Jake Moon – April 2013 (dt)
6.73 – 7.6, 7, 7, 6.75, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6

With the procession of  cars snaking over the sinuous hills between Dormansville and Clarksville, the devious Don and Deb nosed into Jake Moon at 6:30, a full half-hour shorter than the anticipated hour long ride to who knows where, and, one suspects, with some relief from the others.
          Excellent food, very good service, “interesting ambiance,” good value sums up the evening.
          The menu is a limited one—six appetizers, nine entrées, eight desserts—but the range spreads far enough to fit most groups of eight. (Because of the menu’s brevity, selections not tried can be listed!)

          Appetizers that had our name on them:
==> cream of mushroom soup (Don: excellent; a unique, savory, coarse grinding of mushrooms that resembled few other creams-of-mushroom)
==> goat cheese pillow, in phyllo crust, topped with onion jam, on arugula greens (Deb: outstanding, with an ethereal cheese; Judy: excellent)
==> classic Caesar salad (Kriss, and a Karneses’ share: very good)
==> garden salad – a mix of greens, tomato, carrot shreds, and more (Ken: good)
==> littleneck clams Portuguesi, steamed, with Linguica sausage and spice tomato broth (Deb K: excellent, with a sauce worthy to be sopped with bread)
==> (not picked: crabcakes)

Preceding the appetizers were two dishes of dill bread, with ramekins of softened butter—an auspicious start, and arriving about ten minutes after seating.
          The entrées arrived just after the sixty minute mark (and borrowing from the web site a bit):
==> Black Angus Hangar Steak, with Handcut French Fries or Mashers, and a choice of Marinated and Grilled with Chimichuri Sauce Or Garlic Herb Butter (Tim: medium rare, with garlic butter, good for hangar steak, What! accepted fries instead of mashed potatoes?; Kriss: ordered well; with garlic butter, good; Ken, medium, with the chimichuri, good)
==> Filet Mignon of Pork, with Marsala Mushroom Pan Gravy and Mashers (Deb T: one of the very best pork preps ever, pink center, moist and tender, delicious gravy)
==> Fresh Rainbow Trout Campfire Style--Bacon, Onions, and Lemon Butter, with a Baked Potato (Judy: very good; large piece, flavorful topping)
==> Roasted Garlic Chicken Mac-n-Cheese (Deb K: excellent, interesting bowl)
==> Mom's Meatloaf with Garlic Mashers and Mushroom Gravy (Don: excellent; tender, moist mix of meats, with tasty gravy; great comfort food, and leftovers)
==> Clarksville Fish Fry with Handcut Fries, Coleslaw (Chay: Boston blue, a good selection)
==> (not picked: veal scallopine, sole pomidori, vegetable & tofu stir fry)

Although we knew satiety had set in, dessert’s siren call still beckoned:
==> Coffee Toffee Pie (an Albany Times Union All-Star Menu 2009 winner) (Deb T: very good, smooth and mocha-y; Judy: yum; Karnes’ share: excellent)
==> Pecan Bourbon Pie (Ken: average to good for pecan pie, thankfully not as sweet as some he has had)
==> Strawberry Brownie Cake (a brownie instead of short cake) (Don: strawberries and cream average-to-good but brownie was a heavenly chocolate gossamer bomb; Kriss: delicious)
==> Chay enjoyed a Sambuca, while Tim passed.
==> (not picked: macerated strawberries, crème brûlée, birthday cake, Russian cheesecake)

Service by Monica was very good, from a detailing of the menu items (seldom done elsewhere, but we thought quite helpful), to delivering courses, to checking on our needs and questions, to helping uncork our wine, to doing all this efficiently and pleasantly and attentively, and all was appreciated. And Dee pitched in when a second set of hands was needed.
          Water glasses rarely reached the quarter mark, and Monica kept a good eye on Ken’s coffee cup.

Ambiance..., well, ambiance. For the second month in a row, DP8 was caught craning their necks, mostly in bemused awe. Last month, we sat in a “cave;” this month, we were transported back to our 20s (OK, teens or less for the youngest couple!).
          At first glance, the building on State Route 443 in Clarksville might have passed for a 1970s’ VFW building—concrete block, dirt parking lot, tired façade. In fact, even though the Jake Moon sign hangs obviously by the roadside, the entryway still bears the former sign—June’s Place.
          One steps into the enclosed lobby/alcove, treads up one step through the next door, and faces the restaurant proper. A couple arm lengths away is the short end of a red-topped rectangular diner counter, with about a dozen red-cushioned stools lining the three sides, with a reddish, foot-square linoleum flooring. Five booths line the outside walls on the right and left sides of the counter, with two tables in the floor space between counter and booths.
          And, it was on the east (right?) side, that two unadorned, veneer-topped tables were coaxed together, with only a Reserved sign and eight napkin-wrapped settings, each holding a diner-quality fork, spoon and knife, gracing the table.
          Simple but sturdy dining room chairs surrounded the tables, and cut-plastic water glasses, sugar packets, simple salt & pepper shakers, no flowers, and no candle centerpieces completed our setting. (Coming from Greenville, we thought of Mary’s Restaurant, before it expanded in the 1980s, again leading us to our image of another era.)
          As requested, we had our preferred two ends of the table (Chay and Ken, as usual), with the rest of us filling in.
          A pale yellow softens the block walls, interrupted by 1980s’ two-panel casement window set into each side wall, with another such window pinioning either side of the entry glass door.
          Two feet by four feet sound-proofing ceiling tiles augmented the time warp effect.
          Four large stars hung from the ceiling’s ribbing above the counter space, and photographs of local natural spots enlivened, and distracted from, the block walls. Menu signs, shelves of bread, another set of shelving of small items for sale, and more, made for a busy feel.
          Either one thought a worn time warp had been entered, or one might think it interestingly quirky and intriguing. The quality of the food, however, led us to the second choice.
          Spacing was a bit tight at the table, but cozy. Our side of the room witnessed the procession of wait staff as they pushed the swinging door from the kitchen to deliver courses of meals to the restaurant-enjoyers. (The other side faced similar traffic, with restroom-users shuffling past somewhat more irregularly [time-wise!].) That swinging door, as it waffled back and forth, revealed chef Dan Smith assiduously tending to the variety of courses.

Another Jake Moon idiosyncrasy is a lack of liquor license. A BYOB allowance found DP8 sharing what we packed with us: Paso A Paso 2010 Verdejo, Domaine De Mus 2011 Pinot Noir Pays D’Oc, Capestrano 2010 Montepulciano de Abruzzo, and Zonin 2011 Pinot Noir. We rarely, or never, BYOB, but Jake Moon has operated that way since its opening a few years ago.
           (The website of Jake Moon features Dan Smith’s past experience at Nicole’s Bistro, Beekman Arms, Rudi’s Big Indian, and more, while also explaining his reasons for locating in what appears to be a way-out-in-the-country site, while also detailing his efforts to use local products. [www.jakemoon.net will take you there.] The more one reads, the more one leans to that choice of “quirky and intriguing,” with a hope that Clarksville and environs appreciate Mr. Smith’s expertise and life choices.
          
(Deb’s and my other visits to Jake Moon lead us to appreciate Dan’s efforts in the shadow of Cass and Bennett Hills)
           Back to wine. Almost everyone who entered this evening came with a bottle or two. The table next to us came with a non-descript, simple-labeled bottle. I got nosy, and inquired of the likely bearer of the bottle, who explained he himself produced this bottle of Riesling, offering some to us, which we accepted.
          This visit (and our past visits) attest to the rough hewn nature of the setting that so aptly reflects the character of the Helderbergs and of Clarksville.
          The pacing of the evening’s meal was a steady one. We left at the 140 minute mark, with no slow spots.
          The bill, including tax, tip (and no drinks) came to $75 per couple, an economical evening for us.

The cloudy, raw late afternoon found us at the Teator house, together for the first time since January (in our original membership), with the Adamses and Monteverds having returned from adventures southward.
           Deb composed a counter of three bowls of veggies with dip; sweet potato chips and pita chips to accompany the hummus, taboule and salsa; shrimp with red sauce; and wieners with mustard. Don offered a Heredes del Marques de Riscal 2006 Rioja, Val D’Oca 2011 Millesimato Extra Dry Prosecco, a white zin, and a few bottles of Saranac beer.
          A three month absence meant gads of catching up, even though we had communicated somewhat in between. We heard many of the details of the travels southward, ideas for next year’s winter vacations, tales of kids and grandkids, an autumn wedding, Ken’s eye, Tim’s medical stuff, Kalli's DNA test (which explains her calm and placid nature!), Z’s memorial, Mark’s sore ribs, DP8 subs’ capable impersonations, and a host of minutia and accounts too plentiful to detail.