A Taste of Europe – June 2011 (dt)
5.78 – 6.7, 6.5, 6.5, 6, 5.5, 5.5, 5.5, 4

The theme of A Taste of Europe – cuisines from across Europe – presented an intriguing idea, with at least ten European cuisines represented. And, all under one roof, with Yanis and Jeannette, owners, chef and maitre d’ running their own show.

            The food generally delivered.

The accompanying salads, for six, were competent enough, basic, with an eight inch plate of spring greens, a few slices of tomato, a few shreds of carrot, and more. The dressings were good enough, especially the blue cheese. However, an overabundance had most of the salad swimming in the dressing; 20-20 hindsight would have resulted in orders of dressing on the side.
               The other choice, the accompanying soup, of chilled asparagus (good chunks of asparagus, lightly creamy broth) was deemed good to very good by Tim and Don, with the other tasters agreeing.
               The early basket of hearty rolls was most welcome, as usual, with pats and molds of butter ringing the accompanying plate.
               Even the ambiance was agreeable and intriguing. Intriguing, because at least half of us knew the building intimately when it was The Patent, a go-to country gift shop, where Kriss agreed she had spent more than a few dollars.
               So, those of us who knew it wondered how a restaurant would be set up, and it is attractive. The center-of-the-building, wide staircase that leads to the event floor still dominates the room’s entry, with the surrounding rectangle of space filled with about fifteen linen-covered tables, along with an alcove, highlighted with the slight arch, seating four tables, nestled intimately before a fireplace.
               The walls are the classic dark stained wainscoting, topped with the cream-yellow painted walls. The tall ceiling is comprised of sheets of white, with the seams covered by two inch laths. What might be monumentally expansive is kept cozy, again, by the space needed by the staircase. Several tall windows that would be appropriate for an old Grange building (which it was in older days), curtained in what might be a European style, again added to the effect. The late sun of early July needed to be shaded for the west side diners but we east-siders enjoyed the glow that emanated from behind us.
               Our table, isolated on one side of the room (much to our liking and comfort), was set with heads (Chay and Ken, as usual) and the two sides of three. The chairs were distinctive and comfortable (a little less after a lengthy stay). A golden, pewter-ish charger was set for each diner for the entire meal, until dessert. A three-piece silverware set filled each setting while an attractive large glass of orange day lilies was a bright centerpiece touch. Two deep glass cup-candles made for a very soft light; the rooms lighting came mainly from two rows of three chandeliers, each a six-arm, fancy yet sturdy, combination that gives a calming effect.
               And, despite an extremely limited list, we liked our desserts, all of which were artistically presented with a plant effect, done with swirls of chocolate, placement of strawberries, swirls of caramel, etc.

   Without a liquor license, the usual sippers (Tim and Chay) did without.
               Even the wine selection was competent. Along with the two diet sodas and a glass of pinot grigio, the other five first tried the De Martino 2009 Red, and then a Eberle Full Boar Red, both of which we liked. The Eberle encouragedYanis to tell a story or two about his younger days in this area. And from what I could tell, the wine markups were as small as we ever see at a restaurant selling by the bottle.
               And, the two appetizers ordered were satisfactory to good: the crabcake, with remoulade and sesame seaweed salad (Judy, shared in several pieces, tasty); and the Latvian piragi – dough crescent filled with sauteed bacon and onion (Don, satisfactory).
               And, Ken’s coffee, although slow in parts, was filled several times, in a larger-than-usual cup, and Ken even watch as Yanis made a fresh pot (w/distilled water).

               It was, however, two other ingredients that overpowered the positives and made us wonder ‘what if’.
               First, the ambient temperature. The late afternoon temperature was in the mid-80s, and the window units just weren’t doing the job. The air, somewhat warm-ish upon our entry, seemed to creep a degree every once in a while until we felt like the fabled frogs sitting in a pot that gradually gets warmer (frogs jumping into a hot pot would have jumped right back out!).  Near the end of the evening, Yanis opened a window, which cooled the temperature a degree but it was not upon leaving did we get a break from the increasingly uncomfortable warmth.
               And, then service. Where to start?
               Upon seating us, Yanis asked for our patience since one of the waitstaff had left them unexpectedly and only Sheila was handling the evening, and it was clear that she was a fledgling waiter. She was sincere, tried hard, and did all she could do but there was too many other tables to attend to. Perhaps, an experienced waiter might have come close but it was clear that a second person was needed, and a restaurant has to cope when a waiter quits at the last moment. (And I am not sure if it was the kitchen may have needed an extra helping hand.)
               However, we were there, and experienced, and paid, for a dinner that was understaffed.
               Three hours for dinner can be appropriate in the right place but we don’t often go to many of those, and this certainly was not one of them.
               When the final bill reads $100 per couple (including tax, tip and liquor), it is comforting to know that what we paid for was done competently all the way around. But, well, here’s the list:

The slow pacing, I think, was not a deliberate staging of courses but, rather, an inability to deliver the courses and small stuff. A couple of us did all we could do to not get out of our seats to directly ask for service, and we might have been guilty of that also.
               Oh, yeah, the bathroom not flushing couldn’t help but be discussed until it seemed to be fixed midway through.
               A Taste of Europe should be a worthy alternative to the Cobleskill area culinary choices but after this evening, only the kindest or curious would return. (And Deb and I had been there for lunch, enjoyed the food and service, and will probably go back for lunch.)

The evening had started at the Teators’, with chairs ringing the table and food supply, with temperatures in the low-80s, and reasonably comfortable – a not-very-common outside pre-session.
               Available for noshing were: a veggie tray; cup of nuts; watermelon spears; cheese and crackers; peanut butter pretzels; tortilla chips; and dips; for sipping, available was diet soda, a small white Zin for Kriss; beer for Chay; and a mix of white (Picpoul), rose (Santi), and red (Carignole) for the wine drinkers.
               
The five minute warning was given, and off, to the west, we drove, with a couple of good guesses, I hear, as to our whereabouts.
               Topics, before and after, included: C-D administrative news this week; Sam, the Teator cat, being put to sleep; travel plans for the Adamses and Karneses; fireworks; a recent DC trip to the grandkids; bicycling; Tim’s near-enough retirement; the Adamses’ soon-to-be RV and possible use; Deb T’s first retirement check; Ken on call most of the evening; Jen’s Saratoga new house purchase and parents’ feedback; weekend plans and summer plans; the Monteverds’ trip to Amish country; and more.

            Happy Summer!