TRAVEL: Hunt Valley Inn offers value not far from D.C.

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

You don’t need to go far out of the nation’s capital to have a getaway. The Hunt Valley Inn, a Wyndham Garden property located but 61 miles north of the District, offers comfortable amenities and lodging at prices that will be reverse-sticker shock for capital-area residents.

First, the positives. Staff is unfailingly polite, kind, conscientious and never far from a question’s answer. The service is first-rate — and never felt forced in any way.

This is one of those properties that is absolute perfect for conferences, offering 30,000 square feet of convention space that are optimal for business conventions or large gatherings (weddings, birthdays, etc.) The fitness center offers a fully stocked gym right next to an indoor pool (there’s an outdoor one as well, but it’s out of season now) and hot tub.

The room of our stay is about as comfy as one could hope. Our room had a king bed that was perfect and lulled me right into a much needed sleep after a long week. Cleanliness was accomplished bar none, and the bathroom was both spacious and well appointed.

For dinner at The Cinnamon Tree restaurant in the hotel, my companion and I started off with an appetizer course of calamari and shrimp cocktail. The crispy calamari ($11) comes served in a delectable sweet and sour sauce and asado aioli that lent this rather traditional appetizer staple a zest of taste courtesy of Chef Patrick D’Costa. The shrimp on the appetizer were generously proportioned, although the asking price of $16 seems a bit above the pale.

For dinner course, I opted for the crab cake (this is Maryland bay country, after all) in Bearnaise sauce that came with potatoes au gratin and asparagus ($28). This was my first disappointment of the meal, as the crab cake was lacking in a crucial element of taste I found dismaying. I tried adding some tartar sauce, but it failed to launch the dish into what I was hoping for.

My companion Victoria got the grilled salmon in dijon mustard sauce ($23). This too was underwhelming, as the salmon filet was dry.

No matter as we moved on to dessert. It’d been a while since I’d had a creme brulee ($8), so I selected that from the offerings. If I was a bit nonplussed with my entree, Chef D’Costa positively won me back with this rich, mouth-satisfying symphony of custard. The top layer was perfectly caramelized, and three delicious raspberries topped off the dish. I left not a single bite behind.

Victoria had the pecan pie served with vanilla ice cream and raspberry coulis ($7), which was as delectable as my creme brulee.

One other complaint about dinner service: A busboy brought out our entrees while we still had appetizer plates, and rather than take away the app plates first, he put the entrees down next to our cleaned appetizer plates — which we duly handed over. It’s a small thing, but to this former waiter and busser, noticeable.

With our bellies full, we sidled next door to the Polo Lounge & Bar, a cocktail-centric joint with ample seating throughout. As we watched the Cubs painfully inch their way toward being dismissed from the World Series, we each had a whiskey — I from Kentucky and she from Scotland. The bartender was incredibly affable, and helpful with picking out a drink.

For breakfast the next morning, we each went for the buffet, which, for $26, provides incredible value for what’s on offer and the innumerable trips back to the line. While there’s the usual bacon, sausage and eggs, there’s also an omelet station where a sous chef will make breakfast excellence to order. While you don’t typically see a salad bar at a breakfast buffet, I was happy to indulge in fresh mozzarella with tomatoes and chopped egg. My favorite stop was the lox and capers station, where I indulged one of my favorite tastes at any meal, let alone breakfast. (For whatever reason, I just don’t dig lox on bagels, though they were on offer as well.) Waffles and frittata also are at the ready for whatever taste you might bring to the table.

Remember, it’s good to get away, and for a reasonable price (at least compared to D.C.), check out the Hunt Valley Inn. Even better, bring your business meeting or convention business here, where ample free parking will make you forget that D.C. garages charge so exorbitantly.

Hunt Valley Inn is located at 245 Shawan Road, Hunt Valley, Maryland, 21031-1007. Call 410/785-7000 or visit HuntValleyWyndhamGrand.com for more information.

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