A Long History Of Fine Dining

"After a good dinner one can forgive anyone, even one's own relations," quipped Oscar Wilde. That pithy remark brings to mind a restaurant that is often the venue for many "special" occasions: birthdays, anniversaries, engagements, seasonal holidays, including Valentine's Day, and countless other romantic and emotionally-charged celebrations.

You may not call the occasion of your visit to Northwoods Restaurant special, but you can always count on a fine meal and meticulous service that is, most certainly, special.

Located on Melvin Avenue in West Annapolis, Northwoods is owned by Russell and Leslie Brown. A series of restaurants has operated in the location, formerly a private home just a block and a half off Rowe Boulevard, among them Gi-An's Hibachi, Les Survivants and, for the last 17 years, Northwoods.

You enter from the parking space on ground level and ascend a short stairway to two adjoining dining rooms with stucco walls that exude a soft glow. Wall-to-wall carpeting, tasteful window treatments and white linen tablecloths with rose overlays absorb noise and create a soothing atmosphere. Servers move quietly across the floor and always seem to be there when you need them. Ours was Ellen, who had a sixth sense about our wishes.

For an appetizer, my companion chose the gumbas ajella, a delicious mélange of northern Norwegian shrimp complemented with tastes of garlic, tomatoes, bay leaf, cilantro and white wine. I selected a favorite appetizer, well known from previous visits to Northwoods, the clams casino royale. Each succulent clam was nestled in its own shell and topped with a well-cooked blanket of bacon. And it was not the bacon that gave the dish its distinctive smokey taste but the cooking process of the other ingredients. It's called an original, and you'll have to try it to savor the elusive flavor.

With more than a dozen appetizers on the menu, the choice was difficult and we were sorely tempted by the crabmeat Portofino (back fin in a hearty spinach vinaigrette) and antipasti Northwoods (the chef's selection---always a wise choice).

It's also wise to try the comforting warm herb bread made by Annapolis' own Miss Nancy's Fancy Bakery.

The house salad truly glistened, the result of tall tossing and high quality oil. Fresh and flavorful, it's appropriate to call such a creative dish a "garden Caesar."

Pasta dishes are also distinguished at Northwoods. Highly recommended is zuppa de pesce angelico---shrimp, scallops, clams, mussels and fish steamed with herbs, tomatoes and white wine broth and served on angel hair pasta.

We each selected one of the specials of the evening. The choice of my ally in food was the broiled salmon, delicate and moist, served on a bed of julienned and cooked vegetables. Mine was the scallopini veal, sinfully tender and sautéed, accompanied by red pepper, tomatoes and crunchy seasonal vegetables in a delicate wine sauce. Another favorite among Northwoods diners is the Northwoods connection, a charbroiled petite filet mignon, veal scallopini and Gulf shrimp with béarnaise and rosemary cabernet sauce. Or who can resist the seafood Rockefeller of Gulf shrimp, sea scallops, mussels and crabmeat in tarragon Pernod cream sauce, served on a bed of spinach and glazed with Swiss cheese?

Dessert buffs are rewarded with the much-heralded zabaglione and zuppa Inglese, both well-known Northwoods signatures. The crème caramel and chocolate mousse are also favorites. And then there's the ambrosial dessert cart of cakes and pastries.

Northwoods offers an extensive selection of wines from throughout the world. Ask for references. We were happy with a California favorite, Kendall Jackson chardonnay.

Although not exclusive to Northwoods, the prix fixe meal (for $29.95) has remained a staple over the years. The diner receives a choice between any appetizer or soup, the house salad, any entrée including specials, and any dessert. The price fixed meal is available every evening except Saturday.

Northwoods is open only for dinner seven days a week. Holiday dinners can begin earlier than usual. Do call for hours. Reservations are always recommended.

Owner and chef Russell Brown trained at the Culinary Institute in Hyde Park, N.Y., and not long after found his way to the Maryland Inn where he spent seven years. Seventeen years ago, he and colleague Gonzalo Fernandez opened Northwoods, a name imported from Colorado. Ten years ago, Gonzalo moved on and Leslie Brown became the co-proprietor.

When queried about his mission for the restaurant, Russell says, "We serve quality food with attentive service. The diner receives great value in a pleasant atmosphere." Northwoods displays several framed awards which attest to this achievement, as does the vast testimony from local and far-afield diners. Northwoods is a haven for exquisite food elegantly served in a harmonious setting.


What event in the Annapolis area are you most looking forward to in 2006?

Powerboat Show
Sailboat Show
Renaissance Festival
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County Fair

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