Saturday, January 06, 2007

Thomas HENKELMANN's HOMESTEAD's(Greenwich,CT) hefty ratings a bit high

Over the weekend we celebrated my Dad's 84th birthday at the renowned THOMAS HENKELMANN's at the HOMESTEAD INN of Greenwich, Connecticut ( This quaint Relais et Chateaux location just off Long Island Sound is a quiet retreat in the true style of a French Country Inn with impeccable service. I had been looking forward to dining here for many years, and the perfect opportunity arose to have my parents, my siblings and the grandchildren (minus Samuel, of course) all together for this rare assemblage.

Chef Henkelmann has the esteem of having the highest Zagat rating in all of Connecticut and one that even exceeds all the dining establishments of the Mid-Atlantic region as well, save the Inn at Little Washington (which it almost ties!). You can well imagine we were expecting perfection, as well as a truly special dining experience. While the food was excellent, I was disparaged by the overall lack of sensation I really wanted to depart with.

Our large table of nine was in a cozy booth, which sadly suffered from two air conditioning vents. being located on either side of us, so that someone always had a draft on their neck. The warm high 60 degree evening temps made the a/c necessary, but the staff did turn it off periodically, so we do not have to suffer for three hours straight. The Inn is old and quaint as I mentioned, but they desperately need to solve this problem if people are paying over $100 per person to dine.

We started with MANY bottles of excellent LANDMARK "Overlook" 2004 Chardonnay from Sonoma which is always a winner, and I was happy that everyone at the table liked my choice. When I opted to "upgrade" to a DUTTON "Palm Vineyard" Chardonnay as the appetizers arrived there was a severe delay and the sommelier brought a NON-vineyard designate Dutton to the table. When I mentioned that this was not the same wine, and definitely not the same price he came back with the "Palm" which was room temperature and we declined. I asked the price of the Dutton non-vineyard designate and he had no idea, so we quickly had to rush and get another bottle of Landmark as many of us had empty glasses and the food was arriving. This was a delay that really should not occur, and they should have simply said, take the chilled cheaper Dutton for X Dollars, and I could have opted to or not, but they did not.

In advance, I had asked the kitchen to please accommodate my nephew who is a vegetarian and eats no fish. Upon arrival, they basically offered him the ONE baby veggie starter, or the peas soup without bacon, and an entree of similar baby veggies with either pasta or mashed potatoes. I was quite shocked that a kitchen and chef of this caliber offers no truly inventive options for vegetarians. The amuses came (and no veggie option was proffered for my nephew as well) which was a tasty GOUGERE CHEESE Puff with Halibut & Salmon Mousse.

I do have to admit that the food quality was excellent and the portions quite huge. No tasting options exist, so it is basically appetizer, entree and dessert. The portion sizes would preclude any extra courses indeed. My CRISP SAUTEED SWEETBREADS with French Style Peas and PERIGORD BLACK TRUFFLE Sauce was superb, and I did marvel at the presentation of my nephew's adorable Baby Vegetable Dish which he said was perfect.

The breads were decent with Potato Bacon (of course not for my nephew) Rolls winning the top honors, but nothing worth writing home about.

We switched to a superb JEAN-MARC BOULEY 2002 VOLNAY that was a brilliant example of fruit forward and intense Pinot Noir from Burgundy. It was excellent with almost all the entrees from beef to veal to fish. My GRENADIN of VEAL with MAINE LOBSTER RISOTTO, Parmesan Lace and WATERCRESS PORT WINE Sauce was again superb. The veal loin was at least 8 ounces or more over a huge plate of risotto with a whole lobster tail atop. It was just so big, I felt imposed upon to finish it, and doggie bags are really silly when you don't live nearby. Again, I don't fault the food or the chef, just the basic concept; I truly felt I was back in the 60's or 70's at a pre-nouvelle French restaurant.

Dessert was also quite good and much more innovative (that's the word I was looking for) with my VARIATION of PEAR: Crepe, Sorbet & Mousse which I adored. the WARM VANILLA BREAD PUDDING with Apricot Filling, Apricot Sauce & Lime Yogurt Sorbet was another innovative dish, but I was quite surprised that it came cold and really was more like a tart with pudding that a bread pudding.

A bottle of ROYAL TOKAJI 5 Puttonyos 2000 was apricoty and intense and kept us dessert wine drinkers happy as we munched on the mignardises consisting of fruit tarts, almond paste tart and the oddest little delish crunchy chocolate things that had an eerie resemblance to poop (we called them poop tarts).

Would I return? Yes, but I might ask in advance if the chef would consider preparing a tasting menu, as I think his cuisine is superb, but needs some INNOVATION and excitement.