I started with the lettuce soup, "a light vegetarian soup of sweet onions, arugula & romaine, finished with a coriander cream." A slightly bitter, creamy soup arrived, very different than what I expected, yet interesting. As usual I ordered the filet, cooked rare, and substituted a baked sweet potato, alongside sugar snap peas. The steak was cooked to perfection or should I say, hardly cooked to perfection and topped with their famous sauce. Despite my efforts to replicate this reduction, I have never been able to recreate the balsamic, butter and molasses concoction. Chef Rob, also the Thacker Mountain Radio sound engineer, nailed the salted pepper crust on the filet. The herbed butter, which topped the sweet potato, would make anything taste better and can easily be eaten straight-up (trust me)!
Randy, my friend visiting from Oregon, ordered a Penne dish. The pasta was "tossed with a sauce of green tomatoes & crushed red pepper, finished with fresh basil & parmesan." The green tomatoes were a nice tart change from your typical red sauce and while native to the south, I have not experienced them in any way other than fried, until now. Randy enjoyed the sauce so much that he thought it could use a larger "sauce-to-penne ratio." The Vorhies supplied the Rombauer Zinfandel, which accompanied the steak with its bold, fruity notes and became my new favorite zin.
This sparked an amusing, yet mystifying discussion about pasta, often heard around the dinner table at Mark's Italian house-hold in Providence, Rhode Island. Apparently, his family, particularly his niece Elise, feel very strongly that the shape of a pasta dictates how a dish tastes. In fact for them there is even a pasta hierarchy. They fondly refer to us anglo-saxon Americans as "Met" short for "Meticano" as in "it is so "met" to eat bow-tie salad." Bow-ties seem to be at the very bottom of the list followed by angel hair, elbows and spaghetti and any other shapes not native to Italy, like the wagon wheel and radiators. Ziti "rigate", which means "with lines" is tolerable, but without lines, is not good. Penne rigate is on their righteous list, which makes me question the validity of the whole hierarchy; isn't the difference between ziti and penne simply the the angle on which they are cut?
We finished the meal with two slices of key-lime pie for the table. The tangy, sweet pie was served in a moist graham cracker crust and although it hit all the right notes, it was almost overshadowed by the coffee. While I know that decaf coffee should be illegal because of the toxic process of removing the caffeine and because by ordering it at night I become one of those boring grown-ups who will proceed to tell you how they cannot tolerate caffeine after 4pm, I ordered anyhow. This decaf, however was sexy. Served table-side in a french press, it was full-bodied and layered reminding me of how this simple technology still reigns in the coffee maker kingdom.