- Local Bibb Lettuce Salad with Smoked Bacon, Blue Cheese, Toasted Cashews and Buttermilk Dressing
As far back as I can remember, Woodland’s Inn has had an extreme knack for finding stellar kitchen talent. From Ken Vedrinski to Scott Crawford to Nate Whiting, Woodland’s always has put an elegant and delicious spin on classical cooking. The inn’s latest executive chef, Andrew Chadwick, is no exception.
However, unlike in days past, he’s been given the green light to oversee not just the more formal Dining Room and catering, but also the Pines Bar and Cafe, a more casually priced “all day dining” (it’s actually only open from 2:30 – 9:30 p.m., Tuesday – Saturday), and an almost identical menu for The Dining Room’s lunch service (11 a.m. – 2 p.m., Wednesday – Saturday). Very smart thinking, I say, on the part of new owner Johnny Linton, overseer of one of only six North American retainers of the Forbes’ Five Star and AAA’s Five Diamond rating for both food and lodging. It’s high time that Woodland’s lighten up just a tad, especially in the price department which seemed especially prohibitive during the dark, dark days of the great recession.
While the Pines Cafe and Bar, located just off the main dining room, makes for a nice alternative for a late afternoon bite or less extravagant dinner, for lunch, my money says go to The Dining Room. The lunch menu is exactly the same and even a little bit lighter on the wallet; all served in the sunny, airy, elegant confines of the floral and wood splashed dining room.
That’s what I did yesterday, and, despite multiple reports from friends that the restaurant had slipped, I found that not to be the case at all. If anything, the room feels a bit more spacious, and the service staff less rigid. They could still loosen up just a bit. The ultra hushed tones and kind, but slightly affected, frosty formality took away from the experience, making it feel more like a visit to a morgue than a friendly table. However, you have to love a server that addresses you as “my lady” and all service interaction was professional and informed in the areas of both food and wine.
Lunch began with a basket of heaven-sent bread, including warm, crumbly and irresistable fig and toasted hazelnut biscuits with two different flavored butters. The biscuits begged for the sweetness of the honey and pecan butter, while the soft, chewy, warm sourdough practically screamed for the straightforward fresh, soft butter. The basket left the table all but empty, setting the indulgent tempo for the remainder of the meal. Peach tea came unsweetened with a choice of sweeteners and a generous wedge of fresh orange for squeezing and had me reaching for more – especially with those warm little biscuits.
Chadwick’s penchant for garden fresh, local produce was especially evident in the first courses. The buttery, pale lime and milk colored Bibb lettuce salad (pictured, $9) were beautiful, velvetty, and unblemished. Each leaf was gently stacked upon the other and drizzled with chunks of salty, seared bacon, toasted, slightly sweet cashews, and a very mild, round blue cheeses. Delicate dollops of a gorgeous buttermilk dressing providing the loving, finishing touches to this 100% perfect salad. A frothy, steaming hot puree of roasted tomatoes and cream were ladled, table-side over a bed of crunchy sourdough croutons and a chiffonade of fresh basil in the lovely tomato bisque ($9).
This Boston girl loves lobster and often dreams of the lobster rolls of the summer Maine vacations of my youth. The Dining Room’s lunchtime take ( Maine lobster BLT,$19), on the classic is an unfettered winner which features chunks of sweet lobster and a dusting of bacon barely cloaked in mayonnaise and fresh herbs sandwiched between Texas-sized brioche toasts. The grilled lamb burger ($16) afforded a sweet taste of spring in the fragrant, grilled lamb coated with a layer of very smooth, fresh, feta. Both came served with fresh-from-the-fryer fries, christened with the extra flavor and crunch that only duck fat can deliver.
The restaurant also offers a three-course “business lunch” ($21) that currently includes Woodland’s classic caesar salad, pecan crusted chicken with Parmesan potato puree and a sundried cherry jus, and a dessert “announced by your server”. I’m happy to announce that The Woodland’s Inn is on track with its record for fine food and wine and is offering both at a more varied price point than ever, making it a more realistic and ever-delicious dining option for those possessing haute taste and more modest budgets.
The Dining Room at Woodland’s Inn
125 Parsons Road, Summerville