By Tim Ebner, Edible DC Need an excuse to escape the city this summer? There's a quick, weekend-worthy option in a visit to Cambridge, Maryland. Cambridge is located in the heart of Chesapeake Bay country and there are plentiful opportunities to explore, eat, drink, and relax in this quaint Eastern Shore town with a laid back vibe.
Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company
Most people slurp down oysters without realizing the effort that it takes to grow and harvest an oyster. It’s a bit of a drive, so call ahead before your visit, but Hoopers Island Oyster Aquaculture Company is a great excursion for a lesson in Chesapeake Bay oysters and environmental sustainability.
That’s where you’ll find a third-generation watermen, Johnny Shockley, and his son, Jordan Shockley, working hard to build an oyster hatchery. The company has an oyster farm which is harvested almost year-round. One of the biggest surprises is their new “Smoke in the Water” oyster, raised partially in a bath of wood-smoked salt, which in turn give the oyster a savory, smoky flavor. And, while you’re on Hoopers Island, be sure to plan a visit to Barren Island Oysters for yet another look at oyster farming along the banks of the Bay.
Blackwater National Wildlife Refuge
You don’t have to be a bird lover to appreciate the natural beauty of Blackwater Refuge. This waterfowl sanctuary and escape that will immerse yourself in Maryland’s wildlife. During your visit, keep a lookout for bald eagles, osprey, blue herons, egrets, and turtles. And, try to time a your visit in the late afternoon when there are sunset tours either with bikes or kayaks from Blackwater Paddle & Pedal, located just outside the refuge entrance.
Bistro Poplar highlights what we love in Chesapeake Bay cooking — fresh, seasonal, and plenty of seafood. For a small sampling of the cuisine, plan on spending a dinner at chef Ian Campbell’s French bistro. He previously trained at the French Laundry in Napa Valley, California and has returned home to Cambridge to serve dishes like oysters casino, topped with blue crab and bacon, and a spicy crab Thai salad with mandarin oranges. Try to time your visit on a Sunday night, when the restaurant serves a tapas menu of smaller dishes perfect for family sharing.
A lobster shack might seem out of place on the Eastern Shore. After all this is the Chesapeake Bay, not Cape Cod, but delicious, buttered lobster rolls are what you get at Chef Patrick Fanning’s latest restaurant, Rock Lobstah, which opened earlier this spring. The vibe is casual — think Narragansett beers and koozies, and the restaurant even has its own beer. Fanning partnered with their neighbor, RaR Brewing, to produce a specialty beer called Pat’s Pale Ale.
One of the most promising, up-and-coming breweries in Maryland is located in Cambridge. And, RaR Brewing recently expanded their distribution to Washington, D.C. Look for them in places like Boundary Stone, BlackSalt, and Roofers Union. Nanticoke Nectar IPA is a particular summer favorite. But, for a full sampling of their brews, you have to visit their brewpub, located in downtown Cambridge. Owners JT Merryweather and Chris Brohawn are there most nights, and can recommend beers, like Bottom Feeder, a farmhouse blonde, and Hyde, an American IPA.
Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay
No weekend is complete without a little R&R. The Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay is a resort style hotel, which will make you feel like you’ve escaped to a private waterfront retreat. The hotel sits on the shore of the Choptank River and has several amenities, including an 18-hole golf course, three swimming pools, several on-site restaurants and bars and plenty of family fun activities.
For even more ideas about a trip to the Cambridge, MD area go to visitdorchester.org.
Tim Ebner is a Washington, DC food writer and Edible DC contributor and won the 2015 Edible Communities Reader's Choice Award for Best Feature. Learn more: timothyebner.com