Inns across New England are upping their culinary game with new chefs, renovated dining rooms and a fresh set of cooking classes. We took a look at a half-dozen—one in each New England state—that really stand out.
The Grace White Barn Inn 37 Beach Ave., Kennebunk, Maine (207-967-2321) gracehotels.com/whitebarninn
Fresh off a off a culinary makeover in November from new executive chef Matthew Padilla, the Grace White Barn Inn in Kennebunk, Maine, is ready for its closeup. With a prix fixe menu that is modified weekly and a new customizable dining program in place, Padilla is refreshing the palate of this New England institution.
“The White Barn has a lot of tradition,” Padilla says. “We wanted to stay true to the classics but also my goal was to modernize it a bit, so I brought a lot of my newer techniques.”
The 26-room coastal inn, which has been in business for more than 150 years, features two barns from the 1820s that make up the landmark’s restaurant. While the format of the four-course prix fixe menu remains recognizable to longtime patrons, Padilla and his team change the menu weekly depending on what ingredients are in season from their local purveyors.
Padilla also recently created a few new dining experiences such as a chef’s tasting menu based upon diners’ preferences and allergies, as well as private cooking classes for guests to recreate items from the menu. These dishes include a mixture of new favorites, like the boudin blanc-stuffed Cavendish quail with Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and mustard seeds, and familiar staples, such as the beet agnolotti made with Boucher blue cheese, roasted beets and hazelnut.
The bar program—spearheaded by food and beverage director Hugo Aguirre—features cocktails highlighting seasonal ingredients like the White Barn Cosmopolitan made with Cold River vodka from Freeport, Maine, white cranberry juice, St-Germain and lime. The inn also utilizes St-Germain liqueur in the welcome drink that guests receive upon arrival—an iced chamomile infusion flavored with fresh lemon juice and elderflower syrup.
“This is kind of a new beginning for the next step in the life of the White Barn,” Padilla says. “I’m excited for where we’re going—I want to be in line with the best restaurants in the country.”
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