Brandywine – October 2015 (dt)
6.66 – 7, 7, 7, 6.9, 6.5, 6.25, 6

Ken took the scenic way to Rt 23 westward, feinted toward Point Lookout (Kriss could not look), and sped through Windham until the siren call of Brandywine pulled us in just before Ashland. All of us had previously dined at Brandywine as separate parties, so it took all of us to the end of DP8’s twelfth year before convening at one of likeliest choices.

Brandywine’s menu is clearly Italian, with a non-ethnic nod to steaks and appetizers. A couple dozen choices of preparations for veal, chicken, and seafood await. The evening’s choices:
shrimp fra diavolo (Chay: very good)
chicken francese ala marsala, with a side of butternut squash (Deb: excellent sauce and squash)
veal cordon bleu, with the side of butternut squash (Kerry: very good)
seafood Brandywine: baked white fish, three shrimp, three clams, over linguine, in white sauce (Don: good, just the right note for the evening)
shrimp stuffed with crabmeat over pasta (Deb K: good)
chicken parm, side of pasta (Kriss: very good, not on menu but Kriss asked anyway and got it)
veal parm with side of pasta (Ken: very good)

Entrées are accompanied by a small side salad, an eight inch glass plate of greens, a couple chunks of tomatoes, a few slices of onion, a pepper slice, and olives, with a choice from several dressings. All thought satisfactory enough, and even better coming with dinner.

For dessert, Dana insisted she had to show off the dessert platter—sight of the desserts would prevent us from declining. And we were proof.
chocolate fondant cake (Deb & Don share: very good with a fudgy icing and the appropriate dense cake)
Oreo cookie pie (Kriss: very good, and Don agreed with the taste-share)
canolis (Deb and Chay share: very good, two to the plate)
apple walnut crumb cake (Kerry: very good)

The evening started with a foot-long basket of Italian bread and bread sticks, accompanied by individual pats of butter as well as a small ramekin of herbed creamed butter, which was excellent (the ramekin, not the plastic-wrapped).

Service by Dana was a mix. Some of us thought she was good—efficient despite the evening’s rush, attentive, personable. Others thought a bit brusque after orders were taken. And our table is not easy for judging when everyone is done. This was one of our few divergences of opinions.

Ambiance is a motley blend of impressions. Entry is rough-hewn with a cluttered entryway. Quickly passing on the left is a large and friendly bar area that can seat twenty at the bar and another twenty at tables. A dive into the main dining area is a shrine of pine wood on walls and ceiling, emanating a cozy and warm feeling. Recessed lighting is sufficient without being distracting. A commercial grade rug softens the tread, as well as the noise level a bit. Booths line two sides, cozy spots for groups of up to four. Peeps through two entryways reveal a west-side addition painted a contrasting blue-green. All tables were occupied.
          Solid pine plank tables of 3’ x 6’ await diners, and two of these tables were pushed together, allowing two of us to sit on a side, effectively creating our “round” table effect we like. Despite the noise in the room, a medium level conversation level was easily audible.
          A centerpiece of a wine bottle with a lit, slow drip candle set the initial mood. (The bottle was not the old Mateus or Chianti bottle some of us remember from the 1970s.) A small vase with a flower, shapely salt & pepper shakers, and three-piece dinnerware sets wrapped in dark linen awaited.

  The drink order consisted of three water/soda drinks and one bottle of a Barbera for the four wine drinkers. Wine prices one of the lower mark-ups in our travels.

  A final bill of $70 per couple was testimony to value as well as a reason why people keep returning to Brandywine.

  We started the evening in east Freehold. Kriss has set a bowl of cashews, one of Halloween candy corn, and a large serving bowl of several vegetables, a few cheeses, a couple types of crackers, and a dip. Ken was displaying his wine prowess with a Chinon or Corbieres (good choices, Ken), a white zin for you know who, a beer, a gin drink that “did not suck” – gin with coke and a later slather of dip and cracker dropped by Ken, and water.
          During dinner, Ken had us wondering if he was loosening his standards. After last month’s share of one caper with Deb T, I thought I heard Ken say he would share a pork chop if Kriss shared some of her chicken parm. But, then Ken remembered who he was, and that was the end of that idea!
          Topics at the Monteverds, at Brandywine, or in the cars included: the Karneses’ trip with Kalli to Finger Lakes and Puxatawney; a pleasant Monteverdean visit to the Adamses in VA; the new planting along the Monteverd sidewalk; Julie getting sick at last minute and making DP7; Minnie Brynnie; one of the most spectacular foliage seasons in a decade or two; a Grandpa who promises to be a spoiler; the next generation’s whereabouts and romance status; Wally Schelling’s passing; good pizza at Freehold Pizza & Grill; Deb’s paintings; Deb’s managing the house across the street; golf; Chay’s annual trip with his high school friends, this year to a chilly Buffalo game; life at Syracuse U; a photo of Bridget living it up in Paris; C-D school life; ACT testing that morning; pleasant autumn weather closing in to shorter days and less sun; the whereabouts of the Notars, the Adamses, Dennis, Julie, Ross, and Lynda, not necessarily in that order; and other random bits and strings of conversation that have been lost to eternity.