August 2006 -- Lipperas’ (dt)
7.06 - 7.5, 7.25, 7.2, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6.5 
(sold Jan 2013)

         Two cars worth of Dinner Party of Eight were approaching the Rip Van Winkle Bridge and, having just dropped off the third car at the Adams house, our choices appeared to be south or east, and passing the Thruway entrance eliminated Ulster County. Staying left on Rt. 23 over the bridge eliminated Dutchess County, so I ventured a guess (as did Judy) that Chatham was likely and I hoped it was Lipperas’. Silence came from the front seat; not a clue to be given by the stoics. However, as we slowed in front of Lipperas’, Kriss’ question, “Are you satisfied, Donald?” was met, in both cars, with an anticipatory yes. ...
         Two hours earlier, we had convened at the hosts’ house, the Monteverds, for the pre-DP8 hors d’oeuvres – a largesse of fruit, vegetables, shrimp, nuts and chocolate. We easily could have made this dinner but wisely, from almost four years experience, tempered our appetites. The men sagely examined the new awning on the deck; don’t be surprised if Ken’s expertise is sought for another one or two awnings that are now needed! A serving of wine and G&T satisfied the liquid portion of the pre-session.
         Lipperas’ renovated a dilapidated hotel and opened for business last year; a few of us had been inside, but not partaken of the restaurant fare. Previously known as the The Chatham House, the building looks like a classic old inn, but with the Cooperstown-ish touch of porches on both the first and second stories and with decorative arches between columns on the second floor porch, which, when lit at night, upon our exit, exuded a warm hospitality.
        Food is the major ingredient (OK, our congenial company is really first) of these monthly visits. The menu revealed about dozen appetizers and entrees each, all pointing to the new American eclectic style, with modern touches that provoke discussion.

         The chosen entrees included: 1- pork Milanese, prepared flat, (Ken thought it good to excellent); 2- New York strip steak with mashed potatoes and spinach (Kriss called it perfect and, considering the difficulty to get well-done beef, that was something we have not heard in a long time from her); 3- vegetable lasagna (Deb T considered it the best V.L. she has had in a restaurant); 4- potato-encrusted salmon with grilled asparagus with artistic presentation (Don enjoyed all, with the sauce adding creamy height to the salmon); 5- the filet mignon with a topping of crabmeat, sided with Yukon potatoes and asparagus (Tim deemed all very good); 6- the Asian seafood “frito misto” – lobster spring roll, crab cake, and two cod pieces (Judy especially enjoyed the lobster and crab; as did Deb K); and 7- the boneless short ribs, with mashed potatoes (Chay declared them delicious although only warm upon delivery). Expectations had been medium-high and Lipperas’delivered consistently with all the entrees.
        The meal started with the baskets of hearty whole wheat bread, to be savored with the aromatic olive oil.
        Our wine selection go-to person, Tim, ordered two bottles of Berringer’s Founders Estate Pinot Noir for the five red drinkers, while two glasses of pinot grigio and one of white zinfandel completed our standard formation. All quite satisfactory.
        Salads were ordered by five of us – Caesar, artichoke, and strawberry – and all were a satisfactory first course. No one selected any of the other appetizers – not a slight, but an after-effect of the Monteverds’ bounty and the desire to enjoy the entrees fully.
        The dessert list felt limited although I found at least three that I might have ordered. However, someone suggested Dairy Queen, and it being mid-August, and this night’s air being the perfect idling weather, we passed on dessert at the restaurant, and later sated our lust for soft ice cream at Ghent’s Dairy Queen just before their closing time. We loitered for ten minutes, savoring the summer treat, identifying the Big and Little Dippers, adding details to previous stories, and interrupting with our usual double entendres (maybe the night air does that).
        But, food is just one of our criteria. The second, Ambience, was appreciated by all. The exterior was noted above; it was the interior that is too much to take in at once. The pub/tavern is on the right as one enters, and it beckons for another night. Although the lobby is somewhat Victorian, it is the atrium dining area, with its tall vertical space and second story interior balconies that awe, at first.

         (We spent fifteen minutes previewing, or viewing, the shops upstairs as our table was being readied. There were about four who enjoyed shopping; there were about four who did not. Who is in which category is elementary.)
         The main area had been remodeled and had created bold panels of color and lights that make one look from one scene to the next. The space is a warmly lit, bold-colored area, somewhat square-ish, and still quite attractive, with panels of coordinated colors splashing the walls, speaking of comfort and art and detail and cleanness, the last also reinforced by the polished, refinished floors. Our table was located in the Fitz-Dugan Room, an large alcove in the rear, separated by a pair of arch openings, with a one story ceiling, brick wall, dim lights, and a menagerie of paired paintings, lamps, and sconces.
        The round table was much appreciated and the restaurant’s moderate noise level allowed any of us to hear the conversation across the table, much of which were continuations of our chatting at Monteverds’ and from the drive over. Tim and Judy had been to Alaska, Ken and Kriss to the Thousand Islands, Chay and Deb to Denver (the 50 state adventure), and Don and Deb to the Finger Lakes. We had more stories than one dinner could hold.
        First impressions are part of ambience, and key pieces were white linens, good chairs with back support, and attractive dinnerware. Lighting was pleasant throughout dinner but a couple of us had difficulty reading the menu, either because of the lighting or the menu’s font.

         A third ingredient in our experience is service. After a somewhat slow start, service was excellent. There was a longer wait than we expected in having drink orders taken and filled and for breads to appear. We like leisurely dining but had it not been for our nibbling earlier and the anticipation of the details of our travels, we might have been frustrated.
        Once the salad order was taken, service was nearly as good as we have seen. Peter was smooth, attentive to our needs, helpful with advice, and never far away when something was needed. Three other wait staff either cleared plates, filled water glasses (our compliments to the water-fillers), and delivered meals and salads. The wait staff performance is a good reflection of the training from management and was a nice accompaniment to good food and good company. However, Peter was the star of the show (not to take anything away from the chef) and was one of the more personable waiters we have encountered. He even kept Ken in regular supply in coffee, one of our quirks but a test of responsive and agile consideration, and Peter was up to the test. The ability to make good service appear almost invisible is a quality we appreciate. (And, good luck, Peter, on your business venture!)
        The fourth ingredient, for some of us, is value. Lipperas’ prices came in average-high, from our experience (note the qualifier). The entrees were reasonably priced; it was the salads that some felt were pricey, especially when added to the entrée. Wine pricing was fair; although none of us had dessert, these prices appear to be fair. So, with no appetizers, half of us with salads, and no desserts, the bill, with liquor and tip, came to $100 per couple, ordinarily an average amount for our outings but a bit high-average considering what we did not partake in.

        As usual, we behaved ourselves, with our usual dives into the entendres. ... some were exasperated by macerated strawberries, and that led to ... (The situation was exacerbated by the debatable maturations of the reprobates’ unabated riposte.)
          Overall, we had an excellent experience – atmosphere, quality preparation of food, first rate service – and we went home glad the Monteverds had picked well, again.