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Down by the Bay

Easton is looking good these days. The older stores with their neon script signs are all hanging in there; people still buy their hunting gear and their Barbours at Albright's. But new shops are opening. Janet K. Fanto has quite an eye for furniture from the 18th and 19th centuries. Maritime Antiques, with two floors of ship portraits, nautical memorabilia, and scientific instruments, is one of only a handful of shops around the country with this specialty. Sprinkled among the antiques are places like Yarn & Co., whose earnest young owner, Gail Seiter, sells locally raised wool. New art galleries are clustered on Goldsborough Street, along with restaurants, including Out of the Fire, with its wood oven in view and a lively counter scene.

Nothing, however, looks better than the Inn at Easton, now two years old. Its owners, a young couple named Andrew and Liz Evans, have brought something really new to the Eastern Shore. They don't make you feel like an Early American, but neither do they pound Buddha Bar CD's into your head. The inn's seven rooms have lots of strong color, a mix of old and new furniture, and expensive details such as pedigreed chrome faucets, feather beds, and zillion-thread-count sheets. I thought their restaurant was the best on the Eastern Shore. The local standards are all here, but since Andrew was a chef in Australia for six years, and Liz is Australian, the Pacific Rim spin is considerable, though it never seems inappropriate. Rockfish, an Eastern Shore classic, is served "crisp-skinned" with wild rice and spinach with saffron-vanilla sauce. The sticky fig-and-ginger pudding is simply perfect, and not one bite too big.

The jewel-colored dining room is as alive as the menu. Dress up, dress down, everybody's easy. The night I was there, a woman showed up in a gray sweatshirt (her haircut was excellent, but it was still a gray sweatshirt), and no one blinked. When somebody felt chilly on the terrace, Liz appeared with a pashmina; she keeps a stack in different colors for just such moments. Running this place must be an exhausting business, and one only hopes these two don't wear themselves out.

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