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Side Dishes: Upscale fare returns at the Essex

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After less than a year of operating as Butler’s Tavern, the Essex Culinary Resort & Spa has once again divided its pair of dining rooms into two restaurants. For a more casual experience, guests can head to the Tavern at the Essex for grilled bratwurst with pierogi and duck cassoulet. An establishment with a new concept, Butler’s Farm, opened last week in the elegant dining room once known as Butler’s Restaurant.

Executive chef Shawn Calley says he considers the farm-to-table eatery’s debut a soft opening. “We’re not going to say we’re opening officially until the springtime,” he says. Before that happens, the dining room will be renovated to bring greater harmony to the food and décor, says Calley.

Its menu may not be official, but Butler’s Farm already offers plenty of creative fare. The chalkboard roster of five starters and five entrées changes daily, but recent dishes have included ostrich tartare with truffle oil and Cobb Hill Cheese’s alpine Ascutney Mountain; grilled local pork with strawberry zinfandel sauce; and lobster vol-au-vent in blood-orange velouté. Calley says that, as the autumn chill sets in, he’s becoming more and more enchanted with braising: Expect frequent appearances of his venison osso buco with creamy white polenta and baby carrots from the resort’s garden.

Calley also runs the kitchen at the tavern, which he describes as the resort’s longtime signature eatery, but he says he has even higher hopes for the popularity of this one. “My goal is to make sure that Butler’s Farm turns into our main restaurant,” Calley says.

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