On several occasions recently, my daughter (Kate) and I have been to The Blue Dog Restaurant and Saloon in Port Tobacco to taste some of the great food prepared by one of my favorite local chefs, Gary Fick.
I like to take Kate with me because, at 15 years old, she is starting to develop a palate for fine dining. I have loved Chef Gary’s food for a long time. He made his mark in the county years ago, but took it to a new level when he moved into The Blue Dog. Chef Gary’s menu still contains some of my favorites (Filet Mignon with Béarnaise Sauce), but he also offers some amazing specials. For instance, tonight (Saturday) the special is locally-caught seared snakehead fish with gazpacho sauce, basil oil, golden chanterelle mushrooms, and orzo. Snakehead is a firm, white fish, with a delicate, mild flavor. It isn’t fishy tasting at all.
One of the things I love about Chef Gary’s food is that, as much as possible, is from local farms and businesses. He estimates that about 60% of the food he serves is locally sourced. Currently, the pork and short ribs are from Hancock Farm in LaPlata. He gets some produce from them as well. He also uses Next Step Produce (an organic farm in Newburg), which is known for their high-quality organic products. Chef Gary said heirloom tomatoes are coming in now, so he is offering a Heirloom Tomato and Mozzarella Salad. He takes advantage of what is fresh and incorporates it into his dishes. I’ve always thought his ability to use these ingredients and to layer flavors is brilliant!
So to move on to the food we tasted! My first disclaimer…my daughter and I did not eat all this food! A couple of dishes I took pictures of before they were served to nearby patrons. And, we took leftovers home! Both visits started with the Cream of Crab soup. It is something we get every time we eat there! It’s creamy (duh!) with a slight taste of Worcestershire Sauce and Sherry…delicious! It also has a nice amount of crab meat! The Charcuterie (meat/cheese/bread) appetizer (a long running special) came with different sauces/chutneys. The presentation is beautiful. I had the Camembert and Almond Burst appetizer and it was amazing! It was camembert cheese baked in phyllo dough with a blackberry coulis, sliced apples & mixed greens. Cheese with apples is a taste I always love. Since we first tried it, Chef Gary is now using a Nancy’s Hudson Valley camembert cheese. I tasted the cheese and it was so smooth and silky, with a bit of a bite. The other appetizer we tried was the Snakehead Bites appetizer. We had never had snakehead before. Let me say, you must get this appetizer! It was so good! It comes with a pina colada/macadamia nut sauce. Chef Gary says it is one of his best sellers. He goes through 75-100 pounds of snakehead a week, just on this appetizer. The sauce was delicate and not overpowering, yet the taste of the snakehead blended with it perfectly!
Moving on to entrees, Kate and I shared the Crab Cake dinner. This is always my daughter’s favorite! The 8-oz crab cake came with a stuffed baked potato and brussel sprouts. And…I am now documenting it…Kate and I both ate brussel sprouts…and they were delicious! The Citrus-Glazed Salmon was light and sweet and was perfectly cooked. It came with a tomato-cucumber salad atop warm parmesan angel hair pasta. It wasn’t too heavy. After that, I took a picture of the Prime Rib as it passed by my table.
I have to go back on a Thursday night because Thursday is Prime Rib night. Of note, Tuesday is Crab Cake night. Probably my favorite of the night was the Braised Sous Vide Short Ribs with creamy polenta and green beans. The short ribs were from Hancock Farms and were prepared to perfection. So much flavor and incredibly tender! “Sous vide” is French for “under vacuum” and refers to the process of vacuum-sealing food and cooking it in temperature controlled water bath. Chef Gary showed me the equipment used in this process and it is quite fascinating.
For dessert, we split a Strawberry Shortcake the first time, and Vanilla Crème Brulee the second time. The Strawberry Shortcake used a lemon shortcake and was the perfect dessert! Heidi Fick (Chef Gary’s wife) is the dessert chef and prepared the shortcake. He said she also makes an amazing Key Lime Pie. On my most recent visit, they sold out of the pie. Darn, I guess I need to go back to try that too! Actually, Blue Dog just posted on their Facebook page that they have the pie tonight! In addition, Chef Gary also has a pizza station, where pizzas are prepared to order. They are hand-tossed and made with local and organic ingredients.
Chef Gary keeps up with some of the new cooking techniques (such as sous vie) to enhance and elevate the flavors of the food. Kate commented that the food is “fancy, without trying too hard”.
One of the best things about talking with Chef Gary is watching him get so excited about food. His passion is evident! The last time I was there, he got very excited about golden chanterelle mushrooms. Not being a mushroom fan, I couldn’t quite understand this excitement. But, after he dashed off to the kitchen to bring back a box of mushrooms, I could almost understand. Except they were mushrooms. Okay, just kidding. Not only were they very nice mushrooms, they were harvested from a local park. Can’t get much fresher than that! And that’s what he strives to do. He has relationships with local farmers and the quality of what they provide to them is evident and instrumental in the preparation of his food!
Soon, they will be introducing an outdoor garden area to diners. It will have flowers and plants hanging down and will feature a garden dedicated to Mike Knight, a friend who worked with Chef Gary for 14 years. It will be a casual, comfortable place to relax and enjoy good food and company.
The restaurant hours are:
Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday 4:30-9:00
Friday and Saturday 4:30-10:00
and they are closed on Sunday and Monday.