First published in Valley Homes and Style.
A visit to Frederick’s Dutch’s Daughter is a step back in time. The honey oak paneling and mouldings, the thick patterned carpet are reminiscent of grandma’s house on Sunday afternoon.
The brunch buffet is upstairs, but fortunately the classic restaurant is housed in a new building, constructed in 2000, and an elevator is available for anyone who doesn’t want to climb the staircase. A hostess on each level helps orient you to the layout.
Upstairs, almost two dozen waiting chairs line the foyer, a testament to the popularity of the brunch. Fortunately, we had reservations for our feast, so we were quickly shown to our table.
The first glimpse of the buffet seemed manageable, but the depths were only apparent on a deeper look. This was our third visit, but we hadn’t been here in years, since we decided to wean ourselves off the caloric allures of a buffet.
For the first stab at the buffet, each member of our group had a different strategy. One went for the salad; another went straight to the carving station, but my husband and I began with the star of the buffet: The crab dishes.
Off to the side were tables that held cream of crab soup, Maryland crab soup and the crab dip, along with accompaniments like toasted bread and crackers. These temptations spoke to us, and apparently many others. In fact, there sometimes were lines just to get to the crab, so Dutch’s Daughter set up two tables of the popular crab dishes to allow better access.
It was the perfect place to start.
The cream of crab soup was creamy with little spicing, great for those who don’t like much heat. But, to kick it up a notch, my husband put a dollop of the spicier crab dip into the soup. It was delicious with just enough punch. I tried the Maryland crab soup instead, balancing the rich crab dip. The soup had a dark rich broth and was packed with vegetables. The crab flavor was present and complemented the nice intensity of the Old Bay-style flavoring that I associate with Maryland crab soup. The crab dip was almost too rich for me, but it was thick with crab and cheese and went well on the toast.
By this time we were relaxing into the event that is Sunday brunch with soft notes of upbeat jazz music piped over the sound system. While the $1 bloody Marys didn’t interest anyone, the $1 mimosas were appealing. The price of brunch included tea, coffee and soft drinks that our waitress brought as needed.
The entree highlights were the prime rib, the biscuits with chipped beef gravy, and the baked chicken with cheese, asparagus and mushrooms.
The prime rib was carved to order – as big or as small as you want. In our party, my daughter prefers her prime rib rare (or medium rare), while my father-in-law preferred well done. Both enjoyed their cuts, which says a lot. The meat was juicy, with accompanying au jus, horseradish and creamy horseradish on the side.
Half of the buffet was devoted to traditional breakfast items, but I only had room to try one: Biscuits with gravy. The biscuits were toasty crisp on the outside, while the inside was soft and fluffy. The cream gravy with chipped beef was salted perfectly and had plenty of meat. The biscuits were just dry enough to sop up the flavorful gravy.
The other half of the buffet line was devoted to entrees. The nicely cooked chicken with asparagus and mushrooms was bathed in cheese; a fork would cut through it. The flavors blended well, but still left us longing for a more veggies. While two of the pasta dishes had significant vegetables, we longed for greens. The salad bar was one option, but was nowhere near as inspired as the crab and other entrees.
No buffet worth its salt can be described without mention of the deserts. I asked the prime rib carver what he recommended, and he was unequivocal: The peanut butter cream pie was the best. How could I turn down such adamant advice? The peanut butter cream pie had just the right flavor of peanuts in a creamy whipped pie, with plenty of whipped topping and a crushed cookie crust.
That was just one of many choices, however. Dutch’s Daughter had something in a wide range of textures and flavors. This is where many in our party gave into the gods of sugar, chocolate and cream.
The platter of chocolate-covered strawberries appealed to both the fruit-lover and the chocoholic. The chocolate was soft and milky, with a certain sweetness. Meanwhile, the coconut cake was moist and tasty. While the frosting was a little sweet, a layer of pineapple created a moist barrier between the layers of cake.
But chocoholics had myriad other choices as well. The chocolate mousse pie was light and fluffy with chocolate shavings on top. If that wasn’t enough chocolate, brownies were a worthy addition, to say nothing of the frozen yogurt with assorted toppings. The excess is, after all, what draws us to good buffets – it’s not exercising self-discipline, but the delicious giving into temptation that makes us remember a buffet.
Of course this is not all excess and indulgence. Often in family dining, we trim dollars off our bills by subtly discouraging the appetizer or dessert. Yet, what often creates lasting and fond memories is the lingering at the table in the warmth of that second dessert. So for us, what better way to begin 2016 than with a leisurely afternoon filled with family time and the many wonderful choices of a brunch spread.
Pam and her husband, Tim, travel throughout the Valley looking for their favorite restaurants, and are happy to share their finds with you. If you have a suggestion for a review, please email email@example.com.
581 Himes Avenue
Frederick, MD 21703