Located in Hadley, MA, Butternuts has long been a subject of curiosity (and some mockery) to some of us who often travel along Rt. 9. I selected it as a possible Valentine's Day venue because:
1) It seemed from its website and the prices of its entrees to be in the category of a "nice" restaurant for a festive occasion.
2) Unlike many nice restaurants in our area, it has more than 1-2 vegetarian options. I like eggplant once in a very long while, but I don't like feeling cornered into ordering it.
3) It's located within a 20 minute drive from our house.
And now, on to the review. Butternuts suffers from an identity crisis. It has several trappings of a more upscale restaurant (higher prices, ginormous bar, Asian-inspired decor such as screens and paper lanterns), but the clientele was largely elderly and families with younger children, and several cues (such as the fried fish stick odor) led to our conclusion: Butternuts is more like a Family Restaurant than a swanky dining experience. That's not to say that the food was bad, or the atmosphere was unpleasant. Aside from overly inquisitive servers, our dining experience was quite agreeable--it just wasn't what either of us expected.
After some delicious warm bread with herb butter, I ordered the Beet-Apple Soup with Horseradish garnish (in the shape of a heart!) off of the special Valentine's Day menu--one of the few vegetarian items. It was . . . a lot like pureed beets. But it was interesting, and I'm glad that I didn't play it safe. For an entree, I selected the Pasta Michel: "baby spinach with artichoke hearts, red roasted peppers, mushrooms, pine nuts and raisins in lemon scented olive oil sauce." It was a nice, light dish with a good combination of flavors, especially the sweetness of the raisins and the salty artichoke hearts. My dinner companion ordered the Butternut Lasagna: "layers of Hadley butternut squash, wild mushrooms, sweet onions, sage, ricotta and our three cheese blend nestled in blankets of egg pasta sheets." We had assumed it would be like a "signature dish," considering the restaurant's name, but it was a little disappointing, seeming more like a pastry than lasagna, with not enough Butternut flavor. We elected to have dessert at home, I think because we were both full. Overall, it was a good experience, but I'm not sure that it will join the ranks of our favorite Occasion Restaurants, and the prices are too high to merit putting it into our regular rotation. However, it was nice to find a restaurant in the area that believes in providing vegetarian options for its clients and using locally-grown produce to make those meals.
Random notes: Why did the Caesar salad, with a description that included anchovies, have a V for Vegetarian beside it?