Asked what she’d sample from her own menu, Caitlin Bilodeau, co-owner of The Belted Cow at The Lincoln Inn in Essex Junction, isn’t sure. “I would have trouble ordering,” she says with a chuckle. “All my favorite things are on the menu.” The former Olympic fencer won’t have to wait long to see if diners share her preferences — the 85-seat restaurant opens its doors this Thursday.
In advance of the opening, Bilodeau’s partner, John Delpha, has been running the kitchen at the inn’s more casual eatery, Alexander’s Pub & Grill. Its new, fancier menu, featuring snacks such as marinated olives and mussels with smoked-tomato pesto and cream, has demanded some adjustment from the local bar crowd. To compensate, Bilodeau says that Delpha has restored chicken wings to the menu, although he sets his apart from the pack by smoking them before frying.
A partnership with Pete’s Greens will help keep the menu at The Belted Cow “ultra-seasonal.” The owners also wild-craft some ingredients themselves — they rustled up the ramps for a roasted halibut dish “just up the road in Westford.” Other menu items include Québecois Lac Brome duck breast with confit, parsnips and chanterelle mushrooms — and, for the less meat minded, Meadowbrook Farm ricotta-asparagus agnolotti with ramp brown butter.
But the fare is not the only thing that’s regional. The centerpiece of the room — once the Lincoln Inn’s coffee shop — is a 14-foot communal table made from the floorboards of an 18th-century Fairfax farmhouse’s kitchen. Just the right touch for a team that Bilodeau says is “obsessed” with keeping things in the neighborhood.