August 18, 2011

The Milton Inn


Excitement arose as Stacey, my boyfriend's sister, asked me to have lunch with her while she was on vacation.  I had work, but I quickly switched shifts, because we were going to the Milton Inn, one of the best restaurants in Maryland.  Stacey's mom and stepfather both work there, as an Events Coordinator, and the Head Lunch Chef, respectively.

After driving for what seems like forever, past the Hunt Valley Mall, and the McCormick Spice Plant (take a nice deep breath while passing by here!), past almost everything in Maryland, Stacey and I arrived at The Milton Inn - Maryland's only restaurant to receive the DiRoNA Award, North America's highest restaurant award based on cuisine, service and atmosphere.  However, when you walk into The Milton Inn, the DiRoNA isn't the only award you'll see.  First, you are greeted with the quaint country house feel you assumed you'd get after walking through their beautifully landscaped exterior.  The front vestibule welcomes you with other prestigious awards, including the 2011 International Five Star Diamond Award from the American Academy of Hospitality Sciences, the perennial Wine Spectator "Award of Excellence", as well as Chef Brian Boston's award for 2011 Chef of the Year.

Upon sitting down, we are given water almost immediately, and a few minutes later, warm -- actually, piping hot -- rolls with little butter balls.  When I opened the menu, I noticed they have a prix fixe menu for lunch -- $20 gets you an appetizer, an entree, and a dessert.  Of course, the one thing I really wanted -- crab dip -- wasn't on the prix fixe menu.  I had the crab dip before, and I knew how good it was, so I passed up the fixed menu and opted for the Crab Dip -- along with Wild Mushroom Phyllo for my entree.  Stacey got the prix fixe menu option, however, and got a Strawberry Salad, as well as the Wild Mushroom Phyllo.

The crab dip is absolutely amazing.  First of all, you could have it as your main course... there are so many huge lumps of crab meat and a plethora of perfectly crisp crostini served around the plate.  You know how sometimes, when you go out to eat and order crab dip, sometimes you have to use other things on the table to finish up the dip, such as crackers, breadsticks, or bread from the bread basket.  Not at the Milton Inn.  My favorite thing about this crab dip is how simple it is.  It consists largely of crab & imperial sauce.  As fancy and fine the dining experience at the Milton Inn is, this crab dip is not pretentious -- it's all about the crab.  There are no frills to distract from the star of the dish.  It is not overly seasoned with Old Bay, like some restaurants think crab dip needs to be, there are no onions, no peppers, no spinach... it's just perfect the way it is.  Hearty, creamy, and portioned perfectly.  

Stacey's strawberry salad was also very good.  The combinations of crumbled bleu cheese with the candied almonds and the strawberry vinaigrette all go so perfectly together, and the mesclun greens are a perfect additive to such a mild and delicious salad.

When I ordered the Wild Mushroom Phyllo, despite Stacey's telling me how delicious it was, I thought that I would be disappointed.  I'm not sure why, it was just a weird feeling I had.  Truthfully, it was because I thought I was going to be getting three or four "ravioli-sized" phyllo triangles, filled with a mushroom stuffing.  A long while after our appetizers were served, (I never felt rushed during lunch... I always got to finish exactly what I wanted off my plate before handing it over.  I hate when I feel like the server is breathing down my neck to give up my salad or appetizer before I am ready!)  our entrees arrived.  Contrary to what I thought I'd be receiving, a larger-than-life portion of Wild Mushroom Phyllo was placed in front of me. This thing was the size of a large wheel of cheese, standing straight up in the middle of my plate, atop a bed of sauteed spinach and roasted red pepper & tomato pesto.  The "mushroom wheel" was overstuffed with a variety of wild mushrooms, roasted red peppers, and Grana Padano cheese (which is like Parmigiano-Reggiano, but milder).  The phyllo was crisp, and besides one small burnt piece on the edge, cooked to perfection.

Now, dessert... I can take it or leave it.  The one thing I really like for dessert is cheesecake, but everything else is just "mehh..." to me.  That's desserts in general, not just at the Milton.  But, since Stacey got dessert with her meal, I couldn't just let her finish the meal alone!  And they did have cheesecake... so I got a slice!  Truthfully, looking back, I wish I would have gotten the Trio of Sorbet, but there's always next time.  That's not to say that the cheesecake wasn't superb, because it was.  There was even a thin layer of burnt sugar on top, like creme brulee would have, which just made it so worth it.  Stacey and I each packed up half of our remaining desserts, and Phyllis even brought out the sorbet for Stacey to take home to her husband.

And just when you thought the review was over... I completely forgot about our appetizer to our appetizer!  As I explained earlier, Stacey's stepdad is the lunch chef.  Before our appetizers arrived, Joe sent us out what might have been the most delicious little appetizer I've ever had!  Arranged on top of a grilled crostini was a delicious cream sauce, lump crab meat, and grilled shrimp.  They would do themselves a huge favor by putting this small plate on the menu for everyone to try!  People would come back just for that! (As if there isn't enough to come back for!)

So, bias aside, The Milton Inn really is one of Maryland's gems.  From their superior service, to their extensive and versatile menu, The Milton Inn deserves all of the awards hanging in the foyer.  Although a fine dining establishment, The Milton Inn still manages to have something for everyone, with their prix fixe menu and their vast range of specials.  For special occasions or for a leisurely weekday lunch, The Milton Inn is a great destination!

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