Cask and RasherFebruary 2015 (dt)
6.53 – 7, 7, 6.75, 6.5, 6, 6, 6

A forecast of three to eight inches of snow, with potential for sloppy roads, did not deter Dinner Party of Eight from venturing forth on this one-month-till-spring Saturday night. Captained by Deb K, our car fearlessly wended through the messy inch of snow to Greenville, eastward on SR 81, across 9W, before finding a parking spot in front of Cask and Rasher.
          A small-ish 40 x 20 building awaits, appropriately dark, at first, with a distinctive pub menu. (Albany Times-Union blogger Steve Barnes had favorably reviewed C&R in September 2013, focusing on the Necro-wings, something none of us tried this evening.)

The menu consists of three entrées,  a handful of starters, nachos, quesadillas, a half-dozen versions of “spuds,” almost ten versions of chicken wings, two soups, five burgers preps (including the Rasher burger - one pound of bacon smothered in cheese!), four chicken sandwiches, a black bean burger, and four desserts. It seemed like a light menu, at first, but it proved ample enough.
          We started with three appetizers for the table: the battered onion rings; chicken fingers, with BBQ sauce, and the signature hand-cut garlic-parmesan frites; and a dozen classic chicken wings, also with frites.
          The drink order started clumsily for us first-timers—no list other than the chalkboard upon entry. Se we ambled back to the board and returned to order. Somehow, for regulars, this would be part of C&R’s patina.
          Wine might have existed but the tap beer selection merited exploration, especially with sixteen choices covering a gamut of styles. A beer aficionado might detail them here but suffice it to say that, with one exception, everyone enjoyed at least one of the beers, or two or three.
          The three entrées came with a choice of cream of broccoli soup or a house salad. Those who chose salad, and those who ordered it separately, found a nicely crafted simple salad with a plastic cup of flavorful dressing. The French onion soup was deemed good but not outstanding.

Our choices for dinner included: the mussels and frites (dt), steamed in garlic, butter, lager; Shepherd’s pie (dt), a large oval bowl with a nice base of meat and vegetables, blanketed by several scoops of cheese-sprinkled mashed potatoes; a grilled vegetable quesadilla (jq); a chicken breast sandwich with bacon and jalapeno aoli (dk); two orders of the beer battered haddock (tk, mn); a burger laden with sautéed onions and mushrooms but no bun as requested (kq); and the Cojo chicken wings (jn), seasoned with fresh parmesan and garlic. Classic, and interesting, pub food, inviting a return visit.
          The omnipresent hand-cut garlic-parmesan fries were joined by a side of sweet potato fries.

A short list of desserts was proffered, we looked, patted our full bellies, and declined.

Food plus drinks plus tax plus tip totaled $55 per couple, and we shook at our heads in satisfaction at the economy and value of our meal.

Service was, well…, astounding. Alex greeted us upon entering, and she continued to ring up someone’s bill, then tended to someone at the bar, then delivered our menu, disappeared back into the kitchen to fetch some food, and on it went. After looking around to see who else was working the floor, we realized Alex was doing it all—tending the bar, pouring drink orders, taking food orders, delivering, cleaning the 12-15 tables. At any one time, there might have been forty customers, and Alex efficiently and courteously served and cleaned during our stay. She obviously did not have much time to chat but we admired a performance like few others we have witnessed. Thank you, Alex, for competent service, and quite a show.

The ambience of C&R is classic cozy pub. The building is nestled in the dark clump of housing on Mansion Street that is more West Coxsackie than Coxsackie offering glimpses of neon in the front window signs.
          The interior is enclosed in cherry and dark wood, abundant beer signs and mirrors, and a variety of seating. And it is a young crowd. Without us, the median age might have been 23, give or take a year. With us, average age spiked to near sixty!
          The short end of the bar faces the entering customer, and then bends back another twenty feet, capable of serving about fifteen chair-holders. Fifteen four-person tables are arranged in flexible configurations, a couple by the front plate window, with a couple of high tables sticking above the rest. Galvanized small buckets set on each table, each bucket holding banded combinations of napkin, knife, and fork.
          Lighting comes from a room-length line of seven tulip bowl lights, each clasped by wrought metal. Another string of four milk-glass downward domes set over the bar. A stray light by the plate window, the glare from three sports TVs, a few glimmers from beer signs, and the hint of light emanating from the kitchen door provided just enough, but still ample, light.
          The noise ebbed and grew in stages. We entered a half-full pub but within a half-hour, we were part of forty people awaiting food and the accompanying din that only the arrival of food can diminish. Which it did after forty-five minutes, with another crescendo the half-hour before we left. Still, conversations could be hears by the whole table.
          We found ourselves at two of the tables pushed together, a bit tight, so we nudged the tables away from the wall, allowing the end people to move half around each corner. It worked, it was cozy, and we preferred this to the enormous space that MVB had provided the month before.
          Behind the bar sat three rows of liquor, and rising above the three rows stretched two rows of forty-five beer tap handles of the different beers they would have dispensed. A nice eye-catcher.
          Just shy of two hours, we donned our winter gear, pushed our way outward into one of our milder evenings of this interminably cold February, and gingerly and safely found our way home. A good “group” pick, Chay.

For a rare consecutive month, we met at the restaurant, thus shortening the range of topics, not that there ever a shortage with this cast of characters (the Quinns and Notars joining up with the Teators and Karneses in consecutive months!).
          Dominating talk was the extraordinary consistency of bitter February weather (throw in a couple weeks from the end of January, too). Even the winter-lovers are casting a wistful eye toward normal weather, something the forecasters say might happen a couple weeks hence. The crunch of snow under slow-moving tires was an evocative indicator of cold.
          The other big talk was of the Notars just returning from a Niagara Falls vacation earlier in the afternoon. The ice on the Falls, casino, food, travel all were part of that account.
          Other tidbits: the unusual dinner experience at Red Rooster the night before with Chay & Deb, Den & Julie; Presidents’ Week school break coming to an end; Julie working forever; the Monteverds in Florida; the Adamses RV-parking in Florida; Kerry breaking his Lent rules just for DP8 this evening; Don snow-shoeing and making good use of the weather; Deb T skiing with her father; Deb T’s big toenail; the Quinn offspring and the memories of parenting they are creating (ha); the former students who own Cask and Rasher; the Durham Elementary YMCA (more ha); getting ready for Italy; a trip to Florida soon for Chay and Deb; CDHS news; Joyce’s trip with students to France; Christopher and school and life; and on it went.