Steel House - August 2012 (dt)
6.54 -- 7.25, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 6.25, 6.25, 6

After a three year absence, DP8 ventured over the Ulster County line via the Thruway, crawled through Kingston’s Broadway, and finally nestled into East Strand Street and Steel House Restaurant, with its deck-edge lapping over the Roundout Creek on a comfortably humid August evening.
               The menu is a collection of American favorites – casual and standard. Nearly twenty appetizers, most fried, tempted no one after the Teator start, even with an hour’s drive. Two soups, one chili, five greens, burgers, pizza, fried shrimp & fish & scallop & “captain” accompanied the entrée list of three beefs, one pork, two chickens, and four seafood, two of which were specials. It was not going to be confused with medium-upper fine dining but it was an appropriate menu for the archetypical late summer night. Selections for the group included:
--->London Broil (Ken: sliced with brown gravy and mashed potatoes; meat was tough; a different prep than he was expecting but ok)
--->seafood cioppino special—a tomato-base filled with mussels, shark, shrimp, scallops and  calamari, ringed with ten wedges of a biscuit-bread to sop up the stewing juices (Don: a worthy try for the evening, half went home; and Judy: good, with a lot of seafood)
--->broiled scallops in garlic butter and  cracker-crumb topping (Deb T: nice scallops but bread was way too much; and Tim, very good after sending the first attempt back to warm it up, too bready)
--->fried shrimp (Kriss: very good, with rice, as good as or better than Maine; Chay: very good, with fries)

The LB and scallop entrées came with a choice of mashed potatoes or French fries, and both were considered good. The other accompaniment was the Brussels sprouts, a standing joke with DP8 but everyone liked this Steel House preparation.
               And, the entrées also came with soup/salad, with three choosing the salad, a large-ish bowl of mixed greens, a couple slices of cucumber, a few rings of onion, and several chunks of tomato; Tim shared with Kriss (Ken, Kriss, Judy, and Deb T thought it serviceably good, Tim not a salad eater); meanwhile, the New England clam chowder enticed Chay (side order) and Don—both thought it very good and chunky.

A half-dozen choices comprised a short dessert list, a range from which most Americans would find a favorite. Tonight included:
--->chocolate mousse cake (yup, Don, good enough)
--->carrot cake (Kriss, excellent cake; Ken, good enough)
--->Key lime pie (Deb T, good enough; her first choice was ordered but then announced to be sold out)
--->Chay sipped Sambuca, and Tim his Frangelica
               A-hemmm… Judy resisted dessert.
               A-hemmm… Judy said she was too full. Everyone kinda gasped.
               Notable by absence was Deb Karnes, who had traveled back to see Mom. We missed ya, Deb, and we still tried to have the waiter give you the check.
               The drink portion included a Tilia 2011 Malbec, a Hardys Nottage Hill 2008 Shiraz, a glass of white, and two diet sodas.
               Despite a lack of glowing comments, we found enough quality to come back again, either inside or outside.

Which leads to ambience.
               We could have sat inside this cavern of a building, a steel fabricating type from a century ago, a thirty foot tall main structure with a peak ridge rise of another fifteen feet, with enormous windows on the sides and the peak with another set of windows that allowed the fading August evening sunlight to stream in against the interior brick walls, hardwood floor, and the dark wood of the bar and lounge and tables. Industrial piping marked the air vents, geometrically snaking high in the ceiling, and it truly is a visual treat. Unfortunately, we walked through and past it all to our table.
               A ten foot wide concrete deck fronts Steel House along the Rondout Creek but nestling in one corner is a cutout, a 30x30 area that holds an outside bar on the back wall, three long tables, each with eight chairs, with a south wall that serves as bar seating and wind block, which this evening blocked a ten mph breeze wafting up the creek from the Hudson. This cutout was covered with a sloping canvas, in which case a light rain would be no problem.
               So, four on one side, three on the other on a long table surprisingly was quite comfortable for talking. Even more surprising, the noise level was muffled enough, even with the deck’s large floor fan whirling away, so that conversation was easily heard the length of the table when we wanted (well, perhaps, Tim, sitting closest by, was affected).
               And, a few dozen ships, boats, and more passed by, creating a moving background that was fun to note and fantasize about, especially the large cabin cruiser moored along side of the deck for an hour or so.
               Warm August air, gently lapping waves, reflections of lights made sharper with the growing dusk, pleased diners in their own worlds enjoying the same setting as us made for a seductively pleasant night that is easy to think commonplace. (OK, the Maine people had just had a bunch of these evenings!)
               Our table was a hardwood table, linen-covered, set with appetizer plates and a napkin-wrapped setting of a knife and two forks. Chairs were sturdy wood with a comfortable cushion of a soft vinyl.
               Service was a comfortably & competently casual experience. Ben was dressed in black, friendly, good-humored, and apt to please—a nice fit for the night. A loaf of cheddar-topped biscuit bread promptly appeared, along with lemon-slice-rimmed glasses of water, which were regularly filled by another of the waitstaff. Pacing was on target, perhaps a tad quick (imagine DP8 saying that), with ample time between ordering-salads-entrée delivery. The only hitch may have been a long-ish gap before dessert. Still, we were out the building just under the two hour mark, almost average. Ben promptly took care of Tim’s cold entrée, filled Ken’s coffee mug regularly, chatted about returning to Siena, work in Woodstock – just enough to be a person but not so long to affect service. Thanks, Ben, for an enjoyable evening and being a credit to Steel House.
               
The bill came to $92 per couple – a low-average-ish bill, helped with entrée accompanied by salad.
               All in all, many average-good elements, with no weak spots, and lots of riverside scenery made for a pleasant experience. On the way out, we realized the glow across the Hudson was the Dutchess County Fair.

The pre-session started at the Teators, on a warm-ish late afternoon that allowed for deck-sitting. A bottle of Picpoul and cab sauvignon accompanied a lone beer and a mini white zin. A tray of five veggies lined up with a cracker and chip basket waiting for a spread of chicken liver pate, tapenade, chutney, or tuna salad, with a chunk of sharp cheddar or Monterey jack offering one more option. If one were not careful, a fly might have been added.
               The only blot was the absence of Deb K, who we hope to see in a couple of weeks.
               Topics before, during, and after the ride included: the Karneses’ Cayman vacation; the Adamses’ trips to the Delaware beach with grandkids and Russia; the Monteverds’ trip to Maine; the soon-to-be grandparents and the condition of the new mom-to-be and preparations in Saratoga; how our children were doing; the Teator-Adams upcoming trip to France; the upcoming Monteverd trip to Florida and effect of grandchild; the Delaware County Fair; prostate cancer and treatment (see below); breast cancer and family history (see below); fickleness of life; boating experience; Ken’s dwindling days and lack of replacement; sympathy for Chay (retirement); local police blotter & and helicopter marijuana monitoring; recent day trips; Tim’s upcoming procedure; dogs and cats; “it’s a small world” and meeting local people in faraway places; meeting Cairo people at Steel House; how much we are sounding like old people (conversation topics); the upcoming wine-tasting; and a bunch more.

The Teators had given a couple of clues about location. Don had advised about the hour ride (could be a trick) and Deb let slip about being on the water, which then led to rampant speculation. After not crossing the RVW but instead taking the Thruway, speculation in the Teator car kept guessing until, after about ten guesses, Ken exactly pinpointed our destination as we pulled into the parking lot.
               Oh, yeah, the line of the night, ...  Nice touch, Ken!