If you think your journey up a congested I-93 was a lengthy commute, talk to the hamachi and wagyu beef about an overnight flight from Japan to Woodstock, Vermont, home of the Lincoln Inn & Restaurant. Thankfully, once you pull into the 1875 farmhouse’s six green acres for prompt 7 o’clock drinks in the tavern, the rest of the work is left up to chef Jevgenija Saromova, a one-woman show in a kitchen pushing out wildly imaginative four-, seven- or 12-course tasting menus (beginning at $65) with European flair.
INN STYLE: Head to Woodstock for a culinary experience at the Lincoln Inn. Photo credit: Mallory Scyphers
The Latvian native traded in her professional swimsuit for chef’s whites, working her way through Michelin-star restaurants in Italy, France and England, including Yorke Arms and Grassington House, where after indulging in lavish meals and guilt-free drinks, guests retire to rooms for full-bellied slumbers. Saromova and proprietor Mara Mehlman brought that concept to the idyllic New England town three-and-a-half years ago, inviting the inn’s guests and the public to join once-a-night seatings that begin with a half-hour to decompress with a drink in hand. While milling about the library lined with a chess set, board games and books like Wine for Dummies and Reader’s Digest Illustrated Guide to Gardening, choose a bottle of wine that can breathe a little before the party moves to the dining room. There, you’ll find a menu that Mehlman typed up just that morning, based on Saromova’s ever-changing creations. She first visualizes how she wants each dish to look, sketching on a yellow legal pad, and then fills in the ingredients after her daily delivery arrives. And, yes, that includes on-demand, far-flung fish, meat and produce. Hopefully you remembered to bring your appetite to this long-standing inn.
Photo credit: Mallory Scyphers
The building’s many past lives include serving as a one-time home to President Lincoln’s cousin, a boarding house and a handful of restaurant iterations, as well as a short stint as what more than a few returning visitors have described as a “hippie bar”—most likely the era when a hand-painted Howard Johnson’s sign mysteriously made its way into the attic. Downstairs, guests can request a spot in the private dining room named for the late actor/salsa slinger Paul Newman. To accommodate the privacy-relishing frequenter, a previous owner transformed an outdoor porch into a tucked-away spot for his family of eight, and today you can still spot a working doorbell and porch light.
Otherwise, you’ll likely find yourself in the main room with up to two dozen fellow diners. Other than a friendly reminder that her timer has gone off—if she’s busy chatting with guests—Saromova has no assistance in the kitchen. If you make a reservation on New Year’s Eve, when a musician sits down at a piano inherited from Mehlman’s mother, Saromova’s still toiling away solo in the kitchen for an even larger crowd of 45.
But on to the food: For a first course, wafts of buttery poached lobster may reach your nose as a plate with onion ash—made from a thinly sliced vegetable that’s then pulverized. Another sensory blast hits when a glass dome filled with apple smoke is lifted to reveal hamachi plated on radish with a Granny Smith puree and wedges of citrus. The next course includes a seared scallop topped with salmon roe and shaved dehydrated egg yolk, with a trail of saffron aioli leading to yuzu panna cotta atop a black rice crisp. A later taste of farmed pigeon from North Carolina might make plant-based eaters reconsider their diet, but leave room for dessert because the freezer here, Saromova says, is not for meat or fish, but for sorbet and ice cream. And, oh, is there sorbet! It’s served plunked next to an edible 24-carat-gold-topped dark chocolate delice. But, if you’re lucky, there’s an earlier course with one carrot that’s not to be missed, a product of a 92-hour process that involves a water bath, dehydration, soaking, sous vide and Saromova shuffling between the private residence and the restaurant’s kitchen before it’s wrapped in an orange peel.
If you want to completely leave behind decision making for the entire evening, opt for the wine pairings that offer a tour of everywhere from Oregon to France, Slovenia and even Vermont. (And why not, when instead of packing up and getting back in your car, you have the option of sauntering upstairs to one of six modest bedrooms?) A pour from the Willamette Valley bypasses the well-known pinot noirs for a chardonnay, while Mehlman announces that a taste of this trousseau is not anything you’d expect from a red wine. But then again, you quickly learn to shed expectations at the Lincoln Inn.
The next morning, Saromova is back in the kitchen to cook complimentary breakfast, complete with homemade jam, which you can also buy to enjoy at home. And beginning this month, guests can even stick around for lunch if the sun is shining, as Saromova breaks in her tonir, an Armenian barbecue she built after a trip home inspired a bout of good old-fashioned sibling rivalry. Determined to build a better one than her sister had, she collected stones from the property’s bordering Ottauquechee River during a two-week period to reconstruct a 2,000-year-old tradition that would mean avoiding having to serve run-of-the-mill salads and sandwiches. After a day spent grazing, the only thing left to fuel up will be your gas tank for the trip home. Or, you could see if there’s a dinner table and room available for another night. ◆
– A 15-minute ride away, catch a glass-blowing demonstration in Simon Pearce’s basement studio before perusing the flagship shop and dropping into the on-site restaurant with a view of the Ottauquechee River waterfall.
– Less than a mile down the road, get behind the wheel at Farmhouse Pottery during a lesson from a master artisan that includes wine and cheese.
Farmhouse Pottery, farmhousepottery.com; Lincoln Inn
& Restaurant at the Covered Bridge, lincolninn.com; Simon Pearce, simonpearce.com