Readers are calling Stone Manor in Middletown, about five miles south of Frederick, (301) 473-5454, Maryland's best kept secret. They compare it to the Inn at Little Washington and the Milton Inn for elegance, superb wine list, four-star food -- and cost. There are two prix fixe menus for $45 and $55 each; the "wine packages" to go with them are $22 and $27 respectively. Stone Manor is also a working farm, so Chef John Walla creates dishes like Medallions of Maine lobster with Zucchini and Yellow Squash Pasta in a Pool of a Puree of Snow Peas with his own produce and herbs.
* It seems like just about everyone involved with Baltimore's new Spanish-Mexican restaurant, La Cantina, 8 E. Preston St., (410) 752-5227, has been an owner or worked in other local Spanish favorites like Tio Pepe and Torremolinos. That's a good sign. La Cantina offers "classic Latin cuisine" such as tapas and paella, according to co-owner Ramon Alonso. Entree prices range from $7.50 to $12.75.
* Pretty soon Baltimore will be more famous for its coffee houses than Seattle. The newest entry is City Cafe at Cathedral and Eager streets, (410) 539-4252. The jazzy black-and-white storefront specializes in gourmet coffee drinks, but you can also get bagels and pastries for breakfast and sandwiches, soup, salads and desserts the rest of the time.
* Mark Thursday, Oct. 13, on your calendar and plan to eat out at one of the local restaurants participating in Dining Out for Life. Twenty percent of your check will go to Moveable Feast, the charity that provides meals for people suffering from AIDS. Call (410) 366-LIFE for a list of participating restaurants.
* The public will get a chance to taste and choose a "People's Choice" award winner in the Old Bay Crab Soup Stakes next Wednesday at noon at the Harborplace amphitheater. Chefs from 12 popular restaurants will compete, including Hampton's of Harbor Court, Da Mimmo and Phillips. While a panel of judges will come up with the official Best Crab Soup winner, one taste tester will win dinner for two at the winning "People's Choice" restaurant simply by voting.
Table Talk welcomes interesting tidbits of restaurant news. Please send suggestions to Elizabeth Large, Table Talk, The Sun, 501 N. Calvert St., Baltimore 21278 or call (410) 332-6197..