Dining » Vol. 2

The Grafton Inn

By Bernie Whitmore

The Grafton Inn
25 Grafton Common

Grafton Inn - Built 1805

Of hundreds of town commons in New England, I don’t think I’ve seen one as well proportioned and maintained as Grafton’s. Busy with civic events in warmer months, by winter, when hushed by a fresh snowfall, it seems timeless. The common is surrounded by handsome wood-frame buildings like the Grafton Inn, which is in its third century of operation. Their full bar and restaurant are open to the public, so I decided it was time to call a friend and pay them a visit.

We arrived on a weeknight between snowstorms and poked around the comfortable lobby until the hostess came out of the kitchen and seated us. The dining room has an elevated seating area and, a step down, rows of tables in front of two fireplaces. Their mantles were still decorated for Christmas: rustic sleigh bells and large pinecones I’d keep year-round.

Soon she returned with a basket of bread, served us a slice each and announced that Marsha would be our server. Left to browse the menu, I spread whipped butter onto the warm yeasty bread; its taste and texture were oven-fresh! When Marsha arrived, she faced a burning question: ”What’s a Turkey Chop?” After consulting the kitchen she did her best to explain the new menu item ~ but later on, back at home, I visited Todd English’s webpage for a complete understanding.

The chop may be cutting-edge, but my appetizer, Duck Confit, was traditional French Cuisine. A meaty leg of duck was salted with garlic and spices and then cooked in fat until the skin was crispy. Historically, it was a means of preservation, but it’s also a process that intensifies flavors and seals in moisture ~ the chef served it with crumbled stilton cheese and candied pecans over a pool of port wine reduction. I matched it with the chocolaty-rich blackberry flavors of a glass of Wolftrap’s Syrah blend.

My friend’s classically prepared Caesar Salad was topped with anchovy filets and a tumble of croutons. Unlike bottled product, its dressing nestled into every crease of the sliced romaine leaves. As he wiped the bowl clean, he mentioned that he would have turned up the flavor a turn or two with more lemon and garlic

Leaping from one classic cuisine to another, I chose for my entrée Fettuccine with Bolognese Sauce. Each kitchen interprets Bolognese a bit differently; in this version, simmered ground beef was tinted orange with tomatoes, roasted garlic and cream ~ an extraordinarily rich ensemble, served piping hot over perfectly boiled noodles.

Meanwhile, a pile of mussel shells was growing higher as my friend enjoyed his Seafood Paella. It also contained shrimp, scallops, slices of smoky sausage and a chunk or two of fresh lobster meat. The star of the dish, firm long-grained rice, was imbued with the fresh seafood flavors and tomato. I snagged a couple forkfuls and found it a tasty balance to the richness of my entree.

We finished our meal by sharing a slice of Three-Layer Chocolate Cake. Some country inns are notorious for their bland cuisine. Others feel like a Disney production line. Not so at Grafton Inn. Their homey atmosphere and innovative cuisine should ensure them another hundred years.

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