fin from five stars down to four in 2000, Perrier flipped. He then hired good friend and longtime Hotel du Pont manager Amblard—who, in the late ’80s, had bailed the hotel out of a lost star through a $35 million transformation—to help win it back. Eighteen months and $500,000 in renovations later, Amblard and team succeeded. When he left the hotel for The Inn at Montchanin Village, Travel & Leisure quickly noticed, then last year rated it as the world’s best hotel for $250.
Amblard on Perrier: “It is very unknown that Georges has such a big heart. Unfortunately, when he applies the role of leadership, he does not come across that way.”
Perrier on Amblard: “Jacques put structure back in the restaurant. You cannot be successful without structure. He was extremely helpful, and he’s a very good friend.”
Mickey Donatello, owner, Corner Bistro
When Perrier traded tennis for golf after spraining his ankle, Amblard introduced him to Donatello, then golf pro at the DuPont Country Club. Perrier was no Tiger, but with Donatello’s help, he got better. That was 2002. A year later, Donatello opened Corner Bistro. Perrier shared trade secrets, helped with menus—even cooked a few meals. Donatello occasionally serves Perrier’s coq au vin, and Perrier’s pistou still factors into Corner Bistro’s salmon dishes.
Donatello on Perrier: “With Georges, you either do the work or you don’t. We’ve traveled, eaten and golfed together. He is one of the sweetest, nicest people I’ve ever met.”
Perrier on Donatello: “Mickey is passionate. He’s smart. He’s not afraid to try things. I tried to advise him, but he already has a great restaurant. I love him. And he’s a smart golfer.”
Greg Moore, president, Moore Brothers Wine Company
Moore was general manager and sommelier at Le Bec Fin for 10 years, where he learned enough about wine from Perrier to open the first Moore Brothers Wine Company store in Pennsauken, New Jersey, in 1996. Moore also inherited his former boss’ high standards. He buys wine only from farmers who grow their own grapes.
Moore on Perrier: “You want to talk authentic? At Le Bec Fin, we got the veal bones and took the marrow out ourselves. It was never canned truffle peelings. You didn’t have fake black caviar. None of those crazy canned snails. Georges is disarmingly generous and excessively demanding, except that he never demands more than he would do himself.”
Perrier on Moore: “Greg is extremely brilliant about wine. Where there is wine, there is very good lifestyle. When he worked for me, he gave me so much that I knew he would be very successful.”