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The Schoolhouse at Cannondale: superb dining

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We visited Chef Tim Labant’s Schoolhouse at Cannondale restaurant last night for their amazing Thursday prix fixe dinner. These amazing Thursday events provide a 4-course meal for $48, or for $75 with wine at each course.

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The Schoolhouse at Cannondale is an actual refurbished schoolhouse with a modern kitchen, and about 20 tables in a single large room overlooking the Norwalk River. Since we went fairly early (6:30) we got to admire the beautiful view while considering the menu and enjoying the delicious Wave Hill Bread.

On Thursdays there are just 2 choices for each of the four courses, each with a recommended wine. Last night, the complete menu was:

  • Sunchoke soup or Roasted beet salad
  • Ricotta Carrot Ravioli or PEI Mussels
  • Bronzini or Roast pork Shoulder
  • Carrot Cake or Honey panna cotta.

Photographs of all of these are in the slide show.

We started with the Sunchoke Soup with fresh herbs and lemon oil Sunchokes, if you aren’t familiar with them, are also called Jerusalem Artichokes and are actually a member of the sunflower family. This was a very smooth, creamy soup with a nutty flavor and a bit of lemon from the lemon oil. It was delightful.

Our other appetizer was a Roasted Beet Salad with radishes, pistachios with s spicy/sweet coating, sesame seeds and buttermilk dressing. The spicy pistachios were an eye opener and along with the radishes raised this common salad to new heights.

The most impressive second course was clear the Ricotta Carrot Raviloi, served with spring peas and pea greens. The elegant little ravioli were extremely flavorful and came topped with a creamy dressing.

The PEI Mussels were also out of the ordinary, served with Wave Hill croutons, wilted arugula, scallions, preserved lemon and a warm citronette vinaigrette. The mussels, with a bit of broth, were exceptional and the lemony taste from the vinaigrette and preserved lemon added a great deal of interest.

We both chose the Roasted Pork Shoulder, really tender and juicy slices of pork, served with polenta, leeks, fava beans, pickled pearl onions, mustard seeds. The pork also came with a couple of crispy green leaves, which turned out to be fried nettles. This was an amazing (and filling) third course that we’ll remember for quite a while.

We did manage to snag a picture of the Bronzini (also called Branzino) from our neighbor’s plate. It was served with baby zucchini, cipolini onions, confit potatoes, ramps (Southern wild onions) and fiddleheads alongside. It was nice to see fiddleheads already, although ours aren’t out yet, they surely could have been almost local.

Both of the desserts were really imaginative. The Carrot Cake was served in a mason jar along with honey poached oranges, cheesecake ice cream and bourbon butterscotch cream. And the panna cotta was Lavender and Honey panna cotta, orange blossom honey, a bit of strawberry compote, along with a pistachio tuile (cookie) and a scoop of strawberry sorbet. Also excellent.

These prix-fixe dinners are one of the secrets of the Schoolhouse restaurant, although not too secret, since the restaurant was packed by 7:30.

The Schoolhouse at Cannondale is one of the gems of Fairfield County and is always worth a visit. They serve dinner Wednesday through Saturday, and brunch on Sundays.

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