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Posted : July 2019 | What’s Up Magazine

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Posted: September 14, 2017


Dining Out: Carrol’s Creek is among Annapolis’ restaurant royalty

Dear Cousin,

It was good to get your tweet this morning that you are at long last coming home to Annapolis for a visit after so many years. We’re all are so excited.

I hope you won’t be too shocked when you see how your quiet little hometown has changed. Downtown doesn’t look a thing like it did when you left. Parking is hell and a lot of the old stores you loved are gone. And the Market House? Well don’t get me started … it’s gone to pot from the old days.

But we have a real treat for you. We have dinner reservations at your old favorite — Carrol’s Creek Café in Eastport. Yes, it’s still there after 30 some years. We hadn’t been there in a long time ourselves until last week. That area around the City Dock is just wall-to-wall restaurants. Funny how you can forget about a place.

Well, you’ll be glad to know it’s different than it was and still the same. Remember how we thought it was just one of the nicest places to go with its harbor view, atmosphere and good food?

It still is, but maturity, the presence of lesser dining lights around it and a management and kitchen obsessed with quality have placed Carroll’s Creek among Annapolis’ restaurant royalty.

You can start off a dinner there with a list of 11 appetizers described as “small plates” with the emphasis on seafood. They run the gamut from the simple (steamed clams or mussels) to the sublime (oysters baked with their house-cured bacon and Vermont cheddar cheese at $13.50). Loin lamb chops and beef make star appearances as well. Soups and salads are standouts too. The Caesar for two ($18), tossed tableside, with the fresh Parmigiana Reggiano grated to taste is a classic.

My companion chose the soup of the day, a silky cream of broccoli ($7) that brought out the best of the fresh vegetable’s subtle flavor with just a touch of red pepper. Elegant. My choice of steamed Middle Neck clams ($12.50) could have ended my meal on the spot. Chef Ricardo Bello’s thick steaming broth of chardonnay wine, tomatoes, basil and pancetta was so good the clams seemed like a bonus. I finished mine, longing for more or an entrée with that broth over linguine.

Just 11 main course items, along with some Chef specials, is probably one of the reasons for this restaurant’s consistent quality and enduring success – do the right things and do them well every time. Seafood dominates, but a pair of steak choices and a chicken dish is offered too.

My wife went for the sautéed chicken breast ($22) and was rewarded with a three plump medallions cooked with fresh vegetables, mushrooms and pancetta and served over linguine. The plate was finished with a rosemary and Marsala cream sauce.

I hope the chef’s special I had that night is on the menu when you visit.

As our excellent server, Angela, described it to me (I made her do it three times) it sounded irresistible … and it was. A red trout filet, fresh and moist, was topped with a lobster imperial sauce studded a tiny dice of fresh vegetables and nested in mushroom risotto ($33). Red trout is a particularly delicate and mild fish that Chef Bello took to the top.

Desserts are made in the Carrol’s Creek kitchen, ensuring that the meal will end on the same high note with which it began. The frozen Key Lime Soufflé ($7.25) was a tangy late summer treat.

Service is seamless at Carrol’s Creek. Angela’s timing and bright demeanor never flagged. And, remember I said Carrol’s Creek was the same, only different? That goes for the wine list too. It has grown into a smartly chosen collection that is nicely in tune with the food.

So Annapolis has changed since you’ve been away. The view of the harbor is more crowded and so are the sidewalks. Not all of the new buildings have added to the city’s charm and that small town feel is fading.

You’ll still be able to look around and see what defines us though – the rivers, creeks, and the Bay, the magnificent old homes, inns, taverns, colleges and churches, the State House and the special places you remember so fondly.

But we’ll talk about that over dinner at Carrol’s Creek.

See you soon.

Posted:   Thursday, May 15, 2014 6:00 am   |   The Capital Newspaper

By TERRA WALTERS, For Entertainment

Here’s a little reminder regarding Proper Annapolitan Behavior: when you take out-of-town guests to one of our waterfront restaurants, be sure to give them the seats that face the view.  Actually, if you go to Carrol’s Creek, you won’t have to make such a big sacrifice because it’s difficult to find a seat there that doesn’t have a great view of the water.  As we looked across from this scenic spot in the Maritime Republic of Eastport during our most recent visit, the surface of said water danced in the reflected light from Annapolis proper as April showers pounded down.  Great weather for ducks, as my grandmother would have said.

Fortunately the warm and appealing interior of Carrol’s Creek took the chill off the evening, particularly when the Dry Creek Fume Blanc ($26—but $13 if you go during Tuesday’s Half-Price Wine Night) arrived at the table.  Appetizer choices were next on our collective agenda, and Baked Oysters Carrol’s Creek ($11) was the first choice.  The other two diners quickly weighed in with their selections—– BBQ Shrimp ($12) as well as Crab and Artichoke Dip ($11).

The Choptank oysters in the baked oyster dish were so plump and sweet that they would have been delicious either alone or with just a squirt of lemon juice and a spritz of hot sauce.  Having said that, the sprinkle of horseradish, combined with house-made bacon and Cabot Vermont Cheddar provide stylish and understated accessories.  As one member of our party must follow a gluten-free diet, the presence of the GF icons on the Carrol’s Creek menu was most helpful.

Speaking of helpful, our server Morgan was that and more.  She graciously brought gluten-free crackers in lieu of the French bread that usually accompanies the crab dip.  Imagine our surprise when we learned later that it was only her second day on the job.  Yet another example of the care and discernment with which Carrol’s Creek staff is selected.  They all seem to personify professionalism, cordiality, and skill.  And speaking of the crab dip, it was its usual wonderful self.  With plenty of lump crab, the dish also includes artichoke hearts, bell peppers, and Parmesan cheese.  Always browned and bubbling when it arrives at the table.

It would seem that just about everyone’s favorite appetizer at Carrol’s Creek is the Sea Scallops (nestled in a cage of crisply fried shredded phyllo dough), but alas—no GF next to the description.  Ergo, we went for what is probably everyone’s second favorite, the BBQ Shrimp.  Deserving of its designation as a House Specialty, the dish features fresh shrimp wrapped in bacon and grilled, then glazed with their yummy homemade barbecue sauce.  The shrimp are served with a bit of cucumber and onion salad (we would have preferred a larger serving of this fitting accompaniment).  This definitely wowed the out-of-towners.

One member of our party opted for the rockfish while the other two chose scallops and chicken respectively.  The Herb-Encrusted Rockfish Fillet ($30) is roasted (an excellent way to prepare this fish) and served over a sun-dried tomato and pesto risotto.  Sautéed baby spinach, lump crab, and a perfectly executed beurre blanc sauce complete the dish.

Southwestern Scallops ($29), as it turns out, is every bit as delicious when the corn tortilla is crisped on the grill.  The member of our group who wanted to order it observed that the GF notation did not appear next to the menu description.  Our server promptly checked and reported back that the dish could be adapted by keeping the tortilla away from the fryer (where wheat products had been).  Everything else remained the same——the succulent seared sea scallops, the compote of black beans and grilled corn, the tasty cilantro cream sauce, and the dollop of homemade guacamole.  No wonder this dish is a long-time favorite at Carrol’s Creek.

It went down to the wire with the final diner in our group——-the delectable Vegetable and Mushroom Risotto (vegetarians, take note) or the Sautéed Chicken Breast ($22).  Ultimately, the latter got the nod and the tender flavorful chicken endorsed the decision.  Served over noteworthy garlic mashed potatoes, the chicken had been sautéed with onions, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, and house-cured pancetta.  A marsala cream sauce spiked with fresh rosemary finished the dish.  Lovely dinner and lovely next day lunch as well.

It’s always amazing how many kitchens think they do a good job with crème brulee, but how few actually do.  If you’re a fan of that scrumptious custard dish, be sure to order it at Carrol’s Creek.  The Crème Brulee ($7.25) there is a textbook example.

The chocolate lover in our party is always on the lookout for a good chocolate dessert, and this time the Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7.25) was the object of his affection.  Rich and dense, with just the right consistency, the cake was nicely accented with vanilla bean ice cream.

Life is filled with a variety of constants and variables.  Alas, in many restaurants there seems to be more of the latter—–and not variables of the good kind (like seasonal menu changes, etc.) At Carrol’s Creek, you can count on the constants.  The service will be exemplary, the drinks will be honest and generous, the food will be well-prepared and full of flavor, the ambiance will be pleasurable.  And the view?  The view will always be killer.

Posted:   Thursday, October 11, 2012 6:00 am   |   Updated: 9:05 am, Thu Oct 11, 2012.

By TERRA WALTERS, For Entertainment

It’s funny how each season announces its arrival. Irrespective of temperatures, solstices, weather conditions, calendars or equinoxes, one day you just wake up and know.

It was such a day that marked our most recent visit to Carrol’s Creek. It had been a sunny and warm Sunday that eased into a sultry Sunday evening. But, nevertheless, it was clear that autumn had arrived. It just somehow had that feel.

Settling into a lovely window table, we were delighted to see Suan approaching. Any time she is your server (although the entire wait staff at Carrol’s Creek is made up of skilled professionals), you know that the planets have aligned for you and you are in for a very special evening.

Suan has worked at Carrol’s Creek for decades and unfailingly brings her A (++) game. In no time flat, she had returned with cocktails and we were ready for her. Requests for crab dip, empanadas, beef carpaccio and the scallop appetizer accompanied her back to the kitchen.

In a town where the bar is set extremely high with regard to crab dip, Chef Bello’s Crab and Artichoke Dip ($10) is in a league of its own. Served browned and bubbling hot, the tasty mixture of lump crab and artichoke hearts is accented with bits of bell pepper and gratings of fresh Parmesan cheese. Slices of baguette accompany. It’s so much easier to confront the imminent arrival of winter when you’re eating something so delicious.

It was the first time we had tried Empanadas ($9) at Carrol’s Creek, and we were quite pleasantly surprised that a dish with such modest origins could reach such heights. Tender, flaky pastry pockets encased their generous fillings of beef tenderloin, wild mushrooms and Gouda cheese while a dollop of homemade guacamole and a tasty sauce of roasted red pepper finished the dish. Inspired.

Pepper Crusted Beef Tenderloin Carpaccio ($9) was another appetizer we hadn’t tried here, but it turned out to be our least favorite. In fairness, this is a dish that’s difficult to share among four people, and that was decidedly a contributing factor to our placing it at the bottom of our list. The beef was flavorful and properly sliced paper thin, but it tended to stick to the bottom of the plate. If this is ordered as a starter for just one person, the diner could mix the beef just a bit with the fresh horseradish aioli and the salad of marinated artichokes and mushrooms, and then spread a mixture of all the ingredients on the accompanying focaccia. Next time we’ll know better.

We had been about to order the Fried Calamari ($10), served here with dipping sauces of pesto butter and roasted garlic marinara, when Suan steered us to the house specialty, Sea Scallops ($15). She informed us that, although the calamari is very good, we shouldn’t miss the scallops if we were going for a fourth and final appetizer that was fried.

Knowing that her recommendations are always spot on, we ordered the amazing scallops. Firm and succulent, they were sheathed in a giant crispy cloud of shredded phyllo dough that had been flash fried to perfection. Served atop an ideal complement of wilted spinach, lump crab and prosciutto ham, these little treasures disappeared in record time.

The diner who was ordering beef wasn’t having wine, so the rest of the party chose a crisp and spirited (no unintentional pun — the other meaning of spirit) Dry Creek Fume Blanc ($26) to accompany our seafood entrées. Two of those entrée choices resulted from Suan’s recommendation of one of the evening’s specials: Shrimp and Scallops in a Thai Red Curry Sauce ($30).

Served with jasmine rice, this delectable dish should be considered for inclusion on the regular menu. Outstanding.

Another member of our party opted for scallops as well, the Southwestern Scallops ($27) that have been a popular favorite on the Carrol’s Creek menu for some time now. Pan seared, the sea scallops were highlighted by a mouthwatering grilled corn and black bean compote. More of that yummy guacamole made an appearance on the plate, and a cilantro cream sauce provided the finishing touches.

There are two things you should always consider when you’re in a restaurant that has a talented chef: roast chicken and filet mignon. Chef Ricardo Bello doesn’t offer roast chicken, but his Filet Mignon ($30) is exceptional. Served with caramelized sweet onions, scalloped potatoes and a sauté of wild mushrooms, the beef is pointed up with a merlot glace de viande. We felt as though we should have Brink’s guards to escort us to the car, with leftovers as good as ours.

The menu at Carrol’s Creek contains a statement that they are “happy to modify dishes to accommodate dietary restrictions” and they include two scrumptious vegetarian delights in the form of Stuffed Eggplant ($21) and Vegetable and Mushroom Risotto ($21)

By setting aside some of the entrées for the next day, we were able to save room for dessert. You should do the same at Carrol’s Creek. We indulged ourselves with the exquisite Key Lime Souffle ($7.25) and the Flourless Chocolate Cake ($7.25). The former, a frozen concoction, was tart and refreshing while the latter was wicked good, with berries and vanilla ice cream tempering the intensity of the chocolate.

One can never underestimate the importance of hands-on management and oversight, not just in the restaurant business but in any business. Owner Jeff Jacobs is to be congratulated for the continuing success and popularity of Carrol’s Creek. He has guided this family business for more than 25 years, and his dedication to quality shows in every aspect

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