January 2006 – Freehold Country Inn #3
6.84 (7.5, 7.5, 7.2, 7, 7, 6.5, 6.5, 5.5

       DP8’s annual stay-close-to-home-because-it-is-winter choice meant traveling to the Freehold Country Inn. Preceding the visit, all DP8ers, healthy or otherwise, gathered at the back-lit kitchen of the Teator residence. A supply of Corona, shiraz, Cotes du Rhone, and chardonnay served the order of the night (no T&T!).
      The highlight of the pre-session was Deb K’s presentation of Volume 3 of Dinner Party of Eight, an accounting of our restauranteering from Sep ’04 through Dec ’05. ....

Upside: FCI feels like long-known friend – we have acquired its personality, anticipate the best, savor the feel. The sleigh, tree and wreaths still decorated the colonnaded front porch, with a soft light exuding into Freehold’s main street (a bright main street, now that the light project has extended almost to the church). Our table by the front windows on the hamlet corner awaited us, we recognized and chatted with a score of diners at other tables, and lack of an empty seat testified both to the Inn’s renown and, perhaps, a rush to beat the Inn’s two week vacation two days later.
      Inside, white linens, table centerpieces of candles inside crystal goblets, comfortable wooden chairs with upholstered seats, ample spacing, and quiet acoustics remind us of the nice touches the Inn employs. Facing rows of four was our arrangement.
       The drink list included two pinot grigio drinkers, one white zinfandel, and five Willamette Valley Vineyard Pinot Noir (two bottles).
       The appetizer list was not utilized. The salads—a mesclun mix, two tomatoes, and shreds of carrot and zucchiniwere dressed to everyone’s pleasing. The solitary soup sipper enjoyed the New England chowder (excellent again).
       When the specials were read, a hue and cry rang for the pork special; having been influenced, two backed out and only Judy stayed the course. Tim, Deb K and Kriss ordered the filet mignon, Ken – the chicken parm, Deb T – the scallops (surprised?), Chay – the prime rib (well done), and Don opted for the sole and shrimp special. All judged the meals excellent, except for the pork special (overly done or dry) and the chicken parm (still, it was good).
       Ken was getting primed with coffee, but the second cup was a long time coming. Fortunately, the ensuing cups came on cue.
       Desserts begged to be tried and we did not disappoint. Two orders of the warm chocolate cake with ice cream, one chocolate mousse, an apple tart, one crème brulee, and one champagne sorbet were savored. The usual Sambuca drink was ordered but not the Frangelica.
       Especially to our liking was the comfortable pacing of the evening. Prompt attention was given to the drink order, followed by the salad order, and salads arrived in about five minutes, allowing for a settling down but then addressing our appetites. Service was efficient and courteous over the two and a half hours leisurely dining.
       Somewhere in between were our conversations. ....
       The final bill, with tip, was about $100 per couple, a little high-average but within our typical middle range.

Downside: ....