Bernard’s: 20 West Lane, Ridgefield, CT

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My mother threw a luncheon here for my brother and his wonderful fiance to celebrate their engagement and it was a beautiful place to escape the city to for an afternoon. The easy drive from NY was about an hour and after parking we took a quick walk through their garden and passed the chef collecting fresh herbs for the day’s menu. We walked in and immediately noticed the grand piano, fresh flowers, plentiful racks of wine, and beautiful impressionist paintings. We were seated right  in a very lovely private room with a round table ready for the 10 of us. Our waiter seemed to ‘get’ our somewhat quirky family right away and shared his sense of humor and charisma with us comfortably. He was rather entertaining, and happily showed us a few games and tricks to keep us busy while we waited for the rest of the guests.

As we looked over the menu, we were all impressed with just how many wonderful sounding dishes were available. As our waiter recited the specials, I realized this was not going to be an easy decision. Luckily, my boyfriend was more than happy to share 2 appetizers and 2 entrees so we could choose 4 total dishes between us.

I began my meal with a wonderfully spicy bloody mary and a piece of the fresh, chewy, crusty bread that had been brought out.

Our appetizers were a roasted corn soup with mushrooms and flatbread and a mesclun/bibb/endive salad with figs, almonds, hearts of palm and amazing little filo-crusted goat cheese sticks. The soup was my favorite course of the day (aside from the dessert), creamy but not too heavy, with a the wonderful taste and smell of fresh summer corn. The meaty mushrooms added a beautiful and tasty garnish. The flatbread which floated atop the soup, though it got soggy pretty quickly, added another interesting element of textures to the smooth soup. The salad was as described, but for some reason it didn’t really blow me away as much as I’d expected, except for the goat cheese sticks which were truly a treat with their crisp coating and soft, melty centers.

For our entrees we shared the basil linguine with shrimp, vegetables and tomato sauce, and the potato crusted salmon with haricot verts and morels (my FAVORITE kind of mushroom). The pasta really did taste like basil and was a pleasant, light green color. It was clearly homemade and cooked perfectly al dente. The shrimp were large, fresh, cooked perfectly and of excellent quality. The vegetable and tomato sauce were light and summer-y, but in my opinion, weren’t really the best compliments for the shrimp and pasta. I would have preferred a broth or herb sauce instead of the tomato. The salmon, though it was slightly over-cooked instead of rare in the center as salmon really should be, was beautifully presented with a spiral of slivered, golden potatoes on top. The haricot verts and morels were wonderful, and I enjoyed them more than the star of the plate.

For dessert, a gorgeous chocolate cake was presented to the happy couple and then plated individually with raspberry sorbet and fresh fruit. This happened to be a noteworthy chocolate mousse cake, and my plate was so clean afterwards that it left no question about whether I liked it or not. The sorbet came in little, crunchy, caramelized, honey-flavored pastry cups that when broken up went great on each forkful of chocolate. I’m still thinking about this cake, and it’s probably a good thing (for my waistline) that I didn’t bring home any of the leftovers because I’d be chowing down on a 2nd, 3rd and 4th piece right about now.

If you get a chance to take a trip out of the city for a truly special meal, check Bernard’s out. A great place to celebrate a special day, or something to make it’s very own occasion out of. I hope I have a reason to return at some point!

 
 *photos courtesy of Gabriel Sanders. http://www.magicsandbox.com/enter/Magic_Sandbox.html
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