When you think of hotel restaurants, it’s likely that images of overpriced, overcooked rubbery chicken and steamed vegetables come to mind. Cooper’s Mill in Bethesda, located inside the Bethesda Marriott, is aiming to change that perception.
Cooper’s Mill focuses on fresh, local ingredients with a menu that changes based on the season. They’re taking the farm-to-table focus a step further with the recent addition of monthly Chef’s Table dinners to encourage diners to eat local, and eat well.
We were invited to preview the first Chef’s Table and meet the man behind the food, Chef Chris Estrada. The Chef’s Table dinners are hosted in an intimate, private room located off the main dining hall. We loved the rustic chic table setting, and the table-cloth stamped with several of the local purveyors from which the restaurant sources their ingredients.
The Chef’s Table experience includes five courses, specially created by Chef Estrada based on whatever ingredients he finds the freshest and most inspiring that day. Our meal started with a beautiful board of warm crust bread from the local Lyon Bakery.
Shortly after polishing off our carbs, the courses started rolling out. Chef Estrada personally came out to present each dish, which is a wonderful personal touch. Up first, a grilled kale and spinach salad with roasted pear, dried dates, tangelo and green goddess dressing.
We loved the presentation of this dish, with the greens in an adorable terra-cotta pot to pour out on top of the dressing. The salad tasted just as lovely as it looked, with the grilled kale adding a wonderful smoky flavor to balance out the sweetness of the pears and dates.
Next out of the kitchen was a large board of Chincoteague charred oysters with Sausage Craft Saturday Nite sausage, 7 Locks farmhouse ale and grilled Lyon Bakery bread.
This dish is a prime example of Chef Estrada’s passion for local ingredients. He was inspired by the beautiful, fresh oysters and let them shine with sausage from Richmond, beer from Rockville and more local bread. Again, the presentation was beautiful and the flavors were outstanding.
The third course featured more local seafood, this time grilled Atlantic squid with caramelized lemon, baby arugula, pickled radish and farro.
I didn’t expect to like this dish, as I usually only enjoy squid when it’s deep fried and dipped in a creamy sauce. But consider me converted. This squid was tender and not at all fishy. The chewy texture of the farro and the fresh greens made this lighter dish very satisfying.
Portion sizes for tasting menus like this can be tricky. You want there to be enough food to feel like you’re getting your money’s worth, but not so much that you leave overly full and miserable. Cooper’s Mill did an excellent job of striking the right balance. I wasn’t able to quite finish all of the food, but not too much went to waste either (Tom is always happy to take my leftovers).
Up next, the heartiest dish of the meal – braised oxtail with Shenandoah hickory glaze, grilled balsamic onion, asparagus and stone ground blue grits.
This was a nice, comforting dish though probably my least favorite of the night mostly because the temperature was lukewarm. Still, the oxtail was cooked well and the blue grits were a fun touch.
For dessert, an “evening snack” of Taharka Brothers peanut butter cup milkshakes with warm cookie topping.
This decadent ending to the meal was a huge hit with everyone at the table, as evidenced by the sudden hush in the room and occasional slurping sounds. The Taharka Brothers ice cream used in the shake is thick, creamy and incredible. The Baltimore-based company also has an awesome mission, which you can read more about here.
Overall, we were pleasantly surprised to find such thoughtful, fresh food at a hotel restaurant and wouldn’t hesitate to stop back in for the regular menu the next time we’re in the area.
Interested in trying a Cooper’s Mill Chef’s Table dinner for yourself? Enter the Cooper’s Mill #EatLocalEatWell giveaway to win a five-course dinner for two, valued at $220!
- Visit Cooper’s Mill restaurant
- Share a picture of your meal at Cooper’s Mill on Instagram
- Tag @coopersmillmd
- Use the hashtag #EatLocalEatWell
The winner of the #EatLocalEatWell Instagram contest will be the first official Chef’s Table guest. The contest ends March 11th.
The Cooper’s Mill Chef’s Table wine tasting are hosted once per month at the restaurant at 5151 Pooks Hill Road Bethesda, Maryland 20814. Each dinner is $110 per person and includes non-alcoholic drinks. For more information, refer to the restaurant’s website.
This post was sponsored by Cooper’s Mill restaurant. As always, I have provided my honest opinions about the experience.