When you live in a summer town you don’t always take advantage of what is right in your backyard. I’ve only lived here about a year so the novelty of living so close to the ocean has not yet worn off. My one Westerly summer has not yet left me with a bitter feeling about the topic so many local people seem to discuss willingly and that is that the summer people are coming and for two months we will be sharing this town with thousands of tourists. I try to see this glass as half full and doing so means embracing this new town I find myself living in rather than running from it. What I’ve learned in doing so is that while there are a plethora of events to keep everyone busy all summer, the off season of this summer community gives local people a lot of opportunities to experience some of the things that are often too crowded to try in the summer.
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When we moved here a year ago it was so that my husband could take a new job as the Inn Keeper at Weekapaug Inn. Now, if you are local to Westerly you might have a strong opinion about some places in town; a certain perception, perhaps, that non-local people will not understand. The movie Mystic Pizza comes to mind. It is human nature. We are all local to somewhere, aren’t we? We all have thoughts and opinions about places in our hometowns. As an outsider, I’m here to tempt you to give some of these local summer places a try off season. When they are quiet. When they are just starting to wake up. When they have not yet experienced that first crazy summer rush. When you are looking for somewhere new to go that doesn’t usually pop up on the radar.
One of those places is The Restaurant at Weekapaug Inn. It is not pretentious or overly formal. It is cozy and elegant —comfortable and modern. It is one of two Relais & Chateaux properties right in our backyard — which essentially means the standard there is top notch. If you are looking for a nice dinner out, a place to celebrate a special occasion or a really fun date night, Weekapaug Inn is worth a try. The Inn also has a small intimate bar which, like The Restaurant, is open to the public.
I was there on Wednesday night to celebrate a birthday. It was pouring outside. It was much colder than most May nights should be. Yet sitting in the dimly lit restaurant with gorgeous views of the Quonochontaug Pond made the weather seem stunningly beautiful. Off season The Restaurant, as it is named, is quiet. The food, in my opinion, was outstanding. Chef Ryan, who joined the Weekapaug Inn team in January, studied at Johnson & Wales University and then worked in New York, England, Sweden, Austria, Denmark and most recently, Ireland. His style is very refined, aesthetically pleasing and thoughtfully presented. The Restaurant embraces the farm to table approach as often as possible. You will not get a plate heaping full of food as so many chain restaurants serve — but you will get a stunning meal with flavors that will live in your taste memory long after you have left the table.
Appetizers range in price from fifteen to twenty-one dollars. They are intentionally plated and take your breath away when they arrive. Northeast Family Farms Beef Tartare which includes a Watch Hill Oyster and a quail egg, Chilled Jonah Crab or Rhode Island Beets are just a few examples.
I had the Fazzoletti ($18) which included summer black truffles, local asparagus, morels and Parmigiano Reggiano. The pasta dishes can be ordered as either half or full size. They range in price from sixteen to thirty-four dollars. All the pasta is made on site. I have eaten at The Restaurant quite a few times now, but feel that I can say that this Fazzoletti was, perhaps, my favorite dish to date. The truffle was not over powering as it often can be. The pasta was light and so fresh. And in the spring is there anything better than local asparagus?
Entrees range in price from twenty-seven dollars to forty-five. Like everything on the menu, they change with the seasons. They offer foods from the fields (beef, lamb and vegetables), the waters (lobster and monkfish) or the flocks (duck and chicken). I had the Hillandale Farms Beef Ribeye ($45). Cooked over a cedar plank, it came with braised short rib, bone marrow and a lovely sauce. The cedar flavor was subtle yet present and the short rib melted in my mouth.
My six year old ordered the Northstar Farm Lamb ($40). He would have licked the plate clean had he been allowed. Throughout the dinner he kept looking up from his plate saying, “This is just so delicious”. They do have an adorable children’s menu that arrives on a little sail boat and includes simple kid food…my little guy just has a big appetite so ordered from the regular menu.
As we were there for a birthday, we finished our meal with cupcakes that had been specially made and filled with salted caramel. As a self proclaimed cupcake snob, I am not lying when I tell you that this was the best cupcake ever. They also have a lovely cheese plate and delicious coffee if the sweet route is not your thing.
Weekapaug Inn is currently offering a fun event called The Brewmaster Social which was recently written up in The Providence Journal. The next two are set for May 18 and June 15 featuring local craft beers paired with three courses in a casual family style setting. Talk about a fun date night!
I know it might seem that I am a little biased being that my husband is the Inn Keeper. In all honesty though, I can tell you that even if he were not we would be delighted to eat at The Restaurant. To know you are going to get quality food, exceptional service and a stunning environment in which to enjoy it is all we need to know about a place. We all work so hard for the money we earn, don’t you want to know that when you go out to spend it you won’t leave disappointed? We sure do. And it is nice to know that such a place exists right here in our backyard.