My husband and I recently had the chance to spend a day at the Mayflower Inn and Spa in Washington, CT. It was, in a word, sublime. It’s nestled in the Litchfield County countryside, with rolling hills, lush foliage and perfectly manicured gardens -- a New England picture-postcard paradise. The Inn itself is an elegant, magnificently maintained, five-star luxury spa resort. I could go on for hours about the place. But this is CTBites -- let’s talk about the food.
It’s admittedly difficult (if not impossible) to separate the food from the magnificent surroundings. We had breakfast on the restaurant’s outdoor Terrace overlooking the formal Shakespeare Garden. With only one or two other tables occupied on this quiet midweek morning, we could hear the songbirds and a light breeze rustling through the towering pines and firs. So civilized -- and so unlike our usual chaotic kids-and-frozen-waffles breakfast scene! An old shoe might taste good in such a setting.
Our favorite breakfast item was the organic hot muesli cereal with preserved blueberries and strawberries. It arrived warm, topped with a generous dollop of steamed, frothed milk, drizzled with orange blossom honey. Though it sounds somewhat basic, it was like meeting oatmeal’s more interesting, charismatic cousin. We loved the nutty mix of grains (including barley and oats), and sweet, tangy dried fruits, soaked and cooked to retain an interesting mix of textures. It was neither mushy nor crunchy, but something lovely in between. (“Munchy”?) It was one of the breakfast menu’s two “spa inspired” items. Though we never figured out exactly what “spa inspired” meant, we decided “when in Rome….”
The other “spa-inspired” dish was a well-prepared egg white omelet with spinach, herbs, wild mushrooms, tomato relish, goat cheese and a side of mixed greens. Though a tad salty for our tastes, it was fresh, well cooked and beautifully presented. Only to be able to share more tastes with CTBites readers (NOT!), we also sampled the house made granola with dried fruit and “artisanal” Greek yogurt. The granola was as good as granola gets – crunchy, sweet (but not too sweet) and delicious. The use of quinoa and a variety of seeds added an earthy and interesting twist to this breakfast standard.
After a gorgeous bike ride around Lake Waramaug, we were ready to check out the Terrace’s lunch offerings. The Cobb Salad was simple -- iceberg, avocado, tomato, Nodine’s bacon, cucumber, egg, blue cheese and buttermilk dressing. (No offense to Nodine, whoever he or she may be, but we asked for grilled chicken breast instead.) The salad was artfully presented, with diced ripe red tomato and chopped cucumber arranged on top of two wedges of iceberg lettuce, complimented by an arrangement of fresh avocado and tiny wedges of hard-boiled egg. The grilled chicken breast was sliced, warm, moist and well-seasoned. Everything was exceptionally fresh and beautifully plated.
The soup of the day (a special we were not aware of until we overheard our server describing it to the table next to us) was a wonderful roasted vegetable soup. Our server poured pureed vegetable soup over a bowl of crunchy, finely diced cauliflower, carrots, zucchini and squash. The result was a mouthful of silky, peppery soup combined with the crunch of chopped vegetable. It was a flavorful mix of vegetable tastes and textures, made rich and creamy without the use of any cream or milk.
Speaking of rich and creamy – let’s talk about the Guava Coconut Creamsicle, a “spa inspired” dessert that was truly inspired. Imagine the dessert love-child of a creamsicle and a drunk coconut rum cake. The plate was covered with paper-thin slices of ripe pineapple, crumbled macadamia nuts, and dabs of lemon curd. Perched on top of the crumbled macadamia was a wheel of half guava sorbet and half coconut ice cream. The combination of sweet ice cream, tangy guava and the crunchy, buttery macadamia nuts was heavenly. Add to that a mini-muffin sized, rum-soaked coconut cake. It was tropical yet New England-y, decadent yet light, fruity and fresh.
After more spa and serenity, we ambled back to the Inn for dinner, barely recognizing the calm, relaxed people we’d become. We ordered a la carte items from the Inn’s Tap Room (a clubby, less formal dinner venue) as well as a few favorites from the Main Dining Room’s dinner menu.
The summer chopped salad (also “spa inspired”) was one of our favorite dishes of the day, with greens, shredded carrots and zucchini, yellow grape tomatoes, garbanzo beans, beets, goat cheese, candied walnuts and a tangy herbal balsamic vinaigrette. Did I mention the candied walnuts? So ridiculously sweet, salty, crunchy-good, we actually asked for extras. The salad was an exceedingly fresh combination of sweet and savory, crunchy and creamy.
We also ordered one of the Tap Room’s special appetizers of the day, grilled lobster over a spicy Thai-inspired mix of shredded carrots, zucchini, green papaya, peanuts and a tamarind dressing. The appetizer was small but intensely flavorful. It was another imaginative interpretation of creative New England fare.
The Tap Room’s Wellington Farm Chicken Breast was another simple dish, beautifully executed. The chicken breast was exceptionally moist and juicy, cooked “sous vide” and then pan seared. It was served in a hot skillet with roasted corn, queso, lime, grilled onion and chorizo.
The Dining Room’s Rhode Island Striped Bass was also delicious, perfectly cooked and served over caramelized oyster mushrooms, buttered leeks, fennel puree and sauce charon -- a rich béarnaise sauce with tomato. It was also served with bacon “lardons” though we asked to omit those (since we’d come to the Spa hoping to take lard off, not put it on!).
Forgetting our “lard off” philosophy -- as we inevitably did at this point in every meal -- we ordered the plum and nectarine crepe, a mouthwatering summer dessert. The soft crepe was filled with tangy, supremely fresh dices of plum, nectarine and roasted cherries, served with a small scoop of creamy rich ricotta ice cream over dried pomegranate, natural almonds and saba. We were gaga over the dessert’s fresh and artful combination of flavors and textures. And we are still talking about that insanely good ricotta ice cream!
It should be noted that there are only a couple of “spa inspired” items on the breakfast, lunch and dinner menus. And no nutritional information is provided. But we loved the fresh, healthful and delicious dishes we sampled. Using fresh, seasonal and local ingredients, Executive Chef Justin Ermini and his team truly “de-lighted” us with their enlightened cuisine. It was a superlative spa sampler . . . in every sense.