The Ashby Inn
Paris / Modern American / $$$$
It’s summer on the patio. Or perhaps it’s winter, safely inside the circa-1829 building, onetime home of blacksmith Manley Pierce. Either way, you’re seated to the strains of Frank Sinatra singing “Old Devil Moon.” And there it is, bewitching you as it glows over the hills of rural Paris.
The Ashby Inn doesn’t stun with koi ponds and towering ceilings. Its quiet grace comes from servers with whom you’d be pleased to spend more time, beautiful tableware, and gardens that supply the kitchen in the warm months. It would all seem anachronistic if not for the modern skills of chef Johnathan Leonard.
Leonard takes ingredients one might have seen on Pierce’s table and updates them with platings and flavor combinations worthy of the inn’s upscale price tag. Witness the guinea hen, seared in a cast-iron skillet. Sounds like something out of your great-grandma’s cookbook, but here, it’s a hearty meal emboldened by a sticky Cognac-and-truffle demi-glace. It’s accompanied by crispy shattered potatoes seasoned to perfection and a nest of wilted greens that includes chard and purslane. A shower of flower petals adorns the partially deboned poultry.
Desserts, too, take a cue from both past and future with of-the-moment riffs on classics like tres leches and banana pudding, the latter of which contains homemade Nilla wafers. But it’s that old devil moon that will keep bringing you back, peering down from above.
See this: The greatest rewards to be seen are outside, in the gardens surrounding the restaurant and the hills facing your table.
Eat this: Cured and roasted heritage pork belly, cast-iron guinea hen, bourbon-glazed banana pudding
Service: Attentive. Your glass will never go unfilled here.
When to dine here: You’re out to impress someone with whom you’d love to share a drive to the country.