Thursday, Jan. 31, 2008

Get golf course greens on the side at Fenby’s

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Bill Ryan⁄The Gazette
Prep Cook Shane Hess of Westminster makes an omelet during the Sunday brunch buffet at Fenby's Restaurant in Westminster
Many are drawn to the rolling hills of a golf course, where they can trek across the greens and send the balls soaring. As for myself, however, I am more than content to stare at those hills from behind a window—preferably while munching on something fried.

Fenby’s Restaurant in Westminster offers just such an opportunity for those who decide to drive up for lunch, brunch, or dinner. Under a tall steeped ceiling and tasteful décor you can order up meals from sandwiches to fancy entrees and gaze out of long windows at Wakefield Valley Golf and Conference Center, even if you (like myself) couldn’t tell one putt from another.

When I first paid a visit to Fenby’s it was for brunch, and my husband and I indulged in a huge buffet of eggs and waffles. But my lunch on a recent Friday proved well suited to an afternoon with a few more family members, each with their own idea of what makes for a memorable meal.

For dinner, Fenby’s is a little more upscale, with fancy standards like filet mignon and Chilean sea bass. But for lunch you can get away with just a sandwich like ham and cheese or shrimp salad, or possibly tack on some crab balls and or a shrimp cocktail for a more elegant effect.

The toddler in our group thought it best to have it all ways, braving the crab balls (and declaring them very good), and then digging into fried macaroni and cheese wedges. I agreed with her on the crab balls, which were four tasty little versions of a quite passable crab cake for $8.99. They were not black, as the ‘‘blackened” name suggested, but did have a nice dusting of red spice. The balls were actually well paired with a tangy cocktail sauce as well, although I shudder to suggest it, Maryland purist that I am.

As to the mac and cheese wedges ($4.99), well, what can I say. Of course the world’s best comfort food is better fried, and these hot, golden brown triangles had a maximum of battered surface area. You won’t win any parenting awards for nutrition with this kids’ menu item, but you will find yourself picking off of the kids’ plate. It was paired with an equally golden brown pile of French fries, which were also astonishingly tasty: long, slender slices whose slightly crispy outside collapsed into just a bit of soft.

I did order a salad as a starter to help offset all the fried food, although I suppose an iceberg wedge ($5.99) with blue cheese dressing was not most healthy way to do it. It did look pretty split into quarters and crumbled with blue cheese and bacon, but the promised cherry tomatoes and hard boiled egg were nowhere to be found—so much for my red veggie and protein.

As it turned out, however, protein was not a problem in my meal. I had been stuck on the idea of shrimp salad until I learned that they had none; being so surprised, I stumbled into the area of ‘‘Fenby’s Famous Overstuffed Cold Sandwiches.” It’s amazing how putting ‘‘famous” in front of a menu item is alluring, even when you know that that degree of fame may just be highly subjective. In this case the Italian Cold Cut ($7.99) was indeed overstuffed, with the pile of salami, cappicola, and prosciutto being really too big to all fit into one’s mouth at any given time. Cheese and hot peppers gave it some variation from all that slick and salty meat, while oil and vinegar made it all smooth and satisfying (and the waitress was glad to provide more of the latter when I couldn’t quite detect enough of it.) With a few more of those fries, it was so intense I took half home and still came away full.

Another of our party—who shall remain nameless—decided to make a meal of a plate of those fries ($1.95) and a piece of chocolate cake ($4.99), which was not huge but so dense and rich and fudgey that you really couldn’t eat any more.

A lighter way to go was taken by my mother, who ordered a ‘‘fresh seasonal fish” sandwich that turned out to be Mahi Mahi ($7.95). She asked for it baked and it came with such a dousing of breading that at first we weren’t sure that it had been put through correctly. With some nice white bread, lettuce, and tomatoes, it made for a good enough sandwich, but the cut might have been thicker and tasted a little fresher to be ideal.

No complaints at all, however, on the cream of crab soup. Everyone ought to order this concoction, which was just the right texture (not too thick, as so many are) and had such a good helping of spice that you didn’t feel like you were just spooning through a cup of lightly flavored heavy cream. It was well worth $3.25 for a cup.

To follow up the soup my father got a burger ($7.99) just the way he likes it, plain, although you can get cheese and bacon as well. He asked for it medium and it came out a lot more blackened than our blackened crab balls, but the kitchen replaced it so quickly that it hardly made a dent in the meal.

In the end we all found plenty to please at Fenby’s Restaurant and ample reason to come back, even if it’s just to appreciate what golf has to offer—namely, a gorgeous view and some good food along with it.

Fenby’s Restaurant

Wakefield Valley Golfand Conference Center

1000 Fenby Farm Road



Hours for January-February

11 a.m.-3 p.m. Friday; Seafood and Prime Rib Buffet 5-9 p.m.

11 a.m. to 5 p.m., 5-9 p.m. Saturday

11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Sunday brunch