This Small Town in Maryland Is Hiding What Might Be the Best Scotch Bar in the U.S.
This Easton, Maryland, bar and lounge offers 900 bottles of Scotch, plus Scotch-topped oysters and a foie gras Swiss roll cake.
Set along the banks of the Tred Avon River, the town of Easton, Maryland, has come to be known as a must-visit culinary destination. And at just an hour from Baltimore, Easton is easily reached by car. Among the businesses in town attracting attention is The Stewart, an elegant bar and lounge with an incomparable collection of rare Scotch, and a menu full of dishes designed to pair just right with the spirit.
Part of Bluepoint Hospitality's empire in Easton, The Stewart also boasts an impressive inventory of Belgian beer and vintage Champagne, including Krug Brut Clos d’Ambonnay Blanc de Noirs 2000, which retails for $1,125 a bottle. But Scotch is where the beverage program truly shines — there are 900 bottles in the bar's inventory, representing 52 preeminent Scotch houses around Scotland's six whisky-making regions, from peaty, fruity versions from Speyside to the smoky boldness of the spirits matured in Islay.
“It’s all single-malt Scotch,” says Natalie Tapken, beverage director for Bluepoint, noting that The Stewart’s list focuses on Scotland exclusively in order to highlight the country’s rich terroir. The menu offers rare selections such as Rosebank 30-Year, a vibrant, citrus-tinged malt from a now-closed branch of Ian Macleod Distillers in the Scottish Lowlands. Another offering, from Speyside, is the award-winning Glen Grant from the 1950s. Eight distinctive pours from Laphroaig, including hard-to-find spirits that are 30 and 40 years old, can be sipped here as well.
If you're new to Scotch, Tapken says, The Stewart is still a great destination for you. “We have a lot of what I would call 'gateway Scotches,' to get you into the world of single-malts, which can be intimidating.” She points to Glenmorangie Signet as an example of a sweeter Scotch that pairs beautifully with cheeses and dessert, like The Stewart's decadent sticky toffee pudding — an updated version of the English classic with a rich caramel sauce and whipped Chantilly cream.
With so many Scotch styles to choose from here, there’s no clear customer favorite. Prices range from $8 per ounce for Ardbeg 10-Year from Islay to $400 per ounce for Macallan 1824 Series No. 6 from the Scottish Highlands.
The food menu at The Stewart includes a full selection of appetizers, entrees, and desserts, all overseen by chef David Kneller. His approach is fresh and eclectic, drawing inspiration from Thai, Middle Eastern, and North African cuisine, among others. When developing new recipes, Kneller sits down with Bluepoint executive chef Harley Peet to discuss how they can best complement the beverage program. “I focus on the Scotch more than the Champagnes and wine,” he says. “I want to stay true to The Stewart, which started as a single-malt Scotch bar.”
Kneller says this means thinking about how each bite of fish, beef, or pasta will taste when accompanied by a swig of Scotch. He also incorporates the spirits into the dishes themselves. For instance, on Wednesday burger nights, Kneller mixes Ardbeg 5-Year Wee Beastie into the mustard. “You get the usual mustard flavors, but then you get this extra little zing and smokiness from the Scotch,” he explains.
While duck and fish figure prominently on the menu, one of Kneller’s most popular dishes is his take on deviled eggs; smoked salmon and yolk are whipped into a mousse, then topped with chives and Kaluga Grand Cru caviar. Likewise, the short rib grilled cheese — with beef braised in red wine and served on rye that's been slathered with horseradish and mayonnaise — is a consistent best-seller.
Tapken is a fan of the local Chincoteague oyster shooter, which she adorns with a spritz of peaty, smoky Ardberg Scotch. “You might not think, ‘Oh, I’m going to have Scotch with my oysters,’ but when you spray it on top, it’s just this great, flavorful experience,” she says.
Another Scotch-friendly dish Kneller suggests is the Rhode Island sea scallops; the tender mollusks are served with a dashi broth that has been washed with a bit of prosciutto fat. And he says a personal favorite is the luxe Swiss cake roll made with foie gras — instead of cream, Kneller spreads a foie gras ganache over the cake before rolling it up into a sweet-and-salty treat.
“We have so many variations of Scotch, from super soft to super strong, so we have an option [to go with] every dish,” Kneller says. Customers can always get an assist from Scotch sommelier Adam Golinski, who will inquire about a guest's preferred flavor profile then serve them a few samples to find the right match for both the order and the diner’s palate.
“We want you to taste everything The Stewart has to offer, and experience the service and the atmosphere itself. It’s a flavor journey in the best possible way,” Kneller says.
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