by Margo Callaghan
Last time I was at the Bearded Frog, the snow was flying. Shame on me for waiting so long between visits, but it could be said that this one was perfectly timed. Dickie Austin, front of the house “keeper of the sanity” at this uber busy little Shelburne gem of a dining destination explained that new warm weather menu items had just been introduced the week before. So my husband, Matt, and I were faced with some new inspirations, as we dined outside on the porch last Thursday night. If you remember, it was a perfect evening – warm, no humidity, lazy end of the day sunset on the horizon.
Matt ordered what Matt always orders: Venison Cigar Rolls. It doesn’t matter if we drove through two feet of snow to reach our table, or walked over without needing so much as a jacket, it’s the same. And I think they have been a staple on the menu since Michel Mahe opened his eatery just about six years ago. They’re served with a sweet maple ginger dipping sauce, side by side with a horseradish aioli should savory be more to your liking. Here’s hoping they remain on the menu for at least another six years.
Then, for something different (insert heavily laced sarcastic note when reading previous clause) Matt ordered the Bearded Frog Burger. Again, he was happy as a clam with this classic burger, served on a great Portuguese style bulky roll, with a stack of perfectly fried shoestring potatoes and lightly dressed greens. That is all Mr. Callaghan needed to make his Irish heart sing. That, and a rasher of bacon atop the tasty burger.
Like Matt’s burger, my choice also came from the “Pub Fare” portion of the menu: it was a petite vegetable quiche served with a cup of soup. And while it may not sound substantial enough for dinner, its lightness was a perfect fit with the outdoor dining setting (and the warm weather). The quiche wasn’t the traditional slice out of a larger pie. This was a tart style, in an individual house-made pastry. This evening’s vegetable included broccoli, carrots, red peppers, and red onions in the rich cheese filling, with parmesan and cracked pepper on top, followed by a small arugula salad atop all…ah, spring! And it would have been yet more “seasonally correct,” if I had had this quiche and soup combo as offered on the menu – with a chilled sweet pea soup and lavender crème fraiche. Yes it was warm, sunny, etc., but I was not quite ready for a chilled soup so early in the season. Instead, our server Ashley was happy to allow me to switch the chilled pea with the more hearty smoked tomato and turkey option available that night. Here is one ultimate menu truth: cheese and tomato, a timeless pairing, and I can’t come up with an exception.
One of the desserts available that night was a peach and tarragon upside down cake, placed on a luscious pool of wild blueberry sauce. A small scoop of creamy vanilla ice cream completed this delectable tower, and then a hazelnut ginger crumble sprinkled over all gave it a nice crunchy finish. I didn’t get very much of a tarragon note… but that just means I have to go back and try again. But then, if I’m going back for dessert, the five spice carrot cake roulade (rolled with a lychee mascarpone cream and a honey sesame brittle on the side) might have to be sampled. Is mine the best job in the world or what??
Looking for memorable way to celebrate the arrival of warm evenings? The Bearded Frog’s porch offers a wonderful final destination after a long day. Sit, enjoy the fading sun as it sets, and enjoy the bounty coming from the local fields and farms. They serve dinner each night of the week beginning at 5 pm. The bar opens at 4:30 pm. And it’s all in our own backyard at the center of the village in the historic Shelburne Inn on Route 7. Call 985-9877.