Pusser's serves divine desserts

August 05, 1999|By Brian Sullam | Brian Sullam,SUN STAFF

Dinner at Pusser's Landing ended better than it started.

On a hot summer Friday evening, we confirmed that Pusser's, in the Annapolis Marriott, had valet parking when we made our reservations. But when we got there, the valets informed us their lot was full. Their suggestion was to try a nearby lot, which was full.

Pusser's is named for a rum the British Royal Navy used to dispense daily to its sailors. The name is a corruption of the word purser, the ship's storekeeper, who issued the daily rum ration. Much of this history -- with pictures and descriptions of three dozen rum-based drinks -- is contained in a four-page "Island Drinking Manual" the hostess gave us with our menus.

We chose to sit in the air-conditioned main dining room rather than brave the sweltering temperatures of the deck overlooking Annapolis' harbor. The room, festooned with model ships and paintings of yachts, was appropriately nautical.

We started by sharing appetizers: Maryland crab dip ($4.75) and Pusser's chicken wings ($4.95). The dip was a hit. The warm, creamy sauce was chock full of crab, tomatoes and onions. We mopped up every drop with pieces of the small loaf of warm bread that accompanied it.

The chicken wings, coated with a sweet sauce that carried a peppery finish, were presented on a thick round of fresh pineapple. The wings were tasty, but the fruit was delicious. Unfortunately, the kitchen had not cut the rind off the pineapple.

Even though it appeared to be a busy night, the service was quick and attentive. We barely had time to finish our appetizers before the entrees emerged from the kitchen.

Of the entrees, the almond encrusted mahi ($16.95) was the winner. One of three specials that evening, the large fillet was covered with slivered almonds and sauteed in generous amounts of butter. The fish was firm and the nut covering tasty.

The shrimp and pepper stuffed chicken ($14.50) offered a combination of flavors. The stuffing had a sharp bite that contrasted with the creamy butter sauce over the tender breast of boneless chicken.

The Maryland crab cakes ($19.50) were a disappointment. Although the two large cakes contained sizable lumps of crab, they contained too much filler to qualify as first-class crab cakes.

All our entrees came with a serving of flavored rice, a dollop of black beans and a medley of petite carrots, green beans, green peppers and broccoli. Served al dente with a slight coating of butter, these vegetables got top marks.

Desserts, though, were the highlight of the meal. The key lime pie had an assertive tart flavor balanced by fresh whipped cream topping. The tropical sundae featured a generous scoop of coconut ice cream slathered with strawberry and guava sauces, whipped cream and macadamia nuts. Pusser's Caribbean ginger flan turned out to be creme brulee with a kick.

With two cups of coffee and one cup of espresso, our bill was $87.83.

Pusser's Landing

Where: 80 Compromise St., Annapolis; 410-626-0004

Hours: 6: 30 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday; 6: 30 a.m. to 12 a.m. Fridays and Saturdays.

Prices: Appetizers, $4.75-$9.50; entrees, $10.50-$22.95

Credit cards: MasterCard, Visa, American Express, Discover Rating: *** Rating: ***

Ratings: * culinary wasteland **** culinary heaven

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