Monday, May 13, 2013

Merchant's Row, Concord, MA

Salmon Tartare
As wonderful as the stay at Concord's Colonial Inn was, the real start of the show was their food.  The Inn has two restaurants on site, Liberty and Merchants Row.  Both are under the watchful eye and leadership of head chef Cassandra Pianowski but their menus vary in that Liberty offers a more casual experience, light bites, or small nibbles, where Merchants Row is more geared towards full dinners, gatherings with friends and intimate meals.  Though the settings are very different, the quality of the food excels in both.  

We began our experience with a selection of passed appetizers as we were introduced to the inn, and its history.  Trays of Deviled Eggs, the Inns original take on the historical favorite Johnny Cakes, skewered bacon bites and crostini topped with Maple Brook Burrata were passed throughout the room.  Sadly I have a very odd dislike of Deviled Eggs (its a texture thing) so I had to abstain.  However, I gladly dug into the rest of the passed appetizers. 

I became mildly obsessed with the bacon bites however.  Thick slices of beautiful smoky bacon, lightly painted with maple syrup and then skewered wit a lovely piece of sweet potato created a perfect combination of salty and sweet.  There was something about it that was also ever so slightly reminiscent of breakfast and images of french toast popped to was one of those "perfect bites".

The Maple Brook Burrata was another intriguing taste.  Veering from the typical
Shrimp and Grits
here, Pianowski paired this wonderfully creamy cheese with sweet basil, savory onion and the wonderfully springy strawberry.  The flavors were light, they popped and they mingled in wonderful harmony.  

Finally, the Pianowski switched up our traditional Johnny Cake which can often be found to be a bit boring, and instead stuffed it full of fresh, delicious crab meat.  Fried to a light golden brown these orbs offered incredible amounts of crab and very little of any detractor.  Johnny Cake indeed...

As appetizers these each would have been fantastic ways to whet one's appetite.  They are all found on their full menu, and should definitely be tried as soon as possible.

We then moved into the main dining room of Merchants Row to continue our culinary adventure.  Merchant's Row is another section of the Inn that has recently undergone a bit of an update.  We learned that it had been lightened in its decorations creating a breezier feel, though it had nicely maintained its colonial spirit.  The staff were all friendly and knowledgeable and in general it was an incredibly comfortable space.

We began our dinner with a Salmon Tartare served atop a slab of Hawaiian Black Lava Salt tossed in a gingered Siracha Mayo and accompanied by pickled red onions and managa chips, all drizzled with a bit of sweet soy.  As the first course, it set the bar high.  The salmon was incredible.  The fattiness cut with the spicy ginger and then when mixed with the pickled onions it became an absolute delight.  

Next we were served a Southern classic- Shrimp and Grits.  I have never been a
Seafood Course
huge fan of grits- there hasn't ever been anything wrong with them per say, but they just haven't ever grabbed me as something delicious- until now.  Thick and rich and creamy, flavor with smoked pork, and dotted with plump mushrooms they were fantastic.  The shrimp followed suit, perfectly cooked and taking on the flavors of the smoked pork and chives as well, this was a wonderful course.  I could have eaten a much larger portion.  The flavors were incredible and the textured created a wonderful contrast.

We were then greeted with a a lovely intermezzo, a perfectly refreshing Mango Sorbet that helped to clean our palates and prepare for our main courses.

We were treated to a seafood course next and before each of was placed a plate containing beautiful scallops atop a creamy parsnip puree, a drizzle of cherry balsamic, cubes of perfectly cooked beets and a hint of Meyer lemon.  The scallops were lovely, perfect seared to a toasty exterior but still a bit rare inside.  Their natural sweetness was wonderful when paired with the sweet tart cherry balsamic and the creamy, yet nicely earthy parsnips.  

Our final savory course consisted of two of the Colonial Inn's classics, their braised short ribs and their steak frites.  These were two incredible beef tastes.  The short rib was hearty, and rich with deep flavor spotted with fresh herbs.  The steak frites took Hangar steak to the next level.  It was a perfect medium rare, well seasoned without too much of any one thing to over power the clean taste of the meat.  I was basically in love with this dish.  As a close to a meal, though I was pleasantly full, I could have gladly feasted on more of this dish.

We were not left without a sweet taste however, and were served our final
course, the dessert course.  And what a dessert it was.  A trio was placed in front of us, a Stout Chocolate Cake, Brioche Bread Pudding and a Blondie Sundae to round out the amazingness.  I began with the Blondie Sundae- a sweet caramel (?) ice cream, piled high a top a fresh thick Blondie brownie and then topped with a caramel sauce and a giant scoop of fresh homemade whipped cream.  It was incredible bite after bite after bite.  Working down my plate, I dug into the brioche bread pudding next and loved is warm buttery feel, hinted with sweetness but not overdone.  Finally I dipped
my spoon into the Stout Cake which had a rich chocolate flavor but ended up being a bit dry for my taste. 

Chef Pianowski is bring an incredible touch to the Colonial Inn.  Her dishes are classic yet inventive, inviting and comforting with small touches of excitement and all incorporate carefully sourced ingredients.  I will definitely be adding the Colonial Inn to my list of places to dine, between their beautiful patio, welcoming staff and incredible food, its a sure win in Concord.



Bianca @ Confessions of a Chocoholic said...

I love grits. What a fantastic meal!

Unknown said...

I have heard that there are a few nice restaurants and arts and entertainment festivals in Boston! I was hoping to take my wife to a few of them on a road trip this summer!

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