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Home at The Biltmore Bar and Grille
Features - Chefs and Restaurants
Written by Jon Ross-Wiley   

There is nothing better than a meal that features fresh local ingredients prepared by a top-notch chef. That is until this meal is paired with local beer, local cheese, and the opportunity to hear from the people who put in the hours to produce it all.  Such was the case at the Farm to Table dinner I attended at The Biltmore Bar & Grille in Newton Upper Falls, Massachusetts earlier this month.

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But I should really backtrack a bit. Before the dinner even began (I was a little early), I couldn't help but notice, immediately upon walking in, that the Biltmore had a feel to it.  I still can't put my finger on it, but something about the bar made me feel like a regular walking in, and I'd never stepped foot there before.  I sat at the bar, briefly perused the taps, and felt right at home. One of my favorite all-time beers, Gritty's Black Fly Stout (Portland, ME) was available on tap and, a moment later, my first sip transported me back to road trips to Portland from my college campus in Brunswick. Good times. 

The bar menu also grabbed my attention with items like housemade beef jerky, salt cod fritters, and local oysters just to name a few. With dinner ahead, and trying to demonstrate some restraint, I refrained in ordering anything, but I will return to sidle up to the bar and order up a few of the Chef Dan Lane's gems. Black Fly Stout down, it was time for dinner.

The Biltmore Bar & Grille, which opened in 1921 at the start of the Prohibition as a speakeasy, has been restored and now features produce and dairy from local farms as well as seafood, meat and poultry from the finest purveyors in the area. To highlight their commitment to local food, the Biltmore has been hosting a Farm to Table Series. These events not only bring the best of the season to the table, but also serve as a chance to pair local beers with the food and for the food and beer producers themselves to have a moment to share their stories with the lucky diners.

The dinner I attended featured Chef Dan Lane working his magic with produce from Stillman's Farm (New Braintree, MA), cheese from Robinson Farm (Hardwick, MA), and beers from Peak Organic Brewing Company (Portland, ME). 

I arrived at the table to find a terrific cheese plate with generous portions of Robinson Farm's Robinson Family Swiss, Tekenink Tomme, Hardwick Stone, and A Barndance varieties.  We were walked through the cheeses by both Chef Lane as well as farm owner, Raymond Robinson.  The cheese were described with great pride, and deservedly so.

Moving into dinner, we began with a lovely salad that made chioggia beets the star of the show along with fresh arugula, sun gold tomatoes, and Robinson Farm A Barndance cheese. This salad was well-balanced and seemed to impress and convert the non-beet eaters who attended the event. Peak Organic's Summer Session worked really well with this salad as it was light and didn't overpower the subtle flavors of the simply, but deliciously, prepared vegetables.

 

Peak's King Crimson was up next, paired with a summer vegetable flatbread with zucchini, squash, tomato, basil, arugula and Robinson Farm'sTekenink Tomme cheese.  For one, it was refreshing to have a pizza that was untraditional in terms of the choice of cheese, but, perhaps more refreshing was Chef Lane's rationale for the addition of the arugula which wan't initially on the ingredient list for the pizza. "It's in season, and I love it, so I'm going to use wherever I can." Perfect.

 

As an additional bonus, my friend and tablemate, Wendy Pierce (Goldstein Pierce PR), and I happened to be seated next to the owners of Stillma;s Farm, Glenn and Genevieve Stillman. As we enjoyed our pizzas, it was a real treat to talk to the people whose produce was front and center on the plate. 

Our main course was a housemade spicy chicken sausage stuffed with Hardwick Stone cheese served on a fresh roll with braised greens and house potato crisps. Chef Lane (left) really hit this dish squarely on the head. Using local chicken from the Turkey Farm at Stillman's Farm and Robinson Farm cheese to make sausage in house is just local upon local, fresh upon fresh.

We closed the evening with a Hop Noir from Peak paired with a brisket (braised in the Hop Noir) served with seasonal vegetables in a housemade corn tortilla. This interesting take on a taco was a terrific example of how a chef going the extra mile, in this case, making his own tortillas, can elevate food to the next level.

And if all of this comfort food wasn't enough to make you feel at home, certainly the cookies served for dessert would close the deal. They were delicious for sure, but what excited me most about them was that they were made by Assistant General Manager, Bree Mills. The Biltmore is doing it right across the board.

While you can only read about my dining experience, you can enjoy the next Farm to Table Series which will feature Ommegang BPA, Ommegang Aphrodite (not yet released), Duvel single (formerly Duvel Green), and La Chouffe beers.

Neighborhood Farm from Needham, MA will be the featured farm, so the produce will travel less than 5 miles before getting into the hands of Chef Lane.

In addition, the evening will include a pair of tickets to see the Avett Brothers at the Ommegang Brewery in Cooperstown, NY. 

The dinner will be held August 8th, 2011 at The Biltmore. Please email This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it if you would like to attend. 

My advice, make sure you attend the event on the 8th, but don't make it your first time at The Biltmore.  The food and drink will make sure it's not your last visit all by themselves.


 

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