May 2006 – Hoffman House (dt)
6.71 - 7.7, 7.5, 7, 7, 7, 6.5, 6, 5
Amidst early May’s greenery (a few days ahead of schedule), the adventuresome band of eight gathered at the Teator house – to look at stone wall and reflecting pool, discuss Ken’s new tractor, catch up on news, and sit in the sun room before proceeding southward. The Adamses ditched their car at their house, and we proceeded “down” the Thruway, double helixed the Kingston roundabout before settling in at the Hoffman House.
UPSIDE: The drive, even at 75 MPH, with some help from Daylight Savings Time, gives a chance to enjoy the low angle light and shadows.
The Hoffman House is soaked with ambience, both exterior and interior. The venerable limestone building in the Stockade section invites a future investigation into Kingston’s history. We circled the building before entering and were promptly seated. A fireplace, wide boards, room-sized spaces, colonial accoutrements, central bar, unevenly textured walls, and deep window wells built a historic atmosphere.
A centerpiece of small flowers and a brace of candles graced the tables, and we slid onto the amply colonial chairs. The seating arrangement of three on the sides and a person at each of the heads is one we prefer (second only to the round table). The menu’s back page entertained those of us who like to know building history and context.
Water glasses were filled, and bread baskets – with a variety of breads, wafers and bread sticks – beckoned. Apricot-chive butter perked up the taste buds.
Drink orders, in typical fashion, consisted of a bottle of Barton & Gustier Beaujolais and one of DaVinci Chianti for five of us, glasses of Pinot Grigio for two, and a pink zinfandel to round out the order.
Salads came with the meal and were presented with an array of dressings. And, the dinner-sized salad plate was heaped with mixed greens, a cherry tomato, several cucumber slices, a few sprigs of carrot, a ring of red onion, and a half-handful of olive slices. The house dressing of sour cream and chives was deemed excellent, and the other dressings were judged good to excellent.
Three appetizers – the bacon wrapped scallops, the coconut shrimp, and the sweet and sour shrimp – were shared. Within a couple of passes, we savored (or, was it inhaled?) the hors d’oeuvres. The scallops’ texture and taste delicately balanced the the bacon’s crunchiness and chewiness, and the coconut shrimp was enjoyed even though the dish was prepared differently than expected.
Entrees came from a wide and ample list of choices. DP8 choices ranged from the Louisiana scallops (Chay- tasty but not Cajun), the sirloin steak special (surprisingly, Deb T – delicious), chicken Morelli (Don – good, “nice” sauce), the garlic steak (Ken – good, cooked as requested), NY sirloin (Kriss- good, cooked as requested), the veal special (Tim & Judy- so-so at best), and lobster & shrimp tortellaci (Deb K- good and tomato-y creamy).
The accompanying “starch” did not garner comment, so I suspect general satisfaction but not enough to sigh over. Deb and I thought the couscous was an ideal side, one of the best couscous varieties we’ve seen prepared. Overall, the Hoffman House gave colonial tavern/pub style restaurant fare a good name this evening.
Many of us doggy-bagged a sizable portion of our entrees so we could have dessert. Deb K and I had the caramel indulgence – two fudgy caramel brownies with whipped cream and ice cream that is now one of my favorite five desserts in DP8 history. Deb T enjoyed the white chocolate crème brulee, Kriss opted for my second choice – the Southern pecan pie (average), Ken enjoyed the apple cobbler, and Judy awaited the vanilla ice cream with caramel sauce (a first time order?). Chay sipped his Sambuca and Tim his Frangelica.
The pacing was quite leisurely, twenty minutes shy of three hours from start to finish. For some, there were some “leisurely” spots that could have been shortened five minutes. For the other half, the pacing was enjoyable, especially with our enjoyment of each others’ company and discussion. We realize that our usual 7 p.m. reservations on a Saturday night is catching most places at their busiest time, and some of the “pacing” was a busy night. Andrea would reassure us food was just a couple of minutes away.
And service. Andrea proficiently serviced our table. Plates and baskets were placed gracefully and comfortably. The restaurant’s system of having a second person to team up to bring the second set of four meals was appreciated, meaning that all of us had the same course within a minute of each other. Frequently replenished water glasses – a small bit of the dining experience that we care about – was appreciated. Andrea’s vivaciousness and warm smile kept us comfortable, while she kept attentive and aware to our needs without being intrusive. Everyone noted her efforts, and she is a compliment to the Hoffman House’s service.
The bill arrived, not-quite $100, for meal and tip, per couple. We have been to few other places where we have had this combination of ambience, food variety and quality, service, and VALUE.
DOWNSIDE: There was little to improve on this night. The leisurely pace for some was slow for others, as noted before. The room felt a tad uncomfortably warm at first but we acclimated within a quarter-hour. The noise level was medium high, and yet we were able to hear well enough across the table. As food was presented to tables, the noise subsided, especially ours.
A few minor casualties occurred. Tim had two Frangelica drinks, but one was in his lap. Our first choice of wine was unavailable but we rarely are set on any one wine. A couscous mix-up resulted in the doggie bag getting the potato. And, the deep fried veal did not suit the veal people.