- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 9, 2003

The Crossing at Casey Jones is a hidden culinary gem tucked into the Southern Maryland town of La Plata.
Owners Lisa and Paul Bales have taken a neighborhood bar and turned it into an upscale dining establishment. The bar side of the restaurant is still there, but a little more than three years ago, the Baleses purchased the Laundromat next door, which allowed them to almost double the size of the dining room, according to Ashley Remik, the night manager.
Chef Gary Fick's modern American menu offers something for everyone, and the wine list is regarded by many as one of the best in the region. The atmosphere is intimate, and the service is nearly perfect.
We started our evening with the butternut squash gnocchi with sauteed spinach, Summerfield Farms bacon and roasted shallots, drizzled with a vanilla curry butter sauce ($8.95). The gnocchi were bursting with flavor, and the spinach and crisp bacon provided a wonderful texture and contrasting flavors. The sauce was a perfect match and really pulled all the elements together.
Another good starter is the carpaccio of Kobe beef tenderloin topped with herbed Dijon mustard sauce and served with a chilled fruit salad, and another is a short stack of warm corn blini layered with butter-braised apples and topped with buttered crab and sweet apple reduction.
An interesting salad is the grilled heart of romaine, in which the lettuce is brushed lightly with olive oil, drizzled with the chef's Caesar dressing and served with a Parmesan cheese tuile and croutons.
For the main event, I ordered the masa-dusted rockfish with root vegetables, green beans, spicy mustard greens, oyster mushrooms and littleneck clams ($22.95). The fish, cut into two squares, was cooked perfectly and stacked beautifully on top of the vegetables, surrounded by the greens and clams. Wonderful presentation, wonderful flavor combination.
My wife ordered the roasted duck breast ($26.95). It was served with seared foie gras with bacon-braised fennel and Vidalia onions, creamy polenta and a blueberry-thyme sauce. The dish was beautiful to see and even more satisfying to eat. The succulent, rich foie gras was tempered perfectly with the polenta, and both were a nice texture contrast to the expertly prepared duck breast. Again, the sauce added wonderful flavor and dimension to the entree. Our waiter also recommended a wonderful red cabernet sauvignon to go with the dish.
Other intriguing main courses included a pecan-crusted rack of lamb served with pumpkin-spiced bread pudding, potatoes Anna and sweet-and-sour apple spinach; pomegranate and molasses-glazed breast of chicken and butternut squash rice pilaf served with mushrooms and topped with a spicy chicken reduction; a slow-roasted prime rib with a rosemary-and-peppercorn rub served with mashed potatoes and a vegetable medley; and broiled jumbo lump crab cakes served with sauteed green beans, grilled polenta and corn salsa.
Desserts, all homemade, include a chocolate baked Alaska ($6.95). If you like chocolate, this dessert is paradise. It's a brownie topped with Kahlua cream and espresso-chip ice cream, covered with a delicate head of meringue and finished with a sprinkle of finely grated chocolate. The meringue is the key to this wonder crisp and toasty on the outside but oh so heavenly gooey on the inside.
If you're not a chocoholic, there's a strawberry shortcake baked Alaska. Other dessert specialties included vanilla creme brulee, warm Bartlett pear almond cake and Irish cream bread pudding. Homemade ice cream and sorbets also are available.
The Crossing also is open for lunch. The major attractions are the creative sandwiches, especially the thick stuffed Summerfield ham sandwich, with pickling spices and kale inserted into pockets cut in the slowly cooked ham; the marinated lamb sandwich served on grilled sourdough bread with Swiss cheese and golden-raisin slaw; and the grilled bison burger. All sandwiches are served with a choice of french fries, grilled new-potato salad, fusilli pasta, vegetable pasta salad or ancho onion rings.

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