“Have you been to Millwright’s yet?”
The question, like a Greek chorus, kept coming from like-minded food lovers. Yes, Tyler Anderson’s first solo venture was high on my list, I told them. But thanks to a gluttonous (yet most enjoyable) schedule of summer food events, I figured I’d put it on the back burner until fall.
That is, until I refreshed my Facebook feed Sunday morning and saw the offer I couldn’t refuse. A special four-course tasting with wine, for $55, available to the first 15 people who called for reservations. Yes, please.
Everyone’s been buzzing about the Simsbury restaurant, situated in an old historic mill overlooking a rushing waterfall. The restaurant is a goal achieved for the former Copper Beech Inn executive chef and “Chopped” champion, who vowed to open his own place by age 35. The dream came true in late July.
Millwright’s presents a farm-to-table concept, with rotating seasonal menus created from local ingredients – meats, seafood, cheeses and produce from Connecticut, New England and upstate New York. Though “farm-to-table” has become a buzzword bordering on cliche these days, it shows when restaurants are really dedicated to the movement. Anderson’s kitchen promises to source 80 percent of its food from local producers.
I stuck with the suggested wine pairings, but Rob wanted a cocktail, and somehow his order of “Old Fashioned” got translated into “Cosmopolitan.” It was more comedic than bothersome, us trying to figure out if through some mixology magic the drink ended up light pink instead of brown. The staff quickly righted the wrong, and Carrie Bradshaw was whisked away, replaced by Don Draper.
An amuse arrived, and I promptly forgot to photograph it. Peach gazpacho with pecan and frozen shaved foie gras. You’ll have to take my word for it. Wine: Charles de Fere “Cuvee Jean Louis”
Then came the “Fun With Carbs” agnolotti, tiny pillows of pasta filled with ricotta, bathed in a piquant, smoky tomato sauce and topped with dried olive “crumble.” Instead of wine, small highballs of an unidentified cocktail arrived with the plates.
I asked beverage director Brent Bushong what we were drinking. “None of your beeswax,” he said. “Just try it first and I’ll tell you later.”
It turned out to be a sampling of the “Poet’s Dream,” a smooth blend of Hendrick’s gin, Lillet Blanc and Peychaud bitters. And with more wine to come, I knew I was in trouble.
Next, a beautiful piece of seared striped bass, served on a bed of “forbidden” rice with a side of panzanella salad. Wine: Coteaux Varoise (Rose de Provence)
Then the meat course that would have made Ron Swanson shed a tear: a duo of prime beef. A gorgeously rare New York strip atop short rib, twice-baked potato, carrots and Bordelaise (Wine: Vinya Alarba Garnacha)
For a sweet ending, a creamy semifreddo with two varieties of sorbet: peach and lemon-basil (I didn’t get the wine notes on this one; nor did I drink much of it. I would have been under the table.)
I was intent on documenting all the courses and wines (because that’s what I do) but Brent was more intent on having us taste, relax and enjoy. He promised he’d print me a menu at the end of the evening, and he did. It was addressed to “Mr. and Mrs. Griffin.” Of course, I found that funnier than Rob did.
Brent took us downstairs to show us the highly-anticipated casual tavern space, set to open sometime in September. The tavern will have several tap lines for draft beers, a fireplace, banquette seating and its own menu, and it looks like it’ll be a popular, cozy hangout for the winter months and beyond.
With its seasonal farm-fresh menu, impeccable service and striking waterfall views, Millwright’s is primed to do very well in the Farmington Valley. And it should. Go see for yourself, and pay attention to the restaurant’s Facebook page – maybe you’ll land an awesome one-night special like we did.
Millwright’s, 77 West Street, Simsbury. 860-651-5500, millwrightsrestaurant.com.