- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 6, 2001

The Kent Manor Inn serves New American cuisine with an Eastern Shore influence and for guests seeking a weeknight or weekend getaway it also offers comfortable rooms in old and new sections of the inn.

Nestled quietly on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay in Stevensville, the Kent Manor Inn is 12 miles from Annpolis and no more than a 5-minute drive from the Eastern Shore end of the Bay Bridge. Innkeeper and executive chef Dennis Shakan lives on-property with his wife and children in an adjacent home which began as a log cabin about 1799.

We arrived on an unusually warm December night so we missed out on the ambiance of a roaring fireplace to warm us up before our dining experience. The summerlike temperatures, though, did not prevent the inn and restaurant from being decked out in holiday greens, including a beautifully decorated Christmas tree in the waiting parlor.

The original wing of the house, built about 1820, had a living room, dining room, large kitchen, pantry and cupboard on the first floor; four rooms on the second floor; and two large rooms on the third.

The center portion was added shortly before the Civil War, with four rooms on both the first and second floors, and five smaller ones on the third. All of the rooms on the first and second floors had fireplaces with marble mantels. The other wing was added in the 1980s.

The four rooms of the restaurant are in the center of the inn. Soon after we were seated in one of the four dining rooms, a warm basket of breads arrived.

The inn has an extensive wine offering either by the bottle or glass. We ordered wines by the glass. My wife tried the Fortant de France white merlot, ($5). The wine has a refreshing balance, as its sweetness blends fully with acidity. A lighter merlot, if you will.

For me, it was the Rothschild merlot from France's Pays d'Oc, ($6). This had aromas and flavors of fresh ripe plums and berries with a soft, silky finish.

We shared an appetizer of smoked trout mousse ($8). Pure heaven the mousse was a rich yet delicate blend of smoked rainbow trout, cream and spices. It was presented beautifully with croustades, red onion, capers and cream cheese. There was so much flavor, yet it was so light … we probably could have eaten this all night.

Other starter offerings included Elizabethan scampi: jumbo shrimp brushed with horseradish sauce, bacon-wrapped and finished with a vermouth concasse; Buffalo mozzarella with chargrilled herb-marinated eggplant and served with feta-marinated cucumbers and teardrop tomatoes, all topped with a garlic-basil infused olive oil; raspberry glazed brie served with lahvosh; Maryland crab and artichoke compote served in a phyllo basket with lahvosh nestled on a bed of seasonal fruit.

For our main course, my wife ordered the stuffed quail ($23). Two quail, one stuffed with black rice and dried apricots and cherry, the other with a sourdough stuffing of raspberries, blackberries and blueberries resting on fried parsnips and finished with a rich apple cream sauce.

The quail were perfectly prepared cooked but not dried out. They were seasoned nicely, but the hit of the dish was the stuffings. And such a contrast they offered the sourdough stuffing was the most traditional, like a superb stuffing for a Thanksgiving bird; the black rice stuffing, on the other hand, was dark and brooding, such an intense contrast of textures and flavors. Superb. And the parsnips and apple cream sauce added a unique yet seasonal finishing touch.

I finally settled on the herb crusted ostrich tenderloin ($27). Rosemary, garlic and sage-crusted tenderloin resting on a sweet potato pancake with baby zucchini and yellow patty pan squash.

I've had ostrich tenderloin elsewhere and it was always a bit dry. Cooked medium, this piece of bird was tender and full of flavor. If you're not an herb lover, you probably would be overwhelmed by the crust. We found it to be just right.

Other main events included a tender breast of chicken with aged Asiago cheese and roasted peppers atop a pesto cream sauce; fire-roasted rack of New Zealand lamb served with shiitake mushroom compote and minted orzo and completed with a pomegranate glaze; halibut crusted with a dill-sorrel pesto and accompanied by mustard seed-jasmine rice and blackened onions with grilled baby leeks; seared or blackened filet mignon stuffed with herbed-boursin cheese, complimented with fried wild mushroom ravioli; and a sun-dried tomato-crusted wild boar tenderloin accompanied with jicama slaw.

All include choice of the chef's artichoke and Roquefort or Caesar salad.

The desserts receive the same thoughful care as the main dishes. Coconut cream pie was smooth, almost sinful, elegantly presented on zigzags of warm chocolate and caramel sauce. Cheesecake was another rich choice, also served with wonderful sauces. Coconut cake and an apple dessert were also on the menu.

The inn also offers a prix-fixe Sunday brunch. Featured items include prime rib, a Belgium waffle station, omelette station, fruits, salads, cheeses and breads.

The inn's ornate guest accommodations ensure a wonderful stay and the location is convenient to shopping outlets and golf courses.

The view from the eight-window cupola on the roof takes in all 226 acres of the farm including more than a mile of waterfront. Restored in 1987, the inn now has 24 sleeping rooms, two conference rooms and a garden house with seating for 150 guests. This romantic country inn is one of Maryland's treasures just waiting to be experienced.

RESTAURANT: Kent Manor Inn & Restaurant, 500 Kent Manor Drive, Stevensville, Md.; 410/643-7716 or 800/820-4511

HOURS: Lunch from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. Wednesday to Saturday; dinner 4 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday, until 9 p.m. Friday and Saturday, and from 3:30 to 8 p.m. Sunday; brunch 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday; dining room closed Monday and Tuesday

PRICES: Lunch $7 to $14; appetizers $7 to $10; dinner $13 to $30; Sunday brunch (a la carte) $14.95

CREDIT CARDS: Major credit cards accepted

PARKING: On site

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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