Cafémantic to host autumn game dinner

By Melanie Savage - Staff Writer
Willimantic - posted Fri., Nov. 22, 2013
Cafemantic owner Andrew Gütt (left) and chef Jonathan Hudak discuss the menu for the upcoming game dinner. Contributed photos. - Contributed Photo

On Thursday, Dec. 5, Cafémantic proprietor Andrew Gütt will be hosting a rather unique event at his restaurant in Willimantic’s downtown. An autumn game dinner is scheduled that will also feature wines by Michel Chapoutier, of the Rhône region in France. The inspiration for the dinner, said Gütt, stems from his experiences growing up in rural Marlborough and hunting with his father.

“My father has been an active sportsman my entire life and very successful in track and field skeet shooting,” said Gütt. “I used to go with him when he did skeet shootings and collect the - albeit few - clay targets he would miss. He would usually go hunting very early in the morning, and be back by the time I would get up, oftentimes with pheasants for me to pluck and dress. I was never an active shooter, but did always enjoy helping my father track deer and taking care of his multiple hunting dogs growing up.”

Cafémantic’s game dinner will be prepared by Chef Jonathan Hudak. Hudak, formerly chef du cuisine of Grants Restaurant in West Hartford, has designed a six-course tasting menu featuring: stuffed quail with pear, forest mushroom and apple wood bacon; hand-rolled potato gnocchi with rabbit ragout and black truffle butter; herb-roasted squab with cabbage, apple and Syrah glaze; roasted breast of duck with cassoulet of cranberry beans, cotechino and autumn vegetables; roasted saddle venison with celery root, oats, and huckleberry venison jus. The dinner will conclude with a tasting of autumn desserts.

The event is an extension of an expanded service that has developed since the restaurant’s opening. “Since we launched dinner service almost a year ago to the date - Dec. 12, 2012 - we have really started to develop a foodie following,” said Gütt. “People are traveling from farther and farther to dine with us, in addition to frequent locals.” 

Dinner has brought out a larger crowd now that the restaurant is opening in the evenings, said Gütt. The growth has allowed him to experiment with dishes. “Before our transition into dinner you couldn’t get roasted bone marrow, pork belly, roasted chanterelle mushroom or charcuterie paired with a nice wine list and craft beer anywhere in the area really,” said Gütt. “You’d have to go to Hartford or West Hartford or the casinos.”

The autumn season is a natural choice for a game dinner, said Gütt. “Typically, fall is prime hunting season in Connecticut and New England because the game is mature and at their physical peak,” he said. As for the diners, “As it turns colder we naturally start craving foods that are slightly heavier,” said Gütt. “These game animals satisfy that hunger. Essentially eating this way in the colder seasons in New England is part of our cultural roots. We eat based on the seasons. The produce we use - such as mushrooms, root vegetables, truffles - are all ready now, so it is a natural pairing.”

Also a natural choice are the wines accompanying the menu. Each course is paired with a wine by Michel Chapoutier. “Our wine choice first started by selecting a region, the Rhône Valley of France, a place known for wild game - therefore the wines there are made to pair well,” said Gütt. “The soil the grapes are grown in is the same soil that grows the food the animals eat, so the essence of the two is all the same.” There have been many requests to expand Cafémantic’s wine list, said Gütt, so “this dinner felt like a good way to roll out some new wines,” he said.

While some guests might be familiar with the game-based menu offerings, for others the dinner will represent a unique gastronomical experience, according to Gütt. “Part of our philosophy is to educate and encourage our guests to try new things and step out of the meat and potatoes mentality that so many of us were raised on,” he said. As Cafémantic continues to develop since its inception four years ago, Gütt sees similar events on the horizon. “We look forward to doing more events like this in the future,” he said. “We hope this event will be the first in a series of themed wine and beer dinners for next year.”

Service for the autumn game dinner begins at 6:30 p.m., on Dec. 5, and reservations are required. Tickets are $88 and can be purchased online at or by calling 860-423-4243. Limited seating is available. Cafémantic is located at 948 Main St., in Willimantic.

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