After having passed by the Aspen Restaurant several times and saying we will have to stop in for dinner, we finally decided to make reservations. Since we get their email newsletter, we read that they were launching a new menu so it was the perfect opportunity to make our first visit. Aspen is located in Old Saybrook, CT at 2 Main Street, in the same parking lot with Saybrook Country Barn. Aspen’s cuisine centers around contemporary American with a hint of French infusion using local seasonal ingredients. We came early enough to beat the crowd and take in the view of the restaurant’s beautiful double-sided fireplace.
Chef Tom Prue’s “Farm Fresh” menu takes full advantage of Connecticut’s farm to chef program, bringing chefs together with Connecticut growers, producers, and distributors of local products. This menu changes, there is a portion of the menu that changes daily, often as the availability of ingredients vary. Chef Prue has incorporated the use of local sourced ingredients in their regular menu, as well.
Connecticut’s farm to chef program helps “connect Connecticut chefs and food service professionals with growers, producers, and distributors of CT Grown products. It also helps the public locate restaurants, institutions, and other dining facilities that serve foods prepared with CT Grown ingredients.”
Shortly after being seated at our table, Kirsten, our friendly and pleasant server, appeared. She readily answered all our questions and provided us with her recommendations. Even though she had only been at Aspen for a short time, she knew the menu extremely well. She was extremely helpful throughout the entire evening.
As is our custom, we started the evening off with a couple of the restaurant’s “signature” cocktails: Aspen 75 and Cable Car. The Aspen 75 was a pleasant blend of English dry gin, blueberries, fresh squeezed lemon juice, simple syrup, and champagne. The blueberries were muddled with the gin first, thus allowing the blueberry flavor to be throughout the entire drink.
Whereas the Cable Car was a simple combination of Captain Morgan rum, triple sec, and fresh squeezed lemon juice in a cinnamon-sugar rimmed martini glass. The tang of the cinnamon and the sweetness of the sugar balanced well with the tartness of the lemon.
We were happy with both choices and thought the mixologist did a great job coming up with these unique concoctions.
From the Small Plates section of the menu, we chose the Market Salad, a well portioned bed of baby greens topped with crumbled goat cheese, spiced pecans, dried cranberries, all tossed with a light balsamic vinaigrette. This salad became our favorite.
The House of Frisee salad was a mount of frizzy and slightly bitter frisee lettuce containing bits of house made lambchetta, sliced Granny Smith apples topped with a poached quail egg. Accompanying it was a crispy and creamy Melville cheese croquette. The salad was lightly dressed with vinegar and extra virgin oil olive.
Prior to our salads arriving, we were presented with long sliced, fresh baked French style bread. To top the soft center, crispy edged bread, was house whipped unsalted butter with red sea salt. The sea salt definitely added just the right touch to this light and creamy, unsalted butter. Now if we could only make that are home I’d be happy.
The Stonington Scallops from the “Daily Menu” were seared to a beautiful golden color yielding to a sweet, juicy, and tender center. They arrived floating in a complex but simple minestrone broth containing handmade Farfalle pasta and a variety of vegetables, including chick peas, tomato, carrots, and squash, then lightly drizzled with herb oil. The broth enhanced the delicate scallop while not overpowering it. Yet another favorite.
From the “Main Course” we selected the Seared Long Island Duck Breast with rutabaga, charred Brussels sprouts, and red wine jus. The crispy skinned, suckle duck was to cooked to a nice medium rare. The earthly, fall flavors of each ingredient on the dish paired nicely together.
The meal was completed with dessert: Fried Banana “Raviolis.” These nicely deep fried banana raviolis were deliciously paired with salted caramel gelato, spice bananas, and drizzled with chocolate sauce. I wasn’t sure whether I wanted to try a banana dessert because banana can often be overpowering but Aspen has created the perfect balance of banana to ravioli , where one could taste the banana without it overpowering everything else. This is definitely a keeper.
Throughout the entire evening, the service we received was superb, the staff was pleasant and personable. Our water glass was never empty the entire meal. The proper attention was given to us without being intrusive and hovering over us. I suggest making reservations as the restaurant rapidly filled up as the evening wore on.