Fog enveloped South Mountain on a recent Sunday morning, and in the mist we saw the beauty of the Appalachian spring.
We quickly ran into Old South Mountain Inn, for it was chilly out, and we wanted our morning cup of coffee. We were not disappointed. We were swiftly seated at the far end of the gorgeous glass sunroom and immediately served a cup of strong coffee by our waiter, Bruce. We were the first to arrive for Sunday buffet brunch at 10:30.
“Take your time. Help yourself when you are ready,” Bruce told us.
So we settled in, sipped our coffee and enjoyed the beauty of the spacious room filled with light.
The buffet was in the center of the Inn. Such choice! Such wonderful aromas! Such beautiful food!
I surveyed all the choices first and began with the rare roast beef, sliced by the chef. The beef was a huge herb-crusted roast, with it I chose the homestyle potatoes.
The Professor opted for the scrambled eggs and sausage. We were both beguiled by the chicken cordon bleu. Round one of our program to taste everything had begun.
“Delicious. These eggs and sausage are delicious,” said the Professor.
The eggs were real scrambled eggs, creamy and hot. The sausage was meaty, not salty, with a hint of hot pepper, but not much.
My roast beef was very yummy and served with a horseradish that tasted like it had just been ground. The potatoes were cooked in oil with onions and green pepper and complimented the beef.
The chicken cordon bleu had been served in a large tray and portions of it could be lifted out. There was stuffing on the bottom, a layer of ham, a layer of chicken, and then a layer of a creamy cheese covered all over with a skin of another delicious cheese. My mouth waters even as I remember it as I write. The chicken cordon bleu was great.
“Let’s take a break,” the Professor suggested and that seemed like a good idea.
“Just think,” he said. “This inn was built the year George Washington was born, 1732.”
We admired the room, painted in a pale spring green. The plates had flowers painted on them. The napkins were maroon. The carpet was green. Everything suggested the great big beautiful spring outdoors, which was just a few feet away through the glass doors.
The second time we went to the buffet room I chose crepes with strawberries and he chose vegetable beef soup. The crepes were thinly rolled pancakes and I covered them with an outstanding strawberry sauce, which had real strawberries in it. My crepes looked so pretty on the pink and white plate.
The soups was somewhat like onion soup, thick and sweet and again, thankfully, not salty. The place was filling up and it was now 11:30.
“Maybe George Washington and Gen. Braddock met here during their ill-fated campaign to Fort Duquesne. Here or near here,” commented my Professor who loves local history.
We shared a fruit cup of pineapple and melon to clear our palates for the next course. This time around he got the creamed broccoli, and the sausage gravy on a biscuit. I perused the table with the chafing dishes and chose a sweet combination of cherry cobbler and french toast.
“The broccoli is really good,” he said.
“You have never liked broccoli,” I said as I watched him wolf it down along with the creamed sausage gravy over a biscuit.
I was equally eager in my enjoyment of the cherry cobbler. This confection was nice and warm and tart. Its cherry red glory was adorned with a crumble top somewhat like a straw spring hat.
My french toast was drenched in maple syrup, sprinkled with confectioner’s sugar and covered with a vanilla sauce. Oh my, it was heavenly.
We were beginning to take it easy, slowing down, definitely getting full, but determined to taste everything that was offered at the Old South Mountain Sunday Brunch ($16.95).
We took another breather by sharing a salad, which was a composite of fresh lettuces, peppers and onions coated with a sweet honey vinaigrette dressing and scattered with poppy seeds.
The Professor was still in his history mode: “The National Road was built in the early 1800s and it runs right outside the door here. Henry Clay was the moving force behind the National Road, which opened the way to the West. He might have met here in the bar with colleagues to discuss the issues of the time.”
The dessert selections had lured us each time we had returned to the buffet and finally it was time to have our sweets. I tried the chocolate mousse with the whipped cream and maraschino cherry first. But I remembered that table with all the pies.
“We make the apple pie here,” confirmed Bruce.
So we passed on the key lime and fruits-of-the-forest pies in favor of apple pie. The crust was flaky, a warm brown color, and quite delicious.
“The Battle of South Mountain raged all around here in the autumn of 1862 during the Civil War,” continued the Professor. “First, the Confederates, then the Union forces came down this National Road.” He spoke between bites of the apple pie.
By 12:30, the room was becoming crowded and the noise level increased. We took our coffee and went to the bar, a snug, next to the dining room. We sat in the corner and
The Professor told me more history.
“Madeleine Dahlgren, whose husband was Rear Admiral John A. Dahlgren of Civil War fame, owned this place and built the chapel across the road. She held soirees here and she collected stories. When she died she left the place to an order of Catholic sisters. The place then fell into disuse for many years until 1981 when it opened as a restaurant. Now it is owned by Lisa and Chad Dorsey.”
I marveled at his knowledge. He laughed then and said it was all printed on the back page of the dinner menu.
He sat back in the wing back chair, content, a happy man.
He spoke then with fervor. “We live in a remarkable place here in Washington County and Old South Mountain Inn is a remarkable piece of history here. I like this place very much. I’m going to get another piece of apple pie. The apple pie is like the Old South Mountain Inn. It is real and real good.”
Omni Vore is a pseudonym for a Herald-Mail writer who reviews restaurants anonymously to avoid special treatment.