Farmer, Innkeeper, Cook: Don Reid's Full LifeThe Glastonbury Citizen, c. 1990
by Kim Sirois
Each morning, Don Reid goes into his perfect little kitchen to prepare a delectable breakfast for his guests, and then ventures outside to care for his animals.
The noted cook, prize winning animal breeder and popular innkeeper, Don Reid's world is called Butternut Farm, which is tucked behind a buffer of trees on Main Street. Outside is his own special herb garden, and just beyond is an 18th-century barn populated with friendly animals always looking for love.
For ten years, he's been breeding rare gold colored Swiss Oberhasli goats. He currently has five baby goats and the feisty attention-loving creatures are a joy for him. “There's nothing cuter,” he said. They're the perfect pet because, “they're clean, fastidious and intelligent,” Reid added.
The barn coops are filled with chickens of all sizes, and all around the barn are snow-white pigeons. His neighbors especially enjoy the animals, Reid said. “It's like a petting zoo here,” he said, “the neighbors look forward to the babies (goats) in the spring, so they can bring their children over.”
Guests from all over the country and the world are attracted to Reid's Butternut Farm home and guest house, drawn by the house's charm and Reid's hospitality. The guest book on an old wooden table in his parlor contains this entry from a woman in St. Louis: “The most charming and hospitable dwelling I've ever experienced. Thank you.”
Living in an old house has always been a dream for Reid, who grew up in New Hampshire. “This is a good house that deserves good treatment, that is why I have furnished it with such early wonderful things,” he said. To keep it all to himself, however, Reid feels is a waste--so he decided to open it up to the public.
It began years ago when Reid's neighbors were having guests over, but could not put them all up. Reid offered his home for the guests--“and they seemed to love the house and the grounds,” he said.
Now featured in nearly every country inn guide, Reid's home was “livable” when he first moved in. All of the walls and floors have been restored, and the rooms were painted their original colors of colonial blues, reds and greens.
In the guest rooms, fireplaces were uncovered, old books were placed on the mantles, and canopy beds, historic pictures and antiques were brought in to enhance decor from the 18th and 19th century.
The downstairs parlor, the former “keeping room,” has a cozy feeling with the burning fire, sweet melody of a symphony playing above and dried flowers and herbs hanging from the ceiling...
Part of Reid's hospitality for his guests lies in cooking a special breakfast for them. Each morning, he prepares breakfast with fresh eggs laid by the chickens in the barn, uses his special recipe jellies and jams for toast, and offers fresh milk from his goats.
Though he is modest about his cooking talents, Reid is noted for some of his popular New England dishes and was featured in Yankee Magazine in 1988, 1989, and 1990 as a “Great New England Cook.” [see recipes]...
The former banker and foreign language school teacher began cooking when he moved out on his own. “You really have to like food, cooking and eating...and you build up an expertise in doing it,” he said. Ever since, he's been testing, trying and succeeding. “It's fun to create something people like and it's satisfying to show there's no mystery in cooking.”
The one problem, Reid says, is that no one invites him over for dinner.
But he's had the honor to serve great cooks like Julia Child, James Beard and Burt Wolf. Child visited Reid's inn back in 1973--and with only slight nervousness he prepared her a seven-course meal. “I remember her coming up the walk. Just then I tested the fish sauce and I thought it was awful. But then I realized it wasn't through yet,” Reid recalls.
Meet Author, Agent and French Chef
The Hartford Times, April 17, 1973
Julia Child, may have been an OSS agent during World War II and an author of three cookbooks that sold nearly a million copies, but to her loving fans she's “a giant of a gal with a marvelous laugh.”
The handsome 6'3” writer and TV cooking instructor known as the “French Chef” was guest of honor yesterday at a champagne party, hosted by the Hartford Symphony Women's Auxiliary at G. Fox and Co.'s Centinel Hill Hall...
Some at the G. Fox reception saw her as a great showman. Others said she was a giant of a gal and lots of fun. One man put it this way: “Julia, I can't boil water, but I love your show.”
Dr. Arthur Banks, president of Greater Hartford Community College informed the guest speaker that there was no way you could stuff a chicken with dignity. “That's absolutely right, chickens can be dignified, but you can't,” she joked...
Women love Julia Child's recipes, but most would hesitate to cook a dinner for her. But not Donald B. Reid of Glastonbury. Following lasts night's reception, the courageous gourmet cook invited the Childs, Robert Brown of Random House, Maria Temechko of Alfred Knopf, publishers, Irving Hopkins, professor of biology at Mitchell College in New London and Mr. And Mrs. Richard Ballard of Glastonbury.
Dinner was in the candlelit dining room of Reid's 1720 house that abounds in herbs and antiques. But the first course, liver pâté and bacon sprinkled with cinnamon, was served in the cozy keeping room before a fire.
Next came a puffed pastry stuffed with herbed mushrooms with a white burgundy wine, followed by Battle of Lexington Soup made with pumpkin and chicken base.
The dining room was warm and inviting with a glowing fire that matched the conversation. When talk centered on traveling, the Child's said they deplore the food on airplanes; they make sandwiches and bring their own wine aboard.
They advised their dinner companions to avoid pseudo French food abroad. “Even the young in France now are cooking in a pseudo manner,” Julia noted.
Don Reid then treated his guests to his Fish Timbale with a shrimp sauce. The main course consisted of veal chops braised in cider with carrots in honey and bitter ginger. Salad came next, as served in the European fashion, with watercress, lettuce and spinach over the Reid House dressing. All the food served was created by the host.
Dessert was beautiful to look at, and everyone had to admire it for a few moments before spooning the delicious lemon cream from the whole fresh lemon. It was accompanied by pineapple with lime and Italian-espresso coffee.
Between courses the “French Chef” patted Don Reid's arm in appreciation of his fine cooking. At the end of the evening, she and her husband thanked their host warmly and confessed, “We love to be invited out to dinner.”
Bed & Breakfast & Beast & Banter
Connecticut Courant Source, June 8, 1997
The innkeeper keeps many things hereabouts, as any visitor can clearly see, although a 16-year-old copy of The Star is not kept in plain view. This particular edition of the scandal sheet is understandably not displayed on the same antique tables as The Opera News or Preservation magazine. Yet it surely has a place here, and, if you ask, Don Reid will fetch for you his brief (very brief--only a paragraph) flirtation with tabloid fame.
It is right here in the same 1981 issue in which the cover reveals “The Secret Sadness of Princess Di,”, who was reported even then to have been “behaving oddly, and unroyally,” catching “icy stares” from the Queen. The reference to Don is right here on the very same page as Nancy Reagan, who offers the “Seven Golden Rules to Keep a Man Happy,” including “A wife should stay in shape and look pretty for her husband.” Right there in the column to the left of rule 5 is a small article featuring Don Reid's Butternut Farm on Main Street in Glastonbury, which The Star, in its authoritative style, labeled “The smallest inn in America”. Whether it was, with its two bedrooms, was open to question, as is all else in such a tabloid. Yet it did give a critical boost to the business, which has since expanded to five rooms, making it of ordinary size, even if it is extraordinary in nature.
It seems odd, after all these years, that Reid would need such a stretch-this is a distinctive place, and the innkeeper has such a memorable personality. But the bed-and-breakfast business is a tough one, and every little bit of exaggeration and promotion helps. It helps that after 20 years in the business, Reid is an experienced hand. And, in a state known for many lovely inns, this is one in which drollery prevails, where the co-hosts were brought up in a barn, where a decanter of sherry is placed in each guest room, and where the house, dating back to 1720, offers history in every corner. Word does get around. A check of the present register reveals names of guests from such disparate places as Lascassa, Tenn., Beverly Hills, Beijing, New Delhi, Rotterdam, Jakarta, Naples, Mexico City and, as only a Britisher can address himself: “Gilbourn Farm, Drayton, Abington, Oxon, England.” Also, here are two names not on the register, Julia Child and James Beard, who each came to dinner back when the innkeeper was more active, culinarily speaking.
I learned about the drollery part before I arrived. Official directions to Butternut Farm advise the guests to “enter the first hole in the bushes on left. Don't run over the chickens, please.” I parked the car next to the tarp-covered 1920 Chevy pickup truck, and saw Don Reid in the yard tending part of his menagerie. He was conversing with Harry, the goose. Actually it wasn't Harry at all. “She was Harry for a year, then she started having eggs. Now she's Harriet.” Whatever the name, the animal appeared to be on close terms with the innkeeper and surely with me, finding my shoe leather irresistible.
Other farm residents were introduced as the afternoon went on, including the bottleneck ducks, odd looking creatures, who “wander around all day long,”, the pig named Pork Chop (“Sorry”, Don says), and the llama named Mark (short for Marquis). On this day, Don wore a sweater knitted by a friend that was “50 percent lamb's wool and 50 percent Mark.” When pressed about the breadth and depth of his “petting zoo,” he said, “I was going to get Emus, too-but I heard they commit suicide-make mad dashes into fences.”...