Rock’n Mexicana Cantina and Grill – January 2012 (dt)
6.59 – 7.5, 7, 7, 7, 7, 6, 5.75. 5.5

Rock’n Mexicana, at Windham’s edge, greets incomers to town, with some of us remembering the former Windham Arms and, most recently, Trail’s End. DP8 ventured into a rare dinner date at a no-reservations establishment but we found ourselves seated at a round table in the corner of the bar area within five minutes, a plus for our experience.
              
The menu, as the name projects, is Mexican, or, I’d say Mexican-inspired. We judged our our choices worthy, with a few votes for excellent:
·   braised pork chimichanga, with tomatillo salsa verde, scallion crema, black beans & rice: Chay, Deb K, and Kerry ...;
·   chicken fajita, with sautéed peppers and onions, sour cream, chopped tomato, shredded lettuce, warm tortillas: Don and Julie ...
·   carne asada (skirt steak), with grilled street corn, braised black beans, scallion crema, pico de gallo: Ken (good corn, good steak);
·   chicken enchilada, with ranchero sauce, queso Oaxaca, scallion crema, black beans & rice: Deb T;
·   and the grilled split chicken, with fries and coleslaw: Kriss

               Don and Deb split a side order of yuca frites, with guacamole emulsion – a good alternative to the usual “American” fries.
              
It is possible that the real Mexicano aficionado might want more authentic sauces, seasonings, and flavorings, but the blended style worked well for this group, especially when the mention of  Mexican cuisine (Thai, Chinese, and others) provokes automatic allergies for a couple of us.
               The menu even has a burger, with “Mexican” toppings, to accommodate the most fearful eaters, and a kids’ menu should please the youthful palate.
               Our usual drink (wine) played a role in only one order, with the rest of the table imbibing the on-tap beer, diet soda, and the house specialty – a Margarita.
              
Ken’s coffee was regularly filled, albeit, in a small-ish glass mug, with a coffee that Ken described as almost too strong, a verdict that surprised most of us.
               We even ventured into the
dessert world, again worthy, that accommodated the gringo world.
·  
fried ice cream: a first for Deb and Don;
·  
vanilla sundae: Kriss, who looked at the big salad bowl full of scoops of ice cream and whipped cream, and realized her Saloon lunch had done her in;
·  
chocolate sundae: Julie, and we all slightly gasped at the mountain of ice cream (Kriss, you were right, we should have ordered dessert first!)
·  
banana cream chimichanga: Deb K (to die for!)
·  
churros, with chocolate dipping sauce: Ken, Kerry (would have been better with the promised caramel sauce which did not exist);
·  
Sambuca: Chay, as usual; black Sambuca was ordered but none found at the bar.

               The bill—food, tax, drinks, tip (already included)—came to $66 per couple, quite an economical evening for us.
              
Service was good to excellent for a casual eatery. Katie, our main waiter, was friendly, personable, attentive, and still learning all the details but handling it well. Thanks, Katie. Circling the room every few minutes was one waiter who checked tables for re-supply, clearing, and questions; another one circulated with the water pitcher. All together, service proved to be as good as many “finer” places would like to be.
               The minor grumbling ensued after an order was taken, only to be told that the item was not available (not fatal with Sambuca; the caramel sauce was a key reason why that dessert was chosen).
              
Ambience is fun – almost a sports bar, with strands of Mexican thrown in, and ski country pervading all. Entry from the parking lot side ushers you past the thirty foot long, dark wood bar, with comfortable chairs lined up. A dry mortar, floor-to-ceiling, stone wall sets off the first fifteen feet of entry on the right, with most of it being the back wall of the glass-shelving of liquor. More dry mortar stone work is the centerpiece – a 10’ x 3’ fireplace with a gas flame. On a winter night, with a five minute snow squall, it was as classic ski country scene as one wants.
               We walked past the chair-line, up to the central guest desk, gave our best sad look “please find a table for eight hapless beings” look, looked past into the other dining room (which looked a bunch quieter), and within five minutes was ushered to our corner round table, a sturdy, serviceable wood-particle table, located by one of the TVs and just under one of the non-Mexican music speakers that we begged to have turned down a little for the old-timers getting hard of hearing.
               The chairs were an expansive, “wood” framed, cushioned cloth that proved comfortable. Water glasses and a knife-fork set had been pre-set before Katie started her service, followed soon by another waiter with two checkerboard-paper-lined baskets of chips and salsa – a welcome welcome (how often do I get to use a word consecutively as two different parts of speech?). And the round table in the corner served us well, with noise competition mostly from two sides. We were surprised we heard each other reasonably well, considering so much noise.
               Large, faux-paneled windows, about 4’ x 8’, three on the east wall and six on the south wall, make for a grandly open feel, probably even more dramatic during daylight. Wall color is mostly a roasted-tomato/clay-tile combination, meant, I think, to evoke a Mexican spirit. The ceiling was trimmed with a light color, contrasting with the expansive insets of black, divided by the faux large beams, all of which created a darker tone.
               Lighting came from recessed lighting, usually in trios in each recessed panel, with four sconces on the long wall, one more each on the short walls, each sconce a three-paneled front, with upper-half panels of mottled cream, the bottom halves of a burnt desert sand tone, with the same color combination in the several enclosed lights hanging above the bar.
               The crowd was, to us Greene County valley folk, obviously an urban crowd, with tables and chairs filling up after 8 o’clock, and an accompanying noise level that we hoped was also being played out in the town’s other venues.
               On the way in, and out, the ring of the raised gas fire pit might have encouraged walkers-by to slow down and feel the warmth.
               Some noted the very long walk to the bathrooms, enough to qualify for exercise.
               For one five minute stretch, a mini-blizzard blurred the outside lights, leaving a dusting of snow and then wetting the roads for the ride back, dirtying the virgin blackness of the Monteverd BMW.
              
The pacing of the meal, although not exactly timed, always seemed within our comfort zone, and after two and a half hours, we left the noisiness of a busy night scene to venture past Point Lookout and a clear look of the valley lights below, and back home. (A few of us wondered how a change to the quieter room would have affected our experience.)
               
Rock’n Mexicana provides another worthy choice for dining in the Windham community, made more poignant for those of us who witnessed Irene’s destruction. RnM left the imprint of a place we would want to revisit on some not-too-distant casual night. 

               Earlier, we gathered at the Teator abode, where Don and Deb proffered cheese and crackers, hummus, a vegetable bowl of carrots & broccoli & cauliflower & celery, and a plate of creamed cheese topped with sauces. (Oops, we forgot the empanadas!) Drinks included soda, a little red wine, a little red wine, and Coors Light in the silver canisters.
               Of singular note was the anticipation of Kerry and Julie Quinn joining in, filling in for the RVing Adamses, only the third time a change of chairs has happened in over nine years. Thank you, the Quinns, for joining us, and contributing to a worthwhile experience. You felt like long-time naturals!
               Conversation had to cover a month’s absence, and cover it we did, with a breadth of topics – school stuff, of course, with a fire drill, a lock down, no snow days, Regents exams and testing days, some of our colorful characters, and more; news from the Adams, and a phone call before our departure; Quinn news; a little teasing of the Quinns; lying to the Quinns about the bill ...; parents, and family, and kids; a Christmas vacation that is long past; the upcoming school break in February; Kriss reassuring us that retirement in June will be welcome; Ken’s retirement plans; Kerry’s tie (worth a photo to be sent to Judy and Tim); ...; ...; the usual car chat, with the changing of back seats like we usually do; Kalli and cats; Deb T’s pocketbooks; our extraordinarily mild and open winter, so far; ... oohing and ahhing over the Monteverd car (and the large GPS screen); and more of the ordinary, funny, and possibly profane scattering of topics, both serious and humorous.
               ....