Dinner for two pleases just one

December 11, 1997|By Candus Thomson | Candus Thomson,SUN STAFF

We had been looking forward to dinner at Northwoods, hoping to duplicate the wonderful anniversary meal of two years ago.

Drat, the experience was only half as good as our previous one. Double drat, my spouse had the good half.

Northwoods is off the beaten path in Annapolis, and that's a good thing. It's quiet. And peaceful. The perfect place for two people who, because of the pressure of work, haven't talked to each other in five days even though they live under the same roof.

We should have sensed trouble when we were seated seconds before another couple and a couple with a child, and we all got the same waitress.

For the first half-hour, the poor woman struggled to find her rhythm. She efficiently told us the specials and then disappeared for 15 minutes to tend to her other tables. She came back and took our wine and food order, and again hustled off to other duties. Bread, salad and appetizers came before our bottle of wine. The other two tables got their beverages first.

The lapses gave us time to enjoy each other's company, the surroundings and reading material.

Northwoods has a well-balanced, reasonably priced wine list that also, thoughtfully, contains half bottles.

The last page lists cigars, which is puzzling as the bottom of the menu clearly asks patrons to refrain from lighting up. Could the cigar list be Northwoods' idea of a takeout menu?

We chose a bottle of Ravens-wood Zinfandel ($26) and then waited.

A different waiter, perhaps trying to save the day, brought the preliminaries.

The bread was earthy and terrific as was my spouse's black bean soup ($4.25), a special. It had zing, provided by the sausage and onions, but it wasn't overpowering. With rice, it could have been a meal.

My seafood bisque ($4.50) was a pink, pasty substance with a star-shaped cracker stuck in the center and indistinguishable seafood pieces under it. Alas, I've had better -- at Northwoods.

Northwoods has always pleased us because of the variety of entrees and specials, everything from fish to pasta to duck. Saturday night was no exception.

My spouse chose the New York strip steak with green peppercorn sauce and mushrooms ($21.50). It came cooked to order, with a sauce good enough to use as gravy on the potatoes.

Hoping to enjoy the complete Northwoods experience on one plate, I opted for the $21 sampler of steak, veal and shrimp named for the restaurant called, get this, the Northwoods Connection.

The petite filet, like my spouse's steak, came medium rare and dressed with a tasty bearnaise sauce, but it was all downhill from there.

The veal scaloppine was drowned in a rosemary cabernet sauce and the two shrimp were lukewarm and smothered in bearnaise sauce.

At least my side dishes -- broccoli and potatoes -- were a match for my spouse's, otherwise my inferiority complex would have been complete.

My spouse's luck -- and unfortunately mine -- held through dessert. He had the Sacher torte and pronounced himself pleased with the moist, chocolate-raspberry slice. I had the flan, which had an almost tasteless caramel topping. They cost the same, but his $4.50 was better spent.

Dinner, wine and a tip came to $104.

Having enjoyed Northwoods in the past, and seeing my spouse's happiness, I'm guessing the restaurant gods decided my number was up. It happens.

Would I go to Northwoods again? Sure, but next time my spouse is ordering for both of us.

Northwoods

Where: 609 Melvin Ave., Annapolis, 410-268-2609

Hours: Dinner, 5: 30 p.m. to 10 p.m. Monday to Saturday; 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Sunday

Prices: Appetizers, $4.50 to $8.25; entrees, $18.50 to $21.95

Credit cards: Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover and Transmedia

Rating: ** 1/2

Ratings: * culinary wasteland

**** culinary heaven

Pub Date: 12/11/97

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