Thursday, September 18, 2008

The Dressing Room

All New Yorkers needs to get out of the city every now and then. Although, every time I do leave the city, it is normally not in search of a restaurant. I embrace the slower pace, fresh air, extensive greenery, among other luxuries that I once took for granted growing up in Virginia and going to college in Vermont. The focus of my city escapes rarely seems to revolve around food. I do feel very spoiled having lived in New York and Paris most recently – and know that I cannot hold the same food expectations when I visit most other places. I sometimes worry that my food taste alone will cause me to have serious problems when eventually moving from New York one day. But, I don’t think I will have to worry about that since I have no plans to uproot anytime soon.

As I was headed out of the city to celebrate my dad’s birthday this past weekend, I was looking forward to a nice, celebratory evening with family and had not given much thought to where we would be dining. All I knew was that that we were headed to Westport, CT – a town we used to frequent for shopping and a trip to the movies – never fine dining. Upon arrival, the Dressing Room immediately took me by surprise, forever changing my views of Westport dining. Not only was I transported out of the city, but I was transplanted into a countryside setting surrounded by exposed barn board walls and heavy-timber wood columns and beams. I was quickly reminded that life (and great restaurants) do exist outside of the city!

The Dressing Room – A Homegrown Restaurant – was started by Paul Newman and follows the trend of the many restaurants who are now promoting healthy, sustainable food while supporting local farmers, fishers, and producers. All ingredients are locally and organically grown – and the enormous selection of produce on the menu definitely reflects this. While most items are not intended to be shared, there were so many of us at dinner that I was able to sample a variety of different dishes. We did order a side of cast iron corn bread with honey drizzle for the table – and, in retrospect, we probably should have ordered several more. The use of the cast iron skillet brought a richness to the bread that could not have been achieved any other way.

To sum up the meal, everything just seemed entirely fresh. My favorite appetizers were the wood-fire grilled squid with heirloom tomatoes, onions, garlic crisps, and arugula as well as the Niman range baby back ribs with apple cabbage slaw. Squid can be hit or miss, and this was definitely a hit. I loved the wood-fire preparation with the addition of the garlic crisps which were basically a gourmet version of garlic potato chips. But, the highlight of the meal was the main courses - in particular, the ricotta stuffed ravioli with fava beans, snap peas, corn, and mushrooms. I have never seen ravioli prepared in this way. It was actually one big ravioli wrapped (like a present!) around extremely fresh ricotta - creating the perfect balance between the thin pasta and the cheese. The garlic, basil, and butter sauce with fresh vegetables was the perfect topping to this unique dish.

To prolong the festivities, we continued to order it up when it was time for dessert. While the presentation of the chocolate farmhouse cake arriving with a shot of vanilla milkshake was most aesthetically pleasing, the fruit-based dishes (apple tart with cinnamon ice cream as well as a peach and raspberry cobbler) were actually my favorites. It was amazing that I was able to even continue eating at this point, but the food was just too good to turn away. As we sang one last round of Happy Birthday, I looked around the table at the spotless plates and the group surrounding me - 2 Californians, 3 New Englanders, 1 Midwesterner, 2 Virginians, and 1 Floridian. Sometimes, it just takes getting out of the city to remember your true roots and to admit that you can find great food, fun, and company almost anywhere. I sat back in the warm and rustic setting of the Dressing Room. Feeling full and relaxed, I was reassured that I will be just fine, if, one day, I actually do decide to move away from New York City.

The Dressing Room
27 Powers Court
Westport, CT 06880
Phone: (203) 226-1114

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I like that you are also reviewing restaurants outside the city- very good!