Chef Cassandra has been with the inn for over three years and has progressed through the ranks to her current role as Executive Chef, giving her a distinct advantage of understanding the property's culture and history while putting a personal spin on the new, updated menu. She's managed to take dishes that were stuck in time in a new, innovate approach without compromising the heritage of the property.
The Inn is comprised of two distinct restaurants and part of the revamp has been to give each their own unique identity. The Liberty is their gastropub concept with casual indoor and outdoor dining while Merchant's Row is an upscale, white linen concept with separate breakfast, lunch and dinner menus and a more refined feel. Since both restaurants are serviced from the same kitchen - both menus are [technically] available in both dining rooms.
We started our meal with the Smoked Maple Bacon bites from the Liberty Tavern menu. Oh. My. Gosh. First, the Inn now cures it's own bacon - which unto itself is incredible. The pork is all raised free range, hormone and antibiotic free and I firmly believe that when you start with a great ingredient, you're working with a solid foundation. From there, they slow braise the belly in duck fat. Yes, duck fat. Have you ever wondered how to make bacon better? Cook it in duck fat. (I never claimed anything about this meal being healthy). Finally, it's glazed with a maple bourbon reduction, tossed with locally grown sweet potatoes and topped with diced scallions for an incredible appetizer that's bar none, worth returning for.
Next, we enjoyed the charcuterie platter, a combination of duck liver mouse and housemade chicken liver pate with olive oil toasted crostini and lightly sour pickled onions. I'm a sucker for well prepared organ meat, but I'm also hyper critical when it comes to pate. Both livers were prepared expertly with a texture that mimicked room temperature butter without a trace of graininess.
One of the high points of the meal, was the Sooooo Good Mac & Cheese, a spiral pasta blended with Guinness, a blend of three cheeses and topped with toasty, butter challah crumbs. It take a lot for a mac & cheese to really stand out in my mind and this one passed the tests. The stout married perfectly with the rich, melted cheese sauce, adding an unexpected earthy component to the dish. Rather than traditional panko breadcrumb topping, Chef Cassie uses a larger, more crouton-like crumb for a textural component. It really does take a simple classic and elevate it to the next level.
In addition to the menu enhancements, the wine and cocktail lists have been brought up to par, offering some great selections to accompany the new dishes. The entire concept really has taken a step to the next level, bringing a New England institution into the 21st century. If you haven't given them a try recently, don't expect that pot roast of days gone by...