New Links, Chef at the Inn at Perry Cabin

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Sunrise on the Eastern Shore. Photo by Didi Cutler.

The champagne in my glass barely budges as our 55-foot Hinckley yacht purrs across the Chesapeake, handling any swell that dares to touch its gleaming hull as if it were a mere ripple. We are en route to the Inn at Perry Cabin as part of this posh St. Michaels waterfront resort’s “Skip the Bridge” program.

For those (like me) who dread driving across the 4.5-mile Bay Bridge, this sumptuous arrival option is a blessing. From the moment we leave our car at Pier 7 in Annapolis, reality is left behind and our fantasy weekend of decadence begins. Luxury travel is all about escaping the day-to-day world and the inn’s yacht is the perfect way to begin our journey to paradise.

My memories of this idyllic Miles River getaway go back to the frou-frou days when the inn was owned by Sir Bernard Ashley of the Laura Ashley design empire. At that time, the inn was filled with enough chintz to decorate an entire English village. Thanks to the current owner, Richard Cohen of Capital Properties and Belmond, a high-end hotel management company, the inn has been undergoing major updates.

Leading the charge of change is Michael Hoffmann, the new Swiss-born GM. With prior positions at name-dropper hotels such as Claridge’s and the Waldorf-Astoria, he is overseeing every detail right down to the cookies left nightly on your pillow. All 78 guest rooms have been contemporized, while maintaining a nod to the inn’s colonial history and nautical charm. “Even though the mattresses are new, we are adding featherbed toppings,new duvets and we’re going from five pillows to seven,” says Hoffmann enthusiastically.

The most significant addition is the recent opening of the Links at Perry Cabin, a new Pete Dye-designed golf course. In progress: a new club house with eight golf simulators, plus 104 lodge rooms adjacent to the course.

The addition of a golf course has been the vision of Cohen ever since he bought the inn in 2014. To turn this dream into reality, he purchased the nearby Harbourtowne Golf Resort and Conference Center plus adjacent property to create a driving range. His next call was to Dye, a world-famous golf course architect, to ask him to redesign the course. Dye, 92, says this is the last course he will design, but his legacy will continue since many of his designs are family affairs.

“The four par-threes are as strong as any golf course in the world,” says P.B., Dye’s son. Perry Cabin’s 17th hole, an island green, is reminiscent of the one Dye designed at TPC Sawgrass in Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida, the most photographed golf hole in the world.

“When people play golf on vacation, they like excitement, and playing Perry Cabin’s island green is exciting,” he adds. In keeping with Dye’s tradition of naming his favorite golf holes, P.B. named the last three the Goodnight Kiss. Why? Because you never forget the goodnight kiss on your first date; ditto for these three golf holes.

More changes include the addition of three Har-Tru tennis courts, a spa freshening and a new chef. Yes, Chesapeake crab remains, but the suckling pig with saffron chorizo rice and wild striped sea bass with Jerusalem couscous deserve a round of applause.

While change is in high gear, some things have stayed the same. The jaw-dropping vistas of the Miles River from the dining room and the outdoor patio remain intact. The formal boxwood garden, an herb garden that provides the chef with a fresh supply and a greenhouse where many of the resort’s flowers are grown are staples. Fishing and crabbing excursions guided by local residents are a mainstay, plus paddleboarding, sunset sails and a sailing school. Not to mention the pleasure of taking a cocktail cruise on an elegant 33-foot French canal boat.

For oenophiles, informal — and fun — wine competitions between California and French wines continue. So do seasonal demonstrations of “Porto tonging” (extracting the cork of a vintage bottle with tongs) and sabraging (opening champagne with a saber). My favorite pastime? Daydreaming by the open firepit while watching the moon’s reflection on the Miles River, glass of pinot noir in hand.

On our last night, I savor memories of every detail — from blissfully quiet mornings lingering over hearty omelets to the delicious scent in the air as we stroll through the serene gardens. Isn’t it the little things that make for memorable experiences?

 

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