Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Shhhhhhhhhhhhhh….This is a library

I was recently in Portsmouth (as noted in an earlier post), looking for a nice dinner spot, and talked-up one of the hotel front-desk employees for recommendations…she came up with “The Library” on State Street.

Their website touts it as “The Best Steak House on the Seacoast” in one of the “most valued landmarks.” Modest, they are not, but despite the hyperbole, the succeeded on every level.

If you ever went to “Finally Michael’s” in Framingham, MA, then you know exactly what The Library is all about. It is located in an old, historic building, with very high ceilings, bookcases filled from floor to ceiling, multiple fireplaces throughout the room, linen tablecloths and napkins (one comment here though-they should have the option of black napkins in addition to white, so that white lint won’t show up on dark colored clothing). We had a 7:00pm reservation, and we were promptly seated upon our arrival, in a quiet corner near a fireplace.

The menu can be best described as “continental/steakhouse” with the typical offerings of beef, beef and slightly more beef. For a meatatarian like myself, I’ll embrace the cow, and all its delicious parts, but for Mrs. Palate, the choices are somewhat limited, and for the second night, it seemed that salmon was her choice.

From the start of the meal and all the way through, our waiter was extremely attentive and prompt, yet unobtrusive. He appeared when needed, but didn’t bother us during the meal. He listened carefully as Mrs. Palate explained her food allergies, and checked with the Chef to ensure there would be no mistakes. Though he seemed young, the waiter clearly was well trained and took pride in his work, which we greatly appreciated.

For dinner, we each had a mixed green salad, with homemade red wine vinaigrette (and not the kind they doled out at The York Steakhouse). I had the 16oz sirloin (just not up for the “Man v. Food” challenge of a 24oz Rib-eye steak), sautéed spinach and we split an order of roasted mushrooms. Mrs. Palate had “Pan Roasted Scottish Salmon” with white beans and fall vegetables in a light garlic broth and a sweet potato. My steak was tender and cooked to perfection, and the fish was expertly prepared and was very pleasant in presentation and in taste, with the garlic broth and vegetables. The other sides were also very good and served hot and fresh.

While we did not have coffee or dessert, the dessert tray included some wonderful looking items, including a very rich looking “7 Layer Chocolate Cake” and the “Peanut Butter Pie.” After a full day of outlet shopping and a very satisfying meal, I just couldn’t force in one more bite...but Mrs. Palate and I both agreed: The Library was an excellent experience and grossly exceeded our recent meal at Morton’s. I give The Library a “platinum palate” and “two forks up”.

Of course, by the time we got back to our hotel (a 3 minute ride), I was ready to go…for ice cream. So, in the pouring rain, we walked down to the waterfront to Annabelle’s Ice Cream. I had a very small cup, and it was quite tasty, but the impressive part was that all their homemade ice cream is certified “Kosher”. The owner told us that it’s expensive, but worth it, and we found out that he services over 100 retail outlets besides his own shop. Got to give him props for the Kosher certification, and in the future, we’ll be giving him our ice-cream consumption business when in Portsmouth. I would encourage others to do so as well.

Next time you’re in Portsmouth, enjoy The Library and Annabelle’s Ice Cream, but for now, enjoy “Eat It” by Weird Al…

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Brought to you by the MPAA...

New rating system…

I am willing to entertain suggestions on a rating system for the blog. After all these years of eating and writing, it’s time to come up with my signature line. Like Siskel and Ebert, I could co-op “two thumbs up” or maybe, more appropriately, “two tongues up.” But, things are not always black or white, and therefore a scale might be necessary. Tonight, I unleashed the “precious metal” system, where I will rate things as “Platinum Palate” (the highest), then gold, silver, bronze, and lead (the worst.)

I don’t love it, and don’t want to be derivative, so feel free to email me or post here your thoughts on a new rating system. If yours is chosen, there might be special surprise sent your way…

Let the ideas flow…

Pass the meat please…

In preparation for Deli December, Mrs. Palate and I got away for the weekend and sojourned to Portsmouth, NH. Portsmouth has a disproportionate number of restaurants in light of their population, with an eatery practically on every corner, and a few in between. Coincidentally, this was the end of their “Restaurant Week”, and many places were offering special, multi-course meals.

We decided to hit “Muddy River Smokehouse” for dinner Friday night. Muddy River is right in downtown Portsmouth, on Congress Street, and has a small, funky bar area in front; but as you walk to the back, into the dining room, it gets funkier. The décor could be best described as “roadhouse” or “shack”. I’m ok with it, so long as they don’t let the décor draw their attention away from the food. Having been there before, I assure you they know their way around a smoker.

We went to dinner with my cousins, and they beat me into submission to start the meal with a traditional Southern appetizer…Fried Pickles. I’m as game as the next guy, but I wasn’t sure about these, but I have to say, I’ve seen the light (as well as the grease). I am embracing the pickle. These little dill pickles slices, coated and fried, were like little slices of heaven, dipped in horseradish. A party in your mouth! These little devils definitely warmed me up for the meal…these come highly recommended.

After a one-minute respite, my ribs appeared…I ordered a full rack of beef ribs, which I believe was 8 ribs. These were not puny ribs from some anorexic cow…this cow was well fed (think closing credits from “The Flintstones”). The ribs were nicely smoked, then grilled and sauced. While I usually like my ribs dry, I neglected to mention that to the waitress (who had a pleasant Steely Dan-esque name, “Aja”), and even though the sauce was a little sweeter than I prefer, it was a nice compliment to the char-crust on the ribs. Not to worry, Mom, I only ate half, and sent the other half home with my cousin, for her husband. I only sampled the cole slaw (more vinegar-based with seemingly little, if any mayonnaise) and garlic mashed potatoes, but a very well executed meal consistent with the smokehouse theme. Mrs. Palate had “candied smoked salmon” and a cup of the vegetarian chili…she was very high on the chili, and satisfied with the fish from a smokehouse. Put together the fried pickles, beef ribs and Crestor, and that’s a meal!

Revealing our new rating system (which will be described in depth in future postings), having been the Muddy River three times, and never disappointed, we give it a golden palate (second to the top rating).

More later, but for now, enjoy some blues…

Friday, November 6, 2009

Rock the Kasbah…

By special agreement, a new food quest has been launched. “The Hunt for Deli December” (“the Hunt” for short) has begun.

From Wikipedia: “Delicatessen” is a term meaning "delicacies" or "fine foods”.
The term delicatessen has a secondary meaning in some countries, referring to stores that sell delicatessen, hence a shortened term for delicatessen store, sometimes additionally shorted to the informal term “deli”.

I suppose around here “deli” is NOT synonymous with “fine foods”, but perhaps delicacies- pickled tongue, chopped liver and kishke (stuffed intestine, for the uninformed)? A deli meal is an interesting experience, made even more adventurous by the aforementioned foods.

One thing that I have observed over the years is the differing ideas of what really make a “deli”. To me, with my heritage, I expect a massive menu of over-stuffed sandwiches, as well as other traditional sides (such as knishes, kasha, and kishke). The ambiance is completed by pickles in jars, salamis and other netted meats hanging from the ceiling, and sweaty old men in filthy, formerly white aprons, cutting the meat and swearing under their breath in Yiddish. To others, a sandwich shop like D’Angelo’s or Subway/Quizno’s is a deli…what is wrong with these people? Fine foods…delicacies???

So, for you, my consuming public, I am on the hunt…I am going to sample the best, and likely some of the worst, of local delis. If you have any suggestions, bring them on.

So far, I’ve eaten at the Deli Kasbah in NYC, sampled the wares of Noah’s Ark, also in NYC, Rein’s Deli in Vernon, CT, Zaftig’s in Brookline, MA, Kugels’s in Framingham, MA, Joan and Ed’s in Natick, MA and S & S Restaurant in Cambridge, MA. Plenty more to come, culminating with a deli discussion on WBZ 1030AM on Saturday night, January 30, 2010. Tune in, here, and there, to talk about the best, and worst, of deli.