Recently, I had the opportunity to go on a “Spouse’s Culinary Tour of Talbot County” as a side project of the Maryland Association of Counties’ conference on the Eastern Shore. Fret not! Not one dollar of taxpayer money went to this: we all paid our own way. RoCK works for one of the counties, so I took advantage of the perks of being a spouse.
Our first stop was Chapel’s Country Creamery, a cheese-making farm. I had never heard of a cheesemaking production on the Eastern Shore, let alone Chapel’s Country Creamery specifically. There’s good reason for that: they have a very small distribution and it doesn’t really make it off the Eastern Shore, except for fine restaurants in the DC area, including one owned by Wolfgang Puck. You can occasionally find it here and there at some local vineyards.
The family farm has been making cheese for a few years now, with the original cheese cow, Raney, still alive and well. The Foster family, owners of the farm, try to be good stewards of the land and try to be as “green” as possible. They take nurturing care of the cows, including warming fresh washcloths with disinfectant lotion for them for a rubdown on cold winter mornings. They already have taken 3rd place at the American Cheese Society competition for their feta cheese, Cordova white. That’s a seasonal cheese that mostly available in warmer weather.
They send their milk to an Amish artisanal cheesemaker to begin the process in Pennsylvania, including cave aging. Because the Keystone State has different laws, they’re able to use the raw milk from the farm.
The cheeses are sophisticated and flavorful. In the future, they may make goat cheese, but the process of keeping the different milks separate is laborious. They would have loved to continue with a fresh mozzarella line, but it’s too labor intensive to be cost-effective. They also make a full-fat yogurt with local honey that’s very special.
The Robert Morris Inn in Oxford dates from the mid 1700’s. It’s serene waterfront location has been attracting those in the know since then. Along with wood beamed dining rooms with working fireplaces, they lure people with gourmetdining.
British chef Mark Salter has been cooking in the area for a couple of decades. He presides over special events like the Robert Burns dinner — which is getting harder and harder to find — as well as cooking demos/lunches co-sponsored by Miele appliances. Chef Salter says Miele is becoming more popular than Viking. His dishes use local ingredients, including a local bluish-leafed spinach in its full-grown form — well, aren’t you tired of the ubiquitous baby spinach?
Eastern Shore Brewery in St. Michael’s is a micro-micro-micro brewery, where you can try the beer at their tasting room or at select restaurants in the DelMarVa area. For tasting, 5 5 oz. glasses cost $10. You can rent out the clubby room for private parties, to try beers such as “Duck Duck Goose,” an English brown Porter with notes of chocolate and coffee.