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August 09, 2007

Tasting Dinner at Café Shelburne

For a couple of foodies, sharing a multi-course tasting menu is the perfect way to celebrate a special occasion. Eating a slew of small dishes minimizes the risk that one mediocre offering will dampen the mood. And it's kind of sexy to ooh and aah over each course with someone who's having the same deliriously delicious experience at the same time.

But around here, very few restaurants offer them. Sure there's the 3-course prix-fixe option at a bunch of places, but that's different. I'm talking 6+ courses, each one made up of just a couple bites of tantalizing food. The only ones I've been able to find are at Hemingway's, Hen of the Wood and Christophe's on the Green. Michael's on the Hill doesn't appear to have one, but there is a note that they're happy to accommodate "special desires."

As my second anniversary approached, I thought it would be really nice to have a tasting dinner, but couldn't stray far outside of the Burlington area. So, I decided to start calling area chefs to see if any were willing to do a special occasion menu. Luckily, the first chef I spoke with, Patrick Grangien of Café Shelburne, said yes right away. And of course, I asked about the tasting and made the reservation without disclosing my secret identity as "Food Girl." I use my husband's name when I make reservations so chefs don't know who I's the only way to make it fair.

The food was excellent. Everything was cooked perfectly, sauces were mouthwatering, there was a lot of variety and the portions were just right. Here's a run-down of the courses.


1) Escargots with prosciutto, Parmesan and garlic butter topped with tiny toast rounds.
2) House-smoked salmon with veggie egg rolls, balsamic reduction
3) Creamy gazpacho topped with zucchini and shrimp
4) Blood sausage ravioli in a Bordelaise sauce with caramelized onions
5) Striped bass with red pepper sauce, snow peas and carrots
6) Duck breast with potato gratin and hedgehog mushrooms, demi-glace
7) Artisan Cheese Plate
8) Currant sorbet
9) Floating island topped with toasted almonds and caramel in a vanilla sauce, garnished with blueberries
10) Apple tart with caramel ice cream

I was particularly enchanted by the creamy gazpacho, the duck and the currant sorbet, which was the creamiest, richest sorbet I've ever had, but like I said, everything was delicious.

I wonder if there are more chefs out there willing to do tastings...


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The Inn at Shelburne Farms also has a tasting menu - great stuff!

Cat Woodward

Inn at Essex does as well.

Samuel Palmisano

Pulcinella's has a six course chefs tasting on thier dinner menu for $65.00 per person with the option of getting wine pairings for an additional charge. Available with 24 hours advance notice Six nights a week.


Thanks for the info, Sam, Nat and Cat (I feel like I'm in a Dr. Seuss book).

Sam, if you'd like to divulge any enticing details about the Pulcinella's tasting menu (does it change regularly, or is it set seasonally? etc.), that would be cool...if not, that's totally o.k., too.

Samuel Palmisano

The Chefs Tasting which I have been doing for nine years now, is six plus courses created around the guests allergies & "Serious" dislikes. I have done Tastings for people that have run fifteen courses, but most run six to seven, it all depends on the guest and what they want to experience. I have about twelve couples that have now broke the "Dozen" mark, to say they have all had more than tweleve tasting diners, and none of the dishes have been done twice. None of the dishes are ever off the menu. There is no set menu. Each dish is created to be able to stand on its own, but help with the progression into the next course. The most fun is when the few people call and say "I'll try anything, just cook for me" those are the most creative and expressive Tastings. I hope this information was helpful.

The Inn at Shelburne Farms does the most amazing tasting, highlighting beautiful food from their working farm. They are worth some food investigation. Go for dinner and you will be so pleased, you wish they were year round!

The Inn at Shelburne Farms does the most amazing tasting, highlighting beautiful food from their working farm. They are worth some food investigation. Go for dinner and you will be so pleased, you wish they were year round!


The Inn at Essex serves a nightly chef's tasting menu and a student tasting menu every 2 and 1/2 weeks. One would think, since NECI is sponsoring your blog, you would have partaken (or at least been aware) of this.

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