When I first wrote about the Dirty Manhattan cocktail in this article about Elements Eatery & Mixology, I misinterpreted the recipe as given in the cocktail menu. It reads thusly: “Rye (Or Bourbon), Sweet Vermouth, Tart Cherry, Fee Bros. Bitters.” What I took to be a tart cherry as a garnish, actually meant tart cherry juice was added to the drink mix. How do I now know this?
In preparing to visit the restaurant again next week, I was digging around on their website. (I plan to attend the Blue Dyer Whiskey & Gin Release Party on June 28, 2017, from 3:30 PM until 5:30 PM at Elements. Tickets are $8 per person.) For the first time, I tried clicking on the Staff Info link at the bottom of the page, figuring it would be password protected. It wasn’t! Of the nine links listed there, one was for Elements Cocktail Recipes (no longer available), a 15-page PDF showing: Recipe Number, Name, Ingredients, Procedure, Glassware and Garnish, and Alternatives and Notes.
The recipe for the Dirty Manhattan clearly states that the recipe includes “Tart Cherry Juice” and that the garnish is to be a lemon peel twist. The same is true for the Elements Manhattan. The plain old Manhattan doesn’t get the cherry juice, but it, too, is designated to be garnished with a lemon peel twist. So my disappointment in not getting a cherry garnish based on the menu description (and past experience with many a Manhattan), was a mistake. I assumed tart cherry meant a garnish, and after I received the drink, I should have asked for a clarification. I apologize for that and hope that publishing this correction makes clear why it happened. The original article, as published on May 29, 2017, follows.
On Thursday evening, May 18th, we dined at Elements Eatery & Mixology (click here to view their listing in our Food & Drink Business Directory) in Lexington Park, St. Mary’s County. I used the Waze app on my phone to navigate my way there. The app is still fairly new to me, so I missed the left turn to get to the restaurant. I drove on down the road planning to make a U-turn. After getting into the left turn lane at the next light, I found it marked “No U-Turn.” Worse still, it turned out to be the road that goes into Naval Air Station Patuxent River (or just Pax River as it is sometimes called). So, I had to enter the security gate and explain myself to the guard. Fortunately, she let me in to turn around.
The restaurant is just off north-bound Three Notch Road, sitting amid a bunch of modern cookie-cutter white-or-beige multi-story office buildings. Most of the offices appear to belong to technology companies doing work with Pax River. The restaurant sets itself apart as a low-slung single-story structure of gray and brown flagstone.
Elements Eatery dining room
I’ve not seen many restaurants with a mission statement, but here’s theirs (as found on their website):
- Promote diversity in our organization and the community
- Help people in need of food and housing
- Support small family farms
- Recycle and reuse products
- Buy Local
The host/manager greeted us when we entered. Directly in front of us looked to be the bar area, and the dining room was to the left. We told the host two for dinner, and he escorted us to a relatively empty dining area. The room is nicely appointed with comfy chairs and banquettes, carpet, and a vaulted ceiling. Wine racks provide a divider to separate the dining room from the bar. At the far end of the space (as seen in the photo above) there’s a large private dining room, that also had a large-screen projection system on the wall, so it can be used for meetings and meals.
A bubbly, cheerful waitress soon appeared. She provided us with two separate menus: one for drinks and one for food. She went to get us water while we took some time to review the menus. Interestingly, the cocktail menu cover-sheet is biodegradable and made from a special paper from Nepal. The paper is also embedded with seeds, and can be planted to grow flowers. I did an online search for “seed-embedded nepal paper” and found several sources for it. I asked the waitress if I could get a piece of the paper, but then we both forgot about it. Next time I’m there, though, I may ask again.
When the waitress returned, my wife Cindy ordered a Hemingway Daiquiri (I assume named for cousin Ernest; made with rum, lime, vodka, and grapefruit). I ordered a Dirty Manhattan straight-up, described in the menu as made with “Rye (Or Bourbon), Sweet Vermouth, Tart Cherry, Fee Brothers Bitters.” Before we ordered our food, the waitress told us about the day’s specials, which ended-up altering Cindy’s main-course order.
We asked for the Duck Fat Fries as a starter after reading online that they were good. We also ordered their toasted house-made bread. For an entrée, I had hoped to get their New York Strip, but was told they didn’t have any bernaise sauce. So, I changed to a Rockfish Wrap (grilled rockfish with white cheddar cheese, tomatoes, greens and remoulade sauce), and mashed potatoes. Cindy asked for one of the specials: lamb chops with mashed potatoes and a green salad.
Elements Eatery & Mixology cocktails
Our cocktails (see photo at right) took a little time to get to the table, but then they were non-standard recipes, so we weren’t exactly surprised. Cindy’s Hemingway Daiquiri was a bright lemon-yellow, served with a large piece of lemon peel for a garnish (too big to be called a twist). It was served in a rocks or old fashioned glass. If you look closely, though, you’ll see that it doesn’t contain “rocks” but rather, one big single cube of ice. My wife liked the drink fine.
If you don’t try new things, you won’t find new things to like, right?
My Dirty Manhattan came in a coupe glass. It had a deep red-purple color, looking more like wine than a whiskey-based drink. It, too, came with a large piece of lemon peel for a garnish, rather than the tart cherry as described in the menu, which would also be a more typical Manhattan garnish. I found it to be too citrusy for my taste. But if you don’t try new things, you won’t find new things to like, right?
The appetizers followed soon after the drinks. The portions, as you can see from the photo, are pretty large. The Idaho-potato duck fries (they also offer a sweet-potato version), were hot and crispy. Shavings of Pecorino Romano cheese and scallions topped the fries; the scallions were an especially nice touch. They served remoulade sauce for dipping, as well as some mayonnaise we requested.
As we began to eat, we did notice one odd thing: They have white table cloths and napkins, a lovely room, good-quality china, and yet the flatware looked and felt like something you’d get in a school cafeteria. It was a bit jarring.
The sliced, house-made loaf of bread was toasted to the point it just started to show a bit of char. It provided every possible flavor and texture of the loaf — nice! Olive oil and balsamic vinegar were provided for dipping.
Next came Cindy’s salad. While not exactly an appetizer, it was one of the side dishes that came with her main course. It had spinach, lettuce, radishes, cucumber slices, edamame, and cherry tomatoes, served with Ranch Dressing. Everything was quite fresh, the edamame were a nice crunchy alternative to croutons, and the portion was again on the large side.
We ordered another round of drinks before we got our main courses. Cindy switched to a glass of Chardonnay. I changed from a Dirty Manhattan to their a regular Manhattan, which the drink menu describes as whiskey (rye or bourbon), sweet vermouth, and bitters, with no garnish specified.
Cindy’s lamb chops came with a gravy for dipping, as well as mashed potatoes. The chops were perfectly cooked and the gravy was delicious. We also got our second round of drinks. Cindy’s Chardonnay was fine, but I got another lemon peel garnish, so the Manhattan had more of a citrus flavor than I like. I wondered if they were out of cherries.
The rockfish wrap is described in the menu as “grilled rockfish with white cheddar cheese, tomatoes, greens and remoulade sauce.” The presentation was quite nice, but when I bit into it the fish was barely warm and there was no sign of any cheese. I asked the waitress if the fish was supposed to be hot. She wasn’t sure, so went to look for the manager, who turned out to be the same fellow who had seated us. I explained the problem, and he said the fish should be hot and that he would immediately get me another wrap. I kept the mashed potatoes to enjoy, and Cindy let me have a couple of lamb chops to gnaw on (that dipping gravy was really good).
The way a restaurant responds in such a situation says a lot about them.
When the new wrap arrived, the difference was like night and day. Surrounded by melted cheese, the fish was hot and delicious. I ended-up eating it with a knife and fork, so I had my grilled fish with cheese, along with a side salad and some flatbread — quite a nice dish. I have to say, they made an excellent recovery from the mistake.
While there was no dessert menu, the waitress did tell us what they had on-hand. Frankly, I don’t recall the other options, because once she mentioned a Key Lime Tart with raspberry sauce, we knew what we wanted. We ordered it to share. The manager delivered the tart, rather than the waitress. He explained that it was on the house, to make-up for the problem with my grilled-rockfish wrap. We enjoyed the Key Lime tart a great deal. So much so, in fact, that we almost forgot to take a picture of it before we finished it off!
Overall, we enjoyed our experience at Elements Eatery & Mixology. The food was quite good, except for the first version of my wrap. But their response to the mishap was great, and more than made-up for the mistake. The way a restaurant responds in such a situation says a lot about them. It tells you about the quality of the food and service they want to be known for, as well as how much they care about the customers. The only thing I’d want to change in what I order the next time we visit is to be sure and ask for a cherry garnish in my Manhattan (and if they don’t have them, I’ll do without).
Bonus video feature
We found this video on YouTube featuring a presentation by Rob Plant, owner and chef of Elements Eatery & Mixology.