Just a few weeks ago at the Hathaway House, you could order My Sister Kathy's white bean and potato soup or the filet mignon and bacon-wrapped shrimp combo, then lean back in your chair with a sigh of delight. But no more.
Little did we know that after a lovingly presented dinner at the classic Blissfield restaurant, we'd be told that the menu was in the midst of a seasonal change, which meant that the aforementioned soup and entre, among other items, would no longer be available.
Not to worry, however. The Hathaway House, a converted mid-19th-century Greek Revival house with elegant touches all around, recently has been purchased by Tim Coonan, a former Chicago chef, and his wife, Patricia. So far, step by step, they seem to be treading the same path blazed by the previous owners.
Consider, for example, these tempting new possibilities from the kitchen: an appetizer of caramelized onion tart with pistachios and orange sections ($6), and such entrees as poached halibut with dill, tomato, and asparagus ($23), roast quail with smoked bacon pancetta ($27), and roast pork loin stuffed with garlic and mortadella ($23).
Actually, the Hathaway House amounts to two restaurants in one. The more formal dining establishment, built in 1851 as a private residence by Toledo settler David Carpenter, keeps up the historic nature of the building with several intimate dining parlors decorated with pleasing colors, myriad antiques, and tables covered in white linen, flowers, and candles.
Adjacent to the house is the Main Street Stable and Tavern, once a gift shop, now an informal place to eat. The menu is more casual, ranging from burgers and barbecue to lemon-pepper cod. It's worth a trip to Blissfield all by itself.
At the Hathaway House proper one night, we swooned over a $6 appetizer of ricotta-filled ravioli with pears, basil, and "Sweet 100's," tiny, sugary tomatoes that explode in the mouth. The salads mix arugula and other tender greens with lemon, balsamic, or sherry vinaigrettes.
A dish of somewhat overcooked chicken medallions ($19) rescued itself with a generous helping of prized Michigan morel mushrooms and angel hair pasta in a creamy sauce. A fairly straightforward New York strip steak ($28) was made more interesting by Mary Livingston's oyster mushrooms, swimming in a heavenly, wine-brown Bordelaise sauce. Atlantic salmon ($21) melded well with sauted spinach and black olive puree, and a side of artichokes offered a piquant contrast to the mild red snapper fillet ($24).
Worthy of special mention were our smiling servers, who looked after us unobtrusively and knew the answers to all our questions regarding the evening fare.
On that very first visit under the new management, we declared the Chilean sea bass a stone standout - crusty on the outside, moist within, and made all the more delectable with garlic mayonnaise and an olive oil-based "piperade" - a sauce of tomatoes, green peppers, onions, and beaten eggs. Fortunately, the sea bass entre has survived the menu changeover, a wise move on the part of the owners, whose devotion to gourmet food promises many more good things to come.
To get there from Toledo, a 10-mile jaunt, take Exit 5 off U.S. 23 and go left on U.S. 223, which becomes West Adrian Street, Blissfield's main drag. The restaurant is on the right.
Contact Bill of Fare at email@example.com.