The English Meadows Supper Club
Like all good dinner parties, this one starts in the kitchen. Innkeeper Kate Parisi is seated at the island while chef Cecelia Bye brushes melted butter on goat cheese tartlets decorated with thin slices of turnip to look like lotus blossoms. Alex Parisi, Kate’s daughter, has finished setting the dining tables and is looking to lend Bye a hand. It smells wonderful here in the kitchen, and it’s a cozy spot to sit and learn more about the inn and the Supper Club. “Last May I made my parents a really awesome meal for Easter, trying to persuade them to do dinners here,” Alex explains. “I’ve always lived throwing dinner parties.” Bye chimes in, “And I’ve always loved cooking for dinner parties.” After some discussion, Kate and her husband, David, agreed that a dinner series would be a good idea in the off-season, when the inn is less busy. The Supper Club was born.
The Parisis have owned the 12-room inn for the past three and a half years, their first foray into innkeeping. It’s an inviting spot, tastefully decked out for the holiday, with fireplaces blazing. Kate is a master gardener and has a knack for decorating. “We just continued what the previous owners started,” she says. “The garden was all brambles, so I’ve worked on that.” The Greek Revival former home dates back to 1860, but the decor is now chic, in neutral tones and invitingly comfortable. Kate cooks breakfast for guests each morning, and from what I’ve seen on her Instagram feed, it looks delicious. “Alex pushes me to be more creative,” Kate says of her daughter, who owns Curate Maine, a personal concierge and event planning service. But the Supper Club, held monthly on Tuesday evenings, is the first time dinner is available at the inn, and it’s been a big hit. Tonight is Bye’s third time as guest chef. She’s previously cooked at Evo Kitchen and Bar, but she now makes prepared foods for Rosemont Market on Munjoy Hill and, as kitchen manager at LB Kitchen, has been helping Lee Farrington expand into evening hours. Coming to the inn is a fun change of pace for her. “I come up with the menu myself, and Alex takes care of organizing and getting all the local ingredients and seasonal foods that I need,” says Bye. “My style is healthy food that tastes good. It’s not a crazy idea.” Tonight, along with the tart, the menu includes a green salad with Brussels sprouts leaves, cranberries, almonds, and blood orange vinaigrette. There’s a warm spiced pork and squash ragu cooking in an Instant Pot that will be served over creamy polenta. As we’re talking, Andrew Menard of Vacationland Distributors walks in with a case of wine. Wine is included with dinner, and Menard will talk about his selections to go with each course.
About 20 guests are expected for dinner, and Alex has set the three tables beautifully using pine cones and other “things foraged from the garden,” accented with votive candles and clementines. Kate finds that this time of year the Supper Club brings in mostly locals, because there are fewer dining choices in town. Friends of the chef from Portland have joined Kate, David, and I at the long table, along with Hana Pevney, the new owner of the Waldo Emerson Inn in Kennebunk. Bye’s tart has turned out perfectly, with a flaky crust and the genius addition of mustard seeds. Menard pours a cava from Spain, explaining that “it’s a nice alternative to champagne.” The squash and pork ragu is delicious and hearty with a touch of sweetness from pomegranate arils. Menard offers a Hudson Shah cabernet sauvignon from Washington state. Both the wine and the dish are perfect for the cold night. We end the meal with one of Kate’s creations, roasted ginger pear topped with mascarpone and caramel. Like the best dinner parties, everyone is feeling relaxed and happy, reluctant to get up from the table.
“I feel like we’re getting momentum,” says Alex. “This dinner sold out quickly.” The Supper Club will continue each month in the off-season, but Alex says that they’re happy to cater a dinner party any time for a group, just for fun. It’s a tempting idea.
The Inn at English Meadows | 141 Port Rd. | Kennebunk | 207.967.5766 | englishmeadowsinn.com