- Timed to return with the green of spring, the Horned Dorset Inn will reopen its doors in Leonardsville, N.Y., on May 9, resuming the renowned fine dining and gracious Victorian-style overnight guest accommodations it began 35 years ago.
Following a year-long hiatus that allowed the inn's owners to establish a new artists' residency program in this rural hamlet, the inn will celebrate its renaissance in retro style. The new menu features much of the classical French cuisine that first placed it on the epicurean map.
Aaron Wratten returns to the family business as executive chef. Aaron served in recent years as executive chef for The Horned Dorset Primavera, the prestigious Relais and Chateuaux property that his father, Kingsley, and family friend and business associate Harold Davies developed in Rincon, Puerto Rico, in 1987 as an extension of their inn at Leonardsville.
Harold and Kingsley have owned and operated the original inn since it first opened in 1977.
During those initial years, Davies himself could be found in the kitchen preparing the restaurant's succulent meals, with a young Aaron apprenticed at his side.
Aaron went on to pursue the art of French cooking through culinary studies at L'Ecole Ferrandi in Paris and earned his way into respected New York City restaurants, such as "Aureole" and "Restaurant Daniel."
In his newest role, he will revive many traditional French preparations from The Horned Dorset's earliest menus, adding abundant local flavor as he blends organic vegetables and fruits from the restaurant's own gardens with locally produced meats, poultry and artisanal cheeses. Among the traditional recipes to return is a patron favorite, the beloved complimentary cheese souffle hors d'oeuvre.
A sample menu from the inn's new web site at www.horneddorsetinn.com
reveals a tasteful assortment of appetizers, main courses and desserts fashioned to meet the highest caliber of French cooking, even by Julia Child's standards.
It's no surprise then to find Coquilles Saint-Jacques with lemon butter; Pate de Campagne; Fettuccini a la Romana, with proscuitto, garlic and parmesan cheese; or Ris de Veau, more familiarly known as sauteed sweetbreads, among the hors d'oeuvres, priced from $9 to $12.
Meat and poultry selections, titled "Viandes and Volailles," offer guests a choice of classically prepared chicken -Milanese, Mornay or Archduk-as well as Veal Horned Dorset, complemented with mushroom, avocado and blue cheese.
Patrons may prefer a course of grilled filet of beef or New York strip steak with red wine shallots. Other choices include a semi-boneless spice-rubbed duck with bone marrow and capers or the classically prepared fresh fish of the day. Prices range from $21 to $29.
Additional a la carte selections follow seasonal availability, and a table d'hôte alternative offers a multi-course meal at a fixed price.
The inn's selective wine list features 40 vintages under $60. Later in the season, it expects to add a much shorter list of more rare varieties. Select beer styles from local breweries also will be available.
Dinner patrons who wish to help sponsor the arts may become "Friends of The Horned Dorset." For $1,000, Friends receive a $1,250 credit they may apply toward food, drink and accommodations. They may use any portion of the certificate whenever they choose. Friends also receive special invitations to Horned Dorset sponsored musical and arts-related events and, of course, preferential treatment when making reservations.
Both public and private dining are available Wednesdays through Sundays, with reservations strongly recommended. The restaurant's elegant dining rooms include the airy, Palladium-windowed "Garden Room;" the sophisticated "Library Room" with book-shelved dais; and two gracious private dining rooms able to accommodate two to 12 guests for wine-paring dinners, tasting menus, and other special occasions. The inn is available Mondays and Tuesdays for special events.
Wedding parties of up to 75 people may reserve the building and grounds for their exclusive use. Ceremonies may be held outdoors under a canopy in the garden adjoining the Garden Room or at the nearby church on Huey Road, a one-minute walk from the inn.
Reception guests will enjoy passed hors d'oeuvres in the Garden Room or in the garden itself. The inn also will arrange for a string quartet or classical guitar to accompany festivities, as well as for appropriate dance music to follow the dinner, if desired.
For overnight accommodations, the restored Victorian house adjoining the restaurant offers four guest rooms, all of which are pet friendly. The nightly charge for each of the two first-floor rooms is $175, while the two second-floor suites cost $195 each. Breakfast, served en suite or in the dining room, is included in the price. A pet surcharge of $35 per night includes homemade treats for guests' canine companions.
The Horned Dorset Inn derives its name from the breed of sheep once raised, in part to provide lamb for the restaurant, by the partners who converted the late 19th Century buildings into the restaurant and inn.
The inspiration for The Horned Dorset Colony took root 35 years ago, with Davies, a writer; Kingsley, a painter; and Kingsley's wife Roberta, a musician, discussing a multi-disciplinary artist community where
residents could share ideas. With the inauguration of the Colony this year, Kingsley serves as its executive director, with Davies directing development and Roberta in charge of admissions.
The trio is working to draw writers, composers and visual artists for month-long residencies at one of the Colony's local properties each May through October. Residents have ample time to focus on their artistic pursuits without the distractions of everyday life. Their stay includes dining at the inn, where they may discuss their work and benefit from shared ideas.
For more information about the Colony, visit its web site at www.horneddorsetcolony.org
The hamlet of Leonardsville is nestled in an artistically inspiring valley, marked by scenic rolling hills, the meandering Unadilla River, and a rich rural tapestry of farmlands, forests, and small communities. The inn is located on NY Route 8 in the center of the hamlet, about five miles south of NY Route 20.