Maple Inn on the Lake – May 2015
6.41 – 6.8, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 5.5
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The path looked familiar as Ken weaved his way to Warner’s Lake and found a parking spot in the crowded lot of Maple Inn on the Lake, a site last visited by DP8 in March 2003 when it was the Scholz-Zwicklbauer Hofbrau (Karnes pick #2).
          MIL is quite a throwback—from interior, ambience, menu.
          The menu, filling both sides of a large laminated sheet, provides something for everyone, from pizza, Italian cuisine, good ole American deep fried appetizers, a range of salads, and a spread of the basic American favorites.
          Six of us must have been Hofbrau-nostalgic, ordering either the Wiener Schnitzel or the Sauerbraten, both accompanied by potato pancakes, red cabbage and applesauce. It must have been the potato pancakes that stole our attention, and most of us agreed the pancakes were as good as we had hoped. It was good comfort food. (DT, DT, DK, LP, RB, KeM)
          Chay ordered the Cajun shrimp alfredo—penne pasta in the obligatory sauce, with a bit of mushrooms, red peppers, and tomatoes. Good, even if there might have been more shrimp.
          And Kriss ordered the sirloin steak, sided by a baked potato, also to her satisfaction.
          One of the throwbacks was the inclusion of salad bar with the entrées. Although some restaurants still promote a salad bar, this salad bar might have been the same type as the one we had a dozen years ago, or forty years ago. Two greens, a jug of sliced onions, some green peppers, croutons, and a couple other items. And there was the choice of meatball minestrone soup, good enough.

Service was, well, earnest and sincere. We kept trying to figure out if there were too few servers for the crowd this evening. It took gads of time for the courses to arrive, and we almost had to intrude ourselves to ask for water, for refills, for coffee, for… everything. After a while, we felt we were hunting down our server, and even Don declined dessert, afraid of how much longer dinner would take if a dessert order was placed. So, for a rare happenstance, with no one else seeming to want to wait, no desserts for a dp8 event. One dinner appeared to be forgotten and arrived late, and then our bill at the end charged nine dinners.

The drink order consisted of two beers, two sodas, and four wine glasses for the two bottles of Malbec. A bottle price of $18 for a $10 bottle is one of the smallest mark-ups we have encountered.

The star of the show is the wall of windows facing Warner’s Lake, a pleasant view of lapping waves pushed by the evening’s south wind. Near dark, a wave of rain approached and then engulfed the view. I would go back just to sit on the deck on a comfortable afternoon.

Ambience is 1960s knotty-pine. Our room was a cavernous 80’ x 40’, with pine floors, knotty pine siding, with a soundproof board sloping roof of ten feet before the soundproof board spans the remaining thirty feet of ceiling. Sturdy looking curved-end beams stretch the same distance. Five wagon wheels, each with five globes provide the lighting for the center of the room, while recessed lighting hides behind knotty pine scalloped-edge trim.
          The room beside us was a 40’ x 30’ room, probably the original room, decorated about the same although it had center posts to support the structure.
          And a 30 foot L-bar creates another entrance, past some game machines and TV, and through a narrow row behind the bar stools to get to the dining rooms. Given the rough-cut look, and the firewood by door’s entrance, for a moment I thought I might be in the Adirondacks. It is casual, and tough, and beautiful—local character for the Helderberghs.
          Our round table was set with white linen, dark-linen wrapped set of two forks and a knife, a center glass vase with flowers of the day, a sugar packet holder, and salt and pepper shakers (although Chay donated them to another table).
          Adding to the ambience was the recognition of three different tables – the Ketcham clan, the Giarussos, and Jessica Chase, an event that usually happens only close to home.

The final bill came to $63 per couple, a nice value for comfort food and pleasant setting. All of us would return, perhaps hoping for faster service next time.

The evening had started at the Monteverd home, and with Lynda and Ross joining us.
          Topic one was the Monteverd adventure with dinner reservations, which they had made weeks before. A scouting trip two nights previous led to a surprise—the owner was surprised they had reservations for DP8 night because his restaurant was closed for a private event. So, surprised reservation-makers took Plan B—telling a friend about the happenstance and receiving the suggestion that led to the evening’s site. But that led to Monteverdean disclaimers about the evening, with no guarantee of perfection from Kriss. (And I keep trying to convince Kriss that there is never a guarantee, other than to enjoy and savor these culinary adventures!)
          I won’t go into ... but I will say that Kriss’ decorum was at risk.
          Otherwise, conversations at dinner, in the cars, and in Freehold included: the Teator trip to Italy and sights seen, Deb K’s Freihofer run earlier in the day with discussion of the new course and Deb’s performance, C-D news and intrigues, bushes around our houses doing poorly after a tough winter, Chay’s golfing, Ross’s golfing, the East Conesville camp, Kriss’s trip to the Women’s Final Four and then some, the Adamses’ whereabouts, a dry May, update on the Debs’ parents, catchup on Florida possibilities, a few summer plans, pregnancies and grandkids, and on it went, even the ones I forgot about.