Dining: Table Six at the Kemble Inn
By Elizabeth Goldfarb Richardson
Legendarily witty as the Algonquin Round Table was purported to be, I can’t help wondering if any of its regulars (including Dorothy Parker, Robert Benchley, and George S. Kaufman, with guest appearances by Harpo Marx, Tallulah Bankhead, and the like), ever actually tasted the food they intermittently chewed on in between quips and swigs from their platinum flasks. Frankly, one could hardly blame them: This was a far better era for American humor than it was for food, even at posh places. One can only imagine: No doubt an over-buttered dover sole almondine was always on the menu.
I admit — my cattiness belies a certain envy. Having a meal with, say, the founding editor of The New Yorker, would no doubt be an engaging variation from dear husband Edgar or my anthropologist friend Jane, whose trip back to see the Yanomami has been delayed for some reason I fail to recall. She’s a lovely, fascinating gal, but more Margaret Mead than Dorothy Parker; one can only wonder how either would have fared at the expense of the The Vicious Circle.
Anyway, I bring up all of this because a fellow named Scott Shortt, who has put his heart and soul into refurbishing the Kemble Inn in Lenox, has opened a restaurant there that promises to be a special new addition to eating in the area — Table Six, named after the famous piece of furniture that led to the lore of The Algonquin. The Kemble Inn restaurant now is, frankly, far more lovely than the hotel dining area it refers to. Every year Shortt has upgraded and renovated this beautiful Gilded Age mansion, stripping the old building down to its original bones and refurbishing them beautifully. The dining area itself is no exception. More importantly, Shortt has persuaded Chef Ron Reda, who presided over the White House mess when President Clinton was in office, to join him. A good sign for sure, since Reda’s cooking was obviously so irresistible that it almost killed the man! (Though he can hardly be blamed: He was no doubt just following the now-vegan Prez’s gluttonous orders.)
Once seated, by the warm and inviting staff, to a table with some of the most comfortable seats we’ve ever had in a restaurant, the menus arrived. They are simple and elegant, nothing fussy and over the top. The overwhelming sense of the food was one of simplicity. The pricing is uncomplicated as well; a changing prix fixe, three-course meal comes to $53, with offerings such as a local asparagus soup, duck leg confit, and key lime pot de crème, each of which had a purity of flavor that comes with using great ingredients and presenting them in an elegant way.
A spring vegetable soup served that evening was fresh and full of herbal flavors and zest; the crab cake was full of crumbly crab chunks balanced with arugula salad and a rich tomato jam. For main courses, a pan-seared organic salmon and grilled lamb loin chop came out perfectly: The chop, accompanied by a green lentil ragout, was hearty and tender, the lamb full of flavor. I chose a glass of the Cantena Malbec from Argentina ($11.00) to go with it; a hearty red well matched to the meat. A bottle of the Parducci Chardonnay from California was well priced for its quality ($52). For dessert, a mini bundt cake swathed in strawberry and blueberry flavored fresh “berry” cream and a mocha ganache Napoleon were worth risking triple bypass surgery for.
All I can say after such a satisfying and comforting meal is: Who needs conversation, witty or otherwise? We expect to be going back soon, and next time plan to enjoy the terrace with its fantastic views, the pressure of living up to American literary history quite removed from our minds.