Rumplestiltzkin's: For a fairy tale feast
LENOX -- There is a fairy-tale quality to Rumplestiltzkin's, the classically refined yet comfortably informal restaurant at the historic Village Inn on Church Street.
Of course, unlike the gruesome 1812 story by the aptly-named Brothers Grimm, there's nothing sinister about it.
It turns out that the current owners of the inn, Billy and Pat Soto, renamed the restaurant for their Airedale terrier a year after they bought the 230-year-old hostelry from Ray Wilson and Cliff Rudisill in 2004, intent on preserving its Federal character while updating its appointments and its 32 guest rooms.
There's unintended irony in the slogan the restaurant has been using -- "the best-kept secret in Lenox."
During the past year, according to Executive Chef John Gosselin, the dining room's revenues have been growing by about 10 percent per month, compared to the same month the previous year. An increasingly locally-based clientele has discovered the charms of a peaceful dining spot where it's still possible to have a relaxed experience even during the hectic summer season -- though reservations are strongly suggested for weekend evenings during Tanglewood season, especially between 5 and 7.
Gosselin has been chef at the establishment for a decade; he hired Jennifer Saxton in 2003, first to wait tables; a year later, she became a manager and marketing director. Their mission has been to expand public awareness of the dining room.
"The new owners wanted the restaurant to have its own identity," Gosselin explained. "The previous owners kept it mostly for the guests and didn't go for the local dollar. Of course, now you go for every dollar you can get."
Rumplestilzskin's (yes, it's spelled differently from the fairy tale) seats 85 in the main dining room, the enclosed dining porch and, in fine weather, at tables set up in the garden. Patrons enter through the cozy public rooms of the inn, appointed with historic furnishings. The restaurant can accommodate group functions for up to 130 people.
Gosselin, 54, was raised in Pittsfield and started to work his way up the culinary ladder when he was 13, helping out at a fast-food eatery. He worked at Charlie Rice's Howard Johnson's in 1980 -- the spot taken over by Dakota, where Gosselin served as kitchen manager during its first year.
He has been a chef at Eastover, the former Drummond's at Jiminy Peak, the former North End restaurant owned by Robert Smith, Berkshire Hills Country Club and several corporate dining rooms.
Saxton, who grew up in Pennsylvania and New Hampshire, met Gosselin on-line in 2001 through an on-line dating service.
"We had the same days off," said Saxton, who was living in the Pioneer Valley at the time. They were married two years ago. "Our being together is something like a fairy tale," said Gosselin. "If you can work together, live together and still like each other, that means a lot."
The couple live in Pittsfield and still have Mondays and Tuesdays off. His daughter by a previous marriage, Nicole, is sous-chef. A longtime admirer of traditional cuisine, Gosselin describes the fare at Rumple's as classic New England with a French touch.
On a recent, quiet Sunday evening, we relaxed in the dining porch and mulled over an appealing array of main courses -- there are a dozen choices, plus nightly specials. The traditional roast turkey dinner ($18.95), complete with the usual trimmings, looked tempting, as did roasted breast of duck ($24.95), but we'll save those for our next visits.
My partner in dining chose the chicken breast chasseur ($19.95), and the medallions sauteed with fresh basil, artichokes, sun-dried tomatoes and Marsala wine were especially tender and tasty, in the French bistro tradition.
As a seafaring lad, I selected the pan-seared diver scallops. Exquisitely, gently seared in a buttery saute and topped with bruschetta, the scallops were fresh and delicate -- an outstanding choice at $24.95.
Our six-year-old dining critic-i- training was delighted by the choices on the children's menu -- he proclaimed the pasta with butter and grated cheese "perfecto!" and was equally pleased by the chocolate sundae dessert.
The homemade rolls were well above average, and the dessert selections (mostly baked by Saxton) included lemon pound cake, gingerbread sundae, decadent chocolate cake and the one we ordered "for the table," raspberry linzer torte -- one of the best versions of this Austrian specialty (from Linz, naturally) we've sampled.
Adjoining the inn is Rumpy's Tavern, a locally-popular watering hole with pub food as well as available entrees from the restaurant menu. The spot offers live music Friday and Saturday nights (recent performers have included Rev Tor and Sammy Brown), karaoke on Thursdays and open-mic on Sundays.
Rumpy's is open Wed.-Sun. from 4:30 p.m. to 1 a.m. Both the restaurant and tavern offer a combination of value and quality at a time when dining out is a choice carefully weighed and measured; based on several visits to the Village Inn's dining spots, the combination of fine service, traditional cuisine at its best and relaxing ambiance is hard to beat, even in a town with a multitude of choices.
Also noteworthy and praiseworthy: Although days and hours are reduced come November, Rumple's and Rumpy's remain open year-round.
If you go ...
Where: 16 Church St., Lenox, at the Village Inn
Rating: Four out of five chef's hats.
Handicapped accessible: Yes.
Summer Hours: Full breakfast daily 8-10:30 (until 11:30 Sundays); lunch Thurs.-Sat. 12-2:30; dinner Wed.-Sun. 5-9 p.m.
Credit cards: All major.
Reservations: Strongly recommended for dinner, especially weekends.
Information: (413) 637-0020.
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