February 2005 - Freehold Country Inn (dt)
6.81 - 8, 7, 7, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 6.5, 6 

Continuing the tradition of one winter-month, stay-close-to-home, support-a-local-restaurant group choice, DP8’s 2005 choice was once again the Freehold Country Inn, our comfort restaurant. But, first, we gathered at the Karnes for our pre-session....
    Upside: So much speaks well for the Freehold Country Inn. It is our home field, where we know the owners and wait staff, the quality is consistently high, and we can be proud that Freehold can boast a quality restaurant, something that hadn’t happened for the quarter century before 1999 (FCI’s start). A clean, burnished wood ambience warms the entry.
     The dependable service, this evening, centered around “from-the-beginning” Cin handling a rambunctious DP8 (and doing well, I may add) on a very busy February Saturday night. Reservations for 7 pm were not available so we found ourselves eating at 8 pm, and every seat was spoken for.
    As happens intermittently, DP8 had no appetizers, having snarfed their way through the veggie and cracker platter at the Karnes earlier.
    A basic but substantially interesting salad is FCI’s trademark, with greens, tomatoes, and sprigs of carrots and zucchini, topped with a tasty house dressing, or otherwise as some chose. Judy, instead, tried the lobster bisque, reminding everyone of the glory days of the Sunside Inn when it existed.
    Drinks almost started with glass orders (a continuation from the bar) but we worked our way into a bottle each of Syrah and Merlot, a glass of Pinot Grigio, and a couple of soda orders. Ken, of course, worked all of this around his coffee.
    FCI tempts us often with the specials of the night and that was true again for three of us - Cajun mahi-mahi with fruit salsa (zesty but not too spicy) and a veal tenderloin. Others tried the filet mignon, a strip steak, a prime rib, scallops (can you guess who?), and pork chops, all prepared to our liking. Mashed potatoes were not available, as Cin had to tell Tim, as she does every time, so we had the FCI choice of au gratin, gaufrette, or baked (or a substitute of more vegetables). All were capably prepared, and all (us) left contented with another fine meal.
    Somewhere in here, some one started with the silly (and potentially dangerous!) story of their engagement moment, which then led to the rest of us revealing our engagement moment. (The guys turned out to be real (almost) gentlemen – on bent knees, asking for permission, asking after “having a few.”) Whose idea was this anyway?
    Dessert was spread around an apple tart, cheesecake, champagne sorbet, and raspberries with white sauce, as well as our usual Sambuca and Frangelica sippers.... The pacing of the meal is leisurely but never lagged.
    Miss Bill Collector (Deb K) figured the final tally, and we faded into the street-lamp-lined avenue of Freehold.
Downside: Well, for one, it’s still winter, but I guess we can’t hold that against FCI. The reservation time was later than we usually do (just right for the Adamses, almost breakfast time – next day – for the Teators!).
    The seating was a bit tight, with Tim on the end of the bench-table, next to the service bar window.
    ...., .....
    And, for me, the recently exhausted supply of warm chocolate cake, with ice cream and whipped cream, was a minor setback.
==== Once again, the Freehold Country Inn was the center of our universe. Thanks, Ben and Terri (and Max and crew).