The Inn at Essex – Life is short, choose dessert!

by Staff

In a sense, Butler’s Restaurant is a gourmet laboratory. It’s one of the restaurants where students from NECI, New England Culinary Institute, perfect their skills in the culinary arts.

The menu changes daily and entrees include an appetizer as well as dessert so the students really have an opportunity to wow you. We began with Sauted Sea Scallops and Shrimp with Spiced Mango Coulis, and Lemongrass-Ginger Vermicelli and a Mesculun Green Salad with Cherry Tomatoes, sliced Strawberries, Pistachios, and Honey Balsamic Vinaigrette. Both were appetizers in the true sense, delicious and light enough to whet your appetite, without overwhelming it.

For entrees we chose the Seared Tuna Served Rare, Nicoise Salad. Perfectly cooked tuna served with green beans, potatoes, artichoke hearts and little “pearls” of cucumber. The Grilled Polenta, Tofu, Asparagus, and Sweet Peppers was a vegetarian delight, lightly grilled and beautifully presented.

Other entrees that evening were duck, lamb, pork, monkfish, salmon, and filet mignon. Vegetarian selections are marked on the menu and they’re happy to accommodate allergies or special dietary concerns if you let your server know.

The wine list consists of a good selection of reasonably priced wines from the Old and New Worlds in addition to a number of wines by the glass. We opted for a glass of Chateau Bonnet 2001 Andre Luton Bordeaux and a glass of St. Urbans-Hof 2001 Riesling both pleasant wines that were recommended by our waitress from the daily wine specials.

It’s probably the child in me (and my sweet tooth) that admires a restaurant that has the desserts displayed prominently on the way into the main dining room. It’s always nice to know how to pace yourself for dessert.

The fact that dessert is included with your entree well, that’s the proverbial “icing on the cake”. There’s usually a choice of five. Although you can order based on appearance, “I’ll have the thing that looks like a pyramid” or “a chocolate hut” or “the white and dark triangle stack”, you really want to ask what they are. They are so wonderfully complicated and interesting sounding that it adds that much more to their obvious physical appeal.

It was not an easy decision. We finally decided upon the white and dark triangle stack, which turned out to be Frozen Vanilla Bean & Pistachio Nougat Napoleon with Raspberry Coulis and Bittersweet Chocolate Sauce AND the Gianduja & Amaretto Custard Cheesecake with Cherry Coulis, Amaretto Cherries, Romanoff Sauce & Almond Nougatine. Each of them was delicious.

When we asked our waitress which was the most popular dessert she said that the “chocolate hut” aka the Dark Chocolate Marjolaine filled with Golden Caramel Mousse, Berry Coulis & Creme Anglaise is a customer favorite. It’s so nice to have tea done right. Ours was served piping hot and made with loose leaf tea.

Our waitress, Alison, was an absolute delight answering our many questions with enthusiasm. She even offered to find a special reference book from NECI’s library when we had a question about the origin of one of the vegetables listed on the menu. She also arranged for us to meet Eric Nye the “round chef” and co-instructor at Butler’s.

He gave us a fantastic tour of the facilities and was very knowledgeable and informative – briefing us about the school and the amazing facilities before heading off to supervise the students’ wine tasting class. Nice way to end the day at school!

Butler’s is open for Breakfast: 6:30-10:30, Lunch: 11:30-2:00, and Dinner: 6:00-9:30 and until 10:00pm on Friday and Saturday. The restaurant can be reached at 802-764-1413 or by calling The Inn at Essex 802-727-4295. For more casual fare you can eat right down the hall at The Tavern, also a NECI establishment.

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