An evening at Harrington Farm Country Inn & Restaurant
by Jim Johnson
178 Westminster Road, Princeton, 464-5600
Wed.-Sun. 5-9 p.m.
Reservations strongly recommended
Major credit cards
Wine and beer
Not handicap accessible
The Harrington Farm Country Inn & Restaurant is Worcester county's best restaurant.
Period. The location is glorious -- a 1763 farmhouse set near Mt. Wachusett.
The service is expert, thanks to a warm and knowledgeable staff. The decor is
elegant yet quaint. And the food is incomparable.
After dining there recently, I decided to take a different approach to this
review and put in a call to innkeeper and chef John Bomba. A few days later, I
was standing in his kitchen, watching him and assistant David Vadenais perform
The duo maneuvered in a space barely three feet by 10 feet, surrounded by
convection ovens, a multi-burner gas stove and oven, and prep counters covered
with cut vegetables, squeeze bottles with sauces, and plastic containers filled
with herbs, spices, and mixes. As orders came in, Bomba headed to the
refrigerator to pick out key ingredients like filet mignon, duckling, rack of
lamb, salmon, or tuna.
"The trick is to do as much in advance as possible but not so much that early
preparation causes the dish to lose its freshness," he explained.
On Wednesday, June 18, Harrington Farm is holding a special four-course
dinner with wines from Trefethen Vineyards. A representative will explain a
variety of wines matched to each course.
When an order came in from a table of three, I watched as he ladled a broth
white fish bones, fennel seeds, and saffron prepared earlier into a skillet. He
then tossed in clams, then shrimp, then scallops based on cooking time. To slow
the simmering, he lay the pan in the window. Soon, one lucky individual would
be enjoying poached shrimp, sea scallops, and little neck clams ($22) served
with angel-hair pasta in a shellfish broth.
I also watched as Bomba placed Moroccan-spiced rack of lamb ($23.50), already
coated with spices, into the convection oven. A mint demi glace stood at the
The third member of the party had ordered pan seared sesame coated yellow fin
tuna ($18), and Bomba rolled the tuna in crushed sesame seeds and coriander and
seared it in a frying pan. A few moments in the convection oven cooked it
enough to leave a purple, sushi-like center.
While Bomba worked on the entrées, Vadenais prepared the appetizers.
poured sweet corn with onions, garlic, and cilantro into one pan and black
beans with cumin, coriander, tomatoes, and jalapeño pepper into another
for the side-by-side duo of grilled sweet corn and black-bean soup ($4).
("One's sweet, the other's spicy," Vadenais explained. "It's a yin-yang
approach.") As they heated, he tossed two giant spinach ravioli stuffed with
scallop mousse and shrimp ($8) into boiling water. Both dishes were ready
Vadenais also prepared accompaniments for the entrées. He heated up
couscous -- with bits of eggplant and peppers and hints of tahini -- for the
lamb, and tossed a handful of spinach into the deep fryer for the tuna. As the
time approached to serve the entrées, he plunged a variety of fresh
vegetables into water that had been richly seasoned and topped with a sheen of
oil. As the fish simmered to perfection, Bomba tossed a clump of pasta into
seasoned water for its final moments of cooking.
When the entrées were ready, the choreography began.
Bomba inspected white dishes and placed them on the serving area. On one
plate, he cut the lamb and lay it in a semi-circle around a mound of couscous
that Vadenais had placed there seconds earlier. As Bomba placed sliced tuna
across the center of another plate, Vadenais dressed it with pickled ginger and
fried spinach, decorated the rim with wasabi sauce, and drizzled miso sauce on
While Bomba placed clams, scallops, and shrimp around the angel hair,
drained the vegetables and set them on each plate, starting with a crisscross
of asparagus. Bomba dabbed stray sauces and gave a final inspection before the
server carried them into the dining room.
Since the dishes were bound for others that night, I can't tell you for sure
how they tasted. I've had each of them before, however; if past experience is
any indication, they were great.