- The Washington Times - Thursday, October 17, 2002

Old Field Inn offers a true taste of Southern hospitality. Fine wines, solid service, an elegant menu and Victorian decor await guests at the restaurant on Main Street in Prince Frederick, Md.

Built in the 1890s, the charming inn is remembered by locals as "Betty Briscoe's home." In 1927, Old Field became the home of Dr. Everard Briscoe, Calvert County's first doctor to hold regular office hours. He died in 1944. His wife, Betty, continued to live in the home and became one of the county's leading residents.

In the 1930s, she founded the Prince Frederick Garden Club and the Calvert Garden Club. She also was a charter member of the Calvert Historical Society. In 1954, she began writing a newspaper column, "Know Your County," for the Calvert Independent and continued the column until her death in 1981.

The Wolchick family purchased Old Field from Mrs. Briscoe's estate and restored the building.

Old Field Inn opened to the public in November 1984. The restaurant is on the first floor and includes three dining rooms and a lounge with fireplace. All the guest areas are part of the original home. (Only the kitchen is new.) The second floor continues to serve as a private residence.

Executive chef Brendan Cahill prepares a variety of delectable dishes that include steak, veal, seafood and daily "surprises." The presentation of the dishes is quite impressive.

We began our evening with champagne oysters ($7.50). Now in season, these fresh Long Island bluepoint oysters were topped with a champagne-butter sauce and pancetta, then lightly baked. The oysters themselves were plump and large. The salt of the baconlike pancetta contrasted well with the richness of the sauce.

Oysters on the half shell also are available.

Other starters include shrimp stuffed with horseradish, wrapped in bacon and baked; mozzarella and raspberries baked in a crisp phyllo shell and served with a raspberry coulis; and a seafood sampler for two: clams casino, shrimp, escargot and a creamy crab dip.

The evening's main-course specials included braised veal shanks (osso buco) and a black-sea-bass dish.

I ordered the sea bass, which, as a bonus, was topped with four fresh oysters ($20.95). The baked fish leaned against a wonderfully prepared rice pilaf with a scallion garnish and was accompanied by a bearnaise sauce. The oysters, lightly breaded and fried, complemented the mild flavor of the bass.

My wife ordered the veal Wellington ($19.95), in which scaloppini of veal was stuffed with a blend of cheese, pine nuts, raisins and spices, then wrapped in puff pastry and baked. It was served with hunter sauce atop a bed of spinach fettuccine.

The veal was tender and flavorful, and the pastry flaky, but the real star of the dish was the stuffing. Slightly sweet thanks to the raisins and spices, the stuffing also had a mellow, melting cheese flavor that was accented with the snap of the pine nuts. This unique dish seems to be a favorite, judging from the number of other diners we noticed ordering it.

Our 6-year-old ordered from the children's menu, which offers prime rib, petite filet mignon, fried shrimp, chicken nuggets, a cheeseburger or a grilled cheese sandwich.

She selected the filet ($11.95), which was wrapped in a wonderful smoky bacon and grilled.

All main courses are served with bread, butter and potato or rice pilaf unless specified. Additional vegetables, available a la carte, include wild-mushroom saute, asparagus with hollandaise or sauteed spinach with pine nuts and grapes.

Other main courses that caught our attention were the filet mignon stuffed with herbed cream cheese and topped with a merlot demi-glace; grilled pork tenderloin medallions served with garlic mashed potatoes and rosemary demi-glace; and the salmon with spinach and Boursin cheese wrapped in puff pastry, baked and served over a sauce of roasted Roma tomato and garlic.

Old Field Inn offers a wide assortment of desserts. Most are brought in but still offer a rich finish to a wonderful meal.

Our selections were the tuxedo cake (a striking slice of chocolate mousse and whipped cream) and the "totally turtle" cheesecake (a layered combination of caramel, pecans, chocolate and cheesecake). A rich-looking homemade chocolate cake, carrot cake and several other cheesecake choices also were available.

Old Field was named after a tract of land called Williams Old Fields, so called because the Williams family, original owners of the land, felt that it was no longer suitable for planting. Go figure.


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