There’s no denying the historic charm of the Roger Sherman Inn in New Canaan.
Nestled along Oenoke Ridge Road and dating from the 1700s, the building named for a Founding Father has served as an inn for nearly 100 years. During its storied past, the inn has seen extensive renovations, including the addition of two cottages on the property, and changed hands numerous times.
But its newest owners, Joseph and Nes Jaffre — who purchased the property in 2008 — are hoping to inject a new vibrancy into the landmark. Since taking over the inn, the two have installed a Roger Sherman “Unplugged” series that showcases live music by local artists in the tavern’s area. Seasonal events include wine dinners and visits from guest chefs, farmers and artisans.
The menu has also undergone a 21st-century transformation. Last year, the duo hired celebrated chef François Kwaku-Dongo (WAG August 2012 and July 2015), who applies techniques he honed in some of the most demanding kitchens in the country, including chef Wolfgang Puck’s Spago restaurants in West Hollywood and Chicago, where he served as executive chef. He later moved to Greenwich to lead a team that revamped l’escale restaurant bar at the Delamar Greenwich Harbor before opening the boutique hotel J House and its eleven14 Kitchen.
Today, Kwaku-Dongo is putting his stamp on the inn with a new, seasonally-inspired menu that shows off fresh, locally-procured ingredients, from coastal seafood to homegrown vegetables.
“The menu will always be changing, as with the seasons, and soon I’ll be able to pick vegetables from my garden that we are creating, another extension of our home, and incorporate these ingredients into our menu,” Kwaku-Dongo says.
Despite these changes, the character of the neighborhood favorite remains. The lounge features oversize windows, marble-topped tables and a sleek bar, while miniature mason jars with delicate floral arrangements serve as simple centerpieces. An outdoor porch that wraps around the exterior of the building is a perfect venue for outdoor dining or special events in warmer months. In the main dining room, historic paintings hang along the walls, paying homage to the building’s colonial beginnings.
We visit the inn on a crisp Sunday morning, where our brunch begins with an assortment of starter bites, including a country pâté, prosciutto and thin slices of pepperoni. Crunchy slices of toast are served with an herbed butter, while drinks range from the classic mimosa or bloody Mary to an espresso martini topped with a trio of coffee beans.
Seasonal fruit and berries are served in a perfectly tart mango Champagne sauce, a dish that had us asking for second helpings, while a brunch salad features pickled apples, candied walnuts and blue cheese atop a little gem of lettuce.
You’ll definitely want to order the steak tartare, but be warned: This simple, artfully presented starter with herb aioli, topped with a farm fresh egg, may ruin any other version of the dish you’re likely to encounter in the future.
For main courses, a savory take on herb crêpes pairs French ham, Gruyère cheese and soft cooked eggs with a petite salad. Those hoping for something a bit heartier will not be disappointed by the eatery’s beef burger, with creamy cheddar, crisp smoked bacon and shallot confit.
Other standouts include brioche French toast topped with sweet stewed apples and vanilla mascarpone, or the eggs Benedict with smoked salmon, tomato confit and hollandaise sauce.
If you still have room for dessert, you won’t want to miss the eatery’s classic vanilla soufflé, which is served with red wine-poached pears.
For Kwaku-Dongo, the Roger Sherman Inn’s kitchen gives him the ability to offer the comforts of home to diners, whether they’re regulars who live just down the street or travelers from hundreds of miles away.
“I’ve cooked in some of best kitchens across the country,” the renowned chef says. “The Roger Sherman Inn is now where I can invite you to come into my home and allow me to cook for you.”
For more, visit rogershermaninn.com.