Order this... Delicious dishes at The Spring House
September is one of the best months to come to Block Island. The days are warm and the nights are cool, the beaches are empty and the water is as close to perfect as it can be. The island is yours to hike and bike, and the restaurant at The Spring House is open to sate your appetite at the end of the day. One of the the island’s grand old hotels, The Spring House sits atop a hill at the bend of the road on Spring Street, looking over the town and harbor with a serene gaze. The new fall menu at Victoria’s Parlor makes the most of the fresh produce grown in hotel gardens, combined with hearty portions that reflect the taste of fall in the ocean air.
A large expansive lawn with a row of white Adirondack chairs is the perfect place to relax with a drink while watching the ferries and fishing boats ply their way toward Pt. Judith and New London. Wrought iron tables and chairs dot the wide deck along with chairs and couches perfect for reading in the late summer sun.
Inside, the restaurant has several seating options in the large open room with big picture windows maximizing the view. High leather booths create intimate seating areas for two or more people, and traditional tables and chairs are augmented by low couches and coffee tables atop antique oriental rugs covering the old wooden floors. A long bar wraps around the back side of the room where diners can sit and watch TV or chat up the bartender while eating dinner or appetizers off the fall menu.
Chef Brian Hebert decided to prepare a range of appetizers and entrees to highlight the breadth and depth of offerings off his new menu. Plump scallops sporting a golden sear rested in a pool of creamy just-picked butternut squash puree, accompanied by a dollop of apple fennel slaw. The sweet and acidic salad was a delectable counterpart to the sweet squash and the tender scallops; a nice dish of fall flavors to whet your appetite for a larger entree. While the scallop dish is a solid hit, we agreed that the second starter of the tasting, the Wild Mushroom Crostini, knocked it out of the park. A marsala glaze bathes a medley of oyster, shiitake and cremini mushrooms sitting atop a thick piece of buttery, airy brioche. House-made herbed ricotta coats the bread while extra dollops blend in with the glaze to create a velvety sauce that will make your mouth sigh with pleasure. It’s probably a dish meant to share, but after one bite you’re likely to reconsider and have it all for yourself.
Our two entrees were equally appealing on both the plate and palate. Local swordfish is grilled and then roasted to keep it tender throughout, served with an eggplant caponata, cous cous, zucchini and caper oil. We found that the sweet and sour caponata was a great balance with the firm lean flesh of the swordfish, and made this dish a great way to savor summer while easing into early fall. Our final entree is one that has its roots deep in the season, figuratively and literally. Pork Osso Bucco is served with a root vegetable mash, Brussel sprouts, fried horseradish and a pan jus. The fork-tender pork falls off the bone into the sweet mash of carrots, parsnips and turnips and, taken with a bite of bitter, crisp horseradish, makes for a well-composed and balanced dish.
More about Chef Brian Hebert:
Chef was influenced by cooking at an early age; his mother taught at Johnson and Wales Culinary school and he said that “cooking’s all I’ve ever done.” He remembers helping her cook while he was growing up and, after the usual stints of dishwashing and bussing while in high school, went to college and met a friend who had worked a season on the island. Brian joined his friend for the following season and worked as a sous chef at The Spring House at the ripe old age of 21. This is now his ninth year on the island as a chef and his sixth year as Executive Chef. Off season he works at the owner’s three other restaurants on the mainland. He enjoys working with the head gardener at The Spring House to figure out what vegetables will be coming into fruition today, tomorrow and two weeks from now so he can plan dishes and compose specials based on what’s available and fresh.
The Spring House is open for dining through Columbus Day Weekend, and the Barn (behind the Spring House) will be open over the winter.
When you’re craving fresh produce and locally sourced meat and fish put together with care for texture, taste and flavor, make your way to The Spring House and let Chef Brian and his team satisfy your hunger in a comfortable, cozy setting.