Hotel -- February
5.25 - 8, 7, 6, 5.5, 4.5, 4.5, 4, 2.5
A damp, dreary, but not so cold night made us almost think it was April instead of early February. The evening began as all of our DP8 evenings do, at the home of one of our couples. This particular evening we had the pleasure of the warmth and coziness of the Monteverd home. As always, Kriss and Ken not only put out a lovely arrangement of food for pre-dinner nibbling, but make it look just as good.
As far as destination, there was no surprise tonight, we took the short jaunt down the road to West Freehold to Ruby’s Hotel & Restaurant, a mere stone’s throw away from January’s pick, Freehold Country Inn (in East Freehold, of course). The “new” old neon sign greeted us as we entered the softly lit, eclectically decorated eatery. After a small discussion ... about the confusion in reservation date, we were seated at one of the many non-occupied tables. ...
The Up Side: It was cozy and warm inside with a 360º view of interesting artwork, which appealed especially to the “artsy” among us, but was enjoyed by the rest of us as well. Cocktails included the usual pinot grigio as well two bottles of Chianti (Gabbiani? Quite good) for the “red” drinkers, while one imbibed only on D. Coke. The menu, for those of us adventurous eaters, offered more than intrigue. Chay was the sole partaker of a mussels appetizer with tomatoes and basil broth, although at least half of us helped him finish them off and all that tried declared them delicious (maybe, next time, Ken?). A couple of us tried one of the salads with mixed greens, caramelized nuts and pears prior to the arrival of our entries.
The Adams both ordered the tilapia and declared it delicioso (well, maybe they didn’t use that word exactly, but you get the idea). Don and Deb K put their heads together and made their decisions based on what the other was ordering so there could be sharing of the two contenders. Don went with the gumbo and Deb K (that’s me), a closer runner up to being the most adventurous eater, ordered the cassoulet. Deb T, the Monteverds and Chay ordered the pork special (Chay and Ken substituting the mashed potatoes for the sweet potatoes).
Somewhere in here is where the real down side began. While Deb T declared her pork wonderful and very tender, the three pork eaters at my end of the table were less than enthusiastic, all proclaiming theirs to be tough and Ken’s to be less than done (at least to his liking – pink in the middle). I thought the cassoulet was very tasty, but ultimately it was confirmed that I am not a duck fan (lovely birds, but just don’t like eating them). Don claimed his gumbo was o.k. (was that really mashed potatoes on the bottom???), but probably would not order again. And I think I witnessed something I had not seen before in three plus years with this group, and that was a little balking at the prices (i.e., a mixed green salad $7.95, a rib eye steak $28.95???). It felt as if we might have been in a very cool restaurant in mid-town Manhattan, but the prices also seemed to reflect that attitude.
For a Saturday evening where there were really only a couple diners other than us, the service was less than stellar. While she was pleasant enough, drinks and water came slow. Also, with such a diverse menu, where some explanation of the items was in order for those of us not used to such terms as “meniure”, the waitress was of little assistance ("it’s got butter in it”). Ah, yes, the menu, very diverse but very limited – not good for the “non-adventurous” among us.
For me personally, the biggest disappointment was the salad. Described as mixed greens with caramelized pears and nuts with goat cheese, how can you lose? Two or three tiny slivers of pear and a couple nuts later, I was further disappointed by the triangle of bleu cheese served with the salad (sorry, don’t like bleu cheese and wouldn’t have ordered the salad at all had I known that bleu cheese would just be unilaterally exchanged for the much milder, palatable goat cheese).
And poor Kenny. A full oversized cup of coffee was delivered (Yeah!), but the cup was left half full (or half empty) and there were no requests for seconds. What’s with that??? An unusual move for him, he joined Chay in an after dinner Sambuca to sooth his disappointment.
Desserts pickings were few – a couple enjoyed the flan (eh hem… private joke), Don helped me with the coconut cranberry pie (quite interesting and good – would not have put those two together), and there was, of course, Sambuca and Frangelica sippings. Dessert conversation got interesting when Ken asked about the Wright brothers’ ...
One of the highlights of the evening was the post-dinner tour of the gallery upstairs, where we got to enjoy more local artwork, some by our host, Frank Giorgini, and other local artists.
Bottom line, I know we are going to be all over the place on this one. There were definite thumbs up and down here. If someone else were writing this review ..., it might have come off a lot more positive. A definite do again for adventurous eaters with lots of patience and a full wallet. For DP8, we still had the pleasure of each other’s company, something we always enjoy.