- The Washington Times - Wednesday, June 25, 2003

A sophisticated menu along with priceless views of the Chesapeake Bay await you at the Silver Swan Restaurant in Stevensville, Md.

Tucked in the Queen Anne Marina on the Eastern Shore, it offers scenes from the dining room that include the Bay Bridge off in the distance to the north and the Thomas Point Lighthouse directly across the Bay.

On a recent Saturday visit, dozens of swans were swimming nearby in the Bay and in the adjacent Price’s Creek — hence the name Silver Swan. Stormy skies cleared up just in time for us to witness a spectacular sunset on the western shore.

View aside, we had come for the food, and chef James Hudson’s ambitious modern American lineup delivers a near faultless experience. The summer menu contains an even number of seafood and meat dishes with a couple of pasta offerings and also includes wine recommendations to go with each.

Our evening began with a complimentary basket of warm breads, all made in-house by pastry chef Karen Schaeffer. The basket included assorted breads made with an array of savory treats, such as rosemary, cheese, olives, cherries and walnuts; a corn muffin; and sourdough bread — enough variety to make the bread lovers at our table happy.

Corn-and-crab chowder (priced at $8) provided our crab-soup fix with a twist. A very smoky broth yielded a generous portion of lump crabmeat along with loads of sweet, tender corn.

A nice mix of salads included field greens tossed in an aged sherry vinaigrette with tomatoes, shaved celery root and toasted pignolia nuts; the Queen Anne’s summer salad, made with arugula and Belgium endive, tossed in champagne vinaigrette and topped with goat’s cheese, raspberries and macadamia nuts; and a popular wilted-spinach salad with maple-bacon vinaigrette and walnut-crusted brie medallions.

From the starter’s list, we tried the roasted prawns ($10), served with a thick slice of fried green tomato and Creole remoulade topped with crispy leeks. Two jumbo prawns were folded into each other and placed on top of the tomato. I don’t know if it was the thickness of the tomato or some other secret, but this was bursting with flavor — not the usual green tomatoes that can taste like mushy fried eggplant. The spicy Creole remoulade took this dish to a new level.

There’s also a yellowtail snapper seviche summer roll laced with julienne vegetables and tobico caviar finished with ginger-sesame dipping sauce, and a beef carpaccio tenderloin over mixed potato salad and finished with truffle shavings.

Main plates that we ordered were the Bay bouillabaisse ($25), soft-shell crab ($29) and duck ($22). The nice-size crab was sauteed wrapped in a thin slice of Virginia ham and then served over stir-fried vegetables and baby bok choy and crispy udon and soba noodles. The dish was then topped with a papaya and strawberry chow chow and finished with chili garlic oil.

A crustacean wrapped in ham? Sounds strange, but it was quite tasty. The flavor of the ham and the sweetness of the crab and fruit chow chow blended well together. Still, with that said, I’ll stick to eating my soft-shell crabs the traditional way, pan-sauteed without the ham.

The bouillabaisse contained lobster, shrimp, scallops, rockfish and baby clams in a saffron-and-star-anise broth and finished with jasmine rice. Most bouillabaisse we have had before were floating in broth. In this dish, the jasmine rice was infused with the flavorful broth, so it wasn’t necessary to look for bread to soak it up. The seafood was all nicely prepared, not overcooked as it sometimes can be in this dish.

Duck Two Ways is a seared duck breast and chilled duck galantine on a bed of fingerling potatoes and carrot strands with cherry sauce and roasted pistachio nuts. The duck breast, served medium rare, didn’t need a sauce. The galantine was rich and flavorful, accented with pistachio nuts. It would stand alone as a fabulous appetizer, but it was an elegant addition to what is becoming a standard menu item.

Other main plates include grilled rack of lamb served over mushroom risotto and sauteed baby squash finished with port wine sauce; prime beef filet over a corn-stuffed potato cake finished with a walnut-thyme sherry gastrique; and a wild-mushroom stuffed pork tenderloin with fingerling and purple potato hash stuffed into a ripened yellow tomato, finished with sorrel sauce.

Desserts are made fresh daily and are Miss Schaeffer’s original creations. Specials for the evening were chocolate raspberry bread pudding and a strawberry tart featuring local strawberries atop a rich strawberry mousse in a rich but not sweet chocolate crust. It was accented with ice cream.

Regular dessert offerings include creme brulee (the traditional or a trio of rosemary, lavender and cinnamon), warm chocolate souffle, lemon tarts, seasonal fruit crisp and Key lime cheesecake mousse. Chocolate trio will satisfy even the most serious chocoholic — it has a petite chocolate decadence cake, chocolate Earl Grey ice cream and chocolate mousse atop a baked chocolate meringue. This dessert looks like a piece of art and tastes like one too.

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