Welcome to part 2 of our two-part series about my weekend trip to Vermont. If you missed part 1, definitely head over and check it out. It gives an overview of our entire weekend trip to Vermont. This post focuses on our European-influenced fine dining experience (yes, in Vermont!) and our B&B stay at the Lincoln Inn & Restaurant in Woodstock.
Vermont is well known for its charming covered bridges, unparalleled fall foliage hikes, excellent craft beer, and local farms that produce some of the nation's best cheeses. People from all over the world descend upon tiny Vermont towns during the fall to soak in the full New England experience.
The quintessential Vermont experience involves staying at a local bed and breakfast, hiking and exploring fall foliage spots, and enjoying simple farm-to-table fare featuring Vermont's local cheeses and seasonal produce.
What you might not expect to see in Vermont is a bed and breakfast offering a world class fine dining experience from a European chef who has trained at Michelin-starred restaurants all across Europe.
This is what makes the Lincoln Inn & Restaurant so unique and special.
Meet Mara Mehlman and Executive Chef Jevgenija Saromova, owners and hosts of The Lincoln Inn and Restaurant at the Covered Bridge in Woodstock, Vermont. It has been a dream for both Mara and Chef Saramova for years to open up their own inn for years.
Mara, a city dweller from Los Angeles, fell in love with Vermont on a weeklong biking trip back in 2007. She vowed to return someday to open up her own place. Chef Saromova (they call her "Chef") is originally from Latvia but trained throughout Europe for years at award-winning Michelin-starred restaurants. The pair have been looking around New England for quite some time for the perfect place. When The Lincoln Inn (once owned by Abraham Lincoln's cousin!) came on the market, they knew it was the perfect place for them.
Chef Saramova is an artist and literally sketches out the visual outline of each course on paper first before filling in the details regarding the ingredients and flavor profiles. She then uses the paper footprint in the kitchen as her guide throughout the evening.
Dinner at The Lincoln Inn & Restaurant is truly a labor of love and pure passion for the art. Chef Saramova and Mara do everything themselves. There is no sous chef. Chef Saramova preps every single ingredient. She personally orders ingredients from hand-selected purveyors, such as rabbit from France, greens from her garden, and lobster from Maine. All the bread is made in-house, and every single powder, sauce, garnish, and element of the artistic plate has been painstakingly prepared beforehand by none other than Chef Saramova herself.
This is why they can really only do one 7-course chef's tasting sitting per evening. And they don't offer the 7-course on days they offer the quicker 4-course menu. It's too many different dishes to manage.
Take a look at the impressive 7-course dinner we enjoyed. It still sort of blows my mind the amount of work it must take for one person to execute all this.
House made bread came with two types of butter, oregano butter and cultured butter that Chef made herself. The bread was delicious, reminding me of the perfectly baked breads you would get at a high-end French restaurant.
I loved the first, course, creative deconstructed version of a Caprese Salad with Tomato, Basil, & Mozzarella. The tomato came in four different forms: a paper thin dried tomato "sheet", a fresh slice of summer tomato, tomato confit, and an intensely flavorful tomato consommé (yum!).
Basil came in the form of a "basil soil" and basil oil. I loved the "basil soil", which was made from pulverized basil leaves and breadcrumbs. Tiny fresh mozzarella balls and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar completed the dish.
We all loved this dish. It was refreshing, the intense summer tomato flavors came out so much, and the combination of flavors and textures was creative and fun. Mara, the wine director, paired this dish with a Ruttenstock Gruner Vetliner from Austria.
The next course was a Butter Poached Maine Lobster, Marscapone Enriched Orzo. A piece of butter poached lobster tail came served over a flavorful orzo with lobster foam and onion "ash" on the side. A Parmesan crisp completed the dish.
My dining companion's main comment was "the only bad thing about the orzo is that there's not enough of it. I want a mountain of it and to eat it all up."
Chef put quite a bit of work into all the different components. For example, for the onion ash, she burnt an entire onion and then dehydrated it, made a powder by pulverizing it, and used a hand-cut vellum sheet to create the circular shape. The flavors were decidedly French and executed very well.
Mara chose a Bethel Heights Estate Chardonnay from the Willamette Valley, Oregon to pair with this dish.
Our next course was a trio of seafood: Seared Scallop, Cured Halibut, and Tuna Ceviche. These came with a side of yuzu panna cotta.
The huge scallop, which was cook perfectly, was our favorite. It was topped with a dusting of dehydrated egg yolk and had a citrus kick to it (maybe yuzu juice?). It was fantastic with the accompanying watercress purée and a dab of the yuzu panna cotta. A single pickled mussel served on top of a tuna and avocado ceviche was fine, but didn't necessarily wow us. The cured halibut, which came with some salmon roe inside, was fine as well.
These three seafood dishes were paired with Fernlands sauvignon blanc from Marlborough, New Zealand.
I loved the simplicty of the next dish, Beetroot, Pomegranate & Red Quinoa. Simple slices of beets were served with either a toasted crunchy quinoa or a red grape juice "air" (foam) on top. On the side was a pomegranate granita. This was a lovely palate cleanser to prepare us for the next several heavier dishes. I loved the crunchy quinoa and I even asked Chef how she made it. (I think she toasts it in a pan)
Mara gave us a Hellinger Secco rose from Austria to pair with this course.
Chef Saramova is very particular about where she sources her rabbits. She said she tried sourcing locally but it was just not the same - the flavor "is not right" she said. Thus, she will only use rabbit that she imports directly from France.
Our next course, Loin & Rack of Rabbit, consisted of a tiny rabbit loin and a rack served with cauliflower and a garden pea puree. The rabbit was very tender and the dish was beautiful, but honestly we were a bit underwhelmed by the dish. It was pleasant, but nothing particularly exciting.
Mara paired a Domaine Grand Cote Du Jura Rouge Trousseau with this course.
We loved the final course, Filet Mignon & Foie Gras, Oyster, & Escargot. The steak, which was cooked sous vide, was super tender an the jus was extremely flavorful. The decadent foie gras on top paired quite nicely with the rich steak and the flavorful jus. The mushrooms and the escargot played off each other, each resembling the other one in both flavors and textures.
We enjoyed the steak with a De Ponte Cellars Pinot Noir from Dundee Hills, Oregon.
Dessert was a duo of French Blue Lavender Gelato and Lemon Cheese Cake. All in all, it was very nice, light and refreshing. We paired that with a Lincoln Peak Firelight, an ice wine from Middlebury, Vermont.
We very much enjoyed the privacy of the separate "Paul Newman Room," the private room where Paul Newman used to eat dinner with his family (away from the public). There are still photos of Paul Newman and his family hung up on the walls of the room.
All in all, the meal was fantastic. It is very clear that Chef Saramova is passionate about the artistry of food and she truly pours her heart and soul into her cooking. This type of high-end multi-course European-inspired cuisine is really hard to find in Vermont. Most of the restaurants in the surrounding areas offer simple, rustic, farm-to-table meals. That stuff is fantastic, but what Chef Saramova is doing here is something special.
After such a meal, it was nice not having to travel to get "home". We simply walked up the stairs and got ready for bed in our rooms. I've shown photos below of all the different rooms that exist. There are only six rooms, and each has its own theme.
The rooms are thoughtfully designed, and the amenities are basic - not necessarily luxurious - but sufficient. One of my friends wishes for thicker towels. Other than that, the rooms were quite comfortable.
Because of the historic nature of the building, Mara and Chef Saramova are not allowed to change the actual structure of the rooms. They must preserve it. As a result, some of the rooms are a bit unusually shaped or are a bit smaller.
The floors seem like the original wooden floors, and are charmingly creaky and slope downwards a bit in some places.
This is the only room which can fit three guests, since it has a queen bed and a twin bed.
My cousin and I stayed in what we dubbed the "American Room", which was quite spacious and had a nice view of the front of the inn. It is the only room with a king bed.
Our friend stayed in what I call the sunny room. She absolutely loved the look and feel of it.
The next morning we headed on back downstairs for breakfast! (After all, it is a B&B.) The menu includes fruit, yogurt, granola, and your choice of savory offerings such as bacon, potatoes, toast, and eggs any way you like it. Mara told us that Chef Saramova makes incredible scrambled eggs (she was right!), though her poached egg was pretty awesome too.
The breakfast was excellent. It was the perfect fuel for us to go explore the rest of Woodstock before heading back to Boston later that afternoon.
Thank you Mara and Chef so much for your hospitality! We really enjoyed getting to know you and to see your dream become a reality. Best of luck with everything this year!
Disclaimer - the meal and lodging for me plus a guest were paid for by the Inn. We personally paid for the meal and lodging for our third guest and friend. We also paid for everything else associated with this trip. I was not paid to write this post. All opinions are my own.
The Lincoln Inn & Restaurant
2709 W. Woodstock Rd.
Woodstock, Vermont 05091