Saturday, June 6, 2015

The Lincoln Inn Restaurant

We were invited to visit Woodstock, Vermont and The Lincoln Inn and Restaurant at the Covered Bridge recently.  We made the scenic trek from Boston to Woodstock, a beautiful drive where the traveler is surrounded by lush mountains in every possible shade of green.  We arrived in the late afternoon and toured the gorgeous six acres that surround the Inn then settled into our rooms complete with the creaky wooden floorboards one would expect at an historic New England home. But more on that later.  We were here tonight to sample the four course prix fixe dinner that the place has already built a reputation on since adding a new owner and chef all within the last year.

Clearly, a lot of thought has gone into this.  The tables in the small dining room were set, ready to welcome about the twenty or so diners that would soon  fill the space, soft music playing in the background, candles lit. There is one seating for dinner, promptly at seven.  It is intimate yet casual with attentive, personalized service.

The group gathers in the Tavern Room for drinks, then heads into dinner together.  We mingle and sip wine as we select our main course from the menu.  Chef Jevgenija Saramova arrived from Europe in the Autumn, after having garnered much experience in several Michelin-starred restaurants.  Chef and new owner Mara Mehlman have a vision to build the Inn as a dining destination, a welcome respite for the urban-weary in search of comfort and rest ... and excellent food.  "We like to think of it as a restaurant  with rooms," says Ms. Mehlman.

We select a bottle of Julius Treis Riesling, 2013, from the well-curated wine list, an impressive balance, fruity but not overly sweet. Our first course arrives:  Maple Farm Duck, Prawns and Prosciutto Ballotine Duck Confit, Port Celery, Mango and Pineapple, Blackberries and Juniper Duck Au Jus.  It is beautiful on the plate. The rich, salty flavors are balanced with the sweetness of the mango and pineapple.  It bursts on the palate, a perfect starter.

Dill Gravlox and Baby Arugula with Bloody Mary Sorbet.  A refreshing, different take, the sorbet, which manages to be both icy AND spicy, will be the talk of the evening.  Indeed, at breakfast the next morning guests still mention it to us with the greeting:  "Oh, you must be the food writers." News travels quickly in small towns.

Poached Monkfish, Seared Squid, Capers, Asparagus, Grilled Zucchini, Turnips, Snow Peas, with Lemongrass and Lobster Consomme.  It looked like a green and white sculpture.  The textures were playful, some firm, some softer, and the flavors subtle.  The consomme added a layer of stronger seasoning to elevate the dish.  I dip a spoon in the broth, tempted to drink it all.

Angus Beef Sirloin Steak, Spinach, Baby Carrots, Leek and Endive, Grilled Tomatoes, Roasted Garlic Puree and Shitake Mushrooms.  That big curl you see is potato, again, playful but not to detract from what is clearly a dish of classically, beautifully prepared vegetables.  The steak was good.

Citrus Panna Cotta with Orange and Saffron Reduction, Coffee Ice Cream and Dark Chocolate Tart with Sesame Seed Cannelloni.  Chef will later tell us that her theory is never to go too heavy on the dessert.  The goal is not to push the diner over the edge, into feeling stuffed.  She was right.  We had been served a flourless chocolate cake at another recent dinner that was just too heavy.  This was markedly different and a welcome finish to an exquisite meal.

With Chef Jevgenija and our host, Innkeeper and owner Mara Mehlman.  We consider ourselves very lucky to have experienced dinner here before it becomes what we predict will be a legendary New England dining getaway.  Bravo!  This is a landmark that deserves a prominent spot on your fine dining dashboard.

The Lincoln Inn and Restaurant at the Covered Bridge
2709 West Woodstock Road
Woodstock, VT
Telephone:  802.457.7052

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