For Robert and Polly Wiedmaier, there's nothing more traditional than celebrating the holidays in their circa-1680 Maryland retreat. "When we found it four years ago, we could tell it was very old, which made it all the more charming," Polly says. The couple discovered the brick-clad home, a former customs house for the British, while searching for a getaway a short drive from Washington, D.C., where Robert is the chef at 10 local restaurants, including his award-winning, French-inspired flagship, Marcel's.
Robert, a longtime hunter and fisherman, fell in love with the property's 23 waterfront acres; Polly was partial to the home's historic character and spacious living areas (thanks to additions made over the years). And its location directly on the Chesapeake made it even sweeter. "The bay is just one of those places that people enjoy year-round," says Polly. "You can play football on the lawn or sit outside and watch the fishing boats go by in the middle of winter."
Holidays at the Wiedmaier house are rooted in the bounty of the Chesapeake. Polly finds homegrown Christmas decorations in magnolia and boxwood branches—the perfect complement to antique holiday heirlooms, including a collection of vintage European nutcrackers inherited from Robert's mother. The Christmas Day menu follows suit: Robert cooks whatever his land and coastline provide, from oysters to Canada geese, prepared with seasonal flavors such as cinnamon and black currants.
"Our dinners here are simple and usually not planned more than a day or two in advance," he says. "So what we cook changes depending on what we have that week." One constant in the Wiedmaier home this season: time spent taking in those stunning views. "Just being on the bay when it's snowing outside and we have the fireplace burning inside makes me happy," says Robert. "There's really no better way to spend a holiday."
Cook Chef Wiedmaier's Holiday Dinner: