A great menu, and a few ghosts, at The Windham
The Windham, situated in an old New England farmhouse circa 1812, has a long history that includes the Dinsmore family, previous restaurant occupants, and the New England Ghost Project, which investigated and apparently sanctioned some supposedly supernatural occurrences there, but if it's simply a warm and cozy meal from an extensive menu that you want, it certainly fills that bill too.
Our Gourmet: We put aside our interest in the ghost stories and history lessons on a recent weekend and dropped in to the Windham, which occupies a spot on a busy intersection hard by Exit 3 off I-93, next door to a golf driving range and across the street from a McDonald's. It's warm and inviting inside with various dining rooms upstairs and down, and a lively cocktail lounge on the first floor.
Fireplaces occupy central positions in the rooms, and the decor is rural New England with wood furniture and built-ins, glass-topped tables with candles and traditional window treatments. Waitstaff is busily running up and down the central staircase with orders from the first-floor kitchen. Once patrons make it past the congested entryway, they can choose large dining rooms downstairs, or more intimate rooms on the second floor, where it is quieter. That's a nice choice not usually afforded to restaurant patrons. 7/10
The Dining Companion: I loved the Dinsmore Room upstairs, where we dined, because we were the only patrons there. Other diners occupied the other dining rooms, but we enjoyed having a room to ourselves right next to the fireplace. We settled in and enjoyed a glass of wine to peruse the menu, and felt like 19th-century estate owners with our own big dining room and servants to attend us, enjoying the evening meal in leisure. It would have been slightly more authentic without the occasional excited voices of TV broadcasters from the football game being televised in the bar down below. 7/10
OG: The Windham has a most impressive menu, with an array of seafood, meat, poultry and pasta dinners and appetizers that will satisfy anyone.
The "Small Plates" section includes tapas, pastas, wings and specialty items such as bacon-wrapped scallops ($9), shrimp cocktail ($10), escargot ($8), a couple of eggplant dishes, pumpkin tortellini ($7.50) and shrimp & crab cakes ($9). Fine choices, backed up by a nice variety of salads with add-ons ($5-$9) including steak, salmon, lamb, chicken, crab cakes and calamari. 9/10
TDC: Dinner choices are also wide and varied with nice combinations of pasta and seafood, vegetables and sauces, and a hearty lineup of steaks and chops.
The rack of lamb ($23) was recommended by our server, and the steaks (New York sirloin, $19.50, filet mignon, $25) and pork tenderloin ($19), drew our interest.
Tempting seafood entrees included a Cedar Plank Maple Salmon ($19), with an applewood rub and maple glaze, served with rice and vegetable.
From the poultry section the broiled Orange Ginger Duck ($18.50) caught my eye and almost my order. Great selection. 9/10
OG: Just as there are varied settings at the Windham in which to have your meal, so, too, are some dishes vastly different from others. Our appetizers, compared to our entrees, are a case in point.
My Eggplant Rollettes ($7.50) were described as a tender eggplant cutlet, prepared with cheese and marinara sauce. "Tender" does not quite describe the vegetable, somewhere on my plate, that lost the battle under the assault of ricotta and mozzarella cheese and the marinara. It was simply a small version of overdone, overloaded eggplant Parmesan, with the usually tasty eggplant buried under too much other stuff. 5/10
TDC: I tried Toasted Cheese Ravioli ($6.50) and faced the same kitchen failure as OG did with his rollettes. The five cheese ravioli might have once been "lightly breaded," but after their short war with the deep fryer, the raviolis' breading became like cardboard, which took all of the taste, indeed the very virtue, of the cheese with them to somewhere south of acceptable. 2/10
OG: I opted for a "small plate" entree of four Lamb Chops ($10) and an accompanying salad, and was very happy and satisfied with a fine addition to the meal after our unfortunate start. Four small, tasty New Zealand chops were well-marinated and tender, bringing the garlic-herbs-olive oil sauce to blend well with the lamb chops' naturally salty, slightly fatty taste, which I love. Plenty of food on the plate, served on a bed of baby spinach, makes for a most affordable entree, too.
Accompanied by a large, crisp and well-appointed Greek Salad (also well-priced at $5.50), the Windham gets a vote here. Nicely done and recommended. 8/10
TDC: I was impressed by my Calabrese seafood and pasta dinner, and not just for the sheer size of it. At $19, one expects a good meal, and this dish delivers, with healthy portions of large, sauteed shrimp and moist sea scallops, prepared with capellini pasta, a basil pesto cream sauce, spinach and sun-dried tomatoes. A fine meal, and plenty large enough for a hearty lunch the next day. 9/10
All the rest 15/20
OG: Despite the appetizer meltdown, there is a lot to like at the Windham. The farmhouse setting, with its various rooms, and stairway, lounge and corridors, is interesting and comfortable, and the tales of ghosts and other paranormal happenings are well-told at the Windham's website and that of the NEGP (www.neghostproject.com). That alone could entertain one for hours, with its history of some items disappearing, others strangely moving around, and a phantom man named "Jacob" perhaps falling down the stairs. The stories are well chronicled; the restaurant is well appointed; and most of the food was well prepared and delicious. 7/10
TDC: The Windham is friendly and welcoming, a family atmosphere with plenty of young staff about to tend to patrons needs. Our server, Jessica, kept us nicely supplied, despite the many trips up and down the stairs, and was menu-knowledgeable and quite attentive. Prices are reasonable, and the vast selection of innovative entrees and small plates offers diners true variety. 8/10