In the hands of Chef Tim LaBlant, vegetables are luxurious, even in the dead of winter in Wilton.
Veggie Wednesdays at The Schoolhouse at Cannondale, a four-course farm-to-table vegetarian menu, $40 per person, runs through March. The menu changes according to what's available, and two choices are offered for each course ("Substitutions Politely Declined").
To start, the sunchoke soup, a white, fluffy, creamy, slightly sweet concoction soup, topped with the fine hatch marks of olive oil and delicate chervil fronds, felt like being wrapped in a cashmere blanket.
The other choice was a jewel-like salad. Glistening segments of blood orange and grapefruit, frizzy pale green leaves, transparent thin radishes, toasted pine nuts and pickled red onions, had the opposite effect. This salad brightened winter.
The Schoolhouse has a quiet sophistication. From the moment we walked in the door, we were taken care of. Our coats were hung. We were brought to a cozy table in the corner. The menu had been personalized, welcoming our party to the Schoolhouse. Crisp white linens cover padded tables. Brown-checked banquettes line the room. Above the glossy white wainscoting, the walls are painted a tone of chocolate that could be mistaken for schoolhouse chalkboard, but the tone is warmer. Vintage sepia-toned photos hang on the walls. The silverware, the dishes, everything is lovely and low key.
So was the service, observant and unobtrusive. Our glasses were filled with water. The waiter made a recommendation of a white by the glass. The courses were served on warm plates. The restaurant is small, and it was full, yet it was comfortably quiet.
The second course in the vegetarian dinner offered two bean dishes. Curried chickpeas and vegetables – baby purple cauliflower, wilted baby spinach – were placed as if they'd tumbled across the plate, with sweet juicy bites of apple, pale, shavings of radish, and large crunchy croutons made from Wave Hill bread. The other choice was a lentil dish.
The third course offered a choice of an intriguing quinoa and jasmine rice dish with pickled cherries, pistachios, basil and lemon.
But that was no match for the temptation of house-made fettucine: a nest of pasta with a sauce of grated Parmesan cheese, toasted walnuts, garlic and parsley clinging to each textured noodle. Simple, rich, delicious. To make our way to the fourth course, I took half of it home.
Dessert was well worth making room for. Orange blossom cheesecake with orange sorbet, segments of blood orange, honey sauce, and two squares of thin pistachio toffee. Or warm pineapple upside down cake, surrounded by an ethereal passion fruit cream, and cool coconut pineapple ice cream, and toffee sauce. That's how to put some warmth and sparkle into winter.
Thursday nights, Schoolhouse at Cannondale offers a non-vegetarian four-course prix fixe for $48.
>>Schoolhouse at Cannondale, 34 Cannon Road, Wilton, is open Wednesday through Saturday, 5:30 to 9:30 p.m.; and for lunch Friday and Saturday, 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. Information: 203-834-9816 and firstname.lastname@example.org.