You might think that the word ‘fowl’ has no business being put in the same sentence as ‘food’. But we’re talking waterfowl here folks—not foul!
Waterfowl, which include ducks, geese, and swans (as well as saltwater shorebirds like herons and pelicans depending on your definition), have been hunted for game for centuries and chefs the world over have masterfully turned them into a vast array of culinary delights (think pate and foie gras).
It’s that time of year again on the US East Coast when waterfowl make their yearly migration from their northern summer breeding grounds to more hospitable climates such as the Eastern Shore of Maryland where many species hunker down for the winter. Others cruise the high-altitude jet streams in their classic chevron patterns destined for even farther flung wintering ground like Florida, the Caribbean and South America. Can you blame them? Hello snowbirds.
This weekend, Easton, Maryland is hosting its 45th annual Waterfowl Festival, an arts and wildlife celebration of this historic continental migration with food, wine, music, paintings, carvings, decoys, and sculptures of all things related to—well, you guessed it—waterfowl!
Since hunting waterfowl not only requires a shotgun, but also the classic sporting dogs needed to retrieve them, one of our personal favorite events to watch is the Dock Dogs aquatic competition (who doesn’t love to see athletic dogs in action leaping for decoys in a long pool?)
After a long day of dock-dogging, exploring the historic town of Easton, Maryland, and visiting the dozens of waterfowl art exhibits and hunting demonstrations (and perhaps one too many visits to the wine tasting tents on an empty stomach), you will almost certainly be in the mood to indulge in the town’s finest local cuisine—some of which may surprise even the most discerning foodies who wouldn’t expect to find world-class kitchens in a small town they’ve never heard of. Don’t forget Maryland’s Eastern Shore is America’s de facto capital of oysters and crabs.
This week in celebration of chevrons, dogs, ducks, decoys, and double-barrels, we’ve rounded up our must visit restaurants ranging from fine dining to causal fare for anyone visiting this lovely historic coastal town for Waterfowl Festival or any time of year for that matter. And don’t forget to order the foie gras before your crab cakes.
Located in the heart of Easton is the Bartlett Pear Inn housed in a 1790 Victorian- era influenced property with an in-house restaurant that serves locally sourced farm-to-table cuisine and hand-crafted cocktails. This fine dining restaurant serves dinner with a menu that changes seasonally inspired by American classics like Burgundian Black Truffle Risotto with Burgundy Black Truffle shavings, Maitake Mushroom Fricasee and Lancaster Farm Noble Cheddar and Jurgielewicz Family Farm Duck Breast with Pickled Walnuts, Rigleigh Gardens Baby Greens, Pomegranate-Quinoa Dark Chocolate & Cherry Jus. If you eat or drink too much or just fall in love with this quaint town and want to explore more you can stay the night in one of the inn’s seven rooms. The inn recently just debuted their new bakery across the street where overnight guests can indulge in a complimentary breakfast or where anyone looking for a delicious breakfast who is not staying at the inn can order the perfect meal to start their day off right— eggs benny anyone?
Out of the Fire is an open-kitchen style restaurant situated on one of Easton’s most vibrant retail streets that puts a premium on eco-conscious, farm-to-table dishes inspired by American and global traditions. Serving both lunch and dinner with a seasonally inspired menu, the restaurant also features local artisans on the walls of the historic building in which the restaurant calls home. The lunch menu offers a variety of sandwiches, wraps, quiche, pizzas and hearty salads like the signature Out of the Fire Cobb that has Applewood Smoked Bacon, Chicken Confit, Granny Smith Apples and Gorgonzola—yes, please! The dinner menu offers a variety of daily specials with options ranging from Slow Poached Chicken, Spicy Shrimp Curry and locally sourced Prince Edward Island Mussels in a Spicy Tomato Caper Broth. One of our personal favorites is their ever changing gourmet pizza menu that also offers Gluten-free pizzas that don’t taste like you’re missing anything!
If you are interested in indulging in fare inspired by the Northern region of Italy in the heart of the Eastern Shore, look no further then Scossa Restaurant and Lounge. The cuisine in Northern Italy tends to rely heavily on cream and other dairy products like Marscapone and Gorgonzola since the region is mostly flat making it the perfect spot for cattle to graze. Scossa serves lunch, dinner, and brunch with this philosophy in mind. The dinner menu offers dishes ranging from heavenly, fluffy Gnocchi in a creamy Gorgonzola sauce to Roasted Chicken and Cacciatore with Polenta. With its prime location and outdoor seating right on one of Easton’s main downtown streets, the restaurant offers the perfect perch to people watch.
And don’t be surprised if you end up seated at a corner table next to a Congressman, Senator, or high-powered lobbyist from Washington, DC which is less than an hour away across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Scossa is a perennial favorite of the Beltway power-broker crowd looking to get away from the news cameras for the weekend.
Hunter’s Tavern is located inside the historic Tidewater Inn and situated in the downtown epicenter of Easton where all things converge including the Avalon Theater and some of Easton’s most well known art galleries and retail shops like Berriere (which is one of greatest hidden secrets for finely selected and tailored men’s clothing in the MId-Atlantic).
Hunter’s Tavern serves breakfast, lunch, dinner and brunch and offers a great outdoor area equipped with a gas fireplace so that folks can enjoy people watching all year round. The Tavern BLT, which is offered on the lunch menu is one of the best we have ever had and the restaurant’s Oyster Rockefeller using locally sourced Hooper Island oysters and offered on both the lunch and dinner menu is one of the best in town.
If you are Washington DC, Annapolis, or Baltimore-based, and are looking to host an event of any type on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, be it a wedding, anniversary celebration, or corporate retreat, it doesn’t get more historic or intimate than this all under one roof steps from everything you’d ever need.
T at the General Store is technically not in Easton proper, located midway between Easton and the water town of St. Michaels (which we’ll be covering in the near future) in Royal Oak. But we had to cover it since it’s one of the best new culinary experiences to open up on the Eastern Shore in years.
Housed in the town’s former general store, every meal that is offered has tea (yes, as in tea leaves) incorporated into every dish. Their dinner menu includes specialties like Chai Tea Rubbed Roasted Chicken with Kendall Farms Free Range Chicken, Israeli Couscous with Caramelized Onions, Cranberries, and Baby Carrots.
Our favorite is their weekend brunch where the menu covers all of the bases for lovers of both savory and sweet. Their Bloody Mary’s with tea infused Vodka (and bacon) will knock your socks off! While you’re digesting your brunch a great place to walk it off is the antique store across the street or head just down the road to Bellevue to take the ferry to the historic town of Oxford, which is the oldest privately operating ferry service in America pre-dating the Revolutionary War.
If you like your Sundays low and slow there is no better experience.