by Gabby Crabcakes
Editor's note: With the new year, our seventh, we inaugurate a new feature introducing restaurants in Chesapeake Country.
Whether you spend your life savings on a meal or buy from a street vendor, there will be memorable experiences - including some memories you would rather forget. Here we open the door to one of our many restaurants so that you may take a peek before entering ...
Gerard's Restaurant Peninsule
For our first Bay Bite, we traveled to France by way of Shady Side.
Restaurant Peninsule is something of a French oasis only 30 minutes from Annapolis. Many tasty treats await you there. But beware: Eating is unhurried in the true French style, and you are likely to have ample time to sip a bottle of good French wine and gaze around at your fellow diners (some in shorts and T-shirts and some in jackets and ties). Pleasant as the waitstaff can be, they are not speedy. Chalk it up to atmosphere.
The main dining room is large and open with a fireplace, while two smaller rooms are reserved for smokers and private functions. The long bar is adjacent to the main dining room, separated by live plants. A nice selection of CDs scramble anything from Gypsy Kings to Ella Fitzgerald. When this place is hopping, the acoustics make it hard to hear your neighbor.
The menu changes weekly, with limited selections of appetizers (3), soupes (2), salades (2), entrees (fish) (3), entrees (meat) (3) and desserts (4). An adventuresome or Francophile diner would be hard pressed to not find something to like.
In my most recent meal, appetizers of Escargots in Puff Pastry with Red Wine Port Sauce ($7.95) and Goat Cheese Tart with Red Pepper Coulis ($6.95) were both delectable and large enough, joined with one of the salades, to suffice as dinner.
But don't hold back or you'll miss the mouth watering Rack of Lamb with Port Wine Reduction (served with sinful garlic mashed potatoes and perfectly crunchy green beans - French, of course ($19.95).
A beautiful Roasted Monkfish - poor man's lobster, I was told - with Buerre Blanc, Veal Glaze and Mascarpone Polenta ($15.95) looked almost as good as it tasted.
The wine list, like the menu, is not particularly deep. Nor, however, is it particularly pricey, offering several French and a few American quality wines to choose from, ranging in price from $15 to $30 a bottle with wines by the glass available as well. This particular evening I sipped a French Merlot particularly suited to the lamb.
I couldn't make it to dessert, but I was tempted by the Black Bottom Banana Cake. No matter, more reason to come back.
Gerard's Restaurant Peninsule
1534 Cedarhurst Rd. * Shady Side * 410/867-8664
Hours: Wed, Th., 5-9pm; Fri, Sat 5-10pm; Sun 5-9pm * Reservations recommended, especially on weekends
Proprietor: Gerard Balageas
Reasons to go: Great French food with friendly service close to home.
Something to think about: Not a great place to take the kids, and strict vegetarians may be out of luck with entrees.