I had a meal at Copeland restaurant before leaving on vacation, with the intention of running a review on my first day back.
Well, I'm here now, but the restaurant is gone.
Copeland, which was located at the Westin Governor Morris Hotel, closed on August 1. It will reportedly reopen as the Blue Morel on or about August 15, with the decor and the menu completely revamped.
So my review is kind of a moot point, but I thought the evening was still worth recounting, if only as a final salute to the place.
Copeland opened in 2005 and was named for the American Composer Aaron Copland. The addition of that extra "e" to the name was deemed necessary because the 1997 movie Cop Land was still part of the public consciousness and the owners wanted to avoid that mispronunciation. In its first year, the New York Times called Copeland, "a restaurant on the way up."
One of the interesting things about Copeland–and one that I liked– was that you could ask for a table that matched the mood you wanted to conjure. Depending on where you sat, the ambiance could be bright and open, fun and flirty, or seduction-den dark.
My final visit was a date night with my husband, but since he has been my husband for many years, we did not require a dimly-lit make-out corner. Nor did we want to sit near the chatter of the martini bar because, even though it was a date night, we still had to be able to hear each other when critical topics like the clogged sink or the payment to the gutter-cleaner-guy inevitably arose.
Our ideal dining spot, then, was between the two extremes; with that wonderful combination of subdued lighting and flickering candles that makes everybody look and feel like they are a step or two above their normal place on the attractiveness scale.
The decor at Copeland was sophisticated and upscale, but a tad too serious. Just a touch of fun or whimsy would have made it more welcoming for family occasions. Still, it was the kind of place you went seeking a "special" night out. Unfortunately, the price was pretty "special" too–expensive enough to keep away a lot of locals who weren't traveling on corporate expense accounts and had many other restaurants in the Morristown area from which to choose.
Copeland called its cuisine "New American." On our last visit, we started out nibbling on a complementary serving of tasty Gravlax and egg salad on rye toast points.
Our appetizers were a perfectly acceptable salad of mesclun greens with white balsamic vinaigrette for $8 and a beautifully cooked horseradish-crusted crab cake with snow pea shoots and mustard seed vinaigrette for $16.
For my entree, I chose roasted, split, farm-raised organic chicken with peas, trumpet mushrooms, white asparagus and sorrel pesto for $25. I also shared a serving of yukon gold mashed potatoes, priced at $7, with my husband. The chicken was nicely browned and flavorful. The vegetables were good, except for the white asparagus, which tasted like someone had accidentally upended the salt shaker into the pan. This seemed to be a continuing problem - multiple on-line reviews over the years complained of too-salty vegetable dishes at Copeland.
My husband loved his sashimi-grade yellowfin tuna with octopus, fennel, snap peas and watermelon radish with basil puree at $31. He got a side of the white asparagus for $10, but also found it too salty.
But the desserts were exceptional. I had a warm Valrhona chocolate brioche pudding with raspberry compote and vanilla ice cream. My husband had the hot vanilla souffle with strawberries. We're both hoping the new restaurant will keep up the good work in this area.
And so, the curtain goes down on Copeland. There'll be no thundering ovation, but we'll give it a polite round of applause and wait for the next production.