Tuesday, September 9, 2008

More Taste of the Palate, New Hampshire Style

I never expected the response I received regarding the White Mountain region of New Hampshire and all the great, and not so great, places to eat. I clearly have struck a nerve with all of you, so I am completing my gastronomic tour of Lincoln-Woodstock, NH.

Brittany’s Café at the Kancamagus Motor Lodge
How many times have you passed a motel, see their little diner/café and thought to yourselves “gee, I should stop here for a meal, maybe a T-bone, of filet mignon.” Of course you haven’t, because most of these places look like joints where you wouldn’t be caught dead, more because of the location than the décor.

So, as I have said, some places just call out, and when you go, it’s a real surprise…and in this case, a good way. Years back, some Cousin Palates discovered Brittany’s for breakfast, and after we sampled it, we decided that this was a pleasant, decent place to dine, and we’ve been there for dinner too. We all give it a “thumb up” even though it looks like a place at which you’d never think about stopping.

Truant’s in Woodstock, NH.

This place looks like a joint where former “truants” would hang out, replete with video games, tabletop shuffleboard, darts and pool tables. But you know, looks can be deceiving. To get to the dining room at Truant’s, you go down two steps, physically and socially. But, the food is good. It’s a step up from pub food, with some decent selections, and an extensive kids’ menu. It’s funny how places in vacation spots cater more to kids than the places around where we love. Normally, I wouldn’t really think of taking the kids into a glorified biker bar (they prefer opium dens), but with a decent dining room downstairs, and the kids’ menu, they have created a welcoming joint that the whole family can enjoy, and afford. While we’ve dropped “Dad’s” from our “preferred” list, we’ve put “Truant’s” on the “Palatable” list.

Shorty’s Roadhouse Café

Shorty’s is down in the Nashua/Brookline area, and perfectly pleasant Tex-Mex restaurant. We stopped there on our way home, and it was a nice way to end the week of sumptuous repasts. Without getting into gory details (because by the time we were eating there, I was bloated and burnt out), the nice menu feature is that they have a number of quesadillas, and you can order a “half.” If you’re really hungry, you can order “halves” of two different ones, or if you want to go light, just order a “half.” We also had a great waitress, and overall, Shorty’s wasn’t ...er...“Crappy.”

While none of the places we ate were 5-star or Michelin rated, almost all were enjoyable, decent quality, family-friendly places, that diverted from the standard chain paradigm of pre-fab, pre-cooked, pre-tend food. While some of the menu items were the types of things you’d find at a chain (Buffalo chicken sandwich, burger sliders), the food was fresh and real, with none of the pseudo-essence of food you get at the major chains.

I hope you enjoyed this tour of the dining experiences in the White Mountains of NH. You’ve been great. Now, please welcome Buffalo Springfield.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Taste of the Palate—New Hampshire style-Part Deux

Because of the server-killing response, I am continuing with my review of the best, average and worst of the White Mountain Region of New Hampshire.

The thing about going to places like the White Mountains is that there aren’t any chains to lure you in with the scent of pre-fabricated food from East Trashdump, PA. A week away from Route 9, Chain Restaurant Mecca, is just what the gastroenterologist ordered.

We recently ate twice at Woodstock Station in Woodstock, NH. The station is a local brew pub-sort of what “John Harvard’s” wants us to think it is-that serves very fresh and highly acclaimed beer, and has a huge menu, and there is something for everyone on this menu for everyone. I tried one of the stranger items-the “chicken salad melt”. The description: “Our famous all breast chicken salad with chutney and walnuts baked on an English muffin with tomatoes and cheese.” It was late, and after a long day in the hot sun, I decided to go for it. While it does sound weird, it was surprisingly delicious. Since we were staying in a condo with a full kitchen, we could bring leftovers home and I enjoyed it the next day. Like the plague, it was a gift that kept on giving, except tastier.
A special menu item that caught my eye-“Death by Burger”; an 18 oz. cheeseburger, B.L.T on the bottom, with onions on the top. The menu says “For real men only”-I assure you, no women would want to be around after one is consumed.

One warning about the station-there is live music after 9:00pm. It’s usually local musicians and quite good, but it makes for difficult for table conversation at times, and difficult for the wait-staff to hear and understand what you’re saying. Be forewarned about the noise, but overall, Siskel gives it a thumb up!

Dad’s at the Beacon Resort is a throwback to the heyday of beach clubs, Poconos and the Catskills, except without any of the charm. At this place, it looks like everyone puts Baby in a corner.

The Beacon is on Route 3 in Lincoln, next to the Whale’s Tale water park. It’s a small “resort”, with outer-lying small cabins and some motel-like buildings. Dad’s is in a central building that also houses their nightclub, where on the night we dined there, after dinner you could enjoy the sweet sounds of Ivan Putski and his Magic Accordion, playing Abba’s hits from “Mama Mia.”

One of the reasons we used to like Dad’s was because it was one of the rare places you could get “all you can keep down” beef ribs, and they were usually pretty good. Alas, like all good things, Dad’s has seen better days. While the menu is extensive, they have decided that they cannot accommodate any food allergy alterations to the dishes, so Mrs. Palate got stuck with a tasteless, plain piece of chicken. While I had the ribs, the ribs never stopped coming the whole night, euphemistically.

Another annoyance-wait staff that doesn’t write things down. This drives me nuts, especially when there are food allergies and modifications. I don’t know who the staff thinks they’re impressing, because it sure isn’t me when they have to come back and ask- “what did you get again?”

One last observation on Dad’s—beware of any place that has a “make your own sundae bar.” While we were sitting at our table, another family nearby got up to make their sundaes. While there, the father not only put a spoon into the cherries and ate some, right from the spoon at the bar, but then stuck his finger into the hot fudge, and licked it off!!! The Critical Palate gives Dad’s, unfortunately, after sticking it in the hot fudge, a big thumb’s down.

More later, but for now, enjoy “Malt Shoppe Memories” by Time-Life.