Daniel Jackson, executive chef of Vermont's historic Woodstock Inn & Resort, is making some history of his own. Since he took over in May 2000, the food at the Inn's famed Dining Room has evolved from traditional New England-style to what he calls Regional American.
For Jackson, it's a theme that began at the Culinary Institute of America in Hyde Park, N.Y. "Our instructors were concentrating on food from different regions of the country, as opposed to just French food, which had been the trend for so long," Jackson says. "That exploration made a big impression on me." Tenures at resort properties in Charleston, S.C., and Longboat Key, Fla., provided additional influences.
When diners open their menus in the candlelit restaurant (elegantly appointed with crisp white linens, fine table settings and soft, cream-colored décor), they find offerings such as chilled Gulf shrimp martinis, a twist on the traditional shrimp cocktail, flavored with Absolut Citron cocktail sauce and a splash of vermouth and served in a martini glass. Chilean sea bass is glazed with miso; crab cakes come with a spicy rémoulade; and fava bean cassoulet accompanies roasted rack of lamb.
That doesn't mean you won't find local products. Vermont cheese flavors the cheddar cornbread sticks. Veal tenderloin is wrapped in locally smoked bacon. Vermont beef is served carpaccio-style with black truffles and local asiago. Atlantic salmon and Maine lobster appear in varying preparations.
How does the restaurant's clientele respond to Jackson's fare? "We hear all good things from our customers," he laughs. "People come from New York, Boston, Connecticut, and many of them return."
Chef-owner Bill White has fashioned his 10,000-square-foot Wahso restaurant into a culinary showplace that's far more 1930s Shanghai than Park City 2003. A 5,000-pound granite tiger guards the door. The dining room boasts gold-leaf moldings, Brazilian cherry wood floors and private dining "salons" (draw the lavish gold drapes for privacy). Follow a sake-tini with Szechuan blistered beans, crispy fried salt-and-pepper calamari, jasmine-tea-leaf smoked duck, red curry and mint-braised lam, and soy and ginger-glazed sea bass. To top it off, the Wine Spectator Award list is one of the best in the region.
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