January 17, 2008

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The Chef is Inn
Once a dishwasher, now he’s in charge of the kitchen
By Linda A. Odum food@hippopress.com

For Chef Brian Woods of Colby Hill Inn in Henniker, the adrenaline rush is what’s attractive about his line of work.

“It’s the controlled chaos,” Woods said. “You control it. When you get really busy and you have to do a lot of things at once, it’s a rush.”

Woods has worked for innkeepers Cyndi and Mason Cobb for the past year and a half, creating what they describe as contemporary New England cuisine.

“We take traditional ingredients and give them new, updated twists,” Woods said. “I put our own little spin on the classics.”

Woods noted that in this area of New Hampshire some ingredients click and others don’t. Lobster, haddock and other seafoods are popular, as are, surprisingly, game choices such as venison, buffalo and boar. The menu changes seasonally, which “keeps it from getting old for us in the kitchen,” Woods said.

A Hopkinton native, Woods started in the restaurant business as a dishwasher at the Riverview restaurant (now the Covered Bridge restaurant). He worked his way up to prep and line cook before attending the International Institute of Culinary Arts in Fall River, Mass. There he got to rub elbows with greats like Julia Child, Charlie Trotter and his personal favorite, Anthony Bourdain.

After graduation, Woods “did the chain restaurant thing” to boost his personal finances, but “it drove me crazy following a specific recipe all of the time,” he said.

Then the Cobbs gave him the chance to expand his skills. Colby Hill Inn was already well-known for excellent cuisine and an extensive wine cellar, which has won the Wine Spectator Award of Excellence for several years. There are approximately 120 wine varieties from which to choose, from inexpensive to high-end, and many offered by the glass.

Mason Cobb is a master when it comes to paring wines with the entrees, which he notes right on the menu. He also welcomes the opportunity to answer guest questions and to make suggestions to better fit their tastes.

Besides the nightly dinner offerings, the inn also hosts a number of food-related activities, especially during the fall, winter and spring months. The Winter Wonderland Wine dinner will take place on Jan. 27 and will feature Italian wines, with a commentary by Sophie Daniels of Opici Import Company. (The five-course dinner costs $85 per person, which includes the meal, wine, tax and gratuity.)

Woods also conducts two styles of cooking classes. The first is his Cooking Inn series, where guests enjoy a two-night stay complete with a cooking class. Jan. 13 through Jan. 15 will focus on slow cooking and braising, and April 6 through April 8 will feature bread-making and desserts. (The cost is $499 for two guests sharing a guest room, $379 for one guest, which includes lodging, dinner, and breakfast each morning.)

There are also the Cooking Confidential classes, where students spend the evening preparing and enjoying a three-course meal with Woods, complete with their own monogrammed chef’s jacket. (Classes are scheduled for Feb. 4 and April 21. The cost is $125 per person, which includes the dinner, wine, jacket, recipes, tax and gratuity.)

At first Woods was a bit nervous with the title of teacher, but now “it’s a lot of fun,” he said. “I don’t make it too complex. A lot of the guests seem to be strong foodies who want to see behind the scenes of a restaurant. Others just want to be better cooks.”

Woods takes pride in knowing that, out of his graduating class, he is the only one in command of his own kitchen.

“People look and look for that job where you like coming to work,” he said. “I’ve finally found it. It is worth the work to have [my] family and Cyndi and Mason be proud of me and the food I put out.”


Chef Brian Woods of Colby Hill Inn in Henniker. Linda A. Odum photo.

Colby Hill Inn
3 The Oaks in Henniker, 428-3281
www.colbyhillinn.com
Hours: Wednesday through Sunday, 5:30 to 8:30 p.m.; Sunday brunch, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m..


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1/3/2008 Like Disneyland for foodies
12/27/2007 More food and wine events, a menu for the bar
12/20/2007 Lots of dough
12/13/2007 Gifts for gourmands
12/6/2007 Making spirits really bright
11/22/2007 Just don't ask them to cook
11/15/2007 Easy as pie
11/8/2007 Italian eats, bistro style
11/1/2007 Bringing Italia to New Hampshire
10/25/2007 Trick or treat, the grown-up version
10/18/2007 Shop where the pros go
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10/04/2007 Tradition on the menu
9/27/2007 Meet your pig
9/20/2007 In search of the right meat
9/20/2007 Vegan blogger branches out
9/13/2007 Get ready to eat
9/6/2007 Fifty years of fair
8/30/2007 The buzz about peach fuzz
8/23/2007 Enjoy the Caribbean, sans hurricanes
8/16/2007 Festival weekend
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7/26/2007 Gourmet Concord?
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7/12/2007 Reintroducing ratatouille
7/5/2007 Time to hit the grill
6/28/2007 Peanutty dinner delight
6/21/2007 Spicy meat, grilled meat and saucy meat
6/14/2007 Holy Barbecue
6/07/2007 A wine for Red Sox
5/31/2007 Pinot noir romance
5/24/2007 Josh Logan eats (not before shows)
5/17/2007 Baklava, spanakopita and souvlaki — a.k.a. dinner
5/10/2007 Cremeland celebrates 60 years of burgers and shakes
5/3/2007 New eats in bloom
4/26/2007 Pho sure
4/19/2007 Cakes, cow-free
4/12/2007 Serving up the first square
4/5/2007 More than just a chocolate bunny
3/29/2007 New 'nuches
3/22/2007 A taste of genuine sweetness
3/15/2007 From homemade to home business
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3/1/2007 Feeding Mama Kicks
2/22/2007 Keepers of the vino
2/15/2007 Noodly comfort food
2/8/2007 The luxury of osso bucco
2/1/2007 Super platters for the Super Bowl
1/25/2007 It's a wrap
1/18/2007 The writing foodie
1/11/2007 Where the beef is, piled high and hot
1/04/2007 The healthy foodie
12/28/2006 The return of pasta and fall of the diet: the year in eats
12/21/2006 Organic on the ice
12/14/2006 French but not fussy
12/07/2006 Southeast U.S. culture, in sandwich form
11/30/2006 Bites of comfort with chips of happiness
11/23/2006 Cityside adds class to conveniece
11/16/2006 Easier-to-enjoy Thanksgiving feasts
11/9/2006 The new classic
10/26/2006 Whip up a quiche
10/19/2006 A new way to crepe
10/12/2006 Comfort food for blokes and birds
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09/28/2006 The crunchier, lighter, healthier wrap
09/21/2006 City bagels in suburbia
09/14/2006 Cracking the custard code
09/07/2006 Eat your way down the block
08/31/2006 New flavors for an old summer dish
08/24/2006 Way down south in Hollis
08/17/2006 Frappe vs. milkshake
08/10/2006 Enjoy the bluest month
08/03/2006 Death of Toro
07/27/2006 Vacation on a plate
07/20/2006 Hitting barbecue big time
07/13/2006 Relishing the raspberry
07/06/2006 Are your edible souveneirs kosher?
06/29/2006 Fish, upscale
06/22/2006 Sweet rosey taste of summer
06/15/2006 When to pull out the EVOO
06/08/2006 What can you grill?
06/01/2006 Taste of downtown Nashua
05/25/2006 Deulge at farms
05/18/2006 Adorable and delicious
05/11/2006 Rub down
05/04/2006 Pinot to go
04/27/2006 A bit Italian, a bit egg foo young
04/20/2006 Meatier than breakfast...
04/13/2006 Let yourself eat cake
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03/30/2006 Making Friday a fishy delight
03/23/2006 The Thin Mints are here
03/16/2006 Divining your personality from pizza
03/09/2006 Cooking up a big bowl of comfort
03/02/2006 Dumplings demystified
02/23/2006 Carbs and comfort all the way
02/16/2006 She sells sushi by the sea shore
2/09/2006 Biting into the burger with bling
02/02/2006 Forget formal dining, head to the bar
01/26/2006 Goodbye rooster, hello year of the dog
01/19/2006 The secret lives of chefs
01/12/2006 Cooking up a pot of delayed gratification
01/05/2006 A sunny Italian side dish
A year of eats

All-you-can-read guide to breakfast
A bagel by any other l
abel
A picnic — it’s romance with ants
A sweet burst of summer, in stages
Beef, It's What's For Dinner, Lunch, And Dessert
Be it ever so humble, the burger rules
Blockbuster snacks for your movie
Box Of Chocolates
C Is For Cookie And Christmas And Cool Combo
Celebrating A Holiday For The Rest Of Us
Celebrate Easter In A Sugar Coma
Chat And Chew

Chinese soup is magic
Chocolate cake makes everything better
Chocolate, Part II
Competition flows like chocolate
Corn Flake Chicken, Honeycomb Salad
Dining at the "Your House Bistro"
Don't Dread The Bread
Dress Up Your Next Meal
Drinking Out Of The Box
Eating Your Way Back To Health
Empanadas
Enter Soup
Experiments With Very Bad Brownies
Feeding A Crowd The Morning After
Follow the cider house rules
Fresh Herbs
Go ahead — run silent, run deep
Goodbye corn syrup, hello organic oatmeal
Go Indian for Thanksgiving
Grilled Cheese Junkie

Halloween candy for grown-ups
Have a Happy Meal and a happier wallet
Holiday Cookies - The Easy Way
Holiday Potluck 101-Tips For The Kitchen Novice
Home-Based Date
How do you like them apples?
In-A-Pinch Love Feast
It's not easy to be cheesy
It’s not Christmas without tamales
Lest We Forget The Humble Squash
Keeping your cool while you eat
Living through your salad days

Looking Beyond The Hot Dog Stand
Lunching your way to a less toxic you
Meat's meat and a man's gotta eat

Moist and delicious chicken — no, really
Oatmeal Cookies, The Miracle Cure
Oscar Night, When The Stars Come Out To Eat

Offering Up A Slice Of Teriyaki Pie
Pot Pies Are Darn Tasty
Pumpkin-Flavored Treats
Small Plates Are The Next Big Thing
Speedy 'za not pie in the sky
Steak: it’s what’s for dinner, again
Summer coolers, just add sunlight
Summer Squash
Super Bowl Grub
Take A Walk On The Dark Side
Taste of Manchester Event
The Cosmopolitan
The joys of a simple oatmeal breakfast
The return of comfort food
The One-Note Cook Book
The New American Plate Cookbook
The Stickiest, Hottest & Sweetest Of Love's Labors
The taste of retro
The Unheralded Peanut Butter Cookies
The union of sweet and heat
The Weekly Dish (12-16-04)
The Weekly Dish (12-23-04)

The Weekly Dish [1-13-05]
There's a Barbecue Bonanza Next Door
Week Four: Adding Diet To The Mix
What Was Hot And Haute In 2004
When $$ trumps urge to dine out
When in doubt, go for the organic
When nothing else will cool, Slurp it
You Say Potato, She'll Say Potato,Too
You say tomato, writer says lunch