Writer Pete Wayner
A farmer, chef, and innkeeper all add up at The Park Inn.
The temperature dipped to 2°F on December 20, 2019. Headlamps swept the darkness as a chef, a farmer, a general manager and a ragtag group of friends built a high-tunnel growing house. Gloves were thin and the plastic sheets expensive, so ripping wasn’t an option. If a gust of wind kicked up, anyone holding plastic would be tossed into the air. But the tension didn’t last.
“Once we got the plastic rolled out and unfolded and got the wiggle wire out it turned into fun times and singing Christmas carols and everybody was in a good mood and just overall awed that we actually got it done,” said Chelsea Reinhart, farm manager at Glenn Scott Farm in Hammondsport.
Glenn Scott Farm supplies The Park Inn, located on Shethar Street in Hammondsport. Opened in June 2018, the upscale farm-to-table restaurant and five-room inn focuses on the food and wine the region has to offer.
Almost a year of renovation preceded opening day. General Manager Brian Durnin stripped the building to its tin ceiling and post-and-beam studs. The result is a beautiful barroom and dining room with abundant natural light accenting various hues of wood and leather. Five guest rooms extend that bucolic but elevated charm, thanks to Innkeeper Marie DeRosa. This includes a daily rotation of complimentary handmade baked goods from the executive chef.
That chef is Dan Eaton, who grew up on a dairy farm in Vermont but earned his culinary stripes in Rochester. He has cooked in the James Beard House and for 12 years hosted a cooking show for Time Warner Cable. But now, his heart is in Hammondsport.
“I love the Finger Lakes,” he said. “I love the horizon lines and the seasons and the food that’s grown here … it’s a great place to land.” That food makes up the majority of The Park Inn’s menu. Eaton estimates that in season, 75% of his ingredients are sourced from the region.
“I want to get out of the way of [each dish] and let it speak for itself,” he said. “I want them to have the pristine qualities they have from the land.”
Those qualities are Reinhart’s responsibility. A nine-year farm veteran, she plans to use Glenn Scott Farm for specialty crops—foods difficult to find elsewhere in the area. Supporting other local farms is part of the restaurant’s culinary ethos, as is a close link between Reinhart and Eaton.
“An alliance between the farmer, the chef and the seasons … is so important and doesn’t really happen so much anymore,” said Reinhart. “The chef isn’t better than the farmer, the farmer isn’t better than the chef—we’re a solid team.”
The result tastes like supreme culinary restraint paired with delicious raw potential. For example, take the roasted beet salad, served with black pepper–crusted goat cheese and toasted walnuts with a beet vinaigrette. Eaton allows every element to speak for itself. The sweet earthiness of the root vegetables, the crunch and smokiness of the walnuts, even the vibrant color of the dressing struts its inherent quality.
The arancini appetizer balances the gooey comfort of risotto with sharp notes of grated taleggio cheese, followed by house-smoked San Marzano tomatoes—a perfect complement for depth.
The grilled lamb chop is an equal player on the plate instead of a prima donna protein with forgettable supporting cast. Sides of savory bread pudding and mustard creamed spinach melt into a brilliance of flavors. Dessert shows off creativity in the kitchen: browned butter ice cream cooked sous vide style for more than 24 hours.
Jason Ferris, The Park Inn’s restaurant manager and sommelier, often prints the night’s menu less than two hours before service. This time allows Eaton to assess what regional ingredients have peaked that day, and how to feature them. Ferris also spotlights Finger Lakes wines.
“Part of the mission is to accentuate all that is great and fresh and seasonal in the region,” he said. “Wine is part of that. We don’t want to say our wines can’t compete with the classic Old World regions because we feel they should be on the same stage.”
That stage, the wine menu, contains 170 bottles. Half the list, Finger Lakes wines, sit across the page from wines with similar grapes and styles from parent regions. Favorites such as Dr. Kon-stantin Frank are on the same list as newer local contenders like Weis Vineyards and Domaine LeSeurre. And of course, Point of the Bluff Vineyards, The Park Inn’s parent company, has a strong showing on the list as well.
“None of us would be here if it wasn’t for Point of the Bluff,” said Durnin. During his life, Durnin has been a baker, worked in the Philadelphia restaurant scene, lived in an Adirondack cabin while working on a farm and, after becoming burned out (gratefully so) on all the above, found himself on the open road.
“It was just, like, two months of doing nothing except waking up and going on hikes and going swimming, cooking in Walmart parking lots,” he said. At the end of the road trip, Durnin met the owner of Point of the Bluff in Los Angeles. That moment eventually brought together an unlikely cadre of passion-stricken friends in a frozen field in Hammondsport, all itching to build something that lasts.
“I feel like every career change I’ve made doesn’t make any sense on paper,” said Durnin. “And a lot of the stuff we do here doesn’t make any sense, if you try to tell people who don’t get it … un-less you’re crazy like the three of us. Somehow, it just works when you align yourself with the right people—key people. You hold onto them and you hold them close, and it just works.”
37 Shethar Street
Pete Wayner is a writer and videographer in Rochester. He loves to eat, drink and be outside—ideally at the same time. More of his work can be found at petewayner.com.
Lyndsi Stoltzfus is a Penn Yan–based photographer, inspired by light and capturing genuine emo-tion. Find more of her work on Instagram at @lyndsiphotography.
1 thought on “Perfect Ingredients at The Park Inn”
Love! Love! Love! The Park Inn and their “New” direction! Just one of their Stars – they’ve taken the traditional, and many times predictable, Friday Fish Fry to a level of sublimity, I’ve yet to experience elsewhere. Outrageously delicious, delicate, yet still comforting, satisfying and familiar. 6 stars … on 5 star scale. 🙂
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