November 2006 – Calico Restaurant and Patisserie
6.81 - 7.5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6.5, 5.5
One of our longer stretches between DP8 dates (seven weeks) brought us back to the Teator abode on the 18th for cheese & crackers, pretzels and dip, and mini-puffs, along with our usual array of red & white wines, a beer, and a couple T&Ts for our usual pre-dinner get-together. Darkness had already settled in, a sure sign of impending winter. Talk of laptap computers, credit card fraud, Thanksgiving plans, yard work, Judy’s retirement, etc., comprised a partial list of conversation topics.
Then, rampant speculation about the restaurant’s location filled the ride. Nope, not the Mountaintop, nor Hudson, nor Saugerties, nor Tivoli, as the passing of each intersection took us a bit further. A 7:15 reservation allowed the tricksters to be almost on time to Rhinebeck, with a walk past and back to Calico.
Beginning ambience was set by the storefront lights of Rhinebeck – classic, small-town Americana. The white-glow lights in the trees, along with semi-chilly November air, produced a feel of Christmas only just around the corner.
Good things come in small packages. Calico is a cozy looking establishment, with spacious front windows, inviting a glow of welcome. A step inside revealed the smallest space that DP8 has been to. With a capacity of 20-25, DP8 occupied nearly half the restaurant. Three tables put together with a person on the ends felt even cozier, with Don’s back a couple feet away from the dessert counter. Table tops were a mix of linen or glass on linen, with table settings exuding an appealing antiqueness mixed with eclectic chic. Classic bistro style chairs gave an airy touch, while recessed lighting on the upper shelves revealed pottery and cats. As for the Calico part, a cat theme playfully filled the room, especially the “catty” salt and pepper shakers.
Frank, our waiter, invited us to the evening’s occasion, offering to take coats. Drink orders were taken – two bottles of Millbrook Pinot Noir (deference given to local wines), two glasses of sparkling chardonnay, and a diet soda. The red drinkers found the pinot noir “different” but a pleasant libation for the evening. Two baskets of chewy bread came promptly, a practice that DP8 appreciates.
Appetizers ordered included a terrine of roasted garlic with pesto and goat cheese to be served on crostini, as well as an order of Manila clams steamed in garlic butter broth and shallots. Both were excellent. Also serving as an appetizer was the split pea soup, enticing four of us, and it was unanimously rated excellent.
The next course, salads, was only a plain spring mix (not abundant, but enough for most of us) with a choice of lemon thyme garlic vinaigrette, creamy honey scallion or mustard vinaigrette (plainer than we anticipated, too). Ken asked for oil and vinegar and then had to watch the rest of us examine the twin-spouted, corked contraption that held the dressing.
Although a sample menu had been distributed before hand, only two of the orders came from the menu. Don had the charbroiled pork Delmonico steak, served with apple raisin compote while Deb T had the sautéed shrimp and sea scallops with plum tomatoes and onions, all in a basil cream sauce served over angel hair. The gravy with the pork matched well with the mashed potatoes, and the pork was tender and juicy. Deb savored her favorite – scallops – with the other ingredients’ flavoring. Our plates, as were the other six, came piping hot, a welcome touch on a cool night.
Four chose one of the specials – the flat iron steak, sliced like roast beef. Two orders of well (Tom and Kriss), one of medium-well (Ken), and one of medium-rare (Tim) were delivered as ordered, not a common feat. Although not expecting slices of meat, all the steakophiles felt the preparation was excellent.
Deb K and Judy requested the tilapia special, topped with sautéed shallots, lobster, onions and Portobello mushroom. Deb thought hers excellent, and Judy agreed, noting the natural and fresh sensation.
All the meals, except the shrimp & scallops, came with mashed red potatoes (with skins) and a mix of steamed carrots and zucchini. All noted the worthy preparation of the mashed potatoes, a food choice that many of us don’t avail ourselves of or is often not available.
Meanwhile, the water glasses were constantly replenished, used plates whisked away, and Ken’s coffee (Rule #7) was filled several times.
Dessert had lurked beside us all night. Instead of the usual puddings, brulees, warm chocolate brownies, berries and cream, etc., the patisserie counter’s upper two shelves of individual treats beckoned. After the initial confusion of not realizing the bottom row was not available, we ultimately chose a chocolate drop (Don), a raspberry mousse cake (Deb T), a Tropica (Ken), an orange dome (Kriss), a chocolate mound (Deb K), and none for Tim, Judy and Tom (the choice of Sambuca and Frangelica was not available). The thin chocolate veneers were deliciously delightful, and barely a crumb or stain of chocolate was left. Our hats off to Pastry Chef Leslie. (Tim did have an excellent cappuccino, and Judy chamomile tea.)
Service, as was hinted at before, was excellent. Frank deftly maneuvered around the tight spaces, professionally shifting from course to course, attentive without being intrusive. He was congenial, inquiring, and confident – traits that presented themselves early and throughout. (Thanks for service, Frank!) Two others of the waitstaff kept the water glasses filled and table space manageable.
One quibble was a fluctuating air temperature that ranged from very warm upon entry to somewhat too cool from the air conditioning to mostly comfortable.
Conversation flowed quite freely around the usual small stuff of life – more Thanksgiving talk, ...., .....
Time to settle came, and the bill of $100 per couple covered all – the consistently excellent entrees, drinks, all having a salad, four soups, two appetizers, five desserts, and tip. A wide range of food for an average amount of cost meant a restaurant visit of good value.
The pacing of the courses was comfortable, with little only a few minutes of down time, about two-and-a-quarter hours from entry to departure. A walk back along the streets was a pleasant way to end the first dinner of our fifth year together.
Thanks, Calico, for an enjoyable visit to Rhinebeck.