Terrapin – November 2013 (dt)
6.40 - 7, 7, 6.9, 6.5, 6.5, 6, 6, 6
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Finally, in DP8’s twelfth year, we experienced Terrapin, something I thought would have happened years ago. The shingled turret of Terrapin presents a unique angle in Rhinebeck’s center, and the reclamation of a church leads diners to enjoy a singular interior ambiance.
          But, to the important stuff first.
          Terrapin’s menu is full and varied—from a cache of tapas, a few soups, half-dozen salads, half dozen pasta-risotto entrées, a couple vegetarian entrées, a few fish and a half-dozen-ish meat entrées. And some of these entrées can be experienced as tapas. A bonus is the owner’s commitment to locally sourced food. (I heard one or two objections to the “full and varied” characterization.)
          After more than a few minutes of perusal, we finally decided on (and I acknowledge Terrapin’s web site):
==>Natural Beef Braised Short Rib Gratinee - Slow cooked in a rich beef and onion broth over Yukon gold mashed potatoes topped with caramelized onions and melted gruyere crostini (Chay: good, small portion of potatoes; Kerry: excellent)
==>Venison Medallions with Juniper Demi-Glace - Goat cheese polenta, large mound of spinach (Don: something different, a bit meatier than expected but still a good choice; polenta was worthy; take home venison portion was even better next day)
==>Farmer’s Market Crepes - Sauteed fresh Hudson Valley veggies in buckwheat crepes with a raclette cheese mornay sauce (Deb K: good vegetarian dish, sauce was good but not enough of it)
==>Uncle Vinny’s Special Rigatoni - Sauteed strips of chicken breast with spinach in a tomato-sherry sauce (Kriss, Ken, Julie: all excellent)
==>Pumpkin Ravioli - Pecans, oven dried tomatoes and brown butter-sherry sauce (Deb T: wonderful, pecans gave good texture; and Don agreed)

     The appetizer round found:
==>Borscht - Beet, pork and beef stew with creme fraiche (Don: more meat than expected but excellent; could have been an entrée)
==>Caesar Salad -- Romaine lettuce, grilled garlic bread croutons, topped with anchovies (Kriss & Ken, of course, and Julie: all very good)
==>Baby Arugula Salad with Coach Farm Goat Cheese Wontons - Roasted red & yellow bell peppers and a sesame vinaigrette (Deb T, Deb K: both excellent)
==>Endive, Candied Walnut, and French D’Auvergne Blue Cheese Salad - Crisp apples and balsamic vinaigrette (Chay: a different choice, excellent)

We mostly heeded the menu’s advice that dessert is best for people who complain of being too full.
==>Black Forest Trifle - With local cherries and bourbon (Don: excellent, with a chocolate cream, and rich cake; and hoping to not be taunted by Kriss’ pick)
==>Warm Molten Center Chocolate Cake - With Ronnybrook vanilla ice cream (Kriss: rich & deep; Don enjoyed the taste Kriss gave him; no regrets for Don)
==>Warm Berry Cake – blueberry layer cake with a hint of lemon zest, topped with vanilla ice cream (Kerry: very good)
==>Ice Cream Sandwich - Ronnybrook vanilla ice cream between two house-made chocolate chip cookies (shared-Deb K & Chay: a small sandwich for each: good cookie, nice way to end a meal)
(Ronnybrook is a nearby Ancramdale dairy.)

Earlier, two round wire baskets, linen-lined, eventually were placed on the table, but at the same time as the appetizers. Twenty minutes sooner would have been better—plan or oversight, we could not tell. Still, the crusty bread was tasty, and even tastier were the inch round cheesy biscuits. A small bowl of softened butter accompanied.
          Service, mostly by Nadia, was efficient and helpful; the setting was perhaps too busy, too tight to be personable. The black garbed, gray aproned staff made for good team work, and we had a different wait staff for water, and then busing, and even delivery.
          However, two major glaring non-human blots influenced the evening. One, it was cold and breezy, indoors! The continual cold draft gusted each time the entry door was opened, and the restaurant’s attempt to stanch the flow with two cloth curtains was patently insufficient. So, Chay and Ken, at the end of the oval jutting into the open walkway, suffered the brunt of the cold air and finally yielded, donning their coats to prevent hypothermia. The end of the banquette, half protected by the back, half not, got a cold shoulder. Those of us inside the banquette were reasonably comfortable.
          The second flaw, for some, was table configuration, with the oval banquet ensconcing four diners beyond the physical reach of the servers. So, every time some item was delivered to those four, the server-diner connection needed very long arms or a long stretch over someone at the table, or someone at the table needed to be part of the delivery chain. It seems a disservice to Terrapin’s otherwise crafted planning to park patrons beyond the reach of the servers. There were only two spots on the floor where this could happen, and we were in one of those spots. I suspect some of our scores dropped because of these two factors.

Terrapin’s ambiance is intriguing. The former church space leaves a cavern to fill, and the space is left open—a 40 x 60 foot space perhaps. The dark wainscoting-filled ceiling made the height feel less, with the large side window space dominating the south wall. The north wall is much shorter, with frosted glass arches dividing the restaurant from Red—the more casual side of the business. Entry to the building is direct, with a maître d’ podium directing patrons left or right.
          The walls are a solid coral-pinkish, the carpeting a gray-stippled dark-blue-ish, and the banquette red-blue floral pattern. A raised level, about two tables wide and perhaps fifty feet long, rises a few feet above the main floor on the south and west walls. A guesstimate said capacity might be 125 patrons.
          The two back corners featured separate 15’ x 15’ beam skeletons that could be separated by curtains, and one of them anchored a chord from which another curtain could divide the dining floor. Industrial-look venting tubes sprouted from the ceiling.
          Lighting came from the ten four-layer art deco lamps, imitating the church lamp placements. Other lighting came from a string of squeezed tear-drop lights above the raised level, with the entire floor generally lit by a couple spotlights and an array of track lighting on the ceiling. Along the walls sprouted a dozen sconce-types, each a three-foot sinuous thin pipe holding tall, lit candles.
          
Most of the seating was at solid tables with lattice-back chairs, complemented by a banquette under the raised level and by two banquette-booths, one of which we occupied. Our oval table—double white-linened, and protected by the high booth wall—made for easy conversation level.
          The table centerpiece was a four inch cube of thick glass with a dozen carnations languidly leaning over the glass lip while a six inch metal tube allowed votive candlelight to peer through the small perforations.
          The drink selection was a little subdued with only four red drinkers—one bottle of Bula 2011 Montsant, while two sodas and two waters completed the array. Terrapin’s wine list is a long one, neatly categorized, with a long list of half-bottles available. Wine markup prices seemed fair.
           Ken’s coffee cup was intermittently refilled, and the evening’s pacing was comfortable for most – two hours, fifteen (unless you were enduring the cold).
          
The bill—including tax, tip, and drink—came to $120 per couple. Very good food, competent service (physical), intriguing ambiance, and a couple major shortcomings comprised the evening’s highlights.
          Off we drove to brave an especially cold November evening

We started the evening at the Monteverds’, where Kriss had splayed the counter with a plates of: 1- three types of crackers, two cheeses, pepperoni; 2- Krause’s malt balls, Krause’s foil-wrapped chocolate, cashews; and 3- the healthy plate of grapes, celery, apple slices, baby carrots. Ken took care of our liquid needs—a red, a white, a rose, beer, and soda.
          With the Adamses gone until spring, Julie and Kerry capably filled in this evening.
          Weather was the big topic, with the day’s high about ten degrees below average, and tomorrow’s forecast to be fifteen degrees colder, with high wind—a perfect January day before Thanksgiving. On the way to Rhinebeck, we drove through a few squalls, one that was heavy enough to make visibility interesting. Still, Ken drove 60+, with Don trying to stay in sight on a sometimes wet, near-freezing road on a dark early evening. Fortunately, the drive back was drier.
          Other topics touched on weather (already noted), what all our kids were doing, the Quinns’ perspective on the world, C-D stuff, pending retirements, news about Tim & Judy, Kalli, the Teators’ trip next month, a Saratoga grandchild, Thanksgiving plans, Christmas plans, a desperate need for an ATM in Rhinebeck (more laughs than any other topic all night), looking for colleges (Julie and Kerry made us with post-college children feel good), the Teators’ new car, day trips, Catskill stuff (Deb K & Julie), and more that has passed me by.