George Mann Tory Tavern
– May 2010 (dt)
5.63 – 6.8, 6.5, 6, 5.75, 5, 5, 5, 5
The Tory Tavern certainly makes a grand one. Stately and solid. A square, five-bay, two-storied (three, counting the basement) structure that exemplifies class and composure seen in few other Schoharie Valley houses. Complemented by side gardens and a brick walkway, it is obvious the owners love this site. Even our exit later in the evening evoked a Williamsburg-ish setting, the warm glow of candles beaming from each window, casting reminders of lives that graced these floors decades and decades ago.
Inside, a quiet grand rules, with a broad colonial door allowing entrance to a center hall, with the side rooms waiting for each one’s personality to be discovered. DP8 sidled to the double-table in the blue room, dominated by the floor-to-ceiling panels of wood, lighter blue contrasting with the shades of medium-blue, rimmed with a chair rail. A fireplace with layers of molding, a mantel filled with era-reminiscent pieces, and an exterior tile lining of yellow & blue flower/leaf theme anchors the north wall. The cream ceiling is broken by a tic-tac-toe of the same blue rafters, with a large center square. Full-length. tied-back, gauzy curtains treated the 6-over-6 windows and lay outside an mid-window-length swag of pastel coral. Chay and Don headed the oval-ish table; the ambient noise level rose to just barely conversational level, almost still.
Three paintings, a dimly lit chandelier, three sconces, and recessed shelves filled with colonial-era baskets & copperware & artifacts finished the room.
Our chairs were of the colonial, spindle back type, facing a double layer table cloth – the bottom of white linen, to be topped with a decorative, colonial-theme color pattern. A dinner and bread plate setting – clean white, with a ring of a colonial green – was sided by a seven-piece silverware set and a single crystal-like water glass.
Each of the other rooms was decorated quite differently from our blue room but each was as worthy. A light strand of music – lightly classical, colonial – seeped through the quiet background chatter.
These first impressions, unfortunately, were the highlight of the evening.
Ultimately, the pacing of the two-and-a-half hour dinner was inconsistent enough to be disconcerting. What should be a leisurely comfortable dinner pace felt off kilter. It took 45 minutes before anything edible came to the table. Dinner came 90 minutes after arrival, one of our longest ever. It seemed as if our server always had one table too many to handle.
Food was universally ok-good, with only the gravies, sauces and glazes deemed excellent. The side of chunky mashed potatoes and spring-evocative zucchini-carrot slivers was warm on one plate but lukewarm on another. This theme of not warm, whether physical or suggestive, seemed to infect other parts of the meal.
The entrées continued the trend: two house-smoked, plate-filling pork chops in a peach-ginger glaze (Don, Judy, and Tim: all deemed it to have good flavor but overcooked, only warm, a tasty sauce); a plateful of chicken saltimbocca, complemented with a savory Marsala mushroom sauce and mozzarella cheese (Deb K, very good, and Don thought so too, a tasty sauce); the thinly sliced London Broil served with Jack Daniels, pepper corns and cream demi-glaze (Ken and Chay; both good flavor, plentiful portion, but cooled off quickly); the NY sirloin with a finish of shallot and Gorgonzola compound butter (Kriss, ordered well but came medium-rare, should have sent it back for more cooking); and the medallions of pork tenderloin Diablo, finished with mushrooms, horseradish, and a very strong Dijon flavored cream sauce (Deb T, thought it good, Don tasted and thought the mustard a tad dominating). The dinners arriving in covers felt as if they had been kept heated on the shelf.
Everyone partook in the appetizer course. The Tavern greens salad was a shallow bowl of mixed greens, a couple slices of cucumber, a couple slices of tomatoes, a shred of red cabbage. The dressing choices, in retrospect, were considered to be one of the best parts of the dinner – horseradish French, creamy peppercorn, blue cheese. The salad enjoyers (Ken, Kriss, Deb T, Deb K, Chay) thought the salad a basic but worthy one.
The others ordered soup: smoked chicken/corn chowder (Tim, very good); onion (Judy, blah); chilled rhubarb & honey (Don, a different taste that he enjoyed, also a rare choice at any restaurant, yeay!).
Arriving with the appetizers were the two baskets of country rolls – hearty, yeasty, heart-warming bread, with an accompanying ramekin of creamed butter. (This might have been better enjoyed about a half-hour sooner. Either that or have the salads arrive sooner.)
An especially welcome touch was an intermezzo of raspberry sorbet, which forgave fifteen minutes but was not enough to totally forgive the lapse of a loooong stretch.
Dessert beckoned: NY cheesecake with mocha and Kahlua (Deb T, tasty); a chocolate bourbon pecan tart, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of cream (Don, good); white chocolate lemon pie (Judy, Deb K; a lemony-mousse-y flavoring with no hint of white chocolate, ok but tasted more like lemon chiffon); the chocolate fudge sundae (Kriss, Ken; a soul-satisfying choice); Chay sipped his Sambuca; and Tim forsook all.
The drink order consisted of two bottles of the Santa Cristina 2007 Chianti Superiore (quite full-bodied for this varietal) and a Domaine Ste Michelle NV Brut (a good quality sparkling for the price), along with a diet soda. Three bottles of wine was a first. (Debbie’s request for a drink order was quick, but we needed an extra minute; ten minutes later, the order was taken.)
Our server, Debbie, did the best she could. We thought she had too much to do. She took orders, served, poured water, bused dishes, and tried to answer questions but was needed at too many tables. She was eager to please, kept our water glasses filled, almost kept up with Ken’s coffee but there was little that reminded us of our first visit to GMTT, when our server was both personable and willing to share some colonial lifestyle knowledge with us. Wearing colonial garb would seem a ripe opportunity to connect with diners, but, this evening, it was a side thought, and a forgotten one. Yup, it was Memorial Day weekend, we realized, but it just wasn’t a high-quality performance, especially for a restaurant of this potential and of this advertised caliber.
The bill – food, drinks, tax, & tip – came to $113 per couple, our high-average range and certainly reasonable for an establishment of this reputation… if only…
We moaned in disappointment. We either expected too much or remembered our first visit here too well
evening had started at the Karneses, with everyone catching their breaths and
catching up on news. We were a bit disappointed to see Chay, meaning the
baseball team had lost in the quarterfinals and he wasn’t coaching the
semi-final game that would have happened at this time spot. Don stirred up the
retirement talk with the clipping from the Times-Union. We then forgot both with
a tour of the gardens, noting blooms and growth, chipmunk nibbles, the lawn
recently mowed, the effects of winter’s damage, the two weeks advance this
year has, etc. This late-May evening’s weather was to be bottled and saved for
July or January!
For the first time ever, the ‘boys’ banded together in one BMW while the ‘girls’ roared off in the hot red one. The ‘boys’ boasted about riding in the non-yappy car; one can only imagine what the ‘girls’ bragged about.
Other topics included the recent wedding that six of us went to, the upcoming wedding, the upcoming wedding, the upcoming wedding, pocketbooks, grandkids, our schedule for the next two months, Ken’s modeling, mowing grass, pool weather, and more. About the only bad moment came with the unavoidable ‘meat’ punnery.
And, so, our eighth, and last of the eight, repeat visit ended and we resume our usual cycle next month.