Restaurant Review: Stone Creek
Something for everyone- with class- at the Inn at Stone Creek.
A Rare Find
The elegant Inn at Stone Creek
deftly manages to please all tastes
By Bernadette Vail
As we traveled down the Taconic Parkway toward the Inn at Stone Creek in Hopewell Junction (Dutchess), I couldn¡¯t help but feel that I was somehow setting this restaurant up for failure. The group I had chosen to accompany me to dinner, whose ages range from 16 to 70, included a vegetarian, a meat-and-potatoes man, and a teenager with allergies to nuts and shellfish ¡ª not an easy crowd for even the most accomplished restaurant to please. But, I am happy to report, the Inn at Stone Creek more than met the challenge.
Housed in a stately 1740s farmhouse, this establishment exudes warmth the moment you enter. Lights twinkled in the windows, casting a glow on the three separate dining areas. Oriental carpets blanketed the floorboards, while jazz played quietly in the background, and a professional service staff cordially greeted us. We were seated in a small dining room directly off the front entrance. Though ours was a big table in the middle of the room, at no point in the evening did we experience the ¡°fishbowl¡± effect that occurs in many restaurants.
A basket filled with warm slices of garlic bread and an earthy wheat baguette quickly appeared. Cocktails were served as we perused the menu and extensive wine list, which offered many medium-priced selections. With our waitress¡¯s input, we decided on a 2001 Pipers Brook 9th Island Pinot Noir ($25) from Tasmania. While debating the menu choices, the adults breathed a collective sigh of relief when the teenager ordered the ostrich ($29). As a chorus of ¡°Oh, I really would have tried that¡± played, we decided on our selections.
The vegetarian was delighted with her appetizer of a grilled portobello mushroom stuffed with pine nuts and sun-dried tomatoes ($9); it came topped by a hefty slice of fresh mozzarella with a balsamic-reduction sauce and was large enough to suffice as an entr¨¦e.
The staff happily accommodated ostrich boy by serving the baked brie ($8) without the sliced almonds. Though we agreed that it could have been a bit warmer ¡ª hence, oozier ¡ª it was quickly devoured. Toast points and a tangy cranberry relish rounded off this dish.
Thinly crusted crab cakes packed with ample pieces of lump crabmeat were accompanied by a cilantro lime aioli ($10). A quick course on aioli was necessary for the meat-and-potatoes man (whose tastes run toward Miracle Whip), but he was pleasantly surprised ¡ª so much so that it was difficult getting him to share.
Grandma chose a Caesar salad ($7). It was delicious: the dressing was creamy and tart with lemon, and the greens were finished with homemade croutons and shaved parmesan. My bowl of silky butternut squash soup ($6) ¡ª drizzled with walnut oil, topped with a dollop of sour cream, and studded with spicy cubes of apples and squash ¡ª was a delicious mix of contrasting flavors.
Entr¨¦e options for our vegetarian were nonexistent, but having been sated by her generous appetizer, she decided to sample the side dishes of our four entr¨¦es. Predictably, our meat-and-potatoes guy ordered the grilled Hangar Steak ($22). The meat was beautifully scored and perfectly cooked to order. A terrine of Yukon gold potatoes dotted with roasted tomatoes and fennel alongside saut¨¦ed broccoli rabe finished off this plate. Grandma opted for the herb-crusted pork chop ($21). The tender, roasted chop was paired with an apple brandy cream sauce and served with bacon crushed potatoes, and saut¨¦ed spinach.
My walnut-crusted salmon ($20) had a crispy exterior that gave way to a moist interior. The maple-essence pan sauce infused the bed of wild rice pilaf and glazed carrots, giving the dish a wonderfully sweet flavor. Ostrich boy¡¯s eagerly awaited dish did not disappoint. In fact, it was the hit of the night. Slightly more gamy than a lean cut of beef, the tender filet was pan-seared and had a deep, rich flavor. Accompanied by a medley of mixed grilled vegetables, the succulent slices of meat rested atop a mound of mashed potatoes and were pronounced superb by the carnivores in the group.
We passed on the extensive selection of specialty and after-dinner drinks, but tried four of the seven desserts offered (each $7). The favorite was the trio of cr¨¨me brul¨¦es ¡ª ramekins of vanilla, pistachio, and raspberry baked custards. All were distinctively flavored and topped with a finely crisped layer of sugar. (Flavors change weekly.) Also winning were the apple cobbler, paired with homemade vanilla bean ice cream, and the bourbon pecan pie served with caramel sauce and homemade butter pecan ice cream.
The only questionable dessert was Grandma¡¯s lemon tart, which was encased in a cranberry shortbread shell. We sensed trouble when we looked over to see her holding her fork vertically above the tart¡¯s shell and pounding on its top with all the determination of a sculptor chiseling marble. The rest of us confirmed that the crust was tough, but the lemon filling was smooth and rich with flavor.
The Inn at Stone Creek is a lovely place to dine. Much attention is given to details, from the votives lining the stairway up to the bathrooms to the inviting tavern with its romantic roaring fireplace. I look forward to visiting in warmer weather and dining on the picturesque porch overlooking the creek.
A few weeks after our dinner, I learned that the chef had left. But the new chef, Robert Johnston, was enthusiastic about his position and assured me that he planned to make only small revisions to the Contemporary American menu, and that it will continue to change seasonally. His impressive resum¨¦, including stints at such well-respected establishments as the Quilted Giraffe and Petrossian, gives me hope that this great place may get even better. We¡¯ll keep you posted. ¡ö
The Inn at Stone Creek is located at 37 Rte. 376 in Hopewell Junction. Dinner is served Tues.-Sat. 5-10 p.m. and Sun. 5-9 p.m. Appetizers range from $8-$14, entr¨¦es from $18-$29, and desserts $5-$7. Reservations recommended. 845-227-6631.