Arielle - August 2013 (dt)
6.37 - 7.2, 7, 7, 7, 6.25, 6, 5.5, 5

A historic evening it was for Dinner Party of Eight!
          After 128 dinner dates, someone other than Karnes, Teator, Adams or Monteverd acted as host and selected the restaurant. So, congratulations, Mark and Joyce for sharing the experience.
          
The other historic facet was our first ever massive traffic jam, this one leading into Rhinebeck. After idling along 9G for 20-30 minutes, we nudged rightward to Middle Road reconnoitered to the main street, and entered Market Street’s Arielle only fifteen minutes late. We never did ascertain if there was an accident, or if it was just “normal” backup traffic for the Dutchess County Fair’s last night.

A quick look at the menu, and surroundings, announces “France.” A wide range of choices, especially on the entrée menu, should have allowed a worthy decision.
         
Hors d’oeuvres at Notars had put a small dent into our appetites. Still, the first course found half of us partaking:
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gazpacho—a chunky & classic gazpacho (Deb T: one of the best)
==> arugula piled on pear slices, topped with parmesan shavings, drizzled in balsamic (Deb K, shared with Chay: a simple but excellent salad)
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crispy artichoke hearts, with parsley, garlic, caper-yogurt sauce: (Mark and Joyce each: good, worth a try)
         
These came after a linen-wrapped, metal-braid basket of chewy French bread had appeared within ten minutes after seating. Two small squared bowls of olive oil and balsamic vinegar accompanied; the shape of the small bowls defied easy application.

Entrées chosen included:
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Seared scallops – not Deb T!
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Skate, with brown butter, capers & lemon, asparagus (Deb K: very good, a light fish that proved tasty)
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Grilled salmon, pesto smashed potatoes, haricot vert (Deb T: all were excellent, even the green potatoes)
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Chicken tangine, with dried apricots, black olives, cumin & harissa, over couscous (Joyce: excellent, a flavorful and plentiful dish)
==> Cassoulet au duck confit (Mark: excellent, and filling, with a large, crispy fried duck portion)
==> bouef bourguignon, smashed potatoes, root vegetables—all in a stew bowl (Don: excellent, great comfort food!)
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Mussels & shrimp (the black ink squid declined) in a spicy red sauce turned black from the black ink (Chay: very good although portion was small)
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Strip steak, with frites and small salad (Ken: ordered medium, good steak, disappointing salad of only lettuce with a thin dressing; Kriss: ordered well, came out medium-rare, sent back, came back barely medium, and ate only two small cuts; same comment about “salad”)

Desserts lured about half of us:
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pot de crème—a medium sized ramekin filled with a dense, chocolate-rich mound, topped with a dab of cream (Deb K, Kriss: both excellent; Don agreed, almost ruing the one time he passed on chocolate)
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gelato—scoops of vanilla and hazelnut (Deb T: a tasty dessert)
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Crepe Mont Blanc, with hazelnut sauce filling, with a side portion of crème fraiche (Don: a very good alternative choice)
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Black Sambuca (Chay, of course)
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Coffee only – Ken, Mark, Joyce

Service was mostly good, with Melissa from Bath enlivening the room with a smile and pleasant attitude. She was helpful and attentive most of the way. However, Kriss needed to send back the steak for more cooking once, and the second time was barely better, and waitstaff presence was sparse right around then. We need to be more assertive.
          And then a couple dinners were a bunch later than the rest, and that, we realize, should not be the responsibility of Melissa. Still, the go-between waitstaff have to ease whatever stresses emanate from the kitchen, even on a busy night.
          Kriss’ steak was deleted from the bill.
          A couple other waitstaff helped with clearing dishes, delivering meals, and filling water glasses, all done consistently.
          The
drink order included a couple bottles of Crane Lake 2011 Cabernet Sauvignon (six) and diet soda or water (two). (Side note: wine markup, if my notes are right, ranks among the highest DP8 has seen. Crane Lake goes for $10 retail, $6 at Empire, and $36 at Arielle.)

Ambience at Arielle is pleasant with a French feel. Red-stenciled letters on the two large plate windows sets an understated tone. A five-foot wide divider wall allows for the greeter to welcome people properly without being a spectacle to diners. And it was we DP8 that was sitting behind that wall, not even aware that the door was ten feet away. The eating space might be 30’ x 20’, not large at all. We occupied a 4-on-a-side collection of small tables running the center length of the room. On either side of us were tables paralleling the gray-pattern upholstered banquettes, with gray-pattern large pillows to lean against. About twenty could dine on the village center side and about twelve on the east side.
          The banquettes acted as a wainscoting, with the upper side walls nearly filled with a couple dozen paintings, with the larger paintings having their own lighting. Otherwise, lighting came from five cloth-shade hanging lamps on the sides, with an eight-pronged chandelier right above us. Complimenting the lighting was a half dozen shaped-metal sconces.
          Bare floors (pine, I thought) felt French rustic, with barn-siding enclosed ceiling beams adding to that feel, and the color scheme was the classic muted French pastel on the upper walls and on the ceiling between beams.
          One odd note was the butcher paper topping the white linens at each table. Yup, kind of Frenchy but not, with the paper ends reminding us we were eating on paper.
          A French rustic linen enclosed the four piece silverware set, with one votive candle centerpiece awaiting lighting. Bread plates were set just after bread was delivered.
          Noise level was medium-ish but the long table layout is always tough for the ends to hear each other. And pacing was comfortable, about two-and-a-quarter hours, although I thought I saw some fidgeting. For those who like French, Arielle was a comfortable fit.
          Paymaster Deb figured a final bill—including tax, tips, and drink—of $100. (The bill came with a 20% gratuity included—a practice that rubs some of us wrong.)

As indicated earlier, the Notarnicolas entertained DP8 this evening. Perfect weather greeted us and made for a pleasant sit-around on the back deck. Mark and Joyce had prepared a plentiful appetizer array:
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flatbreads, one with tomato and pesto with cheese, second of black truffle mushroom
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plate of cheese chunks wrapped in prosciutto; Asiago with rosemary; cheese with salami and Capicola
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mozzarella and tomato chunks in a balsamic drizzle
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hummus with crackers

Drinks included a decanted Moulin D’Angludet 2007 Margaux, a Benziger 2011 Sauvignon Blanc, and diet soda.
          Topics there, at the restaurant, and on the car rides included: the pictures Deb brought of the new Adamses’ house near DC; much appreciated recent weather; a new tow wagon; the Saratoga baby; a new job for a daughter; the Teator trip to Manhattan; golfing; school (shhh, not so loud); retirement for the unretired; RPI goings-on; barn fire at Kohrs; Ken’s “tapas” bar (shirts on, sorry); a few innuendos that raised a hoot or two, an eyebrow from Kriss, but rolled on harmlessly.

PS: Someone asked how many different places have we been to. Well, we have held 129 DP8 dates. Subtract the 20 dinners at our own houses, and we reduce that number to 109. Subtract the 20 repeats (FCI and MVB are responsible for nearly half), and we have visited 89 different establishments in 10 years, 10 months.