By now, most hardcore Connecticut foodies are aware that Noel Jones, previously the executive chef of ON20 in Hartford’s Polytechnic Club, has become a partner in Ivoryton’s Copper Beech Inn, taking on the roles of executive chef and food & beverage director. Jones started serving his own menu at the inn’s Brasserie Pip on Wednesday, August 29th.
Giving Jones all of a week to settle in, I headed to Ivoryton the following Wednesday with my wife and two other dining companions to preview his food for our readers. A clear sign that we were on the cusp of fall, it grew dark before we reached the inn.
Just visiting the inn brought back memories. I remembered that, when my father was alive, it was one of my parents’ favorite special occasion restaurants. I remembered past visits where my wife and I found these porch chairs so comfortable that it was difficult to give them up
I remembered attending charitable events where this gorgeous drawing room was packed with guests.
It was only fitting that we got a chance to chat with Ian Phillips, the face of the inn for so many years.
We couldn’t wait to see Jones’ new menu. Everything sounded incredibly tempting, and only one dish, a strip loin steak cooked under vacuum, cost over $30.
Jones came out to greet us, and told us he would be sending out a number of courses for us to try. It was obvious that he was thrilled with his new situation.
Our waitress started us off with some Veuve Clicquot.
We applauded the couple next to us who ate exactly half of the food on their plates—and then switched with each other! Then we were brought a fresh baguette baked by Michel Keller
and squares of nice hotel butter.
Our first course was a lovely, intense asparagus velouté garnished with mushroom cream. Remember, you can click on photos to enlarge.
Our second course showcased Jones’ fabulous version of oysters on horseback, with oysters both poached and fried for contrasting textures served in an oyster jus over a brioche layered with crispy pancetta.
Our third course featured delicate house-smoked salmon served over a potato cake with chive-scrambled egg and American sturgeon caviar.
Our waitress brought out our second wine, a Vicolo Pinot Grigio.
It did yeoman’s service with our fourth course, Stonington fluke in its own sauce, a simple luscious treat that wasn’t on the menu. Jones explained to us that the bones of the fish were used to create a fumet and then the fumet was used in the cooking of the fish. “The fish never left itself,” he observed.
The dish was garnished with a plant Jones called a firestick,
which I wasted no time in trying, admiring its asparagus-like texture and nutty flavor. “That was edible, wasn’t it?” I asked our waitress after the fact, knowing the answer but joking that eating Jones’ food would probably be the second best way to go.
Our third wine was a buttery Edna Valley Chardonnay (not photographed). It was paired with our fifth course—housemade pappardelle, Scottish chanterelles, local oyster mushrooms, oven-roasted local tomatoes, caramelized salsify, truffles and shaved Parmesan—that was also not on the menu.
The arrival of a lovely Acrobat Pinot Noir
and steak knives
presaged the arrival of our sixth course, an incredible surf-and-turf creation that included beautiful slices of squab, seared Hudson Valley foie gras, sweetbreads and a lobster claw in an incredible dried fruit sauce. This “over the top” creation not found on the menu was as scrumptious as it was stunning to gaze upon, the kind of spoiling to which one could all too easily become accustomed.
Between courses, we got to meet new innkeeper Jessica Waters.
Our waitress then brought us petite glasses of Honig Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc,
and then she and another waitress brought us a pair of desserts—our seventh course.
included a terrific espresso semifreddo
and a lighter-than-air orange beignet.
We thought we were done, and actually stood up to leave, feeling guilty that we were keeping the staff from being able to go home. But it turned out there was an eighth tantalizing course yet to come—a lemon tart.
After dinner, we got to visit with an extremely relaxed Jones, who took the opportunity to reflect on the recent changes he had made.
He said he was enjoying his cooking team, working in a busier environment, and using faster gas stoves. He cited the great foragers in the area that were working to supply him.
We told him we had appreciated a number of nice little amenities, like the perfectly adjusted lighting, the piping hot plates, and the perfectly chilled white wine glasses and wines. I told Jones that we had found his food at Brasserie Pip more straightforward than at ON20, but with flavors that spoke volumes. He said communicating a simpler flavor message was his mission now.
We departed with huge smiles on our faces, convinced that Jones’ latest venture was going to be a huge success with the dining public.
Brasserie Pip at The Copper Beech Inn, 46 Main Street, Ivoryton, 860-767-0330, www.copperbeechinn.com