Monday, November 27, 2017

Thanksgiving: Eating Out, With Reservations

Mortal life has been shit lately, but Thanksgiving has reminded me that I have much to be thankful for.

Like cats. And dogs. And good friends. Actually anything kind and fuzzy. Oh, don't forget about the joys of eating out.

Eating out means you have some cash to spare, with treats you wouldn't normally get at home, laughter and conversation and celebration, and no dishes to wash afterwards.
Fixed price meals on Thanksgiving day starting a noon with the last seating at 500 p.m.
About a week before the holiday The Mistress of the Hounds and I decided to get together and treat ourselves to a restaurant meal - something I've never done before on Thanksgiving Day. My pissy side says eating out on a holiday (Mothers Day, Valentines Day, etc.) is usually awful - way too busy, overpriced, disappointing. But this year, with a sick cat who died just days before, and a dying Mom, and a crazy Dad, and stress at work, and just plain feeling like a bitch ready to explode, I was up to having someone else do the cooking.

There were no reservations available at Normanside. None at the Desmond. Hmmmmmmmmmmm.  I was left asking myself "Who eats out on Thanksgiving?". Apparently lots of folks (and I expect the trend to continue, based on my extreme powers of strength and foresight). I surfed the web looking for options but finding a holiday special wasn't all that easy.  There were buffets and take out available from many local establishments - just sides or the whole enchilada. I finally managed to get a table for two at Innovo Kitchen, located on Route 7 in Latham. Fixed price meals at $38/person - comparable to the area buffets, with a selection of starters (soups, crab cakes, salad), turkey or beef or salmon as a main, and three types of pie or creme brulee or cookies for dessert. I thought the selection was varied and offered something for everyone - there was even a kids menu.
Take out pickups started at 1100 a.m. Over 300 covers expected in the dining room
The front of the restaurant was busy with folks picking up packaged meals to go. I sat at the bar with a cold class of Mount Riley Sauvignon Blanc ($10) - a good pour, watching a dog show on the telly because the help in front weren't exactly chatty. No Mistress. She called me, misdirected, late, apologetic, so I told the (owner) at the hostess point that we were needing to be seated a bit late.  While totally our fault, I expected to hear a gracious "No worries, all is well, we'll figure something out, it's the holidays after all". Instead I got "That's a problem, we may not be able to seat you," followed by "You'll have to be done by 2:00 because we will need to re-set the table for the next party."

Pissy side rises to the surface, superpowers in check. No one wants to be told their holiday meal is a bust. I stopped myself from looking into her soul and instead just smiled and thanked. You would have been impressed with my restraint, trust me.

Seated at 12:30. Our waitress was very nice. She asked if we'd decided on our meals without any description of what they were (e.g., farm raised versus a sustainable salmon? local turkey or beef?) - no work at all to sell what the kitchen had in store for us. And no suggestions for wine pairings. Less than classy, especially for a special meal. OK, no matter. Mistress went for the turkey and I ordered the beef. Their usual white bean dip and seedy crackers arrived at the table (still boring), followed shortly by a small wrapper of breads, including a nice sourdough that was perfectly soft and yeasty.
Gratis crackers with their white bean dip and a few slices of bread were the usual at IK
Round One. Mistress' Roast Pumpkin Bisque was rich, not too sweet, tasting like pumpkin and scented with ginger. I loved the Great Greens salad, topped with roasted beets, goats milk cheese and walnuts with a slightly sweet mustard vinaigrette.
Nice pumpkin bisque...

but I'm betting my salad was better!
Main Course: Mistress got a mound of food, looking like mine would if it was a buffet. Stuffing, mashed potatoes, white and dark meat Roast Tom Turkey, a bit of roasted sweet potato and gravy, piled high, with cranberries on the side. Not a pretty plate, but the food was good. She ALSO got a threesome of green beans, creamed onions and roasted brussels sprouts. The onions were amazing - rich, briney, delicate little bites of sweetness. A well considered, well executed and delicious holiday meal.
Tom Turkey? How do they know it was a boy???
Why didn't I get sides too????  Mistress doesn't like green beans, so I got em!
The Grilled Beef Tenderloin was amazing - tender, a bit salty, juicy, topped with a delicious demi glace. But the plate was NOT my idea of generous or extraordinary. About 1/2 cup of mashed potatoes (creamy, wonderful), and three! brussels (really!!!??) - chintzy almost. No roasted carrot or squash slice or sauteed shrooms or even a sprig of parsley or an offer or horseradish. I asked for more potatoes (which I didn't finish), and at least that came gratis. I really felt they could have done more to make the meal feel special. The fare was excellent, but I was underwhelmed.
It was screaming "Add some color!!! She needs more vegetables! Where's the horseradish?"
Pumpkin pie, pecan pie, coffee. All wonderful. The pecan pie in particular was rich and sweet and dark and gooey. If this were a buffet I would have gone back for seconds.  (:

Pumpkin pie was a classic (above). See the pecan pie isn't all gummy and stuck up like me. 
Dinner for two, including three glasses of wine and the tax came to $121.77. Not a bad value, and I do prefer good food over quantity as a rule. However, while I'm not an "all you can eat" kind of goddess, which is the pleasure of the buffet, the palty leftovers of the fixed price meal were a disappointment. Somehow the generosity, that elaborate touch, and a bit of creativity wasn't let loose at Innovo Kitchen this Thanksgiving. But the food was excellent.

Happy holidays to you and yours.

Zena, Goddess of Fire

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