- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 12, 2002

Winter is a great time to visit the Treaty of Paris Restaurant in the basement of Annapolis' historic Maryland Inn.

Before I talk about the menu, a small serving of history: As the name suggests, the treaty ending the Revolutionary War was signed in Paris in 1783, and it was ratified in the Annapolis State House, when Annapolis was the first capital of the United States. Local signers of the treaty came to the inn to celebrate, and the inn has been in business at the same location, on Main Street and Church Circle, since then.

Reservations are recommended, especially during tourist season, boat shows and important Naval Academy weekends.

If you're early for your reservation, you can slip into the King of France Tavern, also downstairs, and sip on a beverage or two. On weekends, the tavern is known for its jazz lineup.

On a very cold weeknight, the restaurant's fireplace was a welcome sight. So were the warm homemade popovers and cornbread sticks brought to our table a few minutes after we sat down. The basket was almost empty before our entrees arrived.

For starters, we ordered the Maryland crab bisque ($6.50). With its smooth and creamy texture, the bisque was a standout without a hint of that annoying thickening flavor that comes with many such soups. The bisque was subtly spicy, a perfect contrast with the creaminess of the soup and the sweetness of the crabmeat. We were very pleased at the generous amount of crab included.

Other appetizers include oysters stuffed with crab imperial; escargot braised and served with garlic butter; ravioli stuffed with seafood and served with a roasted-red-pepper sauce; and a smoked salmon terrine with layers of mango-pineapple chutney and whipped salmon cream cheese topped with smoked Norwegian salmon.

There's also a variety of salads, from traditional to Caesar to a grilled portobello mushroom cap layered with grilled marinated vegetables and drizzled with a balsamic syrup.

As for entrees, there are a number of fresh seafood selections. I ordered the jumbo crab cakes ($29.95), which were terrific. They were lightly broiled, contained huge lumps of crab meat and were served with a remoulade.

The catch of the day was a blackened yellowfin tuna steak. The chef was kind enough to serve our 6-year-old daughter a petite portion of the tuna ($14.95), not blackened, but pan-seared. She shared one bite with me but kept the rest for herself. It was quite good.

Other treats from the sea include a Mediterranean seafood plate with shrimp, scallops, mussels and crab served with a marinara sauce with feta cheese over angel-hair pasta; a broiled rockfish fillet stuffed with crab; and poisson en sac, a phyllo purse containing shrimp, scallops, crab and an imperial sauce.

An equally nice selection of meat and poultry is available, including beef Wellington, filet mignon, prime rib and a chicken breast marinated in champagne, stuffed with pecans and Cheddar cheese and served with a champagne white sauce.

My wife ordered the rack of wild boar ($29.95), which was crusted with pecans and molasses, roasted tender and accompanied by poached pears. The pecans and molasses provided a slightly sweet flavor that really enhanced the earthy, hearty flavor of the boar. The meat was tender and juicy, with enough sauce for dipping. The pears offered another texture and flavor, this one a bit tart.

For the vegetarian, there's a medley of vegetables blended with pasta in a garlic-herb butter then topped with grilled eggplant, zucchini and squash.

Entrees were served with a flavorful rice pilaf or baked potato slices and a very ordinary saute of yellow squash and zucchini.

The dessert tray offered the usual assortment of cheesecakes and cakes. The ladies opted for a slice of chocolate mousse, which was rich and chocolaty, with a smooth whipped topping.

The restaurant's popular Hunt Board Sunday brunch ($19.95 for adults) is a notch above most other breakfast buffets we have tried. Traditional favorites, such as eggs, omelets, waffles, sausage, etc., are featured, but the selection also includes salads, peel-and-eat shrimp, mussels, smoked salmon, beef and ham carving stations, delicious breads, cheese, fruit and an international dessert table.

Our evening would have been perfect had it not been for the smoky fireplace (I left thinking: Why didn't I just get up and fix it myself?) and a slight breeze that was coming through a basement window, neither of which had any negative effect on the good food.

RESTAURANT: Treaty of Paris Restaurant, Maryland Inn, 16 Church Circle, Annapolis; 410/216-6340

HOURS: Breakfast 7 to 10:45 a.m. Monday through Friday, 8 to 10:45 a.m. Saturday, 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday (brunch buffet); lunch 11:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Saturday; dinner 5:30 to 9:30 p.m. Sunday through Thursday and until 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday

PRICES: Breakfast $3 to $9.95; Sunday brunch buffet $6.95 for children 4 to 7, $13.95 for children 8 to 12, $16.95 for seniors and $19.95 for adults.; lunch soups and salads $2.95 to $12.95, sandwiches $7.75 to $13.50, main courses $12.95 to $13.95; dinner soups and salads $5.25 to $7.95, appetizers $8.95 to $10.95, main courses $17.95 to $31.95

CREDIT CARDS: Major cards

PARKING: Street or garage

ACCESS: Wheelchair accessible

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