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Red Lion Inn earns triple chef’s kiss, a restaurant review

Just... muah! And, muah! And, muah!

Stockbridge— Executive Chef Jon Sterrett has created a whole new menu for the dining room at the iconic Red Lion Inn. Don’t worry, if you want to order the classic New England dishes like the chicken pot pie, ale battered fish-n-chips, and the roasted turkey plate that they are known for, you can still do so from their tavern menu. I was thrilled to be invited to the Inn to taste Chef Sterrett’s latest creations and view Isaac Pelayo’s “Modern Renaissance” exhibit on display at the Inn through April. 

My husband and I arrived at the Inn to find ample parking on the quintessential Stockbridge Main Street. Greeted by the Inn’s always lovely staff, we were treated to a private showing of the vibrant and exciting art exhibit. Isaac Pelayo is an emerging Los Angeles-based artist whose innovative artistic style blends street art with a deep appreciation for the old masters. I found the art to be provocative, intelligent, and certainly unexpected.

From the Isaac Pelayo exhibit on display at the Inn through April (handsome husband not included.) Photo by Monica Bliss. 
From the Isaac Pelayo exhibit on display at the Inn through April. Photo by Monica Bliss. 
From the Isaac Pelayo exhibit on display at the Inn through April. Photo by Monica Bliss. 

The Red Lion Inn’s press release said that “Pelayo is often described as the leader of a new artistic renaissance. The juxtaposition between his meticulously rendered brushwork of classical style imagery and loose expressionistic careless drips is nothing less than an intoxicating marriage of two worlds that don’t inherently belong.”

With a goal to balance the Inn’s beloved traditions with the new and unexpected, that is just what Chef Sterrett has done with the menu.

We were seated in what we are now calling “our table” in the main dining room for the tasting. We were served a bread basket with two butters, honey and salted, which we enjoyed with a round of cocktails, the Cupid’s Cosmo for me and the Maple Manhattan for my husband – both good. Then, to our surprise, we were spoiled as the chef served us every dish on the new menu (except one: the roasted maitake mushroom, which looks absolutely delicious.)

Cupid’s Cosmo. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Maple Manhattan. Photo by Monica Bliss.

The starters were the star of the show, mainly the braised salsify prepared with Parmesan cream, prosciutto, toasted pepitas, and an herb salad. This inspired dish earned the first “chef’s kiss” of the evening. You may be wondering exactly what is salsify. The internet describes it as a root vegetable from the dandelion family, similar to a parsnip. The chef describes it as being in between an artichoke and an oyster. I describe it as a cross between asparagus and endive. However it’s described, this dish was an unexpected delight. The chef was kind enough to bring out a piece of unprepared salsify. He was genuinely excited about the ingredient, which excited us, too. It was the highlight of the evening. 

‘Chef’s Kiss #1.’ Braised salsify with parmesan cream, prosciutto, toasted pepitas, and an herb salad. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Executive Chef Jon Sterrett with a piece of unprepared salsify. Photo by Monica Bliss.

The other starters included a roasted beet salad with marinated beetroot, goat cheese crisp, pickled cranberries, hot honey, and hazelnut butter that wowed me. It was gorgeously presented, yummy, and the pickled cranberries were extra special. The perfectly cooked pan-seared scallops with poached navy beans, sautéed dulce, lemongrass beurre blanc, and sea beans were outstanding. Bravo to this Chef for cooking the scallops the way they should be cooked. My husband actually “mmmmm’d” out loud while eating it, which I’ve never heard him do in a restaurant before. He usually reserves those expressions for his wife’s cooking. Lastly, the beautiful soft-boiled Harney & Sons tea egg served over a fried potato nest with a sauce soubise was just delightful. 

Roasted beet salad with marinated beetroot, goat cheese crisp, pickled cranberries, hot honey, and hazelnut butter. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Pan-seared scallops with poached navy beans, sautéed dulce, lemongrass beurre blanc, and sea beans. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Harney & Sons tea egg served over a fried potato nest with a sauce soubise. Photo by Monica Bliss.

While the appetizers stole the show, one of Chef Sterrett’s entrees earned the second “chef’s kiss” of the evening, the egg yolk tagliolini with a sauce of New England uni and High Lawn Farm cream topped with fresh parsley, chives, and tarragon oil.  This was one of the most inspired pasta dishes I’ve ever had. It was also the best preparation of uni that I’ve ever had. Finding this dish on the menu at The Red Lion Inn surely proves that Chef Sterrett is not only meeting his goals, but knocking them out of the park.

‘Chef’s Kiss #2.’ Egg yolk tagliolini with a sauce of New England uni and High Lawn Farm cream topped with fresh parsley, chives, and tarragon oil. Photo by Monica Bliss.

I also want to mention the entree of pan-roasted monkfish served with lemon-ginger dashi, miso quinoa, and red tabby spinach. This dish is for those who, like me, really love bitter flavors. The chef said that it once brought a woman to tears. I can’t say this was my favorite dish of the night, but I will say that the monkfish was cooked to perfection. It was the best piece of monkfish my husband and I have ever eaten. This chef and his team truly know how to cook.

Pan-roasted monkfish served with lemon-ginger dashi, miso quinoa, and red tabby spinach. Photo by Monica Bliss.

Next up were the desserts, a board of warm Camembert with a raspberry gastrique, candied pepitas, and red pepper flakes; a rum pecan pie served with High Lawn Farm vanilla ice cream, and earning the third “chef’s kiss” of the evening, a divine apple cinnamon panna cotta topped with apple cinnamon cream, cheddar and pecan streusel, and a spiced apple compote. Just…  muah! And, muah! And, muah!

‘Chef’s Kiss #3.’ Apple cinnamon panna cotta topped with apple cinnamon cream, cheddar and pecan streusel, and a spiced apple compote. In the back is the board of warm camembert with a raspberry gastrique, candied pepitas, and red pepper flakes. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Rum pecan pie served with High Lawn Farm vanilla ice cream. Photo by Monica Bliss.
Coffee. Photo by Monica Bliss.

If you go, I recommend ordering the triple chef’s kiss: the braised salsify, the egg yolk tagliolini, and the apple cinnamon panna cotta. The Red Lion Inn is located on Main Street in Stockbridge. The menu can be viewed online.

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