Written By Patricia Bianca
Everything about Taneytown’s Antrim 1844 Country Inn evokes the romance of a bygone era: the meticulously restored Greek Revival architecture of the mansion house, the carefully selected textiles and antiques inside, and the magnificently groomed gardens and outbuildings of its 24 acres.
But one need not book an extended vacation to soak in the romantic airs of the hostelry; the same dedication to Old World craftsmanship can be tasted in every morsel perfectly prepared and superbly served in their internationally renowned restaurant.
“We concentrate not only on the recipe and the preparation,” said Executive Chef Michael Gettier, “but on the execution as well. We realize that a recipe and a good concept, a good idea, has to be supported by proper technique and execution to the very last second.”
That level of perfection must come easy to Chef Gettier at this point in his career. He developed a passion for the culinary arts at an early age and studied at the prestigious Ecole de Cuisine La Verenne in Paris as a young man. He then worked in Paris and Italy before returning home to hold prominent positions in some of Baltimore’s finest restaurants. In 1990, he was honored as Leading Hotel Chef in America by the James Beard Society, and was the first Maryland chef to be invited to cook at the James Beard House in New York, where he has since made two more appearances.
Gettier was working at one of his own establishments in Fells Point when he received what he terms “a fortunate phone call” from Antrim 1844’s owner Richard Mollet. Not only the did the beauty of the property motivate his move, but also “the potential to put out a really nice product.”
In addition to flawless execution, Gettier’s “product” is enhanced by the finest ingredients that he can find. Although some ingredients, like tomatoes and other produce, are bought locally, Antrim 1844 goes to extraordinary lengths to procure other foods. For example, the chef has some of his fish shipped express from Hawaii.
The menu at Antrim 1844 is predominantly French-based. “We’re the newest style of French,” said Gettier. “We don’t rely on heavy sauces and preparations.” The resulting dishes reflect a pattern: there is something traditional and familiar about them, but also something wonderfully new (but never trendy). Smoked salmon takes the form of a delicate cheesecake and braised lamb erupts in a “volcano” of flavor.
The best seller at Antrim by far is their succulent Black Angus filet mignon. They also serve a significant amount of game and seafood. For “quality control purposes” Antrim 1844 tries to keep the same menu over several weeks, but changes it slightly every night, depending on “what we have fresh and what’s new and exciting,” according to Gettier. “We do what one might term Ôcooking by the Muses.’”
The fine food that Gettier and his extraordinary staff produces are complemented by the efforts of restaurant manager Sia Ayrom and his staff of servers. The Antrim dining experience is in country house style, with hors d’oeuvres served in the drawing rooms or formal gardens, followed by a leisurely six-course meal in the dining room.
And, as anyone who has worked in the hospitality industry can testify, it takes a great deal of savvy to pull off a “leisurely” dining experience, much less one that runs six courses.
Ayrom brings plenty of that skill to his position at Antrim 1844. With 20 years’ experience, much of it being at the award-winning “Old Anglers Inn” in Potomac, Maryland, Ayrom brings a sense of calm and dignity to his position without sacrificing warmth – a quality reflected in his servers. “You never see a server in our dining rooms looking like he or she is overwhelmed,” he said. “That’s a testament to how well the operation runs, I think. The fact that everybody knows what he or she is doing and does it to perfection helps everybody else out. We have great people.”
Those great people serve an average of 30 or 40 guests on a weeknight, Ayrom estimates, and they cut the bookings off at 90 on the weekends. Although the restaurant has room for 130, the management limits the numbers so as not to ruin the experience for their guests. “We really want to keep it a place where couples can feel romantic, just as much as a group of six or eight can feel celebratory,” explains Ayrom. Adding to the romance is a spectacular wine list. With more than 1,200 fine wines to choose from, it’s no wonder that Antrim 1844 has won Wine Spectator’s Best Of Award of Excellence nine years in a row.
Other honors include continual recognition by Baltimore Magazine and being listed as one of the Distinguished Restaurants of North America (DIRONA) for the past 10 years.
Even with such a superb staff, excellence rests primarily with the owners of Antrim 1844, Richard and Dorothy Mollet. The Mollets bought Antrim and moved into the residence back in 1992 to save it from destruction. They spent years restoring it to its antebellum grandeur.
“Richard and Dort (as Dorothy is known) have always looked at the big picture so that this property can become something of an oasis for guests,” said Sia Ayrom. “It’s always been their intention to expand this into a fully functional spa and recreational getaway.”
It is said that the beauty of the architecture and the wonderful floor plan won Richard over right away. Fourteen-foot ceilings capped with plaster moldings and medallions and a magnificent cherry staircase greet visitors to the mansion, flanked by formal drawing rooms with warm, elegant fireplaces topped by white marble mantels, exquisite European artwork and gorgeous antique furnishings.
The Mollets’ fascination with Europe and the English country lifestyle are evident throughout the Inn, but particularly in the main dining room. Tall ceilings, brick walls and accent walls painted hunter green reflect Richard’s inner country squire and Dort’s decorating expertise. Old fox-hunting scenes decorate the walls and mantel of the massive brick fireplace in the center of the room. Other dining areas have a more feminine appeal, with genteel mauves festooned with roses.
Although the beauty of the place may have been a major influence on the Mollets’ decision to buy, the extensive history of the property was certainly a factor as well. Antrim was built in 1844 by an inventor and farmer named Colonel Andrew Ege, who named it after his birthplace in Ireland. It has served as a sprawling 2,500-acre plantation, a home to one Supreme Court Chief Justice (George W. Clabaugh) and was even rumored to have been used as a lookout post by General George E. Meade before the Battle of Gettysburg.
The restaurant, at 30 Trevanion Road in Taneytown, is open in the evenings, seven nights a week. Seatings typically start at 7 p.m. on weeknights, 6:30 p.m. on Saturdays and 6 p.m. on Sundays. Reservations are highly recommended. Call 410-756-6812 or 800-858-1844. Luncheons are available for groups of 15 or more upon appointment only. Sample menus are available on-line at www.antrim1844.com.
Fillet of Salmon with Prosciutto and Brie
2 pounds Salmon (filleted)
4 ounces prosciutto di Parma ham
4 ounces Brie cheese
4 ounces dry Vermouth
Vin Blanc Sauce:
1 teaspoon Butter
2 shallots – sliced thin
1 stalk Celery – sliced thin
4 ounces dry white wine
1 branch fresh tarragon
8 ounces heavy cream
Salt and white pepper to taste
Cut the salmon into four equal portions (skin off ). Try to slice the salmon on a bias to give it a large surface area.
Julienne the prosciutto as small as possible (the finer the better).
Sprinkle a thin layer over the salmon.
Slice the brie 1/8 inch thick, straight down the wheel, to create strips.
Lay the strips, slightly overlapping, to cover the salmon. Refrigerate.
For the sauce: Melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the shallot and
celery, cook on low heat until vegetables are soft. Add wine, reduce on
medium heat to half. Add tarragon, salt, pepper, cayenne, and cream.
Boil gently until slightly thick. Strain through fine mesh strainer and
Place the prepared salmon fillets on a lightly oiled baking sheet, sprinkle
with vermouth and bake salmon in very hot oven (475¡F) until brie is
slightly golden and salmon is cooked medium rare. Note: oven must
be nice and hot or salmon will overcook by the time the brie is golden.
Divide the sauce among four plates, place baked salmon on top of
sauce and serve immediately.
6 bunches broccoli
1 cup raisins
1 cup toasted almonds
1 cup soy sauce
1 cup honey
1/2 cup orange juice
1 tablespoon chopped garlic
1/2 teaspoon cayenne
1 teaspoon white pepper
3 cups blended oil (add last)
1 tablespoon parsley-hachee’
Cut broccoli into small florets. Combine rest of ingredients in order,
whisking oil in last. Add to broccoli mix, toss well. Let marinate at least
two hours. Served chilled.