Thank you to everyone for all the wonderful birthday wishes! I had a wonderful day with Roberto and my mom and was able to speak to many loved ones that were not able to be with me. So it was a success! This post is about another success – that of a very successful meal out. I hope you enjoy.
We had a wonderful dining opportunity while we were visiting my Dad and Stepmom over Thanksgiving at the Fair Hill Inn in Elkton, MD. It is not often that I get to enjoy a meal of this caliber, a true work of art, created by people who have a real passion for good food that is local and seasonal. It is like my dream meal come true. Top that with the ambiance of a 1700′s Inn and I am sold. When someone asks me what I “like to do” – this is going to be my answer. You can’t eat like this everyday, but if you get the opportunity, I recommend going for it, as it is a memorable experience and something everyone should do at least a few times in life.
Of course my Dad and Stepmom know how much Roberto and I love food, and so they planned a really nice day for us the Saturday after Thanksgiving that really stimulated all of our senses. They live in Annapolis, MD which is less than 2 hours from where the borders of MD, PA and DE intersect and that area is rural, full of farmland and hills and is a great place to explore.
We spent the morning at Longwood Gardens which is located in Kennet Square, PA. It is a beautiful botanical gardens with many outdoor gardens and exhibits as well as an indoor conservatory which was all decked out in holiday splendor. Here is the mission statement of the Gardens: “Longwood Gardens is dedicated to preserving the spirit and beauty of the early 20th century gardens of Pierre S. du Pont. Longwood is a display garden promoting the art and enjoyment of horticulture for the public, while providing opportunities for research and learning. We are committed to excellence, good management, and fiscal responsibility”.
We spent an enjoyable afternoon at the gardens, but the real highlight of the day trip was to take place a few miles away at the Fair Hill Inn. My stepmom, Kayzie is a wine distributor, in MD. She has been doing this work for a long time and is very knowledgeable and skilled in her trade. So much so, that even when her clients move to another area, they still keep her as their rep. Such is the case with the owners of the Fair Hill Inn, Phil and Venka Pyle.
Everything at the Fair Hill Inn is made from scratch. Not only do they bake their own bread and make their own pastries, but they butcher their own meat and make their own cheeses. Chef Phil Pyle attended Le Cordon Bleu and studied culinary, pastry, bread baking and chocolate. Food really is their passion and the restaurant is a true labor of love. Every month their menu changes so they can base their dishes on what is in season and can be obtained locally. The area surrounding the Fair Hill Inn is rich farmland, and so this is a feasible way for the restaurant to be run. Guests at the restaurant can also chose to order a la carte or they can chose the chef’s 7-course degustation menu.
It was hard to pass up the 7-course menu, but it was only 2 days after Thanksgiving and the day after the Leftover Queen Thanksgiving Leftovers Dinner. So I needed to take it easy. I think we were all feeling the same way, so we decided to order from the a la carte menu. I am glad I didn’t order the 7-course meal, because Chef Pyle had some “in-between” treats in store for us as well.
Of course we had to start with a glass of wine, three of us had the 2006 Willakenzie Oregon Pinot Noir, while I cannot remember what the other was. As we were sipping our wine, we were surprised with a tasty treat from the kitchen.
A thin sliver of smoked duck breast was accompanied by a sliver of poached pear, mache leaf and a drizzle of house made BBQ sauce. It was a perfect way to get our appetites ready for what was to come.
I started with the Confit Duck Leg with rosemary, celery root and apple puree.
It was love at first bite. I have heard of duck confit for years, but I must confess that I had never tasted it before. Confit refers to foods that have been submerged in liquid both for preservation and taste. It is a specialty of Southern France. Preserved this way foods can last for several months. The duck meat was tender and extremely flavorful. Paired with the apple puree it was so good that I wanted to pick the leg up and eat it until there was nothing left on the bone. However, the Fair Hill in is a classy establishment, and so that would not be appropriate. Roberto must have read my mind, because later he remarked that he was surprised I didn’t do just that!
Roberto and my Dad both got the Braised Veal with cippolini onion and porcini mushroom ragu with Fair Hill Lamb Bacon and roasted garlic.
The area surrounding the Fair Hill Inn, Kennet Square, is known as the Mushroom Capital of The World, so getting a dish with mushrooms is a good place to start. Kayzie, my stepmom, had a delicious Mache salad with roasted pumpkin, feta and pine nuts. I waited in anticipation for the next dishes.
I didn’t have to wait long, because Chef Pyle had another treat in store for us,Foie Gras, drizzled with Foie Gras butter.
I have never tried foie gras before, and it was quite rich. I enjoy a pate every now and then, but this was much stronger. I am glad to have had the chance to try it, however.
Next our main dishes arrived. I decided on the Venison Osso Bucco with Puy Lentils, Fall vegetables and Braising Jus.
Again Osso Buco is a dish I had heard much about over the years, but never had the opportunity to try. I am a huge fan of game meats, like venison, reindeer and elk. This is certainly venison season, so choosing this dish was a no brainer. The meat was falling off the bone tender and incredibly delicious. The braising jus was hearty, earthy and rich. I loved every bite. I was told by our server that the real treat of Osso Bucco is sucking out the bone marrow. I can’t say that sounded terribly appealing to me, but in the spirit of my “I’ll try anything twice” philosophy, I went for it. I think the bone marrow thing is a little lost on me. Like the Foie Gras, it just tasted rich and fatty to me, but again, I was glad of the chance to try it.
Roberto had the Beef Sirloin- Confit Savoy Cabbage, Sage Whipped Potatoes – Foie Gras and Smoked Peppercorn Butter.
I have to admit, I was too busy relishing my venison that I forgot to try his. But he enjoyed it and so I will take his word for it that it was fantastic. I think it is hard to go wrong with any of the dishes at The Fair Hill Inn – the food is just that good. My Dad had the Pork “Cubed” – Tenderloin – Pork Belly – Cheek – Cranberry Sauce – Brussel Sprouts – Squash Risotto. I had a bite of the belly and cheek and boy was it good. Too bad we didn’t get a photo. Kayzie had the Wild Salmon with Fingerling Potatoes, Fall Vegetables and Truffled Cauliflower Puree.
Although I was pretty full at this point, it was hard to miss dessert at a place like this. I knew we’ d be in for a real treat and so all four of us decided to split 2 desserts. The first was Lavender Creme Brulee, which was excellent.
The lavender scented custard was a beautiful creation and the custard was silky smooth. The other dessert was a Chocolate Molten Cake with a Hazelnut Butter center served with Creme Anglaise. I am a huge fan of Creme Anglaise and so I was given the pitcher of it and I do admit to eating it with a spoon. The cake was delicious as well, but I was well satisfied with my creme Anglaise.
It really was an incredible evening, of great company, good wine and incredible food. I hope I get the opportunity to go back sometime and try some of their artisan cheeses. They offer 24 different artisan cheeses every month from around the world. Even some from their own kitchens. That could seriously outdo the Creme Anglaise!
I must also mention that the service was great. Each dish was presented with explanations of what you were about to enjoy. This is a place to linger over a delicious meal and great wine.
Fair Hill in is open for dinner only Wednesday through Sunday at 5pm.
ROUTE 273 AND 213 ELKTON, MD 21921
(410) 398 – 4187