Oh, folks, I feel I’ve let you down. By all reports, yours truly was the last person on the planet to dine at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s Inn at Pound Ridge. Even though we visited on the second day that it was officially open (PS: during a blizzard!), we’d already been hearing from everyone—local chefs, invited townspeople, wandering tinkers—that architect Thomas Juul-Hansen’s design was stunning and that the intense Alsatian chef was on his game. Reader, we tried. We actually showed up pre-opening during what must have been the longest friends-and-family in history, having composed our facial features into expressions as hungry and hopeful as the pale young Twist of the movie Oliver! No joy. Still, we had to wait outside like dogs as we watched the rest of world being welcomed through those beefy old doors. Woof, we begged, but to no avail.
I’d say pounce if I didn’t walk in to find you, apparently, already enjoying your dessert. To say that this place is buzzy is like observing that those Kardashian girls seem curvy. The first thing that you’ll notice as you step from your car is the welcoming scent of wood-smoke that seems to surround this centuries-old white clapboard house like its (currently) snowy, wooded landscape. Reader, given the Cosmic Vortex, you will be helpless against the promise of warmth in this fragrance. Even better, once inside, what had long been (forgive me!) the epicenter of W.A.S.P. stylelessness has since been transformed into a delightful fantasy mash-up. Imagine Alpine ski lodge meets modernist Lutheran church and you’ve got it. The cozy, darkly candlelit bar that you pass through is only a set up for the drop-dead payoff. Pass over the threshold, and you’ll be slapped into reverence by a very high, very vaulted, very ash blonde space.
In fact, there is a lot of ash blonde going on here, and that includes the dining room’s covetable armchairs whose splatted backs hearken to 18th century Americana while their forward-raked legs allude to the golden age of Scandinavian design. The tension between styles that is captured in those chairs is emblematic of the Inn at Pound Ridge’s entire interior which strives to unite cozy rusticity with urbane modernism. Look for ash blonde pickled wood floors, ash blond pickled wood walls, and—way the hell up there—an ash blonde pickled wood ceiling. Altar-like, at the end of the room, looms a monumental ash blonde hearth. On the night that I visited, comically enough, there were also many ash blonde diners.
If you have ever dined at Chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s ABC Kitchen, you will be familiar with many of the dishes served in the Inn at Pound Ridge, which, in fact, just barely dodged being called “ABC Country.” With such a wealth of road-tested winners, it makes sense that Vongerichten retained the ABC menu and instead devoted two actual years to Inn’s architectural revamp and what seems like months tweaking its clockwork service.
To start, I snagged the hamachi sashimi ($16) whose luxuriously fat slabs were so amply portioned that they almost defied being conveyed to my mouth via chopsticks. (Reader, I managed.) It was dreamy— creamy and mouth-filling until I hit the welcome stripe of rich, crunchy spiced pecans. With a spark of sherry vinaigrette, this was simply a perfect dish. My partner had clammed up and was being reverent to his foie gras terrine, which was homey and classic with dried sour cherries, candied pistachios, and white Port gelée ($19). I couldn’t get a word out of him. The Inn’s menu starts off with the heading “Country Table” (a hodgepodge of shareable small plates) then veers into the more clearly defined “raw,” “starters,” “pizzas,” etc. Happily, though this is an elegant restaurant, it is also democratically priced. None of its mains attain the increasingly standard price of $40. If you don’t splurge on one the two $38 outlier mains (grilled beef tenderloin with herbal spinach, tempura onions, and house-made hot sauce butter or grilled lamb chops with smoked chili glaze, sweet onions, and broccoli rabe), you could squeak out of this stylish restaurant paying just $12 for a pizza margherita.
The only slip of the night came in a woefully small, salty, and dry Maine lobster ($37) that had been roasted too aggressively in its shell. Still, I liked this entrée’s red slick of chili and smoky oregano—I would have liked it even more if included more than four bites of food. Happily, my companion snagged those chili-spiked lamb chops that came with broccoli rabe and onions ($38). I was content to dig into his verdure as he finished his main. To end, you must not miss desserts ($9), especially the seasonal donuts that winkingly evoked the policeman favorites, but with far classier ingredients and loads of style.
Oh, pounce, people, pounce…
Restaurant 42’s Chef Anthony Goncalves Hits the Airwaves (and asks you Eat Him)!
Here’s some news that popped into my email. “Chef Anthony is launching a new weekly radio show starting February 13th which will broadcast weekly every Thursday from 12-1 pm on WFAS, 1230 AM. Eat Me is Chef Anthony’s brainchild and includes members of his 42 crew: CMead (Colin Mead), Little J (Jordan Sammarco), Cousin Christine (Christine Bedder), and Dallow (David Dallow).” Folks, I know these people and they are all completely insane. I’ll be tuning in on Thursdays.
You Might Already be Famous: Michael J. Malone’s Book, Notes from the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room, Tells All!
Readers, what if someone was taking notes as you whiled away your afternoons and evenings in the bar at the brewery. Well, guess what? That s*** has actually happened! Michael J. Malone has collected his well-written essays in a book that details local figures (Captain Lawrence’s Scott Vaccaro, musician Evan Watson, the departed 107.1 DJ Caroline Corley), local beer, and locals you and me. Are you in it? There’s really only one way to tell. Check out Notes from the Captain Lawrence Tasting Room on Amazon today!