"Hey, made any New Year resolutions yet?" This inquiry from my good buddy Freddy. "No, not as yet. Why? Do you have a suggestion for me?" I replied.
"Well, yeah. I remember your mentioning you wanted to become more health conscious. Especially with what you were eating. So, I think you and I ought to have dinner at Hartwell's American Brasserie. I can introduce you to some of the foods I enjoy, ones that are healthier choices than you have been used to, and the tastes are up to your gourmand standards."
"What's so special about Hartwell's?" I asked.
That's when I got the lowdown on one of St. Thomas' recently opened owner/chef restaurants.
Here's the gist of what Freddy had to say. And believe me, if Freddy says it's healthy, he should know. He is a local alternative medicine practitioner and a vegetarian, so I generally trust his judgment.
Tom Hartwell and his wife, Terry Rahm, took over the Old Stone Farmhouse, and after remodeling the kitchen and dining rooms, opened for business on Dec. 4.
According to Terry, the menu is composed of "Good country farmhouse food. In keeping with the name of our place, we offer classic service in an unpretentious atmosphere. Along with the standard American fare of fish, fowl and meat dishes, we serve a wide selection of vegetarian meals. Thus the name, Hartwell's American Brasserie."
Tom Hartwell has been a chef on St. Thomas for the past seven years. Some of you may know him from Randy's Bistro or the Ritz-Carlton, among others. He was also on the 1995 Caribbean Culinary Olympics Team which won seven gold medals, the highest score ever in this competition.
His training took place on the mainland, with externships in Europe. Terry, who is a vegan herself, says that the vegetarian items are indicated on the menu as being vegan or regular vegetarian dishes.
Since I didn't know what a vegan was, I asked Dr. Freddy.
"It is someone who does not eat any food made from animal products. No dairy, no eggs, etc. Strictly plant or plant product-based foods."
"But I don't know if I want to change my eating habits that drastically," I told him.
"Not to worry. They have a great rainbow trout entree I know you would like. Fish is usually your first choice, right?"
"Sure, but I like meat and potato delicacies too," I reminded him.
"These they do with the same elegance of preparation as all their dishes." he assured me.
"Including pates, shrimp or escargot?" I inquired.
"Yes, all their offerings are outstanding."
"So Freddy, what you're saying is that this restaurant offers a variety of choices so neither of us has to compromise our preferred favorites?"
"Exactly what I'm saying. Shall we call and make a reservation?"
"What? You haven't dialed yet?" I asked.
Hartwell's is available for dinner Wednesday to Sunday only, from 6 to 10 p.m. Prices for appetizers range from $7 to $10, and entrees from $15 to $22.
One recent special that most likely will become a regular choice is an excellent eggplant caponata (vegan style). This entree preceded by a stuffed pepper of grilled, marinated tofu should delight any palate.
As yet, they do not offer any entertainment, but will do so in the future.
If you call 777-6277 for reservations, you just might find Freddy and me dining beside you. It looks like a happier and healthier New Year after all!


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