Black book for your dates. Red book for your meals

Never— really, never— taste the same thing twice at Redbook Restaurant at Hillbrook Inn and Spa.

Every dish— elegant multi-course meals crafted with fresh, seasonal and local fare— gets hand-written into their namesake red books. With more than 20 years of guest history to draw from, they can promise every time you dine, you’ll get something entirely unique.

Guests can flip through the books, which are like chronicles of the restaurant’s own rich, flavorful heritage. The chefs reference them, too. Sometimes, they completely reimagine dishes from way back in their records.

“Being able to look back, we can see ‘This is where I was; where do I want to go?’ We think, how can we enhance its flavor profile?” said owner Carissa Zanella. “It’s always pushing us to do better. And each time we create a unique, beautiful experience.”

And that’s the key: it’s not a meal— it’s an experience. An incredibly personal one.

It starts the moment you make a reservation. There is no menu. Instead, the staff will ask your preferences as a guide. You choose from set seating times, so they can account for every person’s palate when they tailor their prixe-fixe platings.

It’s hard to believe guests could bear to never taste these artisanal creations again. But that’s part of the allure. It’s about as custom as fine dining could possibly get, but it still manages to keep you guessing.

“We have some guests who say, ‘Oh, I could eat the wellington every time,’ but the majority are repeat guests that can’t wait to see what else [head chef] Justin can come up with,” Carissa said. “They’re very intrigued by what else he can do.”

And it’s a pretty wide repertoire.

“In the culinary world, everything’s always changing,” Carissa said. “There are so many techniques, so many ways we can change a dish. The biggest thing is that Justin loves to learn. And it’s fun to go down that path with him.”

But while no culinary touch is off the table, there is a unifying theme you can count on.

“Traditional is our start,” Carissa said. “Traditional ingredients with a modern flair to it.”

The biggest secret to such intricate dining? An agile, but well-aligned culinary team.

“You have to find people that mesh well in the kitchen and have the same belief system about food,” she said. “In interviews, we discuss what they like in a personal dining experience. It’s not always easy, but we have an amazing team that respects each other and communicate well.”

When you have such creative, diverse minds together, it’s almost hard to not get it right.

“We joke, because a lot of the time people say ‘that’s something I wouldn’t eat’ or even something they don’t like,” Carissa said. “But I tell Justin as long as he cooks it right, I’ll try it. A lot of times, I didn’t know I would like that.”

Even with the breadth of knowledge and experience in the kitchen, it can be a challenge to conform to an ever-changing bar.

“It can be challenging, especially when there are a lot of restrictions, but that’s part of the fun,” Carissa said. “There are not many restaurants you can go into and have this kind of creative freedom. So it’s a challenge we’ve welcomed, and we’ve proven time and time again we can do it exceptionally well.”

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This post was last updated on July 21, 2020